Climate change: World heading for warmest decade, says Met Office

Climate change: World heading for warmest decade, says Met Office

SOURCE: BBC

DATE: February 6, 2019

SNIP: The world is in the middle of what is likely to be the warmest 10 years since records began in 1850, say scientists.

The Met Office is forecasting that temperatures for each of the next five years are likely to be 1C or more above pre-industrial levels.

In the next five years there’s also a chance we’ll see a year in which the average global temperature rise could be greater than 1.5C.

That’s seen as a critical threshold for climate change.

If the data matches the forecast, then the decade from 2014-2023 will be the warmest in more than 150 years of record keeping.

The Met Office says it has a 90% confidence limit in the forecasts for the years ahead.

It says that from 2019 to 2023, we will see temperatures ranging from 1.03C to 1.57C above the 1850-1900 level, with enhanced warming over much of the globe, especially over areas like the Arctic.

Dutch mystery of ‘20,000 seabird deaths’ on coast

Dutch mystery of ‘20,000 seabird deaths’ on coast

SOURCE: BBC

DATE: February 6, 2019

SNIP: Scientists are trying to find out why some 20,000 guillemots have died in recent weeks along the Dutch coast.

The birds were all emaciated and there are fears they may have been victims of a spill from the MSC Zoe container ship, from which some 345 containers fell in the sea during a storm.

“There’s no smoking gun, but we’re looking into it,” says Mardik Leopold, who is investigating the deaths.

Chemicals may be to blame as most plastics are hard to ingest, he says.

Hours after the containers fell off the MSC Zoe in a storm, they started washing up on islands off the Dutch north coast on 2 January, spilling their contents of children’s toys, furniture and televisions on to the beaches.

A bag of peroxide powder was also found.

More Salt in Our Water Is Creating Scary New “Chemical Cocktails”

More Salt in Our Water Is Creating Scary New “Chemical Cocktails”

SOURCE: Truthout and The Royal Society Publishing

DATE: February 6, 2019

SNIP: Gene Likens has been studying forest and aquatic ecosystems for more than half a century. In that time he’s seen a change in the chemistry of our surface waters — including an increase in the alkalinity and salinity of waterways — something he and his colleagues have dubbed “freshwater salinization syndrome.”

Likens coauthored a report published last month that found that not only is salinity increasing in many surface waters, but when you add salt to the environment it can mobilize heavy metals, nutrient pollution and other contaminants that are combining to create new “chemical cocktails” in rivers, streams and reservoirs.

“I didn’t expect the massive scale of change across the lower 48 that we found — or the magnitude of change,” says Likens, who is president emeritus of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and a distinguished research professor at the University of Connecticut.

Salt on its own has been shown to be problematic. Too much of it in the water can be a health risk for someone with hypertension, says Likens. And salts washing off roadways have been shown to damage or kill vegetation. It can also seep into drinking water wells. High enough levels of salinity can be toxic to some aquatic life, too, says Likens.

Other new research has honed in on this threat from salt. “Increased salinity in freshwater systems is expected to cause extensive changes in biota and potentially in ecological function, and some losses of freshwater resources,” freshwater scientist John R. Olson from California State University Monterey Bay wrote in a recent study.

Salts, Kaushal and his colleagues found, can liberate heavy metals and other elements in soils and concrete surfaces, which can be more dangerous when mixed together than any one of them singly. Salts can also mobilize nitrates, stimulating harmful algal blooms that threaten the health of fish and other marine organisms.

Kaushal and his colleagues analyzed streams near the University of Maryland after a snowstorm and found spikes in the concentration of metals like copper, zinc, manganese and cadmium.

And after a storm salt concentrations can stay elevated for months, increasing the amount of time that the salts can draw these chemical cocktails out of the soil and into waterways.

Terrifying assessment of a Himalayan melting

Terrifying assessment of a Himalayan melting

SOURCE: Nepali Times

DATE: February 4, 2019

SNIP: While the global media’s attention is on the Greenland ice sheet, the Arctic and eastern Antarctica, a landmark report released this week shows that the Himalaya will face catastrophic meltdown during this century if there is no immediate effort to reduce the world’s carbon emissions.

[E]ven in the best-case scenario, the Himalayan mountains will lose more than one-third of their ice by the end of the century.

But that would happen only if global average temperatures can be capped at a 1.5oC increase above pre-industrial levels. Most scientists agree that target is unlikely to be met. If current emission trends continue, the world will actually be hotter by between 4.2-6.5oC by 2100 – in which case two-thirds of Himalayan glaciers will be gone.

Himalayan peaks are warming between 0.3 to 0.7oC faster than the global average, and the loss of Himalayan ice would have devastating consequences for 1.6 billion people living in the mountains and downstream countries. Climate models show that summer flow in the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra and their snow-fed tributaries will actually rise till 2050 as the glaciers melt away, but will start decreasing after that because there will be no more ice left.

Australia’s extreme heat is sign of things to come, scientists warn

Australia’s extreme heat is sign of things to come, scientists warn

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: February 1, 2019

SNIP: Australia sweltered through the hottest month in its history in January, spurring mass deaths of fish, fire warnings and concerns among climate scientists that extreme heat is hitting faster and harder than anticipated.

For the first time since records began, the country’s mean temperature in January exceeded 30C (86F), according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), which said daily extremes – in some places just short of 50C – were unprecedented.

There’s been so many records it’s really hard to count,” said Andrew Watkins, a senior climatologist at BoM, after January registered Australia’s warmest month for mean, maximum and minimum temperatures.

This followed the country’s warmest December on record, with heatwaves in every Australian state and territory.

Climate change is the long-term driver. “The warming trend which has seen Australian temperatures increase by more than 1C in the last 100 years also contributed to the unusually warm conditions,” Watkins said.

The bureau’s monthly report said the heatwaves were unprecedented in their scale and duration. The highest temperatures of the month were recorded in Augusta on the south-west coast, where thermometers registered 49.5C , but the most relentless heat was in Birdsville, Queensland, which endured 10 consecutive days above 45C.

US oil lease near sacred park pushes forward

US oil lease near sacred park pushes forward

SOURCE: AP

DATE: January 31, 2019

SNIP: U.S. land managers will move forward in March with the sale of oil and gas leases that include land near Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico and other areas sacred to Native American tribes.

The sale comes as Democratic members of Congress, tribal leaders and environmentalists have criticized the federal Bureau of Land Management for pushing ahead with drilling permit reviews and preparations for energy leases despite the recent government shutdown.

Depending on the outcome of the protests, it’s possible for the agency to put off or withdraw nine parcels of land that are within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of Chaco, a world heritage site with massive stone structures, kivas and other features that archaeologists believe offered a religious or ritualistic experience.

Accessible only by rough dirt roads, Chaco takes effort to reach, and supporters say they want to protect the sense of remoteness that comes with making the journey. For tribes, the fight is centered on preserving what remains of a ceremonial and economic hub that dates back centuries.

In all, more than 50 parcels in New Mexico and Oklahoma will be up for bid.

The battle over energy development around Chaco, which is bordered by the Navajo Nation and a checkboard of state and federal land, has been simmering for years. Government officials visited the region In 2015 in hopes of brokering a way forward for the tribes and energy companies.

The nine parcels near the park are on the outer edge of the informal buffer zone, but critics say it’s possible oil equipment could be visible from some places in the park if those areas were leased. Whether the hum of the equipment could be heard would depend on the direction of the wind. There are also concerns about light pollution affecting Chaco’s revered night sky.

West Coast’s biggest starfish vanishing amid disease, warming oceans, study finds

West Coast’s biggest starfish vanishing amid disease, warming oceans, study finds

SOURCE: Seattle Times

DATE: January 30, 2019

SNIP: Once a common delight of every beachcomber, sunflower starfish — the large, multi-armed starfish sometimes seen underwater at the near shore — are imperiled by disease and ocean warming along the West Coast.

The devastation occurred over just a few years and even affected starfish in deeper water, according to research co-led by the University of California, Davis, and Cornell University published in the journal Science Advances.

At one time plentiful, the sea suns, or sunflower starfish, right now cannot be found off the California coast and are rare northward into Alaska, said Drew Harvell, the paper’s co-author and Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. The starfish have become so rare over the past three years the scientists consider them endangered in the southern part of their range.

Sea star wasting disease beginning in 2013 caused a massive die-off of starfish of multiple species, from Mexico to Alaska. Hideous to behold, the disease causes starfish to fall apart, with pieces of their arms walking away, or their bodies disintegrating on pilings, beaches, rocks and the seafloor.

The sunflower star continues to decline, even in the deepest ocean, and is not recovering like some other species, such as the ochre star.

Global warming is likely a major cause of the disease, causing a heat wave in the oceans. Warmer temperatures exacerbate sea star wasting disease, allowing it to kill faster and have a bigger impact.

Starfish matter in the ocean — and not only because they are every kid’s first friend on the beach. Sunflower stars in particular prey voraciously on sea urchins — which keeps urchin grazing on kelp forests in check. As sunflower stars crash, urchins surge — and mow down kelp forests. That reduces the waving, green underwater nurseries that young fish need to thrive.

“The cascading effect has a really big impact,” said Joe Gaydos, an author on the paper and science director at the SeaDoc Society.

U.S. Intelligence Officials Warn Climate Change Is a Worldwide Threat

U.S. Intelligence Officials Warn Climate Change Is a Worldwide Threat

SOURCE: Inside Climate News

DATE: January 30, 2019

SNIP: The nation’s intelligence community warned in its annual assessment of worldwide threats that climate change and other kinds of environmental degradation pose risks to global stability because they are “likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.”

Released Tuesday, the Worldwide Threat Assessmentprepared by the Director of National Intelligence added to a swelling chorus of scientific and national security voices in pointing out the ways climate change fuels widespread insecurity and erodes America’s ability to respond to it.

“Climate hazards such as extreme weather, higher temperatures, droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, sea level rise, soil degradation, and acidifying oceans are intensifying, threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security,” said the report, which represents the consensus view among top intelligence officials. “Irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats will undermine the economic benefits they provide, worsened by air, soil, water, and marine pollution.”

The United Nations Security Council also held a discussion on Friday devoted to understanding and responding to how climate change acts as a “threat multiplier” in countries where governance is already fragile and resources are sparse.

“Climate change exacerbates vulnerabilities and inequalities, especially in situations of armed conflict, where countries, communities and populations are the least prepared and the least able to protect themselves and adapt,” Robert Mardini, the permanent observer to the UN from the International Committee of the Red Cross, told the Security Council, according to his published remarks. “Conflicts harm the structures and systems that are necessary to facilitate adaptation to climate change.”

Huge cavity in Antarctic glacier signals rapid decay

Huge cavity in Antarctic glacier signals rapid decay

SOURCE: NASA and Science Alert

DATE: January 30, 2019

SNIP: A gigantic cavity – two-thirds the area of Manhattan and almost 1,000 feet (300 meters) tall – growing at the bottom of Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica is one of several disturbing discoveries reported in a new NASA-led study of the disintegrating glacier. The findings highlight the need for detailed observations of Antarctic glaciers’ undersides in calculating how fast global sea levels will rise in response to climate change.

Researchers expected to find some gaps between ice and bedrock at Thwaites’ bottom where ocean water could flow in and melt the glacier from below. The size and explosive growth rate of the newfound hole, however, surprised them. It’s big enough to have contained 14 billion tons of ice, and most of that ice melted over the last three years.

“[The size of] a cavity under a glacier plays an important role in melting,” said the study’s lead author, Pietro Milillo of JPL. “As more heat and water get under the glacier, it melts faster.”

About the size of Florida, Thwaites Glacier is currently responsible for approximately 4 percent of global sea level rise. It holds enough ice to raise the world ocean a little over 2 feet (65 centimeters) and backstops neighboring glaciers that would raise sea levels an additional 8 feet (2.4 meters) if all the ice were lost.

Carbon dioxide emissions from global fisheries larger than previously thought

Carbon dioxide emissions from global fisheries larger than previously thought

SOURCE: EurekAlert! at AAAS

DATE: January 30, 2019

SNIP: Carbon dioxide emissions from fuel burnt by fishing boats are 30 per cent higher than previously reported.

In a study published in Marine Policy, the scientists show that 207-million tonnes of CO2 were released into the atmosphere by marine fishing vessels in 2016 alone. This is almost the same amount of CO2 emitted by 51 coal-fired power plants in the same timeframe.

“The marine fishing industry relies heavily on the use of fossil fuel and its role in global greenhouse gas emissions has been largely ignored from a policy or management perspective,” said Krista Greer, lead author of the study and a researcher with the Sea Around Us at UBC. “Until now, the most comprehensive study of carbon dioxide emissions from fishing suggested that in 2011, fisheries released 112-million tonnes of CO2 per year from the combustion of fuel during fishing.”

[I]ndustrial fisheries also need to do their part by reducing their fishing effort, which is currently three to four times what it should be in order to be sustainable. This would not only allow for a reduction in CO2 emissions by industrial fleets but would foster the recovery of declining fish populations.