Category: climate and weather

July 2016 ranks as 14th-warmest on record for U.S.

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Nearly every state in the lower 48 reported well above-average temperatures for the first seven months of 2016, according to NOAA’s State of the Climate report.

Year to-date is third-warmest, according to monthly climate report

Staff Report

The July temperature across the lower 48 states was 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, with month ending up ranked as the 14th warmest on record, according to NOAA’s monthly state of the climate report for the U.S.

The year-to-date is the third-warmest on record for the contiguous 48 states, and continues to track toward the warmest ever for Alaska, federal climate trackers said in the new report. Continue reading “July 2016 ranks as 14th-warmest on record for U.S.”

New guidance requires closer look at climate impacts from activities on public lands

The U.S. is the second-largest producer of coal in the world, thanks in part to massive surface mines like this one in Wyoming. Photo courtesy BLM.
New guidance for federal agencies will require closer scrutiny of climate impacts of developments on public land. Photo courtesy BLM.

CEQ updates NEPA rules with an eye toward greenhouse gases

Staff Report

Public land managers and other federal agency decision-makers will no longer be able to shy away from considering climate change as they consider new projects.

Saying that emissions from any given proposal are only a small fraction of global emissions “is not an appropriate basis for deciding whether or to what extent to consider climate change impacts under NEPA,” the White House Council on Environmental Quality wrote in new guidance that directs agencies to quantify greenhouse gas emissions and to choose alternatives for projects that minimize climate impacts. Continue reading “New guidance requires closer look at climate impacts from activities on public lands”

Climate: 1.5 degrees of warming nearly certain over land

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How hot will it be in 2100?

Stored ocean heat will be released for centuries to come

Staff Report

Warming of at least 1.5 degrees Celsius over most of Earth’s land areas is probably already locked into the climate system — even if greenhouse gas concentrations were capped at today’s levels.

The new climate change warning came from UK scientists who, in a new study, differentiated between the warming over land areas and the average global temperature increases often used in discussions about efforts to limit emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

The study was done by researchers with the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the University of Exeter and published in the journal Scientific Reports. Continue reading “Climate: 1.5 degrees of warming nearly certain over land”

UN warns of heatwave health risks

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Northern Africa and the Mideast have been baking under extreme temperatures much of the summer.

Refugee areas hit hard by extreme heat this summer

Staff Report

As global warming drives record heatwaves around the world, the UN is warning that more must be done to warn and protect vulnerable populations from extreme heat.

Some studies show that, even in developed countries, deaths spike during hot weather. The risk may be even higher in developing countries, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction said last week in a news release.

“Millions of people around the world should be receiving heat-related warnings and advisories if we are to avoid a repeat of the thousands of deaths which occurred last year from heatwaves notably in Asia and Europe,” said Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative for disaster risk reduction.

“More effort is required to ensure that the poor and vulnerable including refugees, children, older persons and persons living with disabilities are reached with early warnings and that practical measures are taken to ensure they have access to water and adequate shelter and protection from the heat and the sun,” Glaser said, adding that emergency service managers need to “step up the focus on extreme heat” to reduce mortality. Continue reading “UN warns of heatwave health risks”

Forests may not benefit from rising CO2 levels

Intense aspen and scrub oak color in this aerial view of Eagle County, Colorado.
Aspen and scrub oak forests in western Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Study says disastrous tipping points could be reached by 2050

Staff Report

Forests of the future may not be able to remove heat-trapping CO2 from the atmosphere as effectively as previously thought, scientists said in a new study that’s based on an extensive analysis of tree ring data from the past.

“We utilized a network of more than two million tree-ring observations spanning North America. Tree-rings provide a record into how trees that grow in different climates respond to changes in temperature and rainfall,” said Brian Enquist, a professor in the UA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a fellow of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies in Aspen, Colorado.

The research challenges assumptions about how forests will respond to warmer average temperatures, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and shifting rainfall patterns. It also suggests that the warming climate already is rapidly pushing many forests towards an ecological tipping point, which may be reached as early as 2050, Exposure to unprecedented temperatures hampers tree growth and makes them susceptible to other stress factors. Continue reading “Forests may not benefit from rising CO2 levels”

Will global warming lead to a battle of the birds?

Mountain bluebird.
Mountain bluebird. @bberwyn photo.

Migration changes could affect competition for nesting sites

Staff Report

As global warming speeds up the springtime northward migration of swallows, it could spell trouble for mountain bluebirds.

Both species are cavity nesters; at times they compete for the same habitat. Historically, mountain bluebirds have arrived in the breeding territories earlier than the swallows, giving them a chance to defend their nests. But if the swallows arrive first, the bluebirds may have a harder time finding a safe spot to lay eggs, according to new research published in The Auk: Ornithological Advances.

The scientists from the University of Saskatchewan acknowledged that the outcomes of interspecies battles for nest sites depend on a number of factors, but wanted to study what happens when tree swallows and mountain bluebirds compete for nest sites. So they set up side-by-side pairs of nest boxes in grassland habitat in central British Columbia.

When bluebird and swallow pairs moved in next door to each other, they would either block the entrance to one box and let the two pairs of birds compete for the one that remained, or remove both boxes and replace them with a fresh one.

“I became interested in this topic after watching many competitive interactions over natural tree holes during a long-term study of Northern Flickers in central British Columbia,” said researchers Karen Wiebe. “In early spring when the birds are trying to claim a nest site, these disputes can be intense and really grab your attention. Because bluebirds and swallows readily use nest boxes, I was motivated to try some experiments in a system where I could have more control over the spacing of nests and settlement patterns of the birds.”

Wiebe found that when Tree Swallows were defending their previously owned box or when the two species were competing over a new box, Tree Swallows won 65-70 percent of the time. Bluebirds got a boost when they defended a box they already occupied, however, fending off swallows 77 percent of the time.

Climate change may bring the two species into direct competition more often and reduce bluebirds’ ability to claim and defend nest sites.

“This is a nice set of clever and simple experiments that show that species are not the same when it comes to the importance of being the first one to occupy a nest site,” according to ecologist Hanna Kokko of the University of Zurich, an expert on interspecies competition in birds. “The one that currently tends to arrive first, the bluebird, relies more on this, which could easily cause problems if the arrival order changes on a changing planet.”

Will global warming super-charge hurricanes?

Hurricane Isaac satellite image
Tropical storm Isaac churning in the Gulf of Mexico in 2012. Photo courtesy NOAA.

New study suggests tropical storms will become more intense

Staff Report

Tropical storms may become less frequent as the planet warms up, but those that do form could be increasingly powerful, according to a new study published in the journal Science last week.

How global warming will affect tropical storm formation in the decades ahead has been the subject of intensive research. The new study says that, so far, the warming effects of greenhouse gases on tropical cyclones have been hard to discern because of natural variability and also because air pollution has been masking the impacts. Continue reading “Will global warming super-charge hurricanes?”