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Climate: Is drought relief in sight for California?

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The southern U.S., including parts of drought-hit Arizona, may see above-average precipitation this winter.

Climate experts say there’s good chance of average precipitation in California, but recovery will take a while

Staff Report

FRISCO — There may be some drought relief for California this winter, but the state won’t make up a huge moisture deficit in just one rainy season, federal climate scientists said this week, releasing their winter season outlook.

“Complete drought recovery in California this winter is highly unlikely,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.”While we’re predicting at least a 2 in 3 chance that winter precipitation will be near or above normal throughout the state, with such widespread, extreme deficits, recovery will be slow,” Halpert added. Continue reading

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Study: 1934 Dust Bowl still the Godzilla of North American droughts

A dust storm engulfs Stratford, Texas in April of 1935. The drought of 1934 was likely made worse by dust storms triggered by the poor agricultural practices of the time. Credit: NOAA/George E. Marsh Album.

A dust storm engulfs Stratford, Texas in April of 1935. The drought of 1934 was likely made worse by dust storms triggered by the poor agricultural practices of the time.
Credit: NOAA/George E. Marsh Album.

Severe dust storms spawned even more widespread drought, research shows

Staff Report

FRISCO — With all the recent talk of looming megadroughts, the 1934 peak of the Dust Bowl era still remains the most severe and widespread drought in North America during the past 1,000 years, climate scientists say.

Based on tree-ring studies and other physical records, the only other comparable event was way back in the 1500s.

The extent of the 1934 drought was approximately seven times larger than droughts of comparable intensity that struck North America between 1000 A.D. and 2005, and was caused in part by an atmospheric phenomenon that may have also led to the current drought in California, according to a new study. Continue reading

Climate: U.S. sees precipitation extremes in September

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A couple of cool spots, and big hot pocket out West in Sept. 2014.

NCDC says it was the 26th-warmest September on record

Staff Report

FRISCO — While 2014 is likely to end up as one of the warmest years on record for the planet, the U.S. hasn’t been quite so warm. A tongue of cool weather has persisted down the center of the country for months, while the farther west you go, the hotter it gets, culminating with the record heat in California.

September fit that trend, with the average temperature well above, but not near record levels in the Lower 48 states. According to the National Climatic Data Center’s latest monthly update, the average temperature  was 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, ranking it as the 26th warmest September. Precipitation for the month across the country was 0.09 inch above average, ranking near the middle. Continue reading

Study says odds are sea level will rise 3 feet by 2100

Denmark-based research team seeks to pinpoint ice sheet melt factor

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Large parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast could be swamped by rising seas.

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Coastal tidal flooding is already causing transportation problems near Venice, Louisiana, USA. bberwyn photo

Staff Report

FRISCO — Developing accurate projections for sea level rise has been an elusive, high-priority goal for climate scientists. It’s certain that sea level will keep rising for centuries to come. But it’s not clear at what rate and pace that will happen, especially during the next few decades as coastal communities try to prepare.

Some factors, like thermal ocean expansion, can be established with some accuracy but researchers still aren’t sure exactly how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will respond to warming.

In the latest number-crunching, scientists with the Niels Bohr Institute established that there’s little chance sea level will rise more than 1.8 meters (about 6 feet) by 2100. The results are published in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters. Continue reading

Climate: UK weather trends toward extremes

An extratropical cyclone

An extratropical cyclone

North Atlantic pressure variations driving variable pattern

Staff Report

FRISCO — Weather patterns affecting the UK are  becoming more volatile, climate researchers concluded in a new study, concluding that the trend is being driven by extreme variations in pressure over the North Atlantic.

The month of December is showing the biggest variation, but contrasting conditions, from very mild, wet and stormy to extremely cold and snowy are a clear sign of less stable weather, University of Sheffield scientists reported in a study published last month in the Journal of Climatology.

Winter weather conditions are commonly defined using the North Atlantic Oscillation, a south-north seesaw of barometric pressure variations over the North Atlantic which determine the strength of the westerly winds that shape North Atlantic weather systems. Continue reading

CU-led study urges grassroots approach to CO2 cuts

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Study says state plans are key to cutting concentrations of atmospheric heat-trapping pollution.

State energy policies key to reaching EPA greenhouse gas targets

Staff Report

FRISCO — State energy policies could be crucial to achieving the deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed to prevent runaway global warming. Mandatory emissions caps and indirect steps like encouraging production of renewable energy can be equally effective, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado, Boulder.

State policies are important because the EPA’s Clean Power Plan gives states a key role in reaching overall national goals. The plan would require each state to cut CO2 pollution from power plants by 30 percent from their 2005 levels by 2030.

“In addition to suggesting that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan can work, our results have important implications for the U.N. Climate Summit,” said Professor Don Grant, chair of the CU-Boulder sociology department and lead author of the study. “They indicate that while the world’s nations have struggled to agree on how to reduce emissions, sub-national governments have been developing several effective mitigation measures. Leaders at the United Nations, therefore, would be wise to shift from a top-down strategy that focuses on forging international treaties to a more bottom-up approach that builds upon established policy successes.”

The study was published online this week in Nature Climate Change. The study was co-authored by Kelly Bergstrand of the University of Arizona and Katrina Running of Idaho State University, and was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Researchers had previously found it difficult to determine which state policies, if any, reduced power plants’ CO2 emissions because plant-specific data were largely unavailable, Grant said. That changed when the EPA began requiring plants to submit CO2 pollution information as part of its Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

Some states have policies that directly limit power plants’ carbon emissions and others have addressed carbon emissions indirectly by encouraging energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The study used 2005 and 2010 data to examine the impacts of strategies that are explicitly climate-focused such as carbon emission caps, greenhouse gas reduction goals, climate action plans (comprehensive strategies for reducing a state’s carbon emissions) and greenhouse gas registry/reporting system that require plants to register and record their emissions and emissions reductions.

Likewise, the researchers examined indirect policies with climate implications such as efficiency targets, renewable portfolio standards that require utilities to deliver a certain amount of electricity from renewable or alternative energy sources, public benefit funds that provide financial assistance for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and “electric decoupling” that eases the pressure on utilities to sell as much energy as possible by eliminating the relationship between revenues and sales volume.

The study found that emission caps, greenhouse gas targets, efficiency targets, public benefit funds and electric decoupling were the most effective policies for reducing power plants’ carbon emissions.

 

 

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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