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Climate Ranger update: Into the cryosphere

The realm of ice and snow

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A huge summer snowcave persists into late August in some years, nurturing the highest headwaters with small trickles that feed wetlands, creeks and ponds. A big shift in the timing of snowmelt or the total amount of annual snowfall will have big impacts on the high alpine Rocky Mountain ecosystems.

Some flowers literally grow straight through the ice

Some flowers literally grow straight through the ice.

Support the Rocky Mountain Climate Ranger project to learn more about how global warming is affecting the Rocky Mountains.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — It would be hard to do a climate change journey without visiting the cryosphere, that part of the Earth which is in a frozen state at any given time. The biggest slices, of course, are at the poles, but the rest is in the high mountains of the world, where glaciers linger for now, and snow coats the ground for half the year.

Most of the world’s population lives far removed from the realm of ice and snow, but it’s the part of the planet that’s showing the most wear and tear from global warming. The steep decades-long decline in sea ice extent, the potential collapse of massive Antarctic ice shelves and the continued worldwide glacial meltdown are all clear signs of our planet’s fever. Continue reading

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Is Hurricane Iselle headed for Hawaii?

Forecasters eye “hyperactive” tropical Pacific Ocean

NOAA's GOES-West satellite captured this image of a very active Eastern and Central Pacific, hosting three tropical cyclones (from left to right) Genevieve, Iselle and Julio. Image Credit:  NASA/NOAA GOES Project

NOAA’s GOES-West satellite captured this image of a very active Eastern and Central Pacific, hosting three tropical cyclones (from left to right) Genevieve, Iselle and Julio.
Image courtesy NASA/NOAA GOES Project.

Hurricane Iselle track

The forecast track of Hurricane Iselle shows the potential for impacts to Hawaii.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Meteorologists are keeping a close eye on what they describe as a hyperactive tropical Pacific Ocean, and especially on Hurricane Iselle, which is headed straight toward Hawaii with current sustained winds of 140 mph.

Iselle is expected to weaken before nearing the islands in about three days, but could still be packing a tropical storm-force punch, with winds of 60-60 mph. The Category 4 storm is expected to maintain strength for the next day or so before moving over cooler water and weakening. Continue reading

Climate: Hotter … and colder?

More extremes expected in a warming world

A NASA climate maps shows much of the globe was warmer than average during June 2014.

A NASA climate maps shows much of the globe was warmer than average during June 2014.

Staff Report

FRISCO — After crunching the latest climate numbers in a supercomputer, researchers with Northeastern University report that temperatures may become more volatile in coming decades, on both the hot and cold end of the spectrum.

Increasing temperature variability means that, while each year’s average hottest and coldest temperatures will likely rise, those averages will also tend to fall within a wider range of potential high and low temperate extremes than are currently being observed. This means that even as overall temperatures rise, there may still be extreme cold snaps. Continue reading

Study maps potential for climate-change disruption in National Parks

Some park lands seen as potential safe harbors from global warming

The southeastern and south-central U.S. are particularly vulnerable to ecosystem shifts driven by global warming. Map courtesy National Park Service.

The southeastern and south-central U.S. are particularly vulnerable to ecosystem shifts driven by global warming. Map courtesy National Park Service.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists zooming in on the potential impacts of global warming found that up to 25 percent of the lands managed by the National Park Service in the U.S. are vulnerable to vegetation shifting up slope and northward. The findings, published in the journal Global Change Biology, show that habitat loss from the development of roads and other urbanization, agriculture and deforestation makes ecosystems more vulnerable to climate change.

“We already established that climate change and habitat loss affect national parks, but this scientific study links these negative effects and identifies just how much of the landscape is at risk,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said. “The good news is that the study also identified areas of biodiversity that are refuges and wellsprings for species.” Continue reading

Report IDs ocean acidification threats to Alaska’s coastal resources, Native American communities

Important crab fisheries to suffer as oceans turn warm and acidiic

A nice haul of blue crabs.

Crabs are among the many commercially important species that will struggle as oceans grow warmer and more acidic. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO —Alaska’s economically important crab fishery and other coastal and ocean resources face significant global warming threats, according to a new study led by scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The research findings, to be published online in the journal Progress in Oceanography, show that many of Alaska’s nutritionally and economically valuable marine fisheries are located in waters that are already experiencing ocean acidification.

Communities in southeast and southwest Alaska face the highest risk from ocean acidification because they rely heavily on fisheries that are expected to be most affected by ocean acidification. Some of those Native American communities are also more vulnerable to economic risks because of lower average incomes and  fewer employment opportunities, NOAA said in a press release. Continue reading

Climate: Scientists call for cuts in methane emissions

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Cutting methane could slow global temperature surge.

Action could help avert climate tipping points

Staff Report

FRISCO — Leading scientists say the U.S. must do more to cut methane emissions from fossil fuel exploitation and other sectors to try and avoid reaching climate tipping points that could have disastrous implications.

Methane is a much more potent heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide, but it only stays in the atmosphere for about 12 years, which means that big cuts could have a tangible short-term benefit in the race to cap global warming. Continue reading

Climate Ranger project: We did it — thanks, everyone!

Check our stretch goals

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Rocky Mountains, here we come!

By Bob Berwyn

Thanks to the Beacon team, smart readers and generous souls, we’ve reached our $5,000 funding goal and we’re starting to plan the first leg of the Rocky Mountain Climate Ranger journey, high into the alpine zone of the Rockies, where melting mountain permafrost is worsening pollution in mountain streams. We’ll post our first story within a week. If you supported the project by pledging toward a subscription, you will receive your login from the Beacon team as soon as this project closes. For now, there’s still time to scoot on over to the project page and get your subscription. We’ll continue to post material from the project here on Summit Voice, but the Beacon news feed will be the freshest!

You can follow the treks on Twitter at a #climaterangers hashtag, and we’ll use a Beacon forum, as well as a Facebook page, as places where you can post questions for us and for all the people we’ll be interviewing along the way. You see, this project isn’t just crowdfunded, we’re hoping to partially crowdsource our stories, and you will be a big part of that!

Meanwhile, our funding period is open for another 36 hours, so we’re aiming for a stretch goal of $1,500 to help us upgrade our video equipment and plan a longer trip segment heading north, to find the biggest remaining glacier in the Rocky Mountains — does anyone know where it is?

So for fun:

Videography Sponsor level - For $750 you can sponsor all the trip videos. You’ll help us upgrade our video capabilities, and you’ll be fostering important life skills in a teenager who already shows talent and interest in environmental journalism.

Glacier-hunting Sponsor level – For $750 you can support our trip to find the biggest remaining glacier in the Rocky Mountains. We’re curious as to where that is?

The Whole Enchilada Sponsor level – For $1,000 you get all the above, plus a free weekend of lodging in a luxury condo at Copper Mountain during the post-trip dinner event in Dillon Colorado.

All higher-level sponsors ($100 or more) are invited to the Harvest Dinner event, featuring local, sustainable food, and presentation from the trip. You’re also eligible to choose a high-quality, large-format fine art print from our online galleries.

Please continue to share this link – http://www.beaconreader.com/projects/rocky-mountain-climate-rangers – for another day or so. Extra funding will enable us to expand the scope and quality of our reporting.

Thanks again, Bob and Beacon

Crunch time!

3 days to reach our crowdfunding goal for the Climate Ranger project

Bob Berwyn.

Bob Berwyn.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Crowdfunding isn’t just for journalism and tech start-ups anymore. These days, entire communities have joined in the action, with towns seeking direct support for projects, like in Liverpool, England, where a new playground was funded after a project was successfully funded on Spacehive, a platform for community projects.

At Summit Voice, we only have three days left to reach our goal of $5,000 to support two months of intensive environmental journalism that will look at the effects of global warming in the Rocky Mountains, and we need your help to reach the target. Thanks to the readers and subscribers who have already generously helped with pledges of support. Please visit our crowdfunding page for all the details and to make a pledge now: http://www.beaconreader.com/projects/rocky-mountain-climate-rangers?updated=1. Continue reading

Climate change drives Antarctic fur seal decline

Fur seals on Half Moon Island, in the South Shetland chain, off the Antarctic Peninsula. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Fur seals on Half Moon Island, in the South Shetland chain, off the Antarctic Peninsula. bberwyn photo.

Survival of the fittest?

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After studying fur seals around Antarctica for decades, researchers with the British Antarctic Survey say they’re seeing distinct genetic changes related to a changing climate and food availability. But despite a shift  towards individuals more suited to changing environmental conditions, this fitness is not passing down through generations, leaving the fur seal population on South Georgia Island in decline. Continue reading

Climate: Study sheds new light on Antarctic sea ice expansion

Growth in sea ice may be slower than reported

The water in the Antarctic Sound can be smooth as glass, and sometimes look thick and oily, probably because it's so cold. Click on the photo to learn about some of the environmental issues in Antarctica.

Scientists are puzzling over the expansion of Antarctic sea ice. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming deniers have long been using the observed expansion of Antarctic sea ice as a way to try and confuse the public about the reality of global warming, but some new research by scientists with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego suggests the rate of expansion is not as dramatic as reported.

The findings, published in The Cryosphere (European Geosciences Union) acknowledge that there has been some expansion recently, but that some of the reported ice gain may be due to inconsistencies in computer models used to measure Antarctic sea ice. Continue reading

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