Climate Change

  • Antarctic Cold Blast Engulfs Australia

    A blast of wintry air brought rare snow to South Australia's Flinders Ranges and smashed low daily maximum temperatures at several locations in the state on Thursday, August 6. The cold snap also brought historic temperatures to Tasmania as Liawenee plunged to -14.2 °C (6.4 °F) on Friday, August 7, 2020-- the state's coldest day since records began. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) labeled this week's weather as a "very significant event."

    In South Australia, some of the locations that recorded lowest daily maximum temperatures on Thursday included Hawker, Whyalla, Yongala, and Port Augusta.

    "Two annual records and eight August records for lowest daily maximum temperature were broken," BOM stated.

    On Friday, rare snow blanketed the Flinders Ranges creating winter-like conditions to the red outback desert.

    Staff from the Skytrek Willow Spring Station said although they had seen sow on the top of the hills before, it has not snowed much down in the valley.

    According to BOM, a low near the NSW border is causing the unusually cold and wet conditions.

    "Snow is falling about higher ground in the Flinders and Mid North, and this will continue through to early Saturday morning (August 8)."

    Liawanee, Tasmania recorded -14.2 °C (6.4 °F) at 06:01 LT, breaking the state's previous record of -13 °C (8.6 °F) set on June 30, 1983, at Tarraleah, Butlers Gorge and Shannon. By 07:02 LT, the temperature rose to -10.9 °C (12.4 °F).

    BOM said this week's weather is "a very significant event." It was so cold that it was warmer at the Australian Antarctic research station in Casey on Thursday, meteorologist Simon Louis told ABC. "I don't think that would happen very often at all."

    "Casey station in Antarctica it only got to -12 °C (10.4 °F), so it was actually colder up at Liawenee than it would have been at least at Casey in Antarctica last night," Louis added.

    ​​On Tuesday, August 4, Launceston saw more than 30 cm (12 inches) of snow-- the most significant snowfall the city experienced since the early 1970s.

    Victoria’s ‘once in a decade event’

    Victoria also received some snowfall in what BOM duty forecaster Tom Delamotte called a “once in 10 years” event.

    In the Dandenong Ranges, where they commonly get snow, it was the most significant snowfall since 2008 as well.

    In Melbourne’s CBD it doesn’t happen very often either. It’s hard to tell how much actually fell but it lines up to a one in 10-year kind of event.

    Heavy snow in Ballarat

    Ballarat in the Victorian Central Highlands received a flurry of snow on the morning of August 4 as a wintry blast from Antarctica caused temperatures to plummet in Australia’s southeast.

    The Bureau of Meteorology expected snow and strong winds in the region, including parts of Victoria and Tasmania, during the week.

  • Death Valley hits 130 °F (54.4 °C) for the first time since 1913

    According to data provided by the National Weather Service, the temperature at Furnace Creek weather station in Death Valley National Park, California reached 54.4 °C (130 °F) at 15:41 CDT on Sunday, August 16, 2020, breaking the previous August 16 record of  51.6 °C (125 °​F) set in 1994.

    If verified, this will be the hottest temperature officially verified since July 1913, also at Death Valley, and it would also break the monthly record for August of X °C (127 °F) which was set on August 12, 1933, August 2, 1993, and August 1, 2017.

    Currently, the hottest temperature on record is 56.7 °C (134 °F), recorded at the same weather station (Furnace Creek) on July 7, 1913.

    In 1913, Death Valley was over 54.4 °C (130 °F) three times in one week, including 56.6 °C (134 °F) and 55 °C (131 °F).

    Extreme heat will continue to plague the western third of the country through the middle of this week. Approximately, 56 million people are under heat advisories or warnings, and many daily record high temperatures are forecast.

  • Greenland Ice Melt Passes Point of No Return

    Nearly 40 years of satellite data from Greenland shows that glaciers on the island have shrunk so much that even if global warming were to stop today, the ice sheet would continue shrinking.

    The finding, published today, Aug. 13, in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment, means that Greenland's glaciers have passed a tipping point of sorts, where the snowfall that replenishes the each year cannot keep up with the ice that is flowing into the ocean from glaciers.

    "We've been looking at these remote sensing observations to study how ice discharge and accumulation have varied," said Michalea King, lead author of the study and a researcher at The Ohio State University's Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center. "And what we've found is that the ice that's discharging into the ocean is far surpassing the snow that's accumulating on the surface of the ice sheet."

    King and other researchers analyzed monthly satellite data from more than 200 large glaciers draining into the ocean around Greenland. Their observations show how much ice breaks off into icebergs or melts from the glaciers into the ocean. They also show the amount of snowfall each year—the way these glaciers get replenished.

    The researchers found that, throughout the 1980s and 90s, snow gained through accumulation and ice melted or calved from glaciers were mostly in balance, keeping the ice sheet intact. Through those decades, the researchers found, the ice sheets generally lost about 450 gigatons (about 450 billion tons) of ice each year from flowing outlet glaciers, which was replaced with snowfall.

    "We are measuring the pulse of the ice sheet—how much ice glaciers drain at the edges of the ice sheet—which increases in the summer. And what we see is that it was relatively steady until a big increase in ice discharging to the ocean during a short five- to six-year period," King said.

    The researchers' analysis found that the baseline of that pulse—the amount of ice being lost each year—started increasing steadily around 2000, so that the glaciers were losing about 500 gigatons each year. Snowfall did not increase at the same time, and over the last decade, the rate of ice loss from glaciers has stayed about the same—meaning the ice sheet has been losing ice more rapidly than it's being replenished.

    "Glaciers have been sensitive to seasonal melt for as long as we've been able to observe it, with spikes in ice discharge in the summer," she said. "But starting in 2000, you start superimposing that seasonal melt on a higher baseline—so you're going to get even more losses."

    Before 2000, the ice sheet would have about the same chance to gain or lose mass each year. In the current climate, the ice sheet will gain mass in only one out of every 100 years.

    King said that large glaciers across Greenland have retreated about 3 kilometers on average since 1985—"that's a lot of distance," she said. The glaciers have shrunk back enough that many of them are sitting in deeper water, meaning more ice is in contact with water. Warm ocean water melts glacier ice, and also makes it difficult for the glaciers to grow back to their previous positions.

    That means that even if humans were somehow miraculously able to stop climate change in its tracks, ice lost from glaciers draining ice to the would likely still exceed ice gained from snow accumulation, and the ice sheet would continue to shrink for some time.

    "Glacier retreat has knocked the dynamics of the whole ice sheet into a constant state of loss," said Ian Howat, a co-author on the paper, professor of earth sciences and distinguished university scholar at Ohio State. "Even if the climate were to stay the same or even get a little colder, the ice sheet would still be losing mass."

    Shrinking in Greenland are a problem for the entire planet. The ice that melts or breaks off from Greenland's ice sheets ends up in the Atlantic Ocean—and, eventually, all of the world's oceans. Ice from Greenland is a leading contributor to sea level rise—last year, enough ice melted or broke off from the Greenland ice sheet to cause the oceans to rise by 2.2 millimeters in just two months.

    The new findings are bleak, but King said there are silver linings.

    "It's always a positive thing to learn more about glacier environments, because we can only improve our predictions for how rapidly things will change in the future," she said. "And that can only help us with adaptation and mitigation strategies. The more we know, the better we can prepare."

  • Snow turns pink in Italian Alps

    A glacier in Italy is turning a shade of pink which is not good news.

    There is currently quite an impressive bloom of snow algae, turning the snow PINK at the Presena glacier in northern Italy.

    While watermelon snow is fairly common in the Alps in spring and summer, it has been more marked this year.

    Scientists believe this weird phenomenon is due to algae named Chlamydomonas nivalis.

    This spring and summer have seen low snowfall and high atmospheric temperatures, thus creating the perfect environment for the algae to bloom.

    Algal blooms are bad news for the health of the glacier as darker snow absorbs more energy, meaning it melts faster.

    But sometimes, the pink coloration is due to natural disaster such as wildfires (New Zealand) or Sahara dust storm (Russia)

    This strange pink snow phenomenon is increasing around the world… and that’s really bad news for our glaciers

  • Summer Snowfall Record in Norway: 32 Ft (10 Meters)

    Never seen so much snow in July," reads the headline on the Norwegian website nrk/no.

    We have not had such snowfall as this year, says Knut Kinne, watercourse technical manager at the energy company BKK.

    With ten meters (more than 32 feet) of packed snow, it may not have melted in the summer and fall if we had not removed it, says communications adviser Jarle Hodne at BKK.

    That's how glaciers begin! When the snow doesn't melt in the summer and fall.

  • Temperatures Plunge 60 Degrees in less then 24 hours across the Rockies

    Summer came to an abrupt halt in parts of the Rocky Mountains on Tuesday as temperatures reaching into the 90s plunged by around 60 degrees in less than 24 hours, with a powerful surge of cold air from Canada unleashing snow and damaging winds in several states.

    The roller coaster weather ripped up trees by their roots, piled up snow that shut down parts of the scenic road through Glacier National Park and knocked out power to tens of thousands.

    But the temperature drop gave some relief to crews fighting wildfires in Colorado and Montana that had ballooned in hot, windy weather and forced people to flee their homes.

    Heat and strong winds also hit California and parts of the Pacific Northwest over the holiday weekend, triggering destructive wildfires.

    Snow fell in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming, where portions of Interstate 80 closed and forecasters predicted up to a foot in the mountains and temperatures in the teens overnight.

    In Utah, where temperatures dropped by 40 degrees, wind gusts of nearly 100 mph roared through the Salt Lake City area, downing trees and leaving tens of thousands without electricity.

    Several northern Utah school districts canceled classes, and officials warned people to stay inside if possible to avoid flying debris, downed power lines and other dangers. Several semitrailer trucks blew over on northern Utah highways.

    The Utah Capitol, which was already closed to visitors because of the coronavirus pandemic, shut to employees as well Tuesday as winds ripped up large trees by their roots, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted.

    Six inches or more of snow could fall in the northern and central Rockies, with 1 to 2 feet dropping in the highest peaks, the National Weather Service said.

    It has issued scattered winter storm warnings and weather advisories from southern Montana to southern Colorado. Freeze and frost warnings also were posted for parts of Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Nebraska, North Dakota and Minnesota.

    The cold and snow will help the fight against the Cameron Peak Fire in northern Colorado, which nearly quadrupled in size over the weekend, sending smoke and ash into Denver. The weather was gradually expected to warm up, with temperatures back up in the 80s by the weekend in the Denver area.

    In Montana, where the weather began to shift Sunday night, the small city of Red Lodge, a gateway to Yellowstone National Park, had received 10.5 inches of snow. 

    A bison stands in snow storm in Colorado. Picture: AP/David Zalubowski

    The storm forced officials to close Beartooth Pass on Monday, due to extreme conditions. Several inches of snow fell in the area, making some roads impassable.

    A windstorm in western Montana on Monday knocked down trees and power lines and damaged docks and boats on Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River in the contiguous U.S.

    Ken and Karen Brown, who live in Safety Bay on the southwest side of the lake, told NBC Montana that the community usually lives up to its name but that wind-driven waves took most of the planks off their dock.

    “This is probably one of the stronger storms we’ve had in the 23 years I’ve been here,” Ken Brown told the TV station.

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