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Climate: Methane emissions from freshwater ecosystem set to soar as Earth warms

New study assesses freshwater methane on a global scale

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Microorganisms in freshwater ecosystems generate significant amounts of methane.

Staff Report

FRISCO — After recalculating Earth’s greenhouse gas budget, Princeton scientists say that methane emissions will start increasing at a faster pace than carbon dioxide, primarily due to the release of methane from microscopic freshwater organisms.

Methane is about 30 times more effective than CO2 at trapping the sun’s heat, and for every degree of warming, methane emissions will increase several times over, according to the research published in Nature.

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Climate: Permafrost thaw doubles carbon losses

Study says greening tundra won’t offset permafrost meltdown

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Study says new plant growth won’t compensate for carbon emissions from melting tundra in the Arctic. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Permafrost could dwindle by 30 to 70 percent by the end of the century, and more vegetation in the Arctic won’t be enough to offset the carbon emissions from thawing organic soils.

Scientists with the Woods Hole Research Center reached their conclusions after a series of field tests designed to measure net gains or losses in carbon emissions. The study is published in the journal Ecology.

“Our results show that while permafrost degradation increased carbon uptake during the growing season, in line with decadal trends of ‘greening’ tundra, warming and permafrost thaw also enhanced winter respiration, which doubled annual carbon losses,” said WHRC assistant scientist Sue Natali. Continue reading

Global warming: Study tries to pin down climate sensitivity

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How sensitive is the climate to greenhouse gases?

Are you ready for 20 percent more warming?

Staff Report

FRISCO — The recent slowdown in the rate of global warming is a hiccup on the way to a hotter world, NASA scientists said this week. In fact, Earth is likely to experience roughly 20 percent more warming than estimates that were largely based on surface temperature observations during the past 150 years.

The NASA study, led by Drew Shindell, a climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, concludes Earth’s climate likely will continue to warm during this century on track with previous estimates, despite the recent slowdown in the rate of global warming. Continue reading

Global temperature records now available on Google Earth

‘We wanted to make this key temperature dataset as interactive and user-friendly as possible … ‘

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A new Google Earth interface helps explain global warming trends.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Thanks to climate researchers at the University of East Anglia, global temperature records from about 6,000 weather stations are now available via Google Earth.

The Climatic Research Unit Temperature Version 4 (CRUTEM4) land-surface air temperature dataset is one of the most widely used records of the climate system.

The new Google Earth format allows users to scroll around the world, zoom in on 6,000 weather stations, and view monthly, seasonal and annual temperature data more easily than ever before. Users can drill down to see some 20,000 graphs – some of which show temperature records dating back to 1850. Continue reading

Forest fungi help stabilize climate during low CO2 times

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Yet another study shows how fungi may play a key role in regulating carbon.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — While most current climate research focuses on increasing levels of carbon dioxide, scientists in the UK recently studied long-past eras when CO2 levels were much lower, and discovered a biological mechanism that could explain how the Earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide and climate were stabilized over the past 24 million years.

When CO2 levels became too low for plants to grow properly, forests appear to have kept the climate in check by slowing down the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The report has been published in Biogeosciences, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union.

“As CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere fall, the Earth loses its greenhouse effect, which can lead to glacial conditions,” said lead-author Joe Quirk, with the University of Sheffield. “Over the last 24 million years, the geologic conditions were such that atmospheric CO2 could have fallen to very low levels … but it did not drop below a minimum concentration of about 180 to 200 parts per million. Why?” Continue reading

Climate: Big greenhouse gas cuts possible in Europe

The U.S. is the second-largest producer of coal in the world, thanks in part to massive surface mines like this one in Wyoming. Photo courtesy BLM.

Continued use of coal will make it tough for Europe to meet emissions targets.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Europe could cuts it greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent at a moderate cost, using existing technologies, according to an international multi-model analysis by the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum.

The researchers shared their findings just as the European Commission prepares to announce whether it will scale up its efforts on emissions reduction in the next decade. Continue reading

Power plant greenhouse gas emissions drop 23 percent

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Switching to natural gas power generation has helped slow the pace of greenhouse gas emissions. Photo via the Wikimedia Commons.

Coal losing ground, but is still the biggest source of fuel for generating electricity

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The gradual shift to natural gas power plants may not be a panacea for reducing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases, but the switch has helped slow the pace emissions.

“Since more and more of our electricity is coming from these cleaner power plants, emissions from the power sector are lower by 20, 30 even 40 percent for some gases since 1997,” said NOAA atmospheric scientists Joost de Gouw. Continue reading

Study tracks natural variability of ocean acidity

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Ocean acidification will have impacts on most life in the coastal zone. bberwyn photo.

‘For vulnerable coastal marine ecosystems, this may be adding insult to injury …’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — In addition to the long-term threat of ocean acidification resulting from increased atmospheric greenhouse gases, marine organisms also must deal with short-term spikes of increased acidity.

Those acute episodes are caused by a variety of natural factors, including temperature and algal activity, according to a new study led by researchers with Duke University, who took a close look at natural cycles of acidity in a North Carolina estuary.

“The natural short-term variability in acidity we observed over the course of one year exceeds 100-year global predictions for the ocean as a whole,” said  Zackary I. Johnson, a molecular biologists at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Continue reading

Global warming: New research suggests climate may be more sensitive to greenhouse gases than previously thought

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Convective clouds over the Florida coast. bberwyn photo.

Correcting models with new information on cloud formation leads to higher projected temperature increases

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Climate scientists taking a closer look at the role of water vapor in cloud formation say the climate is probably more sensitive to greenhouse gases than most existing models suggest.

Based on those observations, they concluded that global temperatures could easily climb by at least 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century if carbon dioxide emissions continue unchecked.

The research, published in the journal Nature, helps answer one of the long-standing questions about climate sensitivity — the role of cloud formation and whether this will have a positive or negative effect on global warming. Continue reading

Global Warming: Some Arctic ocean organisms are unlikely to survive in increasingly acidic oceans

Some Arctic-dwelling copepods may not be able to survive increasingly acidic oceans.

Some Arctic-dwelling copepods may not be able to survive increasingly acidic oceans.

“Some marine animals may not be able to survive the impact of ocean acidification … ‘

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Marine organisms with a limited natural habitat range will likely suffer the most as oceans become more acidic. Among the first to go may be tiny copepods in the Arctic Ocean living just beneath the surface. The crustaceans are a critical part of the ocean food web, helping to sustain many other animals.

“Our study found that some marine animals may not be able to survive the impact of ocean acidification, particularly the early-life stages,” said Dr, Ceri Lewis, with the University of Exeter. “This unique insight into how marine life will respond to future changes in the oceans has implications that reach far beyond the Arctic regions.”

The recent findings on ocean acidification impacts came from a research expedition conducted as part of the Catlin Arctic Survey. The study found that copepods that move large distances, migrating vertically across a wide range of pH conditions, have a better chance of surviving. Continue reading

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