Posted on November 15, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Local firefighters team up in March 2012 to quell an early season wildfire along Montezuma Road, near Keystone Resort, in Summit County, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.
Updated satellite instruments help refine predictions
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — As the West Fork Fire Complex roared through the spruce and fir forests of the Colorado San Juans last summer, on its way to becoming the state’s second-largest wildfire on record, communities in the region were on edge for days. Slight shifts in wind pushed the fire in new directions every other day, forcing some residents to leave their homes for weeks.
Like many large fires, the West Fork Complex even created its own weather, making it even harder for experts to project its path. But new research by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Maryland may help firefighters and resource managers get a better handle on predicting fire behavior. (more…)
Filed under: Environment, forest fires, forests, wildfires | Tagged: NCAR, wildfire behavior, wildfire modeling, Wildfires | Leave a Comment »
Posted on October 28, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
This map of air flow a few miles above ground level in the Northern Hemisphere shows the type of wavenumber-5 pattern associated with US drought. This pattern includes alternating troughs (blue contours) and ridges (red contours), with an “H” symbol (for high pressure) shown at the center of each of the five ridges. High pressure tends to cause sinking air and suppress precipitation, which can allow a heat wave to develop and intensify over land areas. Image courtesy Haiyan Teng.
Atmospheric circulation pattern foreshadows prolonged dry and hot weather
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Just a few weeks after a major report from NOAA found near-certain links between global warming and intensifying heatwaves, researchers say they’ve been able to pinpoint a high-altitude atmospheric wave pattern above the northern hemisphere that can help predict heatwaves more than two weeks in advance.
“It may be useful to monitor the atmosphere, looking for this pattern, if we find that it precedes heat waves in a predictable way,” said NCAR scientist Haiyan Teng, lead author of the study. “This gives us a potential source to predict heat waves beyond the typical range of weather forecasts.”
The research team discerned the pattern by analyzing a 12,000-year simulation of the atmosphere over the Northern Hemisphere. During those times when a distinctive “wavenumber-5″ pattern emerged, a major summertime heat wave became more likely to subsequently build over the United States. (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, extreme weather, global warming | Tagged: climate change impacts, extreme weather, global warming, heatwaves, NCAR | Leave a Comment »
Posted on May 30, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Upper-atmosphere research aims to fill some data gaps
Thunderstorms building over the Continental Divide in Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — The recent tornado disaster in Oklahoma once again showed that every minute of warning time in the face of severe weather can save lives. In the next few weeks, a team of meteorologists will be studying the atmosphere above Colorado to try and better predict when and where thunderstorms will rip across Colorado’s Front Range and the adjacent Great Plains.
The month-long (May 15 – June 15) field project will use high-flying aircraft and fine-grained computer simulations to try and point the way toward major improvements in lead times for weather forecasts during the crucial 6- to 24-hour window.
The Mesoscale Predictability Experiment (MPEX) is funded by the National Science Foundation. The project includes participants from the National Center for Atmospheric Research; Colorado State University; the University at Albany, State University of New York; Purdue University; the University of Wisconson–Milwaukee; and NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory.
Daily research starts with early morning flights to monitor the pre-storm atmosphere across Colorado and nearby states. The planes will cruise at 40,000 feet for up to six hours, which will enable researchers to thoroughly canvass the entire region where triggers for severe weather might be lurking. (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado | Tagged: Atmospheric Research, Colorado, Great Plains, NCAR, severe weather, severe weather warnings, thunderstorms | Leave a Comment »
Posted on November 9, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
More accurate assessment of cloud dynamics and atmospheric processes in the subtropics the key to more accurate predictions
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — By now, everybody knows the Earth is steadily getting warmer. The big unanswered question is just how much more temperatures will rise, and a new analysis by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research suggests the increases will be at the high end of predicted spectrum.
The key to the findings were accurate assessments of moisture processes in the atmosphere over the subtropics, according to NCAR scientists John Fasullo and Kevin Trenberth.
The seasonal drying in the subtropics and the associated decrease in clouds, especially during May through August, serve as a good analog for patterns projected by climate models.
“The dry subtropics are a critical element in our future climate,” Fasullo says. “If we can better represent these regions in models, we can improve our predictions and provide society with a better sense of the impacts to expect in a warming world.” (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Environment, global warming | Tagged: climate change, Environment, global warming, Kevin E. Trenberth, NCAR | Leave a Comment »
Posted on January 13, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Statistical analysis meshes with climate model results
This graphic shows the ratio of record daily highs to record daily lows observed at about 1,800 weather stations in the 48 contiguous United States from January 1950 through September 2009. Each bar shows the proportion of record highs (red) to record lows (blue) for each decade. The 1960s and 1970s saw slightly more record daily lows than highs, but in the last 30 years record highs have increasingly predominated, with the ratio now about two-to-one for the 48 states as a whole. (©UCAR, graphic by Mike Shibao.)
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — A continuing trend toward more daily high temperature records is yet another sign of the steadily warming climate, according to the Boulder-based National Center for Atmospheric Research, which this week released a comprehensive study of temperature statistics across the U.S.
“Climate change is making itself felt in terms of day-to-day weather in the United States,” says Gerald Meehl, the lead author and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “The ways these records are being broken show how our climate is already shifting.” (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Environment, global warming, Summit County news | Tagged: climate, daily high temperature records, Environment, Gerald Meehl, global warming, National Center for Atmospheric Research, National Climatic Data Center, NCAR, Summit County News | 1 Comment »
Posted on February 10, 2011 by Bob Berwyn
Study suggests wolverine habitat could melt away by mid-century
A new climate change study casts doubt on the ability of wolverines to survive in the face of climate change. PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — A targeted climate-change study by scientists with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder suggests that rising temperatures may completely eliminate existing habitat for wolverines in the contiguous United States.
“The researchers combined regional-scale climate projections with knowledge of a single species and its unique habitat to examine its vulnerability to a changing climate,” says Sarah Ruth, program director in National Science Foundations Directorate for Geosciences, which funds NCAR. “This study is an example of how targeted climate predictions can produce new insights that could help us reduce the impact of future climate change on delicate ecosystems,” she said.
Climate change is likely to imperil the wolverine in two ways: Reducing or eliminating the springtime snow cover that wolverines rely on for raising their young, and increasing August temperatures well beyond what the species may be able to tolerate. (more…)
Filed under: Colorado, endangered species, Environment, global warming, Summit County news, wildlife | Tagged: climate change, Contiguous United States, endangered species, Environment, Environmental Research Letters, National Center for Atmospheric Research, National Science Foundation, NCAR, Summit County News, wildlife, wolverines | Leave a Comment »
Posted on July 16, 2010 by Bob Berwyn
Melting ice caps are not the only thing driving rising sea levels, according researchers from the University of Colorado and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Shifts in currents and winds also affecting sea level, with potential impacts in low-lying coastal zones
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado scientists who teamed up to study rising sea levels say some low-lying areas in the Pacific could be hit especially hard as global temperatures continue to climb. Because of complex patterns of ocean currents and winds, sea level is actually falling slightly in other areas, the researchers concluded.
The study, led by scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, also in Boulder, finds that the sea-level rise is at least partly a result of climate change. The changes are especially intense along the coastlines of the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, as well as the islands of Sri Lanka, Sumatra and Java, the research found.
The key player in the process is the Indo-Pacific warm pool, an enormous, bathtub-shaped area spanning a huge area of the tropical oceans stretching from the east coast of Africa west to the International Date Line in the Pacific. (more…)
Filed under: Environment, global warming | Tagged: Environment, global warming, Hadley circulation, NCAR, sea level rise, Summit County, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News, University of Colorado, Walker Circulation | 2 Comments »
Posted on April 18, 2010 by Bob Berwyn
Colorado scientists are trying to track the missing heat in the global climate equation. PHOTO COURTESY USGS.
Boulder-based scientists say existing data can’t account for all the incoming solar energy
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Scientists with the Boulder-based National Center for Atmospheric Research say about half the heat that’s built up on Earth in recent years can’t be traced by existing satellites, ocean sensors and other existing instruments.
The “missing” heat may be building up deep in the oceans or elsewhere in the climate system. Pinpointing the buildup of energy in the planet’s climate system is critical to understanding how the climate may change, says NCAR researcher Kevin Trenberth, the lead author of an article published last week in Science. (more…)
Filed under: Environment, global warming, Summit County Colorado | Tagged: global warming, NCAR, research, science, Summit County, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News | 1 Comment »
Posted on February 17, 2010 by Bob Berwyn
A construction crew works on a white roof in Washington, D.C. Photo by Maria-José Viñas courtesy the American Geophysical Union.
Boulder researchers say painting city roofs white could lower urban temperatures significantly to partly offset global warming impacts
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — People who spend time outdoors in warm climates have long known that white clothes reflect sunlight and help keep their bodies cooler. Now, scientists with the Boulder-based National Center for Atmospheric Research say they’ve used computer models to show that —hypothetically — summer afternoon temperatures in the New York City area could be cooled by about 2 degrees if all the rooftops were painted white.
“Our research demonstrates that white roofs, at least in theory, can be an effective method for reducing urban heat,” said NCAR scientist Keith Oleson, lead author of the study. “It remains to be seen if it’s actually feasible for cities to paint their roofs white, but the idea certainly warrants further investigation.”
“It’s critical to understand how climate change will affect vulnerable urban areas, which are home to most of the world’s population,” said Gordon Bonan, a co-author of the study. The EPA maintains a web site about excessive heat events and the heat island effect here.
Filed under: Environment, global warming | Tagged: Bob Berwyn, Boulder, Environment, global warming, heat island effect, NCAR, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News, Summit Voice | Leave a Comment »