There’s a Plume of Birds Over a City Near You
The United States is seeing a rapid increase in spring bird migration. Nearly 2 million birds flew over Harris County, Texas, Houston’s home, on Thursday night. About 270,000 birds flew over Cook County, Illinois, the home of Chicago. Denver, Colorado was visited by approximately 90,000.
Most birds migrate under the cover of night, which means that avid birders can’t see the plume of airborne travelers filling the sky as they work their way north to breed from late April into May.
A new tool shows how important nightly migrating is. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has created a migration dashboard that uses radar data from weather stations to count the number of birds that passed through each county in the U.S. Each morning, the dashboard is updated with the latest numbers.
“You can see how many birds are in flight, what direction and speed they’re moving, the altitude they’re flying,” said Andrew Farnsworth, a senior research associate at the Cornell lab. “It’s a game changer when it comes to thinking about how to tell people about all sorts of measures of migration and just what the magnitudes are at a much more local scale than we’ve ever been able to do.”
Farnsworth stated that hyper-local data will be made available for the first times this spring thanks to recent advances in machine learning and cloud computing.
He hopes that this tool will get more people excited about biannual migration and encourage more people to adopt bird-friendly behavior, such as turning off disorienting lights during peak season migration. He added that scientists can use this tool to study migration patterns over time and space, especially when they change with warming climates.
“How are birds adapting to that? How do they adapt their behaviour to climate change? And how can they keep up or not, with really rapid changes?” Farnsworth said. “There’s some real fundamental information there that’s good to understand for science.”
Double Whammy of Melting: Olympic Mountain Glaciers
New research has shown that the Olympic Mountains, in western Washington State, could soon be covered by more than 250 glaciers. This is due to the warming climate. The region’s glaciers, most of which are located within Olympic National Park, have already lost more than half their volume since 1900, with most of the loss occurring in the last 40 years.
Researchers from British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington used historical images, satellite photos, and climate models to evaluate the past, present, and future of the West’s glaciers. These vital water reserves in the West help to prevent drought.
Normally, glaciers melt in summer when temperatures are high and grow in winter when snow accumulates. This keeps the huge rivers of ice relatively stable over the years. The researchers discovered that climate change will not only cause faster melt but also increase winter temperatures. This will result in less snow and more rainfall, which is not good for a glacier’s growth.
“For the Olympics then, it’s kind of a double whammy, that it’s not getting as nourished in the wintertime and it’s increasing losses in the summer during the melt,” said study lead author Andrew Fountain, a geology and geography professor at Portland State University. “So the glaciers are rapidly retreating.”
Although climate change threatens glaciers around the world, the Olympic glaciers are especially vulnerable because they’re located at a much lower elevation than other glaciers, such as those in Mount Rainier National Park, located southwest of Seattle.
Fountain stated that the only way to slow down melting is to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
“What’s happening to the glaciers in the Olympics is the same thing that’s going to be happening elsewhere in the U.S., and it’s certainly happening to glaciers globally,” he said. “Sure, this is a study of one small part of the glacial regime, but it’s emblematic of what’s happening elsewhere.”
A Podcast on Florida’s ‘Self-Inflicted Wound,’ aka Its Environment
A boat captain, a surfer, a mermaid and a snake bite survivor are among the guests on a new podcast exploring Florida’s vulnerable environment.
In an interview-style weekly show called “The Nature of Florida,” journalist and filmmaker Oscar Corral dives into conversation with an environmentally engaged guest on each episode to discuss the Sunshine State’s natural resources under threat, and what can be done to protect them.
Corral and Inside Climate News recently discussed the podcast. This conversation has been edited lightly to improve clarity and length.
Your experience was largely in documentary film. Why did you decide on a podcast?
After I’ve launched a documentary, I noticed that after about a year, the buzz starts to die off, and it starts to lose its momentum a little bit. And so I thought, well, what’s the best way to maintain the momentum of environmental awareness and letting people know what’s happening environmentally? I decided that the best way to do this was to start a podcast on environmental issues. There’s nothing like that in Florida as far as I can tell. There’s a couple that talk about wildlife here and there and minor things, but environmental issues, like topical, current issues and the political issues behind them, there’s nothing else like that. So that’s what I did.
Why is Florida such an interesting place to discuss environmental issues?
There’s a lot of problems in Florida, as there are in many places, but in Florida, it’s really, really striking because Florida is known for its beaches and springs. But many times in the last decade, you’ve seen the complete uninhabitability, you can’t even use some of the waters in Florida, because they’re so polluted from blue-green algae or from nutrients. So it’s something that’s vividly visible. It smells bad, it looks bad, you can’t swim in it. And then it negatively affects the state’s largest industry, which is tourism. And so for Florida, environmental issues, they’re like this self-inflicted wound for their primary economic driver. It’s really frustrating. So, the podcast attempts to discuss these issues and explain why they are not being addressed.
Is your podcast going into climate change?
Yes, climate change is definitely a theme that we’re exploring in several of our interviews, because Florida is extremely vulnerable to climate change. We’re a low-lying state, and we’re vulnerable to sea level rise. And in fact, we’re already seeing the effects of it in parts of Florida, including some of our most popular tourist destinations, like Miami Beach. Climate change is a part and parcel of this.
Keep Environmental Journalism Alive
ICN provides award winning climate coverage without charge or advertising. To continue, we rely on donations from readers like yourself.
Helping companies log their carbon emissions
In a past career modeling the consequences of climate change at Oxford University, Kristian Rönn realized that the only way to make a dent in carbon emissions was for emitters to start counting their greenhouse gases.
“The prevailing narrative is still that us consumers can fix the climate issue,” said Rönn. “That’s essentially a narrative invented by Big Oil to shift the blame onto consumers. But at the end of the day, it’s corporations that need to decarbonize.”
That’s why Rönn left academia and started Normative, a carbon accounting company that helps corporations log emissions from all along their supply chains and advises them on how to pursue a smaller carbon footprint.
The latest product Normative is offering is its carbon glossary, a collection of common terms used in the carbon accounting universe to help companies navigate the “jungle full of jargon” that Rönn said comes with tackling emissions. The glossary includes terms such as greenwashing, carbon sequestration and offsetting.
Stockholder demand and new laws in Europe and the U.S. are driving more and more companies to seek out carbon accounting services, Rönn said.
“Whenever we talk to a client that doesn’t know the latest, then we can always bring the glossary up,” he said. “We can use the tool ourselves when we engage with companies and try to spread the gospel of net zero, if you will.”
Source: Inside Climate News