Epic Death Valley floods leave wake of destruction

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Flash floods in October scoured roads and bridges from the landscape in Death Valley National Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Autumn tourism affected by road damage, but many attractions still open

Staff Report

A series of El Niño-fueled storms in October ravaged parts of Death Valley with floods and mudslides, leading to serious road damage and impacting other park resources, including Devils Hole, a spring that’s home to endangered fish.

According to the National Park Service, flash floods heavily damaged historic structures at Scottys Castle. In a press release, the park service floods pushed over a wall and buried some buildings with about five feet of mud.

The park often sees weather extremes, including flash flooding, but geologists said October’s events were near the edge of the historic envelope. Continue reading

Study suggests California weather will be more extreme

More drought, more flooding …

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An intensifying El Niño cycle could affect California weather.

Staff Report

The Pacific Ocean’s El Niño-La Niña cycle may become a dominant factor in West Coast weather by the end of this century and lead to more frequent weather extremes, according to a new study published in Nature Communications. Based on the findings, California could see the number of extreme droughts and floods by 2100, the researchers found.

A better understanding of what gives rise to El Nino and La Nina cycles — together known as El Nino-Southern Oscillation — might help California predict and prepare for more frequent droughts and floods in the coming century. Continue reading

Colorado finalizes climate plan

Colorado recorded the greatest increase in average maximum temperatures — between .7 and .9 degrees — from the old normals, compiled between 1971 and 2000, and the new normals, which are based on temperature readings between 1981 and 2010. On average across the U.S., the new average temperatures are about .5 degrees warmer.

Colorado recorded the greatest increase in average maximum temperatures — between .7 and .9 degrees — from the old normals, compiled between 1971 and 2000, and the new normals, which are based on temperature readings between 1981 and 2010. On average across the U.S., the new average temperatures are about .5 degrees warmer.

Multiple state agencies will eye adaptation, mitigation strategies

Staff Report

Colorado’s new climate plan calls for an all-hands-on-deck approach, with various state agencies working together, and with the public, to address the potential impacts of rising temperatures.

Acknowledging that average temperatures in the state could rise by as much as 2.5 to 5 degrees Celsius in the next few decades, Gov. John Hickenlooper called on Colorado make preparations now.

“Colorado is facing a potential increase in both the number and severity of extreme weather events,” Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement. “We’ve seen what Mother Nature can do, and additional risks present a considerable set of challenges for the state, our residents, and our way of life. This comprehensive plan puts forth our commitment from the state and sets the groundwork for the collaboration needed to make sure Colorado is prepared.”

Continue reading

Will this year’s El Niño be a climate wildcard?

‘This is a new planet’

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El Niño still strengthening in the Pacific.

Staff Report

LINZ — This year’s strong El Niño may be a climate wildcard, according to experts with the World Meteorological Organization, who said changes in the northern hemisphere’s climate may interact with El Niño in as-yet unknown ways.

“The last big El Niño was 1997-1998. The planet has changed a lot in 15 years,” said David Carlson, director of the WMO co-sponsored World Climate Research Programme. “We have had years of record Arctic sea ice minimum. We have lost a massive area of northern hemisphere snow cover, probably by more than 1 million square kilometers in the past 15 years. We are working on a different planet and we fully do not understand the new patterns emerging.”

He said the 2015 El Niño is unique because of the unprecedented combination of the Equatorial influence of El Niño, and the Arctic influence of low sea ice and snow cover in place at the same time.

“This is a new planet,” said David Carlson, director of the WMO co-sponsored World Climate Research Programme. The 2015 El Niño is the first to take place since the rapid melting of Arctic sea ice and snow cover, Carlson said. Continue reading

Climate: Heatwaves and drought are piling up

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High temperatures and a lack of rain spread serious drought conditions across Europe this summer.

Study tracks increase in extreme conditions

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists taking a close look at the last 50 years — the modern global warming era — found that droughts and heat waves are happening simultaneously much more frequently than in the past.

The climate experts at the University of California, Irvine analyzed data  gathered from ground sensors and gauges since 1960 and crunched the numbers with a statistical model to track the upswing.

 

“Heat waves can kill people and crops while worsening air quality, and droughts exacerbate those serious impacts,” said senior author Amir AghaKouchak, assistant professor of civil & environmental engineering. “With these two extremes happening at the same time, the threat is far more significant.” Continue reading

Severe drought spreading across Europe

June and July brought record high temperatures and big rainfall deficits in many parts of the European Union

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Drought conditions were widespread across Europe during June and July.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The western U.S. isn’t the only part of the world experiencing severe drought this year. Across much of central Europe, extremely warm temperatures and lack of rainfall have combined to create the worst drought conditions since 2003.

Hardest hit have been France, Benelux, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, northern Italy and northern Spain, according to new information released by the European Drought Observatory. The report includes data from satellite imagery showing that the areas with the largest rainfall deficits also recorded exceptionally high maximum daily temperatures, in some cases reaching record values. Continue reading

Study eyes global warming health threats to Gulf Coast

‘Unfortunately, we are now at a point where simply slowing climate change, while critical, is not enough.’

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Sea level rise will swallow parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast. @bberwyn photo.

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Tidal flooding near Venice, Louisiana. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is likely to make the U.S. Gulf Coast less hospitable and more dangerous for residents, public health experts warned in a new study that focused on the region.

More extreme heat events, rising sea levels and the potential for intense tropical storms threaten the region’s population and infrastructure, and could spur large scale migration, scientists said in a new paper published this week in in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

“The science of climate change and the threat to human and population health is irrefutable, and the threat is evolving quickly,” said to Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. “Unfortunately, we are now at a point where simply slowing climate change, while critical, is not enough. We need to simultaneously develop and deploy ways of mitigating the impact and adapting to the consequences of this environmental disaster.” Continue reading

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