• Sea level rise may be underestimated by models

    Think sea levels will rise only a bit in response to an increase in global temperature of one degree? Think again! A new study estimates that global sea levels will rise about 2.3 meters, or more than seven feet, over the next several thousand years for every degree (Celsius) the planet warms. This international study is one of the first to combine analyses of four major contributors to potential sea level rise into a collective estimate, and compare it with evidence of past sea-level responses to global temperature changes. Results of the study, funded primarily by the National Science Foundation and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, are being published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. >> Read the Full Article
  • Study finds Loggerhead turtles depend on broader range of habitat than previously thought

    A new US Geological Survey study suggests that the threatened loggerhead sea turtle may require broader habitat protection during the nesting season. "This is the first study to locate and quantify in-water habitat use by female loggerheads in the Northern Gulf of Mexico subpopulation during their reproductive periods," said lead author Kristen Hart, a USGS research ecologist. "Our tracking results show they depend on a much broader range of habitat during this critical part of their lives than was previously thought to be required." >> Read the Full Article
  • Drought seriously impacting rangeland, cattle

    The Bureau of Land Management has been tracking range conditions as the current drought lingers on. Drought conditions across the West have impacted rangelands, leaving little water and forage for animals and livestock, prompting the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to undertake targeted actions, such as providing supplemental water and food for wild horses; reducing grazing; and enacting fire restrictions. Hot, dry conditions continue to persist west of the Mississippi River, with at least 15 states experiencing drought. For example, 93 percent of rangeland and pastures are rated poor or very poor in New Mexico; 59 percent in Colorado; 35 percent in Wyoming; and 17 percent in Utah. Similar conditions exist in Nevada, where more than 60 percent of the state has been in severe or extreme drought conditions since the beginning of 2013. >> Read the Full Article
  • Satellite monitoring of ice sheets

    Data from satellites have been used a lot recently to monitor the loss of ice from ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland. Having these data is relatively recent, however. It would be better if the data existed for a longer period so more accurate predictions of future rates of ice loss or accretion could be made. The length of the satellite record for the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is currently too short to tell if the recently reported speed-up of ice loss will be sustained in the future or if it results from natural processes, according to a new study led by Dr Bert Wouters from the University of Bristol. The findings, published in Nature Geoscience, underscore the need for continuous satellite monitoring of the ice sheets to better identify and predict melting and the corresponding sea-level rise. >> Read the Full Article
  • Discovering Lake Vostok: Antarctica's Largest Subglacial Lake

    Looking for a trip to the lake this summer? Thinking about Lake Powell, Lake George, or maybe Lake Tahoe? What about Lake Vostok? Heard of it? Maybe. But you're probably not going to plan your next vacation here - this sugblacial lake lies 4000 meters below the ice in East Antarctica! Confirmed in 1993 by satellite-based laser altimetry, this lake is not only the largest subglacial lake on the continent, but this body of water has been isolated underground with limited nutrients and complete darkness and has become an interesting topic for researchers and scientists worldwide. So here's the million-dollar question: is there life in Lake Vostok? First, it is important to note that scientists have only been able to gain access to the lake in the past year when a team of Russian scientists finally reached the surface of the lake after decades of drilling- a tedious and formidable engineering task. It will take the team about a year to analyze those samples collected earlier this yea, however, hints that there may be previously unidentified species of bacteria in the lake have leaked. >> Read the Full Article
  • Huge Marine Preservation Area Being Considered for Antarctica

    The area of ocean set aside as a nature preserve could double or triple in the coming days, depending on the outcome of a meeting in Germany. Representatives from 24 countries and the European Union are considering setting aside large portions of ocean around Antarctica as a protected area. And the deal may hinge on preserving some fishing rights. There are two proposals on the table: One would set aside huge parts of the Southern Ocean around East Antarctica; the other would focus on the Ross Sea, south of New Zealand. "The total size of the marine protected area we are proposing is roughly 3 1/2 times the size of Texas," says Ambassador Mike Moore, the former prime minister of New Zealand, who was talking up the joint U.S.-New Zealand proposal in Washington this spring. "So to misquote the vice president of the United States, 'this is a big deal.' " >> Read the Full Article
  • Forests may be using less water as CO2 rises

    Forests may be becoming more efficient in their use of water as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise, reports a new study in Nature. The findings are based on data from 300 canopy towers that measure carbon dioxide and water flux above forests at sites around the world, including temperate, tropical, and boreal regions. The researchers found that plants are becoming more water efficient as CO2 levels rise. While the findings are consistent with forecasts using models, the rate of efficiency gain is higher than expected. >> Read the Full Article
  • How can glaciers calving make so much noise?

    Icebergs in situ make little noise, right? What about when the calve? There is growing concern about how much noise humans generate in marine environments through shipping, oil exploration and other developments, but a new study has found that naturally occurring phenomena could potentially affect some ocean dwellers. Nowhere is this concern greater than in the polar regions, where the effects of global warming often first manifest themselves. The breakup of ice sheets and the calving and grounding of icebergs can create enormous sound energy, scientists say. Now a new study has found that the mere drifting of an iceberg from near Antarctica to warmer ocean waters produces startling levels of noise. Results of the study are being published this month in Oceanography. A team led by Oregon State University researchers used an array of hydrophones to track the sound produced by an iceberg through its life cycle, from its origin in the Weddell Sea to its eventual demise in the open ocean. The goal of the project was to measure baseline levels of this kind of naturally occurring sound in the ocean, so it can be compared to anthropogenic noises. >> Read the Full Article
  • Rising temperatures are triggering rainforest trees to produce more flowers

    Slight rises in temperatures are triggering rainforest trees to produce more flowers, reports a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The research is based on observations collected in two tropical forests: a seasonally dry forest on Panama's Barro Colorado Island and a "rainforest" with year-around precipitation in Luquillo, Puerto Rico. The authors, led by Stephanie Pau, currently at Florida State University but formerly from UC Santa Barbara, analyzed the impact of changes in temperature, clouds and rainfall on flower production. They found an annual 3 percent increase in flower production at the seasonally dry site, which they attributed to warmer temperatures. >> Read the Full Article
  • The Sea could provide much of Scotland's power!

    What is one of the greenest ways to generate lots of electricity? What if we could harness the immense energy in ocean currents? Tidal power has been developing rapidly as a viable means of generating electricity. Scotland is nearly surrounded by ocean and strong currents are common. A new study, led by Oxford University researchers, provides the first reliable estimate of the maximum energy that could be generated from Pentland Firth. The 1.9GW figure is considerably lower than some early estimates as it takes into account factors such as how many tidal turbines it would be feasible to build, how a series of turbines would interact with each other, and averages out variations caused by the fortnightly and seasonal cycle of the tides. Tidal turbines stretched across Pentland Firth, which separates the Orkney Islands from mainland Scotland, could generate up to 1.9 gigawatts (GW) of power – equivalent to almost half of Scotland's electricity needs. >> Read the Full Article