Climate: National Parks face huge sea level threats

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Can the National Park Service protect coastal assets from rising sea levels? Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force.

Study says $40 billion in park assets at risk

Staff Report

FRISCO — Researchers are only a third of the way through their efforts to catalog how rising sea level threatens national parks, but they’ve already documented risks to more than $40 billion worth of park assets.

“Many coastal parks already deal with threats from sea level rise and from storms that damage roads, bridges, docks, water systems and parking lots,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a prepared statement. “This infrastructure is essential to day-to-day park operations, but the historical and cultural resources such as lighthouses, fortifications and archaeological sites that visitors come to see are also at risk of damage or loss.” Continue reading

Wildfires burn record 1.8 million acres in Alaska

Nationally, fires have scorched more than 2.5 million acres

Spot fires show as small puffs of smoke ahead of the main fire front as the fire moves toward the New Town of the village of Nulato on June 22 Credit: Ben Pratt

Smoke from spot fires ahead of the main fire front as a fire in the Galena Zone moves toward New Town Nulato on June 22, Credit: Ben Pratt/Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.

Staff Report

FRISCO — U.S. Wildfire activity has surged above the 10-year average in the past few weeks, primarily because of what will be a record-breaking fire season in Alaska.

After months of mostly above-average temperatures, Alaska’s vast forests and brushlands were primed, and the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center is reporting that more  600 fires have burned across more than 1.8 million acres in the state.

Fires have caused evacuations, highway closures, and rail and flight disruptions. More than 350 structures have been damaged, including about 70 homes.

Above-average temperatures and a longstanding drought in the western U.S. are big factors in the wildfires burning in parts of Washington, Oregon and California.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are currently 26 major fires burning in Alaska. Nationally, the NIFC is reporting that about 26,000 fires have burned across more than 2.5 million acres for the year to-date, the highest number since 2011, when fires had already scorched more than 4.8 million acres by this time of year.

Study tracks global warming threats to tropical shellfish

Some of the best oysters in the world come from Apalachicola Bay.

Shellfish face multiple threats linked to global warming.

Commercial mussel hatcheries in India seen as threatened by climate change

Staff Report

FRISCO — Ocean acidification isn’t the only threat to the planet’s shellfish. In parts of the tropics, warming ocean temperatures and increased rainfall is likely to dilute salt concentrations on the surface of the sea, which will change microscopic communities of bacteria and plankton.

That, in turn, will affect other species higher on the food chain, especially as future conditions may favor disease-causing bacteria and plankton species which produce toxins, such as the lethal paralytic shellfish toxin. These can accumulate in shellfish such as mussels and oysters, putting human consumers at risk. Continue reading

Nobel laureates warn of global warming risks

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2015 is on track to be the warmest year on record for Earth.

Unsustainable plunder of the planet represents a serious threat to humanity

Staff Report

FRISCO — When several dozen of the world’s smartest people — all recognized as Nobel Laureates — gather on an island and declare that climate change and the unsustainable plunder of natural resources are a serious threat, it might be time to listen.

That’s what happened this week during the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, as physicists, chemists and many Nobel Prize winners ended their conference by signing a declaration on climate change, urging nations of the world to “take decisive action to limit future global emissions.” Continue reading

Climate change: New polar bear prognosis not good, as feds prepare to publish recovery plan

‘Addressing sea ice loss will require global policy solutions …’

polar bear map

An updated USGS study shows how global warming will affect polar bears.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Loss of Arctic sea ice caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases remains as the primary threat to polar bears, U.S. Geological Survey researchers said after updating their research models.

Even if greenhouse gas emissions drastically reduced, sea ice will continue to shrink for decades, leading to a significant loss of polar bear habitat in many parts of the Arctic. The Canadian Archipelago is a notable exception. That region may serve as a climate refuge for the bears and other ice-dependent species, the federal scientists said. Continue reading

Climate: Ocean acidification threatens Alaska’s burgeoning shellfish hatchery industry

Costly seawater treatment may be needed by 2040

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Shellfish are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Ocean water around parts of Alaska is acidifying so fast that shellfish hatcheries may soon have to use costly treatment systems to continue commercial operations.

“Our research shows there could be significant effects from ocean acidification on Alaska’s emerging shellfish hatchery industry in a matter of two and half decades,” said Jeremy Mathis, Ph.D., an oceanographer at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and a co-author of the study, published this week in PLOS ONE.

“We need to continue to partner with industry and other stakeholders to make sure we’re providing the environmental intelligence needed by industry to answer key questions and make decisions to meet these challenges,” Mathis said. Continue reading

Climate: Widespread heatwaves setting all-time temperature records across the northern hemisphere

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Above average temperatures are expected to persist across the Far West for the next three months.

Global warming is here …

Staff Report

FRISCO — With El Niño still strengthening in the Pacific Ocean, many parts of the northern hemisphere are breaking all-time heat record this week, including England, where tennis players in the early Wimbledon rounds have to contend with the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the UK.

The ongoing heatwaves parts of Asia, North America and Europe may be a clear sign that 2015 will, as expected, end up as the hottest year on record for the globe, and a sign of trouble ahead, as deadly heatwaves are expected to increase and put millions of people at risk, with the threat growing every year, according to a recent climate study. Continue reading

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