Record-Breaking Heat in Alaska Wreaks Havoc on Communities and Ecosystems

Record-Breaking Heat in Alaska Wreaks Havoc on Communities and Ecosystems

SOURCE: Smithsonian Magazine DATE: May 30, 2019 SNIP: Alaska in March is supposed to be cold. Along the north and west coasts, the ocean should be frozen farther than the eye can see. In the state’s interior, rivers should be locked in ice so thick that they double as roads for snowmobiles and trucks. And where I live, near Anchorage in south-central Alaska, the snowpack should be deep enough to support skiing for weeks to come. But this year, a record-breaking heatwave upended norms and had us basking in comfortable—but often unsettling—warmth. Across Alaska, March temperatures averaged 11 degrees Celsius above normal. The deviation was most extreme in the Arctic where, on March 30, thermometers rose almost 22 degrees Celsius above normal—to 3 degrees. That still sounds cold, but it was comparatively hot. The state’s wave of warmth was part of a weeks-long weather pattern that shattered temperature records across our immense state, contributing to losses of both property and life. On April 15, three people, including an 11-year-old girl, died after their snowmobiles plunged through thin ice on the Noatak River in far northwestern Alaska. Earlier in the winter, 700 kilometers south, on the lower Kuskokwim River, at least five people perished in separate incidents when their snowmobiles or four-wheelers broke through thin ice. There were close calls too, including the rescue of three miners who spent hours hopping between disintegrating ice floes in the Bering Sea near Nome. Farther south, people skating on the popular Portage Lake near Anchorage also fell through thin ice. Varying factors contributed to these and other mishaps, but abnormally thin ice was...
Arctic is warmest it’s been in 10,000 years, study suggests

Arctic is warmest it’s been in 10,000 years, study suggests

SOURCE: CBC News DATE: April 12, 2019 SNIP: New research suggests Canada’s Arctic is the warmest it has been in 10,000 years — and the temperatures are still climbing. The study was recently published in the scientific journal Nature Communications. Researchers studied permafrost samples in the Yukon near the Dempster Highway and determined that temperatures in the Arctic today are almost 2 C warmer than at any time in the past 10,000 years. The temperatures recorded today are even higher than the previous highs believed to have occurred during the early Holocene period, about 9,900 and 6,400 years ago, when Earth’s axis was tilted more strongly toward the sun, the report states. Duane Froese, a professor at the University of Alberta and a co-author of the study, suggests that time period may actually be much longer. “I would guess we’re getting back over 100,000 years since we’ve seen temperatures at least this warm,” he said. Last month, the UN released its environment report on the Arctic, which describes scenarios where Arctic winter temperatures increase by three to five degrees by 2050 compared to...
Canada warming at twice the global rate, leaked report finds

Canada warming at twice the global rate, leaked report finds

SOURCE: CBC News DATE: April 1, 2019 SNIP: Canada is, on average, experiencing warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, with Northern Canada heating up at almost three times the global average, according to a new government report. The study — Canada’s Changing Climate Report (CCCR) — was commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada. It says that since 1948, Canada’s annual average temperature over land has warmed 1.7 C, with higher rates seen in the North, the Prairies and northern British Columbia. In Northern Canada, the annual average temperature has increased by 2.3 C. Along with these temperature increases, the CCCR says Canada is experiencing increases in precipitation (particularly in winter), “extreme fire weather” and water supply shortages in summer, and a heightened risk of coastal...
Drought effects on aging power plants may be larger than expected

Drought effects on aging power plants may be larger than expected

SOURCE: Duke University DATE: March 26, 2019 SNIP: Older power plants with once-through cooling systems generate about a third of all U.S. electricity, but their future generating capacity will be undercut by droughts and rising water temperatures linked to climate change. These impacts would be exacerbated by environmental regulations that limit water use. The new study shows that if surface waters warm 3 degrees Centigrade and river flows drop 20 percent — both of which are probable by the end of the century — drought-related impacts will account for about 20 percent of all capacity reductions at thermoelectric power plants with once-through, or open-loop, cooling systems. These reductions include capacity curtailments or shutdowns that could occur when local surface water levels drop below a plant’s intake structures. Environmental regulations that govern a plant’s water use and the maximum temperature of used cooling water it can discharge back into rivers or lakes will account for much of the remaining 80 percent of future shutdowns and capacity cuts, Pratson said. Thermoelectric power plants use steam-driven turbines to generate their energy. Once the steam has passed through the turbines it must be cooled down. Once-through systems do this by drawing in cold water from nearby rivers or lakes, circulating it through pipes to absorb the steam’s heat, and discharging the heated water back into the river or...
Australia breaks weather records with hottest ever summer

Australia breaks weather records with hottest ever summer

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: February 28, 2019 SNIP: Australia has endured its hottest summer ever, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, breaking the previous record set six years ago. The 2018-19 summer, which produced near 50C days and topped temperature highs across the country, has officially exceeded the previous record set in 2012-13, which was 1.28C above what is considered normal. Climate analysts say it falls into a pattern of human-induced global warming. January alone had already been confirmed as the hottest month ever recorded in Australia, with a mean temperature across the nation of 30.8C, which was 2.9C above the average for January temperatures (calculated between 1961–1990) of 27.9C. On Thursday, the BoM revealed the whole season was officially the hottest ever recorded. While exact figures are not yet confirmed, the bureau said this summer’s mean temperature was at least 2C above the 27.5C benchmark of what is considered normal, based on...