Fire Earth

Earth is fighting to stay alive. Mass dieoffs, triggered by anthropogenic assault and fallout of planetary defense systems offsetting the impact, could begin anytime!

Archive for December 15th, 2009

California Dry

Posted by feww on December 15, 2009

GRACE Reveals Major Groundwater Loss in California’s Heartland

New space observations reveal that since October 2003, the aquifers for California’s primary agricultural region — the Central Valley — and its major mountain water source — the Sierra Nevadas — have lost nearly enough water combined to fill Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir. The findings, based on data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace), reflect California’s extended drought and increased rates of groundwater being pumped for human uses, such as irrigation.

The combined Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins cover an area of approximately 154,000 square kilometers. They include California’s major mountain water source, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountain range; and the Central Valley, the state’s primary agricultural region. Credit: UNIVERSITY of CALIFORNIA CENTER for HYDROLOGIC MODELING. Click image to enlarge.

In research being presented this week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, scientists from NASA and the University of California, Irvine, detailed California’s groundwater changes and outlined Grace-based research on other global aquifers. The twin Grace satellites monitor tiny month-to-month changes in Earth’s gravity field primarily caused by the movement of water in Earth’s land, ocean, ice and atmosphere reservoirs. Grace’s ability to directly ‘weigh’ changes in water content provides new insights into how Earth’s water cycle may be changing.

Combined, California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin drainage basins have shed more than 30 cubic kilometers of water since late 2003, said professor Jay Famiglietti of the University of California, Irvine. A cubic kilometer is about 264.2 billion gallons, enough to fill 400,000 Olympic-size pools. The bulk of the loss occurred in California’s agricultural Central Valley. The Central Valley receives its irrigation from a combination of groundwater pumped from wells and surface water diverted from elsewhere.

“Grace data reveal groundwater in these basins is being pumped for irrigation at rates that are not sustainable if current trends continue,” Famiglietti said. “This is leading to declining water tables, water shortages, decreasing crop sizes and continued land subsidence. The findings have major implications for the U.S. economy, as California’s Central Valley is home to one sixth of all U.S. irrigated land, and the state leads the nation in agricultural production and exports.”

“By providing data on large-scale groundwater depletion rates, Grace can help California water managers make informed decisions about allocating water resources,” said Grace Project Scientist Michael Watkins of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., which manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Trends in surface mass variations as observed by the GRACE mission over the period 2003 to 2009. The bluer tones indicate areas of mass loss, while warmer red tones indicate mass gains. Units are centimeters of equivalent surface water.

Preliminary studies show most of the water loss is coming from the more southerly located San Joaquin basin, which gets less precipitation than the Sacramento River basin farther north. Initial results suggest the Sacramento River basin is losing about 2 cubic kilometers of water a year. Surface water losses account for half of this, while groundwater losses in the northern Central Valley add another 0.6 cubic kilometers annually. The San Joaquin Basin is losing 3.5 cubic kilometers a year. Of this, more than 75 percent is the result of groundwater pumping in the southern Central Valley, primarily to irrigate crops.

Famiglietti said recent California legislation decreasing the allocation of surface waters to the San Joaquin Basin is likely to further increase the region’s reliance on groundwater for irrigation. “This suggests the decreasing groundwater storage trends seen by Grace will continue for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Observed ground water trends in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins, Oct. 2003 to March 2009.

The California results come just months after a team of hydrologists led by Matt Rodell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., found groundwater levels in northwest India have declined by 17.7 cubic kilometers per year over the past decade, a loss due almost entirely to pumping and consumption of groundwater by humans.

“California and India are just two of many regions around the world where Grace data are being used to study droughts, which can have devastating impacts on societies and cost the U.S. economy $6 to $8 billion annually,” said Rodell. Other regions under study include Australia, the Middle East – North Africa region and the southeastern United States, where Grace clearly captured the evolution of an extended drought that ended this spring. In the Middle East – North Africa region, Rodell is leading an effort to use Grace and other data to systematically map water- and weather-related variables to help assess regional water resources. Rodell added Grace may also help predict droughts, since it can identify pre-existing conditions favorable to the start of a drought, such as a deficit of water deep below the ground.

In the 66-month period analyzed, the water stored in the combined Sacramento and San Joaquin Basin decreased by more than 31 cubic kilometers, or nearly the volumne of Lake Mead. Nearly two-thirds of this came from changes in groundwater storage, primarily from the Central Valley.

NASA is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to incorporate Grace data into NOAA’s U.S. and North American Drought Monitors, premier tools used to minimize drought impacts. The tools rely heavily on precipitation observations, but are limited by inadequate large-scale observations of soil moisture and groundwater levels. “Grace is the only satellite system that provides information on these deeper stores of water that are key indicators of long-term drought,” Rodell said.

For more on Grace, see and . Other media contacts: Margaret Baguio, University of Texas Center for Space Research, 512-471-6922; Jennifer Fitzenberger, University of California, Irvine, 949-824-3969.


The combined Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins

  • Cover an area of approximately 154,000km²
  • Includes California’s major mountain water source, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountain range
  • Includes its primary agricultural region, the Central Valley (~52,000 km²)

California’s Central Valley

  • Is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world
  • Produces more than 250 different crops worth $17 billion per year (2002), or 8% of the food produced in the U. S. by value
  • Accounts for 1/6 of irrigated land in the U.S.
  • Supplies 1/5 of the demand for groundwater in the U.S.
  • Is the second most pumped aquifer in the U. S.

Groundwater storage changes in the Sacramento‐San Joaquin River Basins from GRACE and supplementary data, October, 2003 – March, 2009

  • In the 66 month period analyzed, the water stored in the combined Sacramento‐San Joaquin River Basin decreased by over 31 km3, or nearly the volume of Lake Mead
  • Nearly two‐thirds of this, or roughly 20 km3, came from changes in groundwater storage, primarily from the Central Valley.
  • Preliminary analyses suggest that as much as 75% of the groundwater loss is occurring in the San Joaquin River Basin, including the Tulare Lake basin, which is consistent with ground‐based observaAons and other studies.
  • Drought condiAons since 2006 have minimized groundwater recharge and have resulted in constraints on surface water allocaAons to the Central Valley, triggering a reliance on groundwater resources, parAcularly in the San Joaquin Valley
  • Groundwater is being used for irrigaAon at unsustainable rates, leading to declining water tables, decreasing crop sizes and conAnued land subsidence.
  • In the long term, conAnued reliance on groundwater will deplete criAcal reserves that buffer cuts to surface water allocaAons. ConAnued depleAons pose significant threats to food producAon in the U. S. and the state’s economy
  • Note that the trends are for the specified Ame period (October, 2003‐March, 2009). This Ame period was selected because it maximized the overlap with the other datasets used in the study.

Related Links:

Posted in California drought, california water, Central Valley irrigation, Sierra Nevada, water loss | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

TC Laurence Intensifies to 140 km Winds

Posted by feww on December 15, 2009

Cyclone Update: TC Laurence Intensifies to 140 km/h Winds [Gusts of ] Despite Moving Close to Shore


Active Tropical Cyclone in Southern Hemisphere

  • Date Time: December 15 09:00 UTC
  • Approximate Position: 14.6ºS, 125.4ºE
  • Location:  Located approximately 530 nmi northeast of Port Hedland, Australia
  • Movement: Has been tracking southwestward at 06  knots during  the past six hours.
  • Max Sustained Winds:  075 knots, Gusts 090 knots [compared to winds of 35 kt and gusts of 45 kt 24 hrs ago]
  • Max Significant Wave Heights: 5.3 m (16 feet)

The system is now expected to move further inland and dissipate within the next 72 hours.

TC Laurence Revised Projected Path. Click image to enlarge. Source: JTWC

Infrared Mosaic Color Background  – Meteosat-7/MTSAT/GOES-West – South Pacific Region – CIMSS/SSEC/Wisc. Click image to update and enlarge.

Related Links:

Posted in Australia cyclone, cyclone, TC 06S, TC Laurence, tropical cyclone | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Mayon Volcano Oozes Lava

Posted by feww on December 15, 2009

Mayon, Philippines most active volcano, oozes lava and ejects plumes of ash into the air

The Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, PHIVOLCS, raised the five-step alert to 3 after increased activity at Mayon volcano.

The authorities have evacuated thousands of residents from the 6-km (4 miles) permanent danger zone, which is now declared a prohibited area.

About 50,000 people live in an 8km (5 mile) radius of the mountain.

Lava cascades down the slopes of Mayon volcano in Legazpi city, Albay province, Monday Dec. 14, 2009.  (AP Photo/Nelson Salting). Image may be subject to copyright.

About 30,000 people were evacuated from the foot of Mt Mayon after the volcano spewed ash and lava in Albay province, the Philippines.  Photo:AFP. Image may be subject to copyright. Click image to enlarge.

Magma had been steadily rising at Mayon since late November and finally oozed out of the crater late Monday, and the activity at the volcano is expected to intensify, said PHILVOC.

If magma continues to push up the crater at a steady rate there would be lava flows, and “the possibility of an explosion.” PHILVOC reported.

Major Volcanoes of the Philippines Location Map. Click image to enlarge.

The 2467-meter Mayon Volcano is a stratovolcano [it is renowned for its almost perfectly conical shape] islocated about 15 kilometres northwest of Legazpi City [about 500 kilometers south of the capital, Manila,] in the province of Albay, Bicol Region, on the island of Luzon, in the Philippines.

Mayon is one of the 22 or so active volcanoes in the Philippines, and has caused the deaths of thousands of people and devastated several towns and villages in three major eruptions since its 1814. In 2006, after several eruptions, typhoon Durian triggered mudslides of volcanic ash on November 30, which buried  several villages near the foot of the mountain, killing about 1,000 people.

Fire Earth Moderators believe more volcanic activities at other Philippines volcanoes are highly probable in the near future. The volcanoes located on the island on Mindanao are particularly liable to erupt in the next 12 to 36 months.

The moderators also believe a large eruption may occur at Taal volcano. For other related forecast, see links below and search blog contents.

Related Links:

Posted in Taal Volcano, volcanism, volcano, Volcano Hazard | Tagged: , , | 10 Comments »

Climate Locked into ‘Unending’ El Niño?

Posted by feww on December 15, 2009

El Niño May Continue into Summer 2010 [and Beyond]

El Niño Weekly Update [14 Dec 2009]

ENSO Cycle: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions

UPDATE prepared by Climate Prediction Center / NCEP –  14 December 2009

The latest weekly SST departures are:

  • Niño 4   ~ 1.3ºC
  • Niño 3.4  ~ 1.8ºC
  • Niño 3  ~ 1.6ºC
  • Niño 1+2 ~ 0.2ºC

El Niño Map. [SOURCE: NOAA/ Climate Prediction Center / NCEP]

Recent Evolution of Equatorial Pacific SST Departures (ºC)

  • LongitudeTimeDuring November 2008-February 2009, negative sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies covered the central and east-central equatorial Pacific Ocean.
  • Since the beginning of June 2009, SST anomalies have been at least +0.5°C across most of the equatorial Pacific.
  • During October 2009, positive SST anomalies increased across much of the equatorial Pacific.
  • During November 2009, positive SST anomalies remained nearly unchanged.
  • Recently, positive SST anomalies increased across the east-central Pacific.

SST Departures (ºC) in the Tropical Pacific During the Last 4 Weeks

During the last 4-weeks, SSTs were at least 1.0°C above average across much of the equatorial Pacific east of 170ºE, and more than 2.0°C above average across portions of the eastern half of the Pacific. Click image to enlarge.

Global SST Departures (°C)

During the last four weeks, equatorial SSTs were above-average across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Also, above-average SSTs covered large areas of the Northern Hemisphere subtropics
. Click image to enlarge.

Click image to enlarge.

Central & Eastern Pacific Upper-Ocean (0-300 m) Weekly Heat Content AnomaliesSince

Since April 2009, the upper-ocean heat content has been above average across the eastern half of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The heat content was previously below-average from mid-August 2008 through March 2009, with a minimum reached in late December 2008.
Click image to enlarge.

Sub-Surface Temperature Departures (°C) in the Equatorial Pacific

Click image to enlarge.

Atmospheric Circulation over the North Pacific & North America During the Last 60 Days
During the last half of October, a nearly zonal pattern of below-average heights over the mid-latitudes was observed with an anomalous ridging over the higher latitudes. By early November, the anomalous zonal pattern of below-average heights at mid-latitudes had been replaced by strong anomalous ridges across the N. Pacific and much of N. America with below-average heights near Alaska. This pattern led to above-average temperatures across much of Canada and the United States and below-average temperatures in Alaska. Since late November, the pattern has reversed again with below-average heights in the mid-latitudes and above-average heights over Alaska.

SST Outlook: NCEP CFS Forecast Issued 13 December 2009
The CFS ensemble mean predicts El Niño will last at least into the Northern Hemisphere summer 2010.


  • El Niño is present across the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
  • Sea surface temperatures (SST) are at least 1.0ºC-2.0ºC above-average across much of the central and east-central equatorial Pacific.
  • Based on current observations and dynamical model forecasts, El Niño is expected to continue and last at least into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2010 [and beyond.]

Information and images on this page are sourced from Climate Prediction Center/NCEP/NOAA. Edited by FEWW

Related Links:

El Niño Updates:

Posted in Climate Prediction, ENSO, Oceanic Niño Index, Pacific SST Outlook, SST anomalies | Tagged: , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

What Mick Looked Like

Posted by feww on December 15, 2009

Image of the Day:

Tropical Cyclone Mick

Click image to enlarge.

Tropical Cyclone Mick hovered over the Fiji Islands
on December 13, 2009, and intensified the following day, pounding the archipelago with strong winds and heavy rains.  The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image of Mick on December 13, 2009.  The storm had maximum sustained winds of 55 knots (100 kilometers per hour) with gusts of to 70 knots (130 kilometers per hour). Image and caption credit: NASA Earth Observatory. [edited by FEWW]

Related Links:

Posted in mick, MODIS, storm, tropical cyclone | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »