• Rocky Mountain Snow Packs

    Snow pack forms from layers of snow that accumulate in geographic regions and high altitudes where the climate includes cold weather for extended periods during the year. Snow packs are an important water resource that feed streams and rivers as they melt. Warmer spring temperatures since 1980 are causing an estimated 20 percent loss of snow cover across the Rocky Mountains of western North America, according to new research from the U.S. Geological Survey. The new study builds upon a previous USGS snow pack investigation which showed that, until the 1980s, the northern Rocky Mountains experienced large snow packs when the central and southern Rockies experienced meager ones, and vice versa. Yet, since the 1980s, there have been simultaneous snow pack declines along the entire length of the Rocky Mountains, and unusually severe declines in the north. >> Read the Full Article
  • Mount Everest glaciers have shrunk 13% in 50 years

    Glaciers in the Mount Everest region have shrunk by 13 percent and the snow-line has shifted 180 meters (590 feet) higher during the past 50 years, according to a study that will be presented this week at a conference organized by the American Geophysical Union. >> Read the Full Article
  • What is Really Pristine Wilderness Really?

    New research shows that humans have been transforming the earth and its ecosystems for millenniums — far longer than previously believed. These findings call into question our notions about what is unspoiled nature and what should be preserved. Are there any pristine ecosystems out there? The evidence is growing that our ideas about virgin nature are often faulty. In fact, the lush rainforest or wind-blown moorland we think is natural may be a human creation, with alien creatures from distant lands living beside native species. Realizing this will change our ideas about how ecosystems work and how we should do conservation. We like to think that most nature was pristine and largely untouched until recent times. But two major studies in recent weeks say we are deluded. In one, Erle Ellis, a geographer at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and colleagues have calculated that at least a fifth of the land across most of the world had been transformed by humans as early as 5,000 years ago — a proportion that past studies of historical land use had assumed was only reached in the past 100 years or so. >> Read the Full Article
  • Web tool tracks insecticide-resistant malaria mosquitoes

    An online mapping system to track insecticide resistance in malaria-causing mosquitoes around the world has been launched. The free interactive website identifies places in more than 50 malaria-endemic countries where mosquitoes have become resistant to the insecticides used in bed nets and indoor sprays. IR Mapper was launched last month (25 April) by Vestergaard Frandsen, a Swiss firm that makes disease-control products, and the KEMRI/CDC research and public health collaboration based in Kenya. >> Read the Full Article
  • CO2 Levels Top 400 ppm at Hawaii Monitoring Station

    CO2 levels have been increasing relatively steadily for more than 50 years. On May 9, the daily mean concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Mauna Loa, Hawaii, surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since measurements began in 1958. Independent measurements made by both NOAA and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have been approaching this level during the past week. It marks an important milestone because Mauna Loa, as the oldest continuous carbon dioxide (CO2) measurement station in the world, is the primary global benchmark site for monitoring the increase of this potent heat-trapping gas. Carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by fossil fuel burning and other human activities is the most significant greenhouse gas (GHG) contributing to climate change. Its concentration has increased every year since scientists started making measurements on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano. The rate of increase has accelerated since the measurements started, from about 0.7 ppm per year in the late 1950s to 2.1 ppm per year during the last 10 years. >> Read the Full Article
  • Anthropogenic Origins of Cirrus Clouds

    "Cirrus" is Latin for a curling lock of hair so it is fitting that thin, wispy clouds that we often see in the atmosphere are called cirrus clouds. These clouds form when water vapor undergoes deposition at high altitudes and therefore are found at higher elevations and appear more delicate compared to the other types of clouds. Cirrus clouds cover as much as one-third of the Earth and play an important role in global climate. Depending on altitude and the number and size of ice crystals, cirrus clouds can cool the planet by reflecting incoming solar radiation – or warm it by trapping outgoing heat. >> Read the Full Article
  • Light-Scattering Properties are Risk Factor for Coral Reef Survival

    Coral reefs have been gaining a lot of attention by conservation groups as environmental and human stresses are causing irreparable damage to these reefs. Stresses such as warming oceans and climate change are going to serve as future obstacles for these coral populations. However, the study of dying corals is complex, and researchers have found that some corals die while others do not, even when exposed to the same environmental conditions. In order to figure out this conundrum, a research team from Northwestern University and The Field Museum of Natural History found that corals themselves play a role in their susceptibility to deadly coral bleaching due to the light-scattering properties of their skeletons. >> Read the Full Article
  • The Regional Centre for Climate Change and Decision-Making

    South America has got its first think-tank aimed at providing climate change knowledge to decision-makers to help them design tools tailored to local needs. The Regional Centre for Climate Change and Decision-Making was launched earlier this year (19 March) in Montevideo, Uruguay, where it will have its headquarters and where it is organising its first training event for policymakers. The centre is a joint initiative by the Panama-based Avina Foundation, which promotes sustainable development in Latin America, and UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). >> Read the Full Article
  • Mt. Sharp on Mars

    There is a 3.5-mile high Martian mound that scientists suspect preserves evidence of a massive ancient lake. Well maybe not, May be the wind did it. If correct, the research could dilute expectations that the mound holds evidence of a large body of water, which would have important implications for understanding Mars' ancient habitability. Researchers based at Princeton University and the California Institute of Technology suggest that the mound, known as Mount Sharp, most likely emerged as strong winds carried dust and sand into the 96-mile-wide crater in which the mound sits. They report in the journal Geology that air likely rises out of the massive Gale Crater when the Martian surface warms during the day, then sweeps back down its steep walls at night. Though strong along the Gale Crater walls, these slope winds would have died down at the crater's center where the fine dust in the air settled and accumulated to eventually form Mount Sharp, which is close in size to Alaska's Mt. McKinley. >> Read the Full Article
  • Black Sea Changes and Reponses

    When Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) marine paleoecologist Marco Coolen was mining through vast amounts of genetic data from the Black Sea sediment record, he was amazed about the variety of past plankton species that had left behind their genetic makeup as a sign of their environmental responses. The semi-isolated Black Sea is highly sensitive to climate driven environmental changes, and the underlying sediments represent high-resolution archives of past continental climate and concurrent hydrologic changes in the basin. The brackish Black Sea is currently receiving salty Mediterranean waters via the narrow Strait of Bosphorus as well as freshwater from rivers and via precipitation. In the past the Black Sea was more of a freshwater lake than a salty sea. Over the centuries the Black Sea has changed back and forth due to the ever changing climatic conditions of the world. >> Read the Full Article