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Study: 1934 Dust Bowl still the Godzilla of North American droughts

A dust storm engulfs Stratford, Texas in April of 1935. The drought of 1934 was likely made worse by dust storms triggered by the poor agricultural practices of the time. Credit: NOAA/George E. Marsh Album.

A dust storm engulfs Stratford, Texas in April of 1935. The drought of 1934 was likely made worse by dust storms triggered by the poor agricultural practices of the time.
Credit: NOAA/George E. Marsh Album.

Severe dust storms spawned even more widespread drought, research shows

Staff Report

FRISCO — With all the recent talk of looming megadroughts, the 1934 peak of the Dust Bowl era still remains the most severe and widespread drought in North America during the past 1,000 years, climate scientists say.

Based on tree-ring studies and other physical records, the only other comparable event was way back in the 1500s.

The extent of the 1934 drought was approximately seven times larger than droughts of comparable intensity that struck North America between 1000 A.D. and 2005, and was caused in part by an atmospheric phenomenon that may have also led to the current drought in California, according to a new study. Continue reading

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Climate: UK weather trends toward extremes

An extratropical cyclone

An extratropical cyclone

North Atlantic pressure variations driving variable pattern

Staff Report

FRISCO — Weather patterns affecting the UK are  becoming more volatile, climate researchers concluded in a new study, concluding that the trend is being driven by extreme variations in pressure over the North Atlantic.

The month of December is showing the biggest variation, but contrasting conditions, from very mild, wet and stormy to extremely cold and snowy are a clear sign of less stable weather, University of Sheffield scientists reported in a study published last month in the Journal of Climatology.

Winter weather conditions are commonly defined using the North Atlantic Oscillation, a south-north seesaw of barometric pressure variations over the North Atlantic which determine the strength of the westerly winds that shape North Atlantic weather systems. Continue reading

Report eyes links between global warming and extreme weather events in 2013

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Scientists fine-tuning attribution studies

Staff Report

FRISCO — Australia’s 2013 heatwave was almost certainly fueled by building concentrations of heat-trapping pollution, a global team of researchers said this week, announcing the results of several studies exploring the link between climate change and regional weather patterns.

The new report, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, looked at several extreme 2013 weather events in the context of climate, finding a connection to human-caused global warming in some events, but not in others. Continue reading

Global warming: New NASA aerial mission to explore impacts of Arctic sea ice loss

Arctic cloud formation still a climate wild card

Sun glint off a sea ice lead in an otherwise heavily ridged ice pack, Canada Basin (Arctic Ocean). Credit: NASA/Sinead Farrell

Sun glints off a sea ice lead in an otherwise heavily ridged ice pack, Canada Basin (Arctic Ocean). Credit: NASA/Sinead Farrell

STAFF REPORT

FRISCO — The ongoing loss of Arctic sea ice is probably already affecting weather and climate in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere. Researchers aren’t exactly sure of how, but there’s been plenty of speculation, mostly focused around changes in the jet stream.

Climate scientists may know a bit more in a few years after they study the results of a new NASA field campaign studying the effect of sea ice retreat on Arctic climate. The Arctic Radiation IceBridge Sea and Ice Experiment (ARISE) will conduct research flights Aug. 28 through Oct. 1, covering the peak of summer sea ice melt. Continue reading

Climate study explores link between El Niño, the polar vortex and extreme cold outbreaks in Europe

Cold snaps more likely during El Niño winters

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How does El Niño affect weather in Europe?

Staff Report

FRISCO —El Niños don’t just affect anchovy fishermen in Peru and the ski resorts of the Sierra Nevada. The somewhat cyclical variation in equatorial Pacific sea surface temps can shift weather patterns worldwide, including in Europe, which may be more susceptible to extreme cold outbreaks in El Niño years, according to a new study led by a University of Colorado, Boulder researcher.

Other research has hinted at the connection, but the new paper is the first to show that El Niños might be linked with Sudden Stratospheric Warming events, when temperatures high in the atmosphere change radically, affect the polar vortex, a belt of winds that form a boundary between the cold Arctic and the temperate mid-latitudes. Sudden Stratospheric Warming weakens those winds, often leading to outbreaks of bitter cold Arctic air across Europe and possibly the eastern U.S. Continue reading

Global warming spells trouble for fish populations in desert rivers of the Southwest

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Dwindling precipitation in the Southwest spells trouble for native fish. bberwyn photo.

Study shows significant loss of fish habitat by mid-century

Staff Report

FRISCO — Big sections of vulnerable stream habitat for native fish in the Southwest are likely to disappear by mid-century as global warming causes stream flows to dwindle.

By 2050, stream-drying events could increase by 17 percent, and the number of zero-flow days could go up by 27 percent in the Verde River Basin, affecting species like speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus), roundtail chub (Gila robusta) and Sonora sucker (Catostomus insignis).

The drying trend will fragment aquatic habitat, hampering feeding and spawning. Some populations that are already isolated may very well disappear, said Ohio State University researcher Kristin Jaeger, an assistant professor at the School of Environment and Natural Resources. Continue reading

Climate: Hotter … and colder?

More extremes expected in a warming world

A NASA climate maps shows much of the globe was warmer than average during June 2014.

A NASA climate maps shows much of the globe was warmer than average during June 2014.

Staff Report

FRISCO — After crunching the latest climate numbers in a supercomputer, researchers with Northeastern University report that temperatures may become more volatile in coming decades, on both the hot and cold end of the spectrum.

Increasing temperature variability means that, while each year’s average hottest and coldest temperatures will likely rise, those averages will also tend to fall within a wider range of potential high and low temperate extremes than are currently being observed. This means that even as overall temperatures rise, there may still be extreme cold snaps. Continue reading

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