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Climate: Is drought relief in sight for California?

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The southern U.S., including parts of drought-hit Arizona, may see above-average precipitation this winter.

Climate experts say there’s good chance of average precipitation in California, but recovery will take a while

Staff Report

FRISCO — There may be some drought relief for California this winter, but the state won’t make up a huge moisture deficit in just one rainy season, federal climate scientists said this week, releasing their winter season outlook.

“Complete drought recovery in California this winter is highly unlikely,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.”While we’re predicting at least a 2 in 3 chance that winter precipitation will be near or above normal throughout the state, with such widespread, extreme deficits, recovery will be slow,” Halpert added. Continue reading

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Study: 1934 Dust Bowl still the Godzilla of North American droughts

A dust storm engulfs Stratford, Texas in April of 1935. The drought of 1934 was likely made worse by dust storms triggered by the poor agricultural practices of the time. Credit: NOAA/George E. Marsh Album.

A dust storm engulfs Stratford, Texas in April of 1935. The drought of 1934 was likely made worse by dust storms triggered by the poor agricultural practices of the time.
Credit: NOAA/George E. Marsh Album.

Severe dust storms spawned even more widespread drought, research shows

Staff Report

FRISCO — With all the recent talk of looming megadroughts, the 1934 peak of the Dust Bowl era still remains the most severe and widespread drought in North America during the past 1,000 years, climate scientists say.

Based on tree-ring studies and other physical records, the only other comparable event was way back in the 1500s.

The extent of the 1934 drought was approximately seven times larger than droughts of comparable intensity that struck North America between 1000 A.D. and 2005, and was caused in part by an atmospheric phenomenon that may have also led to the current drought in California, according to a new study. Continue reading

Climate: Are greenhouse gases causing the California drought?

‘This is an event that is more extreme than any in the observed record, and our research suggests that global warming is playing a role right now’

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Exceptionally dry conditions along parts of the West Coast that usually see copious moisture are highlighted in the NOAA soil moisture map taken from satellite data.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The California drought that will go down as the worst in the state’s recorded history may well be linked with increasing concentrations of heat-trapping pollutants — or not, depending who you ask.

In one new study, Stanford researchers said their analysis shows that formation of a persistent ridge of storm-blocking high pressure over the Pacific Ocean is three times more likely in presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

But almost simultaneously, researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said their survey of recent studies showed no link between global warming and lack of rainfall in California, though they did acknowledge the results of the Stanford led study, which focused on air pressure and the path of storms. Continue reading

Are New Mexico forests holding steady in the face of climate change, drought and wildfires?

New inventory assesses state’s woodland resources
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STAFF REPORT

FRISCO — Mortality is increasing and growth is slowing down in New Mexico’s forest lands, according to a new forest inventory released in late August. The only species showing overall growth are ponderosa and piñon pines, as well as junipers, as insects, wildfires drought and disease take an increasing toll on the state’s woodlands.

Forests grow on about 25 million acres in New Mexico, with 44 percent on private lands and 31 percent on national forest lands. About 40 percent (10.8 million acres) of the forests are piñon-juniper woodlands, by far the state’s most extensive forest type. Gambel oak is the most abundant tree species by number of trees, and ponderosa pine is the most abundant by volume or biomass. Overall, researchers estimate there are more than 6 billion live trees growing in the state.

The inventory documented the drought-induced piñon pine die-off in the early 2000s, estimating that about 8 percent the species died, but noted that the mortality rate has tapered off.New Mexico’s aspen forests, covering about 380,000 acres, held steady in the past decade. Continue reading

Federal funds boost Native American climate resilience efforts

‘Impacts of climate change are increasingly evident for American Indian and Alaska Native communities and, in some cases, threaten the ability of tribal nations to carry on their cultural traditions and beliefs’

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Global warming poses a serious threat to Native American communities.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate change poses a serious threat not only to Native American natural resources, but to cultural traditions and spiritual beliefs, top Obama administration officials said last month, announcing $10 million in funding to boost adaptation and mitigation efforts on Native American lands.

The funding is part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which includes White House State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, aimed addressing the impacts of climate change already affecting tribal communities.

“From the Everglades to the Great Lakes to Alaska and everywhere in between, climate change is a leading threat to natural and cultural resources across America, and tribal communities are often the hardest hit by severe weather events such as droughts, floods and wildfires,” said Secretary Jewell, chair of the White House Council on Native American Affairs.

“Impacts of climate change are increasingly evident for American Indian and Alaska Native communities and, in some cases, threaten the ability of tribal nations to carry on their cultural traditions and beliefs,” said Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn. Continue reading

Climate: Wet West in July

Energetic monsoon brings moisture surplus to many areas

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The big wet?

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — An energetic and widespread monsoon weather pattern brought above normal precipitation to much of the West in August, with a bullseye of moisture in southern Idaho, extending across western Wyoming, Montana, northeastern Utah and into northwestern Colorado. Some locations in the region saw up to 800 percent of average precipitation. Continue reading

Climate: Greenhouse gas buildup ‘loads the dice’ for Southwest megadroughts

Odds of 30-year dry spells increase dramatically as global temps rise

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Green bars indicate wet periods, the larger the bar the more unusually wet. In a similar way, yellow indicates dry and droughty periods. The graph stretches from January 1895 on the left to last month on the right, showing how the cycle of droughts alternating with wet years has changed, with dry years becoming more prevalent.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Tree ring records clearly show that the southwestern U.S. experienced megadroughts long before the anthropogenic global warming era. One such decades-long dry spell may have been a factor in the collapse of the Anasazi civilization at Mesa Verde.

But the steady buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere is loading the dice in favor of another megadrought sooner, rather later, according to scientists with Cornell University, the University of Arizona and U.S. Geological Survey. The chances of a decade-long drought is now at least 50 percent, and there’s a 20 percent to 50 percent chance of a 30-year megadrought.

“For the southwestern U.S., I’m not optimistic about avoiding real megadroughts,” said Toby Ault, Cornell assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and lead author of the paper. “As we add greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – and we haven’t put the brakes on stopping this – we are weighting the dice for megadrought conditions.” Continue reading

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