Tree rings reveal nightmare droughts in Western U.S.
May 1, 2014
Brigham Young University
Scientists extended Utah’s climate record back to 1429 using tree rings. They found Utah’s climate has seen extreme droughts, including one that lasted 16 years. If history is repeated in the rapidly growing Western states, the water supply would run out based on current consumption.
Scientists extended Utah’s climate record back to 1429 using tree rings. They found Utah’s climate has seen extreme droughts, including one that lasted 16 years. Credit: Image courtesy of Brigham Young University
If you think the 1930s drought that caused The Dust Bowl was rough, new research looking at tree rings in the Rocky Mountains has news for you: Things can get much worse in the West.
In fact the worst drought of this century barely makes the top 10 of a study that extended Utah’s climate record back to the year 1429.
With sandpaper and microscopes, Brigham Young University professor Matthew Bekker analyzed rings from drought-sensitive tree species. He found several types of scenarios that could make life uncomfortable in what is now the nation’s third-fastest-growing state:
- Long droughts: The year 1703 kicked off 16 years in a row with below average stream flow.
- Intense droughts: The Weber River flowed at just 13 percent of normal in 1580 and dropped below 20 percent in three other periods.
- Consecutive worst-case scenarios: The most severe drought in the record began in 1492, and four of the five worst droughts all happened during Christopher Columbus’ lifetime.
“We’re conservatively estimating the severity of these droughts that hit before the modern record, and we still see some that are kind of scary if they were to happen again,” said Bekker, a geography professor at BYU. “We would really have to change the way we do things here.”
Modern climate and stream flow records only go back about 100 years in this part of the country, so scientists like Bekker turn to Mother Nature’s own record-keeping to see the bigger picture. For this study, the BYU geographer took sample cores from Douglas fir and pinyon pine trees. The thickness of annual growth rings for these species is especially sensitive to water supply.
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Earth Watch Report – Snow Storm
Snow Storm in Russia [Asia] on Saturday, 26 April, 2014 at 13:31 (01:31 PM) UTC.
|Electricity was cut off to more than 150 residential localities in the Chelyabinsk region hit by a heavy snowstorm on Friday. Electro-transmission lines were covered with snow and torn by strong winds. Electricity supply was resumed to most of the houses overnight, but 13 residential localities of 9,369 people had no electricity on Saturday morning, the Russian Emergencies Ministry’s Chelyabinsk regional department reported. Repairs were planned to be completed at 16:00 Moscow time. Mass cultural events and school classes were cancelled in Chelyabinsk on Saturday, and all services in the city remained on alert because of the severe weather. Emergency services organized work to clear roads of snow and help drivers. Hospitals were ready to receive affected people. The Emergencies Ministry reported that the bad weather with heavy snow and winds of 20-25 m/sec would remain in the region on Saturday.
Winter comes again suddenly for Russia’s Urals (PHOTOS)
Published time: April 26, 2014 13:24
Russia’s Urals region has been hit with freak winter weather, with severe snowstorms causing massive traffic jams, flight delays, power blackouts and school closures.
Just when everybody in the cities of Ekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk thought they had waved winter good-bye and was anticipating greener spring weather, blizzards dragging the region back to winter.
Having heard the forecast for snow, internet users were taking photos of the frail Urals spring that was proclaimed doomed by meteorologists.
Those would later be used in “before and after” collages with “goodbye summer” hashtags.
“We have snow falling the whole day without stopping,” an Instagram user wrote. “It’s sweeping severely, everything’s white. My daughter even wanted to go for a snow-tubing ride.”
Winter struck the region hard, with precipitation twice the monthly average coming as a shock to already burgeoning grass and trees.
Chelyabinsk made headlines across the world last year when a huge meteorite rocked the region. These late April blizzards have led to numerous online jokes over the region’s “misfortune.”
“Chelyabinsk’s somewhat harsh,” one Twitter user wrote. “They either have meteorite or snow at the end of spring.”
The sudden return of winter has led to chaos on the region’s highways.
Preglacial landscape found deep under Greenland ice
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 18, 2014
US geologists said Thursday they have uncovered a preglacial tundra landscape preserved for 2.7 million years far below the Greenland ice sheet.
Glaciers are known to scrape everything off any given plot of land — vegetation, soil and even the top layer of bedrock — so scientists expressed great surprise that they had found the landscape in pristine condition below two miles (three kilometers) of ice.
The finding provides strong evidence that the ice sheet has existed for much longer than previously known, and survived numerous global warming episodes, according to the lead researcher, University of Vermont geologist Paul Bierman.
Rather than scraping and sculpting the landscape, the ice sheet has been frozen to the ground, effectively creating “a refrigerator that’s preserved this antique landscape,” Bierman said.
The finding suggests that even during the warmest periods of the ice sheet’s life, the center of Greenland was stable and did not fully melt, allowing the tundra landscape to be sealed without modification through millions of years of changing temperatures.
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Massive canyon discovered buried under Greenland ice
- theguardian.com, Friday 30 August 2013 11.17 EDT
A vast gorge in the Earth on the same scale as the Grand Canyon lies buried under ice in Greenland, scientists have learned.
The massive hidden canyon is at least 466 miles (740km) long and up to 800 metres (2,600ft) deep in places.
The feature, resembling a meandering river channel, is believed to pre-date the ice sheet that has covered Greenland for millions of years.
3D visualisation of the canyon under Greenland’s ice sheet. Photograph: Professor Jonathan Bamber
Prof Jonathan Bamber, from the school of geographical studies at the University of Bristol, said: “With Google Streetview available for many cities around the world and digital maps for everything from population density to happiness, one might assume that the landscape of the Earth has been fully explored and mapped.
“Our research shows there’s still a lot left to discover.”
The canyon was uncovered by airborne radar which can penetrate ice and bounce off the land beneath.
Scientists pieced together radar measurements covering thousands of kilometres collected by Arctic researchers over several decades. They found evidence of a fissure in the bedrock stretching northwards almost from the centre of Greenland.
The canyon ends in a deep fjord connecting it to the Arctic ocean.
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