Legal battle over wolves heats up in California

Shasta pack photo courtesy California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Ranching, farming groups sue to end legal protections

Staff Report

Wildlife conservation advocates are helping fend off a nuisance lawsuit by a right wing group that seeks to end state endangered species protection for wolves in California.  The lawsuit, brought against the California Fish and Wildlife Commission by the Pacific Legal Foundation, falsely claims that wolves are ineligible for state protection. Like many other legal actions filed by the group, this one is aimed mainly at harassing government agencies and others working in the public interest.

For conservation groups — he Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Cascadia Wildlands and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center — have intervened in the case on behalf of wolves, represented by Earthjustice. Continue reading “Legal battle over wolves heats up in California”

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Global CO2 emissions flat for 3d year in a row

U.S. emissions at 1992 level, according to IEA report

The Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Carbon dioxide emissions from the world’s biggest economies — the U.S. and China — dropped in 2016 and didn’t grow in Europe, showing that economic growth can occur without an increase in heat-trapping pollution, according to the latest emissions report from the International Energy Agency.

Despite the slowdown in emissions from the power sector, CO2 levels are still climbing at a record rate, though, according to scientists who recently released a report showing that concentrations of the heat-trapping greenhouse gas increased 3 parts per million for the second year in a row. The concentration is now above 400 ppm, more than 43 percent more than pre-industrial levels. Continue reading “Global CO2 emissions flat for 3d year in a row”

Mass coral bleaching likely along northern Great Barrier Reef

Extensive stand of severely bleached coral at Lisianski Island in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, documented during an August 2014 NOAA research mission. (Credit: NOAA).

Scientists are currently mapping the biological damage caused by global warming

Staff Report

At the end of eastern Australia’s long, hot summer, ocean scientists are once again seeing devastating coral die-backs in the northern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef. Over the next few weeks, they’ll venture underwater to study how the coral communities responded to a second straight year of overheated water.

When temperatures pass a threshold, the coral expels its symbiotic algal partner, leaving underwater wastelands of white-washed reefs. The scientists will also use survey flights above the reef, and even satellite imaging as they mobilize to document one of global warming’s most devastating impacts. There has been a prolonged global mass bleaching under way for the past year, and climate researchers say nearly all the world’s corals will be at risk by mid-century under projected global temperature increases. Continue reading “Mass coral bleaching likely along northern Great Barrier Reef”

NASA data shows second-warmest February on record

Is another El Niño brewing in the Pacific?

Staff Report

Confirming measurements announced last week by the European Climate Change Service, NASA today announced that February 2017 was the second-warmest February on record, just 0.20 degrees Celsius cooler than last year’s record reading. The analysis by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies showed that the month was 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than the 1951-1980 mean.

The monthly analysis by the GISS team is assembled from publicly available data acquired by about 6,300 meteorological stations around the world, ship- and buoy-based instruments measuring sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research stations.

The analysis shows that North America and Siberia, along with the Arctic, were the hot spots in February, with most of Europe also warmer than average. Cool areas included parts of the Pacific Northwest and the Middle East.

The pattern was reflected by the string of daily and monthly high temperature records set in the eastern U.S. The Arctic has also been record warm all winter, with sea ice in the region hovering near record low extent for several months in a row.

The persistent warmth comes despite the end of a warm El Niño Pacific Ocean phase, when a switch to La Niña — the cool part of the ENSO cycle — often brings a global cool down. Australian climate scientists this week said that yet another El Niño could be brewing in the Pacific for next year.

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, there’s a 50  percent chance the El Niño threshold could be reached by July, as projections show steady warming of the central tropical Pacific Ocean over the next six months. So far, however, wind and cloud patterns have not shown any big shift away from neutral conditions. The researchers said it’s difficult to make an accurate forecast during the transition season.

What caused ‘snowball Earth?’

Volcanoes seen as likely trigger for global glaciation

In the right conditions, global ice can spread rapidly from pole to pole. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

A 10-year string of steady volcanic eruptions may have been the trigger for a massive global cooling event that left much of the Earth encased in glaciers and ice sheets about 771 million years ago.

The eruptions could have spewed so much sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere that the planet’s climate reached a tipping point, resulting in what scientists call ‘snowball Earth,” according to a new study published this month in Geophysical Research Letters. Understanding the natural variability of climate is important to understanding current climate change driven by emission of greenhouse gases. Continue reading “What caused ‘snowball Earth?’”

Deep oceans at risk from climate change

Close-up of a tripod fish at 1960 meters depth in the Northeast Providence Channel near Eleuthera Island. Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘It is the equivalent of having summer for the first time in thousands to millions of years’

Staff Report

Deep sea ecosystems that have barely been explored are at risk from global warming, as low-oxygen zones spread and ocean acidification increaseses. By 2100, organisms deep on the  ocean floor may face starvation and sweeping ecological changes, according to scientists from 20 of the world’s leading oceanographic research warned last week.

“Biodiversity in many of these areas is defined by the meager amount of food reaching the seafloor and over the next 80-plus years – in certain parts of the world – that amount of food will be cut in half,” said Andrew Thurber, an Oregon State University marine ecologist and co-author of the study, published in the journal Elementa. Continue reading “Deep oceans at risk from climate change”

Atmospheric CO2 surges again in 2016

Even with fossil fuel emissions starting to level off, greenhouse gases are increasing

CO2 levels are stairstepping to new record highs.

Staff Report

Despite the good intentions of the 134 countries that have ratified the Paris climate agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is still increasing at a record pace. For the second year in a row, instruments at  NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory showed CO2 increasing by 3 parts per million in 2016.

The two-year, 6-ppm surge between 2015 and 2017 is unprecedented in the observatory’s 59-year record and marked the fifth year in a row that CO2 increased by 2 ppm or more, according to Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. Continue reading “Atmospheric CO2 surges again in 2016”