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Climate: New ice core record shows three distinct CO2 pulses about 10,000 years ago, as ice age ended

‘The natural carbon cycle can change a lot faster than we thought’

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How will Earth’s climate respond to the current rise in CO2?

Staff Report

FRISCO — One of the most detailed ice cores samples ever taken from Antarctica shows three sharp spikes of atmospheric carbon dioxide ushering in the end of the ice age about 10,000 years ago.

Based on the findings, the researchers said that the increase in atmospheric CO2 from the peak of the last ice age to complete deglaciation was about 80 parts per million, taking place over 10,000 years, with about half that increase occurring in just a few centuries.

They’re not sure what caused the sudden surges, but suspect it was a combination of factors, including ocean circulation, changing wind patterns, and terrestrial processes. But understanding the mechanisms that caused the changes would help determine what take the Earth in and out of ice age regimes. Continue reading

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October heat wave delays start of Colorado ski season

Snow guns silent in late October as temps run 15 degrees above average

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2014 on track to become warmest year ever.

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How will the ski industry weather global warming?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —Last year’s winter Olympics helped cast a spotlight on global warming and the ski industry. As the snow at Sochi’s alpine venues visibly melted during the live television coverage of the games, winter sports athletes advocated for action on climate change.

Now, just a few months later, some of those same ski racers who had planned early season training sessions at Copper Mountain, Colorado will have to wait. A run of extraordinarily warm temperatures in October all but silenced industrial snowmaking operations at several resorts, as both Copper and Keystone delayed scheduled openings because of the balmy conditions. Continue reading

Study: Tornado season becoming more variable

A new NOAA study tracks the occurrence of seasonal tornadoes across the U.S.

A new NOAA study tracks the occurrence of seasonal tornadoes across the U.S.

Fewer outbreaks, but more twisters?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Tracking tornado trends is a big deal in the global warming era, as researchers seek to determine whether climate change will result in more catastrophic and life-threatening weather events.

Since the 1950s, researchers say, the overall number of annual tornadoes has remained steady, but a new analysis of data shows  there are fewer days with tornadoes each year, but on those days there are more tornadoes.

A consequence of this is that communities should expect an increased number of catastrophes, said lead author Harold Brooks, research meteorologist with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory. Continue reading

Climate: Study says warmer temps causing goats to shrink

Body mass no joke for alpine critters that live on the edge of survival

Staff Report

FRISCO — A 30-year study of mountain goats in the European Alps suggests that global warming may be causing the mammals to shrink dramatically, posing a potential risk to the species’s survival.

It’s not the first time that scientists have documented changes in body size as a response to climate change, but the chamois researcher with Durham University (UK) said they were surprised by the speed and magnitude of the changes in chamois.

“Body size declines attributed to climate change are widespread in the animal kingdom, with many fish, bird and mammal species getting smaller,” said Dr. Tom Mason, with School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, at Durham University. “However the decreases we observe here are astonishing. The impacts on Chamois weight could pose real problems for the survival of these populations.” Continue reading

Antarctica’s ice-free fringe needs more protection

Invasive species a huge threat to sparse ecosystems, scientists report

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Tourists on Dundee Island hike past birds and pinnipeds. bberwyn photo

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Tourists hiking on Deception Island. bberwyn photo

Staff Report

FRISCO — The tiny ice-free fringes of Antarctica are especially prone to ecosystem disruption, including invasive species, an Australian science team warned earlier this year after taking a close look at how human use is concentrated in those slivers of dry land.

Antarctica has over 40,000 visitors a year, and more and more research facilities are being built in the continent’s tiny ice-free area. Most of the Antarctic wildlife and plants live in the ice-free areas – and this is also where people most visit.

Most tour operators in Antarctica follow strict guidelines set to protect ecosystems, including at least basic decontamination procedures, but those measures might not be enough, especially as global warming makes ice-free zones more susceptible to invasive species. Continue reading

Climate: Karakoram glaciers to keep growing

Study hints at complexity of forecasting climate change in the mountains

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A NASA Earth Observatory satellite image shows the heart of the Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan, along with the glaciers that supply water for millions of people below.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Teasing localized climate information from global models is tough at any level, and becomes even harder when you factor in the complexities of mountain topography and highly localized and seasonal weather patterns.

But new data has enabled scientists to better understand the long-vexing climate change puzzle of growing glaciers in the Karakoram mountains, a northern range of the greater Himalayas. Understanding the future of glaciers in that region, and around the world, has implications for millions of people who rely on the glaciers for water supplies.

Most glaciers in the Himalayas and around the world have been retreated for the past 150 years, and the melting has accelerated in the last few decades. But the Karakoram glaciers have been stable or growing. The new study says it’s because a unique and localized seasonal pattern keeps the mountain range relatively cold and dry during the summer. Continue reading

Human disturbance the key factor driving changes in eastern forests

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A new study finds that human disturbance drives forest changes in eastern U.S. bberwyn photo

Fire suppression, land-clearing outweigh climate factors, study says

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate change may only be a secondary factor in the changing composition of Eastern forests. Changes in disturbance regimes have had a much bigger impact in the past century or so, according to Marc Abrams, a researcher in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

Abrams says eastern forests are still in a state of disequilibrium resulting from massive clear-cutting and burning during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and aggressive forest fire suppression has also had a far greater influence on shifts in dominant tree species than minor differences in temperature. Continue reading

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