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Droughts could kill many of the world’s trees

LiveScience: Drought could kill vast swaths of forests around the world if global warming isn't contained, new research suggests. That's in part because a fundamental structure found in trees may limit how much they can adapt to parched conditions. What's more, climate predictions seem to suggest that droughts will be much more common in the United States, said William Anderegg, a biologist at Princeton University who studies forests and climate change. [Dry and Dying: Images of Drought] "The droughts...

What Record-Breaking Drought Means for California’s Future

LiveScience: Wildfires, water rationing and snow-free mountaintops are all becoming the new norm in California. The Golden State is experiencing the most severe drought on record, and research suggests the conditions will only worsen in the coming decades. "Climate change is going to lead to overall much drier conditions toward the end of the 21st century than anything we've seen in probably the last 1,000 years," said Benjamin Cook, a climatologist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New...

Most of Alaska’s Permafrost Could Melt This Century

LiveScience: The permafrost in some of Alaska's most iconic national parks could all but disappear this century, new research suggests. Right now, half of the ground in Denali National Park's is frozen year-round, but if global warming continues at the current pace, just 1 percent of this land could remain permafrost by the year 2100, according to new research presented here at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Not only could vast swaths of the Alaskan tundra transform into swampy bogs,...

Florida’s Mangrove Forests Expand with Climate Change

LiveScience: Fewer deep freezes, attributable to Earth's warming climate, have caused mangrove forests to expand northward in Florida over the past three decades, new research suggests. "Mangroves showed the largest increases in regions where cold snaps became less frequent over the past 30 years," study co-author Kyle Cavanaugh, an ecologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Maryland, wrote in an email. The findings, published today (Dec. 30) in the journal Proceedings of the National...

Can human civilization continue indefinitely?

LiveScience: Human beings have altered the Earth so much that human extinction is a real possibility if people continue on their current path. But if they can figure out a way to live sustainably, at least some human civilizations could become quasi-immortal, one researcher says. The challenge is to change the societal outlook to one that is long-term and accounts for humanity's central role in shaping the planet's destiny, instead of one that reacts to immediate crises and thinks in the short term. "For...

Greenland Ice Sheet Was Smallest When Ocean Was Warm

LiveScience: In the last 10,000 years, the Greenland Ice Sheet shrank to its smallest size around 3,000 to 5,000 years ago, when ocean temperatures were also quite high, a new study suggests. The finding, published Nov. 22 in the journal Geology, suggests that ocean temperatures, not atmospheric temperatures, could be a critical factor in melting ice sheets in current global warming scenarios. Understanding the reaction ice sheets like the ones covering Greenland and Antarctica will have to climate change...