Shell gets federal greenlight for exploratory Arctic drilling

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Shell gets OK for exploratory drilling in the Arctic Sea.

Conditional permits limit operations and set protections for marine mammals

Staff Report

FRISCO — Shell’s Arctic drill plans got a green light from federal regulators today, as the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued a pair of conditions permits for limited exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea, off the coast of Alaska.

The permits limit Shell to drilling in the top sections of wells. The company won’t be allowed to probe deep in into the oil-bearing zones until well-capping equipment is on hand and deployable within 24 hours — which still leaves enough time for thousands of gallons of crude to leak into the sensitive and pristine Arctic Ocean. Continue reading

Climate change contributes to longer fire seasons worldwide

In late June, smoke from wildfires in Canada streamed down over North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

In late June, smoke from wildfires in Canada streamed down over North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

New study tracks regional nuances, global trends

Staff Report

FRISCO — U.S. Forest Service scientists and other researchers say there has been a significant increase in the length of wildfire seasons on nearly every continent, with the exception of Australia. Fire weather seasons around the globe have increased by nearly 20 percent and the global burnable area doubled over the past 35 years.

Most vegetation types, except boreal forests, showed significant increases in the fire weather season length, the new study found. Some areas, such as the Western and Southeastern United States, Alaska, tropical and sub-tropical South America and Eastern Africa and large parts of Eurasia show a steady lengthening of the fire season from 1979-2013. Continue reading

Climate study projects big impacts to phytoplankton

Scientists ‘shocked’ by scope of changes

Scientists working in the Gulf of Mexico are tracking BP's spilled oil as it works its way up the food web, from bacteria to plankton. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

Scientists say there will dramatic changes in ocean plankton communities by the end of the 21st century. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is likely to have a big effect on the abundance and diversity of ocean phytoplankton, with some species dying out and other flourishing, researchers said after completing a study that tries to anticipate the impacts of ocean acidification.

Since pre-industrial times, the pH of the oceans has dropped from an average of 8.2 to 8.1 today, and by end of the century, could drop to 7.8 — much lower than any levels seen in open ocean marine communities today. Continue reading

Climate: Warmer temps, more rain will up disease threat to endangered Hawaiian birds

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After more than 30 years of careful management, the Hawaiian stilt is thriving at Pearl Harbor and James Campbell National Wildlife Refuges on Oahu. Credit: Mike Silbernagle/USFWS.

Mosquito-free havens will start to disappear by mid-century, study warns

Staff Report

FRISCO — Island birds, including endangered species in the Hawai‘i archipelago, are facing a serious threat, as diseases carried by mosquitoes are due to expand into higher elevation safe zones.

With warming temperatures, mosquitoes will move farther upslope and increase in number, and mosquito-friendly temperatures are expected by mid-century, according to a new study by researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Future increases in rainfall will likely benefit the mosquitoes as well.

“We knew that temperature had significant effects on mosquitoes and malaria, but we were surprised that rainfall also played an important role,” said USGS Wisconsin scientist Michael Samuel. “Additional rainfall will favor mosquitoes as much as the temperature change.” Continue reading

Climate: Not a lot of options for polar bears

 Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Polar bear photo courtesy Eric Regehr, USFWS.

New study shows food shortages will catch up to the Arctic predators

Staff Report

FRISCO — When it comes to finding food as Arctic sea ice melts, polar bears don’t exactly have a lot of options.

That’s one of the main reasons the Arctic predators are under the global warming gun, and a new study of how the bears respond metabolically during lean times underscores the existing science. Continue reading

Climate: Shift in Pacific Ocean pattern likely to drive global temperatures to new record highs

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Global temperatures could surge in the next few years as the Pacific Ocean shifts to a warm phase.

‘In the long term, there is robust evidence of unabated global warming ..’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A shift in a decadal-scale cycle of Pacific Ocean temperatures could lead to a spike in global warming the next few years, climate researchers said after tracking a subsurface layer of unusually warm water in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

The layer, between 300 and 1,000 feet below the surface, has been accumulating more heat than previously recognized, according to climate researchers from UCLA and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who published their finding in the journal Science.

“Given the fact the Pacific Decadal Oscillation seems to be shifting to a warm phase, ocean heating in the Pacific will definitely drive a major surge in global surface warming,” said Veronica Nieves, lead author of the study and a UCLA researcher with the UCLA Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering. Continue reading

Climate: Does solar activity drive North Atlantic currents?

A new study found that Greenland temperatures fell from the 1970s through the early 1990s while temperatures across much of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere rose. This map shows the average difference in surface temperatures between 1920-1940 and 1975-1995. Grey areas indicate regions where not enough data was available to calculate long-term temperature changes. Credit: Takuro Kobashi

Greenland temperatures fell from the 1970s through the early 1990s while temperatures across much of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere rose, and solar activity may be an important factor.
Credit: Takuro Kobashi

Low solar activity could speed Greenland Ice Sheet melting in coming years

Staff Report

FRISCO — Solar activity could be an important factor in determining how fast the Greenland Ice Sheet melts, scientists concluded in a new study after analyzing ice cores and historical temperature records.

Based on their analysis, the researchers found that High solar activity starting in the 1950s and continuing through the 1980s played a role in slowing down ocean circulation between the South Atlantic and the North Atlantic oceans. Continue reading

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