Warm waters melting Antarctic ice shelves may have appeared for the first time in over 7,000 years

Warm waters melting Antarctic ice shelves may have appeared for the first time in over 7,000 years

SOURCE: The Conversation DATE: October 19, 2017 SNIP: The vast expanse of the Antarctic is a region of the world particularly vulnerable to climate change, where ice loss has the potential to significantly increase sea levels. Now, for possibly the first time in 7,000 years, a phenomenon known as “upwelling” (the upward flow of warmer ocean water to the surface), is thought to have caused recent ice shelf collapse around the continent – and the glacial thinning associated with it. The ocean surrounding Antarctica is extremely cold, but water over 300m deep, Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW), is about 3⁰C above the melting point of ice. Normally, the very cold water above keeps this away from ice shelves. But in some areas, CDW is spilling onto the shallow Antarctic continental shelf, causing the ice to thin. Ice shelf thinning has accelerated in recent decades, but the picture is not the same everywhere. While the east of the Antarctic has shown modest gains in ice thickness, the west has outstripped this with significant ice loss – up to 18% in vulnerable areas like the Amundsen and Bellingshausen...
Why you need to get involved in the geoengineering debate – now

Why you need to get involved in the geoengineering debate – now

SOURCE: The Conversation DATE: October 19, 2017 SNIP: The prospect of engineering the world’s climate system to tackle global warming is becoming more and more likely. The 2015 Paris Agreement set out near universal, legally binding commitments to keep the increase in global temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and even to aim for limiting the rise to 1.5°C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that meeting these targets is possible – but nearly all of their scenarios rely on the extensive deployment of some form of geoengineering by the end of the...
Warning of ‘ecological Armageddon’ after dramatic plunge in insect numbers

Warning of ‘ecological Armageddon’ after dramatic plunge in insect numbers

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: October 18, 2017 SNIP: The abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years, according to a new study that has shocked scientists. Insects are an integral part of life on Earth as both pollinators and prey for other wildlife and it was known that some species such as butterflies were declining. But the newly revealed scale of the losses to all insects has prompted warnings that the world is “on course for ecological Armageddon”, with profound impacts on human society. “The fact that the number of flying insects is decreasing at such a high rate in such a large area is an alarming discovery,” said Hans de Kroon, at Radboud University in the Netherlands and who led the new research. When the total weight of the insects in each sample was measured a startling decline was revealed. The annual average fell by 76% over the 27 year period, but the fall was even higher – 82% – in summer, when insect numbers reach their...
‘This is a really big deal’: Canada natural gas emissions far worse than feared

‘This is a really big deal’: Canada natural gas emissions far worse than feared

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: October 18, 2017 SNIP: Alberta’s oil and gas industry – Canada’s largest producer of fossil fuel resources – could be emitting 25 to 50% more methane than previously believed, new research has suggested. The pioneering peer reviewed study, published in Environmental Science & Technology on Tuesday, used airplane surveys to measure methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure in two regions in Alberta. The results were then compared with industry-reported emissions and estimates of unreported sources of the powerful greenhouse gas, which warm the planet more than 20 times as much as similar volumes of carbon dioxide. “Our first reaction was ‘Oh my goodness, this is a really big deal,” said Matthew Johnson, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa and one of the study’s authors. “If we thought it was bad, it’s worse.” The study then sought to conservatively extrapolate the findings, correcting only for sites that are home to heavy oil. What they found was in Alberta – home to 68% of Canada’s natural gas production, 47% of its light crude oil production as well as 80% of all crude oil and equivalents – total emissions were likely 25 to 50% higher than previous government estimates. The findings excluded mined oil sands, which are believed to be responsible for about 11% of methane...
Global Warming Could Make This Lurking Climate Threat Even Worse

Global Warming Could Make This Lurking Climate Threat Even Worse

SOURCE: Forbes DATE: October 17, 2017 SNIP: A years-long study of Minnesota farm fields has found that emissions of nitrous oxide—a more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide—will likely increase as our planet gets warmer. And our climate models aren’t ready. Like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide (yes, the same stuff as laughing gas) traps heat in Earth’s atmosphere. Although it’s thought to account for only about 6% of the greenhouse effect today, it is about 300 times worse for the climate than CO2. One major source is runoff from farms and fields. Bacteria breaking down nitrogen compounds from manure and synthetic fertilizers generate nitrous oxide as a waste product. “There’s a lot of uncertainty about how nitrous oxide is going to respond to changing temperature and moisture levels,” says David Kanter, a professor of environmental studies at New York University who has studied nitrogen pollution. He was not involved in the new research. The answer appears to be...
Warm waters juiced Ophelia into the most powerful eastern Atlantic hurricane ever seen

Warm waters juiced Ophelia into the most powerful eastern Atlantic hurricane ever seen

SOURCE: ThinkProgress DATE: October 16, 2017 SNIP: Ex-hurricane Ophelia smashed into Ireland Monday morning with record-breaking gusts of up to 119 mph. The powerful extra-tropical storm — which has already killed two people and blacked-out some 360,000 Irish homes and businesses — is what’s left of the most powerful Eastern Atlantic hurricane ever seen. “This was the first major hurricane making it as far east in the Atlantic as it did,” climatologist Michael Mann told ThinkProgress via email. “Irma was the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to form as far east as it did. As ocean surface temperatures rise, the regions where tropical cyclones can form and intensify are expanding. This latest storm is consistent with that trend.” What do all these powerful storms have in common? Hurricanes “extract heat energy from the ocean to convert it to the power of wind, and the warmer the ocean is, the stronger a hurricane can get,” as meteorologist and former hurricane hunter Jeff Masters has explained. “So, scientists are confident that as we continue to heat up the oceans, we’re going to see more of these high-end perfect...