Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles

Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles

SOURCE: Phys.org

DATE: March 22, 2017

SNIP: Arctic sea ice appears to have reached on March 7 a record low wintertime maximum extent, according to scientists at NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. And 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, a surprising turn of events after decades of moderate sea ice expansion.

On Feb. 13, the combined Arctic and Antarctic sea ice numbers were at their lowest point since satellites began to continuously measure sea ice in 1979.

The Arctic’s sea ice maximum extent has dropped by an average of 2.8 percent per decade since 1979, the year satellites started measuring sea ice. 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.

7,000 underground gas bubbles poised to ‘explode’ in Arctic

7,000 underground gas bubbles poised to ‘explode’ in Arctic

SOURCE: Siberian Times and IFLS.com

DATE: March 20, 2017

SNIP: Scientists have discovered as many as 7,000 gas-filled ‘bubbles’ expected to explode in Actic regions of Siberia after an exercise involving field expeditions and satellite surveillance, TASS reported.

The total of 7,000 – reported by TASS – is startlingly more than previously known.

Back in 2016, Siberia’s amusingly named Bely Island made headlines around the world after sections of its grassy landscape became somewhat bouncy.

As it turned out, the island was leaking greenhouse gases at a remarkable rate. In fact, the air escaping from the ground there contained 100 times more methane and 25 times more carbon dioxide – the two most potent greenhouse gases by far – than the surrounding atmosphere.

This time last year, just 15 of these near-surface, water-coated methane bubbles had been identified. Now, as reported by the Siberian Times, there are 7,000 of them. Considering that methane is incredibly flammable, it’s also likely that some of these bubbles will dramatically explode without much of a warning.

Study: Natural Gas Power Plants Emit up to 120 Times More Methane Than Previously Estimated

Study: Natural Gas Power Plants Emit up to 120 Times More Methane Than Previously Estimated

SOURCE: DeSmogBlog

DATE: March 20, 2017

SNIP: Researchers at Purdue University and the Environmental Defense Fund have concluded in a recent study that natural gas power plants release 21–120 times more methane than earlier estimates.

Published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the study also found that for oil refineries, emission rates were 11–90 times more than initial estimates. Natural gas, long touted as a cleaner and more climate-friendly alternative to burning coal, is obtained in the U.S. mostly via the controversial horizontal drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

“[Methane is] a better fuel all around as long as you don’t spill it,” Paul Shepson, an atmospheric chemistry professor at Purdue, said in a press release. “But it doesn’t take much methane leakage to ruin your whole day if you care about climate change.”

The Purdue-EDF research results were published the same week President Donald Trump proposed massive cuts to the EPA, which would include a 23 percent cut to the enforcement division tasked with overseeing emissions at gas-fired power plants and oil refineries. The Trump administration has also announced its intentions to halt former President Barack Obama’s proposed methane emissions rule for gas situated on U.S. public lands and has already reversed the Obama EPA’s information request for methane emissions data from U.S. domestic oil and gas producers.

Record-breaking climate change pushes world into ‘uncharted territory’

Record-breaking climate change pushes world into ‘uncharted territory’

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: March 20, 2017

SNIP: The record-breaking heat that made 2016 the hottest year ever recorded has continued into 2017, pushing the world into “truly uncharted territory”, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

The WMO’s assessment of the climate in 2016, published on Tuesday, reports unprecedented heat across the globe, exceptionally low ice at both poles and surging sea-level rise.

Earth is a planet in upheaval due to human-caused changes in the atmosphere,” said Jeffrey Kargel, a glaciologist at the University of Arizona in the US. “In general, drastically changing conditions do not help civilisation, which thrives on stability.”

The WMO report was “startling”, said Prof David Reay, an emissions expert at the University of Edinburgh: “The need for concerted action on climate change has never been so stark nor the stakes so high.”

Canberra geologist helps advance global understanding of climate change

Canberra geologist helps advance global understanding of climate change

SOURCE: The Canberra Times

DATE: March 20, 2017

SNIP: Associate professor White braved freezing temperatures and blizzards on the remote and tiny island of South Georgia in the South Atlantic ocean, collecting data on climate change. He and his colleagues launched their final report in London on Friday, which showed ice sheets surrounding the island south-east of South America had shrunk faster than previously believed.

Mr White said ice sheets around South Georgia had shrunk to a tenth of its original size since the last ice age, likely as a result of our planet’s warming climate.

“It really did rewrite our understanding of how the ice sheets on South Georgia have changed.”

“The previous theory was they are more or less the same they are today.”

No El Nino? No problem. Earth sizzles to near record heat

No El Nino? No problem. Earth sizzles to near record heat

SOURCE: Phys.org

DATE: March 17, 2017

SNIP: Even without an El Nino warming the world’s waters, Earth in February sizzled to its second hottest temperature on record, behind only last year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calculated that February 2017 averaged 55.66 degrees (13.08 degrees Celsius). That’s 1.76 degrees (.98 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 20th century average.

It was also the second hottest winter in the northern hemisphere on record. Records go back to 1880.

In the past, Earth doesn’t come near record heat if there’s no El Nino. This year it did—on every continent.

Climate Change Has ‘Permanently’ Changed the Great Barrier Reef

Climate Change Has ‘Permanently’ Changed the Great Barrier Reef

SOURCE: Pacific Standard

DATE: March 16, 2017

SNIP: Scientists speculate that the era of never-ending global coral bleaching may have already arrived, decades early.

In a new study, published Wednesday as the cover story in the journal Nature, Hughes and his colleagues — the paper includes an astounding 45 co-authors — find that 91 percent of the Great Barrier Reef has bleached at least once during three major bleaching events in 1998, 2002, and 2016. The most recent of these events — triggered in part by a strong El Niño — was so severe that there is no similar analog in the thousands of years of ancient coral cores scientists use to study past climates.

The study’s authors further argue that, over the last decade or two, global warming has changed conditions on the Great Barrier Reef so quickly that old conservation methods no longer work.

Earlier this month, the authority that oversees the Great Barrier Reef discovered that it has begun bleaching again — just months after its worst bleaching event on record.

Quick-growing corals in the Great Barrier Reef require 10 to 15 years to fully recover from a mass-bleaching event, and long-lived species may require many decades. That kind of breathing room is “no longer realistic,” according to Hughes and his colleagues, as long as global temperatures keep rising.

Coral reef survival hinges on ‘urgent and rapid’ emissions cuts

Coral reef survival hinges on ‘urgent and rapid’ emissions cuts

SOURCE: CarbonBrief.org

DATE: March 15, 2017

SNIP: The future of the Great Barrier Reef – and other reefs around the world – will ultimately depend on how successfully we can limit ocean warming.

This is the blunt conclusion of a new study, just published in Nature, which examines the impacts of recent coral bleaching events on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The event in 2016, for example, left just 9% of surveyed reefs untouched.

The study finds that sea surface temperature is the biggest driver of bleaching, while local efforts to improve water quality or restrict fishing have little impact on limiting its severity.

This means that “immediate action to curb future warming” is essential if coral reefs are to survive, the authors warn.

‘They died of thirst’: Extreme conditions wipe out forest over 1000 kilometres

‘They died of thirst’: Extreme conditions wipe out forest over 1000 kilometres

SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald

DATE: March 14, 2017

SNIP: The death of mangrove forests stretched over 1000 kilometres of Australia’s northern coast a year ago has been blamed on extreme conditions including record temperatures.

Dr Duke said scientists now know that mangroves, much like coral reefs, are vulnerable to a warming climate and extreme weather events. Until now, Australian mangroves were considered to be in relatively good condition, and there had never been such dieback recorded.

The mangrove wipeout could have multiple impacts, including the loss of fisheries worth hundreds of millions of dollars, more coastal erosion because of the loss of forest protection, and poorer water quality given the filtering role the trees play, he said.

The death of so much mangrove forest in one hit is “unprecedented“, a researcher says.