Baffin Island study shows skyrocketing Arctic temperatures

‘The warming we are seeing is outside any kind of known natural variability, and it has to be due to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere …’

Baffin Island's ice caps are melting fast. Photo courtesy NASA.

Baffin Island‘s ice caps are melting fast under an unprecedented regime of global warming, according to a new CU-Boulder study: Photo courtesy NASA.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After radiocarbon dating samples of moss at the edge of melting ice caps on Baffin Island, scientists said there’s little doubt that current warming in the Arctic is unprecedented, even on a geological time scale.

Average summer temperatures in the Eastern Canadian Arctic during the last 100 years are higher than during any century in the past 44,000 years and perhaps as long ago as 120,000 years, according to a University of Colorado Boulder study.

“The key piece here is just how unprecedented the warming of Arctic Canada is,” said CU-Boulder geologist Gifford Miller, also a fellow at CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. “This study really says the warming we are seeing is outside any kind of known natural variability, and it has to be due to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.” Continue reading

Historic Alpine glacier decline linked with soot

Study shows pollution melted glaciers even as temperatures cooled

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Atmospheric pollution in the form of soot from fossil fuel combustion, apparently caused a rapid retreat of Alpine glacers even as regional temperatures cooled at the start of the Industrial age. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Matching climate records with ice core samples, scientists say the rapid retreat of Alpine Glaciers in Europe at the end of the Little Ice Age was probably linked with the sudden accumulation of soot particles associated with the beginning of the industrial Age.

Soot from industrial sources and even from wildfires has recently been implicated in the darkening of the Greenland ice sheet, leading to increased surface melt.

The new study helps resolve what had been a puzzle, as the sudden glacier decline coincided with a period of cooling regional temperatures. Between 1860 and 1930, temperatures in Europe cooled by nearly two degrees, yet at the same time, any large valley glaciers retreated by an average of about 0.6 miles (1kilometer).

“Something was missing from the equation,” said lead author Tom Painter, a snow and ice scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The study was published Sept. 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Continue reading

Greenhouse gas warming overrides all other climate signals

Late 20th century temperature spike reversed long cooling trend

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New study finds that Europe’s 2003 heatwave brought the hottest temperatures in 2000 years.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Heat-trapping greenhouse gases have driven global temperatures higher than at any other time during the past 1,400 years, according to a new study covering all seven continents. The big spike between 1971 and 2000 reversed a natural cooling trend that had lasted several hundred years, according to climate data from tree rings, pollen, cave formations, ice cores, lake and ocean sediments, and historical records from around the world.

“This paper tells us what we already knew, except in a better, more comprehensive fashion,” said study co-author Edward Cook, a tree-ring scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who led the Asia reconstruction. Continue reading

Global warming: Andes glacier melt to affect water supplies

New study tracks rapidly accelerating rate of ice decline since 1950s

The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the largest in Patagonia at 30 kilometers long. The glacier descends from the Southern Patagonian Icefield (image top)—2100 meters elevation (6825 feet) in the Andes Mountains—down into the water and warmer altitudes of Lago Argentino at 180 meters above sea level.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the largest in Patagonia at 30 kilometers long. The glacier descends from the Southern Patagonian Icefield (image top)—2100 meters elevation (6825 feet) in the Andes Mountains—down into the water and warmer altitudes of Lago Argentino at 180 meters above sea level. Satellite image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Glaciers in large parts of the Andes have shrunk on average by 30 to 50 percent since the 1970s, and the unprecedented retreat could soon begin to affect water supplies for Andean communities.

Temperatures in the region have warmed by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit in the past few decades, said Antoine Rabatel, a researcher at the Laboratory for Glaciology and Environmental Geophysics in Grenoble, France, and lead author of a recent study on the glaciers in the region.

Globally, glaciers have been retreating at a moderate pace as the planet warmed after the peak of the Little Ice Age, a cold period lasting from the 16th to the mid-19th century. Over the past few decades, however, the rate of melting has increased steeply in the tropical Andes, at a pace not seen for at least the last 300 years. Continue reading

Climate: Some regions see more flooding during cooling regimes

Study in Alpine lakes traces 1,600-year of history climate change

Sediments in Austria’s Mondsee show more evidence of flooding during transitions to cooler climate phases.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — While many recent research projects have highlighted the potential for more extreme weather as the planet warms up, a new study from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences indicates that parts of the Alps saw more extreme flooding during periods of transition to cooler climatic conditions.

By studying sediment layers in the Mondsee, an Alpine lake near Salzburg, Austria, the researchers found evidence of flooding during the time of the Great Migration and the Early Middle Ages (AD 450-750), as well as the transition to the Little Ice Age (AD 1140-1520). In contrast, there was less flooding during the medieval warm phase (AD 1000-1140) and the coldest period of the Little Ice Age (AD 1600-1700). Continue reading

Global warming: Arctic temps out of synch with natural cycles

Paleo-climate data suggests region should be cooling, but greenhouse gas forcing has overpowered nature pattern

New research shows that the Arctic reversed a long-term cooling trend and began warming rapidly in recent decades. The blue line shows estimates of Arctic temperatures over the last 2,000 years, based on proxy records from lake sediments, ice cores and tree rings. The green line shows the long-term cooling trend. The red line shows the recent warming based on actual observations. Courtesy Science, modified by UCAR.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Without ever-increasing concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the Arctic would gradually be cooling instead of experiencing the rapid warming that’s been documented in the past few decades.

The long-term cooling trend, documented back to at least 2,000 years ago, is related to wobbles in the Earth’s orbit that have reduced the intensity of sunlight reaching the Arctic in summertime, when Earth is farther from the Sun, according to a recent study led by scientists from Northern Arizona University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

But in the middle of the 20th century, the gradual cooling ended abruptly, replaced by a sharp increase in Arctic temperatures — even though orbital cycles would suggest a continued cooling trend. The research, based on geologic records and computer models, strongly suggests that the heat-trapping effects of greenhouse gases are overpowering natural climate cycles. Continue reading

Global warming to disrupt Arctic species migration

Arctic foxes. Photo courtesy Yvonne Cox.

Study shows impacts to Arcit fox populations

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It’s very likely that human-caused global warming will disrupt the natural cycles of glaciation that have prevailed in recent millennia, and that could spell trouble for species that have relied on bridges of sea ice to maintain genetic diversity.

That includes Arctic foxes that were able to colonize Iceland during the Little Ice, according to research by scientists at the UK’s Durham University, who said that Arctic foxes were able to migrate to Iceland from Russia, North America and Greenland when such a bridge formed, between 200 and 500 years ago.

Iceland’s population of about 10,000 arctic foxes is not at risk, the researchers said, but explained that increasing isolation from the rest of the Arctic, caused by warmer temperatures and a lack of sea ice, could further differentiate the island’s population from their mainland relatives. Continue reading

Study suggests Southwest fires driven by year-to-year weather cycles rather than long-term climate variations

A low-intensity ground fire burns through ponderosa pine during a prescribed fire in Grand Canyon National Park. PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.

New study offers more evidence that historical fire suppression is the main contributing factor in today’s big southwestern fires

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A detailed analysis of historic fire-scar records and tree-ring data going back centuries offers more evidence that recent mega-fires in the Southwest are unprecedented and likely a result of widespread fire suppression.

While many of today’s southwestern forests haven’t seen a fire in more than 100 years, historical records show that, in the pre-suppression era, they rarely went as long as 40 or 50 years without a low-intensity ground fire.

To reach their conclusions, researchers at Southern Methodist University used a statistical model that encompassed 1,500 years of climate and fire patterns. They wanted to test if today’s dry, hot climate alone is causing the megafires that routinely destroy millions of acres of forest. Continue reading

West: Wildfire regimes out of synch with climate cycles

‘Policies of fire suppression that do not account for this unusual environmental situation are unsustainable.’

One of the many wildfires that burned during a record fire season in Texas. PHOTO COURTESY TEXAS FOREST SERVICE/INCIWEB.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —After a careful comparison of historic fire frequency and climate records (based in part on an extensive charcoal database) a team of university researchers concluded that human activity reduced the frequency of wildfires from the 1,000-year maximum to the 1,000-year minimum — in less than 100 years, leading to a fire deficit.

In short, fire regimes are out of whack with climate cycles. A combination of drought, a build-up of combustible fuels and increased tree mortality is the recipe for a “perfect storm” of wildfire conditions, the researchers warned in a Feb. 14 paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The long-term perspectives gained through these studies demonstrate how strongly climate and people affect the present-day landscapes and forests of the American West, and how they may change in the future, said  University of Oregon geography professor Patrick Bartlein, one of the paper’s authors. Continue reading

Study: Volcanoes may have triggered Little Ice Age

New evidence from carbon-dated plant matter and lake sediments offer clues to sudden climate changes

Eruption column at Redoubt Volcano, Alaska. PHOTO COURTESY USGS.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —Carbon-dating a trove of dead plant material emerging from under the Baffin Island icecap suggests that the vegetation was frozen and engulfed during a relatively sudden event that may have triggered the start of the Little Ice Age.

Both low-lying and higher altitude plants all died at roughly the same time, indicating the onset of the Little Ice Age on Baffin Island — the fifth largest island in the world — was abrupt. The team saw a second spike in plant kill dates at about A.D. 1450, indicating the quick onset of a second major cooling event.

Evidence from the new study suggests the centuries-long span of cooling temperatures began abruptly sometime between 1275 and 1300, following a 50-year-long episode of four massive tropical volcanic eruptions. Continue reading

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