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Climate: Is rising CO2 greening the world’s deserts?

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A May 2012 dust storm blows through the Middle East. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Study provides evidence for a carbon dioxide fertilization effect

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A new study of some arid regions — including the southwestern U.S. — suggests that the 14 percent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide sine the early 1980s has lead to an increase in green foliage in the Earth’s arid regions.

The study was led by Randall Donohue of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, who focused on the southwestern corner of North America, Australia’s outback, the Middle East, and some parts of Africa.

The team developed and applied a mathematical model to predict the extent of the carbon-dioxide fertilization effect. They then tested this prediction by studying satellite imagery and teasing out the influence of carbon dioxide on greening from other factors such as precipitation, air temperature, the amount of light, and land-use changes. Continue reading

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Global warming: New climate clues from Antarctica

Study shows how high latitudes may change with increased CO2 levels

Increasing concentrations of CO2 could turn this Antarctic beach into a tropical zone. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — If the past is any indication of the future, tropical plants could one day again thrive in Antarctica, just as they did about 52 million years ago during an intense warming phase when global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were about twice as high as they are today.

New test drilling by German researchers shows that palms and relatives of tropical baobab trees grew along the coast of Antarctica, with the interior dominated by temperate rainforests characterized by southern beech and Araucaria trees of the type common in New Zealand today.

The research, published in the journal Nature, helps illustrate  the relationship between climate change, variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide and the reaction of Earth’s biosphere. The results highlight the extreme contrast between modern and past climatic conditions on Antarctica and the extent of global warmth during periods of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Continue reading

Global CO2 emissions hit new high in 2011

Global carbon dioxide emissions at new high in 2011.

Pace of greenhouse gas buildup increases

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Global carbon dioxide emissions hit an all-time record high of 34 billion tons in 2011, with the biggest jump coming in China, where per capita emissions are now at European levels of about 7.2 tons per person. Overall, Chinese CO2 emissions increased by 9 percent.

That puts China within the range of 6 to 19 tons of per capita emission, similar to rates in most major industrialized countries.

European Union CO2 emissions dropped by 3 percent in 2011, to 7.5 ton per capita.

The United States remain one of the largest emitters, at about 17.3 tons per capita, despite a decline due to the recession in 2008-2009, high oil prices and increased use of natural gas. Continue reading

Global warming — without carbon dioxide

New study suggests that Earths climate has evolved to become more sensitive to greenhouse gases

A slightly different alignment continents during the Miocene Era may have been a big factor in sustaining warmer global temperatures with relatively low levels of CO2.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The modern era’s link between atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and temperatures is nearly undisputed as both have climbed in tandem during recent decades.

But new studies of fossilized plankton suggests there was a time in the Earth’s history, about 12 million to 5 million years ago, when the climate warmed without a corresponding increase in atmospheric CO2, perhaps because of vastly different circulation patterns in the world’s oceans.

The scientists, led by Jonathan LaRiviere and Christina Ravelo of the University of California at Santa Cruz, reconstructed an open-ocean Pacific temperature record during the late Miocene epoch, finding that temperatures across a broad swath of the North Pacific were 9-14 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than today, while atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations remained low–near values prior to the Industrial Revolution. Continue reading

Global warming: Monthly average atmospheric CO2 levels exceed 400 ppm at remote sites for the first time on record

‘The path we’re on is foolish and dangerous and will lead to unacceptable changes’

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —Underscoring the inexorable increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide pollution, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported today that average monthly concentrations of CO2 in the air around Barrow, Alaska reached 400 parts per million for the first time ever.

Carbon dioxide, emitted by fossil fuel combustion and other human activities, is the most significant greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.

The record-high readings came in April and May, at a time of year when CO2 levels are highest in the northern hemisphere just before plants start to absorb the gas as part of their growing cycle, but are worrisome nonetheless as an indicator of global CO2 levels.

“The northern sites in our monitoring network tell us what is coming soon to the globe as a whole,” said Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist with NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder. “We will likely see global average CO2 concentrations reach 400 ppm about 2016.” Continue reading

Climate: Volcanoes only a drop in the global CO2 bucket

Mt. St. Helens. PHOTO COURTESY USGS.

USGS research quantifies emissions from eruptions

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Among the numerous red herrings thrown out by global warming deniers is the idea that it’s not worth reducing carbon dioxide emissions because volcanoes spew out so much more of the heat-trapping gas.

Scientists have known that’s not quite true — not even close to true, actually, and a recent study helps quantify and compare the emissions from the two different sources, showing that, globally, all volcanoes combined emit about as much CO2 annually as a mid-sized state like Pennsylvania.

“On average, human activities put out in just three to five days, the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that volcanoes produce globally each year. Continue reading

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