Global Warming

North Pole Now a Lake

Instead of snow and ice whirling on the wind, a foot-deep aquamarine lake now sloshes around a webcam stationed at the North Pole. The meltwater lake started forming July 13, following two weeks of warm weather in the high Arctic. In early July, temperatures were 2 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit (1 to 3 degrees Celsius) higher than average over much of the Arctic Ocean, according to the National Snow & Ice Data Centre.

Meltwater ponds sprout more easily on young, thin ice, which now accounts for more than half of the Arctic’s sea ice. The ponds link up across the smooth surface of the ice, creating a network that traps heat from the sun. Thick and wrinkly multi-year ice, which has survived more than one freeze-thaw season, is less likely sport a polka-dot network of ponds because of its rough, uneven surface.

July is the melting month in the Arctic, when sea ice shrinks fastest. An Arctic cyclone, which can rival a hurricane in strength, is forecast for this week, which will further fracture the ice and churn up warm ocean water, hastening the summer melt. The Arctic hit a record low summer ice melt last year on Sept. 16, 2012, the smallest recorded since satellites began tracking the Arctic ice in the 1970s.

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Wildlife

Long-Distance Migratory Birds Go Hungry

Some migrating songbirds are going a little hungry because they have not adjusted their long-distance springtime journeys back north in response to climate change, a Canadian scientist warns.

Kevin Fraser of York University says he found that purple martins, which migrate from the Amazon Basin to North America, arrived too late to enjoy the abundant food that accompanied the earliest and hottest spring on record in 2012.

He says that since there is no hint of what spring will be like while the birds are still in Brazil, they don’t receive any clues of what the northern spring will be like until they reach the U.S. Gulf Coast.

He says that, at least in 2012, they “missed out on peak food they need to be productive breeders.”

Fraser warns that the lack of adjustment to climate change may be contributing to the decline in migratory songbird populations.

This is especially true for species that migrate very long distances.

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Wildfires

Wildfires USA – And Climate Change

America’s wildfire season lasts two months longer than it did 40 years ago and burns up twice as much land as it did in those earlier days because of the hotter, drier conditions produced by climate change, according to Thomas Tidwell, the chief of the United States Forest Service.

While numerous factors determine the frequency, severity and cost of wildfires, scientific research indicates that human-induced climate change increases fire risks in parts of the Western U.S. by promoting warmer and drier conditions.

Ten years ago in New Mexico outside Los Alamos we had a fire get started. Over seven days, it burned 40,000 acres. In 2011, we had another fire. Las Conchas. It also burned 40,000 acres. It did it in 12 hours

California has already experienced 680 wildfires this year, about 200 more than average for this period of the season.

Wildlife

World’s Fish Migrating To Escape Global Warming

For several years now, some fishers have been noticing changes in their nets. In places, new species are being caught. Sea bass and red mullet have moved north into British waters. Pacific salmon have swum to the Beaufort Sea, where – according to Dan Pauly of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada – the Inuit have no name for them.

Elsewhere, staple catches are vanishing fast.

But whether this is a global effect and what is behind the change have been unclear. Are fish being ousted from their original habitats as climate change warms the waters? Are disappearances due to overfishing?

Now, Pauly and colleagues have found that the mix of fish in all the world’s major fisheries has changed since 1970, as fish that prefer warmer waters move in. The average temperature preference of fisheries has risen by nearly 1 ºC in temperate regions. The effect correlated closely with local increases in sea surface temperatures, but not with fishing pressure or other oceanic features such as currents.

Ominously, the temperature preference of tropical fisheries also rose initially, until the 1980s, then levelled off. Cooler-water species moved out, but there are no heat-loving species to replace them. The species that are abandoning tropical fisheries may also be the most important food species for coastal communities that subsist on fishing.

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Global Warming

Climate Change Threatens Food Security in Asia and Africa

Growing crops is predicted to become more difficult if not impossible in parts of Africa and Asia as global climate change shifts rainfall patterns and temperatures.

Millions of people across Africa and parts of Asia could become destitute and face a mounting threat of starvation in the coming decades as greenhouse gas-induced climate change shifts how and where crops can be grown.

That was one of the issues being discussed at an international conference in Dublin, convened to examine the link between food security and global warming.

Many researchers and activists there believe climate change may spell lower crop yields, higher food prices and widespread hunger later on in the 21st century.

As the climate of the Earth continues to change, there are concerns that extreme weather and changing seasonal precipitation patterns will limit both crop yields and livestock production.

Warmer weather may also exacerbate the spread of disease, fungi, and insect pests.

Some regions are already experiencing the effects of climate change, says Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the UN’s World Food Programme. Speaking in Ireland, she warned that “we are entering an uncertain and risky period.”

Environment

Tropical Forests Unexpectedly Resilient to Climate Change

Tropical forests are unlikely to die off as a result of the predicted rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases this century, a new study finds. The analysis refutes previous work that predicted the catastrophic loss of the Amazon rainforest as one of the more startling potential outcomes of climate change.

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In the most extensive study of its kind, an international team of scientists simulated the effect of business-as-usual emissions on the amounts of carbon locked up in tropical forests across Amazonia, Central America, Asia and Africa through to 2100. They compared the results from 22 different global climate models teamed with various models of land-surface processes. In all but one simulation, rainforests across the three regions retained their carbon stocks even as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration increased throughout the century.

The fertilizing effect of carbon dioxide, which boosts plant growth, counteracts the release completely if it is as large as expected due to climate change.

That tropical forests will retain their carbon stocks long term gives a major boost to policies aimed at keeping forests intact, such as the United Nations’ REDD programme on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

But there may be more immediate threats to forests in the next 20 to 30 years from extreme weather events. And those events will only become more common in a warming world.

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2,800 Dead Pigs in Shanghai River, China

A surge in the dumping of dead pigs upstream from Shanghai — with more than 2,800 carcasses floating into the financial hub through Monday — has followed a police campaign to curb the illicit trade in sick pig parts.

The effort to keep infected pork off dinner tables may be fuelling new health fears, as Shanghai residents and local media fret over the possibility of contamination of the city’s water supply, though authorities say no contamination has been detected.

Authorities have been pulling out the swollen and rotting pigs, some with their internal organs visible, since Friday.

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Environment

Norway’s $650 billion sovereign wealth fund, one of the world’s biggest investors, has started asking companies it invests in to minimise their impact on rainforests.

It is hoped this will mean Norway stops investing and pulls out of many companies that are damaging rainforests.

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A new study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA has found that climate model projections that show a greater rise in global temperature are likely to prove more accurate than those showing a lesser rise over the coming decades.

Scientists analyzed how well 16 leading sophisticated climate models reproduce observed relative humidity in Earth’s tropics and subtropics.

Current climate models predict temperature increases in this century, if current carbon dioxide emission levels continue unchanged, at between 3 and 8 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to 19th century temperatures. The average prediction is 5 degrees. If this new study proves accurate, that would mean temperature increases on the upper end of the 3-to-8 degree range if nothing changes. The greater the temperature rise, the greater the effect on sea level rise, heat waves, droughts and other effects

The world’s major global climate models are all based on long-established physical laws known to guide the atmosphere. However, because these relationships are challenging to translate into software, each model differs slightly in its portrayal of global climate. In particular, some processes, such as those associated with clouds, are too small to be represented properly. Although satellites observe many types of clouds, satellite failure, observing errors and other inconsistencies make it challenging to build a comprehensive global cloud census that is consistent over many years.

Environment

Major nations failed to reach agreement on Thursday to set up huge marine protected areas off Antarctica under a plan to step up conservation of creatures such as whales and penguins around the frozen continent.

Environmentalists criticised the failure to agree new marine protected areas in the Ross Sea and off East Antarctica, home to penguins, seals, whales and seabirds as well as valuable stocks of shrimp-like krill.

Most resistance came from Ukraine, Russia and China.

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Peru, the world’s top fishmeal exporter, has slashed its commercial fishing quota as warmer water temperatures and controversial practices deplete stocks of anchovy in one of the world’s richest fisheries.

The government cut its quota for this summer’s anchovy season by 68 percent to 810,000 tonnes, the smallest allowance in 25 years. Anchovy is rarely eaten fresh, but is instead dried, ground up and exported as a protein-rich feed for livestock and farmed fish.

Environment

Venice, Italy sees its first ‘acqua alta’ of the season on October 15, 2012. The ‘acqua alta’ is a convergence of high tides and a strong sirocco. Tourists walk with plastic bags to protect their shoes on a flooded St Mark’s square. Venice is particularly vulnerable to rising ocean levels due to climate change.

 

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September’s average temperature was 60.2 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 degrees Celsius) worldwide, which is 1.2 degrees above normal. This year matched the hottest September on record which was 2005, with the heat most intense in South America, Japan, Russia, Canada and the Atlantic Ocean. It was the third time since 2000 that the world set or tied a heat record for September. In addition to 2012 and 2005, previous hot September records were set in 2003. These records go back to 1880.

Climate Change

As expected, the amount of sea ice in the Arctic has fallen to the lowest level on record.

Satellites tracking the extent of the sea ice found over the weekend that it covered about 1.58 million square miles, or less than 30 percent of the Arctic Ocean’s surface, scientists said. That is below the previous record low, set in 2007, but with weeks still to go in the summer melting season, it is clear that the record will be beaten by a wide margin.

Climate Change

Arctic sea ice is set to reach its lowest ever recorded extent as early as this weekend, signalling that man-made global warming is having a major impact on the polar region.

With the melt happening at an unprecedented rate of more than 100,000 sq km a day, and at least a week of further melt expected before ice begins to reform ahead of the northern winter, satellites are expected to confirm the new record – currently set in 2007.

The ice-free season is now far longer. Twenty years ago it was about a month. Now it’s three months. Temperatures last week in the Arctic were 14 degrees C.

 

Arctic Warming

A rare summer storm blasted the Arctic this week, beginning off the coast of Alaska, and moving over much of the Arctic Sea for several days before dissipating.

Nasa reports that Arctic storms such as this one can have a large impact on the sea ice, causing it to melt rapidly through many mechanisms, such as tearing off large swaths of ice and pushing them to warmer sites, churning the ice and making it slushier, or lifting warmer waters from the depths of the Arctic Ocean.

“It seems that this storm has detached a large chunk of ice from the main sea ice pack. This could lead to a more serious decay of the summertime ice cover than would have been the case otherwise, even perhaps leading to a new Arctic sea ice minimum,” said Claire Parkinson, a climate scientist with NASA Goddard. “Decades ago, a storm of the same magnitude would have been less likely to have as large an impact on the sea ice, because at that time the ice cover was thicker and more expansive.”