Global Warming

Climate change wreaking havoc with Colombia’s glaciers

Climate change has helped melt nearly a fifth of Colombia’s mountaintop glacier cover in just seven years, the government has said. The surface area of its six glaciers has shrunk from 45 square kilometers in 2010 to 37 square kilometers in 2017, for a decline of 18 per cent, the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies said.

It blamed the glacier loss on “extreme events associated with natural phenomena and climate change.” If things go on like this the snow and ice covering atop Santa Isabel, a volcano in the Cordillera Central mountains could vanish over the next 10 years, said Omar Franco, the head of the institute.

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Global Warming

Global Warming Is Destroying Our Best-Preserved Archaeological Sites

The Arctic is like a time capsule. What dies there can be preserved, like a snapshot of our past, literally frozen in time.

Some of the greatest insights we’ve gotten into life, thousands of years ago, have come from the coldest places on earth. We’ve made incredible breakthroughs into the past through discoveries like the body of Ötzi the Iceman , the Stone Age man whose body froze 5,300 years ago.

Discovering of the body of otzi the Iceman

Today, though, these archaeological sites are starting to fall apart. The 180,000 archaeological sites across Greenland, Siberia, Alaska, and Northern Canada are being torn apart by the steady rise of global warming, and archaeologists are worried that, if we don’t preserve these sites soon, they’ll be lost forever.

Global Warming

Subtle Effects of Climate Change – Monarch Butterflies

Climate change could make a showy invasive milkweed called a bloodflower a menace for monarch butterflies.

Monarch caterpillars, which feed on plants in the milkweed family, readily feast on Asclepias curassavica. Gardeners in the southern United States plant it for its showy orange blooms, yet the species “is turning out to be a bit of a nightmare,” says Mark Hunter of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) migrating south to Mexico in the fall come across bloodflower bonanzas and don’t bother to keep on flying. Full migration normally prevents a harmful Ophryocistis parasite from building up in the insect population. Cutting the migration cycle short lets infection flourish.

In experiments, bloodflowers grown in outdoor enclosures under high carbon dioxide concentrations, around 760 parts per million, don’t make as much medicinal cardenolide as normal. Caterpillars need these compounds to help fight parasites. Levels of two particularly potent forms of cardenolide stayed low. Parasites were more damaging to caterpillars chewing through these CO2-rich flowers than to those caterpillars fattening on plants grown under current atmospheric conditions.

Higher temperatures due to climate change, however, may boost cardenolides instead of reducing them. That could turn the bloodflower species toxic to monarchs, according to a test growing milkweeds in enclosures with daytime temperatures raised some 3 degrees Celsius higher than outside air. A native milkweed, A. incarnata, didn’t get close to toxic.

Researchers don’t know how the opposing effects of CO2 and heat might act on cardenolides overall. Regardless of how further research on that question turns out, bloodflowers are already a threat to monarchs. Hunter urges gardeners who can’t resist growing the plants to at least cut them back in the fall, so that they won’t derail the monarch migration.

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Global Warming

Global Warming Could Be Double What Models Predict

Another research study has suggested that global warming may be far worse than present predictive models suggest.

Researchers often use records of Earth’s past to predict changes in the future. A latest assessment of past warm periods shows that future global warming may be twice as warm as projected by climate models and sea levels may rise six meters or more with 2°C of warming.

A world that heats up by 2C is regarded as the limit for a climate-safe planet and 2015 Paris Climate Agreement aims to hold average global warming well below 2°C by reducing carbon emissions.

“Observations of past warming periods suggest that a number of amplifying mechanisms, which are poorly represented in climate models, increase long-term warming beyond climate model projections,” said lead author Prof Hubertus Fischer from University of Bern. “This suggests the carbon budget to avoid 2°C of global warming may be far smaller than estimated, leaving very little margin for error to meet the Paris targets.”

To make predictions, researchers looked at three past warm periods, the Holocene thermal maximum (5000-9000 years ago), the last interglacial (129,000-116,000 years ago) and the mid-Pliocene warm period (3.3-3 million years ago). During those periods, the temperatures were 0.5°C-2°C warmer than the pre-industrial temperatures of the 19th Century.

The warming of the first two periods was linked to predictable changes in the Earth’s orbit, while the third period experienced increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. The atmospheric carbon dioxide is also the main driver of the climate change today.

When researchers combined a wide range of measurements from ice cores, sediment layers, fossil records and other techniques, they were able to better predict future climate responses. Their result suggests that our today’s planet is warming much faster than any of these periods. Even if we curb carbon emissions, it would take centuries to millennia to reach equilibrium.

We can expect that sea-level rise could become unstoppable for millennia, impacting much of the world’s population, infrastructure and economic activity.

Environment

Deforestation

Forests covering an area roughly the size of the Philippines were cut down or burned to make way for farms from the Amazon Basin to the heart of Africa during 2017, according to an independent forest-monitoring organization.

Global Forest Watch said tropical forests were felled at a rate equivalent to 40 soccer fields per minute last year. The greatest tree losses occurred in Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Madagascar and Malaysia.

Norway’s environment minister described the losses to Reuters as “catastrophic” and a threat to efforts to slow global warming.

Trees soak up the greenhouse gas CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow, but release it back into the air when they burn or decay.

Global Warming

Bees Affected by Rising Temperatures

The survival of bees is hanging in the balance. Some species are dying off at a record pace, and toxic agricultural chemicals might be to blame. There seem to be many threats to these winged creatures, but climate change may be the final straw for some bee species. If the Earth continues to warm and bees don’t find a way to adapt, some populations could face extinction, according to new research.

A team of scientists found that 30 to 70 percent of mason bees died when they heated up the bees’ environments. This reveals that if temperatures continue to climb, bee populations could begin to die off at faster rates, disrupting ecosystems worldwide, said Paul CaraDonna, an ecologist at Northwestern University.

In the tests conducted in the research, the bees that survived the heat became smaller, lost much of their body fat and suffered from disruptions to their hibernation. These results suggest bees that survived were not healthy and might struggle to find food or a mate.

Local bee populations could possibly substantially decrease or even go extinct in the future because of climate change, according to the research.

Historic Shift Means the Arctic Ocean Could Become Part of the Atlantic

A region in the Arctic Ocean is undergoing a historic identity crisis, as recent climate change has warmed it so much that it might as well be considered part of the Atlantic.

All of the Arctic has been heating up in recent decades, but nowhere is it as dramatic as in the Barents Sea, northeast of Finland. There, temperatures are climbing faster than anywhere else in the Arctic Ocean — not only in the atmosphere but down through the water column, scientists recently reported in a new study.

The northern Barents is also becoming saltier as it warms, mostly because there’s little seasonal melt of sea ice to dilute the water body. These temperature and salinity changes nudge the northern Barents to a state that more closely resembles that of the neighboring Atlantic Ocean, rather than the Arctic, which could have dramatic implications for its marine ecosystems, according to the study.

Global Warming

Buried Volcanic Vent Heats Up Antarctica

What lurks beneath western Antarctica’s frozen surface? Volcanic heat, according to a new study. And that extra warmth might be speeding up the disappearance of the Pine Island Glacier, the continent’s fastest-melting glacier.

Chilly Antarctica hides much under thick layers of ice, which extend for miles over its bedrock. Scientists previously found a volcanic rift system stretching under West Antarctica and into the Ross Sea, with as many as 138 volcanoes identified. However, those volcanoes have been dormant for 2,200 years, but evidence that turned up near the Pine Island Glacier pointed to recent magma activity deep underground.

Volcanoes typically announce themselves by belching smoke and gas into the air, but in Antarctica, the heat source was buried under miles of ice. However, even though the magma itself was hidden, scientists could spot its “fingerprints” in certain gases they found in seawater samples. The chemistry of melted ice running off the glacier hinted at a volcanic source upstream, warming the ice from below and accelerating melt into the Amundsen Sea.

Global Warming

US judge throws out climate change lawsuits against big oil

A U.S. judge who held a hearing about climate change that received widespread attention ruled Monday that Congress and the president were best suited to address the contribution of fossil fuels to global warming, throwing out lawsuits that sought to hold big oil companies liable for the Earth’s changing environment.

Noting that the world has also benefited significantly from oil and other fossil fuel, Judge William Alsup said questions about how to balance the “worldwide positives of the energy” against its role in global warming “demand the expertise of our environmental agencies, our diplomats, our Executive, and at least the Senate.”

However, in Monday’s ruling, the judge said he accepted the “vast scientific consensus” that the combustion of fossil fuels has contributed to global warming and rising sea levels.

Fracking Not a Solution to Climate Change

A new, comprehensive study of methane leaks in the oil and gas industry is the final piece of evidence that natural gas is not part of the climate solution. Fracking and consequent natural gas production have been seen as a solution to climate change.

The findings confirm if a coal-fired plant is replaced with a gas-fired plant there is no net climate benefit for at least two decades. Natural gas is mostly methane (CH4), a super-potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period. A very small leakage rate of methane from the natural gas supply chain (production to delivery to combustion) can have a large climate impact  —  enough to gut the entire benefit of switching from coal-fired power to gas for a long, long time.

In November, another study found the methane emissions escaping from just New Mexico’s gas and oil industry are “equivalent to the climate impact of approximately 12 coal-fired power plants.” In January, NASA found that most of the huge rise in global methane emissions in the past decade was in fact from the fossil fuel industry — and that this rise was “substantially larger” than previously thought.

It’s time to acknowledge that fracking is truly part of the climate problem, and likely to become a bigger problem over time as natural gas competes more and more with renewable energy sources.

Global Warming

Climate change drives spread of toxic algae in USA water supplies

Across the U.S., reservoirs that supply drinking water and lakes used for recreation are experiencing algae blooms which release toxins into the water with growing frequency. The trend represents another impact of global warming and raises looming questions about the effects on human health, researchers say.

Technically called cyanobacteria, the ancient class of organisms that create the blooms are present nearly everywhere water is found but thrive in warm, still bodies like lakes and ponds. They also create a unique class of toxins, the impact of which on humans is only partly understood.

Long linked to animal deaths, high doses of the toxins in humans can cause liver damage and attack the nervous system. In the largest outbreaks, hundreds have been sickened by blooms in reservoirs and lakes, and officials in some areas now routinely close water bodies used for recreation and post warnings when blooms occur.

In Lake Erie, a major bloom in 2014 caused authorities to warn against drinking tap water in Toledo, Ohio, for more than two days, cutting off the main water source for more than 400,000 people. Now blooms happen every year in Utah and Ohio. Other blooms, including flare-ups affecting drinking water, have been logged in recent years in New York, Florida and California. In Oregon, officials lifted Salem’s drinking water advisory after several days, but then had to reissue the warning. Testing for the blooms isn’t required by either federal or state law.

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Global Warming

Antarctica Is Getting Taller

Bedrock under Antarctica is rising more swiftly than ever recorded — about 1.6 inches (41 millimeters) upward per year. And thinning ice in Antarctica may be responsible.

That’s because as ice melts, its weight on the rock below lightens. And over time, when enormous quantities of ice have disappeared, the bedrock rises in response, pushed up by the flow of the viscous mantle below Earth’s surface, scientists reported in a new study.

These uplifting findings are both bad news and good news for the frozen continent.

The good news is that the uplift of supporting bedrock could make the remaining ice sheets more stable. The bad news is that in recent years, the rising earth has probably skewed satellite measurements of ice loss, leading researchers to underestimate the rate of vanishing ice by as much as 10 percent, the scientists reported.

Global Warming

300,000 coastal homes in USA at risk from rising seas

Hundreds of thousands of homes along U.S. coasts are at risk of devastating coastal flooding over the next 30 years as climate change causes oceans to rise, according to a new study.

About 311,000 coastal homes, worth about $120 billion, are at risk of chronic flooding, the Union of Concerned Scientists, a science advocacy group, said in the report released Monday.

By the end of the century, homes and businesses currently worth more than $1 trillion — including those in Miami, New York’s Long Island and the San Francisco Bay area — could be at risk.

States with the most homes at risk by the end of the century are Florida, with about 1 million homes (more than 10 percent of the state’s current residential properties); New Jersey, with 250,000 homes; and New York with 143,000 homes.

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Global Warming

New Un Report Says Global Warming To Exceed Paris Agreement Limits

A draft of a report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C.) says the world is on course to exceed the global warming limits set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement, signed by almost 200 nations, had asked signatories to commit to a goal of limiting global warming to well below a rise of 2°C above pre-industrial times while “pursuing efforts” for the tougher 1.5° goal.

Reuters obtained an exclusive copy of the draft report which stated that temperatures are already up 1°C and rising about 0.2°C a decade. “If emissions continue at their present rate, human-induced warming will exceed 1.5°C by around 2040,” according to the report.

Global Warming

Carbon Collecting

Recent advances in removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the air have significantly brought down the cost, with one process having the ability to create synthetic fuel.

Carbon Engineering’s pilot facility in western Canada has been extracting about one ton of CO2 per day at a cost of about $100 per ton, far less than the prevailing price of about $600 per ton.

While the captured carbon can be stored in stone deep underground, Carbon Engineering says it can use renewable energy to take hydrogen from water and combine it with the collected carbon to create a synthetic liquid fuel.

The Bill Gates-funded company says it is already making about one barrel a day with that process.

Wildlife

Ancient baobabs are dying

Baobabs are dying across southern Africa‚ and climate change may be to blame.

Some of the oldest and largest baobabs in South Africa‚ Zimbabwe‚ Namibia‚ South Africa‚ Botswana‚ and Zambia have abruptly died in the past decade‚ say a team of international researchers. The trees‚ aged between 1‚100 and 2‚500 years‚ may have fallen victim to climate change‚ said the team.

While the cause of the deaths is unknown‚ the researchers “suspect that the demise of monumental baobabs may be associated at least in part with significant modifications of climate conditions that affect southern Africa in particular”.

The dead trunks were only 40% water‚ instead of the 75-80% they should have been. Their condition meant they could no longer support the tree’s weight. Between 2005 and 2017‚ the researchers dated “practically all known very large and potentially old” African baobabs – more than 60 in total. After studying data on girth‚ height‚ wood volume and age‚ they noted the “unexpected and intriguing fact” that most of the oldest and biggest trees died during the study period.

The oldest tree which suffered the collapse of all its stems was the Panke tree in Zimbabwe‚ estimated to have existed for 2‚500 years. The biggest‚ Holboom‚ was from Namibia. It stood 30.2m tall and had a girth of 35.1m.

The most famous victim of the die-off was the Chapman’s baobab‚ a national monument and tourist attraction in central Botswana that bore the carved initials of explorer David Livingstone. It was named after South African hunter James Chapman‚ who visited it in 1852. On January 7‚ 2016‚ its six trunks all collapsed and died.

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Global Warming

Flooding from high tides has doubled in the US in just 30 years

The frequency of coastal flooding from high tides has doubled in the US in just 30 years, with communities near shorelines warned that the next two years are set to be punctuated by particularly severe inundations, as ocean levels continue to rise amid serious global climate change concerns.

Last year there was an average of six flooding days per area across 98 coastal areas monitored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) – an all-time record. More than a quarter of these locations tied or broke their records for high tide flood days, the federal agency states in a new report.

The longer-term trend is even more certain, Noaa said, with melting glaciers, thermal expansion of sea water and altered ocean currents pushing the sea level steadily higher and causing further floods.

South Florida, where weather forecasts in some places now come with tidal warnings, and fish are a regular sight on flooded roads, is particularly vulnerable. The low-lying region sits on porous limestone, which pushes up floodwater from underground, and many communities are unable to easily retreat because they back on to the Everglades wetlands.

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Globally, the seas have risen by an average of nearly three inches since 1992. Parts of the US coastline are unusually prone, with Noaa that the oceans could swell by more than eight feet by 2100.