Category: Environment

How will global warming affect wood frogs?

Study documents nuanced response

Scientists took a close look at how wood frogs are trying to survive global warming. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

A far-ranging study of wood frogs have found that the bog-breeding amphibians could be vulnerable to global warming at the southern edge of their range, and that the population could shift northward, similar to many other species.

But the research, covering more than 740 wood frog populations in 27 different areas, also showed some nuance in the response to climate change. That makes it hard to determine which species and which populations are in danger of declining or disappearing, according to researcher David Miller, assistant professor of wildlife population ecology at Penn State.Local and regional precipitation trends are nearly as important as temperature in determining the fate of many animals, he explained, and that’s especially true with moisture-sensitive creatures such as amphibians. Continue reading “How will global warming affect wood frogs?”

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Sunday set: Catching up …

We’re unraveling the web of life

The last few weeks included a productive stretch of writing some interesting climate change and environmental stories. My favorite was about reef restoration in Florida, where hundreds of scientists and volunteers are gardening corals and transplanting them back out into the ocean. Careful monitoring shows there’s good potential to rebuild some ecosystems, especially where it counts, like offshore Miami, which would benefit from intact reefs to help protect the coast from storm surges. You can read the story at Fusion’s Project Earth.

I also spent quite a bit of time listening to people like the U.S. Coast Guard commander, high-ranking naval officers and scientists speaking about environmental changes in the Arctic, and how well the the U.S. is prepared to respond to those changes in a story for Pacific Standard. In another story for the same publication, I wrote about how fungi, through their symbiosis with plants, play a much larger role in regulating the terrestrial part of the carbon cycle than was thought just a few decades ago.

There is also a clear climate change signal evident in the timing of river floods across Europe, with some regions seeing serious flooding come up to two weeks earlier. This has implications for how communities manage water, as I described in this piece for InsideClimate News. Besides the potential for damage to communities, changes in precipitation and flooding patterns also will affect the concentration of nutrient pollution like nitrogen, which leads to toxic algae blooms and ocean dead zones.

 

New GOP bill aims at forest protections

Measure would exempt huge logging projects from environmental review

GOP lawmakers are once again trying to undermine environmental laws that protect forests by passing bills that would exempt logging from reviews and judicial challenges. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Logging projects as large as 10,000 acres could be rushed to approval without environmental reviews under a new bill proposed by Sen. John Thune, (R-S.D.).

As introduced, the law would limit public comment and disclosure of the environmental impacts of large-scale logging projects. The measure is similar to a House bill  that also aims to significantly limit public input and scientific environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. Continue reading “New GOP bill aims at forest protections”

We’re losing the global warming poker game

Greenhouse gases tilt odds toward record warmth

June 2017 was another near-record warm month around the globe.

Staff Report

It’s highly unlikely Earth would have seen a three-year run of record global temperatures without its blanket of human-caused greenhouse gases, scientists concluded in a new study that tried to pin down the relationship between record warmth and human-caused global warming.

Without the warming effect of carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping pollutants, there’s only a 0.03 percent chance that there would be three consecutive years of record temperatures; when the warming effects of greenhouse gases are added into the equatio, the odds of three consecutive record-breaking years happening any time since 2000 rises to as high as 50 percent, according to the new study. Continue reading “We’re losing the global warming poker game”

Study documents shrinking Alaska snow season

Winter comes later, spring sooner along the North Slope of AK

A January 2011 image from the NASA Earth Observatory library shows Alaska completely covered with snow.

Staff Report

The snow season is getting shorter in one of the coldest parts of the U.S. On Alaska’s North Slope, snow is piling up later in the fall and melts earlier in the spring, climate change that is having consequences for communities and ecosystems. Continue reading “Study documents shrinking Alaska snow season”

Wildfires in western Canada on near-record pace

More than 1 million acres burned so far

On July 11, 2017, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of wildfire smoke filling valleys in southern British Columbia. Actively burning areas, detected by MODIS’s thermal bands, are outlined in red. Hundreds of wildfires were burning in the province on that day, according to the British Columbia Wildfire Service.

Staff Report

Canada is on track for a near-record wildfire season this year. So far, there have been more than 500 fires just in British Columbia, burning across more than 1 million acres. Firefighting costs have already reached more than $172 million, and weeks of warm and dry weather will keep the fire danger high.

Most of the fires have been in three main areas, according to NASA, which has been tracking the burned areas via satellites. Most affected are the  Frasier Plateau  north of Vancouver, the Thomas Plateau, east of Whistler, and the region east of Kamloops. Continue reading “Wildfires in western Canada on near-record pace”

Vail Resorts targets zero emissions by 2030

Can the Colorado-based ski company lead the industry to a sustainable future?

The ski slopes of Breckenridge, one of the Vail Resorts-owned ski areas planning to cut its operational carbon footprint to zero by 2030. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

In what may be a game-changer for the ski industry, Vail Resorts has announced that it wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions from its operations to zero by 2030, a goal even more ambitious than the global targets of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

“Through improved business practices, capital investment and continued innovation and environmental stewardship, we are setting a goal of achieving a zero net operating footprint by 2030,” said Vail Resorts chairman and CEO Rob Katz. Continue reading “Vail Resorts targets zero emissions by 2030”