Wildlife

California birds nesting earlier to try to survive global warming

The early bird not only gets the worm, but may stand a better chance of riding out global warming.

A new study finds that birds in California are breeding up to 12 days earlier than they did a century ago, an apparent effort to maintain their optimal nesting temperatures as the planet warms.

The study of 202 species of California birds found that by nesting five to 12 days earlier in the year, birds are breeding at the same temperatures they did 75 to 100 years ago. Although other researchers have noted earlier nesting times, they theorized that birds were making the changes to when food was available — and that with spring coming earlier, insects and seeds were in greater supply earlier.

The study concludes that birds are moving up their nesting schedules to time the births of chicks with the temperatures they need to survive.

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Global Warming

Warning to Humanity

In late 1992, 1,700 scientists from around the world issued a dire “warning to humanity.” They said humans had pushed Earth’s ecosystems to their breaking point and were well on the way to ruining the planet. The letter listed environmental impacts like they were biblical plagues — stratospheric ozone depletion, air and water pollution, the collapse of fisheries and loss of soil productivity, deforestation, species loss and catastrophic global climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

To mark the letter’s 25th anniversary, researchers have issued a bracing follow-up. In a communique published Monday in the journal BioScience, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries assess the world’s latest responses to various environmental threats. Once again, they find us sorely wanting.

“Humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse,” they write.

This letter, spearheaded by Oregon State University ecologist William Ripple, serves as a “second notice,” the authors say: “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”

Global climate change sits atop the new letter’s list of planetary threats. Global average temperatures have risen by more than half a degree Celsius since 1992, and annual carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 62 percent.

But it’s far from the only problem people face. Access to fresh water has declined, as has the amount of forestland and the number of wild-caught fish (a marker of the health of global fisheries). The number of ocean dead zones has increased. The human population grew by a whopping 2 billion, while the populations of all other mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by nearly 30 percent.

The lone bright spot exists way up in the stratosphere, where the hole in the planet’s protective ozone layer has shrunk to its smallest size since 1988. Scientists credit that progress to the phasing out of chlorofluorocarbons — chemicals once used in refrigerators, air conditioners and aerosol cans that trigger reactions in the atmosphere to break down ozone.

The authors offer 13 suggestions for reining in our impact on the planet, including establishing nature reserves, reducing food waste, developing green technologies and establishing economic incentives to shift patterns of consumption.

Global Warming

Global Carbon Pollution Rises

Global carbon pollution rose this year after three straight years when levels of the heat-trapping gas didn’t go up at all, scientists reported Monday.

Preliminary figures project that worldwide carbon dioxide emissions are up about 2 percent this year, according to an international team of scientists. Most of the increase came from China.

The report by the Global Carbon Project team dashed hopes that emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas had peaked.

Estimates for 2017 put it at about 40.8 billion tons (37 billion metric tons). Sixty years ago, the world spewed only 9.2 billion tons (8.3 billion metric tons).

Global Warming

Climate Change Is Destroying World Wonders

From the Everglades in the US to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, climate change is destroying the many of the greatest wonders of the natural world.

A new report on Monday from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reveals that the number of natural world heritage sites being damaged and at risk from global warming has almost doubled to 62 in the past three years.

Those at high risk include iconic places from the Galapagos Islands to the central Amazon and less well known but equally vibrant and unique sites such as the karst caves of Hungary and Slovakia and the monarch butterfly reserves in Mexico.

Coral reefs are particularly badly affected by rising ocean temperatures, from the Seychelles to Belize, where the northern hemisphere’s biggest reef is situated. Global heating is also causing mountain glaciers to rapidly shrink, from Kilimanjaro in Kenya to the Rocky Mountains in Canada and the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch – home to the largest Alpine glacier.

Other ecosystems being damaged are wetlands, such as the Everglades, where sea level is rising as the ocean warms and salt water is intruding. In the Sundarbans mangrove forest on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal, two islands have already been submerged and a dozen more are threatened. Fiercer storms are also increasing the risk of devastation.

Rising numbers of wildfires are damaging the beautiful Fynbos flowerscapes in the Cape region of South Africa and the Monarch butterfly site in Mexico. Elsewhere, warming is melting the permafrost in the newly declared Qinghai Hoh Xil heritage site, which is at 4,500m altitude in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.

Australia is especially exposed as it has 10 natural heritage sites where climate change damage is rated as high or very high risk, from its Gondwana rainforests to Shark Bay in western Australia and islands such as Fraser and Macquarie.

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Global Warming

Ozone Hole Is Smallest Since 1988

Higher temperatures over Antarctica this year shrank the hole in the ozone layer to the smallest it’s been since 1988.

The ozone hole is a depletion of (O3) in the stratosphere above Antarctica. The three-oxygen molecule is toxic at ground level, but high in the atmosphere, it deflects dangerous ultraviolet rays from reaching Earth’s surface.

This year on Sept. 11, NASA measured the maximum extent of the hole at 7.6 million square miles (19.6 million square kilometers), 2.5 times the size of the United States.

That was smaller than in 2016, when the maximum extent was 8.9 million square miles (22.2 million square km), also a below-average size. According to NASA, the average maximum extent of the ozone hole since 1991 has hovered at about 10 million square miles (25.8 million square km).

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Global Warming

Massive US Government Report Says Climate Is Warming And Humans Are The Cause

It is “extremely likely” that human activities are the “dominant cause” of global warming, according to the most comprehensive study ever of climate science by U.S. government researchers.

The climate report notes that the past 115 years are “the warmest in the history of modern civilization.” The global average temperature has increased by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over that period. Greenhouse gases from industry and agriculture are by far the biggest contributor to warming.

The findings contradict statements by President Trump and many of his Cabinet members, who have openly questioned the role humans play in changing the climate.

The report states that the global climate will continue to warm. How much, it says, “will depend primarily on the amount of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) emitted globally.” Without major reductions in emissions, it says, the increase in annual average global temperature could reach 9 degrees Fahrenheit relative to pre-industrial times. Efforts to reduce emissions, it says, would slow the rate of warming.

Global Warming

UN Warns on Climate Change

Greenhouse gas emissions are on course to be about 30 percent above the 2030 global target, but there are signs of a move away from fossil fuels that not even U.S. President Donald Trump can stop, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

An annual U.N. audit of progress towards that goal showed emissions are likely to be 53.0-55.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2030, far above the 42 billion tonne threshold for averting the 2 degree rise.

But U.N. Environment chief Erik Solheim hailed signs of progress, with an apparent three-year plateau in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, cement production and other industrial processes, largely due to slower growth in coal use in China and the United States.

“We are at a watershed moment where we have stopped the rise in CO2 emissions, there is every reason to believe we can bring them down, and we see great news coming from all over the world every day,” Solheim said.

Global Warming

Pollution Fuelling Climate Change

Climate change is already affecting the health of populations around the world, but things are set to get worse if adequate changes aren’t made, according to an international consortium of climate experts.

Fueling the impact is the fact that more than 2,100 cities globally exceed recommended levels of atmospheric particulate matter — particles emitted when fuels, such as coal or diesel, are burned and are small enough to get into the lungs — says a report published Monday in the medical journal The Lancet. In the UK alone, 44 cities exceeded levels recommended by the World Health Organization.

More than 803,000 deaths across 21 Asian countries in 2015 were attributable to pollution from coal power, transport and the use of fossil fuels at home, the report states.

Global Warming

Record surge in atmospheric CO2 seen in 2016

Concentrations of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Last year’s increase was 50% higher than the average of the past 10 years.

Researchers say a combination of human activities and the El Niño weather phenomenon drove CO2 to a level not seen in 800,000 years. Scientists say this risks making global temperature targets largely unattainable.

This year’s greenhouse gas bulletin produced by the WMO, is based on measurements taken in 51 countries. Research stations dotted around the globe measure concentrations of warming gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

The figures published by the WMO are what’s left in the atmosphere after significant amounts are absorbed by the Earth’s “sinks”, which include the oceans and the biosphere. 2016 saw average concentrations of CO2 hit 403.3 parts per million, up from 400ppm in 2015.

“It is the largest increase we have ever seen in the 30 years we have had this network,” Dr Oksana Tarasova, chief of WMO’s global atmosphere watch programme.

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Global Warming

Frost Season Arriving Later Each Year – USA

Across the United States, the year’s first freeze has been arriving further and further into the calendar, according to more than a century of measurements from weather stations nationwide.

The trend of ever later first freezes appears to have started around 1980, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data from 700 weather stations across the U.S. going back to 1895 compiled by Ken Kunkel, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

To look for nationwide trends, Kunkel compared the first freeze from each of the 700 stations to the station’s average for the 20th century. Some parts of the country experience earlier or later freezes every year, but on average freezes are coming later.

The average first freeze over the past 10 years, from 2007 to 2016, is a week later than the average from 1971 to 1980, which is before Kunkel said the trend became noticeable.

Overall the United States freeze season of 2016 was more than a month shorter than the freeze season of 1916. It was most extreme in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon’s freeze season was 61 days – two months – shorter than normal.

A shorter freeze season means a longer growing season and less money spent on heat. But it also hurts some plants that require a certain amount of chill, such as Georgia peaches, said Theresa Crimmins, a University of Arizona ecologist. Crimmins is assistant director of the National Phenology Network . Phenology is the study of the seasons and how plants and animals adapt to timing changes.

Pests that attack trees and spread disease aren’t being killed off as early as they normally would be, Crimmins said.

In New England, many trees aren’t changing colors as vibrantly as they normally do or used to because some take cues for when to turn from temperature, said Boston University biology professor Richard Primack.

Clusters of late-emerging monarch butterflies are being found far further north than normal for this time of year and are unlikely to survive their migration to Mexico.

Global Warming

Scientists Find Major Mistake in Water Temperature Readings – Study

Global warming might be far worse than we thought, according to a new study.

The research challenges the ways that researchers have worked out sea temperatures until now, meaning that they may be increasing quicker than previously suggested.

The methodology widely used to understand sea temperatures in the scientific community may be based on a mistake, the new study suggests, and so our understanding of climate change might be fundamentally flawed.

The new research suggests that the oceans hundreds of millions of years ago were much cooler than we thought. If true, that means that the global warming we are currently undergoing is unparallelled within the last 100 million years, and far worse than we had previously calculated.

Until now, scientists believed that the temperature of the ocean depths and the surface of the polar ocean 100 million years ago were about 15 degrees warmer than they are today. But they might in fact have stayed relatively stable – making the warming we’re currently undergoing far more alarming.

The researchers believe that scientists have been overlooking crucial processes when they calculated the temperature of the seas millions of years ago. In so doing, they may have been mistakenly thinking that they were warmer than they actually are.

Until now, scientists have calculated the temperature of the ancient seas by looking at foraminifera, the fossils of tiny marine organisms found in the sediment on the ocean floor. Those form small shells and take on more or less of an oxygen isotope depending on how warm the water is, so by looking at the oxygen content they can estimate the temperature when those fossils were around.

That working led scientists to believe that the temperature of the seas had fallen by 15 degrees over the last 100 million years.

BP and Shell planning for catastrophic 5°C global warming

Oil giants Shell and BP are planning for global temperatures to rise as much as 5°C by the middle of the century. The level is more than double the upper limit committed to by most countries in the world under the Paris Climate Agreement, which both companies publicly support.

The discrepancy demonstrates that the companies are keeping shareholders in the dark about the risks posed to their businesses by climate change, according to two new reports published by investment campaign group Share Action. Many climate scientists say that a temperature rise of 5°C would be catastrophic for the planet.

ShareAction claims that the companies’ actions put the value of millions of people’s pensions at risk. Two years after BP and Shell shareholders voted resoundingly in favour of forcing the companies to make detailed disclosures about climate risks, the companies have made unconvincing steps forward, according to the reports.

Neither company sets targets to reduce emissions and BP’s total investment in renewable and clean technologies has actually shrunk since 2005, the reports said. That’s despite the company’s public-facing image of being “beyond petroleum”.

Both companies assess the resilience of their businesses against climate models in which temperatures warm by between 3°C and 5°C.

Global Warming

Carbon Emissions Pause

The world’s carbon dioxide emissions remain stalled for a third consecutive year, with both the United States and Russia decreasing their output by 2 percent in 2016. Japan cut its CO2 emissions by 1 percent, while those produced by Europe and China held steady. India’s emissions increased by 5 percent.

Despite the overall pause in the growth of the world’s most pervasive greenhouse gas pollution, emissions of methane and nitrous oxide continued to increase. Methane can trap 30 times more heat in the atmosphere than CO2, while nitrous oxide traps 300 times more.

Global Warming

Cost of Global Warming Related Disasters – USA

A non-partisan federal watchdog says climate change is already costing U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars each year, with those costs expected to rise. The graphic below shows the billion dollar eSlide1 7vents that the U.S. has experienced this year alone.

Arctic sea ice may be declining faster than expected -study

Arctic sea ice may be thinning faster than predicted because salty snow on the surface of the ice skews the accuracy of satellite measurements, a new study from the University of Calgary said on Tuesday.

The report from the Canadian university’s Cryosphere Climate Research Group published in the academic journal Geophysical Research Letters found satellite estimates for the thickness of seasonal sea ice have been overestimated by up to 25 percent.

That means the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free much sooner than some scientific predictions, which forecast sea ice will first disappear completely during summer months between 2040 and 2050, according to lead author Vishnu Nandan.

Ice-free summers in the Arctic Ocean would impact global weather patterns by increasing the magnitude and frequency of major storms, and alter the Arctic marine ecosystem, making it harder for animals like polar bears to hunt.

Microwave measurements from satellites don’t penetrate the salty snow very well, so the satellite is not measuring the proper sea ice freeboard and the satellite readings overestimate the thickness of the ice.

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Global Warming

Scientists Are Watching China’s Glaciers Disappear

Xinjiang, a land of mountains, forests and deserts, is four times the size of California and is home to 20,000 glaciers — nearly half of all the glaciers in China. Since the 1950s, all of Xinjiang’s glaciers have retreated by between 21 percent to 27 percent.

Scientists are the only people allowed here. The government has banned tourism on the glacier and shut down factories in the town below, laying off 7,000 workers to try to lessen the impact of pollution. But local sources of pollution account for just 30 percent of the damage to glaciers, says Li. The other 70 percent is caused by global carbon emissions that have warmed the entire planet.

At the rate global temperatures are rising, some 55 percent of all the glaciers in Xinjiang — nearly 11,000 — will be gone within 50 years.

The Tianshan No. 1 glacier below is melting fast, receding by at least 30 feet each year. Scientists warn that the glacier — the source of the Urumqi River, which more than 4 million people depend on — may soon disappear.

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