Global Warming

Arctic lakes speed up permafrost thawing, global warming: study

A new study found that a relatively less known process called abrupt thawing might speed up Arctic permafrost’s expected gradual thawing and then the release of greenhouse gases.

The abrupt thawing takes place under a certain type of Arctic lake, known as a thermokarst lake that forms as permafrost thaws, according to the study published on Friday in the journal Nature Communications.

Its impact on the climate is an influx of permafrost-derived methane into the atmosphere in the mid-21st century, which is not currently accounted for in climate projections.

The Arctic landscape stores one of the largest natural reservoirs of organic carbon in the world in its frozen soils. Once thawed, soil microbes in the permafrost can turn that carbon into the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane.

American and German researchers found that abrupt thawing more than doubles previous estimates of permafrost-derived greenhouse warming.

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Environment

California Logs Its Hottest Month Ever

As wildfires burn huge swaths of California, the month of July blazed through climate records. It was not only the hottest July in California’s history, but it was also the state’s hottest month ever, according to a new report issued Wednesday (Aug. 15) by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 119 degrees Fahrenheit (48.3 degrees Celsius) in Death Valley, California.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 89.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 67.2 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50.0 degrees Celsius) in Death Valley, California.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 80.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 62.2 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Global Warming

Earth risks tipping into ‘hothouse’ state – study

The planet urgently needs to transition to a green economy because fossil fuel pollution risks pushing the Earth into a lasting and dangerous “hothouse” state, researchers warned.

If polar ice continues to melt, forests are slashed and greenhouse gases rise to new highs – as they currently do each year – the Earth will pass a tipping point.

Crossing that threshold “guarantees a climate 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial times, and sea levels that are 10-60m higher than today”, cautioned scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And that “could be only decades ahead”, they said.

“Hothouse Earth is likely to be uncontrollable and dangerous to many,” said the article by scientists at University of Copenhagen, Australian National University and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

Rivers would flood, storms would wreak havoc on coastal communities, and coral reefs would be eliminated – all by century’s end or even earlier. Global average temperatures would exceed those of any interglacial period – meaning warmer eras that come in between Ice Ages – of the past 1.2 million years. Melting polar ice caps would lead to dramatically higher sea levels, flooding coastal land that is home to hundreds of millions of people.

Researchers suggest the tipping point could come once the Earth warms to 2°C over pre-industrial times. The planet has already warmed 1°C over pre-industrial times, and is heating up at a rate of 0.17°C per decade.

“A 2°C warming could activate important tipping elements, raising the temperature further to activate other tipping elements in a domino-like cascade that could take the Earth System to even higher temperatures,” said the report.

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Environment

Ocean temperatures hit record high off San Diego

By East Coast standards, a water temperature of 78.8 degrees isn’t all that toasty. But it was an all-time record for the Pacific Ocean near San Diego last week.

Scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have measured the ocean temperature at a pier in San Diego for 102 years – and on Friday Aug. 3, it was warmer than any other time on record.

It was yet another extreme temperature record for a planet that’s seen a slew of them this summer, from 90 degrees north of the Arctic Circle in Finland to a possible all-time record high for Africa of 124 degrees, among many others.

Global Warming

Sweden loses its tallest peak to global warming

Sweden has a new highest point. The Scandinavian country’s highest peak lost its title this week because record heat has been melting away the tip of a glacier that sits atop the Kebnekaise mountain, experts say.

A month ago, the mountain’s southern peak held the title, soaring to 2,101 metres above sea level.

On Tuesday, after weeks of high temperatures, it was 2,097 metres high – only 20 centimetres, or about six inches, taller than the north peak, said Professor Gunhild Rosqvist, head of the Tarfala Research Station near the mountain.

By Wednesday, enough had melted to take it below the critical height, Rosqvist said, handing the northern peak the crown. “We can estimate the melt rate based on temperature measurements. We know that it has melted because it is very hot,” she said. “We are going to measure again later this summer when the melting stops. In a month, we’ll know how bad it is.”

The shrinking peak is symbolic of climate change that also brought marked shifts for animals and vegetation, she said, and badly affected the region’s reindeer herders. July was the hottest on record in many parts of Sweden, with drought and some of the worst forest fires the country has seen.

Even if the northern peak is higher when the mountain is measured at summer’s end, the southern tip is likely to grow again in winter. The peaks could then take turns as Sweden’s highest point over the next few years.

Global Warming

Earth’s Soil Is Hyperventilating

According to a new study published Aug. 1 in the journal Nature, there’s about twice as much carbon dioxide (CO2) stored in Earth’s soil as there is floating around the atmosphere, and for the last few decades, that underground greenhouse gas has been leaking out at a significantly increased rate.

Based on more than 2,000 sources of climate data taken from ecosystems around the world, a team of soil scientists found that the rate of CO2 released from Earth’s soil has increased globally by about 1.2 percent in just 25 years — and you can blame that on hot, hungry microbes.

Dirt doesn’t actually breathe, of course, but it sort of looks that way when tiny, underground organisms help release the CO2 stored in plant roots, dead leaves and other natural detritus. Hungry microbes gorge on the tasty carbon stored in this plant matter, and then release carbon dioxide as a natural byproduct of this feeding, just as you do when you exhale after a deep breath.

This process is known as “soil respiration,” and it’s an important complement to photosynthesis — the process by which plants turn CO2, water and light into energy — helping to keep ecosystems around the world running smoothly.

But lately, researchers have found that as global temperatures rise, microbes in the soil have been releasing CO2 faster than plants can snatch it up again. Previous studies have indicated that tree roots and certain microbes both respire more frequently at higher temperatures (up until a certain point, when the intense heat causes the organisms to stop functioning completely). But the exact effects of that increase in respiration had never been studied on a global scale until now.

The data showed that the rate of global soil respiration had increased by about 1.2 percent in the 25-year window between 1990 and 2014. Most of that growth was due to increased microbial action; the tiny creatures in Earth’s soil are freeing more and more greenhouse gases from our planet’s surface.

While a 1.2 percent increase might not seem significant on its face, the researchers made it clear that even a modest change like this represents a “massive” ecosystem shift over a relatively short time. And while the full effects of this microbial huffing and puffing are hard to estimate, it’s possible that all that extra CO2 will feed a self-intensifying loop of atmospheric warming and soil respiration over the years to come.

Global warming threatens Arctic fauna

Infections, untypical for the Arctic, have been coming into the Arctic zone due to climate change, Director of the Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Ecology and Evolution Studies Vyacheslav Rozhnov said in St. Petersburg. “The new information is alarming,” he said. “Animals in the Arctic are facing infections, which have not been typical there.” The new infections adapt quickly to the changing temperatures and threaten the animals, he continued.

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Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 127 degrees Fahrenheit (52.8 degrees Celsius) in Death Valley, California.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 78.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 61.1 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Environment

Oldest Evidence for Life on Land Unearthed in South Africa

About 3.22 billion years ago, slimy layers of microbes coated pebbles in what was perhaps an ancient riverbed. Those ancient microbial mats, preserved for eons and only recently discovered in South Africa, may be the oldest fossil evidence of life on land, according to a new study.

The ancient evidence of terrestrial life is about a half billion years older than the previous record holder — fossilized remains of microbes found decades ago in South Africa and Australia, said Stefan Lalonde, a geochemist from the European Institute for Marine Studies in France and a co-author of the new study, published July 23 in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Geological evidence has hinted that life existed in the oceans as far back as 3.8 billion years ago. But signs of terrestrial life have been rarer — possibly because most of the planet might have been under water until 3 billion years ago.

Global Warming

CO2 Emissions Play Havoc with Ocean Life

The devastating impact of global warming on ocean life has been laid bare in a shocking new scientific report.

Coral reefs across the globe are being killed off by a combination of increasing temperatures and ocean acidification caused by rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels.

Researchers found blooms of algae are blanketing the seabed in areas of high CO2 concentration, choking corals and lowering marine diversity.

If CO2 levels continue to rise at their current rate, the consequences will be ‘catastrophic’, scientists have warned.

Teams of British, Italian and Japanese researchers, including from the University of Plymouth, found a worrying lack of corals in areas of the Pacific where CO2 levels met present-day averages.

In contrast, marine areas with pre-industrial levels of CO2 flourished with corals and other species and sea-life.

Experts discovered the stark contrast by analysing volcanic CO2 seeps off Shikine Island, in Japan, where ocean currents cause CO2 levels to mimic those before the industrial revolution.

In areas with pre-Industrial levels of CO2 the coast has an impressive amount of calcified organisms such as corals and oysters.

But in areas with present-day average levels of surface seawater CO2 they found far fewer corals and other calcified life, and so there was less biodiversity.

It shows the extensive damage caused by humans due to CO2 emissions over the past 300 years and unless we can get a grip on reducing CO2 emissions we will undoubtedly see major degradation of coastal systems worldwide.

Proliferation of algae in areas with high CO2:

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Global Warming

Animated Earth Map Shows Extent of Global Heat Wave

Earth is boiling under record-high temperatures. Global heat waves have landed thousands of people in the hospital and fueled massive wildfires in places ranging from Greece to the Arctic Circle.

An animation called “earth” shows just how high worldwide temperatures really are. The animation, designed by computer programmer Cameron Beccario, an engineering manager at Indeed Tokyo in Japan, updates every 3 hours with weather data taken from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction’s Global Forecast System.

Environment

Drought in El Salvador

In El Salvador, there will be a meeting of the United Nations country team tomorrow [27 July] to develop a plan of action following the declaration by the Government of a red alert emergency due to the severe drought affecting some 77,000 corn farmers. Lack of rain led to losses of over 90,000 metric tons of corn, one of the main staple foods in the country. The eastern part of the country has reported 33 consecutive days without rain and record temperatures reaching 41°C.

Environment

Erratic Jet Stream

The jet stream, the ribbon of wind that circles the Earth is contorting into extreme loops sharply towards the poles with ridges of high pressure and dips to the equator with low pressure.

The resultant calamity list includes wildfires across Scandinavia, Greece and California, record heat in Texas, Japan and Africa and flooding rains along the U.S. East Coast that could last another week. The world is hotter in general, which means when temperatures spike, they do so off a higher baseline.

Plastic Pollution in the Dominican Republic

Large waves of plastic pollution washed onto the coast of the Dominican Republic, prompting officials to dispatch more than 500 workers to remove the debris from a beach in the capital of Santo Domingo.

More than 1,000 tons of plastic waste, including bottles and foam takeout boxes mixed with seaweed, were hauled away. The debris was said to have washed onto the beach from a nearby polluted river.

Parley for the Oceans, a group working to reduce plastic waste in the world’s oceans, says the phenomenon occurs in many developing nations with a coastline.

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Global Warming

Climate Change Threatens Greenland’s Sled Dog Culture

People in Greenland have long relied on sled dogs to hunt and fish on the ice.

But this tradition is slowly fading. Unstable winter seas are forcing fishermen to use boats instead of sled dogs to fish and hunt seals, threatening the historic tradition of its unique hunting lifestyle.

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