Weather and climate summit returns to Breckenridge

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Greenland’s ice is melting faster these days, posing a sea level threat to densely populated cities around the world. @bberwyn photo.

This year edition features sessions on Arctic ice melt and western wildfires

Staff Report

There’s a global climate deal on the books, but humankind will continue to grapple with the effects of greenhouse gas emissions for decades to come, including the almost inevitable meltdown of ice sheets and glaciers that will raise sea level steadily.

Scientists aren’t quite sure yet how high the waters will rise, but new measurement tools and more sophisticated models can help refine the projections. Those estimates are important, because two-thirds of the world’s cities have vulnerable populations of five million or more living in at-risk areas, less than 10 meters above sea level, according to Dr. Lora Koenig
a research scientist with the National Snow & Ice Data Center. Continue reading

Climate: Warm oceans gone haywire?

Powerful storms in Atlantic and Pacific

MODIS visible satellite image of Hurricane Pali taken at 5:30 pm EST January 11, 2016. At the time, Pali was intensifying into a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

MODIS visible satellite image of Hurricane Pali taken at 5:30 pm EST January 11, 2016. At the time, Pali was intensifying into a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Staff Report

With large parts of the the world’s oceans consistently warming to record-warm levels the past few months, it’s probably not a surprise that there are some big storms spinning out at sea. Basic physics tells us that warmth is energy, and that’s now translating into some unusual developments, including what may be the earliest-ever hurricane in the central Pacific, according to this Twitter post from National Hurricane meteorologist Eric Blake.

Currently, yet another strong storm is developing in the Pacific. The National Weather Service says the system will also generate hurricane-force winds and waves up to 50 feet.

The Atlantic Ocean has also been hyperactive in recent weeks. A storm centered near Iceland developed hurricane-strength winds during the last days of 2015 and sent a surge of air so moist and so warm northward that temps briefly climbed above freezing at the North Pole during the heart of the coldest time of the year.

Another system in the central Atlantic has a 40 percent chance of subtropical or tropical formation in the next 48 hours, according to the National Weather Service.

 

 

December 2015 was warmest, wettest on record for U.S.

Climate experts say to expect more of the same in years ahead

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29 states across the eastern half of the U.S. all reported record warm temperatures in December 2015.

By Bob Berwyn

2015 has ended up as the second-warmest year on record across the contiguous United States, with all 48 states recording above average temperatures for the year. Alaska also reported its second-warmest year on record, just behind 2014, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A record-warm December across the eastern half of the country helped drive the average U.S. temperature for the year to the top of the charts, with 29 states east of the Mississippi reporting record warmth for the month, according to the latest monthly climate update from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

December 2015 was also the wettest December on record — the first time in 121 years that December was both warmest and wettest, according to NOAA’s Jake Crouch. Continue reading

California drought has damaged millions of trees

Mighty redwoods.

Redwood trees in California. @bberwyn photo.

Large swaths of forest now seen as more vulnerable to future droughts

Staff Report

California’s extended drought may take a long-term toll on the state’s forests, scientists reported last month after studying severe water loss from tree canopies since 2011.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that up to 58 million large trees in California showed signs of being drought stressed, with persistently low rainfall, high temperatures and outbreaks of the destructive bark beetle combining to increase forest mortality risk. Continue reading

NASA tracking this year’s global El Niño impacts

Wildfire risk growing in tropics

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A strong El Niño is peaking across the Pacific Ocean this winter.

Staff Report

Along with being one of the strongest El Niños on record, this year’s edition of the cyclical weather event in the Pacific will be one of the most studied.

NASA, for example, has been tracking the effects of El Niño via satellite data, which shows global impacts, from increasing fire danger in some tropical regions to a reduction of certain types of pollution in other areas.

Some of the findings were presented this week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, where researchers said that atmospheric rivers, significant sources of rainfall, tend to intensify during El Niño events, and that California may see some relief from an extreme multiyear drought. Continue reading

Climate: Study links deadly 2010-2011 Australia floods with long-term ocean warming

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A NASA Earth Observatory satellite image shows swollen rivers in northwestern Australia during record-setting floods in 2010-2011. Visit this NASA page for more info.

‘Take action to forestall global warming …’

Staff Report

Deadly floods that swept across Australia in 2010 and 2011 were at least partly fueled by long-term warming in the Indian and Pacific oceans, according to a new study that highlights some of threats posed by human-caused climate change.

The research, published in Geophysical Research Letters, shows that ocean warming can have profound effects on atmospheric circulation, delivering huge amounts of moisture to land areas under certain conditions. Continue reading

Some of 2014’s extreme weather linked to climate change

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Extreme weather, coming to you, thanks to global warming

What’s normal?

Staff Report

Climate and weather experts say some of 2014’s extreme weather events can be linked with human activities, including the global warming caused by greenhouse gases.

In a report released this week, researchers specifically identified tropical cyclones in the central Pacific, heavy rainfall in Europe, drought in East Africa, and stifling heat waves in Australia, Asia, and South America with human activities.

“For each of the past four years, this report has demonstrated that individual events, like temperature extremes, have often been shown to be linked to additional atmospheric greenhouse gases caused by human activities, while other extremes, such as those that are precipitation related, are less likely to be convincingly linked to human activities,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Continue reading

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