Climate Change Weekly Roundup: 06/25/12

Publication – NewsWise
Date: June 17, 2012

Arctic Methane Seeps Could Spell Trouble for Florida

A four-member team of researchers found as the ancient reserves of methane gas seep from the melting Arctic ice cap, the permafrost thaws and there is a release of methane – a powerful greenhouse gas that causes climate warming.

Their findings, published in Nature Geoscience, documented a large number of gas seep sites in the Arctic where permafrost is thawing and glaciers receding (they found 77 previously undocumented seep sites, comprising 150,000 vents to the atmosphere). Until recently, the cryosphere (frozen soil and ice) has served to plug or block these vents. But thawing conditions have allowed the conduits to open, and deep geologic methane to escape.

The team, led by Jeff Chanton, the John W. Winchester Professor of Oceanography at Florida State University, studied the link between natural gas seepage and the melting ice cap using aerial photos and field data to figure out the number — and location — of seep holes, according to NewsWise.

Chanton and his team sought to find out how of the methane has been seeping through because the more the ice cap melts, the more methane is released into the atmosphere — and the more the climate warms.

People who live in coastal areas in Florida could be directly affected, Chanton told NewsWise, who analyzed the methane and dated it to more than 40,000 years old. All this seeping methane causes more melting ice, which causes sea levels to rise and could affect coastal real estate values — sooner rather than later.

Publication – Environmental News Network
Date: June 17, 2012

Arctic Vegetation Changing in response to warming

New research by biologists published in Nature Climate Change and Ecology Letters finds recent warming in the Arctic has caused local changes in vegetation.

The results show that most plants in the Arctic have grown taller, and the proportion of bare ground has decreased, according to ENN. But most importantly, there has been an increase in evergreen shrubs.

According to the article, “Comparisons show that the prevalence of vascular species, such as shrubs and plants, is increasing as temperatures rise. The degree of change depends on climate zone, soil moisture and the presence of permafrost.”

Researchers working on the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX) have been gathering data for about 30 years. By analyzing changes in vegetation in 158 plant communities at 46 locations across the Arctic between 1980 and 2010, they have been able to identify a number of general trends.

Publication – Science Daily
Date: June 18, 2012 Landsat Sets the Standard for Maps of World’s Forests

A worldwide and unbiased view with standardized scientific data of crucial information for tracking the health of the world’s forests has been provided by NASA’s Earth-observing fleet of satellites.

Countries like Brazil are using data from NASA satellites to track and measure their forests in advance of a U.N. effort to reduce climate change by providing “carbon credits” for protected land, according to Science Daily.

The concept known as REDD+, which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, includes monitoring forest degradation and efforts in conservation and sustainable management.

“REDD+ aims to make forests more valuable standing than they would be cut down, by creating a financial value for the carbon stored in trees,” Yemi Katerere, head of the United Nations’ UN-REDD Programme Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, told Science Daily. “It creates an incentive for developing countries to reduce carbon emissions by protecting, better managing and wisely using their forest resources, contributing to the global fight against climate change.”

Publication – Environmental News Network
Date: June 18, 2012

Studying Soil to Predict the Future of Earth’s Atmosphere

A new study by researchers at BYU, Duke and the USDA finds that soil plays an important role in controlling the planet’s atmospheric future.

The researchers goal was to find how intact ecosystems are responding to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Earth’s current atmospheric carbon dioxide is 390 parts per million, up from 260 parts per million during the mid-1800’s. This number is likely rise to more than 500 parts per million in the coming decades.

What they found, published in Nature Climate Change, is that the interaction between plants and soils controls how ecosystems respond to rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

The research shows that even in the absence of climate change, humans are impacting vital ecosystems as the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere changes. They also observed that changes in atmospheric CO2 caused changes in plant species composition and the availability of water and nitrogen.

Researchers worry that if the ability of plants and soils to absorb carbon becomes saturated over time, then CO2 in the atmosphere will increase much more quickly than it has in the past, according to ENN.

Publication – NewsWise
Date: June 20, 2012

Emperor Penguins Threatened by Antarctic Sea Ice Loss

As climate change reduces the extent of Antarctic sea ice, a decline in the population of emperor penguins appears likely this century, according to a new study by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

The study, with co-authors from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and other organizations, focused on a much-observed colony of emperor penguins in Terre Adélie, Antarctica.

The authors concluded that the number of breeding pairs may fall by about 80 percent by 2100.

The study used a set of sophistical computer simulations of climate, as well as a statistical model of penguin demographics. Building on previous work, it examined how the sea ice may vary at key times during the year such as during egg laying, incubation, rearing chicks, and non- breeding season, as well as the potential influence of sea ice concentrations on males and females.

According to the article, “The authors stressed their projections contain large uncertainties,
because of the difficulties in projecting both climate change and the response of penguins. However, almost all of their computer simulations pointed to a significant decline in the colony at Terre Adélie, a coastal region of Antarctica where French scientists have conducted penguin observations for more than 50 years.”

Publication – Science Daily
Date: June 21, 2012

Greater Los Angeles to Heat Up an Average 4 to 5 Degrees by Mid-Century

A new study led by UCLA climate expert Alex Hall shows that climate change will cause temperatures in the greater Los Angeles region to raise by an average of 4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit by the middle of this century.

The study also found climate change will cause the number of extremely hot days in the downtown area to triple and the number in the valleys and at high elevations to quadruple. Coastal areas like Santa Monica and Long Beach are likely to warm an average of 3 to 4 degrees. Dense urban areas like downtown Los Angeles and the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys will warm an average of 4 degrees, and mountain and desert regions like Palm Springs and Lancaster will warm 4 to 5 degrees.

The study entitled “Mid-Century Warming in the Los Angeles Region”, released June 22, is the first to provide specific climate-change predictions for the Los Angeles area, with unique predictions down to the neighborhood level, according to Science Daily.

According to the article, “The study looked at the years 2041-60 to predict the average temperature change by mid-century. The data covers all of Los Angeles County and 30 to 60 miles beyond, including all of Orange County and parts of Ventura, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, and reaching as far as Palm Springs, Bakersfield and Santa Barbara. The study overlaid this entire area with a grid of squares 1.2 miles across and provided unique temperature predictions for each square. This is in contrast to global climate models, which normally use grids 60 to 120 miles across — big enough to include areas as different as Long Beach and Lancaster.”


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