Climate

Texas drought kills as many as half a billion trees
December 21, 2011 07:02 AM - Jim Forsyth, Reuters, SAN ANTONIO

The massive drought that has dried out Texas over the past year has killed as many as half a billion trees, according to new estimates from the Texas Forest Service. "In 2011, Texas experienced an exceptional drought, prolonged high winds, and record-setting temperatures," Forest Service Sustainable Forestry chief Burl Carraway told Reuters on Tuesday. "Together, those conditions took a severe toll on trees across the state." He said that between 100 million and 500 million trees were lost. That figure does not include trees killed in wildfires that have scorched an estimated 4 million acres in Texas since the beginning of 2011. A massive wildfire in Bastrop, east of Austin in September that destroyed 1,600 homes, is blamed for killing 1.5 million trees. The tree loss is in both urban and rural areas and represents as much as 10 percent of all the trees in the state, Carraway said. "This is a generational event," Barry Ward, executive director of the nonprofit Trees for Houston, which supports forestry efforts, told Reuters on Tuesday. "Mature trees take 20 or 30 years to re-grow. This will make an aesthetic difference for decades to come."

Philippines disaster may have been worsened by climate change, deforestation
December 20, 2011 04:18 PM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM

As the Philippines begins to bury more than a 1,000 disaster victims in mass graves, Philippine President Benigno Aquino has ordered an investigation into last weekend's flash flood and landslide, including looking at the role of illegal logging. Officials have pointed to both climate change and vast deforestation as likely exacerbating the disaster.

Climate Change May Bring Big Ecosystem Shifts, NASA Says
December 20, 2011 09:15 AM - Editor, Science Daily

By 2100, global climate change will modify plant communities covering almost half of Earth's land surface and will drive the conversion of nearly 40 percent of land-based ecosystems from one major ecological community type -- such as forest, grassland or tundra -- toward another, according to a new NASA and university computer modeling study.

Droughts could push parts of Africa back into famine
December 19, 2011 11:57 AM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM

Drought and erratic rains could lead to further food scarcities in Africa warns the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). The WFP singles out South Sudan, the world's newest nation, and Niger as nations of particular concern. Earlier this year famine killed scores of people, including an estimated 30,000 children, in Somalia. In South Sudan drought and ongoing conflict threaten food supplies for 2.7 million people.

Challenges to Wine-making in a Warming World
December 19, 2011 09:42 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Perhaps the largest impact of global climate change will be on agriculture, and there is no crop more sensitive to changes in climate than wine grapes. As temperatures rise and average precipitation levels change, the signature wine-making regions such as those in France and California will be forced to adapt. There have been studies conducted analyzing the influence of weather and climate on wine since long before climate change made the headlines. Recently, studies have modeled climate change's effects up to 100 years into the future. The expected impacts are not bad at first, but in the end, they are not good.

Southwest, plains face blizzard warnings
December 19, 2011 06:38 AM - Reuters, OKLAHOMA CITY

The panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma were placed under a blizzard warning on Sunday as the Southwest and plains states braced for two days of bitter cold, heavy snow, rain and high winds. The storm is expected to produce up to 16 inches of snow and wind gusting to 50 mph in the first major snowstorm of the winter for Texas and Oklahoma, the National Weather Service said. A blizzard watch was also in effect until Tuesday for parts of Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas, with high winds and up to a more than a foot of snow expected across the region. The storm was expected to edge into the mountains of Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado before heading east on Sunday night or Monday morning, the agency said in a statement. By Monday night, conditions further east in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles are expected to have deteriorated so much that officials warned motorists to stay off the roads. A blizzard watch or warning means forecasters believe life-threatening winter weather conditions are likely, including winds of at least 35 mph and visibility less than a quarter mile. The mix of rain and snow will move into the Chicago and Detroit areas on Tuesday, forecasters said. In Guymon, in the Oklahoma Panhandle, emergency management officials met on Sunday to go over storm preparations.

Biochar Value to Glacial Soils and Green House Gases
December 15, 2011 04:22 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Adding a charred biomass material called biochar to glacial soils can help reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists. Studies by scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are providing valuable information about how biochar-the charred biomass created from wood, plant material, and manure-interacts with soil and crops. As part of this effort, ARS scientists in St. Paul, Minn., are studying biochar activity in soils formed from glacial deposits. ARS Soil and Water Management Research Unit in St. Paul, found that amending glacial soils with biochar made from macadamia nut shells reduced a range of greenhouse gas emissions.

Melting Glaciers Reveal Future Alpine World
December 15, 2011 08:28 AM - Editor, Science Daily

ScienceDaily (Dec. 14, 2011) — In a hundred years trees may be growing where there are now glaciers. The warm climate of the last few years has caused dramatic melting of glaciers in the Swedish mountains. Remains of trees that have been hidden for thousands of years have been uncovered. They indicate that 13,000 years ago there were trees where there are now glaciers. The climate may have been as much as 3.5 degrees warmer than now. In other words, this can happen again, according to Lisa ×berg, a doctoral candidate at Mid Sweden University in a new study.

Romanian Drought, Power, Crops and Survival
December 14, 2011 03:27 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Danube runs from Germany to the Black Sea. It is a long river with many countries on it. Now it is running low due to drought. It has run low before around 2007 most recently. It threatens people, crops, and even nuclear reactors. The nuclear power plant in Cernavodă is the only nuclear power plant in Romania. It produces around 20% of the country's electricity. It uses CANDU reactor technology using heavy water produced at Drobeta-Turnu Severin as its neutron moderator and water from the Danube – Black Sea Canal for cooling.

Vast Stores of Methane Are Released from under the Arctic
December 14, 2011 11:00 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Deep under the icy waters of the Arctic, Russian scientists have discovered the release of vast stores of methane, the potent greenhouse gas, far worse than CO2. The scientists sampled the waters along the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, and discovered that the methane that was once dormant at the sea floor is starting bubble up to the surface in enormous plumes. As the climate warms in the Arctic, the sea ice retreats, the sunlight penetrates the water, and the frozen sea floor thaws, causing the release of methane in a gaseous state. The Russian team found over 100 sites where large quantities of methane were released, indicating accelerated Arctic warming into the future.

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