Global Warming

Warming Slows but Greater Impact Is Inevitable: Study

Since 1880, the average global surface temperature of Earth has risen by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The oceans have absorbed far more heat than that.

Global warming is occurring at a slower rate than previous models have predicted, according to a study published in the science journal Nature Geoscience.

Authored by an international team of climatologists from eight countries, the article argues that in light of this slowing trend current projections of extreme climate change in the near future should be revised.

But the report argues that over the longer term, global temperatures are still expected to ratchet upward in the absence of significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Though the ten warmest years on record have all been since 1998, the year-over-year increase in average temperatures has actually slowed in the last two decades compared to the 1980s and 1990s.

Building a climatological forecast based on this more recent slowdown, the report estimates that a doubling of the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide above pre-industrial levels will raise temperatures by 1.6 to 3.6 degrees over a 50-to-100-year period.

This is a somewhat less extreme impact than the 2007 projection published by the United Nations panel on climate science, which linked a doubling of carbon dioxide to a short-term temperature increase of between 1.8 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

The more muted warming response to a steady uptick in greenhouse gas emissions is likely due to the absorption of excess atmospheric heat by the world’s oceans, the new report says.

Reto Knutti, a Swiss climatologist and one of the authors of the study, tells Reuters that the ocean’s moderating influence will only be temporary.

“We are still looking at warming well over the two degree goal that countries have agreed upon if current emission trends continue,” he said.

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Environment

Heat Wave in Odisha, India

Intense heat has claimed the lives of at least three people in Odisha, India. The Met Office has recorded temperatures of over 46 degree Celsius in several parts of Odisha.

The hottest temperature (48 degree celsius) has been recorded in Churu in Rajasthan.

Environment

Global Hottest and Coldest Temperatures

The week’s hottest temperature was 117.5 degrees Fahrenheit (47.5 degrees Celsius) at Matam, Senegal.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 101.6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 74.2 degrees Celsius) at Russia’s Vostok Antarctic research station.

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

North Pole Moves as Ice Sheets Melt

The North Pole’s surprise trip toward Greenland is due to Earth’s rapidly melting ice sheets, according to a new study.

The distribution of mass across the planet determines the position of Earth’s poles. Because Earth is a bit egg-shaped, the North Pole is always slightly off-centre. It’s also been slowly drifting south, responding to long-term changes since the last Ice Age, as the enormous ice sheets that once covered large swaths of the planet melted and parts of the Earth rebounded from the lost weight.

But in 2005, the pole suddenly started making a beeline east for Greenland, moving a few centimetres eastward each year. The cause? Rapid melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

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Environment

‘Red List’ of Endangered Ecosystems

With many of the world’s ecosystems threatened or endangered by human activities like logging and urbanization, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published its criteria for a new “Red List” of endangered ecosystems.

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The list, which measures an ecosystem’s risk of collapse, will be similar to the group’s authoritative Red List of Endangered Species, which created internationally accepted criteria for assessing extinction risk.

Here are the 20 case studies published today, from most to least endangered, with the ecosystem type noted if available.

Aral Sea — Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan: freshwater, collapsed

Raised bogs — Germany: critically endangered

Gonakier forests — Senegal River floodplain: freshwater, critically endangered

Cape Sand Flats — Fynbos, South Africa: terrestrial, critically endangered

Coorong lagoons — Australia: freshwater/marine, critically endangered

Karst rising springs — Southern Australia: freshwater, critically endangered

Coastal sandstone upland swamps — Australia: freshwater, endangered/critically endangered

Swamps, marshes and lakes in the Murray-Darling Basin — Australia: freshwater, endangered/critically endangered

Giant kelp forests — Alaska: marine, endangered/critically endangered

Caribbean coral reefs — Caribbean: marine, endangered/critically endangered

Seagrass meadows — Southern Australia: marine, endangered-critically endangered

German tamarisk pioneer vegetation — Europe: freshwater, endangered

Coolibah-Black Box woodland — Australia: freshwater/terrestrial, endangered

Tapia forest — Madagascar: terrestrial, endangered

Semi-evergreen vine thicket — Australia: terrestrial, endangered

Great Lakes Alvars — United States and Canada: terrestrial, vulnerable/endangered

Reed beds — Europe: freshwater, vulnerable

Floodplain ecosystem of river red gum and black box — southeastern Australia: freshwater, vulnerable

Tepui shrubland – Venezuela: terrestrial, least concern

Granite gravel fields and sand plains – New Zealand: terrestrial, least concern

Global Warming

‘Dramatic decline’ Warning for Plants and Animals

More than half of common plant species and a third of animals could see a serious decline in their habitat range because of climate change.

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New research suggests that biodiversity around the globe will be significantly impacted if temperatures rise more than 2C.

But the scientists say that the losses can be reduced if rapid action is taken to curb greenhouse gases.

The paper is published in the journal, Nature Climate Change.

An international team of researchers looked at the impacts of rising temperatures on nearly 50,000 common species of plants and animals.

They looked at both temperature and rainfall records for the habitats that these species now live in and mapped the areas that would remain suitable for them under a number of different climate change scenarios.

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The scientists projected that if no significant efforts were made to limit greenhouse gas emissions, 2100 global temperatures would be 4C above pre-industrial levels.

In this model, some 34% of animal species and 57% of plants would lose more than half of their current habitat ranges.

However the researchers say that if global emissions of greenhouse gases are cut rapidly then the impact on biodiversity could be significantly curbed. If global emissions reach their peak in 2016 and temperature rises are held to 2C, then losses could be cut by 60%.

The good news is that our research provides new evidence of how swift action to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gases can prevent the biodiversity loss by reducing the amount of global warming to 2C rather than 4 degrees.

“his would also buy time – up to four decades – for plants and animals to adapt to the remaining 2 degrees of climate change.

Environment

Acidic Arctic Threatening Marine Life

Global greenhouse gas emissions have caused the level of acidity in the Arctic Ocean to rise 30 percent since the dawn of the Industrial Age, threatening to bring dire consequences to the region’s fragile ecosystem.

Delegates to the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program conference in Bergen, Norway, were told that the pollution has caused pH levels to reach their lowest levels in the Arctic for at least the last 55 million years.

The Arctic is most vulnerable to acidification because its cold waters can absorb more carbon dioxide.

Its extensive freshwater inflow also makes it less able to chemically neutralize the acidification effects of the greenhouse gas.

It would take tens of thousands of years for the Arctic Ocean to return to the acidity levels that prevailed before the mid-1800s even if all CO2 emissions were halted today, scientists say.

The current acid levels threaten some species with a direct risk of extinction, and fish stocks may also be affected.

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Global Warming

Greenhouse Gas Milestone to Be Reached This Month

Greenhouse gas emissions are accelerating even as their effects on climate are becoming more evident.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is on the verge of exceeding 400 parts per million (ppm) this month, a concentration of the climate-warming gas not seen on the planet in 3 million years.

That projection is based on observations made at Mauna Loa Observatory, the volcano-top Hawaiian lab where measurements of atmospheric CO2 have been collected since 1958.

Since then, the seasonally fluctuating levels have risen from 316 ppm at an escalating rate.

According to Ralph Keeling, a geochemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the surpassing of the 400-ppm mark should serve as a warning that despite increased public awareness of the danger posed by global warming, worldwide carbon dioxide emissions show no sign of reversing.

“We are starting to move toward alternate fossil energy — non-conventional fossil fuels like tar sands and so forth,” warns Keeling. “And that’s a little troubling because it reflects our willingness to expand and use reserves of fossil fuels that probably ought to stay in the ground if we take this problem seriously.”

Exceeding 400 ppm does not correspond to any specific climatological event. However, as politicians, scientists, and activists around the world push for new policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate global warming, the new record-breaking figure may increase the sense of urgency for some.

Prior to the mid-18th century, when humans first began burning carbon-based fuels for industrial use, concentration of carbon dioxide is thought to have been stable at approximately 280 ppm.

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Environment

Global Hottest and Coldest Temperatures

The week’s hottest temperature was 116.6 degrees Fahrenheit (47.0 degrees Celsius) at Matam, Senegal.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 104.3 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 75.6 degrees Celsius) at the U.S. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, in 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

Declining snow levels could leave some creatures near extinction

During long, bitterly cold winters, a thick blanket of snow helps protect creatures and plants that live in these harsh climates. That is why recently published findings showing a steady decline in snow cover across the Northern Hemisphere are so alarming.

Since 1970, snow in this part of the globe has decreased by as much as 3.2 million square kilometers (1.2 million square miles) during the spring months of March and April, according to a study published May 2 by a team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Snow

In their report, scientists describe the gradual degradation of the “subnivium,” the zone in and underneath the snow pack that creates a seasonal microenvironment for habitats of creatures from microorganisms to hibernating bears. In the subnivium, animals can find refuge against dry, biting winds and cold temperatures.

Underneath that homogenous blanket of snow is an incredibly stable refuge where the vast majority of organisms persist through the winter. The snow holds in heat radiating from the ground, plants photosynthesize, and it’s a haven for insects, reptiles, amphibians, and many other organisms.

Changes in the subnivium can have drastic consequences for northern ecosystems. Mammals, reptiles, and amphibians are all threatened by fluctuating temperatures, which can force premature emergence from hibernation, exposing them to sudden freezes, spring deluges, or unfamiliar predators. Plants can be damaged or die when their roots are subjected to alternating periods of freezing and thawing.

Global Warming

NASA Study Projects Warming-Driven Changes In Global Rainfall

A NASA-led study provides new evidence that global warming may increase the risk for extreme rainfall and drought.

The study shows for the first time how rising carbon dioxide concentrations could affect the entire range of rainfall types on Earth.

Analysis of computer simulations from 14 climate models indicates wet regions of the world, such as the equatorial Pacific Ocean and Asian monsoon regions, will see increases in heavy precipitation because of warming resulting from projected increases in carbon dioxide levels. Arid land areas outside the tropics and many regions with moderate rainfall could become drier.

The analysis provides a new assessment of global warming’s impacts on precipitation patterns around the world. The study was accepted for publication in the American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The models project for every 1 degree Fahrenheit of carbon dioxide-induced warming, heavy rainfall will increase globally by 3.9 percent and light rain will increase globally by 1 percent. However, total global rainfall is not projected to change much because moderate rainfall will decrease globally by 1.4 percent.

Heavy rainfall is defined as months that receive an average of more than about 0.35 of an inch per day. Light rain is defined as months that receive an average of less than 0.01 of an inch per day. Moderate rainfall is defined as months that receive an average of between about 0.04 to 0.09 of an inch per day.

Areas projected to see the most significant increase in heavy rainfall are in the tropical zones around the equator, particularly in the Pacific Ocean and Asian monsoon regions.

Some regions outside the tropics may have no rainfall at all. The models also projected for every degree Fahrenheit of warming, the length of periods with no rain will increase globally by 2.6 percent. In the Northern Hemisphere, areas most likely to be affected include the deserts and arid regions of the southwest United States, Mexico, North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, and northwestern China. In the Southern Hemisphere, drought becomes more likely in South Africa, northwestern Australia, coastal Central America and northeastern Brazil.

Environment

Humanity Faces Possible Extinction

A team of mathematicians, philosophers and scientists at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute say there is ever-increasing evidence that the human race’s reliance on technology could, in fact, lead to its demise. The group argues that we face a real risk to our own existence. And not a slow demise in some distant, theoretical future. The end could come as soon as the next century.

“There is a great race on between humanity’s technological powers and our wisdom to use those powers well. I’m worried that the former will pull too far ahead.”

There’s something about the end of the world that we just can’t shake. Even with the paranoia of 2012 Mayan prophecies behind us, people still remain fascinated by the potential for an extinction-level event. And popular culture is happy to indulge in our anxiety. This year alone, two major comedy films are set to debut (“The World’s End” and “This is the End”), which take a humorous look at the end-of-the-world scenarios. Interestingly, well-known threats, such as asteroids, super-volanic eruptions and earthquakes are not likely to threaten humanity in the near future. Even a nuclear explosion isn’t likely to wipe out the entire population; enough people could survive to rebuild society. “Empirical impact distributions and scientific models suggest that the likelihood of extinction because of these kinds of risk is extremely small on a time scale of a century or so.” Instead, it’s the unknown factors behind innovative technologies that pose the greatest risk going forward.

Machines, synthetic biology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence could become our own worst enemy, if they aren’t already, “threats we have no track record of surviving.” “We are developing things that could go wrong in a profound way. With any new powerful technology we should think very carefully about what we know – but it might be more important to know what we don’t have certainty about.”

However, it’s not all bad news. While a lack of understanding surrounding new technology posts huge risks, it does not necessarily equate to our downfall. “The Earth will remain habitable for at least another billion years. Civilization began only a few thousand years ago. If we do not destroy mankind, these few thousand years may be only a tiny fraction of the whole of civilized human history. It turns out that the ultimate potential for Earth-originating intelligent life is literally astronomical.”

Environment

Global Hottest and Coldest Temperatures

The week’s hottest temperature was 114.8 degrees Fahrenheit (46.0 degrees Celsius) at Matam, Senegal.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 86.6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 65.9 degrees Celsius) at the U.S. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, in 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

Plants Could Be Moderating Climate Change

Small particles released by plants in warmer weather could help to boost cloud production and reduce the effect of global warming, a new study suggests.

By surveying nearly a dozen forests across Europe, North America and southern Africa, a team of Finnish physicists found that in warmer weather, plants tend to emit higher concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere.

When these small, floating chemicals bind with water vapor, they can create the “seeds” of clouds.

With more VOCs in the air, we can expect to see more clouds in the sky.

That could be good news for those concerned about climate change.

As warmer weather leads to higher levels of cloud production, more sunlight will be deflected back into space and prevented from warming the surface of the Earth.

But the authors of the study, writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, caution that the global impact of this cloud-seeding effect is expected to be quite small.

While higher VOC emissions may help to cut rising local temperatures by as much as 30 percent, the study found that it can only be expected to slow the global warming trend by a mere one-percent.

The implications of the study may still be important. As Pauli Paasonen, lead author of the study points out, the role of sun-deflecting “aerosols” in the atmosphere is one of the least well understood factors of climate change.

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Environment

Sea surface temperatures on the Northeast USA Unusually Warm

Sea surface temperatures in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem, which extends from Cape Hatteras to the Gulf of Maine and outward to the boundary of the continental shelf, increased dramatically to reach a record 57.2 degrees Fahrenheit, beating a previous record high in 1951. The average temperature over the past three decades has been typically lower than 54.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

The warmer ocean temperatures might be good news for beachgoers in the Northeast, but they could also disrupt ecosystems, along with the livelihoods that depend on them. Black sea bass, summer flounder, longfin squid, and butterfish have been migrating northeastward. Lobsters are migrating too, but at a slower rate.