Archive for the ‘Global warming’ Category

Dr Robert Davies: The Great Big Context of Climate Disruption (November 2016)

December 23, 2016

Human-driven climate disruption poses extreme risks in the coming decades. Indeed some people, societies, species, and ecosystems have already experienced significant, even catastrophic consequences. Recognition of the scale and immediacy of this malady is now driving a new era of mitigation strategies. Climate disruption, however, is not a single ailment that can be treated in isolation.

Rather, it is one of a family of existential afflictions, including a massive and accelerating loss of biodiversity, acute ecological overshoot, and intensifying social inequities – emergent from the same underlying pathology. And while some climate mitigation pathways address multiple symptoms synergistically, others exacerbate them.

We find ourselves at a crossroads, in need of a map clearly depicting the landscape and a compass to guide us. In this talk I’ll introduce one such map – a framework of ‘planetary boundaries’ … and one such compass – the concept of a safe operating space for all people. What yet remains is the active participation of a broad spectrum of society to keep the full suite of so- called “wicked” socio-environmental problems clearly in focus as we plot a course forward.

Dr. Robert Davies is a Utah-trained physicist and educator whose work focuses on synthesizing and communicating a broad range of research – including climate, energy, agriculture, economics, and complex systems. His published works include research in the fields of spacecraft / space environment interactions; the fundamental nature of light and information; and Earth’s climate system. He is also co-creator of The Crossroads Project, a collaborative communication project combining a hard science narrative with evocative imagery and powerful music, bringing to bear the power of performance art on the topic of human sustainability.

Dr. Davies is an Associate of the Utah Climate Center and adjunct professor in Utah State University’ Department of Plants, Soils and Climate. He has taught on the faculty of three universities; worked as project scientist for Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory; as technical liaison for NASA’s International Space Station project; and served as an officer and meteorologist in the United States Air Force. He lives and works in Logan.

Rob Davies, Physicist, Utah Climate Center

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Dr Robert Davies: The Great Big Context of Climate Disruption (November 2016)


Arctic Is Warming at ‘Astonishing’ Rates, Researchers Say

December 23, 2016

Temperatures are up and ice cover is down in the Arctic this year. Scientists say climate change is altering the region faster than other parts of the planet. (photo: Greenland Travel)

By Christopher Joyce, NPR
23 December 16

cientists released this year’s so-called Arctic Report Card on Tuesday, and it is a dismal one.

Researchers say the Arctic continues to warm up at rates they call “astonishing.” They presented their findings at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in San Francisco.

“The Arctic as a whole is warming at least twice as fast as the rest of the planet,” says Jeremy Mathis, climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and one of the report card’s authors.

The cause of the warming is in part due to a feedback loop unique to the Arctic’s northern climate. Normally, the region stays cool because snow and ice reflect a lot of sunlight back into space. But warmer temperatures are melting that snow and ice. The melting snow exposes darker ground and water that absorb more of the sun’s heat. That makes the Arctic warm up even faster.

Arctic Is Warming at ‘Astonishing’ Rates, Researchers Say
Mathis adds that the warming is getting progressively worse.

“The Arctic is getting persistently warmer; sea ice is continuing to show declines, particularly during the summer months,” he says. “The second big story for 2016 has been the winter temperatures.”

Mathis says it wasn’t so long ago that the temperature in Fairbanks, Alaska, where he lives, would drop to minus 40 F for weeks at a time in the winter.

“Now since about 2012 and 2013, it’s pretty rare for the temperature to even hit minus 40 in Fairbanks,” he says.

Warmer winters have created what polar scientist Marco Tedesco calls a new “precondition” for a higher rate of melting in the spring, when the sun first rises, ending the dark Arctic winter.

“You change the physics of the snowpack so that snow becomes more vulnerable to melting as soon as the sun comes up,” he says.

Tedesco, from the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory in New York, says polar regions are not as resilient to warming as other places. That’s because it takes only one or two degrees to change the Arctic from a frozen world to an unfrozen — and very different — one.

“In other places, going from 75 F to 80 F might not make such a great difference,” he says. “But if you cross the melting point, you are basically stepping into a completely new world.”

What the Earth would look like if all the ice melted

August 31, 2016

We learned last year that many of the effects of climate change are irreversible. Sea levels have been rising at a greater rate year after year, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates they could rise by another meter or more by the end of this century.

As National Geographic showed us in 2013, sea levels would rise by 216 feet if all the land ice on the planet were to melt. This would dramatically reshape the continents and drown many of the world’s major cities.

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Most Climate Change Damage Will Happen Before the Two-Degrees Warming Threshold

December 13, 2015

Climate change is already a growing cause of displacement and conflict where land has been devastated by drought. (photo: B. Bannon/UNHCR)
Climate change is already a growing cause of displacement and conflict where land has been devastated by drought. (photo: B. Bannon/UNHCR)

By Zoe Schlanger, Newsweek

12 December 15


ost discourse regarding climate change is based around a simple premise: The more the Earth warms, the greater the damage done to the planet. But in new paper published in Nature Geoscience, a team of researchers found that presupposition is fundamentally flawed. The reality, they write, is more ominous.

Almost all the damage from climate change to vulnerable categories like coral reefs, freshwater availability and plantlife could happen before two degrees Celsius warming, the internationally recognized “do not cross” danger threshold. Beyond that point, further warming might have a relatively small impact. That’s because, as Ken Caldeira, an environmental scientist at Stanford University and an author of the paper, put it, there won’t be much left to ruin.

“Once you’ve killed off the coral reefs you are no longer at risk of killing off the coral reefs,” he said.

In the chart below, Caldeira and his colleagues graphed the extent of damage from climate change on various sectors of the environment. They found that the sensitivity of some of these categories to small increases in temperature will be highest within the first several degrees of warming, and then tapers off, having hit a physical limit, or what the researchers call a “saturation of impacts,” as in the case of coral reefs at two degrees Celsius. Once the planet gets into the higher degrees of warming, the rate of impact begins to plateau—because there won’t be anything left to be affected.

Some climate change impacts rise fast with little warming, and then taper off, write a team of researchers in a paper published during the 2015 Paris climate talks.  (photo: Ricke et al/NATURE GEOSCIENCE)

Some climate change impacts rise fast with little warming, and then taper off, write a team of researchers in
a paper published during the 2015 Paris climate talks. (photo: Ricke et al/NATURE GEOSCIENCE)

Freshwater scarcity also appears to worsen rapidly prior to two degrees warming, and worsen more slowly after. The ruining of crop land appears to slow down around 3 degrees of warming, after significant damage, as indicated by the steep upward slope of the red line, has already been done. The same holds true for damage to UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The paper also does away with another common trope: that as the effects of climate change get worse, governments will feel more and more pressure to do something about it, like dramatically reduce emissions. But, Caldeira says, the opposite is probably true. “Once all the sensitive components of our planet are already damaged, incentive to decrease emissions may decrease…. The incentive to avoid climate change may be greatest before we have done substantial damage.”

In short, explains Kate Ricke, a climate scientist at Stanford and another author of the paper, if the Paris climate agreement produces “insufficiently ambitious climate policy,” it could “inadvertently push the world into a lower-mitigation and lower-welfare future.”

Because once we’ve broken everything, what damage is left to prevent?


Huge Coal Company Misled Investors on Climate Change Risk, According to Investigation

November 14, 2015

A coal mine. (photo: Lyntha Scott Eiler)
A coal mine. (photo: Lyntha Scott Eiler)

By Tim McDonnell, Grist

14 November 15


ust days after President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, environmentalists were handed another victory Monday morning when New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released the results of an investigation that found one of the world’s largest coal companies had misled the public and its shareholders about the risks climate change could pose to its bottom line.

After several years of investigations, Schneiderman reached an agreement with Peabody Energy that won’t require the company to admit it broke the law and does not entail a fine or other penalty. Instead, Peabody must file revised shareholder disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission with new language acknowledging that “concerns about the environmental impacts of coal combustion … could significantly affect demand for our products or our securities.”

Climate change could pose a serious risk to investors in publicly traded fossil fuel companies, as governments around the world move to restrict carbon emissions. Many climate change advocacy groups say those companies have an obligation to their shareholders to be transparent about how demand for their product could diminish in the near future.

According to Schneiderman’s findings, Peabody had known since at least 2013 that policies enacted in the United States and abroad to fight climate change could significantly diminish demand for coal — one of the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions. For example, one internal projection from that year found that climate regulations could slash sales at two of the company’s U.S. coal mines by one-third or more, according to the findings. But at the same time, the company filed disclosures with the SEC that claimed it was “not possible for [Peabody] to reasonably predict the impact that any such laws or regulations may have on [Peabody’s] results of operations, financial condition or cash flows.”

That mixed messaging, Schneiderman found, violates New York laws prohibiting false or misleading claims in the company’s financial statements.

“As a publicly traded company whose core business generates massive amounts of carbon emissions, Peabody Energy has a responsibility to be honest with its investors and the public about the risks posed by climate change, now and in the future,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

In its own response, Peabody said the agreement represented “no admission or denial of wrongdoing” and that “the company has always sought to make appropriate disclosures.”

The agreement comes just days after Schneiderman issued a subpoena to ExxonMobil, kicking off an investigation into whether the oil giant has misled investors and the public about the basic science of climate change for decades. Exxon has denied any wrongdoing. While the two investigations have some similarities, Exxon could face tougher penalties than Peabody, said Andrew Logan, director of oil and gas programs at Ceres, an investor advocacy group. The allegations against Exxon stretch back much further in time and could potentially be more serious, so the attorney general could pursue more aggressive action against the company, Logan said.

Even with the Peabody investigation over, the coal company is hardly in a happy place. Its share price has tanked 87 percent this year, squeezed by the shrinking global market for coal. Many of Peabody’s coal-industry peers are also gravely wounded. In fact, coal demand may soon hit its fastest decline in history, according to data released today by Greenpeace. And while Peabody escaped financial penalties this time around, it could still face litigation from aggrieved shareholders, Logan said.

“They’re going back in time to change what they said [in their disclosure statements],” he said. “It’s a very unusual thing in the securities world, and tends to bring real liability.”

Meanwhile, the agreement could put pressure on the SEC to step up its enforcement of climate-related statements (or the lack thereof) made not only by other energy companies, but also by corporations in other climate-sensitive sectors, such as property insurance and agriculture.

“On the one hand, this action has been directed at two companies. But the reasons they were targeted could be applied to whole other industries,” Logan said. “This is a huge victory for investors.”


Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions Won’t Slow Global Economic Growth – Report

September 27, 2015

Increased use of low-carbon energy sources instead of fossil energy sources is making it easier for countries to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report. (photo: Mick Tsikas/Reuters)
Increased use of low-carbon energy sources instead of fossil energy sources is making it easier for countries to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report. (photo: Mick Tsikas/Reuters)

By Bruce Watson, Guardian UK

26 September 15


New report from green think tank Heinrich Boll shows OECD countries grew their economies 16% in last decade – and cut greenhouse gas emissions 6.4%

s the world works out how to avoid catastrophic climate change, one of the biggest questions remaining is whether we can continue to grow economically without also increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

New research released this week at Climate Week NYC offers more hope that the answer might be yes. Prepared for green thinktank Heinrich Böll by DIW Econ, a German institute for economic research, the study found that, as a whole, countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have already decoupled their economic growth from emissions.

From 2004 to 2014, OECD countries grew their economies by 16% all together, while cutting fossil fuel consumption by 6% and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6.4%, according to the report. The findings echo the results of an International Energy Association study earlier this year, which found that global emissions remained flat in 2014 while global GDP rose, marking a historical milestone.

Four major factors have contributed to this decoupling, according to the Heinrich Böll study: increased use of low-carbon energy sources instead of fossil energy sources; increased efficiency in energy generation; increased energy efficiency on the consumer side; and a move away from energy-intensive manufacturing towards less energy-intensive service sector work.

The biggest driver has been the reduced cost of renewable energy, particularly solar power, says Bastian Hermisson, executive director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s North America office.

“Renewables are the only source of energy that is continually getting cheaper,” Hermisson says. “In many parts of the world, solar and wind power have become cost competitive with coal. Renewables are, increasingly, offering the best return for your money, in terms of new investments.”

In Germany, for example, which has been a world leader in renewable energy policy, renewable energy costs have dropped 74% since 2006. Since 2004, Germany’s GDP has grown by 13% and its emissions have dropped by 11%. Conventional energy usage, including nuclear power, has dropped by 15% over the same period, while renewable energy usage has grown by 185%, and now represents 12% of the country’s total energy consumption.

In the US, GDP grew 17% between 2004 and 2007, while energy consumption dropped 2%; conventional energy usage dropped 4% and emissions related to fossil fuel combustion dropped 7.4%.

But the question of whether the world can continue to decouple economic growth and emissions depends largely on developing countries, which have taken on an increasing share of manufacturing. For the most part, developing countries’ economies are more dependent on fossil fuels, and they are growing to make up an increasing proportion of the total world economy.

Here, again, the Heinrich Böll study offers a glimmer of hope: it found that China, a major manufacturing economy, has also used renewables to begin decoupling its economy and emissions. The report stated that a stronger decoupling “seems possible in the near future”.

In 2004, China accounted for 9% of world GDP and 13% of energy consumption. Ten years later, those numbers had risen to 16% of GDP and 23% of energy consumption. This growth was, to a great extent, fueled by coal: in the same 10 years, China’s coal consumption grew by 74%.

But in the last two years, a major shift has occurred, according to the report: China has increased its use of renewables by 27%, and its use of natural gas by 22%, while its coal usage has remained flat. In other words, China’s rapid industrial growth, which previously depended mainly on fossil fuels, now appears to be taking a more renewable path.

This contrasts starkly with the energy picture in India, which is developing rapidly with a focus on coal. Since 2004, India’s coal consumption has more than doubled to account for over 57% of the country’s energy generation, according to the study. This has steeply raised emissions and has more than canceled out the benefits of its renewable energy growth.

Hermisson emphasizes the importance of helping developing countries to move toward more sustainable models. “If we do not find a way to combine sustainability with the developmental ambitions of billions of people in the world, the future looks bleak,” he says.

The secret may lie in exporting energy efficiency, along with manufacturing.

“The goal is to make sure that, when heavy manufacturing moves to developing countries, the old way of doing things doesn’t follow it,” Hermisson says. “We don’t want to repeat the developmental model of the OECD countries.”


‘Unheard of Fire Behavior’ Devastates West, Entire Towns Gone

September 19, 2015

Burned out remains of a vehicle and swing set scorched by the Valley Fire line Jefferson St. in Middletown. (photo: Noah Berger/Reuters)
Burned out remains of a vehicle and swing set scorched by the Valley Fire line Jefferson St. in Middletown. (photo: Noah Berger/Reuters)

By Noah Berger, Reuters

14 September 15


rapidly spreading wildfire destroyed hundreds of homes and other buildings as it roared through the northern California village of Middletown and several nearby communities, chasing thousands of residents from their homes, fire officials said on Sunday.

The so-called Valley Fire, now ranking as the most destructive among scores of blazes that have raged across the drought-stricken Western United States this summer, came amid what California fire officials described as “unheard of fire behavior” this season.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in areas ravaged by the blaze, and officials expanded mandatory evacuations as shifting winds sent flames and ash toward a number of towns in the hills north of Napa Valley wine country.

The Valley Fire has consumed more than 50,000 acres since erupting Saturday afternoon in rural Lake County, California, about 50 miles west of Sacramento, the state capital, fire officials said on Sunday.

Thousands of evacuees from Middletown, Cobb, Hidden Valley Lake and the Harbin Hot Springs resort gathered in shelters, restaurants and friends’ houses in nearby Kelseyville and Calistoga waiting to hear about their homes, horses and dogs.

Middletown and the town of Cobb, just to the north, were reported to be hardest hit by the flames, with large swaths of Middletown left in ruins, according to officials, eyewitnesses and local media reports.

Video footage from Middletown showed a smoking, devastated landscape of blackened, burned-out vehicles and the charred foundations of buildings that had been reduced to ash.

“While crews have not had a chance to do a full damage assessment … we know 100s of structures have been destroyed,” Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said in a Twitter post.

“This has been a very destructive fire. It has destroyed countless homes and other buildings,” he said in a video news briefing released a short time later. “Evacuations are widespread in the area.”

He said a combination of prolonged drought and a heat wave baking the region in triple-digit temperatures last week had left vegetation tinder dry and highly combustible, setting the stage for a conflagration that thwarted the best efforts of firefighters to contain it.

“Every time they made progress, the fire would burn right past them,” he said, adding that stiff winds were carrying hot embers beyond the leading edge of the flames, sparking additional blazes that quickly enlarged the fire zone.

Four firefighters were hospitalized with second-degree burns after they were dropped off by helicopter to battle the fire, authorities said.

Laura Streblow, 27, an evacuee who fled the nearby town of Hidden Valley with her boyfriend on Saturday night and has been tracking developments on social media and through friends, told Reuters she had heard that “Middletown is basically gone.”

Recounting her own evacuation ordeal, Streblow said, “I saw flames all around. Because we weren’t moving in traffic, you sat for 30, 40 minutes, flames on both sides of me. The wind was insane. I have never been so scared.”

Mark Donpineo, 54, a project manager, said he and two friends were trapped by the fire for four hours Saturday evening at a golf course in the Hidden Valley Lake gated community, taking cover in a culvert.

“We got some towels, wetted down them down, and basically saw the fire coming. You could hear explosions of propane tanks, the ridge was totally on fire, trees were blowing up,” he said.

The fire eventually moved on, and Donpineo, a resident of Harbin Hot Springs, drove through falling ash to Kelseyville.


Nearly Half the World’s Largest Corporations Are Obstructing Climate Change Legislation

September 19, 2015

The Koch brothers, who head Koch Industries, a company which received the lowest grade on the Union of Concerned Scientists list of companies blocking climate change legislation. (photo: AP)
The Koch brothers, who head Koch Industries, a company which received the lowest grade on the Union of Concerned Scientists list of companies blocking climate change legislation. (photo: AP)

By Cole Mellino, EcoWatch

18 September 15


ew research reveals that nearly half (45 percent) of the world’s 100 largest companies are “obstructing climate change legislation.” And those that aren’t actively obstructing climate policy are members of trade associations that do. A full 95 percent of these companies are members of trade associations “demonstrating the same obstructionist behavior.”

With help from the Union of Concerned Scientists, UK-based nonprofit InfluenceMap has released a report identifying the best and worst of the world’s major companies when it comes to climate policy.

“More and more, we’re seeing companies rely on their trade groups to do their dirty work of lobbying against comprehensive climate policies,” said Gretchen Goldman, lead analyst at Union of concerned Scientists. “Companies get the delay in policy they want, while preventing nations from acting to fight climate change. It is unacceptable that companies can obstruct climate action in this way without any accountability.”

The researchers found that corporate influence over climate policies extended “beyond the activities normally associated with lobbying, including intervention in the public discourse on climate change science and policy via advertising, PR, social media, and access to decision makers, as well as the use of influencers, such as trade associations and advocacy groups.”

The companies were graded on an A to F scale. None of the companies received an A. The top three companies, which all received a B, were Google, Unilever and Cisco Systems. GlaxoSmithKline, Deutsche Telekom, National Grid, Vodafone Group, Nestle, Apple and Anheuser Busch InBev rounded out the top 10. But even Apple, which has been praised in recent months for its sustainability efforts received a paltry C+. It should also be noted that of those top 13 companies, only three are headquartered in the U.S.: Google, Apple and Cisco Systems. The rest are headquartered in Europe.

Sustainable report on major corporations. (photo: EcoWatch)

Sustainable report on major corporations. (photo: EcoWatch)

“There is a lack of detailed analysis available in this area and sadly great companies sometimes do bad things by lobbying against government action to avoid dangerous climate change,” said Paul Dickinson, executive chairman of CDP.

As mentioned early, nearly all of the companies (95 percent) are members of trade associations that are fighting against climate action. Those associations include BusinessEurope (recently under attack in the UK for their obstructionist stance towards climate legislation) and the secretive U.S. industry group, NEDA/CAP, “who have been suing the U.S. EPA to prevent them using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions,” according to InfluenceMap.

Other trade associations include the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), European Automobile Manufacturers Association, American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Council of Australia and Japan 2 Business Federation.

InfluenceMap’s research found that “despite their public communications, few corporations have actually supported the progressive climate policies being proposed by governments globally. There also remains a lack of transparency around their relationships with trade associations, with very few companies willing to publicly challenge them despite clear misalignment between their climate positions and the actions of the associations.”

The companies receiving the lowest grades come as no surprise. Among them are major fossil fuel companies such as Chevron, BP, Duke Energy and Phillips 66. And at the bottom of the list is climate denying extraordinaire Koch Industries. Interestingly, two media companies even make the list: 21st Century Fox and Comcast.

Here are the 10 worst companies on InfluenceMap’s list:

Sustainable report on major corporations. (photo: EcoWatch)

Sustainable report on major corporations. (photo: EcoWatch/InfluenceMap)


Climate Change: Don’t read this if you don’t want to know how bad it is

August 24, 2015

General News 8/23/2015 at 08:31:09

By Daily Kos (about the author) Permalink (Page 1 of 2 pages)
Related Topic(s): Climate Change, Add Tags Add to My Group(s)
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View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H3 8/23/15

Reprinted from by rktect

Abrupt Climate Change forced by 30 some odd self reinforcing feedback loops is making it possible to observe what was projected by the IPCC to occur by the end of the century now.

You may have missed this news as there is a lot going on with the Donald.

(image by NOAA) DMCA

These Methane releases are what Hansen warned of as the Clathrate Gun, or in other words the tipping points have tipped.

(image by NOAA) DMCA


Methane Hydrate releases in the arctic as warned of by Sam Carana are now reported by NOAA to be 150 miles across. You will remember that even slight releases of methane in the arctic were enough to cause polar researchers like Jason Box to freak out a little over a year ago.

Jason Box
If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we’re f’d.

8:43 AM – 29 Jul 2014

Methane is orders of magnitude worse than CO2 and its being released in 50 Gigaton bursts farts that by themselves can cause an instant 1.3 degrees C global temperature rise.

(image by Sam Carana) DMCA

A year ago we began to observe warmer arctic water temperatures high enough to melt sea ice because of the Methane releases.

Sea surface temperatures as high as 18.8 degreesC are now recorded at locations where warm water from the Pacific Ocean is threatening to invade the Arctic Ocean.

(image by NOAA) DMCA
That was all a year ago but like many people I was still looking at the IPCC projections which would be reasonably accurate if you cut the time scale in half.

Its good that while Trump continues to be all the media is interested in, we now have the ability here to teach each other to recognize that Black Lives Matter and Black and Brown people in the United States are being shot dead by cops every day or maybe worse incarcerated in private prisons where men women and children are being forced to perform slave labor as if the plantations of the Civil War had just been moved to some private penitentiary but meanwhile our Life Expectancy as a species may now be compared to that of someone in their seventies who has stage four cancer.

Now we have El Nino acting like a blowtorch raising the temperature of the whole Pacific Ocean 4-8 degrees C and directing its focus towards the west coast.

Fish can’t adapt to temperatures rising that much that fast, neither can the plant life that recycles our oxygen. We ourselves are running out of drinking water even as the people making decisions for us have decided to irrigate our crops with fracking waste water. Maybe its a good thing peak oil is here because fossil fuel use has been part of the problem and changing over to solar and wind might have been good if we had done it in time, but Methane releases are now on the order of 1000 times more damaging even than all that CO2 from cars.


The result is the California drought extending up into Canada and the Canadian fires which may themselves be both releasing and fueled by a self reinforcing methane release loop.

(image by NDMC) DMCA

In the Persian Gulf we get heat indexes in the 170 plus range with a combination of desert heat , ocean humidity and direct sunlight

(image by NOAA) DMCA

I wish I had a big enough voice that I could stand on a soapbox someplace and make the point that as temperature rises so do sea levels, maybe 5-9 meters in our now much shorter than expected lifetimes. Then there are the 400 some odd nuclear reactors that require maintenance they won’t be getting when our cities sink beneath the waves. On top of that there may be many more storms with huge rogue waves of up to 30 meters making life on the oceans interesting. There are a lot of things that can kill us as individuals, but this is the first time its become really obvious the decision making about our imminent extinction as a species that is one component of all the life on this planet has been taken out of our hands.



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Speed of Glacier Retreat Worldwide ‘Historically Unprecedented’

August 5, 2015

The Rhone glacier, Switzerland. Sea levels are rising as a consequence of the rapid loss of glacial ice worldwide. (photo: REX Shutterstock)
The Rhone glacier, Switzerland. Sea levels are rising as a consequence of the rapid loss of glacial ice worldwide. (photo: REX Shutterstock)

By Tim Radford, Guardian UK

05 August 15


Researchers have recorded rapid rises in meltwater and alarming rates of glacial retreat, which are accelerating at a pace double that of a decade ago

he world’s glaciers are in retreat. The great tongues of ice high in the Himalayas, the Andes, the Alps and the Rockies are going back uphill at ever greater speeds, according to new research.

And this loss of ice is both accelerating and “historically unprecedented”, say scientists who report in the Journal of Glaciology.

In the past year or so, researchers have identified rapid rises in meltwater and alarming cases of glacial retreat in Greenland, West Antarctica, the Canadian and Alaskan coastal mountains, in Europe and in the Himalayan massif. They have also watched glaciers pick up speed downhill. One satellite-based study, confirmed by on-the-ground measurements, of the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland, confirms that the river of ice is now moving at the rate of 46 metres a day, 17 kilometres a year, which is twice the speed recorded in 2003, which in turn was twice as fast as measured in 1997.

The World Glacier Monitoring Service, based at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and with partners in 30 countries, has been compiling data on changes in glaciers over the last 120 years. And it has just compared all known 21st century observations with data from site measurements, aerial photography and satellite observations and evidence from pictorial and written sources. Altogether, the service has collected 5,000 measurements of glacier volume and changes in mass since 1850, and 42,000 records of variations in glacier fronts from records dating back to the 16th century.

And the evidence is clear: the glaciers are in retreat, worldwide, and the retreat is accelerating.

“The observed glaciers currently lose between half a metre and one metre of ice thickness every year – this is two to three times more than the corresponding average of the 20th century,” says the study’s lead author, Michael Zemp, who directs the monitoring service. “Exact measurements of this ice loss are reported from a few hundred glaciers only. However, these results are qualitatively confirmed from field and satellite observations for tens of thousands of glaciers around the world.”

The great ice sheets help maintain the climate zone differences that drive weather patterns. They provide distinct ecosystems that support precisely adapted lifeforms, from mountain wildflowers to snow leopards. They offer a source of tourist income for mountain communities and deliver spring and summer meltwater to irrigate crops in the fertile valleys downstream. And as long as ice is safely stored in mountain ranges, it isn’t contributing to sea level rise.

But sea levels are creeping up inexorably every year, as a consequence of galloping glacial retreat in the polar, temperate and tropical zones.

This loss of ice is not uniform: researchers recorded cases of glacier advance, sometimes of a few hundred metres, in the 1990s. But these intermittent glacial gains are nothing like the return of the ice recorded during the so-called “little Ice Age” that began in the 16th century, when the Thames froze hard enough to support annual winter fairs. The big picture is one of retreat, everywhere.

Some glaciers may now be doomed. In the last century, because of fossil fuel emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, global average temperatures have crept up by almost 1C to trigger wide-scale melting. Even were the world to abandon fossil fuel use right now, some melting would continue. “Glaciers in many regions will very likely suffer further ice loss, even if climate remains stable,” the researchers conclude.