Environment

The difference between night and day is disappearing

The distinction between day and night is disappearing in the most heavily populated regions of the Earth, a rapid shift with profound consequences for human health and the environment, according to a paper published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

From 2012 to 2016, the artificially lit area of the Earth’s surface grew by 2.2 percent per year. Bright nighttime lighting only started becoming widespread about 100 years ago, meaning we have little idea how humans or other species adapt to it at an evolutionary level. Light has been introduced in places, times and intensities at which it does not naturally occur and [for] many organisms, there is no chance to adapt to this new stressor.

The past few years have seen the rapid adoption of highly efficient LED lights for indoor and outdoor use. The short-wavelength blue light emitted by most LEDs, because our eyes are particularly attuned to this type of light, it’s been implicated in sleep deficiencies and other human health problems. Last year, the American Medical Association issued a warning about health risks associated with this type of light.

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Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45.0 degrees Celsius) in Catamarca, Argentina.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 55.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 48.3 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Global Warming

Warning to Humanity

In late 1992, 1,700 scientists from around the world issued a dire “warning to humanity.” They said humans had pushed Earth’s ecosystems to their breaking point and were well on the way to ruining the planet. The letter listed environmental impacts like they were biblical plagues — stratospheric ozone depletion, air and water pollution, the collapse of fisheries and loss of soil productivity, deforestation, species loss and catastrophic global climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

To mark the letter’s 25th anniversary, researchers have issued a bracing follow-up. In a communique published Monday in the journal BioScience, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries assess the world’s latest responses to various environmental threats. Once again, they find us sorely wanting.

“Humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse,” they write.

This letter, spearheaded by Oregon State University ecologist William Ripple, serves as a “second notice,” the authors say: “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”

Global climate change sits atop the new letter’s list of planetary threats. Global average temperatures have risen by more than half a degree Celsius since 1992, and annual carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 62 percent.

But it’s far from the only problem people face. Access to fresh water has declined, as has the amount of forestland and the number of wild-caught fish (a marker of the health of global fisheries). The number of ocean dead zones has increased. The human population grew by a whopping 2 billion, while the populations of all other mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by nearly 30 percent.

The lone bright spot exists way up in the stratosphere, where the hole in the planet’s protective ozone layer has shrunk to its smallest size since 1988. Scientists credit that progress to the phasing out of chlorofluorocarbons — chemicals once used in refrigerators, air conditioners and aerosol cans that trigger reactions in the atmosphere to break down ozone.

The authors offer 13 suggestions for reining in our impact on the planet, including establishing nature reserves, reducing food waste, developing green technologies and establishing economic incentives to shift patterns of consumption.

Global Warming

Global Carbon Pollution Rises

Global carbon pollution rose this year after three straight years when levels of the heat-trapping gas didn’t go up at all, scientists reported Monday.

Preliminary figures project that worldwide carbon dioxide emissions are up about 2 percent this year, according to an international team of scientists. Most of the increase came from China.

The report by the Global Carbon Project team dashed hopes that emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas had peaked.

Estimates for 2017 put it at about 40.8 billion tons (37 billion metric tons). Sixty years ago, the world spewed only 9.2 billion tons (8.3 billion metric tons).

Global Warming

Climate Change Is Destroying World Wonders

From the Everglades in the US to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, climate change is destroying the many of the greatest wonders of the natural world.

A new report on Monday from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reveals that the number of natural world heritage sites being damaged and at risk from global warming has almost doubled to 62 in the past three years.

Those at high risk include iconic places from the Galapagos Islands to the central Amazon and less well known but equally vibrant and unique sites such as the karst caves of Hungary and Slovakia and the monarch butterfly reserves in Mexico.

Coral reefs are particularly badly affected by rising ocean temperatures, from the Seychelles to Belize, where the northern hemisphere’s biggest reef is situated. Global heating is also causing mountain glaciers to rapidly shrink, from Kilimanjaro in Kenya to the Rocky Mountains in Canada and the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch – home to the largest Alpine glacier.

Other ecosystems being damaged are wetlands, such as the Everglades, where sea level is rising as the ocean warms and salt water is intruding. In the Sundarbans mangrove forest on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal, two islands have already been submerged and a dozen more are threatened. Fiercer storms are also increasing the risk of devastation.

Rising numbers of wildfires are damaging the beautiful Fynbos flowerscapes in the Cape region of South Africa and the Monarch butterfly site in Mexico. Elsewhere, warming is melting the permafrost in the newly declared Qinghai Hoh Xil heritage site, which is at 4,500m altitude in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.

Australia is especially exposed as it has 10 natural heritage sites where climate change damage is rated as high or very high risk, from its Gondwana rainforests to Shark Bay in western Australia and islands such as Fraser and Macquarie.

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Environment

Radioactive Cloud Over Europe

European authorities are providing new details about a cloud of mysterious radioactive material that appeared over the continent last month. Monitors in Italy were among first to detect the radioactive isotope ruthenium-106 on Oct. 3. In total, 28 European countries saw the radioactive cloud.

Based on the detection from monitoring stations and meteorological data, the mysterious cloud — which has since dissipated — has been traced to somewhere along the Russia-Kazakhstan border, somewhere in South Russia.

Authorities say the amount of material seen in Europe was small. It was a very low level of radioactivity and it poses no problems for health and the environment in Europe.

But modeling suggests that any people within a few kilometers of the release — wherever it occurred — would have needed to seek shelter to protect themselves from possible radiation exposure.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42.2 degrees Celsius) in Dampier, Western Australia.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 53.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 47.2 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Environment

“Deadly’ Smog in Delhi, India

Visibility is poor as pollution levels reached 30 times the World Health Organization’s recommended limit in some areas. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) declared “a state of medical emergency” and urged the government to “make every possible effort to curb this menace”.

The levels of tiny particulate matter (known as PM 2.5) that enter deep into the lungs reached as high as 700 micrograms per cubic metre in some areas on Tuesday.

The chief minister of Delhi has asked his education minister to consider shutting down schools for a few days. Delhi sees pollution levels soar in winter due to farmers in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana states burning stubble to clear their fields. Low wind speeds, dust from construction sites, rubbish burning in the capital and firecrackers used in festivals also contribute to increasing pollution levels.

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Global Warming

Ozone Hole Is Smallest Since 1988

Higher temperatures over Antarctica this year shrank the hole in the ozone layer to the smallest it’s been since 1988.

The ozone hole is a depletion of (O3) in the stratosphere above Antarctica. The three-oxygen molecule is toxic at ground level, but high in the atmosphere, it deflects dangerous ultraviolet rays from reaching Earth’s surface.

This year on Sept. 11, NASA measured the maximum extent of the hole at 7.6 million square miles (19.6 million square kilometers), 2.5 times the size of the United States.

That was smaller than in 2016, when the maximum extent was 8.9 million square miles (22.2 million square km), also a below-average size. According to NASA, the average maximum extent of the ozone hole since 1991 has hovered at about 10 million square miles (25.8 million square km).

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Global Warming

Massive US Government Report Says Climate Is Warming And Humans Are The Cause

It is “extremely likely” that human activities are the “dominant cause” of global warming, according to the most comprehensive study ever of climate science by U.S. government researchers.

The climate report notes that the past 115 years are “the warmest in the history of modern civilization.” The global average temperature has increased by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over that period. Greenhouse gases from industry and agriculture are by far the biggest contributor to warming.

The findings contradict statements by President Trump and many of his Cabinet members, who have openly questioned the role humans play in changing the climate.

The report states that the global climate will continue to warm. How much, it says, “will depend primarily on the amount of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) emitted globally.” Without major reductions in emissions, it says, the increase in annual average global temperature could reach 9 degrees Fahrenheit relative to pre-industrial times. Efforts to reduce emissions, it says, would slow the rate of warming.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 112 degrees Fahrenheit (44.4 degrees Celsius) in Derby, Western Australia.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 71.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 57.2 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Global Warming

UN Warns on Climate Change

Greenhouse gas emissions are on course to be about 30 percent above the 2030 global target, but there are signs of a move away from fossil fuels that not even U.S. President Donald Trump can stop, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

An annual U.N. audit of progress towards that goal showed emissions are likely to be 53.0-55.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2030, far above the 42 billion tonne threshold for averting the 2 degree rise.

But U.N. Environment chief Erik Solheim hailed signs of progress, with an apparent three-year plateau in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, cement production and other industrial processes, largely due to slower growth in coal use in China and the United States.

“We are at a watershed moment where we have stopped the rise in CO2 emissions, there is every reason to believe we can bring them down, and we see great news coming from all over the world every day,” Solheim said.

Global Warming

Pollution Fuelling Climate Change

Climate change is already affecting the health of populations around the world, but things are set to get worse if adequate changes aren’t made, according to an international consortium of climate experts.

Fueling the impact is the fact that more than 2,100 cities globally exceed recommended levels of atmospheric particulate matter — particles emitted when fuels, such as coal or diesel, are burned and are small enough to get into the lungs — says a report published Monday in the medical journal The Lancet. In the UK alone, 44 cities exceeded levels recommended by the World Health Organization.

More than 803,000 deaths across 21 Asian countries in 2015 were attributable to pollution from coal power, transport and the use of fossil fuels at home, the report states.

Global Warming

Record surge in atmospheric CO2 seen in 2016

Concentrations of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Last year’s increase was 50% higher than the average of the past 10 years.

Researchers say a combination of human activities and the El Niño weather phenomenon drove CO2 to a level not seen in 800,000 years. Scientists say this risks making global temperature targets largely unattainable.

This year’s greenhouse gas bulletin produced by the WMO, is based on measurements taken in 51 countries. Research stations dotted around the globe measure concentrations of warming gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

The figures published by the WMO are what’s left in the atmosphere after significant amounts are absorbed by the Earth’s “sinks”, which include the oceans and the biosphere. 2016 saw average concentrations of CO2 hit 403.3 parts per million, up from 400ppm in 2015.

“It is the largest increase we have ever seen in the 30 years we have had this network,” Dr Oksana Tarasova, chief of WMO’s global atmosphere watch programme.

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