Category: El Niño

New study tracks origins of the Pacific ‘ warm blob’

El Niño a key factor, but global warming to increase marine heatwaves

Marine heatwaves are becoming more frequent and widespread.
Marine heatwaves are becoming more frequent and widespread.

Staff Report

A disruptive ocean heatwave in the northeastern Pacific Ocean in 2014 and 2015 was probably a manifestation of El Niño, says a new study by scientists with the Georgia Institute of Technology and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Such warm-water events could become more common as heat-trapping pollution continues to increase in the atmosphere, according to the findings published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Continue reading “New study tracks origins of the Pacific ‘ warm blob’”

Bleaching risk on the rise for Great Barrier Reef corals

Global warming is likely to overwhelm corals'
Global warming is likely to overwhelm corals’ built-in thermal tolerance mechanisms within the next few decades, leading to more bleaching and mortality. Photo courtesy Dr. Peter Mumby.

Study identifies bleaching and mortality thresholds for imperiled coral reefs

Staff Report

The steady rise in ocean temperatures projected for the next few decades will put more and more corals at risk of bleaching, as the warm water simply overwhelms their thermal tolerance mechanisms.

Recent research along the Great Barrier Reef shows that corals have been able to survive past bleaching events because they were acclimated to warmer temperatures by being exposed to a pattern of gradually warming waters in the lead up to each episode. But global warming is likely to change that, the scientists said.

Before long, temperature increases of as little as 0.5 degrees Celsius may push many corals over the edge as the warm water causes them to expel the algae-like dinoflagellates that help keep them alive and give them their color.

Lead author Dr. Tracy Ainsworth from Coral CoE said  bleaching is like a marathon for corals.

“When corals are exposed to a pre-stress period in the weeks before bleaching, as temperatures start to climb, this acts like a practice run and prepares the coral. Corals that are exposed to this pattern are then less stressed and more tolerant when bleaching does occur,” Ainsworth said. Continue reading “Bleaching risk on the rise for Great Barrier Reef corals”

Emerging La Niña likely to end streak of record-warm years

Pacific Ocean ENSO cycle a key player in global climate

La Niña
Cooler water welling up along the coast of South America and moving west suggests the start of La Niña in the Pacific Ocean.

By Bob Berwyn

The shift from a powerful El Niño to the cooler La Niña phase of Pacific Ocean temperatures will temporarily end the planet’s recent record streak of record-warm years, according to climate scientists who see the cyclical ocean changes as a key factor in the long-term global climate change equation.

Nearly all record-warm global years since 1950 (when accurate records start) have come during during El Niños, when the Pacific Ocean releases heat to the atmosphere and  intensifies global warming caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution. The 2015-16 El Niño was one of the strongest on record, but it has now ended, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which says sea surface temperatures in the central and equatorial Pacific have cooled to average in the past few weeks. Continue reading “Emerging La Niña likely to end streak of record-warm years”

13 consecutive months of record-high temps for Earth

No relief from global warming streak

January to May global temperatures 2016
Well above average temperatures prevailed across most of the planet during the first five months of 2016.
March-May 2016 global temperatures
Spring temperatures have been soaring across the globe.

Staff Report

The planet’s global warming streak continued in May, which marked the 13th month in a row that the average temperature over land and sea surfaces reached a new monthly record. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it’s the longest such streak since record-keeping started in 1880.

The seasonal (March-May) and year-to-date (January-May) global temperatures were also the highest on record, NOAA said in its monthly state of the climate report. Continue reading “13 consecutive months of record-high temps for Earth”

Mega-scale El Niña pattern may have big climate impacts

New findings help sharpen global warming projections

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Can El Niño last for centuries?

Staff Report

A chemical analysis of cave formations in Indonesia has helped climate researchers identify a large-scale pattern of El Niño shifts in the Pacific Ocean that may play a role in how climate change plays out over the next few decades.

Measuring isotopes in the stalagmites, and comparing it with records from East Asia and the central-eastern equatorial Pacific, enabled the researchers to pinpoint century-scale patterns in Pacific rainfall and temperature, and link them with global climate changes in the past 2000 years. Continue reading “Mega-scale El Niña pattern may have big climate impacts”

Experts project below average Rocky Mountain wildfire season

Alaska, Southwest could see early season forest fires

spring wildfire outlook rocky mountains
Experts say they aren’t expecting a severe wildfire season in the Rocky Mountain region.
Summit County wildfire
An unusual high elevation early season wildfire burns near Keystone, Colorado in 2012. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

April precipitation may have helped dampen the potential for a severe wildfire season in parts of the Rocky Mountain region and in the adjacent Great Plains, according to a new outlook from the interagency Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center.

The projections is based on various seasonal indicators including precipitation, snowpack average, temperatures, wind, plant and soil moisture, and the timing of green-up. These indices support a below average to near average fire season in 2016.

“The timing of the recent precipitation events, primarily in April, has been critical to assure the availability of soil moisture and subsequent green-up, which diminishes the threat of an early onset of fire season,” said RMACC fire meteorologist Tim Mathewson. Continue reading “Experts project below average Rocky Mountain wildfire season”

Climate: Record-warm oceans generate yet another record-breaking tropical storm in the Indian Ocean

El Niño, climate change brewing up trouble

Cyclone Fantala
Cyclone Fantala is the strongest tropical storm on record in the Indian Ocean. Photo courtesy NASA.

Staff Report

A tropical storm spinning near Madagascar in the Indian Ocean is yet another sign that global warming is driving the world’s climate into untested realms.

Cyclone Fantala is generating 170-mph winds, making it the strongest tropical storm on record for the region, according to NASA. Just a couple of months ago, Cyclone Winston hit Fiji as the strongest storm in the Southwest Pacific, and last October, Patricia became the most potent hurricane on record in the northeast Pacific, with winds up to 215 mph. Patricia also became the strongest-ever Pacific hurricane to make landfall. Continue reading “Climate: Record-warm oceans generate yet another record-breaking tropical storm in the Indian Ocean”