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Popcorn Clouds Over Florida, USA

27.9N 82.4W

April 7th, 2013 Category: Clouds

USA – April 6th, 2013

Popcorn clouds speckle the skies over much of the state of Florida, USA. Visible through the clouds are bodies of water, such as Lake Okeechobee (below) and cities such as Tampa and St Petersburg (west coast) and Miami (southeast coast). This is due to the fact that popcorn clouds tend to appear only above vegetated areas, since they are formed by water vapor released by plants that rises and eventually condenses into clouds.

Vegetation Index and Climate Change in Florida, USA

27.9N 82W

April 3rd, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Vegetation Index

USA – April 2nd, 2013

This image shows the vegetation index of the state of Florida, USA (low index appears brown to yellow, while a high index appears green to dark green). Florida has abundant and unique biological resources that are expected to be negatively affected by global climate change. The state is at particularly high risk for climate change impacts because of its low topography, extensive coastline, and frequency of large storm events.

Climate change is already making large sweeping changes to Florida’s landscape, especially along the coasts. The drivers of this change are both physical and biological in nature. Changes in air and water temperature, freshwater availability, salt water intrusion, ocean acidification, natural disturbance regime shifts (e.g., fire, storms, flood), and loss of land area have already been observed in Florida. Florida’s average air temperature has increased at a rate of 0.2 – 0.40C per century over the past 160 years and is expected to increase around another 50C by 2100.

Rainfall in Florida has generally increased by 10% over the last 120 years, and more frequent heavy precipitation events are expected in the future. Both globally and in Florida, ocean pH has been lowered 0.1 unit since the pre-industrial period and another 0.3–0.5 pH unit drop is predicted by 2100. Many of Florida’s disturbances regimes such as algae blooms, wildfires, hypoxia, storms, droughts and floods, diseases, pest outbreaks are already showing signs of change. Finally, Florida’s sea level is currently rising at 1.8-2.4 mm per year and may rise by another meter by 2100.

Florida’s biodiversity is already responding to climate change through changes in physiology, distribution, phenology, and extinction risk. Physiological stress is being observed among marine species in reduced rates of calcification, photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, and reproduction brought on by increased acidity. Northward movement is becoming more common as a result of temperature shifts. Unfortunately, for Florida, species movement brings increased risk for invasions by non-native species, like the Cuban treefrog. Sea turtle nesting and tree flowering dates are starting to shift earlier in time to keep pace with increasing temperatures in Florida. Climate change also brings elevated extinction risks for Florida’s numerous endemic species and species of conservation concern (click here for more information).

Fires East of Mississippi Delta, Southeastern USA – March 29th, 2013

30.2N 85.1W

March 29th, 2013 Category: Fires, Image of the day

USA – March 27th, 2013

Although moderate to heavy rains over the last week greatly improved the drought conditions in the southeastern USA, particularly across Georgia, most of Alabama and South Carolina, and northern and central Florida, many fires can still be seen burning in the region. Here, multiple plumes of smoke blow southwards towards the Gulf of Mexico. Also visible at the lower left is the Mississippi River Delta. Cooling temperatures and more rain are expected to slow the spread of the fires over the weekend.

Fires Across Southeastern USA – March 28th, 2013

31.3N 83.3W

March 28th, 2013 Category: Fires, Image of the day

USA – March 27th, 2013

Many plumes of smoke from fires burning across the southeastern United States of America can be seen here. The fires are affecting several states (from left to right): Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, as well as Florida (below).

There are currently nine active large fires that have burned 13,226 acres as well as numerous smaller ones. A “large fire” is defined by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) as a wildfire of 100 acres or more occurring in timber, or a wildfire of 300 acres or more occurring in grass/sage.

Climate Change in the Everglades, Florida, USA – March 22nd, 2013

25.8N 81.3W

March 22nd, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Image of the day, Wetlands

USA – March 21st, 2013

Visible along the southwestern part of the tip of Florida, USA is the Everglades National Park. Nearly flat and perched on the edge of a rising ocean, the park is already feeling the effects of a warming climate. Sea level rise has brought significant changes that are already being observed on the landscape, and more will likely be seen in the years ahead.

The environment of south Florida and the Everglades is unique because of its low elevation and subtropical climate. Along the coast, seasonal pulses of freshwater from the north meet the constant fluctuation of the tides that nurture several distinct ecosystems, including buttonwood forests. These coastal communities are home to many rare and endangered plants such as tropical orchids and herbs, some of which are found only in south Florida.

Unfortunately, these species’ special home is in danger because the habitat is changing, in part, due to sea level rise-causing the salinization of groundwater and the soils above. It is unclear whether or not these species can tolerate the increased salinity that will come as sea level continues to rise due to climate change.

Scientists measure water levels throughout the park-including the many inland, freshwater habitats. The water level in these areas varies with changes in rainfall and freshwater flow as well as influences from ocean tides. Over the last 50 years, the scientists have observed an increase in the water level at some inland, freshwater sites in the park that is consistent in pace with the observed increase in regional sea level. Though it is presently unclear why this correlation exists, and what implications it might have for the freshwater environments of the Everglades, it does suggest the influence of sea level rise may reach far inland (click here for more information).