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Study confirms rapid warming in European Alps

Does industrial soot play a role in the meltdown of Alpine glaciers?

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How long will the European Alps remain snow-clad? Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With temperatures in the European Alps rising twice as fast as the global average, there’s little hope of saving some of the world’s most famous glaciers without immediate and significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

And there’s little doubt that the warming is caused by those emissions. Findings from a new study presented this week at the American Geophysical Union conference show the sudden onset of warming about 30 years ago. The study, led by researchers with the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State, offers new and compelling evidence that the Italian Alps are warming at an unprecedented rate. Continue reading

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Alpine settlement ocurred earlier than believed

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Research in the southern French Alps show signs of human activity at higher elevations going back 8.000 years.

New study finds signs of human activity at high elevations going back 8,000 years

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The high Alps of Europe may have been settled quite a bit earlier than believed, according to new research by French and British archaeologists. The 14-year study in the Parc National des Écrins in the southern Alps is one of the most detailed archaeological investigations carried out at high altitudes.

The work included the excavation of a series of stone animal enclosures and human dwellings considered some of most complex high altitude Bronze Age structures found anywhere in the Alps. Continue reading

Morning photo: Peaks

Reaching for the sky …

A classic Patagonia skyline features some of the craggiest peaks in the world.

FRISCO — I missed my favorite Twitter chat last week, but got all giddy when I saw this week’s #FriFotos theme — peaks. I live amidst the splendor of the Rocky Mountains, and at least a third of the pictures in my ever-growing photo archives features peaks in all shapes and sizes. I’m looking forward to seeing great images of mountains from around the world. It’s easy to join the fun. Just upload your own favorite peak pictures, tag then with #FriFotos and post them to Twitter, share and comment.

The M/V Professor Molchanov at anchor near a remote peak in Antarctica.

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Climate: Some regions see more flooding during cooling regimes

Study in Alpine lakes traces 1,600-year of history climate change

Sediments in Austria’s Mondsee show more evidence of flooding during transitions to cooler climate phases.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — While many recent research projects have highlighted the potential for more extreme weather as the planet warms up, a new study from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences indicates that parts of the Alps saw more extreme flooding during periods of transition to cooler climatic conditions.

By studying sediment layers in the Mondsee, an Alpine lake near Salzburg, Austria, the researchers found evidence of flooding during the time of the Great Migration and the Early Middle Ages (AD 450-750), as well as the transition to the Little Ice Age (AD 1140-1520). In contrast, there was less flooding during the medieval warm phase (AD 1000-1140) and the coldest period of the Little Ice Age (AD 1600-1700). Continue reading

Global warming: Famed Austrian peak nearly ice-free

Summit monument on popular peak threatens to topple

The summit cross on the 3,660-meter Grossvenediger in Austria recently threatened to topple over, as warming temperatures have melted the permanent snow and ice that held the monument in place for decades. Photo courtesy Bergrettung Prägraten.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — In yet another sign of how quickly global warming is eating away at glaciers in the European Alps, the Austrian Alpine Club is reporting that the summit cross high on the 3,660-meter Grossvenediger in Austria came close to toppling off its podium this summer.

The permanent snow and ice that helped hold the monument in place for decades melted away in the summer heat, with several feet of ice vanishing just in the past few months. A mountain guide arriving at the summit last week discovered that the cross was close to falling over, with potential risks to summit visitors. Continue reading

Climate: Bark beetles on the rise in Europe

Norway Spruce.

Attacks increase when temperatures climb and precipitation dwindles

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Forests in the American West aren’t the only ones facing an increasing threat from tree-killing beetles. A European researcher recently studied the pattern and impact of outbreaks by the bark beetle in the southern Alps, measuring  the size and distribution of the infested areas occurring along steep temperature gradients  between 1994 and 2009 and matched the observations with climatic changes.

The results, published online in Springer’s Climatic Change, shows that there were more attacks by the spruce bark beetle on European Alpine spruce forests over a 16 year period, as temperatures rose and rainfall dropped, according to Lorenzo Marini, of the University of Padova in Italy. Continue reading

Alpine grouse decline linked to winter recreation

The decline of Alpine wood grouse may be linked to growth in winter recreation. PHOTO BY RICHARD BARTZ VIA THE CREATIVE COMMONS.

Conservationists call for restrictions on winter recreation in core habitat areas

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — In research that might of interest to Summit County leaders as they mull over recreation and development plans, Swiss scientists say they have linked burgeoning winter recreation activities in the Alps with a severe decline of wood grouse populations.

The study, published in the  journal IBIS,  shows how the growth of human recreation may be a key factor in the rapidly declining population of these iconic alpine birds.

The wood grouse, sometimes called the Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), is the largest member of the grouse family and is renowned for its mating display. It is most commonly found in the alpine regions of Germany and Switzerland.

“Alpine habitats across Europe remained relatively undisturbed until the beginning of the last century, but today human outdoor recreation areas coincide with the winter habitats of many shy and endangered species,” said lead author Dominik Thiel, of the Swiss Ornithological Institute. “The Western Capercaillie has suffered rapid population declines during recent decades. However, little is known about their susceptibility to human recreation activities.” Continue reading

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