Concerns grow over Antarctic melting.

A new study shows rapid warming on the West Antarctic Ice sheet (WAIS), with the first evidence of warming during the southern hemispheres summer months.

Temperatures taken from Byrd Station, a scientific centre in West Antarctica have demonstrated an increase of 2.4 degrees Celsius in average annual temperatures since 1958. This increase is nearly double what previous reports had suggested.

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Scientists are closer than ever to understanding how microscopic airborne particles shape the Earth, and the West.

by Jon Napolitano

Mass spectrometers are machines that take lasers, a vacuum chamber, and high voltage plates, and use them to tell you what something is made of.
So these folks miniaturized the machine, stuck it on an airplane, and flew around to see what the sky is made of—in real time.

This is the kind of basic rule breaking innovation we like to see, and it’s having profound effects on how we understand the formation of clouds and the interrelationships between the climates of continents.

Understanding these things can lead to better models for predicting changes to our climate, and may even give us tools to engineer the skies themselves.

Check out The Center for Public Integrity investigative report: “Plant expansions fueled by shale gas boom to boost greenhouse gas, toxic air emissions.”

Obama Takes Executive Action To Protect Alaska’s Coastline Forever

On Tuesday, President Obama announced he was withdrawing a pristine and ecologically rich region of Alaska from any future oil and gas development. Using section 12 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, Obama signed a memorandum removing Bristol Bay, a 52,000-square-mile area off Alaska’s southwest coast, in order to “take it off of the bidders block and make sure it is preserved for the future.”

In announcing the move, Obama also called Bristol Bay one of American’s greatest natural resources and “a natural economic engine.” Bristol Bay is the world’s biggest sockeye salmon fishery and provides 40 percent of America’s seafood as part of its annual $2 billion commercial fishing industry, according to the White House.

The White House announcement also stated that the region, otherwise known as the North Aleutian Basin Planning Area, provides habitat for a diverse array of marine species, including sea otters, seals, walruses, Beluga and Killer whales. It is also an important site for Native Americans who have lived there for generations.

Lisa Murkowski, a Republican Senator from Alaska, told the Los Angeles Times she did not object to Obama’s decision “given the lack of interest by industry and the public divide over allowing oil and gas exploration in this area.”

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The American Pika (Ochotona princeps)

… lives among boulder fields above the treeline in the mountains of western North America. They create dens in crevices or nooks among the rocks, sometimes digging to expand the space as necessary. They don’t hibernate for the winter, but food can be difficult to find in the often deep snow found at high altitudes.

To ensure they get enough to eat they spend much of the summer “haying” - collecting grasses and other meadow vegetation and caching it in their den. They may make up to 13 haying trips per hour when busy with it.

Pikas are sensitive to higher temperatures and don’t do very well at lower elevations as a result - they don’t occur as far down the mountain in the southern part of their range than they do in the north. Adults will die in just six hours at 78°F (25.5°C) if they can’t find suitable cover.

Recent studies have shown declines in populations of American Pika; while there are multiple causes, the primary one is climate change - the animals’ available range is shrinking as they retreat up the mountainsides to stay in areas with acceptable temperatures.

photo by Daniele Colombo on Flickr

(via: Peterson Field Guides)

NASA: The U.S. is headed for a disaster not seen in 1,000 years 

A new study, compiled by scientists from the space agency, Cornell University and Columbia University, predicts an 80% chance that the Great Plains and the American Southwest will endure a major weather shift beginning in 2050. 

"We really need to start thinking in longer-term horizons about how we’re going to manage it."

Humans may have migrated out of Africa in phases based on the weather

Considerable debate surrounds the migration of human populations out of Africa. Two predominant hypotheses concerning the timing contrast in their emphasis on the role of the Arabian interior and its changing climate. In one scenario, human populations expanded rapidly from Africa to southern Asia via the coastlines of Arabia approx. 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. Another model suggests that dispersal into the Arabian interior began much earlier (approx. 75,000 to 130,000 years ago) during multiple phases, when increased rainfall provided sufficient freshwater to support expanding populations.

Ash Parton and colleagues fall into the second camp, “The dispersal of early human populations out of Africa is dynamically linked with the changing climate and environmental conditions of Arabia. Although now arid, at times the vast Arabian deserts were transformed into landscapes littered with freshwater lakes and active river systems. Read more.

Not all individuals who call themselves climate change skeptics are deniers. But virtually all deniers have falsely branded themselves as skeptics. By perpetrating this misnomer, journalists have granted undeserved credibility to those who reject science and scientific inquiry.