How long will California’s drought continue?

Snowpack at record low levels

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A NASA Earth Observatory photo shows dry conditions in California in Jan. 2014.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The snowpack in some key California watersheds is at or near all-time record low, the state’s water managers reported this week after conducting their monthly surveys.

At one site, west of Sacramento in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the California Department of Water Resources reported less than 1 inch of water content in the snowpack, just 5 percent of the March 3 historical average for that site. Snowpack measurements are online here. Continue reading

Can global warming cause wars?

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A NASA Earth Observatory map shows the rainfall deficit during the 2006-2010 drought across the fertile crescent of Iraq and Syria.

Population growth, drought and poor governance combined to spur 2011 Syria uprising

Staff Report

FRISCO — A sustained drought in the Middle East, driven by global warming, may have been a key trigger for the brutal war in Syria, according to researchers. The drought, lasting from 2006 to 2010, destroyed agriculture in northern Syria, forcing farmers into cities, where poverty, government mismanagement and other factors created unrest that exploded in spring 2011.

“We’re not saying the drought caused the war,” said Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who coauthored a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region.” Continue reading

UN says big investments needed to avert water wars

Will the world get it together on climate change?

Will the world get it together on water?

Upfront spending would avoid the huge costs of escalating conflicts

Staff Report

FRISCO — Big investments in water infrastructure are needed around the world to avert future conflicts over the world’s most essential resource. Looming shortages of water could trigger conflicts and mass migrations, contributing to social and political instability, the report warns.

“The consequence of unmet water goals will be widespread insecurity creating more international tension and conflict,” said lead author Bob Sandford. “The positive message is that if we can keep moving now on water-related sustainable development goals we can still have the future we want,” he said. Continue reading

Climate study projects brutal Western droughts

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Shrunken reservoirs may become the norm across the West during the second half of the century. bberwyn photo.

All models point to significant drying and warming

Staff Report

FRISCO — By the second half of this century, the relentless increase in global greenhouse gases could push the U.S. Southwest and Great Plains toward persistent drought conditions worse than anything seen in ancient or modern times.

Drought conditions will likely be more severe than during several decades-long megadroughts that are well-documented by paleoclimate records, according to climate scientists with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

Continue reading

Climate: New ice core data help show long-term rainfall record for parts of Australia

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A recent weather satellite image of Australia, via NASA.

‘The Millennium Drought was far from an exceptional event for eastern Australia during the past thousand years …’

FRISCO — Even without the added factor of global warming, eastern Australia is susceptible to climate extremes, including long-lasting droughts that could put a huge strain on water storage and delivery systems.

Researchers say a 1,000-year ice core record from Antarctica shows the recent “Millennium Drought” actually wasn’t all that unusual in the context of Australia’s long-term climate history. Continue reading

Climate: Extended droughts spell trouble for Southwest birds

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Some birds won’t nest at all during drought years.

Some Sonoran Desert species skip breeding entirely during extreme drought

Staff Report

FRISCO — Drought-driven delayed nesting by some southwestern bird species may lead to crashing populations, scientists said in a new study that looked closely at Sonoran Desert bird species, such as Black-tailed Gnatcatchers and Verdins.

The research suggests drought conditions are delaying nesting by two weeks or more for some species. Despite recent rainfall, drought conditions persist in much of the Southwest, making life tough even for species adapted to a dry environment.

Delayed nesting makes the birds more vulnerable to nest predators and parasites, according to the scientists with Point Blue Conservation Science and the U.S. Geological Survey finds that increased drought frequency in southwestern North America results in increased instances of delayed nesting. Continue reading

Research eyes global warming-extreme weather links

Attribution studies still somewhat sketchy

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Does global warming cause extreme weather?

Staff Report

FRISCO — A Stanford University climate researcher says that better modeling, advanced statistical analyses and a more robust set of observational climate data will help scientists under stand whether global warming is leading to more extreme weather events like floods, droughts and heat waves.

Such events appear to happening more frequently around the world, but  because high-quality weather records go back only about 100 years, most scientists have been reluctant to say if global warming affected particular extreme events. Continue reading

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