Climate: U.S. sees coldest winter since 1985

In March, record cold readings outnumbered record highs by five to one

A tale of two winters, east and west. Map courtesy NOAA.

A tale of two winters, east and west. Map courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal climate experts this week confirmed what a lot of people already knew instinctively — a long, cold winter stretched well into March in many parts of the country, with the average monthly temperature for the month coming in at 1 degree Fahrenheit below the 20th century average.

Across the country, there were five times as many record cold daily maximum and minimum temperatures (5822) as record warm daily maximum and minimum temperatures (1149) — an anomaly in an era when warm temperature records have consistently outnumbered cold records for months and years at a time. Continue reading

Study assesses likelihood of Arctic ozone hole

This year's ozone hole over Antarctica was the second-smallest in 20 years, according to NASA.

Last year’s ozone hole over Antarctica was the second-smallest in 20 years, according to NASA.

CFC ban showing signs of success

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists say it’s unlikely that the Arctic will see ozone depletion on the scale of the Antarctic ozone hole, thanks mainly to international efforts to limit ozone-killing chemicals.

“While there is certainly some depletion of Arctic ozone, the extremes of Antarctica so far are very different from what we find in the Arctic, even in the coldest years,” said MIT atmospheric scientists Susan Solomon.

“It’s really a success story of science and policy, where the right things were done just in time to avoid broader environmental damage,” said Solomon, who made some of the first measurements in Antarctica that pointed toward CFCs as the primary cause of the ozone hole. Continue reading

Morning photo: April snow

Springtime in the Rockies

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Tracks.

FRISCO — I’ve always thought spring snowstorms were different. The snow is wetter, and often starts when air temperatures are (relatively) warm. That means the snow sticks to everything, including vertical surfaces, and hangs on even if there’s a bit of a breeze. So, even if the weather turns springlike, that snow clinging to the trees makes it look wintrier than it feels. Here’s what Summit County looked like after a recent April dusting. Continue reading

Environment: BLM plans in-depth study of oil and gas leases on Colorado’s White River National Forest

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The BLM will analyze the environmental impacts of contested oil and gas drilling leases south of I-70, between Carbondale and DeBeque. Click for a full-size version.

BLM taking input during scoping phase of environmental study

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Lynx, elk, owls and other high country forest critters in western Colorado will get at least a temporary reprieve from potential oil and gas drilling, as the federal Bureau of Land Management announced last week that it will do an in-depth environmental study for 65 existing oil and gas leases on 80,000 acres of public lands managed by the White River National Forest.

The leases are spread roughly west to east along biologically important mid-elevation lands between Carbondale and DeBeque and overlap designated roadless areas. Conservation advocates have long argued that the sale of the leases was inconsistent with efforts to protect wildlife, water quality and other high-value natural resources. Continue reading

Environment: Is the Amazon rainforest near a tipping point?

A NASA photo taken from the International Space Station shows sunlight glinting off the Amazon River.

A NASA photo taken from the International Space Station shows sunlight glinting off the Amazon River.

Drought the main driver of destructive fires

By Staff Report

FRISCO — Longer droughts, land-use changes and wildfires may  be pushing parts of the Amazon rainforest toward an ecological tipping point, a team of scientists said after analyzing the effects of fire in a series of study plots.

The changes may abruptly increase tree mortality and change vegetation over large areas, the researchers said, pointing out that current Amazon forest models don’t include the impacts of wildfires. As a result, projections of future forest health tend to underestimate the amount of tree death and overestimate overall forest health, said Dr. Michael Coe, of the Woods Hole Research Center. Continue reading

Colorado wetlands to regain federal protection

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High alpine wetlands that aren’t directly connected with larger rivers will regain more protection under a proposed new federal rule. bberwyn photo.

New rule aims to clear up regulatory limbo for seasonal streams and isolated wetlands

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A proposed federal rule would restore protection to hundreds of Colorado streams and big swaths of wetlands, including beloved alpine creeks and the sandy washes of the Front Range that only hold water seasonally.

The seasonal streams and disconnected wetlands long were covered under the Clean Water Act, but a pair of complex U.S. Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 opened some loopholes the regulations. At the least, the legal limbo caused headaches for scientists and regulators trying to assess impacts of housing developments and new roads. In some cases, they weren’t sure if they even had authority to regulate filling or draining of some wetlands. Continue reading

Morning photo: Here and there …

April awesomeness

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At the edge of the meadow.

FRISCO — A couple of quick jaunts through Summit County this weekend yielded a few decent snapshot, including the muted sunset in the first image, brought to life with th iPhone’s HDR option, not to mention some Instagram editing. Along with the scenic shots of Summit County, I got up close and personal with a couple of roadside embankments, exploring the emerging mosses and icicles. If you enjoy our daily snapshots, please visit the online Summit Voice gallery at Fine Art America. Continue reading

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