Posted on July 2, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Mesa Verde was a center of southwestern civilization. Photo courtesy National Park Service.
Native American population history may offer lesson for modern society, as climate change may have caused subsequent crash
FRISCO — Everybody knows about the post-WWII baby boom, but there was another era when North America’s population swelled, as Native Americans in the Southwest shifted from hunting and gathering to agriculture.
The “growth blip” between about 500 and 1300 A.D. is probably linked with emerging early features of civilization — including farming and food storage — and birth rates may have “exceeded the highest in the world today,” according to research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
But like so often in human history, the boom was followed by a crash, offering a warning sign to modern societies about the potential risks of overpopulation, according to Tim Kohler, an anthropologist at Washington State University, who co-authored the paper with WSU researcher Kelsey Reese. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Environment | Tagged: Anasazi, Mesa Verde, population dynamics, Pueblo culture, Southwest | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 8, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
A gray jay searches for bugs in a stand of lodgepole pines near Frisco, Colorado.
A few bird species may gain some ground
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Reptile species like the iconic chuckwalla will probably experience significant habitat loss as global temperatures climb during the next few decades, scientists said this week in a new study projecting climate change impacts to southwestern birds and reptiles.
The study was done by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, University of New Mexico, and Northern Arizona University. Overall, the findings suggests many reptile species will lose ground as conditions get warmer and more dry. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, global warming | Tagged: biodiversity, climate change, Environment, global warming, habitat loss, Southwest | Leave a comment »
Posted on March 5, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Jaguar. Image via the Wikimedia Commons.
Nearly 1,200 square miles of territory protected for recovery of native cats
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Nearly 17 years after federal biologists first listed jaguars under the Endangered Species Act, the wild cats may now have a protected area to roam in the wilds of the Southwest.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week designated about 1,200 square miles of rugged desert, mountain and forest lands in southern Arizona and New Mexico as critical habitat for jaguars — but only after a sustained legal push by the Center for Biological Diversity.
The federal wildlife agency initially resisted mapping out protected areas, claiming that the cats are too rare for habitat protection. Wildlife advocates challenged the agency’s position and a federal court rejected the government’s argument, leading to this week’s critical habitat listing notice in the Federal Register. The USFWS is also working on a jaguar recovery plan for the area. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, wildlife | Tagged: biodiversity, critical habitat, endangered species, jaguars, Southwest, wildlife | Leave a comment »
Posted on February 25, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Dartmouth study details threats to historic communal irrigation
A patchwork of fields around Taos, New Mexico
FRISCO — The historic communal irrigation systems known as acequias Southwest are in decline as snowmelt dwindles and water priorities shift. Social and economic shifts favoring modernism over tradition, are also factors on the decline, according to a new study from Dartmouth College.
Similar trends have been observed in other parts of the world, where rural communities that once fended for themselves are becoming integrated into larger economies, which provide benefits of modern living but also the uncertainties of larger-scale market fluctuations. The study appears in the journal Global Environmental Change. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, Uncategorized, water | Tagged: acequias, Irrigation, Southwest, Taos Valley, water | 3 Comments »
Posted on November 22, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
NOAA’s winter outlook offers little relief for Arizona, New Mexico
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Drought conditions may persist across the southwestern U.S. this winter and may redevelop across the Southeast, according to the seasonal outlook from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
“Even though we don’t have La Niña, the atmosphere across the Pacific seems to be stuck in a La Niña mode … It’s been quite surprising to us, how persistent the pattern is,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of the Climate Prediction Center.
Parts of the Southwest, especially New Mexico, have been experiencing one of the driest periods on record, and Halpert said there is “decent agreement” in the CPC’s models on the climate signal that has resulted in the persistent trend. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Drought, El Niño, La Niña | Tagged: climate, Climate Prediction Center, drought, El Nino, ENSO, La Niña, Southwest, winter weather outlook | 2 Comments »
Posted on June 27, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
No monsoon relief for now
A broad swath of very dry air extends from the Pacific across the Desert Southwest in this June 26 NOAA satellite image.
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Temperatures Wednesday soared to near-record levels in Frisco, topping out at about 80 degrees as an early summer high pressure system built into the Southwestern U.S. Average temperatures for most Summit County weather stations this time of year are in the mid-70s.
Excessive heat warnings from the National Weather Service covered a large area in Southern California and Southern Nevada, where Las Vegas reached a high of 117 degrees, busting the old record for the day by 2 degrees. There’s little relief in sight the next few days with the heatwave expected to continue. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Drought, Summit County snow and weather, Weatherblog | Tagged: climate, Colorado, drought, extreme weather, Southwest, weather | 3 Comments »
Posted on March 10, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Southwestern willow flycatcher. Photo courtesy USFWS.
Non-native bugs threatening habitat for endangered songbirds
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Conservation advocates say non-native tamarisk-eating bugs have gone haywire, destroying habitat needed by endangered southwestern willow flycatchers, native songbirds that need thick riparian vegetation to survive.
The exotic beetles were imported from Asia to destroy invasive tamarisk plants seen as a threat to water resources, but now the bugs have invaded the nesting areas of southwestern willow flycatchers in southern Utah, Nevada, and northern and western Arizona. If the beetle spreads farther without mitigation, it could seriously threaten the flycatcher’s survival, according to Dr. Robin Silver, with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Efforts to eradicate tamarisk are costly and labor-intensive, and some recent research by the U.S. Geological Survey indicates that exotics (including Russian Olive) use about the same amount of water as native willows and cottonwoods.
In June 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture temporarily restricted release of the insects based on concerns about impacts to flycatcher habitat. The decision is outlined in this USDA memo. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment | Tagged: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, biodiversity, Center for Biological Diversity, endangered species act, Environment, Southwest, southwestern willow flycatcher, tamarisk, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Virgin River | 2 Comments »
Posted on February 24, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Southwest, Great Plains most vulnerable to future water shortages
Under some climate change scenarios, Lake Powell is at risk, according to a new study from the US. Forest Service. Photo courtesy Mission 31, ISS, via the Wikimedia Commons.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Some of the West’s biggest reservoirs could dry up completely as the region gets warmer and drier in coming decades, and major increases in storage capacity probably won’t help address regional water shortages, according to a new study authored by researchers with Colorado State University, Princeton and the U.S. Forest Service.
In the Colorado River Basin, “Lakes Powell and Mead are projected to drop to zero and only occasionally thereafter add rather small amounts of storage before emptying again,” the scientists concluded, adding that smaller upstream reservoirs might still be useful.
The report, published by the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, combined climate projections with socio-economic scenarios of population growth and water use to determine future water supply and demand, to assess the likelihood of future water shortages region by region. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Drought, Environment, water | Tagged: climate change, Colorado River, Colorado State University, drought, global warming, Lake Powell, Southwest, United States Forest Service, water | 7 Comments »
Posted on February 2, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Lake Mead. Photo courtesy NASA.
Invasive mussels now dominating lake-bottom ecosystem
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Better sewage treatment in Las Vegas, long-term treatment of persistent pollution from industrial sources and development of artificial wetlands have all helped protect water quality Lake Mead, according to federal scientists who recently released a report the status of the last big storage bucket in the Colorado River’s plumbing system.
Overall, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said that Lake Mead’s water quality is good and that fish populations are holding their own. Lake Mead is even providing habitat for an increasing number of birds.
But the report also acknowledges that invasive quagga mussels have become the dominant lake-bottom organism, posing significant threat to the Lake Mojave and Lake Mead ecosystems. The report also acknowledges the long-term threat of climate change, which will bring reduced water supplies to the entire Colorado River Basin. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, rivers, water | Tagged: Colorado River, Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, Nevada, Quagga mussels, Southwest, water | 1 Comment »
Posted on January 27, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Fight over regional haze plans now at the federal appeals court level
Conservation groups continue to fight for air pollution cleanup in the Southwest.
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Clean Air Act loopholes in regional EPA-approved air quality plans are unacceptable, according to a coalition of environmental and community groups who last renewed their challenge to the regs in a Denver-based federal appeals court.
According to the groups, the plans allow coal-fired power plants in Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming to escape federal requirements to reduce their emissions of haze-causing pollutants. Of particular concern are exemptions for sulfur dioxide emissions, responsible for obscuring visibility and for significant human health impacts.
The exemptions are being challenged by HEAL Utah, National Parks Conservation Association, Powder River Basin Resource Council, and Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice. Continue reading
Filed under: air quality, Environment | Tagged: air pollution, air quality, Clean Air Act, Southwest, sulfur dioxide, United States Environmental Protection Agency | Leave a comment »