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Study helps pinpoint cirrus cloud formation

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Cirrus cloud study helps inform climate predictions.

Composition of seed material suggests human activity could be a significant factor

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Mineral dust and metallic aerosols are the key seeding agents for the formation of high-altitude cirrus clouds, which cover nearly a third of the globe at any given time. Often forming more than 10 miles up, cirrus clouds can cool the planet by reflecting solar radiation, and warm it, by trapping heat like a blanket.

A nine-year study of cirrus clouds using using instruments aboard high-altitude research aircraft is helping scientists get a better handle on the mechanisms driving cirrus cloud formation, and that, in turn, could help scientists predict future climate patterns. Continue reading

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Study links whale songs with specific behavior

Humpback whales in the Northwest Atlantic. Credit: NEFSC/NOAA

Humpback whales breaching in the Northwest Atlantic. Photo courtesy NEFSC/NOAA.

Acoustic research breakthroughs could help inform conservation efforts

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Breakthrough software is enabling scientists to better analyze humpback whale songs. For the first time, researchers have provided the a detailed description linking humpback whale movements to acoustic behavior on a feeding ground in the Northwest Atlantic.

“We have monitored and acoustically recorded whale sounds for years, and are now able to ‘mine’ these data using new computer software applications and methods, “ said Sofie Van Parijs, who heads the passive acoustics group at the Woods Hole Laboratory of NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Continue reading

Report eyes Pacific Northwest climate change threats

Marine sanctuaries try to prepare for rising sea level, ocean acidification and more extreme weather

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A new report identifies anticipated climate change impacts to the Olympic Peninsula. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Managers of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary say they’ll use a new report to try and prepare the resources they steward for the coming impacts of climate change, including increases in sea level; extreme weather events such as winds, waves, and storms; and coastal erosion from those events.

The report also says the region may experience an increase in ocean acidity, rising water temperature, as well as more extreme weather patterns, including Pacific Northwest regional rainfall increases triggering 100-year magnitude floods.

“Climate change poses an increasingly grave threat to the health of the ocean, and its impacts will be felt in marine protected areas like the Olympic Coast sanctuary,” said  sanctuary superintendent Carol Bernthal. “This report begins our work to develop management strategies that will help us anticipate potential challenges and adapt to the changing marine environment through sound science, public outreach, and partnerships.” Continue reading

Climate: U.S. temps below average in March

Coolest March readings since 1966, but drought eases in some areas

Maps compiled by NOAA show the contrast between temperatures in March 2012 and March 2013.

Maps compiled by NOAA show the contrast between temperatures in March 2012 and March 2013.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With an average temperature that was .9 degrees below the 20th century average, the contiguous 48 U.S. states recorded the coldest March readings since 2002, when the monthly average was a whopping 2.2 degrees below average.

The monthly readings mark a huge contrast from one year ago, when the U.S. recorded its warmest-ever March, according to the National Climatic Data Center, which released the monthly State of the Climate report today (April 15). Continue reading

Report: Global warming not a big factor in 2012 drought

Natural climate variability the biggest player, scientists say

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Drought conditions persist across the central part of the country.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Last summer’s crippling Great Plains drought can’t definitively be linked with global warming, according to a team of federal scientists from various agencies. In a new report issued this week, the researchers said the drought was probably caused by a confluence of natural climate variations that might only come together in a similar constellation once a century.

Cyclical variations in ocean temperatures — especially the combination of a cooler-than-average Pacific Ocean and a warm phase of the North Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation may have nudged the region toward drought conditions, but those factors tend to be more of a factor in suppressing winter precipitation. Continue reading

Climate: NOAA offers warm and dry spring outlook

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The three-month temperature outlook from NOAA indicates warmer than average temperatures across much of the contiguous U.S.

Drought expected to persist across the middle of the country

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Although March has been cold and snowy across large parts of the U.S., NOAA forecasters say the chances are better than even that temperatures will rebound to above average across much of the continental United States, including drought-stricken areas of Texas, the Southwest and the Great Plains, with little drought relief for those areas. Florida is expected to stay dry as well, but river flooding is possible in some areas, especially North Dakota.

“This outlook reminds us of the climate diversity and weather extremes we experience in North America, where one state prepares for flooding while neighboring states are parched, with no drought relief in sight,” said Laura Furgione, deputy director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “We produce this outlook to help communities prepare for what’s likely to come in the next few months and minimize weather’s impacts on lives and livelihoods. A Weather-Ready Nation hopes for the best, but prepares for the worst.” Continue reading

Study: Dust from Asia a significant factor in Sierra snow

Next step: Figure out how climate change may affect those patterns

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Clouds of dust swirling around the world may have significant impact

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Airborne dust has been shown to speed up snowmelt in the Colorado Rockies, but there’s more to to global dust and snow story, according to a NOAA-led study showing that dust and microorganisms from as far away as the Sahara help spur the precipitation that California counts on for its water supply.

The CalWater field campaign, funded by the California Energy Commission and led by NOAA and the University of California San Diego, could help western states better understand the future of their water supply and hydropower generation as climate change influences how much and how often dust travels around the world and alters precipitation far from its point of origin. Continue reading

Climate: 2012 ends up as 10th-warmest year on record

Warmest La Niña year ever for planet Earth

Large parts of northern hemisphere land areas were cooler than average in December, but most of the southern hemisphere reported above-average readings. Graphic courtesy NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.

Large parts of northern hemisphere land areas were cooler than average in December, but most of the southern hemisphere reported above-average readings. Graphic courtesy NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

FRISCO — Despite a significant cool-down in December, 2012 ended up as the 10th-warmest year on record for the planet, at 1.03 degrees above the 20th century average.

2012 will also go down as the warmest-ever La Niña year, and marks the 26th consecutive year with temps running above the 20th century average. The last time the annual average temperature was below the 20th century average was in 1976, according to the National Climatic Data Center’s global state of the climate report.

Most of North and South America, along with Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia reported well above-average temperatures for the year. Below average readings were reported from Alaska and far western Canada, central Asia, parts of the eastern and equatorial Pacific, southern Atlantic, and parts of the Southern Ocean. Including 2012, the first 12 years of the 21st century all rank among the 14 warmest in the 133-year period of record. Continue reading

Climate: New study of paleoclimate record confirms warming

Data from coral, caves and sediment layers reflects temperature increases measured by surface instruments

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A team of federal and university scientists say they’ve compiled a set of temperature records from ice cores, old corals, and lake sediment layers that closely matches the pattern of global warming from 1880 to 1995 recorded by thermometers.

The paleoclimate record also confirms that warming accelerated between 1980 and 1995 compared to the long-term trend, starting in 1880. The record also reflects small-scale features within the long-term trend, including a 1940s warm interval recorded by thermometers.

This finding, reported by a team of researchers from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, the University of South Carolina, the University of Colorado, and the University of Bern in Switzerland, resolves some of the uncertainty associated with thermometer records, which can be affected by land use changes, shifts in station locations, variations in instrumentation, and more. Continue reading

Oceans: Feds eye expansion of California marine sanctuaries

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California marine sanctuaries to be expanded.

Input sought on changes to protected areas off northern California coast

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A biodiversity hotpot off the coast of California could soon be expanded, as NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries begins a process to review the boundaries of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries.

The sanctuaries already protect about 2,000 square miles of ocean near the coast of San Francisco. The proposed expansion area is north of the existing sanctuaries and extends from Bodega Bay in Sonoma County to Alder Creek in Mendocino County. This area encompasses Point Arena — North America’s most intense “upwelling” site — which is home to diverse species and a productive ecosystem.

“The waters off the northern California coast are incredibly nutrient-rich and drive the entire natural system and, for almost a decade, local communities have been petitioning their elected officials to expand sanctuary protection to these areas,” said Daniel J. Basta, director of the NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Continue reading

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