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2019-08-12. State of the Climate in 2018.

posted Aug 13, 2019, 6:28 PM by Alan Gould

By American NOAA, Meteorological Society (AMS). [https://www.ametsoc.org/ams/index.cfm/publications/bulletin-of-the-american-meteorological-society-bams/state-of-the-climate/] For GSS Climate Change chapter 10. Excerpt: The report, compiled by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, is based on contributions from scientists from around the world. It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments located on land, water, ice, and in space.... 

2019-08-08. Bioenergy plantations could fight climate change—but threaten food crops, U.N. panel warns.

posted Aug 13, 2019, 6:24 PM by Alan Gould

By Erik Stokstad. Science Magazine. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/08/bioenergy-plantations-could-fight-climate-change-threaten-food-crops-un-panel-warns] For GSS Energy Use chapter 10 and Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: In the effort to keep the planet from reaching dangerous temperatures, a hybrid approach called BECCS (bioenergy with carbon capture and storage) has a seductive appeal. Crops suck carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, power plants burn the biomass to generate electricity, and the emissions are captured in a smokestack and pumped underground for long-term storage. Energy is generated even as CO2 is removed: an irresistible win-win. But this week, the United Nations's climate panel sounded a warning [https://www.ipcc.ch/report/srccl/] about creating vast bioenergy plantations, which could jeopardize food production, water supplies, and land rights for poor farmers. "Our report is kind of a reality check," says Lennart Olsson of the Center for Sustainability Studies at Lund University in Sweden, a lead author of a special report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Geneva, Switzerland. Instead of betting big on bioenergy, governments need to focus on the hard medicine of cutting fossil fuel use, he says. "There is no shortcut to climate change mitigation.".... 

2019-08-05. Europe’s record heat melted Swiss glaciers.

posted Aug 13, 2019, 6:20 PM by Alan Gould

By Chelsea Harvey, E&E News. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/08/europes-record-heat-melted-swiss-glaciers] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: The sweltering heat wave that roasted much of Europe last month has since moved north, where it's wreaking havoc on the Greenland ice sheet. But while all eyes are currently trained on the Arctic ice, scientists are finding that Europe's coldest places have also suffered. According to initial findings from the Swiss Glacier Monitoring Network (GLAMOS), Swiss glaciers experienced unusually high melt rates during the last heat wave, which occurred in late July, and an earlier heat wave that struck the continent in late June. Matthias Huss, a glaciologist with Swiss University ETH Zurich and head of GLAMOS, tweeted last week that the nation's glaciers lost about 800 million metric tons of ice during the two heat waves alone.... 

2019-08-08. Climate Change Pressures Land and Food Resources, Report Warns.

posted Aug 9, 2019, 6:43 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Aug 13, 2019, 6:19 PM ]

By Randy Showstack, Eos/AGU. [https://eos.org/articles/climate-change-pressures-land-and-food-resources-report-warns] For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: Climate change is putting increased pressure on land and food resources while poor land use and food management are also contributing to climate change, according to a new report issued today, 8 August, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The special report [https://www.ipcc.ch/report/srccl/] on climate change and land details these impacts and outlines near- and long-term actions that can help to mitigate and stave off far worse impacts. ...Among the impacts that climate change is having on land are increases in the frequency and intensity of weather and climate extremes; threats to food security, human health, and terrestrial ecosystems; contributions to desertification; and effects on land degradation through actions such as increased rainfall intensity, flooding, heat stress, and sea level rise. In addition, the report notes that data available since 1961 show that global population growth and changes in per capita consumption of food, feed, fiber, timber, and energy “have caused unprecedented rates of land and freshwater use” and that agriculture currently accounts for about 70% of global freshwater use. The report states that the expansion of areas under agriculture and forestry has supported consumption and food availability for a growing population but that with large regional variation, these changes have contributed to increasing net greenhouse gas emissions, loss of natural ecosystems, and declining biodiversity. ...The report also looks at food from a number of perspectives, including soil erosion, fertilizer use, domestic livestock, food waste, and even individual diets. The report notes, for instance, that climate change affects food security because of warming, changing precipitation patterns, and greater frequency of some extreme events. It states that 25%–30% of total food produced currently is either lost or wasted and that if this amount could be reduced, it could take some pressure off of the need to convert additional land for agriculture. In addition, the report says that “the total technical mitigation potential of dietary changes” by having more people adopt plant-based diets could be as much as 8 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2050....  
See also New York Times article Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply, United Nations Warns [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/08/climate/climate-change-food-supply.html]Earth’s Food Supply Is Under Threat. These Fixes Would Go a Long Way [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/09/climate/climate-change-food.html]

2019-08-08. Oysters in peril as warming climate alters the water in their habitats.

posted Aug 9, 2019, 6:39 AM by Alan Gould

By Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle. [https://www.sfchronicle.com/environment/article/Oysters-in-peril-as-warming-climate-alters-the-14288818.php] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Human-caused climate change is increasingly harming oysters in Tomales and San Francisco bays and could soon devastate shellfish across California, as the chemistry of the water in estuaries morphs and livable habitat shrinks, a UC Davis study has found. Even moderate changes in water temperature, acidity and dissolved oxygen make it harder for native and commercial oysters to grow their calcium-based shells, a situation that does not bode well for the future, concluded the paper published this week in the journal Limnology and Oceanography. It means the severe climatic changes predicted as the Earth warms over the next few decades could dramatically shrink the habitat for both farmed oysters and the native species that scientists have been trying desperately to restore, said Ted Grosholz, a professor of environmental science who led the study with funding from a California Sea Grant.... 

2019-08-02. Greenland Ice Sheet Beats All-Time 1-Day Melt Record.

posted Aug 9, 2019, 6:36 AM by Alan Gould

By Jenessa Duncombe, Eos/AGU. [https://eos.org/articles/greenland-ice-sheet-beats-all-time-1-day-melt-record] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: The Greenland ice sheet broke records on 1 August 2019 by losing more water volume in 1 day than on than any other day since records began in 1950, shedding 12.5 billion tons of water into the sea. The record-breaking day came during a weeklong extreme melt event hitting Greenland due to soaring temperatures and low snow accumulation over the winter. The warmer temperatures are part of a heat wave that scorched Europe in late July, setting records in several countries including Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Air temperatures rose to 10°C above average in places in Greenland this week and peaked above the freezing point for hours at a time at the ice sheet’s summit more than 3,200 meters above sea level. The months of April, May, June, and July also had higher than average temperatures in Greenland....  

2019-08-06. A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises.

posted Aug 7, 2019, 11:38 AM by Alan Gould

By Somini Sengupta and Weiyi Cai, New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/06/climate/world-water-stress.html] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Countries that are home to one-fourth of Earth’s population face an increasingly urgent risk: The prospect of running out of water. From India to Iran to Botswana, 17 countries around the world are currently under extremely high water stress, meaning they are using almost all the water they have, according to new World Resources Institute data published Tuesday.... 

2019-07-31. China’s CRISPR push in animals promises better meat, novel therapies, and pig organs for people.

posted Aug 5, 2019, 8:07 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Aug 5, 2019, 8:09 AM ]

By Jon Cohen, Science Magazine. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/07/china-s-crispr-push-animals-promises-better-meat-novel-therapies-and-pig-organs-people] For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 4. Excerpt: ... Through a combination of patience, ingenuity, and enormous animal resources, the team has already used CRISPR to create an astonishing range of genome-edited monkeys to serve as models for studying human diseases. ...They’ve built on that success, exploiting CRISPR’s speed and precision to create monkey models of muscular dystrophy, autism, and cancer. ...Almost 2 years ago, in a proof of principle for He’s infamous experiment, they knocked out in monkey embryos the gene for the immune cell protein CCR5, a mutation that makes humans resistant to infection with the most commonly transmitted variant of HIV. That work leaves them uneasy today. “We had no idea he was going to do this in a human being,” Niu says, stressing that their study had yet to evaluate how the editing affected the monkeys when news of the edited babies broke. “It’s unbelievable.” China now has at least four groups of CRISPR researchers doing gene editing with large colonies of monkeys. ...says reproductive biologist Jon Hennebold at the Oregon National Primate Research Center in Hillsboro “The level of animal support they have to do those experiments is really astounding.” It’s not just monkeys. China’s researchers have racked up a long list of CRISPR firsts in dogs, mice, rats, pigs, and rabbits. That research promises higher quality meats, disease-resistant livestock, and new medical treatments and organs for human transplantation.... See also To feed its 1.4 billion, China bets big on genome editing of crops [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/07/feed-its-14-billion-china-bets-big-genome-editing-crops ] 

2019-07-29. NASA’s TESS Satellite Spots ‘Missing Link’ Exoplanets.

posted Aug 5, 2019, 7:46 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Aug 5, 2019, 8:06 AM ]

By Dennis Overbye, New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/29/science/nasa-tess-exoplanets-astronomy.htmlSee also Newly discovered exoplanet trio could unravel the mysteries of super-Earth formation in Science Magazine [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/07/newly-discovered-exoplanet-trio-could-unravel-mysteries-super-earth-formation] For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 8. Excerpt: NASA’s new planet-hunting spacecraft, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is now halfway through its first tour of the nearby universe. It has been looking for worlds that might be fit for you, me or some other form of life, and as usual, nature has been generous in its rewards. Since its launch in April 2018, TESS has already discovered 21 new planets and 850 more potential worlds that have yet to be confirmed, all residing within a few dozen light years of the sun and our own solar system, according to George Ricker, an M.I.T. researcher who heads the TESS project. So far, he said, TESS “has far exceeded our most optimistic hopes.” ...Some of the discoveries generating the most excitement among the TESS crew were three new worlds that orbit a dim red dwarf star only 73 light-years from here in the southern constellation Pictor. The system goes by the name TOI-270, for Tess Object of Interest. ...The outer two planets are “sub-Neptunes,” each slightly more than twice the size of the Earth, and with masses at least five times greater, according to models. (Neptune is about four times bigger than Earth, and 17 times as massive.) The innermost exoplanet is a “Super Earth,” about 1.2 times the size of our home world....  

2019-08-04. Russian Land of Permafrost and Mammoths Is Thawing.

posted Aug 5, 2019, 7:42 AM by Alan Gould

By Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/04/world/europe/russia-siberia-yakutia-permafrost-global-warming.html] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: ...As the Arctic, including much of Siberia, warms at least twice as fast as the rest of the world, the permafrost — permanently frozen ground — is thawing. ...The thawing of the permafrost — along with other changes triggered by global warming — is reshaping this incredibly remote region sometimes called the Kingdom of Winter. It is one of the coldest inhabited places on earth, and huge; Yakutia, if independent, would be the world's eighth largest country. ...The loss of permafrost deforms the landscape itself, knocking down houses and barns. The migration patterns of animals hunted for centuries are shifting, and severe floods wreak havoc almost every spring. The water, washing out already limited dirt roads and rolling corpses from their graves, threatens entire villages with permanent inundation. Waves chew away the less frozen Arctic coastline. ...Climate change is a global phenomenon, but the shifts are especially pronounced in Russia, where permafrost covers some two-thirds of the country at depths ranging up to almost a mile. “People don’t comprehend the scale of this change, and our government is not even thinking about it,” said Aleksandr N. Fedorov, deputy director of the Melnikov Permafrost Institute, a research body in Yakutsk, the regional capital. ...The thawing permafrost, and increased precipitation, have made the land wetter. The snow and rain create a vicious circle, forming an insulating layer that speeds defrosting underground. Water backing up behind ice floes now causes ravaging floods virtually every May. In Srednekolymsk last year, floods swamped the dirt airstrip, with its separate outhouses for men and women. Often battered Soviet turboprops are the lifeline to the world, but the airstrip had to close for a week. Nalimsk, 11 miles north of Srednekolymsk, has flooded five years in a row. Mosquitoes grown fat in the expanding bogs swarm like kamikaze pilots. “Free acupuncture!” joked Vasily P. Okoneshnikov, 54, the village headman....

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