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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Disease

Measles in Italy

The number of measles cases recorded in Italy since the beginning of this year has increased considerably, a phenomenon that worries health authorities because of parents’ resistance to the vaccine. According to the Ministry of Health, 700 cases were registered in the first three months of 2017.

India – Foot and Mouth Disease

Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) has affected Karani village on the outskirts of Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvallur district. It is feared that all of the village’s 500 cattle may be affected.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

In the South Pacific Ocean: Tropical Cyclone Debbie located approximately 320 nm east- southeast of Cairns, Australia, is tracking west-southwestward at 03 knots – Queensland is bracing for a large scale natural disaster ahead of the arrival of Cyclone Debbie, with authorities ordering evacuations, the closure of schools, ports and airports and thousands of military and emergency services personnel on alert. The Bureau of Meteorology predicts the “very destructive core” of Debbie will hit the mainland near the northern town of Ayr as a category four cyclone early Tuesday. There are concerns Debbie, which has slowly tracked southwest from the Coral Sea, could intensify to category five – the most severe category with winds in excess of 280km/h – by the time it makes landfall.

In the South Indian Ocean: Tropical cyclone 12s (Caleb), located approximately 919 nm west- northwest of Learmonth, Australia, is tracking westward at 03 knots.

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Disease

Sri Lanka – Dengue fever

During the first three months of 2016, Sri Lanka reported less than 14,000 dengue fever case, and 2016 was one of the most active dengue years in a long time. According to the Sri Lanka Ministry of Health’s Epidemiology Unit, as of Mar. 24, the island country has seen 24,562 cases, and there is a week to go.

Diseases such as dengue fever and even bird flu are spreading in Asia, and millions of poultry are being destroyed in South Korea today. The spread of diseases in Sri Lanka may be a part of a regional Asian health crisis – according to Sri Lankan Authorities.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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In the South Pacific Ocean: Tropical Cyclone Debbie lingered as a tropical wave for days in open water, but on Saturday was upgraded to the equivalent of a tropical storm. As of 4pm local time the system was 640km east of Cairns and 560km east northeast of Townsville, with sustained winds of 65km/h per hour. Currently the cyclone is expected to make landfall along the northern Queensland coast between Townsville and Proserpine on Tuesday morning. Forecast models were predicting that Debbie could intensify to a category 4 cyclone with wind gusts of up to 260km/h near it’s centre before making landfall.

In the South Indian Ocean: Tropical Cyclone Caleb is located about 270 nautical miles (310.7 miles/500.4 km) east-southeast of Cocos Island. Caleb was moving to the south-southeastward at 4 knots (4.6 mph/7.4 kph).

NewsBytes:

Angola – Eleven people have died and several more are missing after torrential rain hit northern parts of Angola between Tuesday afternoon and Thursday. In addition to the deaths, about 700 homes were destroyed and more than 5,000 properties flooded. The country’s capital, Luanda, has been badly affected after a month’s worth of rain, 76mm, fell in just over 24 hours. There was widespread traffic disruption in the city and electricity and drinking water supplies were affected. A church and a school were also destroyed by the floods.

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Disease

Meningococcal disease – Nigeria

As of 19 March 2017 (epidemiological week 11), a total of 1407 suspected cases of meningitis and 211 deaths (case fatality rate: 15%) have been reported from 40 local government areas (LGAs) in five states of Nigeria since December 2016. Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto account for 89% of these cases. Twenty-six LGAs from all five states reported 361 cases in epidemiological week 11 alone. Twenty-two wards in 15 LGAs have crossed the epidemic threshold. Three of these LGAs share borders with Niger.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

In the South Indian Ocean: The system is in the Coral Sea, approximately 600km out north-east of Townsville, and is moving south-southeast at 13kmh. It is expected to make landfall in northern Queensland from Sunday.

‘Local’ El Niño

A freak warming of the Pacific just off South America has triggered record storms across parts of Peru, resulting in landslides and floods responsible for sweeping away people and ravaging crops.

Up to 10 times the normal rainfall has brought disasters that killed at least 74 people.

Officials say they have never before seen such a “local” El Niño. The weather-altering warming typically becomes established in the middle of the tropical Pacific basin before affecting Peru.

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Wildlife

Humpback Resurgence

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Super-groups of humpback whales have been observed with increasing frequency during the past five years off South Africa’s Atlantic coast.

The species hadn’t normally been considered all that social, usually being found in pairs or small groups that congregated only briefly. But research missions in 2011, 2014 and 2015 found humpbacks feeding and frolicking in groups of up to 200.

The whale had been hunted nearly into extinction, but its populations have seen an unexplained resurgence.

Scientists believe the super-group gatherings could possibly be the return of a previously unobserved feeding strategy thanks to the newly abundant population.

White-nose Syndrome discovered for 1st time in Texas

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The fungus known to cause White-nose Syndrome (WNS), a disease that has decimated hibernating bat populations in the United States and Canada, has been discovered for the first time in Texas. The fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) was detected on three species of hibernating bats in northern Texas: the cave myotis, Townsend’s big-eared bat, and the tri-coloured bat.

‘Devastating’ coral loss in South China Sea

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Scientists are warning of another “devastating” loss of coral due to a spike in sea temperatures. They say 40% of coral has died at the Dongsha Atoll in the South China Sea.

Nothing as severe has happened on Dongsha for at least 40 years, according to experts.

The Dongsha Atoll, located in the South China Sea, near south-eastern China and the Philippines, is rich in marine life and is regarded as one of the world’s most important coral reefs.

The researchers said on its own, a 2 degrees Celsius rise in temperatures was unlikely to cause widespread damage to coral reefs in the region. But, a high-pressure system caused temperatures to spike to 6 degrees, leading to the death of 40% of coral over the course of six weeks. Coral reefs are shallow water ecosystems and a tweak in the local weather can turn that 2 degrees Celsius into a 6 degrees Celsius warming.

Hunting of Grizzly Bears in Alaska Refuges

The U.S. Senate voted, mostly along party lines, on Tuesday (March 21) to abolish a regulation that prohibited certain types of hunting in Alaska national wildlife refuges.

In the 52-to-47 vote, the Senate used the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn a so-called midnight regulation that President Barack Obama’s administration passed in their last hours in office last year.

The justification for the abolition was that states, not the federal government, should shape regulations regarding wildlife within their borders.

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Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 111.0 degrees Fahrenheit (44.0 degrees Celsius) in Vredendal, South Africa.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 89.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 67.2 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.

Disease

Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – China

On 17 March 2017, the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China (NHFPC) notified WHO of 22 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus in mainland China.

Bird Flu in Japan

Authorities in Miyagi and Chiba prefectures began culling nearly 300,000 chickens Friday after the highly pathogenic H5 strain of bird flu was detected in dead chickens at local poultry farms.

In Japan’s latest bird flu outbreak, the Miyagi Prefectural Government plans to cull 220,000 chickens and bury them by early Monday, while the Chiba authority is in the midst of culling 68,000 chickens.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity – Ongoing Activity for the week of 15 March-21 March 2017

Bagana | Bougainville (Papua New Guinea) : Based on analyses of satellite imagery and wind data, the Darwin VAAC reported that on 17 March an ash plume from Bagana rose to an altitude of 2.1 km (7,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted W. The next day an ash plume rose to an altitude of 3 km (10,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted almost 85 km W.

Bogoslof | Fox Islands (USA) : AVO reported that no significant volcanic activity at Bogoslof was detected in seismic or infrasound data during 15-21 March, and satellite views were either obscured by clouds or showed nothing noteworthy. Slightly elevated surface temperatures were identified in satellite images during 16-17 and 20-21 March. The Aviation Colour Code remained at Orange and the Volcano Alert Level remained at Warning.

Colima | Mexico : Based on Centro Universitario de Estudios e Investigaciones de Vulcanologia – Universidad de Colima observations, the Unidad Estatal de Protección Civil de Colima reported that during 10-16 March there were three low-intensity explosions at Colima. A slight decrease of sulfur dioxide was detected. During an overflight scientists observed gas emissions from small explosion craters on the floor of the main crater; there was no evidence of a new lava dome. The report noted that the public should not enter the 6-km-radius exclusion zone.

Dukono | Halmahera (Indonesia) : Based on analyses of satellite imagery, wind model data, and notices from PVMBG, the Darwin VAAC reported that during 15-21 March ash plumes from Dukono rose to altitudes of 2.1-2.7 km (7,000-9,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted in multiple directions. Ash plumes during 19-21 March drifted 150-280 km SW, W, and NW.

Ebeko | Paramushir Island (Russia) : KVERT reported that on 10 March several explosions at Ebeko, observed by residents of Severo-Kurilsk (Paramushir Island) about 7 km E, generated plumes that rose to an altitude of 1.6 km (5,200 ft) a.s.l. The Aviation Colour Code remained at Orange (the second highest level on a four-colour scale).

Fuego | Guatemala : INSIVUMEH reported that during 16-21 March explosions at Fuego generated sometimes dense ash plumes that rose as high as 950 m above the crater rim and drifted 10-12 km W, SW, and S. Ashfall was reported in Panimaché I and II (8 km SW), Morelia (9 km SW), Santa Sofía (12 km SW), and El Porvenir. Shock waves and rumbling from the explosions were sometimes heard. Incandescent material was ejected as high as 200 m above the crater rim. During 18-19 March incandescent material was ejected 200 m away from the crater. In a special report dated 21 March INSIVUMEH noted that lahars had begun descending the Santa Teresa and Las Lajas drainages at 1623 based on seismic data; it had been raining for a few days.

Kilauea | Hawaiian Islands (USA) : During 15-21 March HVO reported that the lava lake continued to rise, fall, and spatter in Kilauea’s Overlook vent. Webcams recorded incandescence from long-active sources within Pu’u ‘O’o Crater, from a vent high on the NE flank of the cone, and from a small lava pond in a pit on the W side of the crater. The 61G lava flow, originating from a vent on Pu’u ‘O’o Crater’s E flank, continued to enter the ocean at Kamokuna; the lava stream was 1-2 m wide on 16 March, and plunged into the ocean from the end of the lava tube, about 20 m above the water. Surface lava flows were active above the pali.

Klyuchevskoy | Central Kamchatka (Russia) : On 16 March KVERT reported that although gas-and-steam emissions continued to rise from Klyuchevskoy’s crater, and a weak thermal anomaly was identified in satellite images, no explosions had been detected since 8 March. The Aviation Colour Code was lowered to Yellow (the second lowest level on a four-colour scale).

Nevado del Ruiz | Colombia : Based on satellite and webcam images, the Washington VAAC reported that on 17 and 20 March ash plumes from Nevado del Ruiz rose to an altitude of 6.1 km (20,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted NW and SW.

Pacaya | Guatemala : INSIVUMEH reported small Strombolian explosions at Pacaya’s Mackenney during 16-20 March. Lava traveled 30 m W, and sometimes crater incandescence was visible at night and at dawn.

Sabancaya | Peru : Based on webcam images, satellite views, and seismic data the Buenos Aires VAAC reported sporadic gas-and-ash puffs from Sabancaya during 14-15, 17-19, and 21 March, sometimes rising as high as 8.2 km (27,000 ft) a.s.l. Weather clouds often hindered observations of the volcano. Observatorio Vulcanológico del Sur del IGP (OVS-IGP) and Observatorio Vulcanológico del INGEMMET (OVI) reported that at 0802 on 21 March an ash plume rose 2 km and drifted more than 30 km SSE.

Sheveluch | Central Kamchatka (Russia) : KVERT reported that during 10-17 March lava-dome extrusion onto Sheveluch’s N flank was accompanied by strong fumarolic activity, dome incandescence, ash explosions, and hot avalanches. Satellite images showed a daily thermal anomaly over the dome, and ash plumes that drifted 100 km NW on 9 and 14 March. The Aviation Colour Code remained at Orange (the second highest level on a four-colour scale).

Sinabung | Indonesia : Based on PVMBG observations, satellite data, and wind data, the Darwin VAAC reported that during 15-18 and 21 March ash plumes from Sinabung rose to altitudes of 3-5.5 km (10,000-18,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted E, N, W, and WSW.

Turrialba | Costa Rica : OVSICORI-UNA reported that during 20-21 March weak gas emissions at Turrialba contained sporadic, small amounts of ash, and rose no higher than 100 m above the crater rim and drifted SW. Volcanic tremor had medium and variable amplitude, and a few low-frequency earthquakes were recorded.

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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