January 10 News: European Species Lag in Habitat Shift From Global Warming

Other stories below: Climate change’s threat to the ski industry; Farmers bear the brunt of climate change

Global warming: European species lag in habitat shift

Fast-track warming in Europe is making butterflies and birds fall behind in the move to cooler habitats and prompting a worrying turnover in alpine plant species, studies published Sunday said.

The papers, both published by the journal Nature Climate Change, are the biggest endeavour yet to pinpoint impacts on European biodiversity from accelerating global temperatures.

A team led by Vincent Devictor of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) found that from 1990 to 2008, average temperatures in Europe rose by one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

This is extremely high, being around 25 percent greater than the global average for all of the last century.

Climate change can cause alpine meadows to disappear in coming decades: Study

A new study of changing mountain vegetation has suggested that some alpine meadows could disappear within the next few decades as a result of climate change.

The first ever pan-European study carried out by an international group of researchers revealed that climate change is having a more profound effect on alpine vegetation than expected.

Led by researchers from the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the University of Vienna, biologists from 13 different countries in Europe analysed 867 vegetation samples from 60 different summits sited in all major European mountain systems, first in 2001 and then again just seven years later in 2008.

Are electric cars really a disappointment?

Lately, much of the press coverage of electric cars has implied that the technology has been a huge letdown. See, for instance, USA Today’s story: “Are electric cars losing their spark?” The angst mostly centers around sales: In 2011, the first year they were available, the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt sold just 17,345 units in the United States — slightly below expectations.

Placed in perspective, though, those weak sales don’t look all that apocalyptic. Over at the Rocky Mountain Institute, Randy Essex and Ben Holland point out that when gas-electric hybrids first rolled out in 2000, the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius had sales of just 9,350. Those figures looked anemic at the time, too. But in the ensuing years, the technology caught on and more than 2 million hybrids have been sold in the United States. If that’s any prologue, it could bode well for future plug-ins.

Climate change’s threat to ski industry spurs action

At the start of the ski season, Arapahoe Basin chief operating officer Alan Henceroth announced his ski area was moving away from purchasing renewable energy credits and instead had invested in retrofitting the existing base-area lighting system with energy-efficient bulbs.

It’s a justifiable move to leaders in the field, one all of Summit County’s resorts have taken in the recent past in favor of making on-the-ground operational changes to be more energy, water and waste conscious.

To Auden Schendler, though, “operational greening” isn’t enough action for the ski industry, which he says is increasingly affected by climate change. The vice president of sustainability for Aspen Skiing Company argues the ski industry should create a voice that lobbies Washington, D.C. for legislation that protects its business.

Farmers bear brunt of climate change

Farmers across the country have been caught in a catch-22 situation as the summer agricultural season continues to change.

Most farmers said in recent years, the decision when to plant has increasingly become a nightmare.

“Traditionally farmers start to plant their seeds in late October, but these years the seasons seem to have changed and the rains are starting to fall regularly in December. Crops which would have been planted in November will wilt because of the dry spell,” said Aaron Hombe, a farmer.

Only 247 000 hectares of maize have so far been planted compared to the 379 993ha that were planted during the same period last year.

Agritex’s latest report on the crop situation attributes the decline to the late onset of rains countrywide.
Mashonaland East is leading with 72 591ha having been planted to date, compared to 87 157ha planted in the same period last year.

Seattle Goes Green With Marine Toilets, Big Solar Hat: Review

In Seattle, contractors have begun digging for an office building that will eventually wear what looks like a big cocked hat.

It’s a solar-panel array topping off the five-story home for the local Bullitt Foundation.

When it opens next winter, the Bullitt Center will also scrub its own water with the aid of composting toilets.

The new building reflects founder Dorothy Bullitt’s aspiration to turn the Pacific Northwest into a global model of environmental sustainability.

The foundation sources many of its components locally, and strives to eliminate toxins in building materials and ventilating air. Its self-imposed high standards have often been a challenge to the Miller Hull Partnership, the project’s Seattle architect.

How Microbes Teamed to Clean Gulf

A fortuitous combination of ravenous bacteria, ocean currents and local topography helped to rapidly purge the Gulf of Mexico of much of the oil and gas released in the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010, researchers reported on Monday.

After spewing oil and gas for nearly three months, the BP PLC well was finally capped in mid-July 2010. Some 200,000 tons of methane gas and about 4.4 million barrels of petroleum spilled into the ocean. Given the enormity of the spill, many scientists predicted that a significant amount of the resulting chemical pollutants would likely persist in the region’s waterways for years.

According to a new federally funded study published Monday by the National Academy of Sciences, those scientists were wrong. By the end of September 2010, the vast underwater plume of methane, plus other gases, had all but disappeared. By the end of October, a significant amount of the underwater offshore oil—a complex substance made from thousands of compounds—had vanished as well.

18 Responses to January 10 News: European Species Lag in Habitat Shift From Global Warming

  1. John Tucker says:

    The days of contemplating the impact of climate change on species as a distant and vague future event are over.

    Reducing emissions now to mitigate problems and allow for adaption is vitally important; every little bit helps.

  2. BillD says:

    I was in The Netherlands for 6 months during winter-summer 2009 and attended the annual meeting of the Dutch Ecological Society. The number of presentations about organisms from France, Spain and Portugal invading northward into Netherlands and Germany was amazing. This aspect of climate change is easier to see and document in Europe, where countries are smaller. It does not attract as much attention when species expand their ranges from more southern states into more northern states in the USA.

  3. prokaryotes says:

    The impact of a seasonally ice free Arctic Ocean on the temperature, precipitation and surface mass balance of Svalbard

    Ice free Arctic Ocean causes more precipitation which slows down glacier mass loss in Svalbard (open access):

  4. prokaryotes says:

    Sulfur isotope evidence of little or no stratospheric impact by the 1783 Laki volcanic eruption

    Greenland ice core shows that 1783 Laki volcanic plume did not reach stratosphere:

  5. prokaryotes says:

    In this study, we extend the advanced approach of combining tide gauge and satellite altimetry data with supplemental equations from adjacent tide gauge records of at least 30 years of common data to investigate the relative importance of the nonclimate contribution of vertical land movement to the observed rates of sea level change along the coasts of southern Europe. The sensitivity tests proved that the advanced approach is robust and accurate at the submillimeter per year level of around 0.4 mm yr−1 in estimating rates of vertical land movements. It enabled identifying stations displaying large rates of vertical land movements that must be taken into account when predicting future sea level rise and appraising the exposure to its impacts on populations and assets. The average rate of coastal climate-related sea level rise in the Mediterranean Sea was consequently revisited to be of 1.7 mm yr−1 over the past century, whereas the Atlantic northern Iberian coast revealed a significant high rate of sea level rise in excess of 3.4 mm yr−1 for the past 70 years. Future work should consider applying this powerful approach to other geographic contexts as a useful source of supplementary data for geodynamic studies.

  6. prokaryotes says:

    Flooded soils

    Comprehensive article about methanogenesis and flooding and Denitrification.

  7. prokaryotes says:

    Songbirds as a Casualty of Warming

    As the United States experiences a snow shortage, researchers have released a study showing that declining snowfall in the mountainous regions of Arizona are causing a cascading series of effects that are proving devastating to songbirds .

    scientists used ongoing research in mountainous areas of Arizona to examine how a decline in snowfall has reduced five species of songbird populations.

    In theory, warming temperatures and less snow might be nice for birds, but it is not working out that way, the researchers found.

    To test their hypothesis, scientists could not create more snow, of course. But to mimic the effects of the restrictions imposed on elk movements by heavy snow, they limited the animals’ ability to graze in certain areas by fencing them off part of the time. Researchers then compared bird and plant communities in the fenced-off areas with those in similar areas nearby to which elk had access. Over the six years of the study, they found that the declines in plant and songbird populations were reversed in areas to which the elks had no access.

    For example, elk, with their long, thin legs, are very sensitive to heavy snow and will move away from it, descending to lower elevations. But with less snow, the elk can remain at higher levels and eat vegetation year round, destroying habitat for certain songbirds.

  8. prokaryotes says:

    The Year That Winter Forgot: Is It Climate Change?

    As I got off the plane in the Vermont town of Burlington on Sunday, I felt something new: cold. It wasn’t that cold — high temperatures in Burlington were hovering around the freezing mark, a little warmer than average for this city of eager ski bums. But after more than a month of unusually mild weather in New York City — where Januarys can sometimes be nothing short of brutal — it was almost a treat to feel a hazy hint of winter.

    That’s because 2012 is shaping up to be the year that winter forgot in the U.S. December and the first week of January have seen atypically mild temperatures throughout much of the country — especially in the usually harsh states of the far north and parts of the plains. Fargo, North Dakota — which probably exists in most Americans’ minds as a big white blur of snow — saw temperatures of 55 F on January 5, breaking a more than century-old record for the warmest day in January. High temperatures in Nebraska at the end of last week were more than 30 F above normal, and in December at least half the U.S. had temperatures at least 5 F above normal.

    Nor is the unseasonable warmth confined to the U.S.; Europe has had mild temperatures so far as well. When cold goes missing, snow does too and it’s been an unusually green (or brown) winter. At the end of 2011, less than 20% of the continental U.S. was covered with snow, compared to more than 50% at the end of 2010. Ski resorts from California to Vermont are panicked about the possibility of a dry, warm winter leaving slopes bare and skiers looking into beach vacations. (MORE: Fighting Climate Change by Not Focusing on Climate Change)

    The unseasonable weather is doing weird things to nature too. As Juliet Elperin and Darryl Fears reported in a piece for the Washington Post at the end of December, early spring flowers are responding to the warmth and blooming months early in the National Arboretum. New England lost most of its fall foliage, as heavier than usual rain and unusually warm nights kept trees green until the leaves suddenly fell. “It’s a weird kind of fall blending right into spring,”,8599,2104040,00.html?xid=gonewsedit

  9. prokaryotes says:

    A comment from RC

    David Lewis says:
    8 Jan 2012 at 4:49 PM

    #93 Martin Manning –

    regarding your point about some new possible “highly non-linear atmospheric chemistry” in your comment that mentioned an “ozone hole” in the equatorial troposphere.

    I’ve found an abstract that lists Markus Rex as a participant in a 2011 NDACC symposium “Is there a Hole in the Global OH Shield over the Tropical Western Pacific Warm Pool?”

    The “hole” they were talking about is if we imagine OH as a layer in the troposphere providing essential service in the climate and/or ozone/UV radiation shield department, it may be that a sudden new “hole” has developed in it.

    They say tropospheric OH abundance is closely related to tropospheric O3 abundance and because they can’t even measure O3 it was so low where they were attempting to measure it they believe OH is low. Their ship launched ozonesondes couldn’t find O3 “throughout” the troposphere in an area “well correlated with the region where most of the vertical transport of air into the stratosphere occurs”. They are calling for more and better data. Their concern is that this inferred “hole” in the OH layer, if it is new, could be allowing “organic species” to increase in abundance in the stratosphere as tropospheric OH normally oxidizes these molecules before they get there.

    If so, they say, there would be unspecified but presumably significant changes for climate, and possibly for the ozone layer. The way they are referring to this, i.e. is there a “hole” in the “OH shield”, and the way you refer to this it seems you believe it might prove to be as significant as when Farman published his observations of the Antarctic hole. Can you refer me to more information?

  10. prokaryotes says:

    Seismologist says little doubt that injection well caused earthquakes

    Just to be clear, it’s probably not the fracking that is causing earthquakes in the Mahoning Valley, it’s the brine byproduct being pumped into a separate well, according to a seismologist studying the situation.

    Injection well
    Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer ordered a halt to operations Dec. 30 at a Youngstown Township fluid injection well. The class two injection well is owned and permitted by Northstar Disposal Services LLC, of Youngstown.

    The area surrounding the well has experienced a series of low-level seismic events over the past eight months. While conclusive evidence cannot link the seismic activity to the well, Zehringer is being cautious about the site, according to a department news release.

  11. prokaryotes says:

    Intimidation Campaign Continues – Climate Scientist Targeted Again

    The right wing campaign of fear, surveillance and intimidation against scientists and academics continues.

    I’ve reported on the coordinated national campaign of right wing “think” tanks subverting the Freedom of Information act to surveil the correspondence and intimidate those engaged in what the tea party right considers dangerous and un-american practices – research, thought and speech.

    A number of viewers were struck by the perfectly-gelled-and-almost-perfectly-tanned “think” tank flack and Fox News misinformer, Chris Horner, from this week’s video. Mr. Horner, working with the far right wing “American Traditions Institute”, is now seeking to bully climate scientist and evangelical Christian Katherine Hayhoe.

  12. prokaryotes says:

    Wind Power Roars into 2012

    The (6 minute long) video above is an excerpt from a longer talk by Lester Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute, given in late 2011. Brown is the author of Plan B 4.0, the latest in a series of prescriptions for a new, sustainable society.

    The longer talk, highly recommended, is here. I’ll be posting another excerpt, on the coal industry, tomorrow.

    From the American Wind Energy Association: