Climate: Warming oceans may increase New England hurricane risk

Hurricanes and global warming

A NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Bob, which raked the New England coast in 1991.

Historic record shows series of intense storms during eras of warmer sea surface temps

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate researchers say New England’s coastal communities may need to prepare for major hurricane strikes sooner rather than later as the Atlantic Ocean continues to warm.

“We may need to begin planning for a category 3 hurricane landfall every decade or so rather than every 100 or 200 years,” said Jeff Donnelly, a scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, explaining that new research findings show that a string of giant storms pummeled the region during the first millennium, from the peak of the Roman Empire into the height of the Middle Ages. Continue reading

Climate research shows clear trend of more Midwest flooding during past 50 years

Warmer atmosphere means more moisture, more rain

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Missouri River flooding in July, 2011, via NASA’s Earth Observatory program.

Staff Report

FRISCO — After carefully reviewing data from hundreds of stream gauges, University of Iowa scientists say they’ve identified a clear trend of increasing floods during the past 50 years.

“It’s not that big floods are getting bigger, but that we have been experiencing a larger number of big floods,” said Gabriele Villarini, a civil and environmental engineer and corresponding author on the paper, published Feb. 9 in the advance online edition of the journal Nature Climate Change. Continue reading

Climate: Growing stream-flow variability threatens Chinook salmon spawning in Pacific Northwest

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Can Chinook salmon survive global warming?

Research documents more fall and winter flooding

Staff Report

FRISCO — Threatened Chinook salmon have been able to adapt to many changes over millennia, but climate change presents a big new threat, as many rivers around Puget Sound have seen bigger fluctuations in stream flows during the past 60 years.

“There’s more flooding in late fall and winter,” said Eric Ward, an ecologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center. “This is happening when the eggs are in the gravel or when the juveniles are most susceptible.”

More pronounced fluctuations in flow can scour away salmon eggs and exhaust young fish, especially when lower flows force adult fish to lay eggs in more exposed areas in the center of the channel. Continue reading

Climate: Study shows how smoke from distant wildfires can affect tornado formation

A tornado near Lakeview, Texas. Photo courtesy NOAA.

A tornado near Lakeview, Texas. Photo courtesy NOAA.

New study could help produce better tornado forecasting

Staff Report

FRISCO — Under certain conditions, wildfire smoke transported thousands of miles can intensify tornadoes in U.S., according to University of Iowa researchers, who studied how smoke from agricultural burning in Central America affected tornado conditions in the United States.

The research specifically looked at the smoke impacts on an April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak that spawned 122 twisters, killing 313 people, considered the most severe tornado event since 1950. Continue reading

Climate: Urban areas amplify global warming impacts

Extreme heat events piling up in cities around the world

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South American cities in particular have seen an increase in heat waves, according to a detailed new UCLA study that tracked climate more than 200 urban areas.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The world’s urban areas are shaping their own local climate by affecting regional wind fields, and that is resulting in more frequent heatwaves, researchers say, reporting a climate “double-whammy” of global warming and an intensifying urban heat island effect.

Human activities and the built environment trap heat and prevent cities from cooling down, said UCLA geography professor Dennis Lettenmaier.

“Everything’s warming up, but the effect is amplified in urban areas,” Lettenmaier said after studying  217 urban areas across the globe and finding that prolonged periods of extreme heat increased significantly in 48 percent of them between 1973 and 2012. Continue reading

Climate study predicts doubling of extreme La Niñas

Will global warming intensify extreme weather swings?

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How will climate change affect ENSO?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming could increase the frequency of extreme La Niña events in the Pacific Ocean, with more droughts in southwestern United States, floods in the western Pacific regions and increased Atlantic hurricane activity.

The international study, published in Nature Climate Change, used advanced modeling to show how increased land-area heating, combined with more frequent El Niños, will feed a cycle of extreme La Niñas. 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

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