Global Warming

Arctic Ozone Aperture

NASA satellites have just detected one of the largest holes ever observed in the ozone layer over the Arctic.

Although the holes above Antarctica are much larger and dramatic, allowing dangerous ultraviolet light to reach the surface, those over the Arctic are usually much smaller, and often called “gaps” rather than holes due to their sizes.

But experts say the hole that opened from northern Canada to Siberia in March exceeds the record sizes set in 2011 and 1997.

Meanwhile Earth’s Ozone Hole Over Antarctica Continues to Repair Itself

It has been more than 30 years since the world banned the chemicals that were depleting Earth’s protective ozone layer and simultaneously triggering some troubling changes in atmospheric circulation in the Southern Hemisphere.

Now, new research published this week in Nature finds that those changes have paused and might even be reversing because of the Montreal Protocolan international treaty that successfully phased out use of ozone-depleting chemicals.

Ozone depletion has shifted the midlatitude jet stream and the dry regions at the edge of the tropics toward the South Pole. However, there are signs that this shift in wind circulation has paused and may even be reversing to original conditions.

Global Warming

Permafrost Herds

A German researcher says that sending large herds of horses and other grazing animals to roam across regions where global heating is thawing the permafrost could help preserve about 80% of those soils in a frozen state until 2100.

Christian Beer points to Siberian studies where scientists resettled herds of bison, reindeer and horses more than 20 years ago.

They found that when the snow cover is scattered and compressed by the grazing animals’ stomping hooves, its insulating effect is dramatically reduced, intensifying the freezing of of the permafrost in winter.

Global Warming

Bears are Waking Up Too Soon

Europe just had its warmest winter ever, the US has just had its hottest December and January on record — and as a result, the bears are waking up from hibernation early because they think it’s spring.

According to the Guardian, there have been bear sightings in February and early March in Russia, Finland, Canada, and the US. In Banff in Canada, a grizzly bear was spotted on March 3, and in Yellowstone Park in the US, another grizzly was seen on March 7.

According to Yellowstone’s website, male grizzlies normally come out of hibernation in mid- to late March, and females with cubs emerge later, in April to early May.

If they wake up too early, there isn’t enough of their omnivorous diet for them to eat. And if they don’t have enough to eat, they go in search of food, where a run-in with humans is a possibility as they rifle through garbage and gardens.

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Global Warming

Climate Change Model Identifies Global Warming’s Impact on Electricity Usage

Global warming alone could push Chicago to generate 12% more electricity for each person each summer month by 2030. According to projections from a new climate change model developed by Purdue University researchers, U.S. midwest cities could easily face widespread power shortages if this percentage is lower. This would mean that the city would need to implement stringent measures to avoid rolling blackouts.

This 12% estimated increase is much larger than previous projections, too, owing to the fact that it now accounts for how consumers use both electricity and water at the same time, such as when a dishwasher is used or when water is heated.

Overall, the model projected that the U.S. Midwest will be using 19% more electricity and 7% more water by 2030—and this is only accounting for the summer months.

Global Warming

Ice Free Arctic

The Arctic may become “ice free” in as few as 15 years due to accelerating global heating, according to a team of U.S. scientists.

While areas of the thickest ice that surround islands near the North Pole are likely to survive until later this century, the region will be considered ice-free when the summer coverage is less than 386,000 square miles.

Writing in the journal Climate, the researchers say statistical models point to the first ice-free summer arriving during the 2030s, with 2034 the most likely year.

”The extent of Arctic ice is important to Arctic peoples, whose lands are being affected by increased coastal erosion,” NOAA said in a statement. “Conversely, the disappearance of ice creates economic opportunities, including the opening of oil fields and new shipping routes.”

Global Warming

Flagship UN study shows accelerating climate change on land, sea and in the atmosphere

A wide-ranging UN climate report, released on Tuesday, shows that climate change is having a major effect on all aspects of the environment, as well as on the health and wellbeing of the global population.

The report, The WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019, which is led by the UN weather agency (World Meteorological Organization), contains data from an extensive network of partners.

It documents physical signs of climate change – such as increasing land and ocean heat, accelerating sea level rise and melting ice – and the knock-on effects on socio-economic development, human health, migration and displacement, food security, and land and marine ecosystems.

Australia’s 2018-2019 summer was the hottest ever recorded, reaching a peak of 41.9 degrees centigrade on December 18. Australia’s seven hottest days on record, and nine of the 10 hottest, occurred in 2019.

The country was not the only place affected by extreme heat, or wildfires. Heat records were broken in several European countries, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Even Nordic countries saw record-breaking temperatures, including Finland, which registered a high of 33.2 degrees in the capital, Helsinki.

Several high latitude regions, including Siberia and Alaska, saw high levels of fire activity, as did some parts of the Arctic, where it was previously extremely rare. Indonesia and neighbouring countries had their the most significant fire season since 2015, and total fire activity in South America was the highest since 2010.

2020 has seen the warmest January recorded so far.

Greenhouse gas emissions continued to grow in 2019, leading to increased ocean heat, and such phenomena as rising sea levels, the altering of ocean currents, melting floating ice shelves, and dramatic changes in marine ecosystems.

The ocean has seen increased acidification and deoxygenation, with negative impacts on marine life, and the wellbeing of people who depend on ocean ecosystems. At the poles, sea ice continues to decline, and glaciers shrunk yet again, for the 32nd consecutive year.

In 2019, extreme weather events, some of which were unprecedented in scale, took place in many parts of the world. The monsoon season saw rainfall above the long-term average in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar, and flooding led to the loss of some 2,200 lives in the region.

Parts of South America were hit by floods in January, whilst Iran was badly affected in late March and early April. In the US, total economic losses from flooding were estimated at around $20 billion. Other regions suffered a severe lack of water. Australia has its driest year on record, and Southern Africa, Central America and parts of South America received abnormally low rains.

2019 also saw an above-average number of tropical cyclones, with 72 in the northern hemisphere, and 27 in the southern hemisphere.

Following years of steady decline, hunger is again on the rise, driven by a changing climate and extreme weather events: over 820 million people were affected by hunger in 2018. The countries in the Horn of Africa were particularly affected in 2019, where the population suffered from climate extremes, displacement, conflict and violence. The region suffered droughts, then unusually heavy rains towards the end of the year, which was a factor in the worst locust outbreak in the past 25 years.

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Greenland and Antarctica ice loss accelerating

Earth’s great ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica, are now losing mass six times faster than they were in the 1990s thanks to warming conditions.

A comprehensive review of satellite data acquired at both poles is unequivocal in its assessment of accelerating trends, say scientists who studied 30 years of satellite images and data.

Between them, Greenland and Antarctica lost 6.4 trillion tonnes of ice in the period from 1992 to 2017.

This was sufficient to push up global sea-levels by 17.8mm. Of that combined 17.8mm contribution to sea-level rise, 10.6mm (60 %) was due to Greenland ice losses and 7.2mm (40%) was due to Antarctica.

The combined rate of ice loss for the pair was running at about 81 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s. By the 2010s, it had climbed to 475 billion tonnes per year.

Global Warming

Carbon Emissions Fall

Carbon emissions from the global electricity system fell by 2% last year, the biggest drop in almost 30 years, as countries began to turn their backs on coal-fired power plants.

A new report on the world’s electricity generation revealed the steepest cut in carbon emissions since 1990 as the US and the EU turned to cleaner energy sources.

Overall, power from coal plants fell by 3% last year, even as China’s reliance on coal plants climbed for another year to make up half the world’s coal generation for the first time.

Coal generation in the US and Europe has halved since 2007, and last year collapsed by almost a quarter in the EU and by 16% in the US.

Global Warming

Vanishing Beaches

The effects of global heating will erode approximately half of the world’s existing beaches by the end of this century if efforts to cut carbon emissions fail, according to a study by the Joint Research Center of the European Commission.

It says more than 22,400 miles of sandy coastline will be eroded by rising tides and stormier seas during the next 30 years before conditions worsen and far more beaches disappear during the latter half of the century.

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, study author Michalis Vousdoukas says that even modest efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could prevent about 17% of the shoreline retreat by 2050 and 40% by 2100.

Global Warming

Global warming is shrinking the rainforest’s role as climate protector

The amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide that can be sucked up from the atmosphere and stored by tropical forests is falling as the global climate heats up, researchers said on Wednesday. They warned in a study that rainforests could tip from absorbing carbon to becoming a source of emissions.

The 30-year study, led by the University of Leeds and involving almost 100 institutions, showed that the intake of carbon by “intact tropical forests” peaked in the 1990s and had dropped by a third by the 2010s.

Intact forests are large areas of continuous forest with no signs of intensive human activity like agriculture or logging. They form part of the world’s roughly 5.5 billion hectares of forest.

Trees suck carbon dioxide from the air, the main greenhouse gas heating up the Earth’s climate, and store carbon, which they release when they are cut down and are burned, or rot.

Tropical forests are huge reservoirs of carbon, storing 250 billion tonnes in their trees alone – an amount equivalent to 90 years of global fossil-fuel emissions at current levels.

Researchers, who tracked the growth and death of 300,000 trees in Africa and the Amazon, found that undisturbed tropical forests had started the process of switching from a carbon sink to a source, largely due to carbon losses from trees dying.

In the 1990s, intact tropical forests removed about 46 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, declining to an estimated 25 billion tonnes in the 2010s, the study said.

The lost sink capacity was 21 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide – the same as a decade of fossil-fuel emissions from Britain, Germany, France and Canada combined

Intact tropical forests removed 17% of human-made carbon dioxide emissions in the 1990s but that fell to 6% in the 2010s.

The decline was because those forests, whose area shrank by 19%, absorbed a third less carbon, while global carbon emissions soared by 46%, the study said.

The tropics lost 12 million hectares of tree cover in 2018, including 3.6 million hectares of old-growth rainforest, an area the size of Belgium, much due to fires, land-clearing for farms and mining, according to monitoring service Global Forest Watch.

Wildfires

Wildfires – Australia

Confirming what had been widely suspected, researchers have found that human-caused climate change had an impact on Australia’s recent devastating wildfires, making the extremely high-risk conditions that led to widespread burning at least 30 percent more likely than in a world without global warming.

The research is the latest in a growing subfield of climate science: attribution studies that look for links, or the lack of them, between climate change and specific weather-related events, often within weeks of an event. The studies usually compare models of current conditions to those of the world around 1900, before large-scale emissions of carbon dioxide and other planet-warming gases began.

Record warmth and dryness last year led to a severe wildfire outbreak in Australia, with an estimated 50 million acres burned, including more than 16 million acres in the southeastern part of the country, which was most affected. All told, at least 34 people were killed and nearly 6,000 homes and other structures were destroyed.

Global Warming

Australian summers grow longer due to climate change

Australian summers are lengthening by a month or more while winters are getting shorter due to climate change, according to an analysis by a leading think tank released Monday.

The Australia Institute said large swathes of the country were experiencing an additional 31 days of summer temperatures each year compared to the 1950s.

While Sydney was just under the average with an extra 28 hot days a year, Melbourne added 38 warmer days since the middle of the 20th century.

In some regional areas ravaged by bushfires in recent months, such as the New South Wales town of Port Macquarie, residents are now experiencing seven more weeks of typical summer temperatures.

Global Warming

Antarctic Melt

Images from NASA satellites reveal that the record-breaking heat across parts of Antarctica in early February caused an unprecedented melting of the ice cap.

Ice covering Eagle Island, off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, shrank dramatically as temperatures at times became as warm as those in Los Angeles.

It was the third major melting event of the 2019-2020 southern summer. Scientists say such phenomena have become more and more frequent this century.

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Global Warming

Climate Change is Pushing Giant Ocean Currents Poleward

The world’s major wind-driven ocean currents are moving toward the poles at a rate of about a mile every two years, potentially depriving important coastal fishing waters of important nutrients and raising the risk of sea level rise, extreme storms and heatwaves for some adjacent land areas.

The shift was identified in a new study by researchers with the Alfred Wegener Institute at the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Bremerhaven, Germany, and published Feb. 25 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The poleward shift is bad news for the East Coast of the U.S., because it makes sea level rise even worse, the researchers said. At about 40 degrees latitude north and south, where the effects of the shifting currents are most evident, sea level rise is already 8 to 12 inches more than in other regions.

On the West Coast, salmon are being pushed out of traditional fishing waters. In densely populated coastal Asia, the changes could unleash more intense rainstorms, and the shift also makes heat waves more likely in subtropical areas.

Eight major wind-driven ocean currents, known as gyres, circulate around vast areas of ocean: three in the Atlantic, three in the Pacific, and one each in the Indian and Antarctic Oceans. The rotating currents shape the weather and ocean ecosystems in coastal regions, where parts of the currents have regional names, like the Gulf Stream along the East Coast of the U.S.

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Global Warming

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef shows signs of new coral bleaching

The government agency tasked with monitoring the health of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has detected signs of heat stress in several coral regions, increasing the prospects of another major bleaching event.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said on Thursday that a prolonged period of warmer than usual ocean currents has led to water temperatures that are 2 to 3°C above average for February, which is already the hottest month of the year on the reef.

Global Warming

Oil and gas production is contributing even more to global warming than was thought

Among greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide is the most significant contributor to global warming and therefore, public enemy No. 1 when it comes to stopping the climate crisis.

But methane — the main component in natural gas and an even more effective heat-trapping gas — is a close second. Scientists say that atmospheric methane is now responsible for about 25 percent of the human-caused warming we see today.

Now, a new study finds that methane emissions from fossil fuels are between 25% and 40% larger than past research had estimated, revealing that oil and gas production is contributing far more to warming the planet than previously thought.

The study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature, sheds new light on just how much fossil fuel production and use is changing the atmosphere — and in turn, warming the planet.