Water shortages, sudden floods on the climate change menu in South America
Researchers already know that the world’s tropical glaciers are melting fast, but a new study published in The Cryosphere, an European Geosciences Union journal, helps pinpoint some of the potential impacts. The research focused on the Bolivian Andes, where glaciers dwindled by 43 percent in the last 30 years. The melting ice has created lakes that could burst and flood downstream towns, according to lead author Simon Cook a lecturer at the Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK.
The glacier meltdown also threatens regional water supplies. The 2.3 million residents of La Paz and El Alto get about 15 percent of their water supply from glaciers, and double that during the dry season. One lake in the region has already dried up, according to the authors, who said their study is one of the first to look specifically at recent large-scale glacier change in Bolivia. Continue reading “Melting Andes glaciers pose risk in Bolivia”→
Soil moisture, snowpack data help inform new forecast modeling
Some droughts creep up on you, while others seem to come out of nowhere, like in 2012 when spring came early and a hot, dry summer parched fields and forests and led to a busy wildfire season, including the destructive Waldo Canyon blaze near Colorado Springs.
Seasonal forecasts issued in May 2012 did not foresee a drought forming in the country’s midsection. But by the end of August, the drought had spread across the Midwest, parching Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri. Now, after analyzing conditions leading up to the drough, researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, say similar droughts in the future could be predicted by paying close attention to key indicators like snowmelt and soil moisture. Continue reading “Study eyes ‘flash drought’ forecasts”→
Global temperatures stayed near record-high levels in Autumn, with last month ending up as the second-warmest September on record, going back to 1880. For the month, the average sea- and land-surface temperature was 1.60 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, just 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than September 2015, according to the latest monthly State of the Climate report from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
Long-term studies show potential impacts of climate change
A new set of scientific reports highlights the value of long-term observations in relatively undisturbed ecosystems and also offers a preview of how global warming may change Antarctica in coming decades.
The research shows that a period of unusual warmth in 2001 and 2002, caused by a confluence two natural climate cycles, accelerated the microbial food chain and shook up the distribution of penguin populations and thinned glaciers according to October issue of the journal BioScience .
The research came out of two long-term ecological research stations, including Palmer Station, on the West Antarctic Peninsula, where scientists study how “changing sea ice extent influences marine ecology and the multilayered food webs of the coastal, nearshore, and continental slope ecosystems.” Other studies were done at the McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER, in an ice-free polar desert where glacial meltwater plays a huge role in ecosystems. Continue reading “How will Antarctica respond to global warming?”→
Ecologically critical tidal wetlands along the U.S. Gulf Coast are being swallowed up by rising sea level and coastal development, but they expand inland if planners consider climate change in their equations.
“Tidal saline wetlands along the northern Gulf of Mexico are abundant, diverse, and vulnerable to sea-level rise,” said Nicholas Enwright, USGS researcher and lead author of the study. “Our findings provide a foundation for land managers to better ensure there is space for future wetland migration in response to sea-level rise.”
Tidal saline wetlands include mangrove forests, salt marshes, and salt flats, which all provide important wildlife habitat and help buffer the impacts of extreme weather. Without areas for these wetlands to move to, people and wildlife will lose the beneficial functions they provide. Continue reading “Can coastal wetlands survive sea level rise?”→
‘Without them, groundwater resources become depleted’
Extreme precipitation events that cause severe flooding, loss of life and property damage aren’t exactly at the top of the weather wish list for most people. But it turns out they play a key role in replenishing underground aquifers in the western U.S.
The importance of groundwater will continue to grow in the years ahead — an era of population growth and climate disruption, so understanding the connection between big storms and groundwater recharge is critical, according to U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Reclamation scientists who have released a new study analyzing large, multi-year, quasi-decadal groundwater recharge events in the northern Utah portion of the Great Basin from 1960 to 2013.
*Author’s note -this essay was originally published Feb. 26, 2007 on New West.
It’s a mid-winter meltdown here in the Colorado High Country. After a string of seemingly endless powder days that lasted through most of January and the early part of February, the sun is out, the roadside berms are melting. And – shhhhh, don’t tell anyone – despite ski reports touting packed powder, the snow is transitioning at our local ski areas, even turning to (Gasp!) hardpack in places.
None of that stops my friend Dave from making the annual 1,000-mile trek from his home near Lodi, California, where he grows grapes and makes wine when he’s not busy as a volunteer patroller at Heavenly Valley. After all, it’s not just about the snow, it’s about a 20-year ski friendship born on the slopes, a bond that’s in part sustained by our mutual passion for sliding down snow-covered mountains. Continue reading “Skiing heals!”→