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Climate: Are greenhouse gases causing the California drought?

‘This is an event that is more extreme than any in the observed record, and our research suggests that global warming is playing a role right now’

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Exceptionally dry conditions along parts of the West Coast that usually see copious moisture are highlighted in the NOAA soil moisture map taken from satellite data.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The California drought that will go down as the worst in the state’s recorded history may well be linked with increasing concentrations of heat-trapping pollutants — or not, depending who you ask.

In one new study, Stanford researchers said their analysis shows that formation of a persistent ridge of storm-blocking high pressure over the Pacific Ocean is three times more likely in presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

But almost simultaneously, researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said their survey of recent studies showed no link between global warming and lack of rainfall in California, though they did acknowledge the results of the Stanford led study, which focused on air pressure and the path of storms. Continue reading

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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

Study tracks historic Antarctica meltdowns

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Reading the history of Antarctica’s ice sheets is helping climate scientists project the future.

Transition from glacial periods punctuated by sudden surges of ice melt and sea level rise

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even without the addition of heat-trapping greenhouse gases from fossil fuel combustion, the Antarctica ice sheets may be vulnerable to sudden collapse and melting. One such episode, about 14,600 years ago, is thought to have caused sea level to rise by more than 12 feet in just 100 years.

Scientists are racing to understand the dynamics of the Antarctic ice sheets because of the potentially significant consequences of rapid changes, and in one of the newest studies, they’ve traced some of the big iceberg calving events between about 19,000 and 9,000 years ago by analyzing deep sea sediment cores extracted from the region between the Falkland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. Continue reading

Will ozone pollution spike with global warming?

A computer-generated split-screen image a split-image simulates the average 20 percent best (left) and 20 percent worst 20 percent (right) visibility at the Long’s Peak vista based on an average of monitored data for years 2000-2004.

A computer-generated split-screen image a split-image simulates the average 20 percent best (left) and 20 percent worst 20 percent (right) visibility at the Long’s Peak vista based on an average of monitored data for years 2000-2004.

Very likely without cuts in pollutants, study says

Staff Report

FRISCO — By 2050, many Americans will see their chances of experiencing unhealthy summertime ozone levels increase by 70 percent, according to scientists with the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Warmer temperatures will make the toxic brew of air pollutants even more volatile unless emissions of specific pollutants that are associated with the formation of ozone are sharply cut, the researchers said in a new study published this week.

Almost all of the continental United States will experience at least a few days with unhealthy air during the summers, the research shows. Heavily polluted locations in parts of the East, Midwest, and West Coast where ozone already frequently exceeds recommended levels could face unhealthy air during most of the summer. Continue reading

Climate: Wetlands seen as key source of methane

New study shows need for better monitoring

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Can you see the methane bubbling up? bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wetlands have been pinpointed as one of the largest sources of global methane emissions and new research shows that much more of the potent heat-trapping greenhouse gas will be pumped into the atmosphere as northern wetlands thaw and tropical ones warm, according to a new international study led by a University of Guelph researcher.

The study, published in Global Change Biology, is based on one of the largest-ever analyses of global methane emissions, with more than 20,000 field data measurements collected from 70 sites across arctic, temperate and tropical regions.

The results show the need for improved monitoring of wetlands and human changes to those ecosystems – a timely topic as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change prepares to examine land use impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, according to Prof. Merritt Turetsky, lead author of the new study. Continue reading

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

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