Global Warming

A warming Antarctica will create new animal habitats.

As climate change continues to cause massive melting and ice loss in Antarctica, new habitats may begin to open up for wildlife across the thawing continent, scientists reported Wednesday. But while that may sound like a boon for plants, microbes, birds and other organisms, they caution that this is not necessarily a good thing for the fragile Antarctic ecosystem.

As more ice-free space opens up across the continent, previously isolated species may begin to spread out and come in contact with each other. And as they’re increasingly forced to compete for resources, some organisms may emerge dominant — and others may start to disappear, write a team of researchers in a new study, just published in the journal Nature.

While Antarctica is a largely frozen continent, isolated ice-free areas — including exposed mountaintops, cliffs, valleys and islands — are already scattered across the region and may range in size from less than a square mile to hundreds of square miles. They may be separated by anywhere from a few feet to dozens or hundreds of miles.

Secluded as they may be in some cases, these areas can be home to various species of vegetation, microbes, worms or insects and other small organisms, and may also serve as breeding grounds for animals like seals and seabirds. These species tend to be highly specialized for the extreme conditions in which they live. Some of them may be dormant throughout much of the year. Others may have developed specific adaptations that allow them to survive in conditions with high winds, little water or extreme low temperatures.

Additionally, some species are found only in very specific areas — in fact, a few have only been recorded in a single ice-free zone. Others may be more widespread across the continent, but may have developed different adaptations in different areas. In general, Antarctica is home to many diverse and fragile communities that may be highly susceptible to environmental change.

Global Warming

Antarctica is going green – not in a good way

Plant life is growing on Antarctica like never before in modern times, fueled by global warming which is melting ice and transforming the landscape from white to green.

Scientists studying moss in an area spanning 400 miles (640 kilometers) have found a sharp increase in growth over the past 50 years, said the report in the journal Current Biology.

Plant life exists on only about 0.3 percent of Antarctica.

Five moss cores — or column-like samples drilled from the Earth — showed evidence of what scientists called “changepoints,” or points in time after which biological activity clearly increased.

Areas sampled included three Antarctic islands — Elephant Island, Ardley Island, and Green Island — where the deepest and oldest moss banks grow, said the report.

The polar regions are warming more rapidly than the rest of the Earth, as greenhouse gasses from fossil fuel burning build up in the atmosphere and trap heat.

The Arctic is warming the fastest, but Antarctica is not far behind, with annual temperatures gaining almost one degree Fahrenheit (half degree Celsius) each decade since the 1950s.

“The sensitivity of moss growth to past temperature rises suggests that ecosystems will alter rapidly under future warming, leading to major changes in the biology and landscape of this iconic region,” said researcher Dan Charman, a professor at Exeter.

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Global Warming

Climate change causes huge Canadian river to vanish in four days

Slims River in Canada is no more as the water that once fed it now flows south, not north.

A river disappeared in just four days after a melting glacier retreated so much that it opened up an alternative route to the sea.

Such dramatic changes are known in the geological record but this is believed to be the first time in 350 years that an entire river has vanished.

The Kaskawulsh glacier in Canada has retreated about a mile up its valley over the past 100 years, researchers reported in the journal Nature Geoscience. Until last spring, it sent meltwater into the Slims River, which eventually flowed north to the Bering Sea.

However the glacier shrank back so much that the water was able to join the Kaskawulsh River, which flows south into the Gulf of Alaska. And that saw the Slims River turn into a long thin lake and gradually start to dry up.

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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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Wildlife

Massive Whale Standing in New Zealand

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Rescuers were engaged in a race against time on Friday to save the lives of a large group of whales, after more than 400 of the animals swam aground along a remote beach in New Zealand.

About 275 of the pilot whales were already dead when Cheree Morrison and two colleagues found them on Farewell Spit at the tip of the South Island. Within hours, hundreds of farmers, tourists and teenagers engaged in a group effort to keep the surviving 140 or so whales alive in one of the worst whale strandings in the nation’s history.

Getting the large animals back out to sea proved to be a major challenge. As many as half of the 100 refloated whales managed to strand themselves again, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The adult and baby whale carcasses were strewn three or four deep in places for hundreds of yards, often rolled over on the sand with their tail fins still up in the air.

Morrison’s group alerted officials, and volunteers soon began arriving in wetsuits and carrying buckets. Dressed in her jeans and sandshoes, Morrison waded into the water and did what she could to try to maneuver the surviving whales upright so they could breathe more easily.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of whale strandings in the world, and Friday’s event is the nation’s third-biggest recorded stranding.

The largest was in 1918, when about 1,000 pilot whales came ashore on the Chatham Islands. In 1985 about 450 whales stranded in Auckland.

Endangered penguins hunting for fish in wrong place

Endangered penguins are hunting for fish in the wrong place because climate change has prompted sardines and other prey to move to another part of the ocean, researchers have discovered.

The plight of the African penguin – found in Namibia and South Africa – highlights the dangers to wildlife of the sudden rise in temperature caused by human-induced global warming.

For the penguins have learned to look for places with lower sea temperatures and large amounts of a type of chlorophyll. These are tell-tale signs of plankton and, in turn, the fish that feed on them.

These once sure-fire ways to find large shoals are now leading the penguins into an “ecological trap” that is pushing them closer to extinction.

And the situation has been made worse by industrial-scale fishing and a raft of other problems, mostly caused by humans.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are about 80,000 adult African penguins left. But oil slicks in 1994 and 2000 killed some 30,000 birds and the death toll “may increase” if planned harbour developments go ahead, the IUCN says.

In the new study, researchers from Exeter and Cape Town universities tagged 54 juvenile birds from eight different colonies to find out where they go to look for fish.

The areas they chose were once rich hunting grounds for sardines and anchovies.

But changes in water temperature and salt content have prompted the fish to move hundreds of kilometres away.

The problems in finding food have produced low survival rates among juvenile African penguins, previously known as jackass penguins.

It is thought breeding numbers are about 50 per cent lower than they would be if the birds were able to find enough to eat.

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Environment

Climate Change Killing the World’s Oldest Trees

Bristlecone

These ancients were around when ancient Sumerians scratched their cuneiform on clay tablets, and they were standing when Alexander the Great swept across Asia. They bore witness to both the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, survived Columbus’ colonization of the New World, and saw the birth and expansion of the United States.

But now, because of climate change, the oldest trees on the planet may be facing their eventual extinction, a new study suggests.

Ancient bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva), which thrive in the upper reaches of the White Mountains in California, could be supplanted by younger trees from an upstart species as temperatures warm and baby trees begin to grow higher on the mountain.

The world’s oldest genetically unique trees reside just below the tree line, where the scant rainfall, frigid air, and rocky limestone soil eliminates all but the hardiest of species. From about 9,500 to 11,500 feet (2,900 to 3,500 meters), bristlecone pines dominate the landscape. In the few patches with sandier, more granite-like soils, native limber pine trees (Pinus flexilis) cluster, according to the statement.

The oldest individual tree in the world is a 5,062-year-old P. longaeva in the White Mountains, and the second-oldest tree, dubbed Methuselah, is also a Great Basin bristlecone pine living nearby.

Above the tree line, temperatures are too cold to support trees, but global warming has shifted the tree line higher up the mountain. Because temperature typically governs where trees live, that would ordinarily mean that trees such as the bristlecone pine would simply start growing at higher altitudes.

Most of the baby trees colonizing the higher altitudes above the tree line appear to be limber pines, the researchers found. It turns out that limber pines got an assist from the Clark’s nutcracker, a local bird that munches on and disperses the trees’ seeds. This process speeds up how quickly limber pines can colonize new locations, the study found.

Global Warming

Climate change is ‘beyond point of no return’

Global warming is beyond the “point of no return”, according to the lead scientist behind a ground-breaking climate change study.

The report, by an exhaustive list of researchers and published in the Nature journal, assembled data from 49 field experiments over the last 20 years in North America, Europe and Asia.

It found that the majority of the Earth’s terrestrial store of carbon was in soil, and that as the atmosphere warms up, increasing amounts are emitted in what is a vicious cycle of “positive feedbacks”.

The study found that 55bn tonnes in carbon, not previously accounted for by scientists, will be emitted into the atmosphere by 2050.

“As the climate warms, those organisms become more active and the more active they become, the more the soil respires – exactly the same as human beings,” said Dr Crowther, who headed up the study at Yale Climate & Energy Institute, but is now a Marie Curie fellow at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology.

“Our study shows that this major feedback has already certainly started, and it will have a significant impact on the climate in the coming decades. This information will be critical as we strive to understand how the climate is going to change in the future. And it will also be critical if we are to generate meaningful strategies to fight against it.”

Dr Crowther, speaking to The Independent, branded Donald Trump’s sceptical stance on climate change as “catastrophic for humanity”.

Global Warming

How Climate Change is Drastically Changing All Life on Earth

A new study reveals that human-induced climate change, which results in temperature changes worldwide, have drastically affected the genes and ecosystems of lifeforms on Earth.

According to a study published in the journal Science, the study from the Wildlife Conservation Society, found that from the 94 ecological processes that serve as the foundation of healthy ecosystems on earth – from sea to land – 80 percent of which shows signs of distress due to climate change.

Genes are changing, species’ physiology and physical features such as body size are changing, species are rapidly moving to keep track of suitable climate space, and there are now signs of entire ecosystems under stress.

The study notes that this distress in ecosystems and species could greatly affect humans. These impacts from climate change include disease outbreaks, reduced fish and agricultural harvests, as well as increased pests.

Drought

Global Warming

What Climate Change is doing to our Lakes

A new study has found that global warming is resulting in rapidly increasing temperatures in lakes worldwide, an alarming find that means freshwater supplies and ecosystems are being threatened by climate change.

The study, conducted by NASA and the National Science Foundation, is the largest study of its kind, using satellite temperature data and long-term ground measurements to examine 235 lakes.

The result were stunning: there was an increase of 0.34 degrees Celsius on average each decade for lakes worldwide, which would have massive effects on drinking water and the habitat for animals and fish.

The 235 lakes the study examined represents half the world’s freshwater supply.

The 0.34 degree increase is greater than the warming rate for both the ocean and the atmosphere. That can mean only one thing: more algal blooms, which can suck up oxygen and water. The study suggests that such blooms will increase 20 percent over the next century, and the kind of blooms that are toxic to wildlife would jump 5 percent.

It would also result in a 4 percent increase in methane emissions. That’s concerning because methane is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

But rapid changes in temperature like this are more than just bad in terms of creating algal blooms or resulting in methane releases. A quick change in temperature can dramatically alter the survival rate of life forms in a lake, causing some species to suddenly disappear from the Earth. That can upset the balance of an ecosystem, causing further havoc in the wildlife kingdom — which will certainly have ripple effects for mankind.

Lake

Arctic air temperature highest since 1900 — Report

The Arctic is heating up, with air temperatures the hottest in 115 years, and the melting ice destroying walrus habitat and forcing some fish northward.

Air temperature anomalies over land were 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.3 degrees Celsius) above average, “the highest since records began in 1900,” said the 2015 Arctic Report Card, an annual peer-reviewed study issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Meanwhile, the annual sea ice maximum occurred February 25, about two weeks earlier than average, and was “the lowest extent recorded since records began in 1979.”

“Warming is happening more than twice as fast in the Arctic than anywhere else in the world. We know this is due to climate change, and its impacts are creating major challenges for Arctic communities,” said NOAA chief scientist Rick Spinrad at the annual American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco.

The average annual air temperature was measured over land between October 2014 and September 2015. It marked a 5.4 degree F (3 degree C) increase since the beginning of the 20th century.

The minimum sea ice extent, measured on September 11, 2015, was the fourth lowest in the satellite record since 1979. “Arctic minimum sea ice extent has been declining at a rate of 13.4 percent per decade” relative to the 1981-2010 average, said the findings.

In the 1980s, older, thicker ice made up about half of the ice sheet, but now, what is known as “first year ice” dominates the winter ice cover and made up 70 percent of the March 2015 ice pack. This thinner, younger ice is more likely to melt in the summer than thicker ice, said the report.

Snow cover across the Arctic has also been declining and is down 18 percent per decade since 1979.

This year, Greenland experienced its first significant melting event since 2012, and lost more than half of its surface area.

Arctic

Global Warming

Which fossil fuel companies are most responsible for climate change?

Nearly two-thirds of all man-made global warming emissions from 1751 – 2010 can be traced back to just 90 companies. And 30 percent of emissions were produced by just the top-producing 20.

For a deeper look into the big players in climate change, check out the following interactive here.

Guadian emissions viz

Global Warming

Australia is ‘holding back’ global climate change fight

Australia is a drag on international efforts to tackle climate change, says leading economist and former government adviser Professor Ross Garnaut.

Prof Garnaut said the country had failed to make its “fair share” of greenhouse gas cuts.

Earlier, Prime Minister Tony Abbott reiterated his position that coal was the foundation of global energy needs.

Australia has the world’s highest carbon emissions per capita and is its second biggest coal exporter.

Prof Garnaut was appointed by the previous Labor government to examine the impact of climate change on the Australian economy.

He said it was clear before the last election that the main political parties supported Australia’s commitment to the United Nations to cut emissions unconditionally by 5% from 2000 levels by 2020 – and by a further between 15% and 25%, depending on the extent of international action.

He was reacting to comments by Mr Abbott made earlier in the day that coal was the foundation of Australia’s prosperity and would be so “for the foreseeable future”.

Mr Abbott said that if the world was serious about lifting the living standards of the poorest people, “we have to be serious about making the best use of coal”.

A UN-backed expert panel has warned that the unrestricted use of fossil fuels must be phased out by 2100 if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says most of the world’s electricity can – and must – be produced from low-carbon sources by 2050.

Global Warming

World’s Weather Now Has a New Normal

The U.N.’s weather agency says the baseline for what is considered “normal” in weather needs to be adjusted to account for atmospheric shifts caused by global warming.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that the 30-year period most often used as a yardstick for climate — 1961 to 1990 — is no longer a useful tool for gauging today’s climate.

Such 30-year “normals” are typically updated every three decades, but the WMO argues that’s not often enough.

A press release from the agency urges weather agencies to now use the 1981-2010 climate baseline for predicting temperatures and rainfall, and for recommending crop planting times.

While the United States already does this, the WMO says other domestic weather services should also begin updating their climate baselines every 10 years.

Weather has been so altered by climate change over the past few decades that the old “normal” calculations from 1961 through 1990 are no longer representative.

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Global Warming

Australian Drying Linked to Greenhouse Gas Emissions

U.S. scientists have directly linked a decline in fall and winter rainfall across southwestern Australia to greenhouse gas emissions by using a new high-resolution climate model.

The finding came after NOAA researchers conducted several climate simulations that looked at long-term changes in rainfall for various regions of the world.

“This new high-resolution climate model is able to simulate regional-scale precipitation with considerably improved accuracy compared to previous generation models,” said Tom Delworth, a research scientist at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey.

The model simulated both natural and man-made climate influences.

Since no natural variations could be linked to the Australian drying, the scientists concluded the trend is due to human activity.

Southern Australia’s rainfall began declining around 1970 and has since accelerated.

The model projects a continued decline in rainfall there for the rest of the 21st century.

This would have significant implications for regional water resources.

The agreement between observed and model simulated rainfall changes supports the idea that human activity contributed to the drying of southwestern Australia and that the drying will increase in the 21st century.

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Global Warming

Global warming map shows temperature of cities in 2100

A new report done by the organization Climate Central predicts the impact that global warming will have on 1,001 cities worldwide. They’ve compiled an interactive map that will show just how incredibly hot it will get in these cities in the year 2100.

If the map and data is correct, the impact that global warming will have on our weather is horrifying. Every city’s temperature will rise between 6 to 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Most cities will rise somewhere between 7 and 10 degrees, however.

The interactive map shows that in 2100, the city of Boston, MA will be as hot as the current temperatures of Miami, Florida. Meanwhile, an already warm city like Las Vegas, NV, could get as hot as the current temperatures of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which is around 111°F.

“Summer temperatures in most American cities are going to feel like summers now in Texas and Florida — very, very hot,” said Alyson Kenward, lead researcher of the analysis.

While the data looks at the impact that global warming will have on temperatures, it does not look at other key statistics. Missing are the expected humidity levels, pollution levels, sea levels, and frequency of storms, for starters. Still, it is interesting (and a bit scary) to see what the temperature of your city will be like in the future.

The map can be found here.

Global Warming

New Report Puts Price Tag on Climate Change in U.S.

Climate change poses “multiple and significant risks” to the U.S. economy, particularly along coastlines and to the energy and agriculture sectors, a new report released Tuesday concludes.

Bridge hurricane 121029

The report, the first to quantify the damage the American economy could sustain from unabated climate change, was compiled by the non-partisan Risky Business Project, a venture launched in October and co-chaired by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and former hedge fund manager and environmental activist Thomas Steyer. “It makes the true costs for inaction on climate change frighteningly clear,” Bloomberg said at a press conference here announcing the report’s release.

The goals of the project and report, the co-chairs and members of Risky Business’s Risk Committee said, were to urge American businesses to lead the way on mitigating the effects of global warming and to pressure the national government into crafting a coherent public policy around the issue, though it stops short of making specific policy recommendations. Such efforts by businesses could not only protect Americans from the worst effects of climate change, but also grow and better insulate the American economy, the project’s members said.

While the report focused primarily on the most likely climate change scenarios to occur, it also examined the less likely but extremely high-risk scenarios, something the authors emphasized that businesses and individuals naturally do, for example, when they purchase fire insurance.

The report used climate projections through 2100 and what the participants said was a standard risk-assessment approach used by businesses to estimate how rises in temperature, sea level and other impacts of climate change would affect various parts of the U.S. economy and different geographic regions of the nation. “It’s important to look at these things and look at them from an economic perspective,” said Henry Cisneros, a Risk Committee member and former secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

They found that the effects vary from region to region, with sea level rise posing the biggest threat to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and that ever-increasing heat and humidity will particularly impact the Southwest, Southeast and upper Midwest.

Sea level rise and storm surge are likely — defined in the report as having at least a 2-in-3 chance of occurring — to increase the average cost of coastal storms in the East by $2 billion to $3.5 billion over just the next 15 years. When combined with anticipated changes in hurricane activity, such as stronger storms, the report found that average total annual losses from coastal storms could reach $35 billion.

Bloomberg raised the spectre of Hurricane Sandy as an example of how the effects of global warming can exacerbate a storm’s impact. There’s “no question that rising sea levels and temperatures made Sandy worse,” Bloomberg said.

Sea level rise also poses a risk separate from its amplifying effects on storms surge, as it increasingly encroaches on valuable coastal property. The report estimates that by 2050, between $66 billion and $106 billion worth of such property will likely be below sea level nationwide. By 2100, that figure could grow to anywhere between $238 billion and $507 billion.

Sea level rise in the Miami area has led to the intrusion of saltwater into freshwater areas and has increased non-storm related flooding, said Donna Shalala, a Risk Committee member and president of the University of Miami. “The future prosperity of Florida is inextricably linked to the sun and the sea,” Shalala said at the press conference.

The report also found that increasing heat will strain the nation’s energy systems, as it causes efficiency to decline while demand — in the form of a greater need for air conditioning — rises. Those simultaneous trends would drive the need for more power generation, which could simply add more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the climate system.

Heat and humidity pose public health threats, as higher humidity disrupts the body’s natural ability to cool itself since it prevents the evaporation of sweat from the skin. Urban dwellers are particularly at risk from this problem because of the urban heat island effects, as are those who work outside. Productivity of such workers could decline by 3 percent by the end of the century as it becomes increasingly too hot to work outside during parts of the day, the report found.

U.S. agriculture faces threats as a changing climate shifts where and how well particular crops grow. The report found that the production of key crops like corn, soy and wheat could decline by 14 percent by mid-century and up to 42 percent by the end of the century. Some areas, particularly northern states, could actually see increased crop yields, though.

All of the committee members and the three co-chairs emphasized the need for businesses to start examining these issues and pressing for public policy solutions now, due to the fact that greenhouse gases emitted today can last in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, effectively “baking in” a certain amount of warming.