Posts tagged climate change
Boulder County Recognized for its Leadership on Reducing Carbon Pollution and Addressing Climate Change0
Boulder County awarded a 2013 Organizational Leadership Award as part of the annual the Climate Leadership Awards sponsored by EPA and other leading climate change organizations
Boulder County, Colo. – Boulder County is pleased to be among fewer than a handful of local governments recognized for its leadership and innovation around the issue of climate change and clean energy.
Today it was announced by the EPA’s Climate Protection Partnerships Division and its co-sponsors, The Climate Registry (The Registry), the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), and the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO), that Boulder County is a winner of the 2013 Organizational Leadership Award as part of the annual the Climate Leadership Awards (CLA).
The CLA is a national awards program that recognizes and encourages exemplary corporate, organizational, and individual leadership in reducing carbon pollution and addressing climate change. Award winners must demonstrate leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in internal operations and throughout the supply chain, as well as integrating climate resilience into their operating strategies.
“We are thrilled to be recognized for the work of our staff and our partners throughout the community who have made it their tireless priority to engage residents of Boulder County in activities and actions that have led to real change on behalf of the environment and reducing our carbon footprint countywide,” said Cindy Domenico, Chair of the Boulder County Commissioners. “Whether it be in the realm of energy efficiency, transportation, Zero Waste, residential and commercial building retrofits, or significant investments in renewable energy options, we’re proud to be on the leading edge of innovation in these areas.”
This year’s awards mark a noteworthy increase in public-sector city and county engagement, a priority effort that Boulder County has championed in collaboration with its municipal partners since the creation of the county’s Sustainability Initiative in 2005.
“It is an honor to receive recognition for the commitment that our past and present County Commissioners and sustainability staff have made to a healthier and more environmentally sustainable place to live,” said Boulder County Sustainability Coordinator, Susie Strife. “This award is a reflection of the hard work, progressive decision making and leadership of Boulder County and the collaborative partnership with all of our municipalities, in particular the Cities of Boulder and Longmont.”
Programs like EnergySmart, Boulder County’s Energy Efficiency service, are helping Boulder County reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing buildings. EnergySmart has helped over 8,600 homes and 2,400 businesses with energy efficiency upgrades.
In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, EnergySmart is stimulating the local economy with over $16 million in energy efficiency upgrades and advancing the state’s energy independence. EnergySmart is a collaborative partnership throughout Boulder County, and is funded by seed funding from the Department of Energy’s BetterBuildings Program, combined with contributions from the City of Boulder’s Climate Action Plan tax and the City of Longmont.
Other demonstrations of the county’s forward thinking actions include the development of the Climate Change Preparedness Plan, blueprints for action around sustainability and energy efficiency, and the county’s recently completed Transportation Master Plan which identifies programs, services, and facilities that Boulder County will implement to help people get where they need to go in the future in a safe, efficient, and environmentally sensitive manner.
The CLA awards will be presented tonight at the Climate Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.
Creeping climate change in the Southwest appears to be having a negative effect on pinyon pine reproduction, a finding with implications for wildlife species sharing the same woodland ecosystems, says a University of Colorado Boulder-led study.
The new study showed that pinyon pine seed cone production declined by an average of about 40 percent at nine study sites in New Mexico and northwestern Oklahoma over the past four decades, said CU-Boulder doctoral student Miranda Redmond, who led the study. The biggest declines in pinyon pine seed cone reproduction were at the higher elevation research sites experiencing more dramatic warming relative to lower elevations, said Redmond of CU’s ecology and evolutionary biology department.
“We are finding significant declines in pinyon pine cone production at many of our study sites,” said Redmond. “The biggest declines in cone production we measured were in areas with greater increases in temperatures over the past several decades during the March to October growing season.”
The cones in which the pinyon seeds are produced are initiated two years prior to seed maturity, and research suggests the environmental stimulus for cone initiation is unseasonably low temperatures during the late summer, said Redmond. Between 1969 and 2009, unseasonably low temperatures in late summer decreased in the study areas, likely inhibiting cone initiation and development.
The study is one of the first to examine the impact of climate change on tree species like pinyon pines that, instead of reproducing annually, shed vast quantities of cones every few years during synchronous, episodic occurrences known as “masting” events. Redmond said such masting in the pinyon pine appears to occur every three to seven years, resulting in massive “bumper crops” of cones covering the ground.
In the new Ecosphere study, the researchers compared two 10-year sequences of time. In addition to showing that total pinyon pine cone production during the 2003-2012 decade had declined from the 1969-1978 decade in the study areas, the team found the production of cones during masting events also declined during that period.
Some scientists believe masting events evolved to produce a big surplus of nut-carrying cones — far too many for wildlife species to consume in a season — making it more likely the nuts eventually will sprout into pinyon pine seedlings, she said. Others have suggested masting events occur during favorable climate conditions and/or to increase pollination efficiency. “Right now we really don’t know what drives them,” Redmond said.
“Across a range of forested ecosystems we are observing widespread mortality events due to stressors such as changing climate, drought, insects and fire,” said CU’s Barger. “This study provides evidence that increasing air temperatures may be influencing the ability of a common and iconic western U.S. tree, pinyon pine, to reproduce. We would predict that declines in pinyon pine cone production may impact the long-term viability of these tree populations.”
Wildlife biologists say pinyon-juniper woodlands are popular with scores of bird and mammal species ranging from black-chinned hummingbirds to black bears. A 2007 study by researchers at the University of Northern Arizona estimated that 150 Clark’s Nutcrackers cached roughly 5 million pinyon pine nuts in a single season, benefiting not only the birds themselves but also the pines whose nuts were distributed more widely for possible germination.
For the new study, Redmond revisited nine pinyon pine study sites scattered throughout New Mexico and Oklahoma that had been studied previously in 1978 by Forcella. Both Forcella and Redmond were able to document pinyon pine masting years by counting small, concave blemishes known as “abscission scars” on individual tree branches that appeared after the cones have been dropped, she said.
Since each year in the life of a pinyon pine tree is marked by a “whorl” — a single circle of branches extending around a tree trunk — the researchers were able to bracket pinyon pine reproductive activity in the nine study areas for the 1969-1978 decade and 2003-2012 decade, which were then compared.
Pinyon pines take three growing seasons, or about 26 months, to produce mature cones from the time of cone initiation. Low elevation conifers including pinyon pines grow in water-limited environments and have been shown to have higher cone output during cool and/or wet summers, said Redmond. In addition to the climate-warming trend under way in the Southwest, the 2002-03 drought caused significant mortality in pinyon pine forests, Redmond said.
“Miranda’s ideas and accompanying results will be of value to ecologists and land managers in the deserts of the Southwest and beyond,” said Forcella, now a research agronomist in the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. “The work is evidence that the University of Colorado continues to cultivate a cadre of high-caliber graduate students for which it rightfully can take tremendous pride.”
Pinyon nuts, the Southwest’s only commercial source of edible pine seeds today, were dietary staples of indigenous Americans going back millennia.
For more information on CU-Boulder’s ecology and evolutionary biology department visit http://ebio.colorado.edu.
Boulder County, Colo. – Boulder County Commissioners Deb Gardner and Elise Jones were sworn into office today by 20th Judicial District Chief Judge Roxanne Bailin. Both commissioners, elected to four-year terms in November 2012, will serve their present terms until Jan. 10, 2017. Deb Gardner has been serving as County Commissioner for District 2 for the past year, as she was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Board in early 2012.
The swearing in of Elise Jones this morning as the District 1 County Commissioner marks the first time Boulder County has seated three women commissioners at the same time. While there is at least one other example of an all-female Board of County Commissioners in the State of Colorado, having three women serve on the Boulder County’s Board marks a historic event for our 151-year old county.
After taking her oath of office, Commissioner Elise Jones thanked the voters, her family and campaign team – many members of whom filled the room – and all of the people along the way who helped her during her 18-month run for office.
“What an incredible honor it is to represent and support Boulder County in a position that Commissioner Toor just deemed the best job in the world,” said Elise Jones. “We’re blessed to live in such a remarkable place, and I look forward to taking part in tackling the challenges that lie before us and continuing the hard work of our present and past county commissioners.”
Jones went on to acknowledge the county’s historic role in being both leader and pioneer in tackling a host of pressing issues that will continue to demand attention in the coming years. Some examples of the challenges she named include fracking, climate change, transit improvements, achievement gap, poverty, and ensuring healthy and sustainable food production on county open space lands.
“The county is fortunate to have such a highly skilled and talented staff to address these issues thoughtfully and strategically in the best interest of the community we represent,” said Jones. “I want everyone to know that I have an open door policy and want to hear from residents about what’s important to all of you going forward.”
Following an uplifting presentation by outgoing Commissioner Will Toor who captured in a series of inspiring words and photos the many successes and challenges of the past eight years of his service to Boulder County, the two sitting commissioners Cindy Domenico and Deb Gardner recapped the county’s past year’s highlights and events in a 30-minute State of the County address.
A luncheon was held following the swearing in session to honor all past women county commissioners. Able to attend in-person were former County Commissioners Maggie Markey (1974-1981), Josie Heath (1982-1990) and Jana Mendez (1995-2002). Linda Jourgensen (who served for one year in 1990) joined the women by phone.
The swearing in ceremony and both presentations will be available on the county’s website by the end of today at: http://www.bouldercounty.org/gov/meetings/pages/hearings.aspx.
As part of the annual County Reorganization meeting, Cindy Domenico was re-named Chair of the Board, and Deb Gardner will take over the role of Vice-Chair from outgoing Commissioner Will Toor, who was term-limited after serving two consecutive terms. The Chair and Vice-Chair appointments stay in place for one year.
TUCSON, Ariz.— The Center for Biological Diversity is distributing 50,000 free Endangered Species Condoms for holiday and New Year’s Eve celebrations around the country. More than 600 volunteer distributors will hand out the condoms at events in all 50 states. The condoms are part of the Center’s 7 Billion and Counting campaign focusing on the effects of rapid human population growth on rare plants and animals.
“There are more than 3 billion people on the planet under the age of 25. The choices this generation makes will determine whether our planet and its wildlife and natural resource base are burdened with 8 billion or 15 billion people. The difference between these paths can be measured by how many other species are left to roam alongside us,” said Jerry Karnas, population campaign director with the Center. “Our Endangered Species Condoms are a great way to get a conversation started about how the growing human population is affecting the wild world around us, especially animals already teetering on the edge of extinction.”
As part of its full-time population campaign launched in 2009, the Center has given out 450,000 free Endangered Species Condoms, featuring polar bears, panthers and other species threatened by population growth, loss of habitat and consumption of natural resources. This year, the Center is providing condoms to college health centers, nightclub owners, environmental activists, women’s reproductive-health groups and other activists around the United States.
The world’s human population has doubled since 1970, reaching 7 billion in October 2011. According to the latest research, it could exceed 9 billion by 2050. In recent weeks, several federal reports have noted the impact that population is having on the natural world. A recent decision to propose Endangered Species Act protection for 66 coral species said that “the common root or driver of most, possibly all” of the threats that corals face — like climate change and changing ocean conditions — is the world’s growing human population. Another report, by the Department of the Interior, raised serious questions about the ability of the Colorado River to meet demands of a growing population in the western United States.
“The evidence is mounting, and the solutions are at hand if only we’re just willing to start talking about them,” Karnas said. “Universal access to birth control, a rapid transition to clean energy, robust land-acquisition programs and much smarter growth policies can combine to forge a future for wildlife and a high quality of life for people. There’s no better time to start than in the new year of 2013.”
The Center is the only environmental group with a full-time campaign highlighting the connection between unsustainable human population growth and the ongoing extinction crisis for plants and animals around the world. In 2011 the Center released a report on the top 10 U.S. species threatened by population growth.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The wild and dramatic cascade of ice into the ocean from Alaska’s Columbia Glacier, an iconic glacier featured in the documentary “Chasing Ice” and one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world, will cease around 2020, according to a study by the University of Colorado Boulder.
A computer model predicts the retreat of the Columbia Glacier will stop when the glacier reaches a new stable position — roughly 15 miles upstream from the stable position it occupied prior to the 1980s. The team, headed by lead author William Colgan of the CU-Boulder headquartered Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, published its results today in The Cryosphere, an open access publication of the European Geophysical Union.
The Columbia Glacier is a large (425 square miles), multi-branched glacier in south-central Alaska that flows mostly south out of the Chugach Mountains to its tidewater terminus in Prince William Sound.
Warming air temperatures have triggered an increase in the Columbia Glacier’s rate of iceberg calving, whereby large pieces of ice detach from the glacier and float into the ocean, according to Colgan. “Presently, the Columbia Glacier is calving about 2 cubic miles of icebergs into the ocean each year — that is over five times more freshwater than the entire state of Alaska uses annually,” he said. “It is astounding to watch.”
The imminent finish of the retreat, or recession of the front of the glacier, has surprised scientists and highlights the difficulties of trying to estimate future rates of sea level rise, Colgan said. “Many people are comfortable thinking of the glacier contribution to sea level rise as this nice predictable curve into the future, where every year there is a little more sea level rise, and we can model it out for 100 or 200 years,” Colgan said.
The team’s findings demonstrate otherwise, however. A single glacier’s contribution to sea level rise can “turn on” and “turn off” quite rapidly, over a couple of years, with the precise timing of the life cycle being difficult to forecast, he said. Presently, the majority of sea level rise comes from the global population of glaciers. Many of these glaciers are just starting to retreat, and some will soon cease to retreat.
“The variable nature and speed of the life cycle among glaciers highlights difficulties in trying to accurately predict the amount of sea level rise that will occur in the decades to come,” Colgan said.
The Columbia Glacier was first documented in 1794 when it appeared to be stable with a length of 41 miles. During the 1980s it began a rapid retreat and by 1995 it was only about 36 miles long. By late 2000 it was about 34 miles long.
The loss of a massive area of the Columbia Glacier’s tongue has generated a tremendous number of icebergs since the 1980s. After the Exxon Valdez ran aground while avoiding a Columbia Glacier iceberg in 1989, significant resources were invested to understand its iceberg production. As a result, Columbia Glacier became one of the most well-documented tidewater glaciers in the world, providing a bank of observational data for scientists trying to understand how a tidewater glacier reacts to a warming climate.
Motivated by the compelling imagery of the Columbia Glacier’s retreat documented in the Extreme Ice Survey — James Balog’s collection of time-lapse photography of disappearing glaciers around the world — Colgan became curious as to how long the glacier would continue to retreat. To answer this question, the team of researchers created a flexible model of the Columbia Glacier to reproduce different criteria such as ice thickness and terminus extent.
The scientists then compared thousands of outputs from the computer model under different assumptions with the wealth of data that exists for the Columbia Glacier.
The batch of outputs that most accurately reproduced the well-documented history of retreat was run into the future to predict the changes the Columbia Glacier will most likely experience until the year 2100. The researchers found that around 2020 the terminus of the glacier will retreat into water that is sufficiently shallow to provide a stable position through 2100 by slowing the rate of iceberg production.
The speediness of the glacier’s retreat is due to the unique nature of tidewater glaciers, Colgan said. When warming temperatures melt the surface of a land glacier, the land glacier only loses its mass by run-off. But in tidewater glaciers, the changes in ice thickness resulting from surface melt can create striking changes in ice flow, triggering an additional dynamic process for retreat.
The dynamic response of the Columbia Glacier to the surface melt will continue until the glacier reaches its new stable position in 2020, at roughly 26 miles long. “Once the dynamic trigger had been pulled, it probably wouldn’t have mattered too much what happened to the surface melt — it was just going to continue retreating through the bedrock depression upstream of the pre-1980s terminus,” Colgan said.
Colgan next plans to attempt to use similar models to predict when the Greenland glaciers — currently the major contributors to sea level rise — will “turn off” and complete their retreats.
The future for the Columbia Glacier, however, looks bleak. “I think the hope was that once we saw climate change happening, we could act to prevent some irreversible consequences,” Colgan said, “but now we are only about eight years out from this retreat finishing — it is really sad. There is virtually no chance of the Columbia Glacier recovering its pre-retreat dimensions on human time-scales.”
The study was funded by NASA, and co-authors on the paper include W. Tad Pfeffer of CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, Harihar Rajaram of the CU-Boulder Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering, Waleed Abdalati of the National Aeronautic and Space Administration in Washington, D.C., and Balog of the Extreme Ice Survey in Boulder, Colo.
Analysis of 90 years of observational data has revealed that summer climates in regions across the globe are changing — mostly, but not always, warming –according to a new study led by a scientist from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences headquartered at the University of Colorado Boulder.
“It is the first time that we show on a local scale that there are significant changes in summer temperatures,” said lead author CIRES scientist Irina Mahlstein. “This result shows us that we are experiencing a new summer climate regime in some regions.”
The technique, which reveals location-by-location temperature changes rather than global averages, could yield valuable insights into changes in ecosystems on a regional scale. Because the methodology relies on detecting temperatures outside the expected norm, it is more relevant to understand changes to the animal and plant life of a particular region, which scientists would expect to show sensitivity to changes that lie outside of normal variability.
“If the summers are actually significantly different from the way that they used to be, it could affect ecosystems,” said Mahlstein, who works in the Chemical Sciences Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory.
To identify potential temperature changes, the team used climate observations recorded from 1920 to 2010 from around the globe. The scientists termed the 30-year interval from 1920 to 1949 the “base period,” and then compared the base period to other 30-year test intervals starting every 10 years since 1930.
The comparison used statistics to assess whether the test interval differed from the base period beyond what would be expected due to yearly temperature variability for that geographical area.
Their analysis found that some changes began to appear as early as the 1960s, and the observed changes were more prevalent in tropical areas. In these regions, temperatures varied little throughout the years, so the scientists could more easily detect any changes that did occur, Mahlstein said.
The scientists found significant summer temperature changes in 40 percent of tropical areas and 20 percent of higher-latitude areas. In the majority of cases, the researchers observed warming summer temperatures, but in some cases they observed cooling summer temperatures.
“This study has applied a new approach to the question, ‘Has the temperature changed in local areas?’ ” Mahlstein said. The study is in press in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.
The study’s findings are consistent with other approaches used to answer the same question, such as modeling and analysis of trends, Mahlstein said. But this technique uses only observed data to come to the same result. “Looking at the graphs of our results, you can visibly see how things are changing,” she said.
In particular the scientists were able to look at the earlier time periods, note the temperature extremes, and observe that those values became more frequent in the later time periods. “You see how the extreme events of the past have become a normal event,” Mahlstein said.
The scientists used 90 years of data for their study, a little more than the average lifespan of a human being. So if inhabitants of those areas believe that summers have changed since they were younger, they can be confident it is not a figment of their imagination.
“We can actually say that these changes have happened in the lifetime of a person,” Mahlstein said.
Co-authors on the study were Gabriele Hegerl from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Susan Solomon from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
CIRES is a joint institute of CU-Boulder and NOAA.
Some arid lands in the American West degraded by military exercises that date back to General George Patton’s Word War II maneuvers in the Mojave Desert should get a boost from an innovative research project led by the University of Colorado Boulder.
Headed up by CU-Boulder Assistant Professor Nichole Barger, the research team is focused on developing methods to restore biological soil crusts — microbial communities primarily concentrated on soil surfaces critical to decreasing erosion and increasing water retention and soil fertility. Such biological soil crusts, known as “biocrusts,” can cover up to 70 percent of the ground in some arid ecosystems and are dominated by cyanobacteria, lichens, mosses, fungi and bacteria, she said.
The project is aimed at restoring fragile habitats in desert areas that have been affected by the movement of U.S. military vehicles, including tanks, as well as high foot traffic, said Barger, a faculty member in CU-Boulder’s ecology and environmental biology department. The team has two U.S. Department of Defense study sites — Fort Bliss, which straddles southern Texas and New Mexico and is located in a hot desert environment, and the Dugway Proving Ground in northwest Utah, seated in a cool desert environment.
“Biocrusts often are associated with increased soil nutrients and water retention, but their most important task is to stabilize soil surfaces against wind and water erosion,” Barger said. “While most biocrusts are relatively resilient to wind and water erosion, they are highly susceptible to compressional forces like those generated by foot and vehicle traffic associated with ground-based military activities.”
At military installations like Fort Bliss, the Dugway Proving Ground and in the California/Arizona Maneuver Area in the Mojave Desert used by Patton’s troops, scars of past military activity still are evident, said Barger. “You can go to these places and see that the biocrusts in the old tank tracks, for example, are completely different than nearby biocrusts undisturbed by military activity.”
The project is being funded by a five-year, $2.3 million grant from the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, the U.S. Department of Defense environmental science and technology program that partners with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. The research team also includes Jayne Belnap, Michael Duniway and Sasha Reed from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Biological Resources Division in Moab, Utah and Ferran Garcia-Pichel of Arizona State University in Tempe.
The first step of the program will be to grow biocrusts in laboratories at ASU, said Barger. “Our approach will be to expose laboratory biocrusts over time to a physiological ‘boot camp’ that includes increasing stressors like heat, light and dryness,” she said. “By doing that, we believe the biocrusts we eventually transplant into the study areas will have a higher probability of survival.”
The lab-grown biocrust products will be dried, bagged and transported to field test sites at each respective military installation and sprinkled on soil surfaces, said Barger.
Once in the field, the stress-adapted biocrusts developed in the lab nurseries for both hot desert and cool desert environments will be combined with other soil stabilization strategies, she said. The team, for example, will also experiment with adding polyacrylamide — a soil-stabilizing compound shown to increase soil porosity and reduce erosion, compaction, dustiness and water run-off — to the mix.
The researchers will evaluate the effectiveness of such soil “inoculations” and determine the optimum dosage for the test sites. Following the assisted recovery of the local biocrusts at Fort Bliss and the Dugway Proving Ground, the team will begin a series of seeding trials to develop strategies for native plant re-establishment, Barger said.
The last step of the project will involve a series of rainfall simulations and wind tunnel experiments combined with broad-scale soil erosion modeling to evaluate the influence of biocrust and native plant restoration in terms of precipitation and soil erosion.
While DOD military installations cover nearly 30 million acres — 70 percent of which are located in arid regions of the West — Barger said the research also could aid in the effective management of other federal lands. “We think our work on biocrusts also will be of interest to land managers at agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service,” Barger said.
The adaptation of biocrusts to extreme environments likely will come into play even more as climate change continues to heat and dry the West, she said. “We expect the drought in the Southwest to intensify as a result of climate change, and this project should tell us more about how adaptive these biocrusts are under shifting environmental conditions.”
The research project also has health implications, said Barger, since the disturbance of biocrusts can trigger the release of significant amounts of atmospheric dust, a dominant pollutant in some desert metropolitan areas. “There is a broad societal interest in stabilizing dryland soils in order to protect not only the functioning of local ecosystems but also human populations that reside in surrounding communities.”
“In terms of tackling an important environmental issue, this is by far the most exciting research project that I have been involved in,” said Barger, who has worked in Hawaii, Central America, South America, China and South Africa.
Global Warming Raises Sea Levels, Alters Jet Stream, Makes Storms Stronger
SAN FRANCISCO— As America copes with the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy, scientists with the Center for Biological Diversity are urging the Environmental Protection Agency to use the Clean Air Act to take emergency action against climate change. Global warming creates a “superstorm triple whammy” that helps turn nasty weather into a nightmare of killer winds and devastating storm surges.
“The terrifying truth is that America faces a future full of Frankenstorms,” said Shaye Wolf, Ph.D., the Center’s climate science director. “Climate change raises sea levels and supersizes storms. The threat of killer winds and crushing storm surges will grow by the year unless we get serious about tackling greenhouse gas pollution.”
Here’s how scientists say climate change feeds the superstorm triple whammy:
1. Global warming loads storms with more energy and more rainfall. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that Katrina-magnitude Atlantic hurricanes have been twice as likely in warm years compared with cold years. In warm years hotter ocean temperatures add energy to storms and warmer air holds more moisture, causing storms to dump more rainfall. Global ocean temperatures hit their second-highest level on record in September, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
2. Storm surge rides on higher sea levels, so more coastline floods during storms. In the northeastern United States, sea levels are rising three to four times faster than the global average, putting major U.S. cities at increased risk of flooding and storm surges, according to a June 2012 study in Nature Climate Change. The West Coast is not immune: Most of California could experience three or more feet of sea-level rise this century, heightening the risk of coastal flooding.
3. Melting sea ice and accelerating Arctic warming are causing changes in the jet stream that are bringing more extreme weather to the United States. Climate change in the Arctic is destabilizing the jet stream, causing bursts of colder air to drop down farther into the United States. In Sandy’s case, a collision with a cold front acted to turn the hurricane into a superstorm. Recent research, including studies by Georgia Institute of Technology and Rutgers University, has linked Arctic warming to increased risk of a variety of extreme weather events.
Deep and rapid greenhouse gas cuts are needed to reduce extreme weather risk. The Clean Air Act is America’s leading tool for curbing greenhouse gas pollution, and more than three dozen U.S. cities have joined the Center’s Clean Air Cities campaign urging the EPA to use the Clean Air Act to help reduce carbon in our atmosphere to no more than 350 parts per million, the level scientists say is needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
TUCSON, Ariz.— Senator James Inhofe, one of Congress’ staunchest deniers of climate change and stalwart human obstacle to federal action on this unprecedented global crisis, is the lucky recipient of the Center for Biological Diversity’s 2012 Rubber Dodo Award, which is given annually to those who have done the most to drive endangered species extinct.
Previous winners include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2011), former BP CEO Tony Hayward (2010), massive land speculator Michael Winer (2009), Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (2008) and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne (2007).
When it comes to denying the climate crisis — the single-greatest threat now facing life on Earth — James Inhofe has few peers. The Oklahoma Republican is the ringleader of anti-science climate-deniers in Congress and a driving force behind the tragic lack of U.S. action to tackle this complex problem. 2012 saw the publication, to resoundingly little critical acclaim, of Sen. Inhofe’s book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, by WND Press, an entity also known for its “birther” campaign against President Barack Obama.
“As climate change ravages the world, Senator Inhofe insists that we deny the reality unfolding in front of us and choose instead to blunder headlong into chaos,” said Kierán Suckling, the Center’s executive director. “Senator Inhofe gets the 2012 Rubber Dodo Award for being at the vanguard of the retrograde climate-denier movement.”
This year is on track to become the warmest on record; some 40,000 temperature records have been broken in the United States in 2012 alone, while Arctic sea ice has melted to a record low. The year has also seen record droughts, crop failures, massive wildfires, floods and other unmistakable signals that manmade global warming is tightening its grip, threatening people and wildlife around the globe.
“Senator Inhofe’s pet theory that climate change is an elaborate hoax would be hilarious, if only he weren’t an elected representative of the American people,” Suckling said. “If he were, say, a performance artist, it’d be really funny. But sadly he has the power to affect U.S. climate policy. The United States has a chance — and a duty — to take significant steps to slow the climate crisis, and a brief window of time before it’s too late for us to do so. Deniers like Inhofe, in positions of leadership, are dooming future generations of people to a far more difficult world.”
More than 15,000 people cast their votes in this year’s Rubber Dodo contest. Other official nominees were Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, who put a rider on a must-pass bill that stripped Endangered Species Act protection from wolves, and Shell Oil, a company bound and determined to pursue dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean.
Background on the Dodo
Its trusting nature led to its rapid extinction. By 1681 the dodo was extinct, having been hunted and outcompeted by humans, dogs, cats, rats, macaques and pigs. Humans logged its forest cover while pigs uprooted and ate much of the understory vegetation.
The origin of the name dodo is unclear. It likely came from the Dutch word dodoor, meaning “sluggard,” the Portuguese word doudo, meaning “fool” or “crazy,” or the Dutch word dodaars meaning “plump-arse” (that nation’s name for the little grebe).
The dodo’s reputation as a foolish, ungainly bird derives in part from its friendly naiveté and the very plump captives that were taken on tour across Europe. The animal’s reputation was cemented with the 1865 publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Based on skeleton reconstructions and the discovery of early drawings, scientists now believe that the dodo was a much sleeker animal than commonly portrayed. The rotund European exhibitions were accidentally produced by overfeeding captive birds.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Study plays down but does not eliminate climate variability as a factor
While a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder shows the risk of human conflict in East Africa increases somewhat with hotter temperatures and drops a bit with higher precipitation, it concludes that socioeconomic, political and geographic factors play a much more substantial role than climate change.
According to CU-Boulder geography Professor John O’Loughlin, the new CU-Boulder study undertaken with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder is an attempt to clarify the often-contradictory debate on whether climate change is affecting armed conflicts in Africa. “We wanted to get beyond the specific idea and hype of climate wars,” he said. “The idea was to bring together a team perspective to see if changes in rainfall and temperature led to more conflict in vulnerable areas of East Africa.”
The research team examined extensive climate datasets from nine countries in East Africa, including the Horn of Africa, between 1990 and 2009: Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda. The team also used a dataset containing more than 16,000 violent conflicts in those countries during that time period, parsing out more specific information on conflict location and under what type of political, social, economic and geographic conditions each incident took place.
The study, which included changes in precipitation and temperature over continuous six-month periods from 1949 to 2009, also showed there was no climate effect on East African conflicts during normal and drier precipitation periods or during periods of average and cooler temperatures, said O’Loughlin.
Moderate increases in temperature reduced the risk of conflict slightly after controlling for the influence of social and political conditions, but very hot temperatures increased the risk of conflict, said O’Loughlin. Unusually wet periods also reduced the risk of conflict, according to the new study.
“The relationship between climate change and conflict in East Africa is incredibly complex and varies hugely by country and time period,” he said. “The simplistic arguments we hear on both sides are not accurate, especially those by pessimists who talk about ‘climate wars’. Compared to social, economic and political factors, climate factors adding to conflict risk are really quite modest.”
The results are being published online Oct. 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Co-authors on the study include CU-Boulder Research Associate Frank Witmer and graduate student Andrew Linke as well as three scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric research — Arlene Laing, Andrew Gettelman and Jimy Dudhia. The National Science Foundation funded the study.
Much of the information on the 16,359 violent events in East Africa from 1990 to 2009 came from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset, or ACLED, directed by Clionadh Raleigh of Trinity College in Dublin. The database covers individual conflicts from 1997 to 2009 in Africa, parts of Asia and Haiti – more than 60,000 violent incidents to date. Raleigh started the data collection while earning her doctorate at CU in 2007 under O’Loughlin.
In addition, more than a dozen CU-Boulder undergraduates spent thousands of hours combing online information sources like LexisNexis — a corporation that pioneered the electronic accessibility of legal and newspaper documents — in order to fill in details of individual violent conflicts by East African countries from 1990 to 1997. The student work was funded by the NSF’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.
The CU students coded each conflict event with very specific data, including geographic location coordinates, dates, people and descriptive classifications. The event information was then aggregated into months and into 100-kilometer grid cells that serve as the units of analysis for quantitative modeling.
Each conflict grid also was coded by socioeconomic and political characteristics like ethnic leadership, distance to an international border, capital city, local population size, well-being as measured by infant mortality, the extent of political rights, presidential election activity, road network density, the health of vegetation and crop conditions.
“The effects of climate variability on conflict risk is different in different countries,” O’Loughlin said. “Typically conflicts are very local and quite confined. The effects of climate on conflict in Ethiopia, for example, are different than those in Tanzania or Somalia. The idea that there is a general ‘African effect’ for conflict is wrong.”
The researchers used a variety of complex statistical calculations to assess the role of climate in violent conflict in East Africa, including regression models and a technique to uncover nonlinear influences and decrease “noise,” said O’Loughlin, also a faculty member at CU-Boulder’s Institute of Behavioral Science.
One component of the methods used by the team extracts predictions of individual instances of conflict from the statistical model and systematically compared them with the actual observations of conflict in the data, “a rigorous validity check,” he said.
Catastrophic conflicts like those in the “Great Lakes region” — Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo — since the 1990s and the war with the Lord’s Resistance Army led by terrorist Joseph Kony that has been running since the late 1980s in northern Uganda and neighboring regions are marked with large red swaths on the maps.
Legacies of violence are extremely important for understanding and explaining unrest, he said. “Violence nearby and prior violence in the locality, especially for heavily populated areas, are the strongest predictors of conflict.”
Ongoing work is extending the study to all of sub-Saharan Africa since 1980 with a database of 63,000 violent events. Preliminary results from the work confirm the East African climate effects of higher than normal temperatures are increasing conflict risk.
Deborah Jin, an adjoint professor of physics at the University of Colorado Boulder and a fellow of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has been awarded the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science award.
Jin also is a fellow of JILA, a joint institute of CU-Boulder and NIST located on the CU campus. She teaches both undergraduate and graduate students and was one of five recipients who each will receive $100,000 at an awards ceremony in Paris next March. She was the only recipient in North America.
Jin was cited by the awards jury “for having been the first to cool down molecules so much that she can observe chemical reactions in slow motion, which may help further understanding of molecular processes which are important for medicine or new energy sources.” The long-sought milestone was achieved at JILA in 2008.
The 15th Women in Science laureates were honored for demonstrating exceptionally original approaches to fundamental research in the physical sciences. The awards jury was chaired by Ahmed Zewail, winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in chemistry and a professor of chemistry and physics at the California Institute of Technology.
The other 2013 laureates are:
• Professor Francisca Nneka Okeke, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (Nigeria) for her significant contributions to the understanding of daily variations of the ion currents in the upper atmosphere which may further our understanding of climate change.
• Professor Pratibha Gai, University of York (United Kingdom) for ingeniously modifying her electron microscope so that she was able to observe chemical reactions occurring at surface atoms of catalysts which will help scientists in their development of new medicines or new energy sources.
• Professor Reiko Kuroda, Tokyo University of Science (Japan) for discovering the functional importance of the difference between left-handed and right-handed molecules which has wide applications including research on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
• Professor Marcia Barbosa, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre (Brazil) For discovering one of the peculiarities of water which may lead to better understanding of how earthquakes occur and how proteins fold which is important for the treatment of diseases.
“These five outstanding women scientists have given the world a better understanding of how nature works,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “Their pioneering research and discoveries have changed the way we think in various areas of the physical sciences and opened new frontiers in science and technology. Such key developments have the potential to transform our society. Their work, their dedication, serves as an inspiration to us all.”
Jin has been an adjoint professor of physics at CU-Boulder since 1997. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physics from Princeton University and a doctorate from the University of Chicago.
Jin was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2005 and was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007.
She is the winner of numerous other awards, including the William Proctor Prize for Scientific Achievement in 2009, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics in 2008, the I.I Rabi Prize of the American Physical Society in 2005, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship also known as the “genius grant” in 2003 and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2000.
Established in 1998, the L’Oréal-UNESCO partnership is a long-term commitment to recognizing women in science and supporting scientific vocations. For Women in Science has grown into a global program that includes international, national and regional fellowships and an international network of more than 1,300 women in 106 countries.
For more information on the Women in Science Awards visit http://www.forwomeninscience.com.
The University of Colorado at Boulder has been awarded $1.4 million for a new study on how changes in land use, forest management and climate may affect trans-basin water diversions in Colorado and other semi-arid regions in the western United States.
The grant, part of the National Science Foundation-U.S. Department of Agriculture Water Sustainability Climate Program, was awarded to Assistant Professor Noah Molotch of the geography department. Molotch and his team will be identifying thresholds, or “tipping points,” of change in land use, forest management and climate that may compromise the sustainability of the policies and procedures that dictate the timing and quality of water diverted from Colorado’s West Slope to the Front Range.
Molotch said that in Colorado and semi-arid regions around the world, trans-basin water diversions that redirect water from areas of surplus to areas of demand are based on policy agreements and infrastructure operations made under climatic and land use conditions that may differ considerably from conditions in the near future. Measurements over the past 50 years, for example, suggest a broad-scale reduction in snowpack water storage in the western U.S. because of regional warming temperatures, a trend due in part to a shift from snowfall to rainfall, he said.
In addition, land-cover changes associated with population growth, fire suppression and mountain pine beetle outbreaks have altered the hydrology of mid-mountain ecosystems in the West, said Molotch, who also is a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. CU is teaming up with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder on the NSF-funded project.
The NSF award comes on the heels of a May 2012 agreement between water managers in Summit and Grand counties on Colorado’s West Slope and in the Denver area on how best to share water from the Colorado River basin. “This is a great example of communities that historically battled for water resources coming to the table in a good faith effort to find solutions to water allocation issues,” said Molotch. “These groups have no pretenses about the potential impacts of climate change and realize we can’t afford to bury our heads in the sand on this issue.”
Collaborators on the project include Patrick Bourgeron and Mark Williams, fellows at CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, and David Gochis, Kathleen Miller and David Yates of NCAR.
A study led by Molotch published Sept. 10 in Nature Geoscience tied forest “greenness” in the western United States to fluctuating year-to-year snowpack. The study indicated mid-elevation mountain ecosystems — where people increasing are building second homes and participating in a myriad of outdoor recreational activities — are most sensitive to rising temperatures and changes in precipitation and snowmelt.
“We found that mid-elevation forests show a dramatic sensitivity to snow that fell the previous winter in terms of accumulation and subsequent melt,” said Molotch, also a fellow at INSTAAR. “If snowpack declines, forests become more stressed, which can lead to ecological changes that include alterations in the distribution and abundance of plant and animal species as well as vulnerability to perturbations like fire and beetle kill.”
As part of the new award, Molotch and his team will evaluate regional climate models in the mountain West developed at NCAR in an attempt to make temperature, precipitation and snowpack projections “more robust,” Molotch said. While the efficiency of water in trans-basin diversion projects in the western U.S. has in the past been enhanced by the natural storage of moisture in mountain snowpack that allowed for a slow, steady delivery of water into the system, warming temperatures are already causing this beneficial “drip effect” to be greatly reduced, he said.
If the winter temperatures are hovering around 15 degrees Fahrenheit and the climate warms by a few degrees, for example, there will be negligible impact on snowpack, Molotch said. But if temperatures hover near freezing, slight temperature increases can trigger earlier snowmelt, and precipitation that used to be in the form of snow turns to rain, significantly affecting trans-basin water diversion activities.
“One of the most interesting aspects of this project to me is the changes we are seeing in the ‘wildland-urban interface,’ particularly in Colorado,” he said. “There is some irony that Front Range people who have built second homes in Summit County, for example, may actually start to have an effect on the water they have relied on to be piped through the Continental Divide to the Denver area.”
In addition to providing land and water resource decision makers with projections on how future water supply and demand will change in the future, the NSF-funded project will provide a unique educational experience for graduate students, Molotch said.
“We have climate change, snowpack, changes in land use, all feeding into the pipeline that is bringing water to Colorado’s Front Range,” he said. “As the two main stressors, climate change and land use increase, there is the possibility of pushing the systems into an unsustainable state.”
Final draft to be discussed Oct. 16
Boulder County, Colo. – The Boulder County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the Climate Change Preparedness Plan developed earlier this year for the county in partnership with the City of Boulder.
When: Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 9 a.m.
Where: Boulder County Courthouse, third floor, 1325 Pearl St., Boulder
The draft plan was released for public comment in January and February and has since been revised in response to those comments and offered to the City of Boulder for review.
“This plan is an important step toward integrating our existing public health, emergency management and resource management plans in the context of the changing climate,” said Boulder County Sustainability Planner Lisa Friend. “Thanks to this process, we’ve identified where gaps might be in our planning – whether in disaster recovery, water resource management or educating vulnerable populations about extreme heat – and we’ve already begun to close them.”
The plan is available for review on the county’s Climate Change Preparedness Plan webpage (visit www.BoulderCounty.org and search “climate change plan”). For additional information, contact Lisa Friend at 303-441-3522 or email@example.com.
Annual CO-LABS awards recognize achievements at Colorado’s 24 federal labs and other research facilities
Oct. 4, 2012
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will present the annual awards for “High-Impact Research” on Oct. 25 to teams from six Colorado-based research centers for breakthroughs in hurricane forecasting, oil-spill air quality assessment, Lyme disease prevention, energy efficiency, detection of aquatic invaders and crop science.
CO-LABS, the nonprofit that informs the public about the breakthroughs and impacts from the 24 federal labs in Colorado, is sponsoring the 2012 Governor’s Award for High-Impact Research, to be held at the Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building, University of Colorado Boulder, beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 25.
Colorado is a global leader in natural resource management, climate science, renewable energy, photonics, materials science, astrophysics, telecommunications and earth science. “Researchers in Colorado laboratories are working together and finding solutions to some of the world’s most challenging problems, which is reflected in the Governor’s awards and the commitment that Colorado has to its federal and state organizations,” Bill Farland, chair of CO-LABS said.
The annual reception is the major CO-LABS event to showcase the research facilities and the work of the CO-LABS organization. Award recipients include:
Deepwater Horizon Atmospheric Science Team, a partnership of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences
Honored for their work in atmospheric science will be Thomas Ryerson, Joost de Gouw, and researchers from NOAA and CIRES who joined together to form the Deepwater Horizon Atmospheric Science Team that under urgent circumstances assessed the potential air quality risks posed by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The team calculated independent estimates of the oil leak rate and analyzed the fate of the leaked oil in the environment. Using NOAA research aircraft, they also were able to advance scientific understanding of the chemistry of the atmosphere in the unique environment.
Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere/Advanced Technology Source, Colorado State University
Scientists from CIRA and ATS, led by Mark DeMaria, will be honored for creating advanced software that allows them to make direct comparisons between satellite observations and model forecasts to give a complete picture of tropical storms and their environments. The forecast tools developed by the Hurricane Forecast Intensity Program help transform cutting-edge observations and theory into better forecasts of hurricane intensity for operational meteorologists, saving lives and property.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Collins
An award will be presented to Robert D. Gilmore, Toni G. Patton, Kevin S. Brandt, and their colleagues at the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases for discovering a gene that, when inactivated, prevents the bacteria that causes Lyme disease from producing an infection following a tick bite. The finding was the first demonstration of a borrelial gene essential to the process of transmitting infection via ticks. Understanding how the organism functions in both ticks and mammals may help in identifying new targets for vaccines and other therapeutics.
United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service
Using a process-level computer model, Laj Ahuja and the team of researchers made several breakthroughs in helping farmers choose summer crops, evaluate performance of new bio-energy or forage dryland crops, manage water better, and explore potential adaptations to climate change, among other applications. The RZWQM2 computer model can extend short-period field research to long-term weather conditions, and different climates and soil; evaluate long-term effects of various management practices on water conservation, crop water use, and production under dryland and irrigated conditions; develop a decision criteria to select a summer crop which gives maximum net return to the farmer; help farmers in different Colorado counties make better decisions about irrigation; and evaluate effects of projected climate change on water demand.
Bureau of Reclamation
Denise M. Hosler and her colleagues at Reclamation’s Invasive Mussel Research Laboratory at the Denver Federal Center will be honored for advances in the early detection of zebra and quagga mussels and evaluation of potential control methods. Early detection at the larva stage provides reservoir managers with evidence that a water body is being exposed to mussels and gives them time to prepare for potential mussel impacts before noticeable problems arise. It also gives managers the opportunity to implement additional public education and boat inspection and cleaning programs that may prevent further exposure and reduce the chances of an infestation.
U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Honors will go to NREL senior scientist Matthew Keyser and his colleagues in the category of Foundational Technology for developing the Large-Volume Battery Calorimeter (LVBC) that can detect heat loss and determine efficiency in the large batteries being used to power electric vehicles. NREL’s LVBC is a crucial tool for automakers and battery companies, the only isothermal calorimeter capable of measuring the thermal efficiency of batteries for today’s and future generations of advanced vehicles. NREL’s calorimeter was recently used to identify the source of a potential 17% gain in battery power, which could ultimately deliver a dramatic improvement in vehicle performance.
CO-LABS advances awareness of Colorado’s federal research laboratories scientific resources and resulting research impacts. Colorado boasts 24 federally funded scientific research laboratories with a high concentration of renowned scientists whose work has global impact in a number of areas including natural resource management, climate change, renewable energy, photonics, and astrophysics. The laboratories work closely with Colorado’s research universities on basic research and development as well as the deployment of technologies. The CO-LABS consortium includes Colorado federal research laboratories, research universities, state and local governments, economic development organizations, private businesses and nonprofit organizations. It conducts economic analysis, encourages technology collaboration