Climate

19,500 square miles of polar ice melts into oceans each year
February 11, 2015 07:43 AM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

Sea ice increases in Antarctica do not make up for the accelerated Arctic sea ice loss of the last three decades, according to the stark findings of a new NASA study. As a whole, the planet has been shedding sea ice at an average annual rate of 13,500 square miles (35,000 square kilometers) since 1979, the equivalent of losing an area of sea ice larger than the state of Maryland every year. Sea ice increases in Antarctica do not make up for the accelerated Arctic sea ice loss of the last three decades, according to the stark findings of a new NASA study.

 

New Study Predicts Plant Responses to Drought
February 10, 2015 04:26 PM - USGS Newsroom

A new U.S. Geological Survey study shows how plants’ vulnerability to drought varies across the landscape; factors such as plant structure and soil type where the plant is growing can either make them more vulnerable or protect them from declines. Recent elevated temperatures and prolonged droughts in many already water-limited regions throughout the world, including the southwestern U.S., are likely to intensify according to future climate model projections.

Earliest evidence of human-produced air pollution linked to Spanish conquest of the Inca
February 9, 2015 03:55 PM - Pam Frost Gorder, The Ohio State University

In the 16th century, during its conquest of South America, the Spanish Empire forced countless Incas to work extracting silver from the mountaintop mines of Potosí, in what is now Bolivia—then the largest source of silver in the world. The Inca already knew how to refine silver, but in 1572 the Spanish introduced a new technology that boosted production many times over and sent thick clouds of lead dust rising over the Andes for the first time in history. Winds carried some of that pollution 500 miles northwest into Peru, where tiny remnants of it settled on the Quelccaya Ice Cap. There it stayed—buried under hundreds of years of snow and ice—until researchers from The Ohio State University found it in 2003.

The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog race and climate change
February 8, 2015 07:50 AM - EMILY SCHWING, NPR

For more than 30 years, the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog race, which begins Saturday, has followed the Yukon River between Whitehorse, Canada, and Fairbanks, Alaska.

A little open water along the Yukon Quest trail is nothing new, but in recent years, long unfrozen stretches of the Yukon River have shaken even the toughest mushers.

Last year, musher Hank DeBruin of Ontario had stopped along the Yukon River to rest his dog team in the middle of the night, when the ice started to break up.

Seafloor Volcano Pulses May Alter Climate
February 6, 2015 08:42 AM - The Earth Institute - Columbia University

Vast ranges of volcanoes hidden under the oceans are presumed by scientists to be the gentle giants of the planet, oozing lava at slow, steady rates along mid-ocean ridges. But a new study shows that they flare up on strikingly regular cycles, ranging from two weeks to 100,000 years—and, that they erupt almost exclusively during the first six months of each year. The pulses—apparently tied to short- and long-term changes in earth’s orbit, and to sea levels--may help trigger natural climate swings. Scientists have already speculated that volcanic cycles on land emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide might influence climate; but up to now there was no evidence from submarine volcanoes. The findings suggest that models of earth’s natural climate dynamics, and by extension human-influenced climate change, may have to be adjusted.

Plants Can be 'Reprogrammed' for Drought Tolerance
February 4, 2015 03:02 PM - Iqbal Pittalwala, University of California, Riverside

Crops and other plants are constantly faced with adverse environmental conditions, such as rising temperatures (2014 was the warmest year on record) and lessening fresh water supplies, which lower yield and cost farmers billions of dollars annually. Drought is a major environmental stress factor affecting plant growth and development.  When plants encounter drought, they naturally produce abscisic acid (ABA), a stress hormone that inhibits plant growth and reduces water consumption.  Specifically, the hormone turns on a receptor (special protein) in plants when it binds to the receptor like a hand fitting into a glove, resulting in beneficial changes – such as the closing of guard cells on leaves, called stomata, to reduce water loss – that help the plants survive.

Can smoke from fires intensify tornados?
February 3, 2015 12:06 PM - Gary Galluzzo, University of Iowa

Can smoke from fires intensify tornadoes? “Yes,” say University of Iowa researchers, who examined the effects of smoke—resulting from spring agricultural land-clearing fires in Central America—transported across the Gulf of Mexico and encountering tornado conditions already in process in the United States. The UI study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, examined the smoke impacts on a historic severe weather outbreak that occurred during the afternoon and evening of April 27, 2011. 

Study Finds Leaks in Boston's Natural Gas Pipelines
February 2, 2015 04:37 PM - S.E. Smith, Care2

A team of researchers led by Kathryn McKain of Harvard University has recently discovered that approximately three percent of the natural gas delivered to Boston leaks directly into the atmosphere, taking with it a heavy load of methane, a known greenhouse gas. Their study doesn’t just have significant environmental implications: It’s estimated that the city is losing around $90 million to leaks every year. Correcting leaks is a relatively straightforward task, though it would require some investment in natural gas infrastructure and consumer education. However, these costs would be mitigated by the substantial savings offered if Boston was able to cut down on its methane problem.

Is there an emerging consensus on climate change action?
February 2, 2015 08:39 AM - David Victor, Yale Environment360

Once again, the world is on a sprint toward a new agreement on global climate change. The last time this happened — in 2009 — the sprint ended in acrimony in Copenhagen. This time, the signs are more auspicious. As someone who has been writing for nearly 25 years about the difficulties of making serious progress on climate change, I am more optimistic today than I have been in a very long time. When governments gather in Paris late this year, I believe they are likely to adopt a watershed strategy for slowing climate change.  

I’m optimistic for two reasons. First, the logic of Paris is new. In the past, governments have tried to negotiate single, massive, and integrated 

A shift in strategy was evident at climate talks in Lima in December, where Peru’s Manuel Pulgar served as conference president.

Ocean acidification changes balance of biofouling communities
January 30, 2015 08:45 AM - British Antarctic Survey

A new study of marine organisms that make up the ‘biofouling community’ — tiny creatures that attach themselves to ships’ hulls and rocks in the ocean around the world — shows how they adapt to changing ocean acidification. Reporting in the journal Global Change Biology, the authors examine how these communities may respond to future change.

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