Too Hot to Live

Heat stress from steadily rising temperatures in India is pushing some of its human population to the limits of survival. After India’s hottest February on record, there are growing fears there will be a repeat of last summer’s record heat waves, which killed hundreds, caused massive crop losses and triggered power blackouts.

With temperatures last summer comparable to those in the Sahara and Saudi Arabia, South Asia’s much higher humidity made sweating much less efficient for the population, or not effective at all. A recent World Bank report warned that India could become one of the first populated places where mounting heat and humidity could rise above survivable limits.


Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 45.0 degrees Celsius (113 degrees F) at Kayes, Mali.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 67.0 degrees Celsius (-89 degrees F) at Vostok, Antarctica.

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

Countries could be forced to take climate action

At the United Nations in New York more than 130 member states have voted for the International Court of Justice to pronounce on “the obligations incumbent on states” to protect the climate “for present and future generations”.

The resolution, which has been years in the making, was proposed by the tiny Pacific island state of Vanuatu.

It means the world’s highest court will now clarify what countries must do legally to defend the environment from climate harm. However, the resolution is non-binding (for the time being) and represents a step forward particularly for those countries, like Vanuatu, which face an existential threat from climate change.

Global Warming

Trees Grow for Extra Month as Planet Warms

Researchers studying hardwoods in northwest Ohio say a century of warming has extended their annual growing season by a month on average.

Between 1883 and 1912, farmer Thomas Mikesell made meticulous notes on local tree growth, precipitation and temperature in his home town of Wauseon, Ohio. Researchers say Mikesell’s observations are a near unique pre-warming dataset to compare with modern times. They found that leaves stayed on trees about 15% longer than they did in Mikesell’s day. “An entire month of growing season extension is huge when we’re talking about a pretty short period of time for those changes to be expressed.”

Species responded to warmer temperatures in different ways – most kept their leaf colour longer into Autumn but some budded early.


Seaweed Raft

A massive 8,000km long blob of seaweed is floating towards Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt – a raft of biomass stretching from West Africa to the Gulf of Mexico – contains scattered patches of seaweed on the open ocean.

It’s not a new occurrence, but scientists say that this year’s bloom could be one of the biggest ever recorded. The thick, brown seaweed is already carpeting some beaches in Florida, releasing a pungent smell as it decays and entangling humans and animals who step into it.

Sargassum is a leafy brown seaweed festooned with berry-like air pockets. The seaweed floats on the open ocean and – unlike other marine plants- reproduces on the water’s surface. The air-filled structures help to give it buoyancy. Sargassum originates in a vast stretch of the Atlantic Ocean called the Sargasso Sea, well off the southeast coast of the US.

The matted brown mass of seaweed stretches across the ocean and provides breeding grounds, food and habitat for fish, sea turtles and marine birds.

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Global Warming

It is time to phase out fossil fuels

Burning of coal, oil and gas has been the source of 64 percent of carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution; over the past 10 years, this ratio has grown to 86 percent. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases drive up the Earth’s temperature, which creates a spiralling crisis of extreme weather, rising sea levels, disease, biodiversity loss, water stress and poverty.

Despite being aware of this problem for decades, the fossil fuel industry continues to put profits first and ignore scientists’ warnings. That is why, we need leaders who will put the people first.

We need leaders at international financial institutions like the World Bank to firmly commit to addressing climate change and better supporting vulnerable nations – not doubling down on fossil fuel investments.

Since the Paris Agreement was signed, the World Bank has continued to invest billions in fossil fuel projects. It has fallen behind on its already meagre climate commitments, which are less ambitious than the baseline targets set by other development banks. The World Bank and other international financial institutions need to take immediate action and commit to a fossil fuel phase-out that complies with the 1.5C target.


Where are America’s most toxic watersheds?

Despite the United States passing a Clean Water Act nearly 50 years ago to dramatically reduce pollution and restore America’s waterways, toxic substances are still dumped into many water sources, threatening the health of people and ecosystems.

Here’s a list of the 10 watersheds and locations in the U.S. that saw the greatest amount of toxic chemicals released into its waters in 2020, according to the Environmental America Research and Policy Center:

Lower Ohio-Little Pigeon – Toxics released:12,008,366 lbs. – States: Indiana, Kentucky

Upper New – Toxics released: 10,266,141 lbs. – States: North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia

Brandywine-Christina – Toxics released: 6,191,362 lbs. – States: Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania

Lower Cape Fear – Toxics released: 5,017,810 lbs. – State: North Carolina

Muskingum – Toxics released: 4,640,523 lbs. – State: Ohio

Lower Big Sioux – Toxics released: 4,507,539 lbs. – States: Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota

Lake Walcott – Toxics released: 3,866,978 lbs. – State: Idaho

Buffalo-San Jacinto – Toxics released: 3,784,822 lbs. – State: Texas

Middle Ohio-Laughery – Toxics released: 3,524,720 lbs. – States: Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio

Lower Rock – Toxics released: 3,069,016 lbs. – States: Illinois, Wisconsin

The companies listed in the report — APC Polytech LLC, Radford Army Ammunition Plant, Rio Tinto (owners of Kennecott Utah Copper Mine), The Chemours Company, Nucor Steel Marion Inc., Duke Energy, Lonza Companies (owners of Arch Wood Protection Inc.), CPS Energy — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Drought Starvation

Nearly 130,000 people face starvation in the Horn of Africa as the region’s long-term drought is on track to become the worst on record, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. The drought has decimated crops and killed millions of livestock animals over the past year, bringing food insecurity and malnutrition to 6 million people.

Climate scientists say the weather shift creating the drought has been driven by a rare triple La Niña in the Pacific and three years of below-average temperatures in the Indian Ocean as well. It is hoped the predicted El Niño this year will end it.

Dark Winter

Residents across the eastern Great Lakes and the Canadian province of Ontario just suffered through their darkest winter in 73 years. Alaskan climatologist Brian Brettschneider made the calculation by looking at solar energy records from last December to February.

Prolonged lack of sunshine in the depth of winter has been proven to affect human health and can contribute to depression. Gloomy winters can also lead to vitamin D deficiency and a slower metabolism. Toronto went several weeks in December and January without much sunshine.


Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 45.0 degrees Celsius (113 degrees F) at Matam, Senegal.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 65.0 degrees Celsius (-85 degrees F) at Vostok, Antarctica.

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

UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report

The UN’s final IPCC report warns that drastic action must be taken immediately, but staving off disaster is within humanity’s grasp. The world needs immediate action now to defuse a “climate time bomb” that will unleash catastrophic environmental effects and climate breakdown, United Nation (UN) scientists have said in the last of its four major assessment reports to governments on Monday (March 20).

Governments must make “rapid, deep and immediate” cuts to global carbon dioxide emissions, a greenhouse gas that is the largest contributor to human-caused climate change, in order to start to decrease annual emissions by 2025 and halve them by 2030, according to the final summary report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These carbon dioxide cuts must be made globally and across all industries if temperature changes are to remain at or below the dangerous threshold of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial temperatures, the IPCC said.

Scientists have warned that crossing this 1.5 C threshold greatly increases the risks of encountering tipping points that could unleash irreversible climate breakdown — such as the total collapse of most of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets; extreme heat waves; severe droughts; water stress; and extreme weather across large parts of the globe.


Amazon Deforestation Rises

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest rose in February to the highest level on record for the month, preliminary official data showed on Friday, highlighting challenges the new government faces to stop the destruction.

Space research agency Inpe’s data showed 322 square km (124 square miles) were cleared in the region last month, up 62% from February 2022 and well above the average of 166 square km for the period.

Global Warming

Marine Heatwaves

Heatwaves unfolding on the bottom of the ocean can be more intense and last longer than those on the sea surface, new research suggests, but such extremes in the deep ocean are often overlooked.

Bottom heatwaves ranged from 0.5 degrees Celisus to 3C warmer than normal temperatures and could last more than six months — much longer than heatwaves at the surface. Surface heatwaves can be picked up by satellites and can result in huge algal blooms. But, Amaya said, often no one knows a bottom marine heatwave is happening until the impacts show up in commercial bottom-dwelling species like lobsters and crabs.

The ocean has absorbed about 90% of the excess heat from global warming, with the ocean’s average temperature increasing by about 0.9C over the last century. Marine heatwaves have become about 50% more frequent over the past decade. Past bottom marine heatwaves have decimated Pacific cod and snow crab populations which declined by 75% following the big marine heatwave in 2015. Warmer water, he said, can increase the energy needs of species at the same time that there’s less prey available for them to eat, leading to more deaths and fewer births.

Global Warming

A Devastating Toxin Is Bubbling Up From the Permafrost

Trapped in all the permafrost encircling the northern reaches of the globe is an estimated 30 billion tons of carbon. It’s an unfathomable amount. But there’s something else lurking in the permafrost that has the potential to be more immediately dangerous to the people and wildlife living in the area: mercury.

Wildfires and volcanoes belch mercury, and, since the Industrial Revolution, so do coal-burning power plants and factories. Warm-air currents carry mercury in its inorganic heavy-metal form to the Arctic, where it settles into the soil and vegetation before being safely locked away in the deeply frozen permafrost.

In its inorganic form, mercury is less threatening to people. But as the permafrost thaws, mercury is finding its way into the soil and the region’s many ponds, rivers, and lakes. Once there, certain microbes can convert inorganic mercury into the form to be concerned about: neurotoxic methylmercury.


Early Cherry Blossoms

The famed cherry trees of Tokyo began to blossom on March 14, matching the earliest date on record since observations began in 1953. The Japan Meteorological Agency said the “Somei Yoshino” variety buds appeared at the Yasukuni Shrine on the same day in 2020 and 2021 as well, which is 10 days earlier than the longterm average.

The agency says the trees should be in full bloom across the capital in the next week and should soon burst forth earlier than normal in other parts of the country, due to rising temperatures. Residents will be able to gather in public spaces to enjoy the blooms for the first time since the pandemic.

Oceans of Plastic

The amount of microplastic debris littering the world’s oceans has undergone a dramatic surge since 2005, with researchers saying there are now 2.5 million tonnes of it in the sea. Marcus Eriksen and Lisa Erdle at the 5 Gyres Institute in Santa Monica, California, and their colleagues say scarce data on plastic pollution between 1979 and 1990 make it impossible to see how fast it was increasing during that period.

Observations between 1990 and 2004 show it was fluctuating with no clear trend. But concentrations have risen in recent years to more than 10 times their levels in 2005. A legally binding treaty among 175 countries to control plastic pollution is expected to be drafted and debated by 2024.


Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 46.0 degrees Celsius (115 degrees F) at Matam, Senegal.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 59.0 degrees Celsius (-74 degrees F) at Vostok, Antarctica.

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.