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"Images of Change" iPad App... "Earth Gauge": Holiday LEDs, Ice on Lakes, Subarctic Lakes

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Updated: 12/05/2013 9:15 pm

The "Buresh Blog" will enjoy a long 4-day weekend. The next update will be Tue. Download the free First Alert Weather iPad App.... get your latest First Alert Forecast on WOKV 104.5 FM &/or AM 690.

New iPad App from NASA (click ** here **):

"Images of Change gives users an astronaut's or Earth explorer's view of the changes occurring on our planet and demonstrates the important role NASA plays in contributing to the long-term understanding of Earth," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science in Washington. "By utilizing ground-based and space-based observation systems, we are able to better understand how humans are contributing to a changing world." 

Earth Gauge: Holiday LEDs

Colorful neighborhood lighting displays and glowing trees are a sign of the season. But all those twinkling lights can drive up energy demand and result in big home energy bills.

Tip: What’s a decorator to do? Show your holiday spirit with LEDs (light-emitting diodes)! LEDs consume at least 75 percent less energy than traditional light bulbs and provide these great benefits:

  • Safe: LEDs emit less heat than traditional bulbs, reducing the risk of fire and burns.
  • Sturdy: LEDs are less likely to break because they are not made with glass.
  • Long-Lasting: LEDs last up to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs – you could still be using the same LED string 40 years from now!

And of course, LEDs save money. They may cost a bit more at the time of purchase, but you won’t have to replace them as often and you’ll definitely see an impact on your energy bill.  Check out these estimated cost comparisons from the U.S. Department of Energy:

Estimated cost of buying and operating lights over 10 holiday seasons
(Lighting a six-foot tree, 12 hours per day for 40 days each season)

Incandescent (traditional) C-9 bulbs (larger bulbs typically used to decorate roofs and outdoor trees)

$122.19

LED C-9 lights

$17.99 (85% less than traditional bulbs)

Incandescent mini-lights

$55.62

LED mini-lights

$33.29 (40% less than traditional bulbs)

Add a timer to your holiday lighting display to save even more energy and money.  Set the timer to turn lights on at nightfall and off during the day.

(Source: U.S. Department of Energy. “Energy Savers: LED Lighting.”)

Climate Fact: Warmer Winters Affect Lake Ice Cover

Most freshwater lakes and rivers are in the Northern Hemisphere in regions where air temperatures drop below the freezing point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, forming ice. Observations of lake freezing and thawing patterns began before scientists started recording and studying them. Early observations were conducted for religious and cultural reasons, for curiosity, and for practical reasons—such as transportation over ice or open water. Ice plays an important role for lakes because it determines how much heat is absorbed by water and how much water evaporates into the atmosphere. Ice increases a lake’s ability to reflect solar radiation (albedo), controlling water temperature. Ice is also an important component of aquatic ecosystems where animal and plant species have adapted their life cycles to include freezing conditions.

Changes in ice phenology—the cyclical timing of events from freezing to thawing—can be used as indicators of climate change impacts on freshwater ecosystems. Ice phenology is influenced to a large extent by variations in air temperatures. Warmer air temperatures and warmer winters reduce the amount and duration of lake ice cover.

Scientific studies show that changes in freeze-up and break-up dates correspond to an increase in air temperature over the past 150 years. In the Northern Hemisphere, there is evidence that lake freeze-up is occurring an average of 5.8 days later per 100 years, and ice break-up is occurring 6.5 days earlier per 100 years. In the United States, the number of days with temperatures below freezing decreased by four days per year over the period from 1948-1995. A study conducted in small inland lakes in the Great Lakes Region shows a warming trend during the cold season from 1916-2007; not only is ice duration decreasing, but ice thinning is occurring at a rate of 0.003 inches (0.01 cm) per decade since the 1970s.

Changes in ice phenology can lead to warmer lake temperatures, increases in lake heat storage and delayed ice formation. The nutrient and chemical composition of lake water also changes with warmer winters, including changes in water color and concentrations of calcium and magnesium. Ice cover reductions affect lake ecosystems. Ice cover usually reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the bottom of lakes, killing off some species of large bodied fish. This helps maintain the balance between large fish and their prey species. Reduced ice cover results in more oxygen reaching the bottom of the lake – this means that fewer large bodied fish die over the winter and their demand for food will be greater, disrupting the balance in lake ecosystems. Reduced ice cover can also have positive effects, for example, by extending the open water shipping season. But, vessels have to reduce their cargo load because water levels tend to drop due to increased evaporation.

(Sources: Environmental Protection Agency. Snow and Ice. Accessed online 22 November 2013 and Weyhenmeyer, G.A., D.M. Livingstone, M. Meilis, O. Jensen, B. Benson and J.J. Magnuson. 2011. Large Geographical Differences in the Sensitivity of Ice-Covered Lakes and Rivers in the Northern Hemisphere to Temperature Changes. Global Change Biology 17:268-275. and Magnuson, J.J., D.M. Robertson, B.J. Benson, R.H. Wynne, D.M. Livingstone, T. Arai, R.A. Assel, R.G. Barry, V. Card, E. Kuusisto, N.G. Granin, T.D. Prowse, K.M. Stewart, V.S. Vuglinski. 2000. Historical Trends in Lake and River Ice Cover in the Northern Hemisphere. Science 289:1743-1746. and Austin, J.A. and S.M. Colman. 2007. Lake Superior Summer Water Temperatures are Increasing More Rapidly than Regional Air Temperatures. Geophysical Research Letters. Accessed online 21 November 2013  and Mishra, V., K.A. Cherkauer, L.C. Bowling, and M. Huber. 2011. Lake Ice Phenology of Small Lakes: Impacts of Climate Variability in the Great Lakes Region. Global and Planetary Change 76:166-185 and Andresen, J., S. Hilberg, K. Kunkel, 2012: Historical Climate and Climate Trends in the Midwestern USA. In: U.S. National Climate Assessment Midwest Technical Input Report. J. Winkler, J. Andresen, J. Hatfield, D. Bidwell, and D. Brown, coordinators. Available from the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA) Center. Accessed online 21 November 2013.)

Climate in the News: “Subarctic Lakes are Drying Up at a Rate Not Seen in 200 Years” – Science Daily, November 27, 2013The decrease in snowfall observed in recent years in Canada's subarctic regions has led to worrisome desiccation of the regions' lakes.

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