Climate: Is the California drought the new norm?

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California’s withering drought continues.

Study shows how global warming may very well lead to semi-permanent drought by mid-century

Staff Report

FRISCO — California’s crippling drought may be the new norm, according to scientists who studied the link between greenhouse gases, rising temperatures and multi-year period of record warmth and dryness.

The new study by Stanford researchers found that the worst droughts in California have historically occurred when conditions were both dry and warm, and that global warming is increasing the probability that dry and warm years will coincide.

The findings suggest that California could be entering an era when nearly every year that has low precipitation also has temperatures similar to or higher than 2013-2014, when the statewide average annual temperature was the warmest on record. The study was published in the March 2 issue of the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Continue reading

Arctic sea ice has thinned by 65 percent in 37 years

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A NASA satellite image shows swirls of sea ice near Greenland.

New study includes data from the pre-satellite era

Staff Report

FRISCO — After analyzing data from multiple sources, scientists say Arctic sea ice is thinning much faster than they thought, and the meltdown is not slowing down.

Between 1975 and 2012, ice in the central Arctic thinned by 65 percent on average, and by 85 percent in September, when the ice cover is at a minimum, according to a new study published in The Cryosphere.

“The ice is thinning dramatically,” said lead author Ron Lindsay, a climatologist at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. “We knew the ice was thinning, but we now have additional confirmation on how fast, and we can see that it’s not slowing down.” Continue reading

How long will California’s drought continue?

Snowpack at record low levels

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A NASA Earth Observatory photo shows dry conditions in California in Jan. 2014.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The snowpack in some key California watersheds is at or near all-time record low, the state’s water managers reported this week after conducting their monthly surveys.

At one site, west of Sacramento in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the California Department of Water Resources reported less than 1 inch of water content in the snowpack, just 5 percent of the March 3 historical average for that site. Snowpack measurements are online here. Continue reading

Climate: Too cold for penguins?

Emperor penguin colony near Halley Bay. IMAGE COURTESY DIGITALGLOBE.

Emperor penguin colony near Halley Bay. IMAGE COURTESY DIGITALGLOBE.

Genetic study tracks history of Antarctica’s emperor penguin populations

Staff Report

FRISCO — A genetic study shows that emperor penguins may have just barely survived the last ice age, with a few scattered populations  enduring centuries of bitter cold and ice.

The study covers about 30,000 years and suggests that only three populations survived, including a climate refuge of sorts in the Ross Sea, where emperors may have been able to breed around a relatively small area of open water. The emperor penguins in that region evolved to become genetically distinct from other populations, which may support arguments for creating a Ross Sea marine protected area. Continue reading

Can global warming cause wars?

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A NASA Earth Observatory map shows the rainfall deficit during the 2006-2010 drought across the fertile crescent of Iraq and Syria.

Population growth, drought and poor governance combined to spur 2011 Syria uprising

Staff Report

FRISCO — A sustained drought in the Middle East, driven by global warming, may have been a key trigger for the brutal war in Syria, according to researchers. The drought, lasting from 2006 to 2010, destroyed agriculture in northern Syria, forcing farmers into cities, where poverty, government mismanagement and other factors created unrest that exploded in spring 2011.

“We’re not saying the drought caused the war,” said Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who coauthored a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region.” Continue reading

Environment: Feds eye new Arctic drilling rules

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Feds are seeking public comment on new rules for Arctic Sea drilling.

Major spill would devastate Arctic ecosystems

Staff Report

FRISCO — Proposed new Arctic drilling rules would require fossil fuel companies to have a spare drilling rig available in case they lose control of the primary well. The new rule is aimed at ensuring that companies operating in the Arctic are full prepared for the region’s extreme conditions.

As released in late February, the rules  focus solely on offshore exploration drilling operations within the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea Planning Areas. The proposed rule is open for public comment through mid-April. Comment HERE. Continue reading

Global warming: California’s majestic redwoods at risk

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Redwoods at risk. bberwyn photo.

New study pinpoints climate-change threats to Pacific Northwest rainforests

Staff Report

FRISCO — Huge reservoirs of biodiversity in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest are at risk as global warming reshapes climate conditions in the region.

Suitable habitat for majestic coastal redwoods could shrink by 23 percent, and other species like Alaska’s yellow cedars are already dying back as temperatures warm.

“In the Pacific Northwest, the glass is half empty as the climate may no longer support rainforest communities like coast redwood,” said Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, Chief Scientist of Geos Institute, announcing the results of a recent study that focused on the future distribution of eight rainforest conifers across a 2,200-mile stretch of coastal rainforests in the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, and Alaska. Continue reading

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