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Microclimates may buffer some streams from global warming

Low flows in high country streams this summer. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Microclimates may partially buffer some streams, at least temporarily, from warming air temperatures. bberwyn photo

‘The one constant is that a healthy watershed will be more resilient to climate change than one that isn’t healthy …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is all but sure to raise stream temperatures in many areas, but it turns out that changes in air temperatures don’t offer a reliable proxy for projecting those changes.

Eapecially in the mountains streams of the West, topography and riparian conditions are huge factors in regulating stream temperatures.

The correlation between air temperature and stream temperature is surprisingly tenuous, according to stream ecologists at Oregon State University, who examined historic stream temperature data over a period of one to four decades from 25 sites in the western United States. Continue reading

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Global warming reshaping bird communities in Northeast

A backyard cardinal in Englewood, Florida. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Cardinals have become more common in the Northeast.

‘Climate change should not be viewed as the sole driver of changes in winter bird communities, but this signal is a pretty strong one for climate change’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is reshaping backyard bird communities in eastern North America, as once-rare birds are now common in the Northeast.

Cardinals, chipping sparrows and other warm-adapted species have greatly expanded their wintering range in a warmer world, a change that may have untold consequences for North American ecosystems, according to University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife biologists Benjamin Zuckerberg and Karine Princé.

In a new paper published in Global Change Biology, Zuckerberg and Princé analyzed more than two decades of data on 38 species of birds gathered by thousands of citizen scientists through the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch. They found that birds typically found in more southerly regions are gradually pushing north, restructuring the communities of birds that spend their winters in northern latitudes. Continue reading

Study: 1934 Dust Bowl still the Godzilla of North American droughts

A dust storm engulfs Stratford, Texas in April of 1935. The drought of 1934 was likely made worse by dust storms triggered by the poor agricultural practices of the time. Credit: NOAA/George E. Marsh Album.

A dust storm engulfs Stratford, Texas in April of 1935. The drought of 1934 was likely made worse by dust storms triggered by the poor agricultural practices of the time.
Credit: NOAA/George E. Marsh Album.

Severe dust storms spawned even more widespread drought, research shows

Staff Report

FRISCO — With all the recent talk of looming megadroughts, the 1934 peak of the Dust Bowl era still remains the most severe and widespread drought in North America during the past 1,000 years, climate scientists say.

Based on tree-ring studies and other physical records, the only other comparable event was way back in the 1500s.

The extent of the 1934 drought was approximately seven times larger than droughts of comparable intensity that struck North America between 1000 A.D. and 2005, and was caused in part by an atmospheric phenomenon that may have also led to the current drought in California, according to a new study. Continue reading

Climate: UK weather trends toward extremes

An extratropical cyclone

An extratropical cyclone

North Atlantic pressure variations driving variable pattern

Staff Report

FRISCO — Weather patterns affecting the UK are  becoming more volatile, climate researchers concluded in a new study, concluding that the trend is being driven by extreme variations in pressure over the North Atlantic.

The month of December is showing the biggest variation, but contrasting conditions, from very mild, wet and stormy to extremely cold and snowy are a clear sign of less stable weather, University of Sheffield scientists reported in a study published last month in the Journal of Climatology.

Winter weather conditions are commonly defined using the North Atlantic Oscillation, a south-north seesaw of barometric pressure variations over the North Atlantic which determine the strength of the westerly winds that shape North Atlantic weather systems. Continue reading

Climate: Icebergs … in Florida?

Dawn in the Antarctic Sound. Click on the image for more ...

Iceberg tracks offer modern climate clues. bberwyn photo.

Study seeks abrupt climate change clues

Staff Report

FRISCO — Icebergs may have been drifting off the coast of Florida as recently as 21,000 years ago, university researchers said after developing a climate model that recreates ocean currents from the end of the last ice age.

The study implies that the mechanisms of abrupt climate change are more complex than previously thought, according University of Massachusetts Amherst oceanographer Alan Condron. The models are supported by the discovery of iceberg scour marks on the sea floor along the entire continental shelf. Continue reading

Fish swimming toward poles as fast as they can to escape global warming

Study projects major shifts in species richness patterns

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A map from the new University of British Columbia study shows the current distribution of species richness based on data going back to the 1950s.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Many fish species are racing away from the equator and toward the poles to escape steadily warming ocean temperatures. In a worst-case scenario of unchecked greenhouse gas emissions, many fish will disappear from the tropics by 2050, moving poleward by as much as 26 kilometers per decade.

Under the best-case scenario, where the Earth warms by just 1 degree Celsius, fish would move 15 kilometres every decade, according to a new study by scientists with the University of British Columbia study that examined the impact of climate change on fish stocks. Continue reading

Mangroves may shelter some corals from global warming

Study documents ‘climate refuge’ in Virgin Islands

Boulder brain corals, for example, were found in abundance under the mangroves and were healthy, while many of those in unshaded areas a short distance away were bleaching. Photo Credit: Caroline Rogers, USGS

Boulder brain corals were found in abundance under the mangroves and were healthy, while many of those in unshaded areas a short distance away were bleaching.
Photo Credit: Caroline Rogers, USGS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some coral species are finding a refuge of sorts from global warming by finding new habitat in the shade of red mangrove trees.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and Eckerd College documented discovery of the refuge in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where more than 30 species of reef corals were found growing in Hurricane Hole, a mangrove habitat within the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument in St. John. Continue reading

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