Global Warming

Climate Change will Strengthen El Niños

El Niños will be stronger and more frequent in the decades ahead because of global warming, causing “more extreme events” in the United States and around the world, a study said Wednesday.

A natural phenomenon marked by warmer-than-average seawater in the tropical Pacific Ocean, El Niño is Earth’s most influential climate pattern. A weak one is forecast to form at some point this winter, scientists have said.

Rather than once every 15 years, powerful El Niños will occur roughly once every 10 years. They found that the physical processes in the ocean and atmosphere that produce strong El Niños will be supercharged by human-caused climate change.

The entire natural climate cycle is officially known as El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which swings between warmer and cooler seawater in the tropical Pacific. Cooler-than-average ocean water is known as La Niña. The cycle is the primary factor government scientists consider when announcing their winter weather forecast.

Strong El Niños can lead to floods in the western United States, Ecuador and northeast Peru and to droughts in nations that border the western Pacific Ocean, the study finds.

During extreme El Niños, marine life in the eastern Pacific can die off, and mass bleaching of corals across the Pacific and beyond can occur.

Global Warming

The Arctic Is Not Doing Well (at All)

A new “report card” from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Arctic Program paints a dire picture for the frozen North. According to the program’s 2018 Arctic Report Card, Arctic surface air temperatures are warming twice as fast as in the rest of the globe, while populations of wild reindeer and caribou have tumbled by 50 percent over the last 20 years.

And the Arctic is setting alarming new records all the time. Air temperatures from 2014 to 2018 in the Arctic were warmer than in any prior year dating back to 1900, according to the report. The past 12 years have shown the lowest extents on record of Arctic sea ice. And the Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than it has in at least 350 years.

The annual report is the 13th issued by NOAA’s Arctic Program. One of the most dramatic changes in today’s Arctic, the report found, is the loss of the region’s sea ice. The winter maximum sea ice of 2018, measured in March, was the second lowest in 39 years of record-keeping, behind only 2017. In 1985, the report authors wrote, ice that had survived multiple years of freezing and thawing made up 16 percent of the Arctic’s sea ice. Today, that number is a mere 1 percent. The thinner, single-year ice that makes up 99 percent of the ice pack is more prone to melt and flow.

Warming temperatures, lost sea ice and long-term declines in snowpack on land have caused chaos for the Arctic’s wildlife. While reindeer are mythologized in Christmas carols, real herds are suffering. Wild reindeer and their fellow foragers, tundra caribou, have been in decline since the 1990s, according to the report. Where there were once 4.7 million animals combined, there are now 2.1 million. Of 22 herds being monitored by researchers today, 20 are on the decline.

Climate is to blame for much of the decline, according to the report. Longer, warmer summers mean more parasites and heat stress for the winter-adapted grazing animals, along with a greater risk of grass-killing drought.

Meanwhile, toxic algal blooms driven by warming waters represent a new threat to marine life in the Arctic, the researchers wrote. Algal toxins have been found in ill or dead animals ranging from seabirds to seals to whales.

East Antarctica glacial stronghold melting as seas warm

A group of glaciers spanning an eighth of the East Antarctica coastline are being melted by the warming seas, scientists have discovered.

This Antarctic region stores a vast amount of ice, which, if lost, would in the long-term raise global sea level by tens of metres and drown coastal settlements around the world.

Freezing temperatures meant the East Antarctica region was until recently considered largely stable but the research indicates that the area is being affected by climate change.

The vast Totten glacier was known to be retreating but the new analysis shows that nearby glaciers in the East Antarctica area are also losing ice.

To the east of Totten, in Vincennes Bay, the height of the glaciers has fallen by about three metres in total since 2008, before which no loss had been recorded.

To the west of Totten, in Wilkes Land, the rate of height loss has doubled since 2009, with glaciers losing height by about two and a half metres to date.

The data comes from detailed maps of ice movement speed and height created by Nasa from satellite information.

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Global Warming

Climate change is not only influencing extreme weather events, it’s causing them

Extreme weather events that spanned the globe in 2017 have been directly linked to — and in some cases were even caused by — continued warming of the planet via human influence through greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report.

For the second year in a row, the annual report from the American Meteorological Society found weather extremes that could not have happened without human-caused warming of the climate. Advances in scientific modeling and additional climbs in temperatures are making the connection between global warming and extreme weather much more concrete.

Scientists found that record warm waters in the Tasman Sea in 2017 and 2018 “were virtually impossible without global warming,” and they concluded that a crippling drought in East Africa that has led to food shortages for millions of people would not have occurred naturally before the Industrial Revolution, when humans began to interfere with the climate system.

Included in the 17 events identified in the report in which global warming played a role were major floods such as those with Hurricane Harvey, fires, heat waves over land and in the ocean, and even record low sunshine in Japan in August 2017.

The findings are part of an annual report titled “Explaining Extreme Events in 2017 from a Climate Perspective,” which reveals clear ties between recent extremes in weather and human influences of the climate

Global Warming

US, Russia block key global warming report from climate summit

A landmark study on global warming has been blocked from being endorsed by a world climate summit by the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

“I think it was a key moment,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The fact that a group of four countries were trying to diminish the value and importance of a scientific report they themselves, with all other countries, requested three years ago in Paris is pretty remarkable.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on what would happen if average global temperatures rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius, and how to ensure they don’t go higher, was widely regarded as a wake-up call for policy-makers when it was released in October.

As diplomats wrapped up a week of technical talks on Saturday (Sunday NZT), almost all 200 countries present in Katowice, Poland, had wanted to “welcome” the IPCC report, making it the benchmark for future action.

Global Warming

Global warming today mirrors conditions leading to Earth’s largest extinction event: study

More than two-thirds of life on Earth died off some 252 million years ago, in the largest mass extinction event in Earth’s history.

Researchers have long suspected that volcanic eruptions triggered “the Great Dying,” as the end of the Permian geologic period is sometimes called, but exactly how so many creatures died has been something of a mystery.

Now scientists at the University of Washington and Stanford believe their models reveal how so many animals were killed, and they see frightening parallels in the path our planet is on today.

Models of the effects of volcanic greenhouse gas releases showed the Earth warming dramatically and oxygen disappearing from its oceans, leaving many marine animals unable to breathe, according to a study published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Science. By the time temperatures peaked, about 80 percent of the oceans’ oxygen, on average, had been depleted. Most marine animals went extinct.

By this century’s end, if emissions continue at their current pace, humans will have warmed the ocean about 20 percent as much as during the extinction event, the researchers say. By 2300, that figure could be as high as 50 percent.

Global Warming

Climate Alarm at Summit

Those attending a U.N. climate-change summit in Poland were warned that today’s generation is the last that can prevent catastrophic global warming by eliminating greenhouse gas emissions.

Famed British naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, who attended the gathering, gave the dire warning: “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

The summit convened as scientists announced that the last four years have been the hottest on record, and that the planet’s average temperature is on track to rise between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius (5.4 to 9.0 F) by the end of the century.

A new report released in conjunction with the summit said that instead of falling around the world as agreed to by world governments, global carbon emissions will jump 2.7 percent to a record high by the end of 2018, mainly due to booming industrial output.

Carbon Eaters

Scientists from the University of Texas at Austin say they have discovered dozens of new species of exotic bacteria in extremely hot deep-sea ocean sediment that appear to have the ability to consume hydrocarbons such as methane and butane to survive and thrive.

Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers say the microbes might be harnessed to curb the concentrations of some greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and someday even help clean up oil spills.

The bacteria, found in the Guaymas Basin of the Gulf of California, are so genetically different from other known species that they represent new branches in Earth’s tree of life.

Global Warming

Greenland Is Melting Faster Than Ever

Greenland is melting faster today than it has at any time in the last 350 years, and probably much longer, new research finds.

Surface melt from the icy island has increased 50 percent in the last 20 years compared with the early 1800s, before the industrial era, researchers report (Dec. 5) in the journal Nature. The runoff alone is now contributing about a millimeter to the global average sea level per year.

Scientists tracking Greenland’s ice by satellite and on the ground have seen increasingly dire ice loss. Greenland loses ice both when icebergs calve off glaciers and when ice on the surface melts and flows to the sea as water. The meltwater flow is how the majority of the ice vanishes.

The amount of annual meltwater runoff from Greenland has increased from between 200 and 250 gigatons a year before humans started burning fossil fuels in large amounts to 350 gigatons a year today. It takes about 360 gigatons of meltwater to raise the global sea level by a millimeter.

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Global Warming

Morocco’s irrigation revolution against global warming

In 1980, 2,500 m3 of drinking water was available per person per year in Morocco. Today, as a result of global warming, water scarcity has brought the level down to 500 m3 per person. According to NASA, the global average temperature has increased by 1.1°C over the last century, which is causing more droughts.

In response, the agricultural irrigation sector in Morocco has boomed. The government aims to convert 550,000 hectares of agricultural land to drip-irrigation technology within 10 years.

Thousands march peacefully in Brussels against global warming

Tens of thousands of people marched peacefully on Sunday in Brussels urging governments to respect commitments on countering climate change as a United Nations conference on keeping global warming in check opened in Poland.

Belgian police said some 65,000 people participated in Sunday’s “Claim The Climate” demonstration, many of them on their bikes.

Global warming increases frost damage on trees in Central Europe

Global warming increases frost damage on trees in large areas of Central Europe, according to a new Finnish-Chinese study by researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, the Chinese Academy of Science and Zhejiang A&F University.

Late frost damages are economically important in agriculture and forestry. In certain years, they are known to have caused losses amounting to up to hundreds of millions of euros.

Climate change and increasing temperatures will diminish the occurrence and severity of spring frost events, which should reduce frost damages.

“However, global warming also has another, negative consequence: plants flower and leaf out earlier than they used to. As a result, the incidence of frost damages will increase,” says Professor Frank Berninger from the University of Eastern Finland.

“Our research suggests that as a result, trees will suffer increasing frost damages in many places in Central Europe.”

Global Warming

Weaker Ocean Currents

A new study has found evidence that the ocean circulation in the North Atlantic has become the weakest of the past 1,500 years, mainly as a result of a warming climate.

Many climate models predict a weakening, or even a collapse, of this branch of the ocean circulation under global warming — partly due to a surge of fresh water from the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong write in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has far-reaching impacts on the climate from North America to Europe, and can influence the monsoon rainfall in South Asia and Africa.

CO2 Emissions Surge

Global emissions of the most prevalent greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, rose to a new historic high last year, according to a U.N. report that warns the time for action to avoid disastrous climate change is running out.

It adds that emissions began rising again during 2017 for the first time in four years. Levels of accumulated atmospheric CO2 reached a global average of 405.5 parts per million during 2017, almost 50 percent higher than before the Industrial Revolution.

“The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3 to 5 million years ago, when the temperature was 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 5.4 F) warmer and sea level was 10 to 20 meters (33 to 66 feet) higher,” said World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

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Global Warming

Global warming increases the risk of an extinction domino effect

The complex network of interdependencies between plants and animals multiplies the species at risk of extinction due to environmental change, according to a JRC study.

In the case of global warming, predictions that fail to take into account this cascading effect might underestimate extinctions by up to 10 times.

As an obvious, direct consequence of climate change, plants and animals living in a given area are driven to extinction when the local environmental conditions become incompatible with their tolerance limits, just like fish in an aquarium with a broken thermostat.

However, there are many elusive drivers of species loss that go beyond the direct effects of environmental change (and human activity) which we still struggle to understand.

In particular, it is becoming clearer that co-extinctions (the disappearance of consumers following the depletion of their resources) could be a major culprit in the ongoing biodiversity crisis.

While the concept of co-extinction is supported by a sound and robust theoretical background, it is often overlooked in empirical research because it’s extremely difficult to assess.

Wildlife

Biggest coral reseeding project launches on Great Barrier Reef

Scientists have launched the largest-ever attempt to regenerate coral on the endangered Great Barrier Reef by harvesting millions of the creatures’ eggs and sperm during their annual spawning.

The researchers said Wednesday they plan to grow coral larvae from the harvested eggs and return these to areas of the reef which have been badly damaged by climate-related coral bleaching.

“Our team will be restoring hundreds of square meters with the goal of getting to square kilometres in the future, a scale not attempted previously,” the researchers said.

The “Larval Restoration Project” launch was timed to coincide with the annual coral spawn on the reef, which began earlier this week and will last only about 48 to 72 hours.

“Our approach to reef restoration aims to buy time for coral populations to survive and evolve until emissions are capped and our climate stabilises.”

The scientists hope that coral which have survived bleaching have a greater tolerance to rising temperatures so that a breeding population produced from this year’s spawn will grow into coral better able to survive future bleaching events.

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Global Warming

Receding Malawi Lake Lays Bare Cost Of Climate Change

Just four months ago, the fishing harbour at Kachulu on the western shores of Lake Chilwa in Malawi was bustling with fishermen and traders haggling over the catch of the day.

Today hundreds of fishing boats sit marooned on cracked, dry mud as vultures fly above the shores of the once productive fishing zone 30 kilometres east of the southern African country’s old capital Zomba.

Chilwa, the country’s second largest lake after Malawi, is shallow and saline and particularly prone to seasonal variations in water level and was last so dry during a drought in 1991. It is home to two inhabited islands and also sustains nearly 200 waterbird species.

Records show the lake has dried completely several times in the last 100 years… according to published literature, it was a cycle of 20 to 25 years. But that rhythm has changed. From the 1990s, the frequency of the drying has increased and this is connected to the impacts of extreme weather events typical of climate change.

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Global Warming

The World Needs to Stop Using Coal. Why Is It So Hard?

Coal, the fuel that powered the industrial age, has led the planet to the brink of catastrophic climate change.

Scientists have repeatedly warned of its looming dangers, most recently on Friday, when a major scientific report issued by 13 United States government agencies warned that the damage from climate change could knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end if significant steps aren’t taken to rein in warming.

An October report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on global warming found that avoiding the worst devastation would require a radical transformation of the world economy in just a few years.

Central to that transformation: Getting out of coal, and fast.

And yet, three years after the Paris agreement, when world leaders promised action, coal shows no sign of disappearing. While coal use looks certain to eventually wane worldwide, according to the latest assessment by the International Energy Agency, it is not on track to happen anywhere fast enough to avert the worst effects of climate change. Last year, in fact, global production and consumption increased after two years of decline.

Cheap, plentiful and the most polluting of fossil fuels, coal remains the single largest source of energy to generate electricity worldwide. This, even as renewables like solar and wind power are rapidly becoming more affordable. Soon, coal could make no financial sense for its backers.

So, why is coal so hard to quit?

Because coal is a powerful incumbent. It’s there by the millions of tons under the ground. Powerful companies, backed by powerful governments, often in the form of subsidies, are in a rush to grow their markets before it is too late. Banks still profit from it. Big national electricity grids were designed for it. Coal plants can be a surefire way for politicians to deliver cheap electricity — and retain their own power. In some countries, it has been a glistening source of graft.

Global Warming

US Government Report on Climate Change

Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities, according to a long-awaited report released Friday by the federal government. The National Climate Assessment warns that extreme weather and climate-related events in the U.S. are worsening, and it reveals the economic and health toll of climate change.

The report, which is mandated by law, “concludes that the evidence of human-caused climate change is overwhelming and continues to strengthen, that the impacts of climate change are intensifying across the country, and that climate-related threats to Americans’ physical, social, and economic well-being are rising.”

The report’s authors, who represent more than a dozen federal agencies, detail expected economic impact.

“The continued warming that is projected to occur without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts,” the report says.

Climate change is expected to hurt the American economy by causing more damage to natural resources and infrastructure, including access to roads, the viability of bridges and the safety of pipelines.

The federal report says the last few years have smashed records for damaging weather in the U.S., costing nearly $400 billion since 2015.

When it comes to health, the report says increasing water and air temperatures and more intense extreme events are expected to heighten exposure “to waterborne and foodborne diseases, affecting food and water safety.”

Climate change is also projected to increase the frequency and severity of allergic illnesses, including asthma and hay fever. And it will alter the geographic range and distribution of disease-carrying insects and pests, exposing more people to ticks that carry Lyme disease and mosquitoes that transmit viruses such as Zika, West Nile, and dengue, with “varying impacts” across regions.

Global Warming

Half of the Year’s Rain Falls on Earth in Just 12 Days

It takes less than two weeks for half of the planet’s annual precipitation to fall. That is, 50 percent of Earth’s rain, snow and ice each year falls in the 12 wettest days, according to a new study. The deluges are likely to become even more concentrated by the end of the century, researchers reported Oct. 19 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

What the researchers found is that the expected increases happen when it’s already the wettest — the rainiest days get rainier.

Climate scientists have long been concerned that the increase in global average temperatures will cause weather events that are more extreme. Warmer air can hold more moisture, and a different study, published Nov. 14, found that today’s hurricanes are already wetter due to climate change.

Already, most of the water that falls from the sky does so in a mind-bogglingly short period of time. It takes just 12 days to account for half the world’s yearly annual precipitation, the researchers reported.

The scientists found that a whopping 75 percent of the world’s precipitation falls in approximately a month’s time (the wettest 30 days, spread across the year). Twelve and a half percent of annual precipitation falls in just two days. And the wettest single day of the year accounts for 8.3 percent of the year’s total.

Regionally, this tendency for a lot of wetness in only a short period of time is most obvious in dry, desert environments, the researchers found. China and southeastern Russia are right in the middle, and “wet” places like the northeastern United States show the most even distribution of precipitation.

Globally, the wettest day of summer accounts for 5.2 percent of the year’s precipitation, while the wettest day of winter is a little drier, at 3.4 percent of the annual precipitation budget.

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