The Hot Zone

Plants moving downhill in response to climate change

Higher temperatures are forcing species to take to cooler climes at higher elevations, the prevailing wisdom goes. But changes in precipitation also drive change, and in the case of plant species in the Northern Hemisphere, the movement may be driven downhill, not up. That’s according to a recent study published in the journal Science by a team of researchers led by Shawn Crimmins at the Department of Forest Management, at the University of Montana. The study looked at the distribution of 64... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on January 26, 2011 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists

In Himalayas rocks buffer retreat of glaciers

Ever since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change erroneously reported that the Himalaya mountains would be glacier-free by 2035, the actual fate of the world’s highest range has been questioned. An accurate picture has been hard to develop because of differences in retreat rates and a lack of basic data on the glaciers. One study published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience sheds some new light on mountaintop glacial dynamics in the Himalayas. Lead author Dirk Scherler from... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on January 24, 2011 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists

Seabed may be too turbulent to store carbon

The ocean floor has been eyed as a potential site to sequester carbon, the idea being that we can get CO2 far, far away from human activity by banishing it to the earthly equivalent of the Final Frontier. But if you get CO2 out of the way of humans, it may instead be smack dab in the middle of natural forces. In an editorial published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, the fallibility of burying carbon below the sea bed is explored. The chief point of concern is that the ocean bed is actually... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on January 20, 2011 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists, The Oceans

Earth’s sensitivity to CO2 may be twice what climate models show

Climate modeling is an inexact science, and scientists have long known that the models don’t account for everything, even though precision and accuracy is a big goal. But the limitations of climate modeling may have caused scientists to underestimate the Earth’s sensitivity to CO2 by a factor of two, according to an analysis by National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Jeffrey Kiehl. In a perspectives piece published in the journal Science this week, Kiehl says that the models... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on January 14, 2011 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists, Climates of the Past

Melting Arctic ice the result of warming Atlantic waters, not just atmosphere

Although air temperatures are often to blame for the melting of sea ice at the North Pole, scientists have been looking for another culprit, this time from below. Like a hot plate warming up a refrigerated meal, warm water circulating at 200-800 meters in the Atlantic flows underneath the surface layer of ice in the Arctic, toasting its underside. Normally, Arctic ice would be thick enough to create a cool enough buffer to the warm water below. But the underlying layer of warm water has further... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on January 11, 2011 1 Comment »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists, Earth Systems

The messiness surrounding weather and climate

I’m gazing out the window of my family’s house in North Carolina where 8.5 inches of snow dropped suddenly late Christmas Day. There hasn’t been a snowflake on Christmas in some 50 years, according to the weather records that were meticulously researched by my snow-crazed family. It’s been a white Christmas all up and down the East Coast, making it easy to forget (or scoff off) that 2010 will be one of the warmest years on record by world meteorological standards. The distinction... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on December 28, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists, The man made climate

Nitrous oxide from streams contributing to climate change at three times rate previous expected

Carbon dioxide is bad for global warming, but nitrous oxide (N2O) may be one of the worst chemical compounds you can pump up into the air. Not only does it have 300 times the potency of CO2, but it also destroys stratospheric ozone (the good kind) — a double whammy on the atmosphere. That’s why it’s unnerving to read a new study out of the Biological Sciences department of the University of Notre Dame that found N2O emissions coming from streams and rivers at three times the rate... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on December 20, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists, The Oceans

Clouds may be key to determining how high temperatures will rise

The kind of clouds in the sky is an important factor in determining surface temperatures, scientists have long known. Low-lying clouds tend to reflect sunlight back into space keeping the climate cooler, while high clouds trap heat. The best estimates on global surface temperatures under climate change varies from an astounding 3.6 to 8.1 degrees F. There’s a difference there big enough to change holiday plans, or alter an ecosystem. It’s the kind of clouds in the sky that matter in all... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on December 3, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists

Spotlight on Lake Tahoe: Climate change brings earlier springs and less snow for famous ski resort

This is the first installment of a new, regular series in The Hot Zone that spotlights the local effects of climate change in different places in the world. As the globe heats up, it’s becoming apparent that the effects are not uniform everywhere. Some places are getting wetter, some places drier, species are shifting in different ways with dramatic implications for ecosystems. The predominating force shaping the future of the local environment differs as well. In the oceans, acidification... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on November 19, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists, The man made climate

Climate change could bring a more toxic world

There’s been growing concern about the levels of mercury and chemicals finding their way to the Arctic, which is ending up in the fat of large mammals. Part of the problem is due to the way toxins travel around the globe, but also because animals like polar bears and Arctic foxes are getting leaner. As the extra fat burns away, toxins are released into the blood streams of these animals. Climate change could be exacerbating the problem for very different reasons. Nature News reports that environmental... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on November 11, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists


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