It’s late afternoon and I am sitting on the veranda at my parent’s house in the small mountain town of Montagu in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. In front of me lies a fishpond, inhabited mostly by Koi, and beyond that stretches a green lawn scattered with a variety of fruit trees. Some overripe apples have fallen to the ground, enticing several of the plump hens who have free range in the garden. To my left is a large vegetable patch and the chicken coop where my mother collects fresh eggs every morning. Grapevines creep up and over the latticework above my head, creating a dappled shade, and hummingbirds flit around the birdfeeders that have been hung from the pillars (read more).
The Baja California Peninsula is one of the most naturally stunning parts of our globe, split from the mainland of Mexico by the San Andreas Fault. Yet for decades, outsiders saw the area as an isolated and unproductive land with minimal economic value. Especially following the decline of the local whaling industry in the early 1900s, regional economic opportunities were limited to fishing, irrigated agriculture and ranching outside of the rise of the saltworks industry in 1954 (more on that later). However, the ‘secret’ of Baja California’s natural beauty was destined to get out. In the latter half of the twentieth century, the arid landscape was reimagined by locals and officials as a tourist’s paradise complete with beaches, surfing and—at least for a few months a year—the opportunity to get up close to Pacific gray whales. (read more)
In my year as an Environment & Society Fellow with CLIMAS, I learned just as much about the research process and collaborative research as I did about my actual research topic. I learned that things almost never go as planned or according to schedule, and whatever your original vision for your research was will probably change and evolve into something different – and probably better. (read more)
Groundwater is among the world’s most important natural resources. It provides drinking water to rural and urban communities, supports agriculture and industry, sustains wetland and riparian ecosystems, and maintains the flow of rivers and streams. In many places, groundwater resources are susceptible to risks of overuse and contamination. Its sustainable management is increasingly critical; especially in climate-sensitive geographic areas such as islands and arid lands.
My main interest is in researching karst groundwater sustainability because aquifers storing groundwater in karst systems are commonly found throughout my home country, Jamaica, and other islands in the Caribbean. In Arizona, the major karst aquifer system is found in the north in the Coconino Plateau area; which includes the city of Flagstaff, and the Grand Canyon region. The physical characteristics of karst groundwater systems make them highly susceptible to pollution and climatic influences. Geologic features of karst landscapes, such as sinkholes, act as quick pathways for pollutants to be transported to the aquifer, given that there are little or no soil layers to filter pollutants en route to the aquifer. (read more)
I’ve tagged along on environmental monitoring patrols, ridden in logging trucks with forestry workers, played cow wrangler on a dairy farm, photographed coastal erosion from the back of a four wheel drive that smelled of turkeys, and attended a conference on the wellbeing of eels. I’ve had conversations on boats and beaches, in fields and farmhouses, by lakes, in rivers, cars and marae (meeting houses). This is what happens when an anthropologist is on the case. (read more)
In the fall of 2015, I began working with the Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources, Water Management Branch, to address water resource management questions they had for the Chuska Mountains. These mountains are the only native headwaters on the Navajo Nation, where water scarcity impacts Navajo tradition, culture and livelihood. Since our initial discussions, Water Management Branch staff and I have collaboratively developed guiding research questions about past changes in water and climate. (read more)
After an exceptionally wet July for many areas across Arizona, monsoon storm activity slowed down to a crawl leading to unusually dry conditions over the past month. August is typically the wettest month during the summer monsoon season in Arizona and the lack of thunderstorm activity stands out against the frequent and heavy activity that characterized much of the month of July. (read more)
Looking back at Oct-Dec; Did observed weather events correspond with expected (El Niño) climate patterns?
January has kicked off with a bang, and the much anticipated super-mega-Godzilla El Nino is upon us. El Niño conditions have been in place for months (Figure 1: Oceanic Niño Index), but has this El Niño event been impacting the weather of the Southwest in ways that are expected? Sort of, but not exactly. (read more)
Research on the interactions between El Niño events and the North American Monsoon System suggests that during past El Niño events, there was a slowing of the onset of monsoon precipitation across the Southwest U.S. (read more)
Originally published in Feb 2015 CLIMAS Southwest Climate Outlook:
Why has it been so cold on the East Coast, and so warm in the Southwest? Where does this fit into climatic patterns? And is this extraordinary or just variability? (read more)
Image Source - NOAA-Earth Systems Resarch Laboratory (ESRL)
A pesky ridge of high pressure over the east Pacific dominated the weather much of November steering storms well to our north and east leaving Arizona with unusually warm and dry conditions. (read more)
On September 10-11, 25 scientists and natural resource managers met at the offices of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), in El Paso, Texas. Their goal was to use strategic scenario planning techniques to gain insight into environmental and natural resource planning under highly uncertain conditions. Participants included climatologists, meteorologists, geologists, hydrologists, ecologists, biologists, and environmental economists, representing a range of U.S. and Mexican federal agencies, state agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations. (read more)
September turned out to be quite a month as far as extreme monsoon season weather across Arizona. The month started out rather quiet as the monsoon ridge of high pressure weakened and a trough of low pressure to the north ushered in dry air from the west across the state. This suppressed thunderstorm activity for several days until the monsoon ridge pushed back north helping to bring low level moisture back into the region. (read more)
How Do We Know When the Monsoon is Over?
Across the southwest United States, the start of the summer monsoon season is pretty easy to recognize once you have experienced it firsthand a few times. Typically, one week it's hot and dry, and the next week, it's hot and sticky, but hopefully raining. (read more)
What is the exact criteria to call something El Niño? Is El Niño a continuum or is there a binary switch where it's either an El Niño event or not?
How closely linked is the strength of El Niño with observable effects in the Southwest? Would a weak El Niño look that different from no El Niño at all? (read more)
There’s been a lot of talk about El Niño and ‘busting the drought'. How much can El Niño help with ongoing drought conditions in the West?
Significant amounts of rain fall during the monsoon, why doesn’t that solve our drought problems? (read more)
July started off with a bang with moisture and thunderstorm activity moving into Arizona over the 4th of July weekend. This start date for monsoon thunderstorm activity was very close to the climatological start date of July 3rd, as determined by the old dewpoint definition (three consecutive days with average dewpoints >= 54F) in Tucson. The ‘monsoon ridge’ of high pressure was in an ideal position over the first two weeks of July to guide abundant subtropical moisture into the state, providing fuel for almost daily thunderstorm activity across parts of southeastern Arizona and the high country along the Mogollon Rim. (read more)
On June 25-27, 2014, a team of researchers from CLIMAS and the California-Nevada Applications Program (CNAP) convened a workshop at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, NV. The goal? We wanted to address the complex and uncertain future of Great Basin land management in the Central Great Basin (California and Nevada), and to provide state and federal agency partners with streamlined and purposeful means of incorporating climate change information into land management practice. (read more)
June was a hot and dry month across Arizona with little in the way of precipitation and lots in the way of wind and extreme fire weather. This isn’t all that unusual for June in Arizona, but temperatures were exceptionally warm and passing weather systems brought unwelcome wind which periodically enhanced fire danger to extreme levels. The weather pattern throughout the month was a battle between the strengthening sub-tropical high to our south and late season spring storm pushing through the Southwest from the north. (read more)
Just how old are the forests in the Chuska Mountains in the northeastern part of the Navajo Nation? How might those forests fare in a climate that will be warmer and probably drier than anything they've ever experienced?
In early June I had the chance to tromp around in the woods with a group of experts working to answer these questions. Our intrepid leader was UA Laboratory of Tree Ring Research PhD student Chris Guiterman who—I now know—is a man with a plan. The plan goes something like this...(read more)