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How does the Southern Ocean regulate global climate?

Major research project to examine carbon cycling, circulation dynamics

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A new research project will help explain how the Southern Ocean helps regulate the global climate. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even though it’s eparated from the rest of the world’s oceans by a strong circulation of currents and a distinct temperature gradient, the Southern Ocean is known to be a key driver of global climate and carbon cycles.

Climate researchers and oceanographers may soon know a lot more about the enigmatic ocean as they deploy hundreds of robotic floats deployed around Antarctica in a six-year, $21 million research project aimed at understanding ocean dynamics, chemistry and carbon cycling. The new instruments will increase the flow of Southern Ocean data 30-fold. Continue reading

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Climate: Summer temps average across U.S.

Northern Rockies see near record August rains

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Montana was all-time record wet in August.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Cooler than average temperatures across central and eastern states balanced the blistering drought raging across parts of the West, leading to a summer that was remarkably near average in terms of temperature.

According to the National Climatic Data Center’s monthly update, the average June-August temperature across the lower 48 states was 71.7 degrees, just 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.

Similar conditions prevailed in August, which ended near average across the U.S., with near-record readings along the West Coast, and warmer than average conditions in Florida and parts of New England. A persistent monsoon kept temperatures below average in the Southwest. Cooler than average readings were also reported from the Mid-Atlantic to the Northeast. Continue reading

Global warming: New NASA aerial mission to explore impacts of Arctic sea ice loss

Arctic cloud formation still a climate wild card

Sun glint off a sea ice lead in an otherwise heavily ridged ice pack, Canada Basin (Arctic Ocean). Credit: NASA/Sinead Farrell

Sun glints off a sea ice lead in an otherwise heavily ridged ice pack, Canada Basin (Arctic Ocean). Credit: NASA/Sinead Farrell

STAFF REPORT

FRISCO — The ongoing loss of Arctic sea ice is probably already affecting weather and climate in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere. Researchers aren’t exactly sure of how, but there’s been plenty of speculation, mostly focused around changes in the jet stream.

Climate scientists may know a bit more in a few years after they study the results of a new NASA field campaign studying the effect of sea ice retreat on Arctic climate. The Arctic Radiation IceBridge Sea and Ice Experiment (ARISE) will conduct research flights Aug. 28 through Oct. 1, covering the peak of summer sea ice melt. Continue reading

Are New Mexico forests holding steady in the face of climate change, drought and wildfires?

New inventory assesses state’s woodland resources
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STAFF REPORT

FRISCO — Mortality is increasing and growth is slowing down in New Mexico’s forest lands, according to a new forest inventory released in late August. The only species showing overall growth are ponderosa and piñon pines, as well as junipers, as insects, wildfires drought and disease take an increasing toll on the state’s woodlands.

Forests grow on about 25 million acres in New Mexico, with 44 percent on private lands and 31 percent on national forest lands. About 40 percent (10.8 million acres) of the forests are piñon-juniper woodlands, by far the state’s most extensive forest type. Gambel oak is the most abundant tree species by number of trees, and ponderosa pine is the most abundant by volume or biomass. Overall, researchers estimate there are more than 6 billion live trees growing in the state.

The inventory documented the drought-induced piñon pine die-off in the early 2000s, estimating that about 8 percent the species died, but noted that the mortality rate has tapered off.New Mexico’s aspen forests, covering about 380,000 acres, held steady in the past decade. Continue reading

Climate: Wet West in July

Energetic monsoon brings moisture surplus to many areas

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The big wet?

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — An energetic and widespread monsoon weather pattern brought above normal precipitation to much of the West in August, with a bullseye of moisture in southern Idaho, extending across western Wyoming, Montana, northeastern Utah and into northwestern Colorado. Some locations in the region saw up to 800 percent of average precipitation. Continue reading

Climate study explores link between El Niño, the polar vortex and extreme cold outbreaks in Europe

Cold snaps more likely during El Niño winters

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How does El Niño affect weather in Europe?

Staff Report

FRISCO —El Niños don’t just affect anchovy fishermen in Peru and the ski resorts of the Sierra Nevada. The somewhat cyclical variation in equatorial Pacific sea surface temps can shift weather patterns worldwide, including in Europe, which may be more susceptible to extreme cold outbreaks in El Niño years, according to a new study led by a University of Colorado, Boulder researcher.

Other research has hinted at the connection, but the new paper is the first to show that El Niños might be linked with Sudden Stratospheric Warming events, when temperatures high in the atmosphere change radically, affect the polar vortex, a belt of winds that form a boundary between the cold Arctic and the temperate mid-latitudes. Sudden Stratospheric Warming weakens those winds, often leading to outbreaks of bitter cold Arctic air across Europe and possibly the eastern U.S. Continue reading

Antarctica: Life beneath the ice

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Science mission finds microbial life beneath Antarctic ice sheets. bberwyn photo.

Simple organisms process basic elements to survive

Staff Report

FRISCO —Tiny organisms living beneath the vast Antarctic ice fields can convert ammonium and methane into the energy required for growth, surviving in one of the most unlikely environments on Earth, according to scientists who studied a subsurface lake that hasn’t seen sunlight for millions of years.

“We were able to prove unequivocally to the world that Antarctica is not a dead continent,” said Montana State University professor John Priscu, the chief scientist of the U.S. project called WISSARD that sampled the sub-ice environment. Continue reading

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