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.

Wildlife

Black Widow Spiders Are Heading North

As climate change warms the earth, black widow spiders are moving north. The spiders are notorious, because venom is 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake’s. A bite can cause aches, pains, and paralysis of the diaphragm which make breathing difficult.

In a study published in PLOS One on Wednesday, Canadian researchers reported that over the past 60 years the northernmost point black widow spiders live has moved 31 miles north, into southern Canada. The scientists believe that the spread of the spiders, which prefer a temperate climate, is due to climate change.

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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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.

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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Wildlife

Geese Fly to Exhaustion in Race Against Climate Change

Every spring, thousands of barnacle geese make a grand migration from their temperate winter habitat in northern Europe and northwestern Russia to their summer nesting grounds in the Arctic. It’s a journey of more than 1,800 miles (3,000 kilometers) that usually takes about a month, but new research has found that rising temperatures in the Arctic are pressuring the geese to make the trip in a grueling one-week sprint.

Barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis) are medium-size water birds found in Europe, Russia, the United Kingdom, Wales and the Arctic. Until recent years, the timing of the birds’ spring migration meant they arrived in the Arctic right as the snowmelt exposed their nesting sites and initiated plant growth. The birds would almost immediately lay their eggs, which would then hatch 30 or so days later, right at the peak season for plant growth — perfect timing for hungry, growing goslings.

But in the past few decades, scientists noticed that things have changed. Temperatures in the Arctic have been getting warmer earlier and earlier in the season — by about a day per year — and this is putting significant pressure on the migrating barnacle geese.

The geese are trying to keep up with these environmental changes, but they’re struggling. Scientists have found that the geese still leave at about the same time every year, but the animals have shortened their travel time to the Arctic. A trip that used to take about a month now takes the geese only about a week, as the birds will spend less time at their stopover sites or will skip them altogether and just keep flying.

Instead of promptly laying their eggs as they usually do when they arrive at their Arctic nesting grounds, the exhausted geese need more than a week to recuperate and build up enough energy before they can start nesting. By the time the animals are ready to lay their eggs, the grasses and plants the birds feed on have been growing for a few weeks. As a result, goslings emerge from their eggs after the peak growing season rather than during it, and that’s causing the young birds’ survival rate to decline.

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Global Warming

Human ‘fingerprints’ detected in Earth’s seasonal temperature changes

For the first time, scientists have shown that human-caused climate change is affecting seasonal temperature cycles, a study released Thursday suggests.

The study shows that summers are warming more rapidly than the other three seasons as the planet’s temperature rises, especially in portions of the Northern Hemisphere.

It concludes that there’s no “natural” way the temperatures could have changed this way without the influence of rising atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations. Human-inflicted climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, which release heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

The findings deliver another blow against two refrains commonly repeated by climate deniers: that the satellite record doesn’t show that the planet is warming, and that it’s impossible to know how much warming is from nature and how much is from human beings. Both claims are wrong, say the authors of the study, published Thursday in the journal Science.

The study looked at the satellite record going back to the late 1970s to trace how warming is impacting seasons differently. They found that while year-round temperatures are rising, the rate of that temperature increase is happening faster in the mid-latitudes during the summer than it is during the winter. That’s even more pronounced in the Northern Hemisphere.

The team found that at the mid-latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, from about 40° North (close to the Kansas-Nebraska border) to about 60° North (mid-Canada), there is a gap between how much temperatures are rising in summer compared to how much they are rising in winter. That gap grew by roughly a tenth of a degrees Celsius each decade over the 38-year satellite record as the summers warmed faster.

The reason for this, the study explains, is that much of the world’s land is in the Northern Hemisphere, as opposed to the Southern Hemisphere, which has more ocean. Ocean temperatures don’t fluctuate as much and are slower to reflect change.

The mid-latitudes are also where many of the world’s crops are grown, and as the temperature rises and the soil dries out, that could have major implications for food sources.

Above 60° North latitude—going into the Arctic—the scientists saw the trend reverse. There, the winters are getting warmer faster, giving seasonal sea ice less time to regrow each year.

Global Warming

Climate change wreaking havoc with Colombia’s glaciers

Climate change has helped melt nearly a fifth of Colombia’s mountaintop glacier cover in just seven years, the government has said. The surface area of its six glaciers has shrunk from 45 square kilometers in 2010 to 37 square kilometers in 2017, for a decline of 18 per cent, the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies said.

It blamed the glacier loss on “extreme events associated with natural phenomena and climate change.” If things go on like this the snow and ice covering atop Santa Isabel, a volcano in the Cordillera Central mountains could vanish over the next 10 years, said Omar Franco, the head of the institute.

Global Warming

Global Warming Is Destroying Our Best-Preserved Archaeological Sites

The Arctic is like a time capsule. What dies there can be preserved, like a snapshot of our past, literally frozen in time.

Some of the greatest insights we’ve gotten into life, thousands of years ago, have come from the coldest places on earth. We’ve made incredible breakthroughs into the past through discoveries like the body of Ötzi the Iceman , the Stone Age man whose body froze 5,300 years ago.

Discovering of the body of otzi the Iceman

Today, though, these archaeological sites are starting to fall apart. The 180,000 archaeological sites across Greenland, Siberia, Alaska, and Northern Canada are being torn apart by the steady rise of global warming, and archaeologists are worried that, if we don’t preserve these sites soon, they’ll be lost forever.

Global Warming

Subtle Effects of Climate Change – Monarch Butterflies

Climate change could make a showy invasive milkweed called a bloodflower a menace for monarch butterflies.

Monarch caterpillars, which feed on plants in the milkweed family, readily feast on Asclepias curassavica. Gardeners in the southern United States plant it for its showy orange blooms, yet the species “is turning out to be a bit of a nightmare,” says Mark Hunter of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) migrating south to Mexico in the fall come across bloodflower bonanzas and don’t bother to keep on flying. Full migration normally prevents a harmful Ophryocistis parasite from building up in the insect population. Cutting the migration cycle short lets infection flourish.

In experiments, bloodflowers grown in outdoor enclosures under high carbon dioxide concentrations, around 760 parts per million, don’t make as much medicinal cardenolide as normal. Caterpillars need these compounds to help fight parasites. Levels of two particularly potent forms of cardenolide stayed low. Parasites were more damaging to caterpillars chewing through these CO2-rich flowers than to those caterpillars fattening on plants grown under current atmospheric conditions.

Higher temperatures due to climate change, however, may boost cardenolides instead of reducing them. That could turn the bloodflower species toxic to monarchs, according to a test growing milkweeds in enclosures with daytime temperatures raised some 3 degrees Celsius higher than outside air. A native milkweed, A. incarnata, didn’t get close to toxic.

Researchers don’t know how the opposing effects of CO2 and heat might act on cardenolides overall. Regardless of how further research on that question turns out, bloodflowers are already a threat to monarchs. Hunter urges gardeners who can’t resist growing the plants to at least cut them back in the fall, so that they won’t derail the monarch migration.

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