Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Tag Archive: warming

  1. Contiguous U.S. had warmest May on record

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    • Every state was warmer than average during May with record precipitation across parts of the East

    NOAA June 6 2018  See full NOAA summary here

    For May, the average contiguous U.S. temperature was 65.4°F, 5.2°F above the 20th century average. This surpassed the previous May record of 64.7°F set in 1934. During meteorological spring (March-May), the warm May more than balanced the cold April. The seasonally averaged temperature for the Lower 48 was 52.4°F, 1.5°F above average and ranked as the 22nd warmest spring on record. The first five months of 2018 were marked by large month-to-month swings in temperature, but when averaged, the contiguous U.S. temperature was 45.0°F, 1.6°F above the 20th century average and was the 21st warmest January-May on record.

    …This monthly summary from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.

    Map of U.S. selected significant climate anomalies and events for May 2018

  2. Surprising resurgence of red spruce likely result of cleaner air and warmer winters in US N.E.

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    • Researchers found that reduced acid rain and warmer fall, winter and spring temperatures are leading to the species recovery
    June 5, 2018 USDA Forest Service – Northern Research Station Read full ScienceDaily article here
    When scientists found a resurgence of red spruce in northeastern forests, they had a lot of questions. Fifty years ago, red spruce was the equivalent of a canary in the coalmine signaling the effects of acid rain on forests. Researchers have identified two factors behind the tree’s surprising recovery: reduced inputs of acid rain and warmer fall, winter and spring temperatures….

    Alexandra M. Kosiba, Paul G. Schaberg, Shelly A. Rayback, Gary J. Hawley. The surprising recovery of red spruce growth shows links to decreased acid deposition and elevated temperature. Science of The Total Environment, 2018; 637-638: 1480 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.05.010

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. Methane: Importance to Global Warming & Understanding Emission Sources – Webinar for Point Blue by Professor Robert Howarth, Cornell

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    • We need to stop use of natural gas (esp. dramatic increase in shale gas/fracking) because of methane leaks and the accelerated risks of reaching climatic tipping points.
    • The dramatic methane increase over the past decade is not from cows.

    March 19, 2018 Webinar presentation by Professor Robert Howarth, PhD to Point Blue

    We were very fortunate to have Professor Bob Howarth of Cornell University, the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology & Environmental Biology, present an excellent webinar for Point Blue scientists on climate change and methane last week.  Below is a link to the recording and here is a link to a pdf of the presentation: Howarth Methane and global change — Point Blue Conservation Science — March 19 2018 pdf.

    See Zoom Recording here (306 MB)

    Howarth Methanecows and methane March 2018 Howarth

  6. Increased risk of a shutdown of ocean convection posed by warm North Atlantic summers; increased freshwater flow into ocean already weakening subpolar deep convection

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    • Long-term observations show that increased surface freshening has weakened deep water convection in the subpolar North Atlantic.
    • There is a clear correlation between the sea surface temperatures in the Irminger Sea in summer, the amount of surface freshwater in this region— and the atmospheric conditions and onset of convection in the following winter.
    • [Note: this could have devastating impacts on weather -see this study for example.]

    March 13, 2018 Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR) Read full ScienceDaily article here’

    [Also see: The fast-melting Arctic is already messing with the ocean’s circulation, scientists say by Chris Moony March 14 2018 Washington Post]

    The temperature and salinity of seawater are key drivers for the global ocean circulation system. Warm and saline water transported poleward cools at the surface when it reaches high latitudes and becomes denser and subsequently sinks into the deep ocean. This process is called convection. At depth, the water is circulated back towards the equator drawing new water masses behind it. Deep convection occurs only in a few regions around the globe, including the Irminger Sea and the Labrador Sea near Greenland. But what happens if additional freshwater, for example from melting glaciers, enters this system? Model calculations predict a possible weakening of deep convection, but so far this could not be confirmed by direct observations.

    By using long-term observations, scientists … have now shown that freshwater has already impacted convection in the last decade. The results have been published in the international journal Nature Climate Change….

    …”In case that warm summers with increased surface freshwater occur within extended warm periods, the ocean loses less heat in the following winter. As a result, the fresh surface layer that formed in summer remains stable for a longer time resulting in a delayed onset of convection,” says Dr. Oltmanns.

    Marilena Oltmanns, Johannes Karstensen, Jürgen Fischer. Increased risk of a shutdown of ocean convection posed by warm North Atlantic summers. Nature Climate Change, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0105-1

  7. Arctic Spring Is Starting 16 Days Earlier than a Decade Ago, Study Shows

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    by Jonathan Watts March 2 2018 read full Guardian UK article here

    The Arctic spring is arriving 16 days earlier than it did a decade ago, according to a new study which shows climate change is shifting the season earlier more dramatically the further north you go. The research…comes amid growing concern about the warming of Greenland, Siberia, Alaska and other far northern regions, which have recently experienced unusually prolonged and frequent midwinter temperature spikes.

    …“Spring is arriving earlier, and the Arctic is experiencing greater advances of spring than lower latitudes,” said lead author Eric Post, a fellow of the John Muir Institute and polar ecologist at UC Davis….

    Eric Post, Byron Steinman and Michael Mann. Acceleration of phenological advance and warming with latitude over the past century. Scientific Reports volume 8, Article number: 3927 (2018) doi:10.1038/s41598-018-22258-0

  8. In 2017, the oceans were by far the hottest ever recorded

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    • Researcher found that the upper 2000 meters (more than 6000 feet) of ocean waters were far warmer in 2017 than the previous hottest years 2013-2016.
    • It turns out that 2017 was a record-breaking year, 1.51 × 1022 Joules hotter than any other year. For comparison, the annual electrical generation in China is 600 times smaller than the heat increase in the ocean.

    by John Abraham 26 January 2018 read full Skeptical Science post here

    Among scientists who work on climate change, perhaps the most anticipated information each year is how much the Earth has warmed. That information can only come from the oceans, because almost all heat is stored there. If you want to understand global warming, you need to first understand ocean warming.

    This isn’t to say other measurements are not also important. For instance, measurements of the air temperature just above the Earth are really important. We live in this air; it affects us directly. A great commentary on 2017 air temperatures is provided by my colleague Dana Nuccitelli. Another measurement that is important is sea level rise; so too is ocean acidification. We could go on and on identifying the markers of climate change. But in terms of understanding how fast the Earth is warming, the key is the oceans.

    This important ocean information was just released today by a world-class team of researchers from China. The researchers (Lijing Cheng and Jiang Zhu) found that the upper 2000 meters (more than 6000 feet) of ocean waters were far warmer in 2017 than the previous hottest year. We measure heat energy in Joules. It turns out that 2017 was a record-breaking year, 1.51 × 1022 Joules hotter than any other year. For comparison, the annual electrical generation in China is 600 times smaller than the heat increase in the ocean.

    The authors provide a long history of ocean heat, going back to the late 1950s. By then there were enough ocean temperature sensors to get an accurate assessment of the oceans’ warmth. Their results are shown in the figure below. This graph shows ocean heat as an “anomaly,” which means a change from their baseline of 1981–2010. Columns in blue are cooler than the 1981-2010 period, while columns in red are warmer than that period. The best way to interpret this graph is to notice the steady rise in ocean heat over this long time period.

    OHC

    Ocean heat content change since 1958. Illustration: Cheng and Zhu (2018), Advances in Atmospheric Sciences

    ….It’s interesting to look at the top five years on record in terms of ocean heat; they are listed below.

      1. 2017: 19.19 × 1022 J
      2. 2015: 17.68 × 1022 J
      3. 2016: 17.18 × 1022 J
      4. 2014: 16.74 × 1022J
      5. 2013: 16.08 × 1022 J

    Note that these are the five hottest years ever recorded. Truly astonishing.

    Cheng, L. & Zhu, J. 2017 was the warmest year on record for the global ocean. Adv. Atmos. Sci. (2018) 35: 261. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00376-018-8011-z

  9. Deforestation likely accelerates global warming more than previously thought due to loss of reactive gases cooling effect

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    • Deforestation leads to higher temperatures than previously anticipated as less of the reactive gases that have an overall cooling effect on our climate are created.

    January 11, 2018 University of Leeds

    Deforestation is likely to warm the climate even more than originally thought, scientists warn. Research has found reactive gases emitted by trees and vegetation have an overall cooling effect on our climate, meaning deforestation would lead to higher temperatures than previously anticipated as less of the gases would be created.

    An international team of scientists, led by the University of Leeds, studied the way that reactive gases emitted by trees and vegetation affect the climate.

    Their research, published today in Nature Communications, found these reactive gases cool our climate, meaning deforestation would lead to higher temperatures than previously anticipated as less of the gases would be created.

    ….”We found that the cooling impacts of these gases outweigh the warming impacts, meaning that reactive gases given out by forests have an overall cooling effect on our climate.”

    Dr Scott added, “The warming and cooling effects of these gases are most closely balanced in the tropics, which is where most deforestation is occurring — suggesting that we really need to understand more about the strength of these impacts”

    C. E. Scott, et al. Impact on short-lived climate forcers increases projected warming due to deforestation. Nature Communications, 2018; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-02412-4

  10. Climate change drives collapse in marine food webs

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    • Increased ocean temperatures reduce the vital flow of energy from the primary food producers at the bottom (e.g. algae), to intermediate consumers (herbivores), to predators at the top of marine food webs.

    January 9, 2018 University of Adelaide read full ScienceDaily article here

    A new study has found that levels of commercial fish stocks could be harmed as rising sea temperatures… drive the collapse of marine “food webs.” [The research shows] that increased temperatures reduce the vital flow of energy from the primary food producers at the bottom (e.g. algae), to intermediate consumers (herbivores), to predators at the top of marine food webs.

    Such disturbances in energy transfer can potentially lead to a decrease in food availability for top predators, which in turn, can lead to negative impacts for many marine species within these food webs.

    “Healthy food webs are important for maintenance of species diversity and provide a source of income and food for millions of people worldwide…

    …”Whilst climate change increased the productivity of plants, this was mainly due to an expansion of cyanobacteria (small blue-green algae),” said Mr Ullah. “This increased primary productivity does not support food webs, however, because these cyanobacteria are largely unpalatable and they are not consumed by herbivores.”

    ….Most research on ocean warming involves simplified, short-term experiments based on only one or a few species. “If we are to adequately forecast the impacts of climate change on ocean food webs and fisheries productivity, we need more complex and realistic approaches, that provide more reliable data for sophisticated food web models,” said project leader Professor Nagelkerken.

    Hadayet Ullah, Ivan Nagelkerken, Silvan U. Goldenberg, Damien A. Fordham. Climate change could drive marine food web collapse through altered trophic flows and cyanobacterial proliferation. PLOS Biology, 2018; 16 (1): e2003446 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2003446