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Study: Southwestern forests may be susceptible to ‘vicious cycle’ of drought and global warming

‘Warmer temperatures linked to human-caused climate change areplaying a role in drying out the region’

The stump of a beetle-killed ponderosa pine looms over the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Even just the small amount of global warming measured to-date has pushed climatic growing conditions to extremes, according to a new report from University of Arizona researchers.

“Our concern is that vegetation will experience even more extreme growing conditions as anticipated further warming exacerbates the impacts of future droughts,” said Jeremy Weiss, a senior research with UA’s department of geosciences. “We know the climate in the Southwest is getting warmer, but we wanted to investigate how the higher temperatures might interact with the highly variable precipitation typical of the region.”

The study found that warmer temperatures magnify drought conditions by making turning the atmosphere into a giant moisture-sucking sponge that make trees more susceptible to insects and other pathogens. The biggest impacts are in low to middle elevations, according to the study, scheduled for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research Biogeosciences. Continue reading

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Global warming: Time to look for higher ground

This map shows where increases in sea level could affect the southern and Gulf coasts of the US. The colors indicate areas along the coast that are elevations of 1 meter or less (russet) or 6 meters or less (yellow) and have connectivity to the sea. Credit: Jeremy Weiss, University of Arizona.

Research team pinpoints the impacts of sea level rise

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Climate researchers have long known that rising sea levels from global warming will inundate coastal areas, and on some low-lying islands, residents are already making plans to relocate entire populations.

Now, a new study led by University of Arizona scientists is pinpointing exactly which areas in the U.S. will affected to help prepare for the inevitable.

Using the most detailed maps available from the U.S. Geological Survey, they determined that nine large U.S. cities, including Boson and New York, could see as much as 10 percent of their current land area threatened with a sea level rise of 10 feet. With a sea-level rise of 20 feet, about one-third of the land area in U.S. coastal cities could be affected. Continue reading

Glacial ‘armoring’ helps mountains grow taller

Research in the Andes challenges some of the conventional wisdom about glaciers and mountains.

In cold climates, glacial ice protects mountains from erosion as they’re lifted up by tectonic activity

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — It’s long been known that glaciers help tear down mountains by scouring out rocks and soil. But now, geologists have discovered that in cold climates at low latitudes, glaciers also help protect mountains from erosion, allowing them to grow taller as movements of the Earth’s crust push them up.

That’s why the Andes in the far south are taller than the peaks in the same range farther north, according to researchers from the University of Arizona who studied the range extensively to understand the role of glaciation and climate in mountain-building.

The University of Arizona researchers were surprised by what they found in Patagonia;s Andes Mountains, said Stuart N. Thomson, a research scientist in the University of Arizona department of geosciences. Continue reading

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