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.

Pineisland oli 2017024

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

    

2 13 17 Andrea CC Arctictemps 650 434 s c1 c c

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.

Screen Shot 2017 02 14 at 4 43 03 PM

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.

Mountain gorilla wcs

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

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.”

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.”

Global Warming

Breathing Pause

Trees “held their breath” during the recent seeming pause in global warming, when the oceans were storing most of the planet’s excess heat.

Forests are considered to be the “lungs of the planet” because of their ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store the excess carbon.

An international study found that from 1998 to 2012, when atmospheric temperatures appeared to stop rising as quickly as in the years before, the world’s forests continued to breathe in the greenhouse gas through photosynthesis. But the trees reduced the rate at which they released the gas back into the atmosphere.

 

Global Warming

Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf Rift Growing Rapidly

The large rift in the Larsen C Ice Shelf that we reported on a few weeks ago has continued to grow at a rapid rate since then, with a further 10 kilometres of length added since January 1st according to the researchers at the MIDAS Project.

The rift continues to run parallel to the shelf edge, though, so the distance holding the iceberg to the shelf (20 kilometres) remains the same as the last time that we reported on it. Obviously, though, as the images below show, even if the rift continues to run parallel, it will inevitability lead to an iceberg calving event.

This matters because, according to the researchers at the MIDAS Project, once the 5,000 sq. km iceberg calves, it will destabilize the whole Larsen C Ice Shelf — possibly leading to the disintegration of the whole ice shelf. The Larsen B Ice Shelf disintegrated in 2002 following a similar event as the one occurring now.

Rift map 2017 01 19 570x479

Global Warming

The disappearing fishing villages of Bangladesh

A row of mangrove trees sticking out of the sand, exposed by low tide off Kutubdia island in the Bay of Bengal, is all that remains of a coastal village that for generations was home to 250 families. The villagers were forced to flee as their land, which had been slowly eroding for decades, was finally engulfed by the ever-rising tide five years ago.

For the embattled people of Ali Akbar Dial, a collection of disappearing villages on the southern tip of the island in Bangladesh, the distant trees serve as a bittersweet reminder of what they have lost and a warning of what is come. The low-lying island of Kutubdia has one of the fastest-ever sea level rises recorded in the world, placing it bang on the front line of climate change, and the islanders are fighting a battle they fear is already lost.

Tides that once stopped short of the three-metre-high concrete embankment, built by the government to protect the island, now flood over it and the embankment is damaged in many places. While no scientific monitoring is done here, sea level rise of 8mm a year over 20 years has been recorded at Cox’s Bazar, 50 miles away on the mainland. This is nearly three times the level for Bangladesh as a whole and up to five times the world average.

Global Warming

2016 Was Earth’s Hottest Year on Record

2016 was the hottest year on Earth since record keeping began more than 130 years ago, and humans are mostly to blame, scientists reported today

Last year’s average temperatures over land and sea surfaces were the highest ever seen since 1880, and were 1.69 degrees Fahrenheit (0.94 degrees Celsius) above the 20th-century average, according to scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Across the planet, there was not a single land area that experienced lower-than-average temperatures for the year, they said.

In fact, 2016 marks the third consecutive record-warm year for the globe. Every month from January through August became the warmest such month on record, according to NOAA. Moreover, the 16 successive months from May 2015 to August 2016 either broke or tied the previous record for that month, the researchers said.

The poles are also feeling the heat. An estimate of the average annual sea-ice extent in 2016 in the Arctic was the lowest annual average on record: 3.92 million square miles (10.1 million square kilometres). The Arctic was almost 7.2 degrees F (4 degrees C) warmer in 2016 than it was in preindustrial times.

The El Niño (a climate cycle characterized by unusually warm temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean) that spanned 2015 and 2016 contributed to the warmer temperatures, but the vast majority of the warming — 90 percent — was due to human activity, mainly through the emission of greenhouse gases.

Dec2016 sea land temps