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What drives extreme fires? It’s mostly the weather

Forest Service scientists study aftermath of Rim Fire to assess effectiveness of forest health treatments

A NASA Earth Observatory image shows smoke plumes from the Rim Fire in August, 2013. NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response.

A NASA Earth Observatory image shows smoke plumes from the Rim Fire in August, 2013. NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A detailed new study of fire behavior of the 2013 Rim Fire in Yosemite provides a nuanced view of the effectiveness of forest health treatments.

The Rim Fire was the largest recorded fire in the Sierra Nevada region, and U.S. Forest Service researchers said in their study that the fire burned with moderate to high intensity on days the Rim Fire was dominated by a large pyro-convective plume, a powerful column of smoke, gases, ash, and other debris — regardless of the number of prior fires, topography, or forest conditions. Continue reading

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Is melting Arctic sea ice shifting the jet stream?

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Is melting sea ice shifting the jet stream?

Study finds robust link between Arctic ice decline and severe Eurasian winter weather

Staff Report

FRISCO — If you feel like you’ve been on a weather roller coaster, maybe it’s because the jet stream has been behaving like one more and more often in recent years.

Instead of flowing around the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere with a few ripples, some years, the high-altitude river of air has been more like a writhing, out-of-control fire hose, snaking and looping, carrying huge surges of warm air north and cold. polar air south. At times, the jet stream has been getting stuck in that pattern for longer stretches. 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

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

Study: California drought a symptom of Earth’s fever

Tree rings show the current combination of dryness and heat makes this the worst drought in 1,200 years

Researchers expect drought to become frequent and last longer. MAP COURTESY IPCC.

Researchers expect drought to become frequent and last longer. MAP COURTESY IPCC.

Staff Report

FRISCO — California’s current drought is already going down as one of the worst in recorded era, and a new tree-ring study by scientists shows it may be the driest period for the region in 1,200 years.

Researchers with the University of Minnesota and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution collected new tree-ring samples from blue oak trees in southern and central California.

“California’s old blue oaks are as close to nature’s rain gauges as we get,” said University of Minnesota professor Daniel Griffin. “They thrive in some of the driest environments where trees can grow in California.” These trees are particularly sensitive to moisture changes and their tree rings display moisture fluctuations vividly,” Griffin said. 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

Climate: Researchers track disruptive Arctic rain events

Warm spells affect permafrost and wildlife

Caption: Arctic foxes in Svalbard will have more than enough food during rainy and icy winters because there will be many reindeer carcasses for them to eat. The next winter, however, the fox population size will be reduced because a robust and small reindeer population will mean many few deaths and hence, very little carrion. Credit: Brage B. Hansen, NTNU Centre for Conservation Biology

Caption: Arctic foxes in Svalbard will have more than enough food during rainy and icy winters because there will be many reindeer carcasses for them to eat. The next winter, however, the fox population size will be reduced because a robust and small reindeer population will mean many few deaths and hence, very little carrion.
Credit: Brage B. Hansen, NTNU Centre for Conservation Biology.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A closely studied 2012 rain-on-snow event in Svalbard, Norway gave researchers a chance to take a close look at how global warming may play out on the fringes of the Arctic, where humans eke out a delicate existence in balance with the elements.

The extreme weather event in January brought record warmth to the cluster of islands inside the Arctic Circle, with high temperatures climbing well above freezing at a time of year when average readings are well below freezing. Continue reading

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