The Natural Gas Industry Has a Leak Problem

The Natural Gas Industry Has a Leak Problem

SOURCE: New York Times and Science

DATE: June 21, 2018

SNIP: The American oil and gas industry is leaking more methane than the government thinks — much more, a new study says. Since methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, that is bad news for climate change.

The new study, published Thursday in the journal Science, puts the rate of methane emissions from domestic oil and gas operations at 2.3 percent of total production per year, which is 60 percent higher than the current estimate from the Environmental Protection Agency. That might seem like a small fraction of the total, but it represents an estimated 13 million metric tons lost each year, or enough natural gas to fuel 10 million homes.

Environmental groups have argued that voluntary measures are not always sufficient, and they have urged federal regulators to step in and mandate more sweeping reductions. Former President Barack Obama proposed regulations to limit leaks, but over the past year, the Trump administration has moved to rescind most Obama-era methane policies. Some of these rollbacks are now tied up in court.

Global warming set to exceed 1.5°C, slow growth – U.N. draft

Global warming set to exceed 1.5°C, slow growth – U.N. draft

SOURCE: Reuters

DATE: June 14, 2018

SNIP: Global warming is on course to exceed the most stringent goal set in the Paris agreement by around 2040, threatening economic growth, according to a draft report that is the U.N.’s starkest warning yet of the risks of climate change.

Governments can still cap temperatures below the strict 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) ceiling agreed in 2015 only with “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in the world economy, according to the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The final government draft, obtained by Reuters and dated June 4, is due for publication in October in South Korea after revisions and approval by governments.

It will be the main scientific guide for combating climate change.

“If emissions continue at their present rate, human-induced warming will exceed 1.5°C by around 2040,” according to the report, which broadly reaffirms findings in an earlier draft in January but is more robust, after 25,000 comments from experts and a wider pool of scientific literature.

Temperatures are already up about 1°C (1.8°F) and are rising at a rate of about 0.2°C a decade, according to the draft, requested by world leaders as part of the Paris Agreement.

Antarctica’s Ice Loss Is Speeding Up, with Sharp Acceleration in Past 5 Years

Antarctica’s Ice Loss Is Speeding Up, with Sharp Acceleration in Past 5 Years

SOURCE: Inside Climate News and Nature

DATE: June 13, 2018

SNIP: The most complete assessment to date of Antarctica’s ice sheets confirms that the meltdown accelerated sharply in the past five years, and there is no sign of a slowdown.

That means sea level is expected to rise at a rate that will catch some coastal communities unprepared despite persistent warnings, according to the international team of scientists publishing a series of related studies this week in the journal Nature.

The scientists found that the rate of ice loss over the past five years had tripled compared to the previous two decades, suggesting an additional 6 inches of sea level rise from Antarctica alone by 2100, on top of the 2 feet already projected from all sources, including Greenland.

Between 1992, when detailed satellite measurements started, and 2012, Antarctica lost about 76 billion tons of ice per year. But since 2012, that rate has tripled to about 219 billion tons of ice loss per year, the scientists found.

Another study, published June 13 in the journal Science Advances, raises even more concerns about the vulnerability of Antarctic ice to global warming.

Data from radar and laser readings of the ice enabled scientists with the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Waterloo to map a vast network of channels in the base of many ice sheets formed by intrusions of warm water. Some are several kilometers wide, said University of Texas at Austin researcher Jamin Greenbaum.

They found the channels everywhere they looked, including beneath the ice shelf of the Totten Glacier, in East Antarctica, as well as in Greenland. While scientists have known about the channels for quite some time, the new study found a relationship between what’s happening below the ice and on the surface.

Warm water intrusions are melting the ice from below so much that the ice in those channels is cracking. That allows surface meltwater to flow into the fractures, which can destabilize the ice shelf and increase the chances that big chunks will break off, Greenbaum said.

Africa’s most famous trees are dying, and scientists suspect a changing climate

Africa’s most famous trees are dying, and scientists suspect a changing climate

SOURCE: Washington Post

DATE: June 11, 2018

SNIP: The baobab tree, sometimes called the “Tree of Life,” has an unforgettable appearance. Found in savanna regions of Africa, Madagascar and Australia, the trees form a very thick and wide trunk and mainly branch high above the ground. They can grow to be thousands of years old, and develop hollows inside so large that one massive baobab in South Africa had a bar inside it.

But that tree, the more than 1,000-year-old Sunland baobab, apparently the biggest of these trees in Africa, “toppled over” last year. Another famous baobab, the Chapman tree in Botswana, collapsed in 2016.

Something similar, a new scientific study suggests, is happening to the oldest and largest baobabs across the world in “an event of an unprecedented magnitude.”

The research, by Adrian Patrut of Babes-Bolyai University in Romania and an international group of colleagues, finds that in the past 12 years, “9 of the 13 oldest and 5 of the 6 largest individuals have died, or at least their oldest parts/stems have collapsed and died.”

“Each of these trees was unique and special,” he wrote. “They have seen more history than we can imagine.”

Patrut says the largest trees are the most vulnerable — and he believes that a changing climate is involved, although the study itself says that “further research is necessary to support or refute this supposition.”

In Zimbabwe, baobab deaths are reportedly being accompanied by what appears to be some type of fungus that turns the trees black before they die. Patrut’s study, which surveys baobabs much more widely, contends that for the oldest trees in particular, the deaths “were not caused by an epidemic.”

Heavy Rainfall Has Increased by Up to 70 Percent in Parts of the U.S. Since the 1950s, and It Will Only Get Worse, Experts Say

Heavy Rainfall Has Increased by Up to 70 Percent in Parts of the U.S. Since the 1950s, and It Will Only Get Worse, Experts Say

SOURCE: Weather.com

DATE: June 9, 2018

SNIP: Heavy rainfall from storms has increased by up to 70 percent in some areas of the United States since the 1950s and will only get worse in the coming years, thanks to global warming, scientists say.

The 2014 National Climate Assessment reported that downpours from storms are dumping more water across the nation than ever before, with the Midwest, Pacific Northwest and the Upper Plains receiving the greatest increase in heavy rainfall. The Environmental Protection Agency notes that heavy rainfall events have increased by 70 percent in the Pacific Northwest over the past six decades or so, more than any other region in the United States.

Andreas Prein of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) says peak rain rates, which arrive when the core of a storm is overhead, have increased across the country by 30 percent over the past 60 years. And while some areas will continue to get wetter from heavy downpours, other regions will get drier.

The combination of more intense rainfall and the spreading of heavy rainfall over larger areas means that we will face a higher flood risk than previously predicted,” Prein said in a press release. “If a whole catchment area gets hammered by high rain rates, that creates a much more serious situation than a thunderstorm dropping intense rain over parts of the catchment.”

The U.S. just had its warmest May in history, blowing past 1934 Dust Bowl record

The U.S. just had its warmest May in history, blowing past 1934 Dust Bowl record

SOURCE: Washington Post

DATE: June 8, 2018

SNIP: Almost every tract of land in the contiguous United States was warmer than normal in May, helping to break a Dust Bowl-era record.

The month’s average temperature 0f 65.4 degrees swept by the previous high mark of 64.7 degrees set in 1934. Temperatures were more than 5 degrees above normal, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which published a May U.S. climate assessment Wednesday.

The 1934 record was impressive, enduring for decades even as the climate has warmed because of increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. One of the main reasons May 1934 was so hot was because it was so dry, posting the least precipitation for the month on record. When the land surface is dry, it heats up faster.

In May 2018, temperatures soared to record levels even without as much help from dry soils. Precipitation was a hair above normal averaged over the nation. Maryland, hit by major floods in Frederick and Ellicott City, had its wettest May on record. So did Florida. Asheville, N.C., posted 14.68 inches of rain, its wettest month in history.

Rather than dry soil, the record warmth this past May can be traced to the jet stream, the high-altitude current that separates cold air from warm air. It lifted north of the U.S.-Canadian border for much of the month, allowing widespread abnormally warm air to flood northward.

It’s also fair to say that rising greenhouse gas concentrations, which have pushed May temperatures higher over time and now even above those torrid Dust Bowl years, contributed to the record temperatures.

Across the nation, more than 8,500 warm-temperature records were set at weather stations during the month, compared with 460 cold records.

Greenpeace: Plastic pollution has spread to Antarctica

Greenpeace: Plastic pollution has spread to Antarctica

SOURCE: PRI

DATE: June 7, 2018

SNIP: Plastic waste and toxic chemicals found in remote parts of the Antarctic this year add to evidence that pollution is spreading to the ends of the Earth, environmental group Greenpeace said on Thursday.

Microplastics — tiny bits of plastic from the breakdown of everything from shopping bags to car tires — were detected in nine of 17 water samples collected off the Antarctic peninsula by a Greenpeace vessel in early 2018, it said.

And seven of nine snow samples taken on land in Antarctica found chemicals known as PFAs (polyfluorinated alkylated substances), which are used in industrial products and can harm wildlife.

The United Nations’ environment agency says plastic pollution has been detected from the Arctic to Antarctica and in remote places including the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans in the Pacific.

“Plastic stays around for hundreds of years,” said author Ilka Peeken of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research.

A Pipeline Controversy Explained: Is Washington Now In The Tar Sands Crosshairs?

A Pipeline Controversy Explained: Is Washington Now In The Tar Sands Crosshairs?

SOURCE: Sightline

DATE: June 7, 2018

SNIP: It seems likely that the Canadian province of Alberta—home to a massive tar sands industry that produces some of the globe’s dirtiest and most polluting oil—has put the Pacific Northwest in its crosshairs. The province is partnering with the Canadian government to ram through the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, a 715-mile conduit that would carry up to 890,000 barrels of oil per day from the Canadian interior to southwest British Columbia. Much of that oil would be exported by tanker from a port just outside Vancouver—resulting in a seven-fold increase in oil tanker trips from the Port of Vancouver into the Salish Sea. Additional tar sands oil would make its way south to Puget Sound refineries, via a 69-mile pipeline called the Puget Sound Pipeline (PSP).

But hidden in the details was a surprising fact: the Canadian government intends to buy not only Trans Mountain, but also the Puget Sound Pipeline.

Strikingly, this means that the government of Canada is poised to become the sole owner of an oil pipeline feeding Washington State refineries. Even more troublingly, Kinder Morgan has been telling investors for years that it is considering doubling the capacity of the Puget Sound Pipeline.

In light of the undeniable fact that tar sands oil produces far more climate-warming emissions than other types of oil, Alberta’s commitment to boosting tar sands projects is nothing short of alarming. Today, the region produces about 2.8 million barrels of tar sands oil per day, or about a billion barrels a year. But if the Canadian government’s plans come to fruition, the region will step up production to 4 million barrels per day by 2030, and 4.5 million barrels per day by 2040. Production growth of this scale poses a massive and potentially insurmountable challenges to the fight to stabilize climate change.

CO2 Levels Break Another Record, Exceeding 411 Parts Per Million

CO2 Levels Break Another Record, Exceeding 411 Parts Per Million

SOURCE: Yale Environment 360

DATE: June 7, 2018

SNIP: Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceeded 411 parts per million (ppm) in May, the highest monthly average ever recorded at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, home to the world’s longest continuous CO2 record. In addition, scientists found that the rate of CO2 increase is accelerating, from an average 1.6 ppm per year in the 1980s and 1.5 ppm per year in the 1990s to 2.2 ppm per year during the last decade.

“Many of us had hoped to see the rise of CO2 slowing by now, but sadly that isn’t the case,” said Ralph Keeling, director of the University of California San Diego’s Scripps CO2 Program, which maintains the Mauna Loa record with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

From 2016 to 2017, the global CO2 average increased by 2.3 ppm — the sixth consecutive year-over-year increase greater than 2 ppm, according to Scripps researchers.

“CO2 levels are continuing to grow at an all-time record rate because emissions from coal, oil, and natural gas are also at record high levels,” Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, said in a statement. “Today’s emissions will still be trapping heat in the atmosphere thousands of years from now.”

When Tropical Cyclones Can’t Move On

When Tropical Cyclones Can’t Move On

SOURCE: National Center for Environmental Information at NOAA

DATE: June 6, 2018

SNIP: Tropical cyclones—also sometimes referred to as hurricanes and typhoons—are taking substantially longer to move from place to place, according to a new study by NCEI scientist Jim Kossin. In his paper, “A Global Slowdown of Tropical Cyclone Translation Speed (link is external),” published in Nature, Kossin demonstrates that, globally, tropical cyclones slowed by 10 percent between 1949 and 2016. With additional water vapor in the atmosphere in a warming world, as little as a 10 percent slowdown could double local rainfall and flooding impacts caused by 1°C of warming.

According to the study, tropical cyclones have slowed in both hemispheres and in every ocean basin except the Northern Indian Ocean. But, tropical cyclones have generally slowed more in the Northern Hemisphere, where more of these storms typically occur each year.

“Of great importance to society,” says Kossin, “tropical cyclones over land have slowed down 20 percent in the Atlantic, 30 percent in the western North Pacific, and 19 percent in the Australian region. These trends are almost certainly increasing local rainfall totals and freshwater flooding, which is associated with very high mortality risk.”

Hurricane Harvey in 2017 serves as a dramatic example of the consequences a slow-moving or “stalled” tropical cyclone can produce. Harvey—the hurricane that refused to leave—dumped upwards of 50 inches of rain on Houston, Texas, and the surrounding area in just five days. Some locations received two feet of rain in just two days.

[Slower than expected? :-)]