Climate: ‘We need to move away from business as usual’

Curbing global warming will require big cuts in greenhouse gases

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March 2014 temperatures were above average across most of the globe.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —Greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb despite international attempts to curb heat-trapping gases, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its latest climate report.

Issued Sunday in Berlin, the report shows that greenhouse gas emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades. Only with significant institutional, social and technological changes will humankind be able to meet its stated target of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius, the scientists wrote. Continue reading

Study: CO2 buildup could affect food quality

Wheat field in Upper Austria

A wheat field in Upper Austria ripens under a summer sun. bberwyn photo.

Protein levels in key grains could decline by 3 percent

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with cutting yields of some key crops, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is also expected to affect the nutritional quality of food crops. Field tests by UC Davis scientists show that elevated levels of carbon dioxide make it harder for some plants to convert nitrogen into proteins.

“Food quality is declining under the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide that we are experiencing,” said lead author Arnold Bloom, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. “Several explanations for this decline have been put forward, but this is the first study to demonstrate that elevated carbon dioxide inhibits the conversion of nitrate into protein in a field-grown crop,” Bloom said. Continue reading

Climate: Arctic sea ice peaks for the year

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Arctic sea ice extent is declining at 2.6 percent each decade.

March surge boosts extent late in the season

Staff Report

FRISCO — Arctic sea ice grew to its maximum extent for the year on March 21, reaching 5.70 million square miles. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, it was the fifth-lowest maximum extent in the satellite monitoring era, starting in 1978. The lowest maximum extent occurred in 2011, at 5.65 million square miles.

The average date for maximum sea ice extent is March 9, just a couple of weeks after the spring equinox, but the date varies from year to year. The latest maximum on record was in 2011, when sea ice extent expanded through March 31. Through 2014, the linear rate of decline for March ice extent is 2.6 percent per decade relative to the 1981 to 2010 average. Continue reading

Climate: New study projects major habitat losses for birds, reptiles in Southwest

Gray jay in Summit County Colorado

A gray jay searches for bugs in a stand of lodgepole pines near Frisco, Colorado.

A few bird species may gain some ground

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Reptile species like the iconic chuckwalla will probably experience significant habitat loss as global temperatures climb during the next few decades, scientists said this week in a new study projecting climate change impacts to southwestern birds and reptiles.

The study was done by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey,  University of New Mexico, and Northern Arizona University. Overall, the findings suggests many reptile species will lose ground as conditions get warmer and more dry.  Continue reading

Climate: Upcoming IPCC reports highlights need for a global carbon tax

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Can we slow our greenhouse gas emissions? A global carbon tax could help.

Ending subsidies for fossil fuel companies also high on the list

Staff Report

FRISCO — A modest carbon tax of just $0.15 per kilo could lead the world down the path of meaningful action on global warming, says a Swedish researcher who was one of the coordinating lead authors of a new report that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will present next week.

“What we need to avoid dangerous climate change is the application of strong policy instruments,” said Thomas Sterner, professor of environmental economics at the University of Gothenburg. Continue reading

Global warming: Need more proof?

Happy spring!

Daffaodils are blooming earlier, forcing flower festival organizers to move up the dates of their events.

Flower festival dates moved up by nearly a month since the late 1960s

Staff Report

FRISCO — A popular flower festival in the UK is now being help 26 days earlier than when it started back in 1946 because the daffodils are blooming earlier than ever, thanks to global warming.

Coventry University Professor Tim Sparks, an environmental science expert, focused on the changes made to the timing of the popular Thriplow Daffodil Weekend in Cambridgeshire since it started in 1969. The early flowering phenomenon is caused by the UK’s increasingly mild springs, specifically a mean rise in March and April temperatures of 1.8 degrees Celsius since 1969, according to his study, soon to be published  in the journal Climate Research. Continue reading

Climate: Warmer temps to drive spread of drought

State officials hope to be well-prepared for the next inevitable drought in Colorado.

Drought is expected to expand the southwestern U.S. and other regions.

Evaporation seen as huge factor in climate calculations

Staff Report

FRISCO — Increasing global temperatures will drive drought expansion regardless of precipitation in some cases, as more moisture evaporates from soils.

An increase in evaporative drying means that even regions expected to get more rain, including important wheat, corn and rice belts in the western United States and southeastern China, will be at risk of drought. The study excludes Antarctica.

The new study models the effects of both changing rainfall and evaporation rates on future drought, estimating that 12 percent of land will be subject to drought by 2100 through rainfall changes alone; but the drying will spread to 30 percent of land if higher evaporation rates from the added energy and humidity in the atmosphere is considered.

Continue reading

Climate: Clear signs of Arctic sea ice meltdown

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Melt pond on Arctic sea ice. Photo courtesy Polarstern.

Polar ice cap losing ground to global warming

Staff Report

FRISCO — While the Earth still sports an impressive mid-winter polar ice cap, more and more research suggests that global warming is eating away at the ice from the edges and from beneath, as warmer ocean temperatures delay the onset of sea ice formation.

On a geological scale, the pace is astounding. The length of the melt season for Arctic sea ice is growing by several days each decade, and an earlier start to the melt season is allowing the Arctic Ocean to absorb enough additional solar radiation. In some areas that heat is enough to melt as much as four feet of the Arctic ice cap’s thickness, according to a new study by National Snow and Ice Data Center and NASA researchers.

Continue reading

Climate: Methane emissions from freshwater ecosystem set to soar as Earth warms

New study assesses freshwater methane on a global scale

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Microorganisms in freshwater ecosystems generate significant amounts of methane.

Staff Report

FRISCO — After recalculating Earth’s greenhouse gas budget, Princeton scientists say that methane emissions will start increasing at a faster pace than carbon dioxide, primarily due to the release of methane from microscopic freshwater organisms.

Methane is about 30 times more effective than CO2 at trapping the sun’s heat, and for every degree of warming, methane emissions will increase several times over, according to the research published in Nature.

Continue reading

Climate: Permafrost thaw doubles carbon losses

Study says greening tundra won’t offset permafrost meltdown

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Study says new plant growth won’t compensate for carbon emissions from melting tundra in the Arctic. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Permafrost could dwindle by 30 to 70 percent by the end of the century, and more vegetation in the Arctic won’t be enough to offset the carbon emissions from thawing organic soils.

Scientists with the Woods Hole Research Center reached their conclusions after a series of field tests designed to measure net gains or losses in carbon emissions. The study is published in the journal Ecology.

“Our results show that while permafrost degradation increased carbon uptake during the growing season, in line with decadal trends of ‘greening’ tundra, warming and permafrost thaw also enhanced winter respiration, which doubled annual carbon losses,” said WHRC assistant scientist Sue Natali. Continue reading

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