Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Tag Archive: extremes

  1. U.S. Unprepared to Face Costs of Climate Change, GAO Says

    Leave a Comment
    • The risks are big, and they’re rising, a new report says.

    • The GAO says, if emissions stay on their current course, rising temperatures could mean up to $150 billion in lost labor productivity due to missed work hours, up to $89 billion in coastal damage and up to $87 billion in increased energy costs, annually. Agricultural losses could reach $53 billion a year, even though some crop yields could climb.

    Georgia Gustin Oct 25 2017 See full Inside Climate News article here

    The auditing arm of Congress says the costs of climate change are likely to soar in the decades ahead, and it is urging the federal government to get a better grip on the risks to the economy and to the federal budget.

    The Government Accountability Office, in a report issued on Tuesday, cited a range of research concluding that the costs of worsening droughts, floods, wildfires, heat waves and storms will run into hundreds of billions of dollars and threaten many parts of the economy, while hitting some regions particularly hard.

    But so far, it said, too little is being done to understand and defend against the dangers.

    “Even with the magnitude of these disaster recovery costs, the federal government does not have government-wide strategic planning efforts in place to help set clear priorities for managing significant climate risks before they become federal fiscal exposures,” the report says.

    Already, the report noted, direct costs to the federal government for expenses like firefighting, flood insurance and payments for lost crops have come to about $350 billion in the past decade. (The figures don’t include tens of billions yet to be paid for the latest season of storms and fires; and the costs inflicted across the whole economy are much bigger than those reflected in the federal budget.)…

  2. What would an entirely flood-proof city look like? From China to New Jersey

    Leave a Comment
    • As the recent floods from Bangladesh to Texas show, it’s not just the unprecedented magnitude of storms that can cause disaster: it’s urbanisation.
    • From sponge cities in China to ‘berms with benefits’ in New Jersey and floating container classrooms in the slums of Dhaka, we look at a range of projects that treat storm water as a resource rather than a hazard.

    by Sophie Knight Sept. 25 2017 read full GuardianUK article here

    They call it “pave, pipe, and pump”: the mentality that has dominated urban development for over a century. Along with the explosion of the motorcar in the early 20th century came paved surfaces. Rainwater – instead of being sucked up by plants, evaporating, or filtering through the ground back to rivers and lakes – was suddenly forced to slide over pavements and roads into drains, pipes and sewers. Their maximum capacities are based on scenarios such as 10-year storms. And once they clog, the water – with nowhere else to go – simply rises.

    The reality of climate change and more frequent and intense downpours has exposed the hubris of this approach. As the recent floods from Bangladesh to Texas show, it’s not just the unprecedented magnitude of storms that can cause disaster: it’s urbanisation.

    …With climate change both a reality and threat, many architects and urbanists are pushing creative initiatives for cities that treat stormwater as a resource, rather than a hazard….

    …In China, the government has commissioned the construction of 16 “Sponge Cities” to pilot solutions for the freshwater scarcity and flooding suffered in many cities as a result of rapid urbanisation. Chicago architectural firm UrbanLab was commissioned to design the masterplan for Yangming Archipelago in Hunan province: a new centre within the larger city of Changde, devised as a “new model for the future”.

    The area, a low-lying land river basin that experiences heavy rainfall, is regularly flooded. Instead of incorporating defences against water, UrbanLab put space for it to flow at the centre of its urban plan, putting major buildings on islands in an enormous central lake. Canal-lined streets that UrbanLab call “Eco-boulevards” connect the eight districts – the process is visualised in this video.

    UrbanLab says their vision combines a dense metropolis with a nature setting: “As a functional center, Yangming Archipelago will serve as an urban model, we expect it to lead the way to a new way of thinking about the city of the future.”

    The two-mile Pilsen Sustainable Street, commissioned by the Chicago Department of Transportation to improve the urban ecosystemPermeable pavements: Chicago’s ‘green alleys’


    The bioswale, an environmentally-friendly form of drainage through landscape, at the Pilsen Sustainable Street on Cermak Rd.
    Bioswale along cermak road
    • Rainwater travels through the self-cleaning, pollution-reducing sidewalk before going on to feed surrounding plants…

    …In New Jersey and New York…in response to Sandy, ZUS partnered with MIT’s Center for Advanced Urbanism and De Urbanisten to devise New Meadowlands: a masterplan for combining flood resilience with recreational amenities through marshes and a system of parallel raised banks called berms.

    Between the outer berm and the sea, the restored wetlands would soak up seawater and slow down tidal waves, preventing them from hitting the dikes at high speed. The stretch of berms would serve as a wildlife refuge, filling up with rainwater during periods of heavy rain before draining out. And on the insider of the inner berm, ditches and ponds would retain rainwater, preventing it from causing sewers to overflow….

    A terrace in Little Ferry, one of the first sites for the pilot project of New MeadowlandsBerms with benefits


    Floating pods – and beyond…

    Waterstudio’s Floating City Apps in a slum
  3. Winter cold extremes linked to high-altitude polar vortex weakening

    Leave a Comment
    • first study to show that changes in winds high up in the stratosphere substantially contributed to the observed winter cooling trend in northern Eurasia.
    • study lends further support that a changing Arctic impacts the weather across large swaths of the Northern Hemisphere population centers.
    • changes in the jet stream that drives our weather can lead to more abrupt and surprising disturbances-potentially disastrous extremes- to which society has to adapt…

    September 22, 2017 Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research read full sciencedaily article here

    When the strong winds that circle the Arctic slacken, cold polar air can escape and cause extreme winter chills in parts of the Northern hemisphere. A new study finds that these weak states have become more persistent over the past four decades and can be linked to cold winters in Russia and Europe.

    …[This study is the] first to show that changes in winds high up in the stratosphere substantially contributed to the observed winter cooling trend in northern Eurasia. While it is still a subject of research how the Arctic under climate change impacts the rest of the world, this study lends further support that a changing Arctic impacts the weather across large swaths of the Northern Hemisphere population centers….

    …Despite global warming, recent winters in the Northeastern US, Europe and especially Asia were anomalously cold — some regions like Western Siberia even show a downward temperature trend in winter. In stark contrast, the Arctic has been warming rapidly. Paradoxically, both phenomena are likely linked: When sea-ice North of Scandinavia and Russia melts, the uncovered ocean releases more warmth into the atmosphere and this can impact the atmosphere up to about 30 kilometers height in the stratosphere disturbing the polar vortex. Weak states of the high-altitude wind circling the Arctic then favors the occurrence of cold spells in the mid-latitudes.

    ….”Jet Stream changes can lead to more abrupt and surprising disturbances to which society has to adapt. The uncertainties are quite large, but global warming provides a clear risk given its potential to disturb circulation patterns driving our weather — including potentially disastrous extremes.”

    Marlene Kretschmer, Dim Coumou, Laurie Agel, Mathew Barlow, Eli Tziperman, Judah Cohen. More-Persistent Weak Stratospheric Polar Vortex States Linked to Cold Extremes. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 2017; DOI: 10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0259.1

  4. Managing for climate change – lessons from the U.S. Navy; mitigation AND adaptation; ‘no regrets’ AND ‘bets’ strategies

    Leave a Comment

    Read or listen to an interview with authors here

    Interview with Harvard Business School professors about how a giant, global enterprise [the Navy] that operates and owns assets at sea level is fighting climate change—and adapting to it. They discuss what the private sector can learn from the U.S. Navy’s scientific and sober view of the world. Reinhardt and Toffel are the authors of “Managing Climate Change: Lessons from the U.S. Navy” in the July–August 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review….

    …businesses looking to mitigate and adapt to climate change should really be following the example of an organization fighting it at sea level. The U.S. Navy is raising its bases, using early storm warning systems, and increasingly powering its missions with the sun, instead of fossil fuels...

    ….mitigation is no longer a substitute for adaptation. We have to think of them as complements.…organizations, whether they’re firms or the U.S. military, have not only to be thinking about their carbon footprints but also the changes in their own physical environments which are already taking place as a result of the build-up of our carbon dioxide and other ways gases in the atmosphere ….

  5. Arctic Heat Is Becoming More Common and Persistent

    Leave a Comment

    By July 13 2017  see full Climate Central article here the latest sign of how quickly changes are happening, new research published this week shows that the Arctic has seen more frequent bouts of warm air and longer stretches of mild weather.  The new findings show that while warm snaps have occurred even as far as back as the 1890s, a massive shift is afoot in the region, which is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world

    Background temperatures have also been rising faster there. The North Pole region has warmed 2.3°F (1.3°C) per decade since 1979, a trend largely driven by climate change. Though the new study doesn’t tease out whether the increase in warm days is due directly to climate change, it’s part of a huge pile of evidence of how rising carbon pollution is altering the Arctic faster than the rest of the world….

    From ScienceDaily article:

    ….The winter of 2015-2016, for example, saw temperatures nearly 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) warmer than the previous record high monthly winter temperature. At the end of December 2015, scientists recorded a temperature of 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2.2 degrees Celsius) in the Central Arctic, the warmest temperature ever recorded in this region from December through March.

    …On average, the Atlantic side of the North Pole now has ten warming events each winter, while the Pacific Central Arctic has five such events, according to the study. More storms come in to the Arctic from the Atlantic Ocean during winter, which results in more warming events on the Atlantic side of the North Pole….

    Robert M. Graham, Lana Cohen, Alek A. Petty, Linette N. Boisvert, Annette Rinke, Stephen R. Hudson, Marcel Nicolaus, Mats A. Granskog. Increasing frequency and duration of Arctic winter warming events. Geophysical Research Letters, 2017; DOI: 10.1002/2017GL073395

  6. When an adaptation effort no longer suffices: More, better, and transformational adaptation; Preparing now for future uncertainty

    Leave a Comment

    No adaptation approach lasts forever in the face of increasing stresses posed by a changing climate. Think of each such effort’s having a ‘use-by’ date. How then to help strengthen future resilience?

    By Tyler Felgenhauer July 5 2017 Yale Climate Connections  see full article here

    Climate adaptation responses are not all created equal … and they have varying design lives.

    The term “adaptation” encompasses strategies designed to respond to climate change damages specific to individual economic sectors, for example agriculture, infrastructure, and energy. Along with responding within various sectors, they are designed also to address specific types of climate impacts faced – for instance sea-level rise, droughts, floods, and heat waves.

    An adaptation limit can be defined simply as “the point at which the level of climate damages has surpassed the capacity of the current adaptation approach, and net adaptation – adaptation benefits minus damage costs – has dropped to zero.”*

    The adaptation limit threshold is reached when climate damages exceed the existing adaptation response. At that point, existing adaptation responses may still provide benefits but continuing impacts will exceed the adaptive capacity…..On the environmental side are links between the changing climate and the degree to which local ecological systems are resilient to those changes….

    Needed: More, better, and transformational adaptation

    For policymakers concerned with future adaptation investment decisions, the response to failing adaptation must involve regular investments so long as benefits – in the form of avoided damages – exceed costs. Depending on the sector, a combination of more, better, or transformational adaptation might prevent a system from passing its adaptation limits threshold.

    More adaptation…doing more of the same… [per] an earlier report: To address sea-level rise, additional beach renourishment could replace sand that had washed away; the height of seawalls could be increased to prevent overtopping; or levees and other coastal engineering could be extended. For agriculture, additional irrigation water could be supplied, if available. And homes could be retrofitted with more insulation and/or more powerful air conditioners.

    Better Adaptation… involves a quality approach using new and innovative methods or technologies independent of previous efforts…a farmer may have a set of available adaptation options and technologies in order of rising costs – e.g., changing planting and harvesting times, intensifying irrigation, switching to new heat- or drought-resistant seed varieties, or changing crops altogether. Such movement up an “adaptation response ladder” assumes the availability of alternative and new adaptation approaches that can substitute for earlier ones that have reached their limit.

    Transformational adaptation …[when] neither “more” nor “better” is sufficient…changes the structure of the damage-response system itself, in turn changing the impact of damages and the pathway of adaptation failure. In changing the system’s behavior rather than the adaption efforts, successful transformational adaptation changes the calculus of all future adaptation decisions…Transformational adaptation could be initiated in anticipation of expected adaptation failures, but in practice it may be done as a last resort, when all other adaptation options have been exhausted. On this point, one team of researchers finds that “The key tension appears to be whether actors choose to transform or have transformation forced upon them.”

    …Some examples of transformational adaptation fall under the “retreat or abandon” rubric, such as rolling easements for sea-level rise, the creation of tourist islands on the North Carolina Outer Banks with the demise of its road system, or migration away from hazardous areas. For agriculture, transformational adaptation could mean land abandonment and moving farms to new areas, though the transition and absolute costs of such a move would likely be higher than leaving farming altogether….

    Preparing now for an uncertain future: As the effects of climate change grow increasingly severe, how can we achieve “sustainable adaptation”? Three themes can guide our thinking:

    • Work with what we have already. How can we raise the capacity and/or lifetime of current adaptation defenses to delay adaptation failure? The first steps would involve better understanding:
      – which current adaptation should be retrofitted and which should be replaced;
      – the ease or difficulty of substituting one adaptation type for another that is failing; and
      – how in some cases an investment now in “option stock” adaptation may allow for opportunities to learn about future climate impacts and preserve options to implement cheaper adaptation in the future.
    • Learn more about when adaptation will fail, and how. As the National Research Council found, reducing uncertainty now can provide early warning to local decision makers as they prepare for inevitable disruption in the future, promoting planned rather than emergency adaptation.
    • Develop new adaptation responses for when adaptation limits are breached. An understanding of appropriate responses to adaptation limits requires knowledge of the type of likely adaptation failure (gradual or catastrophic) and the feasibility of responding….
  7. Marine reserves help mitigate against climate change, say scientists

    Leave a Comment

    June 5, 2017 University of York  full ScienceDaily article here

    Highly protected marine reserves can help mitigate against the impacts of climate change, a study by a team of international scientists has concluded….The study….evaluated existing peer reviewed studies on the impact of marine reserves around the world.Currently, only 3.5 per cent of the ocean has been set aside for protection with just 1.6 per cent fully protected from exploitation. International groups are working to raise the total to 10 per cent by 2020, while delegates to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s 2016 World Conservation Congress agreed that at least 30 per cent should be protected by 2030.

    Scientists say Marine Reserves and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs):

    • Protect coasts from sea-level rise, storms and other extreme weather events
    • Help offset climate-change induced declines in ocean and fisheries productivity
    • Provide refuges for species as they adjust their ranges to changing conditions
    • Can help combat acidification

    Callum M. Roberts, Bethan C. O’Leary, Douglas J. McCauley, Philippe Maurice Cury, Carlos M. Duarte, Jane Lubchenco, Daniel Pauly, Andrea Sáenz-Arroyo, Ussif Rashid Sumaila, Rod W. Wilson, Boris Worm, and Juan Carlos Castilla. Marine reserves can mitigate and promote adaptation to climate change. PNAS, June 2017 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1701262114

  8. Bird and other animal responses to extreme climatic events: challenges and directions

    Leave a Comment
    • Extreme weather has greater impact on nature than expected
    • 2 bird species – Oystercatchers and Fairy Wrens- responded very differently
    • In the special June issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B researchers of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) launch a new approach to these ‘extreme’ studies.

    May 16 2017 Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)  from ScienceDaily

    …Extremes, outliers, cataclysms. As a field of biological research it’s still in its infancy, but interest in the impact of extreme weather and climate events on nature is growing rapidly. That’s partly because it is now increasingly clear that the impact of extreme events on animal behaviour, ecology and evolution could well be greater than that of the ‘normal’ periods in between. And partly because the frequency of such events is likely to increase, due to climate change….

    …But how do we define extreme events in the first place? That’s problematic, explain NIOO researchers Marcel Visser and Martijn van de Pol. “For climatologists, weather has to be warmer, colder or more extreme in another way than it is 95% of the time. But that doesn’t necessarily make it extreme in terms of its impact on nature. There isn’t a 1 to 1 correspondence.”..

    ….The researchers were keen to find out if the birds would learn from experience and build their nests on higher ground — safer but further from their favourite sea food, “but they don’t.” This could result in natural selection based on nest elevation, with only breeders who build their nest on high ground likely to survive. But this could affect the future viability of the population.

    Less cataclysmic events, too, can have major consequences. Two examples from Phil. Trans. B are oystercatchers that build their nests close to the coast despite rising sea levels, and fairy-wrens — Australian passerine birds — that are increasingly exposed to heatwaves and high temperatures, with sometimes fatal consequences…So how do they respond over time? Do they change their body size to mediate the impact of the extreme temperatures? Van de Pol: “Data over nearly 40 years shows that the two species, although quite similar, respond in completely different ways.”

    Martijn van de Pol, Stéphanie Jenouvrier, Johannes H. C. Cornelissen, Marcel E. Visser. Behavioural, ecological and evolutionary responses to extreme climatic events: challenges and directions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2017; 372 (1723): 20160134 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0134

    From Abstract: By summarizing the contributions to this theme issue we draw parallels between behavioural, ecological and evolutionary ECE studies, and suggest that an overarching challenge is that most empirical and theoretical evidence points towards responses being highly idiosyncratic, and thus predictability being low. Finally, we suggest a roadmap based on the proposition that an increased focus on the mechanisms behind the biological response function will be crucial for increased understanding and predictability of the impacts of ECE.

  9. Climate change causes weather to be stuck in place exacerbating extremes- new evidence

    Leave a Comment

    One of the most troubling ideas about climate change just found new evidence in its favor

    • Changing planet-scale air patters like the jet stream causes weather to become more stuck in place
    • Droughts, heat waves, rainfall and more may persist longer

    by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Mar 27, 2017

    Ever since 2012, scientists have been debating a complex and frankly explosive idea about how a warming planet will alter our weather — one that, if it’s correct, would have profound implications across the Northern Hemisphere and especially in its middle latitudes, where hundreds of millions of people live.

    The idea is that climate change doesn’t merely increase the overall likelihood of heat waves, say, or the volume of rainfall — it also changes the flow of weather itself. By altering massive planet-scale air patterns like the jet stream (pictured below), which flows in waves from west to east in the Northern Hemisphere, a warming planet causes our weather to become more stuck in place. This means that a given weather pattern, whatever it may be, may persist for longer, thus driving extreme droughts, heat waves, downpours and more.

    Jet Stream Visualization NASA

    Visualization of a very wavy Northern Hemisphere jet stream. (NASA)

    This basic idea has sparked half a decade of criticism and debate, and at the cutting edge of research, scientists continue to grapple with it. And now, a new study once again reinforces one of its core aspects.

    Publishing in Nature Scientific Reports, Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University and a group of colleagues at research institutes in the United States, Germany and the Netherlands find that at least in the spring and summer, the large scale flow of the atmosphere is indeed changing in such a way as to cause weather to get stuck more often

    Michael E. Mann et al Influence of Anthropogenic Climate Change on Planetary Wave Resonance and Extreme Weather Events Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 45242 (2017) doi:10.1038/srep45242

  10. Climate breaks multiple records in 2016, with global impacts

    Leave a Comment

    March 21 2017

    The year 2016 made history, with a record global temperature, exceptionally low sea ice, and unabated sea level rise and ocean heat, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Extreme weather and climate conditions have continued into 2017.

    WMO issued its annual statement on the State of the Global Climate ahead of World Meteorological Day on 23 March. It is based on multiple international datasets maintained independently by global climate analysis centres and information submitted by dozens of WMO Members National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and Research Institutes and is an authoritative source of reference. Because the social and economic impacts of climate change have become so important, WMO partnered with other United Nations organizations for the first time this year to include information on these impacts. WMO also prepared an interactive story map to highlight some of the main trends and events in 2016.

    This report confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record – a remarkable 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period, which is 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015. This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas….