Tag: global warming

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.

 

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Eastern U.S. most vulnerable to future harmful algal blooms

New modeling shows where global warming will increase cyanobacteria

Blue-green algae that sometimes produce toxins thrive as global warming heats up lakes, ponds and reservoirs. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Scientists say it’s all but certain that global warming will increase potentially threatening outbreaks of freshwater algae that can produce toxins dangerous to people and animals.

A team lead by Tufts University researcher Steven C. Chapra has developed a modeling framework showing harmful algal blooms will increase the most in the northeastern region of the U.S. but that the biggest economic impact will be felt in the Southeast, where waters important for recreation will probably take a big hit.

The research, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, is part of larger, ongoing efforts among scientists to quantify and monetize the degree to which climate change will impact and damage various U.S. sectors. Continue reading “Eastern U.S. most vulnerable to future harmful algal blooms”

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”

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”