Category: climate and weather

Droughts and fires affecting Western U.S. air quality

New study tracks increase in summertime haze in Colorado wilderness

Summit County firefighters extinguish a small wildfire between Keystone and Montezuma late March, 2012.
Summit County, Colorado, firefighters extinguish a small wildfire between Keystone and Montezuma late March, 2012. A new University of Utah study suggests that more drought and wildfires will worsen air pollution in the high country of the West, even spreading to pristine wilderness areas. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Longer and hotter droughts and wildfires are polluting the once clear blue skies of the high country in the West, according to new research from the University of Utah.

The study, published this week in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found a link between the severity of drought in the Intermountain West and summertime air quality. Climate projections suggest that drought and wildfire risk will continue to increase in coming decades.

“If you take that into the future, we’re going to see significant hazing of the West,” said University of Utah atmospheric scientist Gannet Hallar. Continue reading “Droughts and fires affecting Western U.S. air quality”

EU science agency says 2016 was record-warm

Global temperature ratchets up another notch

copernicus_graphics_press-release_en-1Staff Report

Just a few days into the new year, European climate experts confirmed that 2016 is the warmest year on record since humans started tracking the climate. The analysis from  C3S, part of the EU’s Copernicus earth observation program, show that 2016’s global temperature was about 1.3 degrees Celsius higher than typical for the middle years of the 18th century. 2016 was close to 0.2 degrees Celsius warmer than 2015, which was previously the warmest year on record. Continue reading “EU science agency says 2016 was record-warm”

Signs of serious global warming impacts piled up in 2016

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2016 is on track to be the third year in a row with a record-warm average global temperature.

There wasn’t any relief from a wave of worrisome global warming news in the spring of 2016, including a study from Harvard showing how rising temperatures will send ozone levels surging to dangerous highs across parts of the U.S.

“In the coming decades, global climate change will likely cause more heat waves during the summer, which in turn could cause a 70 to 100 percent increase in ozone episodes, depending on the region,” said Lu Shen, first author and graduate student at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Even if the president-elect follows through on his threat to cut funding for Earth observation programs, there are other international science agencies that will continue to monitor climate change impacts, including the European Space Agency. In April, data from ESA ice-observing instruments showed that the meltdown of Antactic ice shelves may be irreversible at this point. The thick shelves of ice that sit at the edge of the continent act as breaks on inland glaciers. If the ice shelves vanish, it could mark a point of no return for Antarctica’s ice, the ESA reported. Continue reading “Signs of serious global warming impacts piled up in 2016”

2016: A year to remember

The year the corals died …

Bleached elkhorn coral. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.
Bleached elkhorn coral. Photo courtesy NOAA.

After spending several months abroad in the autumn of 2015 I returned to the U.S. just in time for Christmas and New Years, as well as the lead-up to the Super Bowl. At the same time, the presidential campaign was starting to wind up, with Trump already spreading his poisoned rhetoric and the Democrats hopelessly divided and apparently unable to offer any meaningful positive message to counter the GOP hatefest.

But what I really noticed is that most Americans weren’t actually paying much attention to the unfolding election. The GOP primary was just another sideshow in the circus of consumerism and entertainment that has become of the mainstay of American civic life. To me, it felt like what a decaying Rome must have been experiencing as the empire waned, the masses entertained by excessive spectacles in the Coliseum, while the ruling class made its last-ditch effort to exploit society for short-term gain. It all crystalized for me in late January, when I saw three stories juxtaposed in the Denver Post: one on the Flint water crisis, a second on Trump’s ascendancy and a third on the armed takeover of a wildlife preserve by the Bundy malcontents. Taken together, the three articles represent the decline of American civilization. I wrote about it here.

In the West, the fracturing of the consensus on American values has often played out in the realm of public lands management, and nowhere is this more apparent than in discussions of endangered species. I saw this trend reinforced in mid-January at a Denver meeting on wolves, where it became clear that, for all the efforts that have been made, the reactionary opposition to predator restoration still prevails in the establishment. More in this in my wolf restoration post on Medium.

Another story that marked 2016 was the global debate over refugees. In February, human rights groups announced that, in the first six weeks of the year, 80,000 people had already made the journey to Europe, and more than 400 had already died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Continue reading “2016: A year to remember”

Morning photo: Year in review

Winter scenes

I covered some ground this year with Summit Voice and all around the web, with diverse reporting and photojournalism from two continents, and I’ll post links to some of the top stories of 2016 in the next few days, but we also wanted to take a look back at the past year in photos, starting with a few favorites from early last winter. My favorite shot of the year is the shadow silhouette at Red Rocks, taken at dawn, Christmas morning. If you have sharp eyes, you’ll be able to pick out some of Colorado’s best ski areas in the monochrome shot taken from a commercial airliner headed west from Denver. Out weekly photo sets are here, and you can also check out our online gallery here. We also closed out the year with a fine environmental photo essay of the cryosphere for Pacific Standard.

 

Still so much confusion about weather versus climate

Big sky.
If it’s hot, it’s global warming, but if not … @bberwyn photo.

Study finds climate change beliefs in the U.S. linked with personal weather experiences

Staff Report

Meteorologists, climate scientists and journalists have apparently failed to convey the message that global climate change and local day-to-day weather conditions are two separate things. A study published this week suggests that Americans’ beliefs about global warming are based on how often they personally experience weather-related events.

One of the paper’s co-authors explained the findings in a press release.

“One of the greatest challenges to communicating scientific findings about climate change is the cognitive disconnect between local and global events,” said Michael Mann, associate professor of geography at George Washington University. “It is easy to assume that what you experience at home must be happening elsewhere.” Continue reading “Still so much confusion about weather versus climate”

2016 headed for new global temperature record

November ends up as 5th-warmes on record

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November was marked by contrasts between North America and Eurasia. Map courtesy NASA.

Staff Report

November’s average global temperature was 1.31 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, making it the fifth-warmest November on record. According to the latest global state of the climate report from the National Centers for Environmental Information, it was cooler than last year’s record by 0.41 degrees Fahrenheit, but 0.09 degrees warmer than the average for the 21st century.

According to the report, warmer-than-average conditions prevailed across most of the globe’s land areas, with record warmth in parts of central and southeastern Canada, where temperatures were at least 9 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1981–2010 average in many places. Other warm regions included the far northern tier of the United States along with a portion of the southwest, parts of western and southern Mexico, sections of eastern and west central Africa, and regions of some southeastern Asia island nations. Continue reading “2016 headed for new global temperature record”