Category: climate and weather

Australian scientists say parts of Great Barrier Reef survived bleaching

Northern section hammered by warm ocean temperatures

This NASA photo shows southern portion of the reef adjacent to the central Queensland coast
This NASA photo shows a southern portion of the Great Barrier Reef adjacent to the central Queensland coast.

Staff Report

Australian researchers this week released results of their latest Great Barrier Reef surveys, concluding that huge swaths of coral died in the past year under the onslaught of an ocean heatwave that led to widespread coral bleaching.

In the hardest-hit area along a 700-kilometer section of the northern reef, an of 67 percent of shallow-water corals died in the last six to nine months. Farther south, over the vast central and southern regions of the Great Barrier Reef, the scientists were relieved to find a much lower death toll. Continue reading “Australian scientists say parts of Great Barrier Reef survived bleaching”

Study confirms global warming threat to alpine insects

A glacier stonefly (Zapada glacier) on a snowy backdrop in Glacier National Park. The species is threatened by climate warming induced glacier and snow loss and has been petitioned for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act due to climate-change-induced habitat loss. (Credit: Joe Giersch, USGS. Public domain.)
A glacier stonefly on a snowy backdrop in Glacier National Park. The species is threatened by climate warming induced glacier and snow loss. Credit: Joe Giersch, USGS.

‘There is nowhere to go because they’re literally at the top of the continent … ‘

Staff Report

The findings of a new 20-year study suggest what already appeared obvious — that certain insects reliant on cold water from glaciers and snowmelt are endangered from global warming. The U.S. Geological Survey research focused on two stonefly species in Montana, and will be used to inform the status review for consideration of protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act .

The scientists found that the meltwater stonefly and western glacier stonefly have a narrow distribution and are restricted to short sections of cold, alpine streams often below glaciers predicted to disappear over the next two decades. Continue reading “Study confirms global warming threat to alpine insects”

Sea snails showing signs of global warming wear and tear

Study helps quantify ocean acidification impacts

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Scientists estimate that pteropod shell dissolution has increased 20 to 25 percent on average in waters along the U.S. West Coast due to CO2 emitted by humans.

Staff Report

By mapping CO2 emissions and comparing that information with data on CO levels in the ocean, scientists say they can now show to what degree the build-up of heat-trapping pollution contributes to the dissolving of shells of microscopic marine sea snails called pteropods.

Other studies from the Southern Hemisphere have reached similar conclusions. Pteropods are an important food for commercially valuable fish species like salmon, sablefish and rock sole.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to tease out the percentage of human-caused carbon dioxide from natural carbon dioxide along a large portion of the West Coast and link it directly to pteropod shell dissolution,” said Richard Feely, a NOAA senior scientist who led the research. Continue reading “Sea snails showing signs of global warming wear and tear”

More heat records, fewer cold days ahead

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Hot enough?

Study says ratio of record-hot to record-cold temperatures set to soar

Staff Report

A global warmup of another few degrees means that the ratio of daily record-high temperatures to  record lows will steadily increase,  reaching as high as 15 to one, according to scientists with the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The ratio could go even higher if the pace of emissions increases and produces even more warming.

Over the last decade, in contrast, the ratio of record high temperatures to record lows has averaged about two to one. If temperatures were not warming, the ratio of record highs to record lows would average out to about one to one.

Instead, record high temperatures have already become a common occurrence in much of the country. The ratio of record highs to lows has averaged about 2 to 1 over the first decade of the 21st century, but there is considerable year-to-year variation. The ratio was about 5 to 1 in 2012, dropping to about 1 to 1 in 2013 and 2014, then almost 3 to 1 in 2015. Continue reading “More heat records, fewer cold days ahead”

How do Arctic sea ice changes affect whales?

Study tracks belugas in global warming era

 Adult beluga whales are migrating through fractured sea ice in the Alaskan Arctic.

Beluga whales migrating through fractured sea ice in the Alaskan Arctic. Photo by Vicki Beaver/NOAA.

Staff Report

The relationship between Arctic whales and sea ice is still largely a mystery, but there is increasing concern over how these species will adapt to climate related changes in sea ice. In a new study, researchers found the drastic sea ice changes under way in the Arctic could lead to more predation of beluga whales — and that could have “implications for population viability, ecosystem structure and the subsistence cultures that rely on them,” said Dr. Greg O’Corry-Crowe, a scientist with Florida Atlantic University. Continue reading “How do Arctic sea ice changes affect whales?”

Massive forest death continues in California

Latest survey tallies more than 100 milion dead trees

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A stand of pine-beetle killed lodgepole pines on the White River National Forest. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

California’s long-term drought has claimed another 36 million trees, the U.S. Forest Service said this week, announcing the results of a new aerial survey. Since 2010, more than 100 million trees have died across 7.7 million acres, the agency said.

The die-off intensified in 2016, after four years of drought,  with mortality increasing 100 percent. Millions of additional trees are weakened and expected to die in the coming months and years. Forest Service leaders once again emphasized that their ability to address safety issues linked with dead trees has been severely hampered by climate change and limited resources.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said a broken budget for the Forest Service sees an increasing amount of resources going to firefighting while less is invested in restoration and forest health.  Continue reading “Massive forest death continues in California”

October ends up as 3d-warmest for Earth

Year-to-date still on record-breaking pace

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Record warmth has spanned the globe in 2016.

Staff Report

The average global temperature for October 2016 was 1.31 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, putting the month in a tie with 2003 for the third-warmest October on record.

Including 2016, the past three Octobers have been the three warmest in the historical record, but with the globe cooling down slightly from an El Niño heat surge, the monthly anomaly was the lowest deparature from average since Nov. 2014, according to the latest global monthly state of the climate report from the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. Continue reading “October ends up as 3d-warmest for Earth”