Some wildflower love from Austria spanning the last couple of months, from first sprouts emerging through the remnant muck of winter, to forest orchids. Check out the Summit Voice photo archives for more wildflower shots from around the world, and visit our online gallery to purchase fine art nature and landscape prints.
Many wildflower species are under the gun from climate change, especially in the mountains, where they will be pushed out of their habitat. Other studies have documented how global warming will affect native plant diversity in California. The changes to plant communities will ripple through ecosystems, affecting insect and birds, as many studies have shown.
With temperatures about to hit 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) for the first time tomorrow, it seemed like a good time to dust off a couple of summer pics from the Summit Voice archives. There’s plenty to worry about in terms of summer heat and global warming, as one of my recent stories for @PacificStand shows, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a nice summer day or evening. The best way to cool off is total immersion, so when you start to feel the heat rise, head for the nearest neighborhood swimming hole and take the plunge. Failing that, find a shady spot at nearby pub and enjoy a cool drink, or hop on your bike and head for the country. Even with the sun glaring down, the cool breezes wafting across a field of grass and poppies will make you feel better. Visit the Summit Voice Sunday Set archive for more and check out our online gallery to see our collection of nature and landscape images.
While most people picture majestic, glacier-clad crags when they think of the Alps, the great European mountain range has a softer side at its far eastern edge, where the mountains gradually taper off toward the Danube Valley, just west of Vienna. The temperate climate in these foothills is perfect for apple and pear trees, growing so prolifically that there’s and entire district dedicated to the production of tasty cider. And in the famed Wienerwald (Vienna Woods), thick silver-barked beech trees dominate the forests. Just a bit farther south and west, the first high peaks of the Alps rise up to the summit of the Ötscher, a landmark peak surrounded by deeply carved valleys where crystal-clear aquamarine streams flow through protected landscapes like the Ötscher-Tormäuer Nature Park. In the last few weeks, the soft greens of spring burst forth in abundance in these landscapes near Austria’s first city, and we’re looking forward to more explorations this summer.
Skiers have as much to lose as anyone. Glaciers are shrinking everywhere, overall there is less snow and winters are getting shorter at both ends, but especially in the spring. In a groundbreaking 2013 study, the U.S. Geological study found a 20 percent decline in Rocky Mountain snow cover since 1980.
Another research paper published just this year in meticulous Swiss fashion documented that the snow season has shortened by 37 days since 1970, with a 25 percent decline in the average maximum snow depth across the entire Swiss Alps, at all elevations. The researchers were surprised to find the decline even at the higher mountain weather stations close to famous resorts like Zermatt and Davos.
In another Christmas-themed story, I reported on a Norwegian study that showed how widespread grazing by reindeer affects the reflectivity in northern tundra regions. It turns out that when the ungulates munch shrubs and brush, they make the world cooler: Save the Reindeer, Save the Arctic.
Another sign that we may be near a climate tipping point is research from California showing that some severely burned forests just aren’t regenerating at all. The fires have become so big and so intense that all the seed stock trees are destroyed, leaving big cleared areas where there is no source for new growth — except for shrubs and brush that quickly grow to dominate the landscape and prevent new seedlings from taking root: California Forests Failing to Regrow After Intense Wildfires.
And some people think that they don’t have to worry about climate change because they heard global warming slowed down between 1998 and 2012. Not so, according to scientists who recalculated the rate of warming in the world’s oceans to show there was no hiatus: Already Debunked Global Warming ‘Hiatus’ Gets Another Dunking.
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.
Record and near-record readings from coast to coast
November 2016’s average temperature across the U.S. was 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, making it the second-warmest on record, behind 1999. According to the latest monthly update from the National Centers for Environmental Information, November is warming at a rate of 6.6 degrees Fahrenheit per century. Only January has been warming faster, at a rate of 10.5 degrees Fahrenheit per century.