Western wildfires burning bigger and more often

Global warming seen as key factor in trend

wildfire acreage graph

Study documents significant trend in size and frequency of western wildfires.

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Western wildfires: How much bigger will they get?

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The size and frequency of western wildfires have been increasing at a startling rate the past few decades, researchers said this week after scrutinizing satellite data to measure burned areas.

The number of wildfires larger than 1,000 acres increased by a rate of seven fires a year from 1984 to 2011 and the total areas burned grew by about 90,000 acres per year — an area the size of Las Vegas, according to the new study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal published by the American Geophysical Union.

“We looked at the probability that increases of this magnitude could be random, and in each case it was less than one percent,” said Philip Dennison, an associate professor of geography at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and lead author of the paper. Continue reading

Morning photo: Spring daze

Valley snow is melting fast

Twilight hike on Ptarmigan Mountain, Summit County, Colorado.

Twilight hike on Ptarmigan Mountain, Summit County, Colorado.

FRISCO — You know it was going to happen one of these days — even the biggest snow berms from the winter are melting down and hikers say that some local trails are already starting to dry out. That’s the case along the Ptarmigan Mountain Trail, where the first pasqueflowers of the season are blooming just in time for Easter. Continue reading

Environment: Activists ramp up campaign against seismic airguns

Oil-probing technology could harm marine mammals, affect fisheries

Oceana projection on National Postal Museum (Credit: Oceana/Melissa Forsyth)

Oceana projection on National Postal Museum (Credit: Oceana/Melissa Forsyth)

Staff Report

FRISCO — Tourism and fishing-dependent communities along the East Coast of the U.S. are banding together to voice concerns about seismic airgun testing. According to Oceana, an ocean conservation group, 110 local elected officials and 155 conservation and animal welfare organizations all say the use of airguns to conduct these seismic tests threatens fish populations and profitable fisheries.

Six coastal towns have also passed local resolutions opposing the use of airguns. (Cocoa Beach, FL, Carolina Beach, NC, Caswell Beach, NC, Nags Head, NC, Bradley Beach, NJ and Red Bank, NJ). The loud and constant undersea thumping may decrease the catch rates of certain fisheries, potentially threatening a billion-dollar industry that supports thousands of jobs.

At issue is the use of loud acoustic devices that help energy companies probe for oil beneath the seafloor. Federal officials recently adopted a final proposal that would allow the use of this controversial technology in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida. Continue reading

Morning photo: It’s snow love …

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Morning photo sponsored by the CRWCD. Click the banner for more info on the 2014 State of the River meetings.

It ain’t over until it’s over

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Skiing through a clearing April storm near Frisco, Colorado.

FRISCO — Sometimes I group photos geographically, or post a series of images from one shoot, but today’s set is all about diversity, in a photographic sense — color, texture, hue … we have such an incredible palette to choose from, especially with a digital darkroom. Visit our online gallery at Fine Art America for more Summit County landscape and nature images. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Another win for bison restoration

Montana court says bison are not livestock

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A Yellowstone bison. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A Montana district court judge this month rejected yet another attempt by ranchers to block the restoration of bison in the northern plains. The ranchers sought to have wild bison classified as livestock rather than wildlife, but Montana District Judge John McKeon ruled last week that wild bison are wildlife under state law — regardless of their confinement in quarantine.

A legal classification as livestock would have transferred jurisdiction over quarantined bison from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to the Montana Department of Livestock—a move that threatened to impede any future efforts to restore native bison as a wildlife species in appropriate portions of their historic habitat.

“This ruling rightly discredits what amounted to a stealth attack on future efforts to restore wild bison in Montana,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who represented Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation in opposing Citizens for Balanced Use’s argument. “Wild bison are classified as wildlife under Montana law. Now it is time to restore wild bison as wildlife on the Montana landscape.” Continue reading

Climate: U.S. sees coldest winter since 1985

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Climate story sponsored by the CRWCD. Click the banner for more info on the 2014 State of the River meetings.

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

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