2015 sets global temperature record by a wide margin

Experts say no sign of slowdown in long-term warming trend

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2015’s global average temperature broke the record by the biggest margin ever, and 2016 could be even warmer.

By Bob Berwyn

The average global temperature for 2015 was the warmest since record-keeping started in 1880, breaking the mark set last year by a full quarter degree, according to the latest climate update from NASA and NOAA.

Discussing the new temperature record in a telephone conference call, experts with the two agencies said 2016 could be hotter yet because of warmth stored in the oceans. There’s no sign at all that the long term global warming trend will slow down any time soon, said NASA researcher Gavin Schmidt. Continue reading

Weather and climate summit returns to Breckenridge

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Greenland’s ice is melting faster these days, posing a sea level threat to densely populated cities around the world. @bberwyn photo.

This year edition features sessions on Arctic ice melt and western wildfires

Staff Report

There’s a global climate deal on the books, but humankind will continue to grapple with the effects of greenhouse gas emissions for decades to come, including the almost inevitable meltdown of ice sheets and glaciers that will raise sea level steadily.

Scientists aren’t quite sure yet how high the waters will rise, but new measurement tools and more sophisticated models can help refine the projections. Those estimates are important, because two-thirds of the world’s cities have vulnerable populations of five million or more living in at-risk areas, less than 10 meters above sea level, according to Dr. Lora Koenig
a research scientist with the National Snow & Ice Data Center. Continue reading

Climate: Warm oceans gone haywire?

Powerful storms in Atlantic and Pacific

MODIS visible satellite image of Hurricane Pali taken at 5:30 pm EST January 11, 2016. At the time, Pali was intensifying into a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

MODIS visible satellite image of Hurricane Pali taken at 5:30 pm EST January 11, 2016. At the time, Pali was intensifying into a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Staff Report

With large parts of the the world’s oceans consistently warming to record-warm levels the past few months, it’s probably not a surprise that there are some big storms spinning out at sea. Basic physics tells us that warmth is energy, and that’s now translating into some unusual developments, including what may be the earliest-ever hurricane in the central Pacific, according to this Twitter post from National Hurricane meteorologist Eric Blake.

Currently, yet another strong storm is developing in the Pacific. The National Weather Service says the system will also generate hurricane-force winds and waves up to 50 feet.

The Atlantic Ocean has also been hyperactive in recent weeks. A storm centered near Iceland developed hurricane-strength winds during the last days of 2015 and sent a surge of air so moist and so warm northward that temps briefly climbed above freezing at the North Pole during the heart of the coldest time of the year.

Another system in the central Atlantic has a 40 percent chance of subtropical or tropical formation in the next 48 hours, according to the National Weather Service.

 

 

Climate: Arctic sea ice near record-low extent

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Antarctic sea ice is back to a near average extent after running well above average for several years. @bberwyn photo.

End of year heat wave slowed expansion

Staff Report

Arctic sea ice extent in December ended up as the fourth-lowest on record, and is still hovering near a record low in mid-January, according to the latest monthly update from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Through 2015, the linear rate of decline for December sea ice extent is 3.4 percent per decade (about 17,000 miles) per year.

For the month, the sea ice extent averaged 4.74 million square miles, about 301,000 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average for the month. The rate of sea ice growth slowed slightly throughout December and nearly stopped early in January, federal ice trackers said, suspecting that a period of unusually warm temperatures in the Arctic caused the slowdown. Continue reading

Colorado starts 2016 with healthy snowpack

Will the storm door stay open?

snowpack mapStaff Report

El Niño has been generous to Colorado this winter, favoring all of the state with near- to above-normal precipitation since the beginning of winter. As of Jan.1, nearly all the state’s river basins were above average, with only the North Platte and the Yampa drainages lagging slightly below normal.

Some past El Nino events have been known to leave the northern half of the state high and dry.

“Statewide snowpack is 118 percent of normal, considerably better than last year’s start” said Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Continue reading

December 2015 was warmest, wettest on record for U.S.

Climate experts say to expect more of the same in years ahead

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29 states across the eastern half of the U.S. all reported record warm temperatures in December 2015.

By Bob Berwyn

2015 has ended up as the second-warmest year on record across the contiguous United States, with all 48 states recording above average temperatures for the year. Alaska also reported its second-warmest year on record, just behind 2014, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A record-warm December across the eastern half of the country helped drive the average U.S. temperature for the year to the top of the charts, with 29 states east of the Mississippi reporting record warmth for the month, according to the latest monthly climate update from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

December 2015 was also the wettest December on record — the first time in 121 years that December was both warmest and wettest, according to NOAA’s Jake Crouch. Continue reading

2015 in review – environment

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A NASA satellite shows oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill spreading across the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Oil spill impacts

Looking back over some of the top environmental stories published in Summit Voice, it’s interesting to see some of the long-running threads, including continued news about the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. A half decade after BP failed drilling operation spewed millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, scientists continue to track the impacts, including massive amounts of oil buried deep in sea-bottom sediments, as described in this Jan. 2015 story.

Monarchs bounce back

For some good news in January, an annual monarch butterfly survey showed a slight recovery in population numbers, up to 56.5 million from the previous year’s low of 34 million. But that was still more than  80 percent below the 20-year average and down 95 percent from numbers tallied in the mid-1990s. Near-perfect conditions during breeding season helped bolster the numbers in 2015. Read more here.

 

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Monarch butterflies are struggling, but population surveys in 2015 suggested that, with some help, the species can recover. @bberwyn photo.

Continue reading

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