Annals of Global Warming: Dramatic Links Found Between Climate Change, Elk, Plants, and Birds

March 14, 2012

Understanding the physics of the Earth’s atmosphere poses great problems — it is an astonishingly dynamic, fluid environment.  Understanding the relationships between species in ecosystems is no less complex, and no less vexing.

Wise followers of science recognize that when findings in biology, chemistry and physics, point the same direction, something powerful creates the convergence, and is not to be ignored.

So it is with these findings from the University of Montana and the U.S. Geological Survey, demonstrating clear links between climate change and the changing life patterns of large animals like elk, small animals like birds, and the plants the animals live in and consume.  This study is so complex that climate denialists haven’t figured out which part to deny, yet.  (This press release came out in January.)

From the USGS, with no adornment from the Bathtub, a press release on a letter in Nature Climate Change:

Dramatic Links Found Between Climate Change, Elk, Plants, and Birds

Released: 1/9/2012 11:30:00 AM

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communications and Publishing

In partnership with the University of Montana

Missoula, MT – Climate change in the form of reduced snowfall in mountains is causing powerful and cascading shifts in mountainous plant and bird communities through the increased ability of elk to stay at high elevations over winter and consume plants, according to a groundbreaking study in Nature Climate Change.

Red-faced warbler in Arizona, photo by Tom Martin, USGS

Red-faced warblers are one of the species affected by climate change in the form of reduced snowpack in the Arizona Mountains, according to a USGS Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit study. Photo by Tom Martin, USGS, May 1998, in the Coconino National Forest

The U.S. Geological Survey and University of Montana study not only showed that the abundance of deciduous trees and their associated songbirds in mountainous Arizona have declined over the last 22 years as snowpack has declined, but it also experimentally demonstrated that declining snowfall indirectly affects plants and birds by enabling more winter browsing by elk. Increased winter browsing by elk results in trickle-down ecological effects such as lowering the quality of habitat for songbirds.

The authors, USGS Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit scientist Thomas Martin and University of Montana scientist John Maron, mimicked the effects of more snow on limiting the ability of elk to browse on plants by excluding the animals from large, fenced areas. They compared bird and plant communities in these exclusion areas with nearby similar areas where elk had access, and found that, over the six years of the study, multi-decadal declines in plant and songbird populations were reversed in the areas where elk were prohibited from browsing.

Hermit thrushes in the Coconino National Forest, Arizona - 2005 photo by Tom Martin, USGS

Hermit thrushes are a songbird species that was strongly affected by plant community changes in mountains because of reduced snowpack and cascading ecological effects, according to a USGS Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit study. 2005 photo by Tom Martin, USGS, in the Coconino National Forest

“This study illustrates that profound impacts of climate change on ecosystems arise over a time span of but two decades through unexplored feedbacks,” explained 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.”

The study demonstrates  a classic ecological cascade, added Martin. For example, he said, from an elk’s perspective, less snow means an increased ability to freely browse on woody plants in winter in areas where they would not be inclined to forage in previous times due to high snowpack. Increased overwinter browsing led to a decline in deciduous trees, which reduced the number of birds that chose the habitat and increased predation on nests of those birds that did choose the habitat.

Elk excluded, aspen growth increases - photo by Tom Martin, USGS, Coconino National Forest

When elk are excluded, aspen growth dramatically increases - Climate change in the form of reduced snowfall in mountains is causing powerful and cascading shifts in montane plant and bird communities through the increased ability of elk to stay at high elevations over winter and consume plants. Here, you can see an example of the difference in aspen growth inside versus outside a fence that excludes elk. Photo by Tom Martin, USGS, in Coconino National Forest

“This study demonstrates that the indirect effects of climate on plant communities may be just as important as the effects of climate-change-induced mismatches between migrating birds and food abundance because plants, including trees, provide the habitat birds need to survive,” Martin said.

The study, Climate impacts on bird and plant communities from altered animal-plant interactions, was published online on Jan. 8 in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Elk in winter at Camp Creek Feed Ground, Northwestern Wyoming - USGS photo

Elk in winter at Camp Creek Feed Ground, Northwestern Wyoming - USGS photo

More:


Annals of Global Warming: NASA film, Piecing Together the Temperature Puzzle

March 5, 2012

NASA describes the film, “Piecing Together the Temperature Puzzle”:

The past decade has been the hottest ever recorded since global temperature records began 150 years ago. This video discusses the impacts of the sun’s energy, Earth’s reflectance and greenhouse gasses on global warming.
Credit: NASA
Vital Signs of the Planet: Global Climate Change and Global Warming. Current news and data streams about global warming and climate change from NASA.

Piecing Together the Temperature Puzzle, posted with vodpod

More NASA climate films, here, at Climate Reel.


Debunking claims of climate hoaxes, or evidence of the End of Civilization as We Know It

March 1, 2012

Found this on the Grist site today:

Grist infographic:  Idea of climate change hoax makes no sense

Grist infographic: Idea of climate change hoax makes no sense

The problem?  Far too many people not only don’t weigh ideas to see if they make sense, but instead they actively seek out ideas, no matter how crazy, just because they like the concept.

In short, the fact that such a chart is necessary at all suggests that it may not be useful.  Anyone who had the common sense to figure out that the globe is warming, and the scientists who say so are mostly honest as the day is long (and warm), won’t accept the judgment of Grist, either.

I mean, Peter Gleick exposed the immoral and perhaps illegal acts of the so-called Heartland Institute, virtually walking through the front door of the group’s offices and asking, “Will you show me all your dirty work?”  John Mashey’s painstaking work confirms Gleick’s blowing the whistle on Heartland, and Heartland’s fellow travelers.

What has Heartlandgate brought?  Heartland is spending thousands of dollars on a public relations campaign to impugn Gleick, and widely-read sites like the anti-science Watts Up get suckered in (well, Heartland was paying for Anthony Watts’ pet project . . . what should we expect?).  Even Andrew Revkin at his New York Times Blog can’t find his way to label actions as they should be labeled.

Will it make a difference to state the facts, the common sense version of reality?  My actual hope is that I am in error, and that such a graphic, if pasted around the internet, will make a difference.

Is my hope wholly misplaced?

Update:  At the Washington Post blogs, Stephen Stromberg wrote that Gleick erred by failing to follow the rule that climate scientists must be more than twice as morally straight as the “skeptics.”  I’m not convinced Gleick erred; he’s done yeoman service to exposing the truth.  I’m struggling to find any illegal act he committed.  Heartland claims there may be some fraud, but not all the elements of any crime of fraud are present.  If, as Heartland argues, the documents are fakes, there was no value lost.  If, as most of us suspect, the documents are not fakes, I still see no harm to Heartland in their having their feet held the fire on being honest with the IRS and the public.  Heartland claims an absolute right to fib to the public, and somehow Mr. Gleick interfered?  Where’s the harm to the public good?  Certainly not in exposing Heartland’s dark secrets.  No harm, no crime, in this case.


Climate change deniers in high dudgeon as leaked memos reveal their deceptions

February 21, 2012

Previously:  John Mashey finished another epic analysis of the climate denialist world showing clear wrong-doing and potential violations of federal tax law on the part of denialists.  But as it was going to press, someone hacked the executive board of the anti-science Heartland Institute, and dropped the notes exposing the group as a propaganda bunch working hard against science into a couple of blogs.

Contrary to the stonewalling of the denialists, when scientists figured out who might have had access to the documents, the fellow confessed and resigned from several positions (honor on the science side, but not on the denialist side, once again).

News takes two or three years to penetrate to Rick Santorum, however, and he continued his soulless presidential campaign through the weekend claiming, contrary to the facts, that global warming is not happening.

Funny how he accuses those he opposes of doing the things his side does, isn’t it?

Anthony Watts, the leader of the anti-science mau-mauing breathlessly covered the resignation of Peter Gleick, the conscience-striken whistle-blower, but tended to ignore the evidence Gleick revealed.  So much for talking about real science.

(Watts also makes much of the California Institute of Science changing its exhibit on climate change after three years, as if when museums change exhibits, it means the science behind the old exhibit is no longer valid.  Is it just me, or is Watts really stretching to find the propaganda angle since his own data let him down, and demonstrated that warming, and the “hockey stick,” are real problems?)

Here are a few places you should visit to get the news and the facts:

This post likely will be updated.  Watch.  (Already updated to fix my error above about Seitz and SEPP.)


Get your Texas Drought Survival Package from Texas Parks & Wildlife

February 20, 2012

We’ve had serious rain in Dallas, but most of the state still resides well in the thrall of drought.  Plus, the rains in Dallas have been unseasonal, which suggests the drought is not done with Dallas yet, either.

Texas Parks & Wildlife has words of advice:

More information from TPWD:

The drought has taken a toll on everything from wildlife to water bills. To help Texans cope, Texas Parks and Wildlife is offering a Drought Survival Kit http://www.texasthestateofwater.org/


Annals of Global Warming: NOAA calls 2011 “year of climate extremes”

January 19, 2012

2011 saw 14 severe weather events that caused more than $1 billion in damage each.  The pre-Halloween snow disaster may push the total up to 15 such events.  NOAA is calling these billion-dollar-plus events “climate disasters.”

On top of the year 2011’s rating in the top 10 of warmest years on record, the sheer number of expensive weather extremes powerfully suggest that global warming already costs Americans billions of dollars in damage, lost production and disease.

NOAA: 2011 a year of climate extremes in the United States

NOAA announces two additional severe weather events reached $1 billion damage threshold, raising 2011’s billion-dollar disaster count from 12 to 14 events

January 19, 2012

Selected Annual Records

Selected Annual Climate Records for 2011 - Green dots show the wettest, yellow dots the driest, red dots the warmest and blue dots the coolest records. Click image for high resolution version from NOAA (NOAA image)

According to NOAA scientists, 2011 was a record-breaking year for climate extremes, as much of the United States faced historic levels of heat, precipitation, flooding and severe weather, while La Niña events at both ends of the year impacted weather patterns at home and around the world.

NOAA’s annual analysis of U.S. and global conditions, conducted by scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, reports that the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 53.8 degrees F, 1.0 degree F above the 20th century average, making it the 23rd warmest year on record. Precipitation across the nation averaged near normal, masking record-breaking extremes in both drought and precipitation.

On a global scale, La Niña events helped keep the average global temperature below recent trends. As a result, 2011 tied with 1997 for the 11th warmest year on record. It was the second coolest year of the 21st century to date, and tied with the second warmest year of the 20th century.

Key highlights of the report include:

U.S. weather and climate disasters

Extreme Weather Events in 2011

From extreme drought, heat waves and floods to unprecedented tornado outbreaks, hurricanes, wildfires and winter storms, a record 14 weather and climate disasters in 2011 each caused $1 billion or more in damages — and most regrettably, loss of human lives and property. Click image for high resolution version. (NOAA image)

  • Tropical Storm Lee, which made landfall on the Gulf Coast on September 2, caused wind and flood damage across the Southeast, but considerably more damage to housing, business and infrastructure from record flooding across the Northeast states, especially Pennsylvania and New York. The storm occurred in an area that had experienced high rainfall from Hurricane Irene barely a week earlier.

    English: View of Tropical Storm Lee from the G...

    Tropical Storm Lee, on September 3, 2011 - Image via Wikipedia

  • A Rockies and Midwest severe weather outbreak, which occurred July 10-14, included tornadoes, hail and high winds. Much of the damage was from wind, hail, and flooding impacts to homes, business, and agriculture.
  • Together, these two events resulted in the loss of 23 lives (21 from Tropical Storm Lee, 2 from the Rockies/Midwest outbreak).

Nationally

  • Warmer-than-normal temperatures were anchored across the South, Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. Delaware had its warmest year on record, while Texas had its second warmest year on record. The U.S. has observed a long-term temperature increase of about 0.12 degrees F per decade since 1895.
  • Summer (June-August) 2011 was the second warmest on record for the Lower 48, with an average temperature of 74.5 degrees F, just 0.1 degree F below the record-warm summer of 1936. The epicenter of the heat was the Southern Plains, where Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas all had their warmest summer on record. The 3-month average temperatures for both Oklahoma (86.9 degrees F) and Texas (86.7 degrees F) surpassed the previous record for warmest summer in any state.
  • With the exception of Vermont, each state in the contiguous U.S. had at least one location that exceeded 100 degrees F. Summertime temperatures have increased across the U.S. at an average rate of 0.11 degrees F per decade. Much of this trend is due to increases in minimum temperatures (“overnight lows”), with minimum temperature extremes becoming increasingly commonplace in recent decades.
  • Despite a “near normal” national precipitation average, regional precipitation outcomes varied wildly. Texas, ravaged by exceptional drought for most of 2011, had its driest year on record. In contrast, seven states in the Ohio Valley and Northeast — Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania — had their wettest year on record.
  • The past nine years have been particularly wet across the Northeast region – since 2003, the annual precipitation for the region is 48.96 inches, 7.88 inches above the 20th century average. Precipitation averaged across the U.S. is increasing at a rate of about 0.18 inches per decade.
  • Precipitation extremes and impacts were most prevalent during spring (March – May) 2011. Across the northern U.S., ten states were record wet, and an additional 11 states had spring precipitation totals ranking among their top ten wettest. These precipitation extremes, combined with meltwater from a near-record snow pack, contributed to historic flooding along several major rivers across the central United States.
  • Meanwhile, drought rapidly intensified in the southern Plains, where Texas had only 2.66 inches of precipitation, its driest spring on record. This led to record breaking drought and wildfires, which devastated the southern Plains. Following 2010, during which drought across the country was nearly erased, the 12 percent of the continental U.S. in the most severe category of drought (D4) during July 2011 was the highest in the U.S. Drought Monitor era (1999-2011).
  • The spring brought a record breaking tornado season to the United States. Over 1,150 tornadoes were confirmed during the March-May period. The 551 tornado-related fatalities during the year were the most in the 62-year period of record. The deadliest tornado outbreak on record (April 25-28th) and the deadliest single tornado (Joplin, Missouri) contributed to the high fatality count.

Globally

  • This year tied 1997 as the 11th warmest year since records began in 1880. The annual global combined land and ocean surface temperature was 0.92 degrees F above the 20th century average of 57.0 degrees F. This marks the 35th consecutive year, since 1976, that the yearly global temperature was above average. The warmest years on record were 2010 and 2005, which were 1.15 degrees F above average.
  • Separately, the 2011 global average land surface temperature was 1.49 degrees F above the 20th century average of 47.3 degrees F and ranked as the eighth warmest on record. The 2011 global average ocean temperature was 0.72 degrees F above the 20th century average of 60.9 degrees F and ranked as the 11th warmest on record.
  • Including 2011, all eleven years of the 21st century so far (2001-2011) rank among the 13 warmest in the 132-year period of record. Only one year during the 20th century, 1998, was warmer than 2011.
  • La Niña, which is defined by cooler-than-normal waters in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean that affects weather patterns around the globe, was present during much of 2011. A relatively strong phase of La Niña opened the year, dissipated in the spring before re-emerging in October and lasted through the end of the year. When compared to previous La Niña years, the 2011 global surface temperature was the warmest observed.
  • The 2011 globally-averaged precipitation over land was the second wettest year on record, behind 2010. Precipitation varied greatly across the globe. La Niña contributed to severe drought in the Horn of Africa and to Australia’s third wettest year in its 112-year period of record.
  • Arctic sea ice extent was below average for all of 2011, and has been since June 2000, a span of 127 consecutive months. Both the maximum ice extent (5.65 million square miles on March 7th) and the minimum extent (1.67 million square miles on September 9th) were the second smallest of the satellite era.
  • For the second year running, NCDC asked a panel of climate scientists to determine and rank the year’s ten most significant climate events, for both the United States and for the planet, to include record drought in East Africa and record flooding in Thailand and Australia. The results are at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/climate-monitoring.

Scientists, researchers and leaders in government and industry use NOAA’s monthly and annual reports to help track trends and other changes in the world’s climate. This climate service has a wide range of practical uses, from helping farmers know what and when to plant, to guiding resource managers’ critical decisions about water, energy and other vital assets.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.

Denialist bedbugs complain that there is no definition of “climate disaster” offered from the agency.  (Denialists are dictionary-challenged?)

More, Resources:


Annals of Global Warming: 2011 comes in as 9th warmest year ever recorded

January 19, 2012

If global warming is not reality, if the anti-warmists are to be found correct, we’re going to need some great cooling to start happening, very, very quickly!

From NASA today:

NASA Finds 2011 Ninth Warmest Year on Record

RELEASE : 12-020, January 19, 2012

WASHINGTON — The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists. The finding continues a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, released an updated analysis that shows temperatures around the globe in 2011 compared to the average global temperature from the mid-20th century. The comparison shows how Earth continues to experience warmer temperatures than several decades ago. The average temperature around the globe in 2011 was 0.92 degrees F (0.51 C) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline.

“We know the planet is absorbing more energy than it is emitting,” said GISS director James E. Hansen. “So we are continuing to see a trend toward higher temperatures. Even with the cooling effects of a strong La Nina influence and low solar activity for the past several years, 2011 was one of the 10 warmest years on record.”

The difference between 2011 and the warmest year in the GISS record (2010) is 0.22 degrees F (0.12 C). This underscores the emphasis scientists put on the long-term trend of global temperature rise. Because of the large natural variability of climate, scientists do not expect temperatures to rise consistently year after year. However, they do expect a continuing temperature rise over decades.

The first 11 years of the 21st century experienced notably higher temperatures compared to the middle and late 20th century, Hansen said. The only year from the 20th century in the top 10 warmest years on record is 1998.

Higher temperatures today are largely sustained by increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide. These gases absorb infrared radiation emitted by Earth and release that energy into the atmosphere rather than allowing it to escape to space. As their atmospheric concentration has increased, the amount of energy “trapped” by these gases has led to higher temperatures.

The carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was about 285 parts per million in 1880, when the GISS global temperature record begins. By 1960, the average concentration had risen to about 315 parts per million. Today it exceeds 390 parts per million and continues to rise at an accelerating pace.

The temperature analysis produced at GISS is compiled from weather data from more than 1,000 meteorological stations around the world, satellite observations of sea surface temperature and Antarctic research station measurements. A publicly available computer program is used to calculate the difference between surface temperature in a given month and the average temperature for the same place during 1951 to 1980. This three-decade period functions as a baseline for the analysis.

The resulting temperature record is very close to analyses by the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Hansen said he expects record-breaking global average temperature in the next two to three years because solar activity is on the upswing and the next El Nino will increase tropical Pacific temperatures. The warmest years on record were 2005 and 2010, in a virtual tie.

“It’s always dangerous to make predictions about El Nino, but it’s safe to say we’ll see one in the next three years,” Hansen said. “It won’t take a very strong El Nino to push temperatures above 2010.”

For more information on the GISS temperature analysis, visit:

http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp

- end -


text-only version of this release

Tip of the old scrub brush to Rashid’s Blog.


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