• Snow science in support of U.S. water supply

    More than one-sixth of the world’s population relies on seasonal snow for water. In the western U.S., nearly three-quarters of the annual streamflow that provides the water supply arrives as spring and summer melt from the mountain snow packs. Right now, predictions of streamflow can vary widely due to limited ground measurement sites. This is one of the reasons scientists and resource managers are interested in a comprehensive view from space of what they call snow-water equivalent — the amount of liquid water contained in snow cover. Scientists use snow-water equivalent to estimate the amount of water that will melt into mountain streams, rivers and reservoirs.

  • New climate model predicts likelihood of Greenland ice melt, sea level rise, dangerous temperatures

    A new computer model of accumulated carbon emissions predicts the likelihood of crossing several dangerous climate change thresholds. These include global temperature rise sufficient to lose the Greenland Ice Sheet and generate seven meters of long-term sea level rise, or tropical region warming to a level that is deadly to humans and other mammals.

  • Improving climate change modeling by including variables such as inequality, consumption, and population

    A new scientific paper by an international team of distinguished scientists, including five members of the National Academies, argues that there are critical two-way feedbacks missing from current climate models that are used to inform environmental, climate, and economic policies. The most important inadequately modeled variables are inequality, consumption, and population. The authors present extensive evidence of the need for a new paradigm of modeling that incorporates the feedbacks that the Earth System has on humans, and propose a framework for future modeling that would serve as a more realistic guide for policymaking and sustainable development.

  • Sea-level rise in Southeast Asia 6,000 years ago relevant for coastal dwellers today

    For the 100 million people who live within three feet of sea level in East and Southeast Asia, the news that sea level in their region fluctuated wildly more than 6,000 years ago is important, according to researchers. This is because those fluctuations occurred without the assistance of human-influenced climate change. Such a change in sea level could happen again now, on top of the rise in sea level that is already projected to result from climate change. This could be catastrophic for people living so close to the sea.

  • Last year’s El Niño resulted in unprecedented erosion of the Pacific coastline

    Last winter’s El Niño might have felt weak to residents of Southern California, but it was in fact one of the most powerful climate events of the past 145 years. If such severe El Niño events become more common in the future as some studies suggest they might, the California coast — home to more than twenty-five million people — may become increasingly vulnerable to coastal hazards. And that’s independent of projected sea level rise.

  • Humans now affect Earth system more than natural forces

    Humans are causing the climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces, new research finds. The study for the first time came up with a mathematical equation to describe the impact of human activity on the Earth system, known as the Anthropocene equation. Over the past 7,000 years the primary forces driving change have been astronomical — driving a rate of change of 0.01 degrees Celsius per century. “Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions over the past forty-five years have increased the rate of temperature rise to 1.7 degrees Celsius per century, dwarfing the natural background rate,” the researchers say.

  • Current climate change models understate the problem

    A new study on the relationship between people and the planet shows that climate change is only one of many inter-related threats to the Earth’s capacity to support human life. An international team of distinguished scientists, including five members of the National Academies, argues that there are critical components missing from current climate models that inform environmental, climate, and economic policies.

  • Storms filled 37 percent of California snow-water deficit

    The “atmospheric river” weather patterns that pummeled California with storms from late December to late January may have recouped 37 percent of the state’s five-year snow-water deficit. Researchers estimate that two powerful recent storms deposited roughly 17.5-million acre feet (21.6 cubic kilometers) of water on California’s Sierra Nevada range in January. Compared to averages from the pre-drought satellite record, that amount represents more than 120 percent of the typical annual snow accumulation for this range.

  • Electricity costs to surge in a warming world

    Climate change is likely to increase U.S. electricity costs over the next century by billions of dollars more than economists previously forecast, according to a new study. The study shows how higher temperatures will raise not just the average annual electricity demand, but more importantly, the peak demand. And to avoid brownouts and absorb these surges, utilities will need to spend between $70 billion and $180 billion in grid upgrades—power plants and futuristic energy storage systems for which ratepayers would ultimately foot the bill.

  • Psychological “vaccine” could immunize public against fake news on climate change

    New research finds that misinformation on climate change can psychologically cancel out the influence of accurate statements. However, if legitimate facts are delivered with an “inoculation” – a warning dose of misinformation – some of the positive influence is preserved.

  • 2016 warmest year on record globally: NASA, NOAA

    Earth’s 2016 surface temperatures were the warmest since modern recordkeeping began in 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and NOAA. Globally-averaged temperatures in 2016 were 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit (0.99 degrees Celsius) warmer than the mid-twentieth century mean. This makes 2016 the third year in a row to set a new record for global average surface temperatures.

  • U.S. harvests to suffer from climate change

    Some of the most important crops risk substantial damage from rising temperatures. To better assess how climate change caused by human greenhouse gas emissions will likely impact wheat, maize and soybean, an international team of scientists now ran an unprecedentedly comprehensive set of computer simulations of U.S. crop yields. The simulations were shown to reproduce the observed strong reduction in past crop yields induced by high temperatures, thereby confirming that they capture one main mechanism for future projections.

  • Sea levels in U.S. Northeast to rise faster than global average

    Sea level in the Northeast and in some other U.S. regions will rise significantly faster than the global average, according to a report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Moreover, in a worst-case scenario, global sea level could rise by about 8 feet by 2100. “Currently, about six million Americans live within about six feet of the sea level, and they are potentially vulnerable to permanent flooding in this century. Well before that happens, though, many areas are already starting to flood more frequently,” says one expert. “Considering possible levels of sea-level rise and their consequences is crucial to risk management.”

  • Warming temperatures in Northeast U.S. decades ahead of global average

    Temperatures across the northeastern United States will increase much faster than the global average, so that the 2-degrees Celsius warming target adopted in the recent Paris Agreement on climate change will be reached about twenty years earlier for this part of the U.S. compared to the world as a whole.

  • Changing climate caused giant Middle East dust storm, not human conflict

    In August 2015, a dust storm blanketed large areas of seven Middle East nations in a haze of dust and sand thick enough to obscure them from satellite view. The storm led to several deaths, thousands of cases of respiratory ailments and injuries, and canceled airline flights and closed ports. At the time, the storm’s unusual severity was attributed to the ongoing civil war in Syria. Now, researchers who experienced the storm while in Lebanon, have found a more likely cause for the unprecedented storm — it was not human conflict, but a combination of climatic factors and unusual weather.