The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
A new study examining wildfires in California found that human activity explains as much about their frequency and location as climate influences. The researchers systematically looked at human behaviors and climate change together, which is unique and rarely attempted on an area of land this large. The findings suggest many models of wildfire predictions do not accurately account for human factors and may therefore be misleading when identifying the main causes or drivers of wildfires. The newest model proportionately accounts for climate change and human behavioral threats and allows experts to more accurately predict how much land is at risk of burning in California through 2050, which is estimated at more than 7 million acres in the next 25 years.
Nearly all of Austria’s 900 glaciers retreated last year amid record-setting heat, according to Austrian scientists. The rapid melting mirrors a trend across the Alps and underscores scientists’ warnings of accelerating, extreme climate impacts caused by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
Across the country, the glaciers retreated an average of 72 feet in 2015, more than twice the rate of the previous year, the Austrian Alpine Association said in its annual glacier survey. Three of the country’s glaciers retreated by more than 320 feet. The nonprofit association—which promotes mountain culture, research and conservation— has been conducting detailed glacier measurements since 1927, creating a dramatic record of climate change effects in the alpine region.
A new study shows high salt levels, metals and even radioactive material have lingered for months and even years in the water and soil near four oil-and-gas wastewater spills in North Dakota. The researchers from Duke University also believe the lasting threat of such spills could be pervasive across the Bakken Formation, one of the nation’s most active oil fields.
The results “indicate that the water contamination from brine spills is remarkably persistent in the environment,” Duke scientists wrote in their study published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The contamination included high levels of selenium, known to be toxic to fish and wildlife, and radioactive radium.
A single U.S. shale oil field is responsible for much of the past decade’s increase in global atmospheric levels of ethane, a gas that can damage air quality and impact climate, according to new study led by the University of Michigan. The researchers found that the Bakken Formation, an oil and gas field in North Dakota and Montana, is emitting roughly 2 percent of the globe’s ethane. That’s about 250,000 tons per year.
“Two percent might not sound like a lot, but the emissions we observed in this single region are 10 to 100 times larger than reported in inventories. They directly impact air quality across North America. And they’re sufficient to explain much of the global shift in ethane concentrations,” said Eric Kort, U-M assistant professor of climate and space sciences and engineering, and first author of the study published in Geophysical Research Letters.
Climate change has caused a drop in the amount of oxygen dissolved in the oceans in some parts of the world, and those effects should become evident across large parts of the ocean between 2030 and 2040, according to a new study led by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. Scientists expected a warming climate to sap oceans of oxygen, leaving fish, crabs, squid, sea stars, and other marine life struggling to breathe. But they had encountered difficulties in determining whether this anticipated oxygen drain was already having a noticeable effect.
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