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

Climate: Warming oceans may increase New England hurricane risk

Hurricanes and global warming

A NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Bob, which raked the New England coast in 1991.

Historic record shows series of intense storms during eras of warmer sea surface temps

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate researchers say New England’s coastal communities may need to prepare for major hurricane strikes sooner rather than later as the Atlantic Ocean continues to warm.

“We may need to begin planning for a category 3 hurricane landfall every decade or so rather than every 100 or 200 years,” said Jeff Donnelly, a scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, explaining that new research findings show that a string of giant storms pummeled the region during the first millennium, from the peak of the Roman Empire into the height of the Middle Ages. Continue reading

Climate research shows clear trend of more Midwest flooding during past 50 years

Warmer atmosphere means more moisture, more rain

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Missouri River flooding in July, 2011, via NASA’s Earth Observatory program.

Staff Report

FRISCO — After carefully reviewing data from hundreds of stream gauges, University of Iowa scientists say they’ve identified a clear trend of increasing floods during the past 50 years.

“It’s not that big floods are getting bigger, but that we have been experiencing a larger number of big floods,” said Gabriele Villarini, a civil and environmental engineer and corresponding author on the paper, published Feb. 9 in the advance online edition of the journal Nature Climate Change. Continue reading

Climate: Growing stream-flow variability threatens Chinook salmon spawning in Pacific Northwest

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Can Chinook salmon survive global warming?

Research documents more fall and winter flooding

Staff Report

FRISCO — Threatened Chinook salmon have been able to adapt to many changes over millennia, but climate change presents a big new threat, as many rivers around Puget Sound have seen bigger fluctuations in stream flows during the past 60 years.

“There’s more flooding in late fall and winter,” said Eric Ward, an ecologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center. “This is happening when the eggs are in the gravel or when the juveniles are most susceptible.”

More pronounced fluctuations in flow can scour away salmon eggs and exhaust young fish, especially when lower flows force adult fish to lay eggs in more exposed areas in the center of the channel. Continue reading

Climate: New ice core data help show long-term rainfall record for parts of Australia

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A recent weather satellite image of Australia, via NASA.

‘The Millennium Drought was far from an exceptional event for eastern Australia during the past thousand years …’

FRISCO — Even without the added factor of global warming, eastern Australia is susceptible to climate extremes, including long-lasting droughts that could put a huge strain on water storage and delivery systems.

Researchers say a 1,000-year ice core record from Antarctica shows the recent “Millennium Drought” actually wasn’t all that unusual in the context of Australia’s long-term climate history. Continue reading

Climate: Study shows how smoke from distant wildfires can affect tornado formation

A tornado near Lakeview, Texas. Photo courtesy NOAA.

A tornado near Lakeview, Texas. Photo courtesy NOAA.

New study could help produce better tornado forecasting

Staff Report

FRISCO — Under certain conditions, wildfire smoke transported thousands of miles can intensify tornadoes in U.S., according to University of Iowa researchers, who studied how smoke from agricultural burning in Central America affected tornado conditions in the United States.

The research specifically looked at the smoke impacts on an April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak that spawned 122 twisters, killing 313 people, considered the most severe tornado event since 1950. Continue reading

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