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Who holds the key to fresh water abundance? You

LiveScience: Fresh water. The planet has only so much to meet the needs of a growing world population. And global warming throws more uncertainty into the mix by increasing chances of extreme weather, such as more intense droughts in some places. Dry spells, such as the devastating drought that gripped much of the United States last year, come with economic costs in the developed world and deadly consequences in poorer countries. There is no secret source of water of the future. Conservation is the best answer,...

Climate Change’s Role in Heat Waves Still Under Debate

LiveScience: It's no surprise to those who follow climate science that temperature patterns have shifted as the world has warmed up. But in a new study, outspoken climate scientist James Hansen goes a step further, saying devastating heat waves in recent years are the result of global warming. Since natural dynamics -- such as fluctuations in sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean -- contribute to extreme events like heat waves, this connection can be controversial. Scientists disagree...

Wolverines’ food caches at risk to warming

LiveScience: Wolverines, bearlike members of the weasel family, seem to depend on spring snow cover, but it's not clear why. Now, an international group of researchers has a new theory: Wolverines use snow like a refrigerator to preserve food during the lean, cold times after their young are born, they suggest. The animals live in the northern parts of North America, Asia and Europe where resources can be scarce. Their vulnerability to warming landed them as a "candidate for protection" in 2010 under the...

Will Arctic sea ice reach record low this year?

LiveScience: Recent years have brought unprecedented melting to Arctic sea ice, the white cap that covers the far north. Now, months before the sea ice reaches its annual minimum extent, this summer looks likely to follow suit, bringing unusually ice-free waters. Satellite observations analyzed by the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center show the extent of the sea ice hovering below the baseline, the average between 1979 and 2000, for most of the spring and dipping particularly low in June. "It definitely...

Extinctions from Climate Change Underestimated

LiveScience: As climate change progresses, the planet may lose more plant and animal species than predicted, a new modeling study suggests. This is because current predictions overlook two important factors: the differences in how quickly species relocate and competition among species, according to the researchers, led by Mark Urban, an ecologist at the University of Connecticut. Already evidence suggests that species have begun to migrate out of ranges made inhospitable by climate change and into newly...

Antarctic Mosses Record Conditions on the Icy Continent

LiveScience: Moss beds provide habitat for other organisms that survive on the ice-covered Antarctic continent. A new study indicates increased wind speeds, linked with the ozone hole, have slowed the plants' growth by drying them out. Thin shoots of moss taken from fuzzy clumps growing in Antarctica contain evidence of how human activities are affecting life on the ice-covered continent, new research indicates. Antarctica has no trees, but the moss shoots act somewhat like tree rings, recording evidence...

Fierce Heat Waves & Stronger Storms Coming, Climate Report Warns

LiveScience: Humans' activities appear to have brought on more extreme weather -- including more hot days, heat waves and heavy precipitation -- and we can expect this to worsen in decades to come, according to a report being prepared by the leading international climate change organization. A summary report, released today (Nov. 18), states that since 1950, cold days and nights have decreased, while warm ones have become more frequent globally, as has heavy precipitation. There is also evidence droughts have...

Why weekend snow was so destructive

LiveScience: The surprisingly early snowstorm that smacked the East Coast this weekend picked up energy after crossing the country, producing an "extreme precipitation event" with damaging effects magnified by the fact that leaves remained on the trees. "In many cases, this storm is unprecedented," said Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Weather Service. The record-breaking storm set itself apart by dumping snow, measuring as deep as 32 inches (81 centimeters) in Peru, Mass., along a wide swath...

Fluctuating Climate May Impede Fleeing Animals

LiveScience: Climate change is expected to send many species on one-way migrations in search of new homes as their old ranges become inhospitable. Whether or not they can survive this century depends a great deal on what happens along the route, a new study has shown. Scientists looked at 15 species of amphibians in the western United States, which they estimated travel about 15 miles (24 kilometers) per decade, following suitable habitat. Using computer modeling, they found that the fickle nature of climate...

Dire Harvest: Climate Report Warns of Food Gap

LiveScience: If emissions of greenhouse gases continue to increase unchecked, they could push the Earth's surface temperature up by at least 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 degrees Celsius) by 2020, and have devastating ramifications for global food production in a more crowded world, according to a new report. By the end of the next decade the global population is projected to increase by about 900 million. Meanwhile, the report projects a 14 percent gap between production and demand for wheat, meaning demand...