Tag: El Nino

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.

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USGS study tracks West Coast El Niño erosion

Some of the biggest waves on record took a toll on beaches

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Santa Monica beach during a break from the El Niño storms of 2015-2016. @bberwyn photo.

The  2015-16 El Niño may have been a bust as far as precipitation in California, but it still ended up as one of the strongest episodes of the last 145 years, according to U.S. Geological Survey scientists who studied erosion along the West Coast.

They found that, on average, erosion was  76 percent above normal, with most beaches in California eroded beyond historical extremes. If, as some research suggests, El Niños become stronger in a warming climate, then the West Coast, with its 25 million inhabitants, will become increasingly vulnerable to coastal hazards.

The study covered seasonal changes at 29 beaches from Washington to Southern California. They used 3-D maps and aerial lidar imaging, GPS topographic surveys, and direct measurements of sand levels, combined with wave and water level data to measure the changes.

Winter beach erosion or the removal and loss of sand from the beach is a normal seasonal process, but the extent of erosion can be more severe during El Niño events than in other years.

Continue reading “USGS study tracks West Coast El Niño erosion”

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’”

El Niño & rising seas bring record nuisance flooding

Southeast, Gulf Coast hit especially hard

Nuisance flooding set new records during the past year, according to a new NOAA report. @bberwyn photo.
Nuisance flooding set new records during the past year, according to a new NOAA report. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

There’s no question that nuisance flooding is increasing along U.S. coasts due to sea level rise, and some coastal residents got their feet frequently during the past year, according to a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In some cities, the days of nuisance flooding during the past meteorological year (May 2015 to April 2016) flooding exceeded trends and broke records, especially in the southeastern U.S and Gulf Coast. For those areas, the strong El Niño may have exacerbated the effects of rising sea level.

Wilmington, North Carolina, saw an all-time high of 90 days of nuisance flooding, nearly one quarter of the year. Other cities with record numbers of flooding days are Charleston, South Carolina; Port Isabel, Texas; Mayport, Virginia Key, Key West, and Fernandina Beach, Florida, the report said. Continue reading “El Niño & rising seas bring record nuisance flooding”

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”

April storms boost Colorado snowpack

Much of West reports record-fast meltdown under El Niño heat

Colorado snowpack May 1 2016
April storms boosted Colorado’s snowpack, with near average runoff and river flows expected during the spring and summer in most parts of the state.
Colorado snowpack map
Southern parts of Colorado have not had above average snowpack readings for several years in a row, which could be part of the “new normal” in the global warming era

Staff Report

April storms helped boost Colorado’s statewide snowpack to above average, but two river basins in the southern part of the state continue to report below normal readings.

The state’s mountain areas benefited the most from a series of wet, El Niño-fueled storms, bringing precipitation for the water year to average, according to Brian Domonkos, the Colorado snow survey supervisor for the USDA Natural Resources conservation service.

“At this time last year the water supply outlook was grim at best,” Domonkos said. “Colorado’s current snowpack and precipitation levels are right where we want to be this time of year. Elsewhere in the Western United States seasonal snowpack during 2016 succumbed to early spring warming and did not recover as Colorado did from recent storms,” he added. Continue reading “April storms boost Colorado snowpack”