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Global warming could reduce Sierra Nevada runoff by 25 percent

Increased plant growth projected to use more water

In the lengthening nights of October, the Snake River starts to freeze.

Global warming is likely to have a big impact on mountain runoff. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Forests and brush moving up mountainsides as the climate warms could take a big gulp from streams and rivers, potentially cutting runoff by as much as 25 percent by the end of the century. Warmer temperatures will accelerate plant growth, triggering more water absorption and evaporation, according to researchers with  UC Irvine and UC Merced.

“Scientists have recognized for a while that something like this was possible, but no one had been able to quantify whether it could be a big effect,” said UCI professor of Earth system science Michael L. Goulden. “It’s clear that this could be a big effect of climate warming and that water managers need to recognize and plan for the possibility of increased water losses from forest evaporation.”

According to the researchers, runoff from mountain ranges is vulnerable to temperature hikes that lengthen growing seasons and result in more vegetation growth at high elevations, according to the study, to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Continue reading

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Are New Mexico forests holding steady in the face of climate change, drought and wildfires?

New inventory assesses state’s woodland resources
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STAFF REPORT

FRISCO — Mortality is increasing and growth is slowing down in New Mexico’s forest lands, according to a new forest inventory released in late August. The only species showing overall growth are ponderosa and piñon pines, as well as junipers, as insects, wildfires drought and disease take an increasing toll on the state’s woodlands.

Forests grow on about 25 million acres in New Mexico, with 44 percent on private lands and 31 percent on national forest lands. About 40 percent (10.8 million acres) of the forests are piñon-juniper woodlands, by far the state’s most extensive forest type. Gambel oak is the most abundant tree species by number of trees, and ponderosa pine is the most abundant by volume or biomass. Overall, researchers estimate there are more than 6 billion live trees growing in the state.

The inventory documented the drought-induced piñon pine die-off in the early 2000s, estimating that about 8 percent the species died, but noted that the mortality rate has tapered off.New Mexico’s aspen forests, covering about 380,000 acres, held steady in the past decade. Continue reading

Greenhouse gases from food production threaten climate targets

Taking a lunch break during a search for orchids in the Austrian countryside.

Taking a lunch break during a search for orchids in the Austrian countryside.

‘Agricultural practices are not necessarily at fault here – but our choice of food is’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Forget about greenhouse gas pollution from factories and transportation — by 2050 emissions of carbon dioxide and methane from food production alone could exceed targets set to prevent catastrophic global warming, University of Cambridge scientists warn in a new paper.

A major shift in food consumption norms has to be a big part of an overall plan to cut atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping air pollution, especially given the current trend toward meat-heavy Western diets, the authors wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change. Continue reading

Climate study shows how melting ice is raising sea level around Antarctica

‘The interaction between air, sea and ice in these seas is central to the stability of the Antarctic Ice Sheet and global sea levels’

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A new study tracks global warming impacts around Antarctica. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Global warming is upsetting the delicate balance between Antarctic ice, air and sea, University of Southampton scientists said this week, releasing results of a study showing a rapid rise in sea level around the frozen continent.

Based on an analysis of 19 years worth of satellite data, the researcher said sea level around the coast of Antarctica has climbed 2 centimeters more than the global average, driven almost entirely by an increase in freshwater, which is less dense than saltwater. That can cause localized increases in sea level, said Craig Rye, lead author of the paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience. Continue reading

Federal funds boost Native American climate resilience efforts

‘Impacts of climate change are increasingly evident for American Indian and Alaska Native communities and, in some cases, threaten the ability of tribal nations to carry on their cultural traditions and beliefs’

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Global warming poses a serious threat to Native American communities.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate change poses a serious threat not only to Native American natural resources, but to cultural traditions and spiritual beliefs, top Obama administration officials said last month, announcing $10 million in funding to boost adaptation and mitigation efforts on Native American lands.

The funding is part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which includes White House State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, aimed addressing the impacts of climate change already affecting tribal communities.

“From the Everglades to the Great Lakes to Alaska and everywhere in between, climate change is a leading threat to natural and cultural resources across America, and tribal communities are often the hardest hit by severe weather events such as droughts, floods and wildfires,” said Secretary Jewell, chair of the White House Council on Native American Affairs.

“Impacts of climate change are increasingly evident for American Indian and Alaska Native communities and, in some cases, threaten the ability of tribal nations to carry on their cultural traditions and beliefs,” said Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn. Continue reading

Climate: Wet West in July

Energetic monsoon brings moisture surplus to many areas

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The big wet?

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — An energetic and widespread monsoon weather pattern brought above normal precipitation to much of the West in August, with a bullseye of moisture in southern Idaho, extending across western Wyoming, Montana, northeastern Utah and into northwestern Colorado. Some locations in the region saw up to 800 percent of average precipitation. Continue reading

Mystery solved: Scientists document motion of rocks at Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa

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Study solves mystery of Death Valley’s moving rocks. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Wind, water and ice are shown once again to be key geological drivers

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists have not only solved the mystery of the moving rocks at Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa — they documented the movement on video and even took measurements by attaching GPS units to some “non-native” rocks as part of a research project in the Southern California desert.

Some of the rocks weigh up to 100 pounds and leave behind distinct tracks as they scoot across the dry lake bed. Scientists have been studying the area for decades, but nobody has seen the process in action until now, according to a press release from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (UC San Diego). Continue reading

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