Global Warming

Geoengineering – Not a Quick Fix

Leading climate scientists have warned that geoengineering research could be hijacked by climate change deniers as an excuse not to reduce CO2 emissions, citing the US administration under Donald Trump as a major threat to their work.

David Keith, a solar geoengineering (GE) expert at Harvard University has said there is a real danger that his work could be exploited by those who oppose action on emissions, at the same time as he defended himself and colleagues from the claims GE strengthens the argument for abandoning the targets set by the Paris climate agreement.

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Environment

Large Hole Opens in Antarctica Ice

A mysterious hole as big as the state of Maine has been spotted in Antarctica’s winter sea ice cover. The hole was discovered by researchers about a month ago.

Known as a polynya, this year’s hole was about 30,000 square miles at its largest, making it the biggest polynya observed in Antarctica’s Weddell Sea since the 1970s.

The harsh winter in Antarctica makes it hard to find holes like this one, so it can be difficult to study them. This is the second year that a polynya formed, though last year’s hole was not as big.

The deep water in that part of the Southern Ocean is warmer and saltier than the surface water. Ocean currents bring the warmer water upwards, where it melts the blankets of ice that had formed on the ocean’s surface. That melting created the polynya.

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The blue curves represent the ice edge, and the polynya is the dark region of open water within the ice pack.

Global Warming

Carbon Released by Warming Soils

As soil warms up, it leaks carbon, and a new study suggests higher temperatures could release more carbon than we thought, potentially creating a dangerous feedback loop that would cause the planet to get hotter and hotter.

That’s based on experiments stretching back 26 years in a hardwood forest in Massachusetts, where researchers have been artificially heating certain sections of soil to see the effects.

The team from the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Massachusetts, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of New Hampshire, says rising temperatures cause a two-stage cycle where carbon output increases for several years then levels off – probably due to soil microbes adjusting to the warmer conditions.

After that readjustment, carbon release levels start rising again. The worry is that warmer soil would cause a warmer atmosphere, in turn heating up the ground and perpetuating temperature rise we have no control over.

Every year we pump about 10 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, mostly through burning fossil fuels. About 3,500 billion tonnes are thought to be stored in the world’s soil. Not only does having carbon locked away in soil mean it’s kept out of the atmosphere, it also helps soil stay healthy by holding water and helping plants to grow.

Global Warming

Central Indian floods have tripled: study

Violent floods in central India have tripled since 1950, according to researchers who warned Tuesday of worse to come while offering hope for predicting them better in future.

The region of about half-a-billion people is regularly stricken by flash floods, landslides and torrential rains that kill thousands and displace millions of people, as well as drowning crops and livestock.

The team also succeeded in tracking down the main culprit: moisture from the Arabian Sea in the north of the Indian Ocean. s climate change continues to warm the ocean, the frequency and severity of killer storms in India are likely to increase, the team said.

According to the study, there were 268 floods in India between 1950 and 2015, killing almost 70,000 people and leaving about 17 million homeless. Central India was one of the hardest-hit areas, even as it also struggles with dwindling regular rainfall, also blamed in part on the warming Indian Ocean.

Centralindia

Environment

Ancient bristlecone pine forests are being overwhelmed by climate change

For thousands of years, wind-whipped, twisted bristlecone pines have been clinging to existence on the arid, stony crests of eastern California’s White Mountains, in conditions inhospitable to most other life.

Their growth rings provide a year-by-year account of the struggle to survive: It’s a tortuous cycle of dying off almost entirely, leaving only a few strips of bark that then continue to grow diagonally skyward or sideways along the ground.

But the world’s oldest trees may never have experienced temperature increases as rapid as those of recent decades. The climatic changes have triggered a struggle for dominance, in very slow motion, between the ancient bristlecones and the younger limber pines that have been able to charge up-slope as conditions become warmer and wetter. Will they cope with the intrusion of limber pines competing for sunlight, moisture, nutrients and room to grow?

Bristlecone pines — named for their bottlebrush-like branches with short needles — are found in other parts of the semiarid Great Basin, which extends from California’s Sierra Nevada east to the Rockies. But the ones found in the White Mountains are the oldest. The slow growers are only about 25 feet tall and expand about 1 inch in diameter every 100 years.

One of the oldest of the bunch is Methuselah, at about 4,768 years old. Its precise location is carefully guarded to avert vandalism.

According to Smithers, who led a study of ancient bristlecone pines published in the journal Global Change Biology, forests of limber pines have been steadily pushing up-slope over the past 50 years throughout the Great Basin.

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Global Warming

CO2 Emissions

Offering a much-needed sign that human actions can be effective against climate change, new data published by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (NEAA) shows that global CO2 emissions largely remained static in 2016.

All major emitters worldwide, except India, stayed stagnant or fell in their CO2 emissions, due to increased use of renewables and decreased coal use; the US and Russia saw about a two percent decrease, while China, European Union states, and other G20 member emissions remained static. Other nations, mainly developing countries, still have rising CO2 emissions levels.

However, even static emission levels mean that massive amounts of CO2 are being dumped into the atmosphere annually; more than 35 billion tons were released in 2016 alone. This CO2 is responsible for warmer ocean and air temperatures, plus more extreme, damaging weather, from droughts to hurricanes. Moreover, other greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere—particularly methane, from agriculture and the oil and gas industries—rose by 1 percent in 2016. According to the report, total greenhouse gas emissions continued to increase by about 0.5% globally.

This flattening of CO2 emissions in 2016 is proof that humans can make a difference when it comes to climate change. It also offers evidence that if we do not take steps to reduce emissions, they will continue to increase; they only stopped rising after a groundswell of public opinion pushed for change.

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Global Warming

Antarctica – Pine Island Glacier Calves

A colossal iceberg four and a half times the size of Manhattan has broken off the Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica, marking the second time the glacier has calved a giant iceberg in just two years, according to news reports. The satellite image shows that the glacier has lost an enormous chunk of ice.

Of all the glaciers in West Antarctica, the Pine Island Glacier is the largest contributor of ice to the ocean. Each year, it loses 45 billion tons (408 billion metric tons) of ice, causing sea levels to increase 0.03 inches (1 millimeter) every eight years, according to The Washington Post. If the entire glacier melted, sea levels could rise 1.7 feet (0.5 m), The Washington Post reported.

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Environment

CO2 Evolution

Plants have been observed changing the way they conduct photosynthesis over the past 40 years as levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have steadily increased.

Researchers led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography found that land-based plants have adjusted to higher levels of the greenhouse gas by increasing the efficiency with which they use waterith more CO2 in the air, plants have evolved to have fewer or smaller microscopic holes that allow leaves to absorb the gas. The plants then don’t need to draw up as much water from their roots to flourish.

Global Warming

Arctic Sea Ice

The Arctic ice cap reached its eighth-lowest extent on record at the time of year the sea ice is typically at its minimum coverage.

Scientists at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said that the sea ice had set a record for the smallest winter extent earlier this year and was on track to rival the record minimum set in 2012.

But a cloudy and cooler-than-normal August across the central Arctic slowed the seasonal melting.

“It’s not going to be a staircase heading down to zero every year,” said Ted Scambos of the NSIDC. “[But] the Arctic will continue to evolve towards less ice. There’s no dodging that.”

Lost Islands

Rising ocean levels in the South Pacific have swallowed at least eight low-lying islands in the Solomon Islands and Micronesia, where sea levels have risen by about half an inch each year since the early 1990s.

Australian researchers conducted coastal surveys, analyzed satellite data and spoke with island residents before making the conclusion. They found six of the islands went underwater between 2007 and 2014.

Global Warming

Global warming threatens parasites – study

A new study out of the University of California claims that global warming caused by climate change will wipe out a third of the world’s parasites by 2070, and before you rejoice, scientists say that could have detrimental effects on the planet. Specifically, climate change would wreak havoc on tapeworms, fleas, ticks, lice, and other similar creatures, which could potentially upset the balance of the Earth’s ecosystem.

Scientists at the university spent a year analyzing 20 million parasites that were in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History. Their findings indicate that no creature on Earth may be more threatened than parasites, but trying to convince the public that this is a negative will undoubtedly be a challenge.

However, what scientists know about parasites is that they control populations, keep energy moving, and do lots of other subtle things that make our planet what it is today. Losing a third of them would cause big changes to the food chain and to life in general. They help control wildlife populations and keep energy flowing through food chains.

Wildlife

Pacific corals in ‘worrying’ state

An in-depth probe along a 50,000-kilometre (31,000-mile) stretch of the Pacific found that up to 90 percent of some coral colonies around the Samoan islands had been bleached.

Around the Tuamotu archipelago, up to half of colonies are bleached, according to researchers on board the French research schooner Tara.

Around the islands of Tuvalu and Kiribati, sections of reef were dead by the time the team got there.

Even in more temperate waters to the north, reefs did not escape bleaching, said the team, with up to 70 percent of corals damaged around Okinawa, Japan.

Corals make up less than one percent of Earth’s marine environment, but are home to an estimated 25 percent of marine life. They act as nurseries for many species of fish.

Corals are tiny, invertebrate marine creatures that live in colonies and require algae to survive. The algae live on the corals, providing them with food and the bold colours that reefs are known for.

Corals “bleach” when they are stressed by environmental changes — due to ocean warming or pollution. They expel the algae and turn bone-white.

If the harm is not too severe, reefs can recover from a bleaching event, although this can take many years.

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Global Warming

Global warming doubles growth rates of Antarctic seabed’s marine fauna – study

Marine life on the Antarctic seabed is likely to be far more affected by global warming than previously thought, say scientists who have conducted the most sophisticated study to date of heating impacts in the species-rich environment.

Growth rates of some fauna doubled – including colonising moss animals and undersea worms – following a 1C increase in temperature, making them more dominant, pushing out other species and reducing overall levels of biodiversity, according to the study published on Thursday in Current Biology.

The researchers who conducted the nine-month experiment in the Bellingshuan Sea say this could have alarming implications for marine life across the globe as temperatures rise over the coming decades as a result of manmade greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Sub-zero conditions near the south pole mean there are comparatively few species on the usually frozen land, but below the ice, the relative lack of pollution, traffic and fishing has left an abundance of marine life that divers and biologists compare to coral reefs.

Twelve identical 15cm sq heat plates were set in concrete on the seabed. Four were warmed by 1C, four by 2C and four left at ambient temperature as a control.

At 1C, a species of bryozoan moss (Fenestrulina rugula) became utterly dominant on the four plates. Within two months it reduced the evenness and diversity of the species spread. The researchers also found the marine worm Romanchella perrieri grew an average 70% larger than those under ambient conditions.

At 2C, the results from different plates varied with different growth rates of different species. The researchers speculate that this may be because the higher increase in temperature had a greater shock impact.

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Global Warming

Skrinking Caspian

Increased evaporation of the Caspian Sea over the past few decades has caused the huge central Asian lake to shrink to near the historic low set in the 1970s.

While the level of the huge body of water has fluctuated during the past several hundred years, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and colleagues from Russia, France and Azerbaijan say they expect it will continue to decline under what they describe as “global warming scenarios.”

The researchers predict that under current climate models, evaporation could cause the lake’s northern waters to vanish within 75 years.

Wildlife

Walrus Island

Rapidly retreating Arctic sea ice has driven several hundred Pacific walrus to an Alaskan barrier island weeks earlier than ever observed.

The marine mammals have historically conducted their “haulout” on sea ice, where they rest and feed.

But they began showing up instead on Point Lay along the Chukchi Sea coast in 2007 as global warming melted their icy habitat.

This year, they arrived two weeks before the previous earliest date in 2011.

Up to 40,000 of the marine mammals have crowded onto the narrow island in recent years, putting them at risk of deadly stampedes.

Global Warming

Climate Change Is Causing Fish to Shrink

Fishermen over the past several years have noted that fish appear to be shrinking. That observation was validated in 2014 by research that found commercially important fish stocks in the North Sea, such as sole, herring, and haddock, have decreased in maximum body size over a 40-year period.

New research published in the journal Global Change Biology explains that these species and many others are ectotherms, meaning that their body temperature depends on environmental temperature.

As the oceans warm up, their bodies will do so as well. Higher temperature within the scope that the fish can tolerate generally increases the rate of biochemical reactions in the fish’s body and thus increases their body metabolic rate. Metabolic rate refers to an animal’s oxygen consumption, which also naturally increases as fish grow into adulthood because their body mass becomes larger.

One might wonder why fish and other marine ectotherms aren’t just taking in ever more oxygen to coincide with this natural growth due to maturation and the rise of ocean temperatures. They don’t because at a certain point they cannot keep up.

The researchers point out that the surface area of an animal’s gills — where oxygen is obtained — does not grow at the same pace as the rest of its body. This is because gills, in order to work, must function as a two-dimensional surface — width by height — and thus cannot grow as fast as the three-dimensional volume — width by height by depth — they have to supply with oxygen.

The reductions will be in the range of 20–30 percent if ocean temperatures continue to climb due to climate change. At the higher end of that range is one of the world’s most important commercial fish: tuna.

Tunas are active, mobile, and fast-swimming animals that need a lot of oxygen to maintain their lifestyle. They have to keep swimming non-stop in order to get more water through their gills to obtain sufficient oxygen. Thus, when temperature increases, they are particularly susceptible to not having sufficient oxygen to support their body growth.

For a 2 degree Celsius (3.6 degree Fahrenheit) increase in water temperature, which is approximately what is expected to occur in oceans around the world by the mid-21st century, tunas such as the Atlantic bluefin tuna will potentially decrease in body size by 30 percent.

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