Genetic research helps forest scientists determine which trees can survive global warming

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Can forests evolve to survive global warming?

Research will inform forest planning efforts

Staff Report

FRISCO — Spanish scientists say they can use genetic data to help determine which pine trees are most vulnerable to climate change, and which trees might be able to thrive in a warmer world. Their findings, published in GENETICS, could help forestry managers decide where to focus reforestation efforts and guide the choice of tree stocks.

The study focused on maritime pines, which grows widely in southwestern Europe and parts of northern Africa. But the tree’s important economic value and ecological roles in the region may be at risk as the changing climate threatens the more vulnerable forests and the productivity of commercial plantations. Continue reading

Climate: Is the California drought the new norm?

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California’s withering drought continues.

Study shows how global warming may very well lead to semi-permanent drought by mid-century

Staff Report

FRISCO — California’s crippling drought may be the new norm, according to scientists who studied the link between greenhouse gases, rising temperatures and multi-year period of record warmth and dryness.

The new study by Stanford researchers found that the worst droughts in California have historically occurred when conditions were both dry and warm, and that global warming is increasing the probability that dry and warm years will coincide.

The findings suggest that California could be entering an era when nearly every year that has low precipitation also has temperatures similar to or higher than 2013-2014, when the statewide average annual temperature was the warmest on record. The study was published in the March 2 issue of the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Continue reading

Arctic sea ice has thinned by 65 percent in 37 years

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A NASA satellite image shows swirls of sea ice near Greenland.

New study includes data from the pre-satellite era

Staff Report

FRISCO — After analyzing data from multiple sources, scientists say Arctic sea ice is thinning much faster than they thought, and the meltdown is not slowing down.

Between 1975 and 2012, ice in the central Arctic thinned by 65 percent on average, and by 85 percent in September, when the ice cover is at a minimum, according to a new study published in The Cryosphere.

“The ice is thinning dramatically,” said lead author Ron Lindsay, a climatologist at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. “We knew the ice was thinning, but we now have additional confirmation on how fast, and we can see that it’s not slowing down.” Continue reading

How long will California’s drought continue?

Snowpack at record low levels

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A NASA Earth Observatory photo shows dry conditions in California in Jan. 2014.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The snowpack in some key California watersheds is at or near all-time record low, the state’s water managers reported this week after conducting their monthly surveys.

At one site, west of Sacramento in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the California Department of Water Resources reported less than 1 inch of water content in the snowpack, just 5 percent of the March 3 historical average for that site. Snowpack measurements are online here. Continue reading

Colorado: House committee rejects clumsy GOP attempt to roll back renewable energy target

Playing politics with our future

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Got wind?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado won’t be lowering its 30 percent renewable energy target anytime soon, as lawmakers on a State House committee yesterday rejected a measure that would have cut the renewable energy standard from 30 percent to 15 percent. Continue reading

Climate: Too cold for penguins?

Emperor penguin colony near Halley Bay. IMAGE COURTESY DIGITALGLOBE.

Emperor penguin colony near Halley Bay. IMAGE COURTESY DIGITALGLOBE.

Genetic study tracks history of Antarctica’s emperor penguin populations

Staff Report

FRISCO — A genetic study shows that emperor penguins may have just barely survived the last ice age, with a few scattered populations  enduring centuries of bitter cold and ice.

The study covers about 30,000 years and suggests that only three populations survived, including a climate refuge of sorts in the Ross Sea, where emperors may have been able to breed around a relatively small area of open water. The emperor penguins in that region evolved to become genetically distinct from other populations, which may support arguments for creating a Ross Sea marine protected area. Continue reading

Morning photo: Winter wonders

Winding down …

FRISCO —Though the equinox is still a few weeks away, the last day of February marks the end of the meteorological winter, so you might see your local TV forecaster talking about spring. Here in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, this may well go down in history as one of the mildest winters on record, as both low and high temperatures ran well above average for weeks on end. We still had our share of snow and frost, but if these past few months are a harbinger of global warming, then we’re probably in trouble. Wouldn’t it be sad if our kids and grandkids couldn’t enjoy the gorgeous frozen landscapes shown in this set? For daily photography updates, follow our Instagram feed, and visit our online gallery for an amazing selection of prints and greeting cards.

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