NASA tracking this year’s global El Niño impacts

Wildfire risk growing in tropics

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A strong El Niño is peaking across the Pacific Ocean this winter.

Staff Report

Along with being one of the strongest El Niños on record, this year’s edition of the cyclical weather event in the Pacific will be one of the most studied.

NASA, for example, has been tracking the effects of El Niño via satellite data, which shows global impacts, from increasing fire danger in some tropical regions to a reduction of certain types of pollution in other areas.

Some of the findings were presented this week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, where researchers said that atmospheric rivers, significant sources of rainfall, tend to intensify during El Niño events, and that California may see some relief from an extreme multiyear drought. Continue reading

Climate: Autumn 2015 was record warm across U.S.

Eastern U.S. saw near-record November temps

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Cooler than average readings across the West, for a change, while the Eastern U.S. was warm in November 2015.

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Autumn warmth continued into early December, with record warm temps early in the month.

The entire United States, including Alaska, experience above average warmth during the autumn of 2015 (September – November), with 41 states reporting temperatures that were much warmer than average, according to the latest monthly summary from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

The average temperature across the contiguous U.S. for the season set a new record, at 56.8 degrees Fahrenheit, surpassing the old mark set in 1963. Continue reading

Climate: Heat-adapted corals not immune to bleaching

Intertidal Acropora corals exposed to air at low tide.

Intertidal Acropora corals exposed to air at low tide. Photo courtesy Dr. Verena Schoepf.

A matter of degrees …

Staff Report

Even corals living in some of the warmest ocean waters on the planet are susceptible to bleaching and heat stress, according to Australian researchers who studied unique tidal species in the Kimberley region.

When the water gets too warm, it breaks down the symbiosis between coral and their zooxanthellae (the microscopic plants which gives coral most of its colour), which can be fatal for the coral.

In the new study by scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies said they were surprised to find that corals around the Kimberley region in north Western Australia are just as sensitive to heat stress and bleaching as their counterparts from less extreme environments elsewhere. Continue reading

2015 nearly sure to be warmest year on record

‘We have the knowledge and the tools to act. We have a choice. Future generations will not’

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Global meltdown? @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

A new report released just days before the start of the Paris climate talks makes it clear why there is so much interest in reaching an agreement to cap global warming. The World Meteorological Organization said it’s all but certain that 2015 will be the hottest year on record.

The global average temperature for the year will probably cross a symbolic threshold, reaching 1.0 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial era, capping a five-year span that is also the warmest on record, the WMO said, blaming a strong El Niño and human-induced global warming. Read more of the WMO information here. Continue reading

Can global warming cause massive ocean dead zones?

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Almost the entire Pacific Ocean was much warmer than average in October 2015.

Research links past warming spikes with low-oxygen conditions in North Pacific

Staff Report

Ecosystem changes in the North Pacific that are currently being observed by scientists may be linked with large-scale climate shifts, according to a new study that found a link between abrupt ocean warming at the end of the last ice age and the sudden onset of low-oxygen, or hypoxic, conditions that led to vast marine dead zones.

“This works tackles a long-standing debate about what causes expansion of Oxygen Minimum Zones, also known as dead zones, in the oceans,” said Candace Major, a program director in National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences. “The results demonstrate a link between warming surface temperatures and dead zones at great depths. The findings also show that the response time between warming and dead zone expansion is quite fast,” Major said. Continue reading

Climate: Study links deadly 2010-2011 Australia floods with long-term ocean warming

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A NASA Earth Observatory satellite image shows swollen rivers in northwestern Australia during record-setting floods in 2010-2011. Visit this NASA page for more info.

‘Take action to forestall global warming …’

Staff Report

Deadly floods that swept across Australia in 2010 and 2011 were at least partly fueled by long-term warming in the Indian and Pacific oceans, according to a new study that highlights some of threats posed by human-caused climate change.

The research, published in Geophysical Research Letters, shows that ocean warming can have profound effects on atmospheric circulation, delivering huge amounts of moisture to land areas under certain conditions. Continue reading

NOAA reports record global warmth for October 2015

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Sea ice extent below average at both poles; northern hemisphere snow cover well above average

Staff Report

For the sixth month in a row, the global average temperature broke all historical records in October, soaring to 1.76 degrees Fahrenheit above the monthly average.

According the monthly climate report from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, it was by far the warmest October on record, breaking the record set just last year by 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit. It was also the largest the monthly departure from average from any month on record.

Both land- and sea-surface temperatures set records during the month, a sure sign that El Niño is fueling the spike in global temps and all but ensuring that this year will go down in the books as the warmest on record. Continue reading

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