Pacific islands face extreme sea level changes

Study tracks El Niño shifts


How will climate change affect Pacific atolls? Photo via NASA.

Staff Report

Climate change will likely subject many low-lying Pacific island nations to more extreme fluctuations in sea level from year to year, in synch with more intense El Niño cycles. Some years, high sea level will lead to bigger floods, while in other years, big drops in sea level will leave coral reefs exposed, according to researchers based in Hawaii and Australia. Continue reading

USGS report shows how global warming will shift Pacific wind and wave patterns

Study pinpoints impacts to island communities & ecosystems


How will islands in the Pacific Ocean be affected by global warming?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey have developed climate models that help show how global warming will change wind and wave patterns, potentially affecting island communities, especially as sea level rises.

The new USGS report looked at U.S. and U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands, including Hawaii, where climate change is expected to alter the highest waves and strongest winds. The detailed data should help communities develop coastal resilience plans and ecosystem restoration efforts, and to design future coastal infrastructure. Continue reading

Study: Ancient El Niño just as strong as today’s

Archaeologists, ocean scientists team up on detailed study of historic climate cycles in Pacific Ocean


Study offers new clues to past and future El Niños.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Today’s climate models may not do a very good job of predicting changes in the Pacific Ocean El Niño-La Niña cycle, an international team of  scientists said after studying old seashells that display a distinct history of climate variations.

Understanding how El Niño responds to global warming is significant because the undulating rhythm of warming and cooling waters in the equatorial Pacific is a key driver of weather patterns around the world. Some modeling studies have suggested that ancient El Niños may have been weaker than today’s but the new research suggests they were as strong and as frequent as they are now, at least going back about 10,000 years. Continue reading

Morning photo: Waves

Seashore thrills …


A gentle Gulf of Mexico breaker rolls ashore under a setting sun.


Living in the small side-house to the barn-like fog signal building at Pt. Montara, California gave me a deep appreciation of ocean waves.

FRISCO — In the early 1980s I lived at the Pt. Montara Lighthouse, about 20 miles south of San Francisco. While we renovated the Victorian lighthouse keeper’s quarters, I stayed in the watchroom of the fog signal building, just 10 yards from the edge of a bluff overlooking a rocky headland that juts far into the Pacific. As it turned out, the first winter I lived there was a big El Niño year. Endless storms crashed ashore from November through May, coating my oceanfront window with salt spray and, at times, making the cliffs shake. It’s hard to describe the size and scope of these breakers, but if you’ve seen the movie “Chasing Mavericks,” it’ll give you an idea of the 30- to 40-foot walls of water that were commonplace that year. I already was a big fan of waves before that, but the experience gave me a whole new appreciation for the power of the sea. I don’t have any digital images of that winter, but I probably do have some old slides tucked away in a shoebox. I was tempted to try and find them, but I’ll save that for another time. Continue reading

Climate: For El Niño, timing is everything

Study identifies wind patterns that could lead to better El Niño forecasts


El Niño affects global weather patterns.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Climate researcher say they’ve discovered an atmospheric pattern that helps explain why El Niño often peaks during the first part of winter and usually fades away in late winter and early spring.

El Niño phases are part of a cycle when sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean are warmer than average. The various phases of the so-called ENSO can have pronounced impacts on weather around the globe, spurring droughts in some areas and flooding in others.

The new study from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa Meteorology Department and International Pacific Research Center identified an unusual wind pattern that straddles the equatorial Pacific during strong El Niño events and swings back and forth with a period of 15 months as a key driver in the annual cycle. The findings were reported in the May 26 online issue of Nature Geoscience. Continue reading

Study: Sea level changes may affect tropical rainfall patterns


How will global warming affect global atmospheric circulation and precipitation patterns? Photo courtesy NASA’s Blue Marble collection.

At lower sea levels, exposed land masses could affect convection

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Even though scientists are continuously fine-tuning their global warming models, climate change is likely to dish up some big surprises in the decades ahead.

In one recent study, researchers with the University of Hawaii and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution found evidence that past changes in sea level rise had a somewhat unexpected influence across the center of the Indo-Pacific warm pool — a vast region of warm ocean waters in the western Pacific region that is the main source of heat and moisture to Earth’s atmosphere. Continue reading

Fukushima ocean radiation panel to be live-streamed

Experts to discuss concerns about radioactive dispersion; viewers can ask questions via Twitter during May 9 session

FRISCO — More than two years have passed since a 9.0 earthquake and a 50-foot tsunami catastrophically damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant on Japan’s northeast coast, but questions still linger about the long-term impacts of radioactive pollution in the ocean.

The quake and tsunami killed about 20,000 people, and some coastal Japanese fisheries are still closed due to concern about the radiation. Next week, an international panel of scientists will discuss the accident and potential impacts to the environment and human health in a web-streamed session at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The panel will be held on May 9, 2013, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. EDT and simulcast on the Web ( Online viewers are encouraged to participate and send questions for the panel discussion via Twitter. The event hashtag is #WHOIfukushima. Questions during the discussion can also be sent via email to Continue reading


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