Global Warming

Greenland Is Literally Cracking Apart and Flooding the World

Visit on the right summer day, and you could see a 12-billion-gallon lake disappear before your very eyes. Glaciologists saw this happen for the first time in 2006, when a lake drained away into nothing in less than 2 hours. Researchers now see such events as a regular part of Greenland’s increasingly hot summer routine; every year.

On a recent expedition, however, researchers saw an alarming new pattern behind Greenland’s mysterious disappearing lakes: They’re starting to drain farther and farther inland. Lakes that drain in one area produce fractures that cause more lakes to drain somewhere elsewhere.

As the draining water surges away from the original lake, it can destabilize other nearby ice beds. Fresh cracks form, new lakes drain and the reaction intensifies day by day. In one incident, the researchers observed 124 lakes drain in just five days. Even lakes that formed hundreds of kilometers inland, which were previously thought to be too far removed from the ice bed to drain into it, proved vulnerable to the chain-drain-reaction as new fissures in the ice formed.

This all amounts to billions of gallons of melted ice plunging below Greenland’s surface every few days. Some of this water remains trapped in the ice sheet; much of it pours into the surrounding ocean.

The ice sheet, which covers 1.7 million square kilometers [650,000 square miles], was relatively stable 25 years ago, but now loses one billion tons [900 million metric tons] of ice every day. This causes one millimeter of global sea level rise per year, a rate which is much faster than what was predicted only a few years ago.

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Global Warming

Global warming causing an increase in avalanches in Western Himalayas

A team of researchers from across Europe has found that rising temperatures due to global warming have been causing more avalanches in the Western Himalayas than in the past.

In looking at their data, the team was able to see that the number of avalanches occurring each year in the area has been increasing since the 1970s. Prior to that time, they found that snow avalanches were relatively rare—during the ’40s and early ’50s, for example, there were none. But after 1970, the rate increased to approximately 0.87 per year. A big increase over the 0.24 rate for the entire period of study. They also noticed that impacted areas tended to be larger after 1970.

The risk of a snow avalanches goes up, the researchers note, as temperatures rise causing an increase in liquid water in the snowpack which in turn increases the shear deformation rate, causing stress, which is released when the snowpack collapses in an avalanche.

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Global Warming

Global warming already fueling ‘high-tide’ floods

Snow may get the most headlines from nor’easters, but it’s the relentless onslaught of waves and water along the coast that can cause the most destruction.

And now, thanks partly to global warming, it doesn’t even take a storm to inundate the coast with ruinous floodwaters.

So-called “nuisance” or “sunny day” high-tide flooding is becoming more commonplace across the U.S., and a new federal report released this week warns that such flooding will only worsen in the decades to come.

Incredibly, by the end of the century, such flooding could be a weekly or even daily event in some vulnerable locations of the country, such as Miami, Charleston, S.C., and Norfolk, Va.

“The risk of coastal flooding has been steadily increasing and will continue to in the coming decades,” report lead author and oceanographer William Sweet said. At many locations, “today’s storm flood will become tomorrow’s high tide sometime this century,” he said.

Sea-level rise is accelerating around the world, thanks to ongoing melting of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, a recent study suggested. At the current rate of melting, the world’s seas will be at least 2 feet higher by the end of the century compared to today.

Sea level has risen nearly 8 inches worldwide since 1880 but, unlike water in a bathtub, it hasn’t risen evenly. In the past 100 years, it has climbed about a foot or more in some U.S. cities because of ocean currents and land naturally settling — 11 inches in New York and Boston, 12 in Charleston, 16 in Atlantic City, 18 in Norfolk and 25 in Galveston, Texas, according to NOAA.

Global Warming

Current deforestation pace will intensify global warming

The global warming process may be even more intense than originally forecast unless deforestation can be halted, especially in the tropical regions. This warning has been published in Nature Communications by an international group of scientists. “If we go on destroying forests at the current pace—some 7,000 km² per year in the case of Amazonia—in three to four decades, we’ll have a massive accumulated loss. This will intensify global warming regardless of all efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Paulo Artaxo, a professor at the University of São Paulo’s Physics Institute (IF-USP).

The group reached the conclusion after conducting a mathematical reproduction of the planet’s current atmospheric conditions through computer modeling that used a numerical model of the atmosphere developed by the Met Office, the UK’s national meteorological service.

Deforestation, he stressed, affects the amount of aerosols and ozone in the atmosphere definitively, changing the atmosphere’s entire radiative balance. “The urgent need to keep the world’s forests standing is even clearer in light of this study. It’s urgent not only to stop their destruction but also to develop large-scale reforestation policies, especially for tropical regions. Otherwise, the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels won’t make much difference,” Artaxo said.

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Global Warming

South African Wildfires Create Climate Cooling

University of Wyoming researchers led a study that discovered that biomass smoke originating from South Africa that drifts over the southeast Atlantic Ocean significantly enhances the brightness of low-level clouds there — creating a reflective process that actually helps cool the Earth and counteract the greenhouse effect.

In their study, the researchers found the smoke comes down and can mix within the clouds. The changed clouds are more reflective of sunlight. Brighter clouds counteract the greenhouse effect. It creates cooling.

For years, scientists determined that smoke, overall, diminishes the clouds’ cooling effect by absorbing light that the clouds beneath the aerosols would otherwise reflect. This new study does not dispute that phenomenon. However, more dominantly, the new study found that smoke and cloud layers are closer to each other than previously thought. This makes the clouds more reflective of light and, thus, accelerates the clouds’ cooling effect. This is due to the tiny aerosol particles from the smoke that serve as the nuclei for the formation of cloud droplets.

Global Warming

Jean Lafitte – a town left to Louisiana’s tides

Looking down on Louisiana’s coast, what strikes you first is how much is already lost. Northward from the Gulf, slivers of barrier island give way to the open water of Barataria Bay as it billows toward an inevitable merger with Little Lake, its name now a lie. Ever-widening bayous course through what were once dense wetlands, and a cross-stitch of oil field canals stamp the marsh like Chinese characters.

Saltwater intrusion, the result of subsidence, sea-level rise and erosion, has killed off the live oaks and bald cypress. Stands of roseau cane and native grasses have been reduced to brown pulp by feral hogs, orange-fanged nutria and a voracious aphid-like invader from Asia. A relentless succession of hurricanes and tropical storms — three last season alone — has accelerated the decay. In all, more than 2,000 square miles, an expanse larger than the state of Delaware, have disappeared since 1932.

Out toward the horizon, a fishing village appears on a fingerling of land, tenuously gripping the banks of a bending bayou. It sits defenseless, all but surrounded by encroaching basins of water. Just two miles north is the jagged tip of a fortresslike levee, a primary line of defense for greater New Orleans, whose skyline looms in the distance. Everything south of that 14-foot wall of demarcation, including the gritty little town of Jean Lafitte, has effectively been left to the tides.

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Global Warming

Climate Change Affecting Ocean Migration

Climate change has drastically reduced the number of blacktip sharks migrating down the Atlantic coast to South Florida, posing a threat to the environmental health of the region.

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University have been tracking what should be an enormous migration, during which sharks leave cooling waters up north and play an important role in the tropical ecosystem. Instead, researchers found a sharp decline in the migrating population.

According to the university, last year’s roving gang was about one-third of what it should have been, and this year’s numbers represent a big drop as well. In the past, shark counters may have caught sight of up to 15,000 sharks in a single day in southern Florida, but the group has not reached that bar in 2018.

Global Warming

Unusually Warm Arctic

During the Arctic winter, when the sun hides from October to March, the average temperature in the frozen north typically hovers around a bone-chilling minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 20 degrees Celsius). But this year, the Arctic is experiencing a highly unusual heat wave.

On Feb. 20, the temperature in Greenland not only climbed above freezing — 32 degrees F (0 degrees C) — it stayed there for over 24 hours and on Saturday (Feb. 24) the temperature on Greenland’s northern tip reached 43 degrees F (6 degrees C) – much warmer than it was in most of Europe at the time.

Weather conditions that drive this bizarre temperature surge have visited the Arctic before, typically appearing about once in a decade, experts told Live Science. However, the last such spike in Arctic winter warmth took place in February 2016 — much more recently than a decade ago. And climbing Arctic temperatures combined with rapid sea-ice loss are creating a new type of climate feedback loop that could accelerate Arctic warming, melting all Arctic sea ice decades earlier than scientists once thought.

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Global Warming

Carbon Dioxide Turns Oceans Acidic

Sea creatures are literally being eaten away and ‘dissolved’ by pollution, scientists have discovered.

It’s feared that high levels of carbon dioxide in the water could cause irreparable damage to marine ecosystems after tests found acute levels of the gas cause starfish to dissolve.

A team of marine scientists conducted a four-day experiment at Loch Sween on Scotland’s west coast to measure the response to short-term carbon dioxide exposure.

Previously, tests had focused on the effect high levels of the gas had on individual plants or animals, leaving a gap in knowledge about how whole marine ecosystems respond to sudden influxes of carbon dioxide.

When high levels of carbon dioxide enters the oceans it causes them to become more acidic.

The experiment revealed acute exposure led to net dissolution, meaning calcified organisms such as the coralline algae and starfish were dissolving.


Climate Change Affecting Bat Migrations

What started out as a simple study of how to safely monitor migrating bat colonies turned into a major discovery. Climate change is causing bats to migrate sooner, and in some cases, not migrate at all.

When they travel, bats usually do so in a swarm consisting of millions. When Mexican free-tailed bats bats migrate from Mexico to the Bracken Cave in San Antonio, Texas, the size of the swarm is so large it can be tracked using weather radar.

The researchers found that the bats are migrating to Texas roughly two weeks earlier than they were 22 years ago. They now arrive, on average, in mid March rather than late March.

Additionally, as of 2017, roughly 3.5 percent of the bat population is staying through the winter. Climate change is causing spring to begin sooner, in turn prompting insects to move to Texas sooner and giving the bats something to eat without having to migrate.

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Global Warming

First ship crosses Arctic in winter without an icebreaker

A ship has made a winter crossing of the Arctic without an icebreaker for the first time during the coldest period of winter as global warming causes the region’s ice sheets to melt.

The tanker, containing liquefied natural gas, is the first commercial vessel to make such a crossing alone during the winter months.

The voyage is a significant moment in the story of climate change in the Arctic and will be seized on by those with concerns about thinning polar ice and its implications for the environment.

Global Warming

Fiji – Rising Waters

In Fiji, villages need to move due to climate change.

The headman of Vunidogoloa village was born here in 1960 on a river estuary in Natewa Bay, on Fiji’s second-largest island, Vanua Levu.

Today, all that remains of his childhood home is the concrete bathroom foundation and three wooden stumps sticking out of the dark, muddy sand. The beach is just a few metres wide, precariously situated between a grassy elevation leading to the main part of the old village and the bay.

By 2006, regular flooding, soil erosion and the unabated rise of water surrounding their community forced the villagers to ask the Fijian government for help.

In January 2014, Vunidogoloa moved two kilometres inland, becoming the first village in Fiji to relocate because of the effects of climate change.

For much of the world, climate change is a catastrophe unfolding in slow motion, with consequences that can still seemingly be ignored.

But in island nations across the Pacific, climate change has well and truly arrived and is already posing an existential threat to communities.

Rising sea levels have swallowed up five of the Solomon Islands since the mid-20th century.

For Kiribati, a small island nation made up of coral atolls, rising waters pose a threat so dire that in 2014 the government purchased a 20-square-kilometre piece of land in Fiji, to be used to re-settle climate refugees.

Fiji itself has recorded a six-millimetre sea level increase each year since 1993.

Global Warming

Warming is accelerating sea level rise as Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melt

Melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are speeding up the already fast pace of sea level rise, new satellite research shows.

At the current rate, the world’s oceans on average will be at least 2 feet (61 cm) higher by the end of the century compared to today, according to researchers who published in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

Sea level rise is caused by warming of the ocean and melting from glaciers and ice sheets. The research, based on 25 years of satellite data, shows that pace has quickened, mainly from the melting of massive ice sheets.

Of the 3 inches (7.5 cm) of sea level rise in the past quarter century, about 55 percent is from warmer water expanding, and the rest is from melting ice.

But the process is accelerating, and more than three-quarters of that acceleration since 1993 is due to melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, the study shows.

Like weather and climate, there are two factors in sea level rise: year-to-year small rises and falls that are caused by natural events and larger long-term rising trends that are linked to man-made climate change.

Global sea levels were stable for about 3,000 years until the 20th century when they rose and then accelerated due to global warming caused by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.

Greenland has caused three times more sea level rise than Antarctica so far, but ice melt on the southern continent is responsible for more of the acceleration.

Global Warming

Sun Expected to Dim by 2020

A periodic solar event called a “grand minimum” could overtake the sun perhaps as soon as 2020 and lasting through 2070, resulting in diminished magnetism, infrequent sunspot production and less ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching Earth — all bringing a cooler period to the planet that may span 50 years.

The last grand-minimum event — a disruption of the sun’s 11-year cycle of variable sunspot activity — happened in the mid-17th century. Known as the Maunder Minimum, it occurred between 1645 and 1715, during a longer span of time when parts of the world became so cold that the period was called the Little Ice Age, which lasted from about 1300 to 1850.

But it’s unlikely that we’ll see a return to the extreme cold from centuries ago, researchers reported in a new study. Since the Maunder Minimum, global average temperatures have been on the rise, driven by climate change. Though a new decades-long dip in solar radiation could slow global warming somewhat, it wouldn’t be by much, the researchers’ simulations demonstrated. And by the end of the incoming cooling period, temperatures would have bounced back from the temporary cooldown.