CNAP Reading Room
Last update: 20 January 2014
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These recent articles concern climate and climate change issues of interest to California Nevada Climate Applications Program (CNAP) participants.
- California drought could end with storms known as atmospheric rivers
California's drought crept in slowly, but it could end with a torrent of winter storms that stream across the Pacific, dumping much of the year's rain and snow in a few fast-moving and potentially catastrophic downpours. Powerful storms known as atmospheric rivers, ribbons of water vapor that extend for thousands of miles, pulling moisture from the tropics and delivering it to the West Coast, have broken 40% of California droughts since 1950, recent research shows.
- What to expect in 2015
Op-Ed piece from the Los Angeles Times: Features section from Dan Cayan "A water wake-up call"
"Everyone wants to know: Will this drought finally end?
Over nearly two decades, especially the last three years, the winter North Pacific storm track has been lean; since 1999, much of California has built up a deficit that amounts to a loss of two years' worth of normal precipitation. Only a handful of years have ever registered enough precipitation to reverse a shortfall like this. Our recent storms will help, of course, but complete recovery is unlikely this year."
- West Nile Infections Slam California
Drought Blamed for Ripening Conditions to Spread Potentially Fatal Disease
West Nile virus infections are soaring in California, fueled by a drought that experts say has helped make the state the country's hot spot for the potentially fatal disease transmitted by mosquitoes. As of Tuesday, there were 238 cases of West Nile virus reported in humans this year in California, compared with 117 at the same time last year.
- Kawasaki Disease Wafts to Japan on the Wind
The agent of Kawasaki disease, a potentially fatal illness in children, floats into Japan on seasonal winds from northeastern China, according to a report published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The pathogens responsible for the disease enter through mucous membranes and work their way into the arteries of young children. After the initial symptoms - including fever, rash, bloodshot eyes, and swollen hands and feet - subside, the disease leaves behind cardiac effects that can lead to heart disease and even death years later.
- Mysterious Childhood Disease Spread by Dust Storms
The probable cause of Kawasaki disease - a mysterious and sometimes deadly childhood heart disease that has stumped generations of doctors and that predominantly affects people in Japan, Hawaii and Southern California - may have been found. The answer, it seems, is quite literally blowing in the wind - a wind originating in the farmlands of northeastern China carrying a fungus known as Candida, a type of yeast.
- World is unprepared for major El Niño later this year
The weather is preparing to go wild, and will wreak havoc and death around the globe later this year. An El Niño splurge of warm water in the Pacific Ocean, is coming. It will unleash floods in the Americas, while South-East Asia and Australia face drought. Yet little is being done to address these consequences.
- California drought: Tioga Road in Yosemite opens on earliest date since 1988
In the latest sign of California's persistent drought, the Tioga Road, a historic route through Yosemite National Park and the highest-elevation highway in the state, opened Friday to motorists -- the earliest in more than two decades. Most years, so much snow covers the winding, two-lane mountain road that it can't be cleared and opened until late May or June.
- Snow Survey Reveals Depth of California's Water Woes
After its third-driest winter on record, driest calendar year and third straight year of below-average precipitation, California water officials were no doubt bracing for bad news when they set out to conduct a statewide snow survey high in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range on April 1. The snow survey is seen as a key marker of the health of the state's water supplies, since it typically marks the peak snow cover for the season. Snow surveyors found a snowpack on Tuesday that contains just 32% of the average water content typically observed at this time of year, which places 2014 as among the lowest water-content years on record since such records began in 1930.
- California Suffers Astonishingly Fast Snowpack Melt as Drought Intensifies
The severe drought that threatens water supplies and a potentially devastating wildfire season is deepening and locking into place across much of the far West, Southwest and Southern Plains, according to new climate data released Thursday. In California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, where runoff from the spring snowpack provides much-needed water supplies during the dry season, half of the snowpack's liquid water equivalent melted in just the past week in some areas, due to temperatures that soared as high as 12 degrees Fahrenheit above average of early April, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
- Global Warming Had Key Role in California Drought, Eastern Cold: Study
A new study has found that manmade global warming likely intensified an unusual weather pattern that led to both the California drought and the cold and snowy winter in the eastern U.S. The study, accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, is the first peer reviewed research to examine the reasons behind a strong and stubborn area of high pressure, or a "ridge" in the upper atmosphere, across the Gulf of Alaska since November, and a sharp dip in the jet stream, or "trough," across the East.
- Preparing the US military for the 'threat multiplier' of climate change
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has just completed a series of landmark reports that chronicle an update to the current state of consensus science on climate change. Its conclusion: On our current path, climate change could pose an irreversible, existential risk to civilization as we know it, but we can still fix it if we decide to work together.
- Commodities Expert: Food Prices May Rise if Drought Continues
Weather, water policy, and global demand overtaking supply are all factors that could have Americans digging deeper into their wallets at the grocery store, according to one commodities expert. Dan Hueber, president of Hueber Asset Management LLC and The Hueber Report, told J.D. Hayworth and John Bachman Monday on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV that Americans have seen big produce and dairy price increases due largely to extreme drought conditions in California.
- Dusty federal rules complicate water management in parched West
California wine country was parched early in the winter of 2012. So Sonoma County Water Agency chief engineer Jay Jasperse was relieved when a major storm blew in that December, dumping buckets of rain that filled Lake Mendocino, the agency's reservoir on the upper Russian River. Then Jasperse watched in misery as the Army Corps of Engineers drained that water to make room in the reservoir in case another big rain fell on the flood-prone region. The corps was following its rules for the reservoir -- an operations manual that Mother Nature ignored. "It basically quit raining through 2013 and early 2014," Jasperse said. "We had the driest year in over 400 years based on tree ring studies, and so we're all looking back and a lot of folks in the community are saying, 'Why didn't we hang onto the water that was released by the corps in December 2012?'"
- 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.