Global Warming

Climate change made the Arctic greener. Now parts of it are turning brown

The Chugach people of southern Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula have picked berries for generations. Tart blueberries and sweet, raspberry-like salmonberries — an Alaska favorite — are baked into pies and boiled into jams. But in the summer of 2009, the bushes stayed brown and the berries never came. For three more years, harvests failed.

The berry bushes had been ravaged by caterpillars of geometrid moths — the Bruce spanworm (Operophtera bruceata) and the autumnal moth (Epirrita autumnata). The insects had laid their eggs in the fall, and as soon as the leaf buds began growing in the spring, the eggs hatched and the inchworms nibbled the stalks bare.

At the peak of the multiyear outbreak, the caterpillars climbed from the berry bushes into trees. The pests munched through foliage from Port Graham, at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula, to Wasilla, north of Anchorage, about 300 kilometers away. In summer, thick brown-gray layers of denuded willows, alders and birches lined the mountainsides above stretches of Sitka spruce.

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For more than 35 years, satellites circling the Arctic have detected a “greening” trend in Earth’s northernmost landscapes. Scientists have attributed this verdant flush to more vigorous plant growth and a longer growing season, propelled by higher temperatures that come with climate change. But recently, satellites have been picking up a decline in tundra greenness in some parts of the Arctic. Those areas appear to be “browning.”

While global warming has propelled widespread trends in tundra greening, extreme winter weather can spur local browning events. In recent years, in some parts of the Arctic, extraordinary warm winter weather, sometimes paired with rainfall, has put tundra vegetation under enormous stress and caused plants to lose freeze resistance, dry up or die — and turn brown.

Global Warming

Global warming is shrinking glaciers faster than thought

Earth’s glaciers are melting much faster than scientists thought. A new study shows they are losing 369 billion tons of snow and ice each year, more than half of that in North America.

The most comprehensive measurement of glaciers worldwide found that thousands of inland masses of snow compressed into ice are shrinking 18 percent faster than an international panel of scientists calculated in 2013.

The world’s glaciers are shrinking five times faster now than they were in the 1960s. Their melt is accelerating due to global warming, and adding more water to already rising seas, the study found.

The glaciers shrinking fastest are in central Europe, the Caucasus region, western Canada, the U.S. Lower 48 states, New Zealand and near the tropics. Glaciers in these places on average are losing more than 1 percent of their mass each year, according to a study in Monday’s journal Nature. In these regions, at the current glacier loss rate, the glaciers will not survive the century.

Since 1961, the world has lost 10.6 trillion tons of ice and snow (9.6 trillion metric tons), the study found. That’s enough to cover the lower 48 U.S. states in about 4 feet of ice.

Glaciers grow in winter and shrink in summer, but as the Earth has warmed, they are growing less and shrinking more. Warmer summer temperatures are the main reason glaciers are shrinking faster.

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Global Warming

The Bering Sea Should Be Frozen Right Now – It Isn’t

Humans are living through a dramatic transformation of the planet’s surface due to climate change, with the most obvious sign being the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice. And now, imaging has revealed perhaps a new chapter in that decline: The Bering Sea, which under normal circumstances should remain frozen-over until May, is almost entirely free of sea ice in early April. Open water is darker and absorbs more sunlight, turning it into heat. So, while sea ice loss is caused by climate change, it also causes climate change to speed up.

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Environmental Groups to Sue Shell Over Climate Change

Climate activists delivered a court summons Friday to oil company Shell in a court case aimed at forcing it to do more to rein in carbon emissions.

Friends of the Earth Netherlands, one of the groups involved, said it wants a court in The Hague to order Shell to reduce its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and to zero by 2050, in line with the Paris Climate Accord.

The summons, more than 250 pages long and backed up by boxes of supporting documents, was wheeled into the headquarters on a trolley as a couple of hundred activists looked on.

The Shell case, which has more than 17,000 claimants, follows a groundbreaking ruling by a Hague court in 2015 that ordered the Dutch government to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by 2020 from benchmark 1990 levels.

The new case is not seeking compensation; it focuses instead on pushing Shell to take more action to rein in emissions.

Global Warming

The Effects Of Global Warming Have Reached The World’s Southernmost Coral Reefs

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Previously unaffected areas have also started exhibiting damage now. One such area was the southern parts of Australia, house to the world’s largest coral reef. Bleaching is not the same as dying but, the health of the coral is definitely under extra stress and can lead to eventual death.

This is exactly what has been spotted in the corals near Lord Howe Island, which is 600 km away from the coast of Sydney. This area was previously undamaged from the effects of global warming when the Great Barrier Reef faced severe bleaching in 2017. These are the southernmost coral reefs along the Australian coast and researchers have found them to be around 90% bleached already.

The corals in the deeper regions of the marine park were relatively healthier and didn’t exhibit any bleaching. These effects are also elevated due to the onslaught of summer in the southern hemisphere. The extent of damage is still within the realm of recovery and the scientists will be returning to Lord Howe Island to evaluate if these corals have any chance of recovery. If the water temperatures drop, the corals can recover back to a healthier state, and be attractive for algae to populate them once again.

So technically, there is still hope for these corals to flourish. But if history is any indication, we haven’t really been successful at restoring and undoing the damage caused by global warming, the Great Barrier Reef posing as a poster boy for that statement. At the end of the day, this is another reminder for us, humans, to urgently take up practices that don’t put so much strain on the planet.

Changing snow harms Arctic wildlife

Snow is crucial to survival for Arctic wildlife. But climate change is altering the extent, timing and properties of Arctic snow and little is known about the detail of these changes.

In November 2013 tens of thousands of reindeer starved to death after a “rain on snow” event in Russia’s Yamal peninsula. Just as the reindeer reached their winter foraging grounds, rain created a layer of ice, preventing the reindeer from scraping away the snow to reach the vegetation beneath. It was a classic case of “the wrong kind of snow” and was hard to detect remotely.

Such events are anticipated to become more frequent as climate changes but our knowledge is limited because it’s tricky to observe them directly. Scientists describe three case studies.

For polar bears it’s snow drifts that matter. “In the winter the females den up to have their pups – on sea ice or on land – and the main condition is a sufficient accumulation of snow on the lee side of a ridge of a particular size.

Dall sheep, a species endemic to the mountain ranges of Alaska, seek out wind-exposed patches of vegetation along ridge-lines during the depths of winter. Trends of increased winter precipitation may put the sheep at risk, with the snow too deep to have enough of these windblown “holes”.

Caribou in central Canada undertake their massive spring migration a few weeks before snowmelt begins in earnest. They time their arrival at their calving grounds for when the snowmelt is about to start so that “greening up” of the landscape is imminent. Exactly which cues caribou use to determine when to start their journey isn’t known, but it’s likely they take note of snow depth and hardness.

The scientists propose further studies to better understand the relationship between existing snow patterns and the wildlife that rely on the snow for their survival.

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Global Warming

Warming oceans are killing dolphins – Study

Dolphins may be in serious trouble as temperatures rise with global warming.

After a heat wave struck the waters of Western Australia in 2011, scientists noticed that warmer ocean temperatures caused fewer dolphin births and decreased the animal’s survival rate.

The heat wave caused the water temperature of an area called Shark Bay to rise about 4 degrees above the annual average. After the heat wave, the survival rate for some species of dolphins fell by 12%, according to a study published Monday in the journal Current Biology. The dolphins also gave birth to fewer calves.

What worries the researchers is that this change in birth rate wasn’t only observed immediately after the year of the heat wave. They studied the dolphins that lived in Shark Bay between 2007 and 2017, and the decline in births lasted at least until 2017.

Canada warming at twice the rate of rest of world

Federal scientists and academics are warning that Canada’s climate is warming rapidly and faster than the global average, saying human behaviour must change to slow the shift.

Officials from Environment and Climate Change Canada presented the first study of its kind, titled Canada’s Changing Climate Report, on Monday.

The report says that Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world and that Northern Canada is warming even more quickly, nearly three times the global rate. Three of the past five years have been the warmest on record, the authors said.

Global Warming

Alaska bakes under heat wave linked to climate change

Alaska residents accustomed to subzero temperatures are experiencing a heat wave of sorts that is shattering records, with the thermometer jumping to more than 16.7 degrees Celsius above normal in some regions.

Cities and towns in the northern half of the state, including Wainwright, Nuiqsut, Kaktovik and Barrow (also known as Utqiagvik), could see temperatures soar 14 to 22 degrees Celsius above normal this weekend as the warm trend continues.

The dramatic warming Alaska has experienced in recent years — which is partly linked to a decline in sea ice and Arctic ocean warming – had wreaked havoc on local communities, wildlife and the economy.

Many recreational sled dog races have had to be canceled this year and the routing of the famed Iditarod race had to be changed as what is normally solid sea ice was open water on part of the race route.

Crab fishing has also been affected as the sea ice used as a platform for fishermen was non-existent or too thin in some areas.

Seal population is also likely to be affected in the coming months as some of the species give birth on solid ice.

The warmer temperatures have melted the rive ice to the extent it is no longer safe for truck or car travel.”

Global warming had led to the lowest ice levels in the Bering Sea — which connects with the Arctic Ocean – since 1850, when sea ice records began.

Global Warming

State of the Climate in 2018 shows accelerating climate change impacts

The physical signs and socio-economic impacts of climate change are accelerating as record greenhouse gas concentrations drive global temperatures towards increasingly dangerous levels, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization.

The WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2018, its 25th anniversary edition, highlights record sea level rise, as well as exceptionally high land and ocean temperatures over the past four years. This warming trend has lasted since the start of this century and is expected to continue.

“Since the Statement was first published, climate science has achieved an unprecedented degree of robustness, providing authoritative evidence of global temperature increase and associated features such as accelerating sea level rise, shrinking sea ice, glacier retreat and extreme events such as heat waves,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

These key climate change indicators are becoming more pronounced. Carbon dioxide levels, which were at 357.0 parts per million when the statement was first published in 1994, keep rising – to 405.5 parts per million in 2017. For 2018 and 2019, greenhouse gas concentrations are expected to increase further.

Global Warming

Climate vs Lifestyle

A new study finds that the public won’t be willing to do the most important things necessary to cut their carbon footprint unless they are forced to through the introduction of new regulations.

Because household consumption and travel habits contribute 72 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a team of scientists asked urban residents in five European countries what they would be willing to do to combat climate change.

The lifestyle changes they said they would be willing to adopt would cut only about 50 percent of the emissions needed by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

While those interviewed were somewhat more willing to change what they eat, such as consuming less meat, they were far less inclined to fly less and cut back on their vehicle use.

“We are entering territory that is very much taboo,” says one of the report’s authors, Benjamin Sovacool. “The things we may have to force or nudge people to do are more intertwined with identity. They are stickier, harder to change.”

The Svalbard ‘Doomsday Vault’ is succumbing to global warming

Just over a decade after it first opened, the world’s “doomsday vault” of seeds is imperiled by global warming as the polar region where it’s located warms faster than any other area on the planet.

Embedded deep in the permafrost of a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago, halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault was built to withstand the test of time – including climate change – and the challenge of any natural or man-made disasters.

Opened in 2008, the seed vault contains nearly one million packets of seeds, all carefully labeled. The seeds come from almost every country in the world and are a vast sampling of unique varieties of major African and Asian food staples such as maize, rice, wheat, cowpea, and sorghum to European and South American varieties of lettuce, eggplant, squash, and potatoes.

The seed vault was built to be indestructible but in May of 2017, soaring Arctic temperatures, coming at the end of the world’s hottest year on record proved the scientists to be wrong. The extreme temperatures and rainfall started thawing the permafrost deep inside the mountain where the vault is located.

A 105-page report based on research published by the Norwegian Centre for Climate Services (NCCS) released this year, revealed that the islands that make up the Svalbard archipelago where the Seed Vault is located are experiencing rapid warming.

The thawing permafrost, once as hard as rock, has made the ground unstable, causing great cracks to form in buildings and structures to sink.

Global Warming

Global carbon emissions hit record high in 2018

Global energy-related carbon emissions rose to a record high last year as energy demand and coal use increased, mainly in Asia, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday (March 26).

Energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7 per cent to 33.1 billion tonnes from the previous year, the highest rate of growth since 2013, with the power sector accounting for almost two-thirds of this growth.

The United States’ CO2 emissions grew by 3.1 per cent in 2018, reversing a decline a year earlier, while China’s emissions rose by 2.5 per cent and India’s by 4.5 per cent. Europe’s emissions fell by 1.3 per cent and Japan’s fell for the fifth year running.

Carbon dioxide emissions are the primary cause of global average temperature rise which countries are seeking to curb to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change.

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Global Warming

Everest’s melting glaciers reveal bodies of dead climbers

Glaciers on Mount Everest have been melting at a rapid pace over the past few years. Now authorities have begun removing some of the estimated hundreds of bodies that once lay buried beneath the ice, and they say more and more have begun to emerge because of global warming. Since 1922, when the first deaths on Everest were recorded, more than 200 mountaineers have died on the peak.

Global Warming

UN global climate report restores hope, lays out roadmap

A new UN report on global climate change isn’t quite as dire as one it issued last October. That special report on warming of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) showed that the effects of climate change could become catastrophic by 2040, at least 10 years earlier than scientists had predicted. Another report in December by private energy consulting group Wood Mackenzie showed that it’s already too late to counter the worst effects of climate change.

The report lays out a roadmap for how to address critical problems, including air and water pollution, land and biodiversity degradation, and even antibiotic resistance.

It notes that water quality is getting worse, and that plastics are now found throughout every depth in all seven of the world’s major oceans.

It warns, however, that “Time is running out to prevent the irreversible and dangerous impacts of climate change.” In previous reports, UN climate scientists have identified 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit as the threshold at which global warming will endanger human and other life, as laid out in the Paris Climate Accord.

The latest report also warns of a “major species extinction event, compromising planetary integrity and Earth’s capacity to meet human needs” and notes that 29 percent of all land areas on the globe are already unsuitable for growing crops, and that deforestation is continuing. It notes progress, however, in the slowing rate of deforestation.

The report lays out plans to continue and expand such progress by involving community groups, scientists, academics, businesses, and authors to build the capacity to magnify change. It breaks down its findings into six major geographic areas, and notes that some regions will be especially hard-hit, including poorer regions of the world.

In North America, the report notes significant progress in energy usage and air quality, but says that high drinking-water quality is backsliding, and concerns of drought are growing. It also says that loss of biodiversity is a significant risk.

It points to stable or declining greenhouse-gas emissions in Europe, but says that higher emissions in Eastern and Southern Europe are offsetting that progress. Air quality is the largest concern in Europe, and the report says that “The region’s resource footprint is unsustainable, owing to its overuse of natural resources and its trading patterns with other regions. Ecological, societal and economic resilience will be negatively affected in coming decades by global megatrends that are largely outside the region’s direct control and influence.”

Global Warming

Students Around the World Protest Climate Change

Thousands of school pupils worldwide have abandoned classrooms for a day of protest against climate change. India, South Korea, Australia and the US are among the countries where teenagers are already on strike.

The day of action is expected to embrace about 100 countries. The globally co-ordinated children’s protests – promoted through posts on Twitter and other social media – have been going on for several months.

Global Warming

Glacial Break

The most significant glacial ruptures at Chile’s Grey Glacier in Patagonia since the 1990s saw two new icebergs break off in the last three weeks, sparking concerns that such ruptures are becoming more frequent due to climate change.

A larger break-off of glacial ice occurred in 2017. Scientists say recent above-normal temperatures and heavy rain could also be factors in the latest ruptures.

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Global Warming

Dire UN climate change report

Earth is sick with multiple and worsening environmental ills killing millions of people yearly, a new U.N. report says.

Climate change, a global major extinction of animals and plants, a human population soaring toward 10 billion, degraded land, polluted air, and plastics, pesticides and hormone-changing chemicals in the water are making the planet an increasing unhealthy place for people, says the scientific report issued once every few years.

The sixth Global Environment Outlook, released Wednesday at a U.N. conference in Nairobi, Kenya, concludes “unsustainable human activities globally have degraded the Earth’s ecosystems, endangering the ecological foundations of society.”

But the same document says changes in the way the world eats, buys things, gets its energy and handles its waste could help fix the problems.

The report details climate change impacts on human health, air, water, land and biodiversity. Almost all coastal cities and small island nations are increasingly vulnerable to flooding from rising seas and extreme weather.

A major species extinction event, compromising planetary integrity and Earth’s capacity to meet human needs, is unfolding,” the report says, listing threats to ecosystems, fisheries and other major systems. It notes conservationists are divided on whether Earth is in a sixth mass extinction.

People getting sick from diseases caused by antimicrobial resistant bacteria in water supplies could become a major cause of death worldwide by 2050, unless something can be done about it, the report says.

Land is getting less fertile and useful. The report says degradation “hot spots,” where it’s difficult to grow crops, now cover 29 percent of all land areas. The rate of deforestation has slowed but continues.

Global Warming

Planting Trees Not Enough

There is so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that solely planting trees won’t be enough to save humans from global warming, a study has revealed.

It was recently found that young trees can absorb carbon dioxide better than established tropical rainforests, which seemed to be a dose of good news.

But research has found there just isn’t enough space on earth to plant the amount of trees that would be required to make a real dent in our carbon emissions.

It has been calculated that if we planted 1.7 billion acres of trees, we could remove 3 billion tons of atmospheric carbon a year, according to Business Insider.

That’s about 10 percent of what humans emit every year, which can total up to 40 billion tons.

Scientists have looked at trees as a potential solution because they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis, using it to form carbohydrates that are used in plant structure and function. Trees also release oxygen back into the atmosphere as a byproduct.

But 1.7 billion acres of trees would be equivalent to the entire contiguous US.

And planting that many trees would cover half the land that is used to farm crops worldwide, plus land we would need to eventually farm as populations continue to grow.

Thus, studies have found that this solution could actually lead to starvation of the human population.

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