Global Warming

Global Warming in a Nutshell – The Carbon Cycle

Using sunlight, plants and microorganisms take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. Those plants are then eaten by animals, which then convert the plants to energy and exhale carbon dioxide. Or if the plants don’t get eaten, they die and decay, putting some carbon in the soil and returning some carbon to the atmosphere.

It’s almost a closed loop, though over the course of millions of years, enough decaying plant and animal matter gradually built up in the ground to yield vast reserves of fossil fuels while reducing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere bit by bit.

Humans have breached this cycle by digging up fossil fuels and burning them, leading to carbon dioxide building up in the atmosphere faster than natural systems can soak it up. This has led to a net increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, causing the planet to heat up.

The Oceans are Warming Faster than Previously Thought

The planet’s oceans are warming a lot quicker than estimated, highlighting the perils of unchecked climate change, according to a new study.

New data published by the journal Science on Thursday, indicates that ocean temperatures have consistently risen since the 1950s and are rising 40% faster than calculated by scientists in a 2014 U.N. report. According to Lijing Cheng, one of the study’s authors, temperatures down to 2,000 meters rose about 0.1 degree Celsius (0.18F) between 1971-2010, according to Reuters. The fallout could include rising sea levels, destruction of corals, severe weather systems and a decrease in ice sheets and glaciers. According to the study, sea levels could rise by 30cm by the year 2100.

The earth’s oceans have absorbed more than 90% of heat caused by greenhouse gases trapped in the atmosphere, according to the New York Times, making them a vital regulator for the planet’s thermostat. However, their role was relatively unnoticed because of insufficient and imprecise data. The new study analyzed earlier published information and data compiled by Argo, an international system of nearly 4,000 floats that measures temperature and saline levels in the upper parts of the world’s oceans.

The study is the latest in a number of warnings from the scientific community, urging people to change their ways and address global warming. In October 2018, a report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that the planet has only until 2030 to avoid devastating climate change effects. Governments are becoming more aware of their responsibilities, with almost 200 nations pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Global Warming

Ocean Warming

Global warming has heated the oceans by the equivalent of one atomic bomb explosion per second for the past 150 years, according to analysis of new research.

More than 90% of the heat trapped by humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed by the seas, with just a few per cent heating the air, land and ice caps respectively. The vast amount of energy being added to the oceans drives sea-level rise and enables hurricanes and typhoons to become more intense.

Much of the heat has been stored in the ocean depths but measurements here only began in recent decades and existing estimates of the total heat the oceans have absorbed stretch back only to about 1950. The new work extends that back to 1871. Scientists have said that understanding past changes in ocean heat was critical for predicting the future impact of climate change.

A Guardian calculation found the average heating across that 150-year period was equivalent to about 1.5 Hiroshima-size atomic bombs per second. But the heating has accelerated over that time as carbon emissions have risen, and was now the equivalent of between three and six atomic bombs per second.

Wildlife

Oceanic Heat Wave

Tropical fish from off northeastern Australia have been spotted around parts of New Zealand, lured across the Tasman Sea by a record-breaking hot summer season.

The country’s unusual warmth was largely generated by what meteorologists term a “marine heat wave,” which has seen water temperatures nearly 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

The rare appearance of the Queensland groper, also known as the giant grouper, has startled New Zealand divers, who fear the fish won’t survive once temperatures cool to near normal.

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Happy Captives?

A controversial study suggests captive dolphins can be as “happy” as those swimming free in the wild, and also appear to look forward to human interaction.

French researchers played specific sounds before offering the dolphins different things to do, such as playing with new toys, interacting with a human or being left to do as they pleased. The marine mammals would clearly bob their heads out of the water when they anticipated a human was coming.

The scientists conclude this means the dolphins become excited when offered the chance to connect with their human trainers.

Environment

Warm Ocean ‘Blob’ Triggers Worst-Ever Toxic Algae Blooms

Blooms of algae along the West Coast of the U.S. in 2015 were bigger and more toxic than ever before, contaminating food webs and closing fisheries from southern California to as far north as British Columbia, in Canada. Now, a new study links them to elevated ocean temperatures, with algae growth spurred by a mysterious patch of warmer-than-average ocean that scientists first noted years earlier and had dubbed “the warm blob.”

The warm blob, which first appeared in 2013 and hung around into 2014, helped one species of toxic algae — Pseudo-nitzschia australis — increase in unprecedented numbers and expand farther north than was previously possible, with devastating effects on a wide range of marine life. [Yuck! Photos of ‘Rock Snot’ Algae Infestations]

Toxic algae events that are serious enough to merit fishery closures occur off the coasts of Washington and Oregon every three to five years, but the 2015 bloom was the largest by far, according to Ryan McCabe, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the University of Washington’s Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean in Seattle.

Ocean warm blob

Global Warming

Renewables Slowing Record High CO2 Pollution

Carbon dioxide emissions hit a record high in 2012, but could have been even higher, according to a new report. The increase in emissions was only 1.1 percent in 2012, compared to an average 2.9 percent over the past decade. The slowdown in emissions growth suggests renewable energy, efficiency and cleaner fuels are having a beneficial effect.

A report by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre crunched the numbers for 2012′s carbon dioxide emissions.

Pacific Ocean Warming 15 Times Faster Than Before

Although the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere may have hit the “pause” button recently — with little global warming measured over the past few years — that hasn’t been the case with the oceans.

In a study out today in the journal Science, researchers say that the middle depths of a part of the Pacific Ocean have warmed 15 times faster in the past 60 years than they did during the previous 10,000 years.

Most of the heat that humanity has put into the atmosphere since the 1970s from greenhouse gas emissions has likely been absorbed by the oceans, according to the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations-sponsored group of scientists that issues reports every few years about the effects of global warming.

Increases in ocean heat content and temperature are robust indicators of global warming during the past several decades,” according to today’s Science study.

“We’re pumping heat into the ocean at a faster rate over the past 60 years,” said study lead author Yair Rosenthal, a climate scientist at Rutgers University. “We may have underestimated the efficiency of the oceans as a storehouse for heat and energy,” he added. “It may buy us some time — how much time, I don’t really know. But it’s not going to stop climate change.”