Global Warming

Global sea levels could rise faster than previously predicted

Global sea levels could rise by two metres (6.5 feet) and displace tens of millions of people by the end of the century, according to new projections that double the UN’s benchmark estimates.

The vast ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica contain enough frozen water to lift the world’s oceans dozens of metres. The expansion of water as oceans warm also contributes to sea level rise. But predicting the rates at which they will melt as the planet heats is notoriously tricky.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said its 2013 Fifth Assessment Report that under current emissions trajectories — a “business-as-usual” scenario known as RCP8.5 — would likely rise by up to one metre by 2100.

That prediction has since been viewed as conservative, as the levels of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise year on year, and satellites showing accelerated rates of melt-off from massive ice sheets atop Antarctica and Greenland.

A group of the world’s leading ice scientists this week released a expert judgement on the situation, drawing on their own experience and observations. While there was still a significant margin of error, they found it “plausible” that under the business-as-usual emissions scenario, sea-level rises could exceed two metres by 2100.

The authors said the area of land lost to the ocean could be equivalent to that of France, Germany, Spain and Britain combined and would displace more than 180 million people.

20190115 Antartica AFP

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Global Warming

Polar Sea Ice Levels

The sea ice in the Chukchi Sea to the north of Alaska and far eastern Siberia was at the lowest extent on record for early May, covering an area more typical of early June, according to data from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Sea ice over the Arctic region as a whole on May 14 was at the second-lowest extent since satellite records began in 1979, and slightly above the 2016 record low.

The extent of the sea ice around Antarctica remained at the lowest on record.

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Global Warming

Australian islanders file landmark climate change complaint

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A group of indigenous people from low-lying islands off the coast of Australia on Monday lodged an unprecedented complaint against the country’s government, accusing it of insufficient action on climate change.

The eight Torres Strait Islanders filed the complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Committee, claiming that rising sea levels were having a devastating effect on their communities.

Around 4,500 people live on the Torres Strait Islands, a group of more than 270 islands lying between the north coast of Australia and Papua New Guinea. The complainants say their homes, burial grounds and cultural sites could disappear underwater in their lifetimes.

Global Warming Is Fueling Growth Spurts in Some of China’s Oldest Trees

Climate change is causing old trees in northern China’s permafrost forests to grow faster, likely thanks to warmer soil temperatures, according to recent research. Older larch trees grew more from 2005 to 2014 than in the preceding 40 years. And the oldest trees, often 400-plus years, grew more rapidly than at any time in the past three centuries.

But scientists warn that these growth spurts are a temporary boon: As the region’s permafrost continues to melt, the soil will become wetter and soggier, almost wetland-like. Larch trees are not able to survive in that type of landscape, which will cause the entire ecosystem to shift.

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Global Warming

CO2 in the atmosphere exceeds 415 parts per million

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For the first time in human history carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has topped 415 parts per million, reaching 415.26 parts per million, according to sensors at the Mauna Loa Observatory, a research outpost of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency on 11 May 2019.

The increasing proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is important because of its heat absorbing properties. The land and seas on the planet absorb and emit heat and that heat is trapped in carbon dioxide molecules. The NOAA likens CO2 to leaving bricks in a fireplace, that still emit heat after a fire goes out.

Ocean Acidification

Oceans have been such comfortable homes to approximately 2.2 million species since hundreds of thousands of years. Thanks to overfishing, warming, pollution, plastics and other human pressures, now they are turning inhospitable. Apart from all these, there is another major threat to the marine life called the ‘ocean acidification’. It refers to the decreasing pH of ocean water due to the conversion of absorbed CO2 into carbonic acid.

The first victims of ocean acidification are the marine calcifying organisms with shells. Coral reefs, which cradle almost a quarter of marine biodiversity, are also severely affected by acidification. These reefs are formed by the accumulation of calcium carbonate skeletons secreted by the colonies of corals over time over which algae and protozoans grow, imparting beautiful colours to the coral reefs. Due to increased acidification and other reasons, these symbiotic organisms are expelled by the corals, revealing their white calcium carbonate skeleton underneath.

Global Warming

Climate Change – The Basics

The term, climate change is used to describe a long-term change in global temperatures and weather patterns.

The earth’s temperature has changed drastically in its 4.5 billion year history, from the Huronian Ice Age that covered vast portions of the planet in ice for nearly 300 million years, to a period about 50 million years ago, when scientists believe that palm trees and crocodiles were native above the Arctic Circle.

Today, climate change is commonly used as a term to describe the effects of global warming that have occurred as a result of human activity following the industrial revolution in the 18th century.

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Earth’s atmosphere is full of gases. Some gases, including nitrogen and oxygen — that together accounts for 99% of the gas in the atmosphere do not absorb heat from the sun, allowing it to reflect back into space from the Earth’s surface.

Other gases, known as greenhouse gases — including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — absorb heat and make up roughly 0.1% of the atmosphere. When these gases absorb solar energy, they radiate it back towards the planet’s surface and to other gas molecules, creating the greenhouse effect.

The greenhouse effect plays an important role in naturally regulating the temperature of our climate. Without it the Earth’s average temperature would -18C. That’s roughly the temperature of a domestic freezer.

Since the industrial revolution the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been increasing as a result of human activities like burning fossil fuels, deforestation and modern farming practices. Which means more greenhouse effect, and more heating.

A 2013 report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN body of climate scientists, found that the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration had risen by 40% since the industrial revolution, resulting in earth’s temperature increasing by 1C.

In 2018, the IPCC released a stark report on the effects of a 1.5C temperature increase. These include more extreme weather conditions, sea-level rising, the destruction of coastal ecosystems, loss of vital species and crops, population displacement and a huge cost to the global economy.

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In 2018, the United Nations warned that without urgent action global temperatures are set to rise above 3C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

At that temperature the outlook begins to look even worse — Entire cities could be swallowed by the rising oceans, species of plants and animals face extinction as their ecological systems fail to adapt to the heat, and hundreds of millions of people could be forced to migrate due to coastal flooding, longer-lasting draughts and depleting crop yields.

Global Warming

U.N. Secretary-General Warns of ‘Total Disaster’ If Global Warming Isn’t Stopped

The United Nations secretary-general said the world must dramatically change the way it fuels factories, vehicles and homes to limit future warming to a level scientists call nearly impossible.

That’s because the alternative “would mean a catastrophic situation for the whole world,” António Guterres told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.

Guterres said he’s about to tour Pacific islands to see how climate change is devastating them as part of his renewed push to fight it. He is summoning world leaders to the U.N. in September to tell them “they need to do much more in order for us to be able to reverse the present trends and to defeat the climate change.”

That means, he said, the world has to change, not in small incremental ways but in big “transformative” ways, into a green economy with electric vehicles and “clean cities.”

Guterres said he will ask leaders to stop subsidizing fossil fuels. Burning coal, oil and gas triggers warming by releasing heat-trapping gases.

He said he wants countries to build no new coal power plants after 2020. He wants them to put a price on the use of carbon. And ultimately he wants to make sure that by 2050 the world is no longer putting more greenhouse gases into the air than nature sucks out.

Global temperatures have already risen about 1.8 degrees (1 degree Celsius) since the industrial age began. The issue is how much more the thermometers will rise.

Global Warming

Shock report about life on Earth: We’re in deep trouble

The United Nations Special Report on Global Warming in 2018 sounded a sharp warning few could disagree with: Earth has a problem. A new UN report on Biodiversity released this week revealed the size of that problem.

In Paris at 13h30 on Monday (6 May 2019), United Nations geographer Eduardo Brondizio outlined how humans are unravelling the fabric of life on Earth. His message: If we don’t act as a species and make major changes to our lifestyle soon, our future is going to be extremely grim.

He wasn’t speculating. In his hand at its delivery was a 1,800-page assessment produced by about 500 top scientists in collaboration with representatives from 130 countries.

The report underlines our dependency on nature and our effect on it. More than 75% of food crops rely on animal pollination. Marine and land ecosystems extract 5.6 gigatons of carbon a year and without them, the planet would fry through global warming. We rely on clean air and water produced by natural processes.

However, since 1900 the abundance of native species has declined by 20% and a further 25% are threatened, with about a million species facing extinction. Half a million of those are insects. This impacts on all human life.

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Our current extractive economic narrative has mapped itself on to the planet’s surface. Three-quarters of the Earth’s land surface was found to have been significantly altered, 66% of the ocean area is experiencing increasing cumulative impacts and more than 85% of wetland areas have been lost.

Humans, say the scientists, are also fast-forwarding biological evolution — so rapidly that effects can be seen within a few years rather than over millennia. Many of these changes are among pathogens that affect our health. The rate of this change, they say, is unprecedented in human history.

The main drivers are changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and invasions of alien species (nearly one-fifth of the Earth’s surface is at risk of plant and animal invasions).

Crop production has increased threefold since 1970 and timber harvest by 45%, but land degradation is reducing productivity, with crops now at risk from pollinator loss, floods and hurricanes.

Globally, local varieties and breeds of even domesticated plants and animals are disappearing, says the report. This loss of diversity, including genetic diversity, poses a serious risk to global food security by undermining the resilience of many agricultural systems to threats such as pests, pathogens and climate change.

The report maps out solutions, but notes that goals for conserving nature and achieving sustainability cannot be met by current trajectories. Because of ongoing rapid declines in biodiversity, ecosystem functions and many of nature’s contributions, goals are unlikely to be met if we continue on our present course.

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Global Warming

Reindeer are eating seaweed to survive climate change

As the planet warms due to climate change, the Arctic winters are seeing longer open water spells and less sea ice. It also now rains more often than snow during this period, something that is directly affecting wildlife like the Svalbard reindeer.

Named after the group of Norwegian islands they’ve lived on for 5,000 years, these 20,000–plus reindeer are now eating seaweed to survive the increasingly warm winters. According to researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Centre for Biodiversity Dynamic, the reindeer are turning to seaweed because the plants they normally eat are becoming harder to get to.

More rain is now falling instead of snow, which causes the snow on the ground to freeze over (also known as “icing”), burying the tundra vegetation under thick ice.

Kelp isn’t as nutritious as the tundra plants the reindeer normally eat. It also seems to be giving the reindeer diarrhea, probably from the salt content. Currently, seaweed is being more or less used as an emergency ration, with the reindeer turning to it only during spells of severe icing. According to the study, the kelp-eating has been happening for over 10 years.

It’s not just the seaweed diet that poses a problem. Unlike the caribou in Alaska, Svalbard reindeer don’t have to live in fear of predators such as wolves or bears. Now, as they spend more time on the shoreline looking for seaweed to eat, they’re left open to attacks from hungry polar bears who can’t find seals to eat, thanks in large part to less sea ice.

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Global Warming

Jakarta is Sinking into the Sea

The president of Indonesia wants to move the country’s capital, Jakarta, to another location off the main island of Java, in part because the city of more than 10 million is sinking into the sea, according to news reports.

The decision is in part due to research finding that parts of Jakarta will be completely submerged in just decades. The surrounding Java Sea is also rising as a result of climate change, though that’s not happening quite as quickly as the land is subsiding. Overcrowding and related traffic congestion — which has meant government ministers needing police escorts to get to meetings on time — also played roles in the decision to relocate the capital.

Global Warming

Alaska’s Excelsior Glacier Is Being Replaced by a Lake 5 Times the Size of Central Park

Seventy years ago, Alaska’s Excelsior Glacier stretched its cold fingers from a vast plain in the state’s southern edge nearly all the way to the North Pacific Ocean. Now, the glacier is separated from the sea by a meltwater lake more than five times the size of New York City’s Central Park.

In a recent blog post on the American Geophysical Union (AGU) website, glaciologist Mauri Pelto of Nichols College in Massachusetts shows how that relatively new lake — now called Big Johnstone Lake — has more than doubled in size over the last 24 years as rising global temperatures force Excelsior Glacier into a hasty retreat. The glacier has lost about 30% of its length in just 24 years.

Even if no more calving ice makes its way into Big Johnston Lake, the glacier will continue to retreat, but probably at a slower pace than the rapid melting observed over the last 25 years. A similar fate has already befallen many neighboring glaciers in Alaska and British Columbia, Pelto wrote, providing yet more examples of how climate change is rapidly redrawing the map of our world.

Global Warming

Fatal Warming

Global warming is wiping out twice as many marine species as land dwellers because they are more sensitive to temperatures and less able to escape the heat, new research finds.

The Rutgers-led study says this could have a major impact on humans who rely on fish and shellfish for food and livelihoods.

“The findings suggest that new conservation efforts will be needed if the ocean is going to continue supporting human well-being, nutrition and economic activity,” said lead researcher Malin Pinsky.

The study says that many land animals can hide from the heat in forests, shaded areas or underground. But this luxury is not available to many sea animals that often live on the edge of dangerously high temperatures.

Global Warming

Rio Grande River Drying Up from Climate Change

For nearly 2,000 miles, the Rio Grande River winds it way from the Rocky Mountains down to the Gulf of Mexico. As one of the country’s longest and most iconic rivers, it provides drinking water and irrigation for more than six million people in three U.S. states.

But climate change is threatening that vital water supply. The Colorado snowpack that melts into the Rio Grande is declining – 25 percent over the last 50 years – and University of New Mexico climatology professor David Gutzler said climate change is threatening to dry it up. He foresees dry spells getting drier, droughts getting more intense and water resources being put under extreme pressure.

Global Warming

Earth Day 2019: 10 amazing places where travelers can see a changing climate

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador – El Nino, a cyclical pattern of Pacific storms caused by warm water, has become stronger in recent years, researchers say. And that has affected the famed Ecuadorian islands known for bird, reptile and sea life. The El Nino years can be more intense. The change has even affected finches, which have evolved in just a few years to adapt to the changing environment.

Dead Sea, Israel and Jordan – The lowest place on earth is shrinking, Gunter says. In the last 40 years, the famed salt-laden sea has diminished by a third and dropped 80 feet. Much of the change is due to increased use of water for irrigation from the Jordan River. That’s the key component.

Venice, Italy – Flooding has long plagued the famed canal city, but it has intensified in recent years, with some areas regularly inundated at peak high tides. It’s a regular event, it’s not just something hypothetical that we’re anticipating. The city is developing plans to build flood walls and other barriers to keep the sea at bay.

Fairbanks, Alaska – A drunken forest may sound like something out of a “Harry Potter” book, but it’s actually a change caused by rising temperatures. As permafrost, the layer of permanently frozen ground, disappears in Alaska, trees begin to tilt. There are forests that are leaning like a hurricane blew them. They look like they’ve had too much to drink.

Antarctic Peninsula – When climate changes, not all species react the same. On the southern continent, gentoo penguins are thriving because they build pebble nests on shorelines newly exposed by melting ice. Alternatively, Adélie penguins are having trouble because they fish from floating sea ice, which is less plentiful. There are winners and losers.

Greensburg, Kansas – Although not well-known, this south-central Kansas town is an environmental survivor, Gunter says. It was nearly destroyed by a tornado in 2007, but has since rebuilt as one of the most eco-conscious places in the world. It was the first U.S. city to fully adopt LED street lights, and it gets 100% of its power from renewable energy. It also has the most buildings per capita built to LEED standards. It’s rebuilt itself stronger than before.

Acadia National Park, Maine – Scientists last year collected data in the popular Atlantic Coast park. In the future, the area’s lobster population is predicted to migrate north to seek cooler waters, as will the whales that pass by offshore. You’re seeing a shift in the types of species that exist there.

The Alps – Europe’s famous mountain range still looms over the continent, but warming temperatures are taking their toll. Not only are its glaciers receding, but its plant life is changing as lowland species gain a foothold. The Alps sit lower in elevation than the Rocky Mountains, so they’re more susceptible.

Florida Keys – Coral reefs face pressure due to warming water and a shift in the chemical composition of oceans that has bleached out color. “There’s more carbon in the water,” Gunter explains. “Some corals are more resilient than others. You’ll see parts of a reef that look really good. But in others, change is noticeable.

Glacier National Park, Montana – The glaciers that give the park its name have been in retreat for many years, peaking in the 19th century at the end of a period called the Little Ice Age. Since then the number of glaciers in the park has dropped from about 150 to several dozen today. It’s striking.

Global Warming

Melting Glaciers bring threat of Flash Floods

The Himalaya, the breathtaking consequence of the battle between two tectonic plates, is home to spectacular mountains and a family of glaciers whose waters sustain 1.65 billion people across the region. The thawing of these glaciers leaves behind a myriad of lakes, some of which can suddenly burst their banks and flood downstream.

A satellite-based assessment of 1,291 glacial lakes in the Tibetan Plateau and along the main Himalaya range found that 16 percent of them potentially threaten human settlements. Since 1935, around 40 glacial lake outburst flood disasters have taken place across the Tibetan Plateau.

Global Warming

North Atlantic warming hole impacts jet stream

The North Atlantic warming hole (NAWH), a region of reduced warming located in the North Atlantic Ocean, significantly affects the North Atlantic jet stream in climate simulations of the future, according to a team of researchers.

Sea surface temperatures (SST) are projected to increase in most of the world’s oceans as the result of global climate change. However, within an area of rotating ocean currents just south of Greenland an anomaly exists where colder sea-surface temperatures were documented in both global climate-model projections and in observations. It’s called a hole because there is a lack of ocean warming.

This region of the ocean is a really important place for forcing the jet stream that goes across the North Atlantic Ocean. Jet streams, high altitude currents of wind flowing above the Earth, transport air masses and drive weather patterns. The relationship between climate change and jet streams is complex and understanding the potential impact of climate change on jet streams is crucial for understanding changes in weather patterns and storm tracks.