Global Warming

US growing season extends by 13 frost-free days

The number of frost-free days in the northern United States has increased by more than 13 days in the past 100 years, according to new research.

The other main areas of the mainland US also saw significant increases in the number of days without frost, essentially the growing season – 10.7 days in the west, 8.6 in a central region and 7.7 days in the south.

Global warming was one of the reasons for the trend, but the researchers also found changes to local cloud cover and atmospheric circulation patterns played a part.

Space Events

Nuclear Explosions and Submarine Comms Distort Space Weather Near Earth

Space weather typically refers to charged particles ejected by the sun that can interact with Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field. However, a new study shows that humans also can change the near-Earth space environment.

According to the study, examples of human activity that can cause these changes include the use of very-low-frequency radio communications, and nuclear explosions detonated high in the atmosphere.

Most space weather comes from the influence of the sun, which sends out a steady stream of high-energy particles called the solar wind. The sun can also release bursts of highly energetic charged particles, called coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Near Earth, most of these particles are deflected by the magnetosphere, the protective magnetic field that surrounds the planet. These powerful particles, particularly those from CMEs, can cause satellites to short out or even create currents in the magnetic field that can reach the ground and damage power grids.

Similar effects were observed when both the United States and the Soviet Union denotated nuclear bombs at altitudes of between 16 miles and 250 miles (26 kilometers and 402 kilometers) between 1958 and 1962. Both countries ran high-altitude nuclear tests for military purposes, but the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty put an end to the tests in 1966.

Newly declassified information about these tests is included in the new study, in an effort to understand how the tests affected the space environment near Earth.”Upon detonation, a first blast wave expelled an expanding fireball of plasma, a hot gas of electrically charged particles,” NASA said in the statement. “This created a geomagnetic disturbance, which distorted Earth’s magnetic-field lines and induced an electric field on the surface.”

The Van Allen radiation belts are large, doughnut-shaped rings of highly energetic charged particles, trapped in their respective loops by magnetism, that loop outward from the Earth. NASA’s Van Allen Probes are currently studying these belts. Surprisingly, they found that some of the nuclear tests created artificial belts that stayed in place for weeks and, in a single case, years.

The charged particles left from the explosions caused some satellites to fail, which is similar to what can happen during a space weather event.

While the effect of the nuclear explosions has passed, very-low-frequency (VLF) signals can still be observed by the Van Allen Probes. These VLF signals, emitted by ground stations, are transmitted “at huge powers,” so they can reach submarines deep below the ocean’s surface, according to a second statement from NASA. They also extend up beyond the planet’s atmosphere, “shrouding Earth in a VLF bubble.”

Screen Shot 2017 05 23 at 11 26 06 AM

The Earth’s Van Allen belts (shown in blue and purple) are massive loops of magnetically controlled, highly energetic charged particles.

Global Warming

Antarctica is going green – not in a good way

Plant life is growing on Antarctica like never before in modern times, fueled by global warming which is melting ice and transforming the landscape from white to green.

Scientists studying moss in an area spanning 400 miles (640 kilometers) have found a sharp increase in growth over the past 50 years, said the report in the journal Current Biology.

Plant life exists on only about 0.3 percent of Antarctica.

Five moss cores — or column-like samples drilled from the Earth — showed evidence of what scientists called “changepoints,” or points in time after which biological activity clearly increased.

Areas sampled included three Antarctic islands — Elephant Island, Ardley Island, and Green Island — where the deepest and oldest moss banks grow, said the report.

The polar regions are warming more rapidly than the rest of the Earth, as greenhouse gasses from fossil fuel burning build up in the atmosphere and trap heat.

The Arctic is warming the fastest, but Antarctica is not far behind, with annual temperatures gaining almost one degree Fahrenheit (half degree Celsius) each decade since the 1950s.

“The sensitivity of moss growth to past temperature rises suggests that ecosystems will alter rapidly under future warming, leading to major changes in the biology and landscape of this iconic region,” said researcher Dan Charman, a professor at Exeter.

2348928

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 115.0 degrees Fahrenheit (46.0 degrees Celsius) in Kaédi, Mauritania.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 103.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 75.0 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

American Trees Are Moving West Due to Climate Change

As the consequences of climate change strike across the United States, ecologists have a guiding principle about how they think plants will respond. Cold-adapted plants will survive if they move “up”—that is, as they move further north (away from the tropics) and higher in elevation (away from the warm ground).

A new survey of how tree populations have shifted over the past three decades finds that this effect is already in action. But there’s a twist: Even more than moving poleward, trees are moving west.

About three-quarters of tree species common to eastern American forests—including white oaks, sugar maples, and American hollies—have shifted their population center west since 1980. More than half of the species studied also moved northward during the same period.

These results, among the first to use empirical data to look at how climate change is shaping eastern forests, were published in Science Advances on Wednesday.

Trees, of course, don’t move themselves. But their populations can shift over time, and saplings can expand into a new region while older growth dies in another.

While climate change has elevated temperatures across the eastern United States, it has significantly altered rainfall totals. The northeast has gotten a little more rain since 1980 than it did during the proceeding century, while the southeast has gotten much less rain. The Great Plains, especially in Oklahoma and Kansas, get much more than historically normal.

Lead 960

Global Warming

Ocean acidification is global warming’s forgotten crisis

WOA05 GLODAP del pH AYool

Most of us are familiar with the climate change impacts we see and feel in our communities: heatwaves, storms, droughts, floods, and so on.

But a UN meeting this week about climate change and oceans reminds us a related crisis is unfolding largely away public attention: the one-two punch of ocean warming and acidification.

With record temperatures sweeping over continents year after year, it is easy to overlook that the ocean has absorbed some 90% of the heat trapped by the carbon dioxide dumped into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution; and how much of that CO2 has dissolved into seawater as carbonic acid, altering its basic chemistry.

The UN meeting follows on the heels of a new secretary general report that investigates the impacts of these changes and the findings are concerning, to say the least.

The report describes record ocean temperatures pushing fish species toward cooler latitudes and out of reach of artisanal fishers; it documents widespread coral bleaching across the tropical belt and how most reefs could enter a state of permanent decline by 2040; it shows how ocean acidification has damaged a range of calcifying marine life, such as corals and shellfish; and it raises fears that the cumulative effects of the impacts are degrading phytoplankton, zooplankton, and krill, the foundation of the ocean’s food chain.

A sea snail shell is dissolved over the course of 45 days in seawater adjusted to an ocean chemistry projected for the year 2100.

Pterapod shell dissolved in seawater adjusted to an ocean chemistry projected for the year 2100

Environment

Trash Isn’t Just A Problem For Henderson Island, It’s Everywhere

The uninhabited Henderson Island has gained a lot of attention because of the fact that it has no people, but lots of trash.

A recent study determined that the island has become a dumping ground for plastic refuse. Unfortunately, it’s not alone. Here are just a few examples of seemingly pristine locales that have become polluted by humanity’s waste.

The Mariana Trench: The Mariana Trench is the deepest part of the ocean and, as such, one would expect it to be free from humanity’s touch, but that is not the case. A study has discovered that sea life living in the trench were found to have high levels of cancer-causing pollutants in their bodies.

Ironically, the isolated nature of the Mariana Trench is part of the reason that these pollutants often end up there.

“[These chemicals] don’t like water, and so they will stick to things in the water like plastic, and then that plastic will settle,” said the study’s co-author Stuart Piertney. “Because these deep-sea trenches are the very bottom of the sink for the oceans, there’s a sort of inevitability that they’re going to end up there.”

We know less about the depths of the ocean than we do the surface of the moon, but this serves as a reminder that our actions have consequences regardless of whether we are aware of them.

“The fact that we found such extraordinary levels of these pollutants in one of the most remote and inaccessible habitats on Earth really brings home the long-term, devastating impact that mankind is having on the planet,” said co-author Alan Jamieson.

Hawaii’s Northwestern Islands: Hawaii is a tropical paradise and one of the world’s top vacation spots, but it also has a string of uninhabited islands. Those islands serve as a wildlife refuge for many types of marine life, but, like Henderson Island, they too have became littered with trash.

The problem has gotten so bad that the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has organized cleanup efforts. A recent expedition uncovered more than 57 tons of garbage. In addition to polluting the water and ruining the area’s natural beauty, the trash, which is mostly plastic, is dangerous to the local wildlife.

The debris, which includes lighters, bottle caps, and other hard plastic items, are often mistaken for food by seabirds, which will feed the trash to their offspring.

Smaller debris isn’t the only problem facing these islands. Despite the fact that fishing is prohibited in wildlife sanctuaries, lost nets and lines that often end up in the area can kill larger marine life such as dolphins or sea turtles.

Plastic Is The Problem: In the case of both Henderson and Hawaii, the bulk of the discarded trash is made of plastic. Every year, roughly 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up the in ocean. This waste is then caught up in gyres that carry the garbage to remote locations.

Environment

One of the World’s Most Polluted Islands

A tiny, uninhabited piece of land in the South Pacific Ocean, called Henderson Island, is considered one of the most remote islands in the world. But now, researchers say it has earned a much more worrisome new title: the world’s most polluted island.

Henderson Island is so remote that it’s visited only every five to 10 years, for research purposes, and is listed as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). But this isolation from humanity has not prevented the island’s beaches from becoming filled with trash. In a new study, researchers estimate that 37.7 million pieces of plastic — amounting to 17 tons of plastic debris — litter the beaches of Henderson Island.

AHR0cDovL3d3dy5saXZlc2NpZW5jZS5jb20vaW1hZ2VzL2kvMDAwLzA5Mi8yNzUvb3JpZ2luYWwvaGVuZGVyc29uLWlzbGFuZC1wbGFzdGljLXBvbGx1dGlvbi5qcGc=

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 118.0 degrees Fahrenheit (47.8 degrees Celsius) in Sibi, Pakistan.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 102.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 74.4 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

Glacier National Park Is Losing Its Glaciers

Glacier National Park is losing its namesake glaciers and new research shows just how quickly: Over the past 50 years, 39 of the parks glaciers have shrunk dramatically, some by as much as 85 percent.

Of the 150 glaciers that existed it the park in the late 19th century, only 26 remain.

The pristine, 1 million-acre park sits along the border with Canada in Montana and has long been a poster child for climate change in U.S. national parks. Side-by-side photo comparisons show in the starkest terms just how far some glaciers have retreated, with some only reduced to small nubs of ice.

The retreat has happened as temperatures in the region have risen by 1.5°F since 1895 as heat-trapping greenhouse gases have continued to accumulate in the atmosphere.

A 2014 study found that it is this human-caused warming that accounts for the bulk of worldwide glacier loss over the past few decades.

Boulder Glacier with visitors in 1932 and bare land in 1988. The ice has shrunk so much that it’s no longer considered an active glacier.

Screen Shot 2017 05 11 at 11 50 42 AM

Screen Shot 2017 05 11 at 11 50 57 AM

Environment

Pollution causes rise in cancer cases

Air pollution contributes to a 10 per cent rise in people being diagnosed with cancer, a study has found.

US researchers believe it causes an extra 44 cases per 100,000 people – equivalent to more than 28,600 cancer diagnoses in Britain.

The study, published in the journal Cancer, is the first to examine the link between environment and cancer, although previous research has found diesel fumes could cause women to give birth prematurely.

Its authors say developing the disease is 50 per cent due to genetics, but environment also damages our DNA, changes the way genes work and can even alter important hormones.

They examined the populations of almost 2,700 counties across America, where cancer affected an average of 451 people in every 100,000 between 2006 and 2010.

The extra 44 cases found in the worst polluted counties compared to the cleanest represents a rise of around 10 per cent, while socio-economic circumstances and roads also increased risk.

Lung cancer had already been linked to diesel exhausts and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, produced by cars and also thought to cause asthma and heart disease. But an extra ten cases of prostate cancer per 100,000 men were also attributed to air pollution, with almost four extra cases of breast cancer per 100,000 women. The reasons behind this increase are still being examined, but the study states: ‘Environmental exposures can alter or interfere with a variety of biological processes, including hormone production and function, inflammation, DNA damage and gene suppression or over-expression.’

Previous research has suggested particles of pollution can mimic oestrogen, which is known to fuel breast cancer.

They can also make women’s breasts denser, which raises their danger of the cancer.

To investigate the effects of overall environmental quality, the researchers looked at air, water and land quality, as well as the built environment and social factors. When adjusting for age, the annual incidence was 451 cancer cases per 100,000 people.

But counties with poor environmental quality had on average 39 more cases per 100,000 people than those of high quality.

Water quality had little or no effect on cancer rates when taken in isolation, with land quality, including the use of pesticides, having a small effect.

Air quality alone was found to cause an extra 44.19 cases per 100,000 over the four years.

Global Warming

Snow Machines Could Rescue Melting Swiss Glacier

Receding polar ice caps provide one of the main indications of climate change’s impact, and researchers have been investigating how to save the world’s ice. One idea is undergoing a trial run in Switzerland, where a team will attempt to refreeze a landmark glacier using snow machines, New Scientist reported.

Morteratsch glacier, one of the most frequently visited glaciers in Switzerland which is receding at an incredibly fast rate is the test subject, will receive a layer of artificial snow each summer to protect the ice, according to New Scientist. The idea is that the glacier’s surface, when covered with a thin coating of artificial snowflakes from machines, will reflect more sunlight and protect the ice below, the researchers said. Eventually, that will help the glacier to regrow, they said.

27038682 l 640x0

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 116.0 degrees Fahrenheit (46.7 degrees Celsius) in Matam, Senegal.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 102.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 74.4 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.

Nature – Images

Interesting Images

Mystery of Antarctica’s Blood Falls

It’s a mystery that has baffled scientists for more than a century; how salty, blood-red water is able to ooze out from a million-year-old glacier in a region known for its freezing temperatures.

When explorer and geoscientist Griffith Taylor discovered a 54-kilometre long glacier in Antarctica that released a deep red liquid in 1911, he attributed the strange phenomenon to red algae colouring the moving water.

The outflow was quickly dubbed “Blood Falls” for the water’s creepy, red hue contrasting against its icy, white surroundings.

It was later discovered, however, that the mysterious water was not related to blood or algae at all. In fact, the colour is the result of iron-rich salt water that turns into a reddish-brown shade or oxidizes (like rust) when it comes into contact with the air. Scientists call the water “brine” because of the incredible amount of salt in it.

And now, that saltiness has offered an important clue into one of Blood Fall’s final mysteries – how the brine travels from within the frozen glacier to the waterfall in sub-zero temperatures. Researchers have found that the glacier has its own unique network of pressurized channels that move the iron-rich water to the top of Blood Falls through the frozen glacier.

Screen Shot 2017 04 29 at 1 15 09 PM

Global Warming

Climate Shift Affects Livestock Husbandry in Kenya

A growing number of Kenyans are switching from traditional livestock to drought-resistant camels because of the changing climate.

Longer and less-predictable droughts have resulted in three times as many camels being owned today than a decade ago.

“My husband and I had over a hundred cattle until 2005. But as the climate became drier in this region, the cows stopped producing milk, and 20 to 30 of our cows even died every year,” Mariam Maalim told Germany’s Deutsche Welle broadcaster. She says her new camels produce milk even during drought.