Category: climate and weather

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.

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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!

EPA stops work on airline emissions standards

Air travel accounts for one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas pollution. @bberwyn photo.

Agency’s move could violate federal environmental laws

Staff Report

A little more than a year after determining that greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft are a threat to public health, the EPA has stopped working on developing new standards for the air industry.

That’s not surprising, given that the Trump administration has sought to undermine nearly every rule set to limit heat-trapping pollution, but environmental advocates with the Center for Biological Diversity want to know more about the latest step backward by the EPA. Continue reading “EPA stops work on airline emissions standards”

Western fires take toll on water supplies

Erosion a huge factor as burned areas grow

A wildfire burns in Texas. Photo via U.S. Forest Service.

Staff Report

The growth of wildfires in the West could double the amount of sediment moving through the region’s rivers, U.S. Geological researchers found in a new study. Increased sediments can affect both water quality and the amount of water available for communities.

The USGS scientists analyzed a collection of climate, fire and erosion models for 471 large watersheds throughout the western U.S. They found that by 2050, the amount of sediment in more than one-third of watersheds could at least double. In nearly nine-tenths of the watersheds, sedimentation is projected to increase by more than 10 percent.

Continue reading “Western fires take toll on water supplies”

Sunday set: Saving lakes

Acting now could help protect lakes from global warming

Had a chance to explore some of Austria’s most beautiful lakes this summer, and spent time talking to scientists about how they will be affected by global warming. As it turns out, there are a few thing we can do to try protect them from climate change impacts, but we have to act now, and in the hope that we can tackle the larger problem in the near future by drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But in the short-term, protecting lakes from pollution, making sure their source waters are clean and cool and trying to protect groundwater that feeds into lakes can help make them more resilient to climate change. In some cases, fisheries managers should probably be thinking about trying to create climate sanctuaries for some species, and regular monitoring, linked with adaptive management, can also help control impacts. Read my story for Deutsche Welle to learn more.