Global Warming

Half of Greenland’s Warming Tied to Natural Causes

About half of the surface warming that’s helping shrink Greenland’s glaciers is due to temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, not greenhouse gases, a new study reports.

Sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific are already known to influence global weather patterns at lower latitudes. For example, the El Niño cycle shifts rainfall around the world, delivering precipitation to western North America and causing drought in Australia and Central America.

The new findings could explain why Greenland and the Canadian Arctic are getting hotter more quickly than other regions of the planet. The feverish temperature rise has puzzled scientists: The most up-to-date climate models, such as those in the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, fail to reproduce the rapid warming seen in the Arctic.

The new study seee a link between tropical sea-surface temperatures and the North Atlantic Oscillation, a climate pattern that dominates Arctic weather. Since the 1990s, warm sea-surface temperatures in the western Pacific and cool waters in the eastern Pacific have pushed the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) into a pattern that allows high pressure above Greenland and the Canadian Arctic. (High atmospheric pressure leads to warmer temperatures.)

Climate conditions and weather events associated with extreme phases of the North Atlantic Oscillation.

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Environment

Coral bleaching is devastating reefs around the globe

The industrial age of fossil fuels has severely changed the Earth’s ocean ecosystems. Our oceans absorb about one-third of human-caused carbon-dioxide, but unfortunately rising emissions have surpassed what the oceans can sustainably absorb.

As the world continues to burn fossil fuels at an increasing rate, people are pumping more and more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which act like a blanket over the Earth, causing the planet to warm. The warming and the increased carbon dioxide in the oceans are combining to put coral reefs, some of the most biodiverse and important ecosystems on the planet, in jeopardy.

Though associated with warm waters, coral reefs are highly susceptible to increases in water temperature. Most corals get their energy, nutrients and vibrant colour from algae that live symbiotically within the corals’ tissues, but when water temperatures get too high, corals expel these algae, losing their colour and nutrients — the resulting stark white appearance is called coral bleaching. If the coral does not regain algae, the coral polyps eventually die, because they cannot live long-term without these nutrient-supplying algae.

While a variety of stressors can trigger coral to expel their algae, ocean warming is one of the most prevalent causes. Even a minute increase in average temperatures can result in coral bleaching, and in some cases, large areas of coral reefs will expel their algae, resulting in mass bleaching events. Coral reefs build up over thousands of years, yet the rapid pace of global warming can cause coral bleaching — which is disastrous and extremely difficult for reefs to recover from — at a much faster pace.

The changing ocean chemistry is also causing the seas to become more acidic. Ocean acidification threatens coral reefs, as it threatens the ability of corals — as well as other animals like oysters, mussels, clams and pteropods, foundational to the ocean food chain — to create their calcium carbonate skeletons. When carbon dioxide interacts with seawater, chemical reactions deplete substances that are vital for the growth of coral skeletons. When these substances disappear, corals start to grow more slowly. Compounded with this, is the fact that as the oceans become more and more acidic, coral skeletons could actually start to dissolve — a fate already befalling pteropods.

Coral reefs have already faced losses from other human activity, like destructive fishing, pollution and sedimentation. These coral reefs are highly vulnerable to future losses from ocean warming and acidification because of the damages already incurred. Researchers estimate that roughly 80 percent of Caribbean coral cover has been reduced, with an approximate 50 percent reduction rate in the Pacific. Coral reefs are home to one-quarter of all known fish species, and must be protected from future damage.

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Global Warming

The Scientific Debate On Global Warming In One Chart

The next time someone tries to tell you that there’s a legitimate scientific debate about man-made global warming, point them to this chart.

It was created by James Powell, an MIT-trained geochemist, longtime Oberlin professor, and former member of the National Science Board (under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush). He searched for all studies published in 2013 that mentioned “global warming,” “global climate change,” or “climate change,” and found 10,885 of them.

Powell combed through the papers and found only two that rejected the idea that humans are responsible for climate change.

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Wildlife

Earthworms Stunted by Pesticide Use

Worms are struggling to cope with the use of pesticides, which a new study reveals alters both the physiology and behaviour of the important soil-aerating creatures.

A Danish-French research team studied earthworms that had been living for generations in soil sprayed with a fungicide.

“They spend a lot of energy on detoxifying, and that comes with a cost,” said researchers Nicolas Givaudan and Claudia Wiegand, whose report was published in the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry.

And that cost is that they are less successful at reproducing and are much smaller than worms living in organic farming fields.

That means there are often two to three times more earthworms in unsprayed soil than in soil treated with pesticide.

Earthworms are important to the environment because they help in the decomposition of decaying leaves, as well as eat parts of fungus and bacteria.

Their burrowing activity brings air into the soil.

Earthworms living in ground treated with fungicide weigh half as much as those living in untreated fields.

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Wildflower Blooming Expands Under Global Warming

Climate change has stretched the wildflower blooming season in the Rocky Mountains by more than a month, with half the flowers beginning to bloom weeks earlier than before.

But researcher David Inouye of the University of Maryland says that the flowering plants’ response to climate change is complex, with different species responding in unexpected ways.

Inouye began counting flowers in the Rockies in 1974, long before climate change was even on the scientific radar.

He and his students have since amassed an enormous amount of data on wildflower blooming, and say the blooming times are now changing rapidly.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he says that the peak time of wildflowers bursting into bloom has moved up five days per decade during his study.

But he says that as the bloom season lengthens, the plants are not producing more flowers.

The same number of blooms is spread out over more days, so at peak bloom there may be fewer flowers.

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Global Warming

A Global Warming for the Ages Is Developing: UN

The head of the United Nations weather agency says that global warming has not changed and will continue for at least centuries due to the burning of fossil fuels by humans.

Michel Jarraud made the pronouncement as he presented the World Meteorological Organization’s annual review of the world’s climate.

The report concludes that last year tied with 2007 as the sixth-hottest since reliable records began over 150 years ago.

It also says that 13 of the 14 warmest years on record have occurred in this century.

“The warming of our oceans has accelerated, and at lower depths. More than 90 percent of the excess energy trapped by greenhouse gases is stored in the oceans,” Jarraud told a news conference.

“Greenhouse gases are at record levels, meaning that our atmosphere and oceans will continue to warm for centuries to come. The laws of physics are non-negotiable,” Jarraud added.

Global Warming

Global Warming Has Accelerated and Will Go On for Centuries

According to the head of the UN World Meteorological Organization, global warming has not reached a standstill – in fact, it has accelerated. Our planet will continue to warm for centuries to come, with disastrous consequences.

On Monday, the UN World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) issued its annual statement on the Status of the Climate. UN weather agency chief Michel Jarraud spoke out against climate skeptics, stating that “There is no standstill in global warming,” and pointing to some of the extreme climate events of 2013.

“The warming of our oceans has accelerated, and at lower depths,” Jarraud said. “More than 90% of the excess energy trapped by greenhouse gases is stored in the oceans.

“Levels of these greenhouse gases are at a record, meaning that our atmosphere and oceans will continue to warm for centuries to come. The laws of physics are non-negotiable.”

Droughts, heat waves, rising seas, floods and tropical cyclones around the globe last year are just a glimpse of what may be coming in the future, the WMO’s statement pointed out.

While skeptics point to natural phenomena like volcanoes or the El Niño or La Niña weather patterns as an explanation for the observed warming and disasters, Jarraud rejects their arguments. “Many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change,” he said, pointing to the destruction wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Other 2013 examples that Jarraud pointed to were huge bush fires in Australia, winter freezes in the US south-east and Europe, heavy rains and floods in north-east China and eastern Russia, snow across the Middle East and drought in south-east Africa.

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Global Warming

Global Warming to Cause Food and Water Shortages, Reveals New UN Climate Report

As our climate shifts and changes, our food supplies may be in danger. Now, a new UN report has shown that global warming may already be causing irreversible damage to nature that could disrupt the world’s supply of food.

Climate change is often viewed on a global scale, an many people see it as something that will happen far in the future. However, the new report reveals that the big risks and overall effects of global warming are far more immediate and local than you might think. Disease, drought, flooding, and hunger are all problems that will have to be dealt with.

“Climate change throughout the 21st century will lead to increases in ill-health in many regions, as compared to a baseline without climate change,” stated the report,. “Examples include greater likelihood of injury, disease, and death due to more intense heatwaves and fires; increased likelihood of under-nutrition resulting from diminished food production in poor regions; and increased risks from food-born and water-borne disease.”

Already we’re seeing changes in the world. Coral reefs and Arctic ecosystem are experiencing irreversible changes. A mere warming of 2.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels could impact economic incomes of nations. While governments have agreed to help limit warming to less than 2 degrees, though, temperatures have already risen to about .8 degrees C.

Most notably is the fact that global food prices will rise. This, in particular, will have ripple effects across the globe. The report estimates that prices will rise between 3 and 84 percent by 2050 due to warmer temperatures and changes in rain patterns.

Scientist and more than 100 governments will meet in Japan from March 25 to 29 to look at, edit and approve the new report.

Global Warming

Tibet records rising temperatures and extreme weather

Global warming has reached the snow-capped Himalayas in south China’s Tibet, with rising temperatures and more extreme weather, according to an official climate report.

The report on climate change and environmental monitoring in Tibet was published by the Tibet Climate Centre this week. The report is based on analysis of climate data collected between 1961 and 2013, showing that the average temperature in Tibet has been rising by 0.31 degrees Celsius every decade.

Tibet is the highest region in the mid-latitude regions, and seen as a barometer of global warming. Rising temperatures have been accompanied by increased precipitation, up by 6.6 millimetres every 10 years for the past five decades. There is also a trend of more severe extreme weather. Both the record low temperature of -36.7 degrees Celsius and the record high temperature of 32.3 degrees Celsius were logged in Tibet last year.

With the pace of global warming, the average temperature in Tibet is expected to rise by 1.96 degrees Celsius from 2011 to 2100, which would be mainly through a rise of winter temperatures. Warmer temperatures and increased precipitation are likely to add greenery to the plateau region.

Global Warming

How Dry Will It Get? New Climate Change Predictions

Global warming’s crystal ball is clearing as climate models improve, and scientists now predict that some regions will see a month’s less rain and snow by 2100.

The new rain and snow estimates indicate that subtropical spots — such as the Mediterranean, the Amazon, Central America and Indonesia — will undergo the biggest precipitation shifts in the coming decades. The number of dry days in these zones will rise by as many as 30 days per year, according to the study, published today (March 13) in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Looking at changes in the number of dry days per year is a new way of understanding how climate change will affect us that goes beyond just annual or seasonal mean precipitation changes, and allows us to better adapt to and mitigate the impacts of local hydrological changes,” said Suraj Polade, a climate scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego and lead study author.

The findings also suggest a rising probability of droughts and floods in the near future as annual rainfall becomes more variable.

“When you’re increasing the variability of the climate, one year you can have a flood and the next year you can have a drought. You can also have an increase in extreme precipitation events, with a whole year’s precipitation in just a few storms.”

South Africa, Mexico and western Australia will go without rain for 15 to 20 more days per year, and California is likely to have five to 10 more dry days per year by the end of the century, the study found.

Some of the subtropical missing moisture will head north: The study predicts the Arctic will have 40 more wet days a year, but the South Pole will only get 10 more wet days per year.

Climate models suggest that midlatitude cyclones may shift north, while those that hit near the equator will likely stay their usual course.

There are also poleward shifts in the vast atmospheric patterns that control where rain falls. For example, the Hadley cell, the large-scale pattern of atmospheric circulation that transports heat from the tropics to the subtropics, has marched south during recent decades, moving the subtropical dry zone (a band that receives little rainfall) along with it. The northern and southern jet streams, which mark where cold and warm air meet, also seem to be creeping toward the poles. Their movement away from the equator suggests that the Earth’s tropical zones are expanding, according to recent studies. The jet streams play an important role in moving moisture around the higher latitudes.

“We are looking at why this is happening,” Polade said. “Earlier studies suggest that warmer regions will get wetter, while colder regions can get wetter or drier,” he said. “The tropics are also getting wetter or drier, while the subtropics are drying.”

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Global Warming

Global warming is behind disturbing retreat of Peruvian glaciers: Study

Stretching across a vast volcanic plain in Peru, the Quelccaya Ice Cap is the tropics’ largest sheet of ice—for now. Climate shifts are taking their toll, according to scientists who note that the glacier has been not only losing ice over the last few decades but doing so over an accelerating rate. And following a study recently published in the journal Geology, many scientists are now more certain than ever that the ice loss is due to rising temperatures.

It may hardly sound like a surprise that a glacier’s retreat would be due to warming climate, but researchers monitoring the Quelccaya and other shrinking glaciers in the tropics have had their honest doubts. Some have hitherto suggested that decreased snowfall might be the culprit, for example.

The Geology study, however, identifies temperature as the first and foremost driving factor. Led by Justin Stroup, a Dartmouth College doctoral candidate in Earth sciences; and Meredith Kelly, a Dartmouth assistant professor of Earth sciences; the study’s research team compiled extensive data on the Qori Kalis, a valley glacier that is a major outlet for the Quelccaya Ice Cap, and constructed a timeline of this glacier’s waxing and waning across the past 500 years.

Next, they compared the glacier’s movements to records of ice accumulation on the Quelccaya plateau. Long cylinders of ice previously drilled and extracted by Lonnie Thompson, an Ohio State University geologist, were the source of these records.

If snowfall is the main factor behind the ice gain or loss, then the valley glacier should gain ice when more ice accumulates on the Quelccaya, and lose ice when the Quelccaya’s ice accumulation hits a dry spell. Stroup, Kelly, and their team found the opposite: The valley glacier lost ice during some periods of high accumulation and gained ice during some periods when the Quelccaya’s ice accumulation was low.

Temperature, not snowfall, is evidently the chief driver, according to the researchers. They have the backing of Thompson, who has long argued that the glacier could be thought of as a large thermometer.

Their conclusion is a troubling one as far as this glacier is concerned. Thompson’s analyses indicate that in the last 25 years, the glacier has lost a volume of ice that took 1,600 years to build up.

This glacier is no anomaly, by the way. Land ice is melting across the tropics and throughout the planet, and showing marked increases in the rate of ice loss during the last three decades. Quelccaya could be a microcosm of melting trends throughout the globe, according to the researchers, who plan to conduct further studies of more glaciers elsewhere on the globe.

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Environment

Altering jet stream ‘may drive weather shift’

New research suggests that the main system that helps determine the weather over Northern Europe and North America may be changing. The study shows that the so-called jet stream has increasingly taken a longer, meandering path. This has resulted in weather remaining the same for more prolonged periods.

The meandering jet stream has accounted for the recent stormy weather over the UK and the bitter winter weather in the US Mid-West remaining longer than it otherwise would have. We can expect more of the same and we can expect it to happen more frequently. The jet stream, as its name suggests, is a high-speed air current in the atmosphere that brings with it the weather. It is fuelled partly by the temperature differential between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms

No current tropical storms.

A Stormier-Hotter World Linked to Climate Change

Britain’s national weather service says there is no longer any doubt that recent larger and more damaging storms are connected to a warming global climate.

Much of the U.K. is suffering from the worst in a series of inundations that have submerged vast tracts of the nation during the past three years.

A barrage of winter storms in recent months has seen some flood-weary communities swamped more than once.

While the Met Office’s chief scientist, Dame Julia Slingo, says it is not possible to blame any specific storm on global warming, she said a trend toward more volatile weather patterns due to climate change is clear.

“We have records going back to 1766 and we have nothing like this,” she said at a press conference in London.

Slingo’s comments came just before Australian researchers announced that human greenhouse gas emissions were the likely cause of last year’s record-breaking heat in the country.

The previous Australian summer was the hottest on record and the year 2013 brought the highest average annual temperature in over 100 years of observations.

Climate experts Sophie Lewis and David Karoly told the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society’s annual conference that human activities, particularly emissions of carbon dioxide, are clearly to blame for the record heat.

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NewsBytes:

UK – Floods in southwest England and elsewhere have submerged crops and destroyed cattle bedding and feed, with the consequences likely to be felt for months, or even years, in terms of lower production of both crops and meat. Britain’s Environment Agency had issued 416 flood warnings and alerts, as of early Thursday, including 16 under its most serious category, indicating danger to life. Thousands of acres of farmland in Britain are under water, with some submerged for weeks.

Wildlife

Climate Change Killing Young Argentine Penguins

Penguin chicks in Argentina’s coastal Patagonia are being killed by chilling rains that climate change is bringing to the historically arid region, along with spells of unprecedented heat.

A new study published in the journal Plos One shows that chicks being born on the Punta Tombo peninsula are vulnerable to hypothermia when they grow too big for their parents to keep them warm by sitting on them, and have yet to grow their waterproof feathers.

Increasing rainstorms are drenching them to death.

This has been the leading cause of chick deaths on the peninsula during two recent years.

“Climate variability in the form of increased rainfall and temperature extremes, however, has increased in the last 50 years and kills many chicks in some years,” the authors write.

Beyond shifts in weather, the researchers point to altered fish behaviour from climate change as an increasing cause of penguin deaths as well.

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Global Warming

Watch 63 years of climate change

The 15-second animation, which was posted by NASA last week shows a view of the entire globe with an overlay that details climate change. NASA scientists analyzed data collected over the past 63 years by 1,000 meteorological stations from around the world, and the animation they compiled shows just how rapidly the Earth’s climate is changing.

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Global warming

 

If your browser does not support animation, download the first image to your computer and view it as an animated .gif.

Environment

Sub-Arctic Lakes Shrinking Due to Climate Change

A trend toward drier summers and less snowy winters in sub-Arctic Canada is leading to an unprecedented drying up of the region’s expansive network of lakes, according to a new study. In a report published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, researchers from four universities found that the shift in climate and the shrinking of the lakes that followed has not happened for at least the past 200 years.

Some lakes first began showing signs of losing water in 2010, but observers say it became far more pronounced during this past summer.

Researchers made the discovery after studying 70 lakes near Old Crow, Yukon, and Churchill, Manitoba. Most of the lakes there are less than 3 feet deep.

“With this type of lake, precipitation in the form of snow represents 30 to 50 percent of the annual water supply,” explained lead author, Frédéric Bouchard, from Université Laval’s Department of Geography and Canada’s Center for Northern Studies.

Average winter precipitation from 2010 to 2012 dropped by almost 3 inches compared to the 1971-2000 average.

“It’s difficult to predict all the repercussions of this habitat loss,” Bouchard concludes, “but it’s certain that the ecological consequences will be significant.”

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