The extent of snow-covered ground in the Northern Hemisphere at the end of the cold season (June) hit a record low. Annual average snow cover extent has not exceeded the long-term average even once since 2003. Between 1979 and 2011, the snow cover in June is declining even faster than the end-of-summer Arctic sea ice extent.

Glacier mass balance in 2011 (the most recent year for which worldwide analysis is complete) was negative, and preliminary data indicate that 2012 will probably be the 22nd consecutive year of net losses in glacier mass. Between 1980 and 2011, glaciers around the world lost the water equivalent of 15.7 meters. That would be like slicing a roughly 17-meter-thick slab off the top of the average glacier and repeating that exercise worldwide.

Tampa Bay Water Supply Manager Allison Adams knows water is precious for the millions of residents who rely on the water agency for drinking water and recreation, and for the region’s natural ecosystems, including wetlands and lakes. Adams and colleagues discuss how their evolving water management approach allows them to balance diverse water needs in the face of often unpredictable water sources and cycles.

Tampa Bay Water provides safe, potable drinking water to 2.3 million people in the Tampa Bay region.  But future availability of surface water can be hard to predict, and drought is a recurring challenge there.  The water utility managers are increasingly using seasonal climate forecasts to track climate variability, which helps them better plan their water supply and reduce their vulnerability to seasonal climate impacts.

The Spring Outlook encompasses temperature, precipitation, drought, and flooding expectations for the coming three months, and Mike Halpert, Acting Director of the Climate Prediction Center, discusses the outlook and its implications.
 

Winter storms in February improved drought in the Southeast and Midwest, but well below average precipitation in parts of the West in recent months has worsened drought in other places.

It’s natural to associate drought with heat and with summer, but drought also impacts us during winter months. Winter wheat yields are declining, and the Mississippi River is approaching an all-time low. Understanding drought conditions and how they are affecting us is part of being “climate smart.”
 

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