Global Warming

The Larsen C Iceberg Is Already Cracking Up

The trillion-ton iceberg that broke off Antarctica last week will not go quietly into the night. New satellite imagery reveals that the iceberg, dubbed A68, is already shifting shape along with the remaining Larsen C ice shelf itself.

The iceberg has traveled about 1.5 miles from the ice shelf it was formerly attached to. A piece of ice the size of Delaware moving across the choppy waters of the Weddell Sea was bound to experience an almost unbearable amount of stress. And on Tuesday, the European Space Agency showed the iceberg has begun to crack up.

Satellite images show that the massive iceberg is splintering and a constellation of smaller icebergs are surrounding it. The vagaries of ocean currents and buoyancy of ice will dictate how long the pack of ‘bergs travels together. It’s possible the smaller chunks could be the first drift north toward warmer waters in the South Atlantic where they would meet their likely demise.

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Wildlife

Climate change threatening survival of African wild dogs

Climate change is threatening the survival of African wild dogs.

Rising temperatures have cut the endangered animals’ hunting time‚ and pups’ survival rate is plunging as a result.

The warning‚ by a team of researchers led by Rosie Woodroffe of the Zoological Society of London‚ comes soon after scientists suggested a “biological annihilation” of wildlife means Earth’s sixth mass extinction is under way.

Woodroffe’s paper‚ published in the Journal of Animal Ecology‚ is one of the first to show the impact of global warming on wildlife thought to be well adapted to heat.

Only 6‚600 African wild dogs survive in the wild‚ and the 1‚400 adults leave their pups in dens when they set off on early morning and late evening hunts‚ avoiding the worst heat of the day.

The scientists found rising temperatures in Kenya‚ Zimbabwe and Botswana cut the time the dogs were active‚ reducing the amount of meat they were able to regurgitate into the mouths’ of their young‚ thereby endangering the survival of pups.

In Botswana‚ the average number of pups that reached their first birthday fell by 35% from 5.1 per litter between 1989-2000 to 3.3 between 2001-2012‚ with temperatures rising 1.1C in the same period. Yearlings fell by 31% in Kenya and 14% in Zimbabwe.

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Global Warming

Giant Iceberg Breaks off Antarctica

One of the biggest icebergs on record has broken away from Antarctica, scientists said on Wednesday, creating an extra hazard for ships around the continent as it breaks up.

The one trillion tonne iceberg, measuring 5,800 square km, calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica sometime between July 10 and 12, said scientists at the University of Swansea and the British Antarctic Survey.

The iceberg has been close to breaking off for a few months. Throughout the Antarctic winter, scientists monitored the progress of the rift in the ice shelf using the European Space Agency satellites.

The iceberg, which is likely to be named A68, was already floating before it broke away so there is no immediate impact on sea levels, but the calving has left the Larsen C ice shelf reduced in area by more than 12 percent.

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Environment

Sixth mass extinction

Many scientists say it’s abundantly clear that Earth is entering its sixth mass-extinction event, meaning three-quarters of all species could disappear in the coming centuries.

But that’s not even the full picture of the “biological annihilation” people are inflicting on the natural world, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Gerardo Ceballos, an ecology professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and his co-authors, including well-known Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich, cite striking new evidence that populations of species we thought were common are suffering in unseen ways.

Their key findings: Nearly one-third of the 27,600 land-based mammal, bird, amphibian and reptile species studied are shrinking in terms of their numbers and territorial range. The researchers called that an “extremely high degree of population decay.”

The scientists also looked at a well-studied group of 177 mammal species and found that all of them had lost at least 30% of their territory between 1900 and 2015; more than 40% of those species “experienced severe population declines,” meaning they lost at least 80% of their geographic range during that time.

Looking at the extinction crisis not only in terms of species that are on the brink but also those whose populations and ranges are shrinking helps show that “Earth’s sixth mass extinction is more severe” than previously thought, the authors write. They say a major extinction event is “ongoing.”

Global Warming

Global Warming May Cause Bees to Mistime Spring Emergence, Missing Their Food Supply

Scientists have found that global warming may cause temporal mismatches between bees and the plant species on which they depend for food.

German researchers from the University of Würzburg, reporting in the Journal of Animal Biology, investigated three different species of bees that hatch in the spring. They set up 36 flight cages, which allowed them to time the emergence of the bees so it was simultaneous with the flowering of plants in the cage or occurred three or six days prior to flowering. The study showed that bees that hatched prior to flowering suffered from lower rates of reproduction, were less active, and faced greater risk from predators and parasites.

“Already a minor temporal mismatch of three or six days is enough to harm the bees,” says Mariela Schenk, the study’s author.

The decline of bee species, adds ecologist Andrea Holzschuh, who led the study, would also reduce plant pollination in general, which is widely viewed as a threat to global agriculture.

Global Warming

Oozing Methane Blasts Holes in Siberian Tundra

Escaping methane gas has blown at least two new holes in the Siberian tundra in the past few months, according to eyewitness accounts to the Siberian Times and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Reindeer herders northwest of the village of Seyakha in Siberia’s far north reported seeing an eruption of fire and smoke on the morning of June 28 — an event caught on seismic sensors at 11 a.m. local time, according to The Siberian Times. Scientists visiting the site photographed a fresh crater blown into the banks of a river.

Researchers also discovered a second, previously unknown crater in the Tyumen region of Siberia this month.

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Global Warming

Stephen Hawking: Trump Pushing Earth’s Climate ‘Over The Brink’

The world’s best-known living physicist, Stephen Hawking, says that President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate change accord could lead humanity to a tipping point, “turning the Earth into Venus.”

“We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible,” Hawking told the BBC. “Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of 250 degrees, and raining sulphuric acid.”

Hawking, who is best known for his discoveries about black holes, called climate change “one of the great dangers we face, and it’s one we can prevent if we act now.

“By denying the evidence for climate change, and pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Donald Trump will cause avoidable environmental damage to our beautiful planet, endangering the natural world, for us and our children,” Hawking told the BBC.

Global Warming

Ozone Killer

The slow healing of Earth’s ozone hole is being held back by the use of an unregulated chemical that continues to damage the UV protection layer 30 years after most ozone-destroying compounds were banned.

Scientists at the University of Lancaster say atmospheric levels of dichloromethane, a short-lived, ozone-depleting substance used in paint strippers, are on the rise. It isn’t covered under the 1987 Montreal Protocol.

Global Warming

A warming Antarctica will create new animal habitats.

As climate change continues to cause massive melting and ice loss in Antarctica, new habitats may begin to open up for wildlife across the thawing continent, scientists reported Wednesday. But while that may sound like a boon for plants, microbes, birds and other organisms, they caution that this is not necessarily a good thing for the fragile Antarctic ecosystem.

As more ice-free space opens up across the continent, previously isolated species may begin to spread out and come in contact with each other. And as they’re increasingly forced to compete for resources, some organisms may emerge dominant — and others may start to disappear, write a team of researchers in a new study, just published in the journal Nature.

While Antarctica is a largely frozen continent, isolated ice-free areas — including exposed mountaintops, cliffs, valleys and islands — are already scattered across the region and may range in size from less than a square mile to hundreds of square miles. They may be separated by anywhere from a few feet to dozens or hundreds of miles.

Secluded as they may be in some cases, these areas can be home to various species of vegetation, microbes, worms or insects and other small organisms, and may also serve as breeding grounds for animals like seals and seabirds. These species tend to be highly specialized for the extreme conditions in which they live. Some of them may be dormant throughout much of the year. Others may have developed specific adaptations that allow them to survive in conditions with high winds, little water or extreme low temperatures.

Additionally, some species are found only in very specific areas — in fact, a few have only been recorded in a single ice-free zone. Others may be more widespread across the continent, but may have developed different adaptations in different areas. In general, Antarctica is home to many diverse and fragile communities that may be highly susceptible to environmental change.

Global Warming

Scientists find evidence of coral bleaching at iconic Heart Reef

Scientists claim they have found evidence of coral bleaching on one of the Great Barrier Reef’s most iconic landmarks, Heart Reef in the Whitsundays. They say it’s been caused by an extreme heatwave around the time of Cyclone Debbie.

The devastating storm itself missed the heart-shaped reef but it smashed other significant coral systems nearby. Just 18km away at Baits Reef, entire sections have been decimated. It’s been reduced to rubble, with barely any signs of life.

Experts say the reef is resilient and will bounce back, but it does take years and the more cyclones we have, the more vulnerable our global treasure becomes.

Global Warming

Melting Greenland ice now source of 25% of sea level rise

Ocean levels rose 50 percent faster in 2014 than in 1993, with meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet now supplying 25 percent of total sea level increase compared with just 5 percent 20 years earlier, researchers reported Monday.

The findings add to growing concern among scientists that the global watermark is climbing more rapidly than forecast only a few years ago, with potentially devastating consequences.

Hundreds of millions of people around the world live in low-lying deltas that are vulnerable, especially when rising seas are combined with land sinking due to depleted water tables, or a lack of ground-forming silt held back by dams.

Major coastal cities are also threatened, while some small island states are already laying plans for the day their drowning nations will no longer be livable.

Greenland alone contains enough frozen water to lift oceans by about 7 meters (23 feet), though experts disagree on the global warming threshold for irreversible melting, and how long that would take once set in motion.

Overall, the pace of global average sea level rise went up from about 2.2 mm a year in 1993, to 3.3 mm a year two decades later.

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Global Warming

Coastal Louisiana Is Sinking Faster Than Expected

The rich wetlands of southern Louisiana are sinking faster than previously thought, new data reveals, worsening a decades-long ecological disaster that authorities are struggling to reverse.

“What previous studies have called the worst case is the case that right now is the average,” said Jaap Nienhuis, a geologist at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Nienhuis and his colleagues at Tulane have found the coast is subsiding on average about 9 mm (1/3 inch) a year. Some areas, such as those near the mouth of the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya River delta to the west, are settling closer to 12 mm a year.

Periodic flooding of the Mississippi River used to dump fresh soil into those marshes, bolstering the wetlands. But the levees that now prevent those floods keep that soil straitjacketed in the river. The area is also home to a major oil and natural gas industry, and canals cut through the marshes allowed salt water to kill grasses that held the land in place.

As a result, coastal Louisiana has been losing a roughly Manhattan-sized chunk every year to a combination of sea-level rise, erosion, and subsidence. That threatens a rich ecosystem that provides more than 1 billion pounds of seafood a year and provides a buffer when hurricanes spin onto shore from the Gulf of Mexico.

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Global Warming

Rising Temperature and Acidity Threaten Mediterranean

The temperature and acidity in the Mediterranean Sea are rising, and researchers are worried it will lead to extinction of native species.

Villefranche-sur-Mer oceanographic laboratory in the south of France released a study that said the ocean’s acidity has been rising on average of 7 percent a year between 2007 and 2015 and the water temperature rose 0.7 percent over the same period.

These rates are higher than any ocean in the world, researchers said.

National Scientific Research Centre (CNRS) director of research, Jean-Pierre Gattuso said the change in temperatures and acidity has already changed the ecology of the ocean.

“There are species that come from the southern coasts of the Mediterranean, so we end up seeing a Mediterranean that is becoming almost subtropical,” he said.

And he’s worried that native species are going to die out, like the posidonia, a seagrass native to the Mediterranean that provides oxygen to fish.

Other species that could face extinction in the ocean are oysters, small molluscs, coral, and mussels.

Global Warming

Climate imperils Ethiopia’s coffee

Climate change could wipe out more than half of Ethiopia’s coffee production unless farmers move to higher ground, scientists warned Monday.

Climbing temperatures and dwindling rainfall have already degraded prime growing areas, such as the Zege Peninsula, they reported in the journal Nature Plants.

If global warming continues unabated, up to 60 percent of land currently used to grow coffee beans will be unsuitable for production by the last three decades of the century.

Home of the prized Coffea arabica plant, Ethiopia is the world’s fifth biggest producer of beans, after Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia and Indonesia, according to the International Coffee Organization.

Over the last 50 years, however, average temperatures across the country have risen by about 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), and rainfall in key regions has become spotty. Coffee areas that once flourished are in decline.

Global Warming

Wetter Tropics

NASA says Earth’s tropical climates are likely to experience more rainfall than predicted as the planet continues to warm, even as the region’s high clouds thin out in the decades ahead.

In a counterintuitive process of heating and cooling, less high cloudiness means the air above the tropical surface would actually cool without those clouds capping in the heat below.

Researchers say this would alter Earth’s “energy budget” and create more tropical rainfall. Most climate models have failed to factor in this process, thus underestimating future tropical rainfall.