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New World View
Climate Change
Life and Climate
Losing Biodiversity
Energy Flow
Ecosystem Change
Population Growth
Energy Use
A Changing Cosmos
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U.S. Drought Monitor

posted Oct 21, 2016, 11:15 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Oct 21, 2016, 11:16 AM ]

—current conditions of drought from National Drought Mitigation Center, based at University of Nebraska, Lincoln. For GSS book Climate Change chapter 8.

2016-10-13. Comet may have struck Earth just 10 million years after dinosaur extinction.

posted Oct 15, 2016, 9:09 AM by Alan Gould

By Paul Voosen, Science. For GSS Life and Climate chapter 9. Excerpt: DENVER—Some 56 million years ago, carbon surged into Earth's atmosphere, raising temperatures by 5°C to 8°C and causing huge wildlife migrations—a scenario that might mirror the world's future, thanks to global warming. But what triggered this so-called Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM) has remained a mystery. Now, in new work presented on 27 September at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America and published this week in Science, a group of scientists bolsters its claim that a small comet impact kicked off the PETM, stirring up the carbon just 10 million years after a similar event decimated the dinosaurs. The group announced the discovery of glassy, dark beads, set in eight sediment cores tied to the PETM's start—spheres that are often associated with extraterrestrial strikes....

2016-10-10. World leaders discuss ban of climate-busting refrigerants.

posted Oct 15, 2016, 9:01 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Oct 16, 2016, 11:10 AM ]

By Robynne Boyd, Nature. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: After being directed for almost 30 years at substances that destroy ozone, the Montreal Protocol will for the first time target a group of greenhouse gases. Beginning today in Kigali, Rwanda, member states of the United Nations are finalizing the terms of what could be the largest commitment to reducing global warming since the Paris Agreement on climate last December. Delegates are likely to take till the meeting’s final day on 14 October to hammer out the knotty details of an amendment to the protocol. Ideally, the amendment will set the terms for a rapid phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the most common of which is the refrigerant HFC-134a, which has 1,430 times more warming potential than carbon dioxide (CO2) over 100 years. The amendment would stop the manufacture of HFCs and then reduce their use over time.... See also articles in BBC News, New York Times, and The Washington Post

2016-10-10. Simulating the Climate 145 Million Years Ago.

posted Oct 15, 2016, 8:58 AM by Alan Gould

By Shannon Hall, Earth and Space Science News (EoS, AGU). For GSS Life and Climate chapter 8. Excerpt: A new model shows that the Intertropical Convergence Zone wasn't always a single band around the equator, which had drastic effects on climate. The United Kingdom was once a lush oasis. That can be read from sediments within the Kimmeridge Clay Formation, which were deposited around 160 to 145 million years ago on Dorset’s “Jurassic Coast.” ...the formation is rich in organic matter, which suggests that it likely formed when global greenhouse conditions were at least 4 times higher than present levels. ...Armstrong et al. used those black shales to build new climate simulations that better approximate the climate toward the end of the Jurassic period. The model simulated 1422 years of time that suggested a radically different Intertropical Convergence Zone—the region where the Northern and Southern Hemisphere trade winds meet—than the one today. The convergence of these trade winds produces a global belt of clouds near the equator and is responsible for most of the precipitation on Earth. ...Today the Intertropical Convergence Zone in the Atlantic strays, at most, 12° away from the equator. However, 145 million years ago, when the continents were still much closer together, the model showed that the zone split, like a fork in the road, where the Pacific Ocean met the western coast of the American continents. The zone was driven apart by the proto-Appalachian mountain range to the north and the North African mountains to the south. ...

2016-10-10. Climate refuges identified for endangered snow leopards.

posted Oct 11, 2016, 9:23 PM by Alan Gould

By Brett Israel, UC Berkeley News. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 8 and Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: A new study of snow leopards’ habitat has found that just one-third of their current range will be a refuge from climate change by 2070, as habitat loss and fragmentation in the Himalaya and Hengduan mountains threaten not just snow leopards, but other species in the region. Snow leopards live in remote, high-elevation area on and surrounding the Tibetan Plateau, known as “the roof of the world.” The region is warming more than twice as fast as the Northern Hemisphere on average, threatening endangered species that call it home. Among these species, snow leopards are critically important to the Tibetan Plateau ecosystem because they are apex predators, which keep the ecosystem in balance. To understand how snow leopards — and the entire ecosystem — will fare as the climate continues to change, researchers from UC Berkeley and Panthera, a wild cat conservation group, used past changes in the region to project future climate scenarios. “Substantial conservation challenges will emerge as vast areas of snow leopard habitat are lost and become increasingly fragmented as a result of climate change. Getting ahead of and addressing these challenges now is imperative for snow leopards, their landscapes and all the unique wildlife those landscapes support,” said Juan Li, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Steven Beissinger, a professor of conservation biology at UC Berkeley. The research was published in a recent edition of the journal Biological Conservation.  ...The results suggest that snow leopards have experienced considerable habitat expansion, contraction and fragmentation across their range through these different climatic periods. Based on how snow leopard habitat has changed in the past, the computer modeling identified three large areas that are forecast to be refuges for snow leopards as the climate changes. These refuges are patches of habitat that have remained stable during past climate change events and are expected to remain as good snow leopard habitat through future climate change. ...“The results of our study demonstrate some optimism, but only if we can ensure the protection of snow leopard climate refuges from increasing human activities,” Li said....

2016-10-07. Climate change could be a greater threat to tropical frogs than deforestation.

posted Oct 11, 2016, 8:58 PM by Alan Gould

By Brett Israel, UC Berkeley News. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 8 and Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Changes in climate and land use are expected to reduce the livable area for tropical frogs because these species will increasingly encounter temperatures hot enough to harm their behavior, reproduction and physiology. Climate change, however, may be the most destructive force, according to a recent study involving a researcher from UC Berkeley. The researchers found that declines in frogs’ thermally suitable habitat area from climate change alone could be up to 4.5 times greater than declines attributable to land-cover change only, such as converting a forest to agriculture. Unlike humans, frogs rely on external sources to regulate their body temperature, so habitats in which frogs are unable to keep their body temperature below their maximum temperature limit are unlikely to support frog populations. For the study, UC Berkeley Ph.D. student David Kurz traveled to Costa Rica and conducted frog surveys in three land-cover types: forest fragments, heart of palm plantations and pasture (a few of the frogs that live in the study area are shown in the slideshow above). After 400 surveys, Kurz and lead author Justin Nowakowski, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis, identified frog species restricted to forest as well as species that were able to survive in the agricultural areas. ...“Our field data and subsequent modeling show that frogs that are better able to withstand rising temperatures have a better chance of survival in a rapidly changing world,” Kurz said. The researchers found that frog species living exclusively in forests were most sensitive to the high temperatures that come from the combination of climate change and forest conversion. The study was published September 26 in the journal Conservation Biology. Read more on the UC Davis website ....

2016-10-06. Range Is All the Rage in Paris, as Electric Cars Steal the Show.

posted Oct 8, 2016, 1:01 PM by Alan Gould

By Jerry Garrett, The New York Times. For GSS Energy use chapter 9. Excerpt: PARIS — For perhaps the first time at a major international auto salon, the stars of the Paris Motor Show are electric cars. ...this show may end up being best remembered as a tipping point for an electric car revolution poised to challenge the automobile industry’s internal-combustion status quo — although some of the excitement is still speculative, of course. ...Almost every other manufacturer in attendance is offering at least one new model with full electric operation or a hybrid combination of gas and electric. Exhibit A came from the Opel division of General Motors, which unveiled the production-ready Ampera-e — the European version of its all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, which is supposed to go on sale late this year in North America. The five-passenger subcompact Ampera-e promised the trifecta of electric car must-haves: considerable utility for a car its size, a mass-market price and an all-electric range of more than 500 kilometers, or 310 miles. (The Chevrolet version has a stated range of 238 miles, based on E.P.A. standards, which are tougher than their European counterparts.)...

2016-10-03. In a dramatic move, Trudeau says Canada will put a price on carbon.

posted Oct 8, 2016, 12:55 PM by Alan Gould

By Wayne Kondro, Science Insider (AAAS). For GSS Energy Use chapter 10 and Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: Having campaigned on a promise to reduce Canada’s carbon footprint, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today took a step toward that goal by announcing that his government will impose a pan-Canadian price on carbon, even if that means he must trample on reluctant provincial governments. But some critics say Trudeau’s move doesn’t go far enough, and three top provincial environment ministers protested the decision by walking out of a high-level meeting today. With federal, provincial, and territorial environment ministers meeting in Montreal, Canada, to hammer out a national carbon reduction plan, Trudeau dropped a bombshell on their negotiations. He announced to the House of Commons that Ottawa will impose a $7.62 per metric ton minimum tax on carbon commencing in 2018, which will rise by $7.62 each year until it reaches $38.11 per metric ton in 2022. ...British Columbia and Alberta have already introduced modest carbon taxes; Ontario and Quebec have embryonic cap-and-trade systems that allow polluters to buy and sell a limited number of emissions permits....

2016-09. SF Bay Freshwater-Starved Estuary.

posted Oct 8, 2016, 12:53 PM by Alan Gould

By The Bay Institute. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7. Excerpt:  The Bay Institute’s major new study, San Francisco Bay: The Freshwater – Starved Estuary, documents how the ecological health of San Francisco Bay and the nearby ocean is at high risk because large-scale water diversion in the Bay’s watershed severely limits the amount of fresh water that reaches the Bay and alters the timing of that flow. Inflow to the Bay from its Central Valley watershed now averages less than half of what it would be without diversions; in some years just one-third of the runoff makes it to the Bay. The result is a nearly permanent drought for the Bay’s fish, wildlife, and their habitats. This radical alteration creates severe consequences for the Bay and marine ecosystems – and Bay Area residents pay the price. ...Numerous unrelated fish species – from sharks to salmon, from sturgeon to smelt – show strong positive correlations with Bay Inflow; many of these species are now endangered, and even commercially viable fisheries are in decline; Predators that feed on flow-dependent fish and shrimp are feeling the pinch – for example, dwindling supplies of Central Valley Chinook salmon may restrict the recovery of the local Orca whale population....

2016-10-03. America’s Gray Ghosts: The Disappearing Caribou.

posted Oct 4, 2016, 2:12 PM by Alan Gould

By Jim Robbins, The New York Times. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 2. Excerpt: BONNERS FERRY, Idaho — The only caribou left in the contiguous United States are here in northern Idaho where they number about a dozen and live deep in the forests of the jagged Selkirk Mountains, near the Canadian border. Because they are so rarely seen, the caribou — America’s version of reindeer — are known as gray ghosts. ...For decades, the forest has been fragmented by clear-cutting, road building, oil development and mining. Where the forest has grown back, it is dominated by willows and other small trees favored by moose, deer and elk. In 2009, wolf numbers began surging in southern British Columbia, northern Idaho and northeastern Washington, drawn to the abundant prey. The population of mountain caribou dived, including the Selkirk herd, which then numbered about 50. Wolves focus primarily on moose and deer, but in the last two years, wolves have killed two caribou in the Selkirks; cougars killed another one. Yet another was killed by a car on Highway 3 in Canada, where salt on the road lures wildlife....

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