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  • richardmitnick 11:41 am on November 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Chilling climate revelations from the last ice age, Climate Change,   

    From UCLA: “Chilling climate revelations from the last ice age” 

    UCLA bloc


    November 28, 2016
    David Colgan

    A Greenland ice sheet. Christine Zenino/Creative Commons

    About 14,000 years ago, the southwest United States was lush and green, home to saber-toothed cats and mammoths. Meanwhile, the Pacific Northwest was mostly grassland.

    That all changed as the last ice age was ending. Climate changes might be expected with the melt of a global freeze, but what’s surprising is how quickly climate and rainfall patterns changed. According to research published Nov. 22 [Geophysical Research Letters], the collapse of an ice sheet in what is now western Canada triggered a reorganization of the jet stream over the course of about 100 years — a blink of an eye in geological time.

    Previous research showed that these changes had occurred, but didn’t address why or the speed at which they happened, said Juan Lora, lead author of the paper and a UCLA postdoctoral fellow.

    “Basically, in a human lifetime the climate changed dramatically,” Lora said. “There was a very steady and stable configuration for tens of thousands of years until this moment, and then it suddenly changed to the climate we have now.”

    The jet stream shifted north by nearly 500 miles, taking moisture and rainfall from the Pacific with it. That transformed the Pacific Northwest from grassland to the grand forests we now have, while what was once a lush, green Southwest U.S. dried up and became mostly desert. Large animals that relied on that lush ecosystem such as mammoths and saber-toothed cats went extinct over the next few thousand years, leaving behind only fossils and bones in places like the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. [So, I ask, unanswered, why did not the animal population move with the changes?]

    So how do these findings relate to today’s man-made climate change?

    “We know that the jet stream is changing, but the change seems to be a bit more gradual,” Lora said. “The point we’re making is that ice distribution has a very direct effect on the climate of the larger region.”

    While we might not see a shift of the same magnitude, parts of the world could see relatively rapid changes as ice melts in polar regions from global warming. Large geographic features like glaciers, Arctic sea ice and ocean temperatures are all major drivers of weather patterns. This study demonstrates that major changes in ice and temperatures could cause abrupt effects farther away.

    Co-author Aradhna Tripati, a professor with UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability who initiated the study, echoed this concern. She pointed to recent news that Arctic air temperatures are 38 degrees warmer than usual for this time of year, preventing the usual formation of sea ice.

    “It’s not just climate change in the Arctic that can affect us here and that we’re worrying about,” Tripati said. “Climate change elsewhere — whether it’s overseas in Europe, China or even Antarctica — can also affect us.”

    To reach their conclusions, Tripati and Lora looked at data on past rainfall patterns, lake sediments, ice cores, the chemistry of deposits from caves and fossils from plants. They compared that evidence to computer climate model simulations of what might have happened. These records helped tell the story of the rapid climate shift.

    They also serve as an important check on the uncertainty of climate models — the main tools scientists and policy makers use to predict future climate outcomes.

    “Observations of past climate can be incredibly useful as a tool for verifying that a climate model’s projections are accurate,” Tripati said. “We need to start picking apart which individual models are doing a great job and why, and maybe even eliminate models that aren’t doing as well.”

    Rapid changes in weather patterns would have major effects on the West Coast of North America, where food, water and energy systems are often stretched to capacity to support the tens of millions living in the region.

    Daniel Swain, author of the California Weather Blog and a UCLA postdoctoral fellow, said the findings are particularly interesting in the context of California’s ongoing drought.

    “This paper presents compelling evidence that atmospheric conditions over the North Pacific can shift abruptly and dramatically in response to incremental changes in the broader Earth system,” Swain said. “It serves as a reminder that the Earth system is full of complex and non-linear interactions — which can sometimes lead to climate surprises.”

    See the full article here .

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    UC LA Campus

    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

  • richardmitnick 8:26 am on August 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Climate Change,   

    From Science: “Australia’s new government makes an about-face on climate research” 



    Aug. 4, 2016
    Leigh Dayton

    Australia’s climate change research efforts will be coordinated from this CSIRO facility in Hobart, Australia. CSIRO

    Australia’s new science minister has ordered the nation’s premier science agency to “put the focus back on climate science.” And Australian scientists have their fingers crossed, hoping the directive from Greg Hunt, revealed this morning, really indicates the federal government is reversing a previous decision to scale back climate research efforts.

    They also hope the U-turn might mean a rethink of a February realignment of priorities by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) that called for eliminating 350 jobs, including 110 climate science positions. The agency later scaled back the job cuts to 295 positions, including more than 60 climate and marine scientists.

    The new directive came as a surprise, given Hunt—environment minister until a recent reshuffle after the 2 July federal election—did not oppose the cuts when they were first announced. However, he today told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) “both the prime minister [Malcolm Turnbull] and I have clear and strong views” on the importance of climate science.

    In contrast, under Tony Abbott, the previous prime minister who once dismissed climate change as “absolute crap,” nonmedical science had a rough ride. After its election in September 2013, Abbott’s government slashed more than $2.2 billion from the research budget.

    Hence, guarded optimism greeted today’s announcement that the government would fund 15 new jobs in analysis and forecasting as part of an injection of $28 million over 10 years in climate research. Hunt said he would work with Australia’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel, CSIRO, and the scientific community to develop a new climate science strategy that will cover remaining staff and charge a new climate change center in Hobart, Australia, with coordinating related research efforts across government agencies and academia.

    The Australian Academy of Science welcomed Hunt’s statement that climate science would be a “bedrock function” of the CSIRO, as did the union representing CSIRO staff. But CSIRO Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski in Melbourne said the “backflip” on climate science capacity was “merely a Band-Aid” given that the agency is proceeding with the staff cuts.

    The association wrote to CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall demanding he halt the layoffs. “Clearly, there are many scientists and researchers facing the sack who work in climate science,” Popovski said. “Why is the Turnbull government and CSIRO management intent on throwing away this talent, experience and expertise?”

    CSIRO oceanographer John Church agreed that 15 new jobs will not compensate for the “loss of skills” walking out the door.

    Along with Church, an expert on sea level rise, another 22 climate scientists will leave the organization at the end of the month, regardless of whether management freezes the layoffs. Many will move overseas. Church, for one, is negotiating with unnamed institutions.

    “It’s been a painful journey,” Church said. “It’s probably time that I move on,” he told ABC radio. “I do, however, hope CSIRO does retain its sea level research.”

    See the full article here .

    The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of all people.

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  • richardmitnick 8:08 am on June 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change, ,   

    From INVERSE: “CO2 Concentrations Won’t Dip Below the 400 PPM Again”… 



    June 14, 2016
    Jacqueline Ronson

    …Not in your lifetime anyway.

    Until very recently, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide below 400 parts per million were all you had ever known. They were all this planet had known for millions of years. But those days are gone, and they’re not coming back any time soon according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change.

    The benchmark of 400 ppm is arbitrary, but worth noting because it represents a huge increase over what the planet has seen in millions of years. For the past 800,000 years, excluding the past century, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has varied between 180 and 280 parts per million. Then humans figured out how to burn fossil fuels for energy, and CO2 levels took off from there. Some researchers have suggested that 350 ppm is a “safe” level for the humans, plants, and animals that have adapted to life on this planet as we know it.

    What’s most shocking is how quickly the planet has gone from one where 400 ppm is unheard of, to one where levels below 400 won’t be seen again for the foreseeable future. There were some instances of readings over 400 ppm in 2012 and 2013, but the first time the planet sustained readings over 400 for a full month was barely a year ago, in March 2015.

    Global CO2 concentrations go up and down seasonally, but on average they are increasing at an increasing rate.

    The CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere cycle up and down every year with the seasons, as great northern forests suck up large quantities of carbon in the spring and summer. But the overall upward trend is clear, and the gap between being seasonally above 400 ppm and permanently — almost nonexistent.

    Thanks to a particularly strong El Niño, researchers believe we won’t dip back below 400 ppm for a very, very long time. The problem is, once CO2 gets into the atmosphere, it can stay there for centuries or even millennia. The major way it comes out of the atmosphere is by being dissolved into the oceans, which has its own consequences for the health of the planet. So even though human emissions have flattened out, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continues to grow at an increasing rate. Reversing the trend will take dramatic decreases in fossil fuel burning, and probably negative emission technologies like carbon capture and storage, too.

    The consequences of global climate change may be dramatic and irreversible, or they may be incremental. Either way, it’s time to start saying your goodbyes to Planet Earth as you once knew it.

    Maybe say your first goodbye to your cousins the Bramble Cay melomys, a rat-like rodent that is the first confirmed mammal to go extinct because of climate change. This species of melomys lived exclusively on Bramble Cay, a tiny coral island off the northern coast of Australia. Rising sea and storm surges inundated the cay with salty water often enough to kill off the vegetation the little guys depended on for food. The floods may have also drowned the melomys in large numbers. Researchers surveyed the island in 2014, and found no evidence of survivors.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 4:57 pm on May 31, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change, , , The Case for Abandoning Miami   

    From INVERSE: “The Case for Abandoning Miami and the Rich Fools Building Mansions on the Beach” 



    May 31, 2016
    Jacqueline Ronson

    Map of Miami, FL, USA

    Thousands of miles of U.S. coast are threatened by erosion, storms, and rising seas. Left alone, the barrier islands that protect coastal plains from New York to Mexico would do just fine adapting to climate change. Storms would eat away at the front edge of the islands, but throw sand over the backside, resulting in more elevated bulwarks closer to the shore. The problem is that humans love beaches and pay extravagant prices to live on these natural barriers. The rich are harder to move than sand.

    Valuable properties with powerful owners control vast sections of coast so governments, in their thrall, build enormously expensive seawalls that inevitably speed the erosions of beaches, which are replaced artificially at mounting cost. It’s the vicious cycle of sunbathing, and Orrin Pilkey says it’s a loser’s game. Miami is doomed.

    Pilkey, a retired Duke University professor, has been telling people to back the hell away from the ocean since the 1970s. His latest treatise, Retreat From a Rising Sea, co-written with his son and daughter, argues that a migration away from the world’s coast is inevitable, and that the sooner policies encourage people and infrastructure in that direction, the less painful the move will be. Pilkey told Inverse about what needs to be done, and why there’s no hope for Florida.

    Why is it a futile effort to protect coastal homes and development?

    How much would it cost to build 3,000 miles of seawall along the East Coast of the U.S., not to mention the rest of the world? On a barrier island, you have to build seawalls on all sides of the island. Where are we going to get the money for that? Then the problem becomes that seawalls destroy beaches. We saw this back in the early ‘70s in Miami Beach, where basically there was no beach left, before they nourished it.

    A rising tide creeps up on homes in Nags Head, North Carolina.

    Nourishment is very costly. We just recently nourished a beach north of Rodanthe, North Carolina, on the Outer Banks, for two miles, and it cost $10 million for each mile. And the beach lasted, really, about a year. I mean that’s an extraordinarily bad case, but these are multi-million dollar projects without exception, and in Florida they might last seven years, in North Carolina three years, New Jersey two or three years. And then, when sea level rises, this cost is going to increase and the lifespan will decrease.

    How big is this problem globally?

    There are 10,000 Inupiat Eskimos in Siberia, Alaska, and Northern Canada that are, because of a combination of sea level rise and melting permafrost, need to be moved. And we’re starting to look at moving them. Then there are the atoll nations of the Indian and Pacific Oceans — there, there’s about a million inhabitants, and a number of them are already moving.

    The biggest problem of all is on the world’s deltas. The Ganges delta is the most famous problem. There are several million people on this delta that need to be moving, not only directly because of the rising sea level, but because as the sea level rises, the frequency of storms and the effect of storms increase — the storms extend further inland. On deltas, the problem is that they are all very low-lying. And they are usually sinking. So besides the Ganges delta, there’s also the Irrawaddy delta in Myanmar, where 100-and-some-thousand people died in that last hurricane.

    India hopes this fence will keep expected climate refugees out of the country.

    There’s the Mississippi delta, where we’re planning to move one small village. Overall, we have hundreds of millions of people in deltas that will have to be moved. In India, they’ve already built what they call the Great Wall of India, the massive double barbed wire fence with concertina wire and all that stuff, to try to keep out the Bangladesh people who will be fleeing sea level rise.

    You’ve been advocating for a retreat for long time. Is anyone listening?

    For the most part it’s falling on deaf ears. Not only on the part of the individuals buying property, but on the part of the politicians. We even have politicians in the state of Florida, for heaven’s sake, that are denying sea level rise. One of the things that’s said by a lot of politicians is, ‘Well I’m not a scientist so I can’t really evaluate this.’ It’s so irresponsible on the shoreline issue, because so many people are going to be hurt because of sea level rise.

    After Hurricane Sandy, there were some little bits of good stuff going on. Like the purchase of houses that were threatened, and would be threatened in the next hurricane again, on Staten Island, New York, where they paid the price that the house would have been worth before the storm. There are a few places where they have decided not to allow development in New York. There’s little bits and pieces like this, just about everywhere there’s little pieces, except for North Carolina, perhaps, where we’re really dragging behind, and of course Florida, which has the biggest problem, and does the fewest things about it.

    How did it get so bad in Florida?

    You have hundreds of miles of high-rise lined shoreline. What are you going to do about this? You can’t move the buildings — there’s no place to move them to, and the cost of moving 20-storey buildings makes it highly unlikely that they’ll even be moved. So two things can happen. A hundred years from now we’ll have these islands lined by very, very high seawalls on all sides, or they’ll be offshore fishing reefs of some kind. There’s just no other long term future for much of the high-rise lined shoreline in Florida.

    Seawalls won’t protect Miami high-rises forever.

    Miami is sitting on top of the Miami limestone, and it’s a 50-75 foot thick, highly porous limestone. It is so porous that there are little ponds within Miami where you can actually measure tides. There are little one-centimeter or less rises in these ponds that correspond to the tides offshore. So, the point is, you can build seawalls, you can build levees, you can build dikes, and it won’t have any impact whatsoever. The city is flooding.

    I believe that we are going to respond to a catastrophe and not in a planned fashion, I’m at a loss as to what they’re going to do in a big storm. Many of the high rises will survive, but access to them will be gone, and of course if you built seawalls, there will be no beach. We have two choices, and I figure we’re going to pick the worse choice.

    If I was king of Miami, I would immediately stop some of the multi-billion dollar developments that are going on. Or at least I would tell people: ‘Go ahead and build, but let’s face it, it’s not going to work. Your streets are going to be flooded on a frequent basis in a few decades.’

    Why is it so hard to get people to be proactive on this?

    The problem is fundamentally we have very wealthy and very important and very powerful people living along the shoreline. In North and South Carolina, the wealthy islands are controlling coastal management in the state. There are wealthy people on all the islands, but the super wealthy ones are the ones that have the money to influence the politicians and so forth. That’s so hard to overcome. The politicians in the coastal zone are beholden to these wealthy people.

    We’re starting to pay some attention, not in any big way — and cities like Miami, which are doomed, are completely ignoring the problem. It is amazing to me that big time development continues in the city of Miami, when it’s all going to go away.

    Are you hopeful that people are going to start the retreat before things get really bad?

    I’m not hopeful. We have two choices — we could move back now, and respond now in a planned fashion, in the context of what we know is going to happen, or what we suspect is going to happen. Or we can respond in response to catastrophes — that is, big storms. And that’s what I think will happen.

    That will be really apparent in the Carolinas especially. A lot of damage will occur if another 1962 Ash Wednesday storm occurs. It will be hell. I’m hoping that one crisis will do it — one really bad storm.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:53 pm on May 13, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Climate Change, ,   

    From AGU: “Earth’s Atmosphere Passes Significant Carbon Milestone” 

    AGU bloc

    American Geophysical Union

    May 12, 2016
    Dan Satterfield

    The illustration was created by interpolating 20 profiles measured on February 5 and 8, 2016. The vertical axis has been increased for better visibility. Eric Morgan, Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

    Earth’s atmosphere is crossing a major threshold, as high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2)—the leading driver of recent climate change—are beginning to extend even to the globe’s most remote region. Scientists flying near Antarctica this winter captured the moment with airborne CO2 sensors during a field project to better understand the Southern Ocean’s role in global climate.

    This illustration shows the atmosphere near Antarctica in January, just as air masses over the Southern Ocean began to exceed 400 parts per million of CO2. The 400 ppm level is regarded as a milestone by climate scientists, as the last time concentrations of the heat-trapping gas reached such a point was millions of years ago, when temperatures and sea levels were far higher.

    The field project, led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and known as ORCAS, found that there is still air present in the Southern Hemisphere that has less than 400 ppm of CO2—but just barely. In the north, the atmosphere had first crossed that threshold in 2013, as shown by observations taken at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

    Image from NOAA/Climate Central

    Most fossil fuels are burned in the Northern Hemisphere, and these emissions take about a year to spread across the equator. As CO2 increases globally, the concentrations in the Southern Hemisphere lag slightly those further north.

    “Throughout humanity, we have lived in an era with CO2 levels below 400 ppm,” said Ralph Keeling, director of the CO2 Program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a principal investigator on ORCAS. “With these data, we see that era drawing to a close, as the curtain of higher CO2 spreads into the Southern hemisphere from the north. There is no sharp climate threshold at 400 ppm, but this milestone is symbolically and psychologically important.”

    The air found by ORCAS with less than 400 ppm of CO2 was located in a wedge at lower altitudes. At higher altitudes, the air had already exceeded 400 ppm. This pattern is mostly a consequence of the way the air circulates in the region. At these southerly latitudes, the air arrives from the Northern Hemisphere at higher elevations and then mixes downward.

    Emissions of CO2 have been increasing since the 19th century.

    See the full article here .

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    The purpose of the American Geophysical Union is to promote discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity.

    To achieve this mission, AGU identified the following core values and behaviors.

    Core Principles

    As an organization, AGU holds a set of guiding core values:

    The scientific method
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    When we are at our best as an organization, we embody these values in our behavior as follows:

    We advance Earth and space science by catalyzing and supporting the efforts of individual scientists within and outside the membership.
    As a learned society, we serve the public good by fostering quality in the Earth and space science and by publishing the results of research.
    We welcome all in academic, government, industry and other venues who share our interests in understanding the Earth, planets and their space environment, or who seek to apply this knowledge to solving problems facing society.
    Our scientific mission transcends national boundaries.
    Individual scientists worldwide are equals in all AGU activities.
    Cooperative activities with partner societies of all sizes worldwide enhance the resources of all, increase the visibility of Earth and space science, and serve individual scientists, students, and the public.
    We are our members.
    Dedicated volunteers represent an essential ingredient of every program.
    AGU staff work flexibly and responsively in partnership with volunteers to achieve our goals and objectives.

  • richardmitnick 3:55 pm on April 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change, , , New Maps Chart Greenland Glaciers' Melting Risk   

    Fron JPL: “New Maps Chart Greenland Glaciers’ Melting Risk” 

    NASA JPL Banner


    April 21, 2016
    Alan Buis
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

    Brian Bell
    University of California, Irvine

    Written by Carol Rasmussen
    NASA Earth Science News Team

    The new maps show that the seafloor under Store Glacier, shown here, is almost 2,000 feet (600 meters) deeper than previously thought. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ian Fenty

    Many large glaciers in Greenland are at greater risk of melting from below than previously thought, according to new maps of the seafloor around Greenland created by an international research team. Like other recent research findings, the maps highlight the critical importance of studying the seascape under Greenland’s coastal waters to better understand and predict global sea level rise.

    Researchers from the University of California, Irvine; NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California; and other research institutions combined all observations their various groups had made during shipboard surveys of the seafloors in the Uummannaq and Vaigat fjords in west Greenland between 2007 and 2014 with related data from NASA’s Operation Icebridge and the NASA/U.S. Geological Survey Landsat satellites.

    NASA/Landsat 8
    NASA/Landsat 8

    They used the combined data to generate comprehensive maps of the ocean floor around 14 Greenland glaciers. Their findings show that previous estimates of ocean depth in this area were as much as several thousand feet too shallow.

    Why does this matter? Because glaciers that flow into the ocean melt not only from above, as they are warmed by sun and air, but from below, as they are warmed by water.

    A comparison of the newly compiled map of the Uummannaq fjord area (left) and an older map (right). Red areas indicate shallower depths, blues and purples deeper.
    Credits: UCI/NASA/JPL-Caltech

    In most of the world, a deeper seafloor would not make much difference in the rate of melting, because typically ocean water is warmer near the surface and colder below. But Greenland is exactly the opposite. Surface water down to a depth of almost a thousand feet (300 meters) comes mostly from Arctic river runoff. This thick layer of frigid, fresher water is only 33 to 34 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius). Below it is a saltier layer of warmer ocean water. This layer is currently more than more than 5 degrees F (3 degrees C) warmer than the surface layer, and climate models predict its temperature could increase another 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C) by the end of this century.

    About 90 percent of Greenland’s glaciers flow into the ocean, including the newly mapped ones. In generating estimates of how fast these glaciers are likely to melt, researchers have relied on older maps of seafloor depth that show the glaciers flowing into shallow, cold seas. The new study shows that the older maps were wrong.

    “While we expected to find deeper fjords than previous maps showed, the differences are huge,” said Eric Rignot of UCI and JPL, lead author of a paper on the research. “They are measured in hundreds of meters, even one kilometer [3,300 feet] in one place.” The difference means that the glaciers actually reach deeper, warmer waters, making them more vulnerable to faster melting as the oceans warm.

    Coauthor Ian Fenty of JPL noted that earlier maps were based on sparse measurements mostly collected several miles offshore. Mapmakers assumed that the ocean floor sloped upward as it got nearer the coast. That’s a reasonable supposition, but it’s proving to be incorrect around Greenland.

    Rignot and Fenty are co-investigators in NASA’s five-year Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) field campaign, which is creating similar charts of the seafloor for the entire Greenland coastline. Fenty said that OMG’s first mapping cruise last summer found similar results. “Almost every glacier that we visited was in waters that were far, far deeper than the maps showed.”

    The researchers also found that besides being deeper overall, the seafloor depth is highly variable. For example, the new map revealed one pair of side-by-side glaciers whose bottom depths vary by about 1,500 feet (500 meters). “These data help us better interpret why some glaciers have reacted to ocean warming while others have not,” Rignot said.

    The lack of detailed maps has hampered climate modelers like Fenty who are attempting to predict the melting of the glaciers and their contribution to global sea level rise. “The first time I looked at this area and saw how few data were available, I just threw my hands up,” Fenty said. “If you don’t know the seafloor depth, you can’t do a meaningful simulation of the ocean circulation.”

    The maps are published in a paper titled “Bathymetry data reveal glaciers vulnerable to ice-ocean interaction in Uummannaq and Vaigat glacial fjords, west Greenland,” in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The other collaborating institutions are Durham University and the University of Cambridge, both in the U.K.; GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research, Kiel, Germany; and the University of Texas at Austin.

    For more information on OMG, visit:


    NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

    For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities, visit:


    See the full article here.

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    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 10:28 am on April 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change,   

    From Scientific American: “Earth Flirts with a 1.5-Degree Celsius Global Warming Threshold” 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    April 20, 2016
    Climate Central

    Credit: Liam Moloney/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

    Global leaders are meeting in New York this week to sign the Paris climate agreement. One of the expressed purposes of the document is to limit warming to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.”

    A Climate Central analysis shows that the world will have to dramatically accelerate emissions reductions if it wants to meet that goal. The average global temperature change for the first three months of 2016 was 1.48°C, essentially equaling the 1.5°C warming threshold agreed to by COP 21 negotiators in Paris last December.

    February exceeded the 1.5°C target at 1.55°C, marking the first time the global average temperature has surpassed the sobering milestone in any month. March followed suit checking in at 1.5°C. January’s mark of 1.4°C, put the global average temperature change from early industrial levels for the first three months of 2016 at 1.48°C.


    Climate Central scientists and statisticians made these calculations based on an average of global temperature data reported by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). But rather than using the baselines those agencies employ, Climate Central compared 2016’s temperature anomalies to an 1881-1910 average temperature baseline, the earliest date for which global temperature data are considered reliable. NASA reports global temperature change in reference to a 1951-1980 climate baseline, and NOAA reports the anomaly in reference to a 20th century average temperature.

    NASA’s data alone showed a February temperature anomaly of 1.63°C above early industrial levels with March at 1.54°C.

    Calculating a baseline closer to the pre-industrial era provides a useful measure of global temperature for policymakers and the public to better track how successful the world’s efforts are in keeping global warming below agreed-upon thresholds.

    A similar adjustment can be applied to some of the temperature change projections in the most recent IPCC report.

    The IPCC AR5 Working Group 1 Report contains projections of future global surface temperature change according to several scenarios of future socio-economic development, most of which are presented using a baseline of 1986 to 2005. The IPCC chose this baseline in order to provide its readers a more immediate base of comparison, the climate of the present world, which people are familiar with. But these representations may suggest that the Paris goals are easier to reach than is true.

    The IPCC’s presentation of these scenarios was not designed to inform the discussion about warming limits (e.g., 1.5°C, 2°C goals of the Paris COP21 agreements). But the Panel does provide a way to make its projections of future warming consistent with discussions about targets.


    IPCC estimates, using the best and longest record available, show that the difference between the 1986-2005 global average temperature value used in most of the Panel’s projections, and pre-industrial global average temperature, is 0.61°C (0.55-0.67). Neglecting 0.61°C warming is not trivial, and makes a significant difference for the assessment of the goals established in Paris. In fact, 0.61°C amounts to about half the warming already experienced thus far.

    To capture this warming and display the IPCC warming time series relative to the pre-industrial period, Climate Central adjusted a well known IPCC projection (SPM7(a)) to reflect a 1880-1910 baseline. This adjustment has a significant effect on the dates at which the 1.5 and 2°C thresholds are crossed, moving them up by about 15-20 years.

    If current emissions trends continue (RCP8.5) we could cross the 1.5°C threshold in 10 to 15 years, somewhere between the years 2025-2030, compared to 2045-2050 when a 1985-2005 baseline is used.

    The dramatic global hot streak that kicked off 2016 doesn’t mean the world has already failed to meet the goals in the Paris agreement. Three months do not make a year, and it is unlikely that 2016 will exceed the 1881-1910 climate-normal by 1.5°C. This year is also in the wake of a strong El Niño, when higher-than-average temperatures would be expected.

    And of course, exceeding the 1.5°C threshold for even an entire year would not mean that global temperatures had in fact risen to that point, never (at least within our lifetime) to drop back below it as it’s too short of a timeframe to make that determination.

    But the hot start for 2016 is a notable symbolic milestone. The day the world first crossed the 400 parts per million (ppm) threshold for atmospheric carbon dioxide heralded a future of ever increasing carbon dioxide. So too, do the first three months of 2016 send a clear signal of where our world is headed and how fast we are headed there if drastic actions to reduce carbon emissions are not taken immediately.

    On Dec.12, 2015, the 21st Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change approved the Paris Agreement committing 195 nations of the world to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.” The pact commits the world to adopt nationally determined policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions in accord with those goals.

    The 2°C goal represents a temperature increase from a pre-industrial baseline that scientists believe will maintain the relatively stable climate conditions that humans and other species have adapted to over the previous 12,000 years. It will also minimize some of the worst impacts of climate change: drought, heat waves, heavy rain and flooding, and sea level rise. Limiting the global surface temperature increase to 1.5°C would lessen these impacts even further.

    1.5 and 2°C are not hard and fast limits beyond which disaster is imminent, but they are now the milestones by which the world measures all progress toward slowing global warming. And yet it is surprisingly difficult to find objective measures that answer the question, where are we today on the path toward meeting the 1.5 or 2°C goals?

    Every month NOAA and NASA update their global surface temperature change analysis, using data from the Global Historical Climate Network, and methods validated in the peer-reviewed literature (Hansen et al. 2010; NCDC). The monthly updates are posted on their websites, and made available to the public along with the underlying data and assumptions that go into their calculations.

    These calculations are enormously useful for understanding the magnitude and pace of global warming. In fact, they are the bedrock measurements validating the fact that our planet is warming at all.

    But none present their results in comparison to a pre-industrial climate normal.
    Methods and Results

    The NASA and NOAA monthly updates are presented as anomalies, or as the deviation from a baseline climate normal, calculated as an average of a 30-year reference period, or the 20th century average; they do not represent an absolute temperature increase from a specific date. NASA presents their results in reference to a 1951 to 1980 average temperature, NOAA in reference to a 20th century average temperature.

    The NASA results, calculated by Goddard Institute for Space Studies are published monthly on the NASA/GISS website (GISTEMP). NOAA methods and monthly updates are published via the National Centers for Environmental Information here.

    Climate Central used data from NASA and NOAA to create an 1881 to 1910 climate normal for the months of January, February, and March. We then compared the reported monthly 2016 anomaly for each of these months to this “early-industrial” baseline reference period. These anomalies were then averaged to produce a mean monthly NASA/NOAA anomaly for each month. The results are presented below.

    The NASA anomaly is considerably higher than the anomaly reported by NOAA. This reflects the fact the NASA’s calculations are tuned to account for temperature changes at the poles, where there are far fewer monitoring stations. NOAA relies only on historical station data and makes no adjustment to account for sparse records at the poles, where warming has been more rapid relative to non-polar regions.


    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:40 am on April 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Climate Change,   

    From AAAS: “Climate catastrophe? A half a degree warming could make the difference” 



    Apr. 21, 2016
    Christina Reed

    The reduction in annual water availability will be far more pronounced in a 2°C world compared with 1.5°C global warming. This file photo from 2007, shows a drought-stricken reservoir in the Alassa village near Limassol, Cyprus. P. Karadjias/AP

    Last December in Paris, 195 nations agreed to slow the planet’s warming trend by cutting their greenhouse gas emissions. Their goal was to prevent more than 2°C of additional warming. But even before the meeting, scientists questioned whether that target was too high. A study presented here today at the European Geophysical Union’s (EGU) annual meeting backs up those concerns, providing new evidence that such warming could still lead to catastrophic droughts and sea level rise. But reducing the threshold by just half a degree, to 1.5°C, the scientists say, would make a world of difference.

    To conduct the study, Carl Schleussner, a scientific adviser at Climate Analytics in Berlin, and an international team of researchers analyzed 11 different indicators of climate impacts, including extreme weather events, water availability, crop yields, coral reef degradation, and sea-level rise for 26 non-polar areas around the world. To do this, they compiled simulations from a wealth of existing climate models, including those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and an ensemble of general ocean and atmosphere circulation models.

    The results of these simulations confirmed that areas already known to be vulnerable to climate change will be at even greater risk if the planet warms by 2 ̊C than by 1.5 ̊C, the team reports in the study, also published today in Earth System Dynamics. For example, warm spells in the tropics would last up to 50% longer—so that virtually all coral reefs in warmer tropical waters would be at risk of severe degradation after 2050. Under a 1.5 ̊C warming scenario, the threat to those reefs wouldn’t be significantly different before 2050—in both situations an expected degradation of the tropical coral ecosystems is likely to begin by 2030 regardless. But more of them—about 30%—would survive until 2100.

    “Some researchers have argued that there is little difference in climate change impacts between 1.5°C and 2°C,” said study co-author Jacob Schewe, a climate physicist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. He acknowledges that certain factors such as natural variability and model uncertainties need to be accounted for because they can obscure the picture. “We did that in our study, and by focusing on key indicators at the regional level, we clearly show that there are significant differences in impacts between 1.5°C and 2°C,” he added in a statement to the press.

    Certain places are particularly vulnerable, Schewe says. “There are tipping points in the system such as the Greenland ice sheet where if it were to melt, the mechanisms there are irreversible.” Scientists can’t say with certainty where that tipping point is exactly, he adds—but they estimate that it’s somewhere between 1.5 ̊C and 2.5 ̊C. “So going for 1.5 ̊C is much safer.”

    The paper cites a number of ways to assess the significance of an extra half-degree of warming. Crop yields of maize and wheat in Central America and West Africa, for example, would dwindle by twice as much under 2°C, when compared with 1.5°C, the team found. And sea levels would rise an extra 10 centimeters by 2100 (due both to the physical expansion of ocean waters as they warm, as well as to water added from melting ice sheets). “Sea level rise will slow down during the 21st century only under a 1.5°C scenario,” Schleussner explained.

    Slowing sea-level rise also has a significant impact on regions frequently inundated by storm surges due to tropical storms, such as the Philippines. “Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 set a new benchmark for storm surges,” says geologist Janneli Lea Soria of the Earth Observatory of Singapore, who was not involved in the new study. A poster she presented at EGU this week showed that the typhoon pushed beach and ocean sediments inland by nearly 2 kilometers in some locations.

    In the Mediterranean, 2 ̊C warming would cut water availability by 20% by the late 21st century, compared with a 10% reduction from 1.5 ̊C warming, the team found. A separate study, also presented today at EGU by paleoclimatologist Joel Guiot of CNRS, CEREGE, in Aix-en-Provence, France, puts that into historical context. Looking back over the last 10,000 years of pollen data for the Mediterranean, Guiot found that severe drought has changed vegetated areas in the region by 10% to 15%—often pushing margins of the land cover in other directions.

    Projecting forward, Guiot found little difference in changes to vegetation cover between 1.5 ̊C and 2 ̊C until 2050. After that, however, a 1.5 ̊C threshold keeps land changes in the realm of droughts seen in the past, Guiot says. NASA identifies the current drought in the Mediterranean as the worst in 900 years. “But if we go to 2 ̊C, we see we are at the maximum range of change seen during the Holocene [dating back about 10,000 years]. And if we go to 3 ̊C we will reach a situation that never existed [in the Holocene] before.”

    On 22 April—Earth Day—the climate agreement signed in Paris will be available for the signatures of heads of state around the world at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City for one year. At least 55 countries representing 55% of the world’s emissions need to ratify the final agreement that came out of the December climate conference in order to see it put into force. That agreement reflects the urging from Pacific island nations and others calling themselves “most vulnerable” to climate change to aim for a more stringent target of 1.5°C, “recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

    For most of the indicators, “It’s not the timing, but the level of warming,” Schewe says. “And as soon as we reach that warming we see the impacts associated with it.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:50 am on April 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ancient volcanoes could be key to predicting impact of climate change, , Climate Change, ,   

    From USC: “Ancient volcanoes could be key to predicting impact of climate change” 

    USC bloc

    University of Southern California

    April 13, 2016
    Andrew Good

    Researchers think emissions from volcanos, such as the one seen here, may have led to a dramatic rise in CO2 leading to a mass extinction 200 million years ago. (Photo/NASA Earth Observatory)

    Just over 200 million years ago, long before the demise of the dinosaurs, a cataclysm killed off a significant chunk of the planet’s animal life. The leading theory implicates massive volcanic eruptions, triggered when the supercontinent of Pangea was ripped apart into separate continents.

    A new study co-authored by USC researchers strengthens evidence for that theory and has wider implications for how rapid climate change can affect life on Earth. Along with lava flows, the volcanic eruptions released massive amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, creating havoc in the ecosystem.

    The study*, published April 6 in Nature Communications, charts the sharp escalation of the element mercury in samples of rock preserved from the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event. It isn’t the ordinary mercury you’d find on the surface of the planet: Isotopic data suggests it can be traced to the eruptions.

    Frank Corsetti, a geobiologist at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, was a co-author on the study along with USC professors David Bottjer, Josh West and William Berelson; current USC graduate student Joyce Yager; and a host of current and past graduate students, including Kathleen Ritterbush, now an assistant professor at the University of Utah, and Yadira Ibarra, now a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University.

    Mercury rising

    Corsetti said the rise in mercury seems to match changes in the planet’s biosphere during the era. As the mercury was found to rise in the rock samples, it matched a wave of animal extinctions on the planet’s surface and in its seas. The mass extinction peaks just as the level of mercury does; biodiversity begins to return once the mercury level recedes, about 700,000 years after the event began.

    The mercury, Corsetti said, serves as a kind of fingerprint for a massive volcanic eruption in what’s known as the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP). Essentially, CAMP was the spot in Pangea where the Atlantic Ocean would later appear after the land mass split.

    CAMP’s appearance was a cataclysm on its own.

    “If that much material erupted today, it would cover the contiguous United States with about 400 meters of lava — it was an enormous series of eruptions,” Corsetti said.

    But the reason CAMP is suspected of being the culprit in the mass extinction has to do with carbon dioxide — the gas that climate change experts now worry is being released into the atmosphere in rapid and massive quantities.

    “By some estimates, it rose nearly as rapidly as we’re putting CO2 into the atmosphere today,” Corsetti said. “We wanted to see how the Earth system responded from a rapid rise of CO2. The spoiler alert is there was a mass extinction. What we’ve been able to do is use this mercury as a fingerprint to tie the event to the volcanos, and therefore the emissions.”

    The Triassic-Jurassic extinction is particularly pertinent because it was selective, Corsetti said. It preferentially affected coral reefs and animals most similar to the ones common in today’s oceans. An earlier and more severe event, the Permian extinction — sometimes called “the mother of all extinctions” — was even bigger, but the dominant organisms affected were different from the ones common today.

    That makes the T-J event perhaps the most relevant mass extinction to study when trying to predict what might happen with rising CO2 levels, Corsetti said.

    The study was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Roger E. Deane Postdoctoral Fellowship, the Geological Society of America, the Society for Sedimentary Geology, the American Philosophical Society, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

    *Science paper:
    Mercury anomalies and the timing of biotic recovery following the end-Triassic mass extinction

    Science team and affiliations:

    Department of Earth Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3B1, Canada
    Alyson M. Thibodeau & Bridget A. Bergquist
    Department of Earth Sciences, Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania 17013, USA
    Alyson M. Thibodeau
    Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84103, USA
    Kathleen Ritterbush
    Department of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089, USA
    Joyce A. Yager, A. Joshua West, David J. Bottjer, William M. Berelson & Frank A. Corsetti
    Department of Earth System Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA
    Yadira Ibarra


    D.J.B., F.A.C. and A.J.W. conceived the study and designed it with A.M.T. and B.A.B. K.R., J.A.Y. and Y.I. collected the samples. A.M.T. and J.A.Y. collected, analysed and interpreted the mercury and carbon data, respectively, with B.A.B., A.J.W., W.M.B. and F.A.C. K.R. provided the stratigraphic and paleoenvironmental context as well as the paleoecological data. K.R., Y.I. and F.A.C. were responsible for paleoenvironmental interpretation. F.A.C., J.A.Y., A.J.W. and A.M.T. conceived and drafted the figures. F.A.C. and A.M.T. wrote the paper with contributions from all other co-authors.

    See the full article here .

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    The University of Southern California is one of the world’s leading private research universities. An anchor institution in Los Angeles, a global center for arts, technology and international business, USC’s diverse curricular offerings provide extensive opportunities for interdisciplinary study, and collaboration with leading researchers in highly advanced learning environments. With a strong tradition of integrating liberal and professional education, USC fosters a vibrant culture of public service and encourages students to cross academic as well as geographic boundaries in their pursuit of knowledge.

  • richardmitnick 1:28 pm on February 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Climate Change, , Sea level rise and global warming   

    From LLNL: “Consequences of today’s carbon emissions will linger for thousands of years, study finds” 

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    Feb. 8, 2016
    Anne M Stark

    Carbon emissions
    Carbon emissions in carbon dioxide

    The Earth may suffer irreversible damage that could last tens of thousands of years because of the rate humans are emitting carbon into the atmosphere.

    In a new study in Nature Climate Change, researchers at Oregon State University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and collaborating institutions found that the longer-term impacts of climate change go well past the 21st century.

    “Much of the carbon we are putting in the air from burning fossil fuels will stay there for thousands of years — and some of it will be there for more than 100,000 years,” said Peter Clark, an Oregon State University paleoclimatologist and lead author on the article. “People need to understand that the effects of climate change on the planet won’t go away, at least not for thousands of generations.”

    LLNL’s Benjamin Santer said the focus on climate change at the end of the 21st century needs to be shifted toward a much longer-term perspective.

    “Our greenhouse gas emissions today produce climate-change commitments for many centuries to come,” Santer said. “Today’s actions — or inaction — will have long-term climate consequences for generations of our descendants.”

    “The long-term view sends the chilling message what the real risks and consequences are of the fossil fuel era,” said Thomas Stocker of the University of Bern in Switzerland, who is past co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Working Group I. “It will commit us to massive adaptation efforts so that for many, dislocation and migration becomes the only option.”

    Sea level rise is one of the most noticeable impacts of global warming, yet its effects are just starting to be seen, according to the article. The latest IPCC report calls for sea level rise of one meter by the year 2100. In the new study, however, the authors look at four different sea level-rise scenarios based on different rates of warming, from a low rate that could only be reached with massive efforts to eliminate fossil fuel use over the next few decades, to a higher rate based on the consumption of half the remaining fossil fuels over the next few centuries.

    With just two degrees (Celsius) warming in the low-end scenario, sea levels are predicted to eventually rise by about 25 meters. With seven degrees warming at the high-end scenario, the rise is estimated at 50 meters, although over a period of several centuries to millennia.

    “It takes sea level rise a very long time to react — on the order of centuries,” Clark said. “It’s like heating a pot of water on the stove; it doesn’t boil for quite a while after the heat is turned on — but then it will continue to boil as long as the heat persists. Once carbon is in the atmosphere, it will stay there for tens or hundreds of thousands of years, and the warming, as well as the higher seas, will remain.”

    For the low-end scenario, an estimated 122 countries have at least 10 percent of their population in areas that will be directly affected by rising sea levels, and some 1.3 billion people — or 20 percent of the global population — may be directly affected. The impacts become greater as the warming and sea level rise increases.

    The new paper makes the fundamental point that considering the long time scales of the carbon cycle and of climate change means that reducing emissions slightly or even significantly is not sufficient. “To spare future generations from the worst impacts of climate change, the target must be zero — or even negative carbon emissions — as soon as possible,” Clark said.

    The researchers’ work was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the German Science Foundation and the Swiss National Science Foundation.

    See the full article here .

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