Near-record snowpack in parts of Colorado River Basin

A faint sheen of color above Buffalo Mountain marked sunset, with more moisture rolling in from the West.

A faint sheen of color above Buffalo Mountain marked sunset, with more moisture rolling in from the West.

Colorado’s north-central mountains favored by this winter’s storm track

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Summit County remained a target for above average precipitation in February, with both official weather stations reporting surplus snowfall for the month. The Upper Blue in particular benefited from the storm track, with the snowpack now approaching record levels.

To date, the snowpack  in the Blue River Basin is the third highest on record, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Chad Gimmestad, who said there is a moderate potential for spring flooding in the basin. Continue reading

Climate: February 2014 cooler than average in U.S.

Dry conditions persist in far West

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February 2014 emperatures varied widely across the country.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The average February temperature across contiguous United States was well below the 20th century average. With an average reading of 32.2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.6 degrees below average), last month will go down in the books at the 37th-coldest February on record, the National Climatic Data Center reported in its regular monthly update.

The winter season overall (December to February) was 1.0 degrees Fahrenheit below average, making it the coldest winter since 2009-2010. This winter stood in sharp contrast to the last two winters, and most winters of the past two decades, when temperatures were predominately warmer than the 20th century average, the climate data center said. Read the full report here. Continue reading

Does solar activity affect regional climate?

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A composite image assembled from NASA satellite images shows the UK covered with snow during a spell of cold winter weather in January 2010.

Yes, but effects are small compared to changes driven by greenhouse gases

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After carefully studying cycles of solar activities and matching them against seafloor sediments that offer clues about ocean temperatures, Cardiff University scientists say low sunspot activity may be linked with phases of cold weather in Europe.

The study found that changes in the Sun’s activity can have a considerable impact on the ocean-atmospheric dynamics in the North Atlantic, with potential effects on regional climate.

While the effects of variations in solar energy are small compared to the impacts of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, the effects of solar output on the ocean and atmosphere should be taken into account when making future climate projections, the researchers said. Continue reading

Colorado: March 1 survey shows healthy snowpack

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Big parts of the West are experiencing a moisture deficit this winter, with drought continuing in California.

Northwest flow favors Colorado’s northern mountains

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — For the third month in a row, Colorado snowpack is tracking above average. February, ended with the snowpack at 116 percent of median, with snowfall to-date for the water year (starting Oct. 1) at 133 percent of average.

A series of wet storm cycles pummeled the mountains during the month, with the bullseye over the north-central region, where some stations reported nearly double the average monthly snowfall. The no-Niño weather pattern has left a moisture deficit in the southwest part of the state, where the Upper Rio Grande and the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins, are still experiencing below normal snow conditions for this time of year. Continue reading

Global warming: Study shows Arctic sea ice melt season lengthening by five days per decade

Autumn freeze coming 11 days later in some regions

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There’s probably no stopping the decline of Arctic sea ice.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Averaged across the Arctic, the melt season is lengthening by five days each decade, with much of the change coming in the fall, when a warmer ocean simply takes longer to freeze than in the past.

“The extent of sea ice in the Arctic has been declining for the last four decades,” said University College London researcher Julienne Stroeve, part of a research team that studied satellite data to track sea ice trends in the age of global warming.

The data confirm that the Arctic Ocean absorbing ever more of the sun’s energy in summer, leading to an ever later appearance of sea ice in the autumn. In some regions, autumn freeze-up is occurring up to 11 days per decade later than it used to. Continue reading

Forest fumes play big role in global climate

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What’s the role of coniferous trees in regulating climate?

Fast growth of particles from pine tree fumes surprises researchers

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Forests may play a much bigger role in global climate than previously believed. In addition to cycling carbon, it appears that gases wafting from conifers quickly form small particles that can reflect sunlight and promote cloud formation, according to a new study that looked at forest aerosols at the molecular level.

“In many forested regions, you can go and observe particles apparently form from thin air. They’re not emitted from anything, they just appear,” said Joel Thornton, a University of Washington associate professor of atmospheric sciences. Continue reading

More whales moving north through Bering Strait

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Scientists see changes in the way marine mammals use the Bering Strait. Photo courtesy NASA.

Scientists say mitigation needed to protect marine life in the region

Staff Report

FRISCO — American and Russian scientists studying the Bering Strait say that global warming is changing the way marine mammals use the area. Species at home farther south are using the narrow passage to the Arctic Ocean much more often, the researchers said after monitoring the area for three years with underwater microphones.

The recordings show Arctic beluga and bowhead whales migrating seasonally through the region from the Arctic south to spend winter in the Bering Sea. They also detect large numbers of sub-Arctic humpback, fin and killer whales traveling north through the Bering Strait to feed in the biologically rich Chukchi Sea. Continue reading

Climate: Will hurricanes threaten South Africa?

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A tropical storm in the Indian Ocean. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Study shows tropical cyclones moving south

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Global warming is driving southern hemisphere tropical cyclones farther south, potentially putting South Africa at risk by mid-century, according to a new study from Wits University.

At the same time, the study debunked assumptions that tropical cyclones will become more frequent. A statistical analysis of the numbers for the past few decades show no trend of increasing cyclones. Continue reading

Climate: USGS says most California streams flowing at less than 10 percent of normal

Widespread western drought continues

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Much of the West has been very dry during the first four months of the 2014 water year.

By Summit Voice

As California experiences its worst drought in more than a century, it’s probably not surprising that some stream gages in the northern part of the state are showing all-time record low readings, with 2013 in the record books as the driest calendar year in the state’s 119-year recorded history.

Low streamflow affects water availability for agricultural, municipal, and industrial uses, water quality, water temperature, recreational opportunities, and the maintenance of fish populations.

Recent precipitation has resulted in some increases in streamflow, snowpack, and reservoir levels, but severe drought conditions remain. Without significant additional precipitation, prior conditions will quickly return leaving most streams in the state at less than 10 percent of normal for this time of year. Continue reading

Climate: January 2014 was 4th warmest for Planet Earth

Northern hemisphere snow cover below average

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By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The average global temperature for January 2014 was 1.17 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average — the fourth-highest for Planet Earth, with record-high readings reported from southeastern Brazil and central and southern Africa. Land surface readings in the southern hemisphere were record warm and record warmth was also reported in the North Pacific. Continue reading

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