Global Warming

Sea Level Rise Is Killing Trees Along the US Atlantic Coast

Sea level rise is killing trees along the Atlantic coast, creating ‘ghost forests’ that are visible from space.

Throughout coastal North Carolina, evidence of forest die-off is everywhere. Nearly every roadside ditch is lined with dead or dying trees. This flooding is evidence that climate change is altering landscapes along the Atlantic coast. It’s emblematic of environmental changes that also threaten wildlife, ecosystems, and local farms and forestry businesses.

Large patches of trees are dying simultaneously, and saplings aren’t growing to take their place. And it’s not just a local issue: Seawater is raising salt levels in coastal woodlands along the entire Atlantic Coastal Plain, from Maine to Florida. Huge swaths of contiguous forest are dying. They’re now known in the scientific community as “ghost forests.” Rapid sea level rise seems to be outpacing the ability of these forests to adapt to wetter, saltier conditions. Extreme weather events, fueled by climate change, are causing further damage from heavy storms, more frequent hurricanes and drought.

Environment

Plastic Winds

The scattering of plastic pollution in the world’s waterways and atmosphere is now resulting in the “plastification” of the planet, with the debris “spiraling around the globe” in the wind.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that smaller microplastics can remain in the atmosphere for nearly a week, which is long enough for them to be carried across an ocean or a continent. A lot of the airborne particles are from decades-old, broken-down items such as plastic bags, wrappers and bottles.

But the biggest sources are roadways, where the tires of large trucks and other vehicles degrade into tiny bits as they rumble along and are picked up by the wind.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47.2 degrees Celsius) in Matam, Senegal.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 95.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70.6 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.

Space Events

Space Dust

The Earth gains quite a bit of weight each year as dust from comets and asteroids rains down on the planet.

Writing in the journal Earth & Planetary Science Letters, researchers say their 20-year study collected samples of the space debris, ranging from 30 to 200 micrometers in size, near the Franco-Italian Concordia research station in Antarctica. The scientists from France’s National Center for Scientific Research then calculated that Earth receives about 14 tons of the micrometeorites each day. They believe 80% comes from comets and the remainder from asteroids.

Global Warming

Antarctica’s ‘Doomsday Glacier’ close to tipping point

The glacier could be melting at the key points anchoring it to the land.

Thwaites Glacier, a gigantic ice shelf in West Antarctica, has been on climate scientists’ radars for two decades now. But they didn’t know just how fast the glacier was melting, and how close it was to complete collapse, until researchers sent an unmanned submarine below the ice shelf.

The first measurements ever performed in the dark waters under the 74,000 square mile (192,000 square kilometers) chunk of ice revealed a disquieting piece of information: A previously underestimated current of warm water is flowing from the east, whittling away at several vital “pinning points” that anchor the shelf to the land.

As one of Antarctica’s fastest melting glaciers, Thwaites Glacier, cheerfully nicknamed the “Doomsday Glacier,” has lost an estimated 595 billion tons (540 billion metric tons) of ice since the 1980s, contributing to a 4% rise in global sea levels since that time. The glacier acts like a cork in a wine bottle, stopping the rest of the ice in the region from flowing into the sea, so Thwaites Glacier’s collapse could potentially take the rest of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet with it, causing a 10-foot (3 meter) rise in global sea levels.

Environment

Millions of tons of nuclear wastewater from Fukushima will be dumped into the sea

Japan’s government announced on Tuesday (April 13) that it will dump more than a million tons of contaminated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, beginning in two years.

Roughly 1.25 million tons (1.13 million metric tons) of water have accumulated around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan since 2011, after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated the region. The twin disasters killed nearly 20,000 people, according to NPR, and caused meltdowns in three of the plant’s six reactors, triggering the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

To keep the remaining reactor cores from melting, officials with the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) have been pumping nearly 200 tons (180 metric tons) of cooling water through the site every day. That contaminated wastewater is stored in more than 1,000 enormous tanks on site and automatically filtered to remove most of the radioactive material, except for tritium — a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that is considered hazardous to human health in large amounts.

Now, 10 years after the disaster, TEPCO is running out of room to store the wastewater. The disposal plan, which was approved in a government cabinet meeting on Tuesday, will see the wastewater gradually discharged into the Pacific Ocean, most likely over the course of several decades.

Environment

Cosmic Glitches

Cosmic rays have been found to be responsible for a huge number of malfunctions in computers and other electronic devices. The high-energy protons and atomic nuclei that move through space at nearly the speed of light often strike Earth’s atmosphere.

Japan’s Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Company has determined that 30,000 to 40,000 malfunctions happen in its network alone each year due to the phenomenon.

The problems arise when electronics are struck by neutrons produced when the cosmic rays collide with oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere. This can cause devices from computers to mobile phones to freeze.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46.1 degrees Celsius) in Matam, Senegal.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 91.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 68.3 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

Arctic Lightning

With the region around the North Pole heating up much faster than any other area of the planet due to climate change, atmospheric and space physicists from the University of Washington say the amount of lightning in the Arctic has grown by more than 300% during the past 11 years. They made the conclusion by looking at data from the World Wide Lightning Location Network.

While the scientists say they have no proof of a link between the warming and lightning increase, it is well known that the Arctic has typically been far too cold in the past to support the kind of updrafts that create thunderstorms and the accompanying lightning.

Coldest Ever

A U.S. research satellite detected a record-low temperature for the planet, which occurred atop a supercharged thunderstorm in the tropical Pacific just over three years ago.

Sensors aboard the NOAA-20 spacecraft found the temperature in an “overshooting top” of a soaring cumulonimbus cloud plunged to -168 degrees F.

While overshooting tops are common in thunderstorms, intense updrafts inside a thunderhead on Dec. 29, 2018, about 300 miles south of Naura Island in Micronesia, sent the top of the cloud punching into the lower stratosphere. This was in part due to the very warm ocean waters below. Such intense storms have become more frequent.

Global Warming

A Fifth of Food Output Growth Has Been Lost to Climate Change

Climate change has been holding back food production for decades, with a new study showing that about 21% of growth for agricultural output was lost since the 1960s. That’s equal to losing the last seven years of productivity growth, according to research led by Cornell University.

The revelation comes as the United Nations’ World Food Programme warns of a “looming catastrophe” with about 34 million people globally on the brink of famine. The group has cited climate change as a major factor contributing to the sharp increase in hunger around the world.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 114 degrees Fahrenheit (45.6 degrees Celsius) in Nawabshah, Pakistan.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 82.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 63.3 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.

Wildlife

Waste Personal Protective Equipment from Covid-19 is Killing Wildlife

Waste from lifesaving personal protective equipment is killing birds, fish and other wildlife across the globe, a study has found. Animals are fatally ingesting or becoming entangled in discarded latex gloves and disposable face masks, while others have started building their homes using the same material, researchers said.

Scientists found a fish trapped in medical latex gloves in a canal cleanup in the Dutch city of Leiden in August, which prompted researchers to explore whether there was a larger problem.

The biologists found hundreds of discarded face masks in Leiden’s historical canals over the course of a few months and soon realized a worrying picture was emerging. Those affected are not confined to small fish and birds, rather the entire animal kingdom globally will suffer from COVID-19 litter.

Global Warming

Humans are throwing Earth’s energy budget off balance

Earth is on a budget – an energy budget. Our planet is constantly trying to balance the flow of energy in and out of Earth’s system. But human activities are throwing that off balance, causing our planet to warm in response.

Radiative energy enters Earth’s system from the sunlight that shines on our planet. Some of this energy reflects off of Earth’s surface or atmosphere back into space. The rest gets absorbed, heats the planet, and is then emitted as thermal radiative energy the same way that black asphalt gets hot and radiates heat on a sunny day.

Eventually this energy also heads toward space, but some of it gets re-absorbed by clouds and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The absorbed energy may also be emitted back toward Earth, where it will warm the surface even more.

Adding more components that absorb radiation – like greenhouse gases – or removing those that reflect it – like aerosols – throws off Earth’s energy balance, and causes more energy to be absorbed by Earth instead of escaping into space. This is called a radiative forcing, and it’s the dominant way human activities are affecting the climate.

Climate modelling predicts that human activities are causing the release of greenhouse gases and aerosols that are affecting Earth’s energy budget. Now, a NASA study has confirmed these predictions with direct observations for the first time: radiative forcings are increasing due to human actions, affecting the planet’s energy balance and ultimately causing climate change. The paper was published online on 25 March 2021, in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Russian Arctic coast has planet’s quickest warming

It was the second warmest year in the Arctic on record, and parts of the vast region saw air temperatures far beyond the traditional freeze. The year 2020 follows the trend of the past decades and its spring months were the absolutely warmest since measurements started more than 100 years ago, a weather report from Russian meteorological service Roshydromet reads.

Parts of the Russian Arctic are now several degrees warmer than just few years ago. The warming is the most significant along parts of the North Siberian coast, and especially around the peninsulas of Taymyr and Yamal. Heat maps show that an area on the coast of Taymyr in 2020 had average temperatures up to 7’C higher than normal.

Global Warming

Amazon Adds to Global Warming

The first broad study of all greenhouse gases in the Amazon rainforest reveals that on balance the damaged ecosystem is now a net contributor to climate change. Part of the problem comes from local damaging activities like logging, dam-building, and cattle ranching. But planet-wide warming is also disrupting the water cycles in the Amazon, intensifying floods and drought that create more greenhouse gases and further decrease the ecosystem’s ability to capture and store carbon emissions.

Environment

Floods and Pests

Southeastern Australia’s worst floods in 50 years have forced thousands from their homes and driven a frightening number of snakes and spiders into populated areas. Other wildlife are also scrambling for higher ground, including skinks, ants and crickets.

The hordes of spiders invading people’s homes have proven to be the most traumatic for many residents. But they are advised not reach for insecticides because the arachnids will eventually leave when the waters recede.

Plastic Pathogens

Researchers say they have found that the vast amounts of microplastics released into the environment from wastewater treatment plants each day may be “hubs” for antibiotic-resistant bacteria and other pathogens. A team from the New Jersey Institute of Technology says the plastic pollution forms a slimy layer of film on the surface of wastewater, which collects dangerous microorganisms and allows them to commingle and mix with antibiotic waste. The scientists say this poses a threat to marine life and human health if the plastic-borne pathogens bypass the treatment process, which is typically not designed to remove the plastics.