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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

Morning photo: Summit skies IV

Super moon, and then some …

moon

The July “super moon” sets over Peak 1 in Summit County, Colorado.

FRISCO — A few lovely days and evenings in Summit County yielded a handful of fine images showcasing summery Colorado skies, and after an early morning dash around Dillon Reservoir, I even managed to get a halfway decent shot of the moon setting right behind Peak 1. I know the daily showers during monsoon season aren’t the most popular with anyone hoping to spend the whole day outside, but as a photographer, I really appreciate the color and texture of the clouds. If you like our daily snapshots please visit our online gallery at Fine Art America. 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

Environment: Emerging El Niño triggers call for fishing restrictions to protect endangered sea turtles

Loggerhead sea turtle. Photo courtesy NOAA/Marco Giuliano.

A loggerhead sea turtle swimming over a coral reef. Photo courtesy NOAA/Marco Giuliano.

Ocean advocates say warming ocean drives sea turtles into floating gillnets

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with the potential for affecting weather over North America, the emerging El Niño conditions on the Pacific Ocean could pose a  threat to endangered loggerhead sea turtles, conservation advocates say, calling on federal fisheries managers to implement legally required restrictions on gillnet fishing to protect the turtles.

When ocean waters in the eastern Pacific get warmer, the loggerheads tend to move into commercial fishing grounds, where they often die after getting tangled up in nets. When El Niño is occurring or forecasted, the Pacific Loggerhead Conservation Area (California ocean waters east of 120 degrees latitude) is, by law, closed to drift gillnet fishing during June, July and August. Continue reading

Study tracks early Native American ‘baby boom’

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Mesa Verde was a center of southwestern civilization. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Native American population history may offer lesson for modern society, as climate change may have caused subsequent crash

Staff Report

FRISCO — Everybody knows about the post-WWII baby boom, but there was another era when North America’s population swelled, as Native Americans in the Southwest shifted from hunting and gathering to agriculture.

The “growth blip” between about 500 and 1300 A.D. is probably linked with emerging early features of civilization — including farming and food storage — and birth rates may have “exceeded the highest in the world today,” according to research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

But like so often in human history, the boom was followed by a crash, offering a warning sign to modern societies about the potential risks of overpopulation, according to Tim Kohler, an anthropologist at Washington State University, who co-authored the paper with WSU researcher Kelsey Reese. Continue reading

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