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Climate: July global temps near record high

Year to-date tied for third-warmest

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Hot July for Planet Earth. Courtesy NASA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — With the exception of a few cool pockets, including parts of the eastern United States, above-average temperatures prevailed across most of the globe last month, making it the fourth-warmest July on record.

The globally average land-surface temperature was the 10-warmest on record and the average global sea-surface temperature for July tied with 2009 as the warmest ever, according to the monthly global state of the climate report from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Continue reading

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Climate: Heat-trapping greenhouse gases the biggest driver of global glacier meltdown

‘In our data we find unambiguous evidence of anthropogenic contribution to glacier mass loss’

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Shrinking glaciers on the Dachstein Mountains in Austria will affect water supplies far downstream in local areas and in distant rivers. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some of the world’s glaciers were shrinking before the onset of unchecked heat-trapping pollution, but the human factor in the glacial equation has grown exponentially in the past few decades.

A new modeling study led by scientists at the University of Innsbruck (Austria) shows that only about 25 percent of the global glacier mass loss during the period of 1851 to 2010 is attributable to anthropogenic causes. However, between 1991 and 2010 the fraction increased to about two-thirds.

“In the 19th and first half of 20th century we observed that glacier mass loss attributable to human activity is hardly noticeable but since then has steadily increased,” said researcher Ben Marzeion, explaining that scaled-down regional models can detect an anthropogenic influence in America and the Alps, where glacier changes are particularly well documented. Continue reading

Climate: Bioparticles in dusty air may be key to rain and snow formation

Tiny bioparticles in atmospheric dust play a big role in the formation of raindrops and snowflakes. bberwyn photo.

Tiny bioparticles in atmospheric dust play a big role in the formation of raindrops and snowflakes. bberwyn photo.

Researchers starting to take nuanced look at chemical composition of aerosols

Staff Report

FRISCO —Scientists have long known that tiny grains of airborne dust are key players in the formation of rain and snow, driving precipitation patterns across the drought-stricken western U.S. and other areas.

New research suggests that  the exact chemical make-up of that dust, including microbes found in it, is the key to how much rain and snow falls from clouds.  The information could help better predict rain events, as well as explain how air pollution from a variety of sources influences regional climate in general.

“We’ve learned that not all of the particles in the air at high altitudes have the same influence on clouds. We’re starting to think that these differences contribute to how rain gets distributed,” said Dr. Kim Prather, who presented her findings at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society last week in San Francisco. Continue reading

Environment: It pays to clean up beaches

Study shows costs of coastal litter

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Beach-goers tend to avoid dirty beaches, even it means driving farther and spending more money to find a clean spot. bberwyn photo.

STAFF REPORT

FRISCO —Littered beaches are a costly economic liability in California, as beach-goers tend to avoid local beaches if they’re dirty. The economic study, funded by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, showed that having no marine debris on the beach and good water quality were the two most important factors in deciding which beach to go to.

Given the enormous popularity of beach recreation throughout the United States, the magnitude of recreational economic losses associated with marine debris has the potential to be substantial.  Continue reading

Environment: Studies track genetic impacts of Fukushima meltdown

Birds, monkeys and butterflies all affected by radiation exposure

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Exposure to radiation from the Fukushima meltdown will have far-reaching biological consequences, researcher say.

STAFF REPORT

FRISCO — The disastrous 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan is likely to leave a lasting genetic legacy, scientists said as they released results from a series of studies that outline the serious biological effects of the Fukushima radiation on non-human organisms ranging from plants to butterflies to birds.

The findings are outlined in a series of stories published in the Journal of Heredity, outlining  widespread impacts, ranging from population declines to genetic damage to responses by the repair mechanisms that help organisms cope with radiation exposure.

“A growing body of empirical results from studies of birds, monkeys, butterflies, and other insects suggests that some species have been significantly impacted by the radioactive releases related to the Fukushima disaster,” said Dr. Timothy Mousseau, of the University of South Carolina, lead author of one of the studies. Continue reading

Morning photo: RMNP!

A little taste of high country heaven

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Trail Ridge Road view.

FRISCO — Dylan and I had a chance to visit Rocky Mountain National Park as part of the crowdfunded Climate Ranger project, meeting with a team of scientists who are monitoring conditions in the park’s alpine tundra as part of the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. The monitoring is part of a global program aimed at trying to track climate-induced changes with long-term data, because we won’t know what climate change is doing unless we study it closely. We’ll do more reporting on this topic in the next few days, but for now, a few pics from the Park. Click on the panos to see the full-size versions. Continue reading

Report: Hot times ahead for Colorado

More heatwaves, wildfires and water shortages in the outlook

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Colorado will warm dramatically in the next few decades.

Staff Report

FRISCO — By the middle of this century, Denver’s average temperature could be 6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than today — on par with Albuquerque, according to a new climate report released by the Colorado Water Conservation Board in early August.

Even with deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, Colorado will continue to get warmer. An increase of at least 2 degrees Fahrenheit by mid-century is all but certain, and that will have a big impact on the state’s water supplies, state officials said, reinforcing the results of a series of studies all showing that rising  temperatures will reduce the amount of water in many of Colorado’s streams and rivers, melt mountain snowpack earlier in the spring, and increase the water needed by thirsty crops and cities. Continue reading

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