The permafrost bomb is ticking

The permafrost bomb is ticking

SOURCE: Yale Climate Connections DATE: February 12, 2019 SNIP: About a fifth of the Northern Hemisphere landmass is permafrost, ground that has been mostly frozen for half a million years or more. Now there are signs of thaw appearing in many places across this vast landscape circling the Arctic, and at accelerated rates. It is only a matter of time until the incremental thawing of the permafrost reaches a tipping point of no return, a state of accelerated and irreversible change, the side effects of which might well push other parts of the Arctic beyond their own tipping points. Quite possibly, we are poised to witness such a transformation within our lifetimes – ice sheet loss, increased frequencies of fires in the tundra and boreal forests, and complete habitat loss for marine mammals, to name just a few examples of the changes that could occur. The major side effect of a thawing permafrost is that it will further enhance global warming with the release of large quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The permafrost contains organic matter, and thawing will enable bacterial decomposition that will release methane as a byproduct of anaerobic respiration. The last time there was a large-scale thaw of the permafrost was four interglacials ago. Evidence of this thawing event can be found in Siberian caves where stalactites and stalagmites growth last occurred at that time. Such deposits can only form when there is liquid water flowing. At the time of the thaw, about 450,000 years ago, the climate was about 1.5°C warmer than pre-industrial temperatures. Today, the temperature is nearly as warm – 1°C...
Flood-affected farmers witness entire cattle herds wiped out by catastrophic deluge

Flood-affected farmers witness entire cattle herds wiped out by catastrophic deluge

SOURCE: News.com.au DATE: February 11, 2019 SNIP: Farmers who managed to keep their cattle alive for seven years, through one of Australia’s worst droughts in history, have watched their herds wiped out in a matter of days after unprecedented floods devastated much of Queensland. If the cattle have not drowned or frozen to death in the elements, devastated farmers now face having to kill thousands of animals. The situation is so terrible that there are reports the farmers have run out of bullets. Some farmers are estimating almost 100 per cent stock losses while the state’s cattle industry as a whole is expecting about 500,000 dead cattle. When the first rain started to fall in the state’s west two weeks ago, drought-stricken farmers felt they could finally breathe a sigh of relief. It’s been more than seven years since the region received a substantial downpour but the monsoon — which saw clouds dump three years worth of rain in 10 days — is expected to cripple farmers for decades. “As we begin to access our paddocks we are being confronted with death and devastation at every turn. There are kangaroos dead in trees and fences, birds drowned in drifts of silt and debris and our beloved bovine family lay perished in piles where they have been huddling for protection and warmth,” grazier Jacqueline Curley wrote. “This scene is mirrored across the entire region, it is absolutely soul destroying to think our animals suffered like this. “The rain and wind was so intense they piled on top of one another for warmth. Many of these were still alive but we...
Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten catastrophic collapse of nature’

Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten catastrophic collapse of nature’

SOURCE: SBS News DATE: February 11, 2019 SNIP: Nearly half of all insect species worldwide are in rapid decline and a third could disappear altogether, according to a study warning of dire consequences for crop pollination and natural food chains. “Unless we change our way of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” concluded the peer-reviewed study, which is set for publication in April. “We are witnessing the largest extinction event on Earth since the late Permian and Cretaceous periods,” the authors noted. The Permian end-game 252 million years ago snuffed out more than 90 percent of the planet’s life forms, while the abrupt finale of the Cretaceous 66 million years ago saw the demise of land dinosaurs. “At present, a third of all insect species are threatened with extinction. Only decisive action can avert a catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems,” the authors cautioned. Restoring wilderness areas and a drastic reduction in the use of pesticides and chemical fertiliser are likely the best way to slow the insect loss, they said. Moles, hedgehogs, anteaters, lizards, amphibians, most bats, many birds and fish all feed on insects or depend on them for rearing their offspring. Other insects filling the void left by declining species probably cannot compensate for the sharp drop in biomass, the study said. Insects are also the world’s top pollinators — 75 percent of 115 top global food crops depend on animal pollination, including cocoa, coffee, almonds and...
A ‘mass invasion’ of polar bears is terrorizing an island town. Climate change is to blame.

A ‘mass invasion’ of polar bears is terrorizing an island town. Climate change is to blame.

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: February 11, 2019 SNIP: Polar bears are typically born on land but live mostly on sea ice, where they hunt and feed on seals. But as Arctic ice thins, an occurrence linked to the acceleration of climate change, the animals move ashore, ravenous. They scavenge, sometimes coming into contact with human populations. Novaya Zemlya is a Russian archipelago stretching into the Arctic Ocean. Officials in the Arkhangelsk region, where the archipelago lies, declared a state of emergency Saturday because of the marauding mammals. At least 52 bears were massed near Belushya Guba, the main settlement on the island territory. Now, they could be selectively slaughtered if Russian authorities can’t figure out another way to keep them from menacing the residents of the remote island outpost, where they began to collect in December 2018. Warning of the “mass invasion of polar bears in residential areas,” local officials vowed action in response to “numerous oral and written complaints demanding to ensure safety in the settlement.” Officials also said the situation was unprecedented. “I have been in Novaya Zemlya since 1983, but there have never been so many polar bears in the vicinity,” said Zhigansha Musin, a local administrative head, according to TASS, Russia’s state news agency. So far, Russia’s environmental watchdog has withheld licenses for shooting the troublesome animals. Instead, a team of experts is being sent to the remote island community to try to protect residents. “However, provided that those measures do not help solve the situation, a cull will remain the only and forced answer,” TASS reported, suggesting that killing the animals as a means...
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...
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...