Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 117.0 degrees Fahrenheit (47.2 degrees Celsius) in Walgett, New South Wales, Australia.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 62.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 52.2 degrees Celsius) at the 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

NASA Satellite Spots Mile-Long Iceberg Breaking Off of Antarctic Glacier

A massive, 1-mile-long (1.6 kilometers) chunk of ice has broken off Antarctica’s fast-changing Pine Island Glacier, and NASA satellites captured the dramatic event as the icy surface cracked and ripped apart.

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Pine island glacier

Global Warming

Coders Race to Save NASA’s Climate Data

A group of coders is racing to save the government’s climate science data.

On Saturday (Feb. 11), 200 programmers crammed themselves into the Doe Library at the University of California, Berkeley, furiously downloading NASA’s Earth science data in a hackathon, Wired reported. The group’s goal: rescue data that may be deleted or hidden under President Donald Trump’s administration.

The process involves developing web-crawler scripts to trawl the internet, finding federal data and patching it together into coherent data sets. The hackers are also keeping track of data as it disappears; for instance, the Global Data Center’s reports and one of NASA’s atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) data sets has already been removed from the web.

Climate Change Blocks Expansion of Austrian Airport

An Austrian court has blocked construction of a new runway at Vienna’s airport mainly on the grounds that the project would increase climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions in violation of Austrian and European environmental laws.

The decision was seen as affirming Austrians’ constitutional rights to a clean environment, including protection from climate change impacts. It may be the first time a court anywhere in the world has blocked a major public infrastructure project based heavily on climate-related laws or considerations, according to several legal experts.

Environment

India Beats China As Worst Air-Polluted Country On Earth

India now has the world’s worst air pollution. They have beaten China. Specifically, it is New Delhi, India’s capital that has the worst air pollution on Earth.

Industrialization, coal-fired power plants, and low regulation have made the air pollution in India so much worse. Technology Review has reported that there have been 1.1 million deaths recorded last year due to air pollution in India. The country has been tied with China as having deadly air pollution. India’s rapid industrialization, too much use of coal for energy, growing population, and an ageing populace that is affected by air pollution are the factors why there are so many deaths.

Pollution Has Worked Its Way Down To The World’s Deepest Waters

The Mariana Trench in the northern Pacific is the deepest part of the world’s oceans. You might think a place that remote would be untouched by human activity.

But the Mariana Trench is polluted.

At its deepest — about 7 miles down — the water in the trench is near freezing. The pressure would crush a human like a bug. Scientists have only recently explored it.

Among them is biologist Alan Jamieson of Newcastle University in England. His team dropped what they call a mechanical “lander” down into the trench. It had cameras and water samplers and some baited traps. They didn’t really know what they’d find.

When the lander surfaced, the traps contained amphipods — shrimplike crustaceans. That wasn’t terribly surprising, as amphipods are known to live at great depths. But bringing them back from the Mariana Trench was a rarity, and Jamieson thought there might be something to learn from them. He took the creatures to an environmental scientist.

The amphipods were contaminated with PCBs — polychlorinated biphenyls — toxic chemicals used for decades in industry, as well as other industrial pollutants known as persistent organic pollutants.

Every sample we had,” Jamieson says, “had contaminants in it at very high or extraordinarily high levels. How high? He compared the contamination level in his Mariana amphipods to crabs living in waters fed by one of China’s most polluted rivers, as well as amphipods from other parts of the world. “And what we were finding in the deepest place in the world were (levels) hugely higher, 50 times in some cases,” he says.

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Global Warming

Sea Ice Hits Record Lows at Both Poles

    

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Arctic temperatures have finally started to cool off after yet another winter heat wave stunted sea ice growth over the weekend. The repeated bouts of warm weather this season have stunned even seasoned polar researchers, and could push the Arctic to a record low winter peak for the third year in a row.

Meanwhile, Antarctic sea ice set an all-time record low on Monday in a dramatic reversal from the record highs of recent years.

Sea ice at both poles has been expected to decline as the planet heats up from the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. That trend is clear in the Arctic, where summer sea ice now covers half the area it did in the early 1970s. Sea ice levels in Antarctica are much more variable, though, and scientists are still unraveling the processes that affect it from year to year.

The large decline in Arctic sea ice allows the polar ocean to absorb more of the sun’s incoming rays, exacerbating warming in the region. The loss of sea ice also means more of the Arctic coast is battered by storm waves, increasing erosion and driving some native communities to move. The opening of the Arctic has also led to more shipping and commercial activity in an already fragile region.

Sea ice area isn’t the only way to measure the health of Arctic sea ice; the thickness of the sea ice has also suffered during the repeated incursions of warmth.

Antarctic sea ice is an altogether different beast. Instead of an ice-filled ocean surrounded by land, it is a continent surrounded by ocean that sees much more variability in sea ice levels from year to year for reasons that aren’t fully understood.

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For several of the past few years, the sea ice that fringed Antarctic reached record highs. That growth of sea ice could have potentially been caused by the influx of freshwater as glaciers on land melted, or from changes in the winds that whip around the continent (changes that could be linked to warming or the loss of ozone high in the atmosphere).

But this year, a big spring meltdown in October and November suddenly reversed that trend and has led to continued record low sea ice levels as the summer melt season progressed. On Monday, Antarctic sea ice dropped to an all-time record low, beating out 1997.

Sea ice has been particularly low in the Amundsen Sea region of Western Antarctica, thanks to unusually high temperatures there. But it’s not clear what is ultimately driving this dramatic reversal in Antarctic sea ice, or whether it will be temporary or marks a longer-term shift.

Humans accelerating global warming by 170 times: study

Humans are driving the warming of the Earth 170 times faster than natural forces, according to a new mathematical formula.

Scientists in Australia and Sweden have developed the equation, which assesses the impact of human activity on the climate and compares it to events such as volcanic eruptions and changes to the planet’s orbit.

Professor Will Steffen, a climate scientist from the Australian National University (ANU), said no natural events came close to the impact humans have made.

“Over the last century or so, we can see that the impact of humans – through fossil fuels, through forest clearing, through all sorts of changes to the biosphere – have become more important than these other forces,” he said.

Professor Steffen, who is also on the Climate Council, and his fellow researchers have labelled the formula the Anthropocene Equation.

Officially, the Earth is in the Holocene period, but scientists such as Professor Steffen are pushing for the modern era to be reclassified to reflect the massive impact humans have had. The scientists behind the formula found the biggest change in the climate has come since 1970.

“Since 1970, temperature has been rising at a rate of about 1.7 degrees per century,” Professor Steffen said.

“When you compare those two, since the 1970s, the climate has been changing at a rate 170 times faster than that long-term background rate.”

Drought

Drought in Kenya

Kenya declared a national disaster on Friday, calling for aid to counter drought that is posing a major risk to people, livestock and wildlife.

The Kenya Red Cross has estimated around 2.7 million people are in need of food aid after low rainfall in October and November and the next rainy season not due before April.

The UN World Food Programme said it was short of $22 million for the next six to nine months to provide support such as school meals for 428,000 children who often depend on them as their only substantial meal of the day.

Early this month, residents in drought-struck northern Kenya said at least 11 people were killed and a tourist lodge torched due to conflicts when armed cattle herders flooded onto farms and wildlife reserves.

Environment

Invading Armyworm

International agricultural experts say that hordes of crop-destroying armyworm caterpillars are spreading rapidly across Africa, and could invade tropical Asia and the Mediterranean in the next few years.

Such an expansion could pose a major threat to agricultural trade worldwide, according to the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International.

The fall armyworm pest, native to North and South America, can devastate maize crops by attacking young plants and burrowing into the cobs. It can also damage a variety of other crops such as rice, soybean, pasture grass and potato.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 116.0 degrees Fahrenheit (46.7 degrees Celsius) in Moomba, South Australia.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 85.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 65.0 degrees Celsius) at the South Pole, 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.

Qatari Chill

The desert state of Qatar experienced its coldest temperature on record with the mercury dipping to just above freezing on the morning of Feb. 5.

The Abu Samra weather station, in the southwest of the country, recorded a minimum temperature of 34.7 degrees Fahrenheit, beating the old record of 38.8 degrees set in January 1964.

The country’s meteorological department blamed the chilling north winds on the same Siberian high pressure area that also brought a deep freeze to Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Global Warming

Collapsing Beauty: Image of Antarctica’s Larsen Ice Shelf

An expansive new image shows the changes in Antarctica’s Larsen Ice Shelf since the mid-1980s.

The story is one of retreat, and the ice continues to crumble. A growing crack in a portion of the ice shelf called Larsen C is poised to free an iceberg the size of Delaware from the continent.

Larson C isn’t visible in the new satellite image, which focuses on two more northerly portions of the sheet, Larsen A and Larsen B. Ice shelves are floating mattresses of ice that form from the outflow of the glaciers that creep slowly across the Antarctic continent. The Larsen Ice Shelf is on the northeast coast of the Antarctic Peninsula along the Weddell Sea. It was named for the Norwegian explorer Carl Anton Larsen, who explored parts of it in 1893 by ship and ski.

Since 1995, the Larsen Ice Shelf has lost 75 percent of its mass, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC). In 1995, a 579-square-mile (1,500 square kilometres) chunk of Larsen A broke off from the ice shelf, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory. In 2002, an even larger portion of Larsen B — 1,255 square miles (3,250 square km) crumbled away. While calving events are normal, collapses of this magnitude have only been seen in the last 30 years, according to the NSIDC.

The collapse of floating ice doesn’t raise sea levels, but a 2004 study by NSIDC researchers found that in the wake of Larsen B’s 2002 collapse, the land-based glaciers that feed the ice sheet have accelerated their flow toward the sea. This speedy flow of ice does have the ability to raise sea levels.

Larsen ice shelf years

Nature – Images

Interesting Images

Swirling polar ice caps revealed on Mars

Mars is revealing itself not to be the featureless red wasteland scientists once thought it was. New images from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission have captured the delicate swirls of ice at the planet’s north pole.

The idea that Mars may be capable of harbouring life has fuelled the space industry’s obsession. There are currently eight operational missions to the Red Planet – a mix of orbital, lander and rover types.

Like Earth, both poles on Mars are permanently covered in frozen ice caps. In the winter months, the plummeting temperatures make it cold enough for 30 per cent of the carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere to freeze, adding a layer of ice onto its poles.

Mars north pole

Global Warming

Human Heaters

People have been found to be the cause of a noticeable warmup of big cities during the workweek as commuters flock into the urban landscape from the suburbs.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne, Australia, found that the heat generated by human bodies, cars and public transport vehicles, along with the operation of office buildings, causes a slow warmup from Monday through Friday.

The effect is broken and temperatures drop over the weekend as most people stay home and activity in the central business districts is relatively calm.

The pattern was observed in the Australian state capitals of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide.

“Nothing in nature occurs on a weekly cycle, so it must be due to human activity,” said researcher Nick Earl.

Fish migrating to unusual regions due to global warming

Sightings of fish outside their usual regions could be a sign of marine species shifting in response to climate change, an Australian study has found.

The study, lead by Hannah Fogarty from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and the University of Tasmania (UTAS), revealed that initial reports of fish in unaccustomed waters are often a sign of impending species-wide change.

Fogarty compiled a list of verified first sightings from around the world and compared it with long-term data on warming oceans and found a correlation between the early stages of a species range shift and climate change.

“Climate change is leading to global changes in species distribution patterns and the reshuffling of biodiversity is already well underway,” Fogarty said in a UTAS media release on Friday, February 3.

“In Australia, for example, a Lemonpeel Angelfish was found off Lord Howe Island, more than 1,000 kilometres south of its usual coral reef habitat. Tropical and sub-tropical fish such as this are increasingly being found in temperate waters, with species such as wrasse, parrotfish, flounder, and eels well-represented in global reports of unusual sightings.””

“New marine species arriving in an area may become pests, modify the local ecosystem, or represent challenges or opportunities for fisheries and recreation.”

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 112.0 degrees Fahrenheit (44.4 degrees Celsius) in Moomba, South Australia.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 63.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 52.8 degrees Celsius) at Seymchan, Siberia.

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

Coastal Wetlands Mitigate Global Warming, Study

Scientists from the University of Maryland demonstrated in a study released today the positive impact of coastal wetlands in mitigating the effects of global warming. To get to that hypothesis, they analyzed marine systems such as coral reefs, seaweed forests, phytoplankton and fish, according to a paper published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Coastal wetlands store a lot of carbon in their soils and they are important natural carbon sinks in the long term, while kelp – a kind of seaweed – corals and marine wildlife are not.

To give you an idea, they can capture and store more than 200 metric tons of carbon per year around the world. That is why, when we destroy coastal wetlands for coastal development or aquaculture, we transform these natural carbon sinks into additional man-made sources of greenhouse gases. They also recommended protecting other ecosystems, such as coral reefs and seaweed forests, because they safeguard against storms and erosion, and are key habitats for fish

For the authors, blue carbon coastal habitats can be considered as the single most efficient biological reservoirs of carbon stored on Earth.

Environment

Melting Glaciers Will Reveal Cold-War-Era Nuclear Waste

Melting glaciers have revealed a number of surprises over the past few years, from Viking artifacts in Norway to World War I burials in the Italian Alps. And one day, if global warming continues its current course, Greenland’s retreating ice sheet could expose a more troubling relic of the past: a Cold War military base and whatever biological, chemical and radioactive waste is left inside, scientists say.

NASA’s Earth Observatory posted maps today (Jan. 31) that show the changes expected to take place near the site of Camp Century, a once-secret U.S. military base built in 1959 primarily to test the possibility of launching nuclear missiles from the Arctic to the Soviet Union.

The site was abandoned in 1967 and is now buried about 100 feet (30 meters) beneath a crust of snow and ice. But the maps, analyzed as part of a study published in August 2016 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, show that because of ice loss, Camp Century could become an environmental hazard by the end of this century.

These maps show the surface mass balance of ice, or the net change between the accumulation and ablation of ice and snow on a glacier’s surface. Ablation happens when ice thins due to evaporation, melting and wind. The dark red indicates areas where the ice surface is likely to drop by 10 feet (3 meters) or more per year.

Greenland camp century ice balance

Global Warming

Trump ‘will definitely pull US out of Paris climate change deal’

A former climate change adviser to Donald Trump has said the US President will pull America out of the landmark Paris agreement and an executive order on the issue could come within “days”. Myron Ebell, who took charge of Mr Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team, said the President was determined to undo policies pushed by Barack Obama to restrict greenhouse gas emissions.

He said the US would “clearly change its course on climate policy” under the new administration and claimed Mr Trump was “pretty clear that the problem or the crisis has been overblown and overstated”.

“He could do it by executive order tomorrow, or he could wait and do it as part of a larger package. There are multiple ways and I have no idea of the timing.”