Study shows how Aboriginal Australians weathered climate change impacts during last ice age

‘Extreme climate change results in the fundamental social and economic reorganization’


Ice age research offers clues on climate change impacts.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The peak of the last ice age, about 20,000 years ago, resulted in huge changes for Aboriginal Australians, who had to deal with expanding deserts, big reductions in rainfall and plummeting temperatures.

“Lakes dried up, forests disappeared, deserts expanded, animals went extinct and vast swaths of the Australian land mass would have been simply uninhabitable,” said Sean Ulm, with James Cook University in Cairns, explaining that the Last Glacial Maximum was the most significant climatic event ever faced by humans in Australia.

To assess how those climatic changes affected aboriginal populations, scientists used advanced geospatial techniques to analyze archaeological radiocarbon dates from across Australia. The research included scientists with the Australian National University and the University of New South Wales, Oxford University in the United Kingdom and Simon Fraser University in Canada. Their findings have been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Continue reading

Climate: July global temps 6th-warmest on record

Year-to-date readings also rank as 6th-warmest


A NASA global temperature map for July shows the widespread pattern of above-average land and sea surface temperatures.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The global temperature for July 2013 was 1.10 degrees (all temperatures in Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average, making it the sixth-warmest July on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

Nearly every part of Earth reported temperatures well above average with the exception of a few pockets, notably the southeastern and central U.S. and parts of India.

The year to date (January-July) is also ranked as the sixth-warmest on record, with the global land surface temperatures running 1.73 degrees above the 20th century average. Continue reading

Climate: Australian study tries to quantify the role of airborne dust in the global carbon cycle

A 2009 NASA satellite image shows dust blowing off the coast of Africa over the Atlantic Ocean.

A 2009 NASA satellite image shows dust blowing off the coast of Africa over the Atlantic Ocean.

FRISCO — airborne dust, blown off dry ground, is a significant source of atmospheric carbon, according to Australian researchers, who recently set out to try and calculate how that source figures into the global carbon cycle.

Subject to intensifying droughts in some parts of the world, top soil is increasingly being blown away as dust in the wind, changing the amount and location of soil carbon. Some carbon falls back to the ground while some leaves Australia or ends up in the ocean.

Dust also plays a more direct role in regional climate. One recent study led by scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and NOAA suggested that a warming in the tropical North Atlantic was largely due to reductions in airborne dust and volcanic emissions during the past 30 years.

“Carbon stored in our soils helps sustain plant growth. Our modelling shows that millions of tonnes of dust and carbon are blowing away, and it is uncertain where all that ends up,” said Dr Adrian Chappell, of CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. Continue reading

Global warming: Study finds greenhouse gas fingerprints all over Australia’s record-breaking summer heatwave

Heat-trapping gases increase likelihood of extreme weather


Australian researchers say there’s a 90 percent chance that unprecedented summer heat was linked with human-caused changes in the atmosphere.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Australia’s January heatwave pushed “the limits of previous temperature extremes,” and now, climate scientists are saying they’re more than 90 percent sure that human influences on the atmosphere dramatically increased the likelihood of the extreme summer heat.

Climate scientists have long been saying that global warming loads the climate dice to increase the odds of extreme weather, particularly extreme heat, but they’ve been reluctant to attribute any single event to human-caused climate change.

The findings were announced just as the southwestern U.S. was starting to experience a persistent heatwave that is expected to result in some all-time record temperatures in the region.

The research led by the University of Melbourne shows that global warming caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases  increases the odds of more record-hot temperatures at least fivefold. The research also suggests that the greenhouse gas fingerprint overpowers, at least in some cases, the influence of the Pacific El Niño-La Niña cycle. Continue reading

Global warming: Hottest summer ever Down Under

Australia, parts of Africa and South America report record-high readings

Six of the hottest ten summers on record have occurred this century, and only two occurred before 1990.

Six of the hottest ten summers on record have occurred this century, and only two occurred before 1990.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — At the start of meteorological autumn for the southern hemisphere, The Australian Bureau of Meteorology reports that the country recorded its hottest-ever summer season, breaking the 1997-1998 mark by 0.1 degrees Celsius.

The most extreme heat was in the beginning of January, when a heat wave settled across much of Australia, including Tasmania, leading to wildfires and record-high readings in parts of the country, with temperatures soaring as high as 49.6 degrees Celsius (121 degrees fahrenheit). Continue reading

Climate: Australian heatwave sets numerous records

Global warming kicks into high gear Down Under


Australian heatwave breaks records.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The New Year is barely a week old, but extreme weather continues, this time in the Southern hemisphere, where parts of Australia reached unprecedented high temperatures, in some cases ranging upward of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. For the sake of comparison, Death Valley reported a reading of 136 degrees way back in July, 1913.

Temperatures during the recent Australian heatwave were so warm that the country’s meteorology bureau added a new color to its temperature-scale map — bright purple, designating readings of warmer than 50 degrees Celsius (129 Fahrenheit). Read the latest update from the bureau here. Continue reading

Rare egg-laying mammal may still live in Australia

Caption: The western long-beaked echidna, one of the world's five egg-laying species of mammal, was thought to be extinct in Australia. However scientists have found evidence that it may still roam the country's north-western region.Credit: Tim Laman

Caption: The western long-beaked echidna, one of the world’s five egg-laying species of mammal, was thought to be extinct in Australia. However scientists have found evidence that it may still roam the country’s north-western region.
Credit: Tim Laman

Closer look at long-lost museum specimen offers new clues into persistence of endangered echidna

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After re-examining a museum specimen of one of the world’s rarest animals, biologists said they will scour the Australian backcountry to see if they can find a living specimen of the western long-beaked echidna, one of the world’s five egg-laying mammal species.

Until recently, scientists assumed that the critically endangered echidna went extinct in Australia thousands of years ago, but the overlooked specimen in the Natural History Museum in London. was collected from the wild in northwestern Australia in 1901.

Sometimes while working in museums, I find specimens that turn out to be previously undocumented species,” said Kristofer Helgen of the Smithsonian Institution, the lead author and the scientist to first report the significance of the echidna specimen. “But in many ways, finding a specimen like this, of such an iconic animal, with such clear documentation from such an unexpected place, is even more exciting.” Continue reading


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