Climate change and Hurricane Katrina: what have we learned

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Hurricane Katrina was sprawled across all or part of 16 states at 2:15 p.m. CDT on August 29, 2005, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

How will climate change affect hurricanes?

Kerry Emanuel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

*This story is reprinted with permission from The Conversation

Three weeks and three days before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans 10 years ago, a paper of mine appeared in the scientific journal Nature showing that North Atlantic hurricane power was strongly correlated with the temperature of the tropical Atlantic during hurricane season, and that both had been increasing rapidly over the previous 30 years or so. It attributed these increases to a combination of natural climate oscillations and to global warming. Continue reading

Study says some forests may not recover from mega-disturbances in the global warming era

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There have been significant die-backs in Colorado aspen forests during recent hot droughts and the stands may never regenerate in some areas because of global warming. @bberwyn photo.

Giant fires, insect outbreaks could be ‘game-changer’ for some forests

Staff Report

FRISCO —Forest Service researchers say “mega-disturbances” like giant wildfires and insect outbreaks are likely to hasten the slow demise of temperate forest ecosystems in the coming decades.

Even without those large-scale events, some forests appear to be transitioning to shrublands and steppe, and big disturbances could speed that process, according to a new study published this month in Science. Continue reading

Stronger winds, driven by climate change, could affect seabird populations

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New research suggests that winds strengthened by global warming present a potential threat to seabirds. @bberwyn photo.

UK study tracks impacts to coastal birds in Scotland

Staff Report

FRISCO — Biologists in the UK say stronger winds projected my many climate change models could have a big impact on some coastal bird populations. When winds are strong, females take much longer to find food compared with their male counterparts.

In many seabird species, females are smaller and lighter than males, and so must work harder to dive through turbulent water. They may not hold their breath for as long, fly so efficiently nor dive as deeply as males. The study suggests that climate change will exacerbate the differences and could ultimately affect population sizes.

To reach their findings, scientists with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology at the University of Edinburgh and the British Antarctic Survey tracked shags — cormorant-like birds — on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve in south-east Scotland. Small tracking devices attached to the legs of birds helped measured how long they foraged for fish in the sea.

Scientists found that when coastal winds were strong or blowing towards the shore, females took much longer to find food compared with males. The difference in time spent foraging became more marked between the sexes when conditions worsened, suggesting that female birds are more likely to continue foraging even in the poorest conditions. Continue reading

Severe drought spreading across Europe

June and July brought record high temperatures and big rainfall deficits in many parts of the European Union

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Drought conditions were widespread across Europe during June and July.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The western U.S. isn’t the only part of the world experiencing severe drought this year. Across much of central Europe, extremely warm temperatures and lack of rainfall have combined to create the worst drought conditions since 2003.

Hardest hit have been France, Benelux, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, northern Italy and northern Spain, according to new information released by the European Drought Observatory. The report includes data from satellite imagery showing that the areas with the largest rainfall deficits also recorded exceptionally high maximum daily temperatures, in some cases reaching record values. Continue reading

U.S. wildfires surge to 10-year high

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Towering flames at the Fork Complex wildfire in California, Photo via Inciweb.

Feds spending $150 million per day and seek firefighting help from Canada, Australia and New Zealand

Staff Report

FRISCO — This year’s wildfire activity in the U.S. has surged to the highest level in 10 years, with the National Interagency Fire Center reporting that about 7.2 million acres have burned so far, and officials said they expect the wildfire season to intensify in the coming weeks.

The drought-stricken far West is hardest hit, with 16 large fires currently burning in Washington, 14 in California and 12 in Oregon. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said federal agencies are currently spending about $150 million per day on fighting fires across the West. Continue reading

Climate: West may be in permanent drought by 2060s

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Is western drought the new climate normal?

New study quantifies global warming effect on California drought

Staff Report

FRISCO — Researchers say there’s new evidence that global warming will push the western U.S. into the driest conditions in at least the past 1,000 years, as higher temperatures exacerbate drought condition in the region.

The new study by scientists with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Cornell University focused on the current California drought, showing that warmer temps drive moisture from plants and soil into the air. Warmer temps likely worsened the California drought by 25 percent, the scientists concluded in their paper, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Continue reading

Study eyes global warming health threats to Gulf Coast

‘Unfortunately, we are now at a point where simply slowing climate change, while critical, is not enough.’

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Sea level rise will swallow parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast. @bberwyn photo.

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Tidal flooding near Venice, Louisiana. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is likely to make the U.S. Gulf Coast less hospitable and more dangerous for residents, public health experts warned in a new study that focused on the region.

More extreme heat events, rising sea levels and the potential for intense tropical storms threaten the region’s population and infrastructure, and could spur large scale migration, scientists said in a new paper published this week in in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

“The science of climate change and the threat to human and population health is irrefutable, and the threat is evolving quickly,” said to Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. “Unfortunately, we are now at a point where simply slowing climate change, while critical, is not enough. We need to simultaneously develop and deploy ways of mitigating the impact and adapting to the consequences of this environmental disaster.” Continue reading

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