Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Climate and heat wave news from Texas A&M

In last week's installment, I noted the following.
In Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Bastille Day edition) on Daily Kos, I included some more stories from Discovery News which were about both the heat wave and climate change, but I also found out that some of the colleges on the campaign trail, in particular University of North Carolina, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech, were also following the current climate very closely. It's not just the commercial sources that pay attention to what people want to know.
The trend continued with the articles I included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Two space anniversaries edition) on Daily Kos. Texas A&M put out four press releases on the subject all by itself. Check them out over the jump.

Texas A&M: Heat Waves Can Be Killers
July 18, 2012
Q: There’s been a series of heat waves hitting much of the U.S. in recent weeks. Which heat waves have been the worst killers in the United States?

A: There’s no doubt that heat waves can cause a lot of fatalities, says weather expert Brent McRoberts of Texas A&M University. “In the last two months, more than 8,000 heat records have broken across the U.S. and so far this year, at least 76 deaths have occurred from the heat,” he notes. “The great Dust Bowl period of the 1930s covered more than 50 million acres, but the death count is really not known. In 1955, an eight-day heat wave killed 946 people in Los Angeles and in 1972, a 14-day heat wave killed 891 in New York City. By far, the worst heat wave occurred in 1980. During that summer, an estimated 10,000 people were killed nationwide and heat damages totaled $50 billion. The 1980 summer death toll far exceeded the annual national average of about 400 deaths that are attributed to heat.”

Q: What are some recent killer heat waves?

A: “In 1988, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people died from a summer heat wave in the central and eastern United States, and in 1995 more than 700 people died in Chicago,” McRoberts explains. “In 1999, a heat wave that gripped most of the U.S. killed more than 500 people. In 2003, one of history’s worst heat waves occurred in Europe when more than 35,000 people died. France was especially hit hard, and more than 14,000 French deaths were reported during the month of August.”
AgriLife Today: What’s really killing Texas trees?
Expert: Drought is only part of the story
July 20, 2012
OVERTON – Although drought is often the cause, trees can die for other reasons besides lack of soil moisture, said Dr. Eric Taylor, Texas AgriLife Extension Service forestry specialist, Overton.

“Drought is the primary contributor to tree kill, but it may not be exactly the way you might be thinking,” Taylor said. “You may find this hard to believe, but relatively few trees likely died directly from dehydration in 2011. Instead, the 2011 drought severely weakened mature trees, making them susceptible to opportunistic pathogens like hypoxylon canker and insects like pine bark engraver beetles.”

He said that in most instances, the trees that died in 2011 were already stressed from a number of pre-existing environmental factors such as overcrowding, growing on the wrong site, age, soil compaction, trenching or inappropriate use of herbicides. If not for these factors, a large proportion of the trees that died might have recovered from the drought.
AgriLife Today: Cricket invasion hits parts of East and Central Texas
July 16, 2012
DALLAS – The current cricket invasion many are experiencing in parts of East and Central Texas isn’t particularly unusual, but the timing is, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service entomologist.

Dr. Michael Merchant, AgriLife Extension urban entomologist at Dallas, said he’s had a number of reports from Central and East Texas folks concerned with the high number of crickets they’re seeing this year.

Crickets are invading much of East Texas earlier than normal. Texas AgriLife Extension entomologists say early warm temperatures and recent rains triggered the cricket flight.

“I attribute this to early warm temperatures and recent rains that serve as a trigger for cricket flights,” Merchant said. “This is the earliest cricket infestation that I can recall though. We usually have cricket swarms following our late summer and fall rains.”
Texas A&M: Texas A&M atmospheric scientist receives national award
Andrew Dessler is first among atmospheric scientists to receive new AGU award.
July 16, 2012
The American Geophysical Union (AGU) has named Dr. Andrew Dessler, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, as recipient of an inaugural award. The Atmospheric Sciences Section Ascent Award recognizes Dessler's excellence as a leader and researcher in atmospheric sciences. AGU established the award to honor up to four early to mid-career outstanding atmospheric scientists. AGU cites Dessler in particular for "his creative and incisive studies of the influences of water and clouds in the climate system."

Dr. Gerald North, an AGU Fellow and professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, nominated Dessler for the award. "The Ascent Award is for research excellence, but I believe other things enter such as Andy's books and his great communications skills and accomplishments. He also happens to be a great teacher and mentor," North said.

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