Temperatures in Alaska from January 23-30, 2014 as compared to same period average from 2001-2010. Image by: NASA.
Alaska got California weather at the end of January, as displayed by a new map based on data by NASA’s Terra satellite’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). The U.S. state experiences one of its warmest winter periods on record during the second half of January, including some temperatures that ran 40 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius) above average. According to the EPA, temperatures in Alaska have risen an average of 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit (1.9 degrees Celsius) in just the last 50 years due to climate change.
Alaska’s warm spell was caused by high pressure conditions in the Pacific Ocean, which pushed the warm air and precipitation that usually ends up in California this time of year into the 49th state. The abnormal temperatures brought plenty of rain to Alaska, instead of the normal snow.
“The combination of heat and rain has caused Alaska’s rivers to swell and brighten with sediment, creating satellite views reminiscent of spring and summer runoff,” writes NASA. Avalanches blocked Richardson Highway while some ski places shut down due to lack of snow.
Alaska has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the U.S. under climate change, and temperatures in winter are rising even more rapidly. According to the EPA, winter temperatures have gone up by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit (3.5 degrees Celsius) over the last half century.
In fact, during January many parts of the continental U.S. were actually colder than Alaska as the lower-48 were hit with the so-called “polar vortex.” The frigid cold was due to a weak jet steam, a phenomenon that some climate scientists believe may be linked to the decline in Arctic ice. The jet stream usually moves weather east to west, but a weaker jet stream means that weather is moving more north and south, i.e. bringing Arctic temperatures to the continental U.S. A number of climate scientists are currently investigating the possible link between abnormal jet streams and the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice, which if true would mean climate change may not only be exacerbating heatwaves but cold spells as well.
(01/27/2014) Global warming continues apace as 2013 was the seventh warmest year in the past 133 years, according to a new analysis from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). In total, the global temperature in 2013 averaged 14.6 degrees Celsius (58.3 degrees Fahrenheit), or 0.6 degrees Celsius (1.1 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than the 20th Century average.
(01/15/2014) No place on Earth is heating up faster than the Arctic, but just how fast has remained an open question due to large gaps in temperature data across the vast region. Now, a recent study in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society finds that not only is the Arctic warming eight times faster than the rest of the planet, but failure to account for temperature gaps has led global datasets to underestimate the rise of temperatures worldwide.
(01/14/2014) Carbon dioxide emissions rose two percent in the U.S. last year, according to preliminary data from the Energy Information Administration. Emissions rose largely due to increased coal consumption, the first such rise in U.S. emissions since 2010. Still, the annual emissions remain well below the peak hit in 2007 when emissions hit 6 billion tons.
(01/14/2014) For decades, scientists have been grappling with the consequences of climate change and working toward viable solutions. Climate engineering, also known as geoengineering, is the most controversial possible solution. Currently, one of the most talked about geoengineering ideas is Solar Radiation Management (SRM), which intends to block shortwave solar radiation, thus cooling the Earth to offset rising temperatures. In other words, SRM may be one way in which global temperatures could be artificially stabilized.
(01/06/2014) Australia had its warmest year on record, with annual temperatures 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.16 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1961-1990 average, according to a new analysis from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). This is 0.5 degrees Celsius higher than the previous warmest year on record—2005—for Australia. Global warming due to burning fossil fuels is increasing temperatures worldwide.
(01/02/2014) Resting near the bottom of the foodchain, Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) underpin much of the Southern Ocean’s ecosystem. But in a rapidly warming world, these hugely-abundant crustaceans could see their habitat shrink considerably. In a recent paper in PLOS ONE, scientists predict that Antarctic krill could lose 20 percent of their growth habitat, or 1.2 million square kilometers.
(12/30/2013) A decline in the frequency of extreme cold weather in Florida has allowed coastal mangrove forests to expand northward, finds a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
(12/23/2013) Oil has begun to be pumped from the Arctic seabed, according to Russian oil giant, Gazprom. The company announced on Friday that it has begun exploiting oil reserves at the offshore field of Prirazlomnoye. The project, which is several years behind schedule, is hugely controversial and made international headlines in September after Russian military arrested 28 Greenpeace activists protesting the operation along with a British journalist and Russian videographer.