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U.S. November temps well below average

Snow cover extent largest on record for any November

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A year-to-date temperature ranking map shows the split between east and west.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Last month was the chilliest November across the U.S. since 2000, federal climate trackers said today in the latest monthly update from the National Climatic Data Center.

The average temperature across the lower 48 states was 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit below the 20th century average, making it 16th-coldest November on record. Numerous states, from North Dakota southeast all the way to Georgia, reported near-record cold readings. No state was record cold, but Alabama and Mississippi each had their second coldest November.

Average temperatures in New England and across the Intermountain West, with California, Nevada and Arizona tallying above-average readings, along with Alaska, which reported its fifth-warmest November on record. Continue reading

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NOAA says (again) that current California drought isn’t directly caused by global warming

Natural ocean cycles driving current dry spell

A January 2013 image from the NASA Earth Observatory website shows a brown and dry California in the heart of the rainy season, with only sparse snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.

A January 2013 image from the NASA Earth Observatory website shows a brown and dry California in the heart of the rainy season, with only sparse snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.

FRISCO — Regardless of global warming, California’s current multiyear drought is not unprecedented and similar events are likely in the future, a new NOAA-sponsored study concludes, point at natural oceanic and atmospheric patterns are the primary drivers of the ongoing West Coast dry spell.

A stubborn high pressure ridge off the West Coast has been blocking wet season storms. The pattern is similar to other drought periods in California, the federal scientists said, explaining that the current pattern of ocean surface temperature patterns makes such a ridge much more likely.

According to the new study, the ridge over the North Pacific, is almost opposite to what models project to result from human-induced climate change. Most climate change models project that mid-winter precipitation is actually projected to increase, though warming temperatures may sap much of those benefits for water resources overall, while only spring precipitation is projected to decrease. Continue reading

Study: East Pacific hurricanes peak 2-3 years after El Niño

2014 goes into the books one of the most active Pacific hurricane seasons on record

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Hurricane Odile off Mexico: At about 10:45 p.m. local time on September 14, 2014, Hurricane Odile made landfall near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, Odile arrived with wind speeds of 110 knots (204 kilometers or 127 miles per hour). The storm tied Olivia (1967) as the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the state of Baja California Sur in the satellite era. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — As a giant pump that redistributes global heat, it’s no surprise that El Niño affects the formation and timing of hurricanes. In general, meteorologists see that El Niño conditions sometimes suppress hurricane activity in the Atlantic. But less is known about how the cyclical surges of warm water at the equator affect Pacific hurricanes.

A new study suggests there may a delayed reaction, with peak hurricane in the northeastern Pacific happening two or three years after an El Niño peak. The climate researchers with the University of Hawai’i School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, National Taiwan University uncovered an oceanic pathway that brings El Niño’s heat into the Northeastern Pacific  to directly fuel intense hurricanes in that region. Continue reading

Study: California drought a symptom of Earth’s fever

Tree rings show the current combination of dryness and heat makes this the worst drought in 1,200 years

Researchers expect drought to become frequent and last longer. MAP COURTESY IPCC.

Researchers expect drought to become frequent and last longer. MAP COURTESY IPCC.

Staff Report

FRISCO — California’s current drought is already going down as one of the worst in recorded era, and a new tree-ring study by scientists shows it may be the driest period for the region in 1,200 years.

Researchers with the University of Minnesota and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution collected new tree-ring samples from blue oak trees in southern and central California.

“California’s old blue oaks are as close to nature’s rain gauges as we get,” said University of Minnesota professor Daniel Griffin. “They thrive in some of the driest environments where trees can grow in California.” These trees are particularly sensitive to moisture changes and their tree rings display moisture fluctuations vividly,” Griffin said. Continue reading

Morning photo: Snow dancing

Powder love!

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Dylan and Comet enjoy some powder and air time in the Loveland Pass backcountry.

FRISCO — All the world’s eyes focusing on the current round of climate talks in Lima, Peru, made me realize once again how much is at stake for those of us who love winter and snow. Of course, global warming isn’t going to wipe out all the snow at once, but that’s one of the things that makes the global warming issue so vexing. Even if we can’t see much change from season to season, there’s a good chance that snowfall patterns will be very different 50 years from now. Based on everything we know, it’s hard to say with any certainty that skiing will be be sustainable as a sport by the end of the century. Since I want my son, and his children, to have the same chance to experience winter the way we do know, I know that it’s imperative to #actonclimate. Continue reading

Climate: More signs of an irreversible Antarctic meltdown

It's not clear when the waters around Antarctica will no longer be able to support production of phytoplankton.

New research shows signs of a major meltdown in Antarctica. bberwyn photo.

Ocean temperatures increasing steadily near West Antarctica

Staff Report

FRISCO — Warming seawater around parts of Antarctica is speeding the melting and sliding of glaciers, and that there is no indication that this trend will reverse, according to researchers with  the University of East Anglia.

The study, published in the journal Science, tracked ocean temperatures in the shallow shelf seas of West Antarctica for the last 50 years. The findings also suggest the areas of warmer seawater are spreading, and that other Antarctic areas, which have not yet started to melt, could experience melting for the first time, which would increase the pace of global sea level rise. Continue reading

Study: Maximum warming effect of today’s greenhouse gas emissions felt in just 10 years

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How long do the impacts of greenhouse gases last?

Study shows cutting emissions now will benefit current generations

Staff Report

FRISCO — The maximum heat-trapping effect of today’s greenhouse gas emissions will be felt in about 10 years, scientists said in a new study that refutes the common misconception that today’s emissions won’t be felt for decades and that they are only a problem for future generations.

In their work, Carnegie Institute researchers Katharine Ricke and Ken Caldeira evaluated how long it takes to feel the maximum warming effect caused by a single carbon emission. The results are published in Environmental Research Letters.

“A lot of climate scientists have intuition about how long it takes to feel the warming from a particular emission of carbon dioxide,” Ricke said. “But that intuition might be a little bit out of sync with our best estimates from today’s climate and carbon cycle models.” Continue reading

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