Australian scientists say parts of Great Barrier Reef survived bleaching

Northern section hammered by warm ocean temperatures

This NASA photo shows southern portion of the reef adjacent to the central Queensland coast
This NASA photo shows a southern portion of the Great Barrier Reef adjacent to the central Queensland coast.

Staff Report

Australian researchers this week released results of their latest Great Barrier Reef surveys, concluding that huge swaths of coral died in the past year under the onslaught of an ocean heatwave that led to widespread coral bleaching.

In the hardest-hit area along a 700-kilometer section of the northern reef, an of 67 percent of shallow-water corals died in the last six to nine months. Farther south, over the vast central and southern regions of the Great Barrier Reef, the scientists were relieved to find a much lower death toll. Continue reading “Australian scientists say parts of Great Barrier Reef survived bleaching”

Study confirms global warming threat to alpine insects

A glacier stonefly (Zapada glacier) on a snowy backdrop in Glacier National Park. The species is threatened by climate warming induced glacier and snow loss and has been petitioned for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act due to climate-change-induced habitat loss. (Credit: Joe Giersch, USGS. Public domain.)
A glacier stonefly on a snowy backdrop in Glacier National Park. The species is threatened by climate warming induced glacier and snow loss. Credit: Joe Giersch, USGS.

‘There is nowhere to go because they’re literally at the top of the continent … ‘

Staff Report

The findings of a new 20-year study suggest what already appeared obvious — that certain insects reliant on cold water from glaciers and snowmelt are endangered from global warming. The U.S. Geological Survey research focused on two stonefly species in Montana, and will be used to inform the status review for consideration of protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act .

The scientists found that the meltwater stonefly and western glacier stonefly have a narrow distribution and are restricted to short sections of cold, alpine streams often below glaciers predicted to disappear over the next two decades. Continue reading “Study confirms global warming threat to alpine insects”

Sunday set: Exploring Austria

Here and there …

Most of my photography focuses on natural landscapes, and I often try to set up and compose images to avoid human intrusion. That’s because I figure the human species has pretty much become a destructive parasite on the Earth, for the most part only taking, without giving anything back. But there are places where people live in harmony with their surroundings; where structures are built on a scale that doesn’t suggest dominance. I found a few places like that this summer while touring around Austria doing research for the Global Warming in the Alps project, for example the roadside farmhouse nestled into the hillside in the first image, or the Almtalerhaus, a mountain refuge and restaurant in the Salzkammergut lakes region of Upper Austria. As well, the Dachstein Lodge am Krippenstein is a rebuilt shelter that fits well on its mountaintop perch, rather than looming ostentatiously over the slopes like so many other new mountain lodges. We’re all going to have to try and live on a more human scale if we’re going to get serious about creating a sustainable future for our kids.

NASA study shows link between Deepwater Horizon spill and coastal wetlands erosion

A NASA satellite image shows the oil slick from the Deepwater Horizon disaster spreading across the northern Gulf of Mexico in late May, 2010.
A NASA satellite image shows the oil slick from the Deepwater Horizon disaster spreading across the northern Gulf of Mexico in late May, 2010.

‘Dramatic, widespread shoreline loss …’

Staff Report

Oil washed toward shore after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster is a big factor in coastal erosion rates, according to scientists with NASA and the U.S. Geologicial Survey who tracked the changes along the Gulf of Mexico. Their research shows a pattern of dramatic, widespread shoreline loss” along  the Louisiana’s coast in Barataria Bay, located on the western side of the Mississippi River Delta.

The study compared images of the shoreline  taken a year before the oil spill with images taken during a 2.5 year span after the spill. Scientists also compared shoreline losses from storm-induced erosion with losses linked to shoreline oiling. Storm-induced erosion occurred at isolated shoreline sections, but the pre-spill shoreline from 2009 to 2010 was largely stable. Continue reading “NASA study shows link between Deepwater Horizon spill and coastal wetlands erosion”

Sea snails showing signs of global warming wear and tear

Study helps quantify ocean acidification impacts

snails
Scientists estimate that pteropod shell dissolution has increased 20 to 25 percent on average in waters along the U.S. West Coast due to CO2 emitted by humans.

Staff Report

By mapping CO2 emissions and comparing that information with data on CO levels in the ocean, scientists say they can now show to what degree the build-up of heat-trapping pollution contributes to the dissolving of shells of microscopic marine sea snails called pteropods.

Other studies from the Southern Hemisphere have reached similar conclusions. Pteropods are an important food for commercially valuable fish species like salmon, sablefish and rock sole.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to tease out the percentage of human-caused carbon dioxide from natural carbon dioxide along a large portion of the West Coast and link it directly to pteropod shell dissolution,” said Richard Feely, a NOAA senior scientist who led the research. Continue reading “Sea snails showing signs of global warming wear and tear”

More heat records, fewer cold days ahead

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Hot enough?

Study says ratio of record-hot to record-cold temperatures set to soar

Staff Report

A global warmup of another few degrees means that the ratio of daily record-high temperatures to  record lows will steadily increase,  reaching as high as 15 to one, according to scientists with the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The ratio could go even higher if the pace of emissions increases and produces even more warming.

Over the last decade, in contrast, the ratio of record high temperatures to record lows has averaged about two to one. If temperatures were not warming, the ratio of record highs to record lows would average out to about one to one.

Instead, record high temperatures have already become a common occurrence in much of the country. The ratio of record highs to lows has averaged about 2 to 1 over the first decade of the 21st century, but there is considerable year-to-year variation. The ratio was about 5 to 1 in 2012, dropping to about 1 to 1 in 2013 and 2014, then almost 3 to 1 in 2015. Continue reading “More heat records, fewer cold days ahead”

Sunday set: Summer vibes

There’s always next year …


Heading into the short days of mid-winter, it’s always nice to take a look back at the summer that was. It’s a little easier, with distance, to appreciate the blessings of being able to swim in clean rivers, lakes and oceans, to hike in clean, fresh mountain air, or to take golden grasses ripening under a summer sun. The world has changed immensely in the last few months, and not in a good way, which makes me cherish the memories even more because it’s not at all certain that the world will continue to be as open and friendly as it has been the past few decades. Dark, cold winds are blowing, and a rotten brown political slime is oozing back out of the cracks of history. Tra-la-laaing around the world isn’t going to cut it anymore. We all need to take personal responsibility now to try and shape the world of tomorrow. Please read last week’s Sunday Set  for more information.