Global Warming

The Arctic Is Shifting to a New Climate

The effects of global warming in the Arctic are so severe that the region is shifting to a different climate, one characterized less by ice and snow and more by open water and rain, scientists said Monday.

Already, they said, sea ice in the Arctic has declined so much that even an extremely cold year would not result in as much ice as was typical decades ago. Two other characteristics of the region’s climate, seasonal air temperatures and the number of days of rain instead of snow, are shifting in the same way, the researchers said.

Arctic communities are already suffering from the changes. Eroding coastlines are forcing some Alaska Native villages to consider relocating. Other changes are affecting the food supply. Warmer storms that bring rain on existing snow, for example, can lead to starvation of the animals Indigenous groups rely on.

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Wildlife

Alaska salmon getting smaller

Alaska salmon have gotten smaller in recent decades, a downsizing that appears to be largely driven by climate change and increased competition for food as hatcheries release some 5 billion young fish into the North Pacific each year, according to a study published this month by U.S. and Canadian researchers in the science journal Nature Communications.

Alaska provides the vast majority of the United States’ wild salmon, and their smaller size is reducing the number of eggs that these fish produce and their value to commercial and other fishermen.

That decline encompasses salmon runs all over the state but varies by species and region. Chinook returning across a broad expanse of western and northern Alaska were some 10% smaller than the average size before 1990. Meanwhile in southeast Alaska, sockeye salmon declined — on average — by only about 2%.

Many of these salmon appear to be returning from the ocean earlier to freshwater spawning grounds, and that’s why they are smaller as they reach coastal-area harvest zones.

Global Warming

‘Unprecedented’ ice loss as Greenland breaks record

Scientists say the loss of ice in Greenland lurched forward again last year, breaking the previous record by 15%.

A new analysis says that the scale of the melt was “unprecedented” in records dating back to 1948. High pressure systems that became blocked over Greenland last Summer were the immediate cause of the huge losses.

Using data from the Grace and Grace-FO satellites, as well as climate models, the authors conclude that across the full year Greenland lost 532 gigatonnes of ice – a significant increase on 2012.

The researchers say the loss is the equivalent of adding 1.5mm to global mean sea levels, approximately 40% of the average rise in one year.

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Global Warming

The first undeniable climate change deaths

July 23 2018 was a day unlike any seen before in Japan. It was the peak of a weeks-long heat wave that smashed previous temperature records across the historically temperate nation.

The heat started on July 9, on farms and in cities that only days earlier were fighting deadly rains, mudslides, and floods. As the waters receded, temperatures climbed. By July 15, 200 of the 927 weather stations in Japan recorded temperatures of 35°C or higher. Food and electricity prices hit multiyear highs as the power grid and water resources were pushed to their limits. Tens of thousands of people were hospitalised due to heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

On July 23, the heat wave reached its zenith. The large Tokyo suburb of Kumagaya was the epicentre, and around 3pm, the Kumagaya Meteorological Observatory measured a temperature of 41.135°C.

It was the hottest temperature ever recorded in Japan, but the record was more than a statistic. It was a tragedy. Over the course of those few weeks, more than a thousand people died from heat-related illnesses.

Global Warming

Warming Greenland ice sheet passes point of no return

Nearly 40 years of satellite data from Greenland shows that glaciers on the island have shrunk so much that even if global warming were to stop today, the ice sheet would continue shrinking.

The finding, published today, Aug. 13, in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment, means that Greenland’s glaciers have passed a tipping point of sorts, where the snowfall that replenishes the ice sheet each year cannot keep up with the ice that is flowing into the ocean from glaciers.

Climate change, not hunters, may have killed off woolly rhinos

Rather than getting wiped out by Ice Age hunters, woolly rhinos charged to extinction in Siberia around 14,000 years ago when the climate turned warm and wet, a study of ancient DNA suggests.

Numbers of breeding woolly rhinos stayed relatively constant for tens of thousands of years until at least about 18,500 years ago, more than 13,000 years after people first reached northeastern Siberia, scientists report online August 13 in Current Biology. Yet only a few thousand years later, woolly rhinos died out, probably because temperatures had risen enough to reshape arctic habitats. A shift to warm, rainy conditions, which occurred between roughly 14,600 and 12,800 years ago, likely played a large role in the rapid decline of this cold-adapted species.

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Tropical Soil Leaks CO2

Tropical forest soil warmed in experiments to levels consistent with end-of-century temperature projections released 55 percent more CO2 than control plots, exposing a previously underestimated source of greenhouse gas emissions, researchers reported Wednesday.

Before humanity began loading the atmosphere with carbon pollution by burning fossil fuels, the input and outflow of CO2 into soil – one key element in Earth’s complex carbon cycle – remained roughly in balance.

Gases emitted by deadwood and decaying leaves, in other words, were cancelled out by microorganisms that feed on such matter. But climate change has begun to upset that balance, according to a new study, published in Nature.

In experiments, researchers placed heating rods in a one-hectare plot of undisturbed primary forest on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. They warmed the soil to a depth of just over one metre (three feet) by 4C over a period of two years. The findings shows an increase in in the release of CO2 of 55 per cent above the basal rates.

Global Warming

Baghdad’s record heat offers glimpse of world’s climate change future

Baghdad hit 125.2 degrees on July 28, blowing past the previous record of 123.8 degrees — which was set here five years ago — and topping 120 degrees for four days in a row. Sitting in one of the fastest warming parts of the globe, the city offers a troubling snapshot of the future that climate change might one day bring other parts of the world.

A reporter stated that when he returned here last week, the air outside felt like an oven. The suitcase crackled as it was unzipped. It turned out that the synthetic fibers of a headscarf had melted crispy and were now stuck to the top of the case. A cold bottle of water was suddenly warm to the lips. At our office, the door handle was so hot it left blisters at the touch.

If the world acts to dramatically limit climate change, such extremes of heat, with temperatures above 120 degrees, would probably be limited to parts of the Middle East, Northern Africa, and India. But if not, temperatures in parts of the Persian Gulf region and South Asia could eventually exceed 130 degrees. Nor would the rest of the world be spared extreme spikes.

In southern Iraq, the heat and lack of rainfall are contributing to a water crisis that has forced tens of thousands of people to leave their homes over the past decade. Farmers whose families have worked the land for generations say they are losing crops and their incomes are plunging.

Global Warming

Global warming replacing seaweed beds with tropical corals in Japan

Tropical corals are increasing and seaweed beds nurturing sea creatures have disappeared in the sea south of Tokyo Bay, local divers and fishers have found, indicating that Japanese waters are not exempt from the effect of global warming.

In the waters off Kyonan in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, seaweed beds have disappeared over the past 12 years, while young table coral that usually grows in warmer waters in southwestern Japan have taken their place.

In recent years, (the seawater temperature) hasn’t fallen below 15 C even in winter. In Kyonan, the seawater temperature has been pushed up in the past two years due to changes in the course of the Kuroshio Current, which begins off the Philippines and flows northeastward past Japan.

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Global Warming

‘Landmark’ Irish climate case sets global precedent

The Supreme Court ruling that will force the Government to review its climate action plan will have significant international repercussions, according to an expert from the United Nations.

For the first time in Ireland, and only the second time in the world, the highest national court has required a government to revise its national climate policy.

The case dubbed “Climate Case Ireland,” lodged by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) against the Government, argued that the State’s National Mitigation Plan does not do enough to tackle climate change.

Yesterday’s ruling rejected the plan as invalid and in breach of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, overturning a High Court ruling last year which said that it could not second guess government policy.

Global Warming

Increasing Arctic freshwater is driven by climate change

New, first-of-its-kind research from CU Boulder shows that climate change is driving increasing amounts of freshwater in the Arctic Ocean. Within the next few decades, this will lead to increased freshwater moving into the North Atlantic Ocean, which could disrupt ocean currents and affect temperatures in northern Europe.

Since the 1990s, the Arctic Ocean has seen a 10% increase in its freshwater. That’s 2,400 cubic miles (10,000 cubic kilometers), the same amount it would take to cover the entire U.S. with 3 feet of water.

The salinity in the ocean isn’t the same everywhere, and the Arctic Ocean’s surface waters are already some of the freshest in the world due to large amounts of river runoff.

This freshwater is what makes sea ice possible: it keeps cold water at the surface, instead of allowing this denser liquid to sink below less dense, warm water. In this way, the Arctic Ocean is much different than other oceans. But as more freshwater exits the Arctic, this same stabilizing mechanism could disrupt the ocean currents in the North Atlantic that moderate winter temperatures in Europe.

Such disruptions have happened before, during the “great salinity anomalies” of the 1970s and 80s. But these were temporary events. If too much cold freshwater from the Arctic continuously flows into the North Atlantic, the ocean turnover could be disrupted more permanently.

Global Warming

Forests Migrate — But Not Fast Enough For Climate Change

We’re all familiar with migration: Wildebeests gallop across Africa, Monarch butterflies flit across the Americas … but forests migrate, too, an agonizingly slow migration, as forests creep inch by inch to more hospitable places.

Individual trees are rooted in one spot. As old trees die and new ones sprouts up, the forest is — ever so slightly — moving. A forest sends seeds just beyond its footprint in every direction, but the seeds that go to the north — assuming the north is the more hospitable direction — thrive a little more than the ones that fall to the south. Over time, this forest would march steadily northwards.

Wildlife

Soil animals are getting smaller with climate change

The biomass of small animals that decompose plants in the soil and thus maintain its fertility is declining both as a result of climate change and over-intensive cultivation. To their surprise, however, scientists have discovered that this effect occurs in two different ways: while the changing climate reduces the body size of the organisms, cultivation reduces their frequency. Even by farming organically, it is not possible to counteract all negative consequences of climate change.

Largely unnoticed and in secret, an army of tiny service providers works below our feet. Countless small insects, arachnids and other soil dwellers are indefatigably busy decomposing dead plants and other organic material, and recycling the nutrients they contain. However, experts have long feared that these organisms, which are so important for soil fertility and the functioning of ecosystems, are increasingly coming under stress.

On the one hand, they are confronted with the consequences of climate change, which challenges them with high temperatures and unusual precipitation conditions with more frequent droughts. On the other hand, they also suffer from over-intensive land use.

Global Warming

Rivers and climate change in Europe

Studying historical documents from 5 centuries, scientists from Vienna University were able to compare flood events from the past with recent flood events in Europe. This combination of historical and hydrological research provides evidence for the strong influence of climate change on rivers and floodings. Floods tend to be larger, the timing has shifted and the relationship between flood occurrence and air temperatures has reversed.

Global Warming

Greenhouse Earth

Scientists predict that Earth’s atmosphere will soon contain the same high level of carbon dioxide that existed at the peak of the Pliocene Epoch warmth 3 million years ago, when temperatures were 5 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer and sea levels were 65 feet higher.

A report published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports says that given the level of emissions present at the start of the study, prior to the coronovirus lockdowns, CO2 levels could surpass 427 parts per million within five years. The authors say that the comparison with the Pliocene shows what is likely to happen in the future as the Earth responds to the buildup of greenhouse gas emissions.

Global Warming

No quick fix in fight against global warming

Slashing greenhouse gas emissions would probably not yield visible results until mid-century, researchers have said, cautioning that humanity must manage its expectations in the fight against global warming.

Even under optimistic scenarios in which carbon pollution falls sharply, climate change will continue for decades, they reported on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.

Two factors will make it difficult to feel and measure a drop in Earth’s surface temperature, if and when that happens.

One is lag time – Over the past half-century, human activity has loaded the atmosphere with more than 1-trillion tonnes of planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO2), a gas that lingers for hundreds of years.

The second factor is natural variability – Over the past half-century the planet has warmed 0.2°C every decade, mainly due to the burning of fossil fuels.