CC8C. 2020—What Are the Consequences of Global Warming?

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Staying current for Chapter 8

Articles from 2020

Stay current index page for Chapter 8.

{ Climate Change Contents }

2020-12-23. This experimental vineyard seeks to save wine from climate change. By Sarah Kaplan, The Washington Post. Excerpt: French scientists are hard at work, trying to find varieties of grapes that will thrive in warm weather…. [

2020-12-23. Scientists descended into Greenland’s perilous ice caverns — and came back with a worrying message. By Chris Mooney, The Washington Post. Excerpt: The scientists …created two intersecting holes into the bed of a now frozen-over ice river…. The hole, scientists believe, ultimately penetrates more than a half-kilometer into the ice, joining a network of channels extending all the way to the base of the ice sheet. …Covington and his colleague Jason Gulley, …were motivated by a scientific question with enormous implications as the climate warms. Just how vast are these moulins, these ice caves found by the thousands across Greenland’s surface? How much are they undermining the integrity of the second-largest sheet of ice on the planet? And how much worse will it get as melting, and moulins, begin to extend farther and farther toward the airy center of Greenland, where the ice is well over a mile thick? …As the climate warms — with the Arctic warming fastest of all — more and more of Greenland’s surface is melting in the summer. More lakes are forming and at higher, colder elevations on the ice sheet. The ice sheet has lost some 4 trillion tons of mass just since 1992, and scientists estimate that surface melting makes up about half of those losses, with the rest being driven by huge icebergs calving into the sea. …The first results of these moulin descents have been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. ,,,The key finding: Moulins can be huge. In particular, the Phobos moulin in western Greenland, which Gulley and Gadd explored in 2018, was not simply a narrow hole penetrating downward. Instead, it opened into a vast cavern that reached nearly 100 meters in depth before the water level began, and extended horizontally outward as well. The group calculated that, at the water’s surface, the spatial area of the cave was some 5,000 square feet, or the size of several houses next to one another.This volume is much larger than previous models assumed. And it suggests that the moulin can store much more water than previously thought. This, in turn, might mean that the water in the moulins can exert more pressure on the surrounding ice and cause it to slide faster — which would be bad for sea level rise, and Greenland’s future…. [

2020-12-10. Using Food to Tell the Climate Change Story. By Rachel Crowell, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: “We all eat” is a simple statement that underscores the power of food as a vehicle for discussing the science of climate change, said Michael Hoffmann, professor emeritus of entomology at Cornell University and lead author (along with Carrie Koplinka-Loehr and Danielle L. Eiseman) of the forthcoming book Our Changing Menu: What Climate Change Means to the Foods We Love and Need (2021). A companion website will feature a searchable database of ingredients and the impacts that climate change is having on them. Coffeewine, and olives are just a few of the foods that are projected to be heavily affected…. [

2020-12-08. Feedback Loops of Fire Activity and Climate Change in Canada. By Saima Sidik, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Wildfires burned more than 7,750 square kilometers of Alberta’s forests last year. New research indicates the conflagrations are part of a pattern showing increased average burned areas every year since 1970, and climate change is poised to accelerate this trend. Ellen Whitman, a forest fire research scientist from Natural Resources Canada, used historical records as well as satellite data from the Landsat program to analyze how the frequency, size, and distribution of forest fires in the province of Alberta changed between 1970 and 2019—research she’ll present at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2020. She and coworkers from the Canadian Forest Service and the U.S. Forest Service found that forest fire activity in Alberta increased according to a plethora of metrics over the past 49 years, with the number of fires that consume at least 200 hectares of land almost doubling and the average area burned per year increasing approximately fifteenfold. “Every variable we were interested in seems to have demonstrated some type of change over time,” Whitman said. Variables included data surrounding fires in wetlands and old-growth forests, as well as the recovery of forests after a fire. …Even wetlands, with their low propensity for fire, are burning more frequently. Whitman said that the proportion of burned wetland forests has increased approximately fivefold, from comprising only 3% of land burned by wildfires in 1970 to 15% in 2019…. []

2020-12-08. Global warming has profoundly transformed Arctic in just 15 years, report warns. By Andrew Freedman, The Washington Post. Excerpt: The Arctic as we once knew it, an inhospitable, barely accessible and icebound place, is gone. Climate change has transformed it into a region that can heat up to 100 degrees, is beset by ferocious wildfires, and is covered in permafrost that is no longer permanent. The sea ice cover that has long defined the Far North is fast disappearing. This is the picture from a new international scientific assessment released Tuesday. The 2020 Arctic Report Card, a report led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) involving 133 scientists from 15 countries, points to trends that, with each passing year, have grown more extreme and have far-reaching implications for people living f ar outside the region, including in the Lower 48 states…. [
2020-12-07. ‘Godzilla’ dust storm traced to shaky northern jet stream. By Warren Cornwall, Science Magazine. Excerpt: In June, residents of Puerto Rico woke to a Sun shrouded in a thick haze, and everything outside seemingly coated in reddish dust. Little did they know the phenomenon was connected to winds swept up by the largest African dust storm on record—an event so massive, scientists have dubbed it Godzilla. These winds, researchers now report, were in turn triggered by a meandering jet stream that circles the planet farther north. The new findings identify yet another way in which a warming Arctic might disturb the weather half a world away. The root cause of the extra-wavy jet stream is under fierce debate, but some scientists believe Arctic warming and declining sea ice are to blame for Godzilla’s far-reaching effects. “Arguably there is at least an indirect connection between climate change and this notable dust storm,” says Michael Mann, an atmospheric scientist at Pennsylvania State University, University Park, who has studied how Arctic changes might influence summer weather farther south. The Godzilla storm was truly monster-size. Desert winds known as the harmattan set records, blowing at more than 70 kilometers per hour across northwestern Africa. A plume of pink-tinted dust nearly as big as the continental United States drifted west across the Atlantic Ocean. It weighed nearly 24 million tons—enough to fill thousands of Olympic-size swimming pools, says Hongbin Yu, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Such storms are annual events with far-reaching effects. The phosphorus-rich clouds fertilize trees in the Amazon. The tiny particles of dust can also pollute the air across the Caribbean, presenting a serious health hazard. And research suggests the dust clouds, by reflecting sunlight to space, cool the tropical Atlantic Ocean in a way that might dampen hurricanes…. []
2020-12-02. Hotter Planet Already Poses Fatal Risks, Health Experts Warn. By Somini Sengupta, The New York Times. Excerpt: Rising temperatures and environmental pollutants are already endangering the health and well-being of Americans, with fatal consequences for thousands of older men and women, a team of public health experts warned Wednesday. Their report, published in The Lancet, called on lawmakers to stem the rise of planet-warming gases in the next five years. The section on the United States presents climate change as a public health risk now, rather than a hazard faced by future generations. It points to the immediate dangers of extreme heat, wildfires and air pollution, and makes the case for rapidly shifting to a green economy as a way to improve public health…. []
2020-11-30. Acidifying Oceans Could Get Help from Kelp. By Elizabeth Thompson, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Carbon dioxide is well known as a greenhouse gas, but its effects on climate and environments aren’t limited to the atmosphere. As more carbon dioxide fills the air, more of the gas dissolves into seawater, making the ocean more acidic and threatening marine organisms. Giant kelp may offer a local solution. As kelp grows, it captures carbon from the water and produces oxygen, possibly removing enough carbon dioxide to relieve acidificationHirsh et al. investigate conditions inside and outside a kelp forest in Monterey Bay, Calif., to evaluate kelp’s ability to mitigate ocean acidification in sensitive areas…. []. 

2020-11-20. An Extraordinary Winter in the Polar North. By Kate Wheeling, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The winter of 2019–2020 in the Northern Hemisphere was one of extremes. The massive region of cold polar air encircled by stratospheric winds, known as the stratospheric polar vortex, was particularly strong, keeping the frigid air whirling above the polar region and leading to a very mild winter in many regions farther south. The strong polar vortex coincided with a record-breaking positive Arctic Oscillation circulation pattern and record low ozone levels in the Arctic that lasted into spring. In a review, published as part of an AGU special collectionLawrence et al.outline the unique conditions that allowed this “truly extraordinary” winter season to arise…. [

2020-11-14. Sea Level Rise May Erode Development in Africa. By Hope Mafaranga, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Sea level rise and extreme weather associated with climate change are threats to human health, safety, food and water security, and socioeconomic development in Africa, climate change experts said in a new report. “Climate change is having a growing impact on the African continent, hitting the most vulnerable hardest, and contributing to food insecurity, population displacement and stress on water resources. In recent months, we have seen devastating floods, an invasion of desert locusts and now face the looming specter of drought because of a La Niña events,” said Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), when introducing the 2019–2020 “State of the Climate in Africa.” …Sea level rise associated with climate change includes an increase in coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion in drinking, hygiene, and irrigation supplies. Such phenomena pose a threat to Africa’s coastal regions, said Vera Songwe, United Nations (UN) under secretary-general and executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, at the WMO event. Songwe said sea level increase exceeded 5 mm per year in the southwestern Indian Ocean along Africa’s east coast. The region’s island nations, including Madagascar and Mauritius, are particularly vulnerable. It is Africa’s west coast, however, that is expected to see the biggest impact…. []. 

2020-11-12. Heat is killing more people than ever. Scientists are looking for ways to lower the risk. By Elizabeth Pennisi. Excerpt: High body temperatures are inevitable in firefighting: A study in 2013 uncovered about 50 heat-related injuries across the United States during that fire season. But …Warmth from the firefighters’ physical exertion, not heat from the fires, was the greatest danger, the researchers found. Another surprise: “The assumption across the fire community was that if somebody went down, it was because they just didn’t drink enough water,” Orcasitas says. But the team found otherwise. “You can’t drink yourself out of a heat-related injury,” explains project leader Joseph Domitrovich, an exercise physiologist at the U.S. Forest Service’s National Technology and Development Program. …researchers like Domitrovich are working to pin down how heat affects workers and vulnerable populations, such as the elderly. They are studying low-tech measures—sometimes nothing more than a splash of cold water on the skin—to make people safer and more comfortable in hot conditions. …The work has taken on urgency as global temperatures rise, heat waves become more frequent and intense, and casualties mount. Between 1999 and 2010, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention logged 8081 heat-related deaths in the United States, one-third of them in people age 65 or older. Already, about one-third of the world’s population experiences conditions that create heat stress, says Nathan Bradley Morris, a human thermal physiologist at the University of Copenhagen. At high risk are construction workers and farm hands, respectively 13 times and 35 times as likely to die from heat as other workers. …Amplifying the trends, the world’s population is moving to cities, which tend to be hotter than the countryside, …. [

2020-11-01. A Typhoon Spared the Philippine Capital. Will Manila Be So Lucky Next Time? By Hannah Beech and Jason Gutierrez, The New York Times. Excerpt: When Typhoon Goni made landfall in the disaster-plagued nation on Sunday morning, with sustained winds of 135 miles per hour, it ranked as the most powerful storm to hit the Southeast Asian nation in years. …by day’s end, Goni, known locally as Rolly, appeared to have largely bypassed the capital, with no fatalities reported there. At least 16 people were confirmed to have died from the typhoon in the Bicol region southeast of the capital, according to the regional Office of Civil Defense, with three people reported missing. Rivers overflowed, tree branches flew and wet concrete-like mudflows poured down the slopes of a volcano. …now climate change is exacerbating the Philippines’ exposure to natural disasters, making it one of the most vulnerable countries on the planet, scientists say. …Mass deforestation, including the destruction of mangroves along the coastlines, has torn away natural barriers to wind and water. The Asian Development Bank says that more than 23,000 people in the Philippines died from natural hazards from 1997 to 2016 as the warming planet brought more powerful storms…. [] 2020-10-29. Reaching Consensus on Assessments of Ocean Acidification Trends. By Adrienne Sutton and Jan A. Newton, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Media coverage concerning carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into Earth’s atmosphere most often focuses on how these emissions affect climate and weather patterns. However, atmospheric CO2 is also the primary driver for ocean acidification, because the products of atmospheric CO2 dissolving into seawater reduce seawater’s pH and its concentration of carbonate ions. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of the ocean has increased by over 30%. Some organisms in the ocean may struggle to adapt to increasingly acidified conditions, and even resilient life-forms may have a harder time finding food. Higher CO2 levels in ocean water also make it difficult for shellfish to build their shells and corals to form their reefs, both of which are made of carbonate compounds. Ocean acidification, which affects the overall health of marine ecosystems as well as societal concerns about food security, has emerged as a major concern for decision-makers on local, regional, and global scales. Indeed, ocean acidification is now a headline climate indicator for the World Meteorological Organization. …In February 2020, NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program and the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON) brought together a dozen scientists from the international community experienced in collecting data from time series stations scattered throughout the world’s oceans. With their expertise, and with input from scientists in other fields as well, the group began developing a set of best practices for uniformly analyzing long-term ocean acidification trends…. []  

2020-10-16. China’s rare birds may move north as the climate changes, new data suggest. By Dennis Normile, Science Magazine. Excerpt: China’s growing army of amateur birdwatchers is a dedicated bunch—and that dedication could eventually pay off in better protection for their feathered friends. A new study uses more than 2 decades of bird sightings by China’s citizen scientists to map the ranges of nearly 1400 species, from the endangered red-crowned crane to the pied falconet. Spinning those maps forward to 2070, researchers have determined what their future ranges might be—and pinpointed 14 priority areas for new nature preserves. Researchers have used such citizen science data from bird lovers before, but experts say this study is the first in China to use it on a nationwide scale…. []  

2020-09-14. The Science of Wildfires. By Ota Lutz, NASA-JPL. Excerpt: …Fueled by high temperatures, low humidity, high winds, and years of vegetation-drying drought, more than 7,700 fires have engulfed over 3 million acres across California already this year. …the U.S. Forest Service found that fire seasons have grown longer in 25 percent of Earth’s vegetation-covered areas. …JPL uses a suite of Earth satellites and airborne instruments to help better understand fires and aide in fire management and mitigation. By looking at multiple images and types of data from these instruments, scientists compare what a region looked like before, during, and after a fire, as well as how long the area takes to recover. While the fire is burning, scientists watch its behavior from an aerial perspective to get a big-picture view of the fire itself and the air pollution it is generating in the form of smoke filled with carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. …One of the ways we often hear wildfires classified is by how much area they have burned. Though this is certainly of some importance, of greater significance to fire scientists is the severity of the fire. …Severity is measured by the damage left after the fire, but can be estimated during a fire event by calculating spread rate and measuring flame height which indicates intensity. …The release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide is also an important consideration when thinking about the impacts of wildfires. Using NASA satellite data, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, determined that between 2001 and 2010, California wildfires emitted about 46 million tons of carbon, around five to seven percent of all carbon emitted by the state during that time period…. [
2020-10-12. Drought once shut down Old Faithful—and might again. By Colin Barras, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Old Faithful, it turns out, wasn’t always so faithful. The geyser, in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, is famous because it blasts hot water tens of meters into the air at regular intervals—every 90 to 94 minutes, on average. Now, geologists examining petrified wood from the park have found evidence that 800 years ago, Old Faithful stopped erupting entirely for several decades, in response to a severe drought. With climate change making drought more common across the western United States, the researchers say a similar shut down might happen again…. []  See also Megadrought Caused Yellowstone’s Old Faithful to Run Dry

2020-10-15. Nearly Half of the U.S. Is in Drought. It May Get Worse. By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. Excerpt: Nearly half of the continental United States is gripped by drought, government forecasters said Thursday, and conditions are expected to worsen this winter across much of the Southwest and South. Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center, a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said a lack of late-summer rain in the Southwest had expanded “extreme and exceptional” dry conditions from West Texas into Colorado and Utah, “with significant drought also prevailing westward through Nevada, Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.” Much of the Western half of the country is now experiencing drought conditions and parts of the Ohio Valley and the Northeast are as well, Mr. Halpert said during a teleconference announcing NOAA’s weather outlook for this winter. This is the most widespread drought in the continental United States since 2013, he said, covering more than 45 percent of the Lower 48 states….Global warming has made drought worse, in the Southwest and elsewhere, scientists say, exemplifying a trend toward more extreme weather as the climate changes…. []
2020-10-14. Phoenix has hit 100 degrees on record-breaking half of the days in 2020. By Ian Livingston, The Washington Post. Excerpt: The unrelenting and unprecedented heat that scorched Phoenix all summer, setting countless records, has carried over into the fall. Now it has set another blistering milestone: the most 100-degree days ever observed in a calendar year. On Wednesday, the mercury in Phoenix climbed to at least 100 degrees for the 144th time in 2020, surpassing 143 days in 1989 for the most instances on record. Half of the days (144 out of 288) of the year so far, equivalent to 20.6 weeks, have hit 100 degrees. A few more such days are likely…. [] 

2020-10-12. Florida Sees Signals of a Climate-Driven Housing Crisis. By Christopher Flavelle, The New York Times. Excerpt: Home sales in areas most vulnerable to sea-level rise began falling around 2013, researchers found. …around 2013, something started to change: The annual number of homes sales began to drop — tumbling by half by 2018 — a sign that fewer people wanted to buy. Prices eventually followed, falling 7.6 percent from 2016 to 2020, according to data from Zillow, the real estate data company. All across Florida’s low-lying areas, it’s a similar story, according to research published Monday. The authors argue that not only is climate change eroding one of the most vibrant real estate markets in the country, it has quietly been doing so for nearly a decade…. []  

2020-09-30. Greenland ice sheet on course to lose ice at fastest rate in 12,000 years, study finds. By Andrew Freedman and Brady Dennis, The Washington Post. Excerpt: The Greenland ice sheet is on track to lose mass at about four times the fastest rate observed over the past 12,000 years. At its current trajectory, such melting would dump huge quantities of freshwater into the sea, raising global sea levels and disrupting ocean currents, scientists concluded in new research Wednesday. The new findings, published in the journal Nature, warn that the only way to avoid a drastically accelerated meltdown of the massive ice sheet in coming decades is for the global community to curtail emissions of greenhouse gases in the near-term. [Greenland’s ice losses have septupled and are now in line with its highest sea-level scenario, scientists say] Greenland is already the largest contributor to sea level rise, though Antarctica has the potential to increase sea levels even more. As sea levels creep upward, coastal storms including hurricanes and nor’easters become more destructive. Recent trends in more frequent “sunny day flooding” at high tide in places such as Annapolis, Md.; Norfolk; Charleston, S.C.; and Miami is also linked to sea level rise…. []  

2020-09-29. Mixing of the planet’s ocean waters is slowing down, speeding up global warming, study finds. By Andrew Freedman, Washington Post. Excerpt: The layers of the world’s oceans aren’t mixing like they used to due to climate change, potentially speeding up how fast the planet will warm in the coming decades. This new finding, contained in a study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, finds that the reduction in the mixing of ocean layers is piling up warm water near the surface while cutting back on the circulation of cold, deep water. The reduced up and down mixing is expected to have sweeping implications beyond just accelerating global warming. It is projected to increase energy available to hurricanes and other storms, reduce essential nutrients for fish in upper ocean layers and diminish the oceans’ ability to store carbon, among other impacts…. []  
2020-09-28. Flower colors are changing in response to climate change. By Lucy Hicks, Science | AAAS. Excerpt: research [] suggests that over the past 75 years, flowers have also adapted to rising temperatures and declining ozone by altering ultraviolet (UV) pigments in their petals. Flowers’ UV pigments are invisible to the human eye, but they attract pollinators and serve as a kind of sunscreen for plants, says Matthew Koski, a plant ecologist at Clemson University. Just as UV radiation can be harmful to humans, it can also damage a flower’s pollen. …pigment in flowers at all locations increased over time—an average of 2% per year from 1941 to 2017, they reported this month in Current Biology. But changes varied depending on flower structure. In saucer-shaped flowers with exposed pollen, like buttercups, UV-absorbing pigment increased when ozone levels went down and decreased in locations where ozone went up. But flowers with pollen concealed within their petals, such as the common bladderwort, decreased their UV pigment as temperatures went up—regardless of whether ozone levels changed. Though surprising, the finding “makes total sense,” says Charles Davis, a plant biologist at Harvard University who was not involved with the work. Pollen hidden within petals is naturally shielded from UV exposure, but this extra shielding can also act like a greenhouse, trapping heat. When these flowers are exposed to higher temperatures, their pollen is in danger of being cooked, he says. Reducing UV pigments in the petals causes them to absorb less solar radiation, bringing down temperatures…. [

2020-09-24. Ocean Heat Waves Are Directly Linked to Climate Change. By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. Excerpt: Six years ago, a huge part of the Pacific Ocean near North America quickly warmed, reaching temperatures more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Nicknamed “the blob,” it persisted for two years, with devastating impacts on marine life, including sea lions and salmon. The blob was a marine heat wave, the oceanic equivalent of a deadly summer atmospheric one. It was far from a solitary event: Tens of thousands have occurred in the past four decades, although most are far smaller and last for days rather than years. The largest and longest ones have occurred with increasing frequency over time. On Thursday, scientists revealed the culprit. Climate change, they said, is making severe marine heat waves much more likely. The study, published in the journal Science, looked at the blob and six other large events around the world, including one in the Northwest Atlantic in 2012. Human-caused global warming made these events at least 20 times more likely, the researchers found…. []  

2020-09-23. After Storms, They Built Higher. They Dread Doing It Again. By Rick Rojas, The New York Times. Excerpt: CREOLE, La….in the weeks after Hurricane Laura submerged neighborhoods, obliterated businesses and unearthed coffins, many residents have begun agonizing over what feels like an impossible choice: rebuild yet again, or this time leave for good. …as deadly and devastating storms have torn through and as Louisiana has waged a long and costly war over an eroding coastline where the Gulf has claimed territory at an alarmingly aggressive pace. Over the years, it has swallowed hundreds of square miles of wetlands, imperiling a constellation of communities in danger of being engulfed. The calamitous toll of climate change is expected to provoke an exodus around the world, as millions are displaced by rising sea levels and heat climbing to uninhabitable temperatures. A brutal hurricane season, with enough named storms this year to run through the alphabet, has stoked fears across the Gulf Coast, but those anxieties are especially acute in Cameron Parish…. [
2020-09-21. Arctic Sea Ice Reaches a Low, Just Missing Record. By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. Excerpt: A “crazy year” in the Arctic has resulted in the second-lowest extent of sea ice in the region, scientists said Monday. Researchers with the National Snow and Ice Data Center said the minimum was most likely reached on Sept. 15, with 1.44 million square miles of ocean covered in ice. Since then, with temperatures falling and new ice forming, coverage has been increasing. Since satellite measurements of sea ice began four decades ago, only 2012 has had a lower minimum, when 1.32 million square miles were measured. The 2020 minimum was nearly a million square miles less than the average annual minimum between 1981 and 2010. …Sea ice has been shrinking by more than 13 percent per decade, relative to the 1981-2010 average, as global warming affects the Arctic more than any other part of the world. The region is warming more than twice as fast as any other. Sea ice loss plays a role in this rapid warming. Ice reflects most of the sunlight that strikes it. But when it melts, more ocean is exposed. The ocean surface is darker and absorbs more of the sun’s rays, re-emitting the energy as heat. That leads to more warming and more ice loss, with the process continuing in what scientists call a feedback loop…. []  
2020-09-21. 2020 Arctic sea ice minimum second lowest on record. By: Michon Scott, NOAA. Excerpt: On September 15, 2020, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) announced, Arctic sea ice appeared to have reached its annual minimum extent. At 1.44 million square miles (3.74 million square kilometers), this minimum was second only to the record-low extent observed on September 17, 2012. The 2020 figure—preliminary because a late-season surge of summer warmth could still drop the extent further—continued an observed trend of long-term Arctic sea ice decline. …Since the start of the satellite record, sea ice extent has steadily declined, a trend noted in all seasons but especially pronounced around the time of the summer minimum. NSIDC senior research scientists Walt Meier remarks, “Including this year, the last 14 years—2007 to 2020—have the lowest 14 minimum extents of the 42-year satellite record.” The minimum extent for every one of those 14 years fell well below the 1981–2010 average. …The low sea ice minimum in September 2020 followed a record-breaking heat wave and unprecedented wildfires in Siberia…. [

2020-09-17. The U.S. drought vulnerability rankings are in: How does your state compare? By: Alison Stevens, NOAA. Excerpt: [Includes map of U.S. drought vulnerability rankings] If asked where in the United States is most vulnerable to drought, you might point to those states in the West currently suffering under hot and dry conditions and raging wildfires. However, according to a new NOAA-funded assessment, what makes a state vulnerable is driven by more than just a lack of rain: it’s a combination of how susceptible a state is to drought and whether it’s prepared for impacts. And the most and least vulnerable states could surprise you. These maps show each state’s overall drought vulnerability (red) and how it ranks in the three individual categories that make up the score: sensitivity (blue), exposure (yellow-orange), and ability to adapt (purple). Darker colors show higher overall drought vulnerability and a greater degree of factors that increase the state’s vulnerability…. [

2020-09-16. Hurricane Sally’s Fierce Rain Shows How Climate Change Raises Storm Risks. By Henry Fountain and John Schwartz, The New York Times. Excerpt: Staggering rain totals, fueled by a warming atmosphere that can hold more moisture, are being recorded from the storm. …As hurricanes go, Sally was not especially powerful. Rated a Category 2 storm when it struck the Gulf Coast on Wednesday, it was soon downgraded. But climate change likely made it more dangerous by slowing it down and feeding it more moisture, setting it up to pummel the region with wind and catastrophic rainfall. …Climate change has also led to wetter storms, Dr. Wood said, because warmer air holds more moisture. …Researchers increasingly see a link between stalling of hurricanes and climate change. Rapid warming in the Arctic has reduced the difference in temperature between that region and the tropics, leading to a weakening and slowing of the jet stream and related winds that drive hurricanes’ forward movement…. [] See also The Washington Post article, Why the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has spun out of control []

2020-09-14. Two major Antarctic glaciers are tearing loose from their restraints, scientists say. By Chris Mooney, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Two Antarctic glaciers that have long kept scientists awake at night are breaking free from the restraints that have hemmed them in, increasing the threat of large-scale sea-level rise. Located along the coast of the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, the enormous Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers already contribute around 5 percent of global sea-level rise. The survival of Thwaites has been deemed so critical that the United States and Britain have launched a targeted multimillion-dollar research mission to the glacier. The loss of the glacier could trigger the broader collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which contains enough ice to eventually raise seas by about 10 feet. The new findings, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, come from analysis of satellite images. They show that a naturally occurring buffer system that prevents the glaciers from flowing outward rapidly is breaking down, potentially unleashing far more ice into the sea in coming years…. [

2020-09-10. Ethiopia’s Coffee-Growing Areas May Be Headed for the Hills. By Mekonnen Teshome Tollera, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Relocating Ethiopia’s coffee-growing areas to higher-altitude regions will be a key measure for climate change resilience in the country, a team of researchers suggests. …a temperature increase of more than 2°C could occur by midcentury across much of Africa and exceed 4°C by the end of the century. This change could render up to 59% of Ethiopia’s current coffee-growing landscape unsuitable for growing coffee, said study coauthor Sebsebe Demissew, a natural science professor at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the home of Coffea arabica, originally a forest plant restricted to the highlands and today the most prominent cultivar in the world. Arabica and other coffee varieties account for more than 30% of Ethiopia’s exports, amounting to almost 240 metric tons in 2019. About 15 million people in Ethiopia are involved in some aspect of the coffee economy through farming, distribution, or sales. Study coauthor Aaron Davis, head of coffee research at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the United Kingdom, said that climate change will negatively impact much of the current coffee-farming landscape of Ethiopia. …according to another study by Davis, 60% of coffee species in the world are threatened with extinction. …Davis’s article was published in 2017 in Nature Plants and was the result of a collaboration with in-country partners for the project Building a Climate Resilient Coffee Economy for Ethiopia…. []  2020-09-10. A Climate Reckoning in Fire-Stricken California. By Thomas Fuller and Christopher Flavelle, The New York Times. Excerpt: SAN FRANCISCO — Multiple mega fires burning more than three million acres. Millions of residents smothered in toxic air. Rolling blackouts and triple-digit heat waves. Climate change, in the words of one scientist, is smacking California in the face…. [] See also The Washington Post article, Western wildfires: Climate change fueled blazes engulf vast region in crisis. [] Also New York Times article, It’s Not Just the West. These Places Are Also on Fire [] and Washington Post article, Western wildfire smoke nearing Europe, may be on an around-the-world journey  []

2020-09-08. The Climate Connection to California’s Wildfires. By The New York Times. Excerpt: What do California’s wildfires have to do with climate change? The connections are very strong, scientists who have studied the issue say. While California’s climate has always made the state prone to fires, the link between human-caused climate change and bigger fires is inextricable, said Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “This climate-change connection is straightforward: Warmer temperatures dry out fuels. In areas with abundant and very dry fuels, all you need is a spark,” he said. Here is a selection of our coverage of the connection between climate change and California’s wildfires…. []  See also The Washington Post articles, Western wildfires: Climate change fueled blazes engulf vast region in crisis. [], Western wildfire smoke nearing Europe, may be on an around-the-world journey [], and California fire tornadoes had winds up to 125 mph [] Also New York Times article, It’s Not Just the West. These Places Are Also on Fire []

2020-09-08. Much of the American West is on fire, illustrating the dangers of a climate of extremes. By Scott Wilson, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Much of the American West is burning. Although the traditional fire season has yet to begin, parts of a half-dozen states from coastal California to the Rocky Mountains are being charred by more than 70 wildfires fed by tinder-dry vegetation, record heat and blustery winds that kicked up Tuesday across the region. Smoke has cast a worrisome pall over vast areas of terrain, turning the sky an ominous red and threatening those with allergies and asthma. …the fires have set in motion a seasonal displacement of weary Westerners, many of whom are now accustomed to packing “go bags” each late-summer season when forced evacuations have become commonplace. In California, where two dozen major wildfires are burning, a new round of fast-moving blazes sparked up over the weekend just as thousands of people began returning to homes evacuated only last month because of a different set of fires. More than 2.2 million acres have burned in the state this year, a modern record with the traditional fire season still weeks away. …California’s Creek Fire, which is burning fast through expansive dry stands of trees on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevadas, destroyed half the homes in the tiny town of Big Creek over the weekend and stranded dozens of holiday campers along the shores of a reservoir. At the same time, a wildfire in Washington state wiped out much of Malden, a town of 200 people south of Spokane in the state’s far east. The National Weather Service on Tuesday placed Northwest and southwestern Oregon under an extreme fire danger warning, the first time southern Oregon has been the subject of such a warning, according to the Oregon Climate Office…. [] 
2020-09-05. Land in Russia’s Arctic Blows ‘Like a Bottle of Champagne’. By Andrew E. Kramer. The New york Times. Excerpt: MOSCOW — A natural phenomenon first observed by scientists just six years ago and now recurring with alarming frequency in Siberia is causing the ground to explode spontaneously and with tremendous force, leaving craters up to 100 feet deep. …While initially a mystery, scientists have established that the craters appearing in the far north of western Siberia are caused by subterranean gases, and the recent flurry of explosions is possibly related to global warming, Mr. Chuvilin said. …Mr. Chuvilin said the conditions causing the explosions, which are still not fully understood, are probably specific to the geology of the area, as similar craters have not appeared elsewhere in Siberia or in permafrost zones in Canada and Alaska that are also affected by global warming. …The explosions occur underneath small hills or hummocks on the tundra where gas from decaying organic matter is trapped underground…. []  

2020-09-02. Groundwater Crisis in Zimbabwe Brought On by Droughts. By Andrew Mambondiyani, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Zimbabwe’s groundwater is disappearing fast, leaving rural communities without water for household and agricultural use. In parched Zimbabwe, farmers—along with water experts and policy makers—are apprehensive as groundwater is depleted rapidly because of drawn-out droughts. …Anna Brazier, an independent climate change researcher and consultant based in Zimbabwe, said that although drought years are part of the normal climate cycle in this part of Africa—often associated with the well-known El Niño–Southern Oscillation—global warming is causing droughts to become more frequent, more intense, and less predictable. …“Strategic use of groundwater for food security in a changing climate is becoming more and more important. It is important for farmers to utilize water resources sustainably to allow water seepage to greater depths,” Zhakata said…. [

2020-09-01. Hottest season on record: Merciless Phoenix heat blasts by all-time monthly, summer milestones. By Ian Livingston, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Phoenix has relentlessly baked for months. In July, it clinched its hottest month on record. Then August topped that and became the new hottest month. The back-to-back records propelled the country’s sixth-largest city to its hottest summer (June through August) on record by a wide margin. The summer finished 1.6 degrees above the previous high mark. The scorching heat in Phoenix and other parts of the desert Southwest comes as several other parts of the Lower 48 also registered their hottest summers…. [

2020-08-31. Global Survey Using NASA Data Shows Dramatic Growth of Glacial Lakes. NASA Release 20-080. Excerpt: In the largest-ever study of glacial lakes, researchers using 30 years of NASA satellite data have found that the volume of these lakes worldwide has increased by about 50% since 1990 as glaciers melt and retreat due to climate change. The findings, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, will aid researchers assessing the potential hazards to communities downstream of these often unstable lakes and help improve the accuracy of sea level rise estimates by advancing our understanding of how glacial meltwater is transported to the oceans. Glaciers are retreating on a near-global scale and this study provides scientists with a clearer picture of how much of this water has been stored in lakes…. [] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. See also 2020 Sep 2 New York Times article Melting Glaciers Are Filling Unstable Lakes. And They’re Growing and 2020 Aug 31 Nature article Rapid worldwide growth of glacial lakes since 1990.

2020-08-31. Wildfires Trigger Long-Term Permafrost Thawing. By Katherine Kornei, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Permafrost underlies much of the far north, but this amalgam of ice and frozen soil is far from stable—it’s thawing as temperatures rise worldwide. That’s bad news because permafrost is a significant repository of carbon, which can be readily converted into carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. …Siberia has been plagued by many blazes recently, said Roger Michaelides, a geophysicist at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden not involved in the research, and there’s no sign of the fires abating. “With climate change, wildfire frequency and severity are expected to increase.” …“The fire itself doesn’t melt permafrost directly.” Rather, a blaze eradicates vegetation, which reflects and absorbs sunlight. When that insulating layer is lost, the ground heats up more readily, causing permafrost to thaw…. []  

2020-08-27. Hurricane Laura’s rapid intensification is a sign of a warming climate, scientists say. By Chris Mooney and Andrew Freedman. Excerpt: Surveying the Gulf of Mexico late Tuesday afternoon, National Hurricane Center experts saw a Category 1 hurricane — dangerous, but not likely to cause major damage. Forecaster Jack Beven put the storm’s maximum sustained wind speed at around 80 mph, forecasting a strong Category 2 storm by the next day. Twenty-four hours later, Hurricane Laura was unrecognizable. It had rocketed into a high-end Category 4 storm, with wind speeds of nearly 145 mph, and was teetering toward Category 5 — the most dangerous. It was one of the fastest transformations on record in the Gulf of Mexico. Experts call the phenomenon “rapid intensification” and say it’s happening more frequently, thanks in part to warming ocean temperatures driven by climate change. …Jim Kossin, a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Wisconsin, says the warm ocean waters and exchange of heat between the ocean and atmosphere, plus the lack of dry air or strong upper-level winds, created an ideal environment for Hurricane Laura to rapidly intensify all the way to the Louisiana coastline. Kossin said the unusually warm waters of the Gulf are tied in part to human-caused global warming, since the vast majority of the heat trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gas emissions ends up in the ocean…. [] See also Science Magazine article, Tales from the storm: how four scientists tracked Hurricane Laura []

2020-08-26. U.S. Flood Strategy Shifts to ‘Unavoidable’ Relocation of Entire Neighborhoods. By Christopher Flavelle, The New York Times. Excerpt: This week’s one-two punch of Hurricane Laura and Tropical Storm Marco may be extraordinary, but the storms are just two of nine to strike Texas and Louisiana since 2017 alone, helping to drive a major federal change in how the nation handles floods. For years, even as seas rose and flooding worsened nationwide, policymakers stuck to the belief that relocating entire communities away from vulnerable areas was simply too extreme to consider — an attack on Americans’ love of home and private property as well as a costly use of taxpayer dollars. Now, however, that is rapidly changing amid acceptance that rebuilding over and over after successive floods makes little sense. The shift threatens to uproot people not only on the coasts but in flood-prone areas nationwide, while making the consequences of climate change even more painful for cities and towns already squeezed financially. This month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency detailed a new program, worth an initial $500 million, with billions more to come, designed to pay for large-scale relocation nationwide. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has started a similar $16 billion program. That followed a decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to start telling local officials that they must agree to force people out of their homes or forfeit federal money for flood-protection projects…. [

2020-08-25. Growing underwater heat blob speeds demise of Arctic sea ice. By Paul Voosen, Science Magazine. Excerpt: In March, soon after arriving aboard the Polarstern, a German icebreaker frozen into Arctic sea ice, Jennifer Hutchings watched as ice broke up around the ship, weeks earlier than expected. …Arctic sea ice is itself an endangered species. …The trend is clear: Summer ice covers half the area it did in the 1980s, and because it is thinner, its volume is down 75%. With the Arctic warming three times faster than the global average, most scientists grimly acknowledge the inevitability of ice-free summers, perhaps as soon as 2035. …Now, he and others are learning that a warming atmosphere is far from the only factor speeding up the ice loss. Strengthening currents and waves are pulverizing the ice. And a study published last week suggests deep heat in the Arctic Ocean has risen and is now melting the ice from below. Unlike the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, the Arctic gets warmer as it gets deeper. Bitter winters and chilly, buoyant freshwater from Eurasian rivers cool its surface layers, which helps preserve the underside of the ice. But at greater depths sits a warm blob of salty Atlantic water, thought to be safely separated from the sea ice. As the reflective ice melts, however, it is replaced by darker water, which absorbs more of the Sun’s energy and warms. Those warming surface waters are likely migrating down into the blob, which robotic temperature probes, moorings, and oceanographic surveys show is steadily warming and growing. With enough heat to melt the Arctic’s ice three to four times over, the blob could devour the ice from below if the barrier of the cold surface layers ever dissipates. Measurements from the eastern Arctic Ocean, published last week in the Journal of Climate, show the blob, usually found 150 meters below or deeper, has recently moved up to within 80 meters of the surface. Increased turbulence means some of that heat is now melting ice, says Igor Polyakov, an oceanographer at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. “This heat has become, regionally, the key forcing for sea ice decay.”…. []  

2020-08-14. Record Arctic blazes may herald new ‘fire regime’ decades sooner than anticipated. By Andrew Freedman and Lauren Tierney, The Washington Post. Excerpt: The Arctic summer of 2019 was supposed to be an outlier. Featuring massive blazes in Siberia, including what scientists strongly suspected were smoldering fires beneath the peat in the carbon-rich soils of the transition zone between the tundra and Arctic taiga, last year set records for emitting planet-warming greenhouse gases via wildfires. Many scientists thought it might be a one-off, considering that computer model projections tend to show that the emergence of such extreme fire years won’t happen until mid-century. However, this year is proving those scientists wrong. And it raises the unsettling possibility that fire seasons that begin much earlier than average and end later — and affect delicate Arctic ecosystems — could soon be the new normal. Wildfires continue to burn unimpeded across Siberia, as they have since May, after getting an unusually early start to the fire season. A thick blanket of smoke has turned the sky a milky gray in Siberia’s cities, with some smoke making it across the Pacific into Alaska and Canada’s Hudson Bay…. [] [GSS editorial comment: Should we be doing everything we can, personally and societally, to stop burning fossil fuels and stop the destruction of forests and “green” ecosystems? It makes no difference whether you want to think of this as a movement to “save the Earth” or to “not destroy vibrant ecosystems.”]
2020-08-12. Typhoons Getting Stronger, Making Landfall More Often. By Tim Hornyak, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: …Typhoons and hurricanes are one of the drivers of intensifying natural disasters, which in 2019 caused some $150 billion in damages around the world, according to the insurer Munich Re. It was a consecutive year of record losses from typhoons in Japan, which suffered $17 billion in damages in the wake of Typhoon Hagibis, 2019’s costliest event. …In a long-term study that was the basis for a poster submitted to the conference, scientists found that severe typhoons making landfall have increased abruptly in China since 2004. The researchers analyzed tropical cyclone data from the China Meteorological Administration’s Shanghai Typhoon Institute for the July–September period from 1973 to 2017. They showed that about 9.7% of landfall typhoons in southern China underwent a rapid intensification in the 24 hours before coming ashore during the 2004–2017 period, more than double the 1.6% and 3.1% intensification over the previous periods. Citing previous research exploring the relationship between more intense typhoons and global warming, the scientists noted that overall, warmer oceans are driving such storms, whereas warmer land surfaces in southern China are helping attract them…. [
2020-08-12. Baghdad’s record heat offers glimpse of world’s climate change future. By Louisa Loveluck, Chris Mooney, The Washington Post. Excerpt: BAGHDAD — This city roars in the summertime. You hear the generators on every street, shaking and shuddering to keep electric fans whirring as the air seems to shimmer in the heat. Iraq isn’t just hot. It’s punishingly hot. Record-breakingly hot. When one of us returned here last week, the air outside felt like an oven. The suitcase crackled as it was unzipped. It turned out that the synthetic fibers of a headscarf had melted crispy and were now stuck to the top of the case. A cold bottle of water was suddenly warm to the lips. At our office, the door handle was so hot it left blisters at the touch. Baghdad hit 125.2 degrees on July 28, blowing past the previous record of 123.8 degrees — which was set here five years ago — and topping 120 degrees for four days in a row. Sitting in one of the fastest warming parts of the globe, the city offers a troubling snapshot of the future that climate change might one day bring other parts of the world…. [
2020-08-07. This giant climate hot spot is robbing the West of its water. By Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post. Excerpt: …on Colorado’s Western Slope, no snow means no snowpack. And no snowpack means no water in an area that’s so dry it’s lucky to get 10 inches of rain a year. …A 20-year drought is stealing the water that sustains this region, and climate change is making it worse. …This cluster of counties on Colorado’s Western Slope — along with three counties just across the border in eastern Utah — has warmed more than 2 degrees Celsius, double the global average. Spanning more than 30,000 square miles, it is the largest 2C hot spot in the Lower 48, a Washington Post analysis found. The average flow of the Colorado River has declined nearly 20 percent over the past century, half of which is because of warming temperatures, scientists say. With the region’s snowpack shrinking and melting earlier, the ground absorbs more heat — and more of the precious water evaporates. …The world has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius since the industrial revolution, on average. But global warming doesn’t affect the planet uniformly, and 10 percent of it is already at 2C, The Post found…. []  
2020-07-28. Siberia’s ‘gateway to the underworld’ grows as record heat wave thaws permafrost. By Richard Stone, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Global warming is inflicting wounds across Siberia. Outbursts of pent-up methane gas in thawing permafrost have pocked Russia’s desolate Yamal and Gydan peninsulas with holes tens of meters across. Apartment buildings are listing and collapsing on the unsteady ground, causing about $2 billion of damage per year to the Russian economy. Forest fires during the past three summers have torched millions of hectares across Siberia, blanketing the land with dark soot and charcoal that absorb heat and accelerate melting. Intensifying this year’s fires was a heat wave that baked Siberia for the first half of 2020. On 20 June, the town of Verkhoyansk, just 75 kilometers from Batagay and one of the coldest inhabited places on Earth, reached 38°C, the hottest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic. The record-breaking heat “would have been effectively impossible without human-induced climate change,” said the authors of a 15 July study by World Weather Attribution, a collaboration of meteorologists who analyze the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events. An abiding question is how much carbon the thawing soil will release to the atmosphere, and whether the lusher growth of Arctic plants in the warming climate will absorb enough carbon to offset the release. The Arctic may already have reached a tipping point: Based on observations at 100 field sites, northern permafrost released on average about 600 million tons more carbon than vegetation absorbed each year from 2003 to 2017, scientists estimated in October 2019…. [ eway-underworld-grows-record-heat-wave-thaws-permafrost]. 
2020-07-27. A Future of Retreating Glaciers in the Himalayas. By T. V. Padma, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: India’s first regional climate change assessment warns of accelerated glacier melt. …Climate change has hastened glacial melting across the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, home to some of the world’s tallest peaks, including Mount Everest. According to India’s first assessment of climate change [], the country’s glaciers—and water resources—will be at further risk without local actions. The Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) are a 3,500-square-kilometer stretch of mountains that span eight countries. The region is called the “Third Pole,” as it contains the largest reserve of freshwater outside the polar regions. Its glaciers feed 10 large Asian rivers, including the Ganges, Mekong, and Yangtze. Air over HKH warmed at a rate of 0.2℃ each decade from 1951 to 2014 and at the even higher rate of 0.5℃ per decade at elevations higher than 4,000 meters, according to the report [], prepared by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MOES) and released in June. The assessment explained that several areas, with the exception of the high-elevation Karakoram Himalayas, saw declining snowfall and retreating glaciers during the past half century. The report projected that even with the Indian government’s commitment to mitigate greenhouse gases by 2030, the Indian Himalayas could warm by 2.6℃–4.6℃ by 2100…. []. 
2020-07-22. Worsening Water Crisis in the Eastern Caribbean. By Sarah Peter, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: For years, people living in the eastern Caribbean have not had reliable supplies of fresh water: Their homes might go for months without running showers or flushing toilets, let alone potable fresh water on tap. …In a Facebook post in early June, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet raised the alarm that the country is “currently experiencing drought conditions said to be the worst in more than 50 years.” The island’s sole reservoir is at “alarmingly low water levels,” Chastanet said, owing to lower than average rainfall made worse by heavy siltation that has reduced the reservoir’s capacity by “a whopping 30%.” …Although they contribute far less than 1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, small island nations like the ones that make up the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States are among the first to experience the most destructive impacts of climate change: sea level rise, increased storm activity, and coastal erosion. One of the inevitable casualties is water supply. …Climate change has shifted the hydrological cycle in the region, with more intense rainfall and longer dry spells. Venantius Descartes, senior meteorologist at Saint Lucia Meteorological Services, said that paradoxically, increases in storms and hurricanes as a result of climate change have exacerbated the island’s water shortage. As bigger storms bring more water, they destroy infrastructure and lead to contamination, affecting the distribution and quality of the water supply in the region…. []  
2020-07-20. Global warming shrinks bird breeding windows, potentially threatening species. By Charlotte Hartley, Science Magazine. Excerpt: For breeding birds, timing is everything. Most species have just a narrow window to get the food they need to feed their brood—after spring’s bounty has sprung, but before other bird species swoop in to compete. Now, a new study suggests that as the climate warms, birds are not only breeding earlier, but their breeding windows are also shrinking—some by as many as 4 to 5 days. This could lead to increased competition for food that might threaten many bird populations…. []  
2020-07-20. Global Warming Is Driving Polar Bears Toward Extinction, Researchers Say. By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. Excerpt: Polar bears could become nearly extinct by the end of the century as a result of shrinking sea ice in the Arctic if global warming continues unabated, scientists said Monday. …By rough estimates there are about 25,000 polar bears in the Arctic. Their main habitat is sea ice, where they hunt seals by waiting for them to surface at holes in the ice. In some areas the bears remain on the ice year round, but in others the melting in spring and summer forces them to come ashore. “You need the sea ice to capture your food,” Dr. Molnar said. “There’s not enough food on land to sustain a polar bear population.” But bears can fast for months, surviving on the energy from the fat they’ve built up thanks to their seal diet. …the time that the animals would be forced to fast would eventually exceed the time that they are capable of fasting. In short, the animals would starve…. [
2020-07-16. Modeling Water Stress for Shared Water Resources. By Kate Wheeling, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: A third of the world’s population is living with high levels of water stress, according to the World Resources Institute []. Reservoirs in major cities in India, South Africa, and elsewhere have nearly run dry because of ever increasing water demand, and climate change is expected to make these arid regions even drier. Researchers typically evaluate such factors as local climate, population, and resource management decisions to predict a region’s future water stress. But such predictions are especially complex in transboundary basins, where populations separated by national borders share the same water resources. …Consider the Colorado River: The waterway flows across the U.S. Southwest, serving 35 million Americans, before flowing into Mexico. It used to carry 1,200 cubic meters of water per second across the border, but increasing demand in the United States and drought conditions have left the riverbed nearly dry in Mexico. …upward of 2 billion people worldwide experience water stress for at least part of the year because of upstream water use. To investigate what future water stress might look like in these areas, Munia et al. [] used data on water availability, consumption, and population from global hydrological models run under various future greenhouse gas emission and socioeconomic scenarios. They found that under the best-case scenario, with low emissions and slow population growth, water stress in transboundary basins would increase by half by 2050, relative to stress in 2010. Under the business-as-us ual scenario, with high emissions and population growth, water stress would double over the same time frame…. []  
2020-07-15. A Heat Wave, the Coronavirus: Double Spikes of Risk Hit Communities. By John Schwartz, The New York Times. Excerpt: For much of the United States, the last several days have been brutal: record temperatures recorded around the country, and coronavirus case numbers are on the rise as well, complicating efforts to protect people at risk. …Greg Carbin, the chief of the forecast operations branch at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center, said, “It’s July — you kind of expect this, to some extent. But the magnitude of it is a little severe.” This is the beginning of a summer that NOAA has warned is likely to have many more scorching days. The combination of heat and humidity sent heat indexes in places like central Oklahoma above 115 degrees, and “that is just really dangerous to spend any time outdoors in, unless you’re standing under a cool waterfall somewhere,” Mr. Carbin said, who also noted that the heat index in New Orleans on Monday was 120 degrees. The tremendous heat and moisture can also set the stage for severe weather. “When you have that much energy available for those storms, it can be very dangerous,” he said…. [
2020-07-15. That Siberian Heat Wave? Yes, Climate Change Was a Big Factor. By  John Schwartz, The New York Times. Excerpt: … scientists looked at two recent examples of exceptional heating in Siberia, one long-term and the other more brief. The first was the overall rise in temperature across the region from January to June, which was more than nine degrees Fahrenheit above average temperatures recorded between 1951 and 1980. The second was the astonishing spike on June 20 that put temperatures at the Russian town of Verkhoyansk at a reported 100.4 degrees, which the Russian Meteorological Service said is a record for temperatures anywhere north of the Arctic Circle. In their analysis, the scientists said climate change made the prolonged heat event 600 times as likely to occur as it would be without climate change….. []  See also Washington Post article – Siberian heat streak and Arctic temperature record virtually ‘impossible’ without global warming, study says []
2020-06-24. The Ticking Time Bomb of Arctic Permafrost. By Jenessa Duncombe, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Arctic infrastructure is under threat from thawing permafrost. An Arctic ecosystem is in crisis this month after a fuel tank in Russia collapsed and spilled 20,000 tons of diesel into the environment. Thawing permafrost and aging facilities likely caused the spill, and the ecosystem could take more than a decade to recover. Although Arctic communities have long known that warming temperatures will undermine buildings, roads, and other infrastructure, scientific research is still catching up on how to create localized hazard maps of permafrost thaw. Meanwhile, communities don’t have time to wait for research to catch up. …“I’ve heard of dozens of houses falling in, and a few churches. There are multiple graveyards that are falling in, and there’s nothing that anybody can do,” said Darcy Peter, a researcher at Woods Hole Research Center who specializes in permafrost thaw…. []   See also Washington Post article []
2020-06-18. Climate Change Tied to Pregnancy Risks, Affecting Black Mothers Most. By Christopher Flavelle, The New York Times. Excerpt: Pregnant women exposed to high temperatures or air pollution are more likely to have children who are premature, underweight or stillborn, and African-American mothers and babies are harmed at a much higher rate than the population at large, according to  sweeping new research examining  more than 32 million births in the United States. …The research, published Thursday in JAMA Network Open, part of the Journal of the American Medical Association [], presents some of the most sweeping evidence so far linking aspects of climate change with harm to newborn children. … [

2020-06-01. Summers are growing longer due to climate change, while winters are dramatically shrinking. By Brian Brettschneider, The Washington Post. Excerpt: The Earth is warming and disturbing the balance of the seasons. Data makes it clear that summers are expanding while winters are substantially shortening. I recently completed an analysis that examined the hottest and coldest 90 days of the year, approximating summer and winter, over the past two 30-year periods, 1960-1989 and 1990-2019. What I learned was that the hottest temperatures that defined the first 30 years expanded over additional days in the most recent 30 years. Conversely, the coldest temperatures defining the preceding 30 years contracted. In other words, most locations globally, including in the United States and Canada, have seen their summer season lengthen and the winter season shrink…. []

2020-05-27. ‘Overtaken by Aliens’: India Faces Another Plague as Locusts Swarm. By Jeffrey Gettleman and Suhasini Raj, The New York Times. Excerpt: Blizzards of bugs are descending on India at an already tough time. Scientists say climate change is making the infestation worse. [Image caption: Fending off swarms of locusts in Jaipur, India, on Monday. NEW DELHI — …As if India needed more challenges, with coronavirus infections steadily increasing, a heat wave hitting the capital, a recent killer cyclone and 100 million people out of work, the country now has to fight off a new problem: a locust invasion. …Scientists say it’s the worst attack in 25 years and these locusts are different. “This time the attack is by very young locusts who fly for longer distances, at faster speeds, unlike adults in the past who were sluggish and not so fast,” said K.L. Gurjar, the deputy director of India’s Locust Warning Organization. The locusts were flying in from Iran and Pakistan, blanketing half a dozen states in western and central India. Because most of the crops were recently harvested, the hungry swarms have buzzed into urban areas, eager to devour bushes and trees, carpeting whatever surface they land on…. []

2020-05-21. Tropical forests soak up huge amounts of greenhouse gas. Climate change could end that. By Elizabeth Pennisi, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Tropical forests have been one of Earth’s best defenses against rising carbon dioxide levels. The trees suck carbon from the atmosphere as they grow, and researchers estimate that, despite ongoing deforestation, tropical forests hold more carbon than humanity has emitted over the past 30 years by burning coal, oil, and natural gas. But scientists have worried that the ability of tropical forests to act as carbon sinks will diminish and ultimately reverse with continued global warming, as trees stressed by heat and drought die and release their carbon. Today in Science [], researchers report that measurements of carbon storage and growing conditions for some 500,000 trees around the world suggest some tropical forests, particularly in Africa and Asia, will—if left intact—continue to sequester large amounts of carbon even as global temperatures rise. But only up to a point. “There are certain levels where forests can’t respond,” says William Anderegg, a forest ecologist at the University of Utah. If warming reaches 2°C above preindustrial levels, the study finds huge swaths of the world’s tropical forests will begin to lose more carbon than they accumulate. Already, the hottest forests in South America have reached that point…. [

2020-05-19. Once Again into the Northwest Passage. By Frances Crable, Cynthia Garcia-Eidell, Theressa Ewa, Humair Raziuddin, and Samira Umar, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Early European explorers of the New World searched in vain for an easy sea route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. …Roald Amundsen and his crew finally succeeded in making an all-water crossing of this hazardous route in 1906. One consequence of recent rapid Arctic warming is that the Northwest Passage is now ice free (or nearly so) for a longer period of time each year, and establishing shipping routes in this region is no longer a pipe dream. …Over the past 3 years, researchers and undergraduate students at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have prepared and joined the Northwest Passage Project [], a research and cultural expedition to the Northwest Passage funded by the National Science Foundation and the Heising-Simons Foundation. Participants in the project are seeking to understand how this region is changing as a result of climate change, with the aim of further spreading awareness about the severity and global effects of these changes.  …The UIC students aboard the successful 2019 expedition had two main objectives. First, we wanted to document greenhouse gas exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere and assess how Arctic climate change is affecting carbon fluxes between these two reservoirs. …Second, we wanted to evaluate salinity and water isotopic information to determine how terrestrial processes and the influence of freshwater inputs are affecting marine ecosystem properties. …We also participated in outreach activities and visits to archeological sites and Inuit communities…. [] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. 


2020-05-15. Shrinking Ice Sheets Lifted Global Sea Level 14 Millimeters. By Tim Hornyak, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Using satellite data stretching back more than a decade, scientists have found that the loss of ice in Antarctica and Greenland accounts for a 14-millimeter elevation in sea levels since 2003. The data provide the most accurate and granular picture of ice loss so far, a crucial element for predictions of how high seas will rise as the climate changes…. [

2020-05-18. The strongest, most dangerous hurricanes are now far more likely because of climate change, study shows. By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. Excerpt: A new study provides observational evidence that the odds of major hurricanes around the world — Category 3, 4 and 5 storms — are increasing because of human-caused global warming. The implications of this finding, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [], are far-reaching for coastal residents, insurers and policymakers, as the most intense hurricanes cause the most damage…. []  See also

2020-05-16. Wildfires ravaged Siberia last year. This spring, the blazes are starting even bigger. By Isabelle Khurshudyan, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Spring wildfires across Siberia have Russian authorities on alert for a potentially devastating summer season of blazes after an unusually warm and dry winter in one of the world’s climate-change hot spots. Some of the April fires in eastern Russia have already dwarfed the infernos at this time last year, which ultimately roared through 7 million acres in total — more than the size of Maryland — and sent smoke drifting as far as the United States and Canada. Siberia also is among the areas of the world showing the greatest temperature spikes attributed to climate change. This year, the average temperatures since January are running at least 5.4 degrees (3 Celsius) above the long-term average, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. …Warming trends in Siberia are melting permafrost, which releases vast amounts of planet-warming greenhouse gases. The massive blazes in the summer also potentially accelerate global warming. …In Krasnoyarsk, about 2,500 miles east of Moscow, recent fires were 10 times larger than this time last year, he said. Farther to the east, in the Transbaikal Territory, the fires were three times larger…. [

2020-05-08. Lethal levels of heat and humidity are gripping global ‘hot spots’ sooner than expected. By Warren Cornwall, Science Magazine. Excerpt: From the shores of the Persian Gulf to the foothills of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental mountains, hot weather is reaching levels humans can’t endure. An analysis of 4 decades of data from thousands of weather stations shows that a handful of hot spots around the globe are experiencing a potentially lethal mix of heat and humidity—something most of these places weren’t expected to experience until midcentury. “Previous studies projected that this would happen several decades from now, but this shows it’s happening right now,” says Colin Raymond, a postdoctoral researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who led the study. Hot weather is already lethal. A 2003 heat wave, for example, killed more than 70,000 people in Europe, when outdoor temperatures reached more than 40°C. But it’s not just the heat that kills. Humidity is deadly when it prevents the evaporation of sweat—a remarkably efficient way for the human body to cool itself. To measure the effects of heat plus humidity, scientists use wet bulb temperatures—the lowest temperature to which air can be cooled via evaporation…. [] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. See also New York Times article []

2020-05-05. Unprecedented Clear Skies Drove Remarkable Melting in Greenland. By Hannah Thomasy, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: It’s no surprise that warming temperatures are bad news for the Greenland Ice Sheet, a body of ice that’s 3 times the size of Texas. But temperature isn’t the only factor that controls how fast this monstrous ice sheet is melting. New research [] from scientists at Columbia University, NASA, and the University of Liège in Belgium shows that atmospheric conditions play an important role in driving major melting events. In terms of melting, 2019 was one of the worst years for the Greenland Ice Sheet since measurements began in 1948. …Lead author of the new study Marco Tedesco, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said that unusual atmospheric conditions in 2019 were important contributors to this record-breaking loss. In much of Greenland, anticyclonic conditions were abnormally persistent. These conditions made it hard for clouds to form, so clear skies prevailed. “When you have clear skies,” Tedesco said, “you have more energy from the Sun reaching the ice surface, which means that you have an advancement of melting.” …What happens in Greenland could have important implications for the rest of the planet: Tedesco said that the Greenland Ice Sheet is currently the largest single contributor to global sea level rise. …If this high-risk ice melted, he said, it would be enough to raise sea levels by 3 meters, or nearly 10 feet. In an even more severe scenario, if the entire ice sheet melted, sea level would rise by 7 meters, or nearly 23 feet, which would be catastrophic for many coastal cities and for the hundreds of millions of people who live close to sea level…. [] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. 

2020-05-04. Billions Could Live in Extreme Heat Zones Within Decades, Study Finds. By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. Excerpt: As the climate continues to warm over the next half-century, up to one-third of the world’s population is likely to live in areas that are considered unsuitably hot for humans, scientists said Monday. Currently fewer than 25 million people live in the world’s hottest areas, which are mostly in the Sahara region in Africa with mean annual temperatures above about 84 degrees Fahrenheit, or 29 Celsius. But the researchers said that by 2070 such extreme heat could encompass a much larger part of Africa, as well as parts of India, the Middle East, South America, Southeast Asia and Australia. …The parts of the world that could become unsuitably hot “are precisely the areas that are growing the fastest,” said Timothy A. Kohler, an archaeologist at Washington State University and an author of the study [], which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…. [

2020-04-29. Starving grasshoppers? How rising carbon dioxide levels may promote an ‘insect apocalypse’. By Elizabeth Pennisi, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Empty calories may be grasshoppers’ downfall. Many insect populations are declining, and a provocative new hypothesis suggests one problem is that rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are making plants less nutritious. That could spell trouble not just for insects, but for plant eaters of all sizes. …Ellen Welti, Kaspari’s postdoc, had been analyzing data on 44 species of grasshoppers at the Konza Prairie Biological Station, a 3487-hectare native tallgrass preserve in northeastern Kansas that is the site of a long-term ecological research (LTER) program. She tracked population trends in two surveys of grasshopper abundance, one done in undisturbed habitats from 1996 to 2017 and another done from 2002 to 2017 where bison grazed. Population booms and busts coincided with major climatic events, such as El Niño, a Pacific Ocean disturbance that alters temperature and rainfall. But when Welti factored out those events, it became clear to her and Kaspari that over the long term, the grasshoppers were declining, by 30% over 2 decades. “I was actually quite surprised,” Welti recalls. She and other researchers have assumed that habitat loss and pesticides underlie most of the reported drops in insect numbers. But those factors are not thought to be in play on the Konza Prairie. …as Harvard University planetary health scientist Samuel Myers and his colleagues demonstrated in 2014, plants including wheat, maize, rice, and other major crops grown under expected future CO2 levels accumulate less nitrogen, phosphorous, sodium, zinc, and other nutrients than they do under current CO2 levels. The thinking is that roots cannot keep up with the growth stimulated by the extra carbon and therefore don’t provide adequate supplies of other elements…. [

2020-04-28. The Climate and Health Impacts of Gasoline and Diesel Emissions. By David Shultz, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: New research tallies the effects of gas- and diesel-burning vehicle emissions on the climate, as well as on human health. Together, the emissions cause more than 200,000 premature deaths each year…. It’s no secret that CO2 contributes substantially to warming the planet, ….. []  

2020-04-23. Predicting the Future of Greenland’s Melting Ice Sheet. By Sarah Stanley, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Climate change drives increased melting of glaciers around the world, including about 280 glaciers that drain ice from Greenland’s massive ice sheet through deep fjords into the ocean. Greenland’s ice has the potential to increase global sea level by more than 7 meters, but the exact effects and their timing are difficult to predict…. [

2020-04-22. How Financial Markets Can Grow More Climate Savvy. By Jenessa Duncombe, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Energy investors looking to steel themselves against topsy-turvy market transitions could try something new: factoring extreme weather risks into their investments. At present, financial markets may be failing to account for the physical risks of extreme weather from climate change. That’s a problem, according to Paul Griffin, an accounting professor at the University of California, Davis, because overpricing could lead to an extreme correction to the market down the road. “If the market doesn’t do a better job of accounting for climate, we could have a recession—the likes of which we’ve never seen before,” Griffin said in a press release [–ewc021320.php]. On the other hand, if markets do adjust and societies reduce emissions, “a couple of generations from now, we might have a more stable planet,” Griffin told Eos. “This is something that will benefit generations beyond ourselves.” …Many energy firms have infrastructure in vulnerable areas. The Gulf Coast, where numerous oil refineries are located, is facing rising seas and more extreme storms. Southern states are also seeing skyrocketing temperatures, which threatens worker safety. California and other western states are exposed to arid air and wildfires, causing power disruptions. …Factoring climate change into market decisions is difficult, said Griffin, because “you’ve got these massive costs that are far more distant that the markets have a really hard time grappling with.” Moving forward will take both political will and a responsive judicial system to tackle the task, said Griffin…. []  

2020-04-16. ‘There’s No More Water’: Climate Change on a Drying Island. By Tommy Trenchard, The New York Times. Excerpt: A delicate ecosystem was disrupted in the Comoros, off East Africa, when forests were cleared to make way for farmland. The consequences offer lessons for other parts of the developing world. …The island, part of the nation of the Comoros off the East African coast, receives more annual rainfall than most of Europe. But a combination of deforestation and climate change has caused at least half of its permanent rivers to stop flowing in the dry season. Since the 1950s, the island has been clearing forests to make way for farmland and in the process disrupted a delicate ecosystem…. [] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8, Population Growth chapter 5. 

2020-04-16. The western U.S. is locked in the grips of the first human-caused megadrought, study finds. By Andrew Freedman and Darryl Fears, Washington Post. Excerpt: A vast region of the western United States, extending from California, Arizona and New Mexico north to Oregon and Idaho, is in the grips of the first climate change-induced megadrought observed in the past 1,200 years, a study shows. The finding means the phenomenon is no longer a threat for millions to worry about in the future, but is already here. The megadrought has emerged while thirsty, expanding cities are on a collision course with the water demands of farmers and with environmental interests, posing nightmare scenarios for water managers in fast-growing states. A megadrought is broadly defined as a severe drought that occurs across a broad region for a long duration, typically multiple decades. Unlike historical megadroughts triggered by natural climate cycles, emissions of heat-trapping gases from human activities have contributed to the current one, the study finds. …The study, published in the journal Science [] on Thursday, compares modern soil moisture data with historical records gleaned from tree rings, and finds that when compared with all droughts seen since the year 800 across western North America, the 19-year drought that began in 2000 and continued through 2018 (this drought is still ongoing, though the study’s data is analyzed through 2018) was worse than almost all other megadroughts in this region…. [] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. 

2020-04-13. Urban Heat Islands Are Warming the Arctic. By Cheryl Katz. Excerpt: Urban heat islands—centers of warmth surrounded by halos of greening fueled by human activities—are an important climate phenomenon. Characterized by raised temperatures and longer growing seasons, these heat islands trigger significantly faster warming in cities than in rural areas. New research using satellite spectral imaging shows that urban heat islands aren’t just a product of metropolises in the planet’s populous temperate zones. They’re also contributing to climate change in the remote Arctic…. [

2020-04-01. Florida Coastlines Respond to Sea Level Rise. By  Elizabeth Thompson, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Sea level rise is one of climate change’s hallmarks. Rising seas threaten coastal populations and can damage coastal ecosystems. Some ecosystems, though, appear to be building themselves up as the water rolls in. In coastal mangroves and marshes, dead plant matter like leaves and roots does not decompose as it does in drier environments. Instead, it is “buried” in the wet ground. For some of these coastal wetlands, the burial rates seem to be increasing. … The scientists surmised that sea level rise may drive the increasing accumulation of soil carbon…. []. 

2020-04-06. Great Barrier Reef Is Bleaching Again. It’s Getting More Widespread. By Damien Cave, The New York Times. Excerpt: SYDNEY, Australia — When Terry Hughes surveyed the Great Barrier Reef four years ago from a small plane, mapping the bleaching and death of corals [] from water warmed by climate change, he hoped such a rare and heartbreaking scene would not be repeated anytime soon. But rising temperatures sent him back to the air in 2017, when the reef bleached again. Then he returned last month, leading to another devastating conclusion: The reef was being ravaged by bleaching yet again, this time across an even wider area. “It’s the first time we’ve seen severely bleached reefs along the whole length of the reef, in particular, the coastal reefs,” said Professor Hughes, the director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. “Those are bleached everywhere.”… []. 

2020-04-07. The Arctic Ocean May Not Be a Reliable Carbon Sink. By Hannah Thomasy, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Historically, scientists have believed that the Arctic Ocean will be an important carbon sink in the coming years—ice melt will increase the surface area that’s exposed to the air, facilitating carbon uptake from the atmosphere, and cold Arctic waters can store more carbon dioxide (CO2) than warmer waters. Or at least that’s what was supposed to happen. But scientists have begun to suspect that this might not be the case, and new research suggests that the Arctic Ocean is, in fact, not as reliable a carbon sink as we thought. Using data from three research cruises (in 1994, 2005, and 2015), scientists were able to chart how the physical properties of the Arctic Ocean (including total alkalinity, temperature, and dissolved inorganic carbon) changed over time. They found that over the course of the past 20 years, although the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has gone up, the amount of dissolved inorganic carbon in Arctic waters has unexpectedly decreased. That’s because reduced sea ice isn’t the only major change that’s happening in the Arctic Ocean. “There’s actually been a huge increase of fresh water into the Arctic Ocean,” said Ryan Woosley, a marine physical chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lead author of the study…. [].

2020-04-07. Organic Matter in Arctic River Shows Permafrost Thaw. By David Schultz, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The Arctic is the fastest-warming region on Earth, and increasing temperatures are thawing permafrost, releasing more carbon into the atmosphere, and accelerating warming. These feedbacks concern scientists because roughly 850 gigatons of carbon—representing 25%–50% of all soil organic carbon on Earth—are believed to be stored in the permafrost at present. Arctic rivers receive carbon both from the seasonally thawing top layer of the soil and from eroding riverbanks.  …In a new study [], Bröder et al. analyze water from two sites in the Kolyma River watershed in northern Siberia…. []

2020-04-09. Cities Are Flouting Flood Rules. The Cost: $1 Billion. By Christopher Flavelle and John Schwartz, The New York Times. Excerpt: It’s a simple rule, designed to protect both homeowners and taxpayers: If you want publicly subsidized flood insurance, you can’t build a home that’s likely to flood. But local governments around the country, which are responsible for enforcing the rule, have flouted the requirements, accounting for as many as a quarter-million insurance policies in violation, according to data provided to The New York Times by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which runs the flood insurance program. Those structures accounted for more than $1 billion in flood claims during the past decade, the data show. That toll is likely to increase as climate change makes flooding more frequent and intense…. []  
2020-03-31. Abnormally warm Gulf of Mexico could intensify the upcoming tornado and hurricane seasons. By Matthew Cappucci, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Water temperatures are running about three degrees above normal. Water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are running more than three degrees above average, increasing the prospects for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes this spring and potentially stronger hurricane activity in the summer and fall. The last time Gulf of Mexico waters were similarly warm in 2017, it coincided with an above-average tornado season through the spring, and then Category 4 Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas Gulf Coast at the end of summer…. [

2020-03-19. Why did nearly a million king penguins vanish without a trace? By Eli Kintisch, Science. Excerpt: Where on Earth, wondered Henri Weimerskirch, were all the penguins? It was early 2017. Colleagues had sent the seabird ecologist aerial photos of Île aux Cochons, a barren volcanic island halfway between Madagascar and Antarctica that humans rarely visit. The images revealed vast areas of bare rock that, just a few decades before, had been crowded with some 500,000 pairs of nesting king penguins and their chicks. It appeared that the colony—the world’s largest king penguin aggregation and the second biggest colony of any of the 18 penguin species—had shrunk by 90%. …he and his colleagues suspect that changes in the surrounding ocean forced the penguins to swim farther to find food. Studies of other king penguin colonies suggest foraging birds from Île aux Cochons normally swim toward an oceanic feature hundreds of kilometers to the south known as the polar front or Antarctic convergence. …Evidence that a warming ocean could threaten the penguins comes from a 2015 study that Bost and his colleagues did at a smaller king penguin colony, on Possession Island, some 160 kilometers west of Île aux Cochons. …a 2018 paper published in Nature Climate Change forecast that warming seas and other environmental changes could cut king penguin numbers by half by the end of the century…. [] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. 


2020-03-09. Tropical Forests Are Losing Their Ability to Soak Up Carbon. By Jenessa Duncombe, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The towering stands of old-growth trees in Africa’s Salonga National Park in the heart of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the most pristine and protected rain forests on the continent. But these trees are slowly sequestering less and less carbon each year, according to a new study in Nature []. In a survey of hundreds of thousands of trees across South America and Africa, including in Salonga National Park, analysis suggests that tropical trees have reached their limit when it comes to absorbing carbon because too many trees are dying and forests are shrinking…. []


2020-03-03. Climate Change Is Intensifying Arctic Ocean Currents. By Hannah Thomasy, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Melting ice means that strong Arctic winds create more energetic currents in the Beaufort Gyre…. [] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. 


2020-03-05. The Original Long Islanders Fight to Save Their Land From a Rising Sea. By Somini Sengupta and Shola Lawal, The New York Times. Excerpt: SHINNECOCK NATION, Southampton, N.Y. — A maritime people who once spanned a large swath of the eastern Long Island shore, the Shinnecock Indians have been hemmed into a 1.5-square-mile patch of land on the edge of a brackish bay. Now, because of climate change, they’re battling to hold on to what they have left. Rising seas are threatening to eat away at the Shinnecock lands. But the tribe is using everything at its disposal to calm the waves and restore a long, slim beach at the edge of Shinnecock Bay: dredged sand, sea grasses, beach grasses, boulders, oyster shells.

…Climate change is swelling and heating the world’s oceans at an accelerating pace. Inevitably, the Shinnecock will have to bring more sand to replenish what the rising tide keeps washing away. More grass will have to be planted. This spring, Shavonne Smith, director of the tribe’s environmental department, wants to expand the oyster reef designed to dissipate the energy of the waves.

The project is using wind and water to sculpt the sand into gently rising dunes. 

…What the Shinnecock are doing on their land represents what climate adaptation experts call nature-based solutions. Several such efforts are underway elsewhere. New York City’s oyster reefs are being restored to protect Manhattan from storm surges. Marsh grasses have been planted to control erosion in parts of the Florida panhandle. Mangroves have been restored in Vietnam to protect coastal communities from sea level rise and storm surges.

To what extent these natural defenses will succeed in slowing down climate hazards remains uncertain. Ultimately, it depends not on nature, but on how quickly the world as a whole reduces the emission of planet-warming gases and stems the rate of sea level rise…. [

2020-03-04. Climate Change Affected Australia’s Wildfires, Scientists Confirm. By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. Excerpt: Confirming what had been widely suspected, researchers have found that human-caused climate change had an impact on Australia’s recent devastating wildfires, making the extremely high-risk conditions that led to widespread burning at least 30 percent more likely than in a world without global warming…. []  

2020-03-01. Climate Migrants. By Esri’s Story Maps team. Excerpt: Climate change is already displacing thousands of people. There is little doubt that the coming decades will see a vast increase in the number of people forced from their homes by global warming…. []  

2020-02-23. The Fires Are Out, but Australia’s Climate Disasters Aren’t Over. ByDamien Cave, The New York Times; photographs by Matthew Abbott. Excerpt: RAINBOW FLAT, Australia — Standing in thick mud between burned trees and a concrete slab where his house had been, Peter Ruprecht admitted that he was not sure how or when to rebuild. He was still dizzied by what Australia’s increasingly volatile climate had already delivered: first a drought, then a devastating bush fire, then a foot of rain from a tropical storm. …With floods destroying homes not far from where infernos recently raged, they are confronting a cycle of what scientists call “compound extremes”: one climate disaster intensifying the next. Warmer temperatures do more than just dry out the land. They also heat up the atmosphere, which means clouds hold more moisture for longer periods of time. So droughts get worse, giving way to fires, then to crushing rains that the land is too dry to absorb. One result of that multiplier effect for Australia — a global bellwether for climate change’s effects — is that rebuilding after a disaster becomes far more complicated. Many Australians in disaster zones complain that their government, after dismissing climate change for years, has yet to outline recovery plans that are clear and that take future threats into account…. [

2020-02-22. Adapting to Rising Seas, Schools Move to the Rafters and Cats Swim. By Hannah Beech, The New York Times, photographs by Jes Aznar. Excerpt: BATASAN, Philippines — When the floods invade her home at night — and they always do, a little higher each year — Pelagia Villarmia curls up on her bed and waits.Someday soon, she knows, the water will creep past the bamboo slats of her bed. It will keep rising, salty and dark and surprisingly cold. …What is happening to Ms. Villarmia and her neighbors on Batasan, an island in the Philippines, is a harbinger of what residents of low-lying islands and coastal regions around the world will face as the seas rise higher. …Now climate change, with its rising sea levels, appears to be dooming a place that has no elevation to spare. The highest point on the islands is less than 6.5 feet above sea level. …“The climate refugee message is more sensational but the more realistic narrative from the islanders themselves is adaptation rather than mass migration,” said Laurice Jamero, who has researched the Tubigon islands for five years and runs the climate and disaster risk assessment efforts at the Manila Observatory, a research institute. And Batasan’s residents have adjusted. They have rolled up their hems. They have placed their houses on blocks of coral stone. They have tethered their goats to sheds on stilts. They have moved most plant life from floodable patches of land to portable pots…. []  

2020-02-21. ‘Like an Umbrella Had Covered the Sky’: Locust Swarms Despoil Kenya. By By Abdi Latif Dahir, The New York Times. Excerpt: WAMBA, Kenya — When the dense, dark smudge started blocking out the daytime sky, many in a sleepy pastoralist hamlet in northern Kenya imagined it was a cloud ushering in some welcome, cooling rain. But the hope soon turned to terror when the giant blot revealed itself as a swarm of fast-moving desert locusts, which have been cutting a path of devastation through Kenya since late December. …the infestation has spread through much of the eastern part of the continent and the Horn of Africa, razing pasture and croplands in Somalia and Ethiopia and sweeping into South Sudan, Djibouti, Uganda and Tanzania. …The highly mobile creatures can travel over 80 miles a day. Their swarms, which can contain as many as 80 million locust adults in each square kilometer, eat the same amount of food daily as about 35,000 people. …The current infestation in the Horn of Africa was exacerbated by the heavy rainfalls that pounded the region from October through December 2019 — helping create conditions conducive for the breeding and growth of desert locusts, whose bodies undergo dramatic changes in response to the environment. …The abnormally heavy rains were caused by the Indian Ocean dipole, a phenomenon heightened by “the continuous warming of the western part of the Indian Ocean due to climate change,” says Abubakr Salih Babiker, a climate scientist with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development…. Rising temperatures also mean locusts can mature more quickly and spread to higher elevation environments. Given that many locusts are adapted to arid regions, if climate change expands the geographic extent of these lands, locusts could expand their range as well. “Therefore, in general, locust outbreaks are expected to become more frequent and severe under climate change,” said Arianne Cease, director of the Global Locust Initiative at Arizona State University…. []  

2020-02-17. “Glacial Earthquakes” Spotted for the First Time on Thwaites. By Katherine Kornei, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: These seismic events, triggered by icebergs capsizing and ramming into Thwaites, reveal that the glacier has lost some of its floating ice shelf. …These observations confirm that Thwaites’s floating ice shelf is degrading. That’s bad news, scientists agree, because the glacier helps hold back the West Antarctic Ice Sheet from flowing into the sea. …Thwaites Glacier, roughly the size of the state of Florida, is one of the largest sources of ice loss in Antarctica and is responsible for about 4% of global sea level rise. It regularly sheds icebergs hundreds of meters on a side into the Amundsen Sea, but some of these chunks of ice aren’t just drifting away, said J. Paul Winberry, a geophysicist at Central Washington University in Ellensburg who led the new study. Thanks to their shape, they’re capsizing. “They’re taller than they are wide. They’re top-heavy, and they want to flip over,” said Winberry. Over several tens of seconds, these icebergs roll backward and collide with the new edge of Thwaites. “They bang the front of the glacier,” said Winberry. Those collisions launch seismic waves that can be picked up by detectors hundreds and even thousands of kilometers away…. [] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.  See also “River Ice Is Disappearing”

2020-02-14. Wine Grape Diversity Buffers Climate Change–Induced Losses. By Katherine Kornei, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: By mixing up which wine grape varieties are planted where, the wine industry can better ride out the effects of a warming climate, new research reveals. Using climate models and historical records of wine grape ripening patterns, scientists have shown that roughly 50% of the planet’s current wine-growing areas won’t be climatically suitable for their present variety if temperatures increase by 2°C. But if growers opt to plan ahead for climate change and plant later-ripening varieties like grenache now, those losses can be cut in half. In other words, exploiting biological diversity can help vintners buffer against climate change–induced losses, the team concluded…. [

2020-02-13. A Crisis Right Now: San Francisco and Manila Face Rising Seas. By Somini Sengupta, The New York Times global climate reporter, and Chang W. Lee, photographer for The Times. [They] traveled to the Philippines and California to see how rising sea levels are affecting two big metropolitan areas.. Excerpt: What do you do when the sea comes for your home, your school, your church? You could try to hold back the water. Or you could raise your house. Or you could just leave. An estimated 600 million people live directly on the world’s coastlines, among the most hazardous places to be in the era of climate change. According to scientific projections, the oceans stand to rise by one to four feet by the end of the century, with projections of more ferocious storms and higher tides that could upend the lives of entire communities. Many people face the risks right now. Two sprawling metropolitan areas offer a glimpse of the future. One rich, one poor, they sit on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean: the San Francisco Bay Area (population 7 million) and metropolitan Manila (almost 14 million)…. [

2020-02-13. Science Gets Up to Speed on Dry Rivers. By Margaret Shanafield, et al, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Australia’s third-longest river, the Darling, normally experiences periods of medium to low flow, punctuated by flood events. But vast stretches of the river in New South Wales have been bone dry for the past two summers, and in 2019 the river was dry by early spring. The lack of flows has left communities along its banks in dire straits, with many trucking in water to serve even basic domestic water requirements. Millions of dollars have been spent building pipelines to distant reservoirs, while groundwater resources have also been put under increased stress to fill gaps. River ecosystems have also felt the impacts acutely, with mass fish deaths being just one example. Periods of drought are partly responsible for the diminishing flows in the Darling. More important, however, are increasing water withdrawals over several decades that have taken a toll on this river, whose flow has been heavily altered by damming and diversion for irrigation. The challenges posed by the increasing frequency and duration of no-flow periods in rivers are not unique to arid regions: Over half of the world’s streams and rivers are dry for some part of the year, and the geographic extent of nonperennial waterways is forecast to increase because of climate change and increasing water use. Headwaters in humid regions typically also dry out for part of the year because they drain such small regions. These streams, too, are being affected by climate change…. [

2020-02-07. Helping Alaskan Communities Facing Climate Risks. By Andy Showstack, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Everything is changing in Shishmaref, …with Alaska warming twice as quickly as the global average and faster than any other U.S. state. Shishmaref, on the front lines of climate change, faces increased flooding, erosion, and thawing permafrost, and a December 2019 assessment prepared for the Denali Commission ranked it as the second most threatened community in Alaska. (The Denali Commission is a federal agency that provides utilities, infrastructure, and economic support throughout Alaska.)…. []  2020-02-10. Africa, a Thunder and Lightning Hot Spot, May See Even More Storms. By Shola Lawal, The New York Times. Excerpt: Africa is experiencing bigger and more frequent thunderstorms as global temperatures rise, according to researchers at Tel Aviv University. …meteorologists wondered at the time whether thunderstorms were becoming more common in Africa in the era of climate change. The answer, according to the new research, published in January in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate [], is yes. An increase in temperatures in Africa over the past seven decades correlates with bigger and more frequent thunderstorms, the researchers found…. [

2020-02-06. Climate Change: It’s a Buzzkill for Bumblebees, Study Finds.
 By Kendra Pierre-Louis and Nadja Popovich, The New York Times. Excerpt: Behold the humble bumblebee. Hot temperatures linked to climate change, especially extremes like heat waves, are contributing to the decline of these fuzzy and portly creatures, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science []. Researchers found that bumblebee populations had recently declined by 46 percent in North America and by 17 percent across Europe when compared to a base period of 1901 to 1974. The biggest declines were in areas where temperatures spiked well beyond the historical range, which raises concerns that climate change could increase the risk of extinction for bees, which are already threatened by pesticide use and habitat loss. …Bumblebees are one piece of the ecological networks threatened by climate change. “Bumblebees contribute to pollination services for a bunch of different plants, among them are things like tomatoes in greenhouses, but also a whole lot of other species in open-air agriculture,” Dr. Kerr said….. [

2020-02-05. Global warming is speeding up Earth’s massive ocean currents. 
By Paul Voosen, Science Magazine. Excerpt: The oceans’ great continent-wrapping currents, each one moving as much water as all the world’s rivers combined, can rightly be considered the planet’s circulatory system. And this circulation, it appears, has started to thump faster: For nearly 25 years the currents have been rapidly speeding up, partly because of global warming…. [] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. 

2020-01-31. Diagnosing Thwaites. 
By Javier Barbuzano, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The water under a vulnerable Antarctic glacier is warming. Its catastrophic collapse could trigger a dramatic increase in global sea level. Thwaites Glacier is not stable. In fact, it is one of the most rapidly changing glaciers in Antarctica, melting at roughly twice the rate it did in the mid-1990s. And in January, scientists confirmed a dire prediction: The water underneath the glacier is currently two degrees above the freezing point….. []  

2020-01-29. Temperatures at a Florida-Size Glacier in Antarctica Alarm Scientists. By Shola Lawal. The New York Times. [] Excerpt: Scientists in Antarctica have recorded, for the first time, unusually warm water beneath a glacier the size of Florida that is already melting and contributing to a rise in sea levels. The researchers, working on the Thwaites Glacier, recorded water temperatures at the base of the ice of more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above the normal freezing point. Critically, the measurements were taken at the glacier’s grounding line, the area where it transitions from resting wholly on bedrock to spreading out on the sea as ice shelves. It is unclear how fast the glacier is deteriorating: Studies have forecast its total collapse in a century and also in a few decades. The presence of warm water in the grounding line may support estimates at the faster range….  

2020-01-27. Tears for the Magnificent and Shrinking Everglades, a ‘River of Grass’. By Nina Burleigh, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: Florida’s freshwater wonder is threatened like never before with a rising sea level as restoration efforts lag….  

2020-01-09. Here’s What Your Favorite Ski Resort May Look Like in 2085. By Jenessa Duncombe, Eos/AGU. [] Excerpt: Ski seasons at many of North America’s western resorts might melt away by 2085 because of warming temperatures…. 

2020-01-11. The Merchants of Thirst. By Peter Schwartzstein, The New York Times.