Climate: Scientists say Arctic ice loss speeding up

Researchers try to pinpoint sea level rise projections

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Greenland’s glaciers are retreating inland rapidly. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Sea level is set to rise at least three feet during the next few decades, NASA scientists and ice researchers said this week, updating their latest research and findings on how fast the world’s ice sheets and glaciers are melting.

The scientists said they’re still not sure exactly how fast the water will rise, but they’re getting closer to nailing down the timing, thanks to several ongoing research projects, including a five-year effort to measure ice loss around the edge of Greenland.

The goal, of course, is to help coastal communities prepare for the big changes ahead. Agriculture, transportation and other infrastructure like water treatment plants will all be affected by sea level rise. Continue reading

Climate change and Hurricane Katrina: what have we learned

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Hurricane Katrina was sprawled across all or part of 16 states at 2:15 p.m. CDT on August 29, 2005, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

How will climate change affect hurricanes?

Kerry Emanuel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

*This story is reprinted with permission from The Conversation

Three weeks and three days before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans 10 years ago, a paper of mine appeared in the scientific journal Nature showing that North Atlantic hurricane power was strongly correlated with the temperature of the tropical Atlantic during hurricane season, and that both had been increasing rapidly over the previous 30 years or so. It attributed these increases to a combination of natural climate oscillations and to global warming. Continue reading

Study says some forests may not recover from mega-disturbances in the global warming era

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There have been significant die-backs in Colorado aspen forests during recent hot droughts and the stands may never regenerate in some areas because of global warming. @bberwyn photo.

Giant fires, insect outbreaks could be ‘game-changer’ for some forests

Staff Report

FRISCO —Forest Service researchers say “mega-disturbances” like giant wildfires and insect outbreaks are likely to hasten the slow demise of temperate forest ecosystems in the coming decades.

Even without those large-scale events, some forests appear to be transitioning to shrublands and steppe, and big disturbances could speed that process, according to a new study published this month in Science. Continue reading

Climate: Planning for the polar meltdown

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Melting Arctic sea ice has spurred plans for a global Polar Prediction Project. @bberwyn photo.

Can the world find a realistic way to deal with changing conditions at the ends of the Earth?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate scientists and policy makers from around the world last month agreed on an international action plan to help minimize the risks — and identify opportunities — associated with rapid changes in the Arctic and Antarctic environments.

The agreement came at a mid-July conference, when stakeholders from around the world finalized plans for the Polar Prediction Project, which aims to accelerate and consolidate research, observing, modelling, verification and educational activities.

With the Arctic warming about twice as fast as the rest of the world, there  is growing interest in the polar regions, where changes will affect the rest of the world. Continue reading

Stronger winds, driven by climate change, could affect seabird populations

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New research suggests that winds strengthened by global warming present a potential threat to seabirds. @bberwyn photo.

UK study tracks impacts to coastal birds in Scotland

Staff Report

FRISCO — Biologists in the UK say stronger winds projected my many climate change models could have a big impact on some coastal bird populations. When winds are strong, females take much longer to find food compared with their male counterparts.

In many seabird species, females are smaller and lighter than males, and so must work harder to dive through turbulent water. They may not hold their breath for as long, fly so efficiently nor dive as deeply as males. The study suggests that climate change will exacerbate the differences and could ultimately affect population sizes.

To reach their findings, scientists with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology at the University of Edinburgh and the British Antarctic Survey tracked shags — cormorant-like birds — on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve in south-east Scotland. Small tracking devices attached to the legs of birds helped measured how long they foraged for fish in the sea.

Scientists found that when coastal winds were strong or blowing towards the shore, females took much longer to find food compared with males. The difference in time spent foraging became more marked between the sexes when conditions worsened, suggesting that female birds are more likely to continue foraging even in the poorest conditions. Continue reading

Severe drought spreading across Europe

June and July brought record high temperatures and big rainfall deficits in many parts of the European Union

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Drought conditions were widespread across Europe during June and July.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The western U.S. isn’t the only part of the world experiencing severe drought this year. Across much of central Europe, extremely warm temperatures and lack of rainfall have combined to create the worst drought conditions since 2003.

Hardest hit have been France, Benelux, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, northern Italy and northern Spain, according to new information released by the European Drought Observatory. The report includes data from satellite imagery showing that the areas with the largest rainfall deficits also recorded exceptionally high maximum daily temperatures, in some cases reaching record values. Continue reading

Climate: Scientists warn of boreal forest ‘tipping point’

Climate zones in boreal forests are shifting northward ten times faster than the trees’ ability to migrate

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More monitoring, adaptive management needed in crucial forest zones.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The world’s vast boreal forests, stretching around the globe at high latitudes, could reach a climate tipping during this century, according to a team of international researchers who said there needs to be more attention on climate mitigation and adaptation with respect to these forests.

Boreal forests make up about 30 percent of the planet’s total forest area and play a vital role in in the global climate system by capturing huge amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Continue reading

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