Jim Spencer

Epic drought in West is literally moving mountains

August 26th, 2014 at 1:14 pm by under Weather

(Climate Central)

Climate change is driving the Greenland Ice Sheet to melt, which is contributing to sea level rise. But imagine that the same amount of water melting from Greenland each year is being lost in California and the rest of the West because of the epic drought there.

What happens? The land in the West begins to rise.

In fact, some parts of California’s mountains have been uplifted as much as 15 millimeters (about 0.6 inches) in the past 18 months because the massive amount of water lost in the drought is no longer weighing down the land, causing it to rise a bit like an uncoiled spring, a new study shows.


Death Valley, Calif.
Credit: QQ Li/flickr

For the first time, scientists are now able to measure how much surface and groundwater is lost during droughts by measuring how much the land rises as it dries. Those are the conclusions of the new study published Aug. 21 in the journal Science by researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the the University of California-San Diego.

The drought that is devastating California and much of the West has dried the region so much that 240 gigatons worth of surface and groundwater have been lost, roughly the equivalent to a 3.9-inch layer of water over the entire West, or the annual loss of mass from the Greenland Ice Sheet, according to the study.

While some of California’s mountains have risen by about 0.6 inches since early 2013, the West overall has risen by an average of about 0.157 inches.

“Groundwater is a load on the Earth’s crust,” said Klaus Jacob, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., who is unaffiliated with the study. “A load compresses the crust elastically, hence it subsides. When you take that load away (by the drought) the crust decompresses and the surface rises. From the amount of rising, one can estimate the amount of the water deficit.”

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The drought-related uplifting was discovered when researchers were analyzing data from GPS stations within the National Science Foundation’s Plate Boundary Observatory. One researcher noticed that all of the GPS stations moved upward since 2003, coinciding with the timing of the current drought.

But most of the movement occurred since last year as the West’s drought has become more and more extreme, said Duncan Agnew, a professor at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC-San Diego, and a study co-author.

“The implications of this have yet to play out,” Agnew said. “What we’ve shown is that there is a measurement technique we can use to get a total water loss — water loss in places where we have no direct measurements.”

Low levels on Lake Mead, a major source of water in California.
Credit: Raquel Baranow/flickr

He said such uplifting likely occurs in every drought, but it has never been observed before because scientists did not have the tools to detect the uplifting until now.

“That’s why this study is interesting,” Agnew said. “We can use this set of tools, which were installed for a different purpose in order to monitor water changes.”

He said the uplifting likely has no significant effect on earthquake potential in California and elsewhere even though loss of ground and surface water has added stress to major faults in the region.

“The total amount of stress that’s been added in the last 18 months from drought is the same amount of stress that’s added every week because of plate techtonics,” he said.

Jacob said the study shows that the changes in the elevation of the landscape and the stress on faults are so small the effect will be extremely minor.

But, Jacob said, the significance of the study is that it shows a new way for scientists to estimate total water loss during times of drought, which would be more difficult to estimate without being able to detect how much the land is being uplifted in dry years.


Drought forecast to improve or end by December

August 21st, 2014 at 4:11 pm by under Weather

There is good news today from the Climate Prediction Center about the future of our drought. The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook for the period August 21 through November 30 indicates and end to drought conditions for much of Central Texas, with drought improvement elsewhere.

This can be attributed to several factors (discussion below), including the expectation of a developing El Niño pattern in the Pacific Ocean, which often increases rainfall across Texas in the fall and winter.

8-21 Seasonal drought outlook

Discussion for the Seasonal Drought Outlook

Tools used in the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook (SDO) included the official Climate Prediction Center (CPC) temperature and precipitation outlooks for September 2014 and September-November 2014, various short- and medium-range forecasts and models such as the forecast 5-day and 7-day precipitation totals from the Weather Prediction Center (WPC), the 6-10 day and 8-14 day CPC forecasts, the NAEFS precipitation outlooks, the soil moisture tools based on the Constructed Analog on Soil Moisture (CAS), dynamical models (CFSv2, NMME, IRI, and IMME), the 384-hour total precipitation forecasts from several runs of the GFS, the four-month Palmer drought termination and amelioration probabilities, climatology, and initial conditions. An El Niño Watch is currently in effect, with the August 18 ENSO update indicating about a 65% chance of El Niño during the fall and early winter.

(more…)


Drought worsens in Austin metro area

August 21st, 2014 at 3:59 pm by under Weather

Early week rain kept drought conditions relatively unchanged in the Hill Country region of Texas, but most of the Austin metro area transitioned from “abnormally dry” to the “moderate drought” category.

8-21 drought worsens

 


Local Drought Information Statement

August 21st, 2014 at 3:56 pm by under Weather
DROUGHT INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AUSTIN/SAN ANTONIO TX
145 PM CDT THU AUG 21 2014

...SLIGHT IMPROVEMENTS IN DROUGHT CONDITIONS WERE SEEN THIS PAST
WEEK...BUT GENERALLY NO CHANGES WERE NOTED IN MOST LOCATIONS...

SYNOPSIS...

AUGUST RAINFALL HAS BEEN SPORADIC WITH SOME LOCATIONS RECEIVING
A COUPLE OF INCHES AND OTHERS SEEING LITTLE OR NONE. THIS IS
USUALLY THE CASE WITH CONVECTIVE RAINFALL. MOST RIVERS...CREEKS
AND STREAMS CONTINUED TO SHOW DECREASING FLOWS ESPECIALLY IN
LOCATIONS THAT HAVE MISSED THE RECENT RAINFALL. THE WESTERN HALF
OF SOUTH CENTRAL TEXAS WAS REPORTING NEAR AVERAGE STREAM FLOWS FOR
MID AUGUST WHILE THE EASTERN HALF REPORTED BELOW TO MUCH BELOW
AVERAGE FLOWS. LAKES AND RESERVOIRS HAVE CONTINUED TO SHOW
DECLINES IN LEVELS WHERE RAINFALL HAS BEEN LIGHT OR ABSENT. MOST
LOCATIONS CONTINUE TO SHOW RAINFALL DEFICITS FOR THE YEAR TO DATE.
THE NEXT SEVERAL DAYS WILL SEE TEMPERATURES ABOVE LATE AUGUST
AVERAGES AND THERE WILL BE LITTLE OR NO RAINFALL. SHORT TERM
DROUGHT IMPACTS ARE RETURNING IN MANY LOCATIONS DUE TO THE LACK OF
RAINFALL OVER THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS. CURRENTLY THE MAIN SHORT
TERM IMPACTS ARE WATER RESTRICTIONS IN MANY LOCATIONS. LONG TERM
DROUGHT IMPACTS CONTINUE SINCE WE HAVE BEEN IN A MULTIPLE YEAR
DROUGHT. RIVERS...LAKES...RESERVOIRS AND AQUIFERS ARE VERY LOW AND
WILL REMAIN THAT WAY UNLESS WE CONTINUE TO SEE FREQUENT RAINFALL
EVENTS. THERE ARE A FEW LAKES THAT ARE NEAR OR SLIGHTLY ABOVE
CONSERVATION POOL IN AREAS THAT HAVE SEEN MORE FREQUENT SHOWERS
AND THUNDERSTORMS OVER THE PAST MONTH.

 (more...)

New satellite data will help farmers facing drought

August 21st, 2014 at 1:31 pm by under Weather

For several months, California has been in a state of

For several months, California has been in a state of “exceptional drought.” The state’s usually verdant Central Valley produces one-sixth of the U.S.’s crops. Image Credit: White House via Wikimedia Commons.
› Larger image

About 60 percent of California is experiencing “exceptional drought,” the U.S. Drought Monitor’s most dire classification. The agency issued the same warning to Texas and the southeastern United States in 2012. California’s last two winters have been among the driest since records began in 1879. Without enough water in the soil, seeds can’t sprout roots, leaves can’t perform photosynthesis, and agriculture can’t be sustained.

Currently, there is no ground- or satellite-based global network monitoring soil moisture at a local level. Farmers, scientists and resource managers can place sensors in the ground, but these only provide spot measurements and are rare across some critical agricultural areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The European Space Agency’s Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity mission measures soil moisture at a resolution of 31 miles (50 kilometers), but because soil moisture can vary on a much smaller scale, its data are most useful in broad forecasts.

Enter NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite. The mission, scheduled to launch this winter, will collect the kind of local data agricultural and water managers worldwide need.

SMAP uses two microwave instruments to monitor the top 2 inches (5 centimeters) of soil on Earth’s surface. Together, the instruments create soil moisture estimates with a resolution of about 6 miles (9 kilometers), mapping the entire globe every two or three days. Although this resolution cannot show how soil moisture might vary within a single field, it will give the most detailed maps yet made.

“Agricultural drought occurs when the demand for water for crop production exceeds available water supplies from precipitation, surface water and sustainable withdrawals from groundwater,” said Forrest Melton, a research scientist in the Ecological Forecasting Lab at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

(more…)


Tuesday night’s aurora from space and Earth

August 20th, 2014 at 2:48 pm by under Weather

From EarthSky.org:

One of the first auroras of the 2014 autumn season appeared last night at northerly latitudes. Astronaut Reid Wiseman caught it from space. Photographer Göran Strand caught it from Sweden.

aurora-space-Wiseman-tweet-1

aurora-space-wiseman-tweet-2

Astronaut Reid Wiseman captured these images from the window of the International Space Station last night (August 19, 2014). SpaceWeather.com says:

A moderate (G2-class) geomagnetic storm that erupted following a CME strike on August 19th is subsiding now. At its peak, the storm sparked auroras around both poles visible from the ground and from space.

Follow astronaut Reid Wiseman on Twitter – he’s our eyes from above!

More awesomeness from the International Space Station

EarthSky Facebook friend Fotograf Göran Strand caught last night's aurora from Sweden.  View larger and read more about this photo from Göran Strand

EarthSky Facebook friend Fotograf Göran Strand caught last night’s aurora from Sweden. View larger and read more about this photo from Göran Strand

Bottom line: One of the first auroras of the 2014 autumn season appeared last night (August 19) at northerly latitudes. Astronaut Reid Wiseman caught it from space. Photographer Göran Strand caught it from Sweden.


Help rename Onion Creek Greenbelt

August 19th, 2014 at 1:34 pm by under Weather

Process Begins to Rename Onion Creek Greenbelt

Deadline for submissions is Monday, November 3, 2014.

The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department has begun the renaming process for Onion Creek Greenbelt. This announcement begins a 90-day public comment period. The facilities/property naming ordinance allows facilities and property to be named after an individual(s) (living or dead) or something other than an individual, such as a place or natural feature.  A suggestion for naming a facility/property must include:

  • If an individual – A biographical sketch; a description of the individual’s involvement in the community; and the individual’s connection, if any, to the Austin park system.
  • If other than an individual, include justification for the suggested name.

Deadline for submissions is Monday, November 3, 2014.  After the deadline, the Parks and Recreation Board will call a public hearing on the suggested name(s) and a make recommendation to City Council for final approval.

Nomination forms are available at the Parks and Recreation Department’s Main Office, 200 S. Lamar Blvd.; or online at www.austintexas.gov/department/parks-and-recreation.

Submit nomination forms via mail to Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Attn: April Thedford; 919 W. 28 ½ St.; Austin, Texas 78705 or via email: april.thedford@austintexas.gov.


Aquifer district returns to Stage II Alarm Drought

August 18th, 2014 at 1:34 pm by under Weather

The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District’s Board of Directors declared Stage II Alarm Drought at the August 14th Board Meeting, effective immediately. Lovelady monitor well, one of the District’s two drought-trigger sites, crossed below its Stage II Alarm Drought water level of 478.4 feet above mean sea level in mid-July. 10-day average discharge at Barton Springs, the District’s other drought trigger site, is at its Drought threshold of 38 cubic feet per second. Only one of the two drought stage triggers needs to be reached for a drought declaration to be made.

Mandatory drought restrictions had been lifted at the June 26th meeting when both the Lovelady Monitor Well water level and Barton Springs 10-day average discharge were above their drought thresholds and forecasts were predicting above average rainfall. However, the subsequent rains mostly missed the contributing and recharge zones, so no significant recharge occurred. Water levels and spring flow are steadily declining.

Declaration of Stage II Alarm Drought requires all of the District’s permittees to implement mandatory measures specified in their User Drought Contingency Plans to meet monthly pumpage reduction requirements. All permittees must achieve at least a 20% reduction in monthly pumpage. Permittees with conditional permits have to reduce use even further. End-user customers served by water utilities on groundwater wells are required to comply with their utility’s water use restrictions for this drought stage. Generally, restricting outdoor water use, including limiting landscape irrigation, pool filling & refilling, and non-essential water use such as water fountains, is sufficient to reach monthly pumpage targets for Stage II Alarm Drought. September will be the first full month of declared drought, and therefore, the first monthly compliance assessments for drought curtailments.

BSEACD is a groundwater conservation district charged by the Texas Legislature to preserve, conserve, and protect the aquifers and groundwater resources within its jurisdiction, which includes parts of three Central Texas counties. It is governed by a Board of five elected directors and staffed with hydrogeologists, groundwater regulatory compliance specialists, environmental educators, geospatial systems specialists, and administrative support personnel.

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Fan donations needed this weekend

August 15th, 2014 at 4:41 pm by under Weather

We received the following note from our friends at Family Eldercare today. We are hoping you can help!  If you can’t drop off a fan tomorrow, an online donation would be great! Click here to do that, and remember, a new box fan only costs about $15–feel free to donate in multiples of 15!  Thanks!

Jim,

We have delivered 4,719 fans to 2,711 households to date! Based on numbers from previous years, we anticipate that we will need to distribute another 1,000-1,300 fans before the heat becomes bearable again. Over the past 2 weeks we are averaging 10-15 new individuals/families reaching out to us in need of fans each day, meaning we are distributing, on average, 300 fans a week!!

 We are down to our last 100 fans and have reached out to several groups. The Kappa Psi Alpha Fraternity – Austin Alumni Chapter is hosting a collection at our main location (1700 Rutherford Lane) tomorrow, August 16 from 10am-1pm. Their goal is to collect 500 fans for us. Would it be possible for you to announce this on air?

 Thanks for your help!

 Becca

Director of Development

Family Eldercare

1700 Rutherford Ln. | Austin, TX 78754

512.483.3569 Office | 512.459.6436 Fax | www.familyeldercare.org

Sign up for our Email Newsletter

Do you know someone who needs In-Home Care or Caregiver Support? Visit our website www.familyeldercare.org or call 24/7 at 512.467.6168.

The information contained in this electronic mail transmission including any attachment(s) is confidential. This information is intended for the exclusive use of the addressee(s). If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any review, use, disclosure, distribution, copying of this information or taking of any action because of this information is strictly prohibited.

 

 


Kaxan reminds you to protect your pet from summer heat

August 14th, 2014 at 3:30 pm by under Weather

Hey everyone, this is Kaxan, KXAN-TV’s mascot, and I have taken over the weather blog today. I just want everyone to know that there is a lot of summer left, and it looks like our hottest days are ahead, so remember, never leave children or pets unattended in vehicles! Oh yeah, and make sure if you leave us outside for very long that we have plenty of shade and fresh water. We dogs don’t like this August heat any more than you do!

I found this great video online from Discovery News he wants to share with everyone. It is about keeping your pets cool in the summer. Click here to check it out!

car heat

Please read this important information from the Humane Society of the United States:

The summer months can be uncomfortable—even dangerous—for pets and people. It’s difficult enough simply to cope with rising temperatures, let alone thick humidity, but things really get tough in areas that are hit with the double blow of intense heat and storm-caused power outages, sometimes with tragic results.

We can help you keep your pets safe and cool this summer. Follow our tips for helping everyone in your family stay healthy and comfortable when the heat is on (and even if the power isn’t).

Practice basic summer safety

Never leave your pets in a parked car

Not even for a minute. Not even with the car running and air conditioner on. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die. Learn how to help a pet left inside a hot car »

Print our hot car flyer [PDF] and spread the life-saving word »

Watch the humidity

“It’s important to remember that it’s not just the ambient temperature but also the humidity that can affect your pet,” says Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. “Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves, and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels—very quickly.”

Taking a dog’s temperature will quickly tell you if there is a serious problem. Dogs’ temperatures should not be allowed to get over 104 degrees. If your dog’s temperature does, follow the instructions for treating heat stroke.

Limit exercise on hot days

Take care when exercising your pet. Adjust intensity and duration of exercise in accordance with the temperature. On very hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours, and be especially careful with pets with white-colored ears, who are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets, who typically have difficulty breathing. Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet’s paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible. Always carry water with you to keep your dog from dehydrating.

Don’t rely on a fan

Pets respond differently to heat than humans do. (Dogs, for instance, sweat primarily through their feet.) And fans don’t cool off pets as effectively as they do people.

Provide ample shade and water

Any time your pet is outside, make sure he or she has protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water. In heat waves, add ice to water when possible. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don’t obstruct air flow. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat—in fact, it makes it worse.

Cool your pet inside and out

Whip up a batch of quick and easy DIY peanut butter popsicles for dogs. (You can use peanut butter or another favorite food.) And always provide water, whether your pets are inside or out with you.

Keep your pet from overheating indoors or out with a cooling body wrap, vest, or mat (such as the Keep Cool Mat). Soak these products in cool water, and they’ll stay cool (but usually dry) for up to three days. If your dog doesn’t find baths stressful, see if she enjoys a cooling soak.

Watch for signs of heatstroke

Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke. Some signs of heatstroke are heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure, and unconsciousness.

Animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise, or have heart or respiratory disease. Some breeds of dogs—like boxers, pugs, shih tzus, and other dogs and cats with short muzzles—will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.

How to treat a pet suffering from heatstroke

Move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to her head, neck, and chest or run cool (not cold) water over her. Let her drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take her directly to a veterinarian.

Prepare for power outages

Before a summer storm takes out the power in your home, create a disaster plan to keep your pets safe from heat stroke and other temperature-related trouble.