Category: climate and weather

It was a bad year for Austria’s glaciers

Not much time left for Alpine ice

Glacier remnants are visible in the Hohe Tauern Range of Austria in areas where there were thick ice caps just a few decades ago. The IPCC estimates that about 80 percent of the glaciers in the Alps will be gone by 2100 at the current rate of melting. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Austrian climate scientists aren’t mincing words when it comes to the continued alpine meltdown caused by global warming.

“It was a bad year for Austria’s glaciers,” scientists with the ZAMG said last week, announcing that the Pasterze Glacier, below the country’s highest peak, thinned by 2 meters in just one year. At the current melt rate, the Pasterze glacier’s tongue is likely to disappear altogether in another 40 years.

“The ice-mass loss was particularly high this year,” said glacier expert Berhard Hynek. The winter snow cover melted early and the ice was exposed to sun and warm temperatures for a very long time,” he said, adding that other glaciers monitored by the agency also thinned by an average of about 2 meters – equal to the losses measured during the record melt years of 2003 and 2012. Continue reading “It was a bad year for Austria’s glaciers”

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Study projects huge increase in hurricane damage

Warming oceans will lead to bigger, stronger storms

Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the East Coast in 2012. Satellite image courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

As if to underscore a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office on the costs of global warming, researchers at the University of Vermont this week released a study showing that financial losses from hurricanes could increase more than 70 percent by 2100. Continue reading “Study projects huge increase in hurricane damage”

Wildlife advocates will sue to protect Pacific walrus

PHOTO U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: Melting Arctic sea ice is forcing walrus colonies into a shore-bound existence to which they aren’t adapted. Scientists say they’ve documented several cases of young calves being trampled in stampedes.

Wildlife advocates say science ignored in decision not to list species

Staff Report

The Trump administration’s reckless and irresponsible natural resource polices will once again be tested in court, as conservation advocates challenge the government’s denial of endangered species protection for the Pacific walrus.

The Center for Biological Diversity announced it will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildife Service, pointing out that the agency apparently ignored the best available climate science, which would violate the Endangered Species Act. Under the Obama administration, the agency found that the Pacific walrus warrants protection because of a dramatic loss of sea ice habitat. Continue reading “Wildlife advocates will sue to protect Pacific walrus”

Changing ocean alters food web

Study documents shifts caused by warming seas, other stressors

A chemical analysis of dolphin skin cells helped scientists track changes in the ocean food chain. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Big fish eat little fish is the conventional wisdom of the sea, but it’s not always quite so simple. When Global warming and El Niño combined in 2015 and 2016 to warm the Pacific Ocean to new record-high temperatures, it shifted the food chain significantly, according to scientists with NOAA, the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

According to their new study, published in the journal Science Advances,  the food web “changed in response to various natural and anthropogenic related stressors,” said lead author Rocio I. Ruiz-Cooley, formerly of NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center and now at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. “This tells us that the food web is very dynamic, and reveals changes with the ecosystem around it.” Continue reading “Changing ocean alters food web”

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.

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.