Global Warming

Climate change is shifting global air currents

Huge jetstreams that circle Earth are being altered by climate change, scientists have warned.

The researchers claim that man-made global warming has slowed down the way that air flows and distributes weather – and the consequences could be severe.

They say the shift will see an increase in extreme weather globally, including more deadly droughts, floods and heatwaves.

Jetstreams are influenced by the difference in temperatures between the equator and the Arctic. These streams circle the Earth and transport heat and moisture from the Arctic to the tropics. But when the planetary waves stall droughts or floods can occur.

Warming caused by greenhouse-gases from fossil fuels stall airstreams, the international team of researchers found.

They found changes that show extreme and persistent shifts in the jet stream that can trigger extreme weather events. Human activity has been suspected of contributing to this pattern before, but the researchers say they have now uncovered a ‘clear fingerprint’ of human activity. ‘If the same weather persists for weeks on end in one region, then sunny days can turn into a serious heat wave and drought, or lasting rains can lead to flooding,’ explains co-author Professor Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany. ‘This occurs under specific conditions that favour what we call a quasi-resonant amplification that makes the north-south undulations of the jet stream grow very large. It also makes theses waves grind to a halt rather than moving from west to east. Identifying the human fingerprint on this process is advanced forensics.’

Since the Arctic is more rapidly warming than other regions, its temperature difference with the equator is decreasing.

Also, land masses are warming more rapidly than the oceans, especially in summer. Both changes have an impact on those global air movements. This includes the giant airstreams that are called planetary waves because they circle Earth’s Northern hemisphere in huge turns between the tropics and the Arctic.

When airstreams stall thanks to man-made temperature rises droughts or floods can occur. This image shows before (2011) and after (2014) photos of the Enterprise Bridge over Lake Oroville in Butte County, California after recent droughts:

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Global Warming

End in Sight for an Ice Age Remnant

For eons, the Laurentide Ice Sheet has been a fixture of North America. At its peak, it covered the majority of Canada and sent icy tendrils down across the Midwest and Northeast, covering Chicago, New York and Toronto in a mile or more of ice. It helped carved mountains as it advanced, and it filled the Great Lakes as it receded at the end of the last Ice Age.

About 2,000 years ago, the ice sheet remnants reached equilibrium on Baffin Island, Canada’s largest island, now dubbed the Barnes Ice Cap. But that equilibrium has been disrupted by human-driven climate change.

A new study shows that the last vestige of the once-mighty ice sheet faces near certain death, even if the world rapidly curtails its carbon pollution. The results indicate the Arctic has entered a state nearly unheard of since the Pliocene, an epoch when the Arctic was largely free of ice.

The Barnes Ice Cap covers an area about the size of Delaware. After reaching a near steady state 2,000 years ago, the ice cap began shrinking in the late 1800s, with a marked increase in its decline since the 1990s. That coincides with the rapid rise in human carbon pollution, which has also driven a roughly 1.8°F increase in the global average temperature over that period.

But researchers can look back much deeper into the ice cap’s history using other clues. The new research, published on Monday in Geophysical Research Letters, looked at an array of amazingly named cosmogenic radionuclides in bedrock around the ice cap to tease out when the ground was free of ice.

Cosmogenic radionuclides are isotopes that form when exposed to cosmic rays. That can only happen when the ground isn’t covered by ice, giving researchers a way to see how rare the current shrinking ice cap is.

Their findings show that there were two periods where ice extent was roughly as tiny as it is now. Both periods came hundreds of thousands of years ago and were due to natural changes in the earth’s tilt and orbit that helped warm the planet.

Today’s rapid change is different because human carbon pollution is the main driver of the unrelenting warmth in the region, which is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. The findings indicate that the Arctic likely hasn’t been this warm in 2.6 million years.

Looking into the future using climate models, sustained warming almost certainly spells doom for the ice sheet. On our current trajectory of carbon pollution, the research indicates that the ice cap is likely to disappear in the next 300 years. That’s a geological blink of an eye for an icy legacy that stretched across millions of years.

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Global Warming

Global Warming will shrink Mammals

A remarkable new study claims that global warming will have a major effect on humans in the future in one key way: it will shrink us. A new study claims that major warming events results in dwarfism in mammals, and even shorter periods of warming can result in patterns of shrinkage.

Scientists examined one of the largest of the hyperthemal periods, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), and found that while temperatures rose between nine and 14 degrees Fahrenheit, mammals shrank by 30 percent. So they started looking at other warming events to see if the trend holds.

By examining the molar teeth to gauge body size on ancient bones dated from different warming periods, researchers determined that two species they examined shrank 14 and 15 percent. Why does this happen? Scientists think it may be possible that CO2 levels diminished the nutrients in plant, and stunting the mammals’ growth.

Mammoth

Global Warming

Climate Conditions Affect Health

A consortium of 11 leading medical societies, representing more than half of the doctors in the United States, launched a campaign to show how climate change is affecting people’s health.

Its new report, Medical Alert! Climate Change Is Harming Our Health, says climate change is leading to more cardio-respiratory illness, the spread of infectious disease as well as physical and mental health problems from more frequent episodes of extreme weather.

The report was delivered to Congress before being more widely distributed. “Doctors in every part of our country see that climate change is making Americans sicker,” said Dr. Mona Sarfaty, director of the new consortium and a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, USA.

Warming Seas

The world’s oceans are heating up about 13 percent faster than previously believed, with the rate of warming since 1992 found to be twice as great as the warming rate measured since 1960.

Researchers from leading U.S. and Chinese agencies made the discovery by correcting past data errors and by using more advanced climate computer models.

“The oceans are affecting weather and climate through more intense rains. This process is a major reason why 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded at the Earth’s surface,” the team wrote in a press release. “Additionally, 2015 was a year with record hurricanes, heat waves, droughts and wildfires around the world.”

Environment

New CO2 record

The atmosphere’s carbon concentration now exceeds 1960 levels by about a third, and rises faster each decade.

The concentration of carbon dioxide rose by 3 parts per million (ppm) for the second year in a row in 2016, bringing the average concentration to a record-setting 405 ppm, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Pre-industrial concentrations rarely exceeded 280 ppm, and some estimates suggest we would need to keep the carbon concentration between 405 and 450 ppm to limit warming to the internationally set target of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). But while that concentration rose by less than one part per million annually in the 1960s, the current annual increase of 3 ppm would put Earth in the danger zone by the early 2030s.

Massive Thirsty Mangroves Dieback Due To Extreme Weather Condition

A James Cook University researcher has found why there was an uncommon dieback of mangroves in the Gulf of Carpentaria in mid-2016 – the plants died of thirst.

The researchers used aeronautical observations and satellite mapping information of the area going back to 1972, joined with climate and weather records. Dr. Duke said they discovered three factors met up to create the extraordinary dieback of 7400 hectares of mangroves, which extended for 1000 kilometres along the Gulf coast.

“From 2011 the coastline had experienced beyond normal rainfalls, and the 2015/16 dry season was especially serious. Secondly, the temperatures in the zone were at record levels and thirdly a few mangroves were left high and dry as the ocean or sea level dropped around 20cm during a particularly extreme El Nino.”

Unprecedented mangrove dieback 1

Global Warming

UN reports Antarctica’s highest temperatures on record

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization published the highest temperatures on record in three Antarctic zones on Wednesday, setting a benchmark for studying how climate change is affecting this crucial region.

For the entire Antarctic region – all land and ice below 60 degrees South latitude – the highest temperature recorded was 19.8 degrees Celsius (67.6 degrees Fahrenheit), on January 30, 1982, at a research station on Signy Island.

For the continent itself, a maximum of 17.5 C was recorded on March 24, 2015, near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Finally, the highest temperature for the Antarctic Plateau – at or above 2,500 metres was minus 7 C, on December 28, 1980, at a weather station.

Getting a better grip on how global warming might impact the world’s largest ice mass is of more than academic interest.

Spanning an area twice the size of Australia, Antarctica’s ice sheet – up to 4.8km thick – contains 90% of the world’s fresh water, enough to raise sea levels by about 60 metres were it to melt.

The continent’s western peninsula, close to the tip of South America, is already among the fastest warming regions on the planet, hotting up by 3 C over the last half century – three times the global average.

The lowest temperature yet recorded by ground measurements for the Antarctic Region – and the whole world — was minus 89.2 C at Vostok station on July 21, 1983.

Northern hemisphere sees in early spring due to global warming

Spring is arriving ever earlier in the northern hemisphere. One sedge species in Greenland is springing to growth 26 days earlier than it did a decade ago. And in the US, spring arrived 22 days early this year in Washington DC.

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Global Warming

Climate change unfreezes 200,000-year-old ‘doorway to hell’

Siberia’s enormous “hellmouth” crater in the melting permafrost is growing fast — and it’s opening a portal to a 200,000-year-old world.

The Batgaika crater, known to the local Yakutian people as the “doorway to the underworld,” is one of the largest of a growing number of pits collapsing across the Siberian landscape as the ice beneath the surface turns to slush — and methane gas.

But this crater in particular offers some form of a silver lining.

It’s revealing eons of climate change in the region, along with long-buried animal carcasses and petrified forests.

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Global Warming

Spring coming sooner to Arctic

Nature’s clock is running fast in the Arctic, thanks to climate change. Due to diminishing sea ice cover, spring is coming sooner to some plant species in the low Arctic of Greenland, while other species are delaying their emergence amid warming winters, says a study.

The timing of seasonal events, such as first spring growth, flower bud formation and blooming make up a plant’s phenology – the window of time it has to grow, produce offspring, and express its life history. It can be called “nature’s clock.”

While how early a plant emerges from its winter slumber depends on the species, the study, published in the journal Biology Letters, demonstrates that the Arctic landscape is changing rapidly.

Such changes carry implications for the ecological structure of the region for years to come.

Warming winters and springs associated with declining arctic sea ice cover created a mixture of speed demons, slowpokes and those in between. One racehorse of a sedge species now springs out of the proverbial gate a full 26 days earlier than it did a decade ago.

Global Warming

Global warming, overfishing threaten Earth’s “super-zoos,”

The six ocean hot spots that teem with the biggest mix of species are also getting hit hardest by global warming and industrial fishing, a new study finds.

An international team looked at more than 2,100 species of fish, seabirds, marine mammals and even tiny plankton to calculate Earth’s hot spots of marine biodiversity.

These underwater super-zoos are in patches of ocean that are overfished and warming fast, and these pressures hurt the lush life there, according to a study appearing in Wednesday’s journal Science Advances.

While scientists in the past have identified key areas of biodiversity, the new work is more detailed. Researchers found the liveliest ocean hot spot also happens to be where the science of evolution sprouted: the Pacific Ocean off the central South American coast. It includes the area around the Galapagos Islands.

Other hot spots include the southwestern Atlantic Ocean off Argentina; the western Indian Ocean off the African coast; the central western Pacific Ocean surrounding Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines; the southwestern Pacific off Australia’s southern and eastern coast; and the Oceania region of the Pacific around the international date line. Four of the six hot spots are in the Pacific; all are either in the southern hemisphere or just north of the equator.

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.

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.”

Wildlife

Climate Threat to Wildlife May Have Been Massively Underreported

More than 700 of the world’s threatened and endangered animal species may be directly affected by climate change, according to a new study — vastly more than the number of animal species scientists initially thought would face risks from global warming.

Scientists had previously determined that only 7 percent of mammals and 4 percent of birds on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) “Red List” of threatened species are affected by climate change. However, a new study finds that the threat from climate change may have been massively underreported.

In a comprehensive analysis of 130 previous studies on the subject, researchers found that nearly half of the world’s threatened and endangered mammals and nearly a quarter of birds are already seriously impacted — more than 700 species total.

Most climate change studies focus on impacts in the future, but the researchers said the effects of global warming are being felt “here and now.” And research on present threats were focused on specific species and were spread across numerous journals, according to study co-author James Watson, director of the Science and Research Initiative at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Primates, in particular, are threatened because they have specialized diets and their tropical homes are vulnerable to extreme weather events caused by climate change. In some cases, species can adapt to the changes, but others are facing dire consequences.

For instance, mountain gorillas live on top of mountains — they’ve got nowhere else to go if the climate changes,” Watson said. “They’re stuck on top of these mountains, so they might not survive climate change because they can’t move anywhere else.”

Though birds can fly from mountaintop homes, the researchers found that species that live at higher altitudes and experience little seasonal temperature changes are negatively affected by climate change. Animals that dwell in aquatic environments also face even higher risks because these ecosystems are among the most vulnerable to global warming, according to the scientists.

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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.

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