tagged w/ Anthropogenic Climate Change
Is human activity altering the planet on a scale comparable to major geological events of the past? Scientists are now considering whether to officially designate a new geological epoch to reflect the changes that homo sapiens have wrought: the Anthropocene.
The Holocene — or “wholly recent” epoch — is what geologists call the 11,000 years or so since the end of the last ice age. As epochs go, the Holocene is barely out of diapers; its immediate predecessor, the Pleistocene, lasted more than two million years, while many earlier epochs, like the Eocene, went on for more than 20 million years. Still, the Holocene may be done for. People have become such a driving force on the planet that many geologists argue a new epoch — informally dubbed the Anthropocene — has begun.
In a recent paper titled “The New World of the Anthropocene,” which appeared in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, a group of geologists listed more than a half dozen human-driven processes that are likely to leave a lasting mark on the planet — lasting here understood to mean likely to leave traces that will last tens of millions of years. These include: habitat destruction and the introduction of invasive species, which are causing widespread extinctions; ocean acidification, which is changing the chemical makeup of the seas; and urbanization, which is vastly increasing rates of sedimentation and erosion.
Human activity, the group wrote, is altering the planet “on a scale comparable with some of the major events of the ancient past. Some of these changes are now seen as permanent, even on a geological time-scale.”
Prompted by the group’s paper, the Independent of London last month conducted a straw poll of the members of the International Commission on
Are we living in the Anthropocene? The answer, the group of geologists concluded, was probably yes.Stratigraphy, the official keeper of the geological time scale. Half the commission members surveyed said they thought the case for a new epoch was already strong enough to consider a formal designation.
“Human activities, particularly since the onset of the industrial revolution, are clearly having a major impact on the Earth,” Barry Richards of the Geological Survey of Canada told the newspaper. “We are leaving a clear and unique record.”
The term “Anthropocene” was coined a decade ago by Paul Crutzen, one of the three chemists who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize for discovering the effects of ozone-depleting compounds. In a paper published in 2000, Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer, a professor at the University of Michigan, noted that many forms of human activity now dwarf their natural counterparts; for instance, more nitrogen today is fixed synthetically than is fixed by all the world’s plants, on land and in the ocean. Considering this, the pair wrote in the newsletter of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, “it seems to us more than appropriate to emphasize the central role of mankind in geology and ecology by proposing to use the term ‘anthropocene’ for the current geological epoch.” Two years later, Crutzen restated the argument in an article in Nature titled “Geology of Mankind.”
The Anthropocene, Crutzen wrote, “could be said to have started in the latter part of the eighteenth century, when analyses of air trapped in polar ice showed the beginning of growing global concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane.”
Soon, the term began popping up in other scientific publications. “Riverine quality of the Anthropocene” was the title of a 2002 paper in the journal Aquatic Sciences.
“Soils and sediments in the anthropocene,” read the title of a 2004 editorial in the Journal of Soils and Sediments.
Jan Zalasiewicz, a geologist at the Britain’s University of Leicester, found the spread of the concept intriguing. “I noticed that Paul Crutzen’s term was
One argument against the idea is that humans have been changing the planet for a long time.appearing in the serious literature, in papers in Science and such like, without inverted commas and without a sense of irony,” he recalled in a recent interview. At the time, Zalasiewicz was the head of the stratigraphic commission of the Geological Society of London. At a luncheon meeting of the commission, he asked his fellow stratigraphers what they thought of the idea.
“We simply discussed it,” he said. “And to my surprise, because these are technical geologists, a majority of us thought that there was something to this term.”
In 2008, Zalasiewicz and 20 other British geologists published an article in GSA Today, the magazine of the Geological Society of America, that asked: “Are we now living in the Anthropocene?” The answer, the group concluded, was probably yes: “Sufficient evidence has emerged of stratigraphically significant change (both elapsed and imminent) for recognition of the Anthropocene... as a new geological epoch to be considered for formalization.” (An epoch, in geological terms, is a relatively short span of time; a period, like the Cretaceous, can last for tens of millions of years, and an era, like the Mesozoic, for hundreds of millions.) The group pointed to changes in sedimentation rates, in ocean chemistry, in the climate, and in the global distribution of plants and animals as phenomena that would all leave lasting traces. Increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, the group wrote, are predicted to lead to “global temperatures not encountered since the Tertiary,” the period that ended 2.6 million years ago.
continuedIs human activity altering the planet on a scale comparable to major geological events... more
BILLINGS, Mont. - Glacier National Park has lost two more of its namesake moving icefields to climate change, which is shrinking the rivers of ice until they grind to a halt, a government researcher said Wednesday.
Warmer temperatures have reduced the number of named glaciers in the northwestern Montana park to 25, said Dan Fagre said, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He warned many of the rest of the glaciers may be gone by the end of the decade.
"It's continual," Fagre said. "When we're measuring glacier margins, by the time we go home the glacier is already smaller than what we've measured."
The meltoff shows the climate is changing, but does not show exactly what is causing temperatures to go up, Fagre said.
The park's glaciers have been slowly melting away since about 1850, when the centuries-long Little Ice Age ended. They once numbered as many as 150, and 37 of those glaciers eventually were named.
A glacier needs to be 25 acres to qualify for the title. The two that no longer classify were named the Shepard Glacier and the Miche Wabun Glacier.
If a glacier shrinks any smaller, it does not always stop moving right away. A smaller mass of ice on a steep slope would still continue to grind its way through the Rocky Mountains.
Fagre led a team that updated a 2005 USGS review of glaciers in the park. Back then, 10 glaciers had been found to have disappeared in recent decades.
Local warming cited
The USGS work was mentioned in a report released Wednesday by two environmental groups, the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Their report cited data from a weather station inside Glacier National Park that shows the average temperature for the last decade there was 2 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the station's 1950-1979 average.
"That is exactly double the average global temperature increase of 1 degree F in the past decade, again compared to a 1950-1979 baseline," the groups stated.
Fagre's team estimates that in 1850 some 150 glaciers were in the boundaries of today's park. A 2003 study predicted that all remaining park glaciers would vanish by 2030, but the team now states that "their disappearance may occur even sooner, as many of the glaciers have recently retreated faster than their predicted rates."
continued.BILLINGS, Mont. - Glacier National Park has lost two more of its namesake moving... more
Biologists have their principles of evolution, physicists have their laws of thermodynamics and chemists have their periodic table. For geologists, perhaps the most hallowed reference source is the Geological Time Scale, a complex timeline depicting the entire history of the Earth as a series of distinct periods, epochs and ages, from the birth of the planet 4.7 billion years ago to the present day.
The Geological Time Scale is quite literally set in stone. As geologists dig down through the different sedimentary layers of rock, they go back in time to periods when prehistoric humans with stone tools hunted mammoths, to an earlier time 100 million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the land, and even to a distant era 3.8 billion years ago when life first arose in the ancient oceans of a more primitive world.
Changes to the Geological Time Scale resulted from natural events, whether it was the mass extinction of life from a giant asteroid impact, or an ice age resulting from changes to the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. Now, however, geologists are about to consider whether humans themselves have started to influence the geological history of the world.
They cite human-induced changes to the geology of the Earth in support of such an almost heretical position, pointing to alterations in the landscape caused by the growth of global agriculture, the mass extinction of animals and plants caused by hunting and habitat loss, differences in the composition of the atmosphere resulting from the burning of fossil fuels, and to a corresponding change to the global climate, including rising sea levels and increasing ocean acidity.
On the immense scales of geology, time is measured in tens of thousands, and indeed hundreds of millions of years. By comparison, human life and history are imperceptibly short.
So it is almost inconceivable that the Geological Time Scale should be changed to accommodate the effect that such short-lived human activity has had on the long history of the planet. Yet a significant number of scientists believes there is now a strong case to justify the modification of the Geological Time Scale to take into account the impact of humans on the Earth.
They believe that the current geological epoch, called the Holocene, which has existed since the end of the last ice age some 12,000 years ago, should now be amended. They suggest that the Geological Time Scale should be formally changed to include the start of a new phase called the Anthropocene, meaning the "human epoch".
more at link...Biologists have their principles of evolution, physicists have their laws of... more
It is an "increasingly remote possibility" that human activity is not the main cause of climate change, according to a major Met Office review of more than 100 scientific studies that track the observed changes in the Earth's climate system.
The research will strengthen the case for human-induced climate change against sceptics who argue that the observed changes in the Earth's climate can largely be explained by natural variability.
Climate scientists and the UN's climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have come under intense pressure in recent months after the IPCC was forced to admit it had made two errors in its fourth assessment report published in 2007. Emails hacked from climate scientists at the University of East Anglia in November have also sparked a series of inquiries into allegations of a lack of transparency by researchers and manipulation of the peer review process.
Asked whether his study was specifically scheduled as a fightback, Peter Stott, who led the review, said that the paper was originally drafted a year ago. But he added: "I hope people will look at that evidence and make up their minds informed by the scientific evidence."
Scientists matched computer models of different possible causes of climate change - both human and natural - to measured changes in factors such as air and sea temperature, Arctic sea ice cover and global rainfall patterns. This technique, called "optimal detection", showed clear fingerprints of human-induced global warming, according to Stott. "This wealth of evidence shows that there is an increasingly remote possibility that climate change is being dominated by natural factors rather than human factors." The paper reviewed numerous studies that were published since the last IPCC report.
Optimal detection considers to what extent an observation can be explained by natural variability, such as changing output from the sun, volcanic eruptions or El Niño, and how much can be explained by the well-established increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
According to Nasa, the last decade was the warmest on record and 2009 the second warmest year. Temperatures have risen by 0.2C per decade, over the past 30 years and average global temperatures have increased by 0.8C since 1880.
The evidence that the climate system is changing goes beyond measured air temperatures, with much of the newest evidence coming from the oceans. "Over 80% of the heat that's trapped in the climate system as a result of the greenhouse gases is exported into the ocean and we can see that happening," said Stott. "Another feature is that salinity is changing - as the atmosphere is warming up, there is more evaporation from the surface of the ocean [so making it more salty], which is most noticeable in the sub-tropical Atlantic."
more at link....It is an "increasingly remote possibility" that human activity is not the... more
Carbon-dioxide emissions are turning the waters of the Arctic Ocean into acid at an unprecedented rate, scientists have discovered. Research carried out in the archipelago of Svalbard has shown in many regions around the north pole seawater is likely to reach corrosive levels within 10 years. The water will then start to dissolve the shells of mussels and other shellfish and cause major disruption to the food chain. By the end of the century, the entire Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic.
"This is extremely worrying," Professor Jean-Pierre Gattuso, of France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, told an international oceanography conference last week. "We knew that the seas were getting more acidic and this would disrupt the ability of shellfish – like mussels – to grow their shells. But now we realise the situation is much worse. The water will become so acidic it will actually dissolve the shells of living shellfish."
Just as an acid descaler breaks apart limescale inside a kettle, so the shells that protect molluscs and other creatures will be dissolved. "This will affect the whole food chain, including the North Atlantic salmon, which feeds on molluscs," said Gattuso, speaking at a European commission conference, Oceans of Tomorrow, in Barcelona last week. The oceanographer told delegates that the problem of ocean acidification was worse in high latitudes, in the Arctic and around Antarctica, than it was nearer the equator.
"More carbon dioxide can dissolve in cold water than warm," he said. "Hence the problem of acidification is worse in the Arctic than in the tropics, though we have only recently got round to studying the problem in detail."
About a quarter of the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by factories, power stations and cars now ends up being absorbed by the oceans. That represents more than six million tonnes of carbon a day.
This carbon dioxide dissolves and is turned into carbonic acid, causing the oceans to become more acidic. "We knew the Arctic would be particularly badly affected when we started our studies but I did not anticipate the extent of the problem," said Gattuso.
His research suggests that 10% of the Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic by 2018; 50% by 2050; and 100% ocean by 2100. "Over the whole planet, there will be a threefold increase in the average acidity of the oceans, which is unprecedented during the past 20 million years. That level of acidification will cause immense damage to the ecosystem and the food chain, particularly in the Arctic," he added.
The tiny mollusc Limacina helicina, which is found in Arctic waters, will be particularly vulnerable, he said. The little shellfish is eaten by baleen whales, salmon, herring and various seabirds. Its disappearance would therefore have a major impact on the entire marine food chain. The deep-water coral Lophelia pertusa would also be extremely vulnerable to rising acidity. Reefs in high latitudes are constructed by only one or two types of coral – unlike tropical coral reefs which are built by a large variety of species. The loss of Lophelia pertusa would therefore devastate reefs off Norway and the coast of Scotland, removing underwater shelters that are exploited by dozens of species of fish and other creatures.
"Scientists have proposed all sorts of geo-engineering solutions to global warming," said Gattuso. "For instance, they have proposed spraying the upper atmosphere with aerosol particles that would reduce sunlight reaching the Earth, mitigating the warming caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide.
"But these ideas miss the point. They will still allow carbon dioxide emissions to continue to increase – and thus the oceans to become more and more acidic. There is only one way to stop the devastation the oceans are now facing and that is to limit carbon-dioxide emissions as a matter of urgency."Carbon-dioxide emissions are turning the waters of the Arctic Ocean into acid at an... more
Those contributing the least to climate change doing the most to adapt to it. Quite a lesson about moral will there. We could learn much from the indigenous peoples of this world about many things regarding our Earth.
Caught between rising seas and land melting beneath their mukluk-shod feet, the villagers of Tuktoyaktuk are doing what anyone would do on this windy Arctic coastline. They're building windmills.
That's wind-power turbines, to be exact — a token first try at "getting rid of this fossil fuel we're using," said Mayor Merven Gruben.
It's a token of irony, too: People little to blame, but feeling it most, are doing more to stop global warming than many of "you people in the south," as Gruben calls the rest of us who fill the skies with greenhouse gases.
They're feeling climate change not only in this lonely corner of northwest Canada, but in a wide circle at the top of the world, stretching from Alaska through the Siberian tundra, into northern Scandinavia and Greenland, and on to Canada's eastern Arctic islands, a circle of more than 300,000 indigenous people, including Gruben and the 800 other Inuvialuit, or Inuit, of the village they know as "Tuk."
Since 1970, temperatures have risen more than 2.5 C (4.5 F) in much of the Arctic, much faster than the global average. People in Tuk say winters are less numbing, with briefer spells of minus-40 C (minus-40 F) temperatures. They sense it in other ways, too, small and large.
"The mosquitoes got bigger," the mayor's aunt, Tootsie Lugt, 48, told a visitor to her children-filled house overlooking Tuk harbor.
Her father, one-time fur trapper Eddie Gruben, spoke of more outsized interlopers from the south.
"Them killer whales, first time people seen them here in the harbor, three or four of them this summer," said the 89-year-old patriarch of Tuk's biggest family and biggest business, a contracting firm.
Plants and animals are a tip-off everywhere. In northeast Canada, the Nunatsiaq News advised readers the red-breasted birds they spotted this spring were American robins.
But the change runs deeper as well, undermining ways of life.
The later fall freeze-up, earlier spring break-up and general weakening of sea ice make snowmobile travel more perilous. A trip to the next island can end in a fatal plunge through thin ice.
The unpredictable ice and weather combine with a changing animal world to make hunting and fishing more challenging, and to crimp the traditional diet of "niqituinnaq," "real food" — of caribou, seal and other meat staples.
The resilient Inuit — Eskimos — of the past simply moved on to better places. But since the mid-20th century these ex-nomads have been tied to settlements, with all the buildings, utilities, roads and trouble that represents in a warming world.Those contributing the least to climate change doing the most to adapt to it. Quite a... more
New research appearing in the online issue of the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists and a group of international researchers found that climate model quality does not affect the ability to identify human effects on atmospheric water vapor. Since atmospheric water vapor is an important driver of temperatures and rainfall, the results of this study will help convince skeptics that man's impacts are causing at least part of the problem.
The physics that drive changes in water vapor are very simple and are reasonably well portrayed in all climate models, bad or good.
More water vapor - which is itself a greenhouse gas - amplifies the warming effect of increased atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide.
Previous LLNL research had shown that human-induced warming of the planet has a pronounced effect on the atmosphere's total moisture content. In that study, the researchers had used 22 different computer models to identify a human "fingerprint" pattern in satellite measurements of water vapor changes. Each model contributed equally in the fingerprint analysis. "It was a true model democracy," Santer said. "One model, one vote."
But in the recent study, the scientists first took each model and tested it individually, calculating 70 different measures of model performance. These "metrics" provided insights into how well the models simulated today's average climate and its seasonal changes, as well as on the size and geographical patterns of climate variability.
This information was used to divide the original 22 models into various sets of "top ten" and "bottom ten" models. "When we tried to come up with a David Letterman type 'top ten' list of models," Santer said, "we found that it's extremely difficult to do this in practice, because each model has its own individual strengths and weaknesses."
Then the group repeated their fingerprint analysis, but now using only "top ten" or "bottom ten" models rather than the full 22 models. They did this more than 100 times, grading and ranking the models in many different ways. In every case, a water vapor fingerprint arising from human influences could be clearly identified in the satellite data.
"One criticism of our first study was that we were only able to find a human fingerprint because we included inferior models in our analysis," said Karl Taylor, another LLNL co-author. "We've now shown that whether we use the best or the worst models, they don't have much impact on our ability to identify a human effect on water vapor."
Photo shows total amount of atmospheric water vapor over the oceans on July 4, 2009. These results are from operational weather forecasts of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting.
For more information:
https://publicaffairs.llnl.gov/news/news_releases/2009/NR-09-08-01.htmlNew research appearing in the online issue of the Proceedings of the U.S. National... more
From the streets of New York City to the rivers in India to the glaciers in South America, humans are warming the planet by emitting more and more greenhouse gasses. In a study published in Nature last year, scientists for the first time linked the effects of climate change specifically to human activity.
"We're beginning to get the picture that climate change, influenced by humans, is beginning to influence ecosystems," says Cynthia Rosenzweig of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Science (GISS), the study's lead author.
For astrobiologists, learning how the Earth responds to climate variations could be useful in better understanding planetary habitability. A planet's potential to develop and sustain life, as outlined by NASA's astrobiology program, depends on three primary factors.
The planet must have a reliable energy source, liquid water and appropriate conditions for the formation of complex organic molecules. Many of these characteristics are affected by the planet's atmosphere, which plays an important role by heating up or cooling down a planet.
Venus, for instance, might be habitable if not for its punishing greenhouse atmosphere. By linking climate change with human activity, the Nature study provides astrobiologists with clues about how life on a planet can affect habitability.
"Climate change in some ways is an analogy to different environments in space," says Rosenzweig. "It's really quite amazing. We've only had 0.74 degrees [Celsius change in global surface temperature during the past century], and so many systems are changing. So, while it really does speak to the potential for biological life in very different environments, it also shows how creeping shifts can have dramatic consequences."
With carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere from the daily burning of fossil fuels, temperatures on Earth are now rising, and this rise in temperature is having a significant impact on physical and biological systems around the world. Glaciers and permafrost are melting, lakes and rivers are warming, flowers are blooming earlier, birds are migrating sooner, and both plant and animal species are searching for higher ground.
Changes in the natural ecosystems are also starting to impact humans directly, says the study's co-author David Karoly, professor of the School of Earth Science at the University of Melbourne in Australia.
For example, the early melting of snow packs in the western United States has a direct impact on summer time water resources. Earlier blooming affects the relationship between insects and flowering plants, and that can directly impact agricultural production.
The study not only verifies that climate change is occurring, it also clearly identifies the impacts of that warming and attributes them to human activity. In order to make the case, GISS researchers along with scientists from 10 other institutions developed a database of approximately 80 peer-reviewed papers of climate change research.
All studies had two things in common. They were long-term investigations that had data for at least 20 years between 1970 and 2004, and their findings showed a "statistically significant trend" in temperature-related changes.
Through these studies, the research team analyzed more than 29,000 data series of physical and biological systems. They identified the changes that were consistent with warming and, through statistical analyses, compared those changes to temperature trends around the world.
They found that human-induced increases in temperature account for 95 percent of observed changes in physical systems, such as glaciers, spring river runoff and warming of water bodies, and 90 percent of changes among plants and animals.From the streets of New York City to the rivers in India to the glaciers in South... more
The latest research expedition to the Southern Patagonia Ice Field revealed that alpine glaciers in the Chilean and Argentine Andes are disappearing at much faster rates than previously anticipated by the scientific community.
A preliminary analysis by a team of scientists from NASA and Chile’s Valdivia-based Center of Scientific Studies (CECS), which commenced an expedition to the Ice Field in October 2008, sheds light on the alarming speed at which the glaciers are depleting.
The scientists discovered that the masses of ice in the Patagonia are melting in larger proportions and in much higher alpine zones than in any other part of the world, including Alaska and the Himalayas. Glacier ice accounts for around 75 percent of the world’s fresh water.
“The loss of ice mass in the higher zones is the really new phenomenon,” said Gino Casassa, a CECS glaciologist. “At least this is what we are seeing with the preliminary results which we have just received.”
Until recently, it was believed that glacial loss occurred from lower areas, and that snowfall on the higher sections of glaciers would compensate for loss of ice at lower altitudes.
“One hypothesis we put forward was that there could be a positive balance of ice in the high zones because of higher rates of snowfall in these areas,” said Casassa.
But with ice thinning high up and down low, too, loss in glacial mass in Patagonia is likely to be much greater than what has previously been calculated by scientists.
The new findings are also curious because they contradict some former studies.
For example, a previous study found that the Chilean glaciers Trinidad and Pio XI (the biggest glacier in the southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica) had advanced instead of receded, while the Perito Moreno glacier in the Los Glaciares National Park in southern Argentina had maintained a volume balance.
Between 1944 and 1986 glacial ice in the Southern Patagonia Ice Field was recorded as retreating at an average of 57 meters per year.
end of excerptThe latest research expedition to the Southern Patagonia Ice Field revealed that... more
It's a little-known natural wonder along Baffin Island's rugged east coast, a spectacular, 110-km-long channel lined by towering cliffs that — despite its extreme remoteness — is a mecca for base-jumping enthusiasts from around the world.
But U.S. scientists who have reconstructed a cataclysmic glacial meltdown in prehistoric Canada say Nunavut's Sam Ford Fiord is also a sentinel of danger in the age of climate change, showing just how quickly the planet's massive coastal glaciers could disappear and send global sea levels surging.
Their study, published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, says the rapid melting of the fiord's colossal, kilometre-deep glacier about 9,500 years ago is proof that similar features found today in Greenland, Canada and Antarctica could be lost "in a geologic instant."
That's several decades or even a few centuries in ordinary time — but fast enough that the scientists, led by State University of New York geologist Jason Briner, are sounding an alarm about the present-day implications.
"A lot of glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland are characteristic of the one we studied in the Canadian Arctic," Buffalo-based Briner states in a summary of the study, which presents evidence the Baffin Island glacier retreated at rates of up to 58 metres a year near the close of the last ice age.
"If modern glaciers do this for several decades, this would rapidly raise global sea level, intercepting coastal populations and requiring vast re-engineering of levees and other mitigation systems."
Many of the fiords with the world's largest coastal glaciers today are "strikingly analogous" to Sam Ford at the time of its "rapid deglaciation," Briner and two co-authors state in their Nature Geoscience article. "Thus tens to hundreds of kilometres of retreat of present outlet glaciers is possible in the coming centuries."
Researchers around the world are closely monitoring the conditions of ice shelves, glaciers and sea ice in the Earth's southern and northern polar regions.
Rising global temperatures, widely believed to have been fuelled by industrial-age carbon emissions, are generally blamed for accelerating glacial melts and opening long-frozen polar sea routes.
Last summer alone, Canadian scientists recorded the collapse of about one-quarter of the ancient, glacier-fed ice shelves along the north coast of Ellesmere Island.
end of excerpt.
How many warnings do we need?It's a little-known natural wonder along Baffin Island's rugged east coast,... more
Layers of frozen seawater, known simply as sea ice, cap the Arctic Ocean. Ice grows dramatically each winter, usually reaching its maximum in March. The ice melts just as dramatically each summer, generally reaching its minimum in September. These image pairs show Arctic sea ice concentration for the month of September (left) and the following March (right) for a time series beginning in September 1999 and ending in March 2009.
The yellow outline on each image shows the median sea ice extent observed by satellite sensors in September and March from 1979 through 2000. Extent is the total area in which ice concentration is at least 15 percent. The median is the middle value. Half of the extents over the time period were larger than the line, and half were smaller.
Since 1978, satellites have monitored sea ice growth and retreat, and they have detected an overall decline in Arctic sea ice. The rate of decline steepened after the turn of the twenty-first century. In September 2002, the summer minimum ice extent was the lowest it had been since 1979. Although the September 2002 low was only slightly below previous lows (from the 1990s), it was the beginning of a series of record or near-record lows in the Arctic.
This series of record lows, combined with poor wintertime recoveries starting in the winter of 2004-2005, marked a sharpening in the rate of decline in Arctic sea ice. Sea ice did not return to anything approaching the long-term average (1979-2000) after 2002.
end of excerpt.Layers of frozen seawater, known simply as sea ice, cap the Arctic Ocean. Ice grows... more
According to this scientific report, CO2 has been increasing by 2.3 % yearly doubling every 30 years since its first recording in 1958 (it actually increased 3% between 2006/2007.) Pre-industrial levels were at 280 PPM. Now, we are at 385 PPM inching ever closer to 450 PPM. At the current rate of CO2 emissions should they continue unabated (which I don't even know if that includes rates of deforestation) by 2050 the planet will likely surpass 500 PPM. And this is according to actual scientists who know what they are talking about and take these readings.
There are those scientists (James Hanson for example) who claim that to surpass 450 PPM will lead us into territory we do not want to visit. And while some scientists are hesitant to now use the term "tipping point" as they fear it will generate a lack of apathy towards action (which I can understand on one level,) should we not be trying to make people understand what is truly at stake here and that we still have time to head this off if we do what is necessary?
This is why when I read articles stating that governments including our own are still touting the 80% emissions cut by 2050 line I now have to shake my head. This is the same goal that was mentioned five years or more ago... and still we are waiting for action. With such an exponential rise in CO2 emissions as has been recorded and predicted taking into account deforestation, ocean CO2 saturation, and yes, natural cycle forcings, I do not see how continuing to tout that same goal is going to get us anywhere.
This is a moral crisis that now challenges the human species to answer this question: Just how much do you really care for this planet and your future on it? What are you prepared to do to not see these tipping points be reached? Reaching a higher level of consciousness about this is indeed necessary. I think about Carl Sagan and his wisdom in understanding the pale blue dot we live on and that it is the only home we have to sustain us. Does that really not matter? Have we become so blinded by politics, apathy, distractions, and lets face it, hatred for others that it blinds us to the issue at hand?According to this scientific report, CO2 has been increasing by 2.3 % yearly doubling... more
Part of Alaska's coast is drifting into the sea at twice the rate it has in the past, reshaping the Arctic shoreline, a new study says.
The trend could seriously threaten the area's caribou and other wildlife, as well as local landmarks that document human settlements.
Some stretches of the state's northern shore along the Beaufort Sea receded by more than 80 feet (25 meters) in summer 2007 alone, when Arctic sea ice was at a record low.
In the past, spurts of erosion had often been linked to storms, but there were no major storms in 2007. That suggests "a shift in the forces driving erosion," said lead author Benjamin Jones, a research geographer at the U.S. Geological Survey.
One major force now is global warming, according to the research.
The study of the 40-mile (64-kilometer) stretch of coast was published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Out to Sea
Warming air and sea temperatures are melting the ice in the region's permafrost, or perpetually frozen earth. The meltwater then streams over the land and melts more permafrost, carrying sediment into the sea as it goes.
From 2002 to 2007, the melting ice caused the coast to disappear at a rate of about 45 feet (14 meters) a year. That's up from an annual average of 30 feet (9 meters) between 1979 and 2002 and 20 feet (6 meters) between 1955 and 1979.
Remains of the ghost town of Esook, a hundred-year-old trading post, have been buried underwater as a result of the erosion, Jones said.
And near the town of Lonely, Jones took a picture of a whaling boat that a few months later was swallowed by the sea after nearly a century on shore.
The erosion also threatens oil wells. At least one has already been lost since 2002, and another will soon be gone, if the melting continues at these rates.Part of Alaska's coast is drifting into the sea at twice the rate it has in the... more
Of course, there will always be those who laugh in the face of truth and hide behind their political grudges or ideologies while hypocritically telling others to think for themselves. Regarding what is happening in the Arctic, it is plain to the naked eye willing to look at it that climate change/global warning is having an effect. The question now is, do we allow those laughing in the face of that truth to continue to set the tone of this debate, or do we push them aside and get down to business? I personally vote for the latter. It is bad enough that we spew 70 million plus tons of GHG into the atmosphere everyday we continue to talk about needing action. And to add insult to injury, we are also compounding the amount of GHGs being released from the thawing tundra. How long will it take before people realize this is not a joke?Of course, there will always be those who laugh in the face of truth and hide behind... more
We are currently at 385PPM. At 450PPM, we enter a world where the tipping points begin to come one by one. It won't take long to get there now, and scientists are relatively sure we will reach even 600PPM by mid century. My child and his children will still be here. Heck, I may even be here still if I somehow live into my nineties. So why aren't more people truly concerned about this even with all we know and with all scientists are saying?
Well, I think the reason is obvious. It is because it is the human species that is entrusted with doing the right thing. Right there I believe there could be evidence to dispute the presence of a higher power. How could any such higher power think to place humans as stewards of anything? We seem to only destroy all we touch. I have stated many times that I have faith in humans and that we will do the right thing to save ourselves. I don't feel that way today.
I think about the future a lot. I think about the world our children will live in... and then I cry. I sign petitions, I speak out, I blog, I post, I scream, I support environmental organizations, I speak out to politicians, and I live my life in a way that I walk as lightly on this planet as I possibly can. Is it to be all for naught because of the selfish, apathetic, ignorant ones who think this is just some political game?
We must cap CO 2 emissions NOW. Not in five years, or ten years, or by 2050. NOW. So considering that scenario along with the fact that we are dealing with a system built on greed that blinds man to all that is important, I think it is safe to say we are screwed. Our procrastination for the last thirty years has brought us to this point, and STILL politicians play footsy with the sustainability of this planet as if we have time to sit and waste another thirty years. And people are still arguing over whether humans even cause it. All over the voices of the scientists speaking the truth to us and saying, you are failing morally in your duty to preserve this planet for your existence.
Shame on us all for still not paying attention.We are currently at 385PPM. At 450PPM, we enter a world where the tipping points begin... more
So, when is this country going to get serious about capping GHG emissions? Now that we have a new president, just how far up on the priority list is it, and will it be enough?So, when is this country going to get serious about capping GHG emissions? Now that we... more
We are talking about climate trends here and the other variables that are factored into those trends over years.This is not just about one colder winter. We need to drastically reduce the emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (especially in light of methane emissions increasing caused by melting permafrost which is caused by Co2 emissions) if we are to preserve the climate balance of this planet before seeing a tipping point.
We may well have reached a tipping point in glacier melt in the Arctic and are close to it in other parts of the world (namely the Himalayas) and will reach one regarding our oceans if we do not act aggressively now to reign in manmade greenhouse gas emissions. That is not a partisan political argument, it is a fact.We are talking about climate trends here and the other variables that are factored... more
The UN launched a programme that it hopes could be the foundation for a system in which rich countries would pay poor ones to slow climate change by protecting and planting forests.
The new programme, called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Program, or UN-REDD, will assist nine developing countries, including Bolivia, Indonesia and Zambia, in establishing systems to monitor, assess and report forest cover.
"Forests are worth more alive than dead... and their ecosystem services and benefits are worth billions if not trillions of dollars if only we capture these in economic models," said Achim Steiner, the executive director of the UN Environment Programme.
Clearing forests for timber and farmland in developing nations emits nearly 20 per cent of the greenhouse gases blamed for climate change, according to the UN's climate science panel. Trees store heat-trapping carbon dioxide as they grow and release it when they rot or are burned.
Tropical countries are pushing to include UN-REDD in the successor to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. Delegates representing countries around the globe are scheduled to meet in Copenhagen at the end of next year in hopes of hammering out a successor to the pact, which expires in 2012.
Under such a plan, the tropical countries would generate tradable carbon credits by saving and planting trees. Indonesia, for example, has the potential to be compensated €682 million a year if its deforestation rate was reduced to one million hectares annually, the UN estimated.
Presumably, rich countries would buy the credits to meet their own emission limits, like the way EU countries have invested in credits representing emissions cuts generated by clean energy projects in poor countries.
Not everyone agrees such a programme would be a good idea. Barry Gardiner, British Prime Minister special envoy for forests, said in an interview earlier this month that the model of avoided deforestation is flawed and risks alienating voters in rich countries.
Mr Gardiner proposed instead that rich countries should simply make payments to tropical nations based on the size of existing forests. If countries continued to log or burn they could be expelled from the scheme.
The UN launched a programme that it hopes could be the foundation for a system in... more
Global warming is already leading to widespread disruptions of the Earth's natural systems, according to a study published in the journal Nature and conducted by some of the climate scientists who were involved in the influential 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
"[This] is the first [study] to formally link observed global changes in physical and biological systems to human-induced climate change, predominantly from increasing greenhouse gases," said study reviewers Francis Zwiers of Environment Canada and Gabriele Hegerl of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
The scientists catalogued more than 29,500 reports of changes to the Earth's natural systems. Some of these changes were physical, such as the melting of Patagonia's ice fields of Arctic permafrost, or the earlier break-up of Mongolian river ice and unprecedented coastal erosion. Others were behavioral, such as the earlier arrival of migratory birds to Australia, and others dealt with changes in populations, such as the decline of Antarctic krill stocks and overall productivity of Lake Tanganyika. Even genetic changes, such as those in North America's pitcher plant mosquitoes, were included.
The researchers found that more than 90 percent of the documented changes were to be expected from a scenario of rising regional temperatures. Global warming, rather than other human causes such as deforestation or pollution, seemed to be the major force behind the changes.
more at the link.
This must now become more than just a political wedge issue. This must be the end of governments and groups placating flatearthers and special interests who are using their $$$$$ to control the conversation. This must be the end of governments and organizations like the World Bank using this crisis as an impetus to benefit themselves and to foment war. They are all leading us over the cliff. Global warming/climate change is doing damage to the many ecosystems that support the life of humans and other species.
There are currently six degrees of climate change that represent the effects this planet will suffer from due to global warming/climate change. Currently, we are at the third degree... we are already HALFWAY THERE. As the last quote in this article states, we have to get our act together. And it is not overly dramatic to state that we are running out of time regarding the future sustainability of this planet. This is not something that is just occurring through natural means nor has it been ordained by God. This is not just some fluke of nature that will reverse itself. This is not a myth or an illusion. This is real, it is happening, and we are contributing to it not only by our behavior but by our retiscence in taking the action necessary to mitigate it.
How many 'meetings' are world leaders going to have before they realize that they have run out the clock? How many political candidates will continue to spew the same 80% by 2050 line? I recently wrote to my Senator about the need for 100% renewable energy in 10 years... know the response I got? The same form letter with that same 80% by 2050 line! Where is the political will? Where is the urgency? And people dare to criticize those who scale coal plants to unfurl a dire warning as to the truth of the state of the only planet that can sustain us to wake people up?
Just what is it going to take?Global warming is already leading to widespread disruptions of the Earth's... more
Kivalina's precarious situation has been worsened by a changing climate. Historically, the Chukchi Sea had turned solid by early winter, with slush forming along the shore in the fall, creating a kind of bumper cushion that protected the island from autumn storms. Over the past half century, however, the average annual temperature here has risen more than three degrees Fahrenheit, to 23.5, with a wintertime increase of almost seven. Last year it rained in January for the first time in memory, and in summer 2007 the thermometer approached 80 degrees. As a result, sea ice forms later in the year, while storms occur earlier: a literal double whammy.
Kivalinans know they have to move. In the 1990s, even before global warming was widely recognized, they targeted a pair of potential relocation sites to the east and south, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found geological problems with both. Now the village is fast running out of time. "Before, leaving was optional," Swan says. "Now it's an emergency situation."
After another storm forced an evacuation of the island in the fall of 2007, you might say that Kivalina reached the end of its rope. Which is why, on February 26, 2008, this community of 400 Native Americans filed suit in federal court against 24 oil, electricity, and coal companies, including ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, British Petroleum, Chevron, and Shell. Demanding up to $400 million in damages-the estimated cost of moving the village out of reach of the rising sea-the lawsuit accuses the companies of contributing to global warming and creating a public nuisance that has harmed property in the town.
It's an audacious move-after all, even snowmobile-using Kivalinans bear some responsibility for climate change. But the lawsuit goes further, charging that some of the corporations "conspired to create a false scientific debate about global warming in order to deceive the public."
Hmm, and I wonder, just what is the Governor of Alaska doing about this? Oh yes, I forgot, she is too much into being tutored to play the Washington political game now to care about her own state. And she thinks climate change is not manmade? And she thinks thst Alaska should actually pump out more oil in order to continue to precipitate the crisis? I for one am pleased that Kivalina is suing oil companies for their part in climate change because they have been part of an all out deceptive PR campaign as tobacco companies were to make people believe climate change is not as serious as it really is in order to protect their profits. So, Governor Palin claims to be tough on oil companies? Sorry, that claim doesn't fly when you look at the Kivalinas of this world. And it is said that she stood up to them as far as taxing them? Then where did all that money go since the native people of Kivalina in her state don't even have enough money to move their village due to the effects of climate change? Kivalina is indeed the canary in the coal mine for climate change. Too bad their leader is too busy being a media star to care. Kivalina's precarious situation has been worsened by a changing climate.... more