Climate: Scientists call for cuts in methane emissions

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Cutting methane could slow global temperature surge.

Action could help avert climate tipping points

Staff Report

FRISCO — Leading scientists say the U.S. must do more to cut methane emissions from fossil fuel exploitation and other sectors to try and avoid reaching climate tipping points that could have disastrous implications.

Methane is a much more potent heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide, but it only stays in the atmosphere for about 12 years, which means that big cuts could have a tangible short-term benefit in the race to cap global warming. Continue reading

Morning photo: High Rockies

The alpine zone

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How will furry denizens of the high alpine zone in the Rocky Mountains fare as the climate warms? Find out by following the Rocky Mountain Climate Ranger project.

FRISCO — Had a chance to visit Mt. Evans with my family over the weekend! We got a good look at some classic Colorado wildlife, enjoyed the tundra in full bloom and just narrowly escaped a wicked hailstorm, although we did see the aftermath, with quarter-size hail whitening the ground. It was also fun to see the normally white trunks of the bristlecone pines stained reddish-brown by a heavy rain. And, finally, we’re happy to report that the wild mushrooms are starting to pop. Also happy to report that our Climate Ranger project has reached it’s initial funding goal: http://www.beaconreader.com/projects/rocky-mountain-climate-rangers

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mtnYour contribution to this independent journalism project will be matched dollar for dollar by Beacon. Click to learn more and make a donation. Continue reading

Environment: More signs of coral damage from BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster

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Coral reefs miles away from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster were afffected by the spill.

Ecological footprint of oil spill spread farther than previously believed

Staff Report

FRISCO — Oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster soiled seafloor corals more than 12 miles from the spill site, Penn State University researchers said after doing a detailed survey of the area.

“The footprint of the impact of the spill on coral communities is both deeper and wider than previous data indicated,” said Penn State biology professor Charles Fisher. “This study very clearly shows that multiple coral communities, up to 22 kilometers from the spill site and at depths over 1800 meters, were impacted by the spill,” Fisher said.

The oil from the spill in the Gulf of Mexico has largely dissipated, so other clues now are needed to identify marine species impacted by the spill. Fisher’s team used the current conditions at a coral community known to have been impacted by the spill in 2010 as a model “fingerprint” for gauging the spill’s impact in newly discovered coral communities. Continue reading

Oceans: Pacific bluefin tuna on the brink as feds seek input on new fishing regulations

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Even the imminent decimation of tuna populations hasn’t stopped sport fishermen from harvesting the desirable fish in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere. bberwyn photo.

Not enough adults left to replenish populations

Staff Report

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FRISCO — Pacific bluefin tuna won’t last long at any sustainable level without immediate and drastic intervention by fisheries managers, according to ocean advocates who are urging the federal government to adopt strict limits on bluefin tuna catch.

Overall, many tuna populations are on the brink of collapse. Five of eight tuna species have been assigned threatened or near-threatened status on the international Red List maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

In the Gulf of Mexico, for example, the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster spewed millions of gallons of oil into the species’ prime breeding grounds, and a 2010 report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists showed how illegal fishing and inadequate enforcement are decimating tuna stocks all over the world. Continue reading

Environment: Ongoing cleanup tackles toxic Peru Creek

July 30 site visit gives public a chance to see progress in $3 million remediation project at abandoned mine in Summit County

November snow and ice along the Snake River, in Summit County, Colorado.

Heavy metal pollution from upstream sources has killed most aquatic life in the Snake River, near Keystone, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

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Staff Report

FRISCO — With recent increases in levels of toxic metals in Peru Creek, the ongoing remediation work at the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine, near Keystone, Colo., takes on an even greater importance in the context of water quality in the Blue River Basin and the Upper Colorado.

The mine, which produced huge amounts of silver 100 years ago, has been pinpointed as one of the main sources of acid mine drainage. Water seeping through the rocky ground trickles into the old mine workings, picks up contaminants along the way, then percolates back into Peru Creek near the head of the beautiful alpine valley.

During the last couple of summers, scientists and engineers have been working to reduce the pollution, and this coming week (July 30) there will be a public field trip to the site, led by Jeff Graves of the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, as well as other members of the Snake River Task Force. Continue reading

Environment: USGS study shows neonicotinoid pesticide pollution common in Midwest streams

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Bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides widespread in Midwest streams, USGS study finds. bberwyn photo.

Concentrations in some streams are high enough to kill aquatic organisms

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey studying streams in the Midwest have found levels of neonicotinoid insecticides at up to 20 times the concentrations deemed toxic to aquatic organisms. The systemic pesticides have raised concerns because they’ve been linked with honey bee declines.

Traces of the chemicals were widespread in streams throughout the region — not surprising in the heart of the country’s agricultural belt. In all, nine rivers and streams, including the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, were included in the study. The rivers studied drain most of Iowa, and parts of Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. These states have the highest use of neonicotinoid insecticides in the Nation, and the chemicals were found in all nine rivers and streams. Continue reading

Op-Ed: Happy Birthday, Colorado River – long may you live!

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No room for mistakes in the Colorado River Basin.

Conservation has to be the centerpiece of local, state and regional water planning efforts

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — When Congress 93 years ago formally renamed the Grand River as the Colorado, it probably didn’t have any inkling about what the mightiest river in the West would be subjected too early in the 21st century.

Now far removed from that era of hopeful development, the river is over-exploited from beginning to end. Headwater streams are diverted to water acres of bluegrass lawns in Denver, and mountain resorts mindlessly draw down tributaries for snowmaking during the low-flow season, just when trout most need the water.

Just this week, scientists said they’ve documented an astounding rate of water loss in the basin from groundwater pumping alone, which may turn out to be a worse problem than we think, groundwater development is state-regulated, therefore not as closely tracked as the diversions and storage related to major reservoir operations.

And all the pressures have intensified in recent years: More population growth, more development, more demand for food and irrigation, a 14-year dry spell across the West and a warming climate. Even without manmade global warming, ancient trees tell us that the region has seen longer and more intense droughts in the past few thousand years.

The Colorado is tapped out. Continue reading

Colorado: District court judge voids voter-enacted fracking ban

Signs of oil and gas development are visible on a landscape level from 35,000 feet in the air.

Signs of oil and gas development are visible on a landscape level from 35,000 feet in the air.

Are communities powerless against the fracking juggernaut?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Banning fracking within Longmont city limits would result in “waste” of the state’s mineral resources, Boulder District Court Judge D.D. Mallard ruled today, voiding the city’s voter-enacted ban on the controversial drilling practice.

But  fracking won’t resume anytime soon in the northern Colorado town, as Judge Mallard said there will be no fracking “until further order of Court, either from this Court or a higher court.”

In Judge Mallard’s words: “Longmont’s ban on hydraulic fracturing does not prevent waste; instead, it causes waste. Because of the ban, mineral deposits were left in the ground that otherwise could have been extracted in the Synergy well. Mineral deposits are being left in the ground by all the wells that are not being drilled due to the fracking ban.” Continue reading

Climate: Hottest June on record for Planet Earth

Warm oceans drive widespread record warmth

A NASA climate maps shows much of the globe was warmer than average during June 2014.

A NASA climate maps shows much of the globe was warmer than average during June 2014.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — For the second month in a row, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center reported that Earth’s average temperature reached a record high, at 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, and 0.05 degrees Fahrenheit above the previous record, set in 2010.

Nine of the ten warmest Junes on record have all occurred during the 21st century, including each of the past five years. The new record high was driven in part by persistent ocean heat. The June global sea surface temperature was 1.15 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. surpassing the previous all-time record for any month by 0.09 degrees Fahrenheit. Read the full report here. Continue reading

Opinion: Lake Hill development should be carbon-neutral

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Bob Berwyn.

Smart up-front planning can minimize our carbon footprint

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Passage of the Lake Hill land conveyance bill by the U.S. Senate last week is good news for Summit County’s efforts to try and keep up with the demand for affordable housing in the pricey mountain resort region, and will also help the U.S. Forest Service by funding a new administrative and maintenance facility. Now that the deal is done, it’s time to start thinking about making sure that the Lake Hill neighborhood becomes a model of sustainable development. Continue reading

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