Was the Titanic just unlucky?

Study says iceberg conditions not unusually severe in 1912

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Bergs, baby!

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Titanic’s fateful encounter with a North Atlantic iceberg wasn’t a result of spring tides, and there weren’t an exceptionally high number of bergs in the North Atlantic in 1912, UK researchers said this week.

With the April 15 anniversary of the ocean liner’s sinking at hand, the University of Sheffield geographers say that, by scrutinizing historic iceberg data, they can dispel the theory that the Titanic was unlucky for sailing in a year with an exceptional number of icebergs. The risk of encountering a berg is actually much greater now, due to global warming. Continue reading

Study: CO2 buildup could affect food quality

Wheat field in Upper Austria

A wheat field in Upper Austria ripens under a summer sun. bberwyn photo.

Protein levels in key grains could decline by 3 percent

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with cutting yields of some key crops, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is also expected to affect the nutritional quality of food crops. Field tests by UC Davis scientists show that elevated levels of carbon dioxide make it harder for some plants to convert nitrogen into proteins.

“Food quality is declining under the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide that we are experiencing,” said lead author Arnold Bloom, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. “Several explanations for this decline have been put forward, but this is the first study to demonstrate that elevated carbon dioxide inhibits the conversion of nitrate into protein in a field-grown crop,” Bloom said. Continue reading

Climate: Arctic sea ice peaks for the year

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Arctic sea ice extent is declining at 2.6 percent each decade.

March surge boosts extent late in the season

Staff Report

FRISCO — Arctic sea ice grew to its maximum extent for the year on March 21, reaching 5.70 million square miles. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, it was the fifth-lowest maximum extent in the satellite monitoring era, starting in 1978. The lowest maximum extent occurred in 2011, at 5.65 million square miles.

The average date for maximum sea ice extent is March 9, just a couple of weeks after the spring equinox, but the date varies from year to year. The latest maximum on record was in 2011, when sea ice extent expanded through March 31. Through 2014, the linear rate of decline for March ice extent is 2.6 percent per decade relative to the 1981 to 2010 average. Continue reading

Climate: New study projects major habitat losses for birds, reptiles in Southwest

Gray jay in Summit County Colorado

A gray jay searches for bugs in a stand of lodgepole pines near Frisco, Colorado.

A few bird species may gain some ground

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Reptile species like the iconic chuckwalla will probably experience significant habitat loss as global temperatures climb during the next few decades, scientists said this week in a new study projecting climate change impacts to southwestern birds and reptiles.

The study was done by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey,  University of New Mexico, and Northern Arizona University. Overall, the findings suggests many reptile species will lose ground as conditions get warmer and more dry.  Continue reading

Big comeback for renewable energy stocks in 2013

Public market investors bullish on wind and solar

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Renewable sources accounted for 43 percent of all newly installed energy capacity in 2013, according to a new report from UN economists.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Renewable energy stocks made a big global comeback in 2013, gaining 54 percent after a 4.5 year slide during which they lost 78 percent in value, according to a new report released by economists in Frankfurt, Germany.

The improvement happened as many companies in the solar and wind manufacturing chains moved back towards profitability after a painful period of over-capacity and corporate distress, according to experts with the United Nations Environmental Program.

The 2013 improvements came despite a significant dip in investments in the renewable energy sector — the investment drop of $US35.1 billion was partly down to the falling cost of solar photovoltaic systems. The other main cause was policy uncertainty in many countries, an issue that also depressed investment in fossil fuel generation in 2013. Continue reading

Morning photo: April come she will

Springtime in the Rockies?

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The ice on Dillon Reservoir was mostly gone by late April, 2012, with a few berms of snow left on the shore at Pine Cove Campground, near Frisco, Colorado.

FRISCO — Weatherwise, April is always been one of the most dynamic months in the Colorado high country. Cold spring storms off the Pacific alternate with warm and sunny high pressure systems building from the Desert Southwest … and this year seems to be no exception, as the snow of the past few days is expected to give way to the warmest weather of the year, so far, in the coming week. But think back just two years ago, when Colorado (and much of the country) experienced a record-warm March, leading to summer-like conditions in April. It’s never a boring month! Continue reading

Climate: Arid lands also help sequester carbon

The Grand Canyon, bberwyn photo.

The Grand Canyon, bberwyn photo.

Researchers surprised by findings from Mojave desert

Staff Report

FRISCO — The world’s arid regions may be able to take up more carbon than previously thought, according to a new study based on detailed soil and carbon measurements from the Mojave Desert.

The research, led by a Washington State University biologist, will help develop a more accurate global carbon budget — how much carbon remains in the atmosphere as CO2, contributing to global warming, and how much gets stored in the land or ocean in other carbon-containing forms. Continue reading

Climate: Upcoming IPCC reports highlights need for a global carbon tax

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Can we slow our greenhouse gas emissions? A global carbon tax could help.

Ending subsidies for fossil fuel companies also high on the list

Staff Report

FRISCO — A modest carbon tax of just $0.15 per kilo could lead the world down the path of meaningful action on global warming, says a Swedish researcher who was one of the coordinating lead authors of a new report that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will present next week.

“What we need to avoid dangerous climate change is the application of strong policy instruments,” said Thomas Sterner, professor of environmental economics at the University of Gothenburg. Continue reading

Morning photo: Best of March

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A little bit of melting along the edge of the Meadow Creek wetlands in Frisco indicates spring is, however reluctantly, coming.

A little bit of melting along the edge of the Meadow Creek wetlands in Frisco indicates spring is, however reluctantly, coming.

FRISCO — In past years, I’ve photographed early wildflowers in March, but this long winter has left a solid blanket of snow still draped over the high country. A few warm afternoons have hinted at spring, but winter has been tenacious. Here’s what it looked like in Summit County the past few weeks. Continue reading

Global warming: Need more proof?

Happy spring!

Daffaodils are blooming earlier, forcing flower festival organizers to move up the dates of their events.

Flower festival dates moved up by nearly a month since the late 1960s

Staff Report

FRISCO — A popular flower festival in the UK is now being help 26 days earlier than when it started back in 1946 because the daffodils are blooming earlier than ever, thanks to global warming.

Coventry University Professor Tim Sparks, an environmental science expert, focused on the changes made to the timing of the popular Thriplow Daffodil Weekend in Cambridgeshire since it started in 1969. The early flowering phenomenon is caused by the UK’s increasingly mild springs, specifically a mean rise in March and April temperatures of 1.8 degrees Celsius since 1969, according to his study, soon to be published  in the journal Climate Research. Continue reading

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