Environment

A Toxic World

A new study suggests chemical pollution has become so pervasive that it has pushed Earth outside the relatively stable environment of the past 10,000 years.

Beyond the widespread use of plastics, researchers say they are also highly concerned about 350,000 synthetic chemicals, including pesticides, industrial compounds and antibiotics. “There has been a fifty-fold increase in the production of chemicals since 1950 and this is projected to triple again by 2050,” said research team member Patricia Villarrubia-Gómez of Sweden’s Stockholm Resilience Center. “Shifting to a circular economy is really important. That means changing materials and products so they can be reused, not wasted,” Villarrubia-Gómez added.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 46.1 degrees Celsius (115 degrees F) at Robertson, South Africa.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 54.4 degrees Celsius (-66 degrees F) at Oimyakon, Siberia.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Global Warming

Putting a Cost on Climate Change

Led by the deadly and costly Hurricane Ida and massive flooding in Europe, the world racked up $329 billion in economic losses linked to severe weather last year, and only 38% of that bill was covered by insurance. Total economic losses tallied $343 billion, Aon said, $329 billion of which resulted from weather and climate-related events such as hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, tsunamis and drought. That left 2021 as the third costliest year on record after adjusting for inflation.

“There’s no question that the finger prints of climate change are already here today, more intense weather, impacting more things in harm’s way,” Steve Bowen, meteorologist and head of catastrophe insight at Aon.

Environment

Iceberg dumped nearly 1 trillion tons of freshwater in the ocean.

What was once the biggest iceberg in the world released more than 167 billion tons of freshwater in three months and nearly 1 trillion tons in its lifespan, which could have profound effects on wildlife, scientists say.

The A68A iceberg was part of the Larsen-C Ice Shelf on the Antarctica peninsula before it broke off in July 2017. At the time, it was the biggest iceberg on Earth at 2,208 square miles, larger than the state of Delaware.

When the iceberg broke off, it began to drift across the Southern Ocean. In December 2020, the iceberg began to approach South Georgia island, about 1,300 miles off the Argentina coast. The island is home to wildlife including penguins and seals. Fortunately the iceberg broke up before hitting the seabed around the island.

The cold freshwater drifts with the oceans currents, so the mixture with the salty warm waters will release nutrients into the waters. Scientists believe that will change or produce new plankton in the area, which affects the local food chain. What that means for the environment in the long term is not known.

Global Warming

Climate change is making it harder for plants to spread seeds via animals

The loss of biodiversity of birds and mammals from human-induced climate change has reduced the ability of plants to spread their seeds via animals, according to a new study.

Published in Science earlier this month, the study uses data from more than 400 networks of seed dispersal interactions between plants, birds and mammals to track the changes being seen by declines in animal populations due to climate change.

Half of all plant species rely on animals to disperse their seeds, either through their feces or hitching a ride on feathers, wings and fur, and seed dispersal networks lost or created in new ways to make up for biodiversity loss can influence how plants can adapt to climate change through migration, the study states.

The American and Dutch researchers estimate that mammal and bird losses have reduced the capacity of plants to adapt to climate change by 60 per cent across the globe.

Environment

Pollution

Smog and smoke clouds that now frequently plague California and other parts of the West are making breathing more dangerous for residents of the region, according to a new study.

Researcher Deepti Singh of Washington State University, Vancouver and colleagues found that exposure to ground-level ozone and the fine-particle pollution from more frequent wildfires has increased by 25 million “person days” from 2001 to 2020.

Short-term effects from the pollution include breathing difficulties and worsening heart and lung diseases, such as asthma. Exposure to both types of pollution at the same time compounds the health risks, and long-term exposure can have even far more serious consequences. The study found that in August 2020, 86% of the western U.S. was blanketed by extreme amounts of both.

Global Warming

No Quick Fix for Global Warming in Greenland

The warming that humans cause today may have ripple effects far into the future, scientists warned in a study yesterday that finds the vast Greenland ice sheet could continue melting for centuries after greenhouse gases are stabilized. Greenland has a delayed response to changes in the Earth’s climate, and even if the planet stopped warming tomorrow, Greenland may continue losing ice for hundreds or even thousands of years.

During periods of natural cooling, for instance, the ice sheet has begun to grow—and then it continued to grow for some time even after the climate starts warming again. Eventually, the ice sheet flips and starts to shrink again. Then it continues shrinking even after temperatures stop rising.

That’s because the Greenland ice sheet is such a large, complex system. The ice sheet is so large that once it starts losing ice at faster and faster speeds, it can take a long time to slow back down again.

Environment

Mass Extinction

Earth’s sixth mass extinction is currently accelerating, and a new study points out that it is the only one in the planet’s history to be caused by human activity.

“Drastically increased rates of species extinctions and declining abundances of many animal and plant populations are well documented, yet some deny that these phenomena amount to mass extinction,” said lead researcher Robert Cowie. Writing in the journal Biological Reviews, he and his colleagues estimate that between 7.5% and 13% of Earth’s 2 million known species may already be lost. Some critics of the alarm over the man-made “biological annihilation” of wildlife say this it merely a new and natural trend, with humans just playing the dominant role in Earth’s evolutionary history.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 46.7 degrees Celsius (116 degrees F) at Oodnadatta, South Australia.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 51.7 degrees Celsius (-61 degrees F) at Oimyakon, Siberia.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Global Warming

Scientists Warn Again Artificial Sun Dimming

Plans to dim the Sun’s rays in order to slow the effects of global warming are potentially dangerous and should be forbidden by governments, a group of scientists and policy experts have said.

One of the plans includes injecting billions of sulphur particles into the atmosphere – but the success of any plan would be far outweighed by the probable disastrous effects thereof on all life on the planet.

Human beings are already experiencing the serious effects of meddling with nature – the solution should be self-evident: stop polluting the planet, don’t make it worse by escalating the pollution with more artificial, nature-destroying nonsense schemes.

Environment

Polar Lightning

Scientists say they are alarmed at the sudden and rapid increase in lightning strikes across the high Arctic during the past few years. Once very rare, the 7,278 lightning bolts north of 80 degrees latitude during 2021 were nearly double the number in the previous nine years combined.

The trend was highlighted by the Finnish scientific instrument manufacturer Vaisala, which issues an annual report on global lightning. The more frequent lightning bolts are being caused by disappearing sea ice, which means more water is able to evaporate, and the greater atmospheric instability caused by Arctic warming that is occurring at four times the global average.

Global Warming

Methane Alarm

The global level of the potent greenhouse gas methane has reached a record high, growing at twice the rate of the long-term average in what scientists are calling a “fire alarm moment” for curbing climate change.

NOAA says methane concentrations reached a record 1,900 parts per billion in September, the highest in almost four decades of regular monitoring. The gas is 80 times more potent in contributing to global heating than carbon dioxide.

While most of the rise has occurred from the gas being released through changes in wetlands and by agriculture in the tropics, leaks from oil and gas operations are also major contributors. More than 100 countries pledged to cut their methane emissions at last year’s COP26 climate summit.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 50.6 degrees Celsius (123 degrees F) at Onslow, Western Australia.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 52.8 degrees Celsius (-63 degrees F) at Bolshoye Toko, Siberia.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Summer Heat

The height of southern summer has brought some of the hottest weather on record to northern Argentina and parts of western Australia.

The Argentine heat wave caused the power grid around Buenos Aires to collapse, leaving 700,000 without electricity as temperatures in the north of the country approached the hottest ever recorded in South America.

A temperature of 123 degrees Fahrenheit in Pilbara, Western Australia, tied for the hottest ever recorded in Australia, and the entire Southern Hemisphere, since 1960.

Environment

Brazilian Deforestation

Flanking the Amazon rainforest, Brazil’s Cerrado savannah reported a six-year deforestation high, after which government scientists have said that deforestation monitoring will cease soon, citing government budget cuts. Wood from the endangered savannah is being illegally deforested to fuel a charcoal boom, which reports say is reliant on forced labour. Th charcoal is being used to fuel Brazil’s steel mills.

Global Warming

Ocean Warming

Thanks to the relentless pace at which humans are adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, ocean temperatures in 2021 were “the hottest ever recorded by humans,” according to a report published Tuesday in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.

Since 1958, the researchers found, the world’s oceans have warmed at a steady pace. But that rate sharply accelerated in the late 1980s, warming eight times as fast as in the decades prior.

The seas that are warming fastest, the report says, are the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. While factors such as El Niño and La Niña weather patterns continue to help determine short-term water temperature conditions, greenhouse gas emissions that trap solar radiation and warm the planet’s atmosphere are the biggest factor for increasing ocean warmth, according to the report.

The consequences of rising ocean temperatures range from stronger tropical storms to the accelerated melting of the Earth’s polar ice, which, in combination with the fact that the volume of the oceans expands when warmed, translates into more sea level rise. Warmer oceans result in a greater amount of evaporation, which adds more moisture to the atmosphere and leads to more powerful rain events like those witnessed across the globe in 2021, as well as conditions that give rise to tornadoes.