Featured research

A selection of new AGU research updated weekly.

15 July 2020Early-warning signals for critical temperature transitions
A new statistical method could help meteorologists predict heat waves days-to-weeks in advance, augmenting more complicated, existing meteorological models according to a new study in Geophysical Research Letters. The study identified distinctive patterns of change in two types of statistical analysis of temperature data that preceded heat waves or longer periods of climate warming. The statistical signatures reflect perturbation in temperature that accumulates until it hits a critical threshold or state change. Read the Arizona State University press release.

An analysis of the Trouvelot’s auroral drawing on 1/2 March 1872: Plausible evidence for recurrent geomagnetic storms
Étienne Trouvelot’s drawings of the great aurora has been often cited as a remarkable example of a mid‐latitude aurora, but scientists have been puzzled by other evidence that 1 March 1872 was a geomagnetically quiet day. A new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics  finds the artist probably got the date right and may have recorded an overlooked storm causes by recurring solar activity.

Novel quantification of shallow sediment compaction by GPS interferometric reflectometry and implications for flood susceptibility
A new study in Geophysical Research Letters finds the rate of vertical land motion from shallow compaction is comparable to or larger than the rate of sea‐level rise in the Mississippi Delta and on the eastern margin of the North Sea because of lost sediment inputs. Estimates of future flood risk and land loss for many of the world’s great coastal cities built on river deltas may be too low.

Unprecedented drought challenges for Texas water resources in a changing climate: what do researchers and stakeholders need to know?
Texans need to prepare for a near future that is hotter, drier and fraught with more water extremes, according to a new study in Earth’s Future. But preparation isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, especially in the face of megadroughts that could be unlike anything the state has seen in the past thousand years. Read the University of Texas press release.

8 July 2020: 

The silver lining of COVID‐19: estimation of short‐term health impacts due to lockdown in the Yangtze River Delta region, China 
new study in GeoHealth tackles the question of what shortterm health impacts are associated with improved air quality during COVID-19 lockdowns in China.  

Estimating Arctic temperature impacts from select European residential heating appliances and mitigation strategies 
Using data from 14 European countries, a new study in Earth’s Future estimates air quality and Arctic climate impacts based on black carbon, organic carbon, and sulfate emissions from 6 different woodfueled home heating appliances.  

The disappearing lake: An historical analysis of drought and the Salton Sea in the context of the GeoHealth framework 
A new study in GeoHealth finds future droughts and heatwaves are expected to rise in frequency and severity in California’s Imperial Valley region and may disproportionately affect those impacted by financial and health disparities. 

1 July 2020:

Disproving the Bodélé depression as the primary source of dust fertilizing the Amazon Rainforest 
Scientists have believed an ancient dry lake bed in Chad called the Bodélé depression is the main source of the more than 200 million tons of dust from the Sahara, North Africa, that blows across the Atlanticbecause Bodélé is the biggest source of dust in the world. But geochemical analysis of soil in the Amazon indicates the old lakebed isn’t a good match. A new study in Geophysical Research Letters contends El Djouf, a desert on the border of Mali and Mauritania, 2,600 kilometers (1,600 miles) to the west, more likely contributes the bulk of the dust. The source is important for the accuracy of models calculating the contribution of the dust to the productivity of the Amazon. 

Associations between dust storms and intensive care unit admissions in the United States, 2000‐2015 
Human-driven climate change is affecting dust storm occurrences and human exposure to dust particles in the United States. Studies worldwide have found negative health consequences related to dust exposure resulting in increased emergency department visits and hospitalizations. A new study in GeoHealth finds a 4.8% increase in intensive care admissions during dust storms. Five days after storms, admissions for respiratory illness remained 7.5% higher than usual. 

Antarctic ozone enhancement during the 2019 sudden stratospheric warming event 
In August and September of 2019, the ozone hole over Earth’s southern pole was the smallest ever recorded since its discovery. A new paper in the Geophysical Research Letters details how a warm three weeks in the stratosphere 20-30 kilometers above Antarctica prevented formation of the usual icy clouds that trap ozone-damaging chemicals. 

New WMO certified megaflash lightning extremes for flash distance (709 km) and duration (16.73 seconds) recorded from space 
new study in Geophysical Research Letters established two new world records for the longest reported distance and the longest reported duration for single lightning flashes in, respectively, Brazil and Argentina. The new records for “megaflashes”, verified with new satellite lightning imagery technology, more than double the previous values measuredRead the World Meteorological Organization press release.