North American glaciers melting much faster than 10 years ago

North American glaciers melting much faster than 10 years ago

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 19, 2019 SNIP: Glaciers in western North America, excluding Alaska, are melting four times faster than in the previous decade, with changes in the jet stream exacerbating the longer-term effects of climate change, according to a new study. The jet stream – the currents of fast-flowing air in the atmosphere that affect weather – has shifted, causing more snow in the north-western US and less in south-western Canada, according to the study released in Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. Changes in the northern hemisphere jet stream are increasingly firmly linked to global warming. That warming from humans burning fossil fuels is also expected to continue to melt alpine glaciers, even under scenarios for more moderate greenhouse gas levels. While some of the fourfold increase in the melting rate in western North America is related to manmade climate change, the researchers can’t say with certainty how...
Coal Ash Is Contaminating Groundwater in at least 22 States

Coal Ash Is Contaminating Groundwater in at least 22 States

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: January 18, 2019 SNIP: The clearest picture yet of coal ash contamination in the United States is emerging, with utilities reporting serious groundwater contamination in at least 22 states. At dozens of power plants across the country, including many in the Southeast, utilities have found coal-ash pollution severe enough to force them to propose cleanup plans. Those plans will likely become the next front in a decades-long battle over how to manage one of the nation’s largest industrial waste streams—one tainted by toxic heavy metals. Utilities for decades have annually produced more than 100 million tons of coal burning wastes, including ash and scrubber sludge. The ash contains contaminants like selenium, mercury, cadmium and arsenic associated with cancer and other serious health effects, according to the EPA. This new national picture of coal ash contamination has emerged in part because the environmental groups Earthjustice and Environmental Integrity Project, with others, have combed through utility websites, collecting information from documents that utilities began publishing last year. The groups have issued several reports in recent weeks with similar conclusions. For example, in Illinois, they found evidence of toxic pollutants such as arsenic, cobalt and lithium in groundwater at 22 of 24 coal ash dump sites. In Georgia, similar contamination was reported at 11 of the state’s 12 coal-fired power plants. A report released Thursday reveals evidence of contaminants leaching from all 16 coal-fired power plants with ash ponds or landfills in...
‘A sad day’: two more B.C. mountain caribou herds now locally extinct

‘A sad day’: two more B.C. mountain caribou herds now locally extinct

SOURCE: The Narwhal and Science DATE: January 18, 2019 SNIP: “A sad day when the remaining caribou in the southern interior fit in a stock trailer with room to spare,” posted Jim Ross, who raises hogs and has lived in the Kootenays for most of his life. Thirty years earlier, Ross had chanced upon 40 to 50 caribou from the South Selkirk herd in a clearing near Kootenay Pass, a sight so arresting that he nearly drove into a ditch and then pulled off the highway to watch in awe, he told The Narwhal. Now the unwitting Ross had become a witness to the same herd’s extirpation, or local extinction, as two more B.C. caribou herds join northern spotted owls on the list of wildlife populations recently extirpated from the province. “It just saddens the hell of me,” Ross said in an interview. “I have two daughters who are 19 and 21 and they’re never going to see a caribou. It’s just not going to happen for them unless they see it in an enclosure.” The loss of the two Kootenay-area herds erases the southern boundary of B.C.’s caribou populations, redrawing the line closer to Nakusp, and also makes history through the disappearance of the transboundary South Selkirk herd, the last herd in the contiguous United States. Human disturbances, including clear-cut logging, mining and oil and gas development, have given natural predators like wolves easy access to caribou whose habitat has been destroyed or fragmented right across the country, with disastrous consequences for once-robust herds. Thirty of B.C.’s 54 caribou herds are at risk of local extinction, and 14...
Climate change to cause more damage to Canada’s northern roads than previously feared

Climate change to cause more damage to Canada’s northern roads than previously feared

SOURCE: Global News DATE: January 17, 2019 SNIP: The impact of climate change on roads and other crucial structures in Canada’s North is likely to be even greater than feared, says new detailed research. Scientists have long warned that Canada’s northwest corner is warming more quickly than almost any other spot on the globe. Using modelling techniques so detailed they take a supercomputer to process, Pomeroy and his colleagues say they’ve looked more closely than any other researchers into how temperatures are likely to play out over the next century. They concluded that, if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current level, temperatures in the area around Inuvik, N.W.T. will go up by six degrees on top of the three degrees they’ve already risen. They say roads in winter will be vulnerable to a phenomenon in which melted groundwater seeps to the surface, then refreezes into a thick layer of ice. Permafrost holding up buildings and roads will melt and retreat by another 25...
Texas coal power plants leaching toxic pollutants into groundwater

Texas coal power plants leaching toxic pollutants into groundwater

SOURCE: Texas Tribune DATE: January 17, 2019 SNIP: As the Trump administration considers weakening Obama-era safeguards for the disposal of toxic coal waste, a new report shows that groundwater near all of Texas’ 16 monitored coal-fired power plants is contaminated with pollutants — including known carcinogens — linked to so-called coal ash. The report found that the groundwater around coal-fired plants across the state contain levels of pollutants like arsenic, boron, cobalt or lithium that would make it unsafe for human consumption. It also found that almost none of the impoundments where plants dispose of spent coal are lined properly to prevent leakage — one of the requirements of the 2015 Coal Ash Rule. “We found contamination everywhere we looked, poisoning groundwater aquifers and recreational fishing spots across the state,” said EIP attorney Abel Russ, an author of the report. “This confirms that dumping large volumes of toxic waste in poorly-lined pits is a terrible idea.” Coal ash is produced when plants burn coal to produce electricity. One of the largest sources of industrial waste in the United States, it contains contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic, according to the...
Antarctica losing six times more ice mass annually now than 40 years ago

Antarctica losing six times more ice mass annually now than 40 years ago

SOURCE: Science Daily and PNAS DATE: January 14, 2019 SNIP: Antarctica experienced a sixfold increase in yearly ice mass loss between 1979 and 2017, according to a study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Glaciologists from the University of California, Irvine, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Netherlands’ Utrecht University additionally found that the accelerated melting caused global sea levels to rise more than half an inch during that time. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak,” said lead author Eric Rignot, Donald Bren Professor and chair of Earth system science at UCI. “As the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we expect multi-meter sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries.” The team was able to discern that between 1979 and 1990, Antarctica shed an average of 40 gigatons of ice mass annually. (A gigaton is 1 billion tons.) From 2009 to 2017, about 252 gigatons per year were lost. The pace of melting rose dramatically over the four-decade period. From 1979 to 2001, it was an average of 48 gigatons annually per decade. The rate jumped 280 percent to 134 gigatons for 2001 to...