Tag: El Nino

Climate: U.S. West very dry in February

Very dry across the West in February 2016.
Very dry across the West in February 2016.

Where’s El Niño?

Staff Report

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”

Is climate change causing sea lion food shortage?

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Sea lions may be facing a food shortage in Southern California coastal waters. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Study tracks prey base in Southern California coastal waters

Staff Report

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?”

El Niño may help spread dangerous diseases across oceans

Dangerous bacteria may ‘piggyback’ from Asia to Latin America

April 2
A new study tracks potential public health impacts of El Niño.

Staff Report

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”

Climate: El Niño not a drought-buster for California yet

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Exceptional drought is still widespread across California with a few more months of the rainy season ahead.

Will spring deliver big rains?

Staff Report

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.

That may be due to the fact that the distribution of warm water across the Pacific Ocean is quite different than during past El Niños that brought more widespread heavy precipitation to California. Continue reading “Climate: El Niño not a drought-buster for California yet”

Mass coral reef die-off reaches record duration

Global warming, El Niño combine for double whammy

NOAA tracks coral reef hotspots with a special website. Click on the image to visit the page.
NOAA tracks coral reef hotspots with a special website. Click on the image to visit the page.

Staff Report

Coral reefs around the world are getting hit by the double whammy of global warming and an intense El Niño this year. Record and near-record warmth spread across large parts of the world’s major oceans are prolonging the longest global coral die-off on record.

“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.

When corals are stressed by conditions such as high temperatures, they expel the symbiotic algae that live in their tissues. Without the algae, corals lose a significant source of food and are more vulnerable to disease. In a severe bleaching event, large swaths of reef-building corals die. This causes reefs to erode, destroying fish habitat and exposing previously protected shorelines to the destructive force of ocean waves. Continue reading “Mass coral reef die-off reaches record duration”

Climate: This year’s El Niño has passed its peak, scientists say

Impacts expected for months to come

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This year’s El Niño will go down as one of the strongest on record

Staff Report

Meteorologists say the 2015-2016 El Niño has peaked, but it remains strong and will continue to influence global weather in the months ahead. With eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean surface temperatures more than 2 degrees Celsius above average in late 2015, this El Niño will go down as one of the strongest on record, although it’s not clear if it was the strongest ever, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

For now, the outlook is that El Niño will fade during the next half year. As typically happens,  El Niño reached its peak ocean surface temperature during November and December, but those temperatures have since declined by about half a degree.

“We have just witnessed one of the most powerful ever El Niño events which caused extreme weather in countries on all continents and helped fuel record global heat in 2015,” said WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas. “In meteorological terms, this El Niño is now in decline. But we cannot lower our guard as it is still quite strong and in humanitarian and economic terms, its impacts will continue for many months to come,” Taalas said. Continue reading “Climate: This year’s El Niño has passed its peak, scientists say”

Climate: Warm oceans gone haywire?

Powerful storms in Atlantic and Pacific

MODIS visible satellite image of Hurricane Pali taken at 5:30 pm EST January 11, 2016. At the time, Pali was intensifying into a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.
MODIS visible satellite image of Hurricane Pali taken at 5:30 pm EST January 11, 2016. At the time, Pali was intensifying into a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Staff Report

With large parts of the the world’s oceans consistently warming to record-warm levels the past few months, it’s probably not a surprise that there are some big storms spinning out at sea. Basic physics tells us that warmth is energy, and that’s now translating into some unusual developments, including what may be the earliest-ever hurricane in the central Pacific, according to this Twitter post from National Hurricane meteorologist Eric Blake.

Currently, yet another strong storm is developing in the Pacific. The National Weather Service says the system will also generate hurricane-force winds and waves up to 50 feet.

The Atlantic Ocean has also been hyperactive in recent weeks. A storm centered near Iceland developed hurricane-strength winds during the last days of 2015 and sent a surge of air so moist and so warm northward that temps briefly climbed above freezing at the North Pole during the heart of the coldest time of the year.

Another system in the central Atlantic has a 40 percent chance of subtropical or tropical formation in the next 48 hours, according to the National Weather Service.