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Climate: What if Arctic sea ice doesn’t form in winter?

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Arctic sea ice is on a downward spiral. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory website for information on this image.

New models look at year-round ice-free conditions to find parallels with Pliocene epoch

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — As atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide start to hover around 400 parts per million, climate scientists have been looking back about 3 to 5 million years, to the Pliocene Epoch — the last time heat-trapping greenhouse gases were at a similar level.

But temperatures during the Pliocene were about 3.5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than today and the sea level was 65 to 80 feet higher. Until now, scientists have assumed that there’s a time lag between atmospheric CO2 levels and the subsequent temperature increases that melt ice and drive ocean levels up. Continue reading

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Volcano study helps measure historic ice sheet thickness

UBC geologists examine pyroclastic deposits near summit of tephra cone on south side of Kima'Kho. Key attributes of these deposits established that they were deposited above the level of a surrounding englacial lake.

UBC geologists examine pyroclastic deposits near summit of tephra cone on south side of Kima’Kho. Key attributes of these deposits established that they were deposited above the level of a surrounding englacial lake. Photo courtesy UBC Science.

Ancient tuyas hold climate clues

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —In what must have been incredible displays of fire and ice, ancient volcanoes once erupted under massive glacial ice sheets, leaving deposits that could help paleoclimatologists unravel some ice age puzzles.

In a recent study, University of British Columbia researchers surveyed those deposits at the Kima’ Kho tuya, which erupted under an ice sheet about 1.8 million years ago. Their findings suggest that he ancient regional ice sheet through which the volcano erupted was twice as thick as previously estimated. Continue reading

Independent voters are wishy-washy on climate

Global warming attitudes can shift with the winds

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A new study suggests that many people still don’t understand the difference between daily weather and long-term climate.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Despite all the recent media coverage and public discussion of climate change issues, some people’s beliefs about global warming are still shaped by day-to-day weather, according to a new study by sociologists, geographers and climatologists. The study may illustrate one challenge facing climate scientists trying to differentiate between sensible weather and long-term climate shift.

Perhaps not surprisingly, those attitudes about climate change are also linked to political persuasion.

“We find that over 10 surveys, Republicans and Democrats remain far apart and firm in their beliefs about climate change. Independents fall in between these extremes, but their beliefs appear weakly held — literally blowing in the wind,” said Lawrence Hamilton, professor of sociology and senior fellow at the Carsey Institute, and New Hampshire state climatologist Mary Stampone, also an assistant professor of geography at UNH. Continue reading

Climate: Winters gettting warmer, wetter in Northeast

‘We’re losing the snow season’

Less snow, more rain predicted for northeastern U.S. Bob Berwyn photo.

Less snow, more rain predicted for northeastern U.S. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — On the heels of a major study showing potential global warming impacts to the ski industry, another team of climate scientists is offering additional research signalling bad news for skiers in the Northeast.

The high-resolution climate study suggests temperatures are going to be significantly warmer in all seasons in the next 30 years, especially in winter. Also, they project that winters will be wetter, with more rain likely than snow.

Overall, the University of Massachusetts Amherst climate researchers said the region is projected to warm about 2 to 3 degrees Celsius by mid century, with local changes approaching 3.5 degrees Celsius in winter. Precipitation will increase, particularly in winter, but not uniformly across the Northeast. Confidence in the precipitation change projections for spring, summer and autumn is lower, given smaller changes relative to natural weather variability. Continue reading

Climate research gets big funding boost

Numerous new studies aimed at trying to safeguard natural resources

The newest NASA global temperature graphic shows September 2012 anomalies compared to the 1951 to 1980 average. Warmer than average temps were widespread and especially noticeable across South America, North Africa, Australia and northern Eurasia, with a few cool pockets in the central U.S., South Africa and central eastern Asia.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Climate change may not be front and center in the current presidential campaign, but behind the scenes, the Obama administration has been forging ahead with several initiatives related to climate science and global warming.

Most recently, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced his department’s regional Climate Science Centers will award more than $10 million in funding to universities and other partners. The research will guide managers of parks, refuges and other resources in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change.

“Climate Science Centers are off and running to meet the needs of those who must safeguard our precious natural resources as the climate changes. These projects demonstrate the benefits of our national climate science strategy, which is focused on the needs of managers in each region,” said Secretary Salazar. Continue reading

Climate (theater of the absurd, part 2)

Sea level rise not a problem in North Carolina, where lawmakers wanted TO say, “No science, no worries”

Rising sea levels are already taking a bite, as erosion increases.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Sea levels are rising steadily around the world, and many low-lying countries and regions are taking the threat very seriously, recognizing the potential threats to coastal resources.

But in North Carolina, home to a spectacular stretch of Atlantic coastline, Republican lawmakers wanted magically solved the problem with legislation by simply making it illegal to use the best available science when planning coastal development.

Ultimately, the state adopted a bill that basically says do nothing about rising sea levels until at least 2016, according to Rob Lamme, a lobbyist for the North Carolina Coastal Federation, who described the legislative process in detail in this blog post.

According to Lamme, the final version of the bill “prohibits state agencies from doing much of anything regarding sea level rise until 2016. The final bill does mandate a study but there are no prohibitions or restrictions on the data or science used in that study,” Lamme wrote.

The see-no-evil approach favored by real estate speculators eager to sell a few more parcels of beachfront property before the next major hurricane washes it away, but it’s a step in the wrong direction for a state that once had a reputation for being a leader in coastal ecosystem research. Continue reading

Climate theater (of the absurd)

Yes, it’s getting warmer.

PBS criticized for featuring a global warming denier with no scientific credibility

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Public television is the the scapegoat in one of the latest climate capers, as the network’s popular NewsHour program recently broadcast a segment on global warming prominently featureing a fringe, self-described weather expert as a spokesman for the global warming denier movement. Watch the segment here.

The segment started harmlessly enough, with an interview of physicist Richard Muller, who recently claimed conversion from global warming denier status. The interview then whirled off into the realm of the surreal, with a lengthy one-on-one segment with non-scientists Anthony Watts, who publishes a blog that’s become a rallying point and last bastion of sorts for the small minority of Americans who still think global warming is a hoax and/or a conspiracy by scientists to get more research funding. Continue reading

Global warming: Organic sediments under Antarctic ice sheets may become a huge source of heat-trapping methane

Sub-ice environments are biologically active and converting organic material to methane

Antarctica is a potentially vast source of heat-trapping methane. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Climate researchers have long warned that stores of organic material in the Arctic will release vast amounts of heat-trapping methane as the atmosphere warms.

Now, a new study shows that Antarctica is another potentially huge source of methane. As much as 50 percent of the West Antarctic ice sheet may be covering old organic matter in sedimentary basins — and that organic matter may have been converted to methane by micro-organisms living under oxygen-deprived conditions.

The methane could be released to the atmosphere if the ice sheet shrinks and exposes these old sedimentary basins, the study concludes. Continue reading

Ancient documents in Iraq offer climate clues

Baghdad became the most prosperous place at the time, and the center of international trade and agricultural development. Map courtesy Fernando Domínguez-Castro.

Cold weather outbreaks may be linked with volcanic activity

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Spanish scientists have tracked a series of unusual cold snaps in the Middle East by translating written documents recorded by Arab historians.

Through painstaking work, the research team has constructed a chronology of climatic events between 816 and 1009, when the region apparently experienced regular cold spells and even snowfall.

“We have recovered an interesting chronology of climatic events, such as droughts, floods, rain, frost, heat and cold waves as well as strong winds during the period between 816-1009 in the areas now known as Iraq and Syria,”  said Fernando Domínguez-Castro, lead author and researcher in the Physics department at the University of Extremadura. Continue reading

Op-Ed: Global warming denial a dangerous course

Ill-timed Earth Day letter on climate change debunked

Global March temperature anomalies.

*Editor’s note: This op-ed was written in response to letters to the editor in the Summit Daily News, published in Frisco, Colorado. The newspaper frequently publishes letters by Hertzberg that are full of scientific inaccuracies and misleading statements.

By Howard Hallman and Brad Piehl

Sunday was April 22 was Earth Day. The Summit Daily celebrated by printing a full page feature spread about climate change denier Marty Hertzberg. Marty has anointed himself as a climate change expert, but in fact he spent much of this career doing mine safety work for the coal industry. Given his background and apparent lack of research experience it is hard to see him as a fair minded credible expert on global warming.

Much of what Marty states as fact is naïve and untrue. The earth’s temperature has increased dramatically over the past 50 years, by all reasonable accounts the direct result of rapid population growth and a significant increase in carbon dioxide emissions into Earth’s atmosphere.

Contrary to Marty’s assertion, small increases in any number of substances including carbon dioxide and fluorocarbon derivatives do have a large and long-term impact on weather. In fact, that’s how cloud seeding works; a relatively tiny quantity of substance is blown into the air triggering the formation of ice crystals and subsequent snowfall.

The global warming controversy in the United States is not really a public policy discussion; rather it is one more political straw man for those who seek to generate hate and divide us.  Continue reading

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