Major water woes looming in the West

Record low streamflows expected in many areas this summer

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Precipitation for the 2015 water year- to-date is now below normal over most of the West except for some northwestern areas. The dry March has significantly affected this picture since a month ago, when far more of the West was near normal.

Staff Report

FRISCO —Federal water watchers say their April 1 readings show that precipitation thus far in the 2015 water year (beginning October 1, 2014) is now below normal over most of the West except for some northwestern areas and coastal Alaska.

Snowpack has declined significantly since last month throughout the West due to the warm and dry March. Only high- elevation areas in the Rocky Mountains and Interior Alaska retain somewhat near normal snowpack.

Streamflow forecasts have dropped since last month due to a lack of snow accumulation during March and an early snowmelt, with most regions now expecting below normal streamflow. Reservoir storage is currently below normal in the Southwest and Nevada, with near to above normal storage elsewhere. Continue reading

March ends up as 12th-warmest on record for U.S.

Near-record heat across the West

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March 2015 temperatures were near record warm from the upper Midwest to the Pacific Coast. Map courtesy NOAA.NCDC.

Staff Report

FRISCO — March 2015 will go down in the books as the 12th-warmest on record across the contiguous U.S. The average temperature for the month was 45.4 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.9 degrees above the 20th century average and the warmest since 2012. Continue reading

Climate: Is the California drought the new norm?

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California’s withering drought continues.

Study shows how global warming may very well lead to semi-permanent drought by mid-century

Staff Report

FRISCO — California’s crippling drought may be the new norm, according to scientists who studied the link between greenhouse gases, rising temperatures and multi-year period of record warmth and dryness.

The new study by Stanford researchers found that the worst droughts in California have historically occurred when conditions were both dry and warm, and that global warming is increasing the probability that dry and warm years will coincide.

The findings suggest that California could be entering an era when nearly every year that has low precipitation also has temperatures similar to or higher than 2013-2014, when the statewide average annual temperature was the warmest on record. The study was published in the March 2 issue of the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Continue reading

How long will California’s drought continue?

Snowpack at record low levels

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A NASA Earth Observatory photo shows dry conditions in California in Jan. 2014.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The snowpack in some key California watersheds is at or near all-time record low, the state’s water managers reported this week after conducting their monthly surveys.

At one site, west of Sacramento in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the California Department of Water Resources reported less than 1 inch of water content in the snowpack, just 5 percent of the March 3 historical average for that site. Snowpack measurements are online here. Continue reading

Can global warming cause wars?

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A NASA Earth Observatory map shows the rainfall deficit during the 2006-2010 drought across the fertile crescent of Iraq and Syria.

Population growth, drought and poor governance combined to spur 2011 Syria uprising

Staff Report

FRISCO — A sustained drought in the Middle East, driven by global warming, may have been a key trigger for the brutal war in Syria, according to researchers. The drought, lasting from 2006 to 2010, destroyed agriculture in northern Syria, forcing farmers into cities, where poverty, government mismanagement and other factors created unrest that exploded in spring 2011.

“We’re not saying the drought caused the war,” said Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who coauthored a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region.” Continue reading

Wheat experts warn on global warming impacts

Wheat field in Upper Austria

A wheat field ripens under a summer sun. bberwyn photo

Extreme weather could cut global yields by 25 percent

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists in the biggest wheat-producing state in the U.S. issued a stark climate change warning last week, saying that 25 percent of the world’s wheat production will be lost to extreme weather if no adaptive measures are taken.

The research by scientists at Kansas State University concluded that global wheat yields are likely to decrease by 6 percent for each 1 degree Celsius of temperature rise. In the next few decades, that could add up to a 25 percent loss in global wheat yields. Continue reading

Climate study projects brutal Western droughts

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Shrunken reservoirs may become the norm across the West during the second half of the century. bberwyn photo.

All models point to significant drying and warming

Staff Report

FRISCO — By the second half of this century, the relentless increase in global greenhouse gases could push the U.S. Southwest and Great Plains toward persistent drought conditions worse than anything seen in ancient or modern times.

Drought conditions will likely be more severe than during several decades-long megadroughts that are well-documented by paleoclimate records, according to climate scientists with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

Continue reading

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