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”

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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”

Food for the 21st century: Jellyfish chips?

Jellyfish chips, anyone? Photo courtesy NOAA.

Yummy? Or not …

Staff Report

There is still some scientific debate about whether global warming is increasing the number of jellyfish on a global scale, but most of the new research seems to weighing in on the “yes” side.

Degraded, oxygen-poor water and other factors are combining to make parts of the sea less habitable for fish, but more suitable for slimy hydrozoans. And while jellyfish have been desirable as a food in Asia for quite a while, the rest of the world is not on board, maybe because of the  gristly texture jellyfish acquires with processing. Continue reading “Food for the 21st century: Jellyfish chips?”

Sunday set: Bugs on blooms

In the woods …

It’s mid-summer, so all the bugs and plant are engaged in their eternal dance of life, with flowers blooming and pollinators doing their thing, all setting the stage for the next act of the play. But as you may or may not know, global warming has thrown many of these cycles out synch. Some of the best long-term research on this topic comes from the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Crested Butte, where scientists have shown how the shifting seasons are affecting butterflies and hummingbirds.

And when it comes to climate change, nature is kind of the opposite of Las Vegas. What happens there doesn’t stay there. All of nature is interconnected, so you can be sure that impacts to one part of the ecosystem will ripple through all the other parts eventually. The cycle of blooming plants and pollinating insects is so critical that there is actually a potential threat to food systems for humans. That doesn’t mean that we might not be able to address some of those challenges with technology or other innovations, but that’s bound to be expensive. It’s probably best to try and maintain natural ecosystem functions as best as we can by limiting global warming. And even if we do that right away, we’re still going to see some long-term impacts based on the warming that’s already locked into the climate system.

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”

Global warming intensified Colorado’s deadly 2013 floods

A NOAA map shows the area around Boulder with more than 15 inches of rain during the deadly Sept. 2013 rainstorm.

Detailed modeling helps project how climate change will alter extreme weather

Staff Report

Global warming likely boosted rainfall during Colorado’s deadly 2013 floods by 30 percent, according to new research. The September storms killed nine people and destroyed or damaged about 900 homes. Altogether, some spots saw more than 17 inches of rain, sending the South Platte River to a record high level. Continue reading “Global warming intensified Colorado’s deadly 2013 floods”

Swallowed by rising seas

Sea level rise is very real in western Louisiana

Coastal forests in Louisiana are being drowned as the ground sinks and sea level rises. @bberwyn photo.
Coastal flooding is nearly a daily reality in parts of Louisiana. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Big chunks of Louisiana’s coast will be swallowed by the sea within decades unless there’s a major effort to rebuild wetlands. Over the last six to 10 years, sea level has been rising about .5 inches per year on average in the region, according to Tulane University researchers, who recently published a new study in the journal Nature Communications .

“In the Mississippi Delta, about 65 percent of study sites are probably still keeping pace, but in the westernmost part of coastal Louisiana, more than 60 percent of sites are on track to drown,” said Tulane geology professor Torbjörn E. Törnqvist, a co-author of the study. Continue reading “Swallowed by rising seas”