Climate Change

In 2007, years into a record-breaking drought throughout the southwestern U.S., officials along the Colorado River finally came to an agreement on how they’d deal with future water shortages -- and then quietly hoped that wet weather would return.

But it didn’t.

In recent years, President Trump has dismissed climate change as a hoax.

“I think it’s a big scam for a lot of people to make a lot of money,” he said on Fox News in 2015.

But a recent report by the U.S. Department of Transportation predicts global temperature will rise seven degrees by 2100. That’s catastrophic.

The sun is just a dim red dot. The nearby Canadian Rockies are shrouded in thick wildfire smoke.

Bob Gray knows we probably shouldn’t be hiking up a mountain right now.

“I have a scratchy throat,” he says. “Physically it effects my breathing. I probably shouldn’t spend a lot of time in it.”

A warming world could eventually make some of our most familiar ecosystems — deciduous forests, grasslands, Arctic tundra — unrecognizable.

That's the conclusion of a team of more than 40 scientists who took a novel approach to predicting the effects of how human-caused global warming will alter ecosystems. They looked about 20,000 years back in time.

A huge pack of floating ice along the northern Greenland coastline is breaking up and drifting apart into the Arctic Ocean — another consequence, scientists say, of global warming caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

"We've never seen anything this large in terms of an opening north of Greenland," says polar scientist Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which collaborates with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Over the last 30 years, the West has seen an uptick in the size and frequency of forest fires. Scientists have typically attributed the change to low snowpack and high summer temperatures. But researchers writing in the journal PNAS say the trend could have more to do with rain.

Researchers pulled up maps of forest wildfires from 1979 to 2016 and compared those maps against data on snow, rain, temperature and humidity.

Creative Commons 2.0 / USDA

A new study shows air pollution like soot, dust and smoke is down around the country with one exception: wildfire prone areas like the Mountain West.  

Record-breaking wildfires in California have prompted tweets from President Trump and U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. They blame the fires on “bad environmental laws,” too many dead or dying trees, and not enough logging.

Climate change is causing temperatures to rise, fanning the flames of wildfires across the region. But when it comes to extreme weather in the region, there’s a new kid on the block — tornados.  

Lance Cheung / USDA, public domain

A coalition of advocacy and labor groups have sent a petition to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They’re calling for specific standards to protect construction, farm and other outdoor laborers from extreme heat. Right now there are no specific protections in place.  

There's a cycle that starts when the snow melts and the earth thaws high in Colorado's Rocky Mountains. It's a seasonal cycle based on timing and temperature, two variables that climate change is pushing increasingly out of sync.

To the outsider, it can be hard to see: Plants still grow, flowers bud, bears awake, and marmots breed. Broad-tailed hummingbirds still trill around a landscape that evokes the opening scene of The Sound of Music, with flowery meadows and granite peaks.

Pikas are fluffy mammals that live at high altitudes across the West. They squeak when danger nears. The squeaky fluff-balls are considered indicators of climate change because they’re so sensitive to heat. Scientists say they have found some of animals in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains are behaving strangely.

Jessica Castillo Vardaro, a wildlife biologist with the University of California, Berkeley, studies pika genetics, a field that can involve some unusual data collection methods.

Ali Budner / 91.5 KRCC

Four U.S. Senators are objecting to a program that teaches TV weathercasters about the science of climate change. As the Mountain West region deals with record high temperatures, that’s left meteorologists here figuring out how to report on the science of the weather.   

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Record-breaking temperatures are scorching the United States with parts of our region seeing all-time highs. A number of heat-related deaths are already being reported in the U.S.

Plants need carbon dioxide to live, but its effects on them are complicated.

As the level of carbon dioxide in the air continues to rise because of human activity, scientists are trying to pin down how the plants we eat are being affected.

Mounting evidence suggests that many key plants lose nutritional value at higher CO2 levels, and scientists are running experiments all over the world to try to tease out the effects.

The effects of climate change are already being felt at the headwaters of the West’s most important river system, according to a study released earlier this year.

The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization compiled the latest science on climate change in the Colorado River headwaters in a report titled Climate Change in the Headwater: Water and Snow Impacts (PDF), presented to the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments in February.

Oil operations in Alaska are specially designed for freezing conditions. But as the climate changes, the state is warming twice as fast as the rest of the country. That poses a challenge for the oil industry, and a boon for Alaska businesses that are creating products to help it cope.

Brian Shumaker is one such entrepreneur who knows how tricky it can be to operate in the Arctic, where he once did some engineering work for oil companies.

Hurricanes are moving more slowly over both land and water, and that's bad news for communities in their path.

In the past 70 years, tropical cyclones around the world have slowed down 10 percent, and in some regions of the world, the change has been even more significant, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

That means storms are spending more time hanging out, battering buildings with wind and dropping more rain.

The head of Yellowstone National Park says he plans to retire next March, ending a more than four decade run with the National Park Service. The surprise announcement came after speculation he was being reassigned for political reasons.

The National Park Service has released a report on how sea level rise could impact its sites. The publication was delayed by about a year, and as we’ve reported, there were concerns over possible censorship in earlier drafts.

Maria Caffrey worked for years with the National Park Service researching and writing the report, only to wait for months for its actual release.

President Trump just dismantled policies requiring federal agencies reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions and meet other environmental targets.


Someone appears to be producing a banned ozone-depleting chemical, interfering with the recovery of Earth's damaged ozone layer, according to a newly published study led by scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The illicit emissions are believed to be coming from somewhere in eastern Asia, but nothing else is known about the offender. It's a scientific whodunit — or rather, a who's-doing-it.

New research suggests that global warming could cause temperature swings to get unusually extreme. And the regions where the biggest swings will occur are among the poorest in the world — and the least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

Climate scientists already know that as the planet warms, there's a bigger chance of extreme weather: bigger hurricanes, for example, or heavier rainfall.

Coastal communities across the country are suing oil companies for contributing to climate change. Now, a lawsuit in the landlocked interior joins the list.

At the heart of the lawsuit is this realization: Climate change is expensive. Just look at worsening wildfires and floods nationally. 

Michael Warren / Flickr

If you’re sneezing a bit more this year, well you’re in good company. At least 50 million Americans suffer from allergies every year. But that number is climbing, and it may be related to climate change.  

The dry and arid climate of the Western U.S. is marching eastward, thanks to climate change.

That’s the conclusion of a set of studies from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Institute. 


Democrats on Capitol Hill are calling for an investigation into the National Park Service, pointing to a report they say follows a "pattern" of censoring scientists who study climate change. So I checked in with the scientist who wrote the latest report and is now worried about her future.

From the roof of Chuck McAfee’s adobe farmhouse in rural southwestern Colorado, you can see into three other states: Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Mountain peaks are just barely visible above the horizon.

Even though this part of Montezuma County is considered the high desert, it’s common for these grass and sagebrush hills to be snow-covered into spring. This year they’re bare, and have been since last winter.

I’m marching through a stand of blackened, towering pine trees with fire ecologist Philip Higuera. He stops and sniffs the air.

“We can smell the charcoal here,” he says. “You smell that?”

Higuera is a low-key guy with a trimmed beard and sporty sunglasses. But when I ask him whether the massive wildfire that raced across Lolo Peak in Montana last summer was bad, he corrects my choice of words. 

Gallup

A new Gallup poll shows the majority of Americans do believe in climate change. The poll shows 66% of Americans believe that most scientists think global warming is occurring, 64% believe it is caused by human activities, and 60% believe its effects have already begun.

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