Fracking: New aerial research to track pollutants above western fossil fuel development zones

Sensitive instruments to track methane, VOCs and other airborne toxins from New Mexico to North Dakota

The Four Corners area (red) is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions in this map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher). Image Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan.

The Four Corners area (red) is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions in this map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher). Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A recent study of satellite data showing a hotspot of potent heat-trapping methane pollution over the Four Corners region makes it clear that we’re digging an ever-deeper global warming hole by fracking every last corner of the country.

As NOAA put it, “Vast regions west of the Mississippi River are under development for oil and gas extraction … but while one focus is on what comes out of the ground, NOAA and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences researchers and their colleagues are studying what escapes to the air—and how it is transformed in the atmosphere and affects air quality and climate.

Scientists hope to learn much more about the massive quantities of pollution escaping from fossil fuel development areas in the next few months as they launch this year’s  Shale Oil and Natural Gas Nexus (SONGNEX 2015) field campaign, using airborne instruments to measure greenhouse gases and other toxic emissions.

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Capping global warming at 2 degrees Celsius not enough to protect at-risk populations and vulnerable ecosystems

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Is there a ‘safe’ limit for global warming?

‘No safe limit’

Staff Report

FRISCO — While the world haltingly stumbles down a path aimed at limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, some experts say that target isn’t enough to protect at-risk ecosystems and the world’s most vulnerable populations.

In a commentary for the open access journal Climate Change Responses, Penn State geographer Petra Tschakert said the goal is “utterly inadequate,” leaving millions of people vulnerable to devastating flooding, heatwaves and other impacts they are ill-equipped to deal with. Continue reading

Mexico sets ambitious goal for greenhouse gas cuts

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A snapshot of per capita greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate pledge includes a 2026 peak for emissions

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate activists today hailed Mexico’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as an important milestone leading up to a hoped-for global climate deal later this year.

On the path to that agreement, a March 31 deadline looms for individual countries to make their emissions reductions targets known, and Mexico became the first emerging economy to commit to reducing greenhouse gases after 2020. Read Mexico’s pledge here. Continue reading

NASA tracks the Rocky Mountain global warming meltdown

Earlier snowmelt has been especially obvious in most of the mountain ranges of the western United States

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new NASA study focusing on northwestern Wyoming reinforces earlier research showing that global warming is already having a huge effect on the timing of snowmelt in the Rocky Mountains. Read the full NASA post, with more maps and graphs, here.

Taking a close look at the Wind River Range showed that the  snowmelt season in that area now ends about 16 days earlier than it did from the 1970s through the 1990s, using images and data from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. They also studied ground-based stream discharge measurements and daily temperature and precipitation records. Continue reading

Study: Global warming not to blame for fierce winter

Findings from Swiss-American team present nuanced view of how climate change affects weather extremes

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One of this past winter’s northeastern snowstorms swirls off the coast of New England in the satellite image via NASA Earth Observatory.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Adding more fuel to the debate over climate change and extreme weather, Swiss and American scientists this week said their new study shows that global warming tends to reduce temperature variability.

The cold and snowy weather that gripped much of the eastern U.S. this winter was probably not linked to Arctic amplification and increased waviness of the jet stream, according to the scientists with ETH Zurich and the California Institute of Technology.

Changes in the north-south difference in temperatures play a greater role in modifying temperature variability than changes in the jet stream, the researchers said. Continue reading

Report shows growing impacts of ocean acidification

CU-Boulder scientists study document decline of calcification rates in marine organisms around Antarctica

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The Southern Ocean may lose its ability to function as a carbon sink. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

*More Summit Voice stories on ocean acidification

FRISCO — The steady increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide is already causing large-scale shifts in the ocean carbon cycle, according to University of Colorado, Boulder scientists, who calculated the calcification rate of marine organisms in the Southern Ocean.

According to the scientists there has been a 24 percent decline in the amount of calcium carbonate produced in large areas of the Southern Ocean over the past 17 years. Continue reading

Global warming: Antarctic ice shelves have thinned 18 percent in the past two decades

Troubling signs of a major meltdown continue

It's not clear when the waters around Antarctica will no longer be able to support production of phytoplankton.

 Global warming is nibbling away at Antarctica’s ice sheets, which show declines of up to 18 percent in a new analysis of satellite data. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

*More Summit Voice stories on global warming changes in Antarctica.

FRISCO — In the dry language of science, researchers this week said that some of Antarctica’s floating ice shelves have thinned by as much as 18 percent in just a couple of decades — a finding that provides “new insights on how the Antarctic ice sheet is responding to climate change.”

After analyzing 20 years of satellite data, the new NASA-supported study shows the ice volume decline is accelerating under a thickening blanket of greenhouse gases. Merging data from three overlapping missions, the study was able to show the trend over time rather than just offering a snapshot view of the ice.

“Eighteen percent over the course of 18 years is really a substantial change,” said Paolo. “Overall, we show not only the total ice shelf volume is decreasing, but we see an acceleration in the last decade.” said Scripps graduate student Fernando Paolo. Continue reading

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