Power plant greenhouse gas emissions drop 23 percent

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Switching to natural gas power generation has helped slow the pace of greenhouse gas emissions. Photo via the Wikimedia Commons.

Coal losing ground, but is still the biggest source of fuel for generating electricity

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The gradual shift to natural gas power plants may not be a panacea for reducing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases, but the switch has helped slow the pace emissions.

“Since more and more of our electricity is coming from these cleaner power plants, emissions from the power sector are lower by 20, 30 even 40 percent for some gases since 1997,” said NOAA atmospheric scientists Joost de Gouw. Continue reading

This year’s Colorado Climate Network conference to focus on local emissions reductions

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Global CO2 emissions continue to increase.

More action needed to meet emissions targets

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With global greenhouse gas emissions headed for a new record high this year, it’s clear that more needs to be done to avert a catastrophic temperature increase.

Leadership from the Obama administration helps set the tone for concerted action at all levels, beginning with individual choices and stepping up through communities, states and regions. In Colorado, many communities have already made great progress in reducing heat-trapping pollutants, but additional measures are needed to meet short- and long term goals.

Next month’s Colorado Climate Network conference (Dec. 12) will focus on local emissions reductions and includes sessions on the results of state and local emissions inventories, as well as spotlighting some successful local programs that could serve as models for other communities. Continue reading

Climate: Ocean acidification hard to swallow for some marine organisms

Research shows direct impact on sea urchin larvae

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Ocean acidification is affecting a wide range of marine organisms, from sea snails and oysters to clownfish and sea urchins. PHOTO COURTESY NICK HOBGOOD, VIA THE CREATIVE COMMONS.

By Summit Voice

*More Summit Voice coverage of ocean acidification is online here.

FRISCO — Sea urchins may be a canary in the coalmine for the impacts of ocean acidification, according to new research, which shows that the digestive function of the marine animals is impaired by acidified water.

About 25 percent of all the CO2 released into the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans and converted to carbonic acid, making the water more acidic. Previous studies have showed that marine species and ecosystems can suffer in an acidified environment.

In one research project, scientists with the British Antarctic Survey showed how acidic water in the Southern Ocean is eating away at the shells of sea snails, and other research shows that the Arctic Ocean may be ground zero of acidification. Continue reading

Climate: Southern Amazon at risk of drying out

New study says IPCC projections are too conservative

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Studies show that fires are on the increase in the Amazon. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory web page for more information.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — In a classic case of climate disruption, research shows that the dry season in southern Amazonia has lengthened by about one week per decade since 1979. Parts of the region may not be able to support rainforest vegetation much longer. A big forest die-back could trigger the release of large volumes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a team of scientists warned this week.

The changes could disrupt plant and animal communities in one of the regions of highest biodiversity in the world, said University of Texas professor Rong Fu, who led the team of scientists. Continue reading

Climate: Calculating the tundra’s carbon budget

Scientists say they need more consistent and widespread measurements

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Will thawing tundra become a big source of greenhouse gases?

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Danish researchers with Aarhus University say they’ve come a bit closer to calculating the carbon budget in the Arctic tundra, where vast quantities of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are stored in frozen organic soils.

To try and determine whether the tundra is a source of carbon, or a carbon sink, the research team has been measuring the amount of carbon released in the form of CO2 as living organisms respire, and the amount of carbon being stored in plants in the process of photosynthesis.

Once those two figures have been established, it is possible to calculate the carbon balance, said Aarhus University researcher Magnus Lund. Continue reading

New IPCC report highlights increasing certainty on global warming causes and consequences

Future looks grim without drastic greenhouse gas cuts

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Warmer and wetter times ahead.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The news is out and it’s not good. In fact, the latest update of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is full of dire warning signs that the continued buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, if left unchecked, will lead to a climate catastrophe with dire consequences for humanity and the rest of the planet’s species.

The full assessment is being released piecemeal, with this week’s Summary for Policy Makers drawing global attention, as every word and phrase is scrutinized and parsed for meaning. And it’s actually not that hard to figure out what it all means — you don’t even have to be a scientist. Continue reading

Climate: Researchers report startling rate of acidification in parts of the Arctic Ocean

‘Nowhere on Earth have we documented such large scale, rapid ocean acidification’

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Researchers with the NASA-funded ICESCAPE Mission explore freshwater melt ponds in the Arctic. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The steady decline of Arctic sea is speeding ocean acidification, researchers reported this week in PLoS One, describing their findings after extensive water sampling in the region.

“A remarkable 20 percent of the Canadian Basin has become more corrosive to carbonate minerals in an unprecedented short period of time. Nowhere on Earth have we documented such large scale, rapid ocean acidification,” said lead researcher and ocean acidification project chief, U.S. Geological Survey oceanographer Lisa Robbins.

The research showed that the rapid pace of sea ice decline may be contributing directly to increasing acidification by exposing more of the ocean to atmospheric carbon dioxide. The impacts are intensified further by the diluting effect of melting ice. The freshwater further lowers pH levels and reducing the concentrations of calcium and carbonate, which may impact the growth of organisms that many species rely on for food. Continue reading

Climate: Study eyes regional patterns of ocean acidification

Gulf of Mexico appears more resistant to acidification threats

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The impacts of ocean acidification will vary from region to region. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A 2007 sea voyage through the Gulf of Mexico, around Florida and up the eastern seaboard has increased understanding of how various coastal areas may respond to increased acidity. More than anything, the detailed research helps establish some baseline data against which future changes can be measured, and showed that some areas are more susceptible to higher concentrations of carbon.

The study, measuring levels of carbon dioxide and other forms of carbon in the ocean, was conducted by scientists from 11 institutions across the U.S. and was published in the journal Limnology and Oceanography.

“Before now, we haven’t had a very clear picture of acidification status on the east coast of the U.S.,” says Zhaohui ‘Aleck’ Wang, the study’s lead author and a chemical oceanographer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “It’s important that we start to understand it, because increase in ocean acidity could deeply affect marine life along the coast and has important implications for people who rely on aquaculture and fisheries both commercially and recreationally.” Continue reading

Coral reef research highlights big drop in growth rates

Caribbean corals struggling to produce enough calcium carbonate to survice

A coral reef at the Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy Jim Maragos/USFWS.

A coral reef at the Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy Jim Maragos/USFWS.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Many coral reefs in the Caribbean are struggling to keep pace with erosion, as their ability to produce and accumulate calcium carbonate declines in the face of human-caused impacts, researchers from the University of Exeter reported this week. That inability to grow raises serious questions about whether the reefs will be able to adapt to rising sea levels, the researchers reported.

Coral reefs are important ocean biodiversity hotspots and serve as nurseries for a profusion of marine life. In a sweeping decision several weeks ago, federal biologists said at least 66 species of coral in the Caribbean and Pacific are in danger of going extinct because of threats linked to global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

Coral cover on reefs in the Caribbean has declined by an average of 80 percent since the 1970s, driven mainly by human disturbance, disease and rising sea temperatures, and are only expected to intensify as a result of future climate change. Continue reading

NASA drones to study tropospheric climate drivers

Missions aims to sharpen climate-change predictions

NASA Global Hawk No. 872 flares for landing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The autonomously operated unmanned research aircraft will be flying at high altitude over the Pacific Ocean during the ATTREX environmental science mission. (NASA/Jim Ross

A NASA Global Hawk flares for landing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The autonomously operated unmanned research aircraft will be flying at high altitude over the Pacific Ocean during the ATTREX environmental science mission. Photo courtesy NASA/Jim Ross.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Climate scientists have a clear understanding of how greenhouse gas physics work in the lower atmosphere, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions about how global warming will play out in the upper layers, where water vapor and ozone have an as-yet unquantified impact on climate changes.

Starting this month, NASA will use unmanned aircraft flying as high as 65,000 feet to gather data that could provide some answers. The research missions will start at Edwards Air Force Base in California, with 30-hour flight out across the Pacific.

The Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX) missions will study moisture and chemical composition in the upper regions of the troposphere, the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere. The tropopause layer between the troposphere and stratosphere, from about eight miles to 11 miles above Earth’s surface, is the point where water vapor, ozone and other gases enter the stratosphere. Continue reading

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