Global Warming

Climate change making stronger El Ninos

Climate change is making stronger El Ninos, which change weather worldwide and heat up an already warming planet, a new study finds.

Scientists examined 33 El Ninos — natural warming of equatorial Pacific that triggers weather extremes across the globe — since 1901. They found since the 1970s, El Ninos have been forming farther to the west in warmer waters, leading to stronger El Ninos in some cases.

A powerful El Nino can trigger drought in some places, like Australia and India. And it can cause flooding in other areas like California. The Pacific gets more hurricanes during an El Nino and the Atlantic gets fewer.

The shift for the origin of El Nino by hundreds of miles from the east of the International Dateline to the west of that point is important because the water to the west is naturally warmer.

Before 1978, 12 of the 14 El Ninos formed in the east. After 1978, all 11 were more central or western, according a study in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

There have been three “super” El Ninos, starting in 1982, 1997 and 2015 and all started in the west. During each of those El Ninos, the world broke new average temperature records.

Ozone Hole Shrinks

Abnormal weather patterns in the upper atmosphere over Antarctica dramatically limited ozone depletion in September and October. This resulted in the smallest ozone hole observed since 1982, NASA and NOAA scientists said.

Endangered Antarctic Glacier Could Soon Calve a Massive New Iceberg

Two cracks are growing in western Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, and they are an ominous warning that major ice loss is on the way. Two large rifts have widened near the edge of Pine Island Glacier on the West Antarctic ice sheet. If they continue to grow, they could release an iceberg four times bigger than Manhattan.

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Global Warming

Climate Change Affecting New Zealand

Climate change, pollution and fishing are causing irreversible damage to New Zealand’s marine environment and putting many birds and mammals at risk of extinction, according to a new report from the nation’s Ministry for the Environment.

The report said New Zealand’s coastline, which stretches for about 15,000 kilometers, is also under increasing pressure from development and shipping. Agriculture, forestry and urbanization are increasing the amount of sediment, chemicals and plastics flowing into the oceans, and contaminating the coastline, it said.

The report said 90 percent of the country’s seabirds and about a quarter of its marine mammals are threatened with extinction, and that 16 percent of New Zealand’s fish stocks had been overfished.

The report also confirmed that New Zealand’s sea temperature had risen and was consistent with the global average. It also found sea levels were rising faster than before.

There was a warning, too, that New Zealand could expect more frequent marine heat waves, similar to those in 2017 and 2018, and ocean acidification.

Global Warming

Earth Archive

A pair of Colorado State University scientists propose creating a high-resolution, 3D image of Earth’s surface in its current state before the effects of climate change alter the landscape forever.

Geographer Steve Leisz and archaeologist Chris Fisher propose scanning the planet with airborne lasers to initially capture the world’s most vulnerable locations. The same technology has been used to discover remote archeological sites.

The pair says that once completed, their nonprofit Earth Archive project would be “the ultimate gift to future generations,” which will be able to look back at Earth’s entire land area during the first half of the 21st century in unrivaled detail.

Arctic Survival

Increasingly harsh Arctic weather due to climate change could threaten the survival of plants and animals in Greenland, according to researchers from Denmark’s Aarhaus University.

They say 2018 snowfall was so heavy that it prevented almost all plants and animals in northeastern Greenland from reproducing.

Niels Martin Schmidt writes that, as opposed to the vanishing Arctic sea ice, the late-season heavy snow could be a problem if it becomes the new normal.

That’s because the Arctic growing and breeding season lasts for only a few weeks in July and August.

Global Warming

North American Birds under Threat

Two-thirds of bird species in North America are at risk of extinction if global temperatures continue to rise, according to a new report from scientists at the Audubon Society. A total of 389 species, out of 604 studied, are expected to experience declines in their populations as a result of warmer temperatures, higher seas, loss of habitat, and extreme weather, all driven by climate change.

Among those birds most at-risk are the greater sage grouse, Baltimore oriole, common loon, and the wood thrush. The new study comes less than a month after research found the United States and Canada have lost 3 billion birds since 1970, equal to losing one out of every four birds.

Global Warming

Mediterranean Warming

A new report, whose main conclusions are being presented on Thursday in Barcelona by the Mediterranean Institute of Biodiversity and Ecology, shows that the temperature increase in the Mediterranean region has already reached 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels, which means that the warming effect in this area is 20% faster than the global average.

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Global Warming

Earlier breeding season for some Arctic seabirds

The breeding season of some seabirds in Arctic regions takes place earlier as a result of the temperature rise caused by climate change, according to a science article with Francisco Ramírez, from the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) of the University of Barcelona -as one of the main authors.

According to the study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, surface-feeding seabirds in the north of the Pacific Ocean are moving their breeding season to an earlier timing than the rest of species -about ten days before for over the last thirty-five years- due the ocean’s temperature rise and ice melting, which are signs of Spring onset in the Arctic.

The Arctic is one of the most sensitive areas to the global warming effects. Ice melting and the continuous rise of temperatures -higher than the average worldwide- are dramatically altering the structure of the Arctic ecosystems.

Global Warming

Ozone Changes

The hole in stratospheric ozone that develops over Antarctica as the frozen continent emerges from winter is now acting in ways never before observed.

Scientists at Europe’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service say the hole is not only about half as large as normally seen in September, but it has been off-center and far from the South Pole.

They point to a sudden and significant warming of the stratosphere over Antarctica during the month. This appears to have destabilized the process in which ozone has been destroyed since the now-banned chlorofluorocarbons began causing the ozone hole during the 1960s and 1970s.

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Global Warming

Human CO2 Emissions Greatly Outstrip Natural Sources

Human activity churns out up to 100 times more planet-warming carbon each year as all the volcanoes on Earth, says a decade-long study released on Tuesday.

The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO), a 500-strong international team of scientists, released a series of papers outlining how carbon is stored, emitted and reabsorbed by natural and manmade processes.

They found that manmade carbon dioxide emissions drastically outstrip the contribution of volcanoes – which belch out gas and are often fingered as a major climate change contributor – to current warming rates.

The findings, published in the journal Elements, showed just two-tenths of 1% of Earth’s total carbon – around 43 500 gigatonnes – is above the surface in oceans, the land, and in our atmosphere.

The rest – a staggering 1.85 billion gigatonnes – is stored in our planet’s crust, mantle and core, providing scientists with clues as to how Earth formed billions of years ago. One gigatonne is equivalent to around 3 million Boeing 747s.

Global Warming

Landmark UN report warns sea levels will rise faster than projected

Cities from New York to Shanghai could see regular flooding, as sea levels rise faster than previously thought.

Glaciers and ice sheets from the Himalayas to Antarctica are rapidly melting.

And the fisheries that feed millions of people are shrinking.

These are just some of the impacts that emissions of greenhouse gases have already triggered across the planet’s oceans and frozen regions, according to a new landmark report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

This new report paints a full and alarming picture of the rapid thawing happening in frozen regions all across the globe — and how the changes will dramatically alter human civilization in the coming decades.

The findings show that the planet’s warming is accelerating melting in glaciers and ice sheets from Greenland to Antarctica, and that sea levels will likely rise more than previously projected by the end of this century.

Of the major ice sheets, Greenland’s — which has the potential to raise sea levels around 20 feet — is melting the fastest, and lost more than 275 gigatons on average per year between 2006 and 2015. But the even larger Antarctic ice sheet is also shrinking, and its mass loss tripled between 2007 and 2016 compared to the previous ten years.

Even if collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet is not imminent, the report says that many of the 680 million people around the world living in low-lying coastal areas will experience annual flooding events by 2050 that used to occur only once a century.

Global Warming

Mayhem as sea ice melts in heating world – Bering Strait

In the Bering Strait region, where a narrow passage separates Alaska from Russia and links the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific, the sea ice is long gone and mayhem has taken hold in the marine environment.

The most striking signs are on the shorelines, which have been littered with dead animals ranging from tiny shellfish to giant whales.

The toll of discovered dead animals as of mid-July: 137 ice-dependent seals and five gray whales, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); dozens of walruses, piles of bird carcasses — marking what has become the latest in five consecutive years of bird die-offs in the region; carcasses of salmon that never got the chance to spawn clogging rivers and streams; and in some spots, stretches of dead blue mussels and krill have coated beaches.

Sometimes animals are found alive, but only barely so. A walrus found in June near Solomon, a village 30 miles east of Nome, was so thin that its ribs were visible and so weak its head was down on the ground, according to a local report. “It was having trouble keeping its head out of the mud,” said the report filed with the Local Environmental Observer network operated by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

Extreme warmth that, this summer, brought air temperatures in places to the high 80s and even low 90s Fahrenheit (or into the 30s Celsius) and cooked marine waters.

Freeze-up that used to come in fall is now delayed to mid-winter and the ice that forms is thin. That thinner ice melts earlier, exposing open waters that absorb more of the sun’s heat. That means water temperatures soar, freeze-up is again delayed, the late-forming winter ice is again thin, melt is early, and so on.

When there is little or no ice, seals and walruses cannot find platforms to rest in between food-foraging dives and during key life events like birth and nursing of young. More light penetrates the water, boosting phytoplankton blooms and upsetting a prior balance, benefitting fish and pelagic species in the upper reaches of the ocean water but reducing the amount of nutrition that drifts down to the deep-dwelling benthic species like tiny amphipods, clams, crabs and snails that are crucial to the marine-mammal food web.

The absence of a winter freeze also means lack of the usual “cold pool” of ultra-salty, super-chilled water that normally serves as an underwater barrier separating the high-fat, nutrition-dense species in the northern Bering Sea from the lower-fat species that live in the southern part of the sea.

There is another possible heat-related explanation for the die-offs: lack of the high-quality, high-fat food in the environment. As water temperatures rise, the lower-fat species more typical of the southern Bering Sea are moving north, taking over the higher-fat northern species’ territory.

Among the newcomers is Pacific cod, a staple of people’s diets for millennia in southern Alaska and marine predators so voracious they are known to eat seabirds. To the south, in the heated-up Gulf of Alaska, cod have become scarce, a severe blow to commercial fishermen and fishing-dependent communities; harvest quotas were slashed so deeply that the state sought a fisheries disaster declaration from the federal government. Now it appears that cod populations have swum north, swarming Norton Sound, a waterbody famous for its harvests of succulent king crab.

The wildlife in the region are unable to adequately deal with changes and interruptions in their traditional food chains and poisoning from the toxins released by increasingly prevalent algal blooms.

Global Warming

Climate Change Protests

Millions of people around the world walked out of their schools and workplaces Friday to demand urgent action on climate change. The global climate strikes, which are taking place in more than 150 countries, were scheduled ahead of the opening of the United Nations General Assembly and the Climate Action Summit on September 23.

Global Warming

Hottest Summer

A full 90 percent of the world’s population just experienced the hottest summer on record, according to the U.S. agency NOAA.

While it was the second-hottest on record worldwide, most people live in the Northern Hemisphere, where records say it was a tie with 2016 as the hottest meteorological summer.

• French researchers say that mounting atmospheric CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels is warming the Earth’s surface more quickly than earlier predicted.

New models that will replace those used for the current U.N. global warming predictions point to an atmosphere up to 2 degrees Celsius hotter than the 2014 U.N. report had warned.

Global Warming

Researchers forecast more intensified global warming

The latest climate forecasts made by several French scientific bodies reveal a rather alarming situation: current forecasts are a little too optimistic in relation to the reality of global warming.

According to models from the Pierre-Simon Laplace Institute (IPSL) and France’s National Meteorological Research Centre, our planet, in the worst-case scenario, could warm up to 6 or even 7°C by 2100.

However, at best, the situation is also alarming. If the planet achieves carbon neutrality by 2060, which is far from certain, then global warming will reach 1.9°C, as opposed to less than 1.5°C.

In an intermediate scenario, where the planet would reach carbon neutrality by 2080, the increase would be 2.6°C.

In the scientific community, the 1.5°C target appears increasingly unattainable. And climatologists are now increasingly reluctant to mention a “business as usual” scenario, simply because it no longer exists.

Global Warming

Climate Change and the Looming Omega-3 Crisis

Algae are the small but mighty, responsible for synthesizing most of the world’s docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The plants provide DHA to fish and sea creatures, many of which end up on the plates of seafood lovers everywhere. But algae are particularly sensitive to changes in ambient temperature — and warmer waters have already started disrupting algae’s DHA synthesis.

A new study, published Wednesday in the journal Ambio, predicts that by 2100, 96 percent of the global population may not have sufficient access to a DHA, the naturally occurring essential brain-building omega-3 fatty acid.

DHA is a key component of cell membranes and is critical for brain function. It helps regulate cell survival, inflammation, and neuroprotection, and makes up 10 percent of the mammalian brain’s fatty acids. DHA is also thought to help develop the central nervous system and retina.

But humans can’t produce enough DHA on their own. To reach the recommended dose — 1.1 g for adult women and 1.6 g for adult males daily — they either have to eat DHA-rich foods like fish and seafood once or twice a week, or take dietary supplements.

As DHA production declines and human population explodes, humans all over the world will likely become DHA deficient. Basically, too many people and not enough seafood will lead to health complications.

Global Warming

As Earth faces climate catastrophe, US set to open nearly 200 power plants

Powerful hurricanes. Record-breaking heatwaves. Droughts that bring ruin to farmers. Raging forest fires. The mass die-off of the world’s coral reefs. Food scarcity.

To avoid a climate change apocalypse, carbon dioxide emissions need to fall by as much as 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Instead, utilities and energy companies are continuing to invest heavily in carbon-polluting natural gas. USA TODAY compiled its own list of 177 planned and proposed natural gas plants through August, using data from S&P Global Market Intelligence, which tracks power plants that have been officially announced, and the Sierra Club, which tracks proposed plants.

Of those, 152 have a scheduled opening date of between 2019 and 2033, though only 130 have specific locations chosen. An additional 25 are part of companies’ long-term planning processes and don’t have estimated opening dates yet.

The plants are a mix of large-scale installations meant to provide lots of electricity much of the day and smaller plants used for short periods when demand for energy is particularly high.

Texas has the most proposed plants, with 26. Next is Pennsylvania with 24, North Carolina with 12, Florida with 10, California with nine and Montana with eight.

There are close to 2,000 natural gas plants now in service.