Global Warming

First ship crosses Arctic in winter without an icebreaker

A ship has made a winter crossing of the Arctic without an icebreaker for the first time during the coldest period of winter as global warming causes the region’s ice sheets to melt.

The tanker, containing liquefied natural gas, is the first commercial vessel to make such a crossing alone during the winter months.

The voyage is a significant moment in the story of climate change in the Arctic and will be seized on by those with concerns about thinning polar ice and its implications for the environment.

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Global Warming

Fiji – Rising Waters

In Fiji, villages need to move due to climate change.

The headman of Vunidogoloa village was born here in 1960 on a river estuary in Natewa Bay, on Fiji’s second-largest island, Vanua Levu.

Today, all that remains of his childhood home is the concrete bathroom foundation and three wooden stumps sticking out of the dark, muddy sand. The beach is just a few metres wide, precariously situated between a grassy elevation leading to the main part of the old village and the bay.

By 2006, regular flooding, soil erosion and the unabated rise of water surrounding their community forced the villagers to ask the Fijian government for help.

In January 2014, Vunidogoloa moved two kilometres inland, becoming the first village in Fiji to relocate because of the effects of climate change.

For much of the world, climate change is a catastrophe unfolding in slow motion, with consequences that can still seemingly be ignored.

But in island nations across the Pacific, climate change has well and truly arrived and is already posing an existential threat to communities.

Rising sea levels have swallowed up five of the Solomon Islands since the mid-20th century.

For Kiribati, a small island nation made up of coral atolls, rising waters pose a threat so dire that in 2014 the government purchased a 20-square-kilometre piece of land in Fiji, to be used to re-settle climate refugees.

Fiji itself has recorded a six-millimetre sea level increase each year since 1993.

Global Warming

Warming is accelerating sea level rise as Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melt

Melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are speeding up the already fast pace of sea level rise, new satellite research shows.

At the current rate, the world’s oceans on average will be at least 2 feet (61 cm) higher by the end of the century compared to today, according to researchers who published in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

Sea level rise is caused by warming of the ocean and melting from glaciers and ice sheets. The research, based on 25 years of satellite data, shows that pace has quickened, mainly from the melting of massive ice sheets.

Of the 3 inches (7.5 cm) of sea level rise in the past quarter century, about 55 percent is from warmer water expanding, and the rest is from melting ice.

But the process is accelerating, and more than three-quarters of that acceleration since 1993 is due to melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, the study shows.

Like weather and climate, there are two factors in sea level rise: year-to-year small rises and falls that are caused by natural events and larger long-term rising trends that are linked to man-made climate change.

Global sea levels were stable for about 3,000 years until the 20th century when they rose and then accelerated due to global warming caused by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.

Greenland has caused three times more sea level rise than Antarctica so far, but ice melt on the southern continent is responsible for more of the acceleration.

Global Warming

Sun Expected to Dim by 2020

A periodic solar event called a “grand minimum” could overtake the sun perhaps as soon as 2020 and lasting through 2070, resulting in diminished magnetism, infrequent sunspot production and less ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching Earth — all bringing a cooler period to the planet that may span 50 years.

The last grand-minimum event — a disruption of the sun’s 11-year cycle of variable sunspot activity — happened in the mid-17th century. Known as the Maunder Minimum, it occurred between 1645 and 1715, during a longer span of time when parts of the world became so cold that the period was called the Little Ice Age, which lasted from about 1300 to 1850.

But it’s unlikely that we’ll see a return to the extreme cold from centuries ago, researchers reported in a new study. Since the Maunder Minimum, global average temperatures have been on the rise, driven by climate change. Though a new decades-long dip in solar radiation could slow global warming somewhat, it wouldn’t be by much, the researchers’ simulations demonstrated. And by the end of the incoming cooling period, temperatures would have bounced back from the temporary cooldown.

Global Warming

A key part of the Earth’s ozone layer is failing to heal – and Scientists don’t know why

The rescue of the planet’s protective ozone layer has been hailed as one of the great success stories of modern environmental regulation – but on Monday, an international team of 22 scientists raised doubts about whether ozone is actually recovering as expected across much of the world.

“We’ve detected unexpected decreases in the lower part of the stratospheric ozone layer, and the consequence of this result is that it’s offsetting the recovery in ozone that we had expected to see,” said William Ball, a scientist with the Physical Meteorological Observatory in Davos, Switzerland.

In 1987, countries of the world agreed to the Montreal Protocol, a treaty designed to phase out chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, responsible for destroying ozone in the stratosphere. The protocol has worked as intended in reducing these substances, and early healing of the ozone “hole” over Antarctica has been subsequently hailed by scientists.

But the study by Ball and his colleagues – a team of scientists including researchers based in the United States, Britain, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden and Finland – focused instead on the lower latitudes where the vast majority of humans live.

There, the scientists found a relatively small but hard-to-explain decline of ozone in the lower part of the stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere that extends from about six miles to 31 miles above the planet’s surface, since the year 1998. Meanwhile, the upper stratosphere has been recovering.

Environment

A Ticking Time Bomb of Mercury Is Hidden Beneath Earth’s Permafrost

According to a new study published Feb. 5 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, theremay be more than 15 million gallons (58 million liters) of mercury buried in the permafrost of the Northern Hemisphere — roughly twice as much mercury as can be found in the rest of Earth’s soils, ocean and atmosphere combined. And if global temperatures continue to rise, all that mercury could come pouring out.

In geology, permafrost is defined as any soil that has been frozen for more than two years. In the Northern Hemisphere, permafrost accounts for about 8.8 million square miles (22.79 million square kilometers) of land — or roughly 24 percent of exposed Earth, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Over time, naturally occurring compounds in the atmosphere, such as mercury and carbon dioxide, can bind with organic material in the soil and be frozen into permafrost, potentially remaining trapped underground for thousands of years before it thaws.

Using the mercury contents of 13 cores drilled in various sites across the North American permafrost as a springboard, the researchers estimated the total amount of mercury sealed away below North American permafrost to be roughly 793 gigagrams — or more than 15 million gallons.

Global Warming

Climate Change Affecting USA Military Bases

Military leaders are sounding another alarm about the dangers of climate change, saying in a new report that half of U.S. military sites have already been affected by floods, wildfires, droughts and other weather extremes that are exacerbated by rising global temperatures.

Following a request from Congress, the Defense Department studied climate risks to all 3,500 U.S. military sites around the world. It found nearly 800 had been affected by droughts, 350 by extreme temperatures, 225 by storm surge-related flooding and more than 200 by wildfires, among other weather events.

Climate scientists say those types of extreme weather events have already become more common as global temperatures increase. Sea levels are rising, storms are getting more intense, dry regions are getting drier and fire seasons are getting longer, research shows.

The Defense Department’s report released last week says the military “looks at climate through the lens of its mission,” and that “changes in climate affect national security in several ways.”

Global Warming

China to develop ‘Polar Silk Road’

China on Friday outlined its ambitions to develop a “Polar Silk Road” of new Arctic shipping lanes opened up by global warming.

Releasing its first official Arctic policy white paper, China said it would encourage enterprises to build infrastructure and conduct commercial trial voyages, paving the way for Arctic shipping routes. China, despite being a non-Arctic state, is increasingly active in the polar region and became an observer member of the Arctic Council in 2013.

The white paper said China is also eyeing development of oil, gas, mineral resources and other non-fossil energies – such as fishing and tourism – in the region.

Global Warming

Ice-Free Yukon

Unusually warm conditions in northwestern Canada have for a second winter in a row prevented a seasonal “ice bridge” from forming over the Yukon River to connect Dawson City with West Dawson.

During summer, the two sides are connected by a ferry, but in winter, residents have to wait for the water to freeze over to make the crossing. The ice bridge has historically been open to traffic by mid-December.

Crews worked for a week to create an “ice Band-Aid” by spraying a cold mist to cap a 300-foot-wide stretch of the river with ice. But the project proved impractical when daytime temperatures didn’t stay below freezing.

The typical Dawson high temperature for January is about minus 8 Fahrenheit.

Global Warming

2017 Continues Global Warming Trend – NASA

The numbers are in, and NASA has found that 2017 did not set a record for the warmest year on record, but that is far from good news. Instead, it was the second warmest, right after current record holder 2016, an indication that global temperatures are showing no signs of getting better and in fact are almost certainly going to continue to get worse.

The average temperature of the Earth in 2017 was 1.62 degrees warmer than the mean temperature between 1951 and 1990, based on research by scientists at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which is located in New York. The past year was the second warmest since 1880, when we began taking global estimates, despite the fact that there were colder than average temperatures reported in some parts of the globe that climate change skeptics used to discredit the issue of global warming.

Warming was the worst in the Arctic regions, where humans do not live, and that has resulted in a tremendous loss of sea ice in 2017. NASA used measurements from more than 6,000 weather stations and ship observations across the globe. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration found that 2017 was the third warmest on record in their own independent estimation.

Global Warming

Climate Survival

The continued existence of the human species is now threatened more by extreme weather in a changing climate than by weapons of mass destruction, according to a global survey by the World Economic Forum.

It was released just prior to the foundation’s annual meeting of global leaders in Davos, Switzerland.

The survey of nearly 1,000 international experts and decision makers reveals that in terms of likelihood and impact, extreme weather around the world is listed as the top concern.

The survey points to how catastrophic hurricane damage and wildfires last year demonstrate that environmental events can result in devastation of crucial infrastructure and food supplies.

Global Warming

Deadly ocean heatwaves

A heatwave that struck a quarter of the world’s oceans in 2016 was made far more likely by climate change, according to a new study.

Nicknamed “the blob” when it appeared in the eastern Pacific, the mass of warm water was linked with the deaths of marine animals and the devastation of ecosystems.

Ocean water naturally goes through phases of higher temperatures – notably the event known as El Niño, which leads to periods of warmer water in the Pacific Ocean.

Climate change is also thought to contribute to some of this temperature fluctuation, but it can be difficult establishing the exact contribution it makes.

However, a team of Australian scientists has concluded the heatwave of 2016 was influenced by anthropogenic – that is, human-induced – climate change.

The research focuses on warming around northern Australia, which resulted in mass coral bleaching, and the northern Pacific Ocean between Alaska and Russia.

Extreme temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska have been linked with the deaths of thousands of seabirds and whales during this period.

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Global Warming

The Oceans are Suffocating

Ocean “dead zones” — regions of the sea where oxygen is severely or entirely depleted and most forms of life can’t survive — are becoming more numerous, and scientists warn that they will continue to increase unless we curb the factors driving global climate change, which is fueling this alarming shift in ocean chemistry.

Even outside these , rising global temperatures and influxes of nutrient pollution are throttling oxygen levels in the open ocean and in coastal areas, threatening communities of sea life around the world.

While water molecules contain oxygen atoms, liquid water must also contain dissolved oxygen in order for fish and other organisms to breathe. Oxygen-deprived dead zones were first identified in estuaries — bodies of water where rivers flow into the sea — in the mid-19th century, and their oxygen depletion was linked to the presence of urban sewage in the water.

Since then, growth of industrial and agricultural activity has disrupted the ocean’s chemical balance, with regions in many areas worldwide becoming infused with pollutants and nutrients that starved the water of oxygen. Meanwhile, rising global temperatures hamper oxygen’s solubility in water and restrict its distribution into the deeper ocean. At the same time, some forms of marine life have grown increasingly stressed due to warmer and , which increases their oxygen requirements.

As oxygen levels in water drop, the behavior and growth of fish and other ocean organisms is affected — a lack of oxygen can make them more susceptible to disease, or make it more difficult to reproduce. In extreme cases, they can suffocate. Most larger forms of sea life either die or abandon oxygen-starved waters, invading nearby ecosystems where they may upset the balance of life, disrupt food webs or increase their vulnerability to predators.

Global Warming

Global Warming Is Putting The Ocean’s Phytoplankton In Danger

Phytoplankton are an essential part of the marine food chain. But according to new research, their numbers are dwindling.

Phytoplankton is one of the planet’s most valuable resources. They form the basis of the marine food chain and provide half the ocean’s oxygen (while trees, shrubs, and grasses provide the other half). Hurricanes churn the ocean, bringing up nutrients like nitrogen, phosphate, and iron from the depths of the ocean and introducing them to the surface levels where plankton live. In turn, the phytoplankton bloom and spread, and marine life grows with it.

As the climate warms, so will the oceans—bad news for phytoplankton, since warm waters contain less oxygen, and therefore less phytoplankton, than cooler areas. Already, gradually warming ocean waters have killed off phytoplankton globally by a staggering 40 percent since 1950.

Because phytoplankton migration would cause marine life to move with it (or die, should organisms fail to adapt quickly enough to the change in their environment), that has the potential to seriously affect fisheries and other economies in the coastal areas, including food security.

Global Warming

Spring foliage appearing early in the Alps

Because of global warming, trees in the Alps are coming into leaf earlier than they used to – which could have negative consequences for forest ecosystems.

In the early 1960s, spring came to the mountains about five weeks after arriving in the lowlands – as observed by the appearance of leaves on the trees. Today, that delay is only about three weeks, says the Swiss Federal Research Station for Forest, Snow and Landscape in a report published on Monday.

Researchers came to this conclusion after assessing more than 20,000 observations recorded by volunteers and collected over the past six decades by MeteoSwiss, the Federal Office for Meteorology and Climatology. The data set pertains to beech, spruce, larch and walnut trees.

Premature leaf and needle development is even more pronounced at higher altitudes, meaning that those trees sprout foliage much faster after a warm winter.

The researchers explain the phenomenon in part by how long the trees are exposed to temperatures of 0-8°C (32-46°F) at the end of winter. The trees need this frost-free cold phase so that the buds can awake from their hibernation and develop normally in spring.

According to the study, this in turn has consequences for the structure and functioning of forest ecosystems, especially the interactions between plants and animals.

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