Category: climate and weather

Atmospheric CO2 surges again in 2016

Even with fossil fuel emissions starting to level off, greenhouse gases are increasing

CO2 levels are stairstepping to new record highs.

Staff Report

Despite the good intentions of the 134 countries that have ratified the Paris climate agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is still increasing at a record pace. For the second year in a row, instruments at  NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory showed CO2 increasing by 3 parts per million in 2016.

The two-year, 6-ppm surge between 2015 and 2017 is unprecedented in the observatory’s 59-year record and marked the fifth year in a row that CO2 increased by 2 ppm or more, according to Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. Continue reading “Atmospheric CO2 surges again in 2016”

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February ends up as second-warmest on record for U.S.

16 states report record heat

States stretching from Texas to New York were record warm in February.

Staff Report

Nearly a quarter of the U.S. was record warm in February, and nationwide, it ended up as the second-warmest February on record, just behind 1954. The winter (December to February) was the sixth-warmest, according to the latest State of the Climate update from the National Centers for Environmental Information.

By the numbers, the average temperature across the lower 48 states for Februrary was 41.2 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 7.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. The winter as a whole (December to February) was 3.7 degrees Fahrenheit above average.

The only state reporting widespread below-average temperatures was Washington, with slightly below to near average readings in Oregon, Northern California, northern Idaho and Montana.

By contrast, 16 states, stretching from Texas up the Mississippi Valley to the Midwest, New York and the central Atlantic Coast, were record warm. Three states, including Colorado, reported their all-time warmest minimum average temperatures, in line with global warming trends showing nighttimes heating faster than days.

According to the report, there were 11,743 daily warm temperature records broken or tied, compared to 418 daily cold records. Of those, 1,151 daily records also broke the warmest temperature record ever observed during February, compared to just 2 cold records.

Read the full State of the Climate report here: https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/news/national-climate-201702.

The U.S. February temperatures are in line with the rest of world, according to the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, which reported earlier this week that the average global temperature for February was the second-warmest on record.

Global heat wave continues with second-warmest February on record

No post El Niño cool down …

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The global average temperature for February 2017 was the second-warmest on record, with record heat across the Arctic and parts of North America. Credit: ECMWF, Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Staff Report

So far, there’s little sign of a post El Niño drop in global temperatures, according to the European Copernicus Climate Change Service, which has new data showing that last month was the second-warmest February on record for Earth. According to the report, February 2017 “extended the spell of exceptional global warmth that has now lasted since mid-2015.”

February had the highest departure from average for any month since April 2016, at 0.69 degrees Celsius warmer than the 1981-2010 average. That was just 0.18 degrees Celsius cooler than February 2016, which was the warmest February on record. Continue reading “Global heat wave continues with second-warmest February on record”

Sunday set: Farewell to ice

Frozen fountains …


Spring has come early to large parts of the Northern Hemisphere warming under a blanket of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, so it’s time to say goodbye to winter with some images celebrating icy creeks. These photos are from Colorado, a global warming hotspot, where the average temperature has increased faster than in any other state in recent years, compared to the previous 30-year meteorological period. This year the trend continued across much of the U.S. and other parts of the world that all reported record warmth during February. In mid-February, the thermometer reached 80 degrees at DIA for the first time ever. Heat waves scorched Australia and parts of South America, and parts of western Europe were also record- or near-record warm, including Austria, where the average countrywide temperature was 2.8 degrees Celsius above the long-term average, with a few individual stations setting all-time heat records for the month. You’ll probably still be able to enjoy frozen wintry scenes like this for a few more years, but if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t cut soon, many areas probably won’t see much winter weather by 2050. We need #climateaction now.

How will the melting Arctic affect European weather?

Study eyes impacts to North Atlantic Oscillation

How will the Arctic meltdown affect weather in the British Isles?
How will the Arctic meltdown affect weather in the British Isles? Photo courtesy UK Met Office.

Staff Report

The loss of Arctic sea ice may not lead directly to an increase in cold weather extremes in Europe, according to scientists who studied the links between Arctic changes and mid-latitude weather. In the study, scientists with the University of Exeter found that dwindling sea ice does affect the  North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) weather phenomenon, which affects winter weather conditions in Northern Europe, in places such as the UK, Scandinavia and the Baltic states. Continue reading “How will the melting Arctic affect European weather?”

Ocean acidification spreading in the Arctic

Study eyes warm water incursions from the Pacific

Sea ice flows out of the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait
Sea ice flows out of the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait in this satellite picture from the NASA Earth Observatory program. In recent years, the strait has become a conduit for warmer water flowing into the Arctic, resulting in spreading ocean acidification.

Staff Report

In the past 20 years, acidified waters have expanded in the Arctic ocean, spreading northward from Alaska’s Chukchi Sea coastline to just below the North Pole. The pool of acidified water is also getting deeper, from 100 to 250 meters, according to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

In a press release, the researchers said it’s the first time they’ve documented such a rapid and large-scale increase in acidification, “at least twice as fast as that observed in the Pacific or Atlantic oceans,” according to University of Delaware professor Wei-Jun Cai.

The changes will impact different types of ocean life, including tiny marine snails known to be susceptible to ocean acidification, said NOAA scientist Richard Feely. Other  Arctic species potentially at risk from ocean acidification are fisheries of shrimp and varieties of salmon and crab — all important food sources for indigenous communities. Continue reading “Ocean acidification spreading in the Arctic”

Sunday set: Austria’s mountain farms

Alm journeys


This past summer, we spent several weeks exploring the world of Austrian Alms, high mountain pastures that are only grazed for a few months each summer. While we in the U.S. generally tend to prefer undisturbed mountain landscapes for their aesthetic and environmental values, these Austrian pastures have been grazed for centuries and even millennia. In the earliest days, as humans colonized the Alps after the last ice age, they had to use the higher slopes as forage areas because the valleys were still choked with glacial debris, wetlands and thick vegetation. That means the open meadows higher up were actually available for animal husbandry earlier than the lower elevations. In any case, the Alms now form an important part of the Alps’ ecological fabric, providing habitat for many wildflowers, including rare orchids, that wouldn’t thrive in a dark forest environment. Alms are also important to culture and recreation, as gathering points for hikers, and help ensure local food supplies. The first three in a series of grant-funded stories on this topic have been published at Pacific Standard, links below. Help support independent environmental journalism by visiting the stories and sharing them on your social media networks.