Colorado River Delta still benefiting from flood experiment

Colorado River delta
The Colorado River Delta captured in a 2004 image from the International Space Station. Via NASA Earth Observatory.

Monitoring report documents renewed life

Staff Report

In just two years following a man-made flood in the Colorado River Delta, cottonwoods and willows have grown 10 feet tall, rebuilding habitat for other native plants and animals, according to a new monitoring report on the international experiment to re-water the long-arched region.

“This short-term event has had lasting consequences. This really demonstrates that a little bit of water does a lot of environmental good,” said Karl W. Flessa,  professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona. Continue reading “Colorado River Delta still benefiting from flood experiment”

Melting Andes glaciers pose risk in Bolivia

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

Water shortages, sudden floods on the climate change menu in South America

Staff Report

Researchers already know that the world’s tropical glaciers are melting fast, but a new study published in The Cryosphere, an European Geosciences Union journal, helps pinpoint some of the potential impacts. The research focused on the Bolivian Andes, where glaciers dwindled by 43 percent in the last 30 years. The melting ice has created lakes that could burst and flood downstream towns, according to lead author Simon Cook a lecturer at the Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK.

The glacier meltdown also threatens regional water supplies. The 2.3 million residents of  La Paz and El Alto get about 15 percent of their water supply from glaciers, and double that during the dry season.  One lake in the region has already dried up, according to the authors, who said their study is one of the first to look specifically at recent large-scale glacier change in Bolivia. Continue reading “Melting Andes glaciers pose risk in Bolivia”

Study eyes ‘flash drought’ forecasts

State officials hope to be well-prepared for the next inevitable drought in Colorado.
State officials hope to be well-prepared for the next inevitable drought in Colorado.

Soil moisture, snowpack data help inform new forecast modeling

Staff Report

Some droughts creep up on you, while others seem to come out of nowhere, like in 2012 when spring came early and a hot, dry summer parched fields and forests and led to a busy wildfire season, including the destructive Waldo Canyon blaze near Colorado Springs.

Seasonal forecasts issued in May 2012 did not foresee a drought forming in the country’s midsection. But by the end of August,  the drought had spread across the Midwest, parching Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri. Now, after analyzing conditions leading up to the drough, researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, say similar droughts in the future could be predicted by paying close attention to key indicators like snowmelt and soil moisture.  Continue reading “Study eyes ‘flash drought’ forecasts”

Climate: 2d-warmest September ever for Planet Earth

Northern hemisphere shows marked autumn warmth

NASA’s monthly GIS mapping shows that most of the world saw above average temperatures during Sept. 2016.

Global temperatures stayed near record-high levels in Autumn, with last month ending up as the second-warmest September on record, going back to 1880. For the month, the average sea- and land-surface temperature was 1.60 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, just 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than September 2015, according to the latest monthly State of the Climate report from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

The average land-surface temperature was record-warm for the month, at 2.32 degrees above the 20th century average, beating last year by 0.20 degrees.  The average global sea surface temperature was the second-warmest on record, behind 2014. Continue reading “Climate: 2d-warmest September ever for Planet Earth”

How will Antarctica respond to global warming?

Long-term studies show potential impacts of climate change

Antarctic biodiversity is at risk from climate change. Photo by Bob Berwyn.
Antarctic ecosystems are at risk from climate change. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

A new set of scientific reports highlights the value of long-term observations in relatively undisturbed ecosystems and also offers a preview of how global warming may change Antarctica in coming decades.

The research shows that a period of unusual warmth in 2001 and 2002, caused by a confluence two natural climate cycles,  accelerated the microbial food chain and shook up the distribution of penguin populations and thinned glaciers according to October issue of the journal BioScience .

The research came out of two long-term ecological research stations, including Palmer Station, on the West Antarctic Peninsula, where scientists study how “changing sea ice extent influences marine ecology and the multilayered food webs of the coastal, nearshore, and continental slope ecosystems.” Other studies were done at the  McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER, in an ice-free polar desert where glacial meltwater plays a huge role in ecosystems. Continue reading “How will Antarctica respond to global warming?”

Can coastal wetlands survive sea level rise?

New USGS study IDs path for wetlands migration

Coastal mangrove forests are important ecosystems, but face the threat of sea level rise. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Ecologically critical tidal wetlands along the U.S. Gulf Coast are being swallowed up by rising sea level and coastal development, but they expand inland if planners consider climate change in their equations.

“Tidal saline wetlands along the northern Gulf of Mexico are abundant, diverse, and vulnerable to sea-level rise,” said Nicholas Enwright, USGS researcher and lead author of the study. “Our findings provide a foundation for land managers to better ensure there is space for future wetland migration in response to sea-level rise.”

Tidal saline wetlands include mangrove forests, salt marshes, and salt flats, which all provide important wildlife habitat and help buffer the impacts of extreme weather. Without areas for these wetlands to move to, people and wildlife will lose the beneficial functions they provide. Continue reading “Can coastal wetlands survive sea level rise?”

Public support for fracking drops in UK

fracking 3‘The government will increasingly have its work cut out selling fracking to the UK public’

Staff Report

Support for fracking is at an all-time low in the UK, with nearly half the respondents in an annual poll expressing concerns about water quality.

The September 2016 survey found that there has been a significant drop in the level of support for shale gas extraction in the UK over the last 12 months, with levels of support now standing at just 37.3 percent whereas opposition to fracking in the UK now stands at 41 percent.

The University of Nottingham ‘Survey of Public Attitudes to Shale Gas Extraction in the UK’ has been running since March 2012. The survey has tracked changes in awareness of shale gas, and what the UK public believes to be the environmental impacts of its extraction and use, as well as its acceptability as an energy source. Continue reading “Public support for fracking drops in UK”