Three things you need to know:
-- Plants and animals around the world are changing their behavior and their distributions in response to global warming.
-- Multiple factors affect local climate, including elevation, how land is used and the distance to a major source of water.
-- Current global climate models do not simulate climate changes at local scales well, so other methods are needed to help make such projections more accurate.
Beginning in 1949, an ecologist named Robert Whittaker travelled the Siskiyou Mountains in southwestern Oregon for two years and collected a record of the different herb species throughout the area. His intention was to see how position on a mountain slope affected which plants grew. Now, 60 years later, Whittaker’s detailed data is helping scientists understand how plants are responding to climate changes at very fine scales.
During the summers of 2007 and 2008, a group of researchers retraced Whittaker’s steps through the Siskiyou Mountains as they studied the populations of herbs. In the past 60 years, the entire area has experienced an average temperature rise of almost 5°F. But it turns out that plants in some areas have responded to this differently than plants in other areas, even within this small forest area of only a few thousand square miles.
For example, at low elevations, the researchers say, the plant communities have adapted to drier conditions compared to what Whittaker observed. Ye...
Three things you need to know:
-- Large, uncontrolled wildfires have increased worldwide and especially in the western United States during the past forty years.
-- In the next 100 years, climate change is projected to lead to even more large wildfires, though different regions of the planet will be affected more than others (and some may even see a decrease in wildfires).
-- The costs of fire suppression in the United States can be well over $1 billion annually, and more fires may lead to even higher costs.
Researchers from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies have recently modeled historical global wildfires and compared their models to the known record of wildfires during the past 1000 years. Because their computer models match fairly well with what is currently known of past fires, the researchers used the same models to predict fire activity in the next 100 years.
“Up until recently, there was too little data to go back in time and see what the global wildfire activity was,” explained climate modeler Drew Shindell, who coauthored the new study. Now, however, there is a lot more information available from the past, which can help improve how scientists make predictions about the future, he said.
The models project that as average temperatures around the planet increase due to increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the number of wildfires will also increase. More fires aren’t expected in all regions...
Scientists are trying to figure out how climate change affects carbon dioxide movement into the oceans
Credit: Jens Luedicke, flickr.
When someone mentions increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning fossils, it usually has to do with there being more of the gas in the atmosphere, and how that helps cause global warming. But the manmade boost of CO2 isn't restricted to the air; the gas can also dissolve into the ocean. Although scientists have been able to keep good track of how much CO2 has been added to the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, they are much murkier on how much of it has gone into the world's waters and how much more of it the oceans can take.
In theory, CO2 shouldn't go into the oceans as readily as into the atmosphere because movement of gas from air to the water is a bit slow. But this isn't what has been observed. Some parts of the ocean, like the North Atlantic and the western tropical Pacific, have taken up CO2 more quickly than scientists expected. It's not a good thing though; the more CO2 that goes into the ocean, the more the pH drops, or the more acidic the water becomes, which can have a big impact on the health and ecology of marine plants and animals. In other parts of the ocean, like the North and South Pacific, scientists have found that less CO2 has been taken up in the past few hundred years than expected.
In order to figure out why CO2 levels in the ocea...
Map of the Arctic showing the locations where footprints of climate change impacts on marine biota have been reported. The Arctic shelves and the mean minimum extent of ice (1979–2000) are indicated.
The colors identify the reported organisms: Green: plankton; Red: benthos; Blue: ﬁsh; White: birds; Black: mammals.
Credit: Global Change Biology.
The Arctic is often pinpointed as one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change, and the steadily decreasing level of Arctic sea ice cover is one of the hallmarks of a warming planet. However, while researchers know a great deal about the shrinking sea ice extent and thickness, there are few reports of how Arctic marine ecosystems have changed in recent years.
In order to assess how climate change has affected the marine fauna of the Arctic, where warming is two or three times that of the average global rate, a group of researchers has, for the first time, compiled all the known studies of the biological footprint of climate change (you can think of this as the “amount of impact”) on Arctic marine ecology. In doing so, they have uncovered some surprising trends (and some not-so-surprising ones, too). Their synthesis is currently available online in advance of press in Global Change Biology.
Firstly, the research team found that the number of studies on marine biology and ecology in the Arctic is dwarfed by the number of similar studies in Antarctica (tho...
A new poll from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication demonstrates yet again that communicators of climate science information, such as those of us at Climate Central, have a lot of work to do. The study of 2,030 adults found that 63 percent of Americans believe that global warming is happening, but they disagree about the cause of such warming. In an interesting exercise, the pollsters — Anthony Leiserowitz and Nicholas Smith of Yale University, and Jennifer R. Marlon if the University of Wisconsin-Madison — graded Americans' climate knowledge, and found that just eight percent of people would receive an "A" or "B", whereas 52 percent would flunk outright, with an "F".
Here are a few excerpts from the executive summary.
"The study also found important gaps in knowledge and common misconceptions about climate change and the earth system. These misconceptions lead some people to doubt that global warming is happening or that human activities are a major contributor, to misunderstand the causes and therefore the solutions, and to be unaware of the risks. Thus many Americans lack some of the knowledge needed for informed decision-making in a democratic society. For example, only:
- 57 percent know that the greenhouse effect refers to gases in the atmosphere that trap heat;
- 50 percent of Americans understand that global warming is caused mostly by hu...