Sunday set: Weinviertel

In the vines …

I had a chance to explore the heart of Austria’s wine country on a perfect autumn day, following an interpretive trail through neatly tended terraces in the Kamp River valley, north of Vienna. Most of the grapes were already harvested, but a few clusters were still ripening in the sun for a late harvest. Some will be left until they freeze on the vine. That late harvest yields a smaller amount of concentrated wine, its sweetness balanced by high acidity. Check out all the latest Summit Voice travel photography in our Sunday Set archive, and visit our online gallery or more landscape and nature images.

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Sunday set: Seaside flashback

Climate change threatens The Med …

Haven’t had a chance to hang out near the ocean for a while, so it’s time to reach back into the archives for a seaside set from the coast of the Mediterranean, a region feeling the full impact of global warming. One recent climate study found that the current dry spell in the region is the most intense in the past 900 years, and just in the past couple of weeks, scientists said this past summer’s record heatwave across the region, dubbed Lucifer, had clear global warming fingerprints all over it. And along with direct heat impacts, there are other effects. In the eastern Mediterranean, warmer water has enabled  tropical fish to invade, and they are having a big impact on marine ecosystems. There are also clear signs that global warming will intensify droughts and the wildfire danger in the region. NOAA has also warned the region could become more susceptible to winter drought.

Will the GOP roll back Obama-era mining bans?

Attacks on public lands continue

The Grand Canyon. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

After more than a century of reckless mining that created a toxic legacy of pollution, the Obama administration finally started trying to prevent even more destruction by placing a few areas, including watersheds around the Grand Canyon, off-limits.

Even those modest restrictions are apparently too much for the mining industry and the politicians the industry has bought in Washington, D.C. Utah Republican Congressman Rob Bishop wants to reverse some of the mining bans enacted during the Obama era, says the Center for Biological Diversity, citing a letter from Bishop to Sec. Agriculture Sonny Perdue. Continue reading “Will the GOP roll back Obama-era mining bans?”

Sunday set: Re-view

Summer scenes …

A quickie photo trek through through parts of Austria reflecting the peak of the summer season, including building thunderstorms over Vienna and the Danube, one more of the poppy fields in full bloom, and some countryside shots. Check the Sunday Set archive for more travel pics, and visit our online gallery for fine art nature and landscape images, available printed on a wide range of mediums.

Scientists stunned by rapid fisheries changes in Pacific

Pacific Ocean sardine species. Photo via NOAA.

“Things are changing so much, it’s hard to say what’s normal these days”

Staff Report

Marine biologists have documented a rapid shift in key fish species in the Pacific Ocean. Anchovies, sardines and hake started spawning much earlier in the year off the coast of Oregon and Washington. Anchovies are also spawning for a longer period of time than documented previously, the scientists reported in a new study published in the journal Global Change Biology. Continue reading “Scientists stunned by rapid fisheries changes in Pacific”

Can climate change affect volcanic activity?

Vesuvius is part of a volcanic region that became more active when the Mediterranean Sea dried up about 5 million years ago. A study of the era suggests climate change can influence volcanic activity. @bberwyn photo.

Study suggests link between sea level and eruptions

Staff Report

European researchers say they’ve found more evidence supporting links between climate change and volcanic activity.

Geologists from Switzerland, France and Spain studied compared data on eruptions and climate from about 5 million years ago, finding that volcanic activity in southern Europe doubled during a time when the Mediterranean Sea dried up. They suspect that the changes on the surface contributed to the way magma behaves deep in the Earth.

The era they studied is known as the Messinian salinity crisis, when the Strait of Gibraltar was blocked and the Mediterranean temporarily isolated from the Atlantic, according to the study published in Nature Geoscience.

The geological record shows a sharp increase in volcanic activity, and the scientists concluded the spike can best be explained by the almost total drying out of the Mediterranean.

The trait of Gibraltar was shut on a temporary basis during the Messinian Era (from 5.96 to 5.33 million years ago) and that the Mediterranean Sea was isolated from the Atlantic. Thick layers of salt on the seabed, as well as river canyons carved through land that is now submerged, suggest the Mediterranean Sea’s level was much lower.

The study acknowledges that this hypothesis continues to be a source of debate, while exploring the potential links.

In a statement, University of Geneva geologist Pietro Sternai said it’s clear that changes at the surface of the Earth, like a sudden lowering of sea level, can change the pressure deep down around pockets of molten magma. Based on that, the researchers studied the changes in volcanic activity during the period. Tracing the age of crystals in volcanic deposits, they counted 13 eruptions around the Mediterranean between 5.9 and 5.3 million years ago — more than double the average over comparable time periods.

Why is the figure so high?

“The single logical explanation is the hypothesis that the sea dried out, since this is the only event powerful enough to alter the Earth’s pressure and magmatic production over the entire Mediterranean,” Sternai said.

The team used computer models to simulate the effect of the Mediterranean’s desiccation on pressure at depth and the impact on magma production. According to Sternai, the models show the only way to account for the increased vulcanism was that the level of the Mediterranean Sea dropped by about two kilometres.

Related research has suggested that melting ice sheets in the polar regions, as well as melting glaciers, could also contribute in various ways to increased volcanic activity.

 

Sunday set: Back to the garden

Go local

As a step toward cutting our carbon footprint, we’ve started to become more conscious about what we eat, and cutting back on meat, especially beef, is one big step. But it also means thinking about where your food comes from. If you stop eating meat but you’re munching fruit that’s been transported 8,000 miles by an oil-powered freighter, it might not be so climate-friendly. These are part of our regular talks at the dinner table, and it all leads to more awareness and change. Austrian supermarkets and food producers help inform these conversations with labels showing the origins of various items, and organic almost goes without saying. As often as possible, we buy produce, and wild mushrooms, from a regional farmer who comes to town once a week. The best foods of all come from a backyard garden, like the luscious strawberries and grapes that grow at our friends’ house in Lower Austria. And wild food isn’t bad either, when you can get it. Blackberries off the vine? Yes, please!