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Climate: June was wet and warm across U.S.

California drought still intensifying

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 — The average June temperature across the contiguous United States was 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, not near a record but still high enough to rank as the 33d warmest June on the books, according to the National Climatic Data Center’s monthly summary.

No state reported June temps ranking in the top 10, but if you’re waiting for things to cool down at night, you may be out of luck. The average minimum temperature during the first month of summer was 1.7 degrees above average — the 10th warmest average minimum temperature on record.

Many climate models project that nighttime low temps will rise faster than the overall average temperature, a worrying trend that doesn’t bode well for city dwellers, and especially for low-income residential areas, where residents are not equipped to protect themselves from extreme heat. Continue reading

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Environment: Changes in precipitation may drive birds response to global warming

Perched.

Perched.

New model unravels some of the complexities of how wildlife will respond to global warming

Staff Report

FRISCO — Populations of familiar backyard birds like the rufous hummingbird and evening grosbeak are declining, a trend that may be linked with changes in precipitation patterns across the western U.S.

Scientists studying the changes with a new model say precipitation, rather than temperature, may be the the main factor in determining how birds will respond to climate change.

Several past studies have found that temperature increases can push some animal species – including birds – into higher latitudes or higher elevations. Few studies, however, have tackled the role that changes in precipitation may cause, according to Matthew Betts, an Oregon State University ecologist and a principal investigator on the study. Continue reading

Climate: Tracking the urban heat island effect

city heat

Global warming impacts are magnified in cities.

‘Convective efficiency’ the key factor in city temperatures

Staff Report

FRISCO — Many cities, including Denver, have identified extreme heat as one of the most immediate challenges of global warming, primarily because the urban heat island effect will cause temperatures in urban areas to spike well above readings in the surrounding countryside.

Now, a Yale-led study pinpoints the primary causes of the heat island effect, showing that cities in humid climates face the biggest problems. Along with direct risks like heat stroke, increasing temperatures in cities will also worsen air pollution problems. Continue reading

Climate: Greenhouse gases drive Australia drying trend

Since the 1970s, southern Australia has been experiencing declining rainfall in the fall and winter, creating scenes like this one in a 2007 photograph at Lake Hume. (Creative Commons/ Suburbanbloke)

Since the 1970s, southern Australia has been experiencing declining rainfall in the fall and winter, creating scenes like this one in a 2007 photograph at Lake Hume. (Creative Commons/ Suburbanbloke).

New model can resolve some climate impacts on a regional scale

STAFF REPORT

FRISCO — Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases and ozone depletion over Antarctica are the main drivers of the long-term decline in rainfall over southwestern Australia, federal scientists said in a weekend press release.

The findings, published in Nature Geoscience, are derived from a new  high-resolution climate model that may help researchers identify more links between heat-trapping gases and regional climate trends, including here in the U.S. Continue reading

Arctic: Satellite images help track polar bears

Data will help assess global warming impacts to Arctic wildlife

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Polar bears near a U.S. Navy submarine.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The latest generation of high-resolution satellite images may help scientists gain a better understanding of Arctic polar bear populations. Dwindling Arctic sea ice is seen a huge threat to the predators, but difficult field conditions make it challenging to get a clear picture of polar bear population dynamics.

Satellite images have also been used recently to track emperor penguins in Antarctica, and researchers are starting to rely on satellite images more and more. In a new study, U.S. Geological Survey biologists matched satellite surveys with ground-truthed counts. Continue reading

Feds to backpedal on wolverine protection

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Are wolverines in the U.S. doomed by global warming?

Leaked memo suggests USFWS is bowing to political pressure from western states

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Federal officials apparently won’t let the best available science stop them from making yet another politically motivated endangered species decision.

This time, wolverines are at issue, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepares to withdraw a proposal to list the rare mammal based on threats posed by global warming. The agency hasn’t officially announced its intention, but a leaked memo  shows that USFWS Mountain-Prairie regional director Noreen Walsh wants to override the recommendations of her own scientists and withdraw the listing proposal. Continue reading

Study tracks global warming in national parks

Scientists track impacts to ecoystems as temperatures rise

Great Sand Dunes National Park may not be one of the most-visited, but it's definitely one of the most intriguing. Bob Berwyn photo.

How will global warming affect wildflowers in Great Sand Dunes National Park?

FRISCO — National Parks across the country are facing an era of change because of global warming, scientists concluded in a new study showing that many parks are already experiencing temperatures that are near the extreme high end of the scale, based on measurements going back to 1910.

The report by National Park Service scientists concludes  “that climate change is happening in America’s national parks, and in some cases in rapid and concerning ways,” and that “measurable plant and animal responses to recent climate change have already been documented.”

“This report shows that climate change continues to be the most far-reaching and consequential challenge ever faced by our national parks,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a statement  “Our national parks can serve as places where we can monitor and document ecosystem change without many of the stressors that are found on other public lands.” Continue reading

Climate: Are emperor penguins doomed?

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Emperor penguins in Antarctica. Photo courtesy BAS.

New study projects 50 percent decline by century’s end as sea ice habitat dwindles

Staff Report

FRISCO — Antarctica’s emperor penguins may be colonizing new territory right now, but the long-term outlook for the birds is grim, according to new research showing that changes in sea ice concentration will likely cause most colonies to decline by 50 percent by the end of the century.

Even the most remote reaches of Antarctica won’t be immune to the changes, the study leaders said, describing the results of their findings in a new article in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The study concludes that emperor penguins are fully deserving of an endangered species listing based on global warming threats. The research will help inform federal bio-crats as they ponder a listing under the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

Environment: Are Antarctica’s emperor penguins going mobile in response to global warming?

Emporer penguins and chicks near the British Antarctic Survey’s Halley Research Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica.

Emporer penguins and chicks near the British Antarctic Survey’s Halley Research Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Photo courtesy BAS.

Penguin populations in flux

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Just six months after scientists documented breeding emperor penguins moving from sea ice to ice-shelf habitat, a new study reinforces the idea that Antarctica’s iconic birds may be more mobile than thought. It’s too early to say for sure, but that could be good news in terms in terms of global warming, which is likely to change the face of the frozen continent in the decades ahead.

The fundamental questions hinge on how dependent the birds are on their icy habitat. Some studies have shown that emperor penguins may suffer as sea ice shrinks, while other researchers recently doubled their estimate for total population numbers. Overall, penguin populations around Antarctica are in a state of flux. Read all our emperor penguin stories here. Continue reading

EU Study shows huge costs of global warming inaction

‘No action is clearly the most expensive solution of all’

You have to look pretty hard for the tiny cool spots.

Global warming ramped up in May with a record-high average temperature worldwide.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Inaction on climate change is probably the costliest option for the European Union, which could not only see direct costs of €190 billion, but also a net loss of 1.8 percent of its current GDP. Premature mortality accounts for more than half of the overall welfare losses (€120 billion), followed by impacts on coasts (€42 billion) and agriculture (€18 billion).

“No action is clearly the most expensive solution of all. Why pay for the damages when we can invest in reducing our climate impacts and becoming a competitive low-carbon economy?” said Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action. “Taking action and taking a decision on the 2030 climate and energy framework in October, will bring us just there and make Europe ready for the fight against climate change,” she said. Continue reading

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