March snowfall across the Colorado mountains helped maintain the statewide snowpack near average for the water year to-date, but the strong El Niño hasn’t played out as expected.
Instead of boosting moisture in the southwestern corner of Colorado, this year’s edition of the Pacific Ocean warm-water cycle sent the storm track surging into the Pacific Northwest and then down across Colorado’s northern mountains. Northeastern Colorado has been the wettest of all, with a wide section of the plains seeing up to double the average annual rainfall so far.
That’s bad news for the Southwest, where moisture has been sparse for the past several years. Western New Mexico, most of Arizona and the southern California deserts and coast have been especially dry since the start of the rainy season. Regionally, snowpack in the Colorado River Basin above Lake Powell was 94 percent of average as of March 17, and the Federal Bureau of Reclamation is projecting that the inflow to Lake Powell will be just 80 percent of average for the April to July period. Continue reading “Climate: Snowpack dwindles across southern Colorado”→
El Niño didn’t exactly go gangbusters in southwest Colorado last month, where the key river basins received only about 35 percent of average February precipitation. Statewide mountain precipitation was only slightly better, at 56 percent of normal.
“February in the mountains of Colorado is typically a slightly drier month than compared to say, April. But a dry February like this could have big ramifications should April and May not pan out” said Brian Domonkos, Snow Survey Supervisor with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Continue reading “Climate: U.S. West very dry in February”→
Study tracks prey base in Southern California coastal waters
Scientists say the large number of recent juvenile sea lion deaths is probably the result of a combination of factors, including a growing overall population and a decline in high calorie prey in important feeding grounds. The investigation started after large numbers of sea lion pups flooding into animal rescue centers in Southern California the last few years.
The new study took a close look at the abundance of four of the main prey species: sardine, anchovy, rockfish and market squid between 2004-2014. The finding show that both sardines and anchovies — both rich in fat that is vital to the growth of young sea lions — have declined since the mid-2000s in the areas around the Channel Islands where the females forage. That has forced the female sea lions to prey instead on market squid and rockfish, which contain far less fat and fewer calories. Continue reading “Is climate change causing sea lion food shortage?”→
Dangerous bacteria may ‘piggyback’ from Asia to Latin America
Along with causing weather-related disasters like flooding or drought, El Niño may be a factor in spreading waterborne diseases like cholera thousands of miles across oceans, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Microbiology.
The findings by U.S. and UK researchers suggest that the arrival of new diseases in Latin America is linked with the spread of warmer El Niño waters. Examples include a 1990 cholera outbreak in Peru that killed 13,000 people, and two instances (1997 and 2010) when new variants the bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus led to widespread human illness through contaminated shellfish. The study explored how those outbreaks concurred in both time and space with significant El Niño events. Continue reading “El Niño may help spread dangerous diseases across oceans”→
Although there are still a few months left in the rainy season, this year’s El Niño hasn’t exactly been the drought buster California was hoping for. Thus far, plentiful precipitation in the northern part of state will go a long way toward replenishing reservoirs, but central and southern California have remained relatively dry.
The “exceptional drought” footprint is now spread across about 38 percent of the state, as compared to 45 percent three months ago, and precipitation in the key snowpack areas of the Sierra Nevada has been about average. Farther south, especially in the L.A. Basin, precipitation is still well below average for the rainy season to date.
“We’re maybe looking at a 2- to 2.5-year-long event. Some areas have already seen bleaching two years in a row,” said Mark Eakin, a biological oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in College Park, Maryland, and coordinator of the agency’s Coral Reef Watch.