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.
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”→