January 11 News: Researchers Document Profound “Cascading Consequences” of Dwindling Snowpack in Rocky Mountains

Other stories below: Global CO2 market totals 96 billion euros in 2011; UK approves high-speed rail network

Global warming: Researchers document profound cascading ecological effects as Rocky Mountain snowpack diminishes

A steady decline in Rocky Mountain snowpack the past few decades has led to a classic cascading ecological effect, with “powerful” shifts in mountainous plant and bird communities, according to scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Montana.

“This study illustrates that profound impacts of climate change on ecosystems arise over a time span of but two decades through unexplored feedbacks,” said USGS director Marcia McNutt. “The significance lies in the fact that humans and our economy are at the end of the same chain of cascading consequences.”

As the high-elevation snowpack dwindles, elk can stay at higher elevations during the winter and browse on plants that just a few short decades were inaccessible during the snow season, the researchers explained in their study, published Jan. 8 in the journal Nature Climate Change.

As a result, deciduous trees and  associated songbirds in mountainous Arizona have declined during the last 22 years. Increased winter browsing by elk results in trickle-down ecological effects such as lowering the quality of habitat for songbirds.

Global CO2 market totals 96 billion euros in 2011

Carbon markets across the world were valued at 96 billion euros ($122.28 billion) last year, up 4 percent on 2010, helped by a surge in trading activity as record low carbon prices stoked volatility, an analyst report said on Tuesday.

The value of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), the world’s biggest carbon market, grew by 6 percent to an estimated 76 billion euros, said analysts at Thomson Reuters Point Carbon.

Overall traded volume in so-called EU Allowances (EUAs), including options and auctions, reached around 6 billion last year, a 17-percent increase on 2010.

“The growth in value was relatively smaller than the volume growth due to lower prices,” the report said, noting the average weighted EUA price in 2011 was more than a euro below the price in 2010, due to economic concerns and a glut in permit supply.

Will Europe’s airline carbon fee actually work?

It’s odd to think that a spat over carbon fees for airlines could lead to a global trade war. But that’s looking quite possible. On Jan.1, a new E.U. law went into effect requiring all flights in and out of Europe to pay for their global-warming emissions. That’s sat poorly with the rest of the world. China’s four largest airlines have threatened not to pay — risking an outright ban from European airports — and China has reportedly blocked an Airbus order in retaliation. Russia, Brazil, India and Japan are all stridently opposed. And then there’s the United States.

Since U.S. airlines can’t exactly boycott Europe — it’s far too lucrative a market — they’ve started hiking their ticket fares to pay the carbon price. (The new rule could add an estimated $15 to $57 to the cost of a flight from New York to London.) The Obama administration, however, appears to be contemplating a more forceful response. According to Reuters, one option under discussion would be for the United States to slap a retaliatory fee on any European airlines that want access to U.S. airports.

So this could get ugly in short order. But lost in all the squabbling is an underlying question: Is the airline fee actually a good policy?

‘Higher temperatures, extreme weather coming’

An Environmental Protection Ministry climate change report predicts that over the next decade, the country will see an annual decrease in rainfall, and increases in temperature, southern desertification, heat waves, periods of torrential rains and flooding.

“Global climate change is already here – that’s a fact,” Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement released by his office. “We are all experiencing the manifestation of diminishing precipitation, heat waves, floods and more.”

The Environmental Protection Ministry has issued its report as part of the ministry’s efforts to advance a national action plan toward adapting to climate – a plan that will be governed by a committee under the leadership of the ministry’s director-general.

UK Approves GBP32.7B High-speed Rail Network Project

The U.K. government has given the green light to a controversial new GBP32.7 billion high-speed rail network linking London and the cities of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester which it says will help create new jobs and boost economic growth.

“It is the largest transport infrastructure investment in the U.K. for a generation,” Justine Greening, the U.K.’s Secretary for Transport, said Tuesday. “At present values, it will generate benefits of up to GBP47 billion and fare revenues of up to GBP34 billion over a 60-year period.”

The line from London to the West Midlands and connection to the HS1 high-speed Channel Tunnel Rail Link are expected to open in 2026, followed in 2032-33 by the onward legs to Manchester in the northwest of England and Leeds in the north and a connection to London’s Heathrow airport.

The high speed trains will carry up to 26,000 people an hour at speeds of up to 250 miles per hour (402 kph), cutting the journey to London from Birmingham by almost half to 45 minutes and reducing the trip from Manchester by an hour, the government said.

28 Responses to January 11 News: Researchers Document Profound “Cascading Consequences” of Dwindling Snowpack in Rocky Mountains

  1. Paul Magnus says:

    GW = Climate Chaos. Precipitation rules…. short, more intense winters another blow to ski industry.

  2. prokaryotes says:

    I’m missing an MMORPG style game where your crafting ingame solves real world problems, in the sense such many BOINC projects do.

    NASA has such a project in the making…

    Behind the Scenes of NASA’s Upcoming MMORPG

  3. prokaryotes says:

    The Big Fix official Trailer

    Anyone saw this movie yet?

  4. prokaryotes says:

    Home News Asset Class
    Investors with $2trn act on findings of climate change report

    Institutional investors with $2trn in assets under management have acted on the findings of a research report published last year into the strategic asset allocation decisions that could be affected by climate change.
    Consultant Mercer produced both the first report in 2011 – Climate Change Scenarios – Implications for Strategic Asset Allocation – and the follow-up report – Through the Looking Glass – How Partners are Applying the Results of the Climate Change Scenarios Study – indicating just how the industry is reacting to the implications of risk associated with the issue.

  5. ominouscloudsoverhead says:

    A friend who lives high in the Sierras says the bears didn’t even hibernate this year and the hummingbirds are around.

  6. prokaryotes says:

    Papers on new year fireworks and atmosphere

    This is a list of papers on the effect of new year fireworks on atmosphere.

  7. prokaryotes says:

    Heavy metals from pyrotechnics in New Years Eve snow – Steinhauser et al. (2008) “Pyrotechnics and fireworks cause pollution with barium aerosols, which is a result of the utilization of barium nitrate as a combined pyrotechnic oxidizer and coloring agent. In this study, the washing-out of barium-rich aerosols by snowflakes during the New Years Eve celebrations in an Austrian village in the Alps has been investigated. It could be shown that the fireworks caused an increase in the barium concentration in snow of up to a factor of 580 compared to the blank value. An increase of the concentrations of strontium and occasionally arsenic in snow was also observed. The geographic distribution of the pyrotechnic combustion products on this snowy evening was restricted to a relatively small area and even in a very local scale, the variations in the concentrations were remarkable. Post-firework snow from the summits of nearby located mountains was found to be as clean as pre-firework snow. However, snow that was visibly contaminated with smoke residues contained exorbitant concentrations of Ba, K, Sr, and Fe.”

  8. prokaryotes says:

    “When researchers incubated the eggs of Bassiana duperreyi, a mountain-dwelling Australian skink, at warmer-than-usual temperatures, they grew up to perform especially well on a learning task.”

    Evolution: Reptiles replace Human Overlords?

  9. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Here in SE Oz this morning, we awoke to frost and a record low minimum of 1.6C. There was snow in some places yesterday.
    We should be sweltering and worrying about fires if not experiencing them.

    Lots of summer harvests are not yet in so this could be very bad news, ME

  10. prokaryotes says:


    Welcome to the Climate Progress Network
    A place to connect, to share ideas and local/international task force building to combat climate change. beta

    Ideas, Suggestion, Feedback?

  11. prokaryotes says:

    Scientists develop material to trap carbon dioxide

    The material, called polyethylenimine, or PEI, acts like a carbon dioxide fly-tape trap, attracting the greenhouse-gas molecules and sticking to them so they can’t escape.

    Indeed, carbon dioxide is so attracted to the material that the team says it can pull the molecule right out of the air, something other carbon filter materials have not been able to do well.

    “This is really an important quality,” said Alain Goeppert, a senior researcher at the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute at the University of Southern California. In the near future, it will enable small-scale removal of carbon dioxide from air in enclosed spaces, such as submarines and manned spacecraft, where carbon dioxide buildup can be hazardous, or in laboratories, where carbon dioxide can hinder engineering or the chemical reactions of certain products.

    PEI may have long-term applications, too, for wide-scale removal of the gas from air.

    The Climate DeskIn addition, the team says PEI is cheaper and more easily produced than other materials already being used to extract carbon dioxide from smokestacks and industrial flues.

    Goeppert and coauthor G.K. Surya Prakash, also a chemist at USC, say the new material is just part of a vision they have of carbon recycling and a carbon dioxide market.

    One of the advantages of the new material is that it can be reused. Once the material is saturated with carbon dioxide, it is heated to a relatively low temperature of 85 degrees C (185 degrees F). At that temperature, the carbon dioxide is released and can be stored.

    The carbon can then be used to create fuel.

  12. prokaryotes says:


    “This glacier is already changing from the top down in a very irreversible way,” explained expedition leader Paolo Gabrielli, a research scientist at Ohio State’s Byrd Polar Research Center. “It is changing from a ‘cold’ glacier where the ice is stable to a ‘temperate’ glacier where the ice can degrade.

    “The entire glacier may transition to a temperate state within the next decade or so,” he said. That probable change made the retrieval of these cores now even more important so that the ice record won’t be lost for future research.

  13. prokaryotes says:

    Congress doesn’t know when to stop digging By Bill McKibben

    John Boehner’s got a problem — a statistical trap that’s going to take some real work to get out of.

    His drive to completely discredit the institution of the Congress has stalled: 9 percent of Americans still somehow approve of the way our legislature functions. And those 9 percent must be kind of stubborn: I mean, 16 percent of Americans approved of the way BP handled the Gulf oil spill, and 13 percent approve of polygamy. If that hard-core 9 percent didn’t mind, say, threatening to shut the government down three times last year, it’s going to be next to impossible to turn them off.

  14. prokaryotes says:

    EPA Maps Largest Sources Of Carbon Emissions

    WASHINGTON — A new carbon emissions database launched by the Environmental Protection Agency maps out the biggest stationary sources of carbon pollution nationwide. Users can zoom out to see what regions of the country are hardest-hit, or zoom in to identify the worst pollution offenders in their area.

  15. prokaryotes says:

    Tata unveils cheap electric car in Detroit

    India’s Tata Technologies unveiled the prototype for a $20,000 dollar electric car that can carry up to four passengers in Detroit Wednesday as it set out to challenge more costly rivals.

    “The eMO project symbolizes the coming of age of Indian automotive engineering,” said Warren Harris, president of Tata Technologies.

  16. prokaryotes says:

    You will play a video game with a pig

    As any Portlandia fan knows, ethical meat-eaters don’t just want their food to be humanely raised and humanely slaughtered. They also want it to have had a happy life. And it turns out that what makes pigs have a happy life is video games. (Seriously — pigs like to snuffle at flashing lights, which is basically Galaga.) Accordingly, ethical farming researchers at Wageningen University are working with designers from the Utrecht School of the Arts to develop a human/pig interactive gaming app. The game, called Pig Chase, is designed to relieve some of the tedium of being a pig on a farm — bored pigs aren’t just a bummer for Portlandia food snobs, they’re also more cranky and aggressive.

    To play Pig Chase, humans would use their touchscreen device to move a target around (the temptation to trace out “SOME PIG” would probably be enormous). The pigs touch the flashing lights with their snoots, because that’s something pigs like to do. And when the two species work together, they can get the light ball into a target, and they win! The pigs win a fireworks display on their screen, which in the demonstration they appear not to give a crap about, and the humans get bragging rights I guess.

    Ha Ha :))