The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
Utah State University scientists report a watershed-scale experiment in highly degraded streams within Oregon’s John Day Basin demonstrates building beaver dam analogs allows beavers to increase their dam building activities, which benefits a threatened population of steelhead trout. “Whether or not beaver dams are beneficial to trout and salmon has been hotly debated,” says ecologist Nick Bouwes, owner of Utah-based Eco Logical Research, Inc. and adjunct assistant professor in USU’s Department of Watershed Sciences.
Europe will be spared the worst economic impacts of climate change by a slowing down of the Gulf Stream, new research predicts. Scientists have long suggested that global warming could lead to a slowdown – or even shutdown – of the vast system of ocean currents, including the Gulf Stream, that keeps Europe warm.
Known as the Thermohaline Circulation, this system operates like a conveyor belt, transporting warm water from the tropics to Europe, where evaporation decreases salinity and density so that the water sinks.
As the world warms, melting icecaps and increased rainfall are widely predicted to slow this process down by flooding oceans with cold freshwater.
Some experts even fear that the process could shut down altogether, plunging Europe into a new ice age.
However, a new study by the University of Sussex, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and the University of California, Berkeley finds that, rather than cooling Europe, a slowdown of the Thermohaline Circulation would mean the continent still warms, but less quickly than other parts of the world.
Deliberately flooding riverbeds left parched by dams has great potential to restore wetlands but may also have a significant unintended consequence: the release of greenhouse gases. Despite the findings, the pros of returning rivers to their natural courses and flows generally outweigh the cons, but government officials should consider the research when deciding when and how to alter river flows, said Thomas S. Bianchi, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Florida and lead author on the study.
Scientists have found that changes in cloud patterns during the last three decades match those predicted by climate model simulations. These cloud changes are likely to have had a warming effect on the planet. Records of cloudiness from satellites originally designed to monitor weather are plagued by erroneous variability related to changes in satellite orbit, instrument calibration and other factors, so the team used a new technique to remove the variability from the records. The corrected satellite records exhibited large-scale patterns of cloud change between the 1980s and 2000s that are consistent with climate model predictions, including poleward retreat of mid-latitude storm tracks, expansion of subtropical dry zones and increasing height of the highest cloud tops.
Powerful tropical cyclones like the super typhoon that lashed Taiwan with 150-mile-per-hour winds last week and then flooded parts of China are expected to become even stronger as the planet warms. That trend hasn’t become evident yet, but it will, scientists say. So far, the warming effects of greenhouse gases on tropical cyclones have been masked, in part by air pollution.
A huge earthquake may be building beneath Bangladesh, the most densely populated nation on earth. Scientists say they have new evidence of increasing strain there, where two tectonic plates underlie the world’s largest river delta. They estimate that at least 140 million people in the region could be affected if the boundary ruptures; the destruction could come not only from the direct results of shaking, but changes in the courses of great rivers, and in the level of land already perilously close to sea level. The newly identified threat is a subduction zone, where one section of earth’s crust, or a tectonic plate, is slowly thrusting under another.
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