CC6C. Stay Current—How Is the Atmosphere Changing?

Climate Change cover

Staying current for Chapter 6.

{ Climate Change Contents }

See non-chronological resources (bottom of page).

2022-07-07. Global atmospheric CO2 concentration is still rising. [] By NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory. For the most current data in graphical form, see where graphs show monthly mean carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii. But CAUTION, prepare to be depressed: the concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere is still rising, owing largely to human combustion of fossil fuels. As pointed out in the outset in GSS Climate Change book chapter 1, the greenhouse effect coupled with rising CO2 atmospheric concentrations means that we expect global average temperatures to rise accordingly.

2022-06-03. Carbon Dioxide Levels Are Highest in Human History. By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. Excerpt: Humans pumped 36 billion tons of the planet-warming gas into the atmosphere in 2021, more than in any previous year. It comes from burning oil, gas and coal. There is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any time in at least 4 million years, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said. The concentration of the gas reached nearly 421 parts per million in May, the peak for the year, as power plants, vehicles, farms and other sources around the world continued to pump huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere…. Emissions totaled 36.3 billion tons in 2021, the highest level in history. [] See also article in The Guardian []. 

2021-03-22. Cold Curriculum for a Hot Topic. By Nancy Averett, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: educators at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center do more than just talk about ice cores and what they reveal about temperature, precipitation, and climate: The scientists also help students create their own ice cores—using Pringles potato chip cans filled with layers of frozen water, instant coffee, and other materials to represent the different layers found in the ice. “If you haven’t seen an ice core and looked at what patterns are there, it’s really hard to just jump to the data and have a deeper meaning of what [they’re] telling you or how [they connect] to the core,” said Jason Cervenec, education and outreach director at the Center, which is on the campus of Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus. Every year, Cervenec and his staff host thousands of kindergarten to 12th-grade students to teach them about ice cores and the secrets they hold. A handful of other facilities do similar educational outreach, including the National Science Foundation Ice Core Facility in Denver and the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine in Orono. …Cervenec said his group tries to make it easy for educators to teach about a variety of complex topics, including climate change. Ice core records allow scientists to reconstruct and compare past climates and their fluctuations, as well as show that Earth’s current warming pattern is an anomaly. A timeline graph at the Center, for example, connects proxy data found in an ice core with world events so students can see how warming fluctuations have become much more severe since the Industrial Revolution…. [

2019-12-03. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Hit a Record in 2019, Even as Coal Fades. By Brad Plumer, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: WASHINGTON — Emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide from fossil fuels hit a record high in 2019, researchers said Tuesday, putting countries farther off course from their goal of halting global warming. The new data contained glimmers of good news: Worldwide, industrial emissions are on track to rise 0.6 percent this year, a considerably slower pace than the 1.5 percent increase seen in 2017 and the 2.1 percent rise in 2018. The United States and the European Union both managed to cut their carbon dioxide output this year, while India’s emissions grew far more slowly than expected. And global emissions from coal, the worst-polluting of all fossil fuels, unexpectedly declined by about 0.9 percent in 2019, although that drop was more than offset by strong growth in the use of oil and natural gas around the world. Scientists have long warned, however, that it’s not enough for emissions to grow slowly or even just stay flat in the years ahead. In order to avoid many of the most severe consequences of climate change — including deadlier heat waves, fiercer droughts, and food and water shortages — global carbon dioxide emissions would need to steadily decline each year and reach roughly zero well before the end of the century…. 

2019-08-14. When Does Weather Become Climate? By Oliver Bothe, Eos/AGU. [] Excerpt: Individuals and political organizations alike often define “climate” as climate scientist John Kennedy did on Twitter: “Practically speaking: weather’s how you choose an outfit, climate’s how you choose your wardrobe.” Meanwhile, the scientific literature rarely defines climate more specifically than as the “statistics of weather.” …Possibly the most common current definition is that from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, which distinguishes between “climate in a narrow sense…as the average weather…over a period of time ranging from months to…millions of years” and “climate in a wider sense” as “the state…of the climate system.” …Earth’s climate system includes its atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, biosphere, and lithosphere. Besides statistics, descriptions of the climate system’s behavior may employ thermodynamics and fluid dynamics, along with chemistry, electromagnetism, rheology, and plasma physics. …The American Meteorological Society defines weather as the “state of the atmosphere” at a specific time and emphasizes the minutes-to-days scale of its variations and how these variations influence life or a celestial body. …If weather on Earth takes place over minutes to days and the shortest climate timescale is monthly, we need a conceptual definition of the transition between weather and climate. The IPCC separates climate variability from the scales of “individual weather events.”…. 

2019-06-04. GSS activity 6-1, The Findings From Mauna Loa, selected for the CLEAN collection. (Is the Atmosphere Really Changing? – was selected for inclusion in exemplary activities in the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) collection. [] is an internationally-recognized portal (funded by NSF, NOAA, and the Department of Energy) that features high-quality online resources that have passed rigorous review by scientists and educators.

2019-03-26. Emissions growth in United States, Asia fueled record carbon levels in 2018. By Benjamin Storrow, E&E News, Science News. [] Excerpt: Global carbon levels reached a record high last year, as surging demand for fossil fuels in the United States and Asia sent emissions soaring, the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris said today. The 33.1 gigatons of energy-related carbon dioxide reported in 2018 represents a 1.7% increase over the previous year. It also means emissions have risen in each of the first two full years since the signing of the Paris climate agreement, leaving the world far short of the 26% to 28% cut in emissions targeted by 2025. “We see that there is a growing disconnect between those calls and what is happening in the real markets,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a call announcing the findings []. …Surging energy consumption fueled by strong economic growth in the United States and Asia was the primary cause of the emissions spike, …. Global energy consumption was up 2.3% in 2018, roughly double the average annual growth rate since 2010. …Global natural gas consumption was up 4.6%, while oil rose 1.3% and coal increased 0.7%. China, India, and the United States accounted for 70% of all energy demand and 85% of the net increase in emissions, IEA reported…. 

2019-01-08. U.S. Carbon Emissions Surged in 2018 Even as Coal Plants Closed. By Brad Plumer, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: WASHINGTON — America’s carbon dioxide emissions rose by 3.4 percent in 2018, the biggest increase in eight years, according to a preliminary estimate published Tuesday. Strikingly, the sharp uptick in emissions occurred even as a near-record number of coal plants around the United States retired last year, illustrating how difficult it could be for the country to make further progress on climate change in the years to come, particularly as the Trump administration pushes to roll back federal regulations that limit greenhouse gas emissions….  

2017-07-13. Climate-Altering Gases Spiked in 2016, Federal Scientists Report. By Lisa Friedman, The New York Times. Excerpt: The climate-warming influence of greenhouse gas emissions rose more quickly last year than it has in nearly three decades, an increase scientists attributed in part to a strong El Niño weather pattern, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported this week. The Annual Greenhouse Gas Index also shows that the warming ability of global emissions of greenhouse gases, primarily driven by the burning of fossil fuels and other human activity, increased 40 percent between 1990 and 2016, a significant measure of man’s influence on the climate. Unlike most news releases accompanying the index during the Obama administration, NOAA’s announcement this year does not directly link human activity to emissions. “The role of greenhouse gases on influencing global temperatures is well understood by scientists, but it’s a complicated topic that can be difficult to communicate,” NOAA officials said in releasing the index. That is a notable shift from last year’s release, in which NOAA declared that “human activity has increased the direct warming effect of carbon dioxide.” In 2014 the agency, which is housed in the Commerce Department, said “the warming influence from human-emitted gases continues to increase.” ….

2017-04-21. We Just Breached the 410 PPM Threshold for CO2. By Brian Kahn, Scientific American. Excerpt: The world just passed another round-numbered climate milestone. Scientists predicted it would happen this year and lo and behold, it has. On Tuesday, the Mauna Loa Observatory recorded its first-ever carbon dioxide reading in excess of 410 parts per million (it was 410.28 ppm in case you want the full deal). Carbon dioxide hasn’t reached that height in millions of years. It’s a new atmosphere that humanity will have to contend with, one that’s trapping more heat and causing the climate to change at a quickening rate….

2017-02-24. Amazon Deforestation, Once Tamed, Comes Roaring Back. By Hiroko Tabuchi, Claire Rigby, and Jeremy White, The New York Times. Excerpt: COLONIA BERLIN, Bolivia …A decade after the “Save the Rainforest” movement forced changes that dramatically slowed deforestation across the Amazon basin, activity is roaring back in some of the biggest expanses of forests in the world. That resurgence, driven by the world’s growing appetite for soy and other agricultural crops, is raising the specter of a backward slide in efforts to preserve biodiversity and fight climate change….

2016-03-23. Current Carbon Emissions Unprecedented in 66 Million Years. By JoAnna Wendel, EoS Earth and Space Science News (AGU). Excerpt: As scientists attempt to understand how anthropogenic climate change will affect the Earth’s future, they often study a period in the Earth’s deep past, called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, when a period of natural climate change significantly heated the Earth. In a Nature Geoscience paper published Monday, scientists established that this warming, which began 56 million years ago, was the result of a 4000-year period in which carbon was released into the atmosphere at a rate of 1.1 petagrams (or 1.1 trillion kilograms) per year. The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) “is the biggest, most massive carbon release event since dinosaurs disappeared,” said Richard Zeebe, a biogeochemist and paleoceanographer at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in Honolulu and lead author on the paper. …Because the rate of carbon dioxide release is 10 times faster today, the severity of climate change’s physical effects on the Earth, such as ocean acidification, could be much worse than we thought, Zeebe said. …Researchers see evidence of marine life extinction during this time due to ocean acidification, Zeebe said, especially in the deep-sea communities of tiny, shelled organisms. …a paper in Nature Geoscience in 2011 that determined that today’s rates of carbon dioxide emissions are 10 times higher than those during the onset of the PETM. Because the ocean absorbs much of the carbon dioxide, the consequences for marine life, especially shelled creatures, could be worse than during the PETM, Zeebe said….

2016-03-09. Record annual increase of carbon dioxide observed at Mauna Loa for 2015. By NOAA. Excerpt: The annual growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii jumped by 3.05 parts per million during 2015, the largest year-to-year increase in 56 years of research. In another first, 2015 was the fourth consecutive year that CO2 grew more than 2 ppm, said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. “Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years,” Tans said. “It’s explosive compared to natural processes.”…

2016-01-21. What’s behind the Arctic’s increasing carbon dioxide fluctuations? By Sid Perkins, Science (AAAS).  Excerpt: It’s no mystery why carbon dioxide (CO2) levels fluctuate with the seasons: As greenery grows in the spring and summer, it soaks up the planet-warming gas, and when trees shed their leaves in the autumn, some of that gas returns to the atmosphere. But scientists haven’t figured out why the differences between summer and winter concentrations of CO2 have been growing substantially at Arctic latitudes since the 1960s—in some regions, the fluctuations have increased as much as 25%. A new computer simulation fingers long-term warming in the Arctic, which has led to the proliferation of plants across large swaths of the landscape….

2014-09-21. Global Rise Reported in 2013 Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Excerpt: Global emissions of greenhouse gases jumped 2.3 percent in 2013 to record levels, scientists reported Sunday, in the latest indication that the world remains far off track in its efforts to control global warming. The emissions growth last year was a bit slower than the average growth rate of 2.5 percent over the past decade, and much of the dip was caused by an economic slowdown in China, which is the world’s single largest source of emissions…. In the United States, emissions rose 2.9 percent, after declining in recent years. The new numbers, reported by a tracking initiative called the Global Carbon Project and published in the journal Nature Geoscience, came on the eve of a United Nations summit meeting meant to harness fresh political ambition in tackling climate change. …The nations of the world have agreed to try to limit the warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which would require that emissions slow down and then largely stop in the next 30 years or so. If they continue on their present course through the century, scientists say, the earth could warm by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit above the preindustrial level, which would likely be incompatible with human civilization in its current form…. By Justin Gillis, The New York Times.

2014-09-09. CO2 levels in atmosphere rising at dramatically faster rate, U.N. report warns. For GSS Climate Change chapter 6. Excerpt: …Concentrations of nearly all the major greenhouse gases reached historic highs in 2013, reflecting …a diminishing ability of the world’s oceans and plant life to soak up the excess carbon put into the atmosphere by humans, according to data released early Tuesday by the United Nations’ meteorological advisory body. The latest figures from the World Meteorological Organization’s monitoring network are considered particularly significant because they reflect not only the amount of carbon pumped into the air by humans, but also the complex interaction between man-made gases and the natural world. Historically, about half of the pollution from human sources has been absorbed by the oceans and by terrestrial plants, preventing temperatures from rising as quickly as they otherwise would, scientists say. “If the oceans and the biosphere cannot absorb as much carbon, the effect on the atmosphere could be much worse,” said Oksana Tarasova, a scientist and chief of the WMO’s Global Atmospheric Watch program, which collects data from 125 monitoring stations worldwide.  …Global concentrations of methane — a byproduct of farming and fossil-fuel extraction, as well as numerous natural processes — are now 2.5 times as high as they were at the start of the industrial age, in the mid-18th century, the report said. The organization’s annual report included, for the first time, figures on the increasing acidification of the oceans stemming from higher levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. …the rate of acidification is now “unprecedented, at least over the past 300,000 years,” the WMO said. …In an indirect way, the acidification of seawater also exacerbates climate change: The oceans over time become less capable of absorbing carbon from the air, allowing more of the greenhouse gas to accumulate in the atmosphere, the report said…. By Joby Warrick, Washington Post.

2013-05-09. Carbon dioxide passes symbolic mark   BBC News. Excerpt: …Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have broken through a symbolic mark. Daily measurements of CO2 at a US government agency lab on Hawaii have topped 400 parts per million for the first time. The station, which sits on the Mauna Loa volcano, feeds its numbers into a continuous record of the concentration of the gas stretching back to 1958. The last time CO2 was regularly above 400ppm was three to five million years ago – before modern humans existed. Scientists say the climate back then was also considerably warmer than it is today. …The usual trend seen at the volcano is for the CO2 concentration to rise in winter months and then to fall back as the northern hemisphere growing season kicks in. Forests and other vegetation pull some of the gas out of the atmosphere. This means the number can be expected to decline by a few ppm below 400 in the coming weeks. But the long-term trend is upwards….  See also New York Times article.

2011 November 3. Greenhouse gases rise by record amount.  Associated Press via The Guardian.  Excerpt: The global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide has jumped by a record amount, according to the US department of energy, a sign of how feeble the world’s efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.
The figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago….
…The world pumped about 564m more tons (512m metric tons) of carbon into the air in 2010 than it did in 2009, an increase of 6%. That amount of extra pollution eclipses the individual emissions of all but three countries, China, the US and India, the world’s top producers of greenhouse gases….

2011 October. IEA releases latest statistics on global CO2 emissions.  International Energy Agency.  Report Description: How much CO2 are countries emitting? Where is it coming from?
In the lead-up to the UN climate negotiations in Durban, the latest information on the level and growth of CO2 emissions, their source and geographic distribution will be essential to lay the foundation for a global agreement. To provide input to and support for the UN process the IEA is making available for free download the “Highlights” version of CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion….

This annual publication contains:

  • estimates of CO2 emissions by country from 1971 to 2009
  • selected indicators such as CO2/ GDP, CO2/ capita, CO2/ TPES and CO2/ kWh
  • CO2 emissions from international marine and aviation bunkers, and other relevant information

2010 December 21. A Scientist, His Work, and a Climate Reckoning. By Justin Gillis, NYTimes. Excerpt: MAUNA LOA OBSERVATORY, Hawaii — Two gray machines sit inside a pair of utilitarian buildings here, sniffing the fresh breezes that blow across thousands of miles of ocean….
…The first machine of this type was installed on Mauna Loa in the 1950s at the behest of Charles David Keeling, a scientist from San Diego. His resulting discovery, of the increasing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, transformed the scientific understanding of humanity’s relationship with the earth. A graph of his findings is inscribed on a wall in Washington as one of the great achievements of modern science.
Yet, five years after Dr. Keeling’s death, his discovery is a focus not of celebration but of conflict. It has become the touchstone of a worldwide political debate over global warming… 

2009 September 11. At AAAS Pacific Division Meeting, Researchers Detail Mounting Perils for San Francisco Bay. By Edward W. Lempinen, AAAS News. Excerpt: …during a day-long symposium at the AAAS Pacific Division annual meeting, …researchers described a new generation of challenges that imperil the Bay—the continuing loss of native species, incursions by non-native species, and rising concentrations of fire retardants and other chemicals.
The overarching challenge, some said, may be Earth’s changing climate, which could raise Bay water levels by four feet or more by the end of the century. Even a smaller rise in the water level could inundate thousands of acres of low-lying developed areas on shore, damage or submerge sensitive tidal marshes that harbor endangered wildlife, and force the expenditure of billions of dollars for protective levees.
…Decreased sediment, increased phytoplankton, reduced carbon dioxide—researchers see these trends as evidence that the fundamental chemistry of the San Francisco Bay is turning less hospitable to its historic diversity of plant and animal life….
But an array of trends make understanding elusive and Bay protection exceedingly difficult.
Where great progress has been made in reducing sewage discharges and the concentration of many heavy metals, researchers have come to understand the risk posed by other contaminants.
Toxic mercury, dioxin, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are among the Bay’s most serious contaminants now, said Davis, the environmental scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute. Mercury has entered the food chain, leading to a consumption advisory for Bay fish, and it could have an impact on reproduction for some creatures. Further, Davis said, those compounds have been trapped in the sediment over the last several decades—and can be released by storms and shifting currents…. 

2009 July 16. Mysterious, Glowing Clouds Appear Across America’s Night Skies. Wired Science. Excerpt: Mysterious, glowing clouds previously seen almost exclusively in Earth’s polar regions have appeared in the skies over the United States and Europe over the past several days. Photographers and other sky watchers in Omaha, Paris, Seattle, and other locations have run outside to capture images of what scientists call noctilucent (“night shining”) clouds. Formed by ice literally at the boundary where the earth’s atmosphere meets space 50 miles up, they shine because they are so high that they remain lit by the sun even after our star is below the horizon.
The clouds might be beautiful, but they could portend global changes caused by global warming. Noctilucent clouds are … “… a real concern and question,” said James Russell, an atmospheric scientist at Hampton University and the principal investigator of an ongoing NASA satellite mission to study the clouds. “Why are they getting more numerous? Why are they getting brighter? Why are they appearing at lower latitudes?” …. 

2008 March 31. US West Warming Faster Than Rest Of World – Study. Planet Ark; Reuters. Excerpt: LOS ANGELES – The US West is heating up at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the world and is likely to face more drought conditions in many of its fast-growing cities…. By analysing federal government temperature data, the Natural Resources Defence Council concluded that the average temperature in the 11-state Western region from 2003-07 was 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit (0.94 degrees Celsius) higher than the historical average of the 20th century. The global average increase for the same period was 1.0 degrees Fahrenheit (0.55 degrees Celsius). In the Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to big and fast-growing cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Denver, the average temperature rose 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.21 degrees Celsius), the US group said.
Most of the river’s water comes from melting snow in the mountains, and climate scientists predict hotter temperatures will reduce the snowpack and increase evaporation, the NRDC said in a statement. “Global warming is hitting the West hard,” said Theo Spencer of the NRDC. “It is already taking an economic toll on the region’s tourism, recreation, skiing, hunting and fishing activities.”…. 

June 2007. State of the Climate in 2006. The American Meteorological Society Journals Online ( just sent out a report on the ‘State of the Climate in 2006’. There’s the Executive Summary (pdf: 1MB) and the full report (pdf: 36 MB) . Fascinating scientific report on meteorological data. Lots of excellent graphics! 

17 April 2007. FEWER AEROSOLS MAY STEP UP GLOBAL WARMING. Program #5176 of the Earth & Sky Radio Series with hosts DEBORAH BYRD and JOEL BLOCK interviewing Michael Mishchenko at the Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York. Excerpt: Scientists believe they’ve seen a thinning of the aerosols found in Earth’s atmosphere. That’s important because aerosols – which come from industrial pollution as well as natural causes – help shield us from the effects of global warming. Some refer to them as a global “sunscreen.” Aerosols cool Earth by reflecting sunlight. So, fewer aerosols mean more warming. [listener] Gene Renkin: We know that industrial pollution contributes to man-made global warming by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Reducing pollution lowers carbon dioxide production and slows down global warming. If at the same time, reducing industrial pollution reduces atmospheric aerosols and increases global warming, then what matters is the relative effect of these opposite influences on global warming Nothing in this article addresses that aspect of the situation. Please follow up on this. It is important, because as reported, your article might be cited support the ridiculous conclusion that increasing industrial atmospheric emissions will lessen global warming. All direct evidence is to the contrary…. 

10 April 2007. There Is Climate Change Censorship – and It’s the Deniers Who Dish It Out. By George Monbiot. The Guardian UK.Excerpt: Global warming scientists are under intense pressure to water down findings, and are then accused of silencing their critics. The drafting of reports by the world’s pre-eminent group of climate scientists is an odd process. For months scientists contributing to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tussle over the evidence. Nothing gets published unless it achieves consensus. This means that the panel’s reports are conservative – even timid. It also means that they are as trustworthy as a scientific document can be. Then, when all is settled among the scientists, the politicians sweep in and seek to excise from the summaries anything that threatens their interests. …The Union of Concerned Scientists found that 58% of the 279 climate scientists working at federal agencies in the US who responded to its survey reported that they had experienced one of the following constraints:
1. Pressure to eliminate the words “climate change”, “global warming”, or other similar terms from their communications;
2. Editing of scientific reports by their superiors that “changed the meaning of scientific findings”;
3. Statements by officials at their agencies that misrepresented their findings;
4. The disappearance or unusual delay of websites, reports, or other science-based materials relating to climate;
5. New or unusual administrative requirements that impair climate-related work;
6. Situations in which scientists have actively objected to, resigned from, or removed themselves from a project because of pressure to change scientific findings. They reported 435 incidents of political interference over the past five years. 2003, the White House gutted the climate-change section of a report by the Environmental Protection Agency. It deleted references to studies showing that global warming is caused by manmade emissions. It added a reference to a study, partly funded by the American Petroleum Institute, that suggested that temperatures are not rising. Eventually the agency decided to drop the section altogether. 

October 2006. Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast. Excerpt: Last week, a team of independent scientists and researchers, in collaboration with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), released a new report detailing how global warming is poised to substantially change the climate in the Northeast, including rising temperatures, fewer snow covered days, increased sea level, and more extreme weather events-the study. Dr. Cameron Wake,Research Associate Professor, University of New Hampshire’s Climate Change Research Center said “The very notion of the Northeast as we know it is at stake. The near-term emissions choices we make in the Northeast and throughout the world will help determine the climate and quality of life our children and grandchildren experience.” The severity of climate change in the region will be greatly affected by the choices that citizens, governments, and businesses make today. Using new state-of-the-art research on recent and projected changes in the Northeast’s regional climate, the study finds that without strong leadership and action, by late-century:
Northeast winters could warm by eight to 12 degrees Fahrenheit and summers by six to nearly 14 degrees. The length of the region’s winter snow season could be cut in half. The frequency of short-term droughts could increase significantly. Sea-level could rise from eight inches to as much three feet. Many Northeast cities can expect about 25 days per year over 100 degrees. (Currently, Northeast cities experience this type of heat only once or twice a year.)…. 

14 September 2006. NASA Scientists See New Signs of Global Warming. By ANDREW C. REVKIN. Excerpt: Scientists have long suspected that the recent melting of Arctic Ocean ice in the summer might be a result of heat-trapping gases building up in the atmosphere. But yesterday NASA scientists reported that higher temperatures and a retreat of the sea ice over the last two winters offered new evidence that the gases were influencing the region’s climate. While the summer melting could be a result of a number of phenomena like the flow of warm water, the scientists said, the reduction of winter ice two seasons in a row is harder to explain without invoking the heat-trapping effects of gases like carbon dioxide. …In the past two winters, the peak of sea ice growth in the Arctic has been 6 percent below the average peak since the satellite observations began, Dr. [Josefino] Comiso said. His findings are to be published this month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters…. 

8 March 2006. NASA RELEASE: 06-089. NASA Survey Confirms Climate Warming Impact on Polar Ice Sheets. In the most comprehensive survey ever undertaken of the massive ice sheets covering both Greenland and Antarctica, NASA scientists confirm climate warming is changing how much water remains locked in Earth’s largest storehouses of ice and snow. “If the trends we’re seeing continue and climate warming continues as predicted, the polar ice sheets could change dramatically,” said survey lead author Jay Zwally of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. “The Greenland ice sheet could be facing an irreversible decline by the end of the century.” 

2 March 2006. NASA RELEASE: 06-085. NASA Mission Detects Significant Antarctic Ice Mass Loss. Scientists were able to conduct the first-ever gravity survey of the entire Antarctic ice sheet using data from the joint NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE). This comprehensive study found the ice sheet’s mass has decreased significantly from 2002 to 2005. …The estimated mass loss was enough to raise global sea level about 1.2 millimeters (0.05 inches) during the survey period; about 13 percent of the overall observed sea level rise for the same period. The researchers found Antarctica’s ice sheet decreased by 152 (plus or minus 80) cubic kilometers of ice annually between April 2002 and August 2005.

17 October 2005. A Warmer World Might Not Be a Wetter One. NASA Earth Observatory. A NASA study is offering new insight into how the Earth’s water cycle might be influenced by global change. Scientists have warned that the water cycle may be affected by temperature changes, as warmer temperatures can increase the moisture-holding capacity of air. 

29 April 2005. NASA RELEASE: 05-111. Scientists Confirm Earth’s Energy is Out of Balance.Scientists have concluded more energy is being absorbed from the sun than is emitted back to space, throwing the Earth’s energy “out of balance” and warming the globe.Scientists from NASA, Columbia University, New York, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif. used satellites, data from buoys and computer models to study the Earth’s oceans. They confirmed the energy imbalance by using precise measurements of increasing ocean heat content over the past 10 years. The study reveals Earth’s energy imbalance is large by standards of the planet’s history. The imbalance is 0.85 watts per meter squared. That will cause an additional warming of 0.6 degrees Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit) by the end of this century. To understand the difference, think of a one-watt light bulb shining over an area of one square meter (10.76 square feet). Although it doesn’t seem like much, adding up the number of feet around the world creates a big effect. To put this number into perspective, an imbalance of one-watt per square meter, maintained for the past 10,000 years is enough to melt ice equivalent to one kilometer (.6 mile) of sea level, if there were that much ice. … “Warmer waters increase the likelihood of accelerated ice sheet disintegration and sea level rise during this century,” Hansen said. …. Data has shown they have risen by approximately 3.1 centimeters or 1.26 inches per decade. Although 3.1 centimeters is a small change, the rate of increase is twice as large as in the preceding century. There are positive feedbacks that come into play, as the area of ice melt increases. 

23 December 2004. Climate Change Denial: A Note to Journalists. Earth Justice Website. The debate about the anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is largely over. A recent survey of peer-reviewed studies published in Science magazine found no respected research debunking human-related activities as a major cause of climate change. 

6 October 2004. NASA RELEASE: 04-337. STUDY SHOWS POTENTIAL FOR ANTARCTIC CLIMATE CHANGE. While Antarctica has mostly cooled over the last 30 years, the trend is likely to rapidly reverse, according to a computer model study by NASA researchers. The study indicates the South Polar Region is expected to warm during the next 50 years. 

23 September 2004. NASA RELEASE: 04-312: Scientists Report Increased Thinning of West Antarctic Glaciers. Glaciers in West Antarctica are shrinking at a rate substantially higher than observed in the 1990s. They are losing 60 percent more ice into the Amundsen Sea than they accumulate from inland snowfall….The ice loss from the measured glaciers corresponds to an annual sea-level rise of .008 inches (.2 millimeters) or more than 10 percent of the total global increase of about .07 inches (1.8 millimeters) per year. 

4 September 2004. NASA RELEASE : 04-286 NASA’s GRACE Gravity Mission Weighs in on Earth’s Changing Climate. For the first time, scientists have demonstrated precise measurements of Earth’s changing gravity field can effectively monitor changes in the planet’s climate and weather. This finding comes from more than a year’s worth of data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE)…. Results published in the journal Science show monthly changes in the distribution of water and ice masses could be estimated by measuring changes in Earth’s gravity field. …. Launched in March 2002, GRACE tracks changes in Earth’s gravity field. GRACE senses minute variations in gravitational pull from local changes in Earth’s mass. To do this, GRACE measures, to one-hundredth the width of a human hair, changes in the separation of two identical spacecraft in the same orbit approximately 220 kilometers (137 miles) apart. GRACE maps these variations from month to month, following changes imposed by the seasons, weather patterns and short-term climate change. Understanding how Earth’s mass varies over time is an important component necessary to study changes in global sea level, polar ice mass, deep ocean currents, depletion and recharge of continental aquifers. GRACE monthly maps are up to 100 times more accurate than existing ones, substantially improving the accuracy of many techniques used by oceanographers, hydrologists, glaciologists, geologists and other scientists to study phenomena that influence climate. 

9 June 2004. NY Times: An Icy Riddle as Big as Greenland. By ANDREW C. REVKIN, New York Times. The Greenland Ice Cap and the swirling seas nearby have emerged as vital pieces of an urgent puzzle posed by global warming. 

10 February 2004. NASA PREDICTS MORE TROPICAL RAIN IN A WARMER WORLD(RELEASE: 04-058) As the tropical oceans continue to heat up, following a 20-year trend, warm rains in the tropics are likely to become more frequent, according to NASA scientists. … patterns of evaporation and precipitation, known as the water cycle, may accelerate in some areas due to warming temperatures.

20 January 2004. Breakup of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf. In the summer of 2002, graduate student Derek Mueller made an unwelcome discovery: the biggest ice shelf in the Arctic was breaking apart. The bad news didn’t stop there. Lying along the northern coast of Ellesmere Island in northern Canada, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf had dammed an epishelf lake, a body of freshwater that floats on denser ocean water. When the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf fractured, the epishelf lake suddenly drained out of Disraeli Fiord, spilling more than 3 billion cubic meters of fresh water into the Arctic Ocean

10 December 2003. NASA Release: 03-404 NASA SCIENTISTS DISCOVER SPRING THAW MAKES A DIFFERENCE. Using a suite of microwave remote sensing instruments aboard satellites, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., and the University of Montana, Missoula, have observed a recent trend of earlier thawing across the northern high latitudes. …”Frozen soil can store carbon for hundreds to thousands of years,” said lead author Dr. Kyle McDonald of JPL, “but when the permafrost thaws and begins to dry out, it releases the carbon back into the atmosphere.” The concern is that eventually carbon released from the soil will prevail over the amount being taken in by growing plants. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would increase at an accelerated rate, fostering even greater warming of the region and affecting global climate. For more information about climate on the Internet, click here

9 December 2003. Climate Scientists Zoom In on Changes, by Kirk Johnson. The New York City region has been likened to a quilt – a stitched-together patchwork of neighborhoods and communities so different in their economic and ethnic profiles that location can sometimes seem like the only thing they have in common. Now, for the first time, scientists are beginning to look at the future climate in the same way. Their key insight is that just like everything else in and around New York – from the quality of the schools to crime rates and taxes – global warming and climate change over the coming century will affect people and their health differently depending on where they live. To test this theory, the New York Climate and Health Project, which scientists say is distinctive in its attention to the smaller-scale impact of global warming, has divided the 31-county region, which includes much of Connecticut, New Jersey and the nearby New York suburbs as well as the city itself, into hundreds of grid boxes, each four kilometers square. Vast number-crunching climate models, fed with everything now known about those communities and what might be projected in the future, are being asked to speculate what a warming planet might mean, on the ground in each square, to a person on a hot summer’s day in the mid-2050’s. It is climate science with a zoom lens. Members of the team are presenting their case this week to fellow scientists at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. 

1 October 2003. NASA RELEASE : 03-309 — Huge Antarctic Iceberg Makes A Big Splash On Sea Life — NASA satellites observed the calving, or breaking off, of one of the largest icebergs ever recorded, named “C-19.” C-19 separated from the western face of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica in May 2002, splashed into the Ross Sea, and virtually eliminated a valuable food source for marine life. The event was unusual, because it was the second-largest iceberg to calve in the region in 26 months. Over the last year, the path of C-19 inhibited the growth of minute, free-floating aquatic plants called phytoplankton during the iceberg’s temporary stopover near Pennell Bank, Antarctica. C-19 is located along the Antarctic coast and has diminished little in size. Since phytoplankton is at the base of the food chain, C-19 affects the food source of higher-level marine plants and animals. Kevin R. Arrigo and Gert L. van Dijken of Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., used chlorophyll data from NASA’s Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS).  C-19 is about twice the size of Rhode Island.

22 September 2003. Largest Arctic Ice Shelf Breaks Up, Draining Freshwater Lake NASA’s Earth Observatory. The largest ice shelf in the Arctic has broken, and scientists who have studied it closely say it is evidence of ongoing and accelerated climate change in the north polar region. Full story.

16 September 2003. Ocean Plant Life Slows Down and Absorbs Less Carbon.  NASA’s Earth Observatory. Plant life in the world’s oceans has become less productive since the early 1980s, absorbing less carbon, which may in turn impact the Earth’s carbon cycle, according to a study that combines NASA satellite data with NOAA surface observations of marine plants.

10 September 2003. Role of Tropics in Global Climate Change Gains Attention. NASA’s Earth Observatory. The tropics are being recognized as an important element in the dynamic process of global climate change.

13 August 2003. Arctic ice cap will melt completely in 100 years OSLO (AFP) – The Arctic ice cap will melt completely within the next century if carbon dioxide emissions continue to heat the Earth’s atmosphere at current rates, according to an international study.

23 July 2003. . Northern N.E. winter shrinking, study says. by Stephanie Ebbert, Globe Staff Boston Daily Globe.– New England winters – those storied, interminable seasons of yesteryear — just aren’t what they used to be. In fact, in northern New England, their duration may now be a week or two shorter than in the 1960s, according to the US Geological Survey. In a study to be published Friday in the Journal of Hydrology, scientists who examined historic river flow data report that spring has accelerated by one to two weeks in northern New England, though the trend is inconsistent in the southern part of the region.

13 January 2003, NASA Instrument Captures Early Antarctic Ice Shelf Melting[JPL News Release: 2003-004 — ] An international research team using data from NASA’s SeaWinds instrument aboard the Quick Scatterometer spacecraft has detected the earliest yet recorded pre-summer melting event in a section of Antarctica’s Larsen Ice Shelf. This huge, nearly 200 meter (656 foot) thick plate of glacier-fed floating ice, which in the late 1980s was about as large as Indiana, experienced dramatic disintegration events beginning in 1995 that have reduced its area by nearly 10 percent, or more than two trillion tons of ice.

13 September 2002. FROM SATELLITES TO SEA: JPL SCIENTISTS MAP OCEAN EDDIES.Excerpt: Researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have shown that although radio signals from the constellation of global positioning system (GPS) navigation satellites orbiting Earth are very weak, they can be detected by airborne instruments and used to map ocean eddies…

12 September 2002. NEW GRAVITY MISSION ON TRACK TO MAP EARTH’S SHIFTY MASS. Excerpt: Six months into its mission to precisely measure Earth’s shifting water masses and map their effects on Earth’s gravity field, the joint NASA-German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or Grace, is already producing results of considerable interest.

Fall 2002. OnEarth, Fall 2002, OnEarth, p.9. Himalayan Liquidation, by Eric Hansen Excerpt: En route to Mount Everest’s base camp, in the Khumbu region of Nepal, some climbers opt for a side trip to a glacial lake called Imja. Standing on its rocky banks on cloudless days, a person can take in an awesome vista of Himalayan peaks, making the 1.4-mile-long, 300-foot-deep lake a good place to pause awhile and contemplate nature’s splendor. It is also a good place to ponder the problem of global warming. Thirty-five years ago, the lake was a rubble-strewn depression spotted by a few unconnected ponds. But Himalayan glaciers have been melting so fast in recent years that this site and others around the country have become catch basins for millions of gallons of water. Jeffrey Kargel, international coordinator for the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space project, says that lake formation in Nepal seems to have accelerated in the last fifty years, and especially in the last decade. “The overwhelming majority of glaciologists’ says Kargel, who also is a geologist with the United States Geological Survey, “are of a mind that the vast majority of glaciers are retreating or downwasting largely due to human influences.”

31 July 2002. The prehistory of neotropical lowland forests. Panama City, Panama – Although they have persisted for tens of millions of years, neotropical lowland forests have changed greatly in extent and composition due to climatic variation and to human impacts. In a symposium at the 2002 meetings of the Association for Tropical Biology, hosted by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), Panama, scientists presented the latest results of research on neotropical forests and their transformations up to the time of Columbus. (AAAS EurekAlert) 

June 2002. NASA Earth Science Enterprise Series, Fact Sheet: NF-222, about Global Warming[143KB PDF] Twenty-five years ago if you made a trip to the local library and
perused the periodical section for articles on global warming, you’d probably have come up with only a few abstracts from hard core science journals or maybe a blurb in some esoteric geopolitical magazine. As an Internet search on global warming now attests, the subject has become as rooted in our public consciousness as Madonna or microwave cooking.

16 June 2002. Alaska, No Longer So Frigid, Starts to Crack, Burn and Sag, By TIMOTHY EGAN (NYT) With the average temperature rising seven degrees over the past 30 years, Alaskans are facing sagging roads, shoreline erosion and dying forests. … 13 June 2002 — Revealed: how the smoke stacks of America have brought the world’s worst drought to Africa — By Charles Arthur Technology Editor — Full story…

29 May 2002. DECLINE OF WORLD’S GLACIERS EXPECTED TO HAVE GLOBAL IMPACTS OVER THIS CENTURY. The great majority of the world’s glaciers appear to be declining at rates equal to or greater than long-established trends, according to early results from a joint NASA and United States Geological Survey (USGS) project designed to provide a global assessment of glaciers. At the same time, a small minority of glaciers are advancing. 

2 June 2002. IQALUIT, Nunavut. Under their feet, the world changes. Inuit elders of Canada watch their habitat melt as global warming alters their Arctic culture.

22 April 2002. MASSIVE ICEBERGS MAY AFFECT ANTARCTIC SEA LIFE AND FOOD CHAIN — NASA-funded research using satellite data has shown large icebergs that have broken off from Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf are dramatically affecting the growth of minute plant life in the ocean around the region — plant life vital to the local food chain. Scientists say the icebergs appear to have caused a 40 percent reduction in the size of the 2000-2001 plankton bloom in one of Antarctica’s most biologically productive areas. The icebergs decrease the amount of open water that the plants need for reproduction. 

15 November 2001. Rising Sea Level Forcing Evacuation of Island Country. Lester R. Brown. Excerpt: The leaders of Tuvalu–a tiny island country in the Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and Australia–have conceded defeat in their battle with the rising sea, announcing that they will abandon their homeland. After being rebuffed by Australia, the Tuvaluans asked New Zealand to accept its 11,000 citizens, but it has not agreed to do so. 

22 March 2001. NASA IMAGE REVEALS GIANT CHIP OFF THE ANTARCTIC ICE BLOCK. NASA RELEASE: 01-50 — There appears to be a new crack in the Antarctic’s icy armor. The massive iceberg-to-be was captured by a NASA satellite that’s also tracing hidden continental features that shape the future of the world’s largest ice sheets. 

21 February 2001. SPACE MAPPING MISSION CATCHES ANTARCTICA IN MOTION (RELEASE: 01-24) Antarctic ice sheet –is it advancing or retreating? — RADARSAT — comprehensive view of how the Antarctic ice sheet moves and changes and may help answer some fundamental questions about this mysterious place at the end of the world, including whether the ice sheet is advancing or retreating.


Non-chronological resources

Climate – 19 multimedia resources from Teachers’ Domain Earth and Space Science.

Climate Change

Global Warming Art – a collection of figures and images that accurately highlight and describe key issues necessary to understanding our world’s changing climate.

Findings from Mauna Loa and Beyond – a java applet that uses CO2 concentration monitoring data from around the world with graphing tools built in. Human-caused Sources of Carbon Dioxide – a flash program that allows exploration of various potential sources of Carbon dioxide. 2010.