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May 2016
May 2016

More than 80,000 people have been forced to flee their homes as wildfires tears through northern Alberta, reducing entire neighborhoods to ash and curbing oil production at Suncor Energy Inc. and other companies. 
<p>The threat of severe weather will return to the south-central United States this weekend. Multiple rounds of thunderstorms will occur and progress eastward from Saturday to Monday.</p>
An Australian storm chaser has created a timelapse video showing his hunt for extreme weather along the east coast of Australia. Sydney storm chaser Mitch Payne collated footage from chases during the 2015-2016 El Nino season to created this intense, moody timelapse.The Bureau of Meteorology describes El Nino as a period of reduced rainfall, warmer temperatures and increased fire danger. This video shows the extreme weather conditions experienced along Mitch’s journey. Credit: Mitch Payne
An unusually intense May wildfire roared into Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, on Tuesday, forcing the largest wildfire evacuation in province history. The flames rode the back of hot, windy weather that will continue through Wednesday and could pick up again this weekend. The wildfire is the latest in a lengthening lineage of early wildfires in the northern reaches of the globe that are indicative of a changing climate. As the planet continues to warm, these types of fires will likely only become more common and intense as spring snowpack disappears and temperatures warm. Flames rise in Industrial area south Fort McMurray, Alberta Canada May 3, 2016. Courtesy CBC News/Handout via REUTERS “This (fire) is consistent with what we expect from human-caused climate change affecting our fire regime,” Mike Flannigan, a wildfire researcher at the University of Alberta, said. At least one neighborhood of the northern Albertan city of 61,000 has been nearly entirely razed as the blaze ripped through the city from the west on Tuesday. Extremely hot temperatures, which soared up to 40°F (22°C) above normal, coupled with high winds helped fan the flames late that afternoon. That sent 80,000 people in the city and surrounding area scrambling north and south through a post-apocalyptic landscape of trees lit up like matchsticks and flashing emergency lights. The evacuation is easily the largest wildfire evacuation in province history. People fled the fire using the one road in and out of town even as flames licked the side of the pavement and pea soup-thick smoke turned a daylight drive into one that felt more like dusk. “You just couldn’t see two feet in front of your truck through all the smoke,” Fort McMurray resident Dan Bickford told the Globe and Mail from an evacuation center in Lac La Biche. My harrowing drive evacuating #ymm praying for my friends — Jordan J Stuffco (@jstuffcocrimlaw) May 3, 2016 The footage evacuees captured is reminiscent of California’s Valley Fire last year, which flared up under similar conditions and destroyed roughly 2,000 buildings in Lake and Sonoma counties. Despite the harrowing escape for many Fort McMurray residents, not a single fatality has been reported. Fort McMurray fire chief Darby Allen told the CBC that Tuesday was the worst day of his career as firefighters scrambled to combat the wildfire. Preliminary reports indicate that 80 percent of the homes in one neighborhood have been destroyed, though the full extent of the damage isn’t fully known yet. And it may very well not be over as hot, dry conditions are expected again on Wednesday. What’s happening in Fort McMurray is a perfect encapsulation of the wicked ways that climate change is impacting wildfire season. A drier than normal winter left a paltry spring snowpack, which was quickly eaten away by warm temperatures. That left plenty of fuel on the ground for wildfires to consume. Fort Mac is burning down A video posted by William Brown (@william_brown94) on May 3, 2016 at 7:59pm PDT Add in this week’s temperatures, which soared far above normal, and you have a clear view of how climate change is affecting wildfire season not just in Alberta but across the northern reaches of the globe. Boreal forests are burning at a rate unprecedented in the last 10,000 years. A Climate Central analysis of Alaskan wildfires last year showed that the season is 40 percent longer than it was 65 years ago. Large wildfires there have also doubled over that time. In Canada, wildfire season now starts a month earlier than it used to and the average annual area burned has doubled since 1970 according to Flannigan. Climate change has been altering background conditions, but this year’s El Niño also likely played a role in this particularly severe start to wildfire season in western Canada. Following the 1997-98 super El Niño, western Canada experienced a particularly severe wildfire season. “In this part of the world El Niño means warm and dry. We’ve had a warm and dry winter and now a warm and dry spring,” Flannigan said. “If I was putting odds on it, odds are we will have another bad fire season.” It's spooky driving through #ymm this morning. No one around and fire alarms going off in some buildings — BreannaKarstensSmith (@BreannaCTV) May 4, 2016 When these fires reach cities and towns, the results are devastating locally. In Fort McMurray, which was the hub of the Canadian tar sands boom that has since quieted with the collapse of oil prices, the economic cost could reach hundreds of millions of dollars if past fires are any indicator. But wildfires like this can also wreak havoc on the global climate, too. Boreal forests contain nearly 30 percent of all the world’s carbon stored on land. As they light up, they send that carbon into the atmosphere where it warms the globe. Intense wildfires are already turning some forests into carbon polluters in certain years, creating a feedback cycle that drives temperatures higher and raises fire risks even further. Scientists are also concerned about the vast stores of peat in the boreal forest that spans Alberta and other parts of Canada. That peat contains significant amounts of carbon and once it catches fire, it’s exceedingly hard to put out and can smolder for weeks or months. It can even survive winter cold to re-emerge in the spring. That makes living in the woods an increasingly perilous proposition. And it also means that what happens in the forest is unlikely to stay there.
If you missed out on seeing Halley's Comet during its last Earth flyby in 1986, don't despair — you can spot tiny pieces of the icy...
As millions prepare to celebrate Mother's Day on Sunday, May 8, rain and severe storms threaten to disrupt outdoor activities and travel plans. 
A massive shelf cloud formed over the beaches of Cancun, Mexico, on Wednesday, May 4, amidst strong winds and rainy weather that caused partial flooding in the city, according to Mexican media reports. Winds to 30 km/h were reported in the beach city, with wave swells reaching five feet high. Credit: YouTube/webcamsdemexico
From the vantage point of a boat bobbing on the deep blue waters of Majuro Lagoon, the encircling shores of the Pacific coral atoll are normally verdant with tropical vegetation. But on a recent sailing excursion with friends, Angela Saunders was struck by how brown and withered the island looked. “The vibrant color of all the trees was gone,” Saunders, a Majuro-based program manager with the International Organization for Migration, wrote in an email. “It was like someone put dampers on the world.” Majuro, capital of the Marshall Islands, is an atoll in the Pacific Ocean with a land area of about 4 square miles. It is home to about 30,000 people. Click image to enlarge. Credit: Christopher Michel/flickr It is a scene that is playing out across the hundreds of low-lying islands and atolls scattered across a vast swath of the western Pacific Ocean broadly known as Micronesia. One of the strongest El Niños on record has curtailed the rains that are the lifeblood of most of the region’s communities and ushered in an extreme drought that has left inhabitants in a precarious situation. Wells have become brackish or run dry; the rain barrels that perch on the corners of houses have little or no rainwater left in them. Water rationing is limited to a couple hours a day in some of the worst-hit communities, while expensive reverse-osmosis machines have been shipped out to the most far-flung atolls to make the seawater drinkable. Staple foods like breadfruit and bananas have shriveled on the trees, inedible. Worries over acute food and water shortages, as well as the spread of disease, have prompted several of the affected island nations to issue disaster declarations in order to receive assistance from the United States and other countries. “Drought in the U.S. is kind of an inconvenience … but out here it’s a life-or-death kind of situation,” Chip Guard, a meteorologist with the main regional U.S. National Weather Service office in Guam, said. While El Niño is waning, it will be weeks or months before the rains gradually return to normal levels. Even then, it will take time for crops, rain catchments and groundwater levels to recover, continuing the strain on locals well into the summer. “Every day longer the drought lasts, the more you hear about it,” Saunders said. “In the store, on the streets.” El Niño Effects El Niño tends to dry out the islands of Micronesia because it shifts the main area of storm activity in the tropical Pacific eastward and away from the region, following the commensurate eastward displacement of the pool of warm waters that fuel those storms. The western- and northern-most islands tend to fall into drought first, following the gradual eastward migration of the rains, and stay in drought longer. Palau, the westernmost island chain in the region, to the southeast of the Philippines, was the first to enter into drought conditions last year. As of an April 28 update from the NWS, it was in an exceptional drought, the highest level. Koror, its most populous state, had its driest October-March on record, as did Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, and Yap State, in the Federated States of Micronesia. While some places have had spotty showers that have provided sporadic, temporary relief, others have fared worse. In February, Richard Heim, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Information, rattled off the rainfall record for Wotje, a hard-hit atoll to the north of Majuro: “Zero, zero, zero, trace, zero, zero … they are getting nothing,” he said. Although the relationship between El Niño and drought in these islands is well known — which helps governments and aid agencies to forecast and prepare in advance — it is unclear how global warming might alter the El Niño phenomenon in the future. The effects of climate change are of acute concern to island residents, as rising sea levels already eat away at what little land they have and threaten water supplies as overwashing waves that can make groundwater brackish become more common. While rainfall is overall expected to increase across Micronesia as the planet warms, according to a 2014 report by an Australian-led project looking at climate change projections in the region, that increase is somewhat uncertain. And it is the variability of rainfall, not average rains, that is the main driver of drought there, Sugata Narsey, one of the co-authors of that report and a climate researcher at Monash University, said. The main source of variability there is El Niño, he said. Some research has suggested that warming could mean more frequent extreme El Niño events, but the link isn’t yet conclusive. When drought does occur in the future, it is possible it could last longer because evaporation will also increase with warming, Michael Grose, a climate researcher with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, said. This is one of the ways climate change exacerbated the current drought in California. Surrounded by Water, But None to Drink It is a cruel irony that, though surrounded by the vast expanse of the largest ocean on the planet, the islands and atolls of Micronesia can run out of drinkable water. Except for some of the larger islands in the region, such as Guam, most don’t have reservoirs to keep water supplies steady and on hand for lean times. (And even those that do have them are seeing well below-normal levels.) The region of the Pacific Ocean known as Micronesia. Click image to enlarge. Credit: Wikimedia Commons Instead, most of the region relies on the near-daily rains of the tropics to maintain the groundwater supplies that feed wells and are caught by the green, high-density plastic rain catchments attached to many homes. But a certain minimum threshold of rain — usually about 4 to 8 inches a month — is needed to maintain viable water supplies. Below that level, drought can set in, and quickly. “The atolls especially are very susceptible to drought,” Guard said, because they are too low-lying to have significant underground aquifers. For those islands that do have wells, the water inside can quickly become brackish during a drought. As freshwater is extracted, the seawater below it creeps upward, Heim said. One day the well water is drinkable, the next it turns salty. That leaves a tight window for relief agencies to bring water or reverse-osmosis machines to distant atolls a full day’s boat ride from the main islands. These outlying atolls also often lack internet and cellular service, making quick communication a challenge. ‘Really a Struggle’ When visiting the outer atolls of the Marshall Islands, Saunders, of the IOM, said that as soon as you walk off the plane, “you notice the heat more. There is less shade to sit under and you can really imagine how hard life is for those most affected” by the drought. The Marshall Islands have been hit particularly hard because virtually all of the nation’s land is low-lying. Of those islands that do have wells, many were too salty to use by early March. Many rain catchments had also run dry by that point. Dried vegetation on Majuro. Click image to enlarge. Credit: Karl Fellenius from University of Hawaii Sea Grant at the College of the Marshall Islands “Not everyone’s water is totally out, but some are and everyone is conserving,” Saunders said. On Majuro, there are 19 water distribution points and a reverse-osmosis machine that generates 25 gallons of potable water a minute and runs 24 hours a day at the College of the Marshall Islands. Island residents have access to tap water for only four hours a week, according to the Marshall Islands Journal. On the outer islands, 32 reverse-osmosis units have been deployed. “This means that people have to walk to these spots to get water, or if they can take a car or a pushcart to carry water,” Saunders said. Each nation has limited resources and it is “really a struggle to respond,” Guard said, which is why aid from the United States and agencies like the Red Cross is critical. The Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau have all declared states of emergency or disaster to enable that aid, and last week, President Obama declared a state of disaster for the Marshall Islands, allowing for FEMA support. The IOM has helped provide reverse-osmosis units, collapsible jerry cans, and soap to residents. As ground and surface water have dried up, so have key food crops. Staple food sources like taro, breadfruit, banana and coconut “are for the most part no longer edible,” Guard said in an email. This makes food security a critical issue, especially for outlying islands. “The Marshallese are extremely resilient people — that is how they have survived for thousands of years on these small islands" The spread of social diseases like conjunctivitis has also been a concern, as people conserve what little water they have for drinking and cooking at the expense of hygiene. Advisories have also been put out in some locations to boil water in order to prevent the spread of gastro-intestinal illnesses. Such precautions will likely remain in place for several weeks or months to come, because while El Niño is petering out, rains are expected to stay below normal through the late spring and early summer. But gradually, El Niño’s grip will weaken, and the rains will slowly return from south to north, east to west, reversing their disappearance of several months ago. But even when the rains do return, it will take time for catchments, groundwater and crops to recover. And that return is not without its own problems — the mosquitoes that spread diseases like dengue fever and Zika virus tend to be more widespread after a major drought, Guard said. These hardships are something that the people of the region are accustomed to, though, and they have pulled through similarly deep droughts in the recent past. “The Marshallese are extremely resilient people — that is how they have survived for thousands of years on these small islands,” Saunders said. “They cope, they manage, but it is not easy.”
Using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, WeatherDB found the 50 counties with the best weather.
As a strong El Niño fades, the weather across the country will slowly change. In much of the eastern United States, a hot summer is in store. 
<p>Southern California’s section of the San Andreas Fault is “locked, loaded and ready to roll,” a leading earthquake scientist said Wednesday at the National Earthquake Conference in Long Beach.</p>
Hundreds of buildings were reported damaged after a wildfire forced the evacuation of the entire town of Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Tuesday, May 3. Authorities reported 88,000 people evacuated from the town without injury, and videos from the scene show people driving by the fire as it crept closer to the roadways.Local media reported the fire had grown to 10,000 hectares, which is approximately 24,700 acres. Additionally, authorities reported 1,600 buildings had been destroyed by the fire. Credit: YouTube/Jason Edmondson
Nickolay Lamm Sea levels are rising several times faster today than at any other point in roughly the last 3,000 years, according to new research.Scientists project that if humans don't get control over greenhouse gas emission levels, then sea levels could rise by as much as 3-4 feet by the year 2100.Sea levels rise because of melting glaciers and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica as a result of warming temperatures. The ocean also expands as it warms.Rising sea levels make coastal areas, particularly those with dense populations, much more vulnerable to heavy flooding.Artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm, from, previously created sea-level rise maps to show what major US monuments would look like over the next century if we continue on a business-as-usual track. Lamm used data provide by Climate Central to build his sea level maps.The hypothetical scenes show icons, like the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument, and depict four levels of flooding at each landmark: 0 feet; 5 feet (possible in 100 to 300 years); 12 feet (possible by about 2300); and 25 feet (possible in the coming centuries):
What Mother Nature didn't destroy when 18 inches of flood water filled the home of Lennie and Amber Ambrose, looters stole less than 24 hours later. Heirlooms, jewelry and electronics - all were gone. Months earlier they had planned to move a block away into their dream home, but the flood claimed that residence as well, and the sale was canceled. Located in Houston's Greater Inwood area, Candlelight Forest is a neighborhood of about 150 ...
<p>Seawater — increasingly acidic due to global warming — is eating away a tiny part of the limestone framework for coral reef in the upper Florida Keys, according to a new study. It's something that scientists had expected, but not so soon.</p>
Residents of drought-stricken California doubled their water conservation efforts in March compared with the month before by turning off their sprinklers when the rain fell and changing habits, officials said Tuesday.
With the return of wet weather in the Northeast, many people are asking: When will the rain go away? Up until last week, much of the Northeast needed rainfall.
<p>"This discrepancy between observed satellites and predicted abundances has been a major problem in cosmology for nearly two decades, even called a 'crisis' by some researchers," said team member Neal Dalal, of the University of Illinois.</p>
A $48 million grant for Isle de Jean Charles, La., is the first allocation of federal tax dollars to move an entire community struggling with the effects of climate change.
A storm will deliver several days of much-needed rain to the drought-stricken western United States late this week. However, rain could be heavy enough...
The Middle East, north Africa, central Asia and south Asia due to suffer biggest economic hit from water scarcity as climate change takes hold, report finds
Next week, on Monday, May 9, skywatchers on Earth will be able to see Mercury make its way across the surface of the sun. The so-called...
Earth has a new lightning hotspot and it's not located in Florida or Africa according to a new study.
<p>Clouds might seem like a nuisance if you’re headed on a Sunday afternoon picnic. But put aside your personal biases for a second and consider this: clouds can also tell the story of life on earth. That story has become a lot clearer thanks to new maps created by scientists that document a global year in the clouds in more intimate detail than ever before. The maps — a cloud atlas if you will — provide a fine-grained view of how clouds move around in our atmosphere and represent an important link between climate and ecological research. They’re also pretty easy on the eyes.</p>
The big question at Palau's Jellyfish Lake: Where are all the jellyfish?
In the early morning of Feb. 29, park officials, tourists and locals near Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo heard an unfamiliar sound: rumbling. What they were hearing was the sound of earthquakes deep below the surface. The movement knocked giant rocks off of the crater walls. And at the same time, a new vent appeared on a ledge. Since that day, the vent explodes about every 30 seconds, throwing...
Astronomers searching for life beyond our solar system may need to look no farther than a little, feeble nearby star.
The Middle East and North Africa are already some of the hottest places are Earth. In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia daily high temperatures can exceed 40°C…
Hawaii, Alaska and the Southwest face an above-average threat of wildfires this summer, but most of the country should see normal or below-normal problems, forecasters said Sunday.The...
<p>Located near the border of Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Danakil Depression has beautiful landscapes, but is incredibly dangerous to travel to. The temperature during the day hovers around 107 degrees Fahrenheit, even in early spring. It's dry, and sulfur and chlorine cloud the air, burning the lungs of people unfortunate enough to be close to the boiling hot springs, roiling with salt, and heated by magma deep in the Earth. Welcome to the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia. It's 328 feet below sea level, volcanically active, a home to salt traders and sought out by adventurers.</p>
<p>Warm ocean waters that sucked the color and vigor from sweeping stretches of the world’s greatest expanse of corals last month were driven by climate change, according to a new analysis by scientists, who are warning of worse impacts ahead. Climate change made it 170 times more likely that the surface waters of the Coral Sea, which off the Queensland coastline is home to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, would reach the record-breaking temperatures last month that bleached reefs, modeling analysis showed.</p>
<p>When NASA's Kepler spacecraft launched in 2009, its mission was to find other worlds akin to Earth orbiting the immense number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy.</p>
Climate change could put certain species of African antelopes at risk of extinction, particularly those with the smallest geographic ranges, says a study released Thursday.
Astronomers have found a first-of-its-kind tailless comet whose composition may offer clues into long-standing questions about the solar system's formation and evolution, according to research published on Friday in the journal Science Advances.
As we arrive at the midpoint of the spring season, we examine some of the prominent stars and constellations (and planets)...
The otherworldly event is forecast to arrive from a “solar sector boundary crossing.”
Nuclear war. Climate change. Pandemics that kill tens of millions. These are the most viable threats to globally organized civilization. They’re the stuff of nightmares and blockbusters—but unlike sea monsters or zombie viruses, they’re real, part of the calculus that political leaders consider everyday. And according to a new report from the UK-based Global Challenges Foundation, they’re much more likely than we might think. In its annual report ...
<p>Nickolay Lamm In 2006, a white bear with brown splotches, believed to be a hybrid of a polar bear and a grizzly, was shot by Arctic hunters. Then in 2009, a possible hybrid of a right whale and a bowhead was photographed...</p>
Withering drought and sizzling temperatures from El Nino have caused food and water shortages and ravaged farming across Asia, and experts warn of a double-whammy of possible flooding from its sibling, La Nina.
<p>From heat wave in India to cherry blossoms in Japan, a look at the best of the weather pictures from the month of April.</p>
Last winter's East Coast blizzard has set another record, in New York City, while a record in Newark, New Jersey, was deleted, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday in a report prompted by questions about the accuracy of snowfall measurements.The review also found that widely reported suspicions about a 17.8-inch measurement at Reagan National Airport near Washington were unfounded. Although substantially lower than readings within the District of Columbia, the number was close to totals from nearby sites...
The excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has created a greener planet, a new NASA study shows. Around the world, areas that were once icebound,...
Climate change is exposing millions of workers to excessive heat, risking their health and income and threatening to erase more than $2.0 trillion in annual productivity by 2030, a UN report warned Thursday.More than one billion workers in countries hard-hit by global warming are already grappling with increasing severe heat, according to the report: "Climate Change and Labour: Impacts of Heat in the Workplace.""Already in the current situation, several percent of working hours can be lost in highly exposed regions," said the report, a collaboration between several UN agencies and international unions.The global productivity loss is expected to top $2.0 trillion annually by 2030, as sweltering temperatures force outdoor workers and manual labourers to slow down, take longer breaks or even move to find work in a cooler climate."When workers are put under these hot-house conditions, their capacity to work is dramatically impacted," Philip Jennings, head of UNI Global Union, told AFP.Working in temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) is considered health hazardous.Some labourers exposed to such conditions have no choice but to continue working, sometimes without access to drinking water or shade to cool off in. "Those who work in the fields may ruin their health just by trying to put a meal on the table," Saleemul Huq, head of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, warned in a statement.An estimated four billion people live in the areas most exposed to climate change.Those regions include much of southern Asia, the southern United States, Central America and the Caribbean, northern South America and north and west Africa.In West Africa, the number of very hot days each year has already doubled since the 1960s, with an increase of around 10 additional hot days each decade, the report said.And in Kolkata, India, each decade brings an additional 12 days where the mercury soars above 29 C, it said.India has already lost around three percent of available daylight working hours annually due to extreme heat, and without dramatic action to rein in global warming could be looking at eight percent respectively by 2085, the report showed.The report comes after 160 nations last week signed a historic agreement reached in Paris aimed at keeping a rise in global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius.But experts warn that capping the global temperature rise at that level will be difficult, with many expecting at least a 2 C rise. And if the world does not act to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, scientists say the world is heading for a 4 C warmer world.Thursday's report warned that even if global leaders manage to limit warming to 1.5 C, some of the hardest-hit areas will see an entire month of added extreme heat in 2030 compared to 2010.
<p>On the evening of April 17, the Solar Dynamics Observatory observed the solar dynamic above, and captured rather beautiful false-color 4K video of it. Solar flares are caused--in some way--by magnetic disturbances in the sun, and can interfere with electromagnetic transmissions here on Earth, like the one you're probably watching the video on right now.</p>
A massive newly discovered lake may lie below the surface of Antarctica’s ice sheet, according to researchers. 
One homeowners’ association has even ordered residents to green up their lawns.
Hail begins when so-called embryos of supercooled water form ice crystals. Imagine that an ice crystal is the ball in a game of meteorologic ping-pong played vertically.
<p>The percentage of conservative Republicans who consider global warming a threat shot up 19 points in two years, to 47 percent, according to public opinion researchers at Yale University and George Mason University. Overall, 56 percent of Republicans agree that it’s happening. Including Democrats and independents, the national average for the U.S. is 73 percent.</p>
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