Tag: Environment

Sunday set: Wienerwald

The lungs of a city …

All mountain ranges have to end somewhere, and for the Alps, the eastern terminus is the Wienerwald, a chain of rolling, low-slung hills on the outskirts of Vienna that drop down to the Danube Basin along a tectonic escarpment marked by a series of hot- and cold-water springs. It’s a geological and biological transition zone, where the rather moist and cool climate of northwestern Europe gives way to the drier regime of the Pannonian Basin to the southeast, including the Hungarian Puszta. Continue reading “Sunday set: Wienerwald”

Snake-killing fungus is widespread in the East

Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, a fungus that is afflicting snakes across the Midwest and Eastern US, shares many traits with Pseudogymnoascus destructans the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats, researchers report. Credit Julie McMahon
Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, a fungus afflicting snakes across the Midwest and Eastern US, shares  traits with Pseudogymnoascus destructans the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats. Credit: Julie McMahon.

Some snake populations appear at-risk from spreading fungal pathogen

Staff Report

First the chytrid fungus started killing amphibians, then white-nose syndrome emerged to devastate bat populations, and now, there’s Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, a snake-killing fungus that appears to be much more widespread than thought, according to new research from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The USGS report concluded the fungus is present in at least 20 eastern states and in many snake species not previously known to  harbor the fungus. These findings increase the total number of confirmed susceptible snake species to 30. Snakes affected by Snake Fungal Disease include the threatened eastern massasauga rattlesnake. The research also shows that SFD infections are often mild, but there are unknown factors that cause outbreaks of severe skin disease and death. Continue reading “Snake-killing fungus is widespread in the East”

How do clouds fit into the climate change puzzle?

New study says projections based on observed trends may underestimate future global warming

Tonight's full moon rise was fully obscured by clouds, so I reached back into the archives for moon shot.
Shifting cloud patterns could affect future warming trend. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

The impact of clouds is still a missing piece in the global warming puzzle, but scientists with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory say they’ve identified a mechanism that could help narrow the information gap. In a new report, the researchers say the spatial pattern of clouds is key to determining how they affect Earth’s energy balance — and that studies relying solely on recent observed trends are likely to underestimate how much Earth will warm due to increased carbon dioxide.

Clouds influence Earth’s climate by reflecting incoming energy from the sun and reducing outgoing thermal radiation. As the surface of the Earth gets warmer, the  net radiative effect of clouds also changes, contributing a feedback to the climate system. Continue reading “How do clouds fit into the climate change puzzle?”

New surveys confirm Great Barrier Reef damage

Heat-driven coral bleaching continues to take a toll

Staff Report

A new survey of the Great Barrier Reef shows that an ocean heat wave that peaked last March killed up to 95 percent of corals in some parts of the northern reef.  And in the aftermath of the worst coral-bleaching event on record, predatory snails are now taking on toll on the remaining corals.

According to the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, researchers recently returned to 83 reefs they surveyed at the height of the bleaching event.

“Millions of corals in the north of the Great Barrier Reef died quickly from heat stress in March and since then, many more have died more slowly,” said Dr. Greg Torda whose team recently returned from re-surveying reefs near Lizard Island. Continue reading “New surveys confirm Great Barrier Reef damage”

Can coastal wetlands survive sea level rise?

New USGS study IDs path for wetlands migration

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Coastal mangrove forests are important ecosystems, but face the threat of sea level rise. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Ecologically critical tidal wetlands along the U.S. Gulf Coast are being swallowed up by rising sea level and coastal development, but they expand inland if planners consider climate change in their equations.

“Tidal saline wetlands along the northern Gulf of Mexico are abundant, diverse, and vulnerable to sea-level rise,” said Nicholas Enwright, USGS researcher and lead author of the study. “Our findings provide a foundation for land managers to better ensure there is space for future wetland migration in response to sea-level rise.”

Tidal saline wetlands include mangrove forests, salt marshes, and salt flats, which all provide important wildlife habitat and help buffer the impacts of extreme weather. Without areas for these wetlands to move to, people and wildlife will lose the beneficial functions they provide. Continue reading “Can coastal wetlands survive sea level rise?”

Public support for fracking drops in UK

fracking 3‘The government will increasingly have its work cut out selling fracking to the UK public’

Staff Report

Support for fracking is at an all-time low in the UK, with nearly half the respondents in an annual poll expressing concerns about water quality.

The September 2016 survey found that there has been a significant drop in the level of support for shale gas extraction in the UK over the last 12 months, with levels of support now standing at just 37.3 percent whereas opposition to fracking in the UK now stands at 41 percent.

The University of Nottingham ‘Survey of Public Attitudes to Shale Gas Extraction in the UK’ has been running since March 2012. The survey has tracked changes in awareness of shale gas, and what the UK public believes to be the environmental impacts of its extraction and use, as well as its acceptability as an energy source. Continue reading “Public support for fracking drops in UK”

Paris climate deal hits threshold to take effect

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Can the world live up to the Paris climate agreement? @bberwyn photo.

Now the real work begins

By Bob Berwyn

The Paris climate agreement has reached the milestones needed to take effect, as 70 countries, representing almost 57 percent of global emissions, have formally signed on to the deal. According to the United Nations, Canada, the European and Nepal deposited their instruments of ratification with the global body Wednesday, Oct. 6. The agreement, aimed at limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level, will become effective Nov. 4.

In a prepared statement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “Global momentum for the Paris Agreement to enter into force in 2016 has been remarkable. What once seemed unthinkable is now unstoppable. ”

Under the agreement, more than 190 countries agreed late last year to try and decarbonize the world’s energy systems by the middle of the century to end the buildup of heat-trapping pollution that has already raised the world’s average temperature by about 1 degree Celsius since 1850. In the past few months, the global temperature has spiked near the 1.5 degree threshold. Climate scientists agree that capping the rise at 2 degrees is critical to avoiding catastrophic climate change impacts like deadly droughts and heatwaves, floods and other extreme weather events.

The treaty also requires richer countries to set up a mitigation fund to help developing countries adapt to impacts. All countries party to the deal must submit individual plans and update them on a regular basis.

Commenting on the news from the Rose Garden, President Barack Obama said that, if the world follows through on the deal’s terms, “history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet.” More from the White House here.

Making it real will require a massive transformation of the world’s economy, and despite the good intentions, there are not many strong signs that will actually happen soon enough. Some recent studies have also warned that the planet is just 15 years away from hitting the 1.5 degree threshold, and that without immediate and massive greenhouse gas cuts, the 2-degree Celsius mark will be passed as early as 2050.

Understanding the urgency, the world community may try to ramp up climate action as soon as the COP22 climate conference in Marrakesh in November.