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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

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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

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

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