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Climate: U.S. temps cooler than average in 2013

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Cooler than average temperatures were widespread across the U.S. in December 2013.

California drought intensifies

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — December 2013 won’t go down in the record books for cold temperatures even though cooler-than-average readings prevailed across much of the country.

The average temperature across the lower 48 states was 2 degrees Fahrenheit below the 20th century average, making it the coldest December since 2009, according to the monthly summary released this week by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Continue reading

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New series of climate studies aim to pinpoint global warming impacts on key natural resources

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Glen Canyon Dam. Photo via U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Arizona researchers to focus on Colorado River flows as feds grant $7 million for 50-plus research projects

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Arizona-based researchers will lead an effort to pinpoint how global warming will affect Colorado River flows in the coming decades, with an eye toward exploring links between Pacific Ocean climate patterns like El Niño/La Niña cycles and the occurrence of extreme wet or dry conditions.

The two-year study will result in a streamflow projection product that better accounts for physical mechanisms of weather and climate on a regional and local scale, that can be directly used by water resource providers.

The research project is one more than 50 studies funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Interior’s regional climate centers as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution, move the economy toward clean energy sources and begin to prepare communities for the impacts of climate change. Continue reading

Climate: Study suggests Pacific Northwest streamflow declines may be linked with waning winter winds

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Global warming may be changing westerly winds that drive weather patterns in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere.

Crucial water supplies under the gun from a changing climate

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Changes in runoff from winter snowpack have been widely documented across the West and most researchers attribute those changes to global warming. But along with the direct impact of warmer temperatures, there may also be a more subtle factor in play.

Recent Forest Service studies on high-elevation climate trends in the Pacific Northwest United States show that streamflow declines tie directly to decreases and changes in winter winds that bring precipitation across the region. The decrease in winter winds may be linked with natural climate variations and man-made climate change.

Other climate research on a larger scale suggests that circumpolar wind speeds may be declining as a result of melting Arctic sea ice —  the temperature gradient between the high- and mid-latitudes drives the wind, and that gradient is lessening. Continue reading

Climate: Is the Southwest ‘stuck’ in a drought pattern?

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NOAA’s winter outlook offers little relief for Arizona, New Mexico

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Drought conditions may persist across the southwestern U.S. this winter and may redevelop across the Southeast, according to the seasonal outlook from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

“Even though we don’t have La Niña, the atmosphere across the Pacific seems to be stuck in a La Niña mode … It’s been quite surprising to us, how persistent the pattern is,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of the Climate Prediction Center.

Parts of the Southwest, especially New Mexico, have been experiencing one of the driest periods on record, and Halpert said there is “decent agreement” in the CPC’s models on the climate signal that has resulted in the persistent trend. Continue reading

Environment: ‘Extreme’ dust-on-snow events can speed runoff in Colorado River Basin by six weeks

2013 brought record levels of dust to Colorado’s mountains

More frequent desert dust storms dropping pollution on the Rocky Mountain snowpack is one of the climate change impacts affect the high country.

More frequent desert dust storms dropping pollution on the Rocky Mountain snowpack is one of the climate change impacts affecting the Colorado high country.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Dust storms that darken the Rocky Mountain snowpack and speed snowmelt are becoming more extreme, according to new research. Particularly heavy dust-on-snow events can speed the melt-out of the snowpack by a full six weeks, all other factors being equal, said Jeffrey Deems, a researcher with the Western Water Assessment and the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

“In 2006 we were impressed at how much dust there was. Then 2009 turned up, and 2010, and 2013 was the dustiest year we’ve recorded in the San Juans,” Deems said, explaining that the latest study, put together by researchers with NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences was aimed at updating previous work with data from those heavy dust years.

Last spring, on April 8, a single 16-hour dust storm dropped more dust on the San Juans than the annual totals in any previous winter since scientists started taking detailed measurements, said Chris Landry, director of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton, which tracks the dust-on-snow events via a network of observation sites. Continue reading

Climate: Can forests heal themselves from drought?

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California’s redwood forests recycle ocean fog to create their own microclimate. bberwyn photo.

Amazon rainforest may be more resilient than previously believed

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — As one of the Earth’s big lungs, the fate of the Amazon rainforest in the face of global warming is a critical climate question. New research suggests that, with strong conservation measures in place, the rainforest may be more able to cope with dry conditions than projected by other studies.

Many climate models over-predict the water stress plants feel during the dry season because they don’t take into account the moisture that the forest itself can recycle in times of drought. In this study, published in the Journal of Climate, the researchers removed unrealistic water stress from their model and found that the moisture that is recycled by the forest is sufficient to reduce the intensity of drought conditions. Continue reading

Rocky Mountains facing serious global warming impacts

Agency releases draft versions of climate adaptation implementation plans for review and public comment

Looking for unusual tones in that first gleam of morning sunlight along Peru Creek.

The EPA says the Rocky Mountain region is particularly vulnerable to water supply issues as a result of global warming.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The climate in the Rocky Mountains is changing rapidly, outside  the   range  to  which  society  has  adapted  in  the  past, according to the EPA’s draft climate adaptation implementation plan for the agency’s Southwest Region, which covers western Colorado.

Most of the “cascading effects” of global climate change will be felt in the region, including increased air temperature, decreased precipitation in some areas, and more severe storms. Along the West Coast, oceans will become more acidic and warm and sea level will rise. Continue reading

EPA releases draft climate change adaptation plans

Agency cites increases of extreme weather, drought and flooding in call for public comment

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A NASA map shows global temperature anomalies for Aug. 2013.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — At this point, most people know that global warming is already having tangible impacts on their day-to-day lives, from more intense heatwaves to destructive coastal flooding and longer wildfire seasons.

But it’s not always easy to figure what, if anything, can be done. To help communities in different parts of the country, the EPA is developing climate change adaptation implementation plans, with detailed information about the actions EPA plans to take across the country to help communities adapt to a changing climate. Continue reading

Climate study shows that deforestation of the Amazon could dry out the western United States

Shifts in precipitation patterns would have big consequences for agriculture, forests and municipal water supplies

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Research suggests that deforestation will likely produce a weather cycle over the Amazon consisting of abnormally dry air in the sun-scorched northern Amazon around the equator weighted by wetter air in the cooler south (left). The Princeton-led researchers found that the Amazon pattern would be subject to meandering high-altitude winds known as Rossby waves that move east or west across the planet (center). The Rossby waves would move the dry end of the Amazon pattern directly over the western United States from December to February, while the pattern’s rainy portion would be over the Pacific Ocean south of Mexico (right). Image courtesy Princeton University.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Continued deforestation in the Amazon region could have significant impacts on the weather in North America, according to Princeton researchers, who used fine-grained climate models to simulate how precipitation patterns could shift in the future.

Their findings suggest that  total deforestation of the Amazon may significantly reduce rain and snowfall in the western United States — specifically, 20 percent less rain for the coastal Northwest and a 50 percent reduction in the Sierra Nevada snowpack, a crucial source of water for cities and farms in California.

“The big point is that Amazon deforestation will not only affect the Amazon — it will not be contained. It will hit the atmosphere and the atmosphere will carry those responses,” said lead author David Medvigy, an assistant professor of geosciences at Princeton. Continue reading

Climate: 4th-driest year on record at Lake Powell

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Lake Powell: Going, going … gone?

High flow experiment planned for early November to restore aquatic and riparian Colorado River ecosystems downstream of Glen Canyon Dam

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Even with some bonus inflow in September, the past water year Oct 1, 2012 – Sept. 30, 2013) ended up as the fourth-driest on record for the Colorado River Basin as measured at Lake Powell — the key reservoir on the river that helps balance supply and demand between the upper and lower basins.

Overall water storage in the Colorado River Basin in the last 14 years has ranged from a high of 94 percent of capacity in 2000 to the present low of 50 percent at the start of the 2014 water year.

Continue reading

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