Category: La Niña

Mass coral bleaching likely along northern Great Barrier Reef

Extensive stand of severely bleached coral at Lisianski Island in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, documented during an August 2014 NOAA research mission. (Credit: NOAA).

Scientists are currently mapping the biological damage caused by global warming

Staff Report

At the end of eastern Australia’s long, hot summer, ocean scientists are once again seeing devastating coral die-backs in the northern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef. Over the next few weeks, they’ll venture underwater to study how the coral communities responded to a second straight year of overheated water.

When temperatures pass a threshold, the coral expels its symbiotic algal partner, leaving underwater wastelands of white-washed reefs. The scientists will also use survey flights above the reef, and even satellite imaging as they mobilize to document one of global warming’s most devastating impacts. There has been a prolonged global mass bleaching under way for the past year, and climate researchers say nearly all the world’s corals will be at risk by mid-century under projected global temperature increases. Continue reading “Mass coral bleaching likely along northern Great Barrier Reef”

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NASA data shows second-warmest February on record

Is another El Niño brewing in the Pacific?

Staff Report

Confirming measurements announced last week by the European Climate Change Service, NASA today announced that February 2017 was the second-warmest February on record, just 0.20 degrees Celsius cooler than last year’s record reading. The analysis by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies showed that the month was 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than the 1951-1980 mean.

The monthly analysis by the GISS team is assembled from publicly available data acquired by about 6,300 meteorological stations around the world, ship- and buoy-based instruments measuring sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research stations.

The analysis shows that North America and Siberia, along with the Arctic, were the hot spots in February, with most of Europe also warmer than average. Cool areas included parts of the Pacific Northwest and the Middle East.

The pattern was reflected by the string of daily and monthly high temperature records set in the eastern U.S. The Arctic has also been record warm all winter, with sea ice in the region hovering near record low extent for several months in a row.

The persistent warmth comes despite the end of a warm El Niño Pacific Ocean phase, when a switch to La Niña — the cool part of the ENSO cycle — often brings a global cool down. Australian climate scientists this week said that yet another El Niño could be brewing in the Pacific for next year.

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, there’s a 50  percent chance the El Niño threshold could be reached by July, as projections show steady warming of the central tropical Pacific Ocean over the next six months. So far, however, wind and cloud patterns have not shown any big shift away from neutral conditions. The researchers said it’s difficult to make an accurate forecast during the transition season.

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”

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”

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”

2015 in review – environment

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A NASA satellite shows oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill spreading across the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Oil spill impacts

Looking back over some of the top environmental stories published in Summit Voice, it’s interesting to see some of the long-running threads, including continued news about the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. A half decade after BP failed drilling operation spewed millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, scientists continue to track the impacts, including massive amounts of oil buried deep in sea-bottom sediments, as described in this Jan. 2015 story.

Monarchs bounce back

For some good news in January, an annual monarch butterfly survey showed a slight recovery in population numbers, up to 56.5 million from the previous year’s low of 34 million. But that was still more than  80 percent below the 20-year average and down 95 percent from numbers tallied in the mid-1990s. Near-perfect conditions during breeding season helped bolster the numbers in 2015. Read more here.

 

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Monarch butterflies are struggling, but population surveys in 2015 suggested that, with some help, the species can recover. @bberwyn photo.

Continue reading “2015 in review – environment”

Climate: Study links deadly 2010-2011 Australia floods with long-term ocean warming

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A NASA Earth Observatory satellite image shows swollen rivers in northwestern Australia during record-setting floods in 2010-2011. Visit this NASA page for more info.

‘Take action to forestall global warming …’

Staff Report

Deadly floods that swept across Australia in 2010 and 2011 were at least partly fueled by long-term warming in the Indian and Pacific oceans, according to a new study that highlights some of threats posed by human-caused climate change.

The research, published in Geophysical Research Letters, shows that ocean warming can have profound effects on atmospheric circulation, delivering huge amounts of moisture to land areas under certain conditions. Continue reading “Climate: Study links deadly 2010-2011 Australia floods with long-term ocean warming”