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

Report: Little doubt that global warming will eradicate the world’s glaciers and ice sheets

‘The big picture across the world and over the long run is clear — carbon dioxide is making the ice melt’

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A Greenland glacier shows signs of wear and tear during the peak of the summer melt season. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Just like today, there were regional nuances in the Earth’s climate at the end of the last ice age — like solar radiation and ocean currents — that were factors in the meltdown of ice sheets and glaciers.

But the single biggest overriding cause was a global rise in temperatures caused by an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, a team of researchers said in a new study that measured isotopes in boulders that were uncovered during the global meltdown 11,000 years ago. Continue reading

July 2015 was the hottest month on record for Earth

All signs point toward more record-breaking heat ahead

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Only a few small parts of the planet saw anywhere near average or below average temperatures in July 2015.

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There is little question that average global temperatures have been soaring since the 1970s.

Staff Report

FRISCO — July 2015 was the hottest month on record for planet Earth by any measure, federal climate scientists said this week during their monthly global climate update. What’s more, the researchers are 99 percent sure that 2015 will end up as the hottest year since humankind has been tracking the climate, going back to about 1880.

That would break the record set just last year and is sure sign that greenhouse gases are inexorably heating the planet, despite year-to-year variations in the rate of warming. Continue reading

Climate: West may be in permanent drought by 2060s

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Is western drought the new climate normal?

New study quantifies global warming effect on California drought

Staff Report

FRISCO — Researchers say there’s new evidence that global warming will push the western U.S. into the driest conditions in at least the past 1,000 years, as higher temperatures exacerbate drought condition in the region.

The new study by scientists with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Cornell University focused on the current California drought, showing that warmer temps drive moisture from plants and soil into the air. Warmer temps likely worsened the California drought by 25 percent, the scientists concluded in their paper, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Continue reading

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