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Category Archive: Climate Change

  1. Hurricanes: Stronger, slower, wetter in the future

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    • A new analysis compares 22 named storms with possible hurricanes of the future.
    • The number of hurricanes and amount of rainfall are expected to increase– increasing concerns regarding coastal development.
    • The rainfall rate of simulated future storms would increase by an average of 24 percent.
    • Hurricane Harvey produced more than 4 feet of rain in some locations, breaking records and causing devastating flooding across the Houston area.
    May 21, 2018 National Science Foundation Read full ScienceDaily article here
    Scientists have developed a detailed analysis of how 22 recent hurricanes would be different if they formed under the conditions predicted for the late 21st century.
    …Hurricane Ike — which killed more than 100 people and devastated parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2008 — could have 13 percent stronger winds, move 17 percent slower, and be 34 percent wetter if it formed in a future, warmer climate.

    ….”Our research suggests that future hurricanes could drop significantly more rain,” said NCAR scientist Ethan Gutmann, who led the study. “Hurricane Harvey demonstrated last year just how dangerous that can be.”

    Harvey produced more than 4 feet of rain in some locations, breaking records and causing devastating flooding across the Houston area.

    …”This study shows that the number of strong hurricanes, as a percent of total hurricanes each year, may increase,” said Ed Bensman, a program director in NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which supported the study. “With increasing development along coastlines, that has important implications for future storm damage.”….

    Ethan D. Gutmann, Roy M. Rasmussen, Changhai Liu, Kyoko Ikeda, Cindy L. Bruyere, James M. Done, Luca Garrè, Peter Friis-Hansen, Vidyunmala Veldore. Changes in Hurricanes from a 13-Yr Convection-Permitting Pseudo–Global Warming Simulation. Journal of Climate, 2018; 31 (9): 3643 DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-17-0391.1

  2. Limiting warming to 1.5 degree C would save majority of global species from climate change

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    • Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C would save the majority of the world’s plant and animal species from climate change. Species across the globe would benefit — particularly those in Southern Africa, the Amazon, Europe and Australia.
    • Reducing the risk to insects is important because they are vital for ‘ecosystem services’ such as pollinating crops and being part of the food chain.

    Posted: 17 May 2018 11:36 AM PDT Read full Tyndall Research Center article here

    Limiting global warming to 1.5oC would save the vast majority of the world’s plant and animal species from climate change — according to new research led by the University of East Anglia.

    A new report published today in Science reveals that limiting warming to the ultimate goal of the Paris Agreement would avoid half the risks associated with warming of 2oC for plants and animals, and two thirds of the risks for insects.

    Species across the globe would benefit — but particularly those in Southern Africa, the Amazon, Europe and Australia.

    Reducing the risk to insects is particularly important, the team say, because they are so vital for ‘ecosystem services’ such as pollinating crops and flowers, and being part of the food chain for other birds and animals.

    Previous research focused on quantifying the benefits of limiting warming to 2oC above pre-industrial times — the upper limit for temperature as set out in the Paris Agreement — and did not look at insects.

    This is the first study to explore how limiting warming to 1.5oC would benefit species globally….

    R. Warren, J. Price, E. Graham, N. Forstenhaeusler, J. VanDerWal. The projected effect on insects, vertebrates, and plants of limiting global warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C. Science, 2018; 360 (6390): 791 DOI: 10.1126/science.aar3646

  3. Hurricane season may be even worse in 2018 after a harrowing 2017

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    • The initial forecasts of an above-average season for hurricanes, beginning on 1 June, follow a punishing spate of storms last year

    Oliver Milman Fri 11 May 2018 Read full GuardianUK article here

    The US may have to brace itself for another harrowing spate of hurricanes this year, with forecasts of an active 2018 season coming amid new research that shows powerful Atlantic storms are intensifying far more rapidly than they did 30 years ago.

    The peak season for Atlantic storms, which officially starts on 1 June, is set to spur as many as 18 named storms, with up to five of them developing into major hurricanes, according to separate forecasts from North Carolina State University and Colorado State University. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will soon provide its own 2018 hurricane predictions.

    The initial forecasts of an above-average season for hurricanes follow a punishing 2017, most notable for Hurricane Harvey, which drenched large areas of Texas, Hurricane Irma’s sweep over Florida and the devastation that stubbornly lingers in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria.

    These huge hurricanes brought winds of up to 185mph and lashing rains, causing hundreds of deaths, flattening homes, felling power lines and ruining roads. Combined, the three storms caused around $265bn in damage, and all ranked in the five most destructive hurricanes ever recorded.

    Many communities, particularly in Puerto Rico and Texas, are still struggling to recover from last year’s hurricanes as the upcoming storm season approaches. And while the US may be spared 2017 levels of devastation this year, scientists have warned that the warming of the oceans, driven by climate change, is likely to stir greater numbers of prodigious storms in the future….

  4. Global 2 degrees C rise doubles population exposed to multiple climate risks compared to 1.5 degrees C

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    • New research identifying climate vulnerability hotspots has found that the number of people affected by multiple climate change risks could double if the global temperature rises by 2 degrees C, compared to a rise of 1.5 degrees C.
    • The poorest in society will likely be disproportionately impacted by climate change, and greater efforts to reduce inequality and promote adaptation are urgently needed.
    • 91-98% of the exposed and vulnerable population live in Asia and Africa

    May 16, 2018 International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis Read full ScienceDaily article here

    ….Researchers developed 14 impact indicators in three main sectors — water, energy, and food & environment — using a variety of computer models. The indicators include a water stress index, water supply seasonality, clean cooking access, heat stress events, habitat degradation, and crop yield changes. They compared the potential risks at the three global temperatures and in a range of socioeconomic pathways, to compare more equitable, sustainable development with pathways characterized by development failures and high inequality….

    ….Multisector risk is one where the risk goes beyond tolerable in at least two of the three main sectors. At lower temperatures, hotspots occur primarily in south and east Asia, but with higher global temperatures, hotspots further spread to Central America, west and east Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The actual global land mass affected is relatively small, at 3-16% depending on the scenario. However, the areas at highest risk tend to be densely populated. At 1.5°C of warming, 16% of the population of the world in 2050, 1.5 billion people, will have moderate-to-high levels of multisector risk. At 2°C of warming, this almost doubles to 29% of the global population, 2.7 billion people. At 3°C of warming, that figure almost doubles again, to 50% of the population, or 4.6 billion people.

    Depending on the scenario, 91-98% of the exposed and vulnerable population live in Asia and Africa. Around half of these live in south Asia alone, but Africa is likely to face greater risks as the least developed region with high social inequality…

    Edward Byers et al. Global exposure and vulnerability to multi-sector development and climate change hotspots. Environmental Research Letters, 2018; 13 (5): 055012 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aabf45

  5. Shock and Thaw—Alaskan Sea Ice Just Took a Steep, Unprecedented Dive

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    • Weather conditions and a boost from global warming led to the stunning record low ice cover in winter 2018
    • “There’s never ever been anything remotely like this for sea ice” in the Bering Sea going back more than 160 years
    • The unusual warmth continued throughout this winter, in part because of an atmospheric pattern that kept warm air and storms periodically sweeping up from the south
    • At the end of April the Bering Sea was nearly ice-free—four weeks ahead of schedule.

    By Andrea Thompson on May 2, 2018  Read full Scientific American article here

    April should be prime walrus hunting season for the native villages that dot Alaska’s remote western coast. In years past the winter sea ice where the animals rest would still be abundant, providing prime targets for subsistence hunters. But this year sea-ice coverage as of late April was more like what would be expected for mid-June, well into the melt season. These conditions are the continuation of a winter-long scarcity of sea ice in the Bering Sea—a decline so stark it has stunned researchers who have spent years watching Arctic sea ice dwindle due to climate change.

    Winter sea ice cover in the Bering Sea did not just hit a record low in 2018; it was half that of the previous lowest winter on record (2001), says John Walsh, chief scientist of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “There’s never ever been anything remotely like this for sea ice” in the Bering Sea going back more than 160 years, says Rick Thoman, an Alaska-based climatologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration….

    …The unusual warmth continued throughout this winter, in part because of an atmospheric pattern that kept warm air and storms periodically sweeping up from the south. One such event in February helped push the monthly temperature over the Bering and Chukchi seas some 18 to 21.5 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 12 degrees Celsius) above normal. Consequently, the Bering Sea lost half its ice extent at a time when ice should still have been growing. The storms also pushed back against the normal southward flow of ice from the Chukchi Sea into the Bering. Accompanying winds stirred up waves that kept new ice from forming, and broke up what thin ice there was….

    …“Next year will almost certainly not be this low.” But as temperatures continue to rise, he says, “odds are very strong that we will not go another 160 years before we see something like this” happen again.

  6. Record-breaking ocean heat fueled Hurricane Harvey; volume of rainfall matched volume of ocean evaporation

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    • Researchers show for the first time that the volume of ocean evaporation matched up with massive overland rainfall
    • Warmer oceans increased the risk of greater hurricane intensity and duration

    May 10, 2018 National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research Read full ScienceDaily article here

    In the weeks before Hurricane Harvey tore across the Gulf of Mexico and plowed into the Texas coast in August 2017, the Gulf’s waters were warmer than any time on record, according to a new analysis led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

    These hotter-than-normal conditions supercharged the storm, fueling it with vast stores of moisture, the authors found. When it stalled near the Houston area, the resulting rains broke precipitation records and caused devastating flooding.

    We show, for the first time, that the volume of rain over land corresponds to the amount of water evaporated from the unusually warm ocean,” said lead author Kevin Trenberth, an NCAR senior scientist. “As climate change continues to heat the oceans, we can expect more supercharged storms like Harvey.”

    …As the storm progresses over the ocean, evaporating water as it goes, it leaves a cold wake in its path. In the case of Hurricane Harvey, the scientists found the cold wake was not very cold. So much heat was available in the upper layer of the ocean that, as the surface temperature was cooled from the storm, heat from below welled up, rewarming the surface waters and continuing to feed the storm.

    ….Even after Harvey made landfall, its arms reached out over the ocean, continuing to draw strength (and water) from the still-warm Gulf.

    “The implication is that the warmer oceans increased the risk of greater hurricane intensity and duration,” Trenberth said. “While we often think of hurricanes as atmospheric phenomena, it’s clear that the oceans play a critical role and will shape future storms as the climate changes.”…


    An image of Hurricane Harvey taken by the GOES-16 satellite as the storm collided with the Texas coast.
    Credit: Image courtesy NASA
    Kevin E. Trenberth, Lijing Cheng, Peter Jacobs, Yongxin Zhang, John Fasullo. Hurricane Harvey links to Ocean Heat Content and Climate Change Adaptation. Earth’s Future, 2018; DOI: 10.1029/2018EF000825
  7. Carbon satellite to serve as an important tool for politicians and climate change experts

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    • a new French satellite can measure carbon balance far more precisely than the current method, which uses aerial photography.
    • The satellite uses low-frequency passive microwaves to measure the biomass of above ground vegetation

    08 May 2018 University of Copenhagen  Read full ScienceDaily article here

    A new satellite that measures and provides detailed carbon balance information is one of the most important new tools in carbon measurement since infrared light. The researchers expect the satellite to be a valuable tool for the UN’s work on climate change related to the Paris climate accord.

    Carbon balance is important for climate and environment because whenever carbon is converted into carbon dioxide, CO2 emissions increase. On the other hand, carbon is an essential aspect of life on Earth: a felled tree releases carbon into the atmosphere whereas a planted one takes up carbon in vegetation and soil. A lack of carbon in vegetation and soil can create a carbon imbalance and have climate-related consequences.

    University of Copenhagen researchers have tested a new French satellite that can measure carbon balance far more precisely than the current method, which uses aerial photography. The satellite uses low-frequency passive microwaves to measure the biomass of above ground vegetation. The studies have recently been published in Nature Ecology and Evolution….

    Martin Brandt, et al. Satellite passive microwaves reveal recent climate-induced carbon losses in African drylands. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2018; 2 (5): 827 DOI: 10.1038/s41559-018-0530-6

  8. On Climate Change, a Disconnect Between Attitudes and Behavior: Skeptics more likely to behave in eco-friendly ways than those highly concerned

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    • A new study finds climate change skeptics are more likely to behave in eco-friendly ways than those who are highly concerned about the issue.
    • An urgent task is to get people who already grasp the problem to actions that align with their concern.

    Tom Jacobs

    Do our behaviors really reflect our beliefs? New research suggests that, when it comes to climate change, the answer is no. And that goes for both skeptics and believers.

    Participants in a year-long study who doubted the scientific consensus on the issue “opposed policy solutions,” but at the same time, they “were most likely to report engaging in individual-level, pro-environmental behaviors,” writes a research team led by University of Michigan psychologist Michael Hall.

    Conversely, those who expressed the greatest belief in, and concern about, the warming environment “were most supportive of government climate policies, but least likely to report individual-level actions.”…

    ….The results suggest that “changing skeptical Americans’ minds need not be a top priority for climate policymakers,” at least if their goal is inspiring individual action. Perhaps the more urgent task is to focus on people who already grasp the problem, and get them to align their actions with their concern….

    Hall, Michael P., et al. Believing in climate change, but not behaving sustainably: Evidence from a one-year longitudinal study. Journal of Environmental Psychology. Volume 56, April 2018, Pages 55-62 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2018.03.001

  9. Greenhouse gas concentrations hit highest level in human history: 410 ppm of CO2

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    • For the first time on record, the average amount of carbon dioxide — the main long-lived gas responsible for global warming — in the air passed 410 parts per million (ppm) for an entire month

    The Earth’s atmosphere is more saturated with greenhouse gases now than at any other time in human history. For the first time on record, the average amount of carbon dioxide — the main long-lived gas responsible for global warming — in the air passed 410 parts per million (ppm) for an entire month.

    Data collected at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii had already shown carbon dioxide readings that temporarily exceeded that threshold for a time in 2017 but not for a whole month. The new data collected for the month of April and released on May 2, underscore how quickly carbon dioxide levels continue to rise despite global attempts to reduce emissions.

    …The new record demonstrates that despite gains made in renewable energy and energy efficiency, heat-trapping greenhouse gases continue to build in the atmosphere, altering the odds and intensity of many extreme weather events, causing sea levels to rise, and a myriad of other effects.

    “We know exactly where that CO2 is coming from, and we’re pretty clear on what it does,” said Kate Marvel, a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in an email.
  10. New study finds climate change threatens marine protected areas

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    • The projected warming of 2.8 degrees Celsius (or 5 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 would fundamentally disrupt the ecosystems currently located in marine protected areas.

    May 7 2018  UNC  Read full article here

    Researchers found that most marine life in marine protected areas will not be able to tolerate warming ocean temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Marine protected areas have been established as a haven to protect threatened marine life, like polar bears, penguins and coral reefs, from the effects of fishing and other activities like mineral and oil extraction. The study found that with continued “business-as-usual” emissions, the protections currently in place won’t matter, because by 2100, warming and reduced oxygen concentration will make marine protected areas uninhabitable by most species currently residing in those areas.

    The study, published today in Nature Climate Change, predicts that under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 emissions scenario, better known as the “business as usual scenario,” marine protected areas will warm by 2.8 degrees Celsius (or 5 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.

    The study concludes that such rapid and extreme warming would devastate the species and ecosystems currently located in marine protected areas. This could lead to extinctions of some of the world’s most unique animals, loss of biodiversity, and changes in ocean food-webs. It could also have considerable negative impacts on the productivity of fisheries and on tourism revenue. Many of these marine species exist as small populations with low genetic diversity that are vulnerable to environmental change and unlikely to adapt to ocean warming…

    Bruno, John F., et al. Climate change threatens the world’s marine protected areas. Nature Climate Change (2018) doi:10.1038/s41558-018-0149-2