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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

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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

Antarctic peak.

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

Study tracks rapid ice age climate shifts

A cyclonic storm spins over the center of the Arctic Ocean. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory

A cyclonic storm spins over the center of the Arctic Ocean. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Findings show delicate balance of ice sheets, winds and ocean currents

Staff Report

FRISCO — The superstorm depicted in “The Day After Tomorrow” may be completely implausible, but that doesn’t mean the Earth’s climate system is always as stable as it seems now.

New research by a team of scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institute shows how there may have been significant shifts in ocean circulation and wind patterns that happened in the span of just a few decades — not even the blink of an eye by geological time standards. Continue reading

Climate: July global temps near record high

Year to-date tied for third-warmest

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Hot July for Planet Earth. Courtesy NASA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — With the exception of a few cool pockets, including parts of the eastern United States, above-average temperatures prevailed across most of the globe last month, making it the fourth-warmest July on record.

The globally average land-surface temperature was the 10-warmest on record and the average global sea-surface temperature for July tied with 2009 as the warmest ever, according to the monthly global state of the climate report from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Continue reading

Climate: Heat-trapping greenhouse gases the biggest driver of global glacier meltdown

‘In our data we find unambiguous evidence of anthropogenic contribution to glacier mass loss’

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Shrinking glaciers on the Dachstein Mountains in Austria will affect water supplies far downstream in local areas and in distant rivers. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some of the world’s glaciers were shrinking before the onset of unchecked heat-trapping pollution, but the human factor in the glacial equation has grown exponentially in the past few decades.

A new modeling study led by scientists at the University of Innsbruck (Austria) shows that only about 25 percent of the global glacier mass loss during the period of 1851 to 2010 is attributable to anthropogenic causes. However, between 1991 and 2010 the fraction increased to about two-thirds.

“In the 19th and first half of 20th century we observed that glacier mass loss attributable to human activity is hardly noticeable but since then has steadily increased,” said researcher Ben Marzeion, explaining that scaled-down regional models can detect an anthropogenic influence in America and the Alps, where glacier changes are particularly well documented. Continue reading

Climate: Bioparticles in dusty air may be key to rain and snow formation

Tiny bioparticles in atmospheric dust play a big role in the formation of raindrops and snowflakes. bberwyn photo.

Tiny bioparticles in atmospheric dust play a big role in the formation of raindrops and snowflakes. bberwyn photo.

Researchers starting to take nuanced look at chemical composition of aerosols

Staff Report

FRISCO —Scientists have long known that tiny grains of airborne dust are key players in the formation of rain and snow, driving precipitation patterns across the drought-stricken western U.S. and other areas.

New research suggests that  the exact chemical make-up of that dust, including microbes found in it, is the key to how much rain and snow falls from clouds.  The information could help better predict rain events, as well as explain how air pollution from a variety of sources influences regional climate in general.

“We’ve learned that not all of the particles in the air at high altitudes have the same influence on clouds. We’re starting to think that these differences contribute to how rain gets distributed,” said Dr. Kim Prather, who presented her findings at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society last week in San Francisco. Continue reading

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