2012 December 07. Global Change session at American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting, titled The Anthropocene: Confronting the Prospects of a +4C World: (2 hours)
Includes (session GC51H):
|01. Temporal and spatial scales of an Anthropocene Series - Jan A. Zalasiewicz
02. Paleontological evidence for defining the Anthropocene - Anthony D. Barnosky
03. From forest to farmland and moraine to meadow: Integrated modeling of Holocene land cover change (Invited) - Jed O. Kaplan
04. Transport and Purpose in the Anthropocene (Invited)
- Peter K. Haff
05. The Anthropocene – and International Law of the Holocene (Invited) - Davor Vidas
|06. Can a Human-Induced Climate Disaster be Avoided? (Invited) - Robert Watson
07. The impacts of a 4 Degree C world on Sustainable Development
- Rosina M. Bierbaum; Hans Joachim Schellnhuber
08. Balancing benefits and costs in a 4°C world: the need for and challenges of natural-social science dialogue (Invited) - Robert E. Kopp
09. Evidence-based Science Communication (Invited) - Dan Kahan (presented by Jay Gulledge)
2012 Nov 29. Post-Storm Cost May Force Many From Coast Life. By David M. Halbfinger, The NY Times. Excerpt: …Homeowners in storm-damaged coastal areas who had flood insurance — and many more who did not, but will now be required to — will face premium increases of as much as 20 percent or 25 percent per year beginning in January, under legislation enacted in July to shore up the debt-ridden National Flood Insurance Program. The yearly increases will add hundreds, even thousands, of dollars to homeowners’ annual bills. While many homeowners are beginning to rebuild without any thought to future costs, the changes could propel a demographic shift along the Northeast Coast, even in places spared by the storm, according to federal officials, insurance industry executives and regional development experts. Ronald Schiffman, a former member of the New York City Planning Commission, said that barring intervention by Congress or the states, there would be “a massive displacement of low-income families from their historic communities”.….
2012 Nov 29. Ice Sheet Loss at Both Poles Increasing, Major Study Finds | NASA release 12-409. Excerpt: …An international team of 47 researchers from 26 laboratories, Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE) supported by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) has combined data from multiple satellites and aircraft to produce the most comprehensive and accurate assessment to date of ice sheet losses in Greenland and Antarctica and their contributions to sea level rise, published … in the journal Science. … the combined rate of melting for the ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica has increased during the last 20 years…losing more than three times as much ice each year (equivalent to sea level rise of 0.04 inches or 0.95 millimeters) as they were in the 1990s (equivalent to 0.01 inches or 0.27 millimeters). About two-thirds of the loss is coming from Greenland, with the rest from Antarctica. …Combined, melting of these ice sheets contributed 0.44 inches (11.1 millimeters) to global sea levels since 1992. This accounts for one-fifth of all sea level rise over the 20-year survey period. The remainder is caused by the thermal expansion of the warming ocean, melting of mountain glaciers and small Arctic ice caps, and groundwater mining. "Both ice sheets appear to be losing more ice now than 20 years ago, but the pace of ice loss from Greenland is extraordinary, with nearly a five-fold increase since the mid-1990s," Erik Ivins of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said. "In contrast, the overall loss of ice in Antarctica has remained fairly constant with the data suggesting a 50-percent increase in Antarctic ice loss during the last decade." …. Read the full article: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/nov/HQ_12-409_Ice_Sheet_Sea_level.html
See also A Reconciled Estimate of Ice-Sheet Mass Balance - Science 30 November 2012: Vol. 338 no. 6111 pp. 1183-1189 DOI: 10.1126/science.1228102
2012 Nov 27. Beetles Warm BC Forests. By Sabrina Richards, TheScientist.
Excerpt: Pine beetle infestation increases the summertime temperatures
of some Canadian forests by 1 degree Celsius—about the same impact as a
forest fire—according to new findings published Sunday (November 25) in
Nature Geoscience. The beetle populations, spurred into profusion by
global warming, appear to be contributing to a temperature feedback
loop, …. The results reinforce the conclusion that ecological
disturbances like beetle infestations can have significant ecological
impacts, said Allan Carroll, an insect ecologist at the University of
British Columbia…. ”We have until very recently considered biotic
disturbances a bit player [in climate change],” …. The current study
confirms that pine beetles can have massive effects that set up “an
uncomfortable feedback” wherein warming temperatures encourage more
beetle damage, which in turn influences warming… Pine beetles lay their
eggs under pine tree bark, introducing a fungus that inhibits nutrient
flow in the trees. Usually pine beetles are killed off by freezing
winter temperatures, limiting their spread. But a recent spate of warm
winters, combined with forests dominated by mature pine trees, enabled a
beetle population boom in North America, including parts of Alberta,
Wyoming, and Colorado. About 170,000 square kilometers of British
Columbia’s forest—almost 20 percent of the province’s area—have been
affected by pine beetle infestations, costing thousands of timber
industry jobs. Many studies have focused on the role of global warming
on pine beetle outbreaks, but fewer have looked at how the beetles
themselves may be contributing to climate change…. Read the full
2012 Nov 21. With Many Trains Damaged, N.J. Transit Is Criticized Over Where It Stored Them. By Matt Flegenheimer, New York Times. Excerpt: Less than a month after Hurricane Sandy damaged nearly a quarter of its rail cars and locomotives, New Jersey Transit is facing withering criticism this week for keeping much of its equipment in low-lying yards during the storm, despite forecasts of potential flooding. The agency said 261 rail cars and 62 locomotives had been damaged, many at a maintenance site in Kearny, N.J…. Officials have said that experience helped guide storage decisions before the storm, noting that the Kearny site in particular had never flooded…. James Weinstein, the agency’s executive director, said … the agency could not yet provide a precise cost figure, but placed the damage in the tens of millions of dollars…. Some of the agency’s newest purchases, including dual-powered locomotives, had been stored in Kearny and Hoboken. The agency said nine of the locomotives had been damaged; each cost about $8 million. . Read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/nyregion/storm-damage-prompts-criticism-of-new-jersey-transits-train-storage-plan.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20121122&_r=0
2012 Nov 3. After Getting Back to Normal, Big Job Is Facing New Reality. By N.R. Kleinfield, The New York Times. Excerpt: …Basic restoration [in the areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy] leaves everything just as vulnerable to the next monster storm. Hurricane Sandy is now a gauge of the region’s new fragility. Climate change and extreme weather are presenting government — and the public — with some overwhelming choices…officials must ask whether it is sensible to replace buildings on the Manhattan waterfront, the Jersey Shore or the Long Island coast — and continue to dare nature. After all, the waters surrounding New York have been rising an inch a decade, and the pace is picking up...The cost of the repairs alone will certainly reach tens of billions of dollars. Far-reaching solutions will cost many billions more….Also related: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/nyregion/protecting-new-york-city-before-next-time.html
2012 Sept 19. Ending Its Summer Melt, Arctic Sea Ice Sets a New Low That Leads to Warnings. By Justin Gillis, The NY Times. Excerpt: The drastic melting of Arctic sea ice has finally ended for the year,...but not before demolishing the previous record — and setting off new warnings about the rapid pace of change in the region. ...The apparent low point for 2012 was reached Sunday, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which said that sea ice that day covered about ... 24 percent, of the surface of the Arctic Ocean. The previous low, set in 2007, was 29 percent. ...The sea ice is declining much faster than had been predicted in the last big United Nations report on the state of the climate, published in 2007. The most sophisticated computer analyses for that report suggested that the ice would not disappear before the middle of this century, .... James E. Hansen, a prominent NASA climate scientist, said ...“The scientific community realizes that we have a planetary emergency,” Dr. Hansen said. “It’s hard for the public to recognize this because they stick their head out the window and don’t see that much going on.” ... the disappearance of summer ice cover replaces a white, reflective surface with a much darker ocean surface, allowing the region to trap more of the sun’s heat, which in turn melts more ice....
2012 Sept 23. A Melting Greenland Weighs Perils Against Potential. By Elisabeth Rosenthal, The NY Times. Excerpt: Vast new deposits of minerals and gems are being discovered as Greenland’s massive ice cap recedes, forming the basis of a potentially lucrative mining industry. This could be momentous for Greenland, which has long relied on half a billion dollars a year in welfare payments from Denmark, its parent state. Mining profits could help Greenland become economically self sufficient, and may someday even render it the first sovereign nation created by global warming...But the rapid transition from a society of individual fishermen and hunters to an economy supported by corporate mining raises difficult questions. How would Greenland’s insular settlements tolerate an influx of thousands of Polish or Chinese construction workers, as has been proposed? Will mining despoil a natural environment essential to Greenland’s national identity — the whales and seals, the silent icy fjords, and mythic polar bears? Can fishermen reinvent themselves as miners?....
2012 Aug 15. Scars on a Dry Land. By David Gessner, OnEarth. Excerpt: ...I saw them: The first square of shaved land, devoid of all vegetation, that signaled another oil drilling site. Then another, and another. Earlier we had seen hundreds of them, both gas and oil, each trailing a squiggling tail, like a group of giant square tadpoles. The tails were roads, and those roads always connected to larger roads, like the new four-lane highway leading down to the Book Cliff divide, site of the U.S. Oil Sands Project, Utah’s very own tar sands. There were not as many roads or sites here, but it was stunning to see them in such a remote, beautiful place...“They used to say that the vegetation would eventually re-claim the sites,” said Steve Bloch, the energy program director for the wilderness alliance, through the headphones. “But scientists no longer think so. Not enough water.” [The oil drilling] scars were permanent then....
2012 Sept 19. Ending Its Summer Melt, Arctic Sea Ice Sets a New Low That Leads to Warnings. By Justin Gillis, The NY Times. Excerpt: The drastic melting of Arctic sea ice has finally ended for the year,...but not before demolishing the previous record — and setting off new warnings about the rapid pace of change in the region. ...The apparent low point for 2012 was reached Sunday, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which said that sea ice that day covered about ... 24 percent, of the surface of the Arctic Ocean. The previous low, set in 2007, was 29 percent. ...The sea ice is declining much faster than had been predicted in the last big United Nations report on the state of the climate, published in 2007. The most sophisticated computer analyses for that report suggested that the ice would not disappear before the middle of this century, .... James E. Hansen, a prominent NASA climate scientist, said ...“The scientific community realizes that we have a planetary emergency,” Dr. Hansen said. “It’s hard for the public to recognize this because they stick their head out the window and don’t see that much going on.” ... the disappearance of summer ice cover replaces a white, reflective surface with a much darker ocean surface, allowing the region to trap more of the sun’s heat, which in turn melts more ice….
2012 Sept 18. Race Is On as Ice Melt Reveals Arctic Treasures. By Elisabeth Rosenthal, The NY Times. Excerpt: With Arctic ice melting at record pace, the world’s superpowers are increasingly jockeying for political influence and economic position in outposts like this one, previously regarded as barren wastelands. At stake are the Arctic’s abundant supplies of oil, gas and minerals that are, thanks to climate change, becoming newly accessible along with increasingly navigable polar shipping shortcuts. This year, China has become a far more aggressive player in this frigid field, experts say, provoking alarm among Western powers. While the United States, Russia and several nations of the European Union have Arctic territory, China has none, and as a result, has been deploying its wealth and diplomatic clout to secure toeholds in the region.…
2012 Aug 27. Media Advisory: Arctic sea ice breaks lowest extent on record. From the National Snow & Ice Data Center. Excerpt: Arctic sea ice cover melted to its lowest extent in the satellite record yesterday, breaking the previous record low observed in 2007. Sea ice extent fell to 4.10 million square kilometers (1.58 million square miles) on August 26, 2012. This was 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) below the September 18, 2007 daily extent of 4.17 million square kilometers (1.61 million square miles)…NSIDC scientist Walt Meier said, "By itself it's just a number, and occasionally records are going to get set. But in the context of what's happened in the last several years and throughout the satellite record, it's an indication that the Arctic sea ice cover is fundamentally changing."….
2012 Aug 06. Study Finds More of Earth Is Hotter and Says Global Warming Is at Work | by By JUSTIN GILLIS, New York Times. Excerpt: …researchers have struggled with the question of whether any particular heat wave or storm can be definitively linked to human-induced climate change.
In the new paper [published online on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences], titled “Perception of Climate Change,” Dr. Hansen and his co-authors [M. Sato and R. Ruedy] compared the global climate of 1951 to 1980, before the bulk of global warming had occurred, with the climate of the years 1981 to 2011.
They computed how much of the earth’s land surface in each period was subjected in June, July and August to heat that would have been considered particularly extreme in the period from 1951 to 1980. In that era, they found, only 0.2 percent of the land surface was subjected to extreme summer heat. But from 2006 to 2011, extreme heat covered from 4 to 13 percent of the world, they found.
“It confirms people’s suspicions that things are happening” to the climate, Dr. Hansen said in the interview. “It’s just going to get worse.”… The change is so drastic, the paper says, that scientists can claim with near certainty that events like the Texas heat wave last year, the Russian heat wave of 2010 and the European heat wave of 2003 would not have happened without the planetary warming caused by the human release of greenhouse gases…. The findings provoked an immediate split among his scientific colleagues, however…. Read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/07/science/earth/extreme-heat-is-covering-more-of-the-earth-a-study-says.html?ref=science
2012 June 16. The melting north. By James Astill, The Economist. Excerpt: Almost all Arctic glaciers have receded. The area of Arctic land covered by snow in early summer has shrunk by almost a fifth since 1966. But it is the Arctic Ocean that is most changed...the north-west passage, a sea lane through Canada's 36,000-island Arctic Archipelago, [is left] ice-free for the first time in memory. Almost all Arctic glaciers have receded...Scientists, scrambling to explain this, found that in 2007 every natural variation, including warm weather, clear skies and warm currents, had lined up to reinforce the seasonal melt. But last year there was no such remarkable coincidence: it was as normal as the Arctic gets these days. And the sea ice still shrank to almost the same extent. There is no serious doubt about the basic cause of the warming. It is, in the Arctic as everywhere, the result of an increase in heat-trapping atmospheric gases, mainly carbon dioxide released when fossil fuels are burned. Because the atmosphere is shedding less solar heat, it is warming—a physical effect predicted back in 1896 by Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish scientist. But why is the Arctic warming faster than other places?....
2012 July 10. Global Warming Makes Heat Waves More Likely, Study Finds. By Justin Gillis, The NY Times. Excerpt: A new study found that global warming made the severe heat wave that afflicted Texas last year 20 times as likely as it would have been in the 1960s...The findings, especially the specific numbers attached to some extreme events, represent an increased effort by scientists to respond to a public clamor for information about what is happening to the earth’s climate…The general conclusion of the new research is that many of the extremes being witnessed worldwide are consistent with what scientists expect on a warming planet. Heat waves, in particular, are probably being worsened by global warming, the scientists said. They also cited an intensification of the water cycle, reflected in an increase in both droughts and heavy downpour….
2012 July 04. Searing Sun and Drought Shrivel Corn in Midwest. By Monica Davey, The NY Times. Excerpt: Across a wide stretch of the Midwest, sweltering temperatures and a lack of rain are threatening what had been expected to be the nation’s largest corn crop in generations. Already, some farmers in Illinois and Missouri have given up on parched and stunted fields, mowing them over. National experts say parts of five corn-growing states, including Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, are experiencing severe or extreme drought conditions...Crop insurance agents and agricultural economists are watching closely, a few comparing the situation with the devastating drought of 1988, when corn yields shriveled significantly, while some farmers have begun alluding, unhappily, to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Far more is at stake in the coming pivotal days: with the brief, delicate phase of pollination imminent in many states, miles and miles of corn will rise or fall on whether rain soon appears and temperatures moderate...The driest, hottest conditions have steered clear of some crucial Corn Belt states, including Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and western Iowa, the nation’s most prolific corn producer….
2012 July 01. Forest Service ecologist expects California 'super fires'. By Edward Ortiz, The Sacramento Bee. Excerpt: Intense and deeply destructive "super fires," like Colorado's current Waldo Canyon fire, which has claimed two lives and burned 350 homes, are almost assured in Northern California's future, according to a U.S. Forest Service scientist. "Typically we're seeing an earlier fire season and that fire season is lasting longer," said Malcolm North, plant ecologist with the Pacific Southwest Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service... The culprits, said North, are weather fluctuations and climate change. He said the warmer temperatures and drier winters seen recently in the region are creating ideal conditions for intense and hard-to-control fires like the Colorado fire. "What we're seeing now is that snow reserves are less in the Sierras and runoff is happening earlier in the year," he said...
2012 June 22. Drought returns to threaten North Korean food. By Reuters, Moneycontrol. Excerpt: Drought has returned to threaten precarious food supplies in North Korea…Wolfgang Jamann, the head of the German NGO Welthungerhilfe, said he saw children using bottles and buckets to water crops by hand in the absence of large-scale irrigation systems in two southern provinces. "We were repeatedly confronted with the statement that we are in a drought, the most severe drought in 60 years," he told the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China, after getting back from an almost week-long visit to North Korea. "It's planting season now for the main crops - rice and cabbage and maize - and you can see in the entire country the planting has happened. But of course it is dry, and you don't know what's going to happen, whether these plants will survive the dry spell you have at the moment." North Korea's KCNA news agency said on Friday there had been hailstorms and heavy rain in some parts of the country in recent days but that most areas were suffering "a long spell" of drought….
2012 June 25. ‘Nature’s Masons’ Do Double Duty as Storytellers. By Sean B. Carroll, New York Times. Excerpt: GUBBIO, Italy — …Limestone is composed largely of crystallized calcium carbonate. Some of it comes from the skeletal remains of well-known creatures like corals, but much of the rest comes from less appreciated but truly remarkable organisms called foraminifera, or forams for short. Forams have been called “nature’s masons,” … these single-celled protists construct surprisingly complex, ornate and beautiful shells to protect their bodies. After forams die, their shells settle in ocean sediments…. While tiny relative to ourselves …, forams are extremely large for single-celled organisms, … largest forams can reach a few centimeters. ...Forams are a vital part of a “biological pump” that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, one reaction product is carbonate. In making their calcium carbonate shells, the large mass of so-called planktonic forams floating in the upper levels of the oceans sequester about one quarter of all carbonate produced in the oceans each year.
The increasing levels of carbon dioxide in our planet’s atmosphere, now at a greater level than at any time in the past 400,000 years, threaten to overwhelm this biological pump by inhibiting the formation of calcium carbonate shells. As more carbon dioxide dissolves in the ocean, the waters acidify, decreasing the concentration of carbonate and making it more difficult for these organisms to form calcium carbonate shells…. Read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/26/science/natures-masons-do-double-duty-as-earths-storytellers.html?_r=1&emc=eta1
2012 June 25. Duluth eyes rebuilding for a wetter climate. By Bill McAuliffe, StarTribune. Excerpt: One of the biggest tasks facing Duluth in the aftermath of last week's historic flash flooding will be repairing the city's 400-mile storm-water removal system. The northern Minnesota city's network of sewers, culverts, ditches and basins, in some places more than 100 years old, suffered "extensive damage all over the city," said Eric Shaffer, Duluth's chief engineer of utilities. But building and rebuilding a sewer system these days means making an educated and possibly expensive guess on a changing climate. Many communities are studying what steps they might take to accommodate increasing precipitation, but for Duluth, it will be a full-immersion process. "Duluth is maybe in the first wave of cities to adapt to climate change," said University of Minnesota Extension climatologist Mark Seeley. Climate scientists say increasing precipitation, particularly from intense thunderstorms, is a symptom of ongoing climate warming, because warm air holds more water vapor than cooler air.....
2012 June 20. Global sea-level rise could hit California hard AND Report: Calif. to get seas rising 6 inches by 2030. By David Perlman/Jeff Bernard, SFGate. Excerpt: Global sea-level rise, induced by the warming climate, will hit California's coastline harder than the other West Coast states over the coming decades and on through the end of the century, according to a new report from the National Research Council. Oceans around the world are rising, but seas around California will rise even higher - by more than 3 feet before 2100, the report says. Tide gauges and satellites show that the rate of sea-level rise has increased steadily since 1900, and with each passing decade, storm surges and high waves will put low-lying regions like the Bay Area at heightened risk of dangerous flooding. AND The West Coast will see an ocean several inches higher in coming decades, with most of California expected to get sea levels a half foot higher by 2030, according to a report released Friday. Seaside cliffs will be cut back about 30 yards over the next 100 years, and sand dunes will be driven back even more, said Robert A. Dalrymple, a professor of civil engineering at Johns Hopkins University and chairman of the group that wrote the report. After about 50 years, coastal wetlands will eventually be overwhelmed without new sources of sand or room to move inland. That could be problematic in Northern California, though, since dams hold back about a third of the sand that once washed into the sea there from the Klamath River, the report noted…Sea levels rise for two reasons due to global warming. Warmer water expands, which can cause as many as 23 inches of sea level to rise by 2100, according to the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Warmer temperatures also cause ice sheets in Greenland and west Antarctica to melt, adding another foot or more to sea levels by 2100, scientists said.....
2012 June 21. Colorado Fire Follows Pine Beetles' Tracks. By Nathaniel Massey and Climate Wire, Scientific American. Excerpt: Mountain pine beetle
infestation killed the trees fueling the High Park fire, By Nathanael
Massey and ClimateWire. Excerpt: It has been nearly two weeks since a
tongue of lightning touched down in the foothills of the Colorado
Rockies, sparking the biggest wildfire in Larimer County history and the
most destructive -- with almost 200 buildings damaged to date -- in the
state's memory. ...When pine beetles [link "pine beetles to
http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/05528.html] take over a forest,
fire is typically not far behind, said Cal Wettstein, incident
commander with the Rocky Mountain division of the Beetle Incident
Management Organization. ...Many entomologists point to the record
warmth of the last 10 years as a cause. The beetle's life cycle is
temperature-dependent. It is killed by frosts, but its life cycle is
accelerated by warmth, and in some cases higher temperatures have been
shown to allow the beetles to reproduce twice a year rather than once
(ClimateWire, March 19). Add to those factors a dry winter and hot
spring of the kind Colorado witnessed this year and last, and you have a
perfect storm of conditions for a blaze on the scale and severity of
the High Park fire, said Reghan Cloudman, public information officer for
the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest....
2012 June 07. NASA Discovers Unprecedented Blooms of Ocean Plant Life. By J.D. Harrington and Maria-Jose Vinas, NASA. An article relevant to GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Scientists have made a biological discovery in Arctic Ocean waters as dramatic and unexpected as finding a rainforest in the middle of a desert. A NASA-sponsored expedition punched through three-foot thick sea ice to find waters richer in microscopic marine plants, essential to all sea life, than any other ocean region on Earth. The finding reveals a new consequence of the Arctic's warming climate and provides an important clue to understanding the impacts of a changing climate and environment on the Arctic Ocean and its ecology…The microscopic plants, called phytoplankton, are the base of the marine food chain. Phytoplankton were thought to grow in the Arctic Ocean only after sea ice had retreated for the summer. Scientists now think that the thinning Arctic ice is allowing sunlight to reach the waters under the sea ice, catalyzing the plant blooms where they had never been observed…
2012 June 07. Warming nears point of no return, scientists say.
By David Perlman, SF Gate. Excerpt: The Earth is reaching a "tipping
point" in climate change that will lead to increasingly rapid and
irreversible destruction of the global environment unless its forces are
controlled by concerted international action, an international group of
scientists warns. Unchecked population growth, the disappearance of
critical plant and animal species, the over-exploitation of energy
resources, and the rapidly warming climate are all combining to bring
mounting pressure on the Earth's environmental health…scientists from
five nations, led by UC Berkeley biologist Anthony Barnosky, report
their analysis Thursday in the journal Nature….
2012 May 24. Butterfly Species Expands Range With Climate Change. By Sindya N. Bhanoo The NY Times. Excerpt: A butterfly species in England is expanding its range, thanks to climate change. “There was something unusual about the degree to which it was spreading its range,” said an author of the study, Jane K. Hill, a biologist at York. “It was turning up in places that were unexpected.” The study demonstrates that some species have unexpected responses to climate change, Dr. Hill said. For the butterflies, the response seems to be positive. Unfortunately, she added, they are also facing loss of habitat, and that, she said, “outweighs any potential benefits from climate change.”….
2012 May 13. Global warming threatens pine forests, forcing federal officials to shift strategy. By Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post. Excerpt: The Forest Service…explains how federal researchers are working to curb a beetle epidemic in an effort to save high-elevation pine forests. Scientists know that global warming will reshape these forests, which provide crucial habitat and food for key species, curb soil erosion and slow melting snow destined for local water supplies. What they don’t yet understand is which trees are best poised to survive under these changed conditions and how they can help them adapt in the decades to come...
2012 Apr 5. Climate Change Linked to Waterborne Diseases in Inuit Communities. By Ker Than, National Geographic News. Excerpt: As global warming triggers heavier rainfall and faster snowmelt in the Arctic, Inuit communities in Canada are reporting more cases of illness attributed to pathogens that have washed into surface water and groundwater, according to a new study. The findings corroborate past research that suggests indigenous people worldwide are being disproportionately affected by climate change.... The experiences of the Inuit and other indigenous communities as they struggle to adapt to changing climate conditions could help guide humanity in the coming years when the effects of climate change are felt universally, scientists say....
2012 Apr16. Beetles’ Birth Explosion Puts Trees Under Stress. By Sindya Bhanoo, New York Times. Excerpt: Mountain pine beetles attack
and kill weak pine trees, boring into bark to lay their eggs. They
attack the trees in hordes, and their larvae feed off fungi in the
trees. Now, the beetles are reproducing twice a year instead of once,
and millions of trees are dying as a result. The beetle species is
several million years old, and historically larvae grow to be adults in
July or August every year. But it has been getting warmer earlier in the
year, and larvae mature faster and emerge as early as May. These new
beetles then immediately lay eggs, and a second generation of adult
beetles emerges as early as July because summers are so warm, said Scott
M. Ferrenberg, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado
at Boulder and an author of a study in the coming issue of The American
Naturalist…. Read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/17/science/beetles-birth-explosion-puts-pine-trees-under-stress.html?ref=science
2012 Mar 22. Rising sea levels imperil our state | By Ben Strauss,
Excerpt: Florida is in the crosshairs of climate change. Rising seas, a
population crowded along the coast, porous bedrock, and the relatively
common occurrence of tropical storms put more real estate and people at
risk from storm surges aggravated by sea level rise in Florida, than any
other state by far….
…It’s time we start preparing for higher seas and storms, if we want to
avoid their worst effects. In South Florida, where the porous limestone
makes building effective sea walls or levees almost impossible, the task
is especially urgent....
2012 Mar-Apr. 2011's Billion-Dollar Disasters: Is Climate Change to Blame? | By Jeff Masters, weatherize. Excerpt: … at the beginning of 2011, Mother Nature made it abundantly clear that the gloves were off. …punishing snowstorms pounded the country, … shut down Chicago with more than 20 inches of snow and brought heavy snow to 22 states. …cost $1.8 billion,…. in April, a series of violent severe storms brought an astonishing eight billion-dollar disasters to the United States in a three-month period. The Plains and Southeast endured an epic onslaught of dangerous tornadoes that killed hundreds and caused tens of billions in damage. …Record rains …triggering billion-dollar floods on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. And after the floods, came the heat. …the summer of 2011 was the second hottest in U.S. history, just 0.1 degree below the great Dust Bowl summer of 1936….
2012 Mar 24. 2012 March 14. Scientists use Thoreau's journal notes to track climate change. By Alison Flood, The Guardian. Excerpt: Fittingly for a man seen as the first environmentalist, Henry David Thoreau, who described his isolated life in 1840s Massachusetts in the classic of American literature Walden, is now helping scientists pin down the impacts of climate change….
…He meticulously observed the first flowering dates for over 500 species of wildflowers in Concord, Massachusetts, between 1851 and 1858, recording them in a set of tables. When Richard Primack, a biology professor at Boston University, and fellow researcher Abraham Miller-Rushing discovered Thoreau's unpublished records, they immediately realised how useful they would be for pinning down the impact of the changing climate over the last century and a half….
2012 March 13. Rising Sea Levels Seen as Threat to Coastal U.S. By Justin Gillis, The NY Times. Excerpt: About 3.7 million Americans live within a few feet of high tide and risk being hit by more frequent coastal flooding in coming decades because of the sea level rise caused by global warming, according to new research….
The project on sea level rise led by Dr. Benjamin H. Strauss for the nonprofit organization Climate Central appears to be the most elaborate effort in decades to estimate the proportion of the national population at risk from the rising sea. The papers are scheduled for publication on Wednesday by the journal Environmental Research Letters. The work is based on the 2010 census and on improved estimates, compiled by federal agencies, of the land elevation near coastlines and of tidal levels throughout the country….
2012 Jan 26. New USDA climate zone map reflects northward warming trends. By Janice Lloyd, USA TODAY. Excerpt: A new government map gives gardeners in many parts of the nation a chance to turn over a new leaf for the first time in decades. …Long-awaited changes unveiled Wednesday in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's climate zone guide show northward warming trends, while also targeting a few colder areas in the mountains. "I think it will lead people to experiment with many plants they might not have otherwise," says Steve Carroll, director of public programs at the State Arboretum of Virginia in Boyce, Va. "Nurseries might stock differently." See also article in Anchorage Daily News as well as article in Seattle Times: Britain ranks top risks posed by climate change.
2011 Dec 16. As Permafrost Thaws, Scientists Study the Risks. By Justin Gillis, The NY Times. Excerpt: …Experts have long known that northern lands were a storehouse of frozen carbon, locked up in the form of leaves, roots and other organic matter trapped in icy soil... But they have been stunned in recent years to realize just how much organic debris is there….
…If a substantial amount of the carbon should enter the atmosphere, it would intensify the planetary warming. An especially worrisome possibility is that a significant proportion will emerge not as carbon dioxide, the gas that usually forms when organic material breaks down, but as methane, produced when the breakdown occurs in lakes or wetlands. Methane is especially potent at trapping the sun’s heat, and the potential for large new methane emissions in the Arctic is one of the biggest wild cards in climate science….
2011 Dec 12. Climate change blamed for dead trees in Africa. By Sarah Yang, Media Relations, UC Berkeley News Center. Excerpt: Trees are dying in the Sahel, a region in Africa south of the Sahara Desert, and human-caused climate change is to blame, according to a new study led by a scientist at the University of California, Berkeley….
…The study, which is scheduled for publication Friday, Dec. 16, in the Journal of Arid Environments, was based upon climate change records, aerial photos dating back to 1954, recent satellite images and old-fashioned footwork that included counting and measuring over 1,500 trees in the field…
…They found that one in six trees died between 1954 and 2002. In addition, one in five tree species disappeared locally, and indigenous fruit and timber trees that require more moisture took the biggest hit….Their results indicate that climate change is shifting vegetation zones south toward moister areas.
2011 Dec 1. Santa Ana Wind Season May Be Stretched by Climate Change, By Craig Miller, KQED News. Excerpt: …this is high season for the notorious winds known ... as “Santa Anas,” and research suggests our changing climate may mean that season gets longer.
…“Generally a stationary high pressure system that sits over the Great Basin – Nevada and inland regions,” according to Norm Miller, who’s been modeling these winds on computers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab for a few years now.
...As the air squeezes through the canyons, it speeds up — 50-60 mile-an-hour winds are not uncommon. And when air is compressed, it gets hotter.
...Normally, the season for Santa Anas would be starting to peak right about now, through December and January, and then start tailing off. But Miller has combined what we know about Santa Anas with established large-scale climate models, and found ... that given the way the Western climate is changing, high season for hot winds could be stretched out, with more Santa Anas overlapping with the dry season.
“And the danger would be that if we see it spread into the dry season longer, ... chances of fire are much greater,” says Miller.
2011 Nov 14. UK trees' fruit ripening '18 days earlier.' By Mark Kinver, BBC News. Excerpt: Britain's native trees are producing ripe fruit, on average, 18 days earlier than a decade ago, probably as a result of climatic shifts, a study reveals….
…Experts warn that one consequence could be that animals' food reserves would become depleted earlier in the winter….
2011 November 9. Bering Sea storm: Has global warming made Alaska more vulnerable? By Pete Spotts, Christian Science Monitor. Excerpt: A powerful fall storm – the strongest since a mid-November storm in 1974 – is pounding Alaska's west coast with hurricane-force winds and a storm surge that in many places is expected to top eight feet above the high-tide line…. Concerns for flooding and coastal erosion are compounded by a lack of coastal sea ice, which typically extends from the shoreline out toward the open ocean and is building at this time of year.
…While the storm is weaker than the '74 event, it appears to fit into a long-term pattern with a global-warming connection
Dr. Jeff Masters notes that several studies over the past several years have documented an increase in the number of these intense wintry storms in the northern hemisphere over the past century, with a marked upward swing beginning in the mid-1960s, as the global climate has warmed….
2011 November 2. Climate change effect on Delta detailed in new study. By Mike Taugher, Contra Costa Times. Excerpt: California's water problems and the ecological pressure on the West Coast's largest estuary will intensify in a warming world, according to a first-of-its-kind scientific study.
San Francisco Bay and the Delta will get warmer, saltier and clearer if global warming continues over the next several decades. That will increase the risk of extinction for some kinds of fish and could help unwanted species, including a toxic algae, flourish…
…James Cloern, the study's lead author, said the researchers hoped the results would be used by those writing plans for the Delta's future. Two high-profile plans are under way. One is the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan being pursued by the Delta's biggest water users. It features a new aqueduct as its centerpiece. The other is the Delta Plan being written by a new state agency, the Delta Stewardship Council…. [Original report, "Projected Evolution of California's San
Francisco Bay-Delta-River System in a Century of Climate Change," is
published at PLoS One, the Public Library of Science's online journal.
It can be found at www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0024465]
2011 November. Six Climate Change-Related Events In the United States Accounted For About $14 Billion in Lost Lives and Health Costs. By Kim Knowlton et al., Health Affairs. Abstract: The future health costs associated with predicted climate change–related events such as hurricanes, heat waves, and floods are projected to be enormous. This article estimates the health costs associated with six climate change–related events that struck the United States between 2000 and 2009. The six case studies came from categories of climate change–related events projected to worsen with continued global warming—ozone pollution, heat waves, hurricanes, infectious disease outbreaks, river flooding, and wildfires. We estimate that the health costs exceeded $14 billion, with 95 percent due to the value of lives lost prematurely. Actual health care costs were an estimated $740 million. This reflects more than 760,000 encounters with the health care system. Our analysis provides scientists and policy makers with a methodology to use in estimating future health costs related to climate change and highlights the growing need for public health preparedness.
2011 October 14. Vital Details of Global Warming Are Eluding Forecasters. By Richard A. Kerr. Excerpt: Climate researchers are quite comfortable with their projections for the world under a strengthening greenhouse, at least on the broadest scales. But ask researchers what's in store for the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest, or even the western half of the United States, and they'll often demur. Switching from global models to models focusing on a single region creates a more detailed forecast, although it also creates more uncertainty. But help is on the way. Regional modelers are well into their first extensive comparison of global-regional model combinations to sort out the uncertainties....
2011 Oct 4. SpaceMath@NASA Problem 448: The Declining Arctic Ice Cap [PDF]. Students graph the change in Arctic ice surface area, and perform linear and quadratic regressions to model and forecast trends. See also: NASA Press Release: Arctic Sea Ice Continues Decline, Hits 2nd-Lowest Level - http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2011-ice-min.html
2011 August 19. Temps push animal, plant species to higher elevations. By Elizabeth Welse, USA Today. Excerpt: A study published in today's edition of the journal Science finds that, overall, species are moving to higher elevations at 36 feet per decade and higher latitudes at 10.5 miles per decade. The rate is two or three times faster than when it was last measured, in 2003. "The climate is shifting everything toward the north and higher altitudes," says Chris Thomas, senior author on the paper and a professor of conservation biology at the University of York in the United Kingdom. Animals, plants and insects closer to the equator or at lower elevations "are starting to find it too hot and are retreating upwards..."
"There is practically no basis to doubt the proposition that species are shifting as a function of rapidly changing climate," says Jeremy Kerr, a professor of biology at the University of Ottawa in Canada, who did not participate in the study.
2011 July 25. Toxic chemicals released by melting Arctic ice. CBC news. Excerpt: Climate change is boosting levels of banned pollutants such as PCBs and DDT in the atmosphere, Canadian, Chinese and Norwegian scientists have found. A "wide range" of persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, have been increasingly released into the Arctic atmosphere since the early 1990s, says the study led by Environment Canada scientist Jianmin Ma, "confirming that Arctic warming could undermine global efforts to reduce environmental and human exposure to these toxic chemicals." The study, published Sunday in Nature Climate Change, links higher summer air temperatures and lower sea ice cover to increasing levels of POPs. That suggests that POPs previously trapped in water, snow and ice could be released back into the air as the ice melts, allowing them to travel long distances through the environment.
…Jordi Dachs, a scientist at the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research in Barcelona said the results mean that POPs could continue to negatively impact the environment and human health far longer than previously believed...
2011 May 9. In a Changing Antarctica, Some Penguins Thrive as Others Suffer. By Andy Isaacson, The NY Times. Excerpt:
…Of the species that stand to be most affected by global warming, the
most obvious are the ones that rely on ice to live. Adélie penguins are
a bellwether of climate change, and at the northern fringe of
Antarctica, in the Antarctic Peninsula, their colonies have collapsed
as an intrusion of warmer seawater shortens the annual winter sea ice
…Climate change has created a paradise for some pack ice penguin
colonies and a purgatory for others, but the long-term fate of all
Adélie and emperor penguins seems sealed, as relentless warming
eventually pulls their rug of sea ice out from under them….
2011 February 22. Owls change colour as climate warms. By Emma Brennand, BBC Earth News. Excerpt: Tawny owls turn brown to survive in warmer climates, according to scientists in Finland.
Feather colour is hereditary, with grey plumage dominant over brown.
But the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found
that the number of brown owls was increasing....
...The results also suggest that a changing climate could, in some
species, reduce the number and variety of characteristics that can be
2011 February 16. Heavy Rains Linked to Humans. By Justin Gillis, The NY Times. Excerpt:
"An increase in heavy precipitation that has afflicted many countries
is at least partly a consequence of human influence on the atmosphere,
climate scientists reported in a new study.
In the first major paper of its kind, the researchers used elaborate
computer programs that simulate the climate to analyze whether the rise
in severe rainstorms, heavy snowfalls and similar events could be
explained by natural variability in the atmosphere. They found that it
could not, and that the increase made sense only when the computers
factored in the effects of greenhouse gases released by human
activities like the burning of fossil fuels....
2011 January 21. California Plants Put A Wrinkle in Climate Change Plans. By Richard Harris, NPR News. Excerpt:
As the globe warms up, many plants and animals are moving uphill to
keep their cool. Conservationists are anticipating much more of this as
they make plans to help natural systems adapt to a warming planet. But
a new study in Science has found that plants in northern California are
bucking this uphill trend in preference for wetter, lower areas....
...This adds some pretty big wrinkles to conservation plans. For
example: It's not always a good assumption that protecting areas up
slope from plants will help protect their future habitat as the climate
2011 January 15. Melting in Andes Reveals Remains and Wreckage. By Simon Romero, The NY Times. Excerpt:
...The discovery of [airplane pilot Rafael Benjamin Pabon's] partially
preserved remains was one of a growing number of finds pulled from the
world’s glaciers and snow fields in recent years as warmer temperatures
cause the ice and snow to melt, exposing their long-held secrets. The
bodies that have emerged were mummified naturally, with extreme cold
and dry air performing the work that resins and oils did for ancient
Egyptians and other cultures....
2010 November 13. As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas. By Justin Gillis, The New York Times. Excerpt:
Scientists long believed that the collapse of the gigantic ice sheets
in Greenland and Antarctica would take thousands of years, with sea
level possibly rising as little as seven inches in this century, about
the same amount as in the 20th century… But researchers have recently
been startled to see big changes unfold in both Greenland and
As a result of recent calculations that take the changes into account,
many scientists now say that sea level is likely to rise perhaps three
feet by 2100 — an increase that, should it come to pass, would pose a
threat to coastal regions the world over....
Slide Show: Reading Earth's Future in Glacial Ice
Video: Tracking Greenland's Glaciers
Interactive Graphic: Restless Ice
Graphic: Rising Seas, Vulnerable Areas
Green Blog: A Nighttime Epiphany on Sea Level
2010 October 8. USDA Release 1022: Climate change may impact maple syrup production. Excerpt:
Research by the USDA Forest Service and a study released by Cornell
University demonstrate changes in climate have already had an impact on
the iconic sugar maple trees of the Northeastern US and could
eventually affect maple syrup production.
Research shows that climate change stressors may decrease the
availability of maple syrup or shift production northward by the end of
the next century because of direct changes in temperature, decreases in
snowpack or increases in weather disturbances such as ice storms...
...While maple trees won't necessarily vanish from the landscape, there
could be fewer trees that are more stressed, further reducing maple
2010 Sep 23. "This is what Global Warming looks like" video from NRDC Broadcast Videos. A short video about climate-related events from the past year, produced by the National Resources Defense Council.
2010 August 19. Drought Drives Decade-long Decline in Plant Growth. By Steve Cole, NASA. Excerpt:
Global plant productivity that once was on the rise with warming
temperatures and a lengthened growing season is now on the decline
because of regional drought according to a new study of NASA satellite
data. Plant productivity is a measure of the rate of the photosynthesis
process that green plants use to convert solar energy, carbon dioxide
and water to sugar, oxygen and eventually plant tissue... ...The shift,
however, could impact food security, biofuels and the global carbon
..."This is a pretty serious warning that warmer temperatures are not going to endlessly improve plant growth," Running said...
..."This past decade’s net decline in terrestrial productivity
illustrates that a complex interplay between temperature, rainfall,
cloudiness, and carbon dioxide, probably in combination with other
factors such as nutrients and land management, will determine future
patterns and trends in productivity,"...
...Researchers want to continue monitoring these trends in the future
because plant productivity is linked to shifting levels of greenhouse
gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and stresses on plant growth that
could challenge food production...
..."Even if the declining trend of the past decade does not continue,
managing forests and crop lands for multiple benefits to include food
production, biofuel harvest, and carbon storage may become exceedingly
challenging in light of the possible impacts of such decadal-scale
2010 August 7. Giant Ice Island Breaks Off Greenland. By Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: A giant ice island has broken off the Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland.
A University of Delaware researcher says the floating ice sheet covers
100 square miles - more than four times the size of New York's
Manhattan Island. Andreas Muenchow, who is studying the nares Strait
between Greenland and Canada, said the ice sheet broke off early
Thursday. He says the new ice island was discovered by Trudy Wohlleben
of the Canadian Ice Service.
Not since 1962 has such a large chunk of ice calved in the Arctic, but
researchers have noticed cracks in recent months in the floating tongue
of the glacier.
2010 July 28. Plankton decline across oceans as waters warm. By Richard Black, BBC News. Excerpt:
The amount of phytoplankton - tiny marine plants - in the top layers of
the oceans has declined markedly over the last century, research
Writing in the journal Nature, scientists say the decline appears to be linked to rising water temperatures.
The decline - about 1% per year - could be ecologically significant as plankton sit at the base of marine food chains.
…The decline is seen in most parts of the world, one marked exception
being the Indian Ocean. There are also phytoplankton increases in
coastal zones where fertiliser run-off from agricultural land is
increasing nutrient supplies
…If the trend is real, it could also act to accelerate warming, the
team noted… Photosynthesis by phytoplankton removes carbon dioxide from
the air and produces oxygen.
2010 June 4. Climate Change Leading to Major Vegetation Shifts Around the World. By Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley News. Excerpt:
BERKELEY -- Vegetation around the world is on the move, and climate
change is the culprit, according to a new analysis of global vegetation
shifts led by a University of California, Berkeley, ecologist in
collaboration with researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture
…In a paper published today in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography,
researchers present evidence that over the past century, vegetation has
been gradually moving toward the poles and up mountain slopes, where
temperatures are cooler, as well as toward the equator, where rainfall
…"This is the first global view of observed biome shifts due to climate
change," said the study's lead author Patrick Gonzalez, a visiting
scholar at the Center for Forestry at UC Berkeley's College of Natural
Resources. "It's not just a case of one or two plant species moving to
another area. To change the biome of an ecosystem, a whole suite of
plants must change."
…"Approximately one billion people now live in areas that are highly to
very highly vulnerable to future vegetation shifts," said Gonzalez.
"Ecosystems provide important services to people, so we must reduce the
emissions that cause climate change, then adapt to major changes that
2010 April 7. New Study: Climate Change Threatening Glacier National Park Could Harm Montana's Future Tourism and Economy. National Resources Defense Council. Excerpt:
WHITEFISH, MT. and DENVER, CO. --The last decade in Glacier National
Park saw exactly double the temperature increase for the planet as a
whole. The effects of this warming threaten Glacier National Park’s
resources, from glaciers and snow-capped mountains to wildlife and
forests, as well as the Montana jobs and tourism revenue the park
generates, according to a new report from the Rocky Mountain Climate
Organization (RMCO) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Drawn by the park’s scenery, wildlife, and other resources, two million
people a year visit Glacier, making it the 11th most visited national
park in the U.S. Nearly three-quarters of the visitors are from out of
state.... Spending by Glacier visitors may approach $1 billion annually
and supports more than 4,000 Montana jobs. The report asks, why put at
risk Glacier’s spectacular resources, as important as they are to
Lead report author Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain
Climate Organization, said: “Human disruption of the climate is the
greatest threat ever to our national parks. If we don’t reduce
heat-trapping pollutants and protect the resources of Glacier National
Park, it will suffer from human-caused climate change. If we let
climate change and its impacts get to an unacceptable point, the
economy of Montana will suffer, too.”...
2010 March 12. Climate Change Threatens Migratory Birds, Report Says. By John M. Broder, NY Times. Excerpt:
WASHINGTON — Changes in the global climate are imposing additional
stress on hundreds of species of migratory birds in the United States
that are already threatened by other environmental factors, according
to a new Interior Department report.
The latest version of the department’s annual State of the Birds report
shows that nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species are
endangered, threatened or suffering from population decline.
For the first time, the report adds climate change to other factors
threatening bird populations, including destruction of habitat,
hunting, pesticides, invasive species and loss of wetlands....
2010 February 3. Black Carbon a Significant Factor in Melting of Himalayan Glaciers. By Julie Chao, LBL News. Excerpt:
The fact that glaciers in the Himalayan mountains are thinning is not
disputed. However, few researchers have attempted to rigorously examine
and quantify the causes. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
scientist Surabi Menon set out to isolate the impacts of the most
commonly blamed culprit—greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide—from
other particles in the air that may be causing the melting. Menon and
her collaborators found that airborne black carbon aerosols, or soot,
from India is a major contributor to the decline in snow and ice cover
on the glaciers.
“Our simulations showed greenhouse gases alone are not nearly enough to
be responsible for the snow melt,” says Menon, a physicist and staff
scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division.
“Most of the change in snow and ice cover—about 90 percent—is from
aerosols. Black carbon alone contributes at least 30 percent of this
...The findings are significant because they point to a simple way to
make a swift impact on the snow melt. “Carbon dioxide stays in the
atmosphere for 100 years, but black carbon doesn’t stay in the
atmosphere for more than a few weeks, so the effects of controlling
black carbon are much faster,” Menon says. “If you control black carbon
now, you’re going to see an immediate effect.”...
2010 January 28. Less Water Vapor May Slow Warming Trends. By Sindya N. Bhanoo, NY Times. Excerpt:
A decrease in water vapor concentrations in parts of the middle
atmosphere has contributed to a slowing of Earth’s warming, researchers
are reporting. The finding, they said, offers part of the explanation
for a string of years with relatively stable global surface
...“This doesn’t alter the fundamental conclusion that the world has
warmed and that most of that warming has to do with greenhouse gas
emissions caused by man,” said Susan Solomon, a climate scientist at
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the lead author
of the report, which appears in the Jan. 29 issue of the journal
Water vapor, a potent heat-trapping gas, absorbs sunlight and re-emits
heat into Earth’s atmosphere. Its concentrations in the stratosphere,
the second of three layers in the atmosphere, appear to have decreased
in the last 10 years, according to the study.
This has slowed the rate of Earth’s warming by about 25 percent, Dr. Solomon said....
2009 December 6. In Face of Skeptics, Experts Affirm Climate Peril. By Andrew C. Revkin and John M. Broder, NY Times. Excerpt:
...as representatives of about 200 nations converge in Copenhagen on
Monday to begin talks on a new international climate accord, they do so
against a background of renewed attacks on the basic science of climate
change. ...In recent days, an array of scientists and policy makers
have said that nothing so far disclosed — the correspondence and
documents include references by prominent climate scientists to
deleting potentially embarrassing e-mail messages, keeping papers by
competing scientists from publication and making adjustments in
research data — undercuts decades of peer-reviewed science. ...Even
some who remain skeptical about the extent or pace of global warming
say that the premise underlying the Copenhagen talks is solid: that
warming is to some extent driven by greenhouse gases spewing into the
atmosphere from human activities like the burning of fossil fuels and
2009 November. 5 Glaciers to See Before They're Gone. By Ethan Schowalter-hay. Except:
Mountain and continental glaciers ebb and flow based on broad climatic
cycles. In recent years, from New Zealand to Scandinavia, most have
retreated at startling rates. Since 1980, for example, the world's
alpine glaciers have receded by more than 36 feet. While the particular
reasons for the widespread decline are not entirely clear, an increase
in average global temperatures and variations in precipitation are
Columbia Glacier - Alaska
Southeastern Alaska is famous for tidewater glaciers: big icefields
spilling from mountains directly to the sea. While some continue to
advance, the 2,000-square-kilometer Columbia Glacier, which sweeps from
the Chugach Mountains into Prince William Sound, has been decreasing in
size with great rapidity over the past several decades. After a long
period of stability, it shrank from 41 miles long in 1980 to 33 in
2009 November 5. Climate Change, Nitrogen Loss Threaten Plant Life in Arid Desert Soils. NSF Release 09-218. Excerpt:
...As Earth's climate warms, arid soils lose more nitrogen, which could
lead to deserts with even less plant life than they sustain today.
Available nitrogen is second only to water as the biggest constraint to
biological activity in arid ecosystems, but ecologists have struggled
to understand the balance of the input and output of nitrogen in
deserts. For the first time, however, researchers have discovered a
mechanism that balances the nitrogen budget in deserts: Higher
temperatures cause nitrogen to escape as gas from desert soils.
...In the past, researchers focused on biological mechanisms in which
soil microbes near the surface produce nitrogen gas that dissipates
into the air, but ecologists Jed Sparks and Carmody ("Carrie")
McCalley, both at Cornell University and co-authors of the paper, found
that non-biological processes are playing a bigger role in nitrogen
losses from soil to air.
"This is a way that nitrogen is lost from an ecosystem that people have
never accounted for before," said Sparks. "It allows us to finally
understand the dynamics of nitrogen in arid systems."
...Further temperature increases and shifting precipitation patterns
due to climate change may lead to more nitrogen losses in arid
ecosystems, making their soils even more infertile and unable to
support most plant life, according to McCalley. Although some climate
models predict more summer rainfall for desert areas, the water, when
combined with heat, would greatly increase nitrogen losses, she said.
"We're on a trajectory where plant life in arid ecosystems could cease to do well," said McCalley....
2009 November 2. Mt. Kilimanjaro Ice Cap Continues Rapid Retreat. By Sindya N. Bhanoo, NY Times. Excerpt:
The ice atop Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania has continued to retreat
rapidly, declining 26 percent since 2000, scientists say in a new
Yet the authors of the study, to be published Tuesday in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reached no consensus
on whether the melting could be attributed mainly to humanity’s role in
warming the global climate.
Eighty-five percent of the ice cover that was present in 1912 has vanished, the scientists said.
...The lead author of the study, Lonnie G. Thompson, a glaciologist at
Ohio State University, has concluded that the melting of recent years
If his dating of the ice core layers is accurate, surface melting like
that seen in recent years has not occurred over the last 11,700
2009 July 14. Arctic glacier to lose Manhattan-sized 'tongue'. By Catherine Brahic, NewScientist. Excerpt:
The biggest glacier in the Arctic is on the verge of losing a chunk of
ice the size of Manhattan. A group of scientists and climate change
activists who are closely monitoring the Petermann glacier's ice tongue
believe the rapid flow of ice is in part due to warm ocean currents
moving up along the coast of Greenland, fuelled by global warming.
... The team believes this will happen within weeks. Only yesterday, a
3-square-kilometre chunk broke away. There are now more than 10 cracks
in the ice, some 500 metres wide. The researchers expect the ice tongue
to break up within the coming weeks.
When this happens, an island of ice the size of Manhattan, spanning 100
km2 holding 5 billion tonnes of ice, will break free and drift out to
As with all glaciers that terminate over water, big chunks of ice
regularly break off the Petermann ice tongue, a process which is
normally compensated for by the snow that falls on the upper reaches of
the glacier. But the sheer amount of ice that could break away in a
single event is concerning the scientists – five billion tonnes of ice
is equivalent to nearly half of the glacier's usual annual flow.
The researchers are unsure what exactly is causing the break-up. A
chunk of 1 million tonnes of ice broke off last year and there has been
an acceleration in the flow of ice over the past few years. They think
a number of factors are involved including warmer ocean currents that
are melting the ice from below and warmer air temperatures that are
melting it from above....
2009 July 7. NASA RELEASE: 09-155. New NASA Satellite Survey Reveals Dramatic Arctic Sea Ice Thinning. Excerpt:
WASHINGTON -- Arctic sea ice thinned dramatically between the winters
of 2004 and 2008, with thin seasonal ice replacing thick older ice as
the dominant type for the first time on record. The new results, based
on data from a NASA Earth-orbiting spacecraft, provide further evidence
for the rapid, ongoing transformation of the Arctic's ice cover.
Scientists from NASA and the University of Washington in Seattle
conducted the most comprehensive survey to date using observations from
NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite, known as ICESat, to
make the first basin-wide estimate of the thickness and volume of the
Arctic Ocean's ice cover....
The Arctic ice cap grows each winter as the sun sets for several months
and intense cold ensues. In the summer, wind and ocean currents cause
some of the ice naturally to flow out of the Arctic, while much of it
melts in place. But not all of the Arctic ice melts each summer; the
thicker, older ice is more likely to survive. Seasonal sea ice usually
reaches about 6 feet in thickness, while multi-year ice averages 9 feet.
Using ICESat measurements, scientists found that overall Arctic sea ice
thinned about 7 inches a year, for a total of 2.2 feet over four
winters. The total area covered by the thicker, older "multi-year" ice
that has survived one or more summers shrank by 42 percent.
...In recent years, the amount of ice replaced in the winter has not
been sufficient to offset summer ice losses. The result is more open
water in summer, which then absorbs more heat, warming the ocean and
further melting the ice. Between 2004 and 2008, multi-year ice cover
shrank 595,000 square miles -- nearly the size of Alaska's land area....
2009 June 16. Government Study Warns of Climate Change Effects. By John M. Broder, The NY Times. Excerpt:
WASHINGTON — The impact of a changing climate is already being felt
across the United States, like shifting migration patterns of
butterflies in the West and heavier downpours in the Midwest and East,
according to a government study to be released on Tuesday.
Even if the nation takes significant steps to slow emissions of
heat-trapping gases, the impact of global warming is expected to become
more severe in coming years, the report says, affecting farms and
forests, coastlines and floodplains, water and energy supplies,
transportation and human health....
The study, overseen by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, will be posted at www.globalchange.gov/usimpacts.
Some of the effects being seen today and cited in the report are
familiar, like more powerful tropical storms and erosion of ocean
coastlines caused by melting Arctic ice. The study also cites an
increase in drought in the Southwest and more intense heat waves in the
Northeast as a result of growing concentrations of carbon dioxide and
other climate-altering gases in the atmosphere.
...“What we would want to have people take away is that climate change
is happening now, and it’s actually beginning to affect our lives,”
said Thomas R. Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center at
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a principal
author of the report. “It’s not just happening in the Arctic regions,
but it’s beginning to show up in our own backyards.”...
2009 May 27. RELEASE 2009-10. Melting Greenland Ice Sheets May Threaten Northeast United States, Canada. NCAR. Excerpt:
BOULDER--Melting of the Greenland ice sheet this century may drive more
water than previously thought toward the already threatened coastlines
of New York, Boston, Halifax, and other cities in the northeastern
United States and in Canada, according to new research led by the
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
The study, which will be published Friday in Geophysical Research
Letters, finds that if Greenland's ice melts at moderate to high rates,
ocean circulation by 2100 may shift and cause sea levels off the
northeast coast of North America to rise by about 12 to 20 inches
(about 30 to 50 centimeters) more than in other coastal areas. The
research builds on recent reports that have found that sea level rise
associated with global warming could adversely affect North America,
and its findings suggest that the situation is more threatening than
"If the Greenland melt continues to accelerate, we could see significant
impacts this century on the northeast U.S. coast from the resulting sea
level rise," says NCAR scientist Aixue Hu, the lead author. "Major
northeastern cities are directly in the path of the greatest rise."
...The northeast coast of North America is especially vulnerable to the
effects of Greenland ice melt because of the way the meridional
overturning circulation acts like a conveyer belt transporting water
through the Atlantic Ocean. The circulation carries warm Atlantic water
from the tropics to the north, where it cools and descends to create a
dense layer of cold water. As a result, sea level is currently about 28
inches (71 cm) lower in the North Atlantic than the North Pacific,
which lacks such a dense layer. ...Unlike water in a bathtub, water in
the oceans does not spread out evenly. Sea level can vary by several
feet from one region to another, depending on such factors as ocean
circulation and the extent to which water at lower depths is
2009 May 18. As Alaska Glaciers Melt, It's Land That's Rising. By CORNELIA DEAN, NY Times. Excerpt:
Relieved of billions of tons of glacial weight, the land in Juneau is
rising much as a cushion regains its shape after someone gets up from a
2009 March 30. A Census Taker for Penguins in Argentina. A Conversation with Dee Boersma. By Claudia Dreifus, NY Times. Excerpt:
P. Dee Boersma, a University of Washington conservation biologist, is
the Jane Goodall of penguins. As director of the Wildlife Conservation
Society’s Penguin Project, Dr. Boersma, 62, has spent the last quarter
of a century studying the behaviors of some 40,000 Magellanic penguins,
inhabitants of one stretch of beach in southern Argentina....
Q. WHAT DOES YOUR RESEARCH INVOLVE?
A. I’m a kind of census taker of the 200,000 breeding pairs of penguins
at Punta Tombo. I track who is at home, who gets to mate, where the
penguins go for the meals, their health, their behaviors.
...I’m interested in where they go. Through the tagging we’ve been able
to show that in the last decade, the birds are swimming about 25 miles
further in search of food. They’re having trouble finding enough fish
These penguins are now laying eggs on the average three days later in
the season then they did a decade ago. That means that the chicks may
leave for sea at more inopportune times, when fish may not be close to
the colony. Many will not survive to come back and breed. The Punta
Tombo colony has declined 22 percent since 1987. That’s a lot. This
type of penguin is considered near-threatened. Of the 17 different
penguin species, 12 are suffering rapid decreases in numbers.
Q. Why is this decline occurring among the Magellanic penguins?
A. Changes in the availability and abundance of prey. And we think
that’s due to both climate change and exploitation of the penguins’
food sources by commercial fisheries....
Q. WHAT ARE THE POLICY IMPLICATIONS OF YOUR RESEARCH?
A. ...The big thing is that penguins are showing us that climate change
has already happened. The birds are trying to adapt. But evolution is
not fast enough to allow them to do that, over the long term....
2009 March 15. Northeast US to suffer most from future sea rise. By Seth Borenstein, The Huffington Post. Excerpt:
WASHINGTON — The northeastern U.S. coast is likely to see the world's
biggest sea level rise from man-made global warming, a new study
However much the oceans rise by the end of the century, add an extra 8
inches or so for New York, Boston and other spots along the coast from
the mid-Atlantic to New England....
An extra 8 inches – on top of a possible 2 or 3 feet of sea rise
globally by 2100 – is a big deal, especially when nor'easters and
hurricanes hit, experts said.
...the oceans won't rise at the same rate everywhere, said study author
Jianjun Yin of the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies at
Florida State University. It will be "greater and faster" for the
Northeast, with Boston one of the worst hit among major cities, he
said. So, if it's 3 feet, add another 8 inches for that region.
The explanation involves complicated ocean currents. Computer models
forecast that as climate change continues, there will be a slowdown of
the great ocean conveyor belt. That system moves heat energy in warm
currents from the tropics to the North Atlantic and pushes the cooler,
saltier water down, moving it farther south around Africa and into the
Pacific. As the conveyor belt slows, so will the Gulf Stream and North
Atlantic current. Those two fast-running currents have kept the
Northeast's sea level unusually low because of a combination of physics
and geography, Yin said.
Slow down the conveyor belt 33 to 43 percent as predicted by computer
models, and the Northeast sea level rises faster, Yin said....
2009 March 10. Sea level rise could bust IPCC estimate. By Catherine Brahic, NewScientist. Excerpt:
Sea level rises could bust official estimates – that's the first big
message to come from the climate change congress that kicked off in
Copenhagen, Denmark, today.
Researchers, including John Church of the Centre for Australian Weather
and Climate Research, presented evidence that Greenland and Antarctica
are losing ice fast, contributing to the annual sea-level rise. Recent
data shows that waters have been rising by 3 millimetres a year since
Church says this is above any of the rates forecast by the IPCC models.
By 2100, sea levels could be 1 metre or more above current levels, he
says. And it looks increasingly unlikely that the rise will be much
less than 50 centimetres.
In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast a rise
of 18 cm to 59 cm by 2100. But the numbers came with a heavy caveat
that often went unnoticed by the popular press.
Because modelling how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will react
to rising temperatures is fiendishly complicated, the IPCC did not
include either in its estimate. It's no small omission: the Greenland
ice cap, the smaller and so far less stable of the two, holds enough
water that if it all melted, it would raise sea levels by 6 metres on
average across the globe....
2009 January 29. New data show much of Antarctica is warming more than previously thought. EurekAlert. Excerpt:
Scientists studying climate change have long believed that while most
of the rest of the globe has been getting steadily warmer, a large part
of Antarctica – the East Antarctic Ice Sheet – has actually been
But new research shows that for the last 50 years, much of Antarctica
has been warming at a rate comparable to the rest of the world. In
fact, the warming in West Antarctica is greater than the cooling in
East Antarctica, meaning that on average the continent has gotten
warmer, said Eric Steig, a University of Washington professor of Earth
and space sciences and director of the Quaternary Research Center at
..."Simple explanations don't capture the complexity of climate," Steig
said. "The thing you hear all the time is that Antarctica is cooling
and that's not the case. If anything it's the reverse, but it's more
complex than that. Antarctica isn't warming at the same rate
everywhere, and while some areas have been cooling for a long time the
evidence shows the continent as a whole is getting warmer."
A major reason most of Antarctica was thought to be cooling is because
of a hole in the Earth's protective ozone layer that appears during the
spring months in the Southern Hemisphere's polar region. Steig noted
that it is well established that the ozone hole has contributed to
cooling in East Antarctica.
"However, it seems to have been assumed that the ozone hole was
affecting the entire continent when there wasn't any evidence to
support that idea, or even any theory to support it," he said.
"In any case, efforts to repair the ozone layer eventually will begin
taking effect and the hole could be eliminated by the middle of this
century. If that happens, all of Antarctica could begin warming on a
par with the rest of the world."...
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