Category: global warming

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?”

USGS study shows that extreme rainstorms are critical for groundwater recharge in the West

‘Without them, groundwater resources become depleted’

Raindrops ... @bberwyn photo.
Raindrops … @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Extreme precipitation events that cause severe flooding, loss of life and property damage aren’t exactly at the top of the weather wish list for most people. But it turns out they play a key role in replenishing underground aquifers in the western U.S.

The importance of groundwater will continue to grow in the years ahead — an era of population growth and climate disruption, so understanding the connection between big storms and groundwater recharge is critical, according to U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Reclamation scientists who have released a new study analyzing large, multi-year, quasi-decadal groundwater recharge events in the northern Utah portion of the Great Basin from 1960 to 2013.

They evaluated groundwater levels and climate information and identified five large recharge events with a frequency of about 11 to 13 years. Findings show these events provide a significant amount of groundwater recharge and storage across the northern Great Basin, causing water levels to rise in aquifers. Continue reading “USGS study shows that extreme rainstorms are critical for groundwater recharge in the West”

Environmental groups slam airline carbon-offset program

Can the air transport industry get a a grip on its greenhouse gas emissions? @bberwyn photo.

Voluntary program won’t help curb rapidly rising emissions, according to critics

Staff Report

Climate activists and conservation groups say a voluntary international airline carbon-trading scheme doesn’t go nearly far enough to curb greenhouse gas pollution.

Growth in the aviation sector puts the industry on track to triple emissions by 2050, but the new carbon-offset program won’t even take effect until 2021 and is slated to remain voluntary through 2027. According to the climate-action advocates, the deal, adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), only covers about a quarter of total emissions and shifts the industry’s growing carbon debt on to third parties using what could be questionable carbon-offset credits. Continue reading “Environmental groups slam airline carbon-offset program”