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Todd Sanford

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About the author: Todd Sanford is a climate scientist with expertise in the atmospheric chemistry and physics of the climate system. His current work involves the public health impacts of climate change. He holds a PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Colorado. See Todd's full bio.

Colors of Wildfire Risk: Do Dead Trees Increase the Threat?

There are many reasons to enjoy living in the West — the large number of sunny days each year and low humidity immediately spring to mind. Driving through the high country is another reason, as I did last week from the Front Range of Colorado to Aspen.  Among the highlights (depending on the route you take) is passing through Leadville, the highest incorporated city in the United States at 10,152 feet. There’s also the drive over Independence Pass, which definitely qualifies as white-knuckle driving with no guardrails for drop-offs that seem to go on forever. Another highlight was always the drop into Summit County (home of Breckenridge and other ski resorts) coming down from the Continental Divide after passing through the Eisenhower Tunnel.

However, what was a stunning vista in years past is now marred by dead trees virtually everywhere you look.  Read More

Categories: Global Warming  

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A Look Toward Dangerous Summer Air with Asthma Awareness Month

Of my many childhood memories, most of which can be looked back at with a smile and involved sports in some way, one that stands out with a great deal of clarity was my first asthma attack. Read More

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Wildfire Season Has Arrived in the West

While some locations in the West, such as Boulder CO, received a foot of snow this past Wednesday others are now in the grips of conditions ripe for wildfire and indeed facing outbreaks already.  California is currently bearing the brunt of early-season activity with wildfires in areas in the northern part of the state and around Los Angeles. Read More

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Impacts After the Flood: As Midwest Waters Recede, Health Threats Remain

It’s seems the Midwest can’t catch a break on the weather. Widespread drought has hit the region hard and now areas along the Mississippi and farther east have seen heavy rain and flooding, bringing back unwanted memories of the historic floods just two years ago. Chicago had its wettest April on record and Grand Rapids was transformed into an aquariumRead More

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Another Record-Breaking Year for Climate Change

It’s virtually certain that 2012 will be the warmest year on record for the continental United States. When scientists affirm these results, they’ll no doubt make headlines. But we should put that record in perspective. The continental U.S. covers just 2 percent of the Earth’s surface. Globally, we’re set to have another very hot year, likely in the top 10 according to the World Meteorological Organization. Read More

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Reducing Hurricane Risk Using Natural Defenses

Now that Hurricane Sandy has passed and buildings, infrastructure, and lives are beginning to be rebuilt there are still many important conversations to be had. For starters, there may be lingering and long-term public health risks that are no less important now weeks after flooding events. And what about the next big storm? Will we be prepared for it? Natural defense systems, such as properly functioning wetlands and river deltas, should be part of this conversation in addition to built structures like seawalls and levees. Read More

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Hurricane Sandy’s Toll on Public Health

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, many of the images that stand out in my mind deal with a loss of place and structure. Photos of a burned-out Breezy Point in Queens. Atlantic City and the loss of its iconic boardwalk. Less prevalent, however, seem to be photos of direct human suffering and health impacts. I’m thinking of people paddling down flooded streets or waiting to be rescued on rooftops. Though the infrastructure impacts from Sandy will clearly be very costly, the significant public health impacts and continued health risks should also be a central part of the response and planning discussion. Read More

Categories: Global Warming  

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Carbon Measurements on the Chopping Block

It’s hard to overstate the importance of understanding how carbon moves through land, oceans, air, and all life on Earth. The carbon cycle has helped shape the planet’s climate back into deep time and is a primary determinant today. It is then not welcome news that we may be faced with losing some of our capacity to measure carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under looming budget cuts.  Read More

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The Drought-Heat Tango: Why Dry Conditions Can Lead to Even Higher Temperatures

The 2012 Drought in America series so far has looked at the immense impacts of the drought on farmers and taxpayers, impacts to the energy sector, how the drought may reshape American agriculture, strategies for building resilience, and finally the longer-term climate implications for drought. I thought it may be useful to have a post that looks at some of the basic underlying mechanisms of the drought-heat dance that can be applied not only to our current drought, but those of past and future as well. Or as one paper states it, as soil moisture decreases, “hot days tend to get hotter to a greater degree than cool days get warmer.”

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Dangerous Summer Heat on the Rise in the Midwest

We couldn’t have chosen more appropriate weather (hot!) to mark the release of our report looking at changing summer heat in the Midwest. Millennium Park in Chicago was just beginning to get really hot and Crown Fountain crowded as we discussed the summer heat trends that Chicago has experienced over the past 60 or so years.  A true “DT” day, indeed.  (You’ll have to read the report to find out what that means.  No spoilers here).  The report finds that, on average, summer weather is changing in ways that increase the risk of heat-related health impacts in large Midwestern cities, including Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. Read More

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