Category: Environment

Sunday set: Global change

Travel a little, learn a lot

This set includes illustrations for some of my most recent stories in various environmental and climate news publications and if you’re a regular Summit Voice reader who is not on Twitter or Instagram, I’m providing a few links here.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how some of Greenlands coastal glaciers already passed passed a climate change tipping point about 20 years ago. Because of the physical processes of snowmelt and runoff, these glaciers are going to disappear even if global greenhouse gas emissions are cut to zero immediately. You can read the story here.

For Pacific Standard, I put together an environmental photo essay on bumblebees, some of the most important pollinators of wildflowers, especially in mountain regions and also in the far north. Bumblebees are important because they are cold-tolerant, so they’re out and about visiting early blooms while other pollinators are dormant. They’ll also fly long distances to visit a single flower. Without them, some species would go extinct. Check out the photo essay here.

You might have seen the recent Summit Voice story on beach erosion and how it’s going to wash away some world famous surf spots along the California coast, and in other areas where coastal strands are ringed by mountains, but if you missed it, you can see it here.

I also wrote about the annual Austrian glacier report for Deutsche Welle, a great global news organization that really does in-depth environmental and climate reporting. You can visit the DW website here, or follow them on Twitter for a daily feed. And my story on the dwindling glaciers is here.

Finally, in a critical story for Colorado and the rest of the West, I reported on how we are losing the war on wildfires and how we need to change our way of thinking about forests and fires in an era of rapid climate change. The story is online at Pacific Standard.

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Sea level rise overwhelming some coral reefs

A sea turtle swims lazily along a coral reef in Hawaii, trailed by tropical fish. (Photo by Kosta Stamoulis, courtesy Oregon State University via Flickr.)

Seafloor erosion outpacing expectations

Staff Report

Coral reefs aren’t just threatened by pollution, ocean acidification and over-heated ocean temperatures. In some places they are being undermined by erosion of the seafloor, U.S. Geological Survey scientists said in a new study that looked at reefs in Florida, the Caribbean and Hawaii.

In the five study sites, the reefs can’t keep pace with sea level rise. As a result, coastal communities protected by the reefs are facing increased risks from storms, waves and erosion.

The degradation of reefs and the subsiding seafloor go hand-in-hand, as sand and other sea floor materials have eroded over the past few decades. In the waters around Maui, the sea floor losses amounted to 81 million cubic meters of sand, rock and other material – about what it would take to fill up the Empire State Building 81 times, the researchers calculated.  Continue reading “Sea level rise overwhelming some coral reefs”

Survey shows very little climate skepticism in Europe

Widespread support for climate action in 4 major European countries

The average global temperature spiked to yet another record in March 2016.

Planet Earth experienced its second-warmest March on record. Map via NASA.

Staff Report

More than eight out of 10 people in the UK, France, Germany and Norway believe that the world’s climate is changing, and a similar proportion think that it is at least partly caused by human activity, according to a recent scientific survey conducted by European researchers.

The survey of more than 4,000 members of the public explored opinions on climate change, climate policy and future energy options. It showed that a wide majority also  support a range of different measures to combat climate change. Continue reading “Survey shows very little climate skepticism in Europe”

Alaska’s senators want more offshore drilling in Arctic waters

GOP assault on the environment continues

Alaska’s GOP senators say drill, baby drill in waters off their state’s north coast.

Staff Report

Environmental protections are under attack on every front and the far North is no exception. Alaska’s senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both Republicans, appear willing to risk fragile ocean environments for a few more petrodollars, so they’ve opportunistically introduced a bill that would expand oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and Cook Inlet, where a recent gas leak persisted for several months, according to InsideClimate News.

Senate Bill 883 seeks to reverse protections established by President Obama in Dec. 2016 and force the Department of the Interior to quickly approve new oil and gas leasing.

“It’s not possible to drill safely in the Arctic, as we just saw from the leaking oil and gas well on the North Slope,” said Miyoko Sakashita, ocean programs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This legislation’s nothing more than a giveaway to oil companies. It’ll hurt Alaska’s healthy habitat and endangered wildlife.” Continue reading “Alaska’s senators want more offshore drilling in Arctic waters”

Study tracks startling salinization trend in U.S. lakes

Road salt, development blamed for spiking chloride levels

Water quality in freshwater lakes near roads where salt is used is rapidly deteriorating. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Lakes from New England to the Midwest are getting saltier from the massive use of chemicals to melt ice on roads, as well as from urban development. Under the current trend,  many North American lakes will surpass EPA-recommended chloride levels in 50 years, spelling trouble for aquatic ecosystems.

The majority of the lakes (284) were located in a North American Lakes Region that includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ontario, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Continue reading “Study tracks startling salinization trend in U.S. lakes”

Study says Florida manatees safe for now

Population expected to double in the next 50 years

Florida manatees at Crystal Springs. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Biologists say current conservation efforts for Florida’s manatees should suffice to help the marine mammals survive for at least the next 100 years. If resource managers continue to protect manatees and their habitat, there’s less than a half-percent chance the population would drop below 500 individuals, the level that would threaten long-term survival.

The new study was done by the  US Geological Survey and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. It found that Florida’s manatee population is likely to gradually double over the next 50 years and then level off. Over time, environmental and habitat changes will probably cause manatees to become less abundant in South Florida and more numerous in North Florida, but the population as a whole will remain high. Continue reading “Study says Florida manatees safe for now”

Global warming speeds diversity threats to native fish

Study looks at hybridization of trout in Northern Rocky Mountains

Biologists study trout in the Blue River in Silverthorne, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Global warming is intensifying the hybridization of native and non-native trout in the northern Rocky Mountains, according to a new study from the U.S. Geological Survey and other scientists. The trend is a serious threat to the biodiversity of Rocky Mountain aquatic ecosystems, says the study published in the journal Global Change Biology.

As non-native rainbow trout, introduced by early settlers, interbreed with cutthroat trout it leads to a decline in local adaptations that can threaten the long-term survival of species. Preserving the  genetic integrity of native species is important for  resiliency, the scientists said. Continue reading “Global warming speeds diversity threats to native fish”