No more glaciers in Glacier National Park by 2020?
A team of scientists from the University of York examined the movement of 2,000 animal and plant species over the past decade. According to their study, published in Science last month, in their exodus from increasing heat, species have moved, on average, 13.3 yards higher in altitude — twice the predicted rate — and 11 miles higher in latitude — three times faster than expected. These changes have happened most rapidly where the climate has warmed the most.
Canadian Arctic Nearly Loses Entire Ice Shelf
By CHARMAINE NORONHA Associated Press
TORONTO September 30, 2011 (AP)
Two ice shelves that existed before Canada was settled by Europeans diminished significantly this summer, one nearly disappearing altogether, Canadian scientists say in new research.
The loss is important as a marker of global warming, returning the Canadian Arctic to conditions that date back thousands of years, scientists say. Floating icebergs that have broken free as a result pose a risk to offshore oil facilities and potentially to shipping lanes. The breaking apart of the ice shelves also reduces the environment that supports microbial life and changes the look of Canada’s coastline.
Staggering Arctic map shows how impassable Northwest Passage is opening up as polar ice caps melt
Melting revelation: The yellow line shows the area the polar ice caps covered 30 years ago and the red line shows the Northwest Passage shipping lanes
Climate change is a scientific fact.
Tree huggers, evironmentalists, are more rational than the tree buggers, the Rush Limbaugh crowd. There is only one environment, wherever you live, and colonizng the moon or Mars won’t solve the problem, if indeed that it is feasible.
Years ago, in the twentieth century, Common Sense heard that tropical diseases were moving north, tundra in Alaska and Siberia was melting, and tropical fish were moving through the Suez Canal from the Red Sea into the Mediterranean Sea. The following articles prove climate change is a scientific fact.
Whitebark pine tree faces extinction threat, agency says
By Juliet Eilperin, Published: July 18
The Fish and Wildlife Service determined Monday that whitebark pine, a tree found atop mountains across the American West, faces an “imminent” risk of extinction because of factors including climate change.
The decision is significant because it marks the first time the federal government has identified climate change as one of the driving factors for why a broad-ranging tree species could disappear. The Canadian government has already declared whitebark pine to be endangered throughout its entire range; a recent study found that 80 percent of whitebark pine forests in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem are dead or dying.
The Natural Resources Defense Council asked the Fish and Wildlife Service to place the tree on the endangered species list. In its determination, the agency said that it found a listing was “warranted but precluded,” meaning the pine deserved federal protection but the government could not afford it.
The whitebark pine will remain a candidate under the Endangered Species Act and will come under review annually.
An invasive disease, white pine blister rust, along with insects such as mountain pine beetle, has infiltrated the historically colder altitudes where whitebark pines thrive. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Amy Nicholas said these factors, along with fire patterns and global warming more broadly, are undermining the tree’s viability.
The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that the whitebark pine could disappear within two to three generations — from 120 to 180 years from now.
Nicholas said that is why the agency would like to list the species as endangered. However, she added, “we’ve got definitely a limited amount of budget and a limited amount of staff to address all these species. There are other species that are worse off than whitebark pine.”
The tree is a critical part of the West’s high-elevation habitats: It helps to slow the annual melt of snowpack and provides food for animals such as grizzly bears and Clark’s nutcracker, a bird that can cache thousands of pine seeds in different places and remember later where it put them.
“If you lose those forests, there are so many impacts, not just in wildlife, not just in grizzly bears, but in the whole hydrology of the ecosystem,” said Jesse Logan, who was project leader for the Forest Service’s West-wide bark beetle project before retiring in 2006.
Logan added that he and colleagues began modeling how climate change would threaten Western tree species such as the whitebark pine in the early 1990s, but “no one had any sense that it would be as dramatic and catastrophic as it has been.”
It is unclear when the tree would make it onto the endangered species list, since some plant and animals languish on the candidate list for years. This month, the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee voted to eliminate any funds for listing species under the Endangered Species Act as part of the 2012 budget.
Andrew Wetzler, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s land and wildlife program, said that while “it’s undeniable” the Fish and Wildlife Service has “an enormous backlog of species,” he and others will have to scrutinize background documents on the whitebark pine decision to see whether it should have ranked higher on the agency’s priority list.
“As today’s announcement demonstrates, this is exactly the wrong time for Congress to be debating cutting off all funds for protecting species under the Endangered Species Act,” Wetzler said. “There are few enough funds to protect endangered species as it is. We need to strengthen the safety net for fish, wildlife and plants, not weaken it.”
Logan said he remained optimistic that the agency’s decision would spur action to save the tree. “I’m hopeful this decision will focus effort and resources on this critical ecosystem,” he said. “There’s also resiliency in this ecosystem, so it’s not a hopeless issue.”
Great Lakes already show effects of climate change, report says
Sunday, July 17, 2011 03:13 AM
BY JOSEPHINE MARCOTTY
MINNEAPOLIS – Isle Royale in Lake Superior used to be too cold for deer ticks. But not anymore.
The ticks, which carry Lyme disease, have been found for the first time on the island off the coast of northern Minnesota. And by the end of the century, nesting loons may disappear altogether from most of the Great Lakes.
Those are some of the findings of a new report on the effect of climate change on the Great Lakes’ largest national parks made public Wednesday by two environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization.
It was the latest in a series of studies they have conducted on the current and future effects of a warming global climate on national parks from California to Virginia.
The report, the authors said, provides an early look at what’s to come if the Republican-led Congress continues to thwart federal efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Republicans last week tried and failed to repeal new standards for more energy efficient light bulbs, and are resisting the new federal rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions expected later this summer. They say the rules are unnecessary intrusions on freedom, and job killers.
“We have an increasing partisan divide on this,” said Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and a former national parks official with the Department of the Interior. “If people pay attention to how the places they know and love respond to climate change, I hope that makes people aware of what we should be doing differently.”
The authors analyzed a century’s worth of temperature trends for the Great Lakes area drawn from two weather stations on Lake Michigan, and found that both show more rapid change than the global averages. The one near the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, near Chicago, showed that in the last decade average temperatures have increased by 1.6 degrees, and the one near Picture Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan showed an average increase of 2.7 degrees.
Lee Frelich, a University of Minnesota researcher who studies the impact of climate change in the upper Midwest, said the analysis used widely accepted climate models and data, and the findings are right on the mark.
“Climate changes are more extreme in the mid continents,” said Frelich, who was not involved in the report. “If you are fairly far north you will see bigger magnitudes of climate change than other places.”
Water temperatures in Lake Superior have increased 4.5 degrees between 1979 and 2006, twice the rate of land temperatures, the report found. Between the 1970s and 2009, winter ice cover over the lakes shrunk 15 percent.
The report also documented a 31percent increase in rain falling during big storms, and a 12 percent increase in wind speeds. Combined with less ice during the winter, those changes lead to faster erosion along the shores, putting fragile landscapes such as the Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan at risk.
Frelich said that he’s already seen the effect on his family’s cabin in Door County, Wis., where winter storms have taken out trees on the edge of his property.
The report found that temperature changes are having sometimes dramatic effect on wildlife. A growing number of botulism outbreaks, linked to higher water temperatures, have killed hundreds to thousands of birds in recent years in the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. Meanwhile, Isle Royale used to be free of deer ticks, which can only survive in average winter temperatures of 19 degrees or higher. But a park service employee this year reported finding a deer tick on his body after he’d been there for a month, meaning he had picked it up while on the island.
Critters moving away from global warming faster
AP foreign, Thursday August 18 2011
AP Science Writer= WASHINGTON (AP) — Animals across the world are fleeing global warming by heading north much faster than they were less than a decade ago, a new study says.
About 2,000 species examined are moving away from the equator at an average rate of more than 15 feet per day, about a mile per year, according to new research published Thursday in the journal Science which analyzed previous studies. Species are also moving up mountains to escape the heat, but more slowly, averaging about 4 feet a year.
The species — mostly from the Northern Hemisphere and including plants — moved in fits and starts, but over several decades it averages to about 8 inches an hour away from the equator.
“The speed is an important issue,” said study main author Chris Thomas of the University of York. “It is faster than we thought.”
Included in the analysis was a 2003 study that found species moving north at a rate of just more than a third of a mile per year and up at a rate of 2 feet a year. Camille Parmesan of the University of Texas, who conducted that study, said the new research makes sense because her data ended around the late 1990s and the 2000s were far hotter.
Federal weather data show the last decade was the hottest on record, and 2010 tied with 2005 for the hottest year on record. Gases from the burning of fossil fuel, especially carbon dioxide, are trapping heat in the atmosphere, warming the Earth and changing the climate in several ways, according to the overwhelming majority of scientists and the world’s top scientific organizations.
As the temperatures soared in the 2000s, the species studied moved faster to cooler places, Parmesan said. She pointed specifically to the city copper butterfly in Europe and the purple emperor butterfly in Sweden. The comma butterfly in Great Britain has moved more than 135 miles in 21 years, Thomas said.
It’s “independent confirmation that the climate is changing,” Parmesan said.
One of the faster moving species is the British spider silometopus, Thomas said. In 25 years, the small spider has moved its home range more than 200 miles north, averaging 8 miles a year, he said.
Stanford University biologist Terry Root, who wasn’t part of this study but praised it as clever and conservative, points to another species, the American pika, a rabbitlike creature that has been studied in Yellowstone National Park for more than a century. The pika didn’t go higher than 7,800 feet in 1900, but in 2004 they were seen at 9,500 feet, she said.
For Thomas, this is something he notices every time he returns to his childhood home in southern England. The 51-year-old biologist didn’t see the egret, a rather warm climate bird, in the Cuckmere Valley while growing up. But now, he said, “All the ditches have little egrets. It was just a bizarre sight.”
Thomas plotted the movement of the species and compared it to how much they would move based on temperature changes. It was a near perfect match, showing that temperature changes explain what’s happening to the critters and plants, Thomas said. The match wasn’t quite as exact with the movement up mountains and Thomas thinks that’s because species went north instead or they were blocked from going up.
Thomas found that the further north the species live, the faster they moved their home base. That makes sense because in general northern regions are warming more than those closer to the equator.
Conservation biologist Mike Dombeck, a former U.S. Forest Service chief, said changes in where species live — especially movements up mountains — is a problem for many threatened species.
Thomas said what he’s studied isn’t about some far off problem.
“It’s already affected the entire planet’s wildlife,” Thomas said in a phone interview. “It’s not a matter that might happen in the lifetime of our children and our grandchildren. If you look in your garden you can see the effects of climate change already.”
Vietnam’s rice bowl threatened by rising seas
Climate change is turning rivers of Mekong Delta salty, spelling disaster for millions of poor farmers
Kit Gillet in Ben Tre, Vietnam
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 21 August 2011 20.51 BST
Sitting amid buckets of rice in the market, Nguyen Thi Lim Lien issues a warning she desperately hopes the world will hear: climate change is turning the rivers of the Mekong Delta salty.
“The government tells us that there are three grams of salt per litre of fresh water in the rivers now,” she says. “Gradually more and more people are affected. Those nearest the sea are the most affected now, but soon the whole province will be hit.”
The vast, humid expanse of the delta is home to more than 17 million people, who have relied for generations on its thousands of river arteries. But rising sea water caused by global warming is now increasing the salt content of the river water and threatening the livelihoods of millions of poor farmers and fishermen.
Vietnam is listed by the World Bank among the countries most threatened by rising waters brought about by higher global temperatures, with only the Bahamas more vulnerable to a one-metre rise in sea levels. Such a rise could leave a third of the Mekong Delta underwater and lead to mass internal migration and devastation in a region that produces nearly half of Vietnam’s rice.
“If there was a one-metre rise, we estimate 40% of the delta will be submerged,” says Tran Thuc, director general of the Vietnam Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment. “There is also the threat of cyclones and storms linked to climate change. The people in this area are not prepared for any of this.”
Already affected by regular flooding, those who live in the low-lying delta are focusing on the rising salt content of water in land that has for thousands of years been used for rice paddies, coconut groves and other crops which locals rely on for their livelihood.
According to the Ben Tre department of agriculture and rural development, salt water at four parts per thousand has, as of April, reached as far as 35 miles inland, causing significant damage to crops and livestock, with rice production particularly affected.
“Salination will become higher and higher and the salt season will last longer and be worse,” predicts Thuc.
The city of Ben Tre, one of the gateways to the Mekong, is inland, on one of the many tributaries of the Mekong river where the waters are still only partially affected by the increased salination. But further downriver, the effects are more pronounced.
“I have to travel five hours upstream by boat to fetch water for drinking, washing and cooking,” says Vo Thi Than, 60, who cannot afford the prices charged by those who travel down the river selling fresh water from upstream.
Than lives beside a dock and runs a little restaurant on the small delta island of Cu Lao Oc, home to approximately 6,000 farmers and coconut growers.
“A long time ago, there was no salty season at all. Now, five months a year the water is salty,” she says.
“We grow oranges, mandarins, lemons and coconuts, but these trees cannot survive if it is salt water only. During salty seasons, the trees bear less fruit and smaller fruits, and if there was only the salt season, nothing would grow.”
Government officials and international observers are predicting significant lifestyle changes for the delta’s population, which will be forced to adapt to survive.
Dao Xuan Lai, head of sustainable development at the United Nations Development Programme in Vietnam, said: “Rising sea waters will cause inundations to the Mekong and will require drastic changes in lifestyles for the people. They will be forced to switch crops and innovate. People close to river banks and river mouths have already had to find different ways to make a living in fresh water.”
In the area around the town of Ba Tri, near one mouth of the delta, the salination of the water has reached a point where many locals have been forced to abandon centuries of rice cultivation and risk their livelihoods on other ventures, mostly farming shrimp, which thrives in saltier water. Pham Van Bo is still able to plant rice on half his land thanks to an embankment built by the government four years ago, but he is risking his family’s savings on the new venture.
“We had to sell our fishing boat to pay to dig the cultivation pool and also had to pay someone to teach me how to do it. It was expensive, and I had to get the shrimp and medicine on credit,” he said. “It takes about four months from when they are small to selling them. It should be more profitable than rice planting, but I am worried since this is our first try.”
Bo needs only to walk two hundred metres along the riverbank to see a cautionary tale. Nguyen Van Lung and her family started raising shrimp six years ago, but now all but one of their pools are empty.
“Last October, the sea washed out all of our shrimp, we lost them all,” she said. “We saw the water rising up and getting closer and closer, but we couldn’t do anything about it. This season, we have been forced to just dump the shrimp in and let them grow with no fans, medicine or special food.”
The family received a loan from the local government to survive, but it takes a lot of money to farm shrimp, on which they now rely almost exclusively for their livelihood.
Olivia Dun is a PhD student at the University of Sydney’s Mekong Resource Centre. She is studying environmental changes, flooding, saline intrusion and migration in the Mekong Delta. “Some households have benefited from the switch to shrimp and have been able to raise their level of income,” she said. “Other households have continuously struggled to raise shrimp, which are sensitive to the conditions in their pond environment and easily susceptible to disease. These households face mounting debt, and of these households, some choose to migrate elsewhere temporarily in search of an income.”
Tough decisions like this are going to become more common for Mekong residents in the years ahead as the environment changes around them.
“Even if we stop all emissions worldwide now, the water will still rise 20 to 30 centimetres in the next few decades,” said the UN’s Lai.
“At the moment the prediction is a rise of 75 centimetres by 2050. People in this region are still very poor and will need help from the international community to survive this.”
Newark, NJ: New all-time record high of 108 degrees. Breaks old all-time record of 105 degrees set on August 9, 2001.
New York, NY: Central Park topped out at 104 degrees. Second hottest temperature on record. Hottest temperature since 1977.
Dulles International Airport, VA (IAD): New all-time record high of 105 degrees. This breaks the old all-time record high of 104 set back in 1988 and 1983.
Baltimore, MD: Daily record high of 106 degrees. All-time record high is 107 degrees set on July 10, 1936.
Trenton, NJ: Daily record high of 106 degrees.
Philadelphia, PA: Daily record high of 103 degrees.
Atlantic City, NJ: Daily record high of 105 degrees. Old record high for July 22 was 98 degrees set in 1998. Second hottest day on record. Max heat index of 120 degrees. Hottest temperature recorded since 1969.
Boston, MA: Tied for 2nd highest temperature on record at 103 degrees. Hottest day in exactly 85 years!
Washington, DC: No daily record high set. However, peak heat index of 121 degrees.
Hartford, CT: New all-time record high of 103 degrees.
Newark, NJ: New daily record of 102 degrees breaks old record of 100 degrees for the date.
New York, NY: Central Park topped out at 100 degrees toppling the old record of 99 degrees set in 1991.
JFK Int’l Airport: New record high of 102 degrees beating the old record of 100 set in 1972.
Islip, NY: New daily record of 99 degrees breaks the old record of 97 degrees set in 1991.
Philadelphia, PA: New daily record high of 101 degrees.
Dulles International Airport, VA (IAD): Ties record high for the date of 99 degrees.
Baltimore, MD: Ties the daily record high of 102 degrees.
Trenton, NJ: Soars to 104 degrees. Smashes the old record of 99 degrees set in 1991.
Atlantic City, NJ: Peak temperature of 105 degrees. Ties for second hottest day on record which was set the day before on Friday.
Washington, DC: New daily record high of 102 degrees.
And you want really hot? Try Oklahoma, where the 88.9-degree average temperature in July not only set the record as the state’s hottest month ever, but also was the warmest for any state during any month on record, according to data released Monday from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).