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Feds to backpedal on wolverine protection

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Are wolverines in the U.S. doomed by global warming?

Leaked memo suggests USFWS is bowing to political pressure from western states

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Federal officials apparently won’t let the best available science stop them from making yet another politically motivated endangered species decision.

This time, wolverines are at issue, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepares to withdraw a proposal to list the rare mammal based on threats posed by global warming. The agency hasn’t officially announced its intention, but a leaked memo  shows that USFWS Mountain-Prairie regional director Noreen Walsh wants to override the recommendations of her own scientists and withdraw the listing proposal. Continue reading

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Study tracks global warming in national parks

Scientists track impacts to ecoystems as temperatures rise

Great Sand Dunes National Park may not be one of the most-visited, but it's definitely one of the most intriguing. Bob Berwyn photo.

How will global warming affect wildflowers in Great Sand Dunes National Park?

FRISCO — National Parks across the country are facing an era of change because of global warming, scientists concluded in a new study showing that many parks are already experiencing temperatures that are near the extreme high end of the scale, based on measurements going back to 1910.

The report by National Park Service scientists concludes  “that climate change is happening in America’s national parks, and in some cases in rapid and concerning ways,” and that “measurable plant and animal responses to recent climate change have already been documented.”

“This report shows that climate change continues to be the most far-reaching and consequential challenge ever faced by our national parks,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a statement  “Our national parks can serve as places where we can monitor and document ecosystem change without many of the stressors that are found on other public lands.” Continue reading

Climate: Are emperor penguins doomed?

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Emperor penguins in Antarctica. Photo courtesy BAS.

New study projects 50 percent decline by century’s end as sea ice habitat dwindles

Staff Report

FRISCO — Antarctica’s emperor penguins may be colonizing new territory right now, but the long-term outlook for the birds is grim, according to new research showing that changes in sea ice concentration will likely cause most colonies to decline by 50 percent by the end of the century.

Even the most remote reaches of Antarctica won’t be immune to the changes, the study leaders said, describing the results of their findings in a new article in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The study concludes that emperor penguins are fully deserving of an endangered species listing based on global warming threats. The research will help inform federal bio-crats as they ponder a listing under the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

Environment: Are Antarctica’s emperor penguins going mobile in response to global warming?

Emporer penguins and chicks near the British Antarctic Survey’s Halley Research Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica.

Emporer penguins and chicks near the British Antarctic Survey’s Halley Research Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Photo courtesy BAS.

Penguin populations in flux

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Just six months after scientists documented breeding emperor penguins moving from sea ice to ice-shelf habitat, a new study reinforces the idea that Antarctica’s iconic birds may be more mobile than thought. It’s too early to say for sure, but that could be good news in terms in terms of global warming, which is likely to change the face of the frozen continent in the decades ahead.

The fundamental questions hinge on how dependent the birds are on their icy habitat. Some studies have shown that emperor penguins may suffer as sea ice shrinks, while other researchers recently doubled their estimate for total population numbers. Overall, penguin populations around Antarctica are in a state of flux. Read all our emperor penguin stories here. Continue reading

EU Study shows huge costs of global warming inaction

‘No action is clearly the most expensive solution of all’

You have to look pretty hard for the tiny cool spots.

Global warming ramped up in May with a record-high average temperature worldwide.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Inaction on climate change is probably the costliest option for the European Union, which could not only see direct costs of €190 billion, but also a net loss of 1.8 percent of its current GDP. Premature mortality accounts for more than half of the overall welfare losses (€120 billion), followed by impacts on coasts (€42 billion) and agriculture (€18 billion).

“No action is clearly the most expensive solution of all. Why pay for the damages when we can invest in reducing our climate impacts and becoming a competitive low-carbon economy?” said Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action. “Taking action and taking a decision on the 2030 climate and energy framework in October, will bring us just there and make Europe ready for the fight against climate change,” she said. Continue reading

Climate: Is the Greenland Ice Sheet near a tipping point?

How fast will the Greenland Ice Sheet melt? Map courtesy Change in Elevation over Greenland ICESat's precise elevation change measurements, combined with information from other technologies, are producing a comprehensive look at the behavior of Earth’s ice sheets -- critical for quantifying forecasts of sea level rise. Scientists used ICESat data to show changes in elevation over the Greenland ice sheet between 2003 and 2006. White regions indicate a slight thickening, while the blue shades indicate a thinning of the ice sheet. Gray indicates areas where no change in elevation was measured.  Credit: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio

How fast will the Greenland Ice Sheet melt?
Credit: NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio.

Detailed chemical analysis shows that southern portion of the ice sheet melted during historic warm phase

Staff Report

FRISCO —A period of global warming about 400,000 years ago may have pushed the Greenland Ice Sheet past a climate tipping point, resulting in widespread melting and raising sea level by more than 15 feet during a time when atmospheric temperatures were similar to current conditions.

The new study is one piece of a massive effort to understand how fast Greenland’s ice will melt as heat-trapping greenhouse gases force global temperatures upward. That melting will have huge implications for millions of people who live near coastlines, as well as for planners and policy makers trying to figure out how to prepare for the coming inundations. Continue reading

Climate: Global temps hit new May record

Year to-date is fifth-warmest through May

You have to look pretty hard for the tiny cool spots.

You have to look pretty hard for the tiny cool spots.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The average global temperature soared to a new record in May, more than 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, according to the latest monthly update from the National Climatic Data Center.

Land surface temperatures were well above average in many parts of the world, including Australia and Alaska, but sea surface temperatures were off the charts, driving the global average temperature for the month to an all-time high. Continue reading

Roundup: No fish-eating spiders, this week

Independent journalism: Climate, penguins and uranium mining

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Staff Report

FRISCO — I didn’t quite get around to reporting on the discovery of new fish-eating spider species last week, but I did cover a lot of environmental territory.

Along with climate stories in Summit Voice I wrote about the emerald ash borer invasion and hydropower for Boulderganic, and even penned a food- and environmental themed Colorado roadtrip story for the Boulder Weekly.

On a more serious note, I was the first journalist to take a close look at the City of Denver’s as-yet unpublished climate change adaptation plan, showing that life in the Mile High City could be nearly unbearable by 2050 — but also showing that making adjustments for global warming could have huge benefits for Denver by expanding green infrastructure. Read the Colorado Independent story here: The Big Schvitz. Continue reading

How do jet contrails fit into climate calculations?

UK researchers say rerouting flight paths could cut warming effect

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Flying over Greenland … bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Chemtrail conspiracy theorists aside, researchers at the University of Reading (UK) say that airplanes could reduce their climate impact by choosing flight paths in areas where jet exhaust condensation trails are less likely to form and persist.

The study, published June 19 in the journal Environmental Research Letters, shows that aircraft contribute less to global warming by avoiding the places where the thinly shaped clouds, called contrails, are produced – even if that means flying further and emitting more carbon dioxide. Continue reading

Climate: Genetic study takes nuanced look at historic penguin response to global warming

Gradual warmup after ice age was beneficial to many species, but rapid rate of current warming may be too much for the flightless birds

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Populations of chinstrap penguins are declining fast as sea ice melts around the Antarctic Peninsula. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

* More Summit Voice stories and photos on penguins here.

FRISCO — A new genetic analysis of historic penguin populations in Antarctica offers a nuanced view of how the flightless birds responded to climate change during the past 30 years. The findings suggests that, between the last ice age and up to around 1,000 years ago, penguin populations expanded as ice retreated and global temperatures warmed.

But warming has accelerated the past few decades; now many species may be declining because ice is retreating too far and too fast, according to the researchers from the Universities of Southampton and Oxford, who looked at genetic diversity to recreate past population sizes. A report of the research is published in the journal Scientific Reports. Continue reading

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