China is going to get hot

China is going to get hot

SOURCE: Cosmos DATE: August 7, 2019 SNIP: Two months ago, climate scientists studying US cities found that global warming could produce killer heat waves causing thousands of excess deaths during unusually hot summers like the one now affecting the eastern US and much of Europe. Now, researchers have found that China faces an even worse problem – not just a few thousand extra deaths in unusually hot summers, but tens of thousands of additional deaths each year. And the problem, they say, will kick in at much lower rates of global warming than those predicted to endanger US cities. Part of the problem, write Yanjun Wang of Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology and colleagues, in the journal Nature Communications, is that temperatures in China have been increasing faster than the global average. But it isn’t the rise in average temperature that is the true problem, Wang’s team writes, so much as the fact that this rise is accompanied by an increase in the number of dangerously hot days. In Chinese cities, they say, global warming of 1.5° degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels (the Paris Agreement’s most ambitious not-to-exceed goal) could produce a 32.6% increase in the number of dangerously hot days. An increase of 2.0 degrees (the Paris Agreement’s less-ambitious back-up goal) could produce a 45.8% increase. Combining that with heat-fatality data from 27 large Chinese cities, the researchers calculated heat-death rates per year under each warming scenario, then extrapolated them to the rest of China’s 831 million city dwellers. Their conclusion was that the difference between 1.5° degrees and 2.0° degrees matters – a lot. Even...
July Was the Hottest Month in Human History

July Was the Hottest Month in Human History

SOURCE: Rolling Stone DATE: August 1, 2019 SNIP: July 2019 is now the hottest month in recorded history, the U.N. confirmed on Thursday. At a press conference in New York, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres announced that the month of July had reached 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a figure that “at least equaled if not surpassed the hottest month in recorded history,” according to data released by the World Meteorological Organization. Temperature information from July is still streaming in, but preliminary data show last month’s warmth is roughly on par, or perhaps slightly warmer than the previous record of July 2016. In cities and towns around the world, record high temperatures outpaced record low temperatures on nearly a 3-to-1 basis during July, underscoring the fact that this crisis is being felt almost everywhere, by almost everyone. But there’s an added madness to this crisis. In its annual Statistical Review of World Energy released a few weeks ago, the global oil giant BP confirmed that in 2018 the world burned the most fossil fuels of any year in history. In short: Our addiction to fossil fuels is getting worse and worse even as the planet gets hotter and hotter. The world’s current climate policies point to an unlivable future. Scientists are increasingly convinced that if warming rises above 1.5 degrees, cascading ecological and meteorological tipping points could threaten the stability of human civilization. The current level of action, if sustained, would result in global warming of about 3.3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, and surpass 1.5 degrees as soon as 2030. The new record is...
Alaska Chokes on Wildfires as Heat Waves Dry Out the Arctic

Alaska Chokes on Wildfires as Heat Waves Dry Out the Arctic

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: July 11, 2019 SNIP: Under the choking black smoke from the bog and forest fires in Siberia and Alaska, it can feel like the Earth itself is burning. The normally moist, black organic peat soil and lush forests have been drying, and when they catch fire, they burn relentlessly. Global warming has been thawing tundra and drying vast stretches of the far-northern boreal forests, and it also has spurred more thunderstorms with lightning, which triggered many of the fires burning in Alaska this year, said Brian Brettschneider, a climate scientist with the International Arctic Research Center who closely tracks Alaskan and Arctic extreme weather. So far this year, wildfires have scorched more than 1.2 million acres in Alaska, making it one of the state’s three biggest fire years on record to this date, with high fire danger expected to persist in the weeks ahead. The large Arctic fires in June could be a sign of a climate tipping point, said Thomas Smith, a climate researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “It really is unprecedented, a word we should not use lightly,” he wrote. “It may be that in most previous years, temperatures have never been warm enough to drive off moisture from the winter frost and snowpack. The ground is likely covered in mosses that act as a sponge, staying moist all summer long before freezing again in winter. But now that sponge is drying out.” Amid all of this, scientists in Alaska are worried about the future of scientific research at the region’s universities—the state legislature is struggling to...
Rising Tundra Temperatures Create Worrying Changes In Microbial Communities

Rising Tundra Temperatures Create Worrying Changes In Microbial Communities

SOURCE: Eurasia Review DATE: July 10, 2019 SNIP: Rising temperatures in the tundra of the Earth’s northern latitudes could affect microbial communities in ways likely to increase their production of greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide, a new study of experimentally warmed Alaskan soil suggests. About half of the world’s total underground carbon is stored in the soils of these frigid, northern latitudes. That is more than twice the amount of carbon currently found in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, but until now most of it has been locked up in the very cold soil. The new study, which relied on metagenomics to analyze changes in the microbial communities being experimentally warmed, could heighten concerns about how the release of this carbon may exacerbate climate change. “We saw that microbial communities respond quite rapidly – within four or five years – to even modest levels of warming,” said Kostas T. Konstantinidis, the paper’s corresponding author and a professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the School of Biological Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The study provides quantitative information about how rapidly microbial communities responded to the warming at critical depths, and highlights the dominant microbial metabolisms and groups of organisms that are responding to warming in the tundra. The work underscores the importance of accurately representing the role of soil microbes in climate models. “Because of the very large amount of carbon in these systems, as well as the rapid and clear response to warming found in this experiment and other studies, it is becoming increasingly clear that soil microbes – particularly those in...
Anchorage hits an official 90 degrees for the first time on record

Anchorage hits an official 90 degrees for the first time on record

SOURCE: Anchorage Daily News DATE: July 5, 2019 SNIP: The National Weather Service said Friday it took a long look at Thursday’s record afternoon temperatures before announcing late in the day that the thermometer had reached an astonishing 90 degrees at the official recording site at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The weather service first reported that a record of 89 degrees had been reached in an hourly sampling of airport weather. The actual temperature was 89.1, but it is the weather service’s practice to round to the nearest whole number. But because the temperature of record is collected at an airport, it is sampled more frequently than on the hour, an NWS official in Anchorage said. Upon evaluation of minute-to-minute temperatures, the weather service said, meteorologists saw that at exactly 5 p.m. the temperature spiked to 89.6 degrees before cooling back down to 87.8 five minutes later. Anchorage’s new highest temperature on record — after rounding – is now 90 degrees on Independence Day, 2019. The previous record of 85 was set on June 14, 1969. The average high for July 4 in Anchorage is...