Copper Mountain eyes alpine coaster amusement ride

More snowmaking, bike trails to be studied by Forest Service

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More recreation developments proposed for Copper Mountain.

Staff Report

Citing a lack of recreational opportunities at Copper Mountain, the U.S. Forest Service has launched an early comment period for proposed new developments at the Summit County resort, including an alpine coaster ride on the front side of the mountain, increased snowmaking and new mountain bike trails.

“These projects will help connect people to their National Forest while at the same time improving the year-round guest experience at Copper Mountain Resort,” said U.S. Forest Service Dillon District Ranger Bill Jackson. “In particular, we are excited about the additional snowmaking coverage on the West Encore and Collage trails which will allow the U.S. Ski Team additional early-season training opportunities.” Continue reading

Policy makers must take long-term view of climate change

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Impacts of greenhouse gas emissions will last for thousands of years.

‘It is high time that this essential irreversibility is placed into the focus of policy-makers’

Staff Report

Today’s debates about global warming impacts are much too shortsighted, according to a new analysis, which warns that, at the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, the Earth is likely to suffer irreparable damage that could last tens of thousands of years.

“Much of the carbon we are putting in the air from burning fossil fuels will stay there for thousands of years – and some of it will be there for more than 100,000 years,” said Oregon State University paleoclimatologist Peter Clark. “People need to understand that the effects of climate change on the planet won’t go away, at least not for thousands of generations,” said Clark, lead author of the article. Continue reading

Climate: Arctic sea ice at record low in January

Antarctic sea ice also below average

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Arctic sea ice extent is declining at a rate of about 3.2 percent per decade. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Arctic sea ice extent in January  was the lowest in the satellite record, according to the latest monthly update from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Scientists said the new record monthly low was likely the result of  unusually high air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean and a strong negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation for the first three weeks of the month.

Meanwhile in the Antarctic, this year’s extent was lower than average for January, in contrast to the record high extents in January 2015.

In the Arctic, the ice extent average 5.2 million square miles, 402,000 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average and 35,000 square miles below the previous record January low that occurred in 2011.

Across most of the Arctic Ocean, air temperatures ran more than 13 degrees above average for most of January as a cyclical air pressure shift enabled warm air to flow northward toward the Arctic.

Over the long term, January sea ice extent is shrinking at a rate of about 3.2 percent per decade. Sea ice extent has been below 14.25 million square miles every year since 2005, according to the NSIDC.

But some projections suggest that winter sea ice extent could hold steady or even increase in the short term because of changes in a key Atlantic Ocean current that transports cold water northward. Observational data show a slight upward trend in Arctic sea ice extent from 2005 to 2015.

See the full NSIDC update here.

Colorado lawmakers want to beef up state climate plan

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Global temperatures are rising inexorably. A state climate plan with teeth could ensure that Colorado is doing its part to meet the goals of the 2015 climate agreement reached at the COP21 talks in Paris.

Proposed House Bill 1004 would require state to set measurable targets and report progress annually to lawmakers

By Bob Berwyn

Colorado climate activists and their allies in the State Legislature want to add some teeth to a climate plan released last year by the Hickenlooper administration. The plan acknowledges the impacts and establishes a vague framework for addressing global warming in Colorado, but was criticized for lacking measurable targets.

2015 was by far the hottest year on record for the globe, breaking the record set in 2014. It was the third-warmest year on record for Colorado. The year also saw a modern record set for wildfires, as well as the most widespread bloom of toxin-producing algae ever recorded along the West Coast. In Colorado, scientists recently reported on finding extreme climate change impacts in the state’s alpine zone. Continue reading

Comeback spurs plan to downlist manatees

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Manatees gathering at a freshwater spring in Florida. @bberwyn photo.

Protection efforts pay off for the marine mammals

Staff Report

Federal biologists say manatees are on the road to recovery and they’re proposed to downlist the species from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

When scientists started tracking the gentle marine mammals, the Florida population was estimated at about 1,200. In the last 25 years that population has grown to about 6,300, with 13,000 across the species’ range, including Puerto Rico, Mexico, Central America, South America, and Greater and Lesser Antilles. Continue reading

Report offers mixed climate change outlook for pikas

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A Quandary Peak pika enjoys sunny weather. @bberwyn photo.

Some populations likely to blink out because of global warming

Staff Report

Climate change may push pikas out of some western national parks, but they are expected to survive in others, where global warming won’t hit quite so hard, scientists said in a new report.

The tiny mammals are common residents of the alpine zone in the West, but warmer and drier conditions will shrink their habitat in some regions in the coming decades. The study concluded that warmer temperatures in Rocky Mountain National Park will cause habitat suitability and connectivity to decline, making that population “highly vulnerable to extirpation.” Continue reading

Study tracks big drop in global mercury emissions

Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. @bberwyn photo.

Local, regional controls help improve global picture

Staff Report

Global mercury emissions dropped by nearly a third between 1990 and 2010, according to a new study that tried to identify patterns and trends in mercury pollution.

Rapid economic development in Asia means higher mercury emissions, but reductions in North America were enough to offset the increases, according to scientists from China, Germany, Canada and the U.S.

Mercury is a metallic element that poses environmental health risks to both wildlife and humans when converted to methylmercury in ecosystems.  It can be converted into gaseous emissions during various industrial activities, as well as natural processes like volcanic eruptions. Continue reading

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