The 2013-2014 winter will be remembered for being unusually cold and snowy in much of eastern North America. In the West, though, it was a different story. Many parts of California, Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, and New Mexico are going through a severe drought. Read more about the expected effects from that record drought.
Photo: White-tailed deer, like many wildlife species, can be hard hit by drought. Ryan Hagerty/USFWS.
Environmental threats change over time. Wetlands were once converted to agriculture at a high rate, destroying habitat for numerous plants and animals. Now, wetlands such as these, in the prairie pothole region, are threatened by climate change. What do you thing are the top current environmental issues? Here is my take on it...read more.
Photo: Prairie potholes in South Dakota. Don Poggensee/USDA NRCS
As promised, here's an article examining whether sugar maples, and maple syrup production, are affected by climate change. The sugaring season here in New York is winding down, although we had a very nice sap run today. Soon the buds will start opening, changing the composition and abundance of sap. At that point, any syrup made would have a very poor taste. Enjoy the spring.
Here on the Allegheny Plateau the snow has been melting and the days are getting longer. It's sugaring time. The spring ritual of tapping sugar maple trees is here. We have been boiling sap down all weekend, reducing it 40 to 1 to make maple syrup. The window during which the sap runs is very short, maybe 2 or 3 weeks. This phenology event varies in timing from year to year, and old-time maple syrup producers have notice changes in the last few decades. Here's an article examining whether climate change is affecting the sugar maple stands of eastern North America, along with the maple syrup industry.
Photo: Hand-blown glass & maple syrup. © F. Beaudry
Well, that's what the calendar says. With a few more inches of snow coming tomorrow night, it's hard to believe spring is here, but we do observe some signs: the first Red-winged Blackbirds are back, for example. Most other migratory birds are hanging back, though, waiting for better conditions. The Black-throated Blue Warblers I saw in the Bahamas earlier this month won't be here until late May. They, and many other insectivorous birds, try to time their arrival so that they can start breeding at a time when food resources are at a high. The timing is crucial: too soon and they will have a difficult time getting enough food to enter the breeding season in good condition, and too late and they will have a hard time finding bugs to feed their young. Global warming is creating some problems with the timing of these events.
Finally, I create two short articles for people who need to get up to speed with the basic elements of global warming and to get a quick overview of greenhouse gases. It's a great place to start for kids.
On March 19, 2014 the White House announced the creation of a climate change data center. Driven by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA, the new site will bring together data that had been scattered across several federal agencies. It should allow easier access to data for researchers, communities, and other stakeholders with an interest in adapting to climate change.
Meanwhile, as part of the series of articles about the IPCC's latest Assessment Report, here's a summary of the effects of climate change on sea level rise, and a synthesis of the effects of global warming on large scale phenomena like monsoons, tropical cyclones, and EL Niño.
I have started summarizing the fifth assessment report from the IPCC, which synthesizes all the latest science about global climate change. The first article reports on the observations made in the atmosphere and on the land surface. This includes changes in greenhouse gas concentrations and on land surface temperatures. A second article highlights changes observed in the ocean: temperatures, sea levels, salinity, wave activity. And a final article concentrates on the frozen world: glaciers, ice sheets, snow cover, and frozen ground.
Photo credit: Suzanna Soileau/USGS
I just returned from a week on San Salvador Island, in the Bahamas, leading an ecology & geology course. We were stationed at the Gerace Research Center, part of the College of the Bahamas. Highlights included bat caves, nesting brown boobies, spectacular coral reefs, and cool carbonate limestone. Oh, and a spotted eagle ray!
Photo: F. Beaudry
I am starting a series of articles providing an overview of the latest global climate change research. As we're experiencing one of our coldest winter on record here in the northeastern U.S., I thought it would be fitting! In addition, this year is an important one for climate science. After a long wait, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is issuing its fifth assessment report. Some parts of it have already been released in the fall, and much more is coming this spring and summer. Expect updates on greenhouse gas atmospheric concentrations estimates, observed effects, sea ice declines, glacier declines, sea level rises, projection models, and much more. To start, here's some more information about the IPCC.
We know about the large amounts of plastic in the oceans, and probably can guess that it affects marine life in many different ways. Read about some hot-off-the-press research about whether sea turtles really do eat plastic.