Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

IPCC Climate Report Calls for “Major Institutional Change”

April 16, 2014

Carey  L. Biron
Inter Press Service/News Report
Published: Tuesday 15 April 2014
In order to keep average global temperature rise within two degrees Celsius, the new report, finds that global emissions will need to be brought down by anywhere from 40 to 70 percent within the next 35 years.
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Greenhouse gas emissions rose more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than anytime during the previous three decades, the world’s top climate scientists say, despite a simultaneous strengthening of national legislation around the world aimed at reducing these emissions.

The conclusions come in the third and final installment in a series of updates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.N.-overseen body. The new update warns that “only major institutional and technological change will give a better than even chance that global warming will not exceed” two degrees Celsius by the end of the century, an internationally agreed upon threshold.

The full report, which focuses on mitigation, is to be made public on Tuesday. But a widely watched summary for policymakers was released Sunday in Berlin, the site of a week of reportedly hectic negotiations between government representatives.

“We expect the full report to say that it is still possible to limit warming to two degrees Celsius, but that we’re not currently on a path to doing so,” Kelly Levin, a senior associate with the World Resources Institute (WRI), a think tank here, told IPS.

“Others have found that we’re not on that pathway even if countries were to deliver on past pledges, and some countries aren’t on track to do so. A key message is that we need substantially more effort on mitigation, and that this is a critical decade for action.”

The previous IPCC report, released last month, assessed the impacts of climate change, which it said were already being felt in nearly every country around the world. The new one looks at what to do about it.

“This is a strong call for international action, particularly around the notion that this is a problem of the global commons,” Levin says.

“Every individual country needs to participate in the solution to climate change, yet this is complicated by the fact that countries have very different capabilities to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. We can now expect lots of conversation about the extent to which greater cooperation and collective action is perceived to be fair.”

 

Substantial investments 

The full report, the work of 235 authors, represents the current scientific consensus around climate change and the potential response. Yet the policymakers’ summary is seen as a far more political document, mediating between the scientific findings and the varying constraints and motivations felt by national governments on the issue.

The latest report is likely to be particularly polarizing. The three updates, constituting the IPCC’s fifth assessment, will be merged into a unified report in October, which in turn will form the basis for negotiations next year to agree on a new global response to climate change, under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

While previous IPCC updates focused on the science behind climate change and its potential impacts, mitigation goes most directly to the heart of what can make the UNFCCC negotiations contentious: how to pay for the expensive changes required to move into a new, low-carbon paradigm.

In order to keep average global temperature rise within two degrees Celsius, the new report, examining some 1,200 potential scenarios, finds that global emissions will need to be brought down by anywhere from 40 to 70 percent within the next 35 years. Thereafter, they will need to be further reduced to near zero by the end of the century.

“Many different pathways lead to a future within the boundaries set by the two degrees Celsius goal,” Ottmar Edenhofer, one of the co-chairs of the working group that put out the new report, said Sunday. “All of these require substantial investments.”

The report does not put a specific number on those investments. It does, however, note that they would have a relatively minor impact on overall economic growth, with “ambitious mitigation” efforts reducing consumption growth by just 0.06 percent.

Yet they caution that “substantial reductions in emissions would require large changes in investment patterns.”

The IPCC estimates that investment in conventional fossil fuel technologies for the electricity sector – the most polluting – will likely decline by around 20 percent over the next two decades. At the same time, funding for “low cost” power supply – including renewables but also nuclear, natural gas and “carbon capture” technologies – will increase by 100 percent.

“The report makes clear that if we’re going to avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to get out of investing in fossil fuels. Yet the way the IPCC addresses this is problematic, and is a reflection of existing power dynamics,” Oscar Reyes, an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank here, told IPS.

“While it’s positive that they point out that renewables are achievable at scale, they also talk about gas as a potential transition fuel. Yet many models say that doing so actually discourages investment in renewables. There are also problems with the tremendous costs of many of the technological fixes they’re putting forward.”

Equity and income

The policymakers’ summary is a consensus document, meaning that all 195 member countries have signed off on its findings. Yet it appears that last week’s negotiations in Berlin were arduous, particularly as countries position themselves ahead of the final UNFCCC negotiations next year.

Debate over how the financial onus for mitigation and adaptation costs will be parceled out has played out in particular between middle-income and rich countries. While the latter are primarily responsible for the high greenhouse gas emissions of the past, today this is no longer the case.

Even as previous IPCC reports have categorized countries as simply “developing” or “developed” (similar to the UNFCCC approach), some rich countries have wanted to more fully differentiate the middle-income countries and their responsibility for current emissions. Apparently in response, the new IPCC report now characterizes country economies on a four-part scale.

Yet some influential developing countries have pushed back on this. In a formal note of “substantial reservation” seen by IPS, the Saudi Arabian delegation warns that using “income-based country groupings” is overly vague, given that countries can shift between groups “regardless of their actual per capita emissions”.

Nine other countries, including Egypt, India, Malaysia, Qatar, Venezuela and others, reportedly signed on to the Saudi note of dissent.

Bolivia wrote a separate dissent that likewise disputes income-based classification. But it also decries the IPCC’s lack of focus on “non-market-based approaches to address international cooperation in climate change through the provision of finance and transfer of technology from developed to developing countries.”

Entire Marine Food Chain at Risk From Rising CO2 Levels in Water

April 15, 2014

A lemon damselfish finding shelter in coral. Exposure to CO2 will make it more adventurous and endanger its life. (photo: Bates Littlehales/Corbis)
A lemon damselfish finding shelter in coral. Exposure to CO2 will make it more adventurous and endanger its life. (photo: Bates Littlehales/Corbis)

By Oliver Milman, Guardian UK

14 April 14

 

Fish will make themselves vulnerable by being attracted to predator odour and exhibiting bolder behaviour

scalating carbon dioxide emissions will cause fish to lose their fear of predators, potentially damaging the entire marine food chain, joint Australian and US research has found.

A study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, James Cook University and the Georgia Institute of Technology found the behavior of fish would be “seriously affected” by greater exposure to CO2.

Researchers studied the behavior of coral reef fish at naturally occurring CO2 vents in Milne Bay, in eastern Papua New Guinea.

They found that fish living near the vents, where bubbles of CO2 seeped into the water, “were attracted to predator odour, did not distinguish between odours of different habitats, and exhibited bolder behaviour than fish from control reefs”.

The gung-ho nature of CO2-affected fish means that more of them are picked off by predators than is normally the case, raising potentially worrying possibilities in a scenario of rising carbon emissions.

More than 90% of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere is soaked up by the oceans. When CO2 is dissolved in water, it causes ocean acidification, which slightly lowers the pH of the water and changes its chemistry. Crustaceans can find it hard to form shells in highly acidic water, while corals risk episodes of bleaching.

The AIMS study found the diversity of fish at the CO2 vents was not influenced by the extra carbon, but that fish’s nerve stimulation mechanisms were altered, meaning the smell of predators became alluring.

“What we have now also found in our study of fish behaviour in this environment is that the fish become bolder and they venture further away from safe shelter, making them more vulnerable to predators,” said Alistair Cheal, co-author of the research.

While fish at the vents faced fewer predators than usual, the consequences for fish in the wider ocean could be significant as more CO2 was dissolved in the water.

“Continuous exposure does not reduce the effect of high CO2 on behaviour in natural reef habitat, and this could be a serious problem for fish communities in the future when ocean acidification becomes widespread as a result of continued uptake of anthropogenic CO2 emissions,” the study said.

A report released last year, which had input from the University of Western Australia’s Oceans Institute, found global warming could cause oceans to become 170% more acidic by the end of the century, the fastest rate of acidification in the past 300 million years.

Hugh Sweatman, research scientist at AIMS, said: “The acidification of the ocean is much discussed because it’s potentially a gigantic thing. It’s the difference between normal water and soda water, if you like.

“Ocean acidification seems to reverse sensations in fish so that things that smell repulsive become attractive. The small change in pH has a big impact on the fish.

“Little fish are generally very nervous and stay close to shelter. This reverses this, meaning they are more vulnerable and become eaten more quickly.”

 

Climate Panel Stunner: Avoiding Climate Catastrophe Is Super-Cheap, But Only If We Act Now

April 15, 2014

JOE ROMM
Climate Progress/News Investigation
Published: Monday 14 April 2014
The world has emitted more than twice the industrial CO2 emissions since 1970 as we did from the start of the Industrial Revolution through 1970. The time to act is now.
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The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just issued its third of four planned reports. This one is on “mitigation” — “human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.”

The first two reports laid out humanity’s choice as depicted in the figure above, which appeared in both reports. The first report warned that continued inaction would lead to 9°F warming (or higher) for most of the U.S. and Northern Hemisphere landmass, resulting in faster sea level rise, more extreme weather, and collapse of the permafrost sink, which would further accelerate warming. The second report warned that this in turn would lead to a “breakdown of food systems,” more violent conflicts, and ultimately threaten to make some currently habited and arable land virtually unlivable for parts of the year.

Humanity's choice

Now you might think it would be a no-brainer that humanity would be willing to pay a very high cost to avoid such catastrophes and achieve the low emission “2°C” (3.6°F) pathway in the left figure above (RCP2.6 — which is a total greenhouse gas level in 2100 equivalent to roughly 450 parts per million of CO2). But the third report finds that the “cost” of doing so is to reduce the median annual growth of consumption over this century by a mere 0.06%.

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You read that right, the annual growth loss to preserve a livable climate is 0.06% — and that’s “relative to annualized consumption growth in the baseline that is between 1.6% and 3% per year.” So we’re talking annual growth of, say 2.24% rather than 2.30% to save billions and billions of people from needless suffering for decades if not centuries. As always, every word of the report was signed off on by every major government in the world. 

Mitigation costs for 450 ppm

Moreover, this does not even count the economic benefit of avoiding climate catastrophe. A few years ago, scientists calculated that benefit as having a net present value of $615 to $830 trillion. That means our current do-nothing plan is actually far, far costlier than aggressive climate mitigation.

And the IPCC warns “Delaying is estimated to … substantially increase the difficulty of the transition to low, longer-term emissions levels and narrow the range of options consistent with maintaining temperature change below 2 degrees C.”

These are not new findings. In its previous Fourth Assessment (AR4) in 2007, the IPCC found the cost of stabilizing at 445 ppm CO2-eq corresponded to “slowing average annual global GDP growth by less than 0.12 percentage points.”

These conclusions should not be a surprise since they are based on a review of the literature — and every major independent study has found a remarkably low net cost for climate action — and a high cost for delay. Back in 2011, the International Energy Agency warned “Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”

As German economist Ottmar Edenhofer, a co-chair of the IPCC committee that wrote the new report, put it, “We cannot afford to lose another decade. If we lose another decade, it becomes extremely costly to achieve climate stabilization.”

The new IPCC report notes that renewable energy (RE) technologies have advanced substantially since 2007:

Since AR4, many RE technologies have demonstrated substantial performance improvements and cost reductions, and a growing number of RE technologies have achieved a level of maturity to enable deployment at significant scale (robust evidence, high agreement). Regarding electricity generation alone, RE accounted for just over half of the new electricity generating capacity added globally in 2012, led by growth in wind, hydro and solar power.

The IPCC notes, “In the majority of low stabilization scenarios, the share of low carbon electricity supply [RE, nuclear, and carbon capture] increases from the current share of approximately 30% to more than 80% by 2050.” That kind of rapid growth in near-zero-carbon energy over the next 3 1/2 decades leaves very little room for any new fossil fuel generation. The IPCC asserts that natural gas can act as a short-term bridge fuel if “the fugitive emissions associated with extraction and supply are low or mitigated” — which multiple recent studies make clear is not currently the case (see “By The Time Natural Gas Has A Net Climate Benefit You’ll Likely Be Dead And The Climate Ruined“).

In the scenario that gives us the best chance of avoiding catastrophe, stabilizing at 450 ppm CO2-eq by 2100, natural gas power generation must peak and fall “to below current levels by 2050″ — and decline further post-2050. So the world is already using more natural gas than it can safely afford to be using in just 36 years.

One final interesting factoid in the report that reveals just how stunning the increase in global emissions have been since 1970:

In 1970, cumulative CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, cement production and flaring since 1750 were 420±35 Gt [billion metric tons] CO2; in 2010, that cumulative total had tripled to 1300 ±110 Gt CO2.

The world has emitted more than twice the industrial CO2 emissions since 1970 as we did from the start of the Industrial Revolution through 1970. That is especially sobering because lags in the climate system mean we’re only now experiencing the temperature and climate changes from CO2 levels of a couple decades ago. The time to act is now.

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ABOUT JOE ROMM

Joe Romm is a Fellow at American Progress and is the editor of Climate Progress, which New York Timescolumnist Tom Friedman called “the indispensable blog” and Time magazine named one of the 25 “Best Blogs of 2010.″ In 2009, Rolling Stone put Romm #88 on its list of 100 “people who are reinventing America.” Time named him a “Hero of the Environment″ and “The Web’s most influential climate-change blogger.” Romm was acting assistant secretary of energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy in 1997, where he oversaw $1 billion in R&D, demonstration, and deployment of low-carbon technology. He is a Senior Fellow at American Progress and holds a Ph.D. in physics from MIT.

“Science Does Not Exist on Capitol Hills”: Rep. Peter Welch on House GOP’s Climate Change Denial

April 8, 2014

Amy Goodman
Democracy Now/Video Interview
Published: Tuesday 8 April 2014
The U.N.’s top climate panel issued a report calling on governments to prepare for global warming’s worsening impact and to cut emissions in order to prevent it from getting worse.
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Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont reacts to his Republican colleagues’ recent vote to effectively force government agencies to stop studying climate change. The House measure calls on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and related bodies to focus on forecasting severe weather — but not explore one of its likely causes. The vote comes just as the U.N.’s top climate panel issued a report calling on governments to prepare for global warming’s worsening impact and to cut emissions in order to prevent it from getting worse. “Science does not exist on Capitol Hill,” Welch says. “We’re in a fact-free zone here.” Welch also discusses his effort to repeal tax giveaways to pharmaceutical companies, the future of nuclear power in the United States, and the growing heroin problem plaguing Vermont and rural communities across the country.

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ABOUT AMY GOODMAN

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 900 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

Profiting from Climate Change

April 5, 2014

Hedge fund managers are beginning to snap up water rights along the Colorado River.

A recent Bloomberg View (2/24/14) headline reads, “Profit From Global Warming or Get Left Behind.” In his new book, WINDFALL (New York: Penguin, 2014), veteran journalist McKenzie Funk traveled the globe for six years, following the money in twenty-four countries to profile “hundreds of people who felt climate change would make them rich.”

In a separate interview, Funk notes that “on Wall Street you no longer get a lot of climate denial.” Largely indifferent to the causes of climate change, his respondents decided early on that investing in green technology was a losing proposition. Instead “the warmer the world, the less habitable it became, the bigger the windfall.”

In 2008, Royal Dutch Shell developed two sophisticated climate-risk scenarios called Blueprints and Scramble. The first modeled a greener future while the latter predicted – due to government inaction – a future of droughts, floods, heat waves and super storms. By 2012, Shell executives confided to Funk “We’ve gone to Scramble. This is a Scramble kind of world. This is what we’re doing.” Another Shell official opined “I will be one of those persons cheering for an endless summer in Alaska.”

The author’s message is that in the short term, there will be definite winners and losers because ecological catastrophe is “…not necessarily a financial catastrophe for everyone.” And while readers of this newspaper will temporarily avoid the most dire consequences of globing warming, upwards of one billion other human beings won’t be spared.

During this interim period, the phrase ‘a rising tide will lift all yachts’ is more than a metaphor:

  • Many people consider water a necessity, a basic human right, but investment advisers and their well-heeled clients view water as blue gold, the “petroleum of the next century” whose value as an asset class will surpass all other physical commodities. Money is pouring into “hydrocommerce” including water rights and water asset hedge funds.
  • ARCADIS, a Dutch engineering firm offering flood protection saw its revenues jump 26 percent in 2013. For $8 billion, they will wall off Manhattan from the next Sandy.
  • AIG’s private fire fighters will race to cover palatial estates in the Los Angeles suburbs with special flame retardant material while less well-heeled citizens watch their homes burn to the ground.
  • Barney Schauble of Nephia, a huge hedge fund, is certain that “more volatile weather creates more risk and more appetite to protect against that risk,” hence the introduction of something called “weather derivatives.”
  • A London-based investor is pouring money into Russian farmland and global supermarket chains because climate change’s droughts, fires, desertification and flooding will adversely affect crop yields. As another analyst puts it, “People will always pay to keep eating.”
  • One fund manager, bullish on reinsurance companies, confidently told Funk that flooding caused by climate change allows for higher premiums so “hurricane season is actually quite a positive thing.”
  • Although not mentioned in this book, Senator James Inhofe (R. Okla) wants to funnel even more money toward Wall Street via “Disaster Savings Accounts,” whereby wealthy individuals can obtain $5,000 tax breaks to mitigate extreme weather events. Extending political chutzpah to its outer limits, Inhofe recently authored The Greatest Hoax, a book claiming that global warming is a massive conspiracy designed to increase government regulation.
  • A warmer world means the expansion of dengue fever beyond the tropical zones. The solution? Britain’s Oxitec Corporation foresees a patented product to counter the mosquito-born disease as a surefire money maker.
  • Perhaps more ominous, rising sea levels make Bangladesh “ground zero” for climate change. India’s response is a 2100 mile, floodlit, electrified barrier, the “fence of shame,” erected to prevent some twenty-five million Bangladeshi climate refugees from crossing the border when one-fifth of their county is under water.
  • I anticipate university level Environmental Finance Centers to shift from environmental protection to favorably position graduates to to take advantage of the looming ecological crisis.

Funk is curiously nonjudgmental about his interview subjects, preferring to view them as good people “according to their own belief system,” who only act out of perceived self-interest. He allows that “We can’t trust capitalism to fix this” but asserts there’s “nothing fundamentally wrong with profiting from disaster” and frets that readers might unfairly vilify businessmen.

In one narrow sense he’s correct in that the system’s internal but fatally flawed logic is responsible. Any CEO who allowed climate justice considerations to enter his or her decisions would quickly be replaced by someone more attuned to the bottom line.

In an earlier opinion piece, I characterized many otherwise caring folks who truly worry about the earth’s survival as “capitalism deniers” because of their unwillingness to utter the “C” word. This, despite the fact that blame for environmental degradation lies squarely with our growth-and-profit-at-any-cost economic system. The system’s apologists exist within and outside government and they will never be the solution.

The rest of us must draw the obvious conclusions and act accordingly within the tenuous time frame that remains.

Deforestation of sandy soils a greater climate threat

April 3, 2014

Date:
April 1, 2014
Source:
Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
Summary:
A new study finds that tree removal has far greater consequences for climate change in some soils than in others, a finding that could provide key insights into which ecosystems should be managed with extra care. In a comprehensive analysis of soil collected from 11 distinct U.S. regions, from Hawaii to northern Alaska, researchers found that the extent to which deforestation disturbs underground microbial communities that regulate the loss of carbon into the atmosphere depends almost exclusively on the texture of the soil.

This heat map shows the areas of the United States where the soil microbial biomass is susceptible to changes in vegetation cover.
Credit: Image courtesy of Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

Deforestation may have far greater consequences for climate change in some soils than in others, according to new research led by Yale University scientists — a finding that could provide critical insights into which ecosystems must be managed with extra care because they are vulnerable to biodiversity loss and which ecosystems are more resilient to widespread tree removal.

In a comprehensive analysis of soil collected from 11 distinct U.S. regions, from Hawaii to northern Alaska, researchers found that the extent to which deforestation disturbs underground microbial communities that regulate the loss of carbon into the atmosphere depends almost exclusively on the texture of the soil. The results were published in the journal Global Change Biology.

“We were astonished that biodiversity changes were so strongly affected by soil texture and that it was such an overriding factor,” said Thomas Crowther, a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and lead author of the study. “Texture overrode the effects of all the other variables that we thought might be important, including temperature, moisture, nutrient concentrations, and soil pH.”

The study is a collaboration among Yale researchers and colleagues at the University of Boulder, Colorado and the University of Kentucky.

A serious consequence of deforestation is extensive loss of carbon from the soil, a process regulated by subterranean microbial diversity. Drastic changes to the microbial community are expected to allow more CO2 to escape into the atmosphere, with the potential to exaggerate global warming.

Specifically, the researchers found that deforestation dramatically alters microbial communities in sandy soils, but has minimal effects in muddy, clay-like soils, even after extensive tree removal.

According to the researchers, particles in fine, clay-like soil seem to have a larger surface area to bind nutrients and water. This capacity might buffer soil microbes against the disturbance of forest removal, they said. In contrast, sandy soils have larger particles with less surface area, retaining fewer nutrients and less organic matter.

“If you disrupt the community in a sandy soil, all of the nutrients the microbes rely on for food are leached away: they’re lost into the atmosphere, lost into rivers, lost through rain,” Crowther said. “But in clay-like soil, you can cut down the forest and the nutrients remain trapped tightly in the muddy clay.”

The researchers also examined how the effects of deforestation on microbial biodiversity change over time. Contrary to their expectations, they found no correlation, even over the course of 200 years.

“The effects are consistent, no matter how long ago deforestation happened,” Crowther said. “In a clay soil, you cut down the forest and the nutrients are retained for long periods of time and the community doesn’t change. Whereas in a sandy soil, you cut down a forest and the community changes dramatically within only a couple of years.”

Using previously documented information about soil distribution, the researchers were able to map potential areas where belowground ecosystems are more likely to be vulnerable to deforestation. This has the potential to inform land management practices concerned with the conservation of biodiversity and the sequestration of carbon in the soil.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. The original article was written by Kevin Dennehy. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Thomas W. Crowther, Daniel S. Maynard, Jonathan W. Leff, Emily E. Oldfield, Rebecca L. McCulley, Noah Fierer, Mark A. Bradford. Predicting the responsiveness of soil biodiversity to deforestation: a cross-biome studyGlobal Change Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12565

Cite This Page:

Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. “Deforestation of sandy soils a greater climate threat.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140401162203.htm>.

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Natural variation: Warm North Atlantic Ocean promotes extreme winters in U.S. and Europe

April 3, 2014

Date:
April 1, 2014
Source:
Institute of Physics
Summary:
The extreme cold weather observed across Europe and the east coast of the U.S. in recent winters could be partly down to natural, long-term variations in sea surface temperatures, according to a new study. Researchers have shown that a phenomenon known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) — a natural pattern of variation in North Atlantic sea surface temperatures that switches between a positive and negative phase every 60-70 years — can affect an atmospheric circulation pattern, known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), that influences the temperature and precipitation over the Northern Hemisphere in winter.

Winter storm traffic (stock image).
Credit: © Tomasz Zajda / Fotolia

The extreme cold weather observed across Europe and the east coast of the US in recent winters could be partly down to natural, long-term variations in sea surface temperatures, according to a new study published today.

Researchers from the University of California Irvine have shown that a phenomenon known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) — a natural pattern of variation in North Atlantic sea surface temperatures that switches between a positive and negative phase every 60-70 years — can affect an atmospheric circulation pattern, known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), that influences the temperature and precipitation over the Northern Hemisphere in winter.

When the AMO is in its positive phase and the sea surface temperatures are warmer, the study has shown that the main effect in winter is to promote the negative phase of the NAO which leads to “blocking” episodes over the North Atlantic sector, allowing cold weather systems to exist over the eastern US and Europe.

The results have been published today, Wednesday 2 April, in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters.

To arrive at their results, the researchers combined observations from the past century with climate simulations of the atmospheric response to the AMO.

According to their observations, sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic can be up to 1.5 °C warmer in the Gulf Stream region during the positive phase of the AMO compared to the negative, colder phase. The climate simulations suggest that these specific anomalies in sea surface temperatures can play a predominant role in promoting the change in the NAO.

Lead authors of the study Yannick Peings and Gudrun Magnusdottir said: “Our results indicate that the main effect of the positive AMO in winter is to promote the occurrence of the negative phase of the NAO. A negative NAO in winter usually goes hand-in-hand with cold weather in the eastern US and north-western Europe.”

The observations also suggest that it takes around 10-15 years before the positive phase of AMO has any significant effect on the NAO. The reason for this lag is unknown; however, an explanation might be that AMO phases take time to develop fully.

As the AMO has been in a positive phase since the early 1990s, it may have contributed to the extreme winters that both the US and Europe have experienced in recent years.

The researchers warn, however, that the future evolution of the AMO remains uncertain, with many factors potentially affecting how it interacts with atmospheric circulation patterns, such as Arctic sea ice loss, changes in solar radiation, volcanic eruptions and concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The AMO also shows strong variability from one year to the next in addition to the changes seen every 60 – 70 years, which makes it difficult to attribute specific extreme winters to the AMO’s effects.

Responding to the extreme weather that gripped the eastern coast of the US this winter, Yannick Peings continued: “Unlike the 2012/2013 winter, this winter had rather low values of the AMO index and the pattern of sea surface temperature anomalies was not consistent with the typical positive AMO pattern. Moreover, the NAO was mostly positive with a relatively mild winter over Europe.”

“Therefore it is unlikely that the positive AMO played a defining role on the east coast of the US, although further work is necessary to answer this question. Such an event is consistent with the large internal variability of the atmosphere, and other external forcings may have played a role.

“Our future studies will look to compare the role of the AMO compared to Arctic sea ice anomalies, which have also been shown to affect atmospheric circulation patterns and promote colder, more extreme winters.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Institute of PhysicsNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Yannick Peings, Gudrun Magnusdottir. Forcing of the wintertime atmospheric circulation by the multidecadal fluctuations of the North Atlantic oceanEnvironmental Research Letters, 2014; 9 (3): 034018 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/9/3/034018

Cite This Page:

Institute of Physics. “Natural variation: Warm North Atlantic Ocean promotes extreme winters in U.S. and Europe.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140401210414.htm>.

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Changing Our Climate of Indifference

April 2, 2014
Jill Richardson
OtherWorld/Op-ed
Published: Wednesday 2 April 2014
Americans need to hear from the media about the climate crisis even if there’s a shortage of cheerful angles.

A new scientific report predicts more dire and irreversible consequences of the climate crisis than ever before.

“No one on this planet will be untouched by climate change,” declared Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which the UN runs jointly with the World Meteorological Organization.

I have struggled with the exasperating realization that I have so little power to make the big changes needed to fix the problem. Sure, I can change my light bulbs. I even drive a Prius.Even though it wasn’t news to me, I welled up with frustration when this news broke.

But I can’t make my city have better infrastructure for biking and public transportation, or put solar panels on my apartment, or influence the larger policy environment that impacts our climate much more than my light bulbs.

 

However, my discouragement runs deeper. I became a journalist to find and tell important stories. I didn’t go to Bolivia looking for a story on the climate crisis, but I found one when I got there

In a million ways, the changing climate is ruining lives there: changing rain patterns, floods, mudslides, crop failures, and more. As if that wasn’t enough, reduced glacial melt in the Andes means decreased hydroelectric power. All of this is happening now.

 

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My research later led me to Kenya, where the effects of climate change were just as shocking. 

Why should things that happen half a world away matter to us? Our link to their misery is simple: The United States has arguably benefited more from industrialization and greenhouse gas emissions than any other nation on earth. People in these far-flung places are suffering for it.

That won’t matter to some people, so I’ll add this: Violence, instability, and disease don’t have borders.

In Kenya, I met Andrew Githeko, a scientist who has documented how malaria has already moved to new areas as the climate warms up. The people in these places have no immunity to the disease. When an epidemic occurs, as Githeko put it, “the bodies pile up.”

Newer projections find that the changing climate will jeopardize the world’s ability to produce enough food for everyone on Earth. And the problems already hitting the tropical areas I’ve visited could be a harbinger of what’s to come here at home in the coming years.

Trying to tell these stories as a journalist makes me sometimes wonder why I even bother. I’ve been told flat out by editors that their readers are burnt out on depressing climate crisis stories. They don’t want to print a story that contains nothing but bad news.

Since readers would presumably prefer a hopeful story about the climate crisis, they suggest that I find an inspiring angle. Like how someone is adapting to the changing climate.

Entertaining readers is not my job. I became a journalist to tell people what they need to know. But it seems most publications are more interested in what sells than what’s important. Like that story about how a 10-foot Australian snake ate a crocodile. The images were absolutely captivating, but it’s not important news.

I wish there were more happy and hopeful angles to the climate crisis. The climate story is, and always has been, a huge bummer. Or, as Al Gore says, “an inconvenient truth.”

Journalists aren’t entertainers, and the media has a duty to inform the public about what they need to know. Perhaps if more reporters had done their job right from the start, we would have made the changes we needed years ago. Had that happened, maybe the latest reports on climate change would instead describe how we dodged a bullet.

ABOUT JILL RICHARDSON

Jill Richardson, an OtherWords columnist, writes about all aspects of the food system, from farm to fork. She’s the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do To Fix It and her next book will be about how U.S. foreign policy impacts the world’s most vulnerable farmers.

IPCC report: impact of global warming by region

April 1, 2014

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/10733763/IPCC-report-impact-of-global-warming-by-region.html

A region by region breakdown of the challenges, risks and options presented by climate change

This is how climate change may affect the world’s regions this century, as forecast in a major report published by UN scientists on Monday.

The report is part of the fifth overview on global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since 1988.

The document identifies each region’s key challenges; options for addressing them; and level of risk from warming of either 2 C (3.6 F) or 4 C (7.2 F) by 2100 compared to pre-industrial levels.

This risk is calculated on the basis of present policies for adapting to climate change.

AFRICA

Challenge: Water stress Risk: High at 2 C, very high at 4 C

Options: Smarter use of water resources

Challenge: Food shortages Risk: Very high at 2 C and 4 C

Options: Stress-tolerant crops, help for small farmers

Challenge: Mosquito- and water-borne diseases Risk: Very high at 2 C and 4 C

Option: Outbreak early-warning systems, improved sanitation

EUROPE

Challenge: Flooding in river basis and on coasts Risk: Medium at 2 C, very high at 4 C

Options: Improve flood protection

Challenge: Water stress in dry regions Risk: High at 2 C, very high at 4 C

Options: Reduce water waste, including through irrigation

Challenge: Heatwaves and air pollution affecting health Risk: High at 2 C, very high at 4 C

Options: Reduce emissions to improve air quality and adapt homes and workplaces for heatwaves.

 

 

ASIA

Challenge: Flood damage to homes and infrastructure Risk: High at 2 C, very high at 4 C

Options: More resilient buildings and “selective relocation”

Challenge: Deaths from extreme heat Risk: Very high at 2 C and 4 C

Options: Strengthen health systems, improve city planning to reduce urban heat buildup

Challenge: Malnutrition caused by drought Risk: Medium at 2 C, high at 4 C

Options: Beef up vigilance on food supplies, improve disaster preparedness

AUSTRALASIA

Challenge: Damage to coral reefs and, in Australia, animal and plant species loss Risk: High at 2 C, very high at 4 C

Options: Reduce pressures on ecosystems from pollution, tourism and introduced species

Challenge: Flooding, and coastal infrastructure lost to rising seas Risk: Medium at 2 C, very high at 4 C

Options: Smarter land use to reduce exposure to floods and coastal erosion.

NORTH AMERICA

Challenge: Wildfires for ecosystems and homes Risk: Very high at 2 C and 4 C

Options: Improve fire prevention measures

Challenge: Deaths from heatwaves Risk: High at 2 C, very high at 4 C

Options: Encourage residential air conditioning, build cooling centres for the vulnerable

Challenge: Property and infrastructure damage from extreme rainstorms Risk: High at 2 C, very high at 4 C

Options: Install drainage systems that allow water runoff to recharge groundwater resources, easing flood risk

CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

Challenge: Water stress in semi-arid areas that depend on glaciers for water supply Risk: Very high at 2 C and 4 C

Options: Improve water supply and land use

Challenge: Flooding in urban areas from extreme rainfall Risk: Very high at 2 C and 4 C

Options: Improve urban flood management, early-warning systems and weather alerts

Challenge: Decreased food production and food quality Risk: Very high at 2 C and 4 C

Options: Develop drought-resistant crop strains

POLAR REGIONS

Challenge: Risk to ecosystems from changes to permafrost, snow and ice Risk: High at 2 C , very high at 4C

Options: Enhanced monitoring of risk, hunt different species if possible

Challenge: Food insecurity and lack of reliable and safe drinking water Risk: Very high at 2 C and 4 C

Options: Improve monitoring systems, shift resources, settle elsewhere

Challenge: Impact on Arctic communities if climate change happens very fast Risk: Very high at 2 C and 4 C

Options: Improve communications, education and training, encourage co-management of ecosystem

SMALL ISLANDS

Challenge: Loss of homes, farmland, infrastructure and livelihoods from rising seas and storms Risk: High at 2 C, very high at 4 C

Options: Boost coastal buffers and improve management of water and soil resources

Challenge: Loss of low-lying land in coastal areas from a combination of rising seas and storm surges Risk: Very high at 2 C and 4 C

Options: Not constructing new buildings in areas at risk

OCEANS

Challenge: Decline in fish catches at low latitudes Risk: Medium at 2 C, high at 4 C

Options: Flexible management reactive to stock variability, expanding aquaculture

Challenge: Biodiversity loss from heat-damaged coral reefs Risk: Very high at 2 C and 4 C

Options: Reduce other human-induced stresses like pollution, tourism and fishing

Challenge: Damage to coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and sea grass from soil runoff from heavy rain and coastal erosion Risk: High at 2 C, very high at 4 C

Options: Reduce soil runoff caused by deforestation

SOURCE: “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability ” (Summary for Policymakers)

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Climate change will exacerbate the risk of extinction for bees and other pollinating insects already under threat from pesticides and habitat loss, experts say

March 30, 2014

Bees and the crops they pollinate are at risk from climate change, IPCC report to warn

Chris Connolly, an academic at the University of Dundee, who provided evidence to the EAC, said the neonicotinoids being sold to gardeners are a less toxic variety.

Bees pollinate more than £1 billion worth of crops in the UK each year including fruits and vegetables such as carrots, cabbages, apples and pears. Photo: PA

Bees essential to pollinate British crops face increased risk of extinction because of climate change, a major UN report is expected to warn.

Changes to habitats and to behaviour of different species as a result of warmer weather will exacerbate the danger to bee species already facing numerous other threats, according to scientists.

Some species could face extinction while declining numbers would harm harvests of British crops such as apples, raising fears from businesses such as cider-makers that their livelihoods could be at risk.

Bees pollinate more than £1 billion worth of crops in the UK each year including fruits and vegetables such as carrots, cabbages, apples and pears.

In a vast and wide-ranging report on the likely global impacts of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to warn that rising global temperatures are having severe negative impacts on bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects and could result in more species extinctions.

Leaked draft copies of the report say: “Climate change, after land-use changes, can be regarded as the second most relevant factor responsible for the decline of pollinators.”

It cites research by scientist Simon Potts, Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at Reading University.

Professor Potts told the Telegraph bees faced two major threats as a result of climate change: habitats moving, and changing seasonal behaviour of different species.

“Under climate change you would expect habitats that bees and pollinators use will shift – but the bees may or may not be able to move; there may be no connection between the habitat they have now and the new area,” he said.

As a result of climate change, bees were also “emerging earlier and earlier” in the year.

“Both the bees and flowering plants are shifting because of climate but, on average, the UK flowers are getting earlier by 4 or 5 days each decade whereas the bees we have looked at are becoming earlier by 7-10 days per decade. So we are worried that bees are starting their activity before any of their flowing plants are available.”

He said: “There is definitely an increased risk of extinction. If these things are already vulnerable and climate is increasingly putting pressure on them, it is going to tip them over the edge so we will get local extinctions.”

Professor Potts added: “Climate change is a juggernaut and we are not going to be able to slow it down in the next 10 or 20 years, so we need to do something much more quickly: providing good quality habitats for bees and trying to reduce other pressures on them such as habitat loss and the impact of pesticides.”

Wild bees, which are particularly important for crop pollination and improve the flavour and quality of fruit like apples may be more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than honey bees, according to experts. Bumblebees are also thought to be particularly vulnerable.

Cider-makers are backing calls for action and are looking at ways they can “protect and revive bees and other pollinating insects”, Simon Russell, spokesman for the National Association of Cider Makers said.

“Bees and other pollinating insects are especially important to growers and cider-makers. Without them, blossom is a pointless exercise and we don’t get a harvest. Cider-makers and growers are studying quite seriously issues of climate change.”

Environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth are calling for the government to take action to help boost bees’ resilience to climate change by strengthening a “National Pollinator Strategy” currently being consulted on by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Friends of the Earth nature campaigner Sandra Bell said: “This report is another stark warning about the impacts of climate change, which threatens to wipe out more bee species, affecting our ability to produce food.

“British orchards, recently hit by floods, could be particularly vulnerable to further declines in bee populations.

“Urgent action is needed to tackle climate change but the Government must also help bees and other wildlife adapt to changes already happening.

“That means reducing other stresses by ensuring bees have plentiful and varied food sources and helping farmers reduce their reliance on chemical pesticides.

“The National Pollinator Strategy currently being consulted on must be strong enough to help our bees survive in a changing climate.”

A spokesman for Defra said: “We take the issue of bee health very seriously. The draft National Pollinator Strategy is currently out for consultation and we urge people and groups to respond


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