CNAP/CCCC Reading Room
Last update: 21 November 2013
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These recent articles concern climate and climate change issues of interest to California Nevada Applications Program (CNAP) and/or California Climate Change Center (CCCC) participants.
- Kiribati faces its future, and a rising ocean
(An op-ed piece from the LA Times)
The island nation is being submerged by swelling tides. Soon, millions of climate refugees from other faraway islands will wander the planet looking for a new home.
- California Mercury Water Contamination Will Worsen With Climate Change: Study
High in the Sierra Nevada, the Yuba River winds through the northeastern mountains of California. The area, just west of Tahoe National Forest, is home to dense forests, crystal-blue lakes and hills that sparkle with the mineral deposits that gave the area its famous nickname -- Gold Country. The region was the focus of the 1849 Gold Rush, California's great legacy, which led to San Francisco's founding and California's statehood. But the Gold Rush left the state with a darker legacy, as well. In a study published online last week, researchers revealed that mercury from Gold Rush-era mining operations continues to seep into California's primary water system -- and it may get worse with climate change.
- Why trust climate models? It's a matter of simple science
How climate scientists test, test again, and use their simulation tools.
Talk to someone who rejects the conclusions of climate science and you'll likely hear some variation of the following: "That's all based on models, and you can make a model say anything you want." Often, they'll suggest the models don't even have a solid foundation of data to work with - garbage in, garbage out, as the old programming adage goes. But how many of us (anywhere on the opinion spectrum) really know enough about what goes into a climate model to judge what comes out?
- Timing a Rise in Sea Level
Thirty-five years ago, a scientist named John H. Mercer issued a warning. By then it was already becoming clear that human emissions would warm the earth, and Dr. Mercer had begun thinking deeply about the consequences. His paper, in the journal Nature, was titled 'West Antarctic Ice Sheet and CO2 Greenhouse Effect: A Threat of Disaster.' In it, Dr. Mercer pointed out the unusual topography of the ice sheet sitting over the western part of Antarctica. Much of it is below sea level, in a sort of bowl, and he said that a climatic warming could cause the whole thing to degrade rapidly on a geologic time scale, leading to a possible rise in sea level of 16 feet. While it is clear by now that we are in the early stages of what is likely to be a substantial rise in sea level, we still do not know if Dr. Mercer was right about a dangerous instability that could cause that rise to happen rapidly, in geologic time.
- The Atmospheric 'Rivers' That Explain Why Flooding Has Gotten So Vicious
This article reviews a publication that reflects on the influence of atmospheric rivers on flooding in the UK. The UK experienced bad summer flooding in 2012 and this was followed by more flooding and drenching rains during the winter of 2012/2013 costing the country about $1.6 billion. The research reviewed looks at simulations of atmospheric river events for the UK and projects how these may increase this century.
- Lapping at Landmarks -- Five historic sites that are most vulnerable to sea-level rise
... contemplate five sites the National Trust for Historic Preservation - the country's preservers-in-chief - thinks are most vulnerable to flooding caused by sea-level rise. Even though the trust fields regular requests for planning assistance from coastal cities across the country, the group says no comprehensive models yet exist to address sea level rise and its threat to historic landmarks. That's bad, says Anthony Veerkamp, a program director with the trust, because without first taking stock of what we might lose, "inevitably there will be adaptation strategies that do lesser or greater harm to historic resources."
- Climate crab aims to educate Pacific communities
A new animation starring a comical crab who can cope in disasters such as drought and cyclones is being launched in Fiji today. The Pacific Adventures of the Climate Crab aims to assist communities to better prepare for disasters in the region.
- Global carbon dioxide in atmosphere passes milestone level
For the first time in human history, the concentration of climate-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has passed the milestone level of 400 parts per million (ppm). The last time so much greenhouse gas was in the air was several million years ago, when the Arctic was ice-free, savannah spread across the Sahara desert and sea level was up to 40 metres higher than today.
- Heat-Trapping Gas Passes Milestone, Raising Fears
The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years. Scientific instruments showed that the gas had reached an average daily level above 400 parts per million - just an odometer moment in one sense, but also a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control are faltering.
- Interior Appoints New Climate Change Advisory Committee
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced the members of a newly created federal advisory committee who will provide guidance about the Interior Department's climate change adaptation science initiatives. The Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science will advise the Secretary of the Interior about the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and the Department of the Interior Climate Science Centers, which are managed by the U.S. Geological Survey.
- Satellite Animation Shows Smoke from California's Springs Fire
On May 3, 2013, the NOAA GOES infrared and visible imagery were combined to create an animation that showed the plume of smoke from the fire. The smoke plume is seen blowing west and out over the eastern Pacific Ocean. The animation runs 17 seconds and shows the smoke plume from May 3 at 1415 to 2000 UTC (10:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. EDT).
- A possible new way to manage water and snow in thirsty California
Like a pitcher taking the mound on opening day, Frank Gehrke gets the spotlight in California every early April. That's when the otherwise obscure state water official trudges into the Sierra Nevada mountains, media in tow, and plunges aluminum tubes into the snow. With those snow samples - and historical data and mathematical formulas - Gehrke and his colleagues can tell anxious farmers and hydroelectric power generators how much water they can expect for the coming summer.
- Climate Maverick to Quit NASA
James E. Hansen, the climate scientist who issued the clearest warning of the 20th century about the dangers of global warming, will retire from NASA this week, giving himself more freedom to pursue political and legal efforts to limit greenhouse gases. His departure, after a 46-year career at the space agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, will deprive federally sponsored climate research of its best-known public figure.
- Transcript from Audio Broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio: Warming planet could make big floods more likely
This week on Climate Cast, meteorologist Paul Huttner joined us to examine how a warming planet could make "megafloods" more likely. We also took a look at FEMA's new flood maps that significantly expand flood zones. Here is an edited transcript of Climate Cast for Tuesday, Feb. 5:
Kerri Miller: I spotted this interesting article in Scientific American about how atmospheric rivers are driving more intense rainstorms and they predict that our changing climate will bring more flooding because of it. Make the connection for us.
- In German:Meer aus Schlamm
ArkStorm article in Der Spiegel, January 2013
The Scientific American Atmospheric River article is picked up by the German publication Der Spiegel.
- NOAA: 2012 to rank as second costliest US year since 1980
The 11 billion-dollar extreme weather events across the US include hurricane Sandy, which alone will cost about $100bn
During 2012, there were 11 extreme weather and climate events in the US that reached the billion-dollar threshold in losses, according to figures released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Thursday. While the total number of billion-dollar natural disasters is down from 2011, when there were a record 14 events costing more than $60bn, the economic losses this year are expected to exceed last year's tab, largely due to the massive economic toll caused by hurricane Sandy and the widespread drought.
- Study finds more rain, less snow likely -- Warmer winters, more floods and fewer ski dollars predicted for Sierra Nevada
Skiers, boarders and winter-dependent business owners might find themselves praying to the snow gods more frequently if the findings from recent studies prove accurate. The $12.2 billion snow sports industry has lost more than $1 billion in revenue and up to 27,000 jobs over the last decade due to warmer winters and less snow, according to a study published this month commissioned by Jeremy Jones' nonprofit Protect Our Winters and environmental action group Natural Resources Defense Council. The report - titled "Climate Impacts on the Winter Tourism Economy in the United States" - found that, on average, winter temperatures have risen steadily each decade since 1895, and will warm an additional 4 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.
- Scripps storm study predicts rise in Sierra Nevada floods
Climate projections released this week by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla suggest that flooding could eventually double in the southern Sierra Nevada as the climate warms. Researchers with Scripps, Santa Clara University and the U.S. Geological Survey ran scenarios using 16 climate models. Then they tested those same scenarios with a hydrologic model calculation for the California watersheds. This ensemble of climate models provided a range of results that yielded a better estimate than any single model, the researchers said. The frequency of massive, "50-year floods" increased in all but two of the simulation models, the scientists said. A 50-year flood is a major flood that has only a one in 50 chance of occurring in any given year and often exceeds the capacity of roadways and storm channels to handle runoff.
- San Diego Researcher Helps Track 'Atmospheric Rivers'
The heavy rainstorm that pounded northern California with up to 15 inches of rain last week was caused by what's called an Atmospheric River. It's like a conveyor belt of rainstorms that stream in from the Pacific Ocean. Atmospheric rivers hit the state an average of 12 days per year, according to Mike Dettinger, a hydrologist with U.S. Geological Survey and a researcher with Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
- Categorizing West Coast Storms
While popular culture often portrays California as sunny, California residents are familiar with the rains that often batter their state in winter and spring. Measured in total rainfall over a three-day period, these West Coast storms are as big and as frequent as any in the United States, according to USGS research hydrologist Mike Dettinger, who studies the giant atmospheric rivers of water vapor flowing from west to east over the Pacific Ocean that trigger the biggest West Coast storms.
- Warmer still: Extreme climate predictions appear most accurate, report says
Climate scientists agree the Earth will be hotter by the end of the century, but their simulations don't agree on how much. Now a study suggests the gloomier predictions may be closer to the mark. "Warming is likely to be on the high side of the projections," said John Fasullo of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., a co-author of the report, which was based on satellite measurements of the atmosphere.
- You Think 2012 Is Hot? Wait Until 2013.
From a New Scientist article by Stefan Rahmstorf
It has been another "normal" global-warming summer in the Northern Hemisphere. The United States sweltered in the hottest July on record, following the hottest spring on record. More than 60 percent of the contiguous United States is suffering from drought, as are parts of eastern Europe and India. In the Arctic, sea ice cover is at a record low, and the Greenland ice sheet shows what the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center calls "extraordinary high melting." Global land temperatures for May and June were the hottest since records began in the 19th century.
- Uncertainty: Climate models at their limit?
For the fifth major assessment of climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due to be released next year, climate scientists face a serious public-image problem. The climate models they are now working with, which make use of significant improvements in our understanding of complex climate processes, are likely to produce wider rather than smaller ranges of uncertainty in their predictions. To the public and to policymakers, this will look as though the scientific understanding of climate change is becoming less, rather than more, clear.
- Fishermen skunked today will be in clover tomorrow
A howling wind off the Bay Area coast chilled the hopes of salmon fishing again over the weekend. That same wind, along with Thursday's arrival of 60,000 baby fish destined for new net pens at Half Moon Bay, has fired up long-term hopes. After gale force winds on Saturday, winds from 12 to 20 knots out of the northwest on Sunday morning created a choppy mess with an 8-foot swell. Believe it or not, this is great news for salmon and the people who fish for them. Strong northwest winds off the Pacific Coast divert surface currents to the side. In turn, cold, nutrient-rich water then rises from the deep to the surface in what is called upwelling. When sunlight penetrates that water, it triggers the building blocks for the marine food chain, starting with plankton. The entire marine system ignites for summer. The stage is set for everything in the ocean to thrive.
- Infectious disease: Blowing in the wind
The mysterious Kawasaki disease might cross the Pacific on air currents high in the atmosphere
The desperately ill baby had been airlifted in from Wyoming, recalls Jane Burns, thinking back to 1981 and her third year as a paediatric resident at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver. Twenty-one days later, the little girl's skin rashes were mostly gone, but the accompanying fever was still raging, and Burns had no idea why.
“I think this is Kawasaki disease,” said Richard Anderson, an infectious-disease fellow at the school, who had also examined the tiny patient.
Burns was stunned. Kawasaki disease was uncommon even in Japan, where it had been first identified in the early 1960s, and was almost unheard of in the United States. It was also utterly mysterious — some kind of inflammation in the blood vessels that primarily targeted children under the age of five and produced a variety of dramatic symptoms. Burns had heard of the disease only because she had encountered two Kawasaki disease patients in the previous year. And now Anderson was telling her she'd just got a third.
- The verdict is in on climate change
Op-ed by Naomi Oreskes
Hear Naomi on NPR "Talk of the Nation" (24 Jan 2012)
I study the history of climate science, and my research has shown that the think tanks and institutes that deny the reality or severity of climate change, or promote distrust of climate science, do so out of self-interest, ideological conviction or both. Some groups, like the fossil fuel industry, have an obvious self-interest in the continued use of fossil fuels. Others fear that if we accept the reality of climate change, we will be forced to acknowledge the failures of free-market capitalism. Still others worry that if we allow the government to intervene in the marketplace to stop climate change, it will lead to further expansion of government power that will threaten our broader freedoms.
- 2011 Climate Change in Pictures and Data: Just the Facts
Contriubed by Peter Gleick
For readers of Forbes, the debate over climate change often takes the form of "tit-for-tat" blogs, conflicting commentary, and dogmatic ideological statements. Lost in this verbal debate are often the simple facts and data of climate change and the immense and definitive global observations of the ways in which our climate is actually changing around us. So, without much commentary, here are just a few simple and clear pictures (and links) showing how the planet continued to warm and change around us in 2011. And these facts are just part of why all national academies of science on the planet and every major geophysical scientific society agree that humans are fundamentally changing the climate.
- The Year That Winter Forgot: Is It Climate Change?
2012 is shaping up to be the year that winter forgot in the U.S. December and the first week of January have seen atypically mild temperatures throughout much of the country - especially in the usually harsh states of the far north and parts of the plains. Fargo, N.D. - which probably exists in most Americans' minds as a big white blur of snow - saw temperatures of 55oF on Jan. 5, breaking a more than century-old record for the warmest day in January. High temperatures in Nebraska at the end of last week were more than 30oF above normal, and in December at least half the U.S. had temperatures at least 5oF above normal.
- Future climate uncertain, grapegrowers focus on here and now
One September, when his wine grapes verged on becoming too sweet after months of exceptionally hot weather, Michael Silacci awoke in the middle of the night thinking, "If I were a plant, I'd be asleep right now." Asleep, the human body recharges, just as grape berries do at night -- they rehydrate, dilute, and so are less sweet than in the daytime. Silacci, the winemaker for Opus One, began that year's harvest at 3 a.m. Taking his thought process one step further, Silacci has installed cameras on certain grape clusters to trace the path of the sun from the grapes' point of view. This will help him decide how to orient his vine rows. Meanwhile, he follows three different weather reports.
- Fire and the Future of Yellowstone
The high mountain forests of western North America need fire. Fire returns nutrients to the soil and replaces old stands and ground debris with young forest. Intense fires are a characteristic of the conifer forests, though they occur infrequently -- once every 100 to 300 years. The year 1988 brought one of those infrequent, severe fires to Yellowstone National Park. Drought and high temperatures combined to create extreme fire conditions. Fifty wildfires ignited, seven of which grew into major wildfires. By the end of the year, 793,000 acres had burned. These images, taken by the Landsat satellites, contrast 1989 and 2011. Burned land is deep red in the 1989 image. By 2011, more than two decades later, the scar faded to tan-orange, but it was still present.
- Reach out about climate
Where political leadership on climate change is lacking, scientists must be prepared to stick their heads above the parapet. Consider the following as a statement of national ambition: "The Federal Climate Change Action Plan presents a strategy for launching a transformation in public attitudes and behavior towards climate-change risk. Key state, industry and nonprofit sector allies stand ready to build on the federal strategy to create and sustain a national climate-change risk reduction campaign. The national campaign will increase the public understanding of the risk; advance effective national, state and local climate-change policy; and deliver financing and other incentives to help citizens mitigate climate change. This national climate-change effort -- led jointly by the federal government and key national partners -- will fundamentally change citizens' expectations and behavior."
- Taking the pulse of a shrinking glacier
The Exploradores Glacier in southern Chile is riven with cracks that form vertical cliffs of luminescent blue and indigo ice. A constant sound of running water rises from the rivers snaking beneath the 20-kilometre-long frozen mass that sweeps down from Mount San Valentín. The scene is stunning. And it is also, slowly but surely, disappearing. To understand why this is happening, scientists must measure the various processes that affect glaciers - not an easy task in this frozen wilderness. Installing and maintaining satellite or radio transmission stations to send back data from this remote region is considered too costly, so Chilean researchers must gather the valuable data in person. Takane Matsumoto, a glaciologist at the Centre for Ecosystem Research in Patagonia (CIEP), based in Coyhaique, Chile, journeys once a year to the Northern Patagonian Ice Field to check on the health of the Exploradores glacier. He gathers information about temperature, precipitation, humidity and wind speed from monitoring stations that he and Chile's General Water Directorate have installed.
- California Farmers, Ski Areas Fret About Dry Spell
California's wet season has started off bone dry, leaving water managers and the state's huge agriculture industry nervously eyeing the prospect that a dry spell could turn into another drought. The shortage of snow, which has already hurt ski resorts in a number of states, follows an unusually heavy snowfall last year that has left adequate water supplies in reservoirs. Lake Oroville, for example, stood at 115% of its average level as of Dec. 29, compared to 49% on the same date in 2009, when California was still locked in a three-year drought. As a result, California officials remain hopeful that new restrictions on water usage won't be needed, but they aren't ruling out the possibility entirely.
- A global cooling to the U.S. position on climate change
When an energized U.S. delegation arrived in Copenhagen for world climate talks two years ago, environmentalists were encouraged by its willingness to tackle global warming.
In the months before Copenhagen, the House of Representatives had passed climate change legislation, and the new Obama administration had crafted an agreement with the auto industry to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the main contributor to global warming.
But now, halfway through a two-week round of climate talks in Durban, South Africa, that excitement has disappeared. Weakened by reversals in Congress and the ailing economy as a presidential election looms, the U.S. delegation has staked out a position that has confused and frustrated environmentalists and other nations.
Doubts have arisen about Washington's willingness to cut emissions more substantially and its commitment to follow through on helping developing countries already battling climate change, people at the talks said.
- California Flood Documentary on KVIE
This documentary can now be seen on-oline:
When people think of natural disasters in California, earthquakes often come to mind. Yet the possibility of a flood is a very real threat that many Californians must face. In fact, the Central Valley, stretching from Redding to Bakersfield, has experienced the state's most devastating floods. In addition, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta's risk for flooding is higher than anywhere else in the nation.
Learn about the past, present and future of flood management in California's Central Valley, highlighted in a new public television documentary, Overcoming the Deluge: California's Plan for Managing Floods. The program is scheduled to air on Wednesday, November 9 at 7:00 pm; Friday, November 11 at 4:00 pm and Sunday, November 13 at 6:00 pm on Sacramento's KVIE Public Television Channel 6. The program will also be offered in California through the public television satellite system.
- Beating a retreat -- Arctic sea ice is melting far faster than climate models predict. Why?
On September 9th, at the height of its summertime shrinkage, ice covered 4.33m square km, or 1.67m square miles, of the Arctic Ocean, according to America’s National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC). That is not a record low—not quite. But the actual record, 4.17m square km in 2007, was the product of an unusual combination of sunny days, cloudless skies and warm currents flowing up from mid-latitudes.
- After a three-decade hiatus, sea-level rise may return to the West Coast
(AGU Press Release; 2 May 2011)
The West Coast of North America has caught a break that has left sea level in the eastern North Pacific Ocean steady during the last few decades, but there is evidence that a change in wind patterns may be occurring that could cause coastal sea-level rise to accelerate beginning this decade. CNAP researcher Peter Bromirski says, "There are indications that this is what may be happening right now."
- Recent warming by latitude associated with increased length of ragweed pollen season in central North America
The abstract of an article recently published in PNAS by Ziska et al.:
A fundamental aspect of climate change is the potential shifts in flowering phenology and pollen initiation associated with milder winters and warmer seasonal air temperature. Earlier floral anthesis has been suggested, in turn, to have a role in human disease by increasing time of exposure to pollen that causes allergic rhinitis and related asthma. However, earlier floral initiation does not necessarily alter the temporal duration of the pollen season, and, to date, no consistent continental trend in pollen season length has been demonstrated. Here we report that duration of the ragweed (Ambrosia spp.) pollen season has been increasing in recent decades as a function of latitude in North America. Latitudinal effects on increasing season length were associated primarily with a delay in first frost of the fall season and lengthening of the frost free period. Overall, these data indicate a significant increase in the length of the ragweed pollen season by as much as 13–27 d at latitudes above ∼44°N since 1995. This is consistent with recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections regarding enhanced warming as a function of latitude. If similar warming trends accompany long-term climate change, greater exposure times to seasonal allergens may occur with subsequent effects on public health.
- How Warm Was This Summer?
From James Hansen: The maps make clear that perceptions of how hot it was depend on where you live. The two warmest anomalies on the planet this past summer were Eastern Europe and the Antarctic Peninsula. Not many people live on the Antarctic Peninsula and an anomaly of even several degrees in winter there is not a big deal. But the warm anomaly centered in Eastern Europe, which covered most of Europe and the Middle East, was noticed, to say the least. It was also quite warm in Japan, where the prior summer had been cooler than the 1951-1980 mean.
(From James Hansen, October 2010)
- Climate change crisis 'can be solved by oil companies'
Climate change can be solved in a snap by making oil, gas and coal companies take responsibility for burying all the carbon dioxide emitted by the fossil fuel products they sell, one of Britain's leading young climate scientists said yesterday. Government attempts to try to get millions of people to change their behaviour through taxes and incentives were doomed to fail, said Dr Myles Allen, head of the Climate Dynamics Group at the University Oxford, and an increasingly influential voice in the climate debate.
(The Independent, October 2010)
- Return of La Niña
La Niña the climatic event in which swathes of the equatorial east-central Pacific cool, strengthened through August, according to reports from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Across all latitudes monitored by the NOAA, the ocean surface cooled by 1.3-1.8 oC. Models predict that La Niña will persist until at least early 2011, and could, according to the NOAA, cool further during the coming winter. Nature explores its potential effects on the global environment.
(Nature News, September 2010)
- Ocean conveyor-belt model stirred up
The accepted picture of how a massive oceanic conveyor belt of water turns has been complicated by findings published today in Nature Geoscience. The results could help to boost the precision of climate-change models. As tropical water from the Equator flows north in the Atlantic Ocean, it becomes cooler and denser. Evaporation along the way makes it saltier and further increases its density. In the frigid Arctic, the water sinks into the depths and then moves southward; returning to the surface once it has warmed up again.
(Nature News, September 2010)
- Collapse of the ice titans
In early August, a 260-kilometre-square chunk of ice broke off the Petermann Glacier - the largest iceberg to calve in the Arctic Ocean since 1962. The collapse didn't surprise Richard Bates, a geophysicist from the University of St Andrews, UK. During a visit to Petermann last summer, with glaciologists Jason Box of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University in Columbus and Alun Hubbard of Aberystwyth University, UK, the three noted rifts and meltwater - a sign of pending collapse. They installed time-lapse cameras atop the 900-metre-high cliffs and placed eight Global Positioning System (GPS) units along the glacier's centre line to monitor the event.
(Nature News, September 2010)
- In Weather Chaos, a Case for Global Warming
The floods battered New England, then Nashville, then Arkansas, then Oklahoma - and were followed by a deluge in Pakistan that has upended the lives of 20 million people. The summer's heat waves baked the eastern United States, parts of Africa and eastern Asia, and above all Russia, which lost millions of acres of wheat and thousands of lives in a drought worse than any other in the historical record. Seemingly disconnected, these far-flung disasters are reviving the question of whether global warming is causing more weather extremes.
(The New York Times, August 2010)
- Russia counts environmental cost of wildfires
As fires sweep across Russia during its hottest and driest summer on record, the country is facing a multitude of public-health and environmental disasters - including the risk of radioactive particles being released from contaminated land around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Here, Nature explores the scale of the devastation, and the dangers the fires still pose.
(Nature News, August 2010)
- Pakistan's floods: is the worst still to come?
It is over two weeks since the floods began in Pakistan, and the rains are still falling. Already termed the worst flooding to hit Pakistan for 80 years, this deluge has affected millions of people, and so far over 1,600 have died. With the impacts of the flooding likely to continue well after the flood waters have retreated, Nature examines the escalating humanitarian disaster.
(Nature News, August 2010)
- Amid heat waves, a closer look at power burned for air conditioning
By Marianne Lavelle
Just before word that heat and toxic smog in Moscow had doubled the Russian capital's daily death rate to 700, I talked to author Stan Cox about health and air conditioning.
In his new book, Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World, Cox delves into the dark side of cool living--from how air conditioning has paved the way to overdevelopment of Florida and Arizona to how the coal burned to lower our indoor temperature is making the planet hotter.
(National Geographic News Watch, August 2010)
- Weather Watch says so long
San Diego Union Tribune weather reporter Robert Krier's last column celebrates the last six years of writing special features, especially about the weather in San Diego county.
(The San Diego Union Tribune, August 2010)
- The Passing of a Climate Warrior
Stephen H. Schneider, a Stanford University climate scientist, has died. Dr. Schneider spent decades studying the forces influending climate and the policy implications of human-driven warming.
(The New York Times Dot Earth Blog, July 2010)
- Three Gorges dam faces major flood test
China's massive Three Gorges dam faces the biggest test so far of its flood control as torrential rains swell the rivers that feed it.
(Guardian, July 2010)
- Science 360 picks up "Welcome To The New Normal" from CNAP-SIO researchers
NSF Science 360 picked up the video-cast from SIO Explorations on CNAP research for "Welcome To The New Normal" -- about climate change and water resources for the CNAP region.
(Science 360, July 2010)
- Tracking the Himalaya's Melting Glaciers
David Breashears presents a photo gallery of images from the Himalayas showing the retreat of the glaciers in what is sometimes called "the third pole".
(Environment 360, July 2010)
- Woolly mammoth hunters helped change climate
Ancient hunters who stalked the world's last woolly mammoths likely helped warm the Earth's far northern latitudes thousands of years before humans began burning fossil fuels.
(Reuters Africa, July 2010)
- Heat wave air conditioners of doom
From China to New York, the more we cool ourselves, the hotter we're going to get.
(Salon, July 2010)
- PG&E opposes initiative to block state climate law
California businesses are beginning to pick sides in the initiative battle over the state's landmark climate change law. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. on Tuesday said it will oppose the November ballot initiative, which seeks to suspend Assembly Bill 32, a law that mandates statewide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
(The Sacramento Bee, July 2010)
- A Human Health Perspective On Climate Change
This report (released April 22, 2010) outlines the research needs on the human health effects of climate change. Published by Environmental Health Perspectives and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, this report identifies research needs for all aspects of the research-to-decision making pathway that will help and mitigate the health effects of climate change.
(NIEHS/NIH, June 2010)
- On the reliability of the U.S. surface temperature record
This recent Journal of Geophysical Research article by M.J. Menne, C.N. Williams and M.A. Palecki (of the National Climatic Data Center, NOAA) critically examines the U.S. surface temperature record as documented in the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN). They apply adjustments to the Version 2 data to account for the impact of changes in instrumentation and siting. They find no evidence that the average temperature trends are inflated due to poor station siting.
(AGU/JGR, June 2010)
- US Rivers and Streams Heating Up - Temperatures Rising Annually
A new study by researchers at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and published in Yale 360 shows that the ocean isn't the only body of water with a temperature on the hike. America's rivers and streams are also experiencing temperature rise, from the Colorado to the Potomac, the Delaware to the Hudson, 40 rivers and streams were tested with half showing significant long-term warming trends.
(Treehugger, April 2010)
- Winters Were Colder in Your Parents' Day: New England Trees Get 10 Days More Growing Season Than Pre-1970
Winters in New England are averaging three degrees warmer than they did 100 years ago, trees have a ten day longer growing season than they did 40 years ago. And that's not it. According to the New England Society of American Foresters because of the warming, spring is arriving earlier and rivers are flowing at peak levels sooner than observed before.
(Treehugger, March 2010)
- An Open Letter from Scientists in the United States on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Errors Contained in the Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Many in the popular press and other media, as well as some in the halls of Congress, are seizing on a few errors that have been found in the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in an attempt to discredit the entire report. None of the handful of mis-statements (out of hundreds and hundreds of unchallenged statements) remotely undermines the conclusion that warming of the climate system is unequivocal and that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-twentieth century is very likely due to observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.
(Open Letter from U.S. Scientists, March 2010)
- World's Pall of Black Carbon Can Be Eased With New Stoves
Two billion people worldwide do their cooking on open fires, producing sooty pollution that shortens millions of lives and exacerbates global warming. If widely adopted, a new generation of inexpensive, durable cook stoves could go a long way toward alleviating this problem. With a single, concerted initiative, says Lakshman Guruswami, the world could save millions of people in poor nations from respiratory ailments and early death, while dealing a big blow to global warming - and all at a surprisingly small cost.
(Yale Environment 360, March 2010)
- Giant Antarctic iceberg could affect global ocean circulation
An iceberg the size of Luxembourg that contains enough fresh water to supply a third of the world's population for a year has broken off in the Antarctic continent, with possible implications for global ocean circulation, scientists said today. The iceberg, measuring about 50 miles by 25, broke away from the Mertz glacier around 2,000 miles south of Australia after being rammed by another giant iceberg known as B-9B three weeks ago, satellite images reveal. The two icebergs, which both weigh more than 700m tons, are now drifting close together about 100 miles north of Antarctica.
(Guardian, February 2010)
- ICESat mission complete after seven years in orbit
NASA has stopped trying to restart the primary laser instrument on the ICESat spacecraft, and the seven-year ice-mapping mission has been declared complete, the agency announced Wednesday. Launched aboard a Delta 2 rocket on Jan. 12, 2003, the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite spent more than six years dutifully circling Earth, bouncing laser beams off the planet's surface to gauge the thickness of land and sea ice at high latitudes.
(Spaceflight Now, February 2010)
- UW helps create a better way to predict cloud patterns
Out in Portland, Ore., the Bonneville Power Plant uses high-quality satellite images from UW-Madison's Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies to eyeball the snowpack. A good snowpack bodes well for the Northwest, where water power is king, and the power plant uses images from the UW satellite institute to fine-tune its prediction of snow melt and water flow. "Water supply forecasting is what we have to do," said Charles Ross, a meteorologist at the federal power facility. "We have to be able to accurately predict the water supply so we can store the water efficiently."
(The Wisconsin State Journal, February 2010)
- Climate Change in the West -- AGU Fall 09 meeting blog
A battery of eight talks starting at 8 a.m. and covering none less but the serious topic of climate change in the western United States can leave one a little shell-shocked. But the speakers' broad reviews of the science helped catch generalists up to speed and provided at least some hopeful news. Michael Dettinger, a hydrologist with both the US Geological Survey and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD in La Jolla, Calif., kicked off the session with an overview of predictions for temperature and precipitation-related changes in the West. Thirteen climate models unanimously predict a rise in temperatures over the next century. The good news for California: due to its marine climate its temperature rise is projected to be less than that of other states. The bad news: California's hydrology and water supply is highly sensitive to even slight changes in warmth, because it depends on snowpack. Small changes in temperature may cause snow to melt sooner, exacerbating winter floods and summer droughts.
(AGU, December 2009)
- California's sinking delta
Efforts are under way to reverse the deterioration of a major water source, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in California, which is sinking. Dennis Baldocchi often drives past the ruins of his grandmother's house on Sherman Island, in northern California's Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Flooding gutted the house when the island's levee broke 40 years ago. Today, grass grows through the floors and chickens wander through. To Dr. Baldocchi, the slanting hulk whispers an unsettling truth: The land that his family farmed for three generations is sinking farther below sea level each year.
(The Christian Science Monitor, December 2009)
- Google offers a graphic glimpse of how climate change might affect California
Researchers and policymakers have long rued that it's hard to illustrate the perils of global warming when its most serious impacts won't be visible for decades. But thanks to the state Natural Resources Agency and Google, a graphic view of climate change's potential effect on California -- based on scientific modeling -- is now just a mouse-click away. Do you want to know if global warming will wipe out the Sierra snowpack before your great-great-grandchildren hit college?
(Los Angeles Times, December 2009)
- State braces for fourth year of drought
State water officials offered up their bleakest annual water supply prediction ever Tuesday in what amounts to an early warning about the coming year. Customers of the State Water Project, the state's largest water distribution system, were told they may get as little as 5 percent of their requested Delta water supply next year. That figure assumes very dry conditions, however, and the number is almost certain to improve. Last year, the state warned agencies early on to plan for 15 percent of their supply but eventually increased the number to 40 percent.
(Contra Costa Times, December 2009)
- Climate scientist James Hansen hopes summit will fail
A leading scientist acclaimed as the grandfather of global warming has denounced the Copenhagen summit on climate change next week as a farce. James Hansen, the director of Nasa's Goddard Insitute for Space Studies, told The Times that he planned to boycott the UN conference because it was seeking a counter-productive agreement to limit emissions through a "cap and trade" system.
(TimesOnline, December 2009)
- Climate change will burn Yosemite
Wild fires within California's world famous Yosemite National Park are set to become more frequent and severe due to climate change. New research has unpicked how this may happen; and it is not just that warming temperatures directly trigger more fires. They will also reduce the amount of snow that covers the forest in winter. That lack of snow will then allow lightening strikes to trigger more fires, which burn more intensely. "People already expect more ignitions from hotter summers," says Dr James Lutz of the University of Washington at Seattle, US, one of the study's authors. That is because predicted higher temperatures will make vegetation more flammable and allow larger fires to take hold.
(BBC Earth News, November 2009)