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Mountain News: Aspen left in the dust

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But Doesken, reports the Crested Butte News, seemed to indicate that the theoretical causes aren't iron-clad. With the global economic recession, emissions of carbon dioxide due to burning of fossil fuels might well be expected to be in decline, he noted. "But C02 continues to increase this year. I just got the results and (C02) is going up at the same rate as it was before the global recession," he said.

It's possible, he added, that there will be a lagged response in C02 emissions to the economic decline.

Doesken pointed out that one major mystery remains the role of water vapor, which is a far more effective greenhouse gas than C02. "The big question is what happens to water vapor?" he said.

"If a warmer atmosphere leads to more evaporation and more water vapor in the atmosphere - without increasing cloudiness - then that magnifies the greenhouse effect," he explained. "If the added moisture results in increasing thick clouds, then more solar energy is reflected back to space and the overall warming could be offset to some degree."

Mayor survives challenge

ASPEN, Colo. - Mick Ireland has been re-elected mayor of Aspen, narrowly defeating challenger Marilyn Marks. She interpreted the vote as a "huge voice for change," but Ireland saw the vote tally as a mandate to "stay with managing growth, not slowing it; creating affordable housing, protecting the environment; and building an economy that's stable."

The Aspen Times, in an editorial, indicated that the close vote was more an indictment of Ireland's style, not his substance. "He can be abrasive, even rude at times, but his record demonstrates an absolute focus on Aspen's health, as a resort and as a community. To us, Ireland's manners leave much to be desired, but his priorities as a public servant are never in doubt."

Dead trees raise fire spectre

EDWARDS, Colo. - Forest fires have been much on the minds of Colorado's mountain towns of late. Scientists point out that forests can always catch on fire, given certain thresholds of heat and drought. But seeing dead trees has a way of pointing out this obvious potential.

Those dead trees have been conspicuous, owing to an epidemic of mountain pine beetles now in its 13 th year. Nearly 2 million acres of lodgepole pine have been affected in Colorado and another 500,000 acres in contiguous areas of southern Wyoming.

Trees remain in their "red and dead" stage for three to four years after being attacked by bark beetles. After that, the needles fall off, exposing the gray trunks of dead trees. Those trees will take 15 to 20 years to blow down. Fire risk heightens both during the red-needle stage and again after the logs have fallen to the forest floor.

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