Colorado River Basin sees severe groundwater depletion

Over the past 14 years, the Colorado River Basin has experienced its worst drought since precipitation records have been kept, starting in the 1960s. The basin supplies water used for agriculture and in households in seven states, affecting more than 40 million people. In a study recently published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers have found that the reservoirs that store water in the basin are at record low levels. What’s more, the research shows that in addition to shrinking reservoirs, groundwater is being depleted much faster than previously thought, which could have major implications for the region’s future water security.

24 Sep 2014

New climate record challenges ideas about recent glaciations

Predicting how a changing climate and rising sea levels might impact humans in the future requires an understanding of how Earth has changed in the past. So scientists are continually seeking more and better data to help illuminate earlier conditions.

08 Sep 2014

Volcanic ash feed southern ocean plankton

Ash plumes from volcanoes in South America and elsewhere may spur large blooms of plankton in otherwise barren parts of the Southern Ocean, but maybe not for the reason scientists have suspected, according to a new study. Such blooms are of interest because they consume atmospheric carbon dioxide, although their overall effect on climate remains far from clear.

28 Aug 2014

Warm river water melted Arctic sea ice

In September 2012, the area of the Arctic Ocean covered by sea ice was the smallest on record since satellite monitoring began in 1979. Several factors are thought to have contributed to that summer’s diminished ice, including a large cyclone in August that brought warmer ocean waters into the area and broke up the ice and a longer-term trend of thinning and weakening sea ice. Now, researchers have found that at least one large burst of warm freshwater into the Arctic earlier in the summer probably played a role as well.

23 Aug 2014

Moving cars could help gauge rainfall

Accurate and timely rainfall measurements are crucial for the design of drainage systems, dams and other modern infrastructure. But rain gauges are often spread too sparsely to provide the necessary coverage in densely populated regions. In parts of Germany, for example, gauges equipped to make hourly readings are especially scarce — just one per 1,800 square kilometers. To help fill in the gaps, researchers at the Leibniz University of Hannover are developing an idea they call “RainCars” — using moving cars to measure rainfall.

23 Jul 2014

Geomedia: Books: The earth system symphony

The planet is a symphony played by the orchestral sections of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere and biosphere, each of which includes many instruments. However, teasing out the myriad relationships in the concerto that is the earth system is daunting. Not only do the scales involved range from planetary to microscopic, but our observational records are also relatively short, and some features are inherently chaotic. Just understanding the basics of any one of the major components can take a lifetime.

17 Jun 2014

Scientists look wider and deeper to predict the next El Nino

Of all climate and weather phenomena, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is not only one of the most well known for its impact on world climate and human life, but is also one of the most puzzling to scientists. For this reason, researchers have begun to take into account a much more global area of climate data than previously considered with the hopes of predicting El Niño or La Niña conditions sooner than is currently possible.

17 Apr 2014

Hurricanes suppressed by air pollutants

Understanding how often devastating tropical storms like Superstorm Sandy occur, and how humans may play a role in their frequency, is a major goal among climate scientists. Now, a new study indicates that aerosols may suppress storm formation over the Atlantic. Thus, researchers say, more frequent storms at the end of the last century might have been an unintended side effect of cleaning up the air.

25 Jun 2013

The past is key to the future: Historical observations strengthen modern science


Written records of natural phenomena come from personal journals and diaries, newspaper accounts, ship logs and government documents, among other sources. Such accounts often offer descriptive details and context that cannot be matched by other methods, and they can prove extremely useful in broadening records both temporally and geographically. Given that they predate the sort of widespread instrumental readings that scientists have come to depend on, sometimes there is simply — and literally — no substitute for historical data. Despite their advantages, historical records are used infrequently in modern physical sciences. That may be changing, however.

29 May 2013

Highlights of 2012: Climate 2012 - A window into what to expect for 2013 and beyond?

July 2012 was the hottest month by far for the lower 48 states. Much of the nation faced drought conditions that grew steadily worse throughout the summer, and there were major repercussions for crop yields and food prices. Wildfires were also rampant. The record low snowpack in May 2012 in the Colorado Rockies set the stage for major wildfires in June, with more than 600 homes lost in Colorado alone. Wildfires developed in other regions in July as well, as tremendous record-breaking heat developed in Oklahoma and surrounding areas. Considered individually, the record temperatures, droughts, fires and diminished snowpack are not necessarily alarming and may not signal anything beyond the natural occurrence of a hotter-than-average year. But combined, these indicators are much more significant from a climate standpoint. They highlight that there is more than just natural variability playing a role: Global warming has reared its head in a way that can only be a major warning for the future. So, what can we expect?

25 Nov 2012