Climate: All-time record temps, wildfires in Australia

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Summer heatwave sets records in Australia.

100 homes destroyed in Tasmania

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Parts of southern Australia have recorded all-time high temperatures readings in the past few days, and the heat wave has led to numerous wildfires, including blazes in Tasmania that have destroyed about 100 homes.

Hobart, Tasmania reported a high temperature of 108 degrees Friday, the warmest reading ever on the island south of Australia, with records going back to 1880.

Temperatures across much of Australia were in the 90s and 100s during the first part of the weekend, and wildfires are also burning in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Two wet years in a row, followed by this summer’s heatwave, have combined for dangerous fire conditions, officials said. Continue reading

Southern hemisphere also seeing climate disruption

A poleward shift of the subtropical dry zone may be displacing rainfall in parts of the southern hemisphere.

Rainfall being displaced in critical areas

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — As the northern hemisphere grapples with the impacts of the melting polar ice cap, the southern hemisphere is facing a different climate change issue.

A  poleward expansion of the subtropical dry-zone is probably responsible for a significant decline in autumn rainfall over southeastern Australia and may be affecting seasonal precipitation in other areas.

Since most of the world’s landmass and population is in the northern hemisphere, climate change impacts have been recognized and studied more extensively. Much of the southern hemisphere is open ocean, so there’s less good data to work with, but some research has already  suggested a southward shift in the storm tracks and weather systems during the late 20th century. Continue reading

Volcanic pumice may have key role in coral reef ecosystems

Floating rafts of pumice attract all sorts of marine life as they float across the South Pacific.

New study suggests floating rafts of pumice could help replenish reefs

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Pumice from volcanic explosions may play a previously unknown role in the formation of coral reefs, according to researchers with the Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

Dr. Scott Bryan, a geologist at the university, led a recent study of westward flowing rafts of pumice after volcanic eruptions in Tonga in 2001 and 2006, finding that plants and tiny animals — including corals — latched onto pumice as it was swept by ocean currents towards north eastern Australia.

“The pumice raft created after the 2006 Home Reef volcano erupted in Tonga initially formed at least a 440-square-kilometer floating mass,” Bryan said. “This mass slowly broke up into streaks and millions to billions of marine organisms such as cyanobacteria, barnacles, molluscs, corals, anemones, and crabs began hitching a ride.” Continue reading

Global warming: Researchers say recent temperature trends in Australasia are unprecedented during past 1,000 years

Far-reaching study tabs greenhouse gas emissions as main culprit

April 2012 global temperature anomalies.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —Studying tree rings, ice cores and corals, a research team from the University of Melbourne identified the fingerprint of mankind in an unprecedented warming trend that’s unprecedented in the Earth’s recent history.

“Our study revealed that recent warming in a 1,000 year context is highly unusual and cannot be explained by natural factors alone, suggesting a strong influence of human-caused climate change in the Australasian region,” said lead researcher Dr. Joelle Gergis. There are no other warm periods in the last 1,000 years that match the warming experienced in Australasia since 1950, she said. Continue reading

Global warming to spur invasive Australian ‘sleeper’ weeds

Karoo thorn is a tree in its early stages of establishment in Australia but it has the potential to be a serious woody weed. PHOTO COURTESY COLIN WILSON/CSIRO.

Invasive weeds expected to move southward

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Global warming may shift the range of invasive weeds in Australia by hundreds of miles and awaken so-called “sleeper weeds,” according to scientists with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

Plant experts warned at the end of March warned that resource managers need to be prepared for big changes in the coming decades.

Invasive weeds already cost Australia more than $4 billion (Australian) per year either in control of lost production, and, like elsewhere, displace native habitat and species. Continue reading

Australia planning world’s largest marine sanctuary

Coral Sea preserve could be vital regional biodiversity reservoir

The Coral Sea preserve could be an important refuge for sea turtles. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

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By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —Two leading scientists are urging Australians to support a government plan to create one of the world’s largest marine sanctuaries in the Coral Sea.

“The Coral Sea is one of a handful of places in the world where a very large oceanic no-take park can be created and monitored in a single national jurisdiction,” said Professors Terry Hughes and Bob Pressey of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University. “Public comment on the proposal is now open – and it is time for all Australians to have their say.”

Details of the Commonwealth’s Coral Sea Marine Park proposal are available at http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/coralsea/ Public comment closes on February 24, 2012. Continue reading

Australia: Anti-uranium mine marchers reach Perth

Groups show solidarity with indigenous people, call for halt to mining

A group of marchers in Australia are trying to prevent any new uranium mines from opening.

Anti-nuclear marchers in Australia.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After nine weeks walking through rain, wind and dust across a big chunk of Australia, 50 protest marchers arrived in Perth to call for an end to uranium mining in Australia.

Footprints for Peace have organized international walks against uranium mining for seven years. On each walk we hear the same stories about the broken promises from the nuclear industry. said march coordinator Marcus Atkinson. “This industry … divides communities and leaves people uncertain and afraid about the future.”

The group has been walking in solidarity with the Traditional Custodians of the Wiluna and Yeelirrie areas where uranium mines have been proposed; many are opposed to the mines but have no legal recourse. Continue reading

Environment: Uranium mine protests in Australia

Activists protest by marching from Wiluna to Perth

Activists are marching across Western Australia to protest the permitting of a new open pit uranium mine.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Together with activists from around the world, a group of native Aboriginal custodians is marching 1,200 kilometers across Western Australia to protest plans for a new mine by Toro Energy in Wiluna.

Concerns about uranium mining have heated up in Australia recently, following government approval of the Olympic Dam  mine, which would be the world’s largest open pit uranium mine.

“(It’s) is a very sad day for South Australia and Australia. Many people around the world will also be appalled at this decision by the Labour Party,” said Footprints for Peace organizer Marcus Atkinson.

“In December 2003, Footprints for Peace, having walked from Olympic Dam uranium mine to Hiroshima in Japan, learnt from Traditional Custodians about the destruction of sacred sites and the enormous amounts of water being taken from the Great Artesian Basin,” Atkinson said.  Continue reading

Researchers study role of wildfires in climate change

Feedback loop could intensify impacts to carbon cycle

Massive fires have burned across more than 3 million acres in Texas. PHOTO COURTESY TEXAS FOREST SERVICE. Click on the image for a gallery of photos from this year's wildfires.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Scientists speaking at an international symposium in Australia this week said wildfires are likely play an increasingly important role in climate change, but that more study is needed to determine exactly what those effects will be.

Fires are one of nature’s primary carbon-cycling mechanisms, said Dr. Melita Keywood, a researcher with Australia’s national research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

A press release from CSIRO highlighted some of the questions Keywood raised in a recent presentation at a gathering of geophysicists. Continue reading

Global warming displacing Australian fish

Australian researchers say they've documented global warming impacts on 43 fish species. Photo from the Wikimedia Commons.

Southeastern Australia a climate change hot spot, with shifting currents and significant increases in water temps

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Warm-water fish around Australia are moving southward to colonize the cool, temperate waters of the Tasman Sea, according to Australian researchers who recently concluded that as many as 43 species are showing shifts thought to be related to global warming. The changes are affecting about 30 percent of the inshore fish families in the region.

The scientists with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) scoured published accounts, scientific surveys, records from spearfishing and angling competitions, as well as tallies of commercial catches and underwater photographic records from the late 1800s to the present.

“Increased water temperatures in the Tasman Sea are likely to have a cascading effect through local marine ecosystems.” said Dr. Peter Last, curator of the Australian National Fish Collection. “Furthermore, up to 19 species, or 5 per cent, of Tasmanian coastal fish fauna have undergone serious declines or are possibly extinct locally,” Last said. Continue reading

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