Severe drought continues as summer heat returns
|View the July 2014
Rain sent more water into the Highland Lakes last month than in the previous three Junes combined, but was still far short of what’s needed to break the severe drought across the lower Colorado River basin.
June inflows (the amount of water flowing into the Highland Lakes from rivers and streams) were almost 24,000 acre-feet. That is only about 15 percent of the historical June average.
A June 12 rain increased the combined storage of lakes Travis and Buchanan by about 14,000 acre-feet. That storm came on the heels of widespread Memorial Day weekend rain that raised levels in Lake Travis by about 4.5 feet and in Lake Buchanan by about 3.3 feet, and added about 80,000 acre-feet to the combined storage of the two lakes.
Inflows in June were the highest for any June since 2010, which had 33,517 acre-feet, and were the second-highest June totals since 719,000 acre-feet of inflows in 2007, when the Marble Falls “rain bomb” dumped 19 inches of rain in one night. The runoff from that storm continued into July and totaled about 1 million acre-feet.
The heavy rains and resulting inflows since May were welcome; however, lakes Travis and Buchanan on July 2 were still only at 39 percent of capacity as the region heads into what is forecast to be a hot and dry rest of the summer. Recent inflows, though modest, have delayed the projected earliest possible declaration of a Drought Worse Than the Drought of Record (DWDR) until early fall.
NASA has launched its first spacecraft devoted to monitoring atmospheric carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping gas thought to be responsible for much of Earth’s recent warming trend.
The space agency’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite (OCO-2) blasted off today (July 2) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 5:56 a.m. EDT (0956 GMT, 2:56 a.m. local time), carried aloft by a United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket. The liftoff was originally scheduled for Tuesday (July 1), but a problem with the launch pad’s water system caused a one-day delay.
The satellite will measure carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere 24 times every second, revealing in great detail where the gas is being produced and where it is being pulled out of the air — CO2 sources and sinks, in scientists’ parlance. [NASA's OCO-2 Mission in Pictures (Gallery)]
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA TV
“With the launch of this spacecraft, decision-makers and scientists will get a much better idea of the role of carbon dioxide in climate change, as OCO-2 measures this greenhouse gas globally and provides incredibly new insights into where and how carbon dioxide is moving into, and then out of, the atmosphere,” Betsy Edwards, OCO-2 program executive at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., told reporters during a pre-launch press briefing Sunday (June 30).
NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, awaits launch at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California. Image credit: NASA / Randy Beaudoin / Vandenberg Air Force Base
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July 01, 2014
The launch of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket is scheduled for Wednesday, July 2 at 2:56 a.m. PDT (5:56 a.m. EDT) from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The launch team has completed troubleshooting of the launch pad water suppression system that resulted in the scrub of the launch attempt Tuesday. A valve that is part of the pulse suppression water system, which had operated properly during tests shortly before the launch countdown, failed to function properly during the final minutes of the launch attempt. The failed valve has been replaced with a spare, and the system is being tested in preparation for Wednesday’s launch attempt.
BULLETIN TROPICAL DEPRESSION ONE ADVISORY NUMBER 1 NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL012014 1100 PM EDT MON JUN 30 2014 ...TROPICAL DEPRESSIONS FORMS EAST OF FLORIDA... ...TROPICAL STORM WATCH ISSUED FOR THE COAST OF EAST-CENTRAL FLORIDA... SUMMARY OF 1100 PM EDT...0300 UTC...INFORMATION ----------------------------------------------- LOCATION...27.6N 79.1W ABOUT 105 MI...170 KM ESE OF CAPE CANAVERAL FLORIDA ABOUT 210 MI...335 KM NNW OF THE NORTHWESTERN BAHAMAS MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...35 MPH...55 KM/H PRESENT MOVEMENT...SW OR 225 DEGREES AT 2 MPH...4 KM/H MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...1009 MB...29.80 INCHES WATCHES AND WARNINGS -------------------- CHANGES WITH THIS ADVISORY... A TROPICAL STORM WATCH HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR THE EAST COAST OF FLORIDA FROM FORT PIERCE NORTHWARD TO JUST SOUTH OF FLAGLER BEACH. SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT... A TROPICAL STORM WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR... * EAST COAST OF FLORIDA FROM FORT PIERCE TO FLAGLER BEACH A TROPICAL STORM WATCH MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...IN THIS CASE WITHIN 24 TO 36 HOURS. INTERESTS ELSEWHERE ALONG THE SOUTHEAST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES SHOULD MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF THIS SYSTEM. FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA...INCLUDING POSSIBLE INLAND WATCHES AND WARNINGS...PLEASE MONITOR PRODUCTS ISSUED BY YOUR LOCAL NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORECAST OFFICE. DISCUSSION AND 48-HOUR OUTLOOK ------------------------------ AT 1100 PM EDT...0300 UTC...THE CENTER OF TROPICAL DEPRESSION ONE WAS LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 27.6 NORTH...LONGITUDE 79.1 WEST. THE DEPRESSION IS MOVING TOWARD THE SOUTHWEST NEAR 2 MPH...4 KM/H. A SLOW WEST TO WEST-NORTHWEST MOTION IS FORECAST TO BEGIN BY TUESDAY MORNING. A TURN TOWARD THE NORTHWEST THEN NORTH IS FORECAST BY WEDNESDAY. ON THE FORECAST TRACK...THE CENTER OF THE DEPRESSION IS EXPECTED TO REMAIN OFFSHORE AND MOVE EAST OF THE EAST-CENTRAL COAST OF FLORIDA DURING THE NEXT DAY OR SO. THE SYSTEM IS FORECAST TO PASS EAST OF NORTHEASTERN FLORIDA ON WEDNESDAY AND WEDNESDAY NIGHT. MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 35 MPH...55 KM/H...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. GRADUAL STRENGTHENING IS EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS...AND THE DEPRESSION IS FORECAST TO BECOME A TROPICAL STORM ON TUESDAY. THE ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE IS 1009 MB...29.80 INCHES. HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND ---------------------- WIND...TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA BY LATE TUESDAY. RAINFALL...THE DEPRESSION IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE TOTAL RAINFALL ACCUMULATIONS OF 1 TO 3 INCHES...MAINLY ACROSS EAST-CENTRAL FLORIDA AND NORTHEASTERN PORTIONS OF THE FLORIDA PENINSULA WITH POSSIBLE ISOLATED MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 5 INCHES THROUGH WEDNESDAY. RAINFALL AMOUNTS OF 2 TO 4 INCHES WITH ISOLATED MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 6 INCHES IS POSSIBLE OVER PORTIONS OF THE NORTHERN BAHAMAS THROUGH WEDNESDAY. NEXT ADVISORY ------------- NEXT INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY...200 AM EDT. NEXT COMPLETE ADVISORY...500 AM EDT. $$ FORECASTER BROWN
NOAA, partners predict an average ‘dead zone’ for Gulf of Mexico; slightly above-average hypoxia in Chesapeake Bay
Scientists are expecting an average, but still large, hypoxic or “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico this year, and slightly above-average hypoxia in the Chesapeake Bay .
NOAA-supported modeling is forecasting this year’s Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone to cover an area ranging from about 4,633 to 5,708 square miles (12,000 to 14,785 square kilometers) or about the size of the state of Connecticut.
While close to averages since the late 1990s, these hypoxic zones are many times larger than what research has shown them to be prior to the significant human influences that greatly expanded their sizes and effects.
Hypoxic zones are areas in the ocean of such low oxygen concentration that animal life suffocates and dies, and as a result are sometimes called “dead zones.” One of the largest dead zones forms in the Gulf of Mexico every spring. Each spring as farmers fertilize their lands preparing for crop season, rain washes fertilizer off the land and into streams and rivers.
The Gulf of Mexico prediction is based on models developed by NOAA-sponsored modeling teams and individual researchers at the University of Michigan, Louisiana State University, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences/College of William and Mary, Texas A&M University, and the U.S. Geological Survey, and relies on nutrient loading estimates from the USGS. The models also account for the influence of variable weather and oceanographic conditions, and predict that these can affect the dead zone area by as much as 38 percent.
NASA to Launch Carbon Observatory
June 24, 2014: In the lexicon of climate change, one word appears more often than any other: “carbon.” Carbon credits, carbon emissions, carbon sequestration…. These terms are on everyone’s lips.
The reason is carbon dioxide (CO2).
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, CO2 is the most important driver of global warming. At approximately 400 parts per million, atmospheric carbon dioxide is now at its highest level in at least the past 800,000 years. The burning of fossil fuels and other human activities are currently adding nearly 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year, producing an unprecedented buildup.
NASA is about to launch a spacecraft to keep track of this greenhouse gas. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 is in final preparations for a July 1st launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Also known as “OCO-2″, the polar orbiting satellite will provide a global picture of human and natural sources of carbon dioxide. Data from OCO-2 will also be used to quantify carbon dioxide “sinks”—that is, places in the ocean and land which naturally pull carbon dioxide out of Earth’s atmosphere for storage.
“Knowing what parts of Earth are helping remove carbon from our atmosphere will help us understand whether they can keep doing so in the future,” says Michael Gunson, OCO-2 project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Although the mission is named OCO two, it is actually NASA’s first spacecraft dedicated to measuring atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. The original OCO spacecraft, launched from Vandenberg more than five years ago, never reached orbit because of a separation anomaly in the launch vehicle. OCO-2 is NASA’s second attempt.
It’s coming just in time. Greenhouse gases like CO2 trap the sun’s heat within Earth’s atmosphere. By maintaining habitable temperatures, the greenhouse effect is essential to life on Earth. However, increasing CO2 levels may have given our planet too much of a good thing.
Most scientists agree that increased carbon dioxide from human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning and deforestation, has thrown Earth’s natural carbon cycle off balance. Global surface temperatures are increasing and changing our planet’s climate.
Currently, less than half the carbon dioxide emitted into Earth’s atmosphere by human activities stays there. Some of the extra CO2 is absorbed by Earth’s oceans. Natural land sinks take up the rest, but the amounts of CO2 taken up at various locations on the Earth’s surface are not well understood. OCO-2 scientists hope to coax these sinks out of hiding.
“Quantifying these sinks now will help us predict how fast CO2 will build up in the future,” adds Gunson. “Data from this mission will improve the accuracy of global climate change predictions.”
OCO-2 detects carbon dioxide using three onboard spectrometers. These devices work by spreading sunlight into its constituent colors. CO2 reveals itself by absorbing certain colors as sunlight crosses through the atmosphere. In this way the new spacecraft will dramatically increase the number of observations of carbon dioxide, collecting hundreds of thousands of measurements each day when the satellite flies over Earth’s sunlit hemisphere.
OCO-2 measurements will be combined with data from ground stations, aircraft and other satellites to help answer key questions about carbon dioxide and climate change.
The director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, Michael Freilich, sums it up: “With the OCO-2 mission, NASA will be making an important new contribution to the scientific challenge of better understanding our Earth and its future.”
In addition to going head-to-head against the best soccer players in the world, teams in the 2014 World Cup are also having to battle the elements.
The Scientific American takes a look at Brazil’s varied climates, and how they’re impacting players.
Brazil vs. England in a “friendly” in Rio de Janeiro. (Credit: Digo_Souza via Flickr)
When I read that the soccer balls used for World Cup games have been specially designed for the climate in Brazil, that got me wondering – which climate? Brazil has many different climates. And are the players ready for a wide range of climates too?
Technically it’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere, but that doesn’t stop the heat or humidity in a place like Manaus, Brazil, at the heart of the Amazon rainforest. During Saturday’s match between England and Italy it was a sweltering 90 degrees Fahrenheit. With over 80 percent humidity, the difference between air and water was slight.
But during Sunday’s match between France and Honduras, 2,000 miles away in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the temperature on the field only got up to 73 degrees. Humidity was much lower too – still high compared to many places, but much less humid than Manaus. In the evening, temperatures were chilly enough for a sweater.
Brazil is huge, spanning about 40 degrees of latitude, and includes ten different climates. Brazilians have peppered 12 soccer stadiums for the World Cup throughout many of these climates, providing the opportunity for players to move from hot and moist stadiums like the one in Manaus to cooler and drier stadiums like the one in Porto Alegre or even a hot and dry stadium like the one in Natal.
If you are watching World Cup games and predicting which teams will win matches, might I suggest that you take into account the climate where matches are played. You can do this with a map of regional climates like the one below. The map is no soothsaying octopus, but it can provide a good first guess at what types of weather soccer players will encounter around the country. Plus, you will be the envy of all other soccer fans if you watch each game with a colorful map in hand.
On Thursday, June 26th, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District Board of Directors voted to lift the drought declaration and enter into the Water Conservation Period (10% voluntary conservation). Recent rains have saturated soils and allowed for enough runoff to fill creeks and raise water levels in the aquifer. One of the area’s two groundwater drought indicators, the water level in the Lovelady Monitor Well, has been rising slowly since the May rain events. On Wednesday, June 18, the water level in the Lovelady Well crossed above the District’s drought threshold. The other drought indicator, sustained flow rate at Barton Springs, moved above its threshold after the precipitation events in mid-May and has remained there. Both indicators need to be above their designated thresholds – and currently are – to emerge from drought.
The District declared a groundwater drought on April 24, 2014, just two months ago. While the aquifer has received some recharge and has passed into Water Conservation Period status, it is still below average water storage capacity. During the Water Conservation Period, from May through September, groundwater users are encouraged to maintain conservation practices, but mandatory water use restrictions are lifted.
Brian Smith, Aquifer Science Team Leader, stated that, “While the drought triggers are both above their thresholds now, July and August are typically very hot and dry, so we could see spring discharge and water levels start to decline again. Without more significant rainfall, it could be a month before one or both drought triggers are back below their thresholds and our Board could declare drought again.”
Groundwater users are encouraged to continue to conserve. Conserving water can prolong the time spent out of groundwater drought and protect water levels and springflow at Barton Springs.
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.
(Climate Central) Texas, the nation’s largest wind power producer, hit a major milestone in March when it produced more wind power in a given moment than ever before, according to a new Energy Information Administration report.
It may have set a national record for a state’s wind power production, too.
Texas’ wind farms are concentrated mostly along the Gulf Coast in the Panhandle region, and in far West Texas.
The Lone Star State hit “peak wind” at 8:48 p.m. on March 26, when the state’s wind farms produced 10,296 megawatts of electricity. At that moment, wind turbines provided enough electricity to supply power for 29 percent of the total electricity load of the state’s main power grid.