Study documents shifts caused by warming seas, other stressors
Big fish eat little fish is the conventional wisdom of the sea, but it’s not always quite so simple. When Global warming and El Niño combined in 2015 and 2016 to warm the Pacific Ocean to new record-high temperatures, it shifted the food chain significantly, according to scientists with NOAA, the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
According to their new study, published in the journal Science Advances, the food web “changed in response to various natural and anthropogenic related stressors,” said lead author Rocio I. Ruiz-Cooley, formerly of NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center and now at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. “This tells us that the food web is very dynamic, and reveals changes with the ecosystem around it.” Continue reading “Changing ocean alters food web”→
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.
Some of the biggest waves on record took a toll on beaches
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.
El Niño a key factor, but global warming to increase marine heatwaves
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).
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”→
New findings help sharpen global warming projections
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.
Alaska, Southwest could see early season forest fires
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.