2012 December 07. Global Change session at American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting, titled The Anthropocene: Confronting the Prospects of a +4C World: (2 hours)
Includes (session GC51H):
|01. Temporal and spatial scales of an Anthropocene Series – Jan A. Zalasiewicz|
02. Paleontological evidence for defining the Anthropocene – Anthony D. Barnosky
03. From forest to farmland and moraine to meadow: Integrated modeling of Holocene land cover change(Invited) – Jed O. Kaplan
04. Transport and Purpose in the Anthropocene(Invited) – Peter K. Haff
05. The Anthropocene – and International Law of the Holocene (Invited) – Davor Vidas
|06. Can a Human-Induced Climate Disaster be Avoided? (Invited) – Robert Watson|
07. The impacts of a 4 Degree C world on Sustainable Development – Rosina M. Bierbaum; Hans Joachim Schellnhuber
08. Balancing benefits and costs in a 4°C world: the need for and challenges of natural-social science dialogue (Invited) – Robert E. Kopp
09. Evidence-based Science Communication (Invited) – Dan Kahan (presented by Jay Gulledge)
2012 Nov 29. Post-Storm Cost May Force Many From Coast Life. By David M. Halbfinger, The NY Times. Excerpt: …Homeowners in storm-damaged coastal areas who had flood insurance — and many more who did not, but will now be required to — will face premium increases of as much as 20 percent or 25 percent per year beginning in January, under legislation enacted in July to shore up the debt-ridden National Flood Insurance Program. The yearly increases will add hundreds, even thousands, of dollars to homeowners’ annual bills. While many homeowners are beginning to rebuild without any thought to future costs, the changes could propel a demographic shift along the Northeast Coast, even in places spared by the storm, according to federal officials, insurance industry executives and regional development experts. Ronald Schiffman, a former member of the New York City Planning Commission, said that barring intervention by Congress or the states, there would be “a massive displacement of low-income families from their historic communities”.….
2012 Nov 29. Ice Sheet Loss at Both Poles Increasing, Major Study Finds | NASA release 12-409. Excerpt: …An international team of 47 researchers from 26 laboratories, Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE) supported by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) has combined data from multiple satellites and aircraft to produce the most comprehensive and accurate assessment to date of ice sheet losses in Greenland and Antarctica and their contributions to sea level rise, published … in the journal Science. … the combined rate of melting for the ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica has increased during the last 20 years…losing more than three times as much ice each year (equivalent to sea level rise of 0.04 inches or 0.95 millimeters) as they were in the 1990s (equivalent to 0.01 inches or 0.27 millimeters). About two-thirds of the loss is coming from Greenland, with the rest from Antarctica. …Combined, melting of these ice sheets contributed 0.44 inches (11.1 millimeters) to global sea levels since 1992. This accounts for one-fifth of all sea level rise over the 20-year survey period. The remainder is caused by the thermal expansion of the warming ocean, melting of mountain glaciers and small Arctic ice caps, and groundwater mining. “Both ice sheets appear to be losing more ice now than 20 years ago, but the pace of ice loss from Greenland is extraordinary, with nearly a five-fold increase since the mid-1990s,” Erik Ivins of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said. “In contrast, the overall loss of ice in Antarctica has remained fairly constant with the data suggesting a 50-percent increase in Antarctic ice loss during the last decade.” …. Read the full article: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/nov/HQ_12-409_Ice_Sheet_Sea_level.html
See also A Reconciled Estimate of Ice-Sheet Mass Balance – Science 30 November 2012: Vol. 338 no. 6111 pp. 1183-1189 DOI: 10.1126/science.1228102
2012 Nov 27. Beetles Warm BC Forests. By Sabrina Richards, TheScientist. Excerpt: Pine beetle infestation increases the summertime temperatures of some Canadian forests by 1 degree Celsius—about the same impact as a forest fire—according to new findings published Sunday (November 25) in Nature Geoscience. The beetle populations, spurred into profusion by global warming, appear to be contributing to a temperature feedback loop, …. The results reinforce the conclusion that ecological disturbances like beetle infestations can have significant ecological impacts, said Allan Carroll, an insect ecologist at the University of British Columbia…. ”We have until very recently considered biotic disturbances a bit player [in climate change],” …. The current study confirms that pine beetles can have massive effects that set up “an uncomfortable feedback” wherein warming temperatures encourage more beetle damage, which in turn influences warming… Pine beetles lay their eggs under pine tree bark, introducing a fungus that inhibits nutrient flow in the trees. Usually pine beetles are killed off by freezing winter temperatures, limiting their spread. But a recent spate of warm winters, combined with forests dominated by mature pine trees, enabled a beetle population boom in North America, including parts of Alberta, Wyoming, and Colorado. About 170,000 square kilometers of British Columbia’s forest—almost 20 percent of the province’s area—have been affected by pine beetle infestations, costing thousands of timber industry jobs. Many studies have focused on the role of global warming on pine beetle outbreaks, but fewer have looked at how the beetles themselves may be contributing to climate change…. Read the full article: http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/33447/title/Beetles-Warm-BC-Forests/
2012 Nov 21. With Many Trains Damaged, N.J. Transit Is Criticized Over Where It Stored Them. By Matt Flegenheimer, New York Times. Excerpt: Less than a month after Hurricane Sandy damaged nearly a quarter of its rail cars and locomotives, New Jersey Transit is facing withering criticism this week for keeping much of its equipment in low-lying yards during the storm, despite forecasts of potential flooding. The agency said 261 rail cars and 62 locomotives had been damaged, many at a maintenance site in Kearny, N.J…. Officials have said that experience helped guide storage decisions before the storm, noting that the Kearny site in particular had never flooded…. James Weinstein, the agency’s executive director, said … the agency could not yet provide a precise cost figure, but placed the damage in the tens of millions of dollars…. Some of the agency’s newest purchases, including dual-powered locomotives, had been stored in Kearny and Hoboken. The agency said nine of the locomotives had been damaged; each cost about $8 million. . Read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/nyregion/storm-damage-prompts-criticism-of-new-jersey-transits-train-storage-plan.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20121122&_r=0
2012 Nov 3. After Getting Back to Normal, Big Job Is Facing New Reality. By N.R. Kleinfield, The New York Times. Excerpt: …Basic restoration [in the areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy] leaves everything just as vulnerable to the next monster storm. Hurricane Sandy is now a gauge of the region’s new fragility. Climate change and extreme weather are presenting government — and the public — with some overwhelming choices…officials must ask whether it is sensible to replace buildings on the Manhattan waterfront, the Jersey Shore or the Long Island coast — and continue to dare nature. After all, the waters surrounding New York have been rising an inch a decade, and the pace is picking up…The cost of the repairs alone will certainly reach tens of billions of dollars. Far-reaching solutions will cost many billions more….Also related: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/nyregion/protecting-new-york-city-before-next-time.html
2012 Sept 19. Ending Its Summer Melt, Arctic Sea Ice Sets a New Low That Leads to Warnings. By Justin Gillis, The NY Times. Excerpt: The drastic melting of Arctic sea ice has finally ended for the year,…but not before demolishing the previous record — and setting off new warnings about the rapid pace of change in the region. …The apparent low point for 2012 was reached Sunday, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which said that sea ice that day covered about … 24 percent, of the surface of the Arctic Ocean. The previous low, set in 2007, was 29 percent. …The sea ice is declining much faster than had been predicted in the last big United Nations report on the state of the climate, published in 2007. The most sophisticated computer analyses for that report suggested that the ice would not disappear before the middle of this century, …. James E. Hansen, a prominent NASA climate scientist, said …“The scientific community realizes that we have a planetary emergency,” Dr. Hansen said. “It’s hard for the public to recognize this because they stick their head out the window and don’t see that much going on.” … the disappearance of summer ice cover replaces a white, reflective surface with a much darker ocean surface, allowing the region to trap more of the sun’s heat, which in turn melts more ice….
2012 Sept 23. A Melting Greenland Weighs Perils Against Potential. By Elisabeth Rosenthal, The NY Times. Excerpt: Vast new deposits of minerals and gems are being discovered as Greenland’s massive ice cap recedes, forming the basis of a potentially lucrative mining industry. This could be momentous for Greenland, which has long relied on half a billion dollars a year in welfare payments from Denmark, its parent state. Mining profits could help Greenland become economically self sufficient, and may someday even render it the first sovereign nation created by global warming…But the rapid transition from a society of individual fishermen and hunters to an economy supported by corporate mining raises difficult questions. How would Greenland’s insular settlements tolerate an influx of thousands of Polish or Chinese construction workers, as has been proposed? Will mining despoil a natural environment essential to Greenland’s national identity — the whales and seals, the silent icy fjords, and mythic polar bears? Can fishermen reinvent themselves as miners?….
2012 Aug 15. Scars on a Dry Land. By David Gessner, OnEarth. Excerpt: …I saw them: The first square of shaved land, devoid of all vegetation, that signaled another oil drilling site. Then another, and another. Earlier we had seen hundreds of them, both gas and oil, each trailing a squiggling tail, like a group of giant square tadpoles. The tails were roads, and those roads always connected to larger roads, like the new four-lane highway leading down to the Book Cliff divide, site of the U.S. Oil Sands Project, Utah’s very own tar sands. There were not as many roads or sites here, but it was stunning to see them in such a remote, beautiful place…“They used to say that the vegetation would eventually re-claim the sites,” said Steve Bloch, the energy program director for the wilderness alliance, through the headphones. “But scientists no longer think so. Not enough water.” [The oil drilling] scars were permanent then….
2012 Sept 19. Ending Its Summer Melt, Arctic Sea Ice Sets a New Low That Leads to Warnings. By Justin Gillis, The NY Times. Excerpt: The drastic melting of Arctic sea ice has finally ended for the year,…but not before demolishing the previous record — and setting off new warnings about the rapid pace of change in the region. …The apparent low point for 2012 was reached Sunday, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which said that sea ice that day covered about … 24 percent, of the surface of the Arctic Ocean. The previous low, set in 2007, was 29 percent. …The sea ice is declining much faster than had been predicted in the last big United Nations report on the state of the climate, published in 2007. The most sophisticated computer analyses for that report suggested that the ice would not disappear before the middle of this century, …. James E. Hansen, a prominent NASA climate scientist, said …“The scientific community realizes that we have a planetary emergency,” Dr. Hansen said. “It’s hard for the public to recognize this because they stick their head out the window and don’t see that much going on.” … the disappearance of summer ice cover replaces a white, reflective surface with a much darker ocean surface, allowing the region to trap more of the sun’s heat, which in turn melts more ice….
2012 Sept 18. Race Is On as Ice Melt Reveals Arctic Treasures. By Elisabeth Rosenthal, The NY Times. Excerpt: With Arctic ice melting at record pace, the world’s superpowers are increasingly jockeying for political influence and economic position in outposts like this one, previously regarded as barren wastelands. At stake are the Arctic’s abundant supplies of oil, gas and minerals that are, thanks to climate change, becoming newly accessible along with increasingly navigable polar shipping shortcuts. This year, China has become a far more aggressive player in this frigid field, experts say, provoking alarm among Western powers. While the United States, Russia and several nations of the European Union have Arctic territory, China has none, and as a result, has been deploying its wealth and diplomatic clout to secure toeholds in the region.…
2012 Aug 27. Media Advisory: Arctic sea ice breaks lowest extent on record. From the National Snow & Ice Data Center. Excerpt: Arctic sea ice cover melted to its lowest extent in the satellite record yesterday, breaking the previous record low observed in 2007. Sea ice extent fell to 4.10 million square kilometers (1.58 million square miles) on August 26, 2012. This was 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) below the September 18, 2007 daily extent of 4.17 million square kilometers (1.61 million square miles)…NSIDC scientist Walt Meier said, “By itself it’s just a number, and occasionally records are going to get set. But in the context of what’s happened in the last several years and throughout the satellite record, it’s an indication that the Arctic sea ice cover is fundamentally changing.”….
2012 Aug 06. Study Finds More of Earth Is Hotter and Says Global Warming Is at Work | by By JUSTIN GILLIS, New York Times. Excerpt: …researchers have struggled with the question of whether any particular heat wave or storm can be definitively linked to human-induced climate change. In the new paper [published online on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences], titled “Perception of Climate Change,” Dr. Hansen and his co-authors [M. Sato and R. Ruedy] compared the global climate of 1951 to 1980, before the bulk of global warming had occurred, with the climate of the years 1981 to 2011. They computed how much of the earth’s land surface in each period was subjected in June, July and August to heat that would have been considered particularly extreme in the period from 1951 to 1980. In that era, they found, only 0.2 percent of the land surface was subjected to extreme summer heat. But from 2006 to 2011, extreme heat covered from 4 to 13 percent of the world, they found. “It confirms people’s suspicions that things are happening” to the climate, Dr. Hansen said in the interview. “It’s just going to get worse.”… The change is so drastic, the paper says, that scientists can claim with near certainty that events like the Texas heat wave last year, the Russian heat wave of 2010 and the European heat wave of 2003 would not have happened without the planetary warming caused by the human release of greenhouse gases…. The findings provoked an immediate split among his scientific colleagues, however…. Read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/07/science/earth/extreme-heat-is-covering-more-of-the-earth-a-study-says.html?ref=science
2012 June 16. The melting north. By James Astill, The Economist. Excerpt: Almost all Arctic glaciers have receded. The area of Arctic land covered by snow in early summer has shrunk by almost a fifth since 1966. But it is the Arctic Ocean that is most changed…the north-west passage, a sea lane through Canada’s 36,000-island Arctic Archipelago, [is left] ice-free for the first time in memory. Almost all Arctic glaciers have receded…Scientists, scrambling to explain this, found that in 2007 every natural variation, including warm weather, clear skies and warm currents, had lined up to reinforce the seasonal melt. But last year there was no such remarkable coincidence: it was as normal as the Arctic gets these days. And the sea ice still shrank to almost the same extent. There is no serious doubt about the basic cause of the warming. It is, in the Arctic as everywhere, the result of an increase in heat-trapping atmospheric gases, mainly carbon dioxide released when fossil fuels are burned. Because the atmosphere is shedding less solar heat, it is warming—a physical effect predicted back in 1896 by Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish scientist. But why is the Arctic warming faster than other places?….
2012 July 10. Global Warming Makes Heat Waves More Likely, Study Finds. By Justin Gillis, The NY Times. Excerpt: A new study found that global warming made the severe heat wave that afflicted Texas last year 20 times as likely as it would have been in the 1960s…The findings, especially the specific numbers attached to some extreme events, represent an increased effort by scientists to respond to a public clamor for information about what is happening to the earth’s climate…The general conclusion of the new research is that many of the extremes being witnessed worldwide are consistent with what scientists expect on a warming planet. Heat waves, in particular, are probably being worsened by global warming, the scientists said. They also cited an intensification of the water cycle, reflected in an increase in both droughts and heavy downpour….
2012 July 04. Searing Sun and Drought Shrivel Corn in Midwest. By Monica Davey, The NY Times. Excerpt: Across a wide stretch of the Midwest, sweltering temperatures and a lack of rain are threatening what had been expected to be the nation’s largest corn crop in generations. Already, some farmers in Illinois and Missouri have given up on parched and stunted fields, mowing them over. National experts say parts of five corn-growing states, including Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, are experiencing severe or extreme drought conditions…Crop insurance agents and agricultural economists are watching closely, a few comparing the situation with the devastating drought of 1988, when corn yields shriveled significantly, while some farmers have begun alluding, unhappily, to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Far more is at stake in the coming pivotal days: with the brief, delicate phase of pollination imminent in many states, miles and miles of corn will rise or fall on whether rain soon appears and temperatures moderate…The driest, hottest conditions have steered clear of some crucial Corn Belt states, including Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and western Iowa, the nation’s most prolific corn producer….
2012 July 01. Forest Service ecologist expects California ‘super fires’. By Edward Ortiz, The Sacramento Bee. Excerpt: Intense and deeply destructive “super fires,” like Colorado’s current Waldo Canyon fire, which has claimed two lives and burned 350 homes, are almost assured in Northern California’s future, according to a U.S. Forest Service scientist. “Typically we’re seeing an earlier fire season and that fire season is lasting longer,” said Malcolm North, plant ecologist with the Pacific Southwest Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service… The culprits, said North, are weather fluctuations and climate change. He said the warmer temperatures and drier winters seen recently in the region are creating ideal conditions for intense and hard-to-control fires like the Colorado fire. “What we’re seeing now is that snow reserves are less in the Sierras and runoff is happening earlier in the year,” he said…
2012 June 22. Drought returns to threaten North Korean food. By Reuters, Moneycontrol. Excerpt: Drought has returned to threaten precarious food supplies in North Korea…Wolfgang Jamann, the head of the German NGO Welthungerhilfe, said he saw children using bottles and buckets to water crops by hand in the absence of large-scale irrigation systems in two southern provinces. “We were repeatedly confronted with the statement that we are in a drought, the most severe drought in 60 years,” he told the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, after getting back from an almost week-long visit to North Korea. “It’s planting season now for the main crops – rice and cabbage and maize – and you can see in the entire country the planting has happened. But of course it is dry, and you don’t know what’s going to happen, whether these plants will survive the dry spell you have at the moment.” North Korea’s KCNA news agency said on Friday there had been hailstorms and heavy rain in some parts of the country in recent days but that most areas were suffering “a long spell” of drought….
2012 June 25. ‘Nature’s Masons’ Do Double Duty as Storytellers. By Sean B. Carroll, New York Times. Excerpt: GUBBIO, Italy — …Limestone is composed largely of crystallized calcium carbonate. Some of it comes from the skeletal remains of well-known creatures like corals, but much of the rest comes from less appreciated but truly remarkable organisms called foraminifera, or forams for short. Forams have been called “nature’s masons,” … these single-celled protists construct surprisingly complex, ornate and beautiful shells to protect their bodies. After forams die, their shells settle in ocean sediments…. While tiny relative to ourselves …, forams are extremely large for single-celled organisms, … largest forams can reach a few centimeters. …Forams are a vital part of a “biological pump” that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, one reaction product is carbonate. In making their calcium carbonate shells, the large mass of so-called planktonic forams floating in the upper levels of the oceans sequester about one quarter of all carbonate produced in the oceans each year.
The increasing levels of carbon dioxide in our planet’s atmosphere, now at a greater level than at any time in the past 400,000 years, threaten to overwhelm this biological pump by inhibiting the formation of calcium carbonate shells. As more carbon dioxide dissolves in the ocean, the waters acidify, decreasing the concentration of carbonate and making it more difficult for these organisms to form calcium carbonate shells…. Read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/26/science/natures-masons-do-double-duty-as-earths-storytellers.html?_r=1&emc=eta1
2012 June 25. Duluth eyes rebuilding for a wetter climate. By Bill McAuliffe, StarTribune. Excerpt: One of the biggest tasks facing Duluth in the aftermath of last week’s historic flash flooding will be repairing the city’s 400-mile storm-water removal system. The northern Minnesota city’s network of sewers, culverts, ditches and basins, in some places more than 100 years old, suffered “extensive damage all over the city,” said Eric Shaffer, Duluth’s chief engineer of utilities. But building and rebuilding a sewer system these days means making an educated and possibly expensive guess on a changing climate. Many communities are studying what steps they might take to accommodate increasing precipitation, but for Duluth, it will be a full-immersion process. “Duluth is maybe in the first wave of cities to adapt to climate change,” said University of Minnesota Extension climatologist Mark Seeley. Climate scientists say increasing precipitation, particularly from intense thunderstorms, is a symptom of ongoing climate warming, because warm air holds more water vapor than cooler air…..
2012 June 20. Global sea-level rise could hit California hard AND Report: Calif. to get seas rising 6 inches by 2030. By David Perlman/Jeff Bernard, SFGate. Excerpt: Global sea-level rise, induced by the warming climate, will hit California’s coastline harder than the other West Coast states over the coming decades and on through the end of the century, according to a new report from the National Research Council. Oceans around the world are rising, but seas around California will rise even higher – by more than 3 feet before 2100, the report says. Tide gauges and satellites show that the rate of sea-level rise has increased steadily since 1900, and with each passing decade, storm surges and high waves will put low-lying regions like the Bay Area at heightened risk of dangerous flooding. AND The West Coast will see an ocean several inches higher in coming decades, with most of California expected to get sea levels a half foot higher by 2030, according to a report released Friday. Seaside cliffs will be cut back about 30 yards over the next 100 years, and sand dunes will be driven back even more, said Robert A. Dalrymple, a professor of civil engineering at Johns Hopkins University and chairman of the group that wrote the report. After about 50 years, coastal wetlands will eventually be overwhelmed without new sources of sand or room to move inland. That could be problematic in Northern California, though, since dams hold back about a third of the sand that once washed into the sea there from the Klamath River, the report noted…Sea levels rise for two reasons due to global warming. Warmer water expands, which can cause as many as 23 inches of sea level to rise by 2100, according to the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Warmer temperatures also cause ice sheets in Greenland and west Antarctica to melt, adding another foot or more to sea levels by 2100, scientists said…..
2012 June 21. Colorado Fire Follows Pine Beetles’ Tracks. By Nathaniel Massey and Climate Wire, Scientific American. Excerpt: Mountain pine beetle infestation killed the trees fueling the High Park fire, By Nathanael Massey and ClimateWire. Excerpt: It has been nearly two weeks since a tongue of lightning touched down in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies, sparking the biggest wildfire in Larimer County history and the most destructive — with almost 200 buildings damaged to date — in the state’s memory. …When pine beetles [link “pine beetles to http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/05528.html] take over a forest, fire is typically not far behind, said Cal Wettstein, incident commander with the Rocky Mountain division of the Beetle Incident Management Organization. …Many entomologists point to the record warmth of the last 10 years as a cause. The beetle’s life cycle is temperature-dependent. It is killed by frosts, but its life cycle is accelerated by warmth, and in some cases higher temperatures have been shown to allow the beetles to reproduce twice a year rather than once (ClimateWire, March 19). Add to those factors a dry winter and hot spring of the kind Colorado witnessed this year and last, and you have a perfect storm of conditions for a blaze on the scale and severity of the High Park fire, said Reghan Cloudman, public information officer for the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest….
2012 June 07. NASA Discovers Unprecedented Blooms of Ocean Plant Life. By J.D. Harrington and Maria-Jose Vinas, NASA. An article relevant to GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Scientists have made a biological discovery in Arctic Ocean waters as dramatic and unexpected as finding a rainforest in the middle of a desert. A NASA-sponsored expedition punched through three-foot thick sea ice to find waters richer in microscopic marine plants, essential to all sea life, than any other ocean region on Earth. The finding reveals a new consequence of the Arctic’s warming climate and provides an important clue to understanding the impacts of a changing climate and environment on the Arctic Ocean and its ecology…The microscopic plants, called phytoplankton, are the base of the marine food chain. Phytoplankton were thought to grow in the Arctic Ocean only after sea ice had retreated for the summer. Scientists now think that the thinning Arctic ice is allowing sunlight to reach the waters under the sea ice, catalyzing the plant blooms where they had never been observed…
2012 June 07. Warming nears point of no return, scientists say. By David Perlman, SF Gate. Excerpt: The Earth is reaching a “tipping point” in climate change that will lead to increasingly rapid and irreversible destruction of the global environment unless its forces are controlled by concerted international action, an international group of scientists warns. Unchecked population growth, the disappearance of critical plant and animal species, the over-exploitation of energy resources, and the rapidly warming climate are all combining to bring mounting pressure on the Earth’s environmental health…scientists from five nations, led by UC Berkeley biologist Anthony Barnosky, report their analysis Thursday in the journal Nature….
2012 May 24. Butterfly Species Expands Range With Climate Change. By Sindya N. Bhanoo The NY Times. Excerpt: A butterfly species in England is expanding its range, thanks to climate change. “There was something unusual about the degree to which it was spreading its range,” said an author of the study, Jane K. Hill, a biologist at York. “It was turning up in places that were unexpected.” The study demonstrates that some species have unexpected responses to climate change, Dr. Hill said. For the butterflies, the response seems to be positive. Unfortunately, she added, they are also facing loss of habitat, and that, she said, “outweighs any potential benefits from climate change.”….
2012 May 13. Global warming threatens pine forests, forcing federal officials to shift strategy. By Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post. Excerpt: The Forest Service…explains how federal researchers are working to curb a beetle epidemic in an effort to save high-elevation pine forests. Scientists know that global warming will reshape these forests, which provide crucial habitat and food for key species, curb soil erosion and slow melting snow destined for local water supplies. What they don’t yet understand is which trees are best poised to survive under these changed conditions and how they can help them adapt in the decades to come…
2012 Apr 5. Climate Change Linked to Waterborne Diseases in Inuit Communities. By Ker Than, National Geographic News. Excerpt: As global warming triggers heavier rainfall and faster snowmelt in the Arctic, Inuit communities in Canada are reporting more cases of illness attributed to pathogens that have washed into surface water and groundwater, according to a new study. The findings corroborate past research that suggests indigenous people worldwide are being disproportionately affected by climate change…. The experiences of the Inuit and other indigenous communities as they struggle to adapt to changing climate conditions could help guide humanity in the coming years when the effects of climate change are felt universally, scientists say….
2012 Apr16. Beetles’ Birth Explosion Puts Trees Under Stress. By Sindya Bhanoo, New York Times. Excerpt: Mountain pine beetles attack and kill weak pine trees, boring into bark to lay their eggs. They attack the trees in hordes, and their larvae feed off fungi in the trees. Now, the beetles are reproducing twice a year instead of once, and millions of trees are dying as a result. The beetle species is several million years old, and historically larvae grow to be adults in July or August every year. But it has been getting warmer earlier in the year, and larvae mature faster and emerge as early as May. These new beetles then immediately lay eggs, and a second generation of adult beetles emerges as early as July because summers are so warm, said Scott M. Ferrenberg, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder and an author of a study in the coming issue of The American Naturalist…. Read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/17/science/beetles-birth-explosion-puts-pine-trees-under-stress.html?ref=science
2012 Mar 22. Rising sea levels imperil our state | By Ben Strauss, Miami Herald. Excerpt: Florida is in the crosshairs of climate change. Rising seas, a population crowded along the coast, porous bedrock, and the relatively common occurrence of tropical storms put more real estate and people at risk from storm surges aggravated by sea level rise in Florida, than any other state by far….
…It’s time we start preparing for higher seas and storms, if we want to avoid their worst effects. In South Florida, where the porous limestone makes building effective sea walls or levees almost impossible, the task is especially urgent….
2012 Mar-Apr. 2011’s Billion-Dollar Disasters: Is Climate Change to Blame? | By Jeff Masters, weatherize. Excerpt: … at the beginning of 2011, Mother Nature made it abundantly clear that the gloves were off. …punishing snowstorms pounded the country, … shut down Chicago with more than 20 inches of snow and brought heavy snow to 22 states. …cost $1.8 billion,…. in April, a series of violent severe storms brought an astonishing eight billion-dollar disasters to the United States in a three-month period. The Plains and Southeast endured an epic onslaught of dangerous tornadoes that killed hundreds and caused tens of billions in damage. …Record rains …triggering billion-dollar floods on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. And after the floods, came the heat. …the summer of 2011 was the second hottest in U.S. history, just 0.1 degree below the great Dust Bowl summer of 1936….
2012 Mar 24. 2012 March 14. Scientists use Thoreau’s journal notes to track climate change. By Alison Flood, The Guardian. Excerpt: Fittingly for a man seen as the first environmentalist, Henry David Thoreau, who described his isolated life in 1840s Massachusetts in the classic of American literature Walden, is now helping scientists pin down the impacts of climate change….
…He meticulously observed the first flowering dates for over 500 species of wildflowers in Concord, Massachusetts, between 1851 and 1858, recording them in a set of tables. When Richard Primack, a biology professor at Boston University, and fellow researcher Abraham Miller-Rushing discovered Thoreau’s unpublished records, they immediately realised how useful they would be for pinning down the impact of the changing climate over the last century and a half….
2012 March 13. Rising Sea Levels Seen as Threat to Coastal U.S. By Justin Gillis, The NY Times. Excerpt: About 3.7 million Americans live within a few feet of high tide and risk being hit by more frequent coastal flooding in coming decades because of the sea level rise caused by global warming, according to new research….
The project on sea level rise led by Dr. Benjamin H. Strauss for the nonprofit organization Climate Central appears to be the most elaborate effort in decades to estimate the proportion of the national population at risk from the rising sea. The papers are scheduled for publication on Wednesday by the journal Environmental Research Letters. The work is based on the 2010 census and on improved estimates, compiled by federal agencies, of the land elevation near coastlines and of tidal levels throughout the country….
2012 Jan 26. New USDA climate zone map reflects northward warming trends. By Janice Lloyd, USA TODAY. Excerpt: A new government map gives gardeners in many parts of the nation a chance to turn over a new leaf for the first time in decades. …Long-awaited changes unveiled Wednesday in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s climate zone guide show northward warming trends, while also targeting a few colder areas in the mountains. “I think it will lead people to experiment with many plants they might not have otherwise,” says Steve Carroll, director of public programs at the State Arboretum of Virginia in Boyce, Va. “Nurseries might stock differently.” See also article in Anchorage Daily News as well as article in Seattle Times: Britain ranks top risks posed by climate change.
2011 Dec 16. As Permafrost Thaws, Scientists Study the Risks. By Justin Gillis, The NY Times. Excerpt: …Experts have long known that northern lands were a storehouse of frozen carbon, locked up in the form of leaves, roots and other organic matter trapped in icy soil… But they have been stunned in recent years to realize just how much organic debris is there….
…If a substantial amount of the carbon should enter the atmosphere, it would intensify the planetary warming. An especially worrisome possibility is that a significant proportion will emerge not as carbon dioxide, the gas that usually forms when organic material breaks down, but as methane, produced when the breakdown occurs in lakes or wetlands. Methane is especially potent at trapping the sun’s heat, and the potential for large new methane emissions in the Arctic is one of the biggest wild cards in climate science….
2011 Dec 12. Climate change blamed for dead trees in Africa. By Sarah Yang, Media Relations, UC Berkeley News Center. Excerpt: Trees are dying in the Sahel, a region in Africa south of the Sahara Desert, and human-caused climate change is to blame, according to a new study led by a scientist at the University of California, Berkeley….
…The study, which is scheduled for publication Friday, Dec. 16, in the Journal of Arid Environments, was based upon climate change records, aerial photos dating back to 1954, recent satellite images and old-fashioned footwork that included counting and measuring over 1,500 trees in the field…
…They found that one in six trees died between 1954 and 2002. In addition, one in five tree species disappeared locally, and indigenous fruit and timber trees that require more moisture took the biggest hit….Their results indicate that climate change is shifting vegetation zones south toward moister areas.
2011 Dec 1. Santa Ana Wind Season May Be Stretched by Climate Change, By Craig Miller, KQED News. Excerpt: …this is high season for the notorious winds known … as “Santa Anas,” and research suggests our changing climate may mean that season gets longer.
…“Generally a stationary high pressure system that sits over the Great Basin – Nevada and inland regions,” according to Norm Miller, who’s been modeling these winds on computers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab for a few years now.
…As the air squeezes through the canyons, it speeds up — 50-60 mile-an-hour winds are not uncommon. And when air is compressed, it gets hotter.
…Normally, the season for Santa Anas would be starting to peak right about now, through December and January, and then start tailing off. But Miller has combined what we know about Santa Anas with established large-scale climate models, and found … that given the way the Western climate is changing, high season for hot winds could be stretched out, with more Santa Anas overlapping with the dry season.
“And the danger would be that if we see it spread into the dry season longer, … chances of fire are much greater,” says Miller.
2011 Nov 14. UK trees’ fruit ripening ’18 days earlier.’ By Mark Kinver, BBC News. Excerpt: Britain’s native trees are producing ripe fruit, on average, 18 days earlier than a decade ago, probably as a result of climatic shifts, a study reveals….
…Experts warn that one consequence could be that animals’ food reserves would become depleted earlier in the winter….
2011 November 9. Bering Sea storm: Has global warming made Alaska more vulnerable? By Pete Spotts, Christian Science Monitor. Excerpt: A powerful fall storm – the strongest since a mid-November storm in 1974 – is pounding Alaska’s west coast with hurricane-force winds and a storm surge that in many places is expected to top eight feet above the high-tide line…. Concerns for flooding and coastal erosion are compounded by a lack of coastal sea ice, which typically extends from the shoreline out toward the open ocean and is building at this time of year.
…While the storm is weaker than the ’74 event, it appears to fit into a long-term pattern with a global-warming connection
Dr. Jeff Masters notes that several studies over the past several years have documented an increase in the number of these intense wintry storms in the northern hemisphere over the past century, with a marked upward swing beginning in the mid-1960s, as the global climate has warmed….
2011 November 2. Climate change effect on Delta detailed in new study. By Mike Taugher, Contra Costa Times. Excerpt: California’s water problems and the ecological pressure on the West Coast’s largest estuary will intensify in a warming world, according to a first-of-its-kind scientific study.
San Francisco Bay and the Delta will get warmer, saltier and clearer if global warming continues over the next several decades. That will increase the risk of extinction for some kinds of fish and could help unwanted species, including a toxic algae, flourish…
…James Cloern, the study’s lead author, said the researchers hoped the results would be used by those writing plans for the Delta’s future. Two high-profile plans are under way. One is the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan being pursued by the Delta’s biggest water users. It features a new aqueduct as its centerpiece. The other is the Delta Plan being written by a new state agency, the Delta Stewardship Council…. [Original report, “Projected Evolution of California’s San Francisco Bay-Delta-River System in a Century of Climate Change,” is published at PLoS One, the Public Library of Science’s online journal. It can be found at www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0024465]
2011 November. Six Climate Change-Related Events In the United States Accounted For About $14 Billion in Lost Lives and Health Costs. By Kim Knowlton et al., Health Affairs. Abstract: The future health costs associated with predicted climate change–related events such as hurricanes, heat waves, and floods are projected to be enormous. This article estimates the health costs associated with six climate change–related events that struck the United States between 2000 and 2009. The six case studies came from categories of climate change–related events projected to worsen with continued global warming—ozone pollution, heat waves, hurricanes, infectious disease outbreaks, river flooding, and wildfires. We estimate that the health costs exceeded $14 billion, with 95 percent due to the value of lives lost prematurely. Actual health care costs were an estimated $740 million. This reflects more than 760,000 encounters with the health care system. Our analysis provides scientists and policy makers with a methodology to use in estimating future health costs related to climate change and highlights the growing need for public health preparedness.
2011 October 14. Vital Details of Global Warming Are Eluding Forecasters. By Richard A. Kerr. Excerpt: Climate researchers are quite comfortable with their projections for the world under a strengthening greenhouse, at least on the broadest scales. But ask researchers what’s in store for the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest, or even the western half of the United States, and they’ll often demur. Switching from global models to models focusing on a single region creates a more detailed forecast, although it also creates more uncertainty. But help is on the way. Regional modelers are well into their first extensive comparison of global-regional model combinations to sort out the uncertainties….
2011 Oct 4. SpaceMath@NASA Problem 448: The Declining Arctic Ice Cap [PDF]. Students graph the change in Arctic ice surface area, and perform linear and quadratic regressions to model and forecast trends. See also: NASA Press Release: Arctic Sea Ice Continues Decline, Hits 2nd-Lowest Level – http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2011-ice-min.html
2011 August 19. Temps push animal, plant species to higher elevations. By Elizabeth Welse, USA Today. Excerpt: A study published in today’s edition of the journal Science finds that, overall, species are moving to higher elevations at 36 feet per decade and higher latitudes at 10.5 miles per decade. The rate is two or three times faster than when it was last measured, in 2003. “The climate is shifting everything toward the north and higher altitudes,” says Chris Thomas, senior author on the paper and a professor of conservation biology at the University of York in the United Kingdom. Animals, plants and insects closer to the equator or at lower elevations “are starting to find it too hot and are retreating upwards…”
“There is practically no basis to doubt the proposition that species are shifting as a function of rapidly changing climate,” says Jeremy Kerr, a professor of biology at the University of Ottawa in Canada, who did not participate in the study.
2011 July 25. Toxic chemicals released by melting Arctic ice. CBC news. Excerpt: Climate change is boosting levels of banned pollutants such as PCBs and DDT in the atmosphere, Canadian, Chinese and Norwegian scientists have found. A “wide range” of persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, have been increasingly released into the Arctic atmosphere since the early 1990s, says the study led by Environment Canada scientist Jianmin Ma, “confirming that Arctic warming could undermine global efforts to reduce environmental and human exposure to these toxic chemicals.” The study, published Sunday in Nature Climate Change, links higher summer air temperatures and lower sea ice cover to increasing levels of POPs. That suggests that POPs previously trapped in water, snow and ice could be released back into the air as the ice melts, allowing them to travel long distances through the environment.
…Jordi Dachs, a scientist at the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research in Barcelona said the results mean that POPs could continue to negatively impact the environment and human health far longer than previously believed…
2011 May 9. In a Changing Antarctica, Some Penguins Thrive as Others Suffer. By Andy Isaacson, The NY Times. Excerpt: …Of the species that stand to be most affected by global warming, the most obvious are the ones that rely on ice to live. Adélie penguins are a bellwether of climate change, and at the northern fringe of Antarctica, in the Antarctic Peninsula, their colonies have collapsed as an intrusion of warmer seawater shortens the annual winter sea ice season….
…Climate change has created a paradise for some pack ice penguin colonies and a purgatory for others, but the long-term fate of all Adélie and emperor penguins seems sealed, as relentless warming eventually pulls their rug of sea ice out from under them….
2011 February 22. Owls change colour as climate warms. By Emma Brennand, BBC Earth News. Excerpt: Tawny owls turn brown to survive in warmer climates, according to scientists in Finland.
Feather colour is hereditary, with grey plumage dominant over brown. But the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that the number of brown owls was increasing….
…The results also suggest that a changing climate could, in some species, reduce the number and variety of characteristics that can be inherited….
2011 February 16. Heavy Rains Linked to Humans. By Justin Gillis, The NY Times. Excerpt: “An increase in heavy precipitation that has afflicted many countries is at least partly a consequence of human influence on the atmosphere, climate scientists reported in a new study.
In the first major paper of its kind, the researchers used elaborate computer programs that simulate the climate to analyze whether the rise in severe rainstorms, heavy snowfalls and similar events could be explained by natural variability in the atmosphere. They found that it could not, and that the increase made sense only when the computers factored in the effects of greenhouse gases released by human activities like the burning of fossil fuels….
2011 January 21. California Plants Put A Wrinkle in Climate Change Plans. By Richard Harris, NPR News. Excerpt: As the globe warms up, many plants and animals are moving uphill to keep their cool. Conservationists are anticipating much more of this as they make plans to help natural systems adapt to a warming planet. But a new study in Science has found that plants in northern California are bucking this uphill trend in preference for wetter, lower areas….
…This adds some pretty big wrinkles to conservation plans. For example: It’s not always a good assumption that protecting areas up slope from plants will help protect their future habitat as the climate changes….
2011 January 15. Melting in Andes Reveals Remains and Wreckage. By Simon Romero, The NY Times. Excerpt: …The discovery of [airplane pilot Rafael Benjamin Pabon’s] partially preserved remains was one of a growing number of finds pulled from the world’s glaciers and snow fields in recent years as warmer temperatures cause the ice and snow to melt, exposing their long-held secrets. The bodies that have emerged were mummified naturally, with extreme cold and dry air performing the work that resins and oils did for ancient Egyptians and other cultures….
2010 November 13. As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas. By Justin Gillis, The New York Times. Excerpt: Scientists long believed that the collapse of the gigantic ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica would take thousands of years, with sea level possibly rising as little as seven inches in this century, about the same amount as in the 20th century… But researchers have recently been startled to see big changes unfold in both Greenland and Antarctica.
As a result of recent calculations that take the changes into account, many scientists now say that sea level is likely to rise perhaps three feet by 2100 — an increase that, should it come to pass, would pose a threat to coastal regions the world over….
Slide Show: Reading Earth’s Future in Glacial Ice
Video: Tracking Greenland’s Glaciers
Interactive Graphic: Restless Ice
Graphic: Rising Seas, Vulnerable Areas
Green Blog: A Nighttime Epiphany on Sea Level
2010 October 8. USDA Release 1022: Climate change may impact maple syrup production. Excerpt: Research by the USDA Forest Service and a study released by Cornell University demonstrate changes in climate have already had an impact on the iconic sugar maple trees of the Northeastern US and could eventually affect maple syrup production.
Research shows that climate change stressors may decrease the availability of maple syrup or shift production northward by the end of the next century because of direct changes in temperature, decreases in snowpack or increases in weather disturbances such as ice storms…
…While maple trees won’t necessarily vanish from the landscape, there could be fewer trees that are more stressed, further reducing maple syrup availability…
2010 Sep 23. “This is what Global Warming looks like” video from NRDC Broadcast Videos. A short video about climate-related events from the past year, produced by the National Resources Defense Council.
2010 August 19. Drought Drives Decade-long Decline in Plant Growth. By Steve Cole, NASA. Excerpt: Global plant productivity that once was on the rise with warming temperatures and a lengthened growing season is now on the decline because of regional drought according to a new study of NASA satellite data. Plant productivity is a measure of the rate of the photosynthesis process that green plants use to convert solar energy, carbon dioxide and water to sugar, oxygen and eventually plant tissue… …The shift, however, could impact food security, biofuels and the global carbon cycle…
…”This is a pretty serious warning that warmer temperatures are not going to endlessly improve plant growth,” Running said…
…”This past decade’s net decline in terrestrial productivity illustrates that a complex interplay between temperature, rainfall, cloudiness, and carbon dioxide, probably in combination with other factors such as nutrients and land management, will determine future patterns and trends in productivity,”…
…Researchers want to continue monitoring these trends in the future because plant productivity is linked to shifting levels of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and stresses on plant growth that could challenge food production…
…”Even if the declining trend of the past decade does not continue, managing forests and crop lands for multiple benefits to include food production, biofuel harvest, and carbon storage may become exceedingly challenging in light of the possible impacts of such decadal-scale changes,”…
2010 August 7. Giant Ice Island Breaks Off Greenland. By Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: A giant ice island has broken off the Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland.
A University of Delaware researcher says the floating ice sheet covers 100 square miles – more than four times the size of New York’s Manhattan Island. Andreas Muenchow, who is studying the nares Strait between Greenland and Canada, said the ice sheet broke off early Thursday. He says the new ice island was discovered by Trudy Wohlleben of the Canadian Ice Service.
Not since 1962 has such a large chunk of ice calved in the Arctic, but researchers have noticed cracks in recent months in the floating tongue of the glacier.
2010 July 28. Plankton decline across oceans as waters warm. By Richard Black, BBC News. Excerpt: The amount of phytoplankton – tiny marine plants – in the top layers of the oceans has declined markedly over the last century, research suggests.
Writing in the journal Nature, scientists say the decline appears to be linked to rising water temperatures.
The decline – about 1% per year – could be ecologically significant as plankton sit at the base of marine food chains.
…The decline is seen in most parts of the world, one marked exception being the Indian Ocean. There are also phytoplankton increases in coastal zones where fertiliser run-off from agricultural land is increasing nutrient supplies
…If the trend is real, it could also act to accelerate warming, the team noted… Photosynthesis by phytoplankton removes carbon dioxide from the air and produces oxygen.
2010 June 4. Climate Change Leading to Major Vegetation Shifts Around the World. By Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley News. Excerpt: BERKELEY — Vegetation around the world is on the move, and climate change is the culprit, according to a new analysis of global vegetation shifts led by a University of California, Berkeley, ecologist in collaboration with researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
…In a paper published today in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography, researchers present evidence that over the past century, vegetation has been gradually moving toward the poles and up mountain slopes, where temperatures are cooler, as well as toward the equator, where rainfall is greater.
…”This is the first global view of observed biome shifts due to climate change,” said the study’s lead author Patrick Gonzalez, a visiting scholar at the Center for Forestry at UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources. “It’s not just a case of one or two plant species moving to another area. To change the biome of an ecosystem, a whole suite of plants must change.”
…”Approximately one billion people now live in areas that are highly to very highly vulnerable to future vegetation shifts,” said Gonzalez. “Ecosystems provide important services to people, so we must reduce the emissions that cause climate change, then adapt to major changes that might occur.”
2010 April 7. New Study: Climate Change Threatening Glacier National Park Could Harm Montana’s Future Tourism and Economy. National Resources Defense Council. Excerpt: WHITEFISH, MT. and DENVER, CO. –The last decade in Glacier National Park saw exactly double the temperature increase for the planet as a whole. The effects of this warming threaten Glacier National Park’s resources, from glaciers and snow-capped mountains to wildlife and forests, as well as the Montana jobs and tourism revenue the park generates, according to a new report from the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Drawn by the park’s scenery, wildlife, and other resources, two million people a year visit Glacier, making it the 11th most visited national park in the U.S. Nearly three-quarters of the visitors are from out of state…. Spending by Glacier visitors may approach $1 billion annually and supports more than 4,000 Montana jobs. The report asks, why put at risk Glacier’s spectacular resources, as important as they are to Montana’s economy?
Lead report author Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, said: “Human disruption of the climate is the greatest threat ever to our national parks. If we don’t reduce heat-trapping pollutants and protect the resources of Glacier National Park, it will suffer from human-caused climate change. If we let climate change and its impacts get to an unacceptable point, the economy of Montana will suffer, too.”…
2010 March 12. Climate Change Threatens Migratory Birds, Report Says. By John M. Broder, NY Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — Changes in the global climate are imposing additional stress on hundreds of species of migratory birds in the United States that are already threatened by other environmental factors, according to a new Interior Department report.
The latest version of the department’s annual State of the Birds report shows that nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or suffering from population decline.
For the first time, the report adds climate change to other factors threatening bird populations, including destruction of habitat, hunting, pesticides, invasive species and loss of wetlands….
2010 February 3. Black Carbon a Significant Factor in Melting of Himalayan Glaciers. By Julie Chao, LBL News. Excerpt: The fact that glaciers in the Himalayan mountains are thinning is not disputed. However, few researchers have attempted to rigorously examine and quantify the causes. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist Surabi Menon set out to isolate the impacts of the most commonly blamed culprit—greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide—from other particles in the air that may be causing the melting. Menon and her collaborators found that airborne black carbon aerosols, or soot, from India is a major contributor to the decline in snow and ice cover on the glaciers.
“Our simulations showed greenhouse gases alone are not nearly enough to be responsible for the snow melt,” says Menon, a physicist and staff scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division. “Most of the change in snow and ice cover—about 90 percent—is from aerosols. Black carbon alone contributes at least 30 percent of this sum.”
…The findings are significant because they point to a simple way to make a swift impact on the snow melt. “Carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for 100 years, but black carbon doesn’t stay in the atmosphere for more than a few weeks, so the effects of controlling black carbon are much faster,” Menon says. “If you control black carbon now, you’re going to see an immediate effect.”…
2010 January 28. Less Water Vapor May Slow Warming Trends. By Sindya N. Bhanoo, NY Times. Excerpt: A decrease in water vapor concentrations in parts of the middle atmosphere has contributed to a slowing of Earth’s warming, researchers are reporting. The finding, they said, offers part of the explanation for a string of years with relatively stable global surface temperatures.
…“This doesn’t alter the fundamental conclusion that the world has warmed and that most of that warming has to do with greenhouse gas emissions caused by man,” said Susan Solomon, a climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the lead author of the report, which appears in the Jan. 29 issue of the journal Science.
Water vapor, a potent heat-trapping gas, absorbs sunlight and re-emits heat into Earth’s atmosphere. Its concentrations in the stratosphere, the second of three layers in the atmosphere, appear to have decreased in the last 10 years, according to the study.
This has slowed the rate of Earth’s warming by about 25 percent, Dr. Solomon said….
2009 December 6. In Face of Skeptics, Experts Affirm Climate Peril. By Andrew C. Revkin and John M. Broder, NY Times. Excerpt: …as representatives of about 200 nations converge in Copenhagen on Monday to begin talks on a new international climate accord, they do so against a background of renewed attacks on the basic science of climate change. …In recent days, an array of scientists and policy makers have said that nothing so far disclosed — the correspondence and documents include references by prominent climate scientists to deleting potentially embarrassing e-mail messages, keeping papers by competing scientists from publication and making adjustments in research data — undercuts decades of peer-reviewed science. …Even some who remain skeptical about the extent or pace of global warming say that the premise underlying the Copenhagen talks is solid: that warming is to some extent driven by greenhouse gases spewing into the atmosphere from human activities like the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation….
2009 November. 5 Glaciers to See Before They’re Gone. By Ethan Schowalter-hay. Except: Mountain and continental glaciers ebb and flow based on broad climatic cycles. In recent years, from New Zealand to Scandinavia, most have retreated at startling rates. Since 1980, for example, the world’s alpine glaciers have receded by more than 36 feet. While the particular reasons for the widespread decline are not entirely clear, an increase in average global temperatures and variations in precipitation are likely causes.
Columbia Glacier – Alaska
Southeastern Alaska is famous for tidewater glaciers: big icefields spilling from mountains directly to the sea. While some continue to advance, the 2,000-square-kilometer Columbia Glacier, which sweeps from the Chugach Mountains into Prince William Sound, has been decreasing in size with great rapidity over the past several decades. After a long period of stability, it shrank from 41 miles long in 1980 to 33 in 2001….
2009 November 5. Climate Change, Nitrogen Loss Threaten Plant Life in Arid Desert Soils. NSF Release 09-218. Excerpt: …As Earth’s climate warms, arid soils lose more nitrogen, which could lead to deserts with even less plant life than they sustain today.
Available nitrogen is second only to water as the biggest constraint to biological activity in arid ecosystems, but ecologists have struggled to understand the balance of the input and output of nitrogen in deserts. For the first time, however, researchers have discovered a mechanism that balances the nitrogen budget in deserts: Higher temperatures cause nitrogen to escape as gas from desert soils.
…In the past, researchers focused on biological mechanisms in which soil microbes near the surface produce nitrogen gas that dissipates into the air, but ecologists Jed Sparks and Carmody (“Carrie”) McCalley, both at Cornell University and co-authors of the paper, found that non-biological processes are playing a bigger role in nitrogen losses from soil to air.
“This is a way that nitrogen is lost from an ecosystem that people have never accounted for before,” said Sparks. “It allows us to finally understand the dynamics of nitrogen in arid systems.”
…Further temperature increases and shifting precipitation patterns due to climate change may lead to more nitrogen losses in arid ecosystems, making their soils even more infertile and unable to support most plant life, according to McCalley. Although some climate models predict more summer rainfall for desert areas, the water, when combined with heat, would greatly increase nitrogen losses, she said.
“We’re on a trajectory where plant life in arid ecosystems could cease to do well,” said McCalley….
2009 November 2. Mt. Kilimanjaro Ice Cap Continues Rapid Retreat. By Sindya N. Bhanoo, NY Times. Excerpt: The ice atop Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania has continued to retreat rapidly, declining 26 percent since 2000, scientists say in a new report.
Yet the authors of the study, to be published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reached no consensus on whether the melting could be attributed mainly to humanity’s role in warming the global climate.
Eighty-five percent of the ice cover that was present in 1912 has vanished, the scientists said.
…The lead author of the study, Lonnie G. Thompson, a glaciologist at Ohio State University, has concluded that the melting of recent years is unique….
If his dating of the ice core layers is accurate, surface melting like that seen in recent years has not occurred over the last 11,700 years….
2009 July 14. Arctic glacier to lose Manhattan-sized ‘tongue’. By Catherine Brahic, NewScientist. Excerpt: The biggest glacier in the Arctic is on the verge of losing a chunk of ice the size of Manhattan. A group of scientists and climate change activists who are closely monitoring the Petermann glacier’s ice tongue believe the rapid flow of ice is in part due to warm ocean currents moving up along the coast of Greenland, fuelled by global warming.
… The team believes this will happen within weeks. Only yesterday, a 3-square-kilometre chunk broke away. There are now more than 10 cracks in the ice, some 500 metres wide. The researchers expect the ice tongue to break up within the coming weeks.
When this happens, an island of ice the size of Manhattan, spanning 100 km2 holding 5 billion tonnes of ice, will break free and drift out to sea.
As with all glaciers that terminate over water, big chunks of ice regularly break off the Petermann ice tongue, a process which is normally compensated for by the snow that falls on the upper reaches of the glacier. But the sheer amount of ice that could break away in a single event is concerning the scientists – five billion tonnes of ice is equivalent to nearly half of the glacier’s usual annual flow.
The researchers are unsure what exactly is causing the break-up. A chunk of 1 million tonnes of ice broke off last year and there has been an acceleration in the flow of ice over the past few years. They think a number of factors are involved including warmer ocean currents that are melting the ice from below and warmer air temperatures that are melting it from above….
2009 July 7. NASA RELEASE: 09-155. New NASA Satellite Survey Reveals Dramatic Arctic Sea Ice Thinning. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — Arctic sea ice thinned dramatically between the winters of 2004 and 2008, with thin seasonal ice replacing thick older ice as the dominant type for the first time on record. The new results, based on data from a NASA Earth-orbiting spacecraft, provide further evidence for the rapid, ongoing transformation of the Arctic’s ice cover.
Scientists from NASA and the University of Washington in Seattle conducted the most comprehensive survey to date using observations from NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite, known as ICESat, to make the first basin-wide estimate of the thickness and volume of the Arctic Ocean’s ice cover….
The Arctic ice cap grows each winter as the sun sets for several months and intense cold ensues. In the summer, wind and ocean currents cause some of the ice naturally to flow out of the Arctic, while much of it melts in place. But not all of the Arctic ice melts each summer; the thicker, older ice is more likely to survive. Seasonal sea ice usually reaches about 6 feet in thickness, while multi-year ice averages 9 feet.
Using ICESat measurements, scientists found that overall Arctic sea ice thinned about 7 inches a year, for a total of 2.2 feet over four winters. The total area covered by the thicker, older “multi-year” ice that has survived one or more summers shrank by 42 percent.
…In recent years, the amount of ice replaced in the winter has not been sufficient to offset summer ice losses. The result is more open water in summer, which then absorbs more heat, warming the ocean and further melting the ice. Between 2004 and 2008, multi-year ice cover shrank 595,000 square miles — nearly the size of Alaska’s land area….
2009 June 16. Government Study Warns of Climate Change Effects. By John M. Broder, The NY Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — The impact of a changing climate is already being felt across the United States, like shifting migration patterns of butterflies in the West and heavier downpours in the Midwest and East, according to a government study to be released on Tuesday.
Even if the nation takes significant steps to slow emissions of heat-trapping gases, the impact of global warming is expected to become more severe in coming years, the report says, affecting farms and forests, coastlines and floodplains, water and energy supplies, transportation and human health….
The study, overseen by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, will be posted at www.globalchange.gov/usimpacts.
Some of the effects being seen today and cited in the report are familiar, like more powerful tropical storms and erosion of ocean coastlines caused by melting Arctic ice. The study also cites an increase in drought in the Southwest and more intense heat waves in the Northeast as a result of growing concentrations of carbon dioxide and other climate-altering gases in the atmosphere.
…“What we would want to have people take away is that climate change is happening now, and it’s actually beginning to affect our lives,” said Thomas R. Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a principal author of the report. “It’s not just happening in the Arctic regions, but it’s beginning to show up in our own backyards.”…
2009 May 27. RELEASE 2009-10. Melting Greenland Ice Sheets May Threaten Northeast United States, Canada. NCAR. Excerpt: BOULDER–Melting of the Greenland ice sheet this century may drive more water than previously thought toward the already threatened coastlines of New York, Boston, Halifax, and other cities in the northeastern United States and in Canada, according to new research led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
The study, which will be published Friday in Geophysical Research Letters, finds that if Greenland’s ice melts at moderate to high rates, ocean circulation by 2100 may shift and cause sea levels off the northeast coast of North America to rise by about 12 to 20 inches (about 30 to 50 centimeters) more than in other coastal areas. The research builds on recent reports that have found that sea level rise associated with global warming could adversely affect North America, and its findings suggest that the situation is more threatening than previously believed.
“If the Greenland melt continues to accelerate, we could see significant
impacts this century on the northeast U.S. coast from the resulting sea level rise,” says NCAR scientist Aixue Hu, the lead author. “Major northeastern cities are directly in the path of the greatest rise.”
…The northeast coast of North America is especially vulnerable to the effects of Greenland ice melt because of the way the meridional overturning circulation acts like a conveyer belt transporting water through the Atlantic Ocean. The circulation carries warm Atlantic water from the tropics to the north, where it cools and descends to create a dense layer of cold water. As a result, sea level is currently about 28 inches (71 cm) lower in the North Atlantic than the North Pacific, which lacks such a dense layer. …Unlike water in a bathtub, water in the oceans does not spread out evenly. Sea level can vary by several feet from one region to another, depending on such factors as ocean circulation and the extent to which water at lower depths is compressed….
2009 May 18. As Alaska Glaciers Melt, It’s Land That’s Rising. By CORNELIA DEAN, NY Times. Excerpt: Relieved of billions of tons of glacial weight, the land in Juneau is rising much as a cushion regains its shape after someone gets up from a couch….
2009 March 30. A Census Taker for Penguins in Argentina. A Conversation with Dee Boersma. By Claudia Dreifus, NY Times. Excerpt: P. Dee Boersma, a University of Washington conservation biologist, is the Jane Goodall of penguins. As director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Penguin Project, Dr. Boersma, 62, has spent the last quarter of a century studying the behaviors of some 40,000 Magellanic penguins, inhabitants of one stretch of beach in southern Argentina….
Q. WHAT DOES YOUR RESEARCH INVOLVE?
A. I’m a kind of census taker of the 200,000 breeding pairs of penguins at Punta Tombo. I track who is at home, who gets to mate, where the penguins go for the meals, their health, their behaviors.
…I’m interested in where they go. Through the tagging we’ve been able to show that in the last decade, the birds are swimming about 25 miles further in search of food. They’re having trouble finding enough fish to eat….
These penguins are now laying eggs on the average three days later in the season then they did a decade ago. That means that the chicks may leave for sea at more inopportune times, when fish may not be close to the colony. Many will not survive to come back and breed. The Punta Tombo colony has declined 22 percent since 1987. That’s a lot. This type of penguin is considered near-threatened. Of the 17 different penguin species, 12 are suffering rapid decreases in numbers.
Q. Why is this decline occurring among the Magellanic penguins?
A. Changes in the availability and abundance of prey. And we think that’s due to both climate change and exploitation of the penguins’ food sources by commercial fisheries….
Q. WHAT ARE THE POLICY IMPLICATIONS OF YOUR RESEARCH?
A. …The big thing is that penguins are showing us that climate change has already happened. The birds are trying to adapt. But evolution is not fast enough to allow them to do that, over the long term….
2009 March 15. Northeast US to suffer most from future sea rise. By Seth Borenstein, The Huffington Post. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — The northeastern U.S. coast is likely to see the world’s biggest sea level rise from man-made global warming, a new study predicts.
However much the oceans rise by the end of the century, add an extra 8 inches or so for New York, Boston and other spots along the coast from the mid-Atlantic to New England….
An extra 8 inches – on top of a possible 2 or 3 feet of sea rise globally by 2100 – is a big deal, especially when nor’easters and hurricanes hit, experts said.
…the oceans won’t rise at the same rate everywhere, said study author Jianjun Yin of the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies at Florida State University. It will be “greater and faster” for the Northeast, with Boston one of the worst hit among major cities, he said. So, if it’s 3 feet, add another 8 inches for that region.
The explanation involves complicated ocean currents. Computer models forecast that as climate change continues, there will be a slowdown of the great ocean conveyor belt. That system moves heat energy in warm currents from the tropics to the North Atlantic and pushes the cooler, saltier water down, moving it farther south around Africa and into the Pacific. As the conveyor belt slows, so will the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic current. Those two fast-running currents have kept the Northeast’s sea level unusually low because of a combination of physics and geography, Yin said.
Slow down the conveyor belt 33 to 43 percent as predicted by computer models, and the Northeast sea level rises faster, Yin said….
2009 March 10. Sea level rise could bust IPCC estimate. By Catherine Brahic, NewScientist. Excerpt: Sea level rises could bust official estimates – that’s the first big message to come from the climate change congress that kicked off in Copenhagen, Denmark, today.
Researchers, including John Church of the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, presented evidence that Greenland and Antarctica are losing ice fast, contributing to the annual sea-level rise. Recent data shows that waters have been rising by 3 millimetres a year since 1993.
Church says this is above any of the rates forecast by the IPCC models. By 2100, sea levels could be 1 metre or more above current levels, he says. And it looks increasingly unlikely that the rise will be much less than 50 centimetres.
In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast a rise of 18 cm to 59 cm by 2100. But the numbers came with a heavy caveat that often went unnoticed by the popular press.
Because modelling how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will react to rising temperatures is fiendishly complicated, the IPCC did not include either in its estimate. It’s no small omission: the Greenland ice cap, the smaller and so far less stable of the two, holds enough water that if it all melted, it would raise sea levels by 6 metres on average across the globe….
2009 January 29. New data show much of Antarctica is warming more than previously thought. EurekAlert. Excerpt: Scientists studying climate change have long believed that while most of the rest of the globe has been getting steadily warmer, a large part of Antarctica – the East Antarctic Ice Sheet – has actually been getting colder.
But new research shows that for the last 50 years, much of Antarctica has been warming at a rate comparable to the rest of the world. In fact, the warming in West Antarctica is greater than the cooling in East Antarctica, meaning that on average the continent has gotten warmer, said Eric Steig, a University of Washington professor of Earth and space sciences and director of the Quaternary Research Center at the UW.
…”Simple explanations don’t capture the complexity of climate,” Steig said. “The thing you hear all the time is that Antarctica is cooling and that’s not the case. If anything it’s the reverse, but it’s more complex than that. Antarctica isn’t warming at the same rate everywhere, and while some areas have been cooling for a long time the evidence shows the continent as a whole is getting warmer.”
A major reason most of Antarctica was thought to be cooling is because of a hole in the Earth’s protective ozone layer that appears during the spring months in the Southern Hemisphere’s polar region. Steig noted that it is well established that the ozone hole has contributed to cooling in East Antarctica.
“However, it seems to have been assumed that the ozone hole was affecting the entire continent when there wasn’t any evidence to support that idea, or even any theory to support it,” he said.
“In any case, efforts to repair the ozone layer eventually will begin taking effect and the hole could be eliminated by the middle of this century. If that happens, all of Antarctica could begin warming on a par with the rest of the world.”…
2008 October 27. Climate change ‘making seas more salty’. By David Adam, The Guardian. Excerpt: Global warming is making the sea more salty, according to new research that demonstrates the massive shifts in natural systems triggered by climate change.
Experts at the UK Met Office and Reading University say warmer temperatures over the Atlantic Ocean have significantly increased evaporation and reduced rainfall across a giant stretch of water from Africa to the Carribean in recent years. The change concentrates salt in the water left behind, and is predicted to make southern Europe and the Mediterranean much drier in future.
Peter Stott of the Met Office, who led the study, said: “With global warming we’re talking about very big changes in the overall water cycle. This moisture is being evaporated and transported to higher latitudes.”
The team wanted to see whether manmade climate change could be blamed for changes in salinity measured in the Atlantic….
…further south towards the tropics, Atlantic waters have been getting saltier – about 0.5% more since the 1960s.
Using state-of-the-art climate models, the scientists simulated events over both parts of the ocean with and without increased levels of greenhouse gases….
…for the mid Atlantic, the models showed that only human-driven global warming could explain the increase in saltiness – the first time such an explicit link has been made between climate change and salinity….
2008 October 13. Rising Temperatures May Dry Up Peat Bogs, Causing Carbon Release. By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. Excerpt: …A study in Nature Geoscience suggests that northern bogs may lose a significant portion of their peat as global temperatures rise. Organic matter in the peat will decompose, releasing carbon into the atmosphere.
Ordinarily peat bogs are a huge carbon sink. They consist of marsh grasses, trees and other organic matter that, because of the wet, oxygen-starved conditions, don’t decay much. What’s more, peat generally begets more peat: because it holds so much water and blocks drainage, as it accumulates the water table rises, reducing decay even further.
This water table-peat interaction is what scientists call a positive feedback loop. Takeshi Ise of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and colleagues looked at what would happen to this process when environmental conditions change.
…They found that higher temperatures would in effect reverse the feedback loop: the water table would drop, causing more peat to dry and decompose.
Over hundreds of years, their simulation suggests, 40 percent of organic carbon could be lost from bogs where the peat layer is shallow, while in deep bogs, the losses would be as much as 86 percent.
2008 September 15. Weather History Offers Insight Into Global Warming. By Anthony DePalma, The New York Times. Excerpt: NEW PALTZ, N.Y. — It is probably a good thing that the Mohonk Mountain House, the 19th-century resort, was built on Shawangunk conglomerate, a concrete-hard quartz rock. Otherwise, the path to the National Weather Service’s cooperative station here surely would have turned to dust by now.
Every day for the last 112 years, people have trekked up the same gray outcropping to dutifully record temperatures and weather conditions. In the process, they have compiled a remarkable data collection that has become a climatological treasure chest.
The problems that often haunt other weather records — the station is moved, buildings are constructed nearby or observers record data inconsistently — have not arisen here because so much of this place has been frozen in time. The weather has been taken in exactly the same place, in precisely the same way, by just a handful of the same dedicated people since Grover Cleveland was president.
For much of that time, those same weather observers have also made detailed records about recurring natural events, like the appearance of the first spring peeper or the first witch hazel bush to bud in the fall. Together, these two sets of data, meticulously collected in the same area, are beginning to offer up intriguing indicators about climate change — not about what is causing it but rather how it affects the lives of animals, plants, insects and birds….
…The record shows that on this ridge in the Shawangunk Mountains, about 20 miles south of the better-known Catskills, the average annual temperature has risen 2.7 degrees in 112 years. Of the top 10 warmest years in that time, 7 have come since 1990. Both annual precipitation and annual snowfall have increased, and the growing season has lengthened by 10 days.
But what makes the data truly singular is how it parallels a vast collection of phenological observations taken at this same place, and by many of the same observers, since 1925….
2008 August 8. The Coming Arctic Invasion. By Geerat J. Vermeij and Peter D. Roopnarine, Science. Excerpt: The current episode of climate warming is having drastic consequences for animal and plant life worldwide. …North Pacific lineages will resume spreading through the Bering Strait into a warmer Arctic Ocean and eventually into the temperate North Atlantic.
Trans-Arctic invasion began about 3.5 million years ago during the warm mid-Pliocene epoch. A combination of northward flow through the Bering Strait, high productivity in the Bering Sea (the geographic source of trans-Arctic invaders), favorable conditions for rapid growth and dispersal in the Arctic Ocean, and the removal through extinction of many species during the mid-Pliocene in the North Atlantic enabled hundreds of marine lineages to colonize and enrich the biotas of the Arctic and North Atlantic. …the presence of mid-Pliocene temperate marine mollusks in northern Alaska and Greenland indicates that coastal sectors of the Arctic Ocean were seasonally or perennially ice-free at that time.
…Climate models and recently observed trends toward contraction and thinning of Arctic sea ice predict seasonally or perennially ice-free conditions in the nearshore Arctic Ocean by 2050 or even earlier, reestablishing a regime of temperature and productivity similar to that of the mid-Pliocene. Marine mollusks, whose past and present distributions are well documented, offer unparalleled insight into how marine species and communities are likely to respond to these future conditions.
At least 77 molluscan lineages (35% of 219 shell-bearing, shallow-water mollusk species in the northern Bering Sea) have the potential to extend to the North Atlantic via the warmer Arctic Ocean without direct human assistance….
2008 August 7. Pacific shellfish ready to invade Atlantic. Eureka Alert. Excerpt: As the Arctic Ocean warms this century, shellfish, snails and other animals from the Pacific Ocean will resume an invasion of the northern Atlantic that was interrupted by cooling conditions three million years ago, predict Geerat Vermeij, professor of geology at the University of California, Davis, and Peter Roopnarine at the California Academy of Sciences.
Climate models predict a nearly ice-free Arctic Ocean by 2050. That will restore conditions that last existed during the mid-Pliocene era around three to 3.5 million years ago. Several north Pacific species have relatives in the north Atlantic, and the fossil record shows a lot of invasion from the Pacific to the Atlantic at that time, Vermeij said.
When cold conditions returned, the Arctic route was cut off, mostly by a lack of food. As the ice melts, productivity in the Arctic will rise and the northward march of the mollusks will resume where it left off three million years ago.
…But the invaders will not wipe out native species, Vermeij said…. Instead, the invasion will add new species and hybrids and increase competition in the North Atlantic.
“The composition and dynamics of north Atlantic communities will change,” Roopnarine said. “But whether that will help or harm local fisheries is an open question. Humans may have to adapt as well.”
…”The interesting thing to me is that the foss il record has something to say about the consequences of global warming,” Vermeij said.
2008 August 6. Aphids are sentinels of climate change. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Ecxerpt: Aphids are emerging as sentinels of climate change, researchers at BBSRC-supported Rothamsted Research have shown. One of the UK’s most damaging aphids – the peach-potato aphid (Myzus persicae) – has been found to be flying two weeks earlier for every 1°C rise in mean temperature for January and February combined. This year, the first aphid was caught on 25 April, which is almost four weeks ahead of the 42-year average. This work is reported in BBSRC Business, the quarterly research highlights magazine of BBSRC (the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council).
Dr Richard Harrington of the Rothamsted Insect Survey said: “One of the most noticeable consequences of climate change in the UK is the frequency of mild winters. As a direct result of this, aphids seeking new sources of food are appearing significantly earlier in the year and in significantly higher numbers. … there are more aphids flying in spring and early summer, when crops are particularly vulnerable to damage.”….
2008 July 16. Eighth Warmest June on Record for Globe. NOAA. Excerpt: he combined average global land and ocean surface temperatures for June 2008 ranked eighth warmest for June since worldwide records began in 1880, according to an analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Also, globally it was the ninth warmest January – June period on record.
• The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for June 2008 was 60.8 degrees F, which is 0.9 degrees F above the 20th century mean of 59.9 degrees F.
• For the January – June period, the combined global land and ocean surface temperature was 57.1 degrees F, which is 0.8 degrees F about the 20th century mean of 56.3 degrees F.
• Northern Hemisphere Arctic sea ice extent for June 2008 ranked third lowest for June since records began in 1979. Southern Hemisphere Antarctic sea ice extent for June 2008 was above the 1979-2000 mean, ranking as the second largest June extent.
• El Niño-Southern Oscillation conditions transitioned to a neutral phase during June.
• Torrential rain lashed southern China from June 7-18. These were followed by more heavy rain from typhoon Fengshen late in the month. The downpours caused widespread floods and affected more than five million people. June 2008 was the wettest month ever for Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Macao based on records that began in 1884…
2008 July. Heat Wave in Northern Europe. By Holli Riebeek and Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory. Excerpt: On the calendar, Scandinavian summer starts on June 21 in 2008, but summer temperatures had already settled over much of northern Europe by early June. This image shows land surface temperatures—how hot the ground is to the touch, a measure that is different than the air temperatures reported in the news—as observed by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite between June 2 and June 8, 2008.
The image compares the average temperature between June 2 and June 8, 2008, to average temperatures recorded during the same period in June 2000 through 2007…
The intense heat and dry weather led to dangerous fire conditions in Scandinavia. Both Norway and Sweden were plagued with several forest fires in early June. A fire that burned for several days in southern Norway was the largest in the country’s history, causing an estimated ten million dollars worth of damage, reported The Norway Post on June 17, 2008…
2008 July 1. A New Twist in Penguins’ Already Uncertain Future. By Cornelia Dean, The New York Times. Excerpt: P. Dee Boersma, a biologist at the University of Washington, has been watching the Magellanic penguins of Punta Tombo, in Argentina, for almost 30 years. For most of that time, their numbers have been declining: breeding pairs are down 22 percent there since 1987, she writes in Tuesday’s issue of BioScience.
But the dwindling numbers do not just mean the birds are suffering, Dr. Boersma writes. Because penguins are “marine sentinels,” their decline is a blunt message that their marine environment is in trouble, chiefly from overfishing and pollution from offshore oil operations and shipping.
Now, though, Dr. Boersma writes, they are also threatened by climate change, which is reducing sea ice and, as a result, the abundance of the marine creatures the birds eat. Magellanic penguins can swim almost 100 miles a day, she said in an e-mail message, but to get enough to eat now they must venture as much as 40 miles farther from their nests than they did a decade ago.
Some of the food shortage is fishing-related, Dr. Boersma said, but some appears to be caused by climate change. As glaciers and sea ice retreat, she writes in her article, “even small variations can have major consequences for penguins.”
Climate change further threatens the birds because about half nest in burrows vulnerable to flooding, which seems to be on the rise. “Climate variation that brings more water to desert environments may benefit humans, but it will not help penguins,” Dr. Boersma wrote Their troubles show that “we have entered a new era of unprecedented challenges for marine systems.”…
2008 June 27. Exclusive: No ice at the North Pole. By Steve Connor, The Independent. Excerpt: It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.
The disappearance of the Arctic sea ice, making it possible to reach the Pole sailing in a boat through open water, would be one of the most dramatic – and worrying – examples of the impact of global warming on the planet. Scientists say the ice at 90 degrees north may well have melted away by the summer.
“From the viewpoint of science, the North Pole is just another point on the globe, but symbolically it is hugely important. There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water,” said Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado.
If it happens, it raises the prospect of the Arctic nations being able to exploit the valuable oil and mineral deposits below these a bed which have until now been impossible to extract because of the thick sea ice above.
Seasoned polar scientists believe the chances of a totally ice-free North Pole this summer are greater than 50:50 because the normally thick ice formed over many years at the Pole has been blown away and replaced by huge swathes of thinner ice formed over a single year.
This one-year ice is highly vulnerable to melting during the summer months and satellite data coming in over recent weeks shows that the rate of melting is faster than last year, when there was an all-time record loss of summer sea ice at the Arctic.
“The issue is that, for the first time that I am aware of, the North Pole is covered with extensive first-year ice – ice that formed last autumn and winter. I’d say it’s even-odds whether the North Pole melts out,” said Dr Serreze…
2008 June 10. Permafrost Threatened by Rapid Retreat of Arctic Sea Ice, NCAR Study Finds. Excerpt: BOULDER—The rate of climate warming over northern Alaska, Canada, and Russia could more than triple during periods of rapid sea ice loss, according to a new study led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The findings raise concerns about the thawing of permafrost, or permanently frozen soil, and the potential consequences for sensitive ecosystems, human infrastructure, and the release of additional greenhouse gases.
“Our study suggests that, if sea-ice continues to contract rapidly over the next several years, Arctic land warming and permafrost thaw are likely to accelerate,” says lead author David Lawrence of NCAR.
The research was spurred in par t by events last summer, when the extent of Arctic sea ice shrank to more than 30 percent below average, setting a modern-day record. From August to October last year, air temperatures over land in the western Arctic were also unusually warm, reaching more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above the 1978-2006 average and raising the question of whether or not the unusually low sea-ice extent and warm land temperatures were related.
The team found that during episodes of rapid sea-ice loss, the rate of Arctic land warming is 3.5 times greater than the average 21st century warming rates predicted in global climate models. While this warming is largest over the ocean, the simulations suggest that it can penetrate as far as 900 miles inland. The simulations also indicate that the warming acceleration during such events is especially pronounced in autumn. The decade during which a rapid sea-ice loss event occurs could see autumn temperatures warm by as much as 9 degrees F (5 degrees C) along the Arctic coasts of Russia, Alaska, and Canada.
“An important unresolved question is how the delicate balance of life in the Arctic will respond to such a rapid warming,” Lawrence says. “Will we see, for example, accelerated coastal erosion, or increased methane emissions, or faster shrub encroachment into tundra regions if sea ice continues to retreat rapidly?”…
2008 May-June. Ecological Responses to Climate Change on the Antarctic Peninsula. Warming threatens a rich but delicate biological community. by James McClintock, Hugh Ducklow and William Fraser. The western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula is home to a thriving biological community that includes bottom-dwelling and free-swimming animals, giant algae much like the kelp of temperate latitudes, marine organisms that shelter under or within sea ice, as well as familiar avian and mammalian predators: penguins, seals and whales. But the authors of this article outline various ways in which the peninsular ecosystem is on the threshold of rapid change. Midwinter temperatures have increased by 6 degrees Celsius since the 1950s, sea ice has diminished in extent and longevity, and sea water temperatures are climbing. The loss of ice is detrimental to krill and other organisms at the base of the food chain. A once-common penguin species is in decline on the peninsula, whereas other species are expanding their range. Further warming could allow large predatory crabs to invade the bottom-dwelling community and greatly alter its composition. McClintock is University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Ducklow is co-director of the Ecosystems Center of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole; and Fraser is president of the non-profit Polar Oceans Research Group in Sheridan, Montana.
2008 May. The Carbon Hoofprint. Lauren Wilcox, The WorldArk. Excerpt: A recent report from the United Nations contained a stunning statistic: One industry is responsible for nearly 20% of the greenhouse gases released int the atmosphere worldwide. It isn’t long-haul trucking, or air travel, or stell-smelting vactories, or any of the other exhaust-belching suspects ususally associated wtih environmental woes.
It is the livestock industry.
In “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” released in 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations freported that raising and processing cattle, hogs, poultry and other animals produces 18% of the greenhouse gases; just 13% comes from trucks, cars and other transportation. …The livestock industry’s transgressions include the deforestation of grazing land, the pollution of air and grondwater from animal waste, the excessive use of water to raise grain for feed and its threat on biodiversity….
2008 May 28. The Gathering Storm. By George Black, OnEarth (NRDC). Excerpt: What Happens When Global Warming Turns Millions of Destitute Muslims Into Environmental Refugees?
…water, from the rivers, from the ocean, from the ground, is this country’s existential curse. Bangladesh and its 150 million people — the world’s seventh-largest population, compressed into an area the size of Iowa — have somehow contrived to have too much water, too little water, and more and more water of the wrong kind.
The long-range apocalypse facing the country is global warming and the accelerating sea-level rise that will accompany it. …the daily short-term menace is the steady northward creep of salt from the Bay of Bengal. Today the land is saturated with people; little by little it is also becoming saturated with salt.
…However, try asking the millions of people in the Ganges Delta if they have too much water — at least of the kind they can use. Over the last few centuries, the natural course of the sacred river has shifted eastward, redirecting the surge of freshwater that used to dilute the salt inflow from the Bay of Bengal. …in 1970, India made things worse by building a diversion dam across the Ganges at Farraka, a few miles short of the border. Indian engineers did this to increase the flow of water into the Hooghly River, which runs through Calcutta, … to provide a reliable supply of drinking water to the city and to flush out the silt that threatened to block navigation. Each of these natural and man-made changes has deepened Bangladesh’s freshwater crisis, …many of the smaller rivers and channels that used to thread through the Ganges Delta have dried up and disappeared.
It gets worse. There’s also the scourge that comes from the other direction, from the Bay of Bengal, in the form of catastrophic floods and cyclones.
… “Well, at the moment the sea level is rising at about three millimeters a year” — a little more than one-tenth of an inch — “but that’s going to get worse. The current projections deal with three grades of sea-level rise — 30 centimeters, 75 centimeters, one meter.” He pauses. “Under the most benign of these three scenarios, there’s going to be a permanent loss of 12 percent to 15 percent of our surface area, with a present population of five million to seven million.”….
2008 Apr 24. Sediment cores reveal Antarctica’s warmer past. Quirin Schiermeier, Nature. Excerpt: A unique drilling project in the western Ross Sea has revealed that Antarctica had a much more eventful climate history than previously assumed. A new sediment core hints that the western part of the now-frozen continent went through prolonged ice-free phases – presumably offering a glimpse of where our warming world might be heading.
Researchers reported initial results from ANDRILL, a US$30-million international drilling project, on 16 April at the assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna. During the past two years, the team has extracted two cores, each containing some 1,200 metres of sediment, from the seabed below the vast Ross Ice Shelf, a floating extension of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Together, the cores provide an almost uninterrupted 17-million-year record of Antarctica’s climatic past. Palaeoclimatological records from ice cores, although more detailed and easier to interpret, cover only the past 800,000 years or so. Now, geologists say, Antarctica’s history is laid out much more clearly.
“We have every page of the book,” says David Harwood, an ANDRILL scientist at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.
…During a warm period some 3.5 million years ago, …the ice sheet may have disappeared completely for around 200,000 years, raising sea levels globally by up to 10 metres.
For the first time, the ANDRILL cores show exactly how ice retreated rapidly and quickly in Antarctica. “That happened at a time when it was three to four degrees warmer than today, owing to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, which we will very likely reach again soon,” says Tim Naish, a project leader at the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences in Lower Hutt, New Zealand….
2008 Apr 30. CU-Boulder researchers forecast 3-in-5 chance of record low Arctic sea ice in 2008. EurekAlert (30.4.08) New University of Colorado at Boulder calculations in dicate the record low minimum extent of sea ice across the Arctic last September has a three-in-five chance of being shattered again in 2008 because of continued warming temperatures and a preponderance of younger, thinner ice.
The forecast by researchers at CU-Boulder’s Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research is based on satellite data and temperature records and indicates there is a 59 percent chance the annual minimum sea ice record will be broken this fall for the third time in five years. Arctic sea ice declined by roughly 10 percent in the past decade, culminating in a record 2007 minimum ice cover of 1.59 million square miles. That broke the 2005 record by 460,000 miles — an area the size of Texas and California combined.
“The current Arctic ice cover is thinner and younger than at any previous time in our recorded history, and this sets the stage for rapid melt and a new record low,” said Research Associate Sheldon Drobot, who leads CCAR’s Arctic Regional Ice Forecasting System group in CU-Boulder’s aerospace engineering sciences department. Overall, 63 percent of the Arctic ice cover is younger than average, and only 2 percent is older than average, according to Drobot.
2008 April 3, Are Carbon Cuts Just a Fantasy? By JOHN TIERNEY Excerpt: What if there’s no way to cut greenhouse emissions enough to make a real difference?
… It becomes a bit more clear that we may have set ourselves down the wrong path when we framed the challenge of mitigating greenhouse gases in terms of “reducing emissions”… We must acknowledge up front that the world needs more energy. The International Energy Agency projects that global energy demand will increase by 60% by 2030 and recent trends in China and elsewhere suggest that this may even be an underestimate. Consider also that published estimates suggest that 2 billion people or more currently lack access to electricity. Their energy needs have only one direction to go.
…There can be only two answers to this question. One is to develop new technologies of energy supply that are carbon neutral or, to take carbon dioxide out of the air in some manner.
…The conventional view is that putting a price on carbon will create incentives that motivate such innovation. “Incentives” mean (in the short term at least) creating economic discomfort and/or pain leading people to search for new technologies that cost less than those that emit carbon. But here is where the conventional approach founders on the realities of politics. Policy makers cannot be expected to impose upon their constituents discomfort and/or pain and expect to stay in office. So we see a lot of hand waving, talk of long term targets and timetables, emphasis on personal actions, while emissions continue to increase.
…Current efforts to price carbon may contribute in some small way to innovation, but they just as likely may lead to games/shenanigans or just expensive energy.
Instead we should skip all of the middle steps in trying to create incentives that stimulate innovation and focus on policies, and investments, that stimulate such innovation directly.
2008 Mar 11. Sea Levels Are Falling Over the Long Term Because of Lower Basins. By Henry Fountain, NY Times. Excerpt: The idea of sea level changes in this era of environmental concern and all the discussion is about the effect of melting glaciers and shrinking ice caps over the coming decades or centuries. But sea levels have fluctuated greatly over much longer time scales, and glaciers and ice caps have had little to do with it. Instead, the changing size and depth of the ocean basins is responsible. A study looked at factors that affect the size and depth of the basins, including the spreading of new crust at midocean ridges, the subsidence of this crust as it ages and the changes in area as the continents drift. The study, published in Science, suggests that in the late Cretaceous period, 80 million years ago, the oceans were shallow, and thus the sea level was high — about 550 feet higher than it is now. Since then, though, as the ocean floors have aged, they have become deeper and the sea level has fallen. Although in the near future sea levels may rise, the researchers say that in the long term the downward trend will continue. Over the next 80 million years, the sea level will fall by as much as 390 feet.
2008 Mar 4. REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK – Cool View of Science at Meeting on Warming.By ANDREW C. REVKIN, NY Times. Excerpt: Several hundred people sat in a fifth-floor ballroom at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square on Monday eating pasta and trying hard to prove that they had unraveled the established science showing that humans are warming the world in potentially disruptive ways. …One challenge they faced was that even within their own ranks, the group – among them government and university scientists, antiregulatory campaigners and Congressional staff members – displayed a dizzying range of ideas on what was, or was not, influencing climate.
On Sunday night, the dinner speaker was Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist with a paid position at the antiregulatory Cato Institute who says humans are warming the climate – he projects a three-degree Fahrenheit warming by 2100 – but disputes the value of cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases.
At lunch on Monday, the message from S. Fred Singer, a physicist who runs a group challenging climate orthodoxy, was that climate change was mainly driven by vagaries in the sun.
…The two-day gathering, which concludes Tuesday, was organized by the Heartland Institute, a Chicago group whose antiregulatory philosophy has long been embraced by, and financially supported by, various industries and conservative donors.
…A centerpiece of the meeting was a short report by 24 authors, led by Dr. Singer, provocatively described as the “Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change.” Its main conclusion was this: “Our findings, if sustained, point to natural causes and a moderate warming trend with beneficial effects for humanity and wildlife.” …Kert Davies, a campaigner from Greenpeace, …”This is the largest convergence of the lost tribe of skeptics ever seen on the face of the earth”….
2008 February 20. Meltdown in your wineglass? A conference in Barcelona looks at the effects of global climate change on the world of wine. By Corie Brown, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer. Excerpt: BARCELONA, SPAIN — THE “post-classic” era of winemaking is dawning, according to experts at the second Climate Change & Wine conference in Barcelona, Spain, at the end of last week. …Scientists told winemakers and other industry professionals at the gathering to expect natural acidity to drop, colors to fade and alcohol levels to rise. Aromas could vanish. In short, wine may gradually lose the complexity wine lovers appreciate. And as rising levels of carbon dioxide encourage out-of-control vegetative growth, the green, herbaceous flavors consumers deplore may well increase.
…PRATS and Lurton predicted that, in Bordeaux, Merlot vineyards increasingly will be replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, Bordeaux varieties that do better in warmer weather. …Along Germany’s Rhine Valley, Loosen said he expects more Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah to be planted.
…Eventually, the global map of viable winemaking regions will shift toward the poles, northward in the Northern Hemisphere and southward in the Southern Hemisphere. Warm vineyards in today’s warmest areas, such as those in California’s Central Valley, may be abandoned. And new parts of the globe including England, Denmark, Belgium and the Patagonia regions of Chile and Argentina will emerge as high-quality producers.
… THE narrow coastal regions where cool ocean breezes provide relief from rising temperatures, including Russian River Valley, Tasmania and Puget Sound, will be premier wine areas — along with high-elevation deserts in places as different as China and Arizona. As for such seemingly self-defeating practices as the wine industry’s fuel-burning worldwide shipments of heavy glass bottles, for example, some in the industry are developing more environmentally sensitive alternatives, such as lightweight plastic containers. “We have to be able to hold our heads up on our packaging,” Smart said. Whoa! Screaming Eagle in a bag-in-a-box container? Not while international wine consultant Michel Rolland counts that Napa Valley winery among his clients. The naysayer at the conference, Rolland dismissed concerns about climate change. “Perhaps the warming will stop? We don’t know,” he said. “So far, climate change has been very good for us.”….
2008 January 23. ANTARCTIC ICE LOSS SPEEDS UP, NEARLY MATCHES GREENLAND LOSS. Excerpt: Ice loss in Antarctica increased by 75 percent in the last 10 years due to a speed-up in the flow of its glaciers and is now nearly as great as that observed in Greenland, according to a new, comprehensive study by NASA and university scientists. In a first-of-its-kind study, an international team led by Eric Rignot of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and the University of California, Irvine, estimated changes in Antarctica’s ice mass between 1996 and 2006 and mapped patterns of ice loss on a glacier-by-glacier basis. They detected a sharp jump in Antarctica’s ice loss, from enough ice to raise global sea level by 0.3 millimeters (.01 inches) a year in 1996, to 0.5 millimeters (.02 inches) a year in 2006. …The team found that the net loss of ice mass from Antarctica increased from 112 (plus or minus 91) gigatonnes a year in 1996 to 196 (plus or minus 92) gigatonnes a year in 2006. A gigatonne is one billion metric tons, or more than 2.2 trillion pounds. These new
results are about 20 percent higher over a comparable time frame than those of a NASA study of Antarctic mass balance last March …Rignot says the increased contribution of Antarctica to global sea level rise indicated by the study warrants closer monitoring… Results of the study are published in February’s issue of Nature Geoscience.
22 January 2008. New Antarctic Ice Core to Provide Clearest Climate Record Yet. Excerpt: After enduring months on the coldest, driest and windiest continent on Earth, researchers today closed out the inaugural season on an unprecedented, multi-year effort to retrieve the most detailed record of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere over the last 100,000 years. Working as part of the National Science Foundation’s West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WAIS Divide) Ice Core Project, a team of scientists, engineers, technicians and students from multiple U.S. institutions have recovered a 580-meter (1,900-foot) ice core–the first section of what is hoped to be a 3,465-meter (11,360-foot) column of ice detailing 100,000 years of Earth’s climate history, including a precise year-by-year record of the last 40,000 years. The dust, chemicals and air trapped in the two-mile-long ice core will provide critical information for scientists working to predict the extent to which human activity will alter Earth’s climate, according to the chief scientist for the project, Kendrick Taylor of the Desert Research Institute of the Nevada System of Higher Education….
13 January 2008. Antarctic ice loss. Excerpt: Increasing amounts of ice mass have been lost from West Antarctica and the Antarctic peninsula over the past ten years, according to research from the University of Bristol and published online this week in Nature Geoscience. Meanwhile the ice mass in East Antarctica has been roughly stable, with neither loss nor accumulation over the past decade….Over the 10 year time period of the survey, the ice sheet as a whole was certainly losing mass, and the mass loss increased by 75% during this time. Most of the mass loss is from the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica and the northern tip of the Peninsula where it is driven by ongoing, pronounced glacier acceleration. In East Antarctica, the mass balance is near zero, but the thinning of its potentially vulnerable marine sectors suggests this may change in the near future.
2007 Dec 2. Widening of the tropical belt in a changing climate. Dian J. Seidel, Qiang Fu, William J. Randel & Thomas J. Reichler. Abstract: Some of the earliest unequivocal signs of climate change have been the warming of the air and ocean, thawing of land and melting of ice in the Arctic. But recent studies are showing that the tropics are also changing. Several lines of evidence show that over the past few decades the tropical belt has expanded. This expansion has potentially important implications for subtropical societies and may lead to profound changes in the global climate system. Most importantly, poleward movement of large-scale atmospheric circulation systems, such as jet streams and storm tracks, could result in shifts in precipitation patterns affecting natural ecosystems, agriculture, and water resources. The implications of the expansion for stratospheric circulation and the distribution of ozone in the atmosphere are as yet poorly understood. The observed recent rate of expansion is greater than climate model projections of expansion over the twenty-first century, which suggests that there is still much to be learned about this aspect of global climate change.
18 November 2007. A world dying, but can we unite to save it? Excerpt: Humanity is rapidly turning the seas acid through the same pollution that causes global warming, …. The process – thought to be the most profound change in the chemistry of the oceans for 20 million years – is expected both to disrupt the entire web of life of the oceans and to make climate change worse.
The warning is just one of a whole series of alarming conclusions in a new report published by the official Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which last month shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former US vice president Al Gore.
…The new IPCC report, which is designed to give impetus to the negotiations, highlights the little-known acidification of the oceans, …. It concludes that emissions of carbon dioxide – the main cause of global warming – have already increased the acidity of ocean surface water by 30 per cent, and threaten to treble it by the end of the century.
…the seas have already absorbed about half of all the carbon dioxide emitted by humanity since the start of the industrial revolution,…. This has so far helped slow global warming – which would have accelerated even faster if all this pollution had stayed in the atmosphere, already causing catastrophe – but at an increasingly severe cost.
The gas dissolves in the oceans to make dilute carbonic acid, which is increasingly souring the naturally alkali seawater. This, in turn, mops up calcium carbonate, a substance normally plentiful in the seas, which corals use to build their reefs, and marine creatures use to make the protective shells they need to survive. These include many of the plankton that form the base of the food chain on which all fish and other marine animals depend.
… something similar happened when a comet hit Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago, blasting massive amounts of calcium sulphate into the atmosphere to form sulphuric acid, which in turn caused the extinction of corals and virtually all shell-building species.
“Two million years went by before corals reappeared in the fossil record,” … it took “a further 20 million years” before the diversity of species that use calcium returned to its former levels.
…Getting agreement on a new treaty to tackle climate change hangs on resolving an “after you, Claude” impasse between the United States and China, the two biggest emitters of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming….
17 October 2007. Record September Temperatures Extend Southeast Drought. (ENS) Excerpt: ASHEVILLE, North Carolina. Temperatures in September 2007 were the eighth warmest on record, hot enough to break 1,000 daily high records across the United States, say scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville.
The global surface temperature was the fifth warmest on record for September, and the extent of Arctic Sea ice reached its lowest amount in September since satellite measurements began in 1979, shattering the previous record low set in 2005.
The heat extended the worsening drought to almost half of the contiguous United States, with the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Tennessee Valley experiencing the driest conditions. Thirty-eight of the 48 contiguous states were warmer than average, and no state was cooler than average for the month.
…Reports from farmers indicate that the state’s hay shortage could be as high as 800,000 round bales, forcing farmers to seek other options for feeding cattle through the winter. Farmers whose corn and soybean crops were damaged by the drought have offered to help livestock producers by baling and selling their crops for animal feed.
5 October 2007. Is Battered Arctic Sea Ice Down For the Count? Science Vol. 318. no. 5847, pp. 33 – 34. Richard A. Kerr. Excerpt: A few years ago, researchers modeling the fate of Arctic sea ice under global warming saw a good chance that the ice could disappear, in summertime at least, by the end of the 21st century. Then talk swung to summer ice not making it past mid-century. Now, after watching Arctic sea ice shrink back last month to a startling record-low area, scientists are worried that 2050 may be overoptimistic. “This year has been such a quantum leap downward, it has surprised many scientists,” says polar researcher John Walsh of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. “This ice is more vulnerable than we thought.” And that vulnerability seems to be growing from year to year, inspiring concern that Arctic ice could be in an abrupt, irreversible decline. “Maybe we are reaching the tipping point,” says Walsh. Bad sign. Arctic sea ice (gauged here using NASA’s measurement techniques) has been declining, but 2007’s unfavorable weather drove the increasingly vulnerable ice to a new record low. CREDIT: NASA/GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER SCIENTIFIC VISUALIZATION STUDIO; (DATA) ROB GERSTON, GSFC… last month, “we completely blew 2005 out of the water,” says sea ice specialist Mark Serreze of the University of Colorado, Boulder. Ice area plummeted to 4.13 million square kilometers, down 43% from 1979. That’s a loss equivalent to more than two Alaskas. …. A plus. The record-breaking loss of sea ice this summer opened the Northwest Passage.
CREDIT: IMAGE COURTESY OF MODIS RAPID RESPONSE PROJECT AT NASA/GSFC
3 October 2007. An interactive graphic from NY Times: Sea Ice in Retreat. A look at this summer’s record-breaking loss of Arctic sea ice.
2 October 2007. Arctic Melt Unnerves the Experts
By ANDREW C. REVKIN. The Arctic ice cap shrank so much this summer that waves briefly lapped along two long-imagined Arctic shipping routes, the Northwest Passage over Canada and the Northern Sea Route over Russia.
Over all, the floating ice dwindled to an extent unparalleled in a century or more, by several estimates.
Now the six-month dark season has returned to the North Pole. In the deepening chill, new ice is already spreading over vast stretches of the Arctic Ocean. Astonished by the summer’s changes, scientists are studying the forces that exposed one million square miles of open water – six Californias – beyond the average since satellites started measurements in 1979.
…Scientists are also unnerved by the summer’s implications for the future, and their ability to predict it.
Complicating the picture, the striking Arctic change was as much a result of ice moving as melting, many say. A new study, led by Son Nghiem at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and appearing this week in Geophysical Research Letters, used satellites and buoys to show that winds since 2000 had pushed huge amounts of thick old ice out of the Arctic basin past Greenland. The thin floes that formed on the resulting open water melted quicker or could be shuffled together by winds and similarly expelled, the authors said.
The pace of change has far exceeded what had been estimated by almost all the simulations used to envision how the Arctic will respond to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases linked to global warming. But that disconnect can cut two ways. Are the models overly conservative? Or are they missing natural influences that can cause wide swings in ice and temperature, thereby dwarfing the slow background warming?
The world is paying more attention than ever.
Russia, Canada and Denmark, prompted in part by years of warming and the ice retreat this year, ratcheted up rhetoric and actions aimed at securing sea routes and seabed resources….
7 September 2007. Buzzing about Climate Change. By Rebecca Lindsey. Excerpt: …Biological oceanographer Wayne Esaias … has made a career studying patterns of plant growth in the world’s oceans and how they relate to climate and ecosystem change, first from ships, then from aircraft, and finally from satellites. But for the past year, he’s been preoccupied with his bee hives, which started as a family project around 1990 when his son was in the Boy Scouts. According to his honeybees, big changes are underway in Maryland forests. The most important event in the life of flowering plants and their pollinators-flowering itself-is happening much earlier in the year than it used to.
…From spring until fall, worker bees forage from dawn until twilight over a radius of up to about 5 kilometers from the hive, bringing back pollen and nectar from plants that are blooming. They turn the nectar into honey, which feeds the colony in the winter or when nectar and pollen are scarce. As the bees stockpile honey, the hive weight goes up….
“During the peak of the nectar flow, a good, strong colony can gain 10 to 20 pounds in one day,” he says. “In Maryland, that goes on for a few weeks in late spring, and then, suddenly, it’s over.” For the remainder of the year, the weight of the hive dwindles as bees sustain themselves on the honey and pollen they have stockpiled during their three-to-four-week feeding frenzy. …”Nearly every night in the spring and summer someone would go out weigh the hives,” he said. “And I guess just because I am a scientist, I started writing these things down. …One day, I just decided to plot it all up [on a graph], just out of curiosity. And what I saw was that although you do see a lot of variability from year to year due to climate events, there was a very noticeable long-term trend, with flowering and nectar flows getting earlier and earlier in the year.”…records showed an advance in flowering (earlier blooming) beginning as far back as 1970.
…Esaias thinks that urbanization is mostly responsible for the changes in flowering. …Urbanization creates a heat island, an area where surface temperatures are much higher than surrounding rural areas. Pavement, less soil moisture, air pollution, and heat generated by energy use conspire to raise the city temperatures as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) over surrounding areas. …As temperatures rise, spring comes earlier. Earlier leaf emergence and flowering have been observed in numerous cities across the world.
“I am farther out from the city, and it took 15 years for the urban heat island effect to get here,” he concludes. Between urbanization and global warming from greenhouse gases, temperatures will continue to rise in coming years; the acceleration in flowering times that Esaias’ honeybees have documented so far may not be the end of the changes….
4 September 2007. Loss of Arctic ice leaves experts stunned. David Adam, environment correspondent. Guardian Unlimited
Excerpt: The Arctic ice cap has collapsed at an unprecedented rate this summer and levels of sea ice in the region now stand at record lows, scientists have announced.
Experts say they are “stunned” by the loss of ice, with an area almost twice as big as the UK disappearing in the last week alone. So much ice has melted this summer that the Northwest passage across the top of Canada is fully navigable, and observers say the Northeast passage along Russia’s Arctic coast could open later this month.
If the increased rate of melting continues, the summertime Arctic could be totally free of ice by 2030.
Mark Serreze, an Arctic specialist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre at Colorado University in Denver, said: “It’s amazing. It’s simply fallen off a cliff and we’re still losing ice.” The Arctic has now lost about a third of its ice since satellite measurements began thirty years ago, and the rate of loss has accelerated sharply since 2002.
Dr Serreze said: “If you asked me a couple of years ago when the Arctic could lose all of its ice then I would have said 2100, or 2070 maybe. But now I think that 2030 is a reasonable estimate. It seems that the Arctic is going to be a very different place within our lifetimes, and certainly within our childrens’ lifetimes.”
…Changes in wind and ocean circulation patterns can help reduce sea ice extent, but Dr Serreze said the main culprit was man-made global warming.
“The rules are starting to change and what’s changing the rules is the input of greenhouse gases.”
6 August 2007 The CO2 problem in 6 easy steps.
(From RealClimate website). We often get requests to provide an easy-to-understand explanation for why increasing CO2 is a significant problem without relying on climate models and we are generally happy to oblige. The explanation has a number of separate steps which tend to sometimes get confused and so we will try to break it down carefully. [Titles of steps:]
Step 1: There is a natural greenhouse effect…..
Step 2: Trace gases contribute to the natural greenhouse effect…..
Step 3: The trace greenhouse gases have increased markedly due to human emissions….
Step 4: Radiative forcing is a useful diagnostic and can easily be calculated….
Step 5: Climate sensitivity is around 3¼C for a doubling of CO2 ….
Step 6: Radiative forcing x climate sensitivity is a significant number….
2007 July 17, Glaciers in Retreat. By SOMINI SENGUPTA, NY Times. Excerpt: ON CHORABARI GLACIER, India – This is how a glacier retreats. At nearly 13,000 feet above sea level, in the shadow of a sharp Himalayan peak, a wall of black ice oozes in the sunshine. A tumbling stone breaks the silence of the mountains, or water gurgles under the ground, a sign that the glacier is melting from inside. Where it empties out – scientists call it the snout – a noisy, frothy stream rushes down to meet the river Ganges.
D.P. Dobhal, a glaciologist who has spent the last three years climbing and poking the Chorabari glacier, stands at the edge of the snout and points ahead. Three years ago, the snout was roughly 90 feet farther away. On a map drawn in 1962, it was plotted 860 feet from here. Mr. Dobhal marked the spot with a Stonehenge-like pile of rocks.
Mr. Dobhal’s steep and solitary quest – to measure the changes in the glacier’s size and volume – points to a looming worldwide concern, with particularly serious repercussions for India and its neighbors. The thousands of glaciers studded across 1,500 miles of the Himalayas make up the savings account of South Asia’s water supply, feeding more than a dozen major rivers and sustaining a billion people downstream. Their apparent retreat threatens to bear heavily on everything from the region’s drinking water supply to agricultural production to disease and floods.
…According to Mr. Dobhal’s measurements, the Chorabari’s snout has retreated 29.5 feet every year for the last three years, …. A recent study by the Indian Space Research Organization, using satellite imaging to gauge the changes to 466 glaciers, has found more than a 20 percent reduction in size from 1962 to 2001, with bigger glaciers breaking into smaller pieces, each one retreating faster than its parent. A separate study found the Parbati glacier, one of the largest in the area, to be retreating by 170 feet a year during the 1990s. Another glacier that Mr. Dobhal has tracked, known as Dokriani, lost 20 percent of its size in three decades. Between 1991 and 1995, its snout inch ed back 55 feet each year….
2007 July 12. Conservation Key as Climate Change Curtails Western Water. SAN FRANCISCO, California (ENS) – The drought now parching Western states is a taste of things to come, finds a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council that assesses the effects of global warming on water supplies in the West. …”Global warming will make it harder for farms and cities to find water,” said Barry Nelson, study co-author and co-director of NRDC’s western water project. “The latest global warming science is clear – drought-like conditions are likely to increase. This means that conservation and water use efficiency will become our most important sources of new water supply,” Nelson said. Over the past eight years, the Colorado River, which supplies water to parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, has received just over half its average flow.
Southern California is experiencing its driest year on record. The state Department of Water Resources predicts that every river in the southern Sierra Nevada will receive less than half of normal runoff this year.
Global warming may cause winter precipitation to fall as rain instead of snow, reducing water supply from the snowpack.
…The report calls on regions to develop cooperative solutions that meet their water needs together with other benefits. For example, groundwater de-salters in California’s Chino basin produce water supplies, while cleaning up contaminated underground aquifers. Urban stormwater retention programs designed to reduce flooding and pollution can also supply water. The report highlights wastewater recycling as a promising solution because it will not be affected by global warming, but advises that traditional approaches – dams, diversions and groundwater pumping – are likely to perform poorly in the future.
…The full report, “In Hot Water: Water Management Strategies to Weather the Effects of Global Warming,” is online at: http://www.nrdc.org/globalWarming/hotwater/contents.asp
2007 July 11. Balmy Weather May Bench a Baseball Staple. By Monica Davey, The New York Times. Excerpt: RUSSELL, Pa. — Careers at stake with each swing, baseball players leave little to sport when it comes to their bats. They weigh them. They count their grains. They talk to them.
But in towns like this one, in the heart of the mountain forests that supply the nation’s finest baseball bats, the future of the ash tree is in doubt because of a killer beetle and a warming climate, and with it, the complicated relationship of the baseball player to his bat.
…As early as this summer, federal officials hope to set loose Asian wasps never seen in this country with the purpose of attacking the emerald ash borer, an Asian beetle accused of killing 25 million ash trees in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Maryland since it was spotted in the United States five years ago.
…Along with the ash borer beetle, a warming of the local climate could also affect the ash used for bats, some scientists say. As temperatures rise, the ash wood that now makes an ideally dense but flexible bat might turn softer because of a longer growing season. Eventually, some scientists predict, the ash tree could vanish from the region.
…“We’re watching all this very closely,” said Brian Boltz, the general manager of the Larimer & Norton company, whose Russell mill each day saws, grades and dries scores of billets destined to become Louisville Slugger bats. “Maybe it means more maple bats. Or it may be a matter of using a different species for our bats altogether.”…
2007 July 8. Elevated Carbon Dioxide In Atmosphere Weakens Defenses Of Soybeans To Herbivores. Science Daily, July 8, 2007. Excerpt: Scientists have found that elevated carbon dioxide levels may negatively impact the relationship between some plants and insects. Elevated CO2 is considered to be a serious catalyst of global change. Its effects can be felt throughout the ecosystem, including the insect-plant food chain link… Many plants have inherent enzyme-based defenses that are released during insect attack. This study found that when soybeans were exposed to elevated amounts of CO2 the plants became more susceptible to attack by Japanese beetles… Dr. Jorge Zavala, Sr. of the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois, and his colleagues conducted tests in which they evaluated this herbivorous attack-defense cycle. They studied soybeans grown in traditional field conditions but with additional exposure to ambient CO2.
2007 July 2. Alaskan Wildlife-Rich Coastal Land Eroding Because of Disappearing Ice. By Yereth Rosen, Reuters, Excerpt: A swath of marshy, wildlife-rich coastal land in Arctic Alaska being eyed for oil drilling is eroding rapidly probably because of the disappearance of sea ice that used to protect it from the ocean waves, according to a study released on Monday. Using satellite data and maps compiled from aerial photographs, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, or USGS, found that land lost to erosion north of Teshekpuk Lake, Arctic Alaska’s largest lake, was twice as fast in 1985 to 2005 period than in the previous 30 years… In addition, salty sea water has contaminated formerly freshwater lakes, migratory birds, caribou and other wildlife populations has lost habitat and the sparse human infrastructure along the coastline has been damaged, the study said… ‘The area (Teshekpuk Lake) is one of the most important areas in the entire Arctic, and I don’t just mean in Arctic Alaska,’ said Stan Senner, executive director of Audubon Alaska. ‘It is simply the most important goose-molting area in the Arctic.’ It is also believed to hold vast amounts of untapped oil. In recent years, the Bush administration lifted a decades-long ban on oil development and has tried to sell oil and gas exploration rights there. Environmentalists and the region’s Inupiat Eskimos have cited global warming impacts as a reason to oppose drilling in land near Teshekpuk Lake.
2007 July 1. Penguins Struggle in a Warning World. By William Mullen, The Chicago Tribune. Excerpt: On a cloudy spring day, the first gray Adelie penguin chicks are hatching out in round pebble nests strewn across a bleak, rocky coastline, poking their heads from beneath the snowy-white shirt front of an adult for their first blinking look at the world… These days, however, Adelies are being stalked by a threat they cannot see and cannot fight off: the weather. The birds, which have adapted over millions of years to the most extreme climate on Earth, are beginning to die off by the tens of thousands as a result of global warming. The Adelie penguin is regarded as an ‘indicator’ species, an animal so delicately attuned to its environment that its survival is threatened as soon as something goes wrong. So as temperatures rise, Adelies are among the first to feel the effects, early victims of the devastating worldwide changes that scientists expect if the warming persists and intensifies… In this vulnerable area, entire colonies of Adelie penguins have died because, researchers believe, the ice no longer extends far enough into the sea to allow the birds to reach their winter feeding grounds. Biologist William Fraser monitors a 50-square-mile area where 56,000 Adelies have perished… For now, such deaths represent a small fraction of the world’s estimated 8 million to 10 million Adelie penguins, which live only on Antarctica… But the die-offs scientists are seeing in the warmest areas of Antarctica are expected to spread as temperatures continue to rise… The reason is simple, he said: ‘Penguins don’t see well in the dark.’ Below the Antarctic Circle, the hours of sunlight shrink during winter until it is dark 24 hours a day. That is one key reason Adelie penguins migrate: They must travel far enough north so there is enough sunlight for a successful daily hunt. Otherwise, they will starve. A warmer Antarctic climate may shrink the winter ice so much that it strands the birds too far south, in places where the sun doesn’t rise, and the lights may go out permanently for the Adelies.
28 June 2007. Study Sees Climate Change Impact on Alaska. By William Yardley. New York Times.
Excerpt: Many of Alaska’s roads, runways, railroads and water and sewer systems will wear out more quickly and cost more to repair or replace because of climate change, according to a study released yesterday. Higher temperatures, melting permafrost, a reduction in polar ice and increased flooding are expected to raise the repair and replacement cost of thousands of infrastructure projects as much as $6.1 billion for a total of nearly $40 billion — about a 20 percent increase — from now to 2030, according to the study… The cost estimates are based on the needs of nearly 16,000 pieces of public infrastructure, including airports and small segments of roads. … Temperatures have risen by an average of two to five degrees in different parts of the state in recent decades, and the changes have already been linked to problems like coastal erosion in remote Alaskan villages and wildfires. …“There are a million other issues related to climate change,” said Peter Larsen, a natural resource economist at the Institute for Social and Economic Research and the lead researcher for the report. “This is just one component, but it’s a critical piece because this is where all the goods and services come through the state’s economy, is through the infrastructure.” …
27 May 2007. Victim of Climate Change, a Town Seeks a Lifeline. By WILLIAM YARDLEY. NY Times. Excerpt: NEWTOK, Alaska …”I don’t want to live in permafrost no more,” said Frank Tommy, 47, …”It’s too muddy. Everything is crooked around here.” The earth beneath much of Alaska … permanently frozen subsoil, known as permafrost, upon which Newtok and so many other Native Alaskan villages rest, is melting, yielding to warming air temperatures and a warming ocean. …The village is below sea level, and sinking. Boardwalks squish into the spring muck. …Studies say Newtok could be washed away within a decade. Along with the villages of Shishmaref and Kivalina farther to the north, it has been the hardest hit of about 180 Alaska villages that suffer some degree of erosion….
15 May 2007. Panel: Climate Change Will Hurt Africa. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS – Seth Borenstein in Washington and Michael Casey in Bangkok, Thailand.. Excerpt: JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) — Global warming isn’t just a matter of melting icebergs and polar bears chasing after them. It’s also Lake Chad drying up, the glaciers of Mt. Kilimanjaro disappearing, increasing extreme weather, conflict and hungry people throughout Africa. According to a landmark effort to assess the risks of global warming, Africa — by far the lowest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world — is projected to be among the regions hardest hit by environmental change. ”We never used to have malaria in the highlands where I’m from, now we do,” said Kenyan lawmaker Mwancha Okioma, at a briefing on climate change at the Pan African Parliament Monday.
…”Planes used to take people through Kilimanjaro to see the snows, now it’s only at the very top. …On the Net: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: www.ipcc.ch
15 May 2007. Scientists Back Off Theory of a Colder Europe in a Warming World. Associated Press…By WALTER GIBBS. Excerpt: OSLO – Mainstream climatologists who have feared that global warming could have the paradoxical effect of cooling northwestern Europe or even plunging it into a small ice age have stopped worrying about that particular disaster, although it retains a vivid hold on the public imagination.
The idea, which held climate theorists in its icy grip for years, was that the North Atlantic Current, an extension of the Gulf Stream that cuts northeast across the Atlantic Ocean to bathe the high latitudes of Europe with warmish equatorial water, could shut down in a greenhouse world….
All that has now been removed from the forecast. Not only is northern Europe warming, but every major climate model produced by scientists worldwide in recent years has also shown that the warming will almost certainly continue.
“The concern had previously been that we were close to a threshold where the Atlantic circulation system would stop,” said Susan Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “We now believe we are much farther from that threshold, thanks to improved modeling and ocean measurements. The Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Current are more stable than previously thought.”….
11 April 2007. Sea’s Rise in India Buries Islands and a Way of Life. By SOMINI SENGUPTA. New York Times. Excerpt: Shyamal Mandal lives at the edge of ruin. In front of his small mud house lies the wreckage of what was once his village on this fragile delta island near the Bay of Bengal. Half of it has sunk into the river. …The sinking of Ghoramara can be attributed to a confluence of disasters, natural and human, not least the rising sea. The rivers that pour down from the Himalayas and empty into the bay have swelled and shifted in recent decades, placing this and the rest of the delicate islands known as the Sundarbans in the mouth of daily danger. Certainly nature would have forced these islands to shift size and shape, drowning some, giving rise to others. But there is little doubt, scientists say, that human-induced climate change has made them particularly vulnerable. A recent study by Sugata Hazra, an oceanographer at Jadavpur University in nearby Calcutta, found that in the last 30 years, nearly 31 square miles of the Sundarbans have vanished entirely. More than 600 families have been displaced, according to local government authorities. Fields and ponds have been submerged. Ghoramara alone has shrunk to less than two square miles, about half of its size in 1969, Mr. Hazra’s study concluded. Two other islands have vanished entirely. ….
1 April 2007. 60 Minutes TV Program: The Age of Warming. Includes the following movie segments (on Yahoo site):
-DISAPPEARING ACT — How the loss of glaciers will impact mankind.
-PENGUIN PROBLEM — What’s behind a dramatic drop in a penguin population?
-THE CORE OF IT ALL — For Antarctic scientist Paul Mayewski, the answers are on ice.
-COASTAL COLLAPSE? — A dire prediction for mankind
-An Era Of Consequence
-A Skeptic No More
-Why Antarctica Matters
-Going. . . Going. . . Gone?
You have to suffer through the commercials, but the 60 Minutes piece is excellent
April 2007 The Global Warming Survival Guide. Time Magazine website. Includes 51 Things We Can Do [to slow global warming]
29 March 2007. On the Front Lines Of Climate Change. By MARK HERTSGAARD, Time Magazine
29 March 2007. What Now For Our Feverish Planet? By JEFFREY KLUGER, Time Magazine.
27 March 2007. Cities at Risk of Rising Sea Levels. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Excerpt: LONDON (AP) — More than two-thirds of the world’s large cities are in areas vulnerable to global warming and rising sea levels, and millions of people are at risk of being swamped by flooding and intense storms, according to a new study released Wednesday. …threatened coastal areas worldwide — defined as those lying at less than 33 feet above sea level …More than 180 countries have populations in low-elevation coastal zones, and about 70 percent of those have urban areas of more than 5 million people that are under threat. Among them: Tokyo; New York; Mumbai, India; Shanghai, China; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Dhaka, Bangladesh. …”Migration away from the zone at risk will be necessary but costly and hard to implement, so coastal settlements will also need to be modified to protect residents,” said Gordon McGranahan of the International Institute for Environment and Development in London, a co-author of the study. …the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…warned of sea-level rises of 7-23 inches by the end of the century due to global warming, making coastal populations vulnerable to flooding and more intense hurricanes and typhoons. . ..The five nations with the largest total population living in endangered coastal areas are all in Asia: China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia.
23 March 2007. GRAVITY MEASUREMENTS HELP MELT ICE MYSTERIES. Earth Observatory. Excerpt: Greenland is cold and hot. It’s a deep freezer storing 10 percent of Earth’s ice and a subject of fevered debate. If something should melt all that ice, global sea level could rise as much as 7 meters (23 feet). Greenland and Antarctica – Earth’s two biggest icehouses – are important indicators of climate change and a high priority for research, as highlighted by the newly inaugurated International Polar Year. Just a few years ago, the world’s climate scientists predicted that Greenland wouldn’t have much impact at all on sea level in the coming decades. But recent measurements show that Greenland’s ice cap is melting much faster than expected. These new data come from the NASA/German Aerospace Center’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace). …Grace measurements have revealed that in just four years, from 2002 to 2006, Greenland lost between 150 and 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year. ….”Before Grace, the change of Greenland’s ice sheet was inferred by a combination of more regional radar and altimeter studies pieced together over many years, but Grace can measure changes in the weight of the ice directly and cover the entire ice sheet of Greenland every month,” says Michael Watkins, Grace project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif…..”We have to pay attention,” Velicogna adds. “These ice sheets are changing much faster than we were expecting. Observations are the most powerful tool we have to know what is going on, especially when the changes – and what’s causing them – are not obvious.”
For more information and images, visit: NASA Looking at Earth
25 February 2007. Global warming: enough to make you sick Rising temperatures are redistributing bacteria, insects and plants, exposing people to diseases they’d never encountered before. By Jia-Rui Chong, Times Staff Writer. EXCERPT: CORDOVA, ALASKA – Oysterman Jim Aguiar had never had to deal with the bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus in his 25 years working the frigid waters of Prince William Sound…. By summer 2004, the temperature had risen just enough to poke above the crucial 59-degree mark. Cruise ship passengers who had eaten local oysters were soon coming down with diarrhea, cramping and vomiting – the first cases of Vibrio food poisoning in Alaska that anyone could remember. As scientists later determined, the culprit was not just the bacterium, but the warming that allowed it to proliferate.”This was probably the best example to date of how global climate change is changing the importation of infectious diseases,” said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, acting chief of epidemiology at the Alaska Division of Public Health, who published a study on the outbreak…. Incremental temperature changes have begun to redraw the distribution of bacteria, insects and plants, exposing new populations to diseases that they have never seen before……The temperature change has been small, about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 150 years, but it has been enough to alter disease patterns across the globe…….According to a landmark United Nations report released this month, global warming has reached a point where even if greenhouse gas emissions could be held stable, the trend would continue for centuries. The report painted a grim picture of the future – rising sea levels, more intense storms, widespread drought. Predicting the future of disease, however, has proven difficult because of myriad factors – many of which have little to do with global warming. Diseases move with people, they follow trade routes, they thrive in places with poor sanitation, they develop resistance to medicines, they can blossom during war or economic breakdowns…..
24 February 2007. VIDEO | Canaries in the Mine: Inuit Warn World of Human Cost of Climate Change – A Report by Sari Gelzer and Kelpie Wilson. “Global warming is a human rights issue,” says Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Inuit activist and Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. In her lifetime, Watt-Cloutier has witnessed the drastic effects of climate change that threaten her community’s livelihood and cultural identity. Watt-Cloutier testified in a hearing on March 1, 2007 to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights which was set up to investigate the relationship between human rights and climate change in North and South America. The hearing was a result of a petition that she and 62 other Inuit in Alaska and Canada filed in 2005 in an attempt to hold the United States accountable for its failure to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.
17 February 2007. THE INSIDES OF CLOUDS MAY BE THE KEY TO CLIMATE CHANGE — As scientists develop ever more sophisticated climate models to project an expected path of temperature change, it is becoming increasingly important to include the effects of aerosols on clouds.
16 February 2007. Warmest January ever recorded worldwide in 2007: US scientists. Excerpt: NEW YORK (AFP) – World temperatures in January were the highest ever recorded for that month of the year, US government scientists said. “The combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the highest for any January on record,” according to scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climate Data Center in Asheville, N.C. The combined global land and ocean surface temperature was 1.53 degrees Fahrenheit (0.85 Celsius) warmer than the 20th-century average of 53.6 degrees F (12 C) for January based on preliminary data, NOAA said. …Land surface temperature was a record 3.40 F (1.89 C) warmer than average, while global ocean surface temperature was the fourth warmest in 128 years, about 0.1 F (0.05 C) cooler than the record established during the very strong El Nino climate phenomenon in 1998.
A moderate El Nino started in September and continued into January before weakening, NOAA said. El Nino is an occasional seasonal warming of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean that upsets normal weather patterns from the western seaboard of Latin America to East Africa, and potentially has a global impact on climate. “The presence of El Nino along with the continuing global warming trend contributed to the record warm January,” NOAA said. “The unusually warm conditions contributed to the second lowest January snow cover extent on record for the Eurasian continent,” it said. “During the past century, global surface temperatures have increased at a rate near 0.11 F (0.06 C) per decade, but the rate of increase has been three times larger since 1976, or 0.32 F (0.18 C) per decade, with some of the largest temperature increases occurring in the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere,” it said.
12 February 2007. NASA STUDY FINDS WARMER FUTURE COULD BRING DROUGHTS. Excerpt: NASA scientists may have discovered how a warmer climate in the future could increase droughts in certain parts of the world, including the southwest United States. The researchers compared historical records of the climate impact of changes in the sun’s output with model projections of how a warmer climate driven by greenhouse gases would change rainfall patterns. They found that a warmer future climate likely will produce droughts in the same areas as those observed in ancient times, but potentially with greater severity. …said Drew Shindell, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York “There is some evidence that rainfall patterns already may be changing. Much of the Mediterranean area, North Africa and the Middle East rapidly are becoming drier. If the trend continues as expected, the consequences may be severe in only a couple of decades. These changes could pose significant water resource challenges to large segments of the population.” …Increases in solar output break up oxygen molecules, raising ozone concentrations in the upper atmosphere. This adds to upper atmospheric heating that leads to shifts in cir culations down to the surface. In turn, surface temperatures warm, and the Earth’s basic rainfall patterns are enhanced. For instance, in wet regions such as the tropics, precipitation usually increases, while dry areas become more prone to drought since rainfall decreases and warmer temperatures help remove the small amount of moisture in the soil. …According to the researchers, the same processes identified by this new research very likely also affected past civilizations, such as the Pueblo people of New Mexico and Arizona who abandoned cities in the 1300s.
6 February 2007. On the Climate Change Beat, Doubt Gives Way to Certainty. By WILLIAM K. STEVENS. NY Times. Excerpt: …it was said in the 1990s that while the available evidence of a serious human impact on the earth’s climate might be preponderant enough to meet the legal test for liability in a civil suit, it fell short of the more stringent “beyond a reasonable doubt” test of guilt in a criminal case. …I’ve been avidly watching from the sideline as the strengthening evidence of climate change has accumulated, not least the discovery that the Greenland ice cap is melting faster than had been thought. The implications of that are enormous, though the speed with which the melting may catastrophically raise sea levels is uncertain – as are many aspects of what a still hazily discerned climatic future may hold. Last week, in its first major report since 2001, the world’s most authoritative group of climate scientists issued its strongest statement yet on the relationship between global warming and human activity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the likelihood was 90 percent to 99 percent that emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, spewed from tailpipes and smokestacks, were the dominant cause of the observed warming of the last 50 years. In the panel’s parlance, this level of certainty is labeled “very likely.” …Some experts believe that no matter what humans do to try to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, a doubling is all but inevitable by 2100….
February 2007. The Sands of Time. By Kathleen Wong, ScienceMatters@Berkeley. Excerpt: Jere Lipps has an extraordinarily fine-grained view of history. As a professor of paleontology at UC Berkeley, Lipps examines records of the past written in layers of sediments and fossils. His work has shed light on ancient earthquakes and extinction patterns, the evolution of early life and even astrobiology, and taken him to more than 160 countries over the last 40 years. The common thread to Lipps’s far-ranging research? Foraminifera: tiny marine creatures easily mistaken for sand. Single-celled and quite separate from animals, foraminifera live in virtually every marine habitat explored by man. Even among scientists, foraminifera are chiefly known by their shells. These come in a galaxy of forms-stars and coils, turbans and disks, bulbous cones and simple tubes-segmented into chambers and pierced by patterns of pores….foraminifera may have evolved into more than 80,000 species during their 545 million years on Earth. …Recently, Lipps and his international team used foraminifera to analyze earthquake and tsunami frequency around the Pacific Rim. …”We estimate that along our coast, from Alaska to Baja, we get a really big earthquake and tsunami every 200 to 300 years,” Lipps says….
16 January 2007. The Warming of Greenland. By JOHN COLLINS RUDOLF, The New York Times
LIVERPOOL LAND, Greenland – Excerpt: Flying over snow-capped peaks and into a thick fog, the helicopter set down on a barren strip of rocks…..When it had disappeared over the horizon, no sound remained but the howling of the Arctic wind. “It feels a little like the days of the old explorers, doesn’t it?” Dennis Schmitt said. Mr. Schmitt, a 60-year-old explorer from Berkeley, Calif., had just landed on a newly revealed island 400 miles north of the Arctic Circle in eastern Greenland. ….Maps of the region show a mountainous peninsula covered with glaciers. …Now, where the maps showed only ice, a band of fast-flowing seawater ran between a newly exposed shoreline and the aquamarine-blue walls of a retreating ice shelf. The water was littered with dozens of icebergs, some as large as half an acre; every hour or so, several more tons of ice fractured off the shelf with a thunderous crack and an earth-shaking rumble. All over Greenland and the Arctic, rising temperatures are not simply melting ice; they are changing the very geography of coastlines. Nunataks – “lonely mountains” in Inuit – that were encased in the margins of Greenland’s ice sheet are being freed of their age-old bonds,… Arctic explorer Will Steger said,”This phenomenon – of an island all of a sudden appearing out of nowhere and the ice melting around it – is a real common phenomenon now.”…..The sudden appearance of the islands is a symptom of an ice sheet going into retreat, scientists say.…Tidewater glaciers, which discharge ice into the oceans as they break up in the process called calving, have doubled and tripled in speed all over Greenland. Ice shelves are breaking up, and summertime “glacial earthquakes” have been detected within the ice sheet…….Global warming has profoundly altered the nature of polar exploration, said Mr. Schmitt….
30 December 2006. Arctic Ice Shelf Broke Off Canadian Island. NY Times. By ANDREW C. REVKIN. Excerpt: A 25-square-mile shelf of floating ice that jutted into the Arctic Ocean for 3,000 years from Canada’s northernmost shore broke away abruptly in the summer of 2005, apparently freed by sharply warming temperatures and jostling wind and waves, scientists said yesterday. …The Arctic sea ice has experienced sharp summertime retreats for several decades, adding to evidence of significant warming near the North Pole. (Neither melting ice shelves nor sea ice contribute to rising sea levels because they sit in the sea already, like ice cubes in a drink.) Ninety percent of the 3,900 square miles of ice shelves that existed in 1906 when the Arctic explorer Robert Peary first surveyed the region are gone, said Luke Copland, the director of the University of Ottawa’s Laboratory for Cryospheric Research. …He said that it waspremature to attribute the breakaway to human-caused climate change, although he said that it was a clear sign the warming in the region was producing significant and abrupt changes, and more were likely in coming years. …The age of the Ayles ice shelf was estimated by using chemical means to date driftwood found behind it, said Derek Mueller, one of those who helped write the paper, from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.
27 December 2006. Agency Proposes to List Polar Bears as Threatened. By FELICITY BARRINGER and ANDREW C. REVKIN, NY Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 – The Interior Department proposed Wednesday to designate polar bears as a threatened species, saying that the accelerating loss of the Arctic ice that is the bears’ hunting platform has led biologists to believe that bear populations will decline, perhaps sharply, in the coming decades. … in a conference call with reporters, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said that although his decision to seek protection for polar bears acknowledged the melting of the Arctic ice, his department was not taking a position on why the ice was melting or what to do about it. …[he said] it was not his department’s job to assess causes or prescribe solutions. …The scientific analysis in the proposal itself, however, did assess the cause of melting ice. …buildup of heat-trapping gases was probably contributing to the loss of sea ice to date or that the continued buildup of these gases, left unchecked, could create ice-free Arctic summers …possibly in as little as three decades. The Interior Department …must also work out a recovery plan to control and reduce harmful impacts to the species, usually by controlling the activities that cause harm. It is unclear whether such a recovery plan could avoid addressing the link between manmade emissions of heat-trapping gases and the increase in Arctic temperatures. Kert Davies, the research director for Greenpeace U.S.A., one of three environmental groups that sued the Interior Department in 2005 to force it to add polar bears to the list of threatened species, said the administration was “clearly scrambling for credibility of any kind in this issue.” Kassie Siegel, the lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, …that took the lead in the lawsuit calling on the department to list the polar bear, added, “I don’t see how even this administration can write this proposal without acknowledging that the primary threat to polar bears is global warming and without acknowledging the science of global warming.” As a result of the lawsuit, the Interior Department had a court-ordered deadline of Wednesday to make a decision. The worldwide population of polar bears currently stands at 20,000 to 25,000, broken into 19 groups in Russia, Denmark, Norway, Canada and the United States. …The most-studied bear population, in the Western Hudson Bay in Canada, has dropped 22 percent, to 935 from 1,194 from 1987 to 2004….
19 December 2006. Global Warming Skeptics: A Primer Guess who’s funding the global warming doubt shops? For totally different view, see web page “GLOBAL WARMING: MYTH VS. REALITY” http://www.look-to-the-skies.com/new_page_3.htm Caution: please read this with especially mindful critical reading skills. See also
http://www.heatisonline.org/main.cfm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Singer and
16 December 2006. Global Warming Poses Threat to Ski Resorts in the Alps. By MARK LANDLER, The New York Times. KITZBYHEL, Austria. Excerpt: At the bottom of the Hahnenkamm, the famously treacherous downhill course in this Austrian ski resort, the slope peters out into a grassy field…Snow cannons are showering clouds of white crystals over the slopes, but by midmorning each day, the machines have to be turned off because the mercury has risen too far for the fake snow to stick…. The record warmth – in some places autumn temperatures were three degrees Celsius above average – has brought home the profound threat of climate change to Europe’s ski industry…. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sponsored the second study, stopped short of predicting ruin for Europe’s ski industry. But Bruno Abegg, a researcher at the University of Zurich who was involved in it, said low-lying resorts faced an insuperable problem… He said, “I wouldn’t invest in KitzbŸhel.” Because KitzbŸhel sits in a low Tyrolean valley, at an altitude of only 2,624 feet, it is viewed as particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming. For KitzbŸhel, a glamorous dowager among Alpine resorts, the only comfort in the warm spell is that it has afflicted rivals at all altitudes. Val d’Isare, in France, and St. Moritz, in Switzerland – which are twice as high – were forced to cancel recent World Cup races for lack of snow…. A few guests have canceled bookings for Christmas week, according to the local tourism office. But most are holding on to see if the weather changes; snow is forecast for Sunday. If it does not snow by New Year’s Day, however, people here say the trickle of cancellations could turn into a flood. As for the broader threat of global warming, townspeople react with a mixture of fatalism and mild skepticism to studies like the one coordinated by Austria’s Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics, which says the Alps have not been this warm since the eighth century….. Climatologists, however, say the warming trend will become dramatic by 2020. The new studies are alarming, suggesting that the Alps are warming twice as fast as the average in the rest of the world. In 1980, 75 percent of Alpine glaciers were advancing; now, 90 percent are retreating. Reinhard Bšhm, a meteorologist who worked on the study of Alpine temperatures, said one explanation for the disparity was the region’s location in the middle of the European continent, far from any oceans, which react more moderately to global warming trends……
15 December 2006. OVERCONFIDENCE LEADS TO BIAS IN CLIMATE CHANGE ESTIMATIONS. NASA Earth Observatory News. – Overconfidence in projections of climate change may lead to inappropriate actions on the parts of governments, industries and individuals, according to an international team of climate researchers. “Climate researchers often use a scenario approach,” says Dr. Klaus Keller, assistant professor of geosciences, Penn State. “Nevertheless, scenarios are typically silent on the question of probabilities.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is in its third round of climate assessment, uses models that scenarios of human climate forcing drive. These forcing scenarios are, the researchers say, overconfident.
12 December, 2006. NASA ICE IMAGES AID STUDY OF PACIFIC WALRUS ARCTIC HABITATS. NASA Earth Observatory News. – NASA recently collaborated with the Fish and Wildlife Service to determine the usefulness of satellite imagery for studying the effect of climate change on the Pacific walrus ice habitat in Alaska.
12 December 2006. By 2040, Greenhouse Gases Could Lead to an Open Arctic Sea in Summe rs. By ANDREW C. REVKIN, NY Times. Excerpt: New studies project that the Arctic Ocean could be mostly open water in summer by 2040 – several decades earlier than previously expected – partly as a result of global warming caused by emissions of greenhouse gases….The projections come from computer simulations of climate and ice and from direct measurements showing that the amount of ice coverage has been declining for 30 years. The latest modeling study, being published on Tuesday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, was led by Marika Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo….In the simulations, the shift seems to occur when a pulse of warm Atlantic Ocean water combines with the thinning and retreat of ice under the influence of the global warming trend. …Separately, scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder found that the normal expansion of sea ice as the Arctic chilled in fall had been extraordinarily sluggish this year, …. The November average ice coverage was by far the lowest since satellite measurements began in 1979, said Walt Meier, a scientist at the ice center. “It’s becoming increasingly unlikely that things will be able to turn around,” he said. “It would take several very cold winters and cool summers, which seems unlikely under global warming conditions.” Several experts not involved with the studies said they were significant for human affairs, as well as biology. Polar bears will struggle, these scientists said, and so will Arctic people who still go out on sea ice to hunt seals. By contrast, countries and businesses pursuing new shipping lanes, energy supplies and fishing grounds could profit….
6 December, 2006. NASA RESEARCH REVEALS CLIMATE WARMING REDUCES OCEAN FOOD SUPPLY. NASA Earth Observatory News. – In a NASA study, scientists have concluded that when Earth’s climate warms, there is a reduction in the ocean’s primary food supply
2006 December [Winter 2007] Himalaya Melting By Broughton Coburn, OnEarth [NRDC] – Glacial lakes pose a new peril as ice turns to water….Glaciologists … are seeing glacial lakes forming and filling faster than they can identify and catalog them. Ultimately, they fear, many will simply grow too large and burst through their moraines of unstable ice and rubble — as happened in northern Bhutan in 1994. That year, a mile-long glacial lake named Luggye Tsho, near Bhutan’s border with Tibet, ruptured catastrophically. Over a period of several hours, the entire lake — more than a billion cubic feet of water — emptied out, sending a rampaging torrent down valley that swept away an artisans’ colony near the town of Punakha, killing 23 people. …The Himalaya contains more than 18,000 glaciers covering an area of 13,000 square miles. Directly to the north on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau …46,298 glaciers blanket nearly 60,000 square miles. …Global warming has forced into retreat virtually all of these glaciers, which are shrinking at a rate of 100 to 230 feet per year …Lama Dorje, …says, …”We heard a low, whirring rumble that gradually grew in volume, like an approaching helicopter. …coming toward us — a wall of gray and brown water with what looked like steam or dust swirling crazily around it and above it. The wave itself was filled with boulders, dirt, firewood, and whole trees. The trees would run into an obstacle, be forcefully upended, and be tossed downriver, over and over again, like a kid kicking a stick down a trail. “When the wall of water reached the bridge just downstream from here, it simply picked up the bridge and took it away. Then it carried away four of our livestock, then our neighbors’ livestock. When it reached the houses located below ours, it swept those away too. We could only stand there helplessly.” Over the next six hours, …By the time it surged across the Indian border, 100 miles downstream, four people had drowned….
24 November 2006. IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN AFRICA. From NASA Earth Observatory. A new study uncovers evidence for a drought that coincided
with a harrowing period of Maasai history.
14 November 2006. Climate Change Pushing Bird Species to Oblivion. Excerpt: NAIROBI, Kenya, Environment News Service (ENS) – Birds are suffering the escalating effects of climate change in every part of the planet, finds a new report released today by the global conservation group [World Wildlife Fund] WWF at the United Nations climate change conference in Nairobi. The report reveals a trend towards a major bird extinction due to global warming. The researchers found declines of up to 90 percent in some bird populations, as well as total and unprecedented reproductive failure in others. They estimate that bird extinction rates could be as high as 38 percent in Europe, and 72 percent in northeastern Australia, if global warming exceeds two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – currently it is 0.8¼C above those levels. “Robust scientific evidence shows that climate change is now affecting birds’ behavior,” said Dr. Karl Mallon, scientific director at Climate Risk Pty. Ltd of Sydney, Australia, authors of the report. …”We are seeing migratory birds failing to migrate, and climate change pushing increasing numbers of birds out of synchrony with key elements of their ecosystems,” Mallon said. The report, “Bird Species and Climate Change: The Global Status Report,” reviews more than 200 scientific articles on birds in every continent to build up a global picture of climate change impacts. “Birds have long been used as indicators of environmental change, and with this report we see they are the quintessential ‘canaries in the coal mine’ when it comes to climate change,” said Hans Verolme, director of WWF’s Global Climate Change Program. The report identifies groups of birds at high risk from climate change – migratory, mountain, island, and wetland birds, Arctic and Antarctic birds, and seabirds. …Download the full report, “Bird Species and Climate Change: The Global Status Report” [75 pages], or a summary at: http://www.panda.org/climate/birds
14 November 2006. Global Warming Increases Species Extinctions Worldwide, University of Texas at Austin Researcher Finds AUSTIN, Texas-Global warming has already caused extinctions in the most sensitive habitats and will continue to cause more species to go extinct over the next 50 to 100 years, confirms the most comprehensive study since 2003 on the effects of climate change on wild species worldwide by a University of Texas at Austin biologist. Dr. Camille Parmesan’s synthesis also shows that species are not evolving fast enough to prevent extinction. “This is absolutely the most comprehensive synthesis of the impact of climate change on species to date,” said Parmesan, associate professor of integrative biology. “Earlier synthesis were hampered from drawing broad conclusions by the relative lack of studies. Because there are now so many papers on this subject, we can start pulling together some patterns that we weren’t able to before.” Parmesan reviewed over 800 scientific studies on the effects of human-induced climate change on thousands of species….
13 November 2006. Climate Change Melting Fabled African Glaciers. By Tim Cocks. Planet Ark – World Environmental News. Excerpt: KAMPALA – Climate change is melting a legendary ice field in equatorial Africa and may soon thaw it out completely, threatening fresh water supplies to hundreds of thousands of people, a climate expert said on Thursday. The fabled, snow-capped Rwenzori mountains — dubbed the “Mountains of the Moon” in travel brochures — form part of the Uganda/Democratic Republic of the Congo border and are one of Uganda’s top tourist destinations. But warmer temperatures are melting the glaciers sitting on their peaks, with some scientists predicting the ice could be gone within two to three decades. “Definitely, the glaciers are decreasing,” James Magezi-Akiiki, a climate change specialist at Uganda’s environment ministry told Reuters. “They have already decreased by 60 percent since 1910. If temperatures keep going up as they h ave, there’s a high chance of them disappearing.” …”The same thing is happening to Kilimanjaro… It’s gone from white to brown,” Magezi-Akiiki said. A study in 2002 showed Kilimanjaro to have lost more than 80 percent of its ice cap in the past 100 years, reducing water supplies to people living around it. …Glaciers are often a crucial store of fresh water. “The streams originating from the Rwenzori glaciers would disappear if they melt,” said Magezi-Akiiki. “And during the dry season they are the only source of water.” …
13 November 2006. THE DARKENING SEA. By ELIZABETH KOLBERT, Issue of 2006-11-20. What carbon emissions are doing to the ocean. …In the nineteen-nineties, researchers … collected more than seventy thousand seawater samples … analysis of …which was completed in 2004, … nearly half of all the carbon dioxide that humans have emitted …has been absorbed by the sea. …carbonic acid …can change the water’s pH. Already, humans have pumped enough carbon into the oceans…to produce a .1 decline in surface pH. Since pH … is a logarithmic measure, a .1 drop represents a rise in acidity of about thirty per cent. The process is … “ocean acidification,” … term coined in 2003 by two climate scientists, Ken Caldeira and Michael Wickett, …at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. …Caldeira …to brief some members of Congress… was asked, ‘What is the appropriate stabilization target for atmospheric CO2?’ ” … “And I said, ‘Well, I think it’s inappropriate to think in terms of stabilization targets. I think we should think in terms of emissions targets.’ And they said, ‘O.K., what’s the appropriate emissions target?’ And I said, ‘Zero.’ “If you’re talking about mugging little old ladies, you don’t say, ‘What’s our target for the rate of mugging little old ladies?’ You say, ‘Mugging little old ladies is bad, and we’re going to try to eliminate it.’ …Coral reefs are under threat…. When water temperatures rise too high, corals lose…the algae that nourish them. (The process is called “bleaching,” because without their zooxanthellae corals appear white.) …The seas have a built-in buffering capacity: if the water’s pH starts to drop, shells and shell fragments that have been deposited on the ocean floor begin to dissolve, pushing the pH back up again. This buffering mechanism is highly effective, provided that acidification takes place on the same timescale as deep-ocean circulation. (One complete exchange of surface and bottom water takes thousands of years.) …Currently, CO2 is being released into the air at least three times and perhaps as much as thirty times as quickly …so fast that buffering by ocean sediments is not even a factor….
12 November 2006. African nomads to be first people wiped out by climate change. Peter Beaumont, Foreign Affairs editor. Observer/Guardian. Kenya’s herdsmen are facing extinction as global warming destroys their lands. They are dubbed the ‘climate canaries’ – the people destined to become the first victims of world climate change. …Hundreds of thousands of these seasonal herders have already been forced to forsake their traditional culture and settle in Kenya’s north eastern province following consecutive droughts that have decimated their livestock in recent years. á Incidence of drought has increased fourfold in the Mandera region in the past 25 years. á One-third of herders living there – around half a million people – have already been forced to abandon their pastoral way of life because of adverse climatic conditions. á During the last drought, so many cattle, camels and goats were lost that 60 per cent of the families who remain as herders need outside assistance to recover. Their surviving herds are too small to support them. The new findings follow recent warnings from the UK Met Office that if current trends continue one-third of the planet will be desert by the end of 2100. The scientists modelled how drought is likely to increase globally during the coming century because of predicted changes in rainfall and temperature around the world….
9 Nov 2006. CLIMATE CHANGES ARE LINKED BETWEEN GREENLAND AND ANTARCTIC. From NASA Earth Observatory. Even if climate records from Greenland and Antarctic ice cores look different, the climate of the Artic and Antarctic are directly linked, scientists report.
9 November 2006. Climate change: The south-north connection Eric J. Steig, News and Views Nature Abstract: A new ice-core record from Antarctica provides the best evidence yet of a link between climate in the northern and southern polar regions that operates through changes in ocean circulation. Excerpt: Over the past 20 years, the analysis of ice cores has been transforming our understanding of past climate. Most notably, the Vostok core from Antarctica provided remarkable evidence of the correspondence between temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations over the past 420,000 years. And the GISP2, GRIP and NGRIP cores from Greenland offered a view in unprecedented detail of climate change over the past 100,000 years (including the revelation that abrupt warming events of 10 ¡C or more have taken place in Greenland). More recently, the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA) obtained the longest ice-core record yet, one spanning 800,000 years of climate history, from Dome C, in the same sector of Antarctica as Vostok. …the Antarctic and Greenland ice-core records are meaningfully related, and on quite short timescales. …comparison of the oxygen-isotope records shows that one can make a direct link between the distinctive temperature maxima in the Antarctic record (at least going back 60,000 years) and the unambiguous abrupt warmings in Greenland …
8 November 2006. Australia suffers worst drought in 1,000 years. John Vidal, environment editor, The Guardian. Excerpt: Depleted reservoirs, failed crops and arid farmland spark global warming tussle. Australia’s blistering summer has only just begun but reservoir levels are dropping fast, crop forecasts have been slashed, and great swaths of the continent are entering what scientists yesterday called a “one in a thousand years drought”. With many regions in their fifth year of drought, the government yesterday called an emergency water summit in Canberra. …The drought is likely to affect drinking water supplies to many areas. …It is also expected to have a serious impact on crops. Last week, the government forecast its lowest wheat crop for 12 years, a 62% decrease on last year. …The drought has set off a fierce political debate in Australia about climate change. The country has maintained, with the US, a sceptical stance on the issue, and Mr Howard has refused to sign Australia up to the Kyoto agreement. However, polls suggest he is increasingly out of step with public and scientific opinion and the drought has forced him to demonstrate concern. …Australia now emits almost as much carbon and other greenhouse gases as France and Italy, which each have three times its population. …South Australia’s premier, Mike Rann, said yesterday: “What we’re seeing with this drought is a frightening glimpse of the future with global warming.”
But Mr Howard played down the assessment that the drought was the worst in 1,000 years, saying he doubted if anybody really knew.
31 October 2006. Building Resilience May Help Corals, Mangroves Survive. Excerpt: GENEVA, Switzerland, Environment News Service (ENS) – Survival strategies for coral reefs and mangroves threatened by climate change are outlined by scientists of IUCN-World Conservation Union and the Nature Conservancy in two new publications launched today. The strategies rely on managing stressors other than global warming so that corals and mangroves are more resilient and able to survive in a warming world. Climate change is destroying tropical marine ecosystems through sea temperature increase and ocean acidification. Scientists say 20 percent of the world’s coral reefs have already been ruined and a further 50 percent are facing immediate or long term danger of collapse. Yet, one of the reports published today shows that saving the world’s coral reefs may still be possible. By fighting other stress factors such as pollution or overfishing impacting coral reefs, the reefs will be able to better adapt to climate change impacts, according to the report, “Coral Reef Resilience and Resistance to Bleaching.” …Coral reefs only cover 0.2 percent of the ocean floor, but contain 25 percent of marine species globally. Coral reefs provide livelihoods to 100 million people and provide the basis for industries such as tourism and fishing, worth an annual net benefit of US$30 billion, the report states. One hectare of mangroves is estimated to deliver products and services worth up to $900,000. Examples of these products and services include timber and wood chips, an environment for fish spawning, and habitat for economically important species. …View the publications online: “Coral Reef Resilience and Resistance to Bleaching,” Gabriel D. Grimsditch and Rodney V. Salm and “Managing Mangroves for Resilience to Climate Change,” Elizabeth Mcleod and Rodney V. Salm.
30 October 2006. Insect population growth likely accelerated by warmer climate. Contact: Vince Stricherz <vincesATu.washington.edu> EurekAlert! Excerpt: Insects have proven to be highly adaptable organisms, able through evolution to cope with a variety of environmental changes, including relatively recent changes in the world’s climate. But like something out of a scary Halloween tale, new University of Washington research suggests insects’ ability to adapt to warmer temperatures carries an unexpected consequence – more insects. It appears that insect species that adapt to warmer climates also will increase their maximum rates of population growth, which UW researchers say is likely to have widespread affects on agriculture, public health and conservation. …”Enhanced population growth rates for butterflies might be a good thing, but enhanced growth rates for mosquito populations is much more dubious,” said Frazier, who is lead author of the new research, published in the October edition of the journal The American Naturalist. Co-authors are Raymond Huey, a UW biology professor, and David Berrigan, a former UW biology researcher now with the National Cancer Institute. …biochemical adaptation to warmer temperature is not the only possible insect response to climate warming. Some species might evade warmer temperatures by moving to cooler habitats, or they might alter their seasonal activity patterns. Others might not be able to adapt adequately and could become extinct. But those that do adapt should have elevated rates of population growth. “No matter which scenario plays out for a given species, local ecosystems will be profoundly altered,” Frazier said. For more information, contact Frazier at (206) 543-4859 or mfrazierATu.washington.edu, or Huey at (206) 543-1505 or hueyrbATu.washington.edu
4 October 2006. The Century of Drought. Excerpt: Leading climatologists in Britain recently predicted that global warming would result in extensive drought over the next century. The droughts, which are predicted to affect one third of the earth’s land mass, will likely devastate developing countries that already struggle to meet their populaces’ needs for food, safe sanitation and water. Some say that this forecast may underestimate the severity of the drought as it does not take into account the effects of changes to the carbon cycle resulting from global warming. The full study, produced by the Hadley Centre, will be published later in October in the Journal of Hydrometeorology.
3 October 2006. Global Warming on the Forest Floor. By HENRY FOUNTAIN, NY Times. Excerpt: Along with rising temperatures, global warming is very likely to cause a shift toward more extreme weather — stronger storms with more rainfall, and longer and more severe droughts. Those changes are likely to have large-scale, obvious effects on farmlands, grasslands and forests and on the creatures that inhabit them. … Researchers at the University of Kentucky looked at …the impact of climate change on the decomposition of leaf litter on the forest floor. The researchers, Janet R. Lensing and David H. Wise, studied the process of leaf decay in hardwood forests in central Kentucky. The main instigator in leaf decay is fungi, which get nutrients from the organic matter. But fungi don’t exist in a vacuum. They are grazed upon by springtails, primitive insects of the Collembola order. In turn, springtails are the prey of wandering spiders. The who-eats-whom makes for a complex web, where changes at one level can have cascading effects. Too much or too little grazing by springtails, for example, can reduce fungal activity and slow decay. …They didn’t see much change in leaf decomposition under higher-rainfall conditions. But under drought conditions, they found, decay accelerated significantly. …”Our hypothesis is that during drought conditions, the fungi are already drought-stressed, and the Collembola are overgrazing them, which slows down decay,” Dr. Lensing said. Under these circumstances, by preying on the springtails, the spiders reduce the pressure on the fungi, thus allowing for more leaf decay. Under wetter conditions the fungi are not so stressed and so easily overgrazed, so spider predation on springtails has less effect.
It’s not that the dryness has a direct influence on populations of spiders, say, or springtails. Instead, Dr. Lensing said, ”it affects how the cascading occurs” within the food web. This indirect impact on leaf decay, she added, ”shows how complex the effect of altered rainfall can be.”
25 September 2006. NASA STUDY FINDS WORLD WARMTH EDGING ANCIENT LEVELS. A new study by NASA climatologists finds that the world’s temperature is reaching a level that has not been seen in thousands of years. NASA Earth Observatory.
21 September 2006. SHORT-TERM OCEAN COOLING SUGGESTS GLOBAL WARMING ‘SPEED BUMP’. Excerpt: The average temperature of the water near the top of the Earth’s oceans has significantly cooled since 2003. New research suggests global warming trends are not always steady in their effects on ocean temperatures. Although the average temperature of the upper oceans has significantly cooled since 2003, the decline is a fraction of the total ocean warming over the previous 48 years. “This research suggests global warming isn’t always steady, but happens with occasional ‘speed bumps’,” said Josh Willis, a co-author of the study at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. …Willis said the findings have significant implications for global sea-level rise. “Average sea level goes up partly due to warming and thermal expansion of the oceans and partly due to runoff from melting glaciers and ice sheets,” Willis said. “The recent cooling episode suggests sea level should have actually decreased in the past two years. Despite this, sea level has continued to rise. This may mean that sea level rise has recently shifted from being mostly caused by warming to being dominated by melting. This idea is consistent with recent estimates of ice-mass loss in Antarctica and accelerating ice-mass loss on Greenland,” he said. …the cause of the recent cooling is not yet clear. Research suggests it may be due to a net loss of heat from the Earth. “Further work will be necessary to solve this cooling mystery….” NASA RELEASE: 06-318.
31 August 2006 Evolution of Old World fruit flies on three continents mirrors climate change. University of Washington News. Fast-warming climate appears to be triggering genetic changes in a species of fruit fly that is native to Europe and was introduced into North and South America about 25 years ago. “This is a clear signal on three different continents that climate change is occurring, and that genetic change is going along with it,” said Raymond Huey, a University of Washington biology professor who is co-author of a paper describing the findings, published Aug. 31 in Science Express, the online edition of the journal Science. The research deals with an Old World fruit fly s pecies called Drosophila subobscura, which originally ranged from the Mediterranean Sea to Scandinavia. …The fruit flies were accidentally introduced to the Pacific Coast of Chile in the late 1970s and to the North American West Coast in the early 1980s, probably on cargo ships. They spread rapidly, and in North America they are now found from near Santa Barbara, Calif., to northern Vancouver Island in British Columbia.
…In the paper, the researchers note that “the genetic shift is remarkably rapid and is detectable even for samples separated by fewer than two decades.” They add that such rapid genetic changes are likely to occur much more quickly in organisms with short life spans, such as a fruit fly, which can produce several generations in a single year. “In the long term, this suggests that climate warming is already having genetic effects, at least on these organisms,” Huey said.
8 July 2006. Readers Respond to Philip M. Boffey’s ‘The Evidence for Global Warming’. NY Times – TIMESSELECT – Excerpt: Ralph Deeds, Birmingham, Mich.: It appears to me that the politics of global warming is more difficult than the science. For example, existing automobile technology could produce a huge savings in oil if our Congress would stop debating flag burning and pass legislation to encourage more fuel-efficient motor vehicles. This could easily be done by gradually increasing the gasoline tax to bring pump prices up to European levels. ….
…Eugene I. Gordon, Mountainside, N.J.: The article makes a convincing case that we are experiencing global warming. I won’t attempt to debate that conclusion because I believe it. However, the article is incredibly one-sided concerning the cause of the current global warming. Mr. Boffey mentions the cooling experienced during a minor ice age a few hundred years ago but neglects to mention that it was accompanied by a virtual disappearance of the 11 year sunspot cycle, the Maunder Minimum. It is known that high sunspot activity increases the thermal flux incident on the Earth from solar radiation and high energy particles. Currently we are experiencing a maximum in sunspot activity that virtually perfectly parallels the increasing global temperature average including up and down variations. Fortunately, the sunspot activity has begun to decrease and we should get relief independent of what else we do.
In addition, Mr. Boffey completely ignores the fact that the dominant greenhouse gas is water vapor, which is 50 times more complicit in retaining IR [infrared] radiation than carbon dioxide. Anthropogenic carbon dioxide plays but a tiny role in the total greenhouse gas picture. Were it not for water vapor, the average temperature of the earth would be about 0 degrees Fahrenheit rather than 58 and there would be virtually no life on Earth. We should be glad for the water vapor and not worry so much about carbon dioxide….Mr. Boffey disparages oil interests without examining the interests of the scientific community that reaches a consensus while ignoring basic physics and the record.
20 June 2006. Next Victim of Warming: The Beaches. By CORNELIA DEAN – NY Times. Excerpt: NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. When scientists consider the possible effects of global warming, there is a lot they don’t know. But they can say one thing for sure: sea levels will rise. …This rising water will be felt along the artificially maintained beaches of New Jersey, in the vanishing marshes of Louisiana, even on the ocean bluffs of California. According to a 2000 report by the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, at least a quarter of the houses within 500 feet of the United States coast may be lost to rising seas by 2060. There were 350,000 of these houses when the report was written, but today there are far more. …Some of the rise – scientists argue over how much – is because of natural variation, like changes in atmospheric pressures and winds over the Southern Ocean. But much of it results from warming; as water warms, it expands, occupying more space. Also, warming melts inland glaciers and ice sheets, sending torrents of fresh water into the oceans. In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, convened by the United Nations, said that the rise in sea levels was accelerating. Their mid-range projection for 2100 was a rise of just under 20 inches from a 1990 baseline, partly because of this melting. Evidence reported since then suggests that the rise may be even faster. (If ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica melt significantly, seas will rise by 20 feet or more, but few scientists expect that to happen in this century.) …much of Florida is so low that a one-foot rise in sea level would send water 100 feet inland. Dr. Howd, 49, who lives in St. Petersburg, said that is one reason he does not expect to retire there. His house is about 600 feet from the beach, but only about 6 feet above sea level….
4 June 2006. Climate Change: The View From the Patio. By HENRY FOUNTAIN. NY Times. Excerpt: …It came from a North Carolina forest, at an experimental plot where scientists can precisely control the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air. Duke researchers discovered that when exposed to higher levels of CO2, the greenhouse gas released in ever-increasing quantities from human activity, poison ivy goes haywire.
The researchers found that the weedlike plant grew much faster under CO2 conditions similar to those projected for the middle of the century. The plant also produced a more noxious form of its rash-causing chemical: a more poisonous poison ivy.
…Poison ivy isn’t the only plant whose growth is encouraged by additional carbon dioxide. In the Duke experiments, Dr. Schlesinger said, the trees themselves show an increase in growth under carbon dioxide concentrations roughly 50 percent higher than current conditions. “If you’re a timber products company, you look at that favorably,” he said….
24 May 2006. A new study just released by the World Conservation Union indicates that because of the consequences of global warming, the polar bear is listed for the first time as vulnerable species at risk of extinction. “The State of the Planet,” is part of the PBS series JOURNEY TO PLANET EARTH and is an investigation of the most critical questions of the 21st Century. Global warming, population growth, water and food.
18 May 2006. New century of thirst for world’s mountains. Bill Cannon, Pacific Northwest National laboratory (PNNL). Most detailed forecast to date shows sharp snowpack decline between now and year 2100; New Zealand, Latin America, Western U.S., European ranges hardest hit. Excerpt: RICHLAND, Wash. By the century’s end, the Andes in South America will have less than half their current winter snowpack, mountain ranges in Europe and the U.S. West will have lost nearly half of their snow-bound water and snow on New Zealand’s picturesque snowcapped peaks will all but have vanished. Such is the dramatic forecast from a new, full-century model that offers detail its authors call “an unprecedented picture of climate change.” The decline in winter snowpack means less spring and summer runoff from snowmelt. That translates to unprecedented pressure on people worldwide who depend on summertime melting of the winter snowpack for irrigation and drinking water….Ghan cautioned about “significant limitations” to the model. For example, field observations in Africa suggest the famous snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro will be gone within decades, and on Greenland signs point to accelerated snow and ice melt.
May 2006. While Washington Slept. Vanity Fair. BY MARK HERTSGAARD. If global warming isn’t halted, rising sea levels could submerge coastal cities by 2100. So how did this virtual certainty get labeled a “liberal hoax”? Article has photo Illustrations by John Blackford and sea level rise simulations from National Environmental Trust animations See still images of Washington DC and New York City.
2 May 2006. China: Global Warming Is Melting Glaciers. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. BEIJING (AP) Excerpt: Glaciers in western China’s Qinghai-Tibet plateau, known as the ”roof of the world,” are melting at a rate of 7 percent annually due to global warming, the country’s official Xinhua News Agency said. Xinhua said the figure is drawn from data from China’s 681 weather stations over four decades. Statistics from the Tibet weather bureau show that average temperatures in Tibet have risen by 0.9 degree Celsius (2 Fahrenheit) since the 1980s, Xinhua reported, quoting Han Yongxiang of the National Meteorological Bureau. …The melting glaciers will eventually lead to drought, more desertification and an increase in the number of sandstorms, Xinhua quoted researcher Dong Guangrong at the Chinese Academy of Sciences as saying. …The severity of China’s sandstorms was highlighted by the onslaught of 300,000 metric tons (330,000 short tons) of dust in capital Beijing two weeks ago. …Workers have already planted thousands of acres of vegetation to stop the spread of deserts in China’s north and west.
16 February 2006. Greenland Ice-Loss Doubles in Past Decade, Raising Sea Level Faster. NASA RELEASE: 06-066 (Revised) The loss of ice from Greenland doubled between 1996 and 2005, as its glaciers flowed faster into the ocean in response to a generally warmer climate, according to a NASA/University of Kansas study. …The evolution of Greenland’s ice sheet is being driven by … accumulation of snow in its interior, which adds mass and lowers sea level; melting of ice along its edges, which decreases mass and raises sea level; and the flow of ice into the sea from outlet glaciers along its edges, which also decreases mass and raises sea level. …From 1996 to 2000, widespread glacial acceleration was found at latitudes below 66 degrees north. This acceleration extended to 70 degrees north by 2005. The researchers estimated the ice mass loss resulting from enhanced glacier flow increased from 63 cubic kilometers in 1996 to 162 cubic kilometers in 2005. Combined with the increase in ice melt and in snow accumulation over that same time period, they determined the total ice loss from the ice sheet increased from 96 cubic kilometers in 1996 to 220 cubic kilometers in 2005. To put this into perspective, a cubic kilometer is one trillion liters (approximately 264 billion gallons of water), about a quarter more than Los Angeles uses in one year. …For University of Kansas Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets information, visit: http://www.cresis.ku.edu/flashindex.htm
4 February 2006. NASA Chief Backs Agency Openness. By ANDREW C. REVKIN. NY Times. Excerpt: A week after NASA’s top climate scientist complained that the space agency’s public-affairs office was trying to silence his statements on global warming, the agency’s administrator, Michael D. Griffin, issued a sharply worded statement yesterday calling for “scientific openness” throughout the agency.”It is not the job of public-affairs officers,” Dr. Griffin wrote in an e-mail message to the agency’s 19,000 employees, “to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA’s technical staff.” The statement came six days after The New York Times quoted the scientist, James E. Hansen, as saying he was threatened with “dire consequences” if he continued to call for prompt action to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases linked to global warming…In October, for example, George Deutsch, a presidential appointee in NASA headquarters, told a Web designer working for the agency to add the word “theory” after every mention of the Big Bang, according to an e-mail message from Mr. Deutsch that another NASA employee forwarded to The Times. And in December 2004, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory complained to the agency that he had been pressured to say in a news release that his oceanic research would help advance the administration’s goal of space exploration…
29 January 2006. Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him. By ANDREW C. REVKIN. Excerpt: The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming. The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists. Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. “They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public,” he said…In several interviews with The New York Times in recent days, Dr. Hansen said it would be irresponsible not to speak out, particularly because NASA’s mission statement includes the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet.” See also related article of NY Times 31 January 2006.