DATE: January 19, 2018
SNIP: Global warming is real, and it’s happening now. Within hours of the announcement by scientists in the US that 2017 was at least the third warmest year recorded, if not the second, over the Earth’s land and oceans, there comes a further revelation: 2017 was also the warmest year on record for the global oceans.
The news that the oceans are continuing to warm to hitherto unknown levels comes in an updated ocean analysis from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics/Chinese Academy of Science (IAP/CAS). Its study was published as an early online release in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.
The authors say that in 2017 the oceans in the upper 2000-metre layer of water were warmer than the second warmest year, 2015, and above the 1981-2010 climatological reference period.
Thanks to their large heat capacity, the oceans absorb warming caused by human activities, and more than 90% of the Earth’s extra heat from global warming is absorbed by them.
SOURCE: The Guardian
DATE: January 18, 2018
SNIP: 2017 was the hottest year since global records began that was not given an additional boost by the natural climate cycle El Niño, according to new data. Even without an El Niño, the year was still exceptionally hot, being one of the top three ever recorded.
The three main global temperature records show the global surface temperature in 2017 was 1C above levels seen in pre-industrial times, with scientists certain that humanity’s fossil fuel-burning is to blame.
The data, published on Thursday, means the last three years have been the hottest trio ever seen, with 2017 ranking second or third depending on the small differences between the temperature records. Furthermore, 17 of the 18 hottest years recorded since 1850 have occurred since 2000.
SOURCE: The Hill
DATE: January 18, 2018
SNIP: On New Year’s Day, the Trump administration missed an important deadline. It wasn’t related to the debt ceiling, DACA, or the Iran nuclear deal. Rather, the United States was due to present its biennial update the rest of the world on our progress in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. Instead, the sound of crickets.
[R]egular reporting is the bedrock for any successful strategy to address the climate challenge. Because global warming is a truly global phenomenon, no country wants to act on its own if it believes that others are shirking. To address this so-called “free rider” problem, the United States has been the most vociferous advocate for transparency throughout the history of global climate talks.
Over three decades, we have worked to persuade and cajole other countries without a tradition of open government, including China, to monitor, verify and publicly account for their emissions and climate actions. This not only prevents cheating and ensures that each country is living up to its stated commitments, but also improves the chances that the world can successfully manage the necessary transition to a low-carbon future and prevent the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. U.S. leadership has been successful: strong reporting and transparency provisions are now an essential feature of global climate agreements, with all countries required to report on progress every two years.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration has now failed to meet its legal obligation to deliver its biennial report on behalf of the United States on time. The Trump administration’s inaction — and failure to explain such inaction — undermines U.S. credibility and risks eroding the global consensus on transparency that previous presidents of both parties have long fought to establish and uphold.
DATE: January 17, 2018
SNIP: Scientists are uncovering the mystery of how, where and when important glacial features called moulins form on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Moulins, vertical conduits that penetrate through the half-mile-deep ice, efficiently funnel the majority of summer meltwater from the ice surface to the base of the ice sheet. The lubricating effects of the draining water can lead to faster sliding of the ice sheet. A new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, finds meltwater lakes that form on the ice surface can drain through moulins in a matter of hours.
The new results indicate a potentially much broader importance for lake drainage events, because moulins control the locations where the majority of seasonal meltwater enters the ice sheet, accesses the bed, and accelerates the ice flow, according to Stephen Price, a researcher at Los Alamos and co-author of the new study. “These processes, which aren’t currently accounted for in computer simulations of ice sheet evolution and sea-level change, may need to be considered more carefully in future models,” he said.
While previous studies identified a distinct possibility of a cascading effect from meltwater reaching the bed and modifying local stresses to cause nearby supraglacial lake drainage, the new results provide direct evidence that this effect is more widespread and can act over distances of many kilometers, said Matthew Hoffman, a glaciologist and computer scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico and lead author of the new study. This long-distance triggering mechanism could make new regions of the ice sheet vulnerable to meltwater-induced speedup, including at higher elevations.
DATE: January 17, 2018
SNIP: Over the span of three weeks in 2015, more than 200,000 saiga antelope suddenly died in central Kazakhstan.
Scientists knew that bacteria called Pasteurella multocida type B caused the mass death. Now, new research suggests that the bacteria was already present in the animals; it was triggered and became harmful because of a period of unusual weather.
Richard Kock, a professor of Wildlife Health and Emerging Diseases at The Royal Veterinary College, witnessed the “rapidly accelerating death.”
“You went from one or two animals to within three or four days — thousands. And then they were all dead by the seventh day,” Kock tells NPR. “The animals were showing normal behavior, normal signs, normal grazing and then suddenly they’d start looking a little bit unhappy and stop feeding. Within about three hours they were dead.”
But the bacteria alone were not enough to explain the mass fatalities, which only 30,000 of the area’s critically endangered saigas survived.
In a paper published today in Science Advances, the scientists say that they believe “virtually 100 percent of adults” already had the organism present in their bodies. An environmental factor must have triggered the bacteria to proliferate and kill these animals at the same time.
The culprit, Kock says, is a period of unusual heat and humidity in the ten days leading up to the mass death.
And while they are now recovering and breed quickly, it’s not clear whether they could survive another event like this. “If we get a similar event, and all the animals are within a sort of weather envelope, it could be total extinction. It could happen in a week,” says Kock.
There’s evidence that unusual weather patterns could be having similar impacts in other animal populations, such as reindeer and musk ox. “We may be looking at a much more global effect,” he adds.
SOURCE: High Country News
DATE: January 16, 2018
SNIP: The 50 or so wells Atom left behind comprise Colorado’s largest-ever “orphaned well” case, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. But it’s not an isolated problem. Companies that go out of business, become bankrupt, or, like Atom, simply ignore the rules, tend to skip out on cleanup and land restoration. And since bond amounts set by states and the federal government rarely if ever cover real-world cleanup costs, it can be cheaper for a company to forfeit a bond than to follow reclamation rules.
Orphaned wells are more likely than properly plugged “abandoned” wells to leak pollutants, including methane gas, which can contaminate groundwater and even trigger explosions. So it’s troubling that the number of such wells in the West has soared. A downturn in energy prices starting back in 2008 has led energy companies to orphan thousands of wells across Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. States are struggling even to tally them, let alone remediate them. Officially, Colorado has 244 orphaned wells on its books, but state officials estimate another 400 have yet to be located. And with a new drilling boom tapping deep shale formations along Colorado’s urban Front Range, some worry that the next bust will saddle the public with thousands more.
According to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, there are currently 63 financially “distressed” operators in the state, who collectively own almost 4,000 wells. These companies have either missed required safety tests or aren’t producing much, signs that they may be running out of money and therefore more likely to abandon their sites. If even a fraction of those companies become deadbeats, the state’s problems will quickly multiply. Without broad action, says Foote, “It’s a disaster waiting to happen.”
DATE: January 14, 2018
SNIP: New research has confirmed one of the worst nightmares of climate science: the instability of the East Antarctic ice sheet.
[R]esearchers have confirmed that one stretch of the southern polar coastline has melted many times in the past: by enough to raise sea levels by three to five metres.
US scientists report in the journal Nature that they went to what they called the Sabrina Coast of eastern Antarctica to look for geological and geophysical evidence of change.
Although the western region, and the Antarctic peninsula, is warming swiftly, for decades scientists have assumed that the great mass of ice in the eastern Antarctic was stable.
But last year a research team looked more closely at meltwater flow from one of the region’s glaciers and concluded that it was not stable, and that any melting could result in a dramatic rise in sea levels.
The latest study confirms that suspicion. “It turns out that for much of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet’s history, it was not the commonly perceived large stable ice sheet with only minor changes in size over millions of years,” said Sean Gulick, of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, one of those who led the study.
“Rather, we have evidence for a very dynamic ice sheet that grew and shrank significantly between glacial and interglacial periods. There were also often long intervals of open water along the Sabrina Coast, with limited glacial influence.”
And his co-author Amelia Shevenell from the University of South Florida said: “As ice melts, global sea levels rise. Most of Florida is at or several feet above sea level.
DATE: January 12, 2018
SNIP: Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would cut four NASA Earth Observation projects including three climate satellite missions: the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission; Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) pathfinder; and Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3).
These missions are critical to ongoing climate change research, as well as to weather and air pollution forecasting. Without them, international scientists lose their “eyes in the sky” with potentially disastrous consequences for people not only in the United States, but the world round.
The U.S. Congress has the final say on whether these satellite programs go forward or not. Their vote on the 2018 budget was delayed from September to December 2017, and now to 19 January, 2018. Whether the vote will occur then, or what the outcome might be, remains in question.
As a result of Trump’s threatened cuts the international scientific community has been left in great uncertainty. It is currently scrambling to find a way to replace NASA’s planned Earth Observation missions and continue vital climate change, weather and pollution monitoring.
This does not come as a surprise: the current denialist administration has systematically deleted climate change mentions from the Environmental Protection Agency website, just dropped climate change from being a U.S. national security strategy, and pulled the nation out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Read more for detailed descriptions about each of the NASA Earth Satellite Systems that will potentially be cut.
SOURCE: Hakai Magazine
DATE: January 11, 2018
SNIP: Concentrations of mercury in marine mammals in the Arctic are 10 to 12 times greater than they were in the preindustrial period, according to a 2017 report from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme. The report also warns that the thawing of large areas of high-latitude frozen peatlands could release globally significant quantities of mercury into Arctic lakes, rivers, and oceans.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says there is a very high risk of elevated mercury levels among Arctic subsistence hunting communities that rely on seal and whale meat. The WHO estimated that consumption of mercury, a neurotoxin, may be causing an IQ loss of one to 13 points in people in these communities.
8.6 million cubic meters of ice and soil—enough to fill seven Houston Astrodomes—have been carried off from a 190-kilometer stretch of the Yukon coast between 1952 and 2011. The number of landslides, also called thaw slumps, increased 73 percent during that time.
SOURCE: Anchorage Daily News
DATE: January 9, 2018
SNIP: Last month was the warmest December on record in Alaska, according to a federal report released Monday.
The statewide average temperature in December was 19.4 degrees, 15.7 degrees above the 20th century average, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s report said. Records for Alaska go back to 1925.
The report also found that 2017 was the third warmest year on record for the U.S. as a whole since record-keeping began in 1895. But December in Alaska specifically “was really quite remarkable,” said Rick Thoman, climate science and services manager for the National Weather Service.
“Alaska, of course, being the only Arctic part of the U.S. … it’s often referred to as polar amplification, that climate is warming much more rapidly at high latitudes,” Thoman said. “We are the U.S.’s canary in that coal mine.”
Last year was also the seventh warmest year in Alaska on record. The last four years are all in the top seven warmest on record.
“There’s no comparable period like that,” said Thoman. “This is unique in our 93-year temperature record.”