Golf, one of the world’s most coveted sports, contributes $80 million to the U.S. economy. Golfers play in all types of weather including heavy rain and heat waves. However, the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) has begun fearing the worst for golf, and climate change is to blame.
Since the 1920s, USGA has been sponsoring research into the use of turfgrasses. Climate change was not an established concept throughout much of this time, but officials in the golf world already knew that creating efficient water and turf practices were necessary to create ideal conditions for golfers.
It wasn’t until the 1980s, however, that the USGA upped funding for research after several years of extreme heat and drought. When it comes to extreme heat, golf courses plan to make use of natural fungi which acts to increase the tolerance of the green to heat. Grasses like tall fescue, which are often included in course rough, could benefit from the added fungi. This could be extremely beneficial to golf courses in the South where temperatures are expected to rise the most through the next couple decades.
In addition to extreme heat, drought has become a major threat to the existence of golf courses. Extreme drought in many golf-friendly regions of the country such as California and the Southeast in recent years have threatened to wipe out golf courses or make them more difficult to maintain. USGA research has found that certain genetically engineered varieties of buffalo grass could withstand heat up to an extremely high threshold. Using improved varieties of grasses, many of which are salt-resistant, could be helpful in the maintenance of coastal golf courses, which are found up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Using improved varieties of salt-resistant grasses allows these courses to use recycled water, which often has increased salt content. Fifteen percent of courses in the U.S. already reported using this method. Coastal courses also face another major threat: ocean flooding, which is expected to increase by 2100. Salt-resistant grasses would be able to withstand future flooding, whether it is astronomical or hurricane-induced.
While many courses have adopted the aforementioned techniques, one course in Florida took it a step further. Candler Hills in Ocala, Florida has enough solar energy from their solar panels that the course is sending energy back to the power grid. Golf course officials expect the golf course to pay for itself within a decade and will save the course $200,000 in electrical costs as long as the panels continue to function properly.
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©2018 Weather Forecaster Jacob Dolinger
Factors that inflict climatic changes Part 4:
Part 3 here
The most common explanation for greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect is the “blanket around the Earth” example. Heat comes through the blanket to warm the surface, but the blanket keeps the heat from escaping thus warming a given surface. This is exactly what the atmosphere and greenhouse effect does to the Earth. The greenhouse effect, although not initially harmful, can have dire consequences on either side of the temperature spectrum. After examining Earth, we will look to our planetary neighbors for a better explanation for this.
Earth. Positioned in the so called “Goldilocks Zone” of the solar system, receives millions of joules of energy per day from the Sun. This energy makes its way through the Earth’s atmosphere to the surface. Once the energy reaches the surface, it warms the surface and continues to bounce back into space. There is one thing keeping the energy from simply entering space: greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases most notably comprise of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor. These gases will restrict infrared radiation from entering space. The atmosphere then warms because of the trapped radiation in the atmosphere. These gases act as the “blanket” around the Earth, letting sunlight in and intercepting some of the infrared light reflecting off the surface. This effect is a naturally occurring phenomenon in Earth’s atmosphere. Without this effect, Earth would have average global temperatures 60 degrees Fahrenheit lower than what they are today. The best way to explain this lack of greenhouse effect is to look at our planetary neighbor, the Red Planet.
Mars. The fourth planet from the sun and approximately 33.9 million miles away from Earth. Mars’ atmosphere is just 1/100th of Earth’s. The leading study, done by numerous Mars rover missions, and reasoning behind this is because of the Sun’s violent solar winds and charged particles. The particles and winds ripped Mars’ atmosphere away over the millennia which caused the red planet’s atmosphere to dwindle to almost nothing. With this thin atmosphere, the greenhouse effect is insignificant. Even though the atmosphere is 95% carbon dioxide (which has strong heat trapping capability), it is still too thin to have any impact. This causes rapid cooling between night and day causing temperatures to plummet over 180 degrees Fahrenheit once the Sun sets. Literally, a temperature difference that is night and day. The vast temperature gradients that occur causes violent wind storms to engulf the entire planet in red dust. Mars is a prime example of a planet with little to zero greenhouse effect. There is simply not enough gases or atmosphere to keep radiation and heat inside the atmospheric “blanket” to warm the planet. The impact that a thin atmosphere has on Mars presents data that makes it essential to have a healthy and decently thick atmosphere in order for life to flourish.
Venus. The planet that is closest in size to Earth and most commonly known as our sister planet. People commonly know Venus based on these characteristics, but few realize how dangerous and downright poisonous Venus really is. On a global scale, Venus’ climate is manipulated by the strongest greenhouse effect in the solar system. Although this effect is not experienced here on Earth, Mars experiences a similar effect. With a thick cloud layer encapsulating the entire planet, 80% of incoming solar radiation is reflected back out to space. Only about 10% of said radiation penetrates the clouds and reaches the surface; the rest is absorbed by the atmosphere. How does this cause a greenhouse effect if such little solar radiation make it to the surface? Thermal radiation emitted from the surface becomes trapped within the atmosphere because of the thick cloud layer. The atmosphere is made up entirely of carbon dioxide with sulfuric acid creating the thick cloud layer that covers the planet. Venus is a prime example of a runaway greenhouse effect. Where greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, become so prevalent in the atmosphere that it traps all heat trying to escape into space. The surface temperature of Venus is roughly 864 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to melt lead. But, if one were to travel to the upper atmosphere, above the sulfuric acid clouds, they would find the temperature to be around -45 degrees Fahrenheit. Like found on Mars, substantial differences in temperature causes massive wind storms and vortexes to occur on Venus’ surface and within the atmosphere. Venus itself conveys the heat trapping capabilities that greenhouse gases can possess and how dangerous they can become if not regulated and monitored.
The greenhouse effect along with greenhouse gases is a complex subject that of course requires much more research and data. Scientists do know of the heat trapping capabilities and climatic changes that could occur if these gases are not monitored. A rise in carbon dioxide can cause a rise in water vapor due to higher amounts of evaporation because of a rise in temperatures. A rise in temperatures can also cause a rise in methane due to the melting of permafrost which has the highest amounts of methane stored. A rise in three of these greenhouse gases can have detrimental effects to Earth’s climate. Now, the greenhouse effect is not a bad occurrence to have within an atmosphere. As we explored above, without a greenhouse effect Earth could be like its neighbor, Mars, and have frigid surface temperatures. But, too much of a greenhouse effect could cause Earth to become its sister planet, Venus, and have temperatures that melt lead. Inherently, the greenhouse effect is vital for an atmosphere and planet to survive. It is also vital to watch and supervise the effect to keep it in proper balance.
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©2018 Weather Forecaster Alec Kownacki
Rainy scenes like the one above were prevalent during the summer of 2017. Overlooking the Juneau Harbor in August 2017.
Scenes like the one above became familiar sights across Juneau, Alaska this past summer with local headlines reading “June Finishing Half an Inch above Average” and “July’s Weather was a Busted Summer”. August 2017 finished as the 12th wettest on record and rained for 18 consecutive days. Meanwhile, Seattle went 55 consecutive days without rainfall, beating a previous record set in 1951. While it is not unusual for the Pacific Northwest to be “drier” during the summer, August 2017 was the 2nd warmest on record with 17 days reaching 80 degrees or above.
Volcanoes are thought to contribute to long-term global warming and short-term global cooling. Bogoslof Volcano, a small stratovolcano nestled in the Aleutian Islands, had been in the midst of an active eruption pattern since December 2016, erupting on average once or twice a week. Output from the Community Earth System Model (CESM), a coupled ocean-atmosphere model, shows some cooling due to volcanic aerosols in some regions (specifically the north-central United States, tropical oceans, and over China). Precipitation is likely to be reduced, as cooler sea surface temperatures decrease evaporation into the atmosphere and, therefore, decrease global precipitation. Juneau experienced below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation for June and July, while August was warm and wet. Ketchikan experienced a similar pattern, but this is not a pattern expected of high-latitude volcanic activity.
Beginning in spring 2013, toxic algae blooms spread, fin whales appeared for the first time near Kodiak Island, and massive numbers of sea otters were dying along the shore. A patch of warm water had developed in the Gulf of Alaska, infamously named “the blob”. Just as blowing on hot coffee cools the surface, westerlies along North America’s West Coast had weakened enough to stop churning the sea surface and cool it. A stubborn high-pressure system known as the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” (RRR) was keeping storms at bay along the Washington/Oregon coast and diverting precipitation towards Alaska. But, does the “blob” cause the RRR or does the RRR cause the blob? No one really knows for sure, but it is likely that this type of pattern is attributed to normal fluctuations in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). Generally, this type of pattern is not abnormal for Alaska during the summer, however, the persistence is certainly anomalous.
Will this summer be similar? Winter 2017-2018 was considered a borderline, moderate La Niña event, after following ENSO neutral conditions from January 2017 onward. PDO remained strongly positive (warm phase) through June 2017, then declining towards more neutral conditions. In general, cold ENSO-neutral and La Niña events typically trend towards warmer and drier conditions, although week-to-week patterns will be highly variable.
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©2018 Meteorologist Sharon Sullivan
DISCUSSION: There is no question that as the Earth’s climate continues to gradually warm, the average temperatures associated with seasonal and intra-seasonal trends are most definitely in the midst of an upward trend. However, the primary issue which the majority of the general public tends to complain about is the gradual increases being observed in association with regional dew point temperatures. It is first worth noting that the dew point temperature is best defined as the temperature at which air becomes saturated with water in a given situation.
More specifically, once a given air parcel has reached the dew-point temperature at a particular air pressure, the water vapor in the air is considered to be at a state of equilibrium with liquid water, meaning water vapor is condensing at the same rate at which liquid water is evaporating. Therefore, it is at this point that you will start to observe small droplets of water beginning to condense on the surfaces of various objects which are being exposed to the nearby ambient environment. In addition, with higher dew points, there is a higher capacity for the atmosphere to contain greater average quantities of atmospheric water vapor and consequently have a higher potential for increased Summer-time thunderstorm potential. Also, bear in mind that with higher dew points, strong to severe thunderstorms would consequently have a greater potential for generating greater average rainfall totals both over shorter and longer-term periods.
Having said that, it is important to note that rising dew point temperatures have a consequence on people’s general way of life based on the fact that higher dew points lead to situations with people not being able to cool as easily due to natural water and perspiration not evaporating as effectively from the surface of their skin. Hence, as the threat for even further increasing average Summer and intra-seasonal dew point temperature continues, there is no doubt that this will continue to have a major impact on mankind as we continue to move further into the 21st century. So, as you can see, higher dew points can have major impacts on both convective storm issues as well as human health-related impacts due to greater dew points also creating issues for people contending with chronic conditions including (but certainly not limited to) asthma.
To learn more about this particular story, click on the following link courtesy of the Climate Central Twitter team!
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
DISCUSSION: Considering the threat of a continually gradually warming planet, many parts of the Earth are going to encounter increasingly greater concerns surrounding the threat of a gradually increasing average rainfall intensity potential. What does this mean for an average forecast on an average day? Not exactly what you may be thinking when you first hear this. To be more specific, average rainfall intensity changes are often characterized over the course of 20 to 30 years or more whereas a given rainfall forecast is typically projected over a period approximately around 24 to 48 hours in most of the more commonplace cases. Hence, when projections are made for longer-term rainfall trends this is often analyzed and projected for much longer duration numbers that is the case for daily forecasts. Hence, projected rainfall intensity percentages increases would not be able to be directly correlated to a given forecast on any given day during any given month of the year.
Therefore, it is imperative to understand the fact that the respective percentage changes for the precipitation intensity increases for the various U.S. state regions (as shown above) for the period between 1958 and 2016 are over a 50 + year period. Thus, one could never feasibly apply these numbers to the next 50 years either since the global average atmospheric water vapor concentration percentage differences will also continue to change as well. So, in looking to the future (i.e., both including and beyond the scope of the additional rainfall intensity graphical projections attached later in the above article courtesy of the Climate Central Twitter team), there is no debate that average rainfall intensity and average frequency of heavier rainfall events across many towns and cities across the contiguous United States will continue to gradually increase in many cases. The bottom line here is the fact that even though heavier rainfall intensity and frequency will both be increasing, nobody should immediately panic that this will inevitably every rainfall event of every week during each calendar month and from season-to-season for that matter.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
DISCUSSION: Through considering the prospects of a gradually increasing net average global temperature both on a yearly and a seasonal basis, there are many global weather and oceanic concerns both for logistical and economical reasons. Among these concerns, is the major concern of there potentially being a substantially larger number of days which involve the occurrence of severe thunderstorms with the capability of producing some combination of dangerous lightning, winds, hail, and/or tornadoes. The reason for this concern is due to the fact that with a gradually warming planet, this facilitates a scenario wherein there can be a greater amount of average atmospheric water vapor content present in the lower to middle parts of the atmosphere.
Hence, when there is gradually increasing average atmospheric water vapor content suspended within the lower to middle parts of the atmosphere, this allows for smoother condensation of cloud masses associated with mesoscale (i.e., smaller-scale pulses of energy in the atmosphere which trigger more localized convective storm events) and/or synoptic-scale (i.e., typically larger-scale weather systems such as tropical or extra-tropical low-pressure systems which tend to have a life cycle of between 3 and 7 days). Thus, in such situations in the future, there would naturally be increased concerns for more efficient and easier development of convection in such situations which could lead to a greater propensity for a greater corresponding frequency of severe weather events during such scenarios. Therefore, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service network always emphasizes to the general public, you must always be prepared for severe weather throughout the course of a given calendar year since you never know when severe weather will strike your area with limited notice even in the presence of a timely forecast days in advance.
It is also worth noting that although we have had a much below average tornado season here in the United States during the spring 2018 season, severe weather can strike across many places and during many times of the year without very much advanced notice, which can put a tremendous amount of stress on both energy companies, operational forecasters, and others to do their jobs to the best of their respective abilities. So, when in doubt, be sure to listen to scientific experts in their respective fields for professional insights regarding the level of concern which may needed for a given severe weather threat or seasonal projection thereof since it may end up saving you money or even life at some point.
For more information on this particular story which was published by both Stanford and Purdue Universities, feel free to click on the following link.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz