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Global warming: Arctic snow cover shrinking steadily

Snow up to 50 percent thinner in some parts of Arctic

Ignatius Rigor

A detailed study shows dramatic thinning of the Arctic snow cover in recent decades, especially on the sea ice west of Alaska, Photo courtesy Ignatius Rigor.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Arctic snow cover has thinned significantly in recent decades, especially on sea ice off the west coast of Alaska, with some as-yet unknown consequences for the environment, researchers said this week in a new study accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans.

In the study, led by scientists with NASA and the University of Washington, the scientists compared and analyzed data from  NASA airborne surveys, collected between 2009 and 2013, with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers buoys frozen into the sea ice, and earlier data from Soviet drifting ice stations in 1937 and from 1954 through 1991.

Results showed that snowpack has thinned from 14 inches to 9 inches (35 cm to 22 cm) in the western Arctic, and from 13 inches to 6 inches (33 cm to 14.5 cm) in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, west and north of Alaska. Continue reading

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Climate: U.S. average temp cooler than average in July

Hot and cold pattern persists

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The yin and yang of climate, with hot readings in the far West and below-average temperatures the Midwest, along the Atlantic seaboard and the deep south. Map courtesy NCDC.

Summit Voice

FRISCO — A hot-and-cold pattern continued over the continental U.S. in July, with some western states reporting record and near-record warmth, while parts of the Midwest were record cold for the month. Continue reading

Study: Ancient El Niño just as strong as today’s

Archaeologists, ocean scientists team up on detailed study of historic climate cycles in Pacific Ocean

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Study offers new clues to past and future El Niños.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Today’s climate models may not do a very good job of predicting changes in the Pacific Ocean El Niño-La Niña cycle, an international team of  scientists said after studying old seashells that display a distinct history of climate variations.

Understanding how El Niño responds to global warming is significant because the undulating rhythm of warming and cooling waters in the equatorial Pacific is a key driver of weather patterns around the world. Some modeling studies have suggested that ancient El Niños may have been weaker than today’s but the new research suggests they were as strong and as frequent as they are now, at least going back about 10,000 years. Continue reading

Morning photo: Monsoon season!

Misty mountains

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Early morning cloudscape pano near Frisco, Colorado.

FRISCO — For a few weeks every summer, Colorado’s weather pattern experiences a seasonal shift that gives us a taste of the tropics. As big high pressure areas move around, moisture often streams into our mountains from the south, keeping the air moist and temperatures relatively warm at night, since the clouds, or even just the moist air, act as a blanket and prevent the day’s warmth from radiating back into space at night. It may be hard to believe, given how much snow we get in the middle of winter, but our monsoon season is actually the wettest time of year in Colorado. And, of course, it’s one of the best times to snap pictures of dramatic cloudscapes. Continue reading

Climate: Increase in Arctic wildfires likely to have big impact on caribou herds

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Alaska caribou. Courtesy USGS.

Shifts in wildlife populations will affect Native American communities

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some big caribou herds in Alaska could lose more than 20 percent of their habitat as growing wildfires destroy critical foraging areas. Those changes will likely affect generations of Native American families whose existence is spiritually linked with the Arctic ungulates, researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey reported in a new study.

Rapidly warming Arctic temperatures are to blame — global warming increases the flammability of lichen-producing boreal forests, which are important winter habitat for caribou herds. Continue reading

Climate Ranger update: Into the cryosphere

The realm of ice and snow

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A huge summer snowcave persists into late August in some years, nurturing the highest headwaters with small trickles that feed wetlands, creeks and ponds. A big shift in the timing of snowmelt or the total amount of annual snowfall will have big impacts on the high alpine Rocky Mountain ecosystems.

Some flowers literally grow straight through the ice

Some flowers literally grow straight through the ice.

Support the Rocky Mountain Climate Ranger project to learn more about how global warming is affecting the Rocky Mountains.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — It would be hard to do a climate change journey without visiting the cryosphere, that part of the Earth which is in a frozen state at any given time. The biggest slices, of course, are at the poles, but the rest is in the high mountains of the world, where glaciers linger for now, and snow coats the ground for half the year.

Most of the world’s population lives far removed from the realm of ice and snow, but it’s the part of the planet that’s showing the most wear and tear from global warming. The steep decades-long decline in sea ice extent, the potential collapse of massive Antarctic ice shelves and the continued worldwide glacial meltdown are all clear signs of our planet’s fever. Continue reading

Is Hurricane Iselle headed for Hawaii?

Forecasters eye “hyperactive” tropical Pacific Ocean

NOAA's GOES-West satellite captured this image of a very active Eastern and Central Pacific, hosting three tropical cyclones (from left to right) Genevieve, Iselle and Julio. Image Credit:  NASA/NOAA GOES Project

NOAA’s GOES-West satellite captured this image of a very active Eastern and Central Pacific, hosting three tropical cyclones (from left to right) Genevieve, Iselle and Julio.
Image courtesy NASA/NOAA GOES Project.

Hurricane Iselle track

The forecast track of Hurricane Iselle shows the potential for impacts to Hawaii.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Meteorologists are keeping a close eye on what they describe as a hyperactive tropical Pacific Ocean, and especially on Hurricane Iselle, which is headed straight toward Hawaii with current sustained winds of 140 mph.

Iselle is expected to weaken before nearing the islands in about three days, but could still be packing a tropical storm-force punch, with winds of 60-60 mph. The Category 4 storm is expected to maintain strength for the next day or so before moving over cooler water and weakening. Continue reading

Climate: Hotter … and colder?

More extremes expected in a warming world

A NASA climate maps shows much of the globe was warmer than average during June 2014.

A NASA climate maps shows much of the globe was warmer than average during June 2014.

Staff Report

FRISCO — After crunching the latest climate numbers in a supercomputer, researchers with Northeastern University report that temperatures may become more volatile in coming decades, on both the hot and cold end of the spectrum.

Increasing temperature variability means that, while each year’s average hottest and coldest temperatures will likely rise, those averages will also tend to fall within a wider range of potential high and low temperate extremes than are currently being observed. This means that even as overall temperatures rise, there may still be extreme cold snaps. Continue reading

Study maps potential for climate-change disruption in National Parks

Some park lands seen as potential safe harbors from global warming

The southeastern and south-central U.S. are particularly vulnerable to ecosystem shifts driven by global warming. Map courtesy National Park Service.

The southeastern and south-central U.S. are particularly vulnerable to ecosystem shifts driven by global warming. Map courtesy National Park Service.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists zooming in on the potential impacts of global warming found that up to 25 percent of the lands managed by the National Park Service in the U.S. are vulnerable to vegetation shifting up slope and northward. The findings, published in the journal Global Change Biology, show that habitat loss from the development of roads and other urbanization, agriculture and deforestation makes ecosystems more vulnerable to climate change.

“We already established that climate change and habitat loss affect national parks, but this scientific study links these negative effects and identifies just how much of the landscape is at risk,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said. “The good news is that the study also identified areas of biodiversity that are refuges and wellsprings for species.” Continue reading

Report IDs ocean acidification threats to Alaska’s coastal resources, Native American communities

Important crab fisheries to suffer as oceans turn warm and acidiic

A nice haul of blue crabs.

Crabs are among the many commercially important species that will struggle as oceans grow warmer and more acidic. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO —Alaska’s economically important crab fishery and other coastal and ocean resources face significant global warming threats, according to a new study led by scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The research findings, to be published online in the journal Progress in Oceanography, show that many of Alaska’s nutritionally and economically valuable marine fisheries are located in waters that are already experiencing ocean acidification.

Communities in southeast and southwest Alaska face the highest risk from ocean acidification because they rely heavily on fisheries that are expected to be most affected by ocean acidification. Some of those Native American communities are also more vulnerable to economic risks because of lower average incomes and  fewer employment opportunities, NOAA said in a press release. Continue reading

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