This month NOAA updated the official U.S climate normals. You know how in a weather forecast a meteorologist talks about normal temperatures or normal amounts of rain? The climate normals define what normal is: they take into account weather over the past 30 years, and are updated every 10 years. As you might expect, the normals do reveal the extent of climate change.
NOAA compares the new 1991-2020 normals period with the one that came before (1981-2010): “Most of the U.S. was warmer, and the eastern two-thirds of the contiguous U.S. was wetter, from 1991–2020 than the previous normals period, 1981–2010. The Southwest was considerably drier on an annual basis, while the central northern U.S. has cooled somewhat.” (Bear in mind that there’s a 20-year overlap between the two normals.)
The New York Times has created a series of animated maps showing how 30-year normals compare with 20th-century averages for temperature and precipitation. “The maps showing the new temperature normals every 10 years, compared with the 20th century average, get increasingly redder.”
The European Space Agency’s new Climate from Space website presents satellite data on a host of different climate indicators, from aerosols to CO2, from land cover to sea ice, via 3D virtual globes. From the announcement:
The new, easy-to-use site provides access to the same satellite observations used by scientists to understand climate change and support international organisations such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to drive action.
There is a suite of 21 climate data records to explore, which are generated by ESA’s Climate Change Initiative. The suite includes sea level, sea surface temperature, soil moisture, snow depth and the greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, as well as new visualisations for the latest climate variables records such as permafrost and lakes.
ProPublica maps the change in California’s fire seasons. “As California continues battling its worst wildfire season on record, new research shows that fall fire weather days—days with high temperatures, low humidity and high wind speeds—will double in parts of the state by the end of the century and will increase 40% by 2065. […] In the north, a summer fire season has been driven by high temperatures and low humidity. In Southern California, fall fire season is driven by east winds. With climate change, though, both the summer and fall fire seasons have grown longer, and are melting into each other, overlapping in time and space.” [Joshua Stevens]
John Nelson’s 100 Years of Wildfire is a static map showing a century of California wildfires, simplified into zones of 100 square miles. The map measures the cumulative burn area for each zone over that entire time: this can exceed 100 or even 200 percent if large fires are frequent enough, or the whole damn area burns down more than once.
The California Fire Observatory combines longer-term data about forest cover with up-to-date information about wildfire hotspots and wind speed. “We map the drivers of wildfire hazard across the state—including forest structure, weather, topography & infrastructure—from space. […] By providing these data for free we hope to support the development of data-driven land management strategies that increase wildfire resilience—for forests and communities—enabling people and nature to thrive.” [Maps Mania]
Climate change isn’t just one thing: rising temperatures, or sea level rise. It’s also changes to rainfall, increased risk of wildfires, more powerful hurricanes. The extent to which any of these are threats depends on where you live: North Dakota doesn’t have much to worry about rising sea levels, but it should think about drought. That’s what this interactive map from the New York Times attempts to measure: the climate risks to the United States on a county-by-county basis.
ProPublica has released a series of climate maps showing the impact of warming temperatures, rising seas and changes in rainfall on the United States. “Taken with other recent research showing that the most habitable climate in North America will shift northward and the incidence of large fires will increase across the country, this suggests that the climate crisis will profoundly interrupt the way we live and farm in the United States. See how the North American places where humans have lived for thousands of years will shift and what changes are in store for your county.”
NASA Earth Observatory: “The map above shows air temperatures across the United States on September 6, 2020, when much of the Southwest roasted in a dramatic heatwave. The map was derived from the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) model and represents temperatures at 2 meters (about 6.5 feet) above the ground. The darkest red areas are where the model shows temperatures surpassing 113°F (45°C).” Heat waves in southern California have become “more frequent, intense, and longer-lasting,” the article goes on to say.
NASA Earth Observatory has had several stories on the western U.S. wildfires, gathered here. This story summarizes the situation; satellite images of the smoke generated by the fires can be seen here, here and here.
Hurricane Laura information and resources, including maps of the observed and forecasted storm track, potential rainfall, storm surge and flooding, and other warning maps, can be found via NOAA’s Laura event page, the National Hurricane Center’s Hurricane Laura page, and the Esri Disaster Response Program’s Hurricane Hub. [GIS Lounge]
Last year saw an uptick in fire activity in the Amazon basin. This year a new tool has been released that aims to help classify the fires being observed. The Amazon Dashboard classifies each fire as a deforestation fire, a savanna fire, a small clearing and agricultural fire, or an understory forest fire, and tracks whether the fire is in a protected or indigenous territory. NASA Earth Observatory:
The fire analysis tool is already bringing new clarity and insight to the 2020 fire season. In July, Brazil announced a 120-day ban on fires in the Amazon rainforest; it was presented as an effort to limit ecological damage from fires this year. However, the NASA-led fire analysis indicates that there has been a proliferation of fires in key deforestation hotspots in the southern Amazon states of Pará, Mato Grosso, and Amazonas.
The map above shows conditions in the continental U.S. as of August 11, 2020, as reported by the U.S. Drought Monitor program, a partnership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. The map depicts drought intensity in progressive shades of orange to red and is based on measurements of climate, soil, and water conditions from more than 350 federal, state, and local observers around the country. NASA provides experimental measurements and models to this drought monitoring effort.
According to the Drought Monitor, more than 93 percent of the land area in Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico is in some level of drought; 69 percent of Utah is in severe drought, as is 61 percent of Colorado. More than three-fourths of Oregon, Arizona, and Wyoming are also in drought. The effects of “severe” drought include stunted and browning crops, limited pasture yields, dust storms, reduced well water levels, and an increase in the number and severity of wildfires. Most of those areas had no sign of drought in the mid-summer of 2019.
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