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.

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Wildlife

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

A key part of the Earth’s ozone layer is failing to heal – and Scientists don’t know why

The rescue of the planet’s protective ozone layer has been hailed as one of the great success stories of modern environmental regulation – but on Monday, an international team of 22 scientists raised doubts about whether ozone is actually recovering as expected across much of the world.

“We’ve detected unexpected decreases in the lower part of the stratospheric ozone layer, and the consequence of this result is that it’s offsetting the recovery in ozone that we had expected to see,” said William Ball, a scientist with the Physical Meteorological Observatory in Davos, Switzerland.

In 1987, countries of the world agreed to the Montreal Protocol, a treaty designed to phase out chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, responsible for destroying ozone in the stratosphere. The protocol has worked as intended in reducing these substances, and early healing of the ozone “hole” over Antarctica has been subsequently hailed by scientists.

But the study by Ball and his colleagues – a team of scientists including researchers based in the United States, Britain, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden and Finland – focused instead on the lower latitudes where the vast majority of humans live.

There, the scientists found a relatively small but hard-to-explain decline of ozone in the lower part of the stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere that extends from about six miles to 31 miles above the planet’s surface, since the year 1998. Meanwhile, the upper stratosphere has been recovering.

Environment

A Ticking Time Bomb of Mercury Is Hidden Beneath Earth’s Permafrost

According to a new study published Feb. 5 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, theremay be more than 15 million gallons (58 million liters) of mercury buried in the permafrost of the Northern Hemisphere — roughly twice as much mercury as can be found in the rest of Earth’s soils, ocean and atmosphere combined. And if global temperatures continue to rise, all that mercury could come pouring out.

In geology, permafrost is defined as any soil that has been frozen for more than two years. In the Northern Hemisphere, permafrost accounts for about 8.8 million square miles (22.79 million square kilometers) of land — or roughly 24 percent of exposed Earth, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Over time, naturally occurring compounds in the atmosphere, such as mercury and carbon dioxide, can bind with organic material in the soil and be frozen into permafrost, potentially remaining trapped underground for thousands of years before it thaws.

Using the mercury contents of 13 cores drilled in various sites across the North American permafrost as a springboard, the researchers estimated the total amount of mercury sealed away below North American permafrost to be roughly 793 gigagrams — or more than 15 million gallons.

Global Warming

Climate Change Affecting USA Military Bases

Military leaders are sounding another alarm about the dangers of climate change, saying in a new report that half of U.S. military sites have already been affected by floods, wildfires, droughts and other weather extremes that are exacerbated by rising global temperatures.

Following a request from Congress, the Defense Department studied climate risks to all 3,500 U.S. military sites around the world. It found nearly 800 had been affected by droughts, 350 by extreme temperatures, 225 by storm surge-related flooding and more than 200 by wildfires, among other weather events.

Climate scientists say those types of extreme weather events have already become more common as global temperatures increase. Sea levels are rising, storms are getting more intense, dry regions are getting drier and fire seasons are getting longer, research shows.

The Defense Department’s report released last week says the military “looks at climate through the lens of its mission,” and that “changes in climate affect national security in several ways.”

Global Warming

China to develop ‘Polar Silk Road’

China on Friday outlined its ambitions to develop a “Polar Silk Road” of new Arctic shipping lanes opened up by global warming.

Releasing its first official Arctic policy white paper, China said it would encourage enterprises to build infrastructure and conduct commercial trial voyages, paving the way for Arctic shipping routes. China, despite being a non-Arctic state, is increasingly active in the polar region and became an observer member of the Arctic Council in 2013.

The white paper said China is also eyeing development of oil, gas, mineral resources and other non-fossil energies – such as fishing and tourism – in the region.

Global Warming

Ice-Free Yukon

Unusually warm conditions in northwestern Canada have for a second winter in a row prevented a seasonal “ice bridge” from forming over the Yukon River to connect Dawson City with West Dawson.

During summer, the two sides are connected by a ferry, but in winter, residents have to wait for the water to freeze over to make the crossing. The ice bridge has historically been open to traffic by mid-December.

Crews worked for a week to create an “ice Band-Aid” by spraying a cold mist to cap a 300-foot-wide stretch of the river with ice. But the project proved impractical when daytime temperatures didn’t stay below freezing.

The typical Dawson high temperature for January is about minus 8 Fahrenheit.

Environment

‘Doomsday Clock’ Stands at 2 Minutes to Midnight

The “Doomsday Clock,” a hypothetical timepiece that measures humanity’s proximity to destruction by our own actions, hovers perilously close to midnight, the time that denotes global Armageddon.

Today (Jan. 25), the clock has crept even closer to the zero hour. This morning, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) — an organization of science and policy experts who assess human scientific advancement and risk — revealed the clock’s new “time,” with the hands now standing at 2 minutes to midnight.

The time has only ever been this close to midnight in 1953, following hydrogen bomb tests by both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., ushering in the era of the first nuclear arms race. In 2018, it reflects the breakdown of global efforts to reduce reliance on and risk of nuclear weapons; increased posturing and threats regarding the use of nuclear weapons; and an insufficient response worldwide to curb the impacts of climate change.

Global Warming

2017 Continues Global Warming Trend – NASA

The numbers are in, and NASA has found that 2017 did not set a record for the warmest year on record, but that is far from good news. Instead, it was the second warmest, right after current record holder 2016, an indication that global temperatures are showing no signs of getting better and in fact are almost certainly going to continue to get worse.

The average temperature of the Earth in 2017 was 1.62 degrees warmer than the mean temperature between 1951 and 1990, based on research by scientists at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which is located in New York. The past year was the second warmest since 1880, when we began taking global estimates, despite the fact that there were colder than average temperatures reported in some parts of the globe that climate change skeptics used to discredit the issue of global warming.

Warming was the worst in the Arctic regions, where humans do not live, and that has resulted in a tremendous loss of sea ice in 2017. NASA used measurements from more than 6,000 weather stations and ship observations across the globe. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration found that 2017 was the third warmest on record in their own independent estimation.

Wildlife

Monarch Migration

A large number of Monarch butterflies have been seen in their migratory funnel in Cape May. N.J. instead of across the Texas-Mexico border. This delayed migration is not normal, and it alarmed monarch researchers across the country. The Cape May stragglers were only a sliver of the record number of monarchs reported in the Northeast in November and December — news that sounded good initially to conservationists. But seeing butterflies so far north so late in the year suggested that few of these latecomers would reach their Mexican wintering grounds. Scientists fear that climate change is behind what they’re calling the latest monarch migration ev er recorded in the eastern United States, and they worry that rising temperatures pose a new threat to a species that saw its population hit record lows in recent years.

Known for their complex, improbable migrations, most monarchs embark on 2,000-mile journeys each fall, from breeding grounds as far north as Canada’s maritime provinces to the Sierra Madre mountains in central Mexico. (A separate western population heads mostly to Southern California.) They mate in Mexico, then fly back north to lay their eggs (and die) in the spring.

Because they’re so delicate — each weighs less than a gram — monarchs are particular about the conditions they’ll fly in, and especially vulnerable to extreme weather systems. Major storms, high winds, early freezes — all pose large-scale dangers, and the butterflies faced all of those this year. But more pernicious than that, scientists believe, are the warmer temperatures, probably a sign of climate change, which manipulated the monarchs’ instincts and pushed their migration back.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the number of monarchs has dropped from a billion in their heyday to about 33 million in 2014 — or more than 80 percent since the mid-1990s.

For decades, scientists have focused on two main causes to explain what was happening to the monarchs: loss of their habitat to development in the United States and in the Mexican winter grounds and widespread agricultural use of pesticides, which destroy milkweed, their favorite plant. But now they are looking at climate change as a new threat to this icon of conservation.

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Global Warming

Climate Survival

The continued existence of the human species is now threatened more by extreme weather in a changing climate than by weapons of mass destruction, according to a global survey by the World Economic Forum.

It was released just prior to the foundation’s annual meeting of global leaders in Davos, Switzerland.

The survey of nearly 1,000 international experts and decision makers reveals that in terms of likelihood and impact, extreme weather around the world is listed as the top concern.

The survey points to how catastrophic hurricane damage and wildfires last year demonstrate that environmental events can result in devastation of crucial infrastructure and food supplies.

Global Warming

Deadly ocean heatwaves

A heatwave that struck a quarter of the world’s oceans in 2016 was made far more likely by climate change, according to a new study.

Nicknamed “the blob” when it appeared in the eastern Pacific, the mass of warm water was linked with the deaths of marine animals and the devastation of ecosystems.

Ocean water naturally goes through phases of higher temperatures – notably the event known as El Niño, which leads to periods of warmer water in the Pacific Ocean.

Climate change is also thought to contribute to some of this temperature fluctuation, but it can be difficult establishing the exact contribution it makes.

However, a team of Australian scientists has concluded the heatwave of 2016 was influenced by anthropogenic – that is, human-induced – climate change.

The research focuses on warming around northern Australia, which resulted in mass coral bleaching, and the northern Pacific Ocean between Alaska and Russia.

Extreme temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska have been linked with the deaths of thousands of seabirds and whales during this period.

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