Ancient trees tell the story of modern climate change

Featured Image: Larch trees.  Image courtesy North Cascades National Park, used with permission.

Paper: Spring arctic oscillation as a trigger of summer drought in Siberian subarctic over the past 1494 years

Authors: Olga V. Churakova Sidorova, Rolf T. W. Siegwolf, Marina V. Fonti, Eugene A. Vaganov, Matthias Saurer

Seemingly straight out of a fairytale, ancient trees are able to convey details about Earth’s complex history to the scientists willing and able to listen.  Deep in the Siberian Arctic lie the secrets of past weather events, ocean currents, and droughts that occurred thousands of years ago, locked away in petrified wood and in the oldest living larch trees.  We often hear in the news how the Siberian forest is victim to extreme drought and fire—something that is new as of the recent century.  But how “new” are these events, and what exactly is perpetuating this new cycle? 

Continue reading “Ancient trees tell the story of modern climate change”

How does smoke from wildfires in the western U.S. change the regional climate?

Feature image from Pixabay

Article: Biomass Burning Smoke and Its Influence on Clouds Over the Western U. S.

Authors: C. H. Twohy, D. W. Toohey, E. J. T. Levin, P. J. DeMott, B. Rainwater, … & E. V. Fischer

The area burned by wildfires has been increasing in the western U.S. in recent years and is expected to continue to increase due to climate change. In fact, a large wildfire is currently burning in Sequoia National Park in California, threatening to impact some of the largest and oldest living trees in the world. While wildfires directly impact people, wildlife, and the environment in many ways, a lesser-known impact, involving clouds, can influence the regional weather and climate.

Continue reading “How does smoke from wildfires in the western U.S. change the regional climate?”

Throwing Earth Off Balance: Evidence Grows that Our Planet is Heating Up Faster than in the Past

Feature image: A satellite looks down at the surface of Earth. Image from Unsplash 

Paper: Satellite and Ocean Data Reveal Marked Increase in Earth’s Heating Rate

Authors: N. G. Loeb, G. C. Johnson, T. J. Thorsen, J. M. Lyman, F. G. Rose, and S. Kato

At the most fundamental level, what causes climate change? Simply put, climate change is a symptom of an energy imbalance with more energy coming into Earth’s atmosphere than is able to go out. This imbalance drives changes in our climate system that scientists around the world study, including warming temperatures, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, and coral reef bleaching. Using two different kinds of observational data, a recent study has found evidence that the energy imbalance is increasing, which suggests climate change will only worsen.

Continue reading “Throwing Earth Off Balance: Evidence Grows that Our Planet is Heating Up Faster than in the Past”

The growing threat of hurricane-associated flooding in southeastern Texas

Feature Image: Flooding in Port Arthur, Texas on August 31, 2017 from Hurricane Harvey. Image from Wikimedia.

Article: Assessment of Future Flood Hazards for Southeastern Texas: Synthesizing Subsidence, Sea‐Level Rise, and Storm Surge Scenarios
Authors: M. M. Miller and M. Shirzaei

Residents of southeastern Texas are not strangers to hurricane landfalls, including Hurricane Harvey in 2017, which caused 80 fatalities and damaged over 80,000 houses without flood insurance. With the population of coastal areas in the United States expected to continue to grow, understanding how hurricane-associated flooding will change in the future is essential for informing policy decisions and flood resilience strategies. Unfortunately southeastern Texas is facing a triple threat of factors that increase the risk of flooding during hurricane landfalls: land subsidence, sea level rise, and more intense hurricanes.

Continue reading “The growing threat of hurricane-associated flooding in southeastern Texas”

Do Hurricanes Choke on Dust?

Satellite image showing plume of dust drifting from north Africa

Paper – Influence of Saharan Dust on the Large‐Scale Meteorological Environment for Development of Tropical Cyclone Over North Atlantic Ocean Basin
Authors – Yue Sun and Chuanfeng Zhao

Several times a year, strong gusts blow dust from the Sahara Desert westwards over the Atlantic Ocean. When the plume reaches the Caribbean, many residents experience respiratory irritation and allergic reactions to the dust. On particularly bad days, those with sensitivities to or certain pre-existing conditions are urged to stay indoors. The haze reduces visibility and casts a dull filter over the landscape.

Continue reading “Do Hurricanes Choke on Dust?”

How does climate change impact extreme cold outbreaks in the United States?

Featured image from CJ on Pixabay

Article: Quantifying Human-Induced Dynamic and Thermodynamic Contributions to Severe Cold Outbreaks Like November 2019 in the Eastern United States
Authors: C. Zhou, A. Dai, J. Wang, and D. Chen

Questions about extreme cold outbreaks have been featured in the U.S. news recently, as a majority of the country experienced record-breaking cold temperatures during the week of February 8, 2021. Was this extreme cold related to climate change? Will we see more of these events in the future? As Texans faced extensive blackouts due to issues with electricity generation and transmission because of the cold, meteorologists and news reporters tried to answer these questions as best they could. But what does the latest climate science say about the link, if any, between extreme cold outbreaks and climate change?

Continue reading “How does climate change impact extreme cold outbreaks in the United States?”

Will Atmospheric Rivers Shift from Helpful to Harmful due to Climate Change?

Feature Image by mirobo on Pixabay

Article: The Shifting Scales of Western U.S. Landfalling Atmospheric Rivers Under Climate Change
Authors: Rhoades, A. M., Jones, A. D., Srivastava, A., Huang, H., O’Brien, T. A., Patricola, C. M., Ullrich, P. A., Wehner, M., and Zhou, Y.

While residents of the West Coast of the United States usually don’t have to worry about hurricanes, snow storms, or tornadoes, every winter they do experience extreme weather events known as atmospheric rivers. Atmospheric rivers are plumes of highly concentrated water vapor in the atmosphere. When they move over land, they can produce very heavy rainfall that can cause flooding and even trigger landslides. However, atmospheric rivers are not all bad; in fact, some might even say they’re essential. They provide up to half of California’s rainfall every year, which is beneficial for agriculture and water supply. Like all weather events, atmospheric rivers are impacted by climate change, so how will they be different in a few decades? This question is essential for water resource managers and regular residents of the West Coast, since atmospheric rivers can both help and harm their livelihoods.

Continue reading “Will Atmospheric Rivers Shift from Helpful to Harmful due to Climate Change?”

Satellite Technology Helps Discover New Weather Phenomena: Lightning Megaflashes

Featured Image from Bethany Laird on Unsplash

Paper: Where are the Most Extraordinary Lightning Megaflashes in the Americas?

Author: Michael Peterson

Most lightning flashes only last 0.2 seconds, meaning if you blink at the wrong moment, you could miss it. However, scientists have developed new lightning-detection instruments, known as Geostationary Lightning Mappers (GLMs), that never miss a flash. The GLMs are aboard the two Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES-West and GOES-East), which are in stationary orbits over the Earth’s western hemisphere. With the data from the GLMs, atmospheric scientists have discovered new lightning phenomena called “megaflashes” which can light up the sky for as long as 16 seconds.

Continue reading “Satellite Technology Helps Discover New Weather Phenomena: Lightning Megaflashes”

Strong Atmospheric Updrafts Increase the Danger Associated with Wildfires

Featured Image: Picture of a wildfire by skeeze on Pixabay

Paper: Extreme Pyroconvective Updrafts During a Megafire
Authors: B. Rodriguez, N. P. Lareau, D. E. Kingsmill, and C. B. Clements

Atmospheric updrafts, or columns of air moving quickly upward, are typically associated with severe thunderstorms and tornadoes and have been studied using radar and airplane data for decades. The extreme heat from large, intense fires can also cause updrafts, but this type of updraft has barely been studied by atmospheric science researchers. Understanding the formation and structure of fire-generated updrafts is important because they can be hazardous to aircraft, can loft embers far distances and spark new fires, and can even initiate fire-generated thunderstorms. A recent study has revealed just how powerful these updrafts above large fires can be.

Continue reading “Strong Atmospheric Updrafts Increase the Danger Associated with Wildfires”

North Atlantic Ice Melt May Increase the Storminess of the Northern Hemisphere

Featured image of sea ice from Free-Photos on Pixabay

Paper: Rapid Cooling and Increased Storminess Triggered by Freshwater in the North Atlantic
Authors: M. Oltmanns, J. Karstensen, G. W. K. Moore, and S. A. Josey

Way up north in the Arctic Circle, sea ice and glaciers are rapidly melting and sending a massive amount of cold, fresh water into the North Atlantic Ocean. At first this influx of cold water may seem beneficial to offset the warming from climate change, but new research suggests that this meltwater from Greenland and the Arctic increases the number of winter storms that occur in the Northern Hemisphere.

Continue reading “North Atlantic Ice Melt May Increase the Storminess of the Northern Hemisphere”