Oceans: What triggers phytoplankton blooms?

New study will deepen understanding of plankton’s role in global carbon cycle

A European Space Agency satellite image shows a phytoplankton bloom near the Falkland Islands.

A European Space Agency satellite image shows a phytoplankton bloom near the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Scientists working in the Gulf of Mexico are tracking BP's spilled oil as it works its way up the food web, from bacteria to plankton. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

How does ocean phytoplankton respond to global warming?

Staff Report

FRISCO — It’s well-known that ocean phytoplankton are a key link in the global carbon cycle, and a new study this year will help expand that understanding.

A researcher with Oregon State University will lead a $30 million NASA-funded study to look at a phytoplankton hot spot stretching from Woods Hole, Massachusetts to the Azores and north to Greenland’s southern tip.

The research could challenge conventional wisdom about when and why phytoplankton bloom and help show how global warming will change the oceans. Continue reading

Environment: Study tracks soot pollution in snow

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Pure white? Not always.

Staff Report

FRISCO— From a distance, a freshly fallen blanket of snow looks pure white, but there’s more than meets the eye. Mixed in with the reflective flakes are tiny, dark particles of pollution. University of Washington scientists recently studied that pollution to see if they could find regional or seasonal patterns that might affect melting and the overall climate.

The study shows that North American snow away from cities is similar to Arctic snow in many places, with more pollution in the U.S. Great Plains. The findings also also show that agricultural practices, not just smokestacks and tailpipes, may have a big impact on snow purity. Continue reading

Climate: Colorado snowpack shows surplus up north, continued deficits in southern mountains

Reservoir storage near average

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For the first three months of the current water year (starting Oct. 1, 2014) precipitation has been below average across large parts of the West, with just a few pockets of above average snow.

Staff Report

FRISCO —Colorado’s statewide snowpack is close to average for this time of year, federal water-watchers said this week, releasing results of the first monthly snow survey of the year.

Across the state, snowpack was at 99 percent of average for the date, with a surplus (114 percent) in the Colorado River Basin, but deficits in the south-central and southwestern mountains, which are facing their fifth straight year of below average snowpack and streamflows. Continue reading

U.S. Tornado activity again below normal in 2014

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Tornado numbers low for third year in a row.

Scientists say they can’t pinpoint and long-term trends

Staff Report

FRISCO — The number of tornadoes in the U.S. was below average for the third year in a row, NOAA scientists said last week. A preliminary count shows there were about 800 tornadoes in 2014, the lowest number since 1982 and about 20 percent below the long term average. Continue reading

The ‘greening’ of the Colorado River Delta

The Colorado River Delta in May, 2014. Photo courtesy NASA.

The Colorado River Delta in May, 2014. Photo courtesy NASA.

Science team tracks effects of historic pulse flow

Staff Report

FRISCO — Last May’s pulse flow in the Colorado River helped revive vegetation along a huge swath of the river’s edge, triggering new plant growth and raising the water table in the delta. After comparing satellite images taken August 2013 with new images from this year, scientists calculated a 23 percent increase in the greenness of riparian zone vegetation. Continue reading

Can El Niño save California from the drought?

Last week’s Pacific storm dropped near-record rain

The video was created by NASA/NOAA’s GOES Project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A weekend storm rolling into Colorado won’t have a direct pineapple connection, but if the powder does pile up, it will be due to a big stream of moisture from the subtropical Pacific ocean that is wrapped into the approaching weather front.

As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration described in a press release, the ‘Pineapple Express’’ happens when warm air and lots of moisture are transported from the Central Pacific, near Hawaii, to the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The above animation of satellite imagery from NOAA’s GOES-West satellite showed the stream of clouds associated with that moisture from Dec. 9 to Dec. 12, 2014 and brought rain and snow to the western U.S. Continue reading

Study says extreme weather doesn’t sway public opinion on global warming

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Extreme weather events don’t seem to affect people’s beliefs on global warming, new research shows.

Ideology trumps science

Staff Report

FRISCO — A string of extreme global weather events between 2010 and 2012 didn’t do much to change public opinion about global warming, according to a new study by Michigan State University researchers.

They started their research with polling data collected in March 2012, after by far the warmest U.S. winter in recent memory. But most people surveyed didn’t link the unusually warm weather with global warming. In fact, only 35 percent of U.S. citizens thought that global warming caused the warm winter, according to the paper published this week in Nature Climate Change. Continue reading

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