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Global warming reshaping bird communities in Northeast

A backyard cardinal in Englewood, Florida. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Cardinals have become more common in the Northeast.

‘Climate change should not be viewed as the sole driver of changes in winter bird communities, but this signal is a pretty strong one for climate change’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is reshaping backyard bird communities in eastern North America, as once-rare birds are now common in the Northeast.

Cardinals, chipping sparrows and other warm-adapted species have greatly expanded their wintering range in a warmer world, a change that may have untold consequences for North American ecosystems, according to University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife biologists Benjamin Zuckerberg and Karine Princé.

In a new paper published in Global Change Biology, Zuckerberg and Princé analyzed more than two decades of data on 38 species of birds gathered by thousands of citizen scientists through the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch. They found that birds typically found in more southerly regions are gradually pushing north, restructuring the communities of birds that spend their winters in northern latitudes. Continue reading

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Study: Natural gas boom won’t slow global warming

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Increase in global gas production likely to displace renewable low carbon energy

Staff Report

FRISCO — Increasing production of natural gas won’t save the world from global warming, researchers said this week.

In the long run, a global abundance of inexpensive natural gas is likely to displace not just coal, but  also lower-emitting nuclear and renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar. Inexpensive natural gas would also accelerate economic growth and expand overall energy use, the study found.

“The effect is that abundant natural gas alone will do little to slow climate change,” said lead author Haewon McJeon, an economist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “Global deployment of advanced natural gas production technology could double or triple the global natural gas production by 2050, but greenhouse gas emissions will continue to grow in the absence of climate policies that promote lower carbon energy sources.” Continue reading

GAO report finds lagging response to ocean acidification

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Ocean acidification is an existential threat to many marine species and ecosystems.

Federal government has failed to implement several key steps required by 2009 law

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal agencies well recognize the environmental threats of increasing ocean acidification, but so far, the response has been lackluster at best, according to the Government Accountability Office.

In a report issued this week, the GAO said federal agencies have been slow in implementing several requirements of the 2009 Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act, including outlining the budget requirements for implementing the research and monitoring plan. Continue reading

Study: 1934 Dust Bowl still the Godzilla of North American droughts

A dust storm engulfs Stratford, Texas in April of 1935. The drought of 1934 was likely made worse by dust storms triggered by the poor agricultural practices of the time. Credit: NOAA/George E. Marsh Album.

A dust storm engulfs Stratford, Texas in April of 1935. The drought of 1934 was likely made worse by dust storms triggered by the poor agricultural practices of the time.
Credit: NOAA/George E. Marsh Album.

Severe dust storms spawned even more widespread drought, research shows

Staff Report

FRISCO — With all the recent talk of looming megadroughts, the 1934 peak of the Dust Bowl era still remains the most severe and widespread drought in North America during the past 1,000 years, climate scientists say.

Based on tree-ring studies and other physical records, the only other comparable event was way back in the 1500s.

The extent of the 1934 drought was approximately seven times larger than droughts of comparable intensity that struck North America between 1000 A.D. and 2005, and was caused in part by an atmospheric phenomenon that may have also led to the current drought in California, according to a new study. Continue reading

Climate: U.S. sees precipitation extremes in September

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A couple of cool spots, and big hot pocket out West in Sept. 2014.

NCDC says it was the 26th-warmest September on record

Staff Report

FRISCO — While 2014 is likely to end up as one of the warmest years on record for the planet, the U.S. hasn’t been quite so warm. A tongue of cool weather has persisted down the center of the country for months, while the farther west you go, the hotter it gets, culminating with the record heat in California.

September fit that trend, with the average temperature well above, but not near record levels in the Lower 48 states. According to the National Climatic Data Center’s latest monthly update, the average temperature  was 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, ranking it as the 26th warmest September. Precipitation for the month across the country was 0.09 inch above average, ranking near the middle. Continue reading

Study says odds are sea level will rise 3 feet by 2100

Denmark-based research team seeks to pinpoint ice sheet melt factor

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Large parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast could be swamped by rising seas.

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Coastal tidal flooding is already causing transportation problems near Venice, Louisiana, USA. bberwyn photo

Staff Report

FRISCO — Developing accurate projections for sea level rise has been an elusive, high-priority goal for climate scientists. It’s certain that sea level will keep rising for centuries to come. But it’s not clear at what rate and pace that will happen, especially during the next few decades as coastal communities try to prepare.

Some factors, like thermal ocean expansion, can be established with some accuracy but researchers still aren’t sure exactly how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will respond to warming.

In the latest number-crunching, scientists with the Niels Bohr Institute established that there’s little chance sea level will rise more than 1.8 meters (about 6 feet) by 2100. The results are published in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters. Continue reading

Study: Cutting carbon pollution pays off in a big way by reducing health care costs

Feds make progress on environmental justice.

Study shows how cutting carbon pollution pays huge dvidends by reducing health care costs.

‘Carbon-reduction policies significantly improve air quality’

Staff report

FRISCO — Adopting a carbon cap-and-trade program would easily pay for itself — and then some — by reducing health care costs associated with treating asthma and other medical conditions resulting from air pollution, MIT researchers said in a detailed study that looked at the comparative cost and benefits of three potential climate policies.

Policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions from sources like power plants and vehicles,  also lead to reductions in other harmful types of air pollution, the scientists said, publishing their findings last month in Nature Climate Change.

Overall, the study found that savings on health care spending and other costs related to illness can be big — in some cases, more than 10 times the cost of policy implementation. Continue reading

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