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”→
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.
Every state was warmer than average for the summer
This year’s meteorological summer in the contiguous U.S. (June-August) will go down in the climate annals as the fifth-warmest on record, at 2.8 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.
The year-to-date is the third-warmest on record, with Alaska on pace for a record-warm year after eight months, according to NOAA’s monthly State of the Climate summary, available here. August was the 17-warmest on record, with record warmth in the Northeast, and below average temperatures in the Southwest.
After record rain storms in parts of the Midwest and along the Gulf Coast, August ended up as the second wettest on record.
For the summer, according to NOAA, every state across the contiguous U.S., had a statewide temperature that was above average. Twenty-nine states across the West and in the East were much warmer than average for the summer. California, Connecticut and Rhode Island each had their warmest summer on record.
Alaska observed its second warmest summer in its 92-year record at 53.6°F, 3.0°F above average. Only the summer of 2004 was warmer with a statewide temperature value of 55.9°F. Several locations across the state were record warm including Anchorage, Kenai, King Salmon and Yakutat.
Draft document highlights global warming threats to state
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper says a “shifting climate” threatens many of the state’s vital industries, including skiing and agriculture, and he wants the state’s power plants to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent in the next 15 years from 2012 levels. The goals are outlined in a draft version of an executive order on mitigating and adapting to climate change, which spells out some specific threats of global warming that are already well-known, including:
Greater air pollution will lead to a more hospital admissions and increased cases of respiratory illness;
Changes in precipitation can adversely impact the amount and quality of Colorado’s water resources;
Changes in runoff patterns, intense precipitation, and rising temperatures can negatively affect food production and result in greater risk of food contamination and waterborne illness.
“Millions of people around the world should be receiving heat-related warnings and advisories if we are to avoid a repeat of the thousands of deaths which occurred last year from heatwaves notably in Asia and Europe,” said Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative for disaster risk reduction.
“More effort is required to ensure that the poor and vulnerable including refugees, children, older persons and persons living with disabilities are reached with early warnings and that practical measures are taken to ensure they have access to water and adequate shelter and protection from the heat and the sun,” Glaser said, adding that emergency service managers need to “step up the focus on extreme heat” to reduce mortality. Continue reading “UN warns of heatwave health risks”→
New study suggests tropical storms will become more intense
Tropical storms may become less frequent as the planet warms up, but those that do form could be increasingly powerful, according to a new study published in the journal Science last week.
How global warming will affect tropical storm formation in the decades ahead has been the subject of intensive research. The new study says that, so far, the warming effects of greenhouse gases on tropical cyclones have been hard to discern because of natural variability and also because air pollution has been masking the impacts. Continue reading “Will global warming super-charge hurricanes?”→