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  • richardmitnick 7:38 am on March 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change, ,   

    From U Washington: “Tackling resilience: Finding order in chaos to help buffer against climate change” 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    March 29, 2017
    Michelle Ma

    1
    Lotus flowers on a delta island on the outer reaches of the Mississippi delta, which is in danger of drastically shrinking or disappearing. The islands are actually quite resilient, as seen in part by the vegetation growth. Britta Timpane-Padgham/NWFSC

    “Resilience” is a buzzword often used in scientific literature to describe how animals, plants and landscapes can persist under climate change. It’s typically considered a good quality, suggesting that those with resilience can withstand or adapt as the climate continues to change.

    But when it comes to actually figuring out what makes a species or an entire ecosystem resilient ― and how to promote that through restoration or management ― there is a lack of consensus in the scientific community.

    A new paper by the University of Washington and NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center aims to provide clarity among scientists, resource managers and planners on what ecological resilience means and how it can be achieved. The study, published this month in the journal PLOS ONE, is the first to examine the topic in the context of ecological restoration and identify ways that resilience can be measured and achieved at different scales.

    “I was really interested in translating a broad concept like resilience into management or restoration actions,” said lead author Britta Timpane-Padgham, a fisheries biologist at Northwest Fisheries Science Center who completed the study as part of her graduate degree in marine and environmental affairs at the UW.

    “I wanted to do something that addressed impacts of climate change and connected the science with management and restoration efforts.”

    Timpane-Padgham scoured the scientific literature for all mentions of ecological resilience, then pared down the list of relevant articles to 170 examined for this study. She then identified in each paper the common attributes, or metrics, that contribute to resilience among species, populations or ecosystems. For example, genetic diversity and population density were commonly mentioned in the literature as attributes that help populations either recover from or resist disturbance.

    Timpane-Padgham along with co-authors Terrie Klinger, professor and director of the UW’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, and Tim Beechie, research biologist at Northwest Fisheries Science Center, grouped the various resilience attributes into five large categories, based on whether they affected individual plants or animals; whole populations; entire communities of plants and animals; ecosystems; or ecological processes. They then listed how many times each attribute was cited, which is one indicator of how well-suited a particular attribute is for measuring resilience.

    2
    The Kissimmee River in central Florida. This ecosystem-scale restoration project began two decades ago and is used as an example in the study. South Florida Water Management District

    “It’s a very nice way of organizing what was sort of a confused body of literature,” Beechie said. “It will at least allow people to get their heads around resilience and understand what it really is and what things you can actually measure.”

    The researchers say this work could be useful for people who manage ecosystem restoration projects and want to improve the chances of success under climate change. They could pick from the ordered list of attributes that relate specifically to their project and begin incorporating tactics that promote resilience from the start.

    “Specifying resilience attributes that are appropriate for the system and that can be measured repeatably will help move resilience from concept to practice,” Klinger said.

    or example, with Puget Sound salmon recovery, managers are asking how climate change will alter various rivers’ temperatures, flow levels and nutrient content. Because salmon recovery includes individual species, entire populations and the surrounding ecosystem, many resilience attributes are being used to monitor the status of the fish and recovery of the river ecosystems that support them.

    The list of attributes that track resilience can be downloaded and sorted by managers to find the most relevant measures for the type of restoration project they are tackling. It is increasingly common to account for climate change in project plans, the researchers said, but more foresight and planning at the start of a project is crucial.

    “The threat of climate change and its impacts is a considerable issue that should be looked at from the beginning of a restoration project. It needs to be its own planning objective,” Timpane-Padgham said. “With this paper, I don’t want to have something that will be published and collect dust. It’s about providing something that will be useful for people.”

    No external funding was used for this study.

    Download the spreadsheet to find the best resilience measures for your project (click on the second file in the carousal titled Interactive decision support table)

    See the full article here .

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    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.

    So what defines us — the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:24 am on March 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change, Colorado, , , National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Polar sea ice   

    From EarthSky: “Record low sea ice at both poles” 

    1

    EarthSky

    March 23, 2017
    Deborah Byrd

    Scientists at NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado said on March 22, 2017 that Arctic sea ice probably reached its 2017 maximum extent on March 7, and that this year’s maximum represents another record low. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the planet, on March 3 sea ice around Antarctica hit its lowest extent ever recorded by satellites at the end of summer in the Southern Hemisphere. NASA called it:

    ” … a surprising turn of events after decades of moderate sea ice expansion.”

    Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland said:

    “It is tempting to say that the record low we are seeing this year is global warming finally catching up with Antarctica. However, this might just be an extreme case of pushing the envelope of year-to-year variability. We’ll need to have several more years of data to be able to say there has been a significant change in the trend.”

    Satellites have been continuously measuring sea ice in 1979, NASA said, and on February 13, the combined Arctic and Antarctic sea ice numbers were at their lowest point since.

    On February 13, total polar sea ice covered 6.26 million square miles (16.21 million square km). That’s 790,000 square miles (2 million square km) less than the average global minimum extent for 1981-2010 – the equivalent of having lost a chunk of sea ice larger than Mexico.

    1
    These line graphs plot monthly deviations and overall trends in polar sea ice from 1979 to 2017 as measured by satellites. The top line shows the Arctic; the middle shows Antarctica; and the third shows the global, combined total. The graphs depict how much the sea ice concentration moved above or below the long-term average. Arctic and global sea ice totals have moved consistently downward over 38 years. Antarctic trends are more muddled, but they do not offset the great losses in the Arctic. Image via Joshua Stevens/ NASA Earth Observatory.

    NASA explained the seasonal cycle of sea ice’s growth and shrinkage at Earth’s poles, and described specific weather events this year that led to the lower-than-average sea ice:

    The ice floating on top of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas shrinks in a seasonal cycle from mid-March until mid-September. As the Arctic temperatures drop in the autumn and winter, the ice cover grows again until it reaches its yearly maximum extent, typically in March. The ring of sea ice around the Antarctic continent behaves in a similar manner, with the calendar flipped: it usually reaches its maximum in September and its minimum in February.

    This winter, a combination of warmer-than-average temperatures, winds unfavorable to ice expansion, and a series of storms halted sea ice growth in the Arctic. This year’s maximum extent, reached on March 7 at 5.57 million square miles (14.42 million square km), is 37,000 square miles (97,00 square km) below the previous record low, which occurred in 2015, and 471,000 square miles (1.22 million square km) smaller than the average maximum extent for 1981-2010.

    Walt Meier added:

    “We started from a low September minimum extent. There was a lot of open ocean water and we saw periods of very slow ice growth in late October and into November, because the water had a lot of accumulated heat that had to be dissipated before ice could grow. The ice formation got a late start and everything lagged behind – it was hard for the sea ice cover to catch up.”

    NASA also said the Arctic’s sea ice maximum extent has dropped by an average of 2.8 percent per decade since 1979. The summertime minimum extent losses are nearly five times larger: 13.5 percent per decade. Besides shrinking in extent, the sea ice cap is also thinning and becoming more vulnerable to the action of ocean waters, winds and warmer temperatures.

    This year’s record low sea ice maximum extent might not necessarily lead to a new record low summertime minimum extent, since weather has a great impact on the melt season’s outcome, Meier said. But, he added:

    ” … it’s guaranteed to be below normal.”

    Meanwhile, in Antarctica, this year’s record low annual sea ice minimum of 815,000 square miles (2.11 million square km) was 71,000 square miles (184,000 square km) below the previous lowest minimum extent in the satellite record, which occurred in 1997. NASA explained:

    “Antarctic sea ice saw an early maximum extent in 2016, followed by a very rapid loss of ice starting in early September. Since November, daily Antarctic sea ice extent has continuously been at its lowest levels in the satellite record. The ice loss slowed down in February.”

    This year’s record low happened just two years after several monthly record high sea ice extents in Antarctica and decades of moderate sea ice growth. The Arctic and Antarctica are very different places; the Arctic is an ocean surrounded by northern continents, while Antarctica is a continent surrounded by ocean. In recent years, climage scientists have pointed to this difference to help explain why the poles were reacting to the trend of warming global temperatures differently.

    But many had said they expected sea ice to begin decreasing in Antarctica, as Earth’s temperatures continue to warm. Claire Parkinson, a senior sea ice researcher at Goddard, said on March 22:

    “There’s a lot of year-to-year variability in both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, but overall, until last year, the trends in the Antarctic for every single month were toward more sea ice.

    Last year was stunningly different, with prominent sea ice decreases in the Antarctic.

    To think that now the Antarctic sea ice extent is actually reaching a record minimum, that’s definitely of interest.”

    3
    There’s no real reason Earth’s poles should react in the same way, or at the same rate, to global warming. A fundamental difference between Arctic (left) and Antarctic (right) regions is that the Arctic is a frozen ocean surrounded by continents, while the Antarctic is a frozen continent surrounded by oceanic waters. Map via NOAA/ climate.gov/ researchgate.net.

    Bottom line: Considering both poles in February 2017, Earth essentially lost the equivalent of a chunk of sea ice larger than Mexico, in contrast to the average global minimum for 1981-2010.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:31 am on March 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Climate Change, , Heavy California rains par for the course for climate change,   

    From Stanford: “Heavy California rains par for the course for climate change” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    March 21, 2017
    Ker Than

    Here’s a question that Stanford climatologist Noah Diffenbaugh gets asked a lot lately: “Why did California receive so much rain lately if we’re supposed to be in the middle of a record-setting drought?”

    When answering, he will often refer the questioner to a Discover magazine story published in 1988, when Diffenbaugh was still in middle school.

    The article, written by veteran science writer Andrew Revkin, detailed how a persistent rise in global temperatures would affect California’s water system. It predicted that as California warmed, more precipitation would fall as rain rather than snow, and more of the snow that did fall would melt earlier in the season. This in turn would cause reservoirs to fill up earlier, increasing the odds of both winter flooding and summer droughts.

    “It is amazing how the state of knowledge in 1988 about how climate change would affect California’s water system has played out in reality over the last three decades,” said Diffenbaugh, a professor of Earth System Science at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

    Diffenbaugh, who specializes in using historical observations and mathematical models to study how climate change affects water resources, agriculture, and human health, sees no contradiction in California experiencing one of its wettest years on record right on the heels of a record-setting extended drought.

    “When you look back at the historical record of climate in California, you see this pattern of intense drought punctuated by wet conditions, which can lead to a lot of runoff,” said Diffenbaugh, who is also the Kimmelman Family senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “This is exactly what state-of-the-art climate models predicted should have happened, and what those models project to intensify in the future as global warming continues.”

    That intensifying cycle poses risks for many Western states in the decades ahead. “In California and throughout the Western U.S., we have a water system that was designed and built more than 50 years ago,” Diffenbaugh said. “We are now in a very different climate, one where we’re likely to experience more frequent occurrences of hot, dry conditions punctuated by wet conditions. That’s not the climate for which our water system was designed and built.”

    Viewed through this lens, the recent disastrous flooding at Oroville Dam and the flooding in parts of San Jose as a result of the winter rains could foreshadow what’s to come. “What we’ve seen in Oroville and in San Jose is that not only is our infrastructure old, and not only has maintenance not been a priority, but we’re in a climate where we’re much more likely to experience these kinds of extreme conditions than we were 50 or 100 years ago,” Diffenbaugh said.

    It’s not too late, however, for California to catch up or even leap ahead in its preparations for a changing climate, scientists say. Diffenbaugh argues that there are plenty of “win-win” investment opportunities that will not only make Americans safer and more secure in the present, but also prepare for the future.

    California could, for example, boost its groundwater storage capacity, which research at Stanford shows to be a very cost-effective method for increasing water supply. This would have the dual benefit of siphoning off reservoirs at risk of flooding and storing water for future dry spells. It would also help jurisdictions reach the groundwater sustainability targets mandated by the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

    Diffenbaugh also sees opportunities to increase water recycling throughout the state. “Our technology has advanced to a point now where we can create clean, safe water from waste water,” he said. “In fact, work here at Stanford shows that this can now be done using the organic matter in the waste water to provide an energy benefit.”

    Diffenbaugh stresses that reaping the full benefits of these investments requires a recognition that the climate of California and the West has changed, and will continue to change in the future as long as global warming continues.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:42 am on March 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change, , , Great Barrier Reef is dying   

    From EarthSky: “Great Barrier Reef is dying” 

    1

    EarthSky

    March 16, 2017
    Deborah Byrd

    1
    Bleached coral in 2016 on the northern Great Barrier Reef. Image via Terry Hughes et al./Nature.

    Great Barrier Reef – the world’s largest reef system – is being increasingly affected by climate change, according to the authors of a cover story in the March 15, 2017 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Nature. Large sections of the reef are now dead, these scientists report. Marine biologist Terry Hughes of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies led a group that examined changes in the geographic footprint – that is, the area affected – of mass bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef over the last two decades. They used aerial and underwater survey data combined with satellite-derived measurements of sea surface temperature. Editors at Nature reported:

    “They show that the cumulative footprint of multiple bleaching events has expanded to encompass virtually all of the Great Barrier Reef, reducing the number and size of potential refuges [for fish and other creatures that live in the reef]. The 2016 bleaching event proved the most severe, affecting 91% of individual reefs.”

    2
    The NY Times published this map on March 15, 2017, based on information from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. It shows that individual reefs in each region of the Great Barrier Reef lost different amounts of coral in 2016. Numbers show the range of loss for the middle 50% of observations in each region. Study authors told the NY Times this level of destruction wasn’t expected for another 30 years.

    Hughes and colleagues said in their study [Nature]:

    “During 2015–2016, record temperatures triggered a pan-tropical episode of coral bleaching, the third global-scale event since mass bleaching was first documented in the 1980s …

    The distinctive geographic footprints of recurrent bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in 1998, 2002 and 2016 were determined by the spatial pattern of sea temperatures in each year. Water quality and fishing pressure had minimal effect on the unprecedented bleaching in 2016, suggesting that local protection of reefs affords little or no resistance to extreme heat. Similarly, past exposure to bleaching in 1998 and 2002 did not lessen the severity of bleaching in 2016.

    Consequently, immediate global action to curb future warming is essential to secure a future for coral reefs.”

    According to the website CoralWatch.org:

    Many stressful environmental conditions can lead to bleaching, however, elevated water temperatures due to global warming have been found to be the major cause of the massive bleaching events observed in recent years. As the sea temperatures cool during winter, corals that have not starved may overcome a bleaching event and recover their [symbiotic dinoflagellates (algae)].

    However, even if they survive, their reproductive capacity is reduced, leading to long-term damage to reef systems.

    4
    In March 2016, researchers could see bleached coral in the northern Great Barrier Reef from the air. Image via James Kerry/ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

    Bottom line: Authors of a cover story published on March 15, 2017 in the journal Nature called for action to curb warming, to help save coral reefs.

    See the full article here .

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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

    UCLA

    November 28, 2016
    David Colgan

    1
    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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  • 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” 

    AAAS

    AAAS

    Aug. 4, 2016
    Leigh Dayton

    1
    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 .

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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”… 

    INVERSE

    INVERSE

    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.

    1
    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” 

    INVERSE

    INVERSE

    May 31, 2016
    Jacqueline Ronson

    1
    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.

    2
    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.

    3
    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.

    4
    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

    1
    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.

    2
    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
    The generation and dissemination of scientific knowledge
    Open exchange of ideas and information
    Diversity of backgrounds, scientific ideas and approaches
    Benefit of science for a sustainable future
    International and interdisciplinary cooperation
    Equality and inclusiveness
    An active role in educating and nurturing the next generation of scientists
    An engaged membership
    Unselfish cooperation in research
    Excellence and integrity in everything we do

    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

    JPL-Caltech

    April 21, 2016
    Alan Buis
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
    818-354-0474
    Alan.buis@jpl.nasa.gov

    Brian Bell
    University of California, Irvine
    949-824-8249
    bpbell@uci.edu

    Written by Carol Rasmussen
    NASA Earth Science News Team

    1
    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.

    2
    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:

    https://omg.jpl.nasa.gov/portal/

    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:

    http://www.nasa.gov/earth

    See the full article here.

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    NASA JPL Campus

    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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    NASA image

     
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