Tag: extreme weather

Climate: EU study says flood protection should focus on adaptation rather than avoidance

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Catastrophic floods along Elbe River in 2002 swamped huge sections of land in northern Germany, as shown by a NASA Earth Observatory image from Landsat 7.

Local flood protection efforts inadequate to meet growing climate change threat

Staff Report

As extreme rain events become more frequent, European efforts to address the threat of river flooding should focus on adapting to impacts rather than trying to avoid them, according to a new study published in the journal Climatic Change.

The ressearch, led by scientists with European Commission Joint Research Centre, studied the benefits of four adaptation measures based on the increasing flood risk projected by climate models, including reduction of the peak flows through water retention, reduction of vulnerability and relocation to safer areas. Continue reading “Climate: EU study says flood protection should focus on adaptation rather than avoidance”

Are West European beaches under a global warming siege?

Study finds 2013-2014 winter was stormiest since 1940s

As global warming drives rising sea levels and more intense storms, some communities are looking to augment their beaches with "imported" sand. like here on Manasota Key in Englewood, Florida.
As global warming drives rising sea levels and more intense storms, some communities are looking to augment their beaches with “imported” sand. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Fierce Atlantic storms that surged toward Europe’s western coastlines during the winter of 2013-2014 were the strongest in nearly 70 years — and such storms may become more frequent and even more powerful due to global warming.

The trend toward more storminess has implications for land-use planners and emergency management agencies in Europe, with the potential to dramatically change the equilibrium state of beaches, including permanent changes in beach gradient, coastal alignment and nearshore bar position.

“The extreme winter of 2013-2014 is in line with historical trends in wave conditions and is also predicted to increasingly occur due to climate change according to some of the climate models,” said Tim Scott, a lecturer in ocean exploration at Plymouth University and a co-author of the study. “Whether due to more intense and … or more frequent storms, it should undoubtedly be considered in future coastal and sea defense planning along the Atlantic coast of Europe.” Continue reading “Are West European beaches under a global warming siege?”

Global warming could boost rainfall in world’s deserts

Research suggests extreme rain events more likely in dry regions

desert rain.
Will intense desert rainstorms become more common with global warming? @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Extreme rainfall events in desert areas — like recent storms in Death Valley and Chile’s Atacama Desert — may be partly driven by cyclical climate phenomena like El Niño, but such storms could also become more common in coming decades as the global climate warms.

A new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change suggests global warming will boost rainfall in some of the world’s driest regions. Flash flooding in deserts could become commonplace, according to the researchers with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science.

“We found a strong relationship between global warming and an increase in rainfall, particularly in areas outside of the tropics,” said lead author Dr Markus Donat. “Within the tropics we saw an increase in rainfall responding to global warming but the actual rate of this increase was less clear.” Continue reading “Global warming could boost rainfall in world’s deserts”

Climate: Are tornado outbreaks becoming more frequent?

A new NOAA study tracks the occurrence of seasonal tornadoes across the U.S.
Severe tornado outbreaks across the U.S. are increasing. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Average number of tornadoes per outbreak has increased by 50 percent since 1954

Staff Report

Forecasting tornadoes has never been easy, and when you add global climate change to the equation, it becomes even murkier. In some studies, researchers say they haven’t been able to pinpoint any long-term trends in tornado activity, while other research suggests tornado seasons are becoming more variable.

In one recent 10 year period, tornadoes in the United States resulted in an average of 110 deaths per year and annual losses ranging from $500 million to $9.6 billion, so trying to establish patterns and improve forecasting models is not just an idle mathematical exercise.

A new examination of tornado records during the past 60 years indicates that tornado outbreaks (six or more tornadoes during a limited time) have become more frequent. Such outbreaks result in the largest numbers of deaths and injuries, as well as the most property destruction. The study, published recently in Nature Communications, also shows that mathematical models show the chance of such extreme events is growing over time. Continue reading “Climate: Are tornado outbreaks becoming more frequent?”

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”

Weather and climate summit returns to Breckenridge

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Greenland’s ice is melting faster these days, posing a sea level threat to densely populated cities around the world. @bberwyn photo.

This year edition features sessions on Arctic ice melt and western wildfires

Staff Report

There’s a global climate deal on the books, but humankind will continue to grapple with the effects of greenhouse gas emissions for decades to come, including the almost inevitable meltdown of ice sheets and glaciers that will raise sea level steadily.

Scientists aren’t quite sure yet how high the waters will rise, but new measurement tools and more sophisticated models can help refine the projections. Those estimates are important, because two-thirds of the world’s cities have vulnerable populations of five million or more living in at-risk areas, less than 10 meters above sea level, according to Dr. Lora Koenig
a research scientist with the National Snow & Ice Data Center. Continue reading “Weather and climate summit returns to Breckenridge”

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.