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News articles on climate science
Mongabay.com news articles on climate science in blog format. Updated regularly.
Just how bad is the biodiversity extinction crisis?
(02/06/2007) In recent years, scientists have warned of a looming biodiversity extinction crisis, one that will rival or exceed the five historic mass extinctions that occurred millions of years ago. Unlike these past extinctions, which were variously the result of catastrophic climate change, extraterrestrial collisions, atmospheric poisoning, and hyperactive volcanism, the current extinction event is one of our own making, fueled mainly by habitat destruction and, to a lesser extent, over-exploitation of certain species. While few scientists doubt species extinction is occurring, the degree to which it will occur in the future has long been subject of debate in conservation literature. Looking solely at species loss resulting from tropical deforestation, some researchers have forecast extinction rates as high as 75 percent. Now a new paper, published in Biotropica, argues that the most dire of these projections may be overstated. Using models that show lower rates of forest loss based on slowing population growth and other factors, Joseph Wright from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and Helene Muller-Landau from the University of Minnesota say that species loss may be more moderate than the commonly cited figures. While some scientists have criticized their work as "overly optimistic," prominent biologists say that their research has ignited an important discussion and raises fundamental questions about future conservation priorities and research efforts. This could ultimately result in more effective strategies for conserving biological diversity, they say.
Global warming report released in Paris
(02/02/2007) The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) officially unveiled its long-waited report on global climate change. The report was produced by some 600 authors from 40 countries and representatives from 113 governments reviewed and signed off on the report the course of this week.
Sea levels rising at fastest rate on record
(02/01/2007) A group of prominent scientists criticized the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate report due to be released Friday. Writing in Friday's issue of the journal Science, the scientists say the IPCC report understates the risk of rising sea levels by accounting for melting ice in Antarctica and Greenland.
Global warming may be beneficial to some fishermen
(02/01/2007) Climate change may be a boon to fisheries off northwestern Africa according to research published in Friday's issue of the journal Science. Lead by Dr. Helen McGregor, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Bremen's Research Center Ocean Margins in Germany, a team of scientists using data from sediment cores linked coastal upwelling off the coast of Morocco to 20th century climate warming. The results are significant because coastal upwelling zones, where nutrient-rich waters rise to the ocean's surface, yield roughly 20 percent of the world's fish harvest but represent less than one percent of the world ocean surface area.
Temperature record for Midwest shows impact of global warming
(01/29/2007) Researchers have developed a new method to create a temperature record for the Great Plains region of the United States. The model, based on analysis of ancient soils, could help predict the impact of global warming on American agricultural production.
Caves may reveal if global warming is causing stronger hurricanes
(01/29/2007) Scientists have shown that cave formations could help settle the contentious debate on whether hurricanes are strengthening in intensity due to global warming. Measuring oxygen isotope variation in stalagmites in Actun Tunichil Muknal cave in central Belize, a team of researchers have identified evidence of rainfall from 11 tropical cyclones over a 23 year period (1978-2001). The research -- the study of ancient storms is called paleotempestology -- could help create a record of hurricanes that would help researchers understand hurricane frequency and intensity. "Tropical cyclones (including hurricanes, tropical storms, typhoons, and cyclones) produce rainwater that is different from other summertime precipitation," explained Amy Benoit Frappier, an assistant professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Boston College and lead author of the study published in Geology. "Tropical cyclones produce isotopically light rainwater primarily because 1) their cloud tops are very high and cold, and 2) their humid air tends to prevent lighter water molecules from evaporating back out of the raindrop as they fall."
Is global warming causing stronger hurricanes? Caves may hold the answer
(01/26/2007) Scientists have shown that cave formations could help settle the contentious debate on whether hurricanes are strengthening in intensity due to global warming. Measuring oxygen isotope variation in stalagmites in Actun Tunichil Muknal cave in central Belize, a team of researchers lead by Amy Benoit Frappier of Boston College have identified evidence of rainfall from 11 tropical cyclones over a 23 year period. The research -- the study of ancient storms is called paleotempestology -- could help create a record of hurricanes that would help researchers understand hurricane frequency and intensity. Currently, reliable history for hurricanes only dates back a generation or so. Prior to that, the official hurricane records kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Atlantic basin hurricane database (HURDAT) are controversial at best since storm data from more than 20 years ago is not nearly as accurate as current hurricane data due to improvements in tracking technology. The lack of a credible baseline makes it nearly impossible to accurately compare storm frequency and strength over the period.
Giant carnivorous marsupial beasts not killed by climate change in Australia
(01/25/2007) Humans, not climate change, caused the extinction of megafauna in Australia contends a team of Australian researchers writing in the January issue of the journal Science. Australia lost 90 percent of its largest animals, including a saber-toothed kangaroo, a marsupial lion and giant goannas, within 20,000 years of man's arrival some 50,000 years ago. Scientists have long debated whether the demise of Australian megafauna was due to human arrival, climate change, or a combination of the two factors. The new research found that the climate in southeastern Australia was little different 500,000 years ago, suggesting that climate change was not the ultimate cause of extinction.
American industry jumps on global warming bandwagon
(01/23/2007) On the eve of President Bush's State of the Union address, American industry is fast-jumping on the global warming bandwagon, according to an article in today's issue of The Wall Street Journal. Yesterday the CEOs of 10 major corporations asked Congress to implement binding limits on greenhouse gases this year, arguing that voluntary efforts to fight climate change are inadequate.
Global warming cap to cost U.S. 0.26% of GDP says Energy Department
(01/23/2007) A proposed cap-and-trade system to curb U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions will cost the U.S. economy 0.26 percent of annual GDP according to a new study by the Department of Energy's Energy Information Agency (EIA). The EIA says that the plan would lead to higher energy prices inlcuding a 5 percent rise in the price of gasoline, an 8 percent climb in the price of heating-oil an 11 percent increase in the price of natural gas and electricity.
Bush calls climate change a 'serious challenge'
(01/23/2007) In his State of the Union Address Tuesday night, President Bush called climate change a 'serious challenge' that needs to be met by reducing fossil fuel emissions. The president asked Americans to reduce their gasoline use by 20 percent over the next decade and called for increases in automobile fuel efficiency standards and use of alternative energy.
In Arctic Mud, Geologists Find Strong Evidence of Climate Change
(01/22/2007) How severe will global warming get? Jason P. Briner is looking for an answer buried deep in mud dozens of feet below the surface of lakes in the frigid Canadian Arctic. His group is gathering the first quantitative temperature data over the last millennium from areas in extreme northeastern sections of the Canadian Arctic, such as Baffin Island. Every spring, Briner, Ph.D., assistant professor of geology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University at Buffalo, travels to the region to sample Arctic lake sediments and glaciers and analyzes them to reconstruct past climates.
Leaf study could produce better global warming models
(01/18/2007) A new study on rotting leaves could produce more accurate climate models say researchers writing in the January 19 issue of the journal Science.
Bush administration says polar bears under threat
(12/27/2006) Today the Bush Administration said polar bears are in need of protection. The reason? Global warming. The administration says that climate change is causing sea ice to melt, putting the polar bear in peril.
Wildfires are linked to Atlantic Ocean temperatures
(12/25/2006) Scientists have linked the incidence of wildfires in the Western United States to Atlantic Ocean temperatures.
Warmer oceans reduce dispersal of shellfish larvae
(12/25/2006) In a study published in the Dec. 25 Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), scientists show they can predict how the distance marine larvae travel varies with ocean temperature. The say that the findings have important implications for the conservation and management of fish, shellfish and other marine species in oceans increasingly effected by climate change.
'Happy Feet' penguins declining fast in the Falklands
(12/22/2006) The rockhopper penguin, a species featured in the movie Happy Feet, has taken a suffered a 30 percent population decline over the past five years according to the latest survey figures from Falklands conservation, a conservation group with offices in Stanley, Falkland Islands and London, England.
2006 is sixth warmest year, but hurricanes below average
(12/15/2006) 2006 will be the sixth-warmest year on record according to the World Meteorological Organization (WHO). The United Nations weather agency said the ten hottest years have all occurred in the past 12 years. 2005 was the warmest year since record keeping began 150 years ago, according to the agency.
2006 is third warmest year on record for the United States
(12/15/2006) 2006 will likely go down as the third warmest year on record for the United States according to scientists at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, North Carolina. Globally, 2006 will have the sixth highest annual global temperature since record keeping began in 1880 NCDC says that the 2006 annual average temperature for the contiguous United States (based on preliminary data) will likely be 2F (1.1C) above the 20th century mean, making 2006 the third warmest year on record, just cooler than 1998 and 1934. 2006 has been a record year for wildfires which researchers say will continue to increase in frequency and intensity as climate continues to warm.
Global warming improves sex life of seals
(12/15/2006) Climate change is enhancing the sex life of subordinate male grey seals on the remote Scottish Island of North Rona according to researchers at Durham University and the University of St Andrews.
Sea levels may rise higher than predicted due to global warming
(12/15/2006) Global warming could cause sea levels to rise by four-and-a-half feet (140 cm) according to new projections published in Friday's issue of the jounral Science. Stefan Rahmstorf, a scietist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Potsdam, Germany, uses air temperature measurements and past sea level changes rather than computer models to calculate that ocean levels could rise by 50-140 cm by 2100, well above the 9-88 cm projected by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. A 140 cm rise in sea levels could swamp low-lying cities like New York and Venice while causing catastrophic flooding in Bengladesh and South Pacific island nations.
Forests need good soil to sequester more carbon
(12/14/2006) Soil nutrition is key to helping forests absorb more carbon under elevated CO2 conditions according to new research by scientists with the USDA Forest Service and Duke University. "The researchers found that trees can only increase wood growth from elevated CO2 if there is enough leaf area to support that growth," reported the Southern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service in a statement. "Leaf area, in turn, is limited by soil nutrition; without adequate soil nutrition, trees respond to elevated CO2 by transferring carbon below ground, then recycling it back to the atmospheric through respiration."
Melting glaciers, not ice sheets, primarily responsible for rising sea levels
(12/11/2006) A new study says that melting glaciers are contributing more to the global rise in sea levels than melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Of the estimated 650 billion tons of ice lost to the oceans annually, some 400 billion tons comes from the melting of small glaciers and icecaps, according to Professor Tad Pfeffer of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Only 250 billion tons -- or less than 40 percent -- comes from the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
Global warming could save NASA millions in fuel costs
(12/11/2006) Carbon dioxide emissions produced from the burning of fossil fuels will produce a 3 percent reduction in the density of Earth's outermost atmosphere by 2017, according scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Pennsylvania State University (PSU).
Small insects tell us Earth is warming
(12/11/2006) Small insects known as midges are telling scientists that Earth is warming, according to research to be presented December 15 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
Global warming could make Arctic sea ice-free by 2040
(12/11/2006) Global warming is causing an abrupt retreat in Arctic sea ice that could leave the Arctic Ocean with ice-free summers by 2040 according to research published in the December 12 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.
Nuclear war could cause global cooling (i.e. block global warming)
(12/11/2006) Nuclear war would disrupt global climate for at least a decade according to new research presented Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The research, based on findings from historic volcano eruptions, found that a small-scale, regional nuclear war could produce millions of tons of 'soot' particles that could block solar radiation, in effect, cooling the planet.
UN says man's global warming impact lower than thought
(12/10/2006) When it is released in 2007, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will report that man's impact on global climate is less than previously believed according to a story published in the Sunday edition of the UK-based Telegraph. The Telegraph says that the report will reduce its estimate of man's role in global warming by 25 percent. However, the IPCC will still project global temperatures to climb by 4.5 C druing the next century and rising sea levels, albiet by half the amount -- 17 inches instead of 34 inches by 2100 -- projected by the IPCC's 2001 report. It will also note that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have continued to climb over the past five years but that the overall human effect on global warming since the industrial revolution has been dampened by cooling caused by particulate matter and aerosol sprays, which accumulate in the upper atmosphere and reflect heat from the sun.
Past global warming suggests massive temperature shift in our future
(12/07/2006) If past climate change is any indication, Earth could be in store for some significant global warming according to research published in the December 8, 2006, issue of the journal Science. The work suggests that climate change skeptics may be fighting a losing cause. The study, led by Mark Pagani, associate professor of geology and geophysics at Yale, looked at an episode of rapid climate change that occurred some 55 million years ago. Known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), the period was marked by a rapid rise in greenhouse gases that heated Earth by roughly 9 F (5 C), in less than 10,000 years. The climate warming caused widespread changes including mass extinction in the world's oceans due to acidification and shifts of plant communities due to changes in rainfall. The era helped set the stage for the "Age of Mammals," which included the first appearance of modern primates.
Global warming could reduce ocean productivity
(12/06/2006) Global warming could cause a rapid overall reduction in marine life resulting from diminished ocean productivity, according to a study published this week in the journal Nature. The researchers, led by Michael Behrenfeld of Oregon State University, say that the growth of phytoplankton -- the basis of the ocean food chain -- will likely be reduced by climate change.
Temperatures in European Alps at 1,300-year high
(12/05/2006) Temperatures in the European Alps are at the warmest point in 1,300 years according to the head of a European Union climate study.
Nairobi talks made progress on forest conservation for global warming emissions credits
(12/05/2006) Tropical deforestation is one of the largest sources of human-produced greenhouse gases yet it has no place in existing climate agreements. This has been a point of contention in negotiations as the United States has objected to some developing countries -- notably Brazil and Indonesia -- to be getting an apparent "free ride" on deforestation-related emissions in addition to emissions from fossil fuel sources. Recent negotiations have looked at this issue from a different perspective, one where developing countries would be paid by industrialized countries for reducing their deforestation rates. Globally the payoff could be immense, extending well beyond helping mitigate global warming emissions to safeguard biodiversity and important ecological services. Leading scientists have called such plans a "win-win" scenario for all parties and even the World Bank and U.N. have voiced support for the concept.
California crop production could plunge due to global warming
(12/05/2006) Higher temperatures could cause a 40 percent drop in some of California's most popular crops by mid-century according to new research in the journal Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. Almonds, walnuts, oranges, avocados and table grape could be especially affected.
Are old-growth forests storing more carbon than before?
(12/04/2006) Old-growth forests in China are storing more carbon than previously believed. The finding could have implications for fighting global warming through forest conservation, though some researchers caution that the results may not be representative of tropical forests as a whole.
Global-warming resistant crops under development by researchers
(12/04/2006) Researchers at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) are working to develop climate-resilient agriculture to reduce the impact of global warming on food supplies. Climate change is expected to disproportionately affect the world's poorest regions most dependent on agriculture for economic sustenance.
Global warming increases flooding in India
(12/01/2006) Extreme rains are becoming more common in India as more moderate rains decline, increasing the risk of flooding, according to a study published in the journal Science. The study, conducted by scientists at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, found that heavy rain events -- one where at least 3.9 inches (100 mm) of rain fell -- are more frequent and severe than they were in 1951. The increase in heavy rains is offset by a decline in moderate rains, leaving overall rainfall levels unchanged overall. However the increase in heavy rain events means catastrophic flooding and landslides are more common said B.N. Goswami, lead author of the research.
Cattle produce more global warming gases than cars
(12/01/2006) Livestock-rearing generates more greenhouse gases than transportation according to a new report from the United Nations (U.N.), which adds that improved production methods could go a long way towards cutting emissions of gases reponsible for global warming. "Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems," said Henning Steinfeld, a senior UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) official and lead author of the report. "Urgent action is required to remedy the situation."
Supreme Court to decide on global warming issue
(11/29/2006) America's highest court will decide whether the U.S. government should regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The case, known as Massachusetts v. EPA pits the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an agency charged with protecting the environment, with the auto and power industries and 10 states against a dozen mostly northeastern and western states and 13 environmental organizations. The EPA opposes regulation of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas scientists say contributes to global warming, arguing that CO2 is a naturally occurring gas that does not fit the U.S. Clean Air Act's definition of a pollutant.
EU toughens rules on global warming
(11/29/2006) Wednesday the European Commission demanded stricter limits on climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions for the 2008-2012 period. According to a report from Reuters, only Britain's carbon dioxide cap was accepted by the commission, though other EU governments can challenge the Commission's ruling in court. Germany vocally objected to the decision with German Minister of the Economy Michael Glos calling it 'totally unacceptable.' France, Lithuania, and Slovakia also objected according to reports.
Growth rate of carbon dioxide emissions doubles since 1990s
(11/28/2006) The growth rate of carbon dioxide emissions has more than doubled since the close of the 1990s as countries have failed to reign in use of fossil fuels, says a new report from the Global Carbon Project, a group involved in scientific research on the impact of carbon on the planet. The finding was announced at the Annual Science Meeting at Tasmania's Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station.
Fragmentation killing species in the Amazon rainforest
(11/27/2006) Forest fragmentation is rapidly eroding biodiversity in the Amazon rainforest and could worsen global warming according to research to be published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Rainforest trees can live for centuries, even millennia, so none of us expected things to change too fast. But in just two decades-a wink of time for a thousand year-old tree-the ecosystem has been seriously degraded." said Dr. William Laurance, a scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and leader of the international team of scientists that conducted the research.
Global warming-fueled storms could devastate coral reefs
(11/23/2006) Australia's Great Barrier Reef and other coral ecosystems could suffer from increasingly powerful storms brought about by global warming according to computer models published by a team of Australian scientists in the journal Nature.
Atmospheric levels of key greenhouse gas stabilize, could begin to decline
(11/20/2006) Atmospheric levels of methane, a potent greenhouse gas have leveled off for the past seven years according to scientists at the University of California, Irvine. Human sources of methane, which is twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, include production of oil and natural gas, mining, sewage and decomposition of garbage, changes in land use and deforestation, and livestock. About one-third of methane emissions come from oceans, wetlands, wildfires, and termites.
Migratory species threatened by global warming
(11/20/2006) Urgent action is need to prevent extinction of migratory species due to global warming says a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Forest fires may cool climate
(11/17/2006) Boreal forest fires may actually cool climate according to research published in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science. Researchers at the Univerisity of California, Irvine (UCI), found that cooling may occur in regions where burned trees -- and reduced canopy cover -- exposes more snow, which reflects the sun's rays back into space. This effect may outweight the climate warming impact of the grenhouse gases released by forest burning.
Pollution could be used to fight global warming
(11/16/2006) A Nobel Prize-winning scientist caused a stir Wednesday at the U.N. climate conference in Nairobi when he said pollution could be used to help fight global warming. Paul J. Crutzen, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the hole in the ozone layer, said that injecting sulfur into the atmosphere could slow global warming by reflecting solar radiation back into space. The plan would use balloons carrying artillery guns to fire sulfates into the stratosphere. Unlike greenhouse gas emissions, which feature a lag-time in heating the globe, the climatic response from sulfate injection would take effect within six months and the reflective particles would remain in the stratosphere for up to two years.
Indonesia may seek rainforest conservation compensation to fight global warming
(11/16/2006) Indonesia may soon join the Coalition of Rainforest Nations in seeking compensation for rainforest conservation, according to a report from the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), a timber industry group.
Global warming reduces polar bear survival rate
(11/16/2006) Polar bear survival rates have dropped significantly in the past 20 years, probably due to melting sea ice caused by higher temperatures, according to a study released this week.
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions rise 0.6% in 2005 to new record
(11/15/2006) Emissions of heat-trapping gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, rose by 0.6 percent between 2004 and 2005 according to a new report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy. Since 1990, such greenhouse gas emissions have climbed by 16.9 percent. The Kyoto Protocol calls for a 7 percent reduction in emissions levels below 1990 levels by 2012.
Ebola outbreaks may worsen with global warming
(11/15/2006) Ebola outbreaks are linked to wildlife and climate according to new research published in the journal Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Ebola, a deadly hemorrhagic fever made famous in Richard Preston's book The Hot Zone, periodically emerges to affect human populations in Central Africa. Until now, scientists had little understanding of the pattern behind Ebola outbreaks.
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