New IPCC report details global warming vulnerabilities, adaptation and mitigation

‘We have to transform the risk into a platform for action’

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High temperature records are outpacing record lows by ever-bigger margins.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Along with melting ice caps and rising seas, global warming fundamentally threatens the world’s food security, IPCC scientists said Sunday, describing how climate change is already affecting yields of key crops.

“What we see today is profound. Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“There will be negative impacts on crop yields with serious implications for food security in some of the poorest regions of the world,” Pachauri said during a live-streamed press conference summarizing the findings of the IPCC’s latest report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.

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Is airborne dust a big factor in the global carbon cycle?

The image shows the emission and transport of dust and other important aerosols to the Southern Ocean on Dec. 30, 2006. Dust is represented with orange to red colors, sea salt with blue, organic and black carbon with green to yellow, and sulfates with ash brown to white. In the image, a plume of dust has been emitted from southern South America and is being transported eastward over the Subantarctic Atlantic Ocean. Credit: Image courtesy of William Putman and Arlindo da Silva, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

The image shows the emission and transport of dust and other important aerosols to the Southern Ocean on Dec. 30, 2006. Dust is represented with orange to red colors, sea salt with blue, organic and black carbon with green to yellow, and sulfates with ash brown to white. In the image, a plume of dust has been emitted from southern South America and is being transported eastward over the Subantarctic Atlantic Ocean. Image courtesy of William Putman and Arlindo da Silva, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

Wind-blown iron deposits spurs plankton growth and regulates carbon-dioxide levels

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wind-transported dust has long been identified as a key ingredient in ocean nutrient cycles, and new research now shows that, during the last ice age, iron fertilization caused plankton to thrive in a region of the Southern Ocean.

The study by researchers with Princeton University and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich confirms a longstanding hypothesis that wind-borne dust drove plankton growth around Antarctica eventually leading to the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Plankton remove heat-trapping greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during growth and transfer it to the deep ocean when their remains sink to the bottom.

Iron fertilization has previously been suggested as a possible cause of the lower CO2 levels that occur during ice ages. These decreases in atmospheric CO2 are believed to have “amplified” the ice ages, making them much colder, with some scientists believing that there would have been no ice ages at all without the CO2 depletion.

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Water: How long will the Southwest’s acequias survive?

Dartmouth study details threats to historic communal irrigation 

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A patchwork of fields around Taos, New Mexico

Staff Report

FRISCO — The historic communal irrigation systems known as acequias Southwest are in decline as snowmelt dwindles and water priorities shift. Social and economic shifts favoring modernism over tradition, are also factors on the decline, according to a new study from Dartmouth College.

Similar trends have been observed in other parts of the world, where rural communities that once fended for themselves are becoming integrated into larger economies, which provide benefits of modern living but also the uncertainties of larger-scale market fluctuations. The study appears in the journal Global Environmental Change. Continue reading

Morning photo: Rooftops

Up high …

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Salzburg in the sun.

FRISCO — I don’t ever really think consciously about getting a picture of a city’s rooftops, but inevitably on our treks, Leigh and I end up at an overlook somewhere — maybe on a hill or in a church steeple — where the city below unfolds like a street map. In some cases, you can see how a town grew organically, near a shallow river crossing, or from a central market place. Other times, you can sense how man imposed his will on the landscape, imposing a strict grid pattern over the contours of the land. I’m a big fan of getting the view from a good vantage point to help explore a new destination, or rediscover familiar territory, so next time you visit a new city, look for the high ground! Continue reading

Global warming drives earlier pelican migration

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White pelicans at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge, N.D. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Shift in timing puts breeding out of synch with local weather conditions

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —Pelicans are flocking to their North Dakota breeding grounds earlier than ever, but encountering challenging weather conditions once they get there.

Global warming in the pelicans’ winter grounds and along their migration route are likely spurring the earlier northward trip, but the change in timing is leaving chicks susceptible to extreme weather events.

According to a new report from the U.S. Geological Survey, earlier spring nesting g related to climate change could negatively affect the survival of pelican chicks at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge, N.D. Continue reading

Florida manatee deaths spike to record high in 2013

Worsening coastal water quality seen as factor

Endangered Florida manatees are dying at an alarming rate. bberwyn photo.

Endangered Florida manatees are dying at an alarming rate. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Florida manatee deaths in 2013 spiked to the highest level ever, with the state’s wildlife agency reporting that 829 of the gentle sea cows died during the year. That total is more than double last year’s and exceeds the previous record number of deaths set in 2010, when a severe cold snap contributed to 766 deaths.

If there’s any good news for manatees in this year’s numbers, it’s that the number of deaths attributed to collisions with boats dropped to the lowest level in at least five years, comprising only 9 percent of the total mortality.

On the downside,  more frequent episodes of toxic algal blooms may have been a big factor in this year’s mortality toll, according to environmental watchdogs, who chastised state officials for not doing more to protect water quality.

Altogether, the 829 deaths comprise about 17 percent of the state’s total population of the endangered marine mammals. There were 276 red tide-related manatee deaths in 2013, almost as many as for the previous eight years combined and more than 60 percent above the previous record for red tide-related deaths of 151 back in 1996. Continue reading

Feds delay wolverine listing decision

Wolverine. Photo courtesy Roy Anderson/USFWS.

Wolverine. Photo courtesy Roy Anderson/USFWS.

Not everyone is convinced that the species is threatened by global warming

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal biologists last week said they aren’t quite ready to make a final decision about endangered species status for wolverine. The listing deadline has been pushed back by six months for another review of the science — a step that’s taken when there is “substantial scientific disagreement.”

“During the peer review process on our proposed rule to list the wolverine as threatened, we received a variety of opinions from the scientific community concerning the information we used to develop the proposed rules,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement. Background on wolverine conservation online here. Continue reading

Merry Christmas!

Peace on Earth …

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Goodwill to men!

Mushrooms create mini-windstorms to spread spores

Releases of water vapor create convective movements

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A parasol mushroom growing in Austria. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — We’ve all heard of microclimates, where topography and other factors can affect weather on a very local level. But new research suggests that mushrooms take that concept to whole new level, creating their own mini-windstorms to help spread spores.

Biologists have long thought that the spores produced by a mushroom’s cap simply drop into the wind and blow away. But observers have noted that spores disperse even when the air is still. It took a detailed study by fluid dynamics researchers find the answer.

Using high-speed videography and mathematical modeling of spore dispersal in commercially grown oyster and Shiitake mushrooms, they found that the fungi created their wind by releasing water vapor. The vapor cools the air locally, and this creates convective cells that move the air around in the mushroom’s vicinity. Continue reading

New study ups estimates of U.S. methane emissions

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U.S. emissions of heat-trapping methane may be much higher than previously thought.

Previous data may have seriously underestimated methane from fossil fuel production

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado regulators preparing to tackle heat-trapping methane have their work cut out — a new landmark study suggests that methane emissions from fossil fuel development in the south-central U.S. may be five times higher than previous estimates, and emissions from livestock operations may be twice as high.

Total methane emissions in the United States appear to be as much as 1.7 times higher than believed, a team of researchers said after analyzing detailed atmospheric measurements.

“This paper provides the most solid and the most detailed estimate to date of total U.S. methane emissions,” said coauthor Anna M. Michalak, a faculty member in the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science. Michalak is also an associate professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford University. “This was really, from beginning to end, just a very clean analysis.” Continue reading

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