Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Climate Central - News

Climate Central is a nonprofit science and media organization created to provide clear and objective information about climate change and its potential solutions.
  1. Arctic Sea Ice to Reach Sixth Lowest Extent on Record

    As summer draws to a close, the Arctic sea ice melt season is coming to an end. And while the season didn’t top 2012’s astounding record melt, it has still resulted in what will likely be the sixth lowest September minimum ice extent on record.

    The extent, or area, of Arctic sea ice on Sept. 16, 2014, as it approached its minimum at the end of the summer melt season. The orange line shows the average extent of sea ice for the period from 1981-2010.
    Click image to enlarge. Credit: NSIDC

    The extent of the ice on Sept. 15 was 1.96 million square miles, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), and wasn’t expected to change much over the coming days. That extent was 11,600 square miles below last year’s summer minimum and 440,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average. The 2012 minimum reached 1.32 million square miles.

    “It hasn’t been a super interesting summer, that’s for sure,” said NSIDC scientist Julienne Stroeve. But it fits in with what she calls “the new climate regime,” fueled by greenhouse gas-driven warming.

    The melt did result in one notable statistic according to Stroeve, though. In the Laptev Sea off the northern coast of Siberia, open water came within five degrees latitude of the North Pole. This area has always had at least some ice cover since satellite recordkeeping began in 1979, even in some of the most dramatic melt seasons.

    Very warm sea surface temperatures that were up to 9°F above normal in the Laptev Sea combined with persistent southerly winds from central Siberia, a very warm spot on the globe this summer, to clear the region of ice. That has resulted in “the most northerly position that the ice edge has been recorded over the period of satellite observations in this region,” according to a Sept. 15 NSIDC statement.

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    Overall, the 2014 summer melt continues the long-term trend of ever dwindling sea ice due to amplified Arctic warming. The area of the Arctic Ocean covered by a layer of sea ice always waxes and wanes with the seasons, reaching a maximum at the end of winter in March and a minimum at the end of summer in September.

    Average sea surface temperatures across the Arctic Ocean during August 2014 (left) and how much those temperatures differed from the 1982-2006 average.
    Click image to enlarge. Credit: Mike Steele/University of Washington

    But warmer global temperatures fed by increasing greenhouse gases have set off a self-feeding cycle at the pole where bright white sea ice, which reflects incoming solar rays back to space, melts more than usual, leaving more open ocean, which absorbs that radiation. This absorption increases temperatures even more, causing still more ice to melt.

    The average annual sea ice extent has been declining by 4.52 percent per decade, according to NSIDC statistics — that amounts to a loss of about 20,500 square miles of ice per year. The September minimum has seen an even steeper decline of 13.7 percent per decade, or about 34,000 square miles per year. Some projections have found that the Arctic could become ice-free during the summer by the middle of the century.

    This decline is of concern because the state of the Arctic influences the global climate and weather, and the sea ice is a key component of the Arctic ecosystem.

    The decline of Arctic sea ice since the beginning of summer 2014 compared to other recent years and the 1981-2010 average. While the minimum extent is well above the record low extent of 2012, it is still significantly below the average.
    Click image to enlarge. Credit: NSIDC

    The higher 2013 and 2014 extents compared to 2012 doesn’t mean the sea ice as a whole is making a comeback, Stroeve said, given it’s likely sixth place ranking.

    Part of the reason sea ice extent can grow back after a record low year is that the overall warming is just one factor affecting the ice cap. Year-to-year weather variability is also a major player.

    One reason 2013 and 2014 had comparatively more ice was the lack of unusual weather patterns that drove a surge in ice melt, as happened late in the summer of 2012, Stroeve said. Also, “this summer and last summer were not particularly warm,” allowing some areas of sea ice a chance to recover a bit.

    For example, the first-year ice that survived last summer in the East Siberian Sea saw some regrowth and is now slightly thicker second-year ice. Older, thicker ice is better able to withstand melting, but it has been declining overall in recent decades as well.

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  2. U.S. Putting Climate-Changing Chemicals on Ice

    Say bye, bye, to chemicals that chill your frozen pie.

    The U.S. is making it clear as ice that it intends to continue moving forward with efforts to clamp down on the use of hydrofluorocarbons, known as HFCs, which are chemicals that helped save the ozone layer — but have put the climate in jeopardy.

    Credit: Jan Tik/flickr

    The chemicals were developed for use in fridges, air conditioning systems and other products after ozone-damaging chemicals used for cooling were effectively banned in the 1980s under the Montreal Protocol, an international environmental agreement. But as HFCs leak out of those appliances, they become greenhouse gases that trap thousands of times more heat than carbon dioxide.

    Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it was moving toward banning the use of some HFCs. And on Tuesday, it announced that it would list new alternatives that it considers environmentally safe.

    Also on Tuesday, the White House announced that it had partnered with a long list of private companies and industry groups, including soda, manufacturing and retail giants, which will voluntarily reduce their HFC emissions using new technologies and improved practices.

    HFC concentrations in the atmosphere are low, but they are “rapidly increasing,” said Ronald Prinn, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at MIT. “They are projected to grow very rapidly in the future if there are no regulations on them. Alternatives do exist.”

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    The Air Conditioning Heating & Refrigeration Institute, whose members include major coolant and commercial fridge manufacturers and suppliers, said it supports the EPA’s plans to roll out new rules that will help end the use of the climate-damaging chemicals. The institute’s members will continue to sell the same basic products — but they will be comprised of different chemicals. The institute says its members are spending billions of dollars on research and development to help find alternatives.

    “We’re supportive of government stepping in where necessary to help move things forward,” said Stephen Yurek, the group’s president and CEO. “We just need to do this in a measured way, to make sure it can be done, and done safely.”

    David Doniger, the policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate program, said Tuesday’s announcements appeared timed to coincide with the leadup to next week’s U.N. Climate Summit. At the summit, governments will be asked to describe what they’re doing to slow down climate change. The announcements also come before President Obama meets with India’s new president, Narendra Modi. Under its previous government, India opposed efforts by a long list of other nations to update the Montreal Protocol to also restrict the use of HFCs.

    “This is useful; to have it come before the Climate Summit,” Doniger said. “I think it’s a strong signal that the Administration is committed to the phase-down of these chemicals.”

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  3. The $90 Trillion Climate-Stabilizing Cookbook

    Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story listed only nine of the ten ingredients. We belatedly added the final spice -- which was putting an end to deforestation.

    We’re baking the world; on track to raise global temperatures by more than 7°F by burning fuels, raising livestock, bulldozing forests, and allowing cities to sprawl as they grow. Pulling the planet out of the costly slow-cooker of old-fashioned traditions in time to avoid the worst of global warming might not be easy. But doing so would make the world a richer place.

    That was the message in The New Climate Economy Report, a 72-page paper produced by an international panel of leading economists, world leaders and corporate executives during the past year.

    U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
    Credit: World Economic Forum/flickr

    “We need a structural transformation in the global economy,” Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, said Tuesday as the report was released at the organization’s headquarters in New York. The report was published a week ahead of a U.N. Climate Summit that Ki-moon hopes will propel global climate treaty negotiations. “This report argues for a new order, where economic growth and climate action are mutually enforcing.”

    The 24-person Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, which wrote the report with the help of an economics advisory panel, estimated that $6 trillion will be spent annually during the next 15 years on energy, water, transportation and urban infrastructure as populations grow and countries develop.

    The commission found that reimagining how that $90 trillion is spent, and topping it up with an extra $270 billion per year, would be enough to get the planet on track to meet the internationally agreed-upon goal of capping warming at 3.6°F — while boosting global economies. Those extra capital costs “would largely be offset” by reduced operating costs associated with such things as reduced fuel costs and energy efficiency savings, the report says.

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    Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University engineering professor who specializes in energy systems, wasn’t surprised by the conclusions of the report’s authors. “I think they’re probably jumping on the bandwagon,” he said.

    In 2009, Jacobson helped write a Scientific American article, the main findings of which were later published in a peer-reviewed paper, that concluded it would cost about $100 trillion over 20 years to wean the world entirely off fossil fuels. Since then, he has been focused on producing U.S.- and state-specific plans.

    Here is the commission’s climate-stabilizing recipe, which it called a 10-point Global Action Plan:

    Source: Chuck Coker/flickr

    Ingredient: Consideration of climate risks and opportunities
    Directions: Governments, businesses, and investors could incorporate climate risks into their economic and business models, performance indicators, and reporting requirements.

    Ingredient: A strong and equitable climate deal
    Directions: A major international climate agreement is due to be struck at meetings in Paris late next year. If countries around the globe commit to clear and ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets or actions under that deal, investor confidence needed to fund clean energy and climate action could follow.

    Ingredient: An end to environment-harming subsidies
    Directions: Global fossil fuel subsidies are estimated to be worth $600 billion a year, which the report says is six times the subsidies and incentives provided to clean energy. The report urges governments to develop comprehensive plans for phasing out these and other counterproductive subsidies.

    Ingredient: Prices on carbon emissions
    Directions: Governments could expand and introduce programs that tax or cap greenhouse gas emissions. Such programs can help fund clean energy and energy efficiency efforts.

    Ingredient: Cheaper low-carbon infrastructure
    Directions: Donors and banks can end financing for polluting and climate-changing projects, instead using funds that they manage to support cleaner alternatives.

    Ingredient: Low-carbon innovation
    Directions: Spending could be boosted on energy-related research and development. New businesses could be incubated and emerging business models could be better supported.

    Ingredient: Compact cities
    Directions: Revenues needed to finance more compact and energy efficient urban growth could be increased. That could be through the introduction and expansion of traffic and parking fees and land development taxes.

    Ingredient: An end to deforestation by 2030.
    Directions: Companies could commit to ending the use of products that come from natural forests; forested countries could improve governance and forest-protecting rules; and rich countries could boost their financial support for a global program that protects forests.

    Ingredient: Land restoration
    Directions: The report calls for the restoration of 860 million acres of forest, which would help soak up carbon dioxide, and the rehabilitation of 370 million acres of degraded agricultural land to help feed the world.

    Ingredient: Pour cold water for coal
    Directions: Phase out coal-burning power plants and only allow the construction of new facilities if alternatives are truly unfeasible.

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  4. NASA Ranks This August as Warmest on Record

    While this summer may have felt like fall across much of the eastern half of the U.S., worldwide the overall picture was a warm one. This August was the warmest August on record globally, according to newly released NASA temperature data, while the summer tied for the fourth warmest.

    Temperature anomalies (in degrees Celsius) of various regions around the world in August 2014.
    Click image to enlarge. Credit: NASA

    Central Europe, northern Africa, parts of South America, and the western portions of North America (including Alaska) were just some of the spots on the globe that saw much higher than normal temperatures for the month. Large parts of the oceans were also running unusually warm.

    “For the past few months we've been seeing impressive warmth in large parts of the Pacific … and Indian Oceans in particular,” said Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist with ERT, Inc., at the National Climatic Data Center in an email.

    This warmth was a large factor in August’s chart-topping temperature, which was 1.3°F higher than the 1951-1980 average for the month according to NASA data. NCDC also calculates how much a given month’s temperature varies from average, but their August data won’t be released until Thursday.

    However, “we're expecting pretty impressive statistics for August,” Blunden told Climate Central.

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    By the NCDC’s measure, this will have been the 38th consecutive August and 354th consecutive month with a global average temperature above the 20th century average, a mark of how ever-rising greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere are warming the planet.

    Whether or not the El Niño struggling to form in the tropical Pacific — which is characterized by warmer-than-average surface waters — has played a part in the summer warmth is hard to tease out from the broader ocean warmth at play, Blunden said. That El Niño, originally expected to form this summer, but now given a late fall potential start date, could still impact and raise 2014 temperatures, though would likely have more of an effect on 2015.

    The record-setting August capped off what NASA data shows was the fourth warmest summer on record globally, coming in 1.12°F above average. That puts it in a tie the summer of 2005, but behind 2011, 2009 and 1998 by NASA’s rankings.

    NASA, however, had a lower ranking for July than the NCDC did. NASA put it as the 11th warmest July on record, while the NCDC ranked it fourth. The two agencies use different methods of dealing with their data, and NASA includes the poles, while the NCDC does not.

    “I think this is a measure of how one shouldn't spend so much time trying to derive larger scale meaning from individual months,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, which puts out the temperature data. “There is quite a large amount of variability at the month-to-month scale, and small differences in data input, interpolation, (and) analysis can make a difference.”

    Both Schmidt and Blunden said that this can mean that monthly rankings that seem to be quite far apart can actually be separated by only small temperature differences.

    “Just because the spread in ranks seems big does not mean there is a big difference between the anomalies,” Blunden said.

    The monthly temperatures do feed into the larger decades-long warming trend, which Schmidt says is the more important trend to watch. The ocean conditions that have fueled this warm summer could change next year, but “the more the run of warm months continues,” including this August, the larger the long-term trends will be, he said.

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  5. Coal Power Shows Zero Growth in 2014, Report Shows

    Natural gas and solar are the winners so far in 2014 in the race to move electric power generation away from coal, a new U.S. Energy Information Administration report shows.

    As utilities across the U.S. have added new electric power generating capacity, most of that added capacity has come from natural gas and solar. No new coal power-generating capacity has been added yet in 2014, though two small plants are expected to open this year in North Dakota and Mississippi.

    Credit: EIA

    The last year in which there were no additions to coal power generating capacity in the U.S. was 1998, according to EIA data.

    The dearth of interest in opening new coal-fired power plants comes from increased competition from natural gas as a fuel for electric power plants and pending emissions regulations that would limit mercury, toxic metals, acid gas and other toxic air emissions from coal-fired power plants.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is also in the process of writing a new regulation that would limit CO2 emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. Called the Clean Power Plan, the regulation would set CO2 emissions reductions goals for power plants in each state.

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    New natural gas-fueled power generators are quickly coming online across the country as the U.S. continues its move away from coal.

    Natural gas produced from the U.S. fracking boom is fueling many new power plants nationwide, and it is often seen as a more climate-friendly alternative to coal-fired power plants because it emits relatively little carbon dioxide. Natural gas distribution systems, however, leak methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

    The U.S. added nearly 2,200 megawatts of natural gas power generating capacity in the first six months of 2014, up 60 percent over the same period in 2013, according to the EIA report.

    Solar is growing fast, too, as more than 1,100 megawatts of new solar power generating capacity came online in the first six months of 2014, up 70 percent over the same period last year.

    New wind power capacity grew less than half as much as solar early this year. Wind farms added 675 megawatts of wind power capacity in that time, all from new wind turbines built in California, Nebraska, Michigan and Minnesota.

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  6. What Will Survive in Hot, Acidic Oceans?

    Marine losers abound in the hustling currents of warming and acidifying oceans. Trying to figure out which types of sea life, particularly those that form calcium carbonate-rich cells and exoskeletons, such as some plankton, corals, and shellfish, will thrive amid climate change can be like playing a high-stakes shell game.

    New research suggests that at least one type of plankton could overcome what would seem to be long odds, and double down on its ecosystem dominance. The surprise finding is a positive early development in an oft-bleak field as scientists start to investigate which marine species face the greatest risks of dying out — their shells emptied by the lethal effects of environmental switcheroos.

    A bloom of phytoplankton thought to be coccolithophores.
    Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/flickr

    Most of global warming’s heat is ending up in the oceans, making the waters less hospitable for many species. And a quarter of the carbon dioxide pumped into the air by humans is dissolving into oceans, where it undergoes chemical reactions that increase the water’s acidity by reducing concentrations of carbonates that some organisms use to produce shells. These changes have contributed to coral bleaching, to holes in sea snail shells, and to die-offs at oyster farms.

    Coccolithophores are single-celled plants surrounded by individual calcium carbonate sheaths that underpin many food webs. They form plankton blooms so thick they are tracked using satellites. Researchers working in a laboratory exposed a species of the plankton, Emiliania huxleyi, to fast-paced environmental changes reminiscent of those underway in the wild. They reported Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change that they had observed surprisingly fast rates of evolutionary adaptation.

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    The work involved regularly transferring cultures of plankton to flasks containing warm and carbon dioxide-infused water, and measuring how samples’ growth rates changed as they evolved over a year. Then, the scientists compared how evolved and control populations responded when placed in the types of ocean conditions that are possible in the future.

    When plankton populations were exposed to what the scientists described as “the most stressful future ocean scenario,” one that combined a temperature of nearly 80°F with high concentrations of carbon dioxide, planktonic growth rates initially slowed but eventually “fully recovered,” they reported in the paper. Mysteriously, those populations fared better than those that were exposed only to elevated temperatures, or only to higher carbon dioxide levels.

    Mean growth rates of adapted populations ±1 s.d. (dark bars) relative to respective control treatments.
    Credit: Nature Climate Change

    This chart from the paper helps to reveal the plankton’s evolutionary prowess. It compares the growth rates of populations in stressful water conditions to which they had adapted during a year of study with those that hadn’t been put through the same evolutionary wringer.

    “This adaptation is interesting,” said Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez, a University of California at Santa Barbara biological oceanographer who studies mechanisms that control marine diversity. She was not involved in the study. “What they found basically gives us a little bit of hope that some organisms may be able to adapt — to some degree.”

    The findings have implications beyond the species being studied. Figuring out what makes some species more vulnerable than others to acidification and warming could help ecologists make projections for the future of ocean ecosystems in a carbon dioxide-drenched world.

    A scanning electron micrograph of E. huxleyi cells.
    Credit: Kai Lohbeck

    “As as biologist, I’m interested in predicting the future ocean,” said GEOMAR - Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research marine ecologist Thorsten Reusch, who led the labor-intensive study. “I’d like to eventually predict the changing community composition.”

    These were the first experiments that tracked the evolutionary response of coccolithophores to the dual effects of acidity and temperature changes. The scientists used an easily-cultured species of coccolithophore, one that’s regarded as the lab rat of the sea, and they didn’t study the effects of viruses, predation, or other natural threats on survival rates. Much more work with this and other types of sea life will be needed before scientists can paint any kind of clear picture of the future of marine ecosystems. But the findings provide important early clues.

    “You will get species that are able to evolve, and others that are not,” Reusch said. “That’s a big question that will occupy us for the next 10 or 20 years; to find out if there are any meta attributes that we can tell from the genomes, and from the physiology, that are telling us how evolutionarily flexible they are.”

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  7. Tropical Dams an Underestimated Methane Source

    By Paul Brown, Climate News Network

    LONDON − Big dams built in the tropics to produce hydroelectricity have long been highly controversial − and data gathered in Laos by a French team studying methane emissions confirms that dams can add to global warming, not reduce it.

    New scientific data supports the belief that methane emissions from big hydroelectric dams in the tropics outweigh the benefits that this form of renewable energy provides.
    Credit: Amit Rawat/Flickr

    In many rocky regions low on vegetation and population, such as in Iceland and other northern mountainous regions, the production of electricity from hydropower is clearly a net gain in the battle against climate change.

    In Asia, Africa and South America, however, masses of methane are produced from dams by the drowning of tropical forests in them. As long ago as 2007, researchers at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research calculated that the world’s largest dams emitted 104 million tonnes of methane annually and were responsible for 4 percent of the human contribution to climate change.

    Short-Term Threat

    Since methane has an impact 84 times higher over 20 years than the same quantity of carbon dioxide, this is a serious short-term threat to pushing the planet towards the danger threshold of increasing temperatures by 2°C (3.6°F).

    Despite the warnings that big dams in the tropics might be adding to climate change, governments go on building them — while often claiming that large dams equal clean energy.

    The new research shows that the methane discharges are probably even worse than current calculations.

    In an attempt to find out exactly what the perils and benefits of big dams in the tropics can be, a French team from the National Center for Scientific Research has been studying the Nam Theun 2 reservoir in Laos — the largest in Southeast Asia — prior to its filling, in May 2008, right up to the present to calculate the total methane emissions.

    Methane is produced by bacteria feeding on the plant material drowned when the dam is filled. This is added to by more organic matter that is washed into it by rivers and rains.

    Dead trees poke out of the Nam Theun 2 dam reservoir in Laos.
    Credit Dominique Serça/CNRS via Climate News Network

    Measuring the methane produced is the tricky bit as it reaches the atmosphere in three ways. Some is dissolved in the water and reaches the atmosphere by diffusion, some goes through the turbines and is released downstream, and the third way is called ebullition — which means bubbles of methane coming directly to the surface and going straight into the atmosphere.

    It is these last gas emissions that have been so hard to measure, but the team has developed automatic measuring devices that work 24 hours a day.

    The measurements carried out on the Nam Theun 2 reservoir enabled the scientists to show that ebullition accounted for between 60 percent and 80 percent of total emissions from the reservoir in the first years following filling.

    Maximum Emissions

    In addition, ebullition intensity varies at night and seasonally. During the four months of the hot dry season (mid-February to mid-June), emissions reach their maximum because water levels are low. Daily variations are controlled by atmospheric pressure: during the two daily pressure drops (in the middle of the day and the middle of the night), methane ebullition increases.

    With the help of a statistical model, day-to-day data related to atmospheric pressure and water level was used by the researchers to reconstruct emissions by ebullition over a continuous four-year period (2009-2013).

    The results obtained highlight the importance of very frequent measurements of methane fluxes. They also show that the ebullition process — and therefore the amount of methane emitted from tropical reservoirs during their first years of operation — has most certainly been underestimated until now.

    For the researchers, the next stage will be to quantify diffusion at the surface of the reservoir and emissions downstream from the dam to the same level of accuracy. This will enable them to complete the assessment of methane emissions from this reservoir, and better assess the contribution they make to the global greenhouse effect.

    Paul Brown is a joint editor for Climate News Network. Climate News Network is a news service led by four veteran British environmental reporters and broadcasters. It delivers news and commentary about climate change for free to media outlets worldwide.

  8. 6 Degrees: Ice Answers, Lawsuits, New Toys and More
  9. Climate Change Threatens Half of North America’s Birds

    By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian

    Half of North America’s bird species, from common backyard visitors like the Baltimore oriole and the rufous hummingbird to wilderness dwellers like the common loon and bald eagle, are under threat from climate change and many could go extinct, an exhaustive new study has found.

    The bald eagle could lose 75 percent of its range because of climate change.
    Credit: Mark Faviell/flickr

    Seven years of research found climate change the biggest threat to North America’s bird species.

    Some 314 species face dramatic declines in population, if present trends continue, with warming temperatures pushing the birds out of their traditional ranges. Ten states and Washington, D.C. could lose their state birds.

    “It is hard to imagine that we are not going to lose some of these birds permanently,” said Gary Langham, chief scientist for the Audubon Society and leader of the study.

    “The scale of disruption we are projecting means that many familiar sounds, and many familiar birds that people may see in their backyards and on their walks, that help them define a place for them, may no longer be there.”

    The outlook was far bleaker than a U.S. government report just a few years ago on the fate of North America’s birds under climate change. That report, in 2010, projected ocean and Arctic birds would be most vulnerable to climate change.

    An updated version of that report was released on Sept. 9, 2014.

    A Baltimore oriole in oak tree. This common backyard bird could become rarer.
    Credit: Henry T. McLin/Fickr

    The Audubon researchers found that by mid-century, 126 of the 588 bird species in the study would lose more than half of their traditional ranges, and would go into decline. An additional 188 species would lose their range by 2080, according to the study.

    Maryland would lose the Baltimore oriole, the mascot for the baseball team as well as the state bird, which would no longer be able to breed in the mid-Atlantic. Lousiana would lose the brown pelican. Minnesota would lose the common loon, its state bird, which would be unable to survive in the continental United States.

    Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. would also lose their state birds.

    The bald eagle, once considered a success story for American conservation, could lose 75 percent of its range by 2080. Some birds, such as the trumpeter swan, would lose virtually all of their range towards the end of the century, according to the projections.

    The study found 274 birds would maintain or increase their range under climate change. But Langham said that was not an automatic guarantee for survival. Even if the birds find more room to expand, they could face renewed competition from other species, as well as new predators.

    The researchers drew on more than a century of observations from birders as well as a 40-year historical record from the U.S. Geological Survey, combining the data with 17 climate models.

    A common loon swims in a lake.
    Credit: Matthew/Flickr

    The Audubon’s chief executive, David Yarnold, described the findings as a “call to action.”

    The group is calling for cuts to the carbon emissions that cause climate change, as well as measures to preserve more habitats and give the birds a better chance of survival.

    But the findings, though grim, may underplay the threat to survival of North America’s birds.

    Langham said the study did not take into account other factors associated with climate change – such as sea level rise, which can flood marshes and other bird habitat with salt water; drought, which can kill off insects and other food sources, or extreme storms. As a result, it was likely a conservative look at the fate of birds, he said.

    Reprinted from The Guardian with permission.

  10. Picture This: Summer Snow and Gnarly Lightning

    It was a weird week for weather, that's for sure. Snows fell from Calgary to Rapid City -- in the middle of September. That's early even for Canada! Meanwhile monsoon rains, helped along my moisture from the remnants of tropical storms, soaked parts of the Southwest, not used to such deluges. We've got photos of those two events, as well as look back on the weather on a historic day.

     

    Summer Snow

    While the return of school may have signaled the end of summer and the beginning of fall, Mother Nature seems to have skipped straight to winter in some places. As a deep area low pressure descended over Alberta and parts of the northern U.S., it brought with it unseasonably chilly temperatures and decidedly early snow. The snows started first in Calgary, which saw just over 11 inches of snow from Monday through Wednesday. That's just one inch below the total they usually get from September through November combined according to the Weather Channel. One resident aptly summed up their feelings on the abrupt end to summer by taking a page from the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip:

    Summer Break in Calgary ends just how you'd expect – snowmen. MT @jpmwd: grumpy snowman army in my front yard. pic.twitter.com/NOnpTHIwv9

    — Sean Breslin (@Sean_Breslin) September 10, 2014

     

    Loads of Lightning

    When the cold front traveling in advance of that low pressure center made its way across Kansas, it created some thunderstorms that spawned some impressive lightning. One of the photographers behind Basehunters Chasing caught some spectacular shots, stacking several together to give this intense image.

    Four photos were stacked together to make this incredible image of lightning over Marysville, Kan., on Sept. 9, 2014.
    Credit: Basehunters

     

    Wet and Dry

    The Southwest isn't exactly known as a rainy place, and it has been suffering from a drought in recent months. Monsoon rains this summer have brought some moisture, but most impressive so far fell earlier this week, drenching Phoenix in record-setting rainfall. On Monday, 3.29 inches fell on the area, the most for any calendar day on record going back to 1895, according to the local National Weather Service Office. Even more rain fell in other places in the region, with Chandler, Ariz., reporting more than 6 inches of rain.

    The dry desert soils are unable to absorb such vast quantities of rain falling over such a short time, and so the water pools in lower areas, causing serious flash flooding. Many motorists were caught offguard by flash floods on area roads while other roadways, including sections of interstate highways, were shut down.

    Today is already the wettest calendar day ever in Phoenix, and it’s still raining. http://t.co/loS6pY3bmM pic.twitter.com/ibIHayyLEu

    — Andrew Freedman (@afreedma) September 8, 2014

     

    What a season's worth of rain in less than 12 hours looks like. http://t.co/QaffZT9swg #Phoenix (via @photochowder) pic.twitter.com/cKr72A0Ih4

    — Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) September 8, 2014

     

    The Weather 13 Years Ago

    The Atlantic hurricane season is at its historical peak from Sept. 9-11. But there has been little activity in the basin this year, thanks to an El Nino that has stifled storm development. The hurricane season of 2001 had also been fairly quiet by the same point in the season. On Sept. 1 of that year, a tropical depression formed in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean. As it moved westward, it became a tropical storm, before weakening and the restrengthening as it made a beeline toward Bermuda and the United States. It reached hurricane strength on Sept. 9, becoming the first hurricane of the 2001 season and the latest first hurricane since 1984. The storm brushed Bermuda, but brought only rip tides and strong currents to the U.S. East Coast before an upper level trough sent it on a reverse course to the Northeast.

    On Sept. 11, a satellite snapped an image of the storm off the Northeast coast. The same image also captured the plume of smoke billowing from the World Trade Center buildings.

     

    Satellite image captured Erin off northeast US coast, and WTC smoke plume. #September11 http://t.co/9MBmxiAdUr pic.twitter.com/5rpHHIKxO6

    — Brian McNoldy (@BMcNoldy) September 11, 2014