Rocky Mountain National Park warns of late season fire danger

Big Meadows fire Rocky Mountain National Park Arial view

The 2013 Big Meadows fire in Rocky Mountain National Park scorched more than 600 acres. Photo courtesy RMNP.

Drying grasses and shrubs up fire danger in parts of Colorado

Staff Report

FRISCO — Summer may be winding down, but the wildfire season is not over yet. In the past ten days, fire managers and park rangers at Rocky Mountain National Park have responded to four illegal, escaped campfires.

All four were quickly extinguished, each burning less than 0.25 acres, but park managers say they all had the potential to spread quickly and threaten lives and property. Continue reading

Energy: Can wind farms be too large?

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Careful planning is needed to maximize the benefits of large wind farms. Photo via DOE.

New modeling study shows a “slowdown” effect if too many turbines are clumped together

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wind turbine installations could some day reach a point of diminishing returns if they get too big, according to a new study that evaluated the effects of large wind farms on atmospheric flow and its implications for how much renewable energy the turbines can generate.

The researchers at the University of Kansas did their study in the context of the renewable energy boom. Wind energy accounted for 3.3 percent of electricity generation in the United States in 2011. The study was aimed at learning what happens to the wind when a larger number of wind turbines removes more and more of the energy of atmospheric motion. Continue reading

Environment: Scientists say global standards for ocean noise pollution are needed to protect marine life

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.

Ocean noise pollution hinders communication among whales, and likely impairs their ability to navigate and feed.

Increase in seismic blasting raises concerns

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists say new global regulations on ocean noise pollution are needed to protect marine life.

Governments and industries around the world are expanding the use of high-decibel seismic surveys to explore the ocean bottom for resources, potentially putting whales and other animals at risk.

To reduce the risks, the experts recommended that ocean noise be recognized globally as a pollutant — something the European Union has already done — and managed through a revision to the existing International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. Continue reading

Scientists tracking Chesapeake Bay algae blooms

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Recent algae blooms in Chesapeake Bay are some of the most intense on record.

Studies eye potential human health risks

Staff Report

FRISCO — The West Coast isn’t the only place seeing unprecedented algae blooms this summer. Recent water sampling by researchers at William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science show some of the densest concentrations of algae recorded in Chesapeake Bay in recent years.

According to the scientists, the current blooms are dominated by an algal species known to release toxins harmful to other marine life, particularly larval shellfish and finfish. Although the recent algae blooms haven’t been directly implicated, there have been some reports of small small numbers of dead fish, oysters, and crabs from the lower York River and adjacent Bay waters associated with nearby blooms. Continue reading

NASA to take big-picture look at Arctic climate change

Space-based data to help reveal ecosystem changes

Satellites have long been tracking sea ice loss in the Canadian Arctic, and new climate models suggest that glaciers in the region are also declining rapidly. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory page for more information.

Satellites have long been tracking sea ice loss in the Canadian Arctic, and new climate models suggest that glaciers in the region are also declining rapidly. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory page for more information.

Staff Report

FRISCO — With more and more studies showing big climate-change impacts to Arctic and subarctic ecosystems, NASA is launching a research project to try and understand the bigger picture.

Some recent studies have shown how boreal forests are shifting quickly as temperatures in the high latitudes soar faster than than the rest of the planet. Biologists are trying to project how global warming will affect wildlife in the region, while another study projects that the “green-up” of the Arctic will amplify global warming.

NASA’s 10-year Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) will bring together on-the-ground research in Alaska and northwestern Canada with data collected by NASA airborne instruments, satellites and other agency programs, including SMAP, OCO-2, and upcoming ICESat-2 and NISAR missions. Continue reading

Climate: Heatwaves and drought are piling up

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High temperatures and a lack of rain spread serious drought conditions across Europe this summer.

Study tracks increase in extreme conditions

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists taking a close look at the last 50 years — the modern global warming era — found that droughts and heat waves are happening simultaneously much more frequently than in the past.

The climate experts at the University of California, Irvine analyzed data  gathered from ground sensors and gauges since 1960 and crunched the numbers with a statistical model to track the upswing.

 

“Heat waves can kill people and crops while worsening air quality, and droughts exacerbate those serious impacts,” said senior author Amir AghaKouchak, assistant professor of civil & environmental engineering. “With these two extremes happening at the same time, the threat is far more significant.” Continue reading

Environment: Scientists say 90 percent of all seabirds have ingested plastic debris

One study found 200 bits of plastic in a single seabird

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A heron patrols the splash zone of a beach on the Florida Gulf Coast. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Plastic debris in the world’s oceans is now so widespread that about 60 percent of all seabirds have bits of plastic in their gut. Based on current trends, 99 percent of all seabirds will be affected by plastic ingestion by 2050, a team of international scientists said this week.

Based on a review of all studies published since the early 1960s, the scientists estimated that more than 90 percent of seabirds have alive today have eaten plastic of some kind. In 1960, plastic was found in the stomach of less than 5 per cent of individual seabirds, rising to 80 per cent by 2010.

“For the first time, we have a global prediction of how wide-reaching plastic impacts may be on marine species … and the results are striking,” said CSIRO researcher Dr. Chris Wilcox. “We predict, using historical observations, that 90 per cent of individual seabirds have eaten plastic. This is a huge amount and really points to the ubiquity of plastic pollution.” Continue reading

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