Global Warming

Forest Recovery

Areas of felled forest around the world, collectively the size of France, have regrown naturally during the past 20 years, potentially soaking up more carbon emissions than the United States creates each year.

But the World Wildlife Fund, which led the survey, says far more areas of forests are being lost each year through deforestation than are recovering. “The data show the enormous potential of natural habitats to recover when given the chance to do so,” said John Lotspeich, executive director of Trillion Trees, the coalition group behind the study.

Global Warming

Vanishing Glaciers

A new study of the world’s glaciers reveals that they are melting at a faster pace than previously estimated, posing an increasing threat of inundation to coastal communities and low-lying islands around the world.

The research found that other than the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, glaciers lost 676 gigatons of ice per year on average between 2000 and 2019. The losses were said to have accelerated sharply during the period as global heating became more acute. Some glaciers have already vanished, with others expected to do so by the end of the century.

This is a particular threat in South Asia, where mountain glaciers are an important source of fresh water to rivers such as the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Indus.

Global Warming

New Normal for USA

The U.S. environment agency NOAA issued its latest calculations of what is now the climatic “normal,” which is based on temperature averages from the past three decades.

The previous normals were based on weather data from 1981 to 2010. But because of the unprecedented warmth of the past two decades, evidence of the current climate emergency is clearly evident in the new 1991-2020 calculations.

The average temperature in the 48 contiguous United States for the past 30 years is now almost a half-degree Fahrenheit hotter than between 1981 and 2010.

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Global Warming

Polar Drift

Earth’s axis is being shifted by the human activities causing the current climate emergency and the redistribution of water resources through the pumping of groundwater for irrigation.

An international team of researchers says the shift started in the 1990s when global heating began to melt glaciers, sending much of the runoff into the oceans. Earth’s axis naturally drifts a little bit each year due to changes in winds, ocean currents and atmospheric pressures. But the redistribution of water from land to the oceans accelerated the drift between 1995 and 2020 by about 17 times. Vincent Humphrey of the University of Zurich says the drift is tiny and imperceptible to humans.

Melting Hazards

Boulders and rocks long frozen in place high across the world’s mountainous regions are now tumbling downslope due to the glacial melt brought on by global heating.

A tragic example occurred in February when rock and ice broke loose from a Himalayan peak, killed more than 200 people and destroyed a hydroelectric dam. Researchers in Switzerland have begun releasing “test rocks” from high in the Alps to better understand the dangers posed to humans and the landscape by the growing phenomenon. “Where a rock will land, how it will bounce, how high it will jump … we can answer all that,” said physicist Andrin Caviezel, one of the scientists involved in the experiments.

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Global Warming

Glaciers are Shrinking

Earth’s glaciers are shrinking, and in the past 20 years, the rate of shrinkage has steadily sped up, according to a new study of nearly every glacier on the planet.

Glaciers mostly lose mass through ice melt, but they also shrink due to other processes, such as sublimation, where water evaporates directly from the ice, and calving, where large chunks of ice break off the edge of a glacier, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). By tracking how quickly glaciers are shrinking, scientists can better predict how quickly sea levels may rise, particularly as climate change drives up average global temperatures.

The team found that, between 2000 and 2019, glaciers collectively lost an average of 293.7 billion tons (267 billion metric tonnes) of mass per year, give or take 17.6 billion tons (16 billion metric tonnes); this accounts for about 21% of the observed sea-level rise in that time frame.

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Global Warming

Whitest White Paint

Painting rooftops with a new type of super-reflective white paint could help reduce the effects of global heating in buildings and curb the need for air conditioning.

Researchers at Purdue University say the paint they made with barium sulphate pigment rather than conventional titanium dioxide does not absorb any UV light and reflects 98% of all sunlight.

Roofs have been painted white for centuries, but traditional paint reflects only about 80-90% of sunlight and still absorbs the warming UV light. While further tests for durability are needed, the developers say the super-white paint could be on the market within two years at a price comparable to conventional products.

Global Warming

Alpine Snow Cover Melting Earlier

Snow cover in the Alps has been melting almost three days earlier per decade since the 1960s. This trend is temperature-related and cannot be compensated by heavier snowfall. By the end of the century, snow cover at 2,500 meters could disappear a month earlier than today, as simulations by environmental scientists at the University of Basel demonstrate.

The data showed that between 1958 and 2019, snow cover between 1,000 and 2,500 meters melted an average of 2.8 days earlier every decade. This shift was not linear, but was particularly strong in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This corresponds to strong temperature increases in this time period that have been verified by climate research.

The early snowmelt could extend the growing season of alpine plants by about a third. As is known from studies of other alpine plant species, an earlier start to the growing season leads to fewer flowers, less leaf growth and a lower survival rate due to the higher risk of frost.

Global Warming

Sea Level Rise Is Killing Trees Along the US Atlantic Coast

Sea level rise is killing trees along the Atlantic coast, creating ‘ghost forests’ that are visible from space.

Throughout coastal North Carolina, evidence of forest die-off is everywhere. Nearly every roadside ditch is lined with dead or dying trees. This flooding is evidence that climate change is altering landscapes along the Atlantic coast. It’s emblematic of environmental changes that also threaten wildlife, ecosystems, and local farms and forestry businesses.

Large patches of trees are dying simultaneously, and saplings aren’t growing to take their place. And it’s not just a local issue: Seawater is raising salt levels in coastal woodlands along the entire Atlantic Coastal Plain, from Maine to Florida. Huge swaths of contiguous forest are dying. They’re now known in the scientific community as “ghost forests.” Rapid sea level rise seems to be outpacing the ability of these forests to adapt to wetter, saltier conditions. Extreme weather events, fueled by climate change, are causing further damage from heavy storms, more frequent hurricanes and drought.

Global Warming

Antarctica’s ‘Doomsday Glacier’ close to tipping point

The glacier could be melting at the key points anchoring it to the land.

Thwaites Glacier, a gigantic ice shelf in West Antarctica, has been on climate scientists’ radars for two decades now. But they didn’t know just how fast the glacier was melting, and how close it was to complete collapse, until researchers sent an unmanned submarine below the ice shelf.

The first measurements ever performed in the dark waters under the 74,000 square mile (192,000 square kilometers) chunk of ice revealed a disquieting piece of information: A previously underestimated current of warm water is flowing from the east, whittling away at several vital “pinning points” that anchor the shelf to the land.

As one of Antarctica’s fastest melting glaciers, Thwaites Glacier, cheerfully nicknamed the “Doomsday Glacier,” has lost an estimated 595 billion tons (540 billion metric tons) of ice since the 1980s, contributing to a 4% rise in global sea levels since that time. The glacier acts like a cork in a wine bottle, stopping the rest of the ice in the region from flowing into the sea, so Thwaites Glacier’s collapse could potentially take the rest of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet with it, causing a 10-foot (3 meter) rise in global sea levels.

Global Warming

Australian Bushfires Warmed Planet

Smoke pollution from Australian bushfires in 2019 and 2020 warmed the stratosphere over the southern hemisphere by at least 1°C for six months, according to a new analysis. The devastating 2019 to 2020 bushfire season in Australia injected huge amounts of smoke into the stratosphere and led to record aerosol pollution.

Global Warming

A Fifth of Food Output Growth Has Been Lost to Climate Change

Climate change has been holding back food production for decades, with a new study showing that about 21% of growth for agricultural output was lost since the 1960s. That’s equal to losing the last seven years of productivity growth, according to research led by Cornell University.

The revelation comes as the United Nations’ World Food Programme warns of a “looming catastrophe” with about 34 million people globally on the brink of famine. The group has cited climate change as a major factor contributing to the sharp increase in hunger around the world.

Global Warming

Humans are throwing Earth’s energy budget off balance

Earth is on a budget – an energy budget. Our planet is constantly trying to balance the flow of energy in and out of Earth’s system. But human activities are throwing that off balance, causing our planet to warm in response.

Radiative energy enters Earth’s system from the sunlight that shines on our planet. Some of this energy reflects off of Earth’s surface or atmosphere back into space. The rest gets absorbed, heats the planet, and is then emitted as thermal radiative energy the same way that black asphalt gets hot and radiates heat on a sunny day.

Eventually this energy also heads toward space, but some of it gets re-absorbed by clouds and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The absorbed energy may also be emitted back toward Earth, where it will warm the surface even more.

Adding more components that absorb radiation – like greenhouse gases – or removing those that reflect it – like aerosols – throws off Earth’s energy balance, and causes more energy to be absorbed by Earth instead of escaping into space. This is called a radiative forcing, and it’s the dominant way human activities are affecting the climate.

Climate modelling predicts that human activities are causing the release of greenhouse gases and aerosols that are affecting Earth’s energy budget. Now, a NASA study has confirmed these predictions with direct observations for the first time: radiative forcings are increasing due to human actions, affecting the planet’s energy balance and ultimately causing climate change. The paper was published online on 25 March 2021, in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Russian Arctic coast has planet’s quickest warming

It was the second warmest year in the Arctic on record, and parts of the vast region saw air temperatures far beyond the traditional freeze. The year 2020 follows the trend of the past decades and its spring months were the absolutely warmest since measurements started more than 100 years ago, a weather report from Russian meteorological service Roshydromet reads.

Parts of the Russian Arctic are now several degrees warmer than just few years ago. The warming is the most significant along parts of the North Siberian coast, and especially around the peninsulas of Taymyr and Yamal. Heat maps show that an area on the coast of Taymyr in 2020 had average temperatures up to 7’C higher than normal.

Global Warming

Amazon Adds to Global Warming

The first broad study of all greenhouse gases in the Amazon rainforest reveals that on balance the damaged ecosystem is now a net contributor to climate change. Part of the problem comes from local damaging activities like logging, dam-building, and cattle ranching. But planet-wide warming is also disrupting the water cycles in the Amazon, intensifying floods and drought that create more greenhouse gases and further decrease the ecosystem’s ability to capture and store carbon emissions.

Global Warming

Melting Glaciers Contribute to Alaska Earthquakes

In a recently published research article, scientists with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute found that ice loss near Glacier Bay National Park has influenced the timing and location of earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.0 or greater in the area during the past century.

Scientists have known for decades that melting glaciers have caused earthquakes in otherwise tectonically stable regions, such as Canada’s interior and Scandinavia. In Alaska, this pattern has been harder to detect, as earthquakes are common in the southern part of the state.

Alaska has some of the world’s largest glaciers, which can be thousands of feet thick and cover hundreds of square miles. The ice’s weight causes the land beneath it to sink, and, when a glacier melts, the ground springs back like a sponge. The disappearance of glaciers has also caused Southeast Alaska’s land to rise at about 1.5 inches per year.

When the earth rebounds following a glacier’s retreat, it does so much like bread rising in an oven, spreading in all directions. This effectively unclamps strike-slip faults, such as the Fairweather in Southeast Alaska, and makes it easier for the two sides to slip past one another.

Global Warming

Early Blooms

Japan’s renowned cherry blossoms are in full bloom again, bursting forth in vivid pink at the earliest date on record around Tokyo. The first blooms were observed in the capital on March 14, the same date as during last year’s record early appearance. The early blossoms are said to be the result of the ongoing global heating that brought Japan unusual February warmth.