Climate study says Arctic sea ice meltdown could pause for years due to natural variability

Researchers are trying to identify the consequences of dwindling sea ice. Photo courtesy University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Researchers are trying to identify the consequences of dwindling sea ice. Photo courtesy University of Alaska Fairbanks.

‘It is quite conceivable that the current period of near zero sea-ice trend could extend for a decade or more …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even with a strong human-caused global warming signal in the Arctic, natural climate variability will be a big factor in the pace of the sea ice meltdown in the next few decades.

A new modeling study that included scientists with the CU-Boulder Boulder-based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences shows that sea ice could remain relatively stable for 10 years or more due to natural factors. Continue reading

Climate: Arctic meltdown to shake up fish diversity

Arctic sea ice receded to the second-lowest extent on record this year. MAP COURTESY NATIONAL SNOW AND ICE DATA CENTER.

Open water in the Arctic will shake up the species mix in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Changes ahead, outcome uncertain

Staff Report

FRISCO — Melting Arctic sea ice is breaking down the natural barrier between Pacific and Atlantic fish species, with as-yet unknown consequences for ocean ecosystems, scientists said this week in a new study published in Nature Climate Change.

The last time the environmental conditions allowed such large-scale transfer to occur was nearly three million years ago during the opening of the Bering Strait, which facilitated the spread of mostly Pacific marine species toward the Atlantic. Continue reading

Siberian ‘ice wedges’ help track Arctic climate history

Temperature spike seen in late 1800s

Exposed ice wedges at the coast of the Siberian island Muostakh. Photo courtesy Dr. Thomas Opel/AWI.

Exposed ice wedges at the coast of the Siberian island Muostakh have helped scientists gain a better understanding of Arctic climate. Photo courtesy Dr. Thomas Opel/AWI.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Close scrutiny of giant underground ice wedges in Siberia have helped climate scientists gain a better understanding of temperature trends in the Arctic.

After picking apart the ice layers year by year and analyzing chemical signatures, researchers with the Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute concluded that a gradual 7,000-year increase in temperatures was punctuated by a sharp upward kink at the start of the industrial revolution, as heat-trapping greenhouse gases started to build up in the atmosphere. Continue reading

Disturbances have big effect on carbon uptake in southeastern forests

Florida oak.

Florida oak.

‘Continued forest carbon accumulation in the region is highly sensitive to land use transitions’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Forest disturbances, such as fire, disease, and cutting, as well as the impacts of land use change, may be slowing the carbon uptake of southeastern U.S. forests, according to a new U.S. Forest Service study.

The research shows that future carbon accumulation rates are highly sensitive to land use changes. Land use choices that either reduce the rate of afforestation or increase the rate of deforestation are key factors in future forest carbon accumulation, the scientists concluded in their report, published in the journal Scientific Reports. Continue reading

Climate study predicts doubling of extreme La Niñas

Will global warming intensify extreme weather swings?

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How will climate change affect ENSO?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming could increase the frequency of extreme La Niña events in the Pacific Ocean, with more droughts in southwestern United States, floods in the western Pacific regions and increased Atlantic hurricane activity.

The international study, published in Nature Climate Change, used advanced modeling to show how increased land-area heating, combined with more frequent El Niños, will feed a cycle of extreme La Niñas. Continue reading

Obama pushes for Arctic National Wildlife Refuge protection

Conservation plan proposes 12 million acres of new wilderness

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The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Alaska’s North Slope.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A far-reaching conservation plan for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska would designate 12 million acres of new wilderness, including critical wildlife habitat along the coastal plains that are home to vast herds of caribou.

On the White House blog, John Podesta and Mike Boots directly addressed the potential threat and disastrous consequences of a major oil spill in the region.

President Obama said he will make an official recommendation to Congress to designate core areas of the refuge – including its Coastal Plain – as wilderness, the highest level of protection available to public lands. Watch the President discuss the announcement here.

If Congress chooses to act, it would be the largest ever wilderness designation since Congress passed the Wilderness Act more than 50 years ago — but that’s highly unlikely with GOP control of Congress. In fact, Alaska’s pro-development lawmakers have already over-reacted by characterizing the announcement as a war on Alaska’s future, according to the Alaska Dispatch News, which has the best coverage of the story. Continue reading

Study: 15 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year escaping from Boston’s leaky pipeline network

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This map shows the geographical distribution of natural gas consumption during the year from September 2012 to August 2013 for the four states included in the study region. The research team used this data, along with air monitoring and analysis, to assess the fraction of delivered natural gas that was emitted to the atmosphere. Image courtesy of Kathryn McKain, Harvard SEAS.

Researchers say energy companies have little incentive to prevent leaks

Staff Report

FRISCO — A team of engineers and scientists say that up to 15  billion cubic feet of natural gas, worth some $90 million, may be escaping from leaky pipes in the Boston area.

The researchers, led by atmospheric scientists at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences calculated the figure by analyzing a year’s worth of continuous methane measurements, using a high-resolution regional atmospheric transport model to calculate the amount of emissions.

Tackling the problem will require innovative policy because  low prices and the way in which natural gas suppliers are regulated mean that gas companies have little economic incentive to make the necessary investments to reduce incidental losses from leakage, according to the Harvard researchers. Continue reading

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