Global Warming

Melting Arctic Permafrost Releases Acid that Dissolves Rocks

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As temperatures rise in the Arctic, permafrost — permanently frozen ground — is defrosting at an alarming rate. But the permafrost isn’t the only thing in the Arctic that’s melting.

Exposed rock that was once covered in ice is dissolving, eaten away by acid. And the effects of this acid bath could have far-reaching impacts on global climate, according to a new study.

Icy permafrost is rich in minerals, which are released when the ice melts. The minerals then become vulnerable to chemical weathering, or the breakdown of rock through chemical reactions, scientists recently reported. They investigated areas once covered by permafrost in the western Canadian Arctic, finding evidence of weathering caused by sulfuric acid, produced by sulfide minerals that were released when the permafrost melted.

Another type of naturally occurring chemical erosion is caused by carbonic acid, and it also dissolves Arctic rock. But although carbonic-acid weathering locks carbon dioxide (CO2) in place, sulfuric-acid erosion releases CO2 into the atmosphere, and it does so in quantities that were not previously accounted for, researchers wrote in the study.

Hundreds of mummified penguins in Antarctica can tell us a lot about climate change

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New research has connected hundreds of mummified penguin carcasses to two disastrous weather events thought to be influenced by climate change.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Biogeosciences, warns that these events might foreshadow what’s to come if the Earth continues to get hotter.

A team of Chinese and Australian researchers found the mummified Adélie penguins under a remarkably thick layer of sediment in Long Peninsula, East Antarctica, which usually has a dry climate.

Then, using radiocarbon dating, the scientists found that most of the mummified carcasses were from two specific incidents that affected breeding colonies from 750 and 200 years ago.

The two instances of unusually thick sediment were evidence to the researchers that a lot of water flowed over the area in a short amount of time.

Since penguin chicks do not develop waterproof feathers until a later stage of development, a particularly wet or snowy season would put them in danger of getting hypothermia and dying — which is why scientists believe they found the large number of dead chicks in the two breeding colonies.

The weather event they suspect to be the cause is called zonal wave 3 (ZW3), which produces near-shore ice and adds a lot of moisture to the atmosphere.

Research showed that this meteorological pattern became more frequent in the late 20th Century due to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Since the world hasn’t done enough to curb our collective greenhouse gas emissions, researchers fear that ZW3’s will become more frequent than ever before and penguin populations will continue to face unfavorable conditions that will jeopardize the survival of the populations.

This particular breed of Antarctic penguins have seen a slough of catastrophic breeding seasons recently.

In 2017 all but two penguins from a colony of 40,000 died from starvation. Earlier that year, only two chicks from a colony of 18,000 breeding penguins survived. That same colony lost every chick in 2013.

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Global Warming

World’s Largest River Floods Five Times More Often Than It Used to

Extreme floods have become more frequent in the Amazon Basin in just the last two to three decades, according to a new study.

After analyzing 113 years of Amazon River levels in Port of Manaus, Brazil, researchers found that severe floods happened roughly every 20 years in the first part of the 20th century. Now, extreme flooding of the world’s largest river occurs every four years on average—or about five times more frequently than it used to.

This increase in flooding could be disastrous for communities in Brazil, Peru and other Amazonian nations, the researchers pointed out. There are catastrophic effects on the lives of the people as the drinking water gets flooded, and the houses get completely destroyed.

This dramatic increase in floods is caused by changes in the surrounding seas, particularly the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and how they interact. Due to a strong warming of the Atlantic Ocean and cooling of the Pacific over the same period, we see changes in the so-called Walker circulation, which affects Amazon precipitation. The effect is more or less the opposite of what happens during an El Niño event. Instead of causing drought, it results in more convection and heavy rainfall in the central and northern parts of the Amazon basin.

With temperatures in the Atlantic expected to continue warming, the scientists expect to see more of these high water levels in the Amazon River.

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Global Warming

Global Warming Pushing Alpine Species Upslope

For every one-degree-Celsius increase in temperature, mountaintop species shift upslope 100 meters, shrinking their inhabited area and resulting in dramatic population declines, new research by University of British Columbia zoologists has found.

The study, a first-of-its-kind broad review, analyzed shifts in elevation range in 975 populations of plants, insects and animals.

Most mountaintop species we looked at are responding to warming temperatures by shifting upslope to live in cooler environments. As they move towards the mountaintop, the area they live within gets smaller and smaller. This supports predictions that global warming could eventually drive extinctions among species at the top.

The study found that most mountaintop species have moved upward, including:

– The northern pocket gopher in Nevada’s Ruby Mountains lost more than 70 percent of its inhabited area over the past 80 years as a 1.1-degree temperature increase drove populations upslope.

– The mountain burnet butterfly in the French Pyrenees adjusted to a one-degree temperature increase by shifting upslope 430 meters, losing 79 percent of its range over the past 50 years.

– An alpine meadow flower in the Himalayas moved upslope more than 600 meters as temperatures rose more than 2.2 degrees in the past 150 years. It lost 29 percent of its habitat in the region.

The research also found that a few species, such as the white-crowned sparrow in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains in California, moved their entire range down mountains.

“This highlights how complicated responses to climate change are likely to be”, said the study authors.

Global Warming

Colorado River is Evaporating and Climate Change is to Blame

An hour’s drive from Las Vegas stands America’s Hoover Dam, a commanding barrier of concrete holding back the trillions of gallons of Colorado River water held inside Lake Mead.

Yet, in the 80 years since the great dam’s completion, the 1,450-mile Colorado River – which sustains some 40 million Americans in places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles — has been gradually growing weaker, and the water level beyond the noble dam has fallen considerably over the last two decades. The writing is easily spotted on the steep rocky walls of the Lake Mead reservoir, where a bathtub-like ring shows where the water once sat during more fruitful times.

Today, however, the water sits 150-feet below that line, and human-caused climate change is a major reason why.

Over the last century, the river’s flow has declined by around 16 percent, even as annual precipitation slightly increased in the Upper Colorado River Basin — a vast region stretching from Wyoming to New Mexico. New research published in the journal Water Resources Research argues that over half of this decline is due to sustained and rising temperatures in the region, which ultimately means more water is evaporated from the river, diminishing the flow.

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Global Warming

Warming Urgency

A United Nations official warned that governments are not on track to meet a goal of the 2015 Paris agreement to cap global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) before the end of this century.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, said governments as well as the private sector now need to act swiftly to avert the “catastrophic effects” of climate change.

Espinosa said of the recent deadly heat and resulting firestorms around the Northern Hemisphere, “It really does make the evidence clear that climate change is having an impact on the daily lives of people.”

Australia Signs Global Warming Declaration

Climate change is the single greatest security threat to the Pacific, and all countries must meet their commitments under the Paris climate agreement, the 18 countries of the Pacific Islands Forum said on Wednesday.

The first assertion of the strongly worded Boe Declaration says all Pacific nations, including Australia, “reaffirm that climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific, and our commitment to progress the implementation of the Paris agreement.

“Leaders reaffirmed the importance of immediate urgent action to combat climate change and … called on countries, particularly large emitters, to fully implement their … mitigation targets, including through the development and transfer of renewable energy, in line with committed timeframes.”

Leaders of the Forum Islands countries also called for the US to return to the Paris agreement and the commitments it made under President Barack Obama.

Artificial Intelligence is greater concern than climate change or terrorism

Artificial Intelligence is a greater concern than antibiotic resistance, climate change or terrorism for the future of Britain, the incoming president of the British Science Association has warned.

Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of physics and public engagement at the University of Surrey, said the unprecedented technological progress in AI was ‘happening too fast’ without proper scrutiny or regulation.

Prof Al-Khalili warned that the full threat to jobs and security had not been properly assessed and urged the government to urgently regulate.

Global Warming

CO2 Capture

A Swiss company has received a $31 million investment to suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in an expensive process that uses high-tech filters and fans.

Climeworks AG says it now costs about $600 to extract a ton of carbon from the air, but the company hopes to bring down the cost enough to pull out 1 percent of man-made CO2 emissions by 2025.

Scientists now believe that only a combination of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and extracting existing CO2 from the air can reduce the effects of climate change brought on by the burning of fossil fuels.

Kelp Migration

Undersea kelp forests are being transformed by warming oceans, affecting the species that rely on them for food and shelter.

“The warm-water kelp Laminaria ochroleuca was actually first detected in the U.K. in the late 1940s, but is now a common sight along the southwest coast,” said Dan Smale of Britain’s Plymouth University.

The warmer water and resulting northward expansion of the kelp is causing warm-water fish to move north too.

It’s also allowing the cool-water species they are displacing to migrate into Arctic waters that are rapidly becoming warmer.

Bubbling Lakes in the Arctic

NASA has released videos of bubbling lakes in the remote Arctic tundra, where warming continues to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at unprecedented rates.

The international research team, funded by NASA as part of their Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE), recently published their results in Nature Communications. What they found are bubbling lakes as greenhouse gases are released from the previously frozen ground, leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions and a warming positive feedback.

The Arctic is one of the largest natural reservoirs of organic carbon, trapped within the frozen soils. If a tree dies, say in the Amazon rainforest, it is quickly eaten (rot) away by bacteria, which respire the same as humans. As bacteria eat the tree they inhale oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Hence, the carbon taken up by the tree through photosynthesis is then released back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide for the cycle to start all over again.

However, in the case of the Arctic, when something dies (trees, algae, animals, etc.) they are immediately frozen. This, in essence, stops the carbon cycle as both bacteria and their food are frozen in place for potentially tens of thousands of years. This means the Arctic continues to pack away carbon from the atmosphere and store it in frozen soil, which can be over 250 feet thick.

However, when that soil begins to thaw, the bacteria wake up and find a feast of untouched carbon laid out for them, they begin to eat the carbon, releasing carbon dioxide and methane gas as they do. In the NASA video what you see is the resulting carbon dioxide and methane gases released from the thawing of Arctic lake beds. As the sediment beneath these lakes begins to melt, they become greenhouse gas factories.

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Disease

Climate Change Making People Sick

Man-made climate change is now so pervasive that it is making people sick, a leading expert warns.

Beyond the heat-related deaths and illnesses around the Northern Hemisphere this summer, Dr. Sandro Galea, dean of Boston University School of Public Health, says the warming climate is also sending disease-carrying insects into new territories.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that ailments caused by flea and tick bites tripled in the U.S. between 2004 and 2016, with Maine seeing a 20-fold increase in cases of tick-borne Lyme disease.

Galea describes climate change as acting like a disease, with its symptoms including polluted air, flooded streets, burning forests and death.

Mad cow disease found in Florida, USA

A cow in America has tested positive for deadly Mad Cow Disease – the ultra-contagious bug that was feared to have claimed 177 British lives after an outbreak in the 1990s.

The diseased animal had belonged to Florida livestock ranchers, and was destined to be slaughtered and sold for meat. The illness can be passed to humans who eat infected beef.

The cow is one of just six in America that has tested positive for H-type BSE – the bacteria that triggers the disease – in the last 15 years. It was detected on August 26 as part of a routine surveillance of cattle found to be unfit for slaughter.

Global Warming

Global warming is intensifying El Niño weather

As humans put more and more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, the Earth warms. And the warming is causing changes that might surprise us. Not only is the warming causing long-term trends in heat, sea level rise, ice loss, etc.; it’s also making our weather more variable. It’s making otherwise natural cycles of weather more powerful.

Perhaps the most important natural fluctuation in the Earth’s climate is the El Niño process. El Niño refers to a short-term period of warm ocean surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific, basically stretching from South America towards Australia. When an El Niño happens, that region is warmer than usual. If the counterpart La Niña occurs, the region is colder than usual. Often times, neither an El Niño or La Niña is present and the waters are a normal temperature. This would be called a “neutral” state.

The ocean waters switch back and forth between El Niño and La Niña every few years. Not regularly, like a pendulum, but there is a pattern of oscillation. And regardless of which part of the cycle we are in (El Niño or La Niña), there are consequences for weather around the world.

A new study just published in Geophysical Research Letters, has found that weather associated with El Niño events is becoming more severe. It means if you live in an area that is affected by an El Niño or La Niña, the effect is likely becoming magnified by climate change. For instance, consider California. There, El Niño brings cool temperatures with rains; La Niña brings heat and dry weather. Future El Niños will make flooding more likely while future La Niñas will bring more drought and intensified wildfire seasons.

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Global Warming

Glaciers Are Bursting, Causing Deadly Floods

Central Asia’s glaciers make up the third-largest mass of frozen fresh water on earth, the planet’s “third pole,” The region’s thousands of glaciers and regular snow melt form the headwaters for 10 of Asia’s biggest rivers, which bring drinking water, power and irrigation directly to 210 million people, while these river basins indirectly support more than 1.3 billion people.

That resource is now doubling as a hazard, with glaciers skipping the melting process altogether to rupture and flood in a region that has warmed at twice the global rate of climate change.

Last week, a glacier in northeastern Afghanistan burst and flooded the Panjshir River basin, killing at least ten people. The floodwater triggered landslides as it carved through the valley and damaged 56 houses, washed out two bridges, wrecked a highway, broke an irrigation canal, and swamped farmland.

That same week, a glacier in western China released 35 million cubic meters—or 14,000 Olympic swimming pools—of fresh water into the Yarkant River basin, prompting evacuations.

As glaciers heat up, meltwater can pool into lakes at their feet. The resulting glacial lakes sit behind walls of ice and debris collected by the glacier’s downhill slide called terminal moraines. These natural dams can break due to any number of environmental triggers, including rainfall. In the Panjshir flood, an icecap melted, reportedly triggering a small landslide, which then in turn caused a glacial flood.

Glacial lakes are more likely to form if the glaciers they are under intense heat, which is now very common amid global deglaciation. Different altitudes of the Yarkant River Basin have warmed between 2°C and 3.5°C since 1961. These kinds of floods are increasing in frequency and tend to occur at lower altitudes, where glaciers often sit closer to civilization.

Global Warming

‘Stuck’ Weather

Recent extended heatwaves across Europe, North America and Asia are being driven by stalled weather patterns that are becoming more frequent due to record Arctic warmth, according to a new study by a team of international researchers.

It points to the polar region warming more quickly than any other part of the planet, which is slowing the jet stream and other large-scale planetary winds.

This means areas of high and low barometric pressure are getting stuck in the middle latitudes, resulting in longer periods of extreme weather, including heat waves.

Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers say the more frequently stalled patterns turn sunny days into heat waves, dry conditions into wildfires and rains into floods.

Global Warming

The Arctic’s Most Stable, Solid Patch of Ice Is Melting

A chunk of hard ice north of Greenland has disappeared.

It should be there; it’s been there for longer than any other ice in the Arctic. It’s never gone missing before in all the years that humans have been tracking it. Indeed, according to The Guardian, scientists used to refer to it as “the last ice area,” thinking it would hold out at the edge of Greenland even as the warming planet melted all the ice around it. But now, according to satellite images, a big piece of that Greenland coastal ice suddenly vanished or was reduced to floating bits and slush.

February 2018 was a bizarrely warm winter month in the Arctic, with the region at one point climbing above freezing for 24 hours during a time when local waters usually pack on a thick crust of ice that can last throughout the year. In the result sea ice is collapsing in the summer.

A NASA satellite image shows where the ice has pulled away from Greenland’s north coast, a phenomenon that’s never been recorded before.

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Northwest Passage a Reality

Maersk Line, the world’s largest container shipping company, is about to launch the first ever container ship on an Arctic route along Russia’s north coast, as melting sea ice promises to offer a possible future alternative to the Suez Canal.

The Venta Maersk, a new ice-class 42,000 ton vessel which can carry 3,600 containers, will leave Vladivostok on Russia’s east coast later this week.

The ship, carrying a cargo of frozen fish, will then follow the Northern Sea Route up through the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska, before travelling along Russia’s north coast and eventually to St Petersburg by the end of September.

The route has seen growing traffic during summer months already, with cargos of oil and gas regularly making the journey.

Arctic sea ice hit a record low for January this year, and an “extreme event” was declared in March as the Bering Sea’s ice levels reached the lowest level in recorded history as temperatures soared 30 degrees above average.

Global Warming

Arctic lakes speed up permafrost thawing, global warming: study

A new study found that a relatively less known process called abrupt thawing might speed up Arctic permafrost’s expected gradual thawing and then the release of greenhouse gases.

The abrupt thawing takes place under a certain type of Arctic lake, known as a thermokarst lake that forms as permafrost thaws, according to the study published on Friday in the journal Nature Communications.

Its impact on the climate is an influx of permafrost-derived methane into the atmosphere in the mid-21st century, which is not currently accounted for in climate projections.

The Arctic landscape stores one of the largest natural reservoirs of organic carbon in the world in its frozen soils. Once thawed, soil microbes in the permafrost can turn that carbon into the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane.

American and German researchers found that abrupt thawing more than doubles previous estimates of permafrost-derived greenhouse warming.

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Environment

California Logs Its Hottest Month Ever

As wildfires burn huge swaths of California, the month of July blazed through climate records. It was not only the hottest July in California’s history, but it was also the state’s hottest month ever, according to a new report issued Wednesday (Aug. 15) by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Wildlife

Black Widow Spiders Are Heading North

As climate change warms the earth, black widow spiders are moving north. The spiders are notorious, because venom is 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake’s. A bite can cause aches, pains, and paralysis of the diaphragm which make breathing difficult.

In a study published in PLOS One on Wednesday, Canadian researchers reported that over the past 60 years the northernmost point black widow spiders live has moved 31 miles north, into southern Canada. The scientists believe that the spread of the spiders, which prefer a temperate climate, is due to climate change.

Global Warming

Earth risks tipping into ‘hothouse’ state – study

The planet urgently needs to transition to a green economy because fossil fuel pollution risks pushing the Earth into a lasting and dangerous “hothouse” state, researchers warned.

If polar ice continues to melt, forests are slashed and greenhouse gases rise to new highs – as they currently do each year – the Earth will pass a tipping point.

Crossing that threshold “guarantees a climate 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial times, and sea levels that are 10-60m higher than today”, cautioned scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And that “could be only decades ahead”, they said.

“Hothouse Earth is likely to be uncontrollable and dangerous to many,” said the article by scientists at University of Copenhagen, Australian National University and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

Rivers would flood, storms would wreak havoc on coastal communities, and coral reefs would be eliminated – all by century’s end or even earlier. Global average temperatures would exceed those of any interglacial period – meaning warmer eras that come in between Ice Ages – of the past 1.2 million years. Melting polar ice caps would lead to dramatically higher sea levels, flooding coastal land that is home to hundreds of millions of people.

Researchers suggest the tipping point could come once the Earth warms to 2°C over pre-industrial times. The planet has already warmed 1°C over pre-industrial times, and is heating up at a rate of 0.17°C per decade.

“A 2°C warming could activate important tipping elements, raising the temperature further to activate other tipping elements in a domino-like cascade that could take the Earth System to even higher temperatures,” said the report.

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