HomeThe ScienceImpacts Observed & Projected

What you will find on this page: LATEST NEWS; hurricanes and climate change/what we know; understanding Oz natural hazardshow the Arctic matters (video); Arctic loss continues (video); there goes the neighbourhood (housing, investment report); weather and climate change (video); the heat marches on (report); over reliance on satellite data (video); impacts projected for Australia; latest report; unpacking IPCC report for Australiafluctuations in temperature trend; El Nino/La Nina/ENSO explained (video); NASA El Nino visual (video); climate zones on the move; abrupt changes, triggers & tipping points; projections as a management toolextreme events; bushfire/wildfire (video); heat waves; storms and floods; water scarcity & drought; impacts happening now; sea level rise (videos & interactive maps); Great Barrier Reef; NASA’s Global Ice ViewerAntarctica (video); permafrost; Arctic (video): sea ice decline (video); human impacts on world oceansgeoengineering; keep up-to-date with the latest on geoengineering here; information and resource sites; for BOM updates go here; also refer to pages: Population & Consumption; People StressFood & Water Issues; Ecosystem Stress as the issues are closely related

Latest News

1 2 3 27

End Latest News

Hurricanes and Climate Change: What We Know

Warmer Air Means More Evaporation and Precipitation6 September 2017, Climate Central, Climate change intersects with hurricanes by increasing storm rainfall, intensity, and surge. A warming atmosphere causes more evaporation, meaning more water is available for precipitation. For every 1°F increase in temperature, the atmosphere can hold around 4 percent more water vapor, which leads to heavier rain and increases the risk of flooding of rivers and streams. We saw the impact of extreme rainfall during Harvey. Though no research has yet been done to attribute the staggering rainfall totals from this storm to climate change, the downpours are very much in line with heavy precipitation trends. Read More here

Australian natural hazards series – take your pick….

28 June 2017, The Conversation, The world’s tropical zone is expanding, and Australia should be worried. The Tropics are defined as the area of Earth where the Sun is directly overhead at least once a year — the zone between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. However, tropical climates occur within a larger area about 30 degrees either side of the Equator. Earth’s dry subtropical zones lie adjacent to this broad region. It is here that we find the great warm deserts of the world.Earth’s bulging waistline Earth’s tropical atmosphere is growing in all directions, leading one commentator to cleverly call this Earth’s “bulging waistline”. Since 1979, the planet’s waistline been expanding poleward by 56km to 111km per decade in both hemispheres. Future climate projections suggest this expansion is likely to continue, driven largely by human activities – most notably emissions of greenhouse gases and black carbon, as well as warming in the lower atmosphere and the oceans. If the current rate continues, by 2100 the edge of the new dry subtropical zone would extend from roughly Sydney to Perth. As these dry subtropical zones shift, droughts will worsen and overall less rain will fall in most warm temperate regions. Poleward shifts in the average tracks of tropical and extratropical cyclones are already happening. This is likely to continue as the tropics expand further. As extratropical cyclones move, they shift rain away from temperate regions that historically rely upon winter rainfalls for their agriculture and water security. Researchers have observed that, as climate zones change, animals and plants migrate to keep up. But as biodiversity and ecosystem services are threatened, species that can’t adjust to rapidly changing conditions face extinction. In some biodiversity hotspots – such as the far southwest of Australia – there are no suitable land areas (only oceans) for ecosystems and species to move into to keep pace with warming and drying trends. We are already witnessing an expansion of pests and diseases into regions that were previously climatically unsuitable. This suggests that they will attempt to follow any future poleward shifts in climate zones. Read More here

November 2016, The Conversation, Articles on Australian natural hazards series which looks at:

 

Why  does the Arctic matter to us?

19 April 2017, Bloomberg,How a Melting Arctic Changes Everything. Eight countries control land in the Arctic Circle. Five have coastlines to defend. The temperature is rising. The ice is melting. The race for newly accessible resources is beginning. And Russia is gaining ground. The story of the Arctic begins with temperature but it’s so much more—this is a tale about oil and economics, about humanity and science, about politics and borders and the emerging risk of an emboldened and growing Russian empire. The world as a whole has warmed about 0.9 degrees Celsius (1.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1880. Arctic temperatures have risen twice that amount during the same time period. The most recent year analyzed, October 2015 to September 2016, was 3.5C warmer than the early 1900s, according to the 2016 Arctic Report Card. Northern Canada, Svalbard, Norway and Russia’s Kara Sea reached an astounding 14C (25F) higher than normal last fall. Scientists refer to these dramatic physical changes as “Arctic amplification,” or positive feedback loops. It’s a little bit like compound interest. A small change snowballs, and Arctic conditions become much less Arctic, much more quickly. “After studying the Arctic and its climate for three-and-a-half decades,” Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data center, wrote recently. “I have concluded that what has happened over the last year goes beyond even the extreme.” ….The warming Arctic offers an economic opportunity for nations to access resources. But first, nations must sort out questions of boundaries and access—and Russia did not expand to 11 time zones by missing opportunities such as this. More than 4 million people live north of Earth’s Arctic Circle, nearly half of them in Russia and the rest scattered among the seven other northernmost countries—the U.S., Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. About 500,000 people live among one of dozens of indigenous nations whose ancestry and bonds extend beyond modern borders. Over the most recent generation, many of these communities have banded together into large regional organizations that promote their interests among the international community. Access extensive report here

17 October 2016, Yale Climate Connections: A new six-minute video on the changing nature of Arctic sea ice and its implications for weather far and wide answers the ‘Why does it matter to us?’ question. 

The video by Peter Sinclair explores the perspectives of leading sea ice experts. In a span of six minutes, those experts paint an all-you-may-ever-need-to-know portrait of the Arctic’s changing sea ice. And they explain how those changes are altering weather patterns in the U.S. and elsewhere. Access article here

The Winter of Blazing Discontent Continues in the Arctic

6 February 2017, Climate Central, 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. Scientists have said the past year in the Arctic is “beyond even the extreme” as climate change remakes the region. Sea ice hit a record low maximum last winter (for the second year in a row,  no less) and the second-lowest minimum ever recorded last fall. After a fairly rapid refreeze in late September, the region experienced a dramatic shift. Extraordinary warmth has been a recurring theme. Read More here

 

There goes the neighbourhood

Climate change, Australian housing and the financial sector

flooded homesMay 2016, The Climate Institute: Housing in Australia The role of housing in Australia goes far beyond providing shelter and security. For a majority of people, a home is their biggest financial asset – or liability. Housing serves as a source of income through capital growth, rental returns and tax minimisation. It is collateral for most mortgages and many small business loans.1 The housing sector directly or indirectly drives nearly a third of the economy (see Figure 1), and mortgages account for about 60 per cent of the big four banks’ assets.2 Consequently, housing concerns a diverse group of stakeholders – individuals (owners, residents and investors), banks, insurers, local governments, state governments and the federal government……

How big is the problem? There have been few attempts to estimate the total amount of Australian housing exposed to the effects of climate change. Coastal erosion alone is estimated to pose a threat to Australian property worth up to $63 billion (in 2008 dollars).6 This figure would be $88 billion in 2015, when adjusted in line with the increase in the national value of residential dwelling stock.7 However even that updated figure is highly likely to be conservative, as detailed in Appendix 3. Few comprehensive studies have been conducted in specific local areas. One exception is Townsville, where a detailed study concluded that almost 4,400 houses would be potentially inundated by 2100 due to sea level rise alone – that is, excluding storm surges, king tides, and other potentially compounding events. The report recommended that some houses would need to be effectively abandoned. In cases where steps could be taken to mitigate impacts to some areas, action needed to be taken as early as 2027…. Access full report here

…. People often expect insurance to cover every kind of damage to their homes, but that is not always the case. The Climate Institute’s recent paper, There goes the neighbourhood states that, while insurers could do better in communicating increasing risks of extreme weather, we can’t expect the insurance industry to protect us from all the costs of increasing frequent and extreme weather events.  The same goes for local government-funded mitigation such as seawalls and groynes, which are costly and can be extremely contentious among local communities, as events in Byron Shire illustrate. There goes the neighbourhood points out that states and the federal government need to take stronger action to coordinate information and responses.  They will also need to take stronger action to help limit global warming driving climate impacts.

…. Climate change is now widely recognised as presenting potential financial risk. Investors and other financial agents must decide exactly how they respond and take advantage of the opportunities which might arise. In contrast to some of the other broad changes under way, such as technological disruption and geopolitical shifts, there is a reasonable amount of empirical information about how climate change might affect investors and other financial agents. However, taking a position is not possible if you don’t know what the exposure is. For this reason, financial institutions are increasingly being asked by shareholders to measure and disclose their exposure to carbon risk. ANZ’S carbon risk ANZ commissioned my organisation, The Climate Institute, to comment on its new carbon risk disclosures, released with its interim results on May 3. We applaud the acknowledgement that climate risk should be measured and disclosed. But what do these disclosures tell us? With respect to ANZ’s financed emissions disclosure, counting up the amount of greenhouse gas emissions ‘financed’ by a bank or other financial institution is a fraught and complex exercise. There have been attempts by industry-backed initiatives, third-party analysts and NGOs. Banks are complex. Read More here

…. Governments, by contrast, are supposed to represent all of society. So who will protect the people hurt by this disaster, and others like them, as the sea level rises and extreme weather damages more homes and businesses? Is it even possible to protect them? And if so, who should pay? These are all questions we should be asking. In fact, they’ve been asked many, many times before. By the Productivity Commission (twice, in 2012 and 2014), the Treasurythe Australian Government Actuaryindustry groups, cross-industry alliances, a national inquiry into disaster insurance, various discussion papers, and more – ourselves at The Climate Institute included. It is not as if we don’t know what needs to be done. It is no wonder that the Productivity Commission dryly mentioned that “groundhog day anecdotes abound” in this area. “Current government natural disaster funding arrangements are not efficient, equitable or sustainable,” the Commission wrote. “They are prone to cost shifting, ad hoc responses and short-term political opportunism.” Read More here

 

Is it time to join the dots?

The Heat Marches On

Heat Marches On ReportMarch 2016, Climate Council, Australia has sweltered through sleepless nights and sweaty days as summer temperatures continued well into March with exceptionally long warm spells recorded throughout much of the country. 

KEY FINDINGS

1) Exceptionally long and hot warm spells in early March in southeastern Australia smashed records, contributing to the escalating number of heat records in Australia and globally as the climate warms rapidly.

  • Over the period from 1 to 4 March, maximum temperatures were 4°C or more above average over much of Australia and were 8-12°C above average over most of southeastern Australia.
  • Perth has had more 40°C days in the 2015/2016 summer than ever before.
  • Sydney experienced a record breaking 39 consecutive days over 26°C, smashing the previous record of 19 days.
  • Records are also being broken globally. January and February 2016 were significantly hotter than any other January and February on record.
  • Climate change is driving off-the-chart temperature records globally, particularly in the northern high latitudes.

2) These off-the-charts temperatures are driving dramatic and unprecedented climate impacts

  • Record warm sea surface temperatures are threatening the Great Barrier Reef with widespread coral bleaching.
  • Arctic sea ice extent is at its lowest on record for this time of year. A rapid decline in sea ice extent is of major concern for both the Arctic and the global climate system.
  • Prolonged hot temperatures have contributed to a major algae bloom in the Murray River.
  • Hot and dry conditions over the 2015-16 summer contributed to devastating fires in Tasmania.

 

3) As Australians continue to suffer from more frequent and worsening extreme heat events, the path to tackling climate change is becoming more urgent: no new coal mines can be built, existing coal mines and coal-fired power stations must be phased out and renewable energy must be scaled up rapidly.

  • The US has declared a moratorium on new coal mines on federal land and the electricity industry’s use of coal fell to record lows in 2015 as renewable energy boomed.
  • China has pledged to shut 1000 coal mines this year and their emissions may have already peaked, well ahead of schedule.
  • In contrast, Australia’s fossil fuel emissions have begun to rise again, particularly in the electricity sector, with electricity emissions increasing by 3% in 2014-2015. Download full report here

 

Over reliance on satellite data in isolation


14 January, Yale Climate connections: Experts Fault Reliance on Satellite Data Alone. Over-reliance on satellite data to the exclusion of other data can amount to ‘confirmation bias,’ say scientists urging analysis of numerous different data sets. This month’s “This is Not Cool” video focuses on an ongoing, and again festering, climate science controversy, the value and reliability of satellite-derived global temperatures. And of that data at the exclusion of – or as a surrogate for – other data. Independent videographer Peter Sinclair sought reactions of leading climate scientists to points made in a recent hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, chaired by Texas Republican Senator and presidential nominee hopeful Ted Cruz. Read More here

LATEST REPORT: Climate Change 2015 – Growing Risks, Critical Choices

Climate Council August 2015 report25 August 2015, Climate Council, This latest report comes halfway through the Critical Decade for climate action and four years after the Climate Commission released its report, ‘Critical Decade: Climate science, risks and responses’. The report outlines how the changing climate poses substantial and escalating risks for health, property, infrastructure, agriculture and natural ecosystems in Australia. Compared to our understanding when the last Critical Decade report was published, the risks of climate change for our wellbeing now look more serious at lower levels of climate change, strengthening the case for urgent action. Click on image to access full report

Key Findings

Our understanding of climate change continues to strengthen, with dramatic changes of the climate system happening across the globe.

  • It is beyond doubt that human activities, primarily the emission of greenhouse gases from the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, are driving the dramatic changes of the climate system.
  • Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of many extreme weather events, including heatwaves and extreme bushfire conditions.
  • Hot days have doubled in the last 50 years, while heatwaves have become hotter, last longer and occur more often.
  • Over the last 30 years extreme fire weather has increased in the populous southeast region of Australia – southern NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and parts of South Australia.
  • Extreme sea-level events have tripled at Sydney and Fremantle since the middle of the 20th century.

The changing climate poses substantial and escalating risks for health, property, infrastructure, agriculture and natural ecosystems.

  • Further increases in extreme heat in Australia are likely with more frequent and more intense hot days and longer and more severe heatwaves. Deaths from heatwaves are projected to double over the next 40 years in Australian cities.
  • More than $226 billion in commercial, industrial, road, rail and residential assets around Australian coasts, most of them in urban areas, are potentially exposed to flooding and erosion hazards at a sea-level rise of 1.1 m.
  • From 2020 onwards, the predicted increase in drought frequency is estimated to cost $7.3 billion annually, reducing GDP by 1% per year.
  • If global temperatures reach 3°C above pre-industrial levels, an estimated 8.5% of species globally are at risk of extinction, and under a “business as usual” scenario, leading to global warming of 4°C or more, a staggering one in six species could be lost.

The risks of climate change for our well-being now look more serious at lower levels of climate change, strengthening the case for urgent action.

  • Changes in the climate system are occurring more rapidly than previously projected with larger and more damaging impacts now observed at lower temperatures than previously estimated.
  • The scientific underpinning for the 2°C policy target being a “safe” level of climate change is now weaker than it was a decade ago. The scientific case for a 1.5°C limit is more consistent with our current level of understanding, bolstering the case for even more urgent action.
  • As the global average temperature rises further above the pre-industrial level, so does the risk of crossing thresholds or tipping points in the climate system, such as the loss of the Greenland ice sheet, the partial conversion of the Amazon rainforest to a savanna or grassland, and the large-scale emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane from thawing permafrost. Crossing these thresholds would cause further disruptions to the climate system, with potentially catastrophic knock-on effects for human societies.

The action we take in the next five years will largely determine the severity of climate change and its long-term impact on human societies. While action is building worldwide, Australia is lagging behind.

  • It is in Australia’s national interest to tackle climate change, as a country on the front line of climate change impacts and as one of the world’s largest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases.
  • There is growing global action to tackle climate change with the rapid uptake of solutions, such as renewable energy, and countries are pledging stronger emissions reduction targets.
  • Australia is out of step with the rest of the developed world in climate action; by any indicator used to measure level of effort, Australia is at or near the bottom of the list of developed countries.
  • A very strong and rapid decarbonisation of the global economy could stabilise the climate system below 2°C, while a business-as-usual scenario could lead to temperature rises of 4°C or above by the end of the century, threatening the viability of modern society

 

The extent of future negative impacts often determined by how quickly temperatures rise

As Prof. Garnaut stated in one of his reports: “The future climate is a function of both human-induced climate change and natural climate variability. In some decades natural variability will reinforce the climate change signal. In other decades, it will offset the signal to some degree. Projections of global average temperature across different emissions cases show little variation up to the decade beginning in 2030. After this point, projections of climate variables are increasingly dependent on emissions pathways.” In other words “things” will basically tick along much like they are doing but after 2030 we will begin to enter unknown territory, especially if there are no SIGNIFICANT efforts to reduce emissions well before then. Read More here

Unpacking the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (Working Group II):

Climate Council of Australia 2014 Report

What does this mean for Australia?

  • Extensive and permanent damage to coral reef systems in Australia, including the Great Barrier Reef and the Ningaloo Reef by mid-century
  • The loss of mountain ecosystems and the extinction of some native species in Australia due to increasing temperatures and fire risk
  • Increased frequency and intensity of intense rainfall causing flooding
  • Limited water resources in southern Australia, due to higher temperatures and decreased rainfall.

Increased drought frequency is expected in southern Australia, with decreases in the amount of rainfall by as much as 10% by 2030, and by up to 30% by 2070. These upper-limit scenarios would have important implications for regional agriculture, rural livelihoods, ecosystems, and urban water supply. Uncertainty in the scale of projected rainfall changes means that effective adaptation to these risks will be particularly challenging.

  • Increased negative health outcomes (death and morbidity) and infrastructure damage associated with more frequent and intense heatwaves

An increased number of hot days is one of the most direct consequences of global warming. Air temperature in Australia has increased at a rate of 0.09°C each decade since 1911. Since 1950 there has been significant warming across the continent, particularly over inland areas. Hot days and hot nights have become more frequent.

Similarly, hot extremes have become more frequent and intense, while cold extremes have become rarer. Increased hot weather is expected to have significant impacts in major population centres, with hot days, for example, in Melbourne expected to increase 20 – 40% by 2030, and up to 190% by 2070.

  • Heatwaves to increase in frequency and intensity.

The 2009 Victorian heatwave was associated with over 300 excess deaths and contributed significantly to increased heat-related morbidity. Vulnerable sections of society, such as the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions, will be affected disproportionately.

  • Increased loss of life, damage to property, and economic loss due to bushfires in southern Australia

The intense 2009 Victorian bushfires caused 173 deaths and destroyed over 2,000 buildings. Similar bushfire events may become more frequent. Australian fire danger weather has increased in some areas around Australia since the 1970s. Hotter and drier conditions in southern Australia mean that fire danger weather is projected to increase in this region. Under certain scenarios, Australia is likely to see an increase in days of very high and extreme fire danger. For example, Canberra currently experiences an average of 17 days per year of very high and extreme fire danger index. This is expected to increase to 18-23 days by 2020, and to 20-33 days by 2050.

The severity of some key regional risks is dependent on a large range of climate variables, even for a particular global average temperature increase. However, if the most extreme scenarios occur, these risks would be severe.

  • Damage to coastal infrastructure and low-lying ecosystems from sea level rise under high-end scenarios
  • Marked decreases in agricultural production in the Murray-Darling Basin and south western and south eastern Australia, due to severe dry conditions under high-end scenarios

Widespread drought in southeast Australia (1997-2009), including the southern Murray Darling Basin was associated with a decrease in southern Murray Darling Basin GDP by nearly 6% in 2007/2008. Dry conditions and resulting economic downturn can have substantial impacts on local industry, the national economy, and the health (particularly mental health) of rural communities.

WGII_AR5_Fig25-5

Projected changes in exposure to heat under a high emissions scenario (A1FI). Maps show the average number of days with peak temperatures >40°C, for ~1990 (based on available meteorological station data for the period 1975-2004), ~2050 and ~2100. Bar charts show the change in population heat exposure, expressed as person-days exposed to peak temperatures >40°C, aggregated by State/Territory and including projected population growth for a default scenario. Future temperatures are based on simulations by the GFDL-CM2 global climate model (Meehl et al., 2007), re-scaled to the A1FI scenario; simulations based on other climate models could give higher or lower results. Data from Baynes et al. (2012). Source: IPCC 2014b

Refer also to:

 

Fluctuations in temperature trend

There has been an ongoing debate, over recent years, fuelled by deniers about the stopping or slowing trend of increasing surface temperatures. Earth systems are complex and science understanding continues.

4 June 2015, Carbon Brief, No ‘slowdown’ in global surface temperatures after all, study finds. A new paper published today says the much-discussed “slowdown” in warming at Earth’s surface may not exist after all.

The study, published in the journal Science, says it is likely to be largely a figment of the way temperature records have been pieced together over time. Scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reanalysed temperature records and concluded that surface warming over the past 15 years is higher than reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body set up to assess global warming. Temperatures are rising at least as fast as they were in the second half of the 20th century, say the authors. Given the interest in the topic, this new finding is likely to generate headlines. But it’s probably not the last word on this complex topic, scientists tell Carbon Brief. Read More here

Points of clarity (Source: Carbon Brief)

The so-called “hiatus” has never been about a reduction in the speed of “global” warming. It relates only to the temperature at the Earth’s surface. When you look at all the components of the climate system – land and vegetation, ice cover and the ocean – scientists have no doubt that the planet as a whole is warming up.

oceanheatadjustedocean2logo

Since the IPCC report, a lot of research has been published looking at how natural variability could be contributing to slower surface warming by reshuffling heat between the atmosphere and the oceans. On top of the long-term warming trend from greenhouse gases, these natural fluctuations in the climate system can temporarily boost or dampen the speed of warming, causing global temperatures to temporarily rise above or below the long-term average.  

Scientists use thousands of temperatures measurements from ships, drifting buoys and weather stations on land to construct records of global temperature. The new paper addresses some well-known issues with how the data is all pieced together. First, is how to combine traditional ship-based measurements of sea surface temperature with those collected by the ARGO network of free-floating buoys, operating since the early 2000s. Another issue is how to account for changes over time in the way ships collect temperature data while on the move. There is also the well-known problem of having little data available in the Arctic. Scientists have developed various ways to “correct” for all these issues. The new paper uses an approach developed by NOAA scientists – some of whom are authors of the new paper. While the authors apply their corrections to the full temperature record stretching back to 1880, the biggest impact is on the rate of warming in recent decades, say the authors.

El Nino/La Nina/ENSO explained

NASA Sees a Different Kind of El Niño

26 February 2016: A new NASA visualization shows the 2015 El Niño unfolding in the Pacific Ocean, as sea surface temperatures create different patterns than seen in the 1997-1998 El Niño. Computer models are just one tool that NASA scientists are using to study this large El Nino event, and compare it to other events in the past. Access website page here for more.

Climate zones on the move

While the “intelligent” species of this planet continue the never ending talkfest on the merits or otherwise of responding to climate change the rest of the travellers on Planet Earth are speaking with their feet/roots/wings/ wriggly bits. The debate for them is irrelevant they need to move, and are, to ensure their own survival. We unfortunately, other than the main cause for the need for them to move, are often in the way. A dilemma for us all. If you are looking for a simple way of explaining this plight I found the following excellent: Trees On The Move As Temperature Zones Shift 3.8 Feet (1.2m) A Day (19 February 2014) by Robert Krulwich

You are a snail. You are a plant. You like where you are. The temperature’s right. It suits you.

climate zones movingBut then, gradually, over the years, it gets warmer. Not every day, of course, but on more and more days, the temperature climbs to uncomfortable highs, drying you out, making you tired, thirsty. 

Zone 2

Something is not right. And though you can’t know this, there’s a reason: The whole planet is getting warmer, which means that temperature zones are shifting. Warmer areas are expanding, pushing cooler zones closer to the North and South Poles, so that the meadow, the forest, the tundra, the desert, the plains — wherever you live — your ecosystem is beginning to shift.

Over the decades, the climate you prefer has started to migrate away from you, which raises an intriguing question: “If I’m standing in a landscape,” asked Stanford ecologist Scott Loarie a few years ago, “how far do I have to travel in order to change my temperature” – to get back to the climate that suits me? Loarie, Chris Field, and their colleagues at the Carnegie Institution for Science gathered all the data they could from climate change studies in order to measure “temperature velocity,” or, as Scott put it in a podcast at the time, “How fast is temperature change sweeping across the Earth’s surface?”

In 2009, they came up with an answer, published in the science journal, Nature. As a global average, they said, temperatures are changing at a rate of 0.42 kilometers — or roughly, a quarter mile a year, which means that if you are standing on a patch of earth, climate zones are moving at a rate (on average) of about 3.8 feet every day.Zone 3

Think about this for a moment. For birds, butterflies, bears — critters with legs and wings — catching up with your old climate (as it moves away from you at 3.8 feet a day) seems very doable. If you’re a lot smaller — a snail, a beetle — it’s harder. And if you can only wiggle, like an earthworm, it’s even rougher.

But, in general, a 3.8-feet-a-day rate seems hard, but not impossible. Remember, however: This is an average, and averages can mask very different underlying rates. Everybody knows temperatures change very fast when you are climbing a mountain. Mountains are change-friendly. Zone 4To get a little cooler, all you have to do is climb a small distance. But to get a degree or two cooler on flatter land (on the plains, grasslands, in a rural area), you may need to travel a half mile or more every year to keep your climate constant. For a beetle, a snail, that’s a hike. And if there are highways, fences, shopping malls in your way, the trip may be impossible.

Even mountains have their problems. The higher you go, the narrower it gets. Some critters can move up, but not everybody. It’ll get too crowded.Zone 5

So far I’ve only mentioned animals, but animals have to eat, nest, seek shelter. It’s no good moving to a place where the berries you need, the leaves you need aren’t available. Some moving animals need moving plants. Can plants do it too?

Well, in a way they can. Trees, for example, can push their seeds in a desirable direction. After the last great ice age, as it warmed, temperate forests (with help from birds, wind and berry-eating bears) moved north at a rate of more than half a mile per year. This time, can the plants keep up?

Dashing Trees: Miles Silman, a forest ecologist at Wake Forest University, has been pondering this question. He (and others) have been looking hard at patches of forest on the slopes of the Andes mountains in Manú National Park in Peru. The trees in each patch have been counted, measured, watched, providing a good baseline to see how things have changed. As described by Elizabeth Kolbert in her new bookThe Sixth Extinction, one of Silman’s grad students, Kenneth Feeley, and his colleagues discovered that trees on these mountain slopes are already in motion. Not all trees, though. Just some.Zone 6

Feeley looked at changes over a 4-year period, and found that trees have been moving up to get cooler at an average rate of 8 feet a year; but some, Kolbert writes, were “practically hyperactive.” Trees from the genus Schefflera, (which we know as part of the gingseng family) were “racing up the ridge at the astonishing rate of nearly a hundred feet a year.” Wow!

On the lazier side, when the scientists looked at the genus Ilex (a group of trees that, in North America, include the Christmas holly), those trees weren’t moving at all, essentially. They’d spent the four years, “more or less inert.”

Zone 7

“As the climates change,” Chris Field said in the podcast, “plants and animals, at least in principle have the potential to stay in the climate they’re in now. … But the conclusion from our study is that they have to move pretty fast in order to be able to do that.” And a lot of them, Field thinks, won’t make it.

Some animals will migrate north, but won’t find the food they need. Trees may find new zones, only to be inhabited (or attacked) by a new set of animals and pests. Old arrangements will break down. The key, say the authors of this study, is to make sure movement is possible.

What about our National Parks? We have, of course, set aside huge swaths of land to protect plants and animals. We’ve got Yellowstone, and even bigger African preserves. But the temperature zones are moving so fast, the Carnegie scientists say, that even in these immense spaces, less than 10 percent of protected areas globally will maintain current climate conditions within their boundaries 100 years from now.

Zone 8That’s going to be a problem. Picture a whole lot of animals (and plants) moving north (or south), trying to stay cool, until eventually they come to the edge of their Canadian, African, Russian or American national park, which is bordered by hotels, motels, car parks, guide centers, roads, power lines.

We humans, having tried to stay out their way, are now back in their way. We need to back off and let them through — but will we? I wonder.

12 October 2015 Yale Environment 360, The Rapid and Startling Decline Of World’s Vast Boreal Forests. Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the fate of the huge boreal forest that spans from Scandinavia to northern Canada. Unprecedented warming in the region is jeopardizing the future of a critical ecosystem that makes up nearly a third of the earth’s forest cover. The boreal forest wraps around the globe at the top of the Northern Hemisphere in North America and Eurasia. Also known as taiga or snow forest, this landscape is characterized by its long, cold and snowy winters. In North America it extends from the Arctic Circle of northern Canada and Alaska down into the very northern tip of the United States in Idaho, Washington, Montana, and Minnesota. It’s the planet’s single largest biome and makes up 30 percent of the globe’s forest cover. Moose are the largest ungulate in the boreal, adapted with their long legs to wade in its abundant marshes, lakes and rivers eating willows, aspen and other plants. In the southern boreal forest of northern Minnesota, moose were once plentiful, but their population has plummeted. Thirty years ago, in the northwest part of the state, there were some 4,000; they now number about a hundred. In the northeast part, they have dropped from almost 9,000 to 4,300. They’ve fallen so far, so fast that some groups want them listed as endangered in the Midwest. Read More here

 

Abrupt changes, triggers and tipping points


Open graphic to download book in free PDF format

18 October 2015, Climate News Network, Climate changes can kick in below 2°C limit. Sudden shifts in settled climates can occur long before global warming reaches the internationally-agreed safety level, European scientists say. Climate change could arrive with startling speed. New research has identified at least 37 “tipping points” that would serve as evidence that climate change has happened – and happened abruptly in one particular region. And 18 of them could happen even before the world warms by an average of 2°C,  the proposed “safe limit” for global warming. Weather is what happens, climate is what people grow to expect from the weather. So climate change, driven by global warming as a consequence of rising carbon dioxide levels, in response to more than a century of fossil fuel combustion, could be – for many people – gradual, imperceptible and difficult to identify immediately. But Sybren Drijfhout, of the University of Southampton in the UK and his collaborators in France, the Netherlands and Germany, are not so sure. They report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they “screened” the massive ensemble of climate models that inform the most recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and found evidence of abrupt regional changes in the ocean, the sea ice, the snow cover, the permafrost and in the terrestrial biosphere that could happen as average global temperatures reached a certain level. The models did not all simulate the same outcomes, but most of them did predict one or more abrupt regional shifts. No safe limit. But the future is not an exact science. “Our results show that the different state-of-the-art models agree that abrupt changes are likely, but that predicting when and where they will occur remains very difficult,” said Professor Drijfhout. “Also, our results show that no safe limit exists and that many abrupt shifts already occur for global warming levels much lower than two degrees.” The idea of a “tipping point” for climate change has been around for decades: the hypothesis is that a climate regime endures – perhaps with an increasing frequency of heat waves or windstorms or floods – as the average temperatures rise. However, at some point, there must be a dramatic shift to a new set of norms.Read More here

14 July 2014, The Conversation: What climate tipping points should we be looking out for? The concept of a “tipping point” – a threshold beyond which a system shifts to a new state – is becoming a familiar one in discussions of the climate. Examples of tipping points are everywhere: a glass falling off a table upon tilting; a bacterial population hitting a level where it pushes your body into fever; the boiling point of water, or a cube of ice being thrown into warm water, where it rapidly melts. The ice cube is a poignant example, because scientists now fear that West Antarctica’s ice sheets are also heading towards irreversible melting. Likewise, the recent discovery of deep canyons beneath the Greenland ice sheet raises concerns regarding its stability. The history of the atmosphere, oceans and ice caps indicates that, once changes in the energy level which drive either warming or cooling reach a critical threshold, irreversible tipping points ensue. Read More here

Projections as a management tool

An excellent resource well worth investigating: The Climate Change in Australia website provides easy access to the projections information and data. The website houses 14 interactive tools for exploring data; a data download facility; a technical report describing the data sources, methods, observed changes and projections; reports and brochures that summarise the results for eight regions of Australia; a brochure on Data Delivery; a brochure on projections for selected cities; a Climate Campus for learning more about climate science and using projections in impact assessments; an online training course; and other resources for decision makers and communicators.

Latest News

1 2 3 27

End Latest News

Extreme Events

It is often stated that people have been dealing with “extreme events” ever since Adam was a boy, what is so different with climate change? The difference is that it is projected that as temperatures rise not only severity increases but the number of occurrences can also increase. The outcome being people/communities do not have time to recover fully before they face another “event”. 

29 May 2015, Inside Climate News, Weather Extremes Wear Climate Change’s Fingerprints: Extreme heat in India, flooding in Houston, wildfires in Alberta suggest a new normal, made more chaotic by global warming. Communities across the globe got a sobering snapshot this week of what the future is likely to hold more of: extreme weather getting even more extreme thanks to climate change. Historic rainfall and flooding in Texas and Oklahoma left thousands homeless and dozens of people dead. India is in the midst of a prolonged heat wave that has already claimed more than 1,800 lives.  Wildfires in Alberta consumed hundreds of square miles of forest while creeping closer to Canada’s tar sands, shutting down production of the carbon-intense fossil fuel. Read More here

How are extreme events changing?

Australia has a variable climate with many extremes

Australian Academy of Science: With its iconic reference to ‘droughts and flooding rains’, Dorothea Mackellar’s 1904 poem My Country highlights the large natural variations that occur in Australia’s climate, leading to extremes that can frequently cause substantial economic and environmental disruption. These variations have existed for many thousands of years, and indeed past floods and droughts in many regions have likely been larger than those recorded since the early 20th century. This high variability poses great challenges for recording and analysing changes in climate extremes not just in Australia, but the world over. Nevertheless, some changes in Australia’s climate extremes stand out from that background variability. Human-induced climate change is superimposed on natural variability.

For example, in recent decades, hot days and nights have become more frequent, more intense and longer lasting in tandem with decreases in cold days and nights for most regions of the globe. Since records began, the frequency, duration and intensity of heatwaves have increased over large parts of Australia, with trends accelerating since 1970.

 Figure 5.1: Temperature extremes change as average temperature increases. In this schematic illustration, the increase in average temperature is shown by the sloping line on the right. The idealised temperature time series has similar variability throughout the whole record. In the latter part of the record, the hot extremes threshold is exceeded progressively more frequently. Source: Working Group for this document.

Extremes are expected to change in the future. As the climate continues to warm in response to further greenhouse gas emissions, high temperature extremes will become hotter and cold extremes will become less cold. Read More here

Bushfire/Wildfire

November 2015; The Burning Issue: Climate Change and the Australian Bushfire Threat. Australia’s bushfire preparedness is under threat from climate change as bushfire seasons here and in the Northern Hemisphere increasingly overlap, putting new demands on critical shared firefighting aircraft.

the climate Council’s latest report, The Burning Issue: Climate Change and the Australian Bushfire Threat found the length of the fire season increased by almost 19% globally between 1978 and 2013. Longer fire seasons are reducing opportunities for controlled burning and intensifying pressure on firefighting resources. 

Key Findings

  1. Record-breaking spring temperatures in 2015, exacerbated by climate change, have driven an early start to the bushfire season in Australia.
  • The maximum temperatures in Melbourne on October 5th and 6th were the hottest ever recorded for the first week of October while temperatures were at least 12°C above average for most of southern Australia on at least one day during that week.
  • Globally, seven months this year have broken their monthly temperature records and 2015 is very likely to surpass 2014 as the hottest year on record.
  • Longer, hotter and more intense heatwaves, and more frequent and severe droughts, are driving up the likelihood of very high bushfire risk, particularly in the southwest and southeast of Australia.
  1. North America has faced a deadly bushfire season in 2015.
  • The North American bushfires have been driven by years of severe drought in combination with warmer temperatures, a situation Australia is likely to face with increasing frequency in future.
  • Between January and October of 2015, over 50,000 bushfires burned over 38,000 km2 of land – an area more than half the size of Tasmania, making it one of the worst bushfire years on record in the US.
  1. Australia’s bushfire preparedness is at risk from climate change as bushfire seasons increasingly lengthen and overlap with fire seasons in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Large areas of southeast and southwest Australia are facing above-average bushfire potential for the 2015/2016 summer. Most of the southeast coast of Australia is expected to experience above normal bushfire potential due to a long-term rainfall deficit, relatively low soil moisture, and relatively warm conditions predicted for the summer.
  • Globally, the length of the fire weather season increased by nearly 19% between 1979 and 2013. Longer fire seasons will reduce opportunities for controlled burning and increase pressure on firefighting resources.
  • Some of Australia’s key firefighting aircraft are leased from overseas and are contracted to North American firefighting services during their summer. The fire seasons of the two hemispheres – and the demand for these critical shared firefighting aircraft – will increasingly overlap, challenging such arrangements.
  • During the past decade, state fire agencies have increasingly needed to share personnel and other firefighting resources during peak demand periods. This pressure will continue to intensify and the number of firefighters will need to double by 2030 to meet demand.
  1. Stronger climate change action is needed to reduce bushfire risk.
  • Australia’s emissions reduction target of 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030 is not sufficient to protect Australians from worsening bushfires and extreme weather events.
  • Australia must cut emissions more rapidly and deeply to join global efforts to stabilise the world’s climate and the vast majority of Australia’s fossil fuel reserves must stay in ground.

Access full report here

Sept 2010, NASA Thousands of wildfires large and small are underway at any given time across the globe. Beyond the obvious immediate health effects, this “biomass” burning is part of the equation for global warming. In northern latitudes, wildfires actually are a symptom of the Earth’s warming. ‘We already see the initial signs of climate change, and fires are part of it,” said Dr. Amber Soja, a biomass burning expert at the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) in Hampton, Va.

NASA main_firemap global And research suggests that a hotter Earth resulting from global warming will lead to more frequent and larger fires. The fires release “particulates” — tiny particles that become airborne — and greenhouse gases that warm the planet. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite shows fires around the world. Credit and source: NASA

 

 

7 August 2016 Yale Climate Connections: Wildfire is an important part of the ecology of the western United States. Some trees native to this region actually require fire to reproduce. But in Colorado, a fast-warming climate, drought, tree-killing insects, and human suppression of natural wildfire have combined to create the fuel and the conditions for fires that go far beyond what’s beneficial. Wildfires now burn bigger, faster, longer, and well outside what’s considered the normal “fire season.” To describe this new reality, director Daniel Glick created Unacceptable Risk, a short film about the experiences of firefighters on the front lines. GLICK: “We felt that firefighters are among the more trusted sources out there. So when a firefighter gets up there and says, ‘Climate change has changed my life,’ I think it’s a way of conveying the science in a really human way, through storytelling.” The film outlines how more frequent wildfires – combined with a fast-growing population spreading over larger areas – are stretching firefighting resources thin. And it explains why limiting climate change is critical to protect firefighters on the front lines. Read More here

16 December 2015, CSIRO and Ngadju tackle bushfires in the Great Western Woodlands. Old and new ways of fire management are coming together to help protect one of the most unique woodlands on the planet. Members of the Ngadju community began working with CSIRO about four years ago to help prevent fires in the Great Western Woodlands (GWW) in south-western Australia.

Map of south west Australia

The Great Western Woodlands are located in south-western Australia.

The GWW is the largest remaining tract of dry climate woodland on Earth. The region receives as little as 250 mm rain per year. Owing to the variable rainfall and lack of readily accessible groundwater suitable for livestock, much of the region has remained virtually unchanged since European settlement. However during recent years, the GWW has experienced an increase in the frequency of large, intense wildfires causing fire-sensitive old-growth woodlands to be lost at an alarming rate. Leslie Schultz from Ngadju Conservation believes climate change is contributing to the increase in fires. “The heat we get now is harsher and when it does come, there’s less rain—this can only spell trouble for the Woodlands,” he said. Les said the relationship between Ngadju and CSIRO was born from his own experience of “burning off country”—something he learnt from his elders. “We need to control the country so it doesn’t control us,” Les said. “We want to incorporate our traditional land management methods. We managed our country not with rakes, shovels and bulldozers but with fire.” The insight and the benefits of utilising Indigenous fire knowledge was no more apparent than during the recent devastating bushfires in Western Australia. These fires damaged large areas of the GWW directly. In the nearby community of Esperance one fire led to the loss of four lives, with reportedly more than 280,000 hectares of farmland burnt, along with houses, sheds, machinery and almost 5,000 livestock. Ngadju mobilised to help fight these fires and provided valuable insight into the current landscape. They also currently operate a small ranger team in the GWW and undertake a mix of contract land management. Working with Indigenous community members during major fire outbreaks and for long term fire management was cemented as an initiative in 2012 when CSIRO researchers and the Ngadju people began collaborating on the Ngadju Kala (fire) Project. Read More here

From the Climate Council of Australia’s report – Be Prepared: Climate Change and the Victorian bushfire threat (2014). The Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for 2014–15, issued in September 2014, anticipates the severity of the bushfire season in different states. For the first time this outlook has been reissued (November 2014) due to unseasonably hot, dry weather in Australia’s southeast (See Figure 7). Victoria’s 2014–15 bushfire season outlook has been upgraded from an above normal fire season to a major fire season. All Victorian districts, except the Mallee and East Gippsland, may expect above normal fire potential (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC 2014b).

Bushfire potential 2014 2015

3 June 2014, ABC Catalyst: How will the rise of mega-fires affect life as we know it? Reporters Anja Taylor and Mark Horstman travel to opposite sides of the planet to find out. Even the origin of fire is tied to the origin of plants. Fire couldn’t exist here until the fuel and oxygen from land plants made this planet flammable. So for nearly half a billion years, the Earth has been in flames. In turn, fire shapes the patterns of life, the climate, and ultimately, our own survival. But fire is changing. Over the past decade, every forested continent has seen an alarming surge in large, uncontrollable fires. Mega-fires.

Heatwaves

National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) 2010 Report: Impacts and Adaptation Response of Infrastructure and Communities to Heatwaves: The Southern Australian Experience of 2009. From 27 January to 8 February 2009, southern Australia experienced one of the nation’s most severe heatwaves. Governments, councils, utilities, hospitals and emergency response organizations, and the community were largely under-prepared for an extreme event of this magnitude. This case study targets the experience and challenges faced by decision-makers and policy-makers, and focuses on the major metropolitan areas affected by the heatwave: Melbourne and Adelaide. Read full NCCARF Report here. Key messages from the study were: 

1. Compared with the 100–150 years of historical observations, the 2009 heatwave in southern Australia was exceptional – producing severe, extensive and prolonged heat exposure. It was a major and unexpected heatwave in both Australian and international contexts, with extreme heat stress in the first phase and a bushfire disaster in the second phase of the heatwave. Climate change over the next 30–60 years will make such events more likely, and test the resilience of the expanding metropolitan areas, unless forewarning and other adaptation strategies are successful.

2. Urban heat island effects were evident in the land-surface temperatures of the Adelaide and Melbourne metropolitan areas for the 2009 event. Superimposed on the patterns of social and network vulnerabilities, these variations complicate predicting and assessing the responses of heat-sensitive groups and assets. Local-scale analysis and alert systems for emergency and short-term adaptation strategies need such knowledge, and heat stress indicators predicted from Bureau of Meteorology ‘forecast explorer’ systems are now available in Victoria (and soon will be in South Australia).

3. Heatwave impacts on many systems are often well characterised by a multi-day heat index based on daytime and night-time exposure to temperature (and, for some locations, to humidity and wind as well). Other factors are important for evaluating the details of various responses. The rapid increases in urban impacts with rising temperature may be poorly indicated by current regional weather and climate models, without additional tuning and inclusion of urban and local-scale influences.

4. Recent investigations suggest several potential causes and climate drivers for major heatwaves in southern Australia. Harnessing such knowledge will aid seasonal forecasting of heatwave likelihood (to aid planning preparedness and incident management in all sectors) and longer-term outlooks (to facilitate climate risk strategies including improving the safety, efficiency and financial resilience of infrastructure and other networks).

5. The heatwave led to a sharp rise in heat-related illness and deaths among the most vulnerable groups. The overall impacts on human health are evident from the dramatic increase in mortality and morbidity that correlate with the increasing temperatures and persistence of the event. In Melbourne there were 374 excess deaths (deaths above what would be expected for the period of the event) and in Adelaide estimates ranged from 50 to 150, with more than 3000 reports of heat-related illnesses. Reports from Melbourne showed that the greatest number of deaths occurred in those 75 years or older. This confirms the expectation that persons with age-related chronic medical conditions have an increased risk of heat-related mortality and morbidity during heatwaves.

6. Both cities experienced costly service interruptions resulting from failures in the heat sensitive components of power and transport infrastructure and systems, with electricity and train services being the most severely impacted. Given the experience of the 2009 heatwave, scenario testing should be undertaken for potentially hotter and more prolonged events on service continuity by infrastructure and essential service providers. Such analysis needs to be system wide to explicitly account for cascading effects.

7. The unprecedented events of the 2009 heatwave found many of the emergency management response services under-prepared and relying on reactive solutions to the emerging impacts caused by the heat. There was an overall lack of surge planning. The general contention was that the services were fortunate that the cool change arrived when it did – services such as ambulance and paramedics, emergency treatment and mortuary capacity were under severe strain.  Both the Victorian and South Australian emergency response sectors faced a diverse and complex array of challenges during the heatwave.

8. The major public health concerns stemming from the impacts of the 2009 heatwave have acted as a catalyst for the evaluation of heatwave planning policy and for the development of more comprehensive plans. By identifying vulnerable groups within the community and the extent to which existing capacity was able to cope, the event has accelerated initial improvements to heatwave planning, education, communication and service capacity.

9. A number of barriers have been identified that could impede progress toward adaptation and improved resilience to heatwave events. The standard approach of making relatively small adjustments to existing management processes is unlikely to be successful. Fundamental shifts in thinking are needed that explicitly acknowledge the new and uncertain risks a changing climate is likely to bring. Processes for bringing together stakeholders and key decision-makers with the scientific community could help promote new forms of dialogue and consensus-building.

Why do sustained extreme high temperatures kill?

23 July 2010, Scientific American, How Does a Heat Wave Affect the Human Body? Some might like it hot, but extreme heat can overpower the human body. An expert from the CDC explains how heat kills and why fans are worthless in the face of truly high temperatures. 

Climate change promises to bring with it longer, hotter summers to many places on the planet. With more heat waves on the horizon, the risk of heat-related health problems has also been on the rise. Heat exhaustion is a relatively common reaction to severe heat and can include symptoms such as dizziness, headache and fainting. It can usually be treated with rest, a cool environment and hydration (including refueling of electrolytes, which are necessary for muscle and other body functions). Heat stroke is more severe and requires medical attention—it is often accompanied by dry skin, a body temperature above 39.4 degrees C, confusion and sometimes unconsciousness. But when sustained heat waves hit a region, the other health ramifications can be serious, including sunstroke and even major organ damage due to heat.

As temperatures linger above our bodies’ own healthy internal temperature for longer periods of time, will we humans be able to take the heat? Mike McGeehin, director of the CDC’s Environmental Hazards and Health Effects Program, provides some answers. Continue reading here for his answers. 

Storm events and floods

Past and future storm patterns

13 June 2015, Climate News Network, Australia faces stormy future as temperatures soar: Destructive storms and sudden floods are set to intensify across Australia as global warming plays havoc with rainfall patterns. New research into storm patterns warns that flash floods are likely to sweep across the Australian landscape with increasing intensity, particularly in urban or residential areas. Peak rainfall is predicted to soar with rising surface temperatures as the world’s largest island – and also its smallest continent − experiences ever greater extremes of heat. 

Civil engineers from the Water Research Centre at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) report in Nature Geoscience that they looked at 40,000 storms across the whole of the continent over the last 30 years and identified a pattern that warmer temperatures are linked to disruptive rainfall events.

“Our results were consistent across all the climate zones in Australia, regardless of season or storm type, without exception,” says Professor Ashish Sharma, one of the study’s authors. “This was an unexpected finding, and it supports our hypothesis that increasing temperatures are changing rainfall patterns. It means that most people in Australia can expect to see intensification in the magnitude of flash flooding in smaller catchments, particularly in urban or residential areas.” Read More here

Exploring the potential causes of increased storm intensity

2015, Union of Concerned Scientists, Hurricanes and Climate Change: Exploring the potential causes of increased storm intensity. Hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones have always bedeviled coasts, but global warming may be making matters worse. Sea level is rising and will continue to rise as oceans warm and glaciers melt. Rising sea level means higher storm surges, even from relatively minor storms, which increases coastal flooding and subsequent storm damage along coasts. In addition, the associated heavy rains can extend hundreds of miles inland, further increasing the risk of flooding.

In a tropical cyclone, air rotates inward to the center (or eye), then rises to higher altitudes. As warm, moist air rises, the air cools and condenses to rain, releasing heat. This cycle of evaporation and condensation powers the storm. Image: Adapted from a figure courtesy of NOAA. Recent scientific evidence suggests a link between the destructive power (or intensity) of hurricanes and higher ocean temperatures, driven in large part by global warming. With rapid population growth in coastal regions placing many more people and structures in the path of these tropical cyclones there is a much greater risk of casualties, property damage, and financial hardship when these storms make landfall.

Hurricane Behaviour: Meteorologists use the term “tropical cyclone” for a closed atmospheric circulation that forms over a tropical or subtropical ocean. Once maximum sustained wind speed exceeds 74 miles per hour these storms are called hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, typhoons in the Pacific Ocean, and cyclones elsewhere. 

Many factors influence tropical cyclone behaviour, but three factors must be present for them to intensify: warm ocean temperatures (hurricanes can occur when surface ocean temperatures exceed about 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius), low vertical wind shear (i.e., no strong change in wind speed or direction between two different altitudes), and high humidity. As warm, moist air rises, it lowers air pressure at sea level and draws surrounding air inward and upward in a rotating pattern. As the water vapor-laden air spirals in and rises to higher altitudes, it cools and releases heat as it condenses to rain. This cycle of evaporation and condensation brings the ocean’s heat energy into the vortex, powering the storm.

There are several natural factors that can “put the brakes on” a tropical cyclone: moving over colder ocean water; strong winds that churn up colder ocean water; high wind shear that can diminish or destroy the vortex; dry air migrating to the hurricane’s core; and moving over land, which creates high frictional drag and deprives the storm of warm ocean “fuel.” But as long as conditions are favourable, the storm will thrive. 

The Effect of Global Warming: Two factors that contribute to more intense tropical cyclones-ocean heat content and water vapour-have both increased over the past several decades. This is primarily due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and the clearing of forests, which have significantly elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere. CO2 and other heat-trapping gases act like an insulating blanket that warms the land and ocean and increases evaporation. 

The world’s oceans have absorbed about 20 times as much heat as the atmosphere over the past half-century, leading to higher temperatures not only in surface waters (e.g., depths of less than 100 feet) but also down to substantial depths, with the most severe warming occurring in the first 1,500 feet below the surface.  As this warming occurs, the oceans expand and raise sea level. This expansion, combined with the inflow of water from melting land ice, has raised global sea level more than one inch over the last decade.  In addition, observations of atmospheric humidity over the oceans show that water vapour content has increased four percent since 1970; because warm air holds more water vapour than cold air, these findings correlate with an increase in air temperature. To read full article including recent scientific developments – Read More here

Water scarcity and drought

Whilst some parts of Australia are getting wetter, particularly the northwest of the continent, some of the most populous and agriculturally productive regions in the south are becoming drier (CSIRO Report: State of the Climate 2014: Figure 6)

State-of-the-Climate-2014-fig6

2015, Climate Council of Australia’s report: Thirsty Country: Climate Change and Drought in Australia – Key findings:

  • Climate change is likely making drought conditions in southwest and southeast Australia worse.
  • Droughts have far-reaching impacts on health, agriculture and native species in Australia.
  • Water scarcity will become an increasing challenge as the pressure on urban water supplies intensifies.
  • Droughts are likely to worsen in severity and duration in southern Australia if greenhouse gas emissions are not cut deeply and rapidly. 

Drought can be defined in a variety of different ways. In terms of its links to climate change, drought is best defined as meteorological drought, which is ‘a prolonged, abnormally dry period when the amount of available water is insufficient to meet our normal use’ and is generally measured by assessing rainfall deficiencies over three or more months (BoM 2014c). In addition to meteorological drought, two other definitions of drought are used by different economic sectors or areas of research: agricultural drought, which is measured through deficits in soil moisture, and hydrological drought, which is based on anomalies in stream flow, lake and/or groundwater levels (IPCC 2012). Both of these definitions are important in terms of understanding the impacts of drought, and the consequences of climate change for these impacts.

Drought has significant impacts on health, the economy, ecosystems and urban water supplies.

Health: Droughts can have wide ranging effects on health including on nutrition, infectious diseases, on forest fires causing air pollution, and mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress and suicidal behaviour (Haines et al 2006; Climate Commission 2011). Droughts can also contribute to increases in mortality rates. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has linked drought to 680,000 deaths globally from 1970–2012 (WMO 2014).

Economic: Drought affects agriculture, tourism, employment and livelihoods in Australia, with severe economic repercussions. Between 2002 and 2003 decreases in agricultural production due to drought resulted in a 1% reduction in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a 28.5% fall in the gross value added for the agricultural industry compared to the preceding year (ABS 2004).

Ecosystems: Drought has significant impacts on Australia’s natural environment. For example, aquatic ecosystems are often affected by drought, with decreased water supplies reducing the availability of suitable habitat and leading to reductions in the populations of many fish and invertebrate species and, in some cases, contributing to local extinctions (Bond et al. 2008).

Urban water supplies: Water scarcity in major cities, particularly Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, has been exacerbated by drought and remains an ongoing challenge. As of 2013, 89 percent of Australia’s population lived in urban areas (World Bank 2013), placing high demand on urban water supplies as populations continue to grow. Pressure on urban water supplies is projected to intensify as droughts increase in frequency and severity in the southwest and southeast (Collett and Henry 2011). Read Full Report here

IMPACTS HAPPENING NOW

Sea level rise

Want to see potential impact of sea level rise 2100?

JUNE 2016: Coastal Risk Australia BETA: Predicted Coastal Flooding Resulting from Climate Change. Want to know what the Australian coastline may look like in 2100? This BETA version of Coastal Risk Australia (CRA) has been opened for public consultation to show you what the Australian coast may look like in 2100. It is an interactive map tool designed to communicate coastal inundation associated with sea level rise to the year 2100. Using Google Earth Engine technology, CRA allows you to investigate the extent of coastal inundation using the latest 3D models of the Australian coastline. Data have been captured using airborne LiDAR technology to create detailed digital elevation models (DEMs), which are then combined with ‘bucket-fill’ inundation modelling to create the map-based visualisations. Access site and interactive maps here

Sea level rise OzVisit also the Canute website:  Canute is a sea level calculator. A test site for potential new tools is available here (also provides distribution point for underlying data). Canute provides estimates of the likelihood of flooding from the sea during this century, taking into account sea-level rise and the effects of tides and storm surges and now offers a range of additional calculators. To find out more click here.

Canute provides estimates of the likelihood of future flooding from the sea. By combining two uncertainties (the frequency of present storm surges and the uncertainty of future sea-level rise) into a single likelihood, a statistically robust prediction is generated. Canute allows you to select your location of interest from over 12,000 datapoints at roughly 2.5km resolution around the whole Australian coastline via a map interface. You then select a future greenhouse gas emission scenario and your time period of interest. The tool calculator will then output a graph indicating the probability of experiencing at least one flooding event during this period (red line) for a range of design heights. For comparison an equivalent probability curve for conditions of constant sea level (set at the value for the year 2000) is also plotted (blue line).

26 August 2015, NASA The fingerprints of sea level rise. When you fill a sink, the water rises at the same rate to the same height in every corner. That’s not the way it works with our rising seas. According to the 23-year record of satellite data from NASA and its partners, the sea level is rising a few millimeters a year — a fraction of an inch. If you live on the U.S. East Coast, though, your sea level is rising two or three times faster than average. If you live in Scandinavia, it’s falling. Residents of China’s Yellow River delta are swamped by sea level rise of more than nine inches (25 centimeters) a year. These regional differences in sea level change will become even more apparent in the future, as ice sheets melt. For instance, when the Amundsen Sea sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is totally gone, the average global sea level will rise four feet. But the East Coast of the United States will see an additional 14 to 15 inches above that average. Read More here

26 August 2015, NASA, Warming seas and melting ice sheets. Sea level rise is a natural consequence of the warming of our planet. We know this from basic physics. When water heats up, it expands. So when the ocean warms, sea level rises. When ice is exposed to heat, it melts. And when ice on land melts and water runs into the ocean, sea level rises.

For thousands of years, sea level has remained relatively stable and human communities have settled along the planet’s coastlines. But now Earth’s seas are rising. Globally, sea level has risen about eight inches (20 centimeters) since the beginning of the 20th century and more than two inches (5 centimeters) in the last 20 years alone. All signs suggest that this rise is accelerating. While NASA and other agencies continue to monitor the warming of the ocean and changes to the planet’s land masses, the biggest concern is what will happen to the ancient ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica, which continue to send out alerts that a warming planet is affecting their stability. Read More here

Sea level is rising fast – and it seems to be speeding up: have shown that sea level rose steadily over the 20th century – and at a faster rate than over the previous centuries. It is also clear from both satellite and coastal observations that seas have risen faster over the past two decades than they did for the bulk of the 20th century. More recently, several studies have shown that the flow of ice and water into the oceans from Greenland and West Antarctica has increased since 1993. This raises an interesting question: has the rate of sea-level rise changed since 1993, when satellite observations began to give us a more complete picture of the global oceans?

Our new research tackles this question by comparing satellite observations of sea level with those measured at the coast by tide gauges. We use this comparison to determine small biases in the satellite data that have changed over time. Understanding how the land supporting the tide gauges is moving becomes an important part of these comparisons. We found three important results.

First, the seas really have risen faster since 1993, relative to the slower rate over previous decades as evident in the tide gauge data.

Second, comparison of the coastal and satellite measurements reveal small differences in the early part of the satellite record from 1993 to 1999. After allowing for land motion at the tide gauges, the first six years of the satellite record marginally overestimates the sea-level trend. Our revised estimate of global mean sea-level rise for the satellite era (1993 to mid-2014) is about 2.6-2.9 mm per year (the exact value depends on how we estimate land motion) – slightly less than the previous estimate of 3.2 mm per year.

Satellite altimeters measure sea level by measuring the time it takes a radar pulse to make a round-trip from the satellite to the sea surface and back. NOAA/STAR

Third, previous estimates of the rate of rise from satellite data that didn’t incorporate the careful comparison with coastal sea-level measurements, as we have done in our recent study, showed a slower rate of rise over the past decade relative to the one before. Our revised record is clearly different and suggests that the rate of rise has increased, consistent with other observations of the increased contributions of water and ice from Greenland and West Antarctica. Read More here

Historic context

Australian Academy of Science: In past warmer climates, sea level was higher than today. Sea level was between 5 metres and 10 metres above current levels during the last interglacial period (129,000 to 116,000 years ago) when global average surface temperatures were less than 2°C above their values just before the start of the industrial era in the 19th century. The estimated contributions from ocean thermal expansion and a then smaller Greenland Ice Sheet imply a contribution also from Antarctica to this higher sea level.

Globally, sea levels are currently rising. For two thousand years before the mid-19th century, the long-term global sea-level change was small, only a few centimetres per century. Since then, the rate of rise has increased substantially; from 1900 to 2012, sea level rose by a global average of about 19 centimetres. In the past 20 years, both satellite and coastal sea-level data indicate that the rate of rise has increased to about 3 centimetres per decade. A similarly high rate was experienced in the 1920 to 1950 period. 

Australian sea levels are rising. Around the Australian coastline, sea level rose relative to the land throughout the 20th century, with a faster rate (partly as a result of natural climate variability) since 1993. This follows several thousand years when there was a slow fall of Australian sea levels relative to the land at rates of a few centimetres per century. This was a result of ongoing changes to the ‘solid’ Earth following loss of the large surface loading from ice sheets of the last ice age. Read More here

The cost of coastal flooding

2014, Climate Council Report: Counting the Costs: Climate Change and Coastal Flooding. Australia is largely a coastal country. Much of our population lives on or near the coast, and our six state capital cities —Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart, as well as Darwin in the Northern Territory—are all port cities. In addition to the many lifestyle amenities from living on the coast, much of the nation’s critical infrastructure—transport, commercial, residential, defence—is located along our coastlines. Virtually all of this infrastructure has been designed and built for a stable climate with known ranges of variability. But the climate system is no longer stable. Sea levels are rising and so are the risks they pose for our coastal infrastructure.

This report explores two of the most serious consequences of rising sea level—the large increase in the frequency of coastal inundation and the recession of ‘soft’ shorelines. Damage caused by increased coastal inundation and recession poses a massive financial burden due to damage and destruction of infrastructure. Coastal inundation and recession also have important implications for health and well-being, coastal ecosystems and communities.

Climate change exacerbates the effects of a storm surge increasing the base sea level

Sea level rise storm surge

For a sea-level rise of only 0.5 m, flood events that today might be expected once every hundred years could occur every few months in the future.

Sea level rise infrastructure loss

Climate change is ultimately an ethical, moral, equity and intergenerational issue. Nevertheless, the economic risks from climate impacts are also important and often neglected in the public discourse. Much more reliable information on the rising economic costs of climate change impacts and risks, and a better understanding of how to adaptively plan for the future under uncertainty, are essential for informed decision-making. The bottom line is clear. The enormous risks of sea-level rise, both in the short and long terms, can be ultimately managed only by stabilising the climate system. This requires that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced deeply and quickly, and that the transition to a carbon-free global economy is achieved this century, the sooner the better. This is the critical decade for action. Now is the time to get on with the job. Read Full Report here

 

Great Barrier Reef

24 March 2017, Climate News Network, World’s reefs damaged beyond repair. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and reefs in the Maldives have been dangerously weakened by coral bleaching caused by global warming and El Niño events. The Great Barrier Reef, one of the wonders of the Pacific Ocean, may never fully recover from the combined effects of global warming and an El Niño year, according to a new study in one of the world’s leading science journals. And a second study, in a second journal, warns that increased sea surface temperatures have also caused both a major die-off of corals and the collapse of reef growth rates in the Maldives, in the Indian Ocean. Corals are very sensitive to ocean temperatures, and in unusually hot years – and these have recurred naturally and cyclically since long before humans started burning coal, oil and gas, to accelerate the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – the corals react to stress by bleaching. That is, they eject the photosynthesising algae that live with them in symbiosis, to the advantage of both creaturesHotter oceans But the world’s oceans are becoming hotter anyway, because of global warming driven by greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. The seas are becoming ever more acidic as atmospheric carbon dioxide reacts with the water. And the periodic return of a blister of oceanic heat in the eastern Pacific called El Niño – Spanish for “The Child”, because it becomes most visible around Christmastime – has begun to put the world’s reefs at risk. The El Niño of 2015-16 triggered a massive episode of bleaching throughout the tropics. And, Australian researchers say in Nature, the bleaching continuesWe’re hoping that the next two to three weeks will cool off quickly, and this year’s bleaching won’t be anything like last year. The severity of the 2016 bleaching was off the chart,” says Terry Hughes, of Australia’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, at James Cook University in Queensland. “It was the third major bleaching to affect the Great Barrier Reef, following earlier heatwaves in 1998 and 2002. Now we’re gearing up to study a potential number four. Read More here

November 2016, Scientific American: Biggest-Ever Coral Die-Off Reported on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Warm seas around Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have killed two-thirds of a 700-km (435 miles) stretch of coral in the past nine months, the worst die-off ever recorded on the World Heritage site, scientists who surveyed the reef said on Tuesday. Their finding of the die-off in the reef’s north is a major blow for tourism at reef which, according to a 2013 Deloitte Access Economics report, attracts about A$5.2 billion ($3.9 billion) in spending each year. “The coral is essentially cooked,” professor Andrew Baird, a researcher at James Cook University who was part of the reef surveys, told Reuters by telephone from Townsville in Australia’s tropical north. He said the die-off was “almost certainly” the largest ever recorded anywhere because of the size of the Barrier Reef, which at 348,000 sq km (134,400 sq miles) is the biggest coral reef in the world. Bleaching occurs when the water is too warm, forcing coral to expel living algae and causing it to calcify and turn white. Mildly bleached coral can recover if the temperature drops and the survey found this occurred in southern parts of the reef, where coral mortality was much lower. While bleaching occurs naturally, scientists are concerned that rising sea temperatures caused by global warming magnifies the damage, leaving sensitive underwater ecosystems unable to recover. Read More here

And the government’s response?

6 December 2016, The Conversation. At first glance, the progress reports on the Great Barrier Reef released last week by the Australian and Queensland governments might seem impressive. The update on the Reef 2050 Plan suggests that 135 of the plan’s 151 actions are either complete or on track. The Australian government’s apparent intention in releasing five recent reports is to reassure UNESCO that the Great Barrier Reef should not be listed as “World Heritage in Danger” (as the World Heritage Committee has previously threatened). Sadly, behind the verbosity and colour of these reports, there is disappointingly little evidence of progress in the key areas needed to make a significant difference to a World Heritage Area that is in crisisPoor baseline The government framework for protecting and managing the Reef from 2015 to 2050, the Reef 2050 Plan, has been widely criticised as failing to provide a sound basis for the necessary long-term protection of the Reef. As well as providing a shaky basis to build effective actions, the Reef 2050 Plan has few measurable or realistic targets. It is therefore not easy to report on the actual progress. Several of the actions that will have the greatest impacts on the overall health of the Reef are shown in the progress reports as “not yet due”. In some cases, such as climate change, the Reef 2050 Plan is silent, instead simply referencing Australia’s national efforts on climate change. Read More here

Prospects for the Great Barrier Reef

20 May 2015, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, The University of Queensland Coal and climate change: a death sentence for the Great Barrier Reef. This article is the first in our series examining in depth the various threats to the Great Barrier Reef.

Back in 1999, I made an upsetting discovery. By comparing the temperature tolerance of reef-building corals with the projected effects of rising carbon dioxide levels, I found that the oceans would soon grow too warm for corals to bear, meaning that coral-dominated systems like the Great Barrier Reef would disappear within 30-40 years. Much as I tried to find a mistake in my reasoning and calculations, the numbers kept telling me that one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems would disappear in my lifetime.

As my study drew active discussion and debate, I desperately hoped that it was wrong and that the world had more time to solve the problem of climate change. Now, 16 years later, my conclusions have been confirmed and the message, if anything, have become even more pessimistic.

Sea surface temperatures have increased rapidly by 0.85C from 1880 to 2012. In tropical regions, these changes have driven the destabilisation of the ancient symbiosis between corals and the brown micro-algae (dinoflagellates) that live inside them – a relationship that has driven the success of coral reefs for hundreds of millions of years. As temperatures rise, the dinoflagellates are damaged and are discarded, causing bleaching and leaving corals at increased risk of starvation, disease, and death.

Meanwhile, ocean waters are acidifying at a rate that is unparallelled in at least the past 65 million years, potentially hampering the ability of coral reefs to maintain themselves through the all-important process of calcification. The consequences of these changes threaten to ripple up through one of the most complex ecosystems on the planet, affecting thousands of organisms from sponges to seabirds. In the process, they reduce the reef’s resilience to destructive events such as cyclones and non-climate-related human activities, fundamentally altering the food web and affecting opportunities for humans and industry.

Threat to the reef… and our hip pockets

It is important to appreciate that these concerns are not the mutterings of a few scientists. The threat of climate change to coral reefs like the Great Barrier Reef is part of a major scientific consensus set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as by federal government bodies such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). There is no credible alternative prognosis that has survived the peer-reviewed process of science.

Without wanting to sound too dramatic, the realisation that coral reefs such as the Great Barrier Reef are about to be thumped by rapidly warming oceans should have had us on our feet. Even if you don’t like or understand coral reefs, the dollars should have spoken to you. If we lose Great Barrier Reef, we lose a large part of the A$5 billion to A$6 billion it earns from tourism and fisheries, and with that many of the 60,000-plus jobs that this amazing ecosystem provides to Australia. If we look after the reef and don’t destroy it for short-term gains, we stand to reap those benefits, year after year, far into the future.

There is growing international concern that the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is in danger of being damaged irreparably. With 50% of the corals gone, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has been pressuring the Australian and Queensland governments to increase their commitment to reversing the deteriorating health of the Reef. Later this year, the committee will decide whether to add the reef to its official “in danger” list – a prospect that has already been extensively debated here on The Conversation.

The situation has prompted the state and Federal governments to unveil a long-term sustainability plan for safeguarding the Great Barrier Reef until 2050, with input from reviews by the Australian Academy of Science and others.

While many elements of the plan are commendable it has also been criticised for its lack of firm, measurable targets, and adequate discussion of the implications of climate change.

Climate caution, or business as usual?

While the Reef 2050 plan does mention climate change as the predominant threat to the reef, it fails to link the problem to Australia’s plans to grow the coal trade, and to ship coal through enlarged ports on the Queensland coast. The reef plan only mentions coal in the context of local-scale impacts such as coal dust and port development. The plan briefly mentions Australia’s intention to cut greenhouse emissions by 5% on 2000 levels by 2020. But there is no mention of the billions of tonnes (gigatonnes) of carbon dioxide that will be released when Queensland’s coal is dug up, sold, and burned by other countries.

The spectre of coal ships traversing the Great Barrier Reef couldn’t be more laden with symbolism. Coal extracted from the Queensland landscape, if burned along with other fossil fuel reserves, will ensure the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. With only 500-800 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide left in the global carbon budget, beyond which we will push the climate into a dangerous state, the emissions from even a single mine can play a significant role.

The Carmichael mine in the Galilee basin, for example, will pump out 4.49 gigatonnes during its lifetime. Given that the world’s reserves of fossil fuels are estimated to be capable of generating 2,500 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, business-as-usual is easily capable of destroying the reef (pushing the added carbon dioxide well beyond the 500-800-gigatonne budget), along with many other ecosystems too.

On the other hand, the negotiations over Australia’s greenhouse emissions are clearly separate from the deliberations of the World Heritage Committee. While it is almost certainly true that continual failure to act on climate change will mean the death of the Great Barrier Reef and every other coral reef, the question of how to curb emissions is obviously best handled by the United Nations’ climate negotiations framework, which is convening this year’s crucial Paris COP21 talks.

Yet one could also argue that Australia should stand up as a nation and help lead the world away from this current dangerous climate trajectory. After all, if we know that adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is extremely dangerous for the Great Barrier Reef, why would Australia deliberately put such a national treasure and economic powerhouse at risk by helping dig up even more carbon to burn from the Queensland landscape? If Australia is truly committed to preserving the Great Barrier Reef, it faces a tough choice: re-examine the current plans for unrestricted coal exports, taking proper account and responsibility for the resulting greenhouse emissions, or watch the reef die. Surely we as Australians have more foresight and chutzpah than to let that happen!

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg is Director, Global Change Institute at The University of QueenslandThis article was originally published on The ConversationRead the original article

1 June 2015, Wildlife Conservation Society, New climate stress index model challenges doomsday forecasts for world’s coral reefs: Complex model performs better than common temperature threshold predictions. Recent forecasts on the impacts of climate change on the world’s coral reefs–especially ones generated from oceanic surface temperature data gathered by satellites–paint a grim picture for the future of the “rainforests of the sea.” A newer and more complex model incorporating data from both environmental factors and field observations of coral responses to stress provides a better forecasting tool than the more widely used models and a more positive future for coral reefs, according to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups. The study authors point out that, according to the climate stress index model first developed in 2008, coral reefs are responding to more factors than temperature and therefore more resilient to rising temperatures. They conclude that global climate change is the greatest global threat to coral reefs but the future of these ecosystems is more varied than predictions from the more widely used “temperature threshold” models. Read More here

NASA’s Global Ice Viewer

Sentinels of Climate Change: Ice, which covers 10 percent of Earth’s surface, is disappearing rapidly.  Select a topic below to see how climate change has affected glaciers, sea ice, and continental ice sheets worldwide. Access NASA’s Global Ice Viewer for time in motion studies of the Earth’s: glaciers; Greenland and Iceland; Arctic and Antarctica. Access view here

Antarctica

21 May 2015, Science Daily, Sudden onset of ice loss in Antarctica so large it affects Earth’s gravity field: Using measurements of the elevation of the Antarctic ice sheet made by a suite of satellites, the researchers found that the Southern Antarctic Peninsula showed no signs of change up to 2009. Around 2009, multiple glaciers along a vast coastal expanse, measuring some 750km in length, suddenly started to shed ice into the ocean at a nearly constant rate of 60 cubic km, or about 55 trillion litres of water, each year. This makes the region the second largest contributor to sea level rise in Antarctica and the ice loss shows no sign of waning. Read More here

11 May 2015, SCIENCEINSIDER: Antarctic researchers ponder challenges posed by increasing sea ice. Scientists working in Antarctica are feeling the impact of climate change in ways the public might find surprising. Although global warming is causing Arctic ice to melt and glaciers around the world to shrink, the problem in Antarctica is that the sea ice surrounding the continent is increasing and now hampering ship navigation and resupply operations. This week, scientists and logistics experts from the 30 nations working on the continent are meeting in Hobart, Australia, to exchange ideas on coping with the sea ice challenge. Read More here

“…The ICECAP (International Collaboration for Exploration of the Cryosphere through Aerogeophysical Profiling) project – a collaboration between US, British and Australian Antarctic researchers – has been mapping the East Antarctic ice sheet to look for changes….And it turns out that East Antarctica needs careful watching. The project is giving us a new look at the underside of the ice sheet in East Antarctica, and causing significant concerns for future increases in sea level. One of the project’s major recent discoveries is that the terrain under the region’s biggest and most important glacier may make it more vulnerable to melting than we thought….” Read More here

Permafrost


Permafrost Arctic zonesJune 2015 Woods Hole Research Center, Policy Brief Permafrost and Global Climate Change KEY SCIENCE POINTS:

  • Permafrost contains almost twice as much carbon as the atmosphere.
  • As the Earth warms, permafrost thaws, releasing carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere.
  • The amount and rate of this carbon release will greatly impact Earth’s climate trajectory.

Carbon emissions from thawing arctic permafrost will become substantial within decades, likely exceeding current emissions from fossil fuel combustion in the United States. This will greatly complicate efforts to keep global warming below 2°C and adds urgency to limiting anthropogenic emissions. Unlike fossil fuel emissions, emissions from thawing permafrost build on themselves, because the warming they cause leads to even greater emissions. For this reason, emissions from permafrost could lead to out-of-control global warming. Access full briefing paper here

27 August 2015, Woods Hole Research Centre U.S. scientists warn leaders of dangers of thawing permafrost. International policymakers gather in Alaska to discuss Arctic challenges. 
permafrostBAs President Obama and high-level representatives of other nations converge in Anchorage, Alaska on August 30-31 for the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER), hosted by the U.S. Department of State, top U.S. climate scientists urge policymakers to address the critical problem of the thawing permafrost in the Arctic region. Arctic permafrost – ground that has been frozen for many thousands of years – is now thawing because of global climate change, and the results could be disastrous and irreversible. “The release of greenhouse gases resulting from thawing Arctic permafrost could have catastrophic global consequences,” said Dr. Max Holmes, a Senior Scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) who has been advising State Department officials on the problem. Thawing permafrost releases greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane) into the atmosphere, which accelerates climate change, which in turn causes more thawing of the permafrost. This potentially unstoppable and self-reinforcing cycle could constitute a calamitous “tipping point.” WHRC scientists have counseled the State Department on policies that could control this problem, including reducing global carbon emissions from fossil fuel use and deforestation, and limiting emissions of “black carbon,” sooty particles that darken snow and ice and hasten Arctic warming. Read More here

 

23 April 2015, Inside Climate News, Thawing Permafrost: A Slow, Giant Carbon Release: As the Arctic heats up at a rate twice that of the rest of the globe and as sea ice and glaciers turn to water, the world’s permafrost is also thawing. A recent review article in the journal Nature found that as the unfrozen organic matter decays, vast stores of carbon in the permafrost could be released into the atmosphere. When that happens, it will trigger a centuries-long, unstoppable feedback system, in which warming will release carbon, which will trigger more warming, which will release more carbon. This infographic shows how and why. Read More here

PermafrostMethane700pxFINAL

NATURE, the international weekly journal of science, present a selection of overview articles and primary research from Nature, Nature Climate Change, Nature Geoscience, Nature Reviews Microbiology and Nature Communications over the past two years that discuss the interaction between climate change and the permafrost carbon pool, including the role of microbes in permafrost soils. High-latitude permafrost regions store vast amounts of organic carbon. Rising temperatures are causing frozen grounds to thaw, facilitating the microbial decomposition and conversion of soil organic carbon into the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane. The release of permafrost carbon into the atmosphere represents a positive feedback effect that may accelerate climate change. In a related feedback, carbon might be released from submarine permafrost stored beneath the Arctic Ocean’s continental shelves. Read More here

 

Arctic

22 March 2017, Climate Central, Arctic Sea Ice Sets Record-Low Peak for Third Year. Constant warmth punctuated by repeated winter heat waves stymied Arctic sea ice growth this winter, leaving the winter sea ice cover missing an area the size of California and Texas combined and setting a record-low maximum for the third year in a row. Even in the context of the decades of greenhouse gas-driven warming, and subsequent ice loss in the Arctic, this winter’s weather stood out. “I have been looking at Arctic weather patterns for 35 years and have never seen anything close to what we’ve experienced these past two winters,” Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which keeps track of sea ice levels, said in a statement. 

The sea ice fringing Antarctica also set a record low for its annual summer minimum (with the seasons opposite in the Southern Hemisphere), though this was in sharp contrast to the record highs racked up in recent years. Researchers are still investigating what forces, including global warming, are driving Antarctic sea ice trends. Sea ice is a crucial part of the ecosystems at both poles, providing habitat and influencing food availability for penguins, polar bears and other native species. Arctic sea ice melt fueled by ever-rising global temperatures is also opening the already fragile region to increased shipping traffic and may be affecting weather patterns over Europe, Asia and North America. Read More here

 

 

Arctic sea ice minimum

Click on the map to open NASA’s visualization which shows the annual Arctic sea ice minimum from 1979 to 2014.  At the end of each summer, the sea ice cover reaches its minimum extent, leaving what is called the perennial ice cover. The area of the perennial ice has been steadily decreasing since the satellite record began in 1979. Data source: Satellite observations. Credit: NASA Scientific Visualization Studio

 

15 September 2016, NASA: The following animation shows the evolution of the Arctic sea ice cover from its wintertime maximum extent, which was reached on Mar. 24, 2016, and was the lowest on record for the second year in a row, to its apparent yearly minimum, which occurred on Sept. 10, 2016, and is the second lowest in the satellite era. Credit: NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio/C. Starr. This video is public domain and can be downloaded from the Scientific Visualization Studio.

Arctic sea ice appeared to have reached its annual lowest extent on Sept. 10, NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder reported today. Read More here

 

27 August 2015, Climate News Network, New NASA videos show stark ice loss from Earth’s ice sheets. The US space agency, NASA, yesterday released brand new images showing the pace of ice loss from Earth’s two vast ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica.The amount of ice lost from the frozen expanses at the very north and south of the planet is accelerating, say the scientists, and together have helped raise global sea level by more than 7cm since 1992.

Change in the mass of the Greenland Ice Sheet between January 2004 and June 2014, as measured by the GRACE satellite. Source: NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization StudioThe stunning video images above come from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE ) twin-satellite. The satellites orbit the poles, measuring changes to the Earth’s land and water masses and work out differences in the planet’s gravitational field every 30 days. Some of the ice lost from Greenland is as result of the huge glaciers melting. But most of it is down to warming air overhead directly melting the surface of the ice sheet. A NASA press release accompanying yesterday’s data explains: Read More here 

Arctic sea ice has been retreating rapidly in recent years as a result of greenhouse gases building up in the atmosphere, explained Dr Dirk Notz, sea ice expert at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. The biggest losses are happening in summer, he said: “Over the past 10 years or so, we’ve roughly seen a 50% loss of Arctic sea ice area. So, the ice in the Arctic is currently retreating very, very rapidly.” In March, Arctic sea ice reached its lowest maximum extent in the satellite record. Last week, the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre confirmed Arctic sea ice extent for May was the third lowest on record. Read More here

Rapid Arctic warming is changing the Jet stream and our weather along with it

Arctic and jet stream
The jet stream that circles Earth’s north pole travels west to east. But when the jet stream interacts with a Rossby wave, as shown above, the winds can wander far north and south. Photograph: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

We know that the Arctic is heating faster than the planet as a whole. Consequently, there is more energy in the Arctic which can be transmitted to the atmosphere. Much of the excess heat is transferred to the atmosphere in the late fall or early winter. This extra energy is connected to what’s called Arctic geopotential height, which has increased during the same times of the year. As a consequence, the Jetstream might weaken in the cold seasons.

But what about summer? Have these changes been detected then too? Well just recently, a paper was published in that answered this question. The authors, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and from the University of Potsdam reported on three measures of atmospheric dynamics (1) zonal winds, (2) eddy kinetic energy, and (3) amplitude of the fast-moving Rossby waves. Rossby waves are very large waves in the upper atmospheric winds. They are important because of their large influence on weather. The authors found that the summer zonal winds have weakened. The reason for the weakening is that since the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the planet, the temperature difference between the Arctic and the lower latitudes is getting smaller. It is this temperature difference which maintains the wind speeds. The authors also found that eddy kinetic energy is decreasing.

So what does all this mean? Well two things. First, it means that there are either fewer or less intense summer storms or a combination of both. But secondly, it means that weather patterns can get “stuck”. Storms are excellent at breaking up persistent weather patterns, and bringing cool and moist air from ocean regions to land zones. With fewer storms, “warm weather conditions endure, resulting in buildup of heat and drought.” Read More here

EIGHTH STORY – Arctic: A last great unprotected wilderness, safe haven for endangered species and home to native people whose subsistence lifestyle has survived in harmony with nature for thousands of years. Arctic drillingIt is here that Shell plans to drill for oil, pulling the detonator on a carbon bomb which eventually could spray 150bn tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The irony is that the drilling is only possible because manmade climate change is already causing this region to grow warmer twice as fast as the rest of the planet. The melting ice makes these huge reserves of oil and gas more accessible. It could set major oil companies against each other but also superpower against superpower as they scramble to exploit the last untapped giant reserves in a part of the world where territorial boundaries remain unclear. No wonder some fear a new cold war. Read More here

 

 

 

Cumulative human impacts on world oceans

14 July 2015, Nature Communications, NEW RESEARCH: Spatial and temporal changes in cumulative human impacts on the world’s ocean: Human pressures on the ocean are thought to be increasing globally, yet we know little about their patterns of cumulative change, which pressures are most responsible for change, and which places are experiencing the greatest increases. Managers and policymakers require such information to make strategic decisions and monitor progress towards management objectives. Here we calculate and map recent change over 5 years in cumulative impacts to marine ecosystems globally from fishing, climate change, and ocean- and land-based stressors. Nearly 66% of the ocean and 77% of national jurisdictions show increased human impact, driven mostly by climate change pressures. Five percent of the ocean is heavily impacted with increasing pressures, requiring management attention. Ten percent has very low impact with decreasing pressures. Our results provide large-scale guidance about where to prioritize management efforts and affirm the importance of addressing climate change to maintain and improve the condition of marine ecosystems. Access full report here – access full size maps from report here

Geoengineering: Desperate measures when no one else is doing enough? Or, ‘wildly, howlingly barking mad!’

Geoengineering or let’s keep fiddling until we REALLY stuff up the planet, or here comes another brilliant idea like introducing cane toads! What is it and is it part of the solution? Opening another Pandora’s Box to the mess we are already in. 

KEEP UP TO DATE WITH THE WORLD OF GEOENGINEERING

Mount Pinatubo’s eruption showed how aerosol dispersal could cool the planet. Image: By Dave Harlow, USGS, via Wikimedia Commons

10 November 2017, Climate News Network: Geo-engineering can work – if the world wants it. Geo-engineering can stop the Earth warming, at least in theory, scientists say, but doubts persist over the possible risks. Climate scientists now know that geo-engineering – in principle at least – would halt global warming and keep the world at the temperatures it will reach by 2020. It is simple: inject millions of tons of sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere at carefully chosen locations, and keep on doing so for as long as humans continue to burn fossil fuels and release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The desired effect: global temperatures will be contained because the pollutants in the upper atmosphere will dim the sun’s light and counteract the greenhouse effect of all the carbon dioxide pumped from power stations, vehicle exhausts, factory chimneys and burning forests. It won’t be the perfect answer. The oceans will go on becoming more acidic, and the skies will become subtly darker. Rainfall patterns could be affected. Repairs to the ozone layer – an invisible shield against dangerous ultraviolet radiation – would be slowed.The volumes of sulphate aerosols that would need to be flown to stratospheric heights and released each year would continue to grow as humans went on burning ever more fossil fuels. The technical and energy demands of such an operation would be colossal. There could be serious geopolitical problems about the impacts and responsibility for such decisions. But, at least in principle, researchers now believe geo-engineering could be made to work. “For decision makers to accurately weigh the pros and cons of geo-engineering against those of human-caused climate change, they need more information,” said Ben Kravitz, of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and one of a consortium which has published a succession of five studies in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres. “Our goal is to better understand what geo-engineering can do  and what it cannot.”  Read More here

9 November 2017, DeSmog, Climate Denier Lamar Smith Holds Rare Congressional Hearing on Geoengineering. Geoengineering, hailed in some circles as a potential technofix to the climate change crisis, has taken a step closer to going mainstream.  The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a rare joint subcommittee hearing on November 8, only the second ever congressional hearing of its kind on the topic (the first was held in 2009). The committee invited expert witnesses to discuss the status of geoengineering research and development. Geoengineering is a broad term encompassing sophisticated scientific techniques meant to reverse the impacts of climate change or pull greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Ironically, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is chaired by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith — a climate science denier who has received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from ExxonMobil throughout his political career. In fact, Smith actually mentioned “climate change” in his opening remarks for the hearing, in discussing his interest in geoengineering. “As the climate continues to change, geoengineering could become a tool to curb resulting impacts,” said Smith, who recently announced he will not run for relection in 2018. “Instead of forcing unworkable and costly government mandates on the American people, we should look to technology and innovation to lead the way to address climate change. Geoengineering should be considered when discussing technological advances to protect the environment.” In the past, Smith has denied climate change in stark terms, referring to those who believe in climate science as “alarmists” in a 2015 op-ed published by The Wall Street Journal. “Climate alarmists have failed to explain the lack of global warming over the past 15 years,” Smith said at the time. “They simply keep adjusting their malfunctioning climate models to push the supposedly looming disaster further into the future.”  Smith has since pivoted to less skepticism about the science, saying at a March 2017 congressional hearing that “climate is changing and humans play a role” and that it’s now just a question of the “extent” to which human activity is the culprit (it is). So perhaps geoengineering, labeled by its critics for years now as a false solution to the climate crisis, will be a “pivot” of sorts for converted deniers and their bankrollers? Read More here   

14 October 2017, The Guardian, Geoengineering is not a quick fix for climate change, experts warn Trump. Leading climate scientists have warned that geoengineering research could be hijacked by climate change deniers as an excuse not to reduce CO2 emissions, citing the US administration under Donald Trump as a major threat to their work. David Keith, a solar geoengineering (GE) expert at Harvard University has said there is a real danger that his work could be exploited by those who oppose action on emissions, at the same time as he defended himself and colleagues from the claims GE strengthens the argument for abandoning the targets set by the Paris climate agreement. Leading climate scientists have warned that geoengineering research could be hijacked by climate change deniers as an excuse not to reduce CO2 emissions, citing the US administration under Donald Trump as a major threat to their work. David Keith, a solar geoengineering (GE) expert at Harvard University has said there is a real danger that his work could be exploited by those who oppose action on emissions, at the same time as he defended himself and colleagues from the claims GE strengthens the argument for abandoning the targets set by the Paris climate agreement. “One of the main concerns I and everyone involved in this have, is that Trump might tweet ‘geoengineering solves everything – we don’t have to bother about emissions.’ Read More here  

11 October 2017, Carbon Briefing, Geoengineering: Scientists in Berlin debate radical ways to reverse global warming. Research scientists, policymakers and ethicists gathered in Berlin this week to discuss the emerging field of “climate engineering” and what it could mean for the planet. Climate engineering, also known as geoengineering, is a term used to describe an array of technologies – many of which remain hypothetical – for altering the global climate in order to lessen the effects of climate change. The four-day conference has been organised by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany, and includes speakers and participants from across the world, including Japan, Jamaica, the US and India. Tuesday Tuesday’s proceedings kicked off with talks aimed at bringing the audience up to speed with the latest research into the two main categories of geoengineering technologies: carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and solar radiation management (SRM). First up was Dr Naomi Vaughan, a researcher from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia. Her talk touched on recent research into a variety of CDR technologies, including biomass energy carbon capture and storage (BECCS), soil carbon sequestration and reforestation projects, and how important these techniques could be to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. She told the conference: Read More here

1 August 2017, Building a Climate Engineering ClearinghouseClimate engineering (CE) is an umbrella term for a set of mostly prospective technologies that might be developed and used to counteract some of the effects of climate change. The technologies under consideration could do much good. They also, though, present myriad risks. Because of these risks, CE experts and observers have long emphasized the need for transparency in research, experimentation, and deployment.

27 March 2017, The Guardian, Trump presidency ‘opens door’ to planet-hacking geoengineer experiments. Harvard engineers who launched the world’s biggest solar geoengineering research program may get a dangerous boost from Donald Trump, environmental organizations are warning. Under the Trump administration, enthusiasm appears to be growing for the controversial technology of solar geo-engineering, which aims to spray sulphate particles into the atmosphere to reflect the sun’s radiation back to space and decrease the temperature of Earth. Sometime in 2018, Harvard engineers David Keith and Frank Keutsch hope to test spraying from a high-altitude balloon over Arizona, in order to assess the risks and benefits of deployment on a larger scale. Keith cancelled a similar planned experiment in New Mexico in 2012, but announced he was ready for field testing at a geoengineering forum in Washington on Friday. “The context for discussing solar geoengineering research has changed substantially since we planned and funded this forum nearly one year ago,” a forum briefing paper noted. Read More here

 The Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment is an initiative of the School of International Service at American University in Washington DC. Our overarching objective is to assess the social, ethical, political, and legal implications of emerging technologies that fall under the broad rubric of climate engineering (sometimes referred to as “climate geoengineering”). We produce high-quality and policy-relevant research and commentary, and work in a variety of ways to ensure that the climate engineering conversation maintains a focus on issues of justice, equity, agency, and inclusion.

7 August 2013, The Promises and Perils of Geoengineering. Worldwatch Institute examines the potential consequences of using geoengineering as a climate quick fix – BY SIMON NICHOLSON Geoengineering, by definition, is any deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract human-caused climate change. As the planet continues to warm, the potential solutions offered by geoengineering are tempting, and several serious projects are actively being pursued. In the latest edition of State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? I examine the pros and cons of such an approach to responding to climate change. The technological prospects for geoengineering are vast, and fall into two main camps:

Geoengineering SRM-strategiesSolar Radiation Management (SRM), a tactic that aims to reflect solar radiation back into space so that it is not absorbed by the atmosphere. The intent is to counteract heat-trapping gases by scattering or deflecting some percentage of incoming solar radiation by, for instance, streaming sulfate particles into the stratosphere or launching sunshades into space. 

Geoengineering CDR-strategies

 

Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR), an approach that involves drawing large amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere, and storing it where it won’t cause future harm. Land-based ideas have included carbon dioxide scrubbers that would pull large quantities of carbon dioxide straight from the air, or growing forms of biomass and then reducing it to charcoal, which can be buried. Ocean-based ideas mostly involve the cultivation of plankton, which take in carbon from the atmosphere and bring it to the bottom of the ocean with them when they die.

SRM strategies are receiving the bulk of the attention. It is hard to see a CDR scheme coming online quickly enough or being deployed at a large enough scale to make a real dent in the atmospheric carbon load. Yet solar radiation management is not any kind of real answer to climate change. At best, SRM can reduce the planet’s fever for a period. Talk of geoengineering is gaining traction because it has the appearance of an easy, sacrifice-free approach to tackling climate change. It is critically important to recognize that there are sacrifices, some obvious and some harder to spot, associated with the bulk of geoengineering schemes.

In my chapter, “The Promises and Perils of Geoengineering,” I outline some of the consequences that may arise if geoengineering is pursued:

Climate Catastrophes: The most obvious concern is the potential for causing catastrophic and irreparable damage. Even with computer models and endless calculations, there are still potential unforeseen problems that may occur with any such large-scale plan, due to our still limited understanding of the world’s climate system.

Political Dilemmas: Large-scale climate engineering may curtail the will to develop other forms of climate-protecting actions. If changes in the climate affect various parts of the world, the question of who ought to control the thermostat also raises issues. Less influential countries may be left to suffer as world powers dictate climate behavior to their advantage. Militaries may be able to start using the weather as their greatest weapon of mass destruction.

Rogue ActorsIn October 2012, an American took a ship off the shore of Canada and dumped about 100 tons of iron sulfates into the Pacific Ocean, in hopes of creating a carbon sink. As threats about rising temperatures increase, it is possible that more individuals and organizations will risk taking the climate’s condition into their own hands.

With outlined principles and public decision making, however, geoengineering does have the potential to become one method to battle climate change. Some scientists have suggested a “soft-geoengineering” approach, in which changes we make are still widespread, but are reversible and predictable. Examples include painting roofs white to reflect sunlight, or building up carbon in soil and vegetation. The need is for a middle ground, not geoengineering as a techno-fix but rather geoengineering as one small part of an effort to steer the world to a state of rightness and fitness in ecological and social terms. Worldwatch’s State of the World 2013, released in April 2013, addresses how sustainability should be  measured, how we can attain it, and how we can prepare if we fall short. For more information, visit www.sustainabilitypossible.org.

11 February, Carbon Brief, Geoengineering is no substitute for cutting carbon emissions, conclude US researchers: The US National Research Council has published two new reports on ‘climate interventions’, or what is more commonly known as ‘geoengineering’…. The new reports are the result of an 18-month study into the potential impacts, benefits and costs of geoengineering. The study produces a set of recommendations, which call for more research and development, but also caution that sunlight-reflecting technologies “should not be deployed at this time”. Read More here

2 March 2015, Ensia, Why geoengineering can be only part of the climate solution: The failure of the Kyoto Protocol and the underlying process of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has led to substantial interest in geoengineering technologies, under the usual (and not entirely irrational) view that if policy can’t work, perhaps technology might. And indeed, Wally Broecker in his article in Elementa about CO2 air capture technologies did his usual excellent job of summarizing both the concerns raised by global climate change, and the possibility that technologies, such as air capture of CO2, might be able to respond, at least if events reach a crisis point. From a technologist’s perspective, however, the overall geoengineering discussion is unsatisfactory for several reasons, some of them quite fundamental to rational and ethical responses to the challenges of the Anthropocene. Climate change is not a technological problem, so a technological fix is not enough. Read More here

A quick fix? Think again:This article is from the Australian Academy of Science is sponsored by the Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Geoengineering might cool the Earth, but at what cost? Read More here

Key Information & Resource Sites