Monday, 15 June 2015

The Dying Planet - stories - 06/15/2015

NOAA Study Confirms Global Warming Speed-Up Is Imminent

Joe Romm

5 June, 2015

A major new study from NOAA finds more evidence that we may be witnessing the start of the long-awaited jump in global temperatures. As I reported in April, many recent studies have found that we are about to enter an era of even more rapid global warming.

Indeed, one March study, “Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change,” warns the speed-up is imminent — with Arctic warming rising a stunning 1°F per decade by the 2020s.

The new study in Science from a team of NOAA scientists, “finds that the rate of global warming during the last 15 years has been as fast as or faster than that seen during the latter half of the 20th Century,” as NOAA explains.

The director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Thomas Karl, told the UK Guardian that “considering all the short-term factors identified by the scientific community that acted to slow the rate of global warming over the past two decades (volcanoes, ocean heat uptake, solar decreases, predominance of La Niñas, etc.) it is likely the temperature increase would have accelerated in comparison to the late 20th Century increases.”

What happens when these various temporary factors stop? Karl explained: “Once these factors play out, and they may have already, global temperatures could rise more rapidly than what we have seen so far.”

In other words, the long-awaited jump is global temperatures is likely imminent. How big is the jump? As I reported in April, top climatologist Kevin Trenberth has said it would be as much as 0.5°F. Given that 2015 is crushing it for the hottest year on record, we appear to be already witnessing a big piece of that jump.

NOAA’s new study not only incorporates the latest global temperature data from 2013 and 2014. Their “calculations also use improved versions of both sea surface temperature and land surface air temperature datasets” (detailed here). 

The result, as NOAA explains, is that the new “study refutes the notion that there has been a slowdown or ‘hiatus’ in the rate of global warming in recent years.” In particular, the authors conclude bluntly:
Indeed, based on our new analysis, the IPCC’s statement of two years ago – that the global surface temperature “has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years than over the past 30 to 60 years” – is no longer valid.

Turns out the “long-term global warming trend” — which is redundant because the global warming trend was always a long-term phenomenon — has remained constant. But then CP readers already knew that. Back in January I reported that Dr. Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, tweeted, “Is there evidence that there is a significant change of trend from 1998? (Spoiler: No.)” He posted this chat:

NASA temperature data.
NASA temperature data dispel the myth of a recent slow-down in long-term warming trend. But there was a big jump in temps during the mid-1990s. Many scientists believe we may be witnessing the start of another jump.

On Thursday, Schmidt posted on RealClimate an excellent analysis of the faux pause.

The March study mentioned earlier makes clear the only “pause” there has been was in the long-expected speed-up of global warming. The rate of surface warming should have started to accelerate in the past decade, rather than stay fairly constant.

The authors warned that, by 2020, human-caused warming will move the Earth’s climate system into a regime of rapid multi-decadal rates of warming. They project that within the next few years, “there is an increased likelihood of accelerated global warming associated with release of heat from the sub-surface ocean and a reversal of the phase of decadal variability in the Pacific Ocean.”

That appears to be happening now.

High Carbon Levels Can Make It Harder For Plants To Grow

14 June, 2015

In contrast to a popular conservative argument, a new study has found that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide isn’t necessarily a boon to plant growth — instead, it causes plants to have a more difficult time absorbing nitrogen, a nutrient critical to plant growth and health.

Published in the journal Global Change Biology, the study found that as carbon dioxide levels in the air increase, the concentration of nitrogen in plants decreases, thus decreasing the plant’s protein levels and growth ability. The team of international researchers studied the impact of increased atmospheric carbon across multiple types of ecosystems — from grasslands for forests — by looking at large-scale field experiments conducted in eight countries across four different continents.

For all types of ecosystem the results show that high carbon dioxide levels can impede plants’ ability to absorb nitrogen, and that this negative effect is partly why raised carbon dioxide has a marginal or non-existent effect on growth in many ecosystems,” Johan Uddling, senior lecturer at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Gothenburg and lead researcher on the project, said in a press statement.

Among conservatives — and some scientists — there has been a long-held hope that climate change could actually stimulate plant growth in the short term, as the atmosphere becomes more rich with carbon dioxide. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) has said that climate change has “contributed to increasing agricultural productivity,” arguing that “CO2 is a fertilizer.” And while some studies have supported Inhofe’s claim, others — like this most recent one — have found the opposite to be true.

The findings of the study are unequivocal. The nitrogen content in the crops is reduced in atmospheres with raised carbon dioxide levels in all three ecosystem types. Furthermore, we can see that this negative effect exists regardless of whether or not the plants’ growth increases, and even if fertiliser is added. This is unexpected and new,” Uddling said.

The study found that for both wheat and rice, increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere led to less nutritious crops. Wheat and rice are two of the most important crops globally — alongside maize, wheat and rice provide over 50 percent of the world’s plant-derived energy, according to the International Development Research Center.

Past studies have also seen reductions in nitrogen content for plants grown in a high-carbon environment, but have traditionally attributed it to a kind of dilution — the idea being that as carbon stimulates plant growth and the rate of photosynthesis increases, nitrogen uptake simply wasn’t able to keep up. That theory, Uddling said, has now been called into question.

The findings of this study show that this interpretation is simplified and partly incorrect. We are seeing reduced nitrogen content even when growth has not been affected. Moreover, the effect is there in trials with powerful fertilizer, which indicates that it is not down to limited access to nitrogen in the soil,” Uddling said. 

“Future studies should look at what is causing the effect, but it appears to be linked to plants’ capacity to absorb nitrogen rather than to changed levels in the soil.”

Georgian capital flood: 12 killed, zoo animals escape, several shot dead

A hippopotamus walks across a flooded street in Tbilisi, Georgia, June 14, 2015 (Reuters / Beso Gulashvili)

14 June, 2015

An incessant torrential downpour has ravaged Tbilisi, resulting in flooding of low-lying areas in Georgia’s capital. The severe weather took the lives of 12 people and resulted in the deaths of 300 animals from the local zoo.

The death toll so far stands at 12, while 24 people are missing, TASS reports. Bodies were found mostly in flooded private households. There have been reports of landslides in Tbilisi’s suburbs.

The Georgian PM announced June 15 to be a day of mourning for the Tbilisi flood victims.

The water has filled hundreds of basements, underground walkways, squares and roads, and damaged electrical and technical infrastructure. The House of Justice has suffered the most among the federal buildings. Some 22,000 Tbilisi citizens remain without electricity.

Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili announced that an emergency headquarters for damage control and recovery had been set up.

Rescuers work among debris at a flooded street in Tbilisi, Georgia, June 14, 2015 (Reuters / Irakli Gedenidze)Rescuers work among debris at a flooded street in Tbilisi, Georgia, June 14, 2015 (Reuters / Irakli Gedenidze)

All rescue teams available have been deployed to Tbilisi to bring the situation under control.

Prague Zoo along with other Czech zoos is set to send a team of at least five specialists to Tbilisi on Monday.

After consultation with Tbilisi Zoo’s management we will send a team of skilled keepers, who have experienced floods in Prague. Keepers are going there to help with the current situation in Tbilisi,” Miroslav Bobek, director of Prague Zoo, told RT. “As a president of UCSZOO (Union of Czech and Slovak Zoological Gardens) I have already initiated a public collection to financially support Tbilisi Zoo and its recovery.”

"The situation is rather difficult. We haven't seen anything like this in the capital before," Garibashvili said. The Georgian PM reported that rescuers and police are doing their job well and have already saved dozens of people. "All problems will be solved," Garibashvili promised.

A man gestures to a hippopotamus at a flooded street in Tbilisi, Georgia, June 14, 2015 (Reuters / Beso Gulashvili)A man gestures to a hippopotamus at a flooded street in Tbilisi, Georgia, June 14, 2015 (Reuters / Beso Gulashvili)

The Kura River that passes through the city broke its banks and flooded Tbilisi’s Zoo, causing over 30 wild animals to flee, among them a hippo, 7 bears, six lions, six tigers, jaguars, 13 wolves and others.

These were employees trying to save the animals from the flood, among them Guliko Chitadze, a woman who had worked in the zoological garden for over 25 years and who had had her arm amputated a fortnight ago after a tiger attacked her.....

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has renewed his commitment to axe the Renewable Energy Target (RET), warning that continued and excessive use of solar power will gradually deplete and eventually destroy the sun.

Chart: Peatland loss in Indonesia and Malaysia

With global sea levels going up at a rate of about 9 millimeters per year, the livelihoods of many coastal people in the world look increasingly threatened, especially in those parts of the world with limited financial or technical means to adapt. A rate of a thumb-width of water per year may not sound like much, but the half to one meter higher water levels mean that many coastal people will have to abandon their homes and fields before the end of the century.

Indonesia with its countless low-lying inhabited but often poor islands will likely be one of the more affected countries in the world. In a recent report by the World Bank, for example, Palembang, in Sumatra, made it onto the top-10 list of most vulnerable cities when measured as percentage of GDP.

As if these developments weren’t scary enough for Indonesia’s coastal people, a new report indicates that people in the coastal parts of Kalimantan, Sumatra and Papua could be in even bigger trouble. The study commissioned by Wetlands International and implemented by Deltares looked at the rate at which coastal peatlands are decomposing, sinking and increasingly becoming flooded. The research was conducted in Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo) but is as relevant to the many coastal peatlands in Indonesia. 

The earth’s core is getting more restless, grinding and shifting underfoot, and increasingly spewing forth its fury.

From Alaska and Hawaii to Japan, Malaysia, Ecuador, Iceland and Russia, the amount of volcanic activity has been at or near record levels in recent years, some scientists say. But apparently measuring such activity over time is not an exact science. Other scientists believe the level of activity is normal but that the speed of communications and increased media coverage makes it seem out of the ordinary.

Earthquakes, however, are clearly running at historically high levels since 1900, according to statistics from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Water stress in India

Forecast for next Friday, 06/19, heat returns to Alaska and Siberia

Dried mud and the remnants of a marina is seen at the New Melones Lake reservoir which is now at less than 20 percent capacity as a severe drought continues to affect California

Politicians including Barack Obama remained gridlocked on how to deal

Massive Unexplained Sheep Death Across Iceland

Hundreds of sheep in Iceland have died off, and no one seems to know the exact cause. Research is currently underway to find the culprit.

RÚV reports that the deaths have hit especially hard in Borgarfjörður in west Iceland, Eyjafjörður in the north, and across east Iceland. The wide area over which the deaths are occurring – as well as the alarming rate at which sheep are dying off – has many farmers worried. In some cases, half of entire flocks have been lost.

Monarch butterfly (Reuters/Daniel Aguilar)

The beautiful monarch butterfly, which is also a major pollinator, is being threatened by herbicides that eradicate milkweed, its primary food source. Now, a desperate rejuvenation program is under way to save the species from possible extinction.

A shocking statistic released by the US Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday summed up the plight of the monarch butterfly: Since 1990, about 970 million of the butterflies – 90 percent of the total population – have vanished across the United States.

Scientists issued a dire warning Tuesday to UN climate negotiators in Bonn of a vicious global warming cycle that will be unlocked with the thawing of carbon-bearing permafrost.

There may be 1,500 billion tonnes of carbon locked away in permafrost -- perennially frozen ground covering about a quarter of exposed land in the Northern Hemisphere, said Susan Natali, a researcher with the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts.

The carbon will be released incrementally as global temperatures rise on the back of soaring emissions from mankind's voracious burning of fossil fuels, making permafrost a vast and underestimated source of future greenhouse gas emissions, said Natali.

Polar bears are now eating dolphins lured north by warming water.

As the Arctic warms from a changing climate, dolphins could become a more regular meal.

Scientists for the first time observed the bears feasting on white-beaked dolphins in Svalbard in the Norwegian Arctic. They theorise the dolphins, lured northward by warmer waters, were trapped under the ice and killed by the bears when coming up for air through a small hole, they wrote in a new study

A waste incineration plant and its surroundings in Bangladesh

California lawmakers have ordered farmers to reduce their water consumption - the largest cuts in the US state's history.

State officials announced on Friday they would be telling nearly 100 water rights holders to stop pumping from three separate waterways.

This is the first time in decades that officials have forced thousands of farmers to draw back water use.

These farmers' rights to water were decided more than 100 years ago.

Water rights holders in the Sacramento, San Joaquin and delta watersheds will have to stop getting water from those streams.

California has ordered water use cuts for other farmers in other cities across the state.

The move has been expected for weeks, the Los Angeles Times reports. It effects will be varied, with a lot of water harvesting work continuing on as usual

US temperature extremes

Hottest yet coming for Phoenix 110°F by Tuesday, Las Vegas 107°F Death Valley 121°F Carlos may cool down in a week

Except along Atlantic coast, all of South Carolina at least 96°F on Monday -- hottest so far forecast by NWS is 103°F

Giant purple sea blobs are invading East Bay beaches and waterways. It's not a danger to the people but the slugs' big size is unusual.

Thousands Of Tuna Crabs Wash Up On San Diego Beaches

Mysterious Phenomenon Blamed As tuna crabs invade San Diego beaches.

In a mysterious phenomenon, thousands of orange- and red-colored tuna crabs are washing ashore on the beaches of San Diego, California. 

According to UT San Diego, these tuna crabs have been spotted from Sunset Cliffs to Ocean Beach to Scripps Pier. 

Reports have also confirmed the presence of these tuna crabs on Santa Catalina Island, according to an ABC News report. 

While tuna crabs have been spotted on the island since last year, this is the first time that they have washed up on San Diego’s beaches in such large numbers. 

Meanwhile, there are reports about the possibility that the phenomenon could be caused by a mysterious blob of warm water spotted off the West Coast and Mexico, in the Pacific Ocean.

Despite a wet spring over much of the nation, the Obama administration is warning of potentially catastrophic wildfires this summer, especially in the Southwest and Northwest.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell discussed wildfire threats and fire outlook Tuesday in Denver.

Jewell says drought and climate change are increasing wildfire danger.

Federal fire managers say heavy precipitation in May reduced the likelihood of wildfires this month across much of the nation, but the danger will increase from July through September.

As if he was going to make a difference at this late juncture

Explosive intervention by Pope Francis set to transform climate change debate

The most anticipated papal letter for decades will be published in five languages on Thursday. It will call for an end to the ‘tyrannical’ exploitation of nature by mankind. Could it lead to a step-change in the battle against global warming?

Washington fishery managers say they are in “uncharted territory” following the closure of a major ocean fishery off the state’s southern coast June 5.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced it was closing the recreational and commercial Dungeness crab fisheries after samples of crab revealed unsafe levels of a harmful, naturally occurring marine toxin called domoic acid that has already shut down razor clam fisheries in both Oregon and Washington.

Evacuations ordered in 1,000-acre Saddle fire in Northern California

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