Category: extreme weather

It’s official — 2016 is the warmest year on record

Climate data show steady pace of global warming

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A NASA map shows the pattern of global warming in 2016.

Staff Report

For the third year in a row, the average global temperature climbed to a new record in 2016, reaching 1.69 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, according to the most recent state of the climate report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

During a conference announcing the new data, federal scientists said they can confidently  determine that Earth is now in its warmest era since about 125,000 years ago, during a break between ice ages, and there’s no sign that the warmup will stop anytime soon. Continue reading “It’s official — 2016 is the warmest year on record”

Climate roundup: The ill winds of global warming

Snow, ice, reindeers and forests …

Sunlit icebergs gleam on the horizon in the Antarctic Sound.
Sunlit icebergs gleam on the horizon in the Antarctic Sound. @bberwyn photo

By Bob Berwyn

2016 ended the way it began, with record warm temperatures and record-low sea ice in the Arctic. Federal scientists tracking the changes released a report detailing how the Arctic is unraveling. I covered it for InsideClimate News: The Arctic Is Unraveling,’ Scientists Conclude After Latest Climate Report.

Just before Christmas I wrote an enterprise piece on how the odds for a white Christmas have changed in different parts of the world. In many regions, the chances of seeing flakes on the holiday have decreased due to climate change, but a little counter-intuitively, they’ve also increased in other places: What Are Your Chances of a White Christmas? Probably Less Than They Used to Be.

In another Christmas-themed story, I reported on a Norwegian study that showed how widespread grazing by reindeer affects the reflectivity in northern tundra regions. It turns out that when the ungulates munch shrubs and brush, they make the world cooler: Save the Reindeer, Save the Arctic.

And with much of the West getting crushed by snowfall thanks to a subtropical weather connection, I explored a new study showing that such Pineapple Express storms are likely to become more frequent as the world warms: Global Warming Will Increase ‘Pineapple Express’ Storms in California.

Another sign that we may be near a climate tipping point is research from California showing that some severely burned forests just aren’t regenerating at all. The fires have become so big and so intense that all the seed stock trees are destroyed, leaving big cleared areas where there is no source for new growth — except for shrubs and brush that quickly grow to dominate the landscape and prevent new seedlings from taking root: California Forests Failing to Regrow After Intense Wildfires.

And some people think that they don’t have to worry about climate change because they heard global warming slowed down between 1998 and 2012. Not so, according to scientists who recalculated the rate of warming in the world’s oceans to show there was no hiatus: Already Debunked Global Warming ‘Hiatus’ Gets Another Dunking.

Droughts and fires affecting Western U.S. air quality

New study tracks increase in summertime haze in Colorado wilderness

Summit County firefighters extinguish a small wildfire between Keystone and Montezuma late March, 2012.
Summit County, Colorado, firefighters extinguish a small wildfire between Keystone and Montezuma late March, 2012. A new University of Utah study suggests that more drought and wildfires will worsen air pollution in the high country of the West, even spreading to pristine wilderness areas. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Longer and hotter droughts and wildfires are polluting the once clear blue skies of the high country in the West, according to new research from the University of Utah.

The study, published this week in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found a link between the severity of drought in the Intermountain West and summertime air quality. Climate projections suggest that drought and wildfire risk will continue to increase in coming decades.

“If you take that into the future, we’re going to see significant hazing of the West,” said University of Utah atmospheric scientist Gannet Hallar. Continue reading “Droughts and fires affecting Western U.S. air quality”

EU science agency says 2016 was record-warm

Global temperature ratchets up another notch

copernicus_graphics_press-release_en-1Staff Report

Just a few days into the new year, European climate experts confirmed that 2016 is the warmest year on record since humans started tracking the climate. The analysis from  C3S, part of the EU’s Copernicus earth observation program, show that 2016’s global temperature was about 1.3 degrees Celsius higher than typical for the middle years of the 18th century. 2016 was close to 0.2 degrees Celsius warmer than 2015, which was previously the warmest year on record. Continue reading “EU science agency says 2016 was record-warm”

Signs of serious global warming impacts piled up in 2016

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2016 is on track to be the third year in a row with a record-warm average global temperature.

There wasn’t any relief from a wave of worrisome global warming news in the spring of 2016, including a study from Harvard showing how rising temperatures will send ozone levels surging to dangerous highs across parts of the U.S.

“In the coming decades, global climate change will likely cause more heat waves during the summer, which in turn could cause a 70 to 100 percent increase in ozone episodes, depending on the region,” said Lu Shen, first author and graduate student at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Even if the president-elect follows through on his threat to cut funding for Earth observation programs, there are other international science agencies that will continue to monitor climate change impacts, including the European Space Agency. In April, data from ESA ice-observing instruments showed that the meltdown of Antactic ice shelves may be irreversible at this point. The thick shelves of ice that sit at the edge of the continent act as breaks on inland glaciers. If the ice shelves vanish, it could mark a point of no return for Antarctica’s ice, the ESA reported. Continue reading “Signs of serious global warming impacts piled up in 2016”

Autumn was exceptionally warm across the U.S.

Record and near-record readings from coast to coast

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All 48 contiguous states reported above average temperatures for the fall of 2016.

Staff Report

November 2016’s average temperature across the U.S. was 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, making it the second-warmest on record, behind 1999. According to the latest monthly update from the National Centers for Environmental Information, November is warming at a rate of 6.6 degrees Fahrenheit per century. Only January has been warming faster, at a rate of 10.5 degrees Fahrenheit per century.

Idaho, North Dakota and Washington were record warm in November. Every state in the Lower 48 experienced an average temperature that above average. North Dakota’s average temperature was 12.8 degrees above normal, nearly 2 degrees above the previous record set in 1999. In the West, 15 states reported their second or third warmest November reading on record. Continue reading “Autumn was exceptionally warm across the U.S.”

Massive forest death continues in California

Latest survey tallies more than 100 milion dead trees

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A stand of pine-beetle killed lodgepole pines on the White River National Forest. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

California’s long-term drought has claimed another 36 million trees, the U.S. Forest Service said this week, announcing the results of a new aerial survey. Since 2010, more than 100 million trees have died across 7.7 million acres, the agency said.

The die-off intensified in 2016, after four years of drought,  with mortality increasing 100 percent. Millions of additional trees are weakened and expected to die in the coming months and years. Forest Service leaders once again emphasized that their ability to address safety issues linked with dead trees has been severely hampered by climate change and limited resources.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said a broken budget for the Forest Service sees an increasing amount of resources going to firefighting while less is invested in restoration and forest health.  Continue reading “Massive forest death continues in California”