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Study: Coral reef restoration can help protect coastal dwellers from rising storm surges

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Coral reef are gardens of biodiversity and also provide valuable services for coastal populations.

Research quantifies benefits of reef conservation

Staff Report

FRISCO — Coral reefs have long been recognized as important cradles of ocean biodiversity, but they also help protect coastal populations from the brunt of storms. A new study claims that reefs reduce wave energy that would otherwise impact coastlines by 97 percent.

“Coral reefs serve as an effective first line of defense to incoming waves, storms and rising seas,” said Dr. Michael Beck, lead marine scientist with The Nature Conservancy and a co-author of the study, “200 million people across more than 80 nations are at risk if coral reefs are not protected and restored.” Continue reading

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Climate: Are tropical storms migrating north?

Along with affecting the marine food chain, declining concentrations of phytoplankton in the oceans could impact global weather patterns.

Tropical cyclones appear to be migrating north.

Study finds that point of maximum intensity has moved poleward by 35 miles per decade

Staff Report

FRISCO — Tropical storm trackers say that the location where cyclones reach their maximum intensity is shifting north by about 35 miles each decade. The changes could put more coastal infrastructure at risk, while other areas that rely on tropical storms for water could be left high and dry, researchers said.

The amount of poleward migration varies by region. The greatest migration is found in the northern and southern Pacific and South Indian Oceans, but there is no evidence that the peak intensity of Atlantic hurricanes has migrated poleward in the past 30 years. Continue reading

2013 hurricane season ends with a whimper

2013 saw fewest number of storms since 1982

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Most of the tropical storms that formed in 2013 didn’t develop into full-fledged hurricanes and many of them stayed well out to sea.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Despite early projections for above-average hurricane activity in the Atlantic, the season ended Nov. 30 with a whimper after the fewest number of hurricanes since 1982. Even so, the storms that did form killed more than 140 people and resulted in $15. billion in damage.

In a release, NOAA attributed the low activity to persistent, unfavorable atmospheric conditions over the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and tropical Atlantic Ocean — especially early in the season, when dry and dusty air dominated the atmosphere off the coast of Africa and into the central tropical Atlantic.

This year is expected to rank as the sixth-least-active Atlantic hurricane season since 1950, in terms of the collective strength and duration of named storms and hurricanes. Continue reading

Flash flood watch posted for western Colorado

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The remnants of Tropical Storm Ivo, off the coast of Baja, are pumping tropical moisture into the Southwest.

Tropical storm off Baja pumping moisture into Southwest

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — So far, the Atlantic hurricane season hasn’t been particularly active, but in the eastern Pacific, nine named storms have formed, most of them moving out to sea with little impact to land areas.

But the latest in the series, Tropical Depression Ivo, is dawdling off the west coast of Baja California and sending moisture streaming into northwestern Mexico and the southwestern U.S. The moisture could affect much of western Colorado and eastern Utah Sunday and Monday, with another round of heavy thunderstorms possible. Continue reading

Hurricane experts still see active season ahead

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Hurricane Sandy as seen from NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite on October 28, 2012. Photo courtesy NOAA/NASA.

Warm ocean temps, strong West Africa rainy season boost chances for tropical formation

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal weather experts this week reaffirmed their earlier projections of an active hurricane season in the Atlantic, with hemispheric patterns similar to those that have produced many active Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995.

Ingredients for tropical storm formation include above-average Atlantic sea surface temperatures and a stronger rainy season in West Africa, which produces wind patterns that help turn storm systems there into tropical storms and hurricanes.

The peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is just ahead, from mid-August through mid-October. Continue reading

USGS maps potential hurricane impacts

Online toolkit designed to help coastal planners and decision makers

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A NOAA seasonal map shows the path of 2011 Atlantic hurricanes.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After a decade of study, USGS scientists are releasing new mapping tools that will help planner and decision-makers address coastal vulnerabilities to storm surges and wave action from hurricanes.

The information could help identify the best locations for coastal defenses, especially when sea level rise is added into the equation. The pinpoint mapping could also help inform decisions ranging from changes to building codes and locations for new construction, to determining the best evacuation routes for future storms.

The two reports assess the coastline from Florida to North Carolina, and  from Virginia to New York, showing that, even during the weakest hurricane, a category 1 with winds between 74 and 95 miles per hour, 89 percent of the dune-backed beaches from Florida to New York coast are very likely to experience dune erosion during a direct landfall.  Continue reading

Hurricane Erick moving up the coast of Mexico

Hurricane watches in effect for parts of the Mexican coast

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Hurricane Erick, with winds up to 80 mph, is hugging the coast of Mexico and heading toward Baja California, where a tropical storm watch is in effect.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The fifth named tropical cyclone of the season in the Eastern Pacific has developed into a full-fledged hurricane and threatens parts of Mexico’s west coast with storm surges, high winds and heavy rains.

Hurricane Erick is generating winds of 80 mph and is expected to hug the coast of Mexico for a few more days, according to the National Hurricane Center. A tropical storm warning is in effect for the mainland Mexico coast from Zihuatanejo to Cabo Corrientes, while a hurricane watch has been issued from Punta san Telmo to Cabo Corrientes.

Parts of Baja, from Santa Fe to La Paz, are under a tropical storm watch. The center of the storm is expected to approach the southern tip of Baja by late Sunday. The official forecast calls for Hurricane Erick to veer more toward the west before reaching Baja under the steering influence of a strong ridge of high pressure over Mexico and the southwester U.S.

The storm could weaken quickly if it interacts with land or when as moves across cooler waters on its northwesterly track.

Tropical Storm Andrea forms in the Gulf of Mexico

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Tropical Storm Andrea is heading north in the Gulf of Mexico.

Florida, Southeast to feel impacts of first tropical system

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Just a few days into hurricane season, the first tropical storm of the year has formed in the western Gulf of Mexico and could make landfall in Florida Thursday afternoon or evening, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Tropical Storm Andrea is generating winds up to 40 mph and will deliver 3 to 6 inches of rain across much of the Florida Peninsula, with tropical storm warning already hoisted from Boca Grande north to the Ochlocknee River. A storm surge of 2 to 4 feet is expected from Tampa Bay north to Apalachicola, with a storm surge of 1 to 2 feet expected south of Tampa Bay, according to the first NHC advisory on the system. Continue reading

Global warming could fuel European hurricanes

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Tropical storms are more likely to affect Europe as Atlantic sea surface temperatures rise.

Severe winds to increase in the North Sea and the Gulf of Biscay, especially during autumn

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — European climate scientists say global warming will drive a northeastward expansion of the tropical Atlantic hurricane breeding ground, with four times as many storms of tropical origins affecting parts of Western Europe in coming decades.

In the Bay of Biscay, the number of storms with tropical-storm-force winds could increase from 2 to 13 by the end of the century, said researcher Reindert Haarsma.

The initial results suggest that the impacts may not be as great in the low-lying Netherlands as in some other areas because the strong winds associated with the events will generally be from the southwest, Haarsma said.

With hurricanes forming farther north and warmer sea surface temperatures in the region, tropical storms are more likely to reach the mid-latitudes, where they will merge with the prevailing westerlies. Even if they lose hurricane status, they are likely to remain stronger, and sometimes re-intensify before landfall, potentially with serious impacts in parts of Europe.

“Our model simulations clearly show that future tropical cyclones are more prone to hit Western Europe and do so earlier in the season,” said the researchers with the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. Continue reading

NOAA: 2012 Atlantic hurricane season above average

10 hurricanes, 19 named storm in Atlantic Basin in 2012

SUMMIT COUNTY — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has classified 2012 as an above-average year for hurricanes, based on the combined number, intensity, and duration of all tropical storms and hurricanes.

The season produced 19 named storms; 10 became hurricanes and one became a major hurricane.  The number of named storms is well above the average of 12. The number of hurricanes is also above the average of six, but the number of major hurricanes is below the average of three.

2012 was the second consecutive year that the mid-Atlantic and Northeast suffered devastating impacts from a named storm. Sandy, and Irene last year, caused fatalities, injuries, and tremendous destruction from coastal storm surge, heavy rainfall, inland flooding, and wind. Storms struck many parts of the country this year, including tropical storms Beryl and Debby in Florida, Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana, and Post-tropical Cyclone Sandy in New Jersey. Continue reading

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