Global Warming

Arctic Sea Ice

The Arctic ice cap reached its eighth-lowest extent on record at the time of year the sea ice is typically at its minimum coverage.

Scientists at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said that the sea ice had set a record for the smallest winter extent earlier this year and was on track to rival the record minimum set in 2012.

But a cloudy and cooler-than-normal August across the central Arctic slowed the seasonal melting.

“It’s not going to be a staircase heading down to zero every year,” said Ted Scambos of the NSIDC. “[But] the Arctic will continue to evolve towards less ice. There’s no dodging that.”

Lost Islands

Rising ocean levels in the South Pacific have swallowed at least eight low-lying islands in the Solomon Islands and Micronesia, where sea levels have risen by about half an inch each year since the early 1990s.

Australian researchers conducted coastal surveys, analyzed satellite data and spoke with island residents before making the conclusion. They found six of the islands went underwater between 2007 and 2014.

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Global Warming

Global warming threatens parasites – study

A new study out of the University of California claims that global warming caused by climate change will wipe out a third of the world’s parasites by 2070, and before you rejoice, scientists say that could have detrimental effects on the planet. Specifically, climate change would wreak havoc on tapeworms, fleas, ticks, lice, and other similar creatures, which could potentially upset the balance of the Earth’s ecosystem.

Scientists at the university spent a year analyzing 20 million parasites that were in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History. Their findings indicate that no creature on Earth may be more threatened than parasites, but trying to convince the public that this is a negative will undoubtedly be a challenge.

However, what scientists know about parasites is that they control populations, keep energy moving, and do lots of other subtle things that make our planet what it is today. Losing a third of them would cause big changes to the food chain and to life in general. They help control wildlife populations and keep energy flowing through food chains.

Global Warming

Global warming doubles growth rates of Antarctic seabed’s marine fauna – study

Marine life on the Antarctic seabed is likely to be far more affected by global warming than previously thought, say scientists who have conducted the most sophisticated study to date of heating impacts in the species-rich environment.

Growth rates of some fauna doubled – including colonising moss animals and undersea worms – following a 1C increase in temperature, making them more dominant, pushing out other species and reducing overall levels of biodiversity, according to the study published on Thursday in Current Biology.

The researchers who conducted the nine-month experiment in the Bellingshuan Sea say this could have alarming implications for marine life across the globe as temperatures rise over the coming decades as a result of manmade greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Sub-zero conditions near the south pole mean there are comparatively few species on the usually frozen land, but below the ice, the relative lack of pollution, traffic and fishing has left an abundance of marine life that divers and biologists compare to coral reefs.

Twelve identical 15cm sq heat plates were set in concrete on the seabed. Four were warmed by 1C, four by 2C and four left at ambient temperature as a control.

At 1C, a species of bryozoan moss (Fenestrulina rugula) became utterly dominant on the four plates. Within two months it reduced the evenness and diversity of the species spread. The researchers also found the marine worm Romanchella perrieri grew an average 70% larger than those under ambient conditions.

At 2C, the results from different plates varied with different growth rates of different species. The researchers speculate that this may be because the higher increase in temperature had a greater shock impact.

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Global Warming

Skrinking Caspian

Increased evaporation of the Caspian Sea over the past few decades has caused the huge central Asian lake to shrink to near the historic low set in the 1970s.

While the level of the huge body of water has fluctuated during the past several hundred years, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and colleagues from Russia, France and Azerbaijan say they expect it will continue to decline under what they describe as “global warming scenarios.”

The researchers predict that under current climate models, evaporation could cause the lake’s northern waters to vanish within 75 years.

Global Warming

Climate Change Is Causing Fish to Shrink

Fishermen over the past several years have noted that fish appear to be shrinking. That observation was validated in 2014 by research that found commercially important fish stocks in the North Sea, such as sole, herring, and haddock, have decreased in maximum body size over a 40-year period.

New research published in the journal Global Change Biology explains that these species and many others are ectotherms, meaning that their body temperature depends on environmental temperature.

As the oceans warm up, their bodies will do so as well. Higher temperature within the scope that the fish can tolerate generally increases the rate of biochemical reactions in the fish’s body and thus increases their body metabolic rate. Metabolic rate refers to an animal’s oxygen consumption, which also naturally increases as fish grow into adulthood because their body mass becomes larger.

One might wonder why fish and other marine ectotherms aren’t just taking in ever more oxygen to coincide with this natural growth due to maturation and the rise of ocean temperatures. They don’t because at a certain point they cannot keep up.

The researchers point out that the surface area of an animal’s gills — where oxygen is obtained — does not grow at the same pace as the rest of its body. This is because gills, in order to work, must function as a two-dimensional surface — width by height — and thus cannot grow as fast as the three-dimensional volume — width by height by depth — they have to supply with oxygen.

The reductions will be in the range of 20–30 percent if ocean temperatures continue to climb due to climate change. At the higher end of that range is one of the world’s most important commercial fish: tuna.

Tunas are active, mobile, and fast-swimming animals that need a lot of oxygen to maintain their lifestyle. They have to keep swimming non-stop in order to get more water through their gills to obtain sufficient oxygen. Thus, when temperature increases, they are particularly susceptible to not having sufficient oxygen to support their body growth.

For a 2 degree Celsius (3.6 degree Fahrenheit) increase in water temperature, which is approximately what is expected to occur in oceans around the world by the mid-21st century, tunas such as the Atlantic bluefin tuna will potentially decrease in body size by 30 percent.

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Global Warming

Russia says it halted global warming for one year

Russia has reduced the quantity of emitted greenhouse gases by almost 50% since 1990, which has slowed down the global warming for one year, CEO of the Center for Energy Efficiency Igor Bashmakov said on Friday at the Climate Forum of the Russian Cities.

“We have considerably reduced the volume of emissions, almost by one half, and then held on to this level,” Bashmakov said. “If we in Russia preserved the level of the 1990 emissions, we would have emitted by 41 bln tonnes of equivalent more by this time, which is close to what all global sources emit. That is, Russia has actually suspended the global warming for a whole year on its own, and it has a considerable result.”

In October 2004, Russia undertook the obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. Russia also signed the Paris climate accord in 2016.

Global Warming

Alaska’s Grizzly Bears Drop Salmon for Berries as Climate Changes

When Kodiak Island’s elderberries started ripening earlier, its icon bears changed their diet. It’s another ecological shift amid climate change, scientists say.

Each summer, the shallow freshwater streams of Kodiak Island, Alaska, are so thick with sockeye salmon, you literally cannot cross the waterways without stepping on the brightly colored fish. With the salmon come brown bears, often dozens of grizzlies per stream, hauling the fish onto nearby banks for an easy meal.

During an unusually warm summer in 2014, however, no bears could be found. At the peak of the annual salmon run, as the fish made their way upstream to spawn, the roughly 1,000-pound bears were busy feasting on berries instead, according to a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A similar phenomenon is believed to have also occurred in 2016, after the study period ended, but the bears were not closely monitored to confirm their feeding behavior.

Biologists who study Alaska’s iconic omnivores say changes in seasonal phenomenon caused by a warming planet were behind the bears’ unusual behavior, which could affect the entire ecosystem.

Different species are responding to climate change in different ways, “so what you have is a scrambling of the schedule,” said William Deacy, a biologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis and lead author of the study.

The island’s brown bears typically feed first on salmon, followed by elderberries later in the season. An earlier-than-usual ripening of red elderberries, however, forced the bears to make a choice.

Kodiak bear Lisa Hupp USFWS

Global Warming

The Escalating Global-Warming Crisis, in One Chart

Last month tied July of 2016 for the hottest month on record, according to a new analysis from researchers at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Sixteen of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred in the 21st century, including 2015 and 2016, both of which saw a temperature boost thanks to a strong El Niño event. (El Niños bump up surface temperatures by churning warm water to the ocean surface.) Record-setting temperatures in 2017 are especially concerning now that there is no El Niño; in other words, most of the excess heat this year is due to human-induced climate change.

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Global Warming

Fast-melting Arctic – Cause and Effects

International researchers embarked on a month-long, 10,000 kilometer (6,200-mile) journey to document the impact of climate change on the forbidding ice and frigid waters of the Far North

Glaciers, sea ice and a massive ice sheet in the Arctic are thawing from toasty air above and warm water below. The northern polar region is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the planet and that’s setting off alarm bells.

“The melting of the Arctic will come to haunt us all,” said German climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf.

While global leaders set a goal of preventing 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) of man-made warming since pre-industrial times, the Arctic has already hit that dangerous mark. Last year, the Arctic Circle was about 3.6 degrees (6.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal.

CAUSES OF WARMING

The Arctic is mostly ocean covered with a layer of ice; changes from ice to water often kick in a cycle that contributes to global warming.

Sea ice is white and it reflects the sun’s heat back into space. But when it melts, it’s replaced with dark ocean that strongly absorbs it, said former NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati, who heads the environmental research program at the University of Colorado.

That heat gets transferred back up to the atmosphere in the fall and winter. As that happens, water vapor — a greenhouse gas — hangs around, trapping more heat. More clouds form around that time, also acting as a blanket, said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

ROLE OF WINTER

Winter is crucial. Three times in the past two cold seasons, air temperatures near the North Pole were near or even a shade above freezing. That’s about 50 degrees warmer than it should be. From last November through February, Barrow, Alaska — the northernmost U.S. city — was 7 degrees Celsius (13 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the 20th century average, and much of the Atlantic Arctic off Norway and Greenland was as hot.

Warm winters weaken sea ice, which floats on the ocean surface. It’s supposed to recover, spread more across the Arctic and get thicker in the winter so it can withstand the warmth of the summer. But a warmer winter means less protection when the heat hits.

In September 2016, the time of year the spread of ice across the Arctic is at its lowest, Arctic sea ice was the second lowest day on record, about 40 percent below the lowest day measured in 1979 when satellite records started. Between those two days 37 years apart, the Arctic lost enough sea ice to cover Alaska, Texas and California combined.

Then it didn’t grow back that much this winter, setting record low amounts from November through March, when sea ice reaches its peak spread.

BEYOND THE ARCTIC

Of all the global warming warning signs in the Arctic, “it is the sea ice that is screaming the loudest,” Serreze said.

That’s a problem because a growing body of studies connects dwindling sea ice to wild weather. The reduced winter sea ice interacts with warmer oceans to change conditions in the air that then triggers a potent noticeable shift in the jet stream, the giant atmospheric river that controls much of our weather, said Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis. This theory is still debated by scientists, but increasingly more researchers are agreeing with Francis.

It’s not just sea ice on the decline. Glaciers in the Arctic are shrinking. And the massive Greenland ice sheet is slowly but steadily melting and that can add a big dose to sea level rise. Since 2002, it has lost 4,400 billion tons (4,000 billion metric tons) of ice.

Then there’s the Arctic carbon bomb. Carbon dioxide and methane — which traps even more heat — are stuck in the permafrost in places like Alaska and Siberia.

WILDLIFE

No Arctic creatures have become more associated with climate change than polar bears. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated in January that about 26,000 specimens remain in the wild. Population counts of polar bears are notoriously difficult, and researchers are unsure how much their numbers have changed in recent years. But the Fish and Wildlife Service warned that melting sea ice is robbing the bear of its natural hunting ground for seals and other prey.

While some polar bears are expected to follow the retreating ice northward, others will head south, where they will come into greater contact with humans — encounters that are unlikely to end well for the bears.

The walrus, for example, may spend more time on the mainland. They’re very prone to disturbance so that’s not a good place for walrus to be.

Alarms bells are ringing about the future of the red king crab — a big earner for Alaska’s fishing industry — because rising levels of carbon dioxide, a driver of global warming, are making oceans more acidic. Scientists found that juvenile crabs exposed to levels of acidification predicted for the future grew more slowly and were more likely to die.

Algae that cling to the underside of sea ice are also losing their habitat. If they vanish, the impact will be felt all the way up the food chain. Copepods, a type of zooplankton that eats algae, will lose their source of food. The tiny crustaceans in turn are prey for fish, whales and birds.

Meanwhile, new rivals from the south are already arriving in the Arctic as waters warm. Orca have been observed traveling further north in search of food in recent years, and some wildlife experts predict they will become the main seal predator in the coming decades, replacing polar bears.

Humans are also increasingly venturing into the Arctic in search of untapped deposits of minerals and fossil fuels — posing a threat to animals. The potential for oil spills from platforms and tankers operating in remote locations has been a major cause for concern among environmentalists since the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska killed a quarter of a million seabirds, as well as hundreds of seals and sea otters.

Global Warming

Study: Global warming alters timing of floods in Europe

Global warming is altering the timing of floods in Europe, making some rivers swell early and others later than usual, a phenomenon that impacts farming and daily life across the region, researchers said Thursday.

The report in the US journal Science is the largest European study of its kind, and spans 50 years and a vast trove of data from over 4,000 hydrometric stations from 38 countries.

“In the north-east of Europe, Sweden, Finland and the Baltic States, floods now tend to occur one month earlier than in the 1960s and 1970s,” said lead author Guenter Bloeschl, a professor at the Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien).

“At that time, they typically occurred in April, today in March. This is because the snow melts earlier in the year than before, as a result of a warming climate.”

Winter floods along the Atlantic coast of western Europe tend to occur earlier, almost in the autumn, because maximum soil moisture levels are now reached earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, floods in parts of northern Britain, western Ireland, coastal Scandinavia and northern Germany now tend to occur about two weeks later than they did two decades ago.

Storms hit later in the winter than before, a trend that is likely “associated with a modified air pressure gradient between the equator and the pole, which may also reflect climate warming,” said the report.

And as the Mediterranean coast warms, coastal flood events in some regions occur later in the season.

Global Warming

2016 as hottest year on record

The federal government confirmed 2016 as the planet’s warmest year on record, according to a report released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The combined influence of long-term global warming and a strong El Niño early in the year led to last year’s all-time record heat, NOAA said.

While El Niño is a natural warming of Pacific Ocean water, man-made global warming is caused by greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal.

The amount of carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases, in the atmosphere climbed to its highest level in 800,000 years, the report found.

The report also noted other signs of a warming planet in 2016:

Greenhouse gases were the highest on record. Sea-surface temperatures were the highest on record. Global upper ocean heat content near-record high. Global sea level was the highest on record. Antarctic had a record low sea ice extent.

Global warming makes expedition to ice-locked North Pole possible

Two specially-equipped sailboats are attempting a voyage that’s never been done before – a trip to the North Pole. Led by a British explorer, the international crew has moved the boats from their home in Sitka up to Nome, where they’re hoping to launch for their journey to the Pole this weekend. Melting sea ice in the Arctic could make their voyage possible for the first time in history.

Global Warming

Climate Change is disrupting the ‘birds and the bees’

Over the last two decades, scientists have found that warmer temperatures are quietly spoiling the mood, making it harder for plants and animals to reproduce.

While humans and many other animals determine sex genetically, many reptiles and some fish use the incubation temperature of the eggs to set the gender of their offspring. This means that changing global temperatures could alter the ratio of sexes produced, making it harder for these animals to find mates.

Eastern three-lined skunk females can partially compensate for temperature increases by digging deeper nests and laying earlier in the season. Nevertheless, according to a study published in 2009, their nests still warmed by 1.5C over 10 years. This shifted the sex ratio towards females.

Not every species is as badly affected. Australian water dragon females have been shown to buffer temperature differences of 4C by nesting in sunnier or shadier locations. When it comes to climate change, behavioural flexibility is often a big advantage.

In the plant world, temperature can influence sex ratios in more subtle ways. For example, the tobacco root plant, which lives in alpine meadows in North America, has been producing ever more male plants over the last 40 years. This may be due to reduced water availability, since females require more water to develop. So far, the extra males have actually boosted seed production, but if the trend continues, the lack of females could eventually leave male tobacco roots feeling a little lonely.

Meanwhile, the majority of the world’s sea turtles use temperature to set the sex of their offspring. “Embryos are laid with no gender,” says Graeme Hays of Deakin University in Australia. “They can develop into males or females.” Warmer eggs develop into females, cooler eggs into males. “Temperature during the middle third of incubation controls the sex,” says Hays, by switching on and off the genes that trigger development into either a male or a female.

The difference between male and female is just a couple of degrees. That means even slight changes in the climate could skew the sex ratio, making males harder to find. Incubation temperatures above 29C are predicted to produce increasingly female-biased clutches.

There is evidence that this shift is already underway. Over the last century, the sex ratios of green turtles, hawksbill turtles and leatherback turtles have become increasingly sex-biased. By 2030, the percentage of male green turtles produced has been predicted to drop to just 2.4%. “All else being equal, a warming climate will produce more female sea turtle hatchlings,” says Hays.

One solution for sea turtles and other reptiles with temperature-based sex determination is to breed at different times of year. This is called a “phenological shift”. “Earlier nesting may mean that sea turtles avoid incubation conditions that are too hot,” says Hays.

Phenological shifts are common, because many animals use environmental cues like temperature and rainfall to time key events like migration, flowering and breeding. Climate change is changing the timing and strength of the seasons, and as these cues change, the annual ebb and flow of the natural world is being disrupted.

In fact, one of the first pieces of evidence for the effect of climate change on living things was the discovery that plants are flowering earlier and earlier each year. In 2002, a landmark study showed that 385 British plant species were flowering on average 4.5 days earlier than in the 1990s. The same story is playing out across the globe: a 2008 meta-analysis looked at 650 temperate plant species in Europe, Asia and North America, and found that spring flowering had advanced by 1.9 days per decade on average.

The biggest concern is that plants and their pollinators might respond differently to climate change, leading to a mismatch that could significantly affect plant reproduction. For instance, in Japan the flowering of the plant Corydalis ambigua has advanced faster than the emergence of its bumblebee pollinators, resulting in a mismatch that reduces seed production in years with an early spring. Such mismatches could have a major impact on certain crop plants.

Global Warming

Government Report Finds Drastic Impact of Climate Change on U.S.

The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.

The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.

“Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” a draft of the report states. A copy of it was obtained by The New York Times.

The authors note that thousands of studies, conducted by tens of thousands of scientists, have documented climate changes on land and in the air. “Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change,” they wrote.

Global Warming

Artifacts Exposed as Ice Fields Retreat

In the past century, the glaciers and ice fields of the European Alps have lost half their volume to global warming, and their continued retreat, like that of glaciers everywhere in the world, is accelerating. By 2100, many scientists predict, they will have all but disappeared. The meltdown has already disrupted the region’s sensitive mountain ecosystems and tourist resorts—some local communities have taken to laying protective white blankets over the snow and ice—but it has also opened up new avenues of scientific inquiry. As the glaciers recede, they are releasing some of the human artifacts that they have absorbed through the ages, including humans themselves. Ötzi, the five-thousand-year-old mummified mountaineer discovered in 1991, remains the most astonishing find. But hundreds of other archeological objects, preserved in remarkable delicacy, have also turned up—medieval crossbow bolts, coins of Roman vintage, a pair of twenty-six-hundred-year-old socks. In July, an employee of a Swiss ski company came across the mummified remains of a couple who had gone missing in 1942; they were found fully dressed, with their wartime identity cards, backpacks, an empty bottle, a pocket watch, and a book.

Burdick An Ancient Lunch Box Emerges from the Ice

Global Warming

Warming Certainty

New studies find that it is now almost impossible to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) by the end of the century.

Scientists at the University of Washington calculated the effects of the world’s population growth, the GDP per person and amount of carbon emitted in economic activity.

They then projected that there is only a 5 percent chance Earth will warm by less than 2 degrees by 2100.

A University of Colorado at Boulder study also found that a 2-degree warming this century is now “baked in.”

This threatens to surpass the amount of warming scientists have warned could trigger catastrophic sea level rise, as well as extreme weather events like heat waves, floods and drought.