..in 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 hugepileofevidence of how rising carbon pollution is altering the Arctic faster than the rest of the world….
….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
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….
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
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.
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.
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…
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….
Unprecedented summer warmth and flooding, forest fires, drought and torrential rain — extreme weather events are occurring more and more often, but now an international team of climate scientists has found a connection between many extreme weather events and the impact climate change is having on the jet stream. “We came as close as one can to ,” said Michael Mademonstrating a direct link between climate change and a large family of extreme recent weather eventsnn, distinguished professor of atmospheric science and director, Earth System Science Center, Penn State. “Short of actually identifying the events in the climate models.”
The unusual weather events that piqued the researchers’ interest are things such as the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Pakistan flood and Russian heatwave, the 2011 Texas and Oklahoma heat wave and drought and the 2015 California wildfires….
Michael E. Mann, Stefan Rahmstorf, Kai Kornhuber, Byron A. Steinman, Sonya K. Miller, Dim Coumou. Influence of Anthropogenic Climate Change on Planetary Wave Resonance and Extreme Weather Events. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7: 45242 DOI: 10.1038/srep45242
U.S. food security, forest health, and the ability of farmers to respond to climate change are all at risk if [the President’s] pick to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture brings climate change skepticism to the agency, agricultural researchers and environmental law experts say. …[President’s] nominee for Agriculture secretary — former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who in 2007 resorted to prayer as a strategy to deal with a severe drought Georgia was enduring….
….Established climate science shows that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels are quickly warming the planet, leading to melting polar ice caps, rising seas and more frequent extreme weather. Sixteen of the world’s 17 hottest years on record have all occurred since 2000 — a level of global warming leading to more frequent, more intense and more deadly heat waves and extreme drought….
…If the USDA dismisses the threat of climate change, “then there is reason for grave concern,” said Michael P. Hoffman, executive director of the Cornell University Institute for Climate Smart Solutions, which focuses on sustainable agriculture. “Those who grow our food in the U.S. are facing more extreme weather, more flooding and drought, more high temperature stress — in general more risk due to more variability, more uncertainty,” Hoffmann said. “It will be a travesty if USDA cuts back on its support of climate change research and education.”…
…The USDA manages 193 million acres of national forest and grasslands, including the rainforests of Oregon, Washington and Alaska. Those forests act as large “carbon sinks” because they store more carbon from the atmosphere in tree trunks, roots and soil than any other type of forest in the country. Altogether, America’s national forests offset and store about 14 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions each year, according to the U.S. Forest Service….
…Firefighting made up 16 percent of the U.S. Forest Service’s budget in 1995, but as climate change led to longer and more severe fire seasons, the share of the agency’s budget dedicated to fighting fires ballooned to 50 percent by 2015 — roughly $1.2 billion. Fire seasons now average 78 days longer each year than in 1970, according to the Forest Service….
These are some of the words that describe what’s been happening in the Arctic over the past year as surge after surge of warm air have stalled, and at times reversed, sea ice pack growth. And the unfortunate string of superlatives is set to continue this week.
Arctic sea ice is already sitting at a record low for this time of year and a powerful North Atlantic storm is expected to open the flood gates and send more warmth pouring into the region from the lower latitudes. By Thursday, it could reach up to 50°F above normal. In absolute temperature, that’s near the freezing point and could further spur a decline in sea ice….
…A massive storm is swirling toward Europe. It’s a weather maker in itself, churning up waves as high as 46 feet and pressure dropping as low as is typical for a Category 4 hurricane as of Monday. The storm is to the southeast of Greenland and its massive comma shape has made for stunning satellite imagery. The storm is expected to weaken as it approaches Europe, but it will conspire with a high pressure system over the continent to send a stream of warm air into the Arctic through the Greenland Sea.
Temperatures are forecast to reach the melting point in Svalbard, Norway, an island between the Greenland and Karas Seas. The North Pole could also approach the melting point on Thursday.