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2019-12-04. Climate Change Is Accelerating, Bringing World ‘Dangerously Close’ to Irreversible Change.

posted Dec 4, 2019, 9:14 PM by Alan Gould

By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/04/climate/climate-change-acceleration.html] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: More devastating fires in California. Persistent drought in the Southwest. Record flooding in Europe and Africa. A heat wave, of all things, in Greenland. Climate change and its effects are accelerating, with climate related disasters piling up, season after season. “Things are getting worse,” said Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization, which on Tuesday issued its annual state of the global climate report, concluding a decade of what it called exceptional global heat. “It’s more urgent than ever to proceed with mitigation.” ...Seas are warming and rising faster, putting more cities at risk of tidal flooding or worse. Glaciers are melting at a pace many researchers did not expect for decades. The amount of Arctic sea ice has declined so rapidly that the region may see ice-free summers by the 2030s. Even the ground itself is warming faster. Permanently frozen ground, or permafrost, is thawing more rapidly, threatening the release of large amounts of long-stored carbon that could in turn make warming even worse, in what scientists call a climate feedback loop.... 

2019-12-03. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Hit a Record in 2019, Even as Coal Fades.

posted Dec 4, 2019, 9:11 PM by Alan Gould

By Brad Plumer, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/03/climate/carbon-dioxide-emissions.html] For GSS Climate Change chapter 6. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — Emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide from fossil fuels hit a record high in 2019, researchers said Tuesday, putting countries farther off course from their goal of halting global warming. The new data contained glimmers of good news: Worldwide, industrial emissions are on track to rise 0.6 percent this year, a considerably slower pace than the 1.5 percent increase seen in 2017 and the 2.1 percent rise in 2018. The United States and the European Union both managed to cut their carbon dioxide output this year, while India’s emissions grew far more slowly than expected. And global emissions from coal, the worst-polluting of all fossil fuels, unexpectedly declined by about 0.9 percent in 2019, although that drop was more than offset by strong growth in the use of oil and natural gas around the world. Scientists have long warned, however, that it’s not enough for emissions to grow slowly or even just stay flat in the years ahead. In order to avoid many of the most severe consequences of climate change — including deadlier heat waves, fiercer droughts, and food and water shortages — global carbon dioxide emissions would need to steadily decline each year and reach roughly zero well before the end of the century.... 

2019-11-29. Warming Waters, Moving Fish: How Climate Change Is Reshaping Iceland.

posted Dec 4, 2019, 9:08 PM by Alan Gould

By Kendra Pierre-Louis, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/29/climate/climate-change-ocean-fish-iceland.html] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: ISAFJORDUR, Iceland ... warming waters associated with climate change are causing some fish to seek cooler waters elsewhere, beyond the reach of Icelandic fishermen. Ocean temperatures around Iceland have increased between 1.8 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 20 years. For the past two seasons, Icelanders have not been able to harvest capelin, a type of smelt, as their numbers plummeted. The warmer waters mean that as some fish leave, causing financial disruption, other fish species arrive, triggering geopolitical conflicts. ...Different species of fish evolved to live in specific water temperatures, with some fish like sea bass requiring the temperate ocean climates like those found off the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, and tropical fish like the Spanish hogfish preferring warmer waters such as those in the Caribbean. But these days, fishermen are finding sea bass in Maine and the Spanish hog fish in North Carolina. And as the fish flee they are leaving some areas, like parts of the tropics, stripped of fish entirely. What’s more, fish “need more oxygen when the temperature is higher,” said Daniel Pauly, a professor of aquatic systems at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia, but warmer water holds less oxygen than colder water. The fish are swimming for their lives, according to Jennifer Jacquet, an associate professor of environmental studies at N.Y.U. “They are moving in order to breathe,” she said.... 

2019-11-26. New U.N. climate report offers ‘bleak’ emissions forecast.

posted Dec 4, 2019, 9:05 PM by Alan Gould

By Nathaniel Gronewald, E&E News, Science Magazine. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/11/new-un-climate-report-offers-bleak-emissions-forecast] For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: Global emissions are expected to keep climbing despite promises from almost 200 nations to address climate change, propelling temperatures upward and threatening to shatter the threshold of 2°C that scientists say would invite dramatic changes to ecology and the economy. The 10th Emissions Gap Report [https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/emissions-gap-report-2019] by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), released today, warned that there's "no sign" greenhouse gases will hit their zenith anytime soon. It arrived a day after the World Meteorological Organization revealed record-high concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. "The summary findings are bleak," the UNEP report said. "Countries collectively failed to stop the growth in global [greenhouse gas] emissions, meaning that deeper and faster cuts are now required." The World Meteorological Organization, meanwhile, said average CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere rose to 407.8 parts per million in 2018, surpassing its estimate in 2017 of 405.5 ppm. UNEP's emissions gap survey, launched from Geneva, forecasts much higher greenhouse gas concentrations to come. In the report, UNEP applauds heightened public pressure on governments to address climate change, yet laments that it's not nearly enough. The world's emissions have been increasing by about 1.5% per year for the past decade, it notes. That would lead to temperature increases of nearly 4°C by 2100, "bringing wide-ranging and destructive climate impacts."....

2019-11-26. Meet Hygiea, the Smallest Dwarf Planet in Our Solar System.

posted Dec 4, 2019, 9:00 PM by Alan Gould

By Javier Barbuzano, Eos/AGU. [https://eos.org/articles/meet-hygiea-the-smallest-dwarf-planet-in-our-solar-system] For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7. Excerpt: Around 2 billion years ago, two large rock bodies hit each other in the main asteroid belt, a region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter populated by fragments of rocks of various sizes. The impactor, with a size ranging from 75 to 150 kilometers in diameter, hit a body at least 4 times larger. Astronomers have known about this impact for a long time because it created a whole family of asteroids in the main asteroid belt, formed by the celestial body Hygiea and almost 7,000 smaller asteroids that have similar orbits. Hygiea itself has been considered an asteroid since it was discovered in 1849 by Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis. With a diameter just over 430 kilometers, it is the fourth-largest object in the main asteroid belt. New observations obtained with the Very Large Telescope (VLT), located in Chile and operated by the European Southern Observatory, have revealed that Hygiea is also round. Determining the shape of Hygiea doesn’t have any practical implications for its orbit or behavior, but it’s enough to propel Hygiea from asteroid to dwarf planet, according to current scientific classifications. There are four conditions that solar system objects must meet to be classified as dwarf planets: They must orbit the Sun, not be a satellite orbiting another body, not be massive enough to clear their orbit from other objects, and have a round shape due to their own gravity....  

2019-11-25. Dire and Drier Future for Lake Victoria.

posted Dec 4, 2019, 8:57 PM by Alan Gould

By Kimberly M. S. Cartier, Eos/AGU. [https://eos.org/articles/dire-and-drier-future-for-lake-victoria] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Lake Victoria in eastern central Africa supports over 40 million people, the industrial sectors of three large nations, and the largest freshwater tropical ecosystem in the world. New research, however, suggests that the lake might not be around to do all of this in the not-so-distant future. ...“Historically, the level of Lake Victoria has dropped pretty drastically,” and past research has shown that the lake twice dried out completely, 15,000 and 17,000 years ago. The team’s research showed that the lake also dried out at least once more in the past 100,000 years. ... Under the driest projected conditions—less than half the current amount of rainfall—Lake Victoria would stop supplying a major tributary of the Nile in about a decade. All major lakeside cities in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania could lose access to the lake in as little as 100 years, and the shoreline would retreat from Kenya altogether in 400 years. ... what might happen to Lake Victoria in a future warmer climate. Under the driest projected conditions—less than half the current amount of rainfall—Lake Victoria would stop supplying a major tributary of the Nile in about a decade. All major lakeside cities in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania could lose access to the lake in as little as 100 years, and the shoreline would retreat from Kenya altogether in 400 years. ...“The predicted imminent changes in the lake levels as proposed foreshadow catastrophic impacts on the human population and [on] animals that depend on this lake for sustenance and might adversely affect much of eastern Africa,” said Emma Mbua, principal research scientist for paleontology and paleoanthropology at the National Museums of Kenya.... 

2019-11-25. Curiosity Rover Reveals Oxygen Mystery in Martian Atmosphere.

posted Dec 4, 2019, 8:51 PM by Alan Gould

By Sarah Stanley, Eos/AGU. [https://eos.org/research-spotlights/curiosity-rover-reveals-oxygen-mystery-in-martian-atmosphere] For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7. Excerpt: The Martian atmosphere is thin and cold and consists mostly of carbon dioxide. Although certainly unsuitable for humans, Martian air could hold clues to whether other life-forms live—or once lived—on the Red Planet. Now Trainer et al. report the first measurements of the five major components of the Martian atmosphere captured over several seasonal cycles. ...On average, the data revealed, the equatorial Martian atmosphere consists of 95% carbon dioxide, 2.59% nitrogen, 1.94% argon, 0.161% oxygen, and 0.058% carbon monoxide. However, throughout the year, some of these concentrations vary widely because of seasonal freezing of carbon dioxide at the planet’s poles, which periodically removes much of this gas from the atmosphere. Seasonal polar freezing—and subsequent thawing—of carbon dioxide also causes atmospheric pressure to rise and fall throughout the year. ...The researchers also found unexpected patterns in seasonal and year-to-year oxygen concentrations that cannot be explained by any known atmospheric or surface processes on Mars. The authors suggest that these variations could be due to chemical reactions in surface rocks but note that further research is needed to solve this mystery....  

2019-11-20. Massive Australian blazes will ‘reframe our understanding of bushfire’.

posted Dec 4, 2019, 8:44 PM by Alan Gould

By John Pickrell, Science Magazine. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/11/massive-australian-blazes-will-reframe-our-understanding-bushfire] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—Australia is on fire like never before—and this year’s “bushfire” season, which typically peaks in January and February, has barely begun. Driven in part by a severe drought, fires have burned 1.65 million hectares in the state of New South Wales, more than the state’s total in the previous 3 years combined. Six people have died and more than 500 homes have been destroyed. As Science went to press, some 70 uncontrolled fires were burning in adjacent Queensland, and South Australia was bracing for potentially “catastrophic” burns. David Bowman, a fire ecologist and geographer and director of the Fire Centre at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, spoke with Science about the crisis. The flames have charred even moist ecosystems once thought safe, he says. And the fires have become “white-hot politically,” with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal government drawing criticism for refusing to acknowledge any link to climate change. ...Q: What is the role of climate change? A: You have to ask: Has there ever been a fire event of 1.65 million hectares that’s burnt a large area of what is generally considered fire-proof vegetation, and also occurred simultaneously with fires in other regions of Australia and California? What is happening is extraordinary. It would be difficult to say there wasn’t a climate change dimension. We couldn’t have imagined the scale of the current event before it happened. We would have been told it was hyperbole.... 

2019-11-20. A massive experiment in Taiwan aims to reveal landslides’ surprising effect on the climate.

posted Dec 4, 2019, 8:42 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Dec 4, 2019, 8:49 PM ]

By Katherine Korneim, Science Magazine. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/11/massive-experiment-taiwan-aims-reveal-landslides-surprising-effect-climate] For GSS A New World View chapter 1 as a remarkable example of systems studies, lithosphere-atmosphere interaction. Excerpt: TAROKO NATIONAL PARK, TAIWAN—The frequent crackle of tumbling rocks overhead is unnerving, especially when you're picking your way through a pile of jagged debris. ...Taiwan's most comprehensive landscape dynamics observatory. One goal is to monitor landslides and understand their triggers. A bigger aim is to investigate their hidden impact on the climate: As massive chemical reactors, landslides draw carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the sky and sometimes belch it out, too. Understanding their role as both carbon source and sink could help researchers better model the carbon cycle that ultimately controls our planet's climate and habitability....THE TEAM WILL ALSO TACKLE a deeper mystery: the invisible influence of landslides on the atmosphere. The exchange of carbon between the atmosphere, the surface, and the oceans ultimately regulates Earth's habitability. For now, humanity—through industrial and agricultural emissions—is a dominant force in the carbon cycle. But over geologic time, the interaction of water with rocks freshly exposed by erosion—so-called chemical weathering—is another powerful player. And landslides are catalysts that speed up chemical weathering....

2019-11-24. 82 Days Underwater: The Tide Is High, but They’re Holding On.

posted Nov 27, 2019, 1:50 PM by Alan Gould

By Patricia Mazzei, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/24/us/florida-keys-flooding-king-tide.html] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: A brutal “king tides” season made worse by climate change has flooded the streets of a Florida Keys community for nearly three months. ... For nearly three months, the residents of Stillwright Point’s 215 homes have been forced to carefully plan their outings and find temporary workarounds to deal with the smelly, stagnant water — a result not of rain, but a rising sea — that makes their mangrove-lined streets look more like canals. Another Key Largo neighborhood, Twin Lakes, is similarly inundated. Scientists say a combination of factors, including disruptive hurricanes, have contributed to this year’s exceptionally high tides. “King tides” take place predictably each fall, when the alignment of the moon, sun and Earth creates a stronger gravitational pull on the warm oceans. Rising sea levels caused by climate change make the flooding worse. ... George Smyth, 62, who attributes a skin rash on his arm to exposure to the brackish water, decided that it was worth driving through the muck to keep his doctor’s appointment. “We’re on the front line of what is happening with sea-level rise,” Mr. Smyth said. “It has now changed how we live life down here. We haven’t come to grips with where we are and where we’re headed. It’s not an isolated problem — it’s happening more and more.”....

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