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Climate: Study says warmer temps causing goats to shrink

Body mass no joke for alpine critters that live on the edge of survival

Staff Report

FRISCO — A 30-year study of mountain goats in the European Alps suggests that global warming may be causing the mammals to shrink dramatically, posing a potential risk to the species’s survival.

It’s not the first time that scientists have documented changes in body size as a response to climate change, but the chamois researcher with Durham University (UK) said they were surprised by the speed and magnitude of the changes in chamois.

“Body size declines attributed to climate change are widespread in the animal kingdom, with many fish, bird and mammal species getting smaller,” said Dr. Tom Mason, with School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, at Durham University. “However the decreases we observe here are astonishing. The impacts on Chamois weight could pose real problems for the survival of these populations.” Continue reading

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Climate: Karakoram glaciers to keep growing

Study hints at complexity of forecasting climate change in the mountains

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A NASA Earth Observatory satellite image shows the heart of the Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan, along with the glaciers that supply water for millions of people below.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Teasing localized climate information from global models is tough at any level, and becomes even harder when you factor in the complexities of mountain topography and highly localized and seasonal weather patterns.

But new data has enabled scientists to better understand the long-vexing climate change puzzle of growing glaciers in the Karakoram mountains, a northern range of the greater Himalayas. Understanding the future of glaciers in that region, and around the world, has implications for millions of people who rely on the glaciers for water supplies.

Most glaciers in the Himalayas and around the world have been retreated for the past 150 years, and the melting has accelerated in the last few decades. But the Karakoram glaciers have been stable or growing. The new study says it’s because a unique and localized seasonal pattern keeps the mountain range relatively cold and dry during the summer. Continue reading

Human disturbance the key factor driving changes in eastern forests

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A new study finds that human disturbance drives forest changes in eastern U.S. bberwyn photo

Fire suppression, land-clearing outweigh climate factors, study says

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate change may only be a secondary factor in the changing composition of Eastern forests. Changes in disturbance regimes have had a much bigger impact in the past century or so, according to Marc Abrams, a researcher in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

Abrams says eastern forests are still in a state of disequilibrium resulting from massive clear-cutting and burning during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and aggressive forest fire suppression has also had a far greater influence on shifts in dominant tree species than minor differences in temperature. Continue reading

Climate: Record global warmth in September 2014

Year to-date tied as warmest on record

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Warm, warmer, warmest.

Staff Report

FRISCO — This year is on pace to become the warmest on record, as the National Climatic Data Center reported today that September’s average global temperature hit a new all-time high. Three of the last four months have been record-warm. Visit the NCDC site for the full report.

Once again, warm ocean temperatures prevailed during the month, reaching 1.19 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, the warmest reading for any month of any year on record, dating back to 1880. Continue reading

Study: Global warming not driving Kilimanjaro meltdown

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September 2014 may be Earth’s warmest September on record.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The meltdown of Kilimanjaro’s ice cap is probably being caused by shifts in regional weather patterns and not by general atmospheric warming from heat-trapping greenhouses.

Using the east African mountain as a poster child for climate change is inaccurate, according to a pair of scientists, one with the University of Washington and the other with the University of Innsbruck.

“There are dozens, if not hundreds, of photos of mid-latitude glaciers you could show where there is absolutely no question that they are declining in response to the warming atmosphere,” said climatologist Philip Mote, a University of Washington research scientist. But climate processes in the tropics are far different from the changes happening in the Arctic and mid-latitudes, he said. Continue reading

Microclimates may buffer some streams from global warming

Low flows in high country streams this summer. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Microclimates may partially buffer some streams, at least temporarily, from warming air temperatures. bberwyn photo

‘The one constant is that a healthy watershed will be more resilient to climate change than one that isn’t healthy …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is all but sure to raise stream temperatures in many areas, but it turns out that changes in air temperatures don’t offer a reliable proxy for projecting those changes.

Eapecially in the mountains streams of the West, topography and riparian conditions are huge factors in regulating stream temperatures.

The correlation between air temperature and stream temperature is surprisingly tenuous, according to stream ecologists at Oregon State University, who examined historic stream temperature data over a period of one to four decades from 25 sites in the western United States. Continue reading

Global warming reshaping bird communities in Northeast

A backyard cardinal in Englewood, Florida. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Cardinals have become more common in the Northeast.

‘Climate change should not be viewed as the sole driver of changes in winter bird communities, but this signal is a pretty strong one for climate change’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is reshaping backyard bird communities in eastern North America, as once-rare birds are now common in the Northeast.

Cardinals, chipping sparrows and other warm-adapted species have greatly expanded their wintering range in a warmer world, a change that may have untold consequences for North American ecosystems, according to University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife biologists Benjamin Zuckerberg and Karine Princé.

In a new paper published in Global Change Biology, Zuckerberg and Princé analyzed more than two decades of data on 38 species of birds gathered by thousands of citizen scientists through the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch. They found that birds typically found in more southerly regions are gradually pushing north, restructuring the communities of birds that spend their winters in northern latitudes. Continue reading

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