Climate: February 2014 average global temperature hovers well above the 20th century average

Both hot and cold extremes in northern hemisphere; southern hemisphere land areas record warm for summer season

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Planet Earth was hot and cold in February 2013. Map via NOAA/NCDC.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Southern hemisphere mid-latitude land areas experienced a record-warm summer, with temperatures running well above average for December through February, according to the latest monthly state of the climate report from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

For the globe as a whole, the average February temperature was 0.74 degrees above the 20th century average, making it the 21st-warmest February on record. For the December to February period, the average global temperature was the eighth-warmest on record. Continue reading

Climate: Scientists study link between tropical belt expansion and multi-decadal oceanic circulation patterns

Long-term Pacific Ocean cycles could be driving SW drought

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What’s the role of natural climate variability in Southwestern droughts?

Staff Report

FRISCO — If you’re ready to blame drought in the southwestern U.S. on global warming, it might be time to rethink that conclusion.

According to scientists with the University of California, Riverside, dry conditions in the region may be linked with an expansion of the Earth’s tropical belt during the past few decades. And that expansion is likely driven by multi-decadal sea surface temperature variability in the Pacific Ocean, according to the new study. Other explanations for this widening have been proposed, including radiative forcing due to greenhouse gas increase and stratospheric ozone depletion. Continue reading

Global warming stretches Rocky Mountain wildflower season

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In response to global warming, pasque flowers are blooming earlier in the spring in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Colorado ecosystems will see profound changes

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Rocky Mountain wildflower season is about one month longer than it was just a few decades ago.

That  may be pleasant for hikers and photographers, but the rapid shift in the timing of seasonal blooming will have profound consequences for birds and bugs that depend on the blooms for food.

The 39-year study shows  more than two-thirds of alpine flowers have changed their blooming pattern in response to climate change. Half the flowers start to bloom weeks earlier, more than a third are reaching their peak bloom earlier, and others are producing their last blooms later in the year. Continue reading

Report: Ecosystem disruptions expected in Ross Sea

‘Portions of the food web that depend on ice in their life cycles will be negatively impacted, leading to severe ecological disruptions’

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How will changes in the Antarctic food chain affect aquatic mammals? bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate change will fundamentally change The Ross Sea, one of Antarctica’s productive biological regions, but exactly how those changes will play out is hard to predict, scientists said after running computer models combining sea-ice, ocean, atmosphere and ice-shelf interactions.

The region is likely to experience ‘severe ecological disruptions,” a group of scientists wrote in their new study, explaining that rising temperatures and changing wind patterns will create longer periods of ice-free open water, affecting the life cycles of both predators and prey. Continue reading

Global warming: Study tries to pin down climate sensitivity

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How sensitive is the climate to greenhouse gases?

Are you ready for 20 percent more warming?

Staff Report

FRISCO — The recent slowdown in the rate of global warming is a hiccup on the way to a hotter world, NASA scientists said this week. In fact, Earth is likely to experience roughly 20 percent more warming than estimates that were largely based on surface temperature observations during the past 150 years.

The NASA study, led by Drew Shindell, a climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, concludes Earth’s climate likely will continue to warm during this century on track with previous estimates, despite the recent slowdown in the rate of global warming. Continue reading

Despite global warming, new permafrost forming

New permafrost is forming around Alaska's Twelvemile Lake.

A USGS study finds new permafrost forming near Alaska’s Twelvemile Lake.

Small local variations in temperatures eyed as factor

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey say they’ve found new patches of permafrost forming in the margins a retreating lake in the interior of Alaska. The findings run counter the conventional wisdom that permafrost will shrink and disappear as the Earth’s climate warms — but don’t jump on the happy train just yet.

The new permafrost patches are small and suggest that the areas of frozen soil are sensitive to small temperature variations and other local factors, the USGS-led study suggests. Especially important is emerging vegetation around the edge of the lake. Thick willows shade the ground to the point that the soil can freeze, the scientists said. Continue reading

Opinion: My 2 cents worth of guacamole

Bob Berwyn.

Bob Berwyn.

Many journalists spread their dip pretty thin when writing about climate

By Bob Berwyn

Chipotle’s guacamole is threatened by global warming. Or not, depending what you choose to believe.

Immediately dubbed the “Guacalypse” by some climate pundits, the news that Chipotle acknowledged potential global warming threats in a formulaic report to investors raised a stir.

You can melt the Arctic ice cap, raise sea level by 20 feet, but don’t mess with my guacamole, some would-be climate warriors said. But by the next day, NBC news was — almost snarkily — reporting that there’s no immediate threat to the world’s supply of avocados — at least not yet. Continue reading

Climate: Slow growth for Arctic sea ice in February

This year’s winter extent likely to be one of the lowest on record

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Arctic sea ice extent this winter has been hovering near a record low. Graphic courtesy NSIDC.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With just a few more days to go before Arctic sea ice starts its annual retreat, it looks like this year’s maximum extent will be one the lowest on record. Sea ice extent has been tracking below average nearly all winter and dropped below previous record low levels in early February, staying there ever since.

The extent generally peaks in mid-March before it starts to give way to warmer air temperatures and longer days with more hours of sunlight. This year, temperatures in the Arctic have been distinctly higher than average, resulting in a slower than average expansion of the winter ice cover. Overall, sea ice grew at a rate about 26 percent slower than the 1981 to 2010 average. Continue reading

Study: Eastern chickadee populations moving fast in response to global warming

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Some bird populations are shifting fast in response to climate change. bberwyn photo.

‘The rapidity with which these changes are happening is a big deal’

*More Summit Voice stories on birds and climate change here.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Watching climate change is a little more subtle than just sitting around watching a thermometer, but sometimes even scientists are surprised at just how fast things are changing.

A group of East Coast university researchers probably felt that way as they studied the breeding areas of Carolina and black-capped chickadees. Along a narrow zone in the eastern U.S., the two species interbreed, and that overlap zone is moving northward at 0.7 miles per year — a full-on sprint by geological time standards. Continue reading

Climate: Freshwater cap around Antarctica inhibiting natural upwelling of warmer water

Findings may help explain recent expansion of Antarctic sea ice

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Study shows impacts of increased precipitation over Southern Ocean. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Enhanced rainfall over the Southern Ocean may be blocking the release of relatively warm waters from the depths, researchers said this week in a study published in Nature Climate Change.

The research shows that salinity at the surface of the Southern Ocean has steadily decreased since the 1950s. This lid of fresh water on top of the ocean prevents mixing with the warm waters underneath. As a result, the deep ocean heat has been unable to get out and melt back the wintertime Antarctic ice pack. Continue reading

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