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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

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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

Climate: Melting Antarctic ice sheets likely to become big factor in sea level rise sooner than thought

‘Official’ IPCC sea level estimates may be too low

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Antarctica ice is becoming a bigger factor in global sea level rise. bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Although Antarctica’s vast ice sheets are only a small factor in global sea level rise right now, that’s likely to change in coming decades, scientists said after a new analysis of ocean temperatures around the frozen continent.

“If greenhouse gases continue to rise as before, ice discharge from Antarctica could raise the global ocean by an additional 1 to 37 centimeters in this century already,” says lead author Anders Levermann, with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Now this is a big range – which is exactly why we call it a risk: Science needs to be clear about the uncertainty, so that decision makers at the coast and in coastal megacities like Shanghai or New York can consider the potential implications in their planning processes,” says Levermann.

The scientists analyzed how rising global mean temperatures resulted in a warming of the ocean around Antarctica, thus influencing the melting of the Antarctic ice shelves. The marine ice sheets in West Antarctica alone have the potential to elevate sea level by several meters – over several centuries. Continue reading

Climate Rangers update: Heading for Rocky Mountain National Park

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Heading north …

Global monitoring for Alpine climate impacts

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —Rocky Mountain National Park has graciously invited our crowdfunded Beacon-based reporting projectto visit a high alpine basin where scientists can see how alpine areas respond to climate change.

The long-term observation site is part of a global network of mountain stations recording detailed temperature readings of air and soil, and carefully watching plant and animal communities. Continue reading

Study: Colorado pikas holding their own

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A Quandary Peak pika enjoys some sunny weather recently on his rocky ledge. bberwyn photo.

Plenty of good habitat left in the Colorado Rockies, researchers conclude

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — New surveys by Colorado wildlife biologists suggest that pikas seem to be holding their own as temperatures rise in the Rocky Mountains. The study found that pikas remain well distributed in the Colorado high country.

“In their primary habitat, mainly at and above timberline where there is lots of talus, we find pikas almost everywhere we look,” said Amy Seglund, a species conservation biologist for Parks and Wildlife based in Montrose. Continue reading

Global warming: Arctic snow cover shrinking steadily

Snow up to 50 percent thinner in some parts of Arctic

Ignatius Rigor

A detailed study shows dramatic thinning of the Arctic snow cover in recent decades, especially on the sea ice west of Alaska, Photo courtesy Ignatius Rigor.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Arctic snow cover has thinned significantly in recent decades, especially on sea ice off the west coast of Alaska, with some as-yet unknown consequences for the environment, researchers said this week in a new study accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans.

In the study, led by scientists with NASA and the University of Washington, the scientists compared and analyzed data from  NASA airborne surveys, collected between 2009 and 2013, with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers buoys frozen into the sea ice, and earlier data from Soviet drifting ice stations in 1937 and from 1954 through 1991.

Results showed that snowpack has thinned from 14 inches to 9 inches (35 cm to 22 cm) in the western Arctic, and from 13 inches to 6 inches (33 cm to 14.5 cm) in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, west and north of Alaska. Continue reading

Wildlife: Feds punt on wolverine protection

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Wolverine habitat in the West.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will face new lawsuit over failure to give the species endangered species status

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — In a decision that’s certain to trigger a new round of lawsuits, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it won’t put wolverines on the Endangered Species List.

The decision was made by the agency’s regional directors from the areas where wolverines are native. In a release, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe contradicted all the best available science from his agency’s own biologists, claiming that there’s too much uncertainty about global warming impacts to list wolverines. Continue reading

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