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Accelerating Global Climate Change III

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Sore Throat

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Climate Change Study Indicates Amount Of Heat-Trapping Pollu PostMon Dec 03, 2012 4:21 pm  Reply with quote

Climate Change Study Indicates Amount Of Heat-Trapping Pollution Rose By 3 Percent Worldwide Last Year


WASHINGTON -- The amount of heat-trapping pollution the world spewed rose again last year by 3 percent. So scientists say it's now unlikely that global warming can be limited to a couple of degrees, which is an international goal.

The overwhelming majority of the increase was from China, the world's biggest carbon dioxide polluter. Of the planet's top 10 polluters, the United States and Germany were the only countries that reduced their carbon dioxide emissions.

Last year, all the world's nations combined pumped nearly 38.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, according to new international calculations on global emissions published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change. That's about a billion tons more than the previous year.

The total amounts to more than 2.4 million pounds (1.1 million kilograms) of carbon dioxide released into the air every second.

Because emissions of the key greenhouse gas have been rising steadily and most carbon stays in the air for a century, it is not just unlikely but "rather optimistic" to think that the world can limit future temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), said the study's lead author, Glen Peters at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, Norway.

Three years ago, nearly 200 nations set the 2-degree C temperature goal in a nonbinding agreement. Negotiators now at a conference under way in Doha, Qatar, are trying to find ways to reach that target.

The only way, Peters said, is to start reducing world emissions now and "throw everything we have at the problem."

Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria in Canada who was not part of the study, said: "We are losing control of our ability to get a handle on the global warming problem."

In 1997, most of the world agreed to an international treaty, known as the Kyoto Protocol, that required developed countries such as the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 5 percent when compared with the baseline year of 1990. But countries that are still developing, including China and India, were not limited by how much carbon dioxide they expelled. The United States never ratified the treaty.

The latest pollution numbers, calculated by the Global Carbon Project, a joint venture of the Energy Department and the Norwegian Research Council, show that worldwide carbon dioxide levels are 54 percent higher than the 1990 baseline.

The 2011 figures for the biggest polluters:

1. China, up 10 percent to 10 billion tons.

2. United States, down 2 percent to 5.9 billion tons

3. India, up 7 percent to 2.5 billion tons.

4. Russia, up 3 percent to 1.8 billion tons.

5. Japan, up 0.4 percent to 1.3 billion tons.

6. Germany, down 4 percent to 0.8 billion tons.

7. Iran, up 2 percent to 0.7 billion tons.

8. South Korea, up 4 percent to 0.6 billion tons.

9. Canada, up 2 percent to 0.6 billion tons.

10. South Africa, up 2 percent to 0.6 billion tons.
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Sore Throat

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Oceans fail the acid test as carbon emissions rise PostMon Dec 03, 2012 4:25 pm  Reply with quote

Oceans fail the acid test as carbon emissions rise

Geoffrey Lean

It is the little mentioned flip side of global warming – the acidification of the world’s oceans. Now new research shows that, as predicted, it is harming sea life.

Even if climate change were not taking place, the process provides compelling cause for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, for they are powering what scientists believe to be the most profound change in the chemistry of the oceans in millions of years. And its effects cannot be reversed in less than tens of millennia.

The souring of the seas is happening because their waters absorb much of the carbon dioxide released by humanity. Indeed they have so far soaked up about half of the greenhouse gas emitted since the beginning of the industrial revolution, some 500 billion tons of it. This has done the world a service by slowing down global warming – it would already be far out of control if all that pollution had stayed in the atmosphere – but at a cost to the oceans.

The gas dissolves in the water to produce carbonic acid, souring its natural alkalinity. Measurements show that, as a result, the seas have become nearly a third more acidic than they were some 250 years ago, and – according to a report by the blue-chip Royal Society – are now more so than they have been in “hundreds of millennia”.

The acid attacks the normally plentiful calcium carbonate, used by marine life to build protective shells and by corals to construct their reefs. Plankton, which form the base of the oceans’ food chain, are among the species in danger.

Now research by the British Antarctic Survey, the University of East Anglia, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the US Government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has established that the process is indeed damaging marine creatures. It discovered “severe dissolution” of the shells of living pteropods – tiny snails no bigger than a pinhead – near an area of upwelling in the Southern Ocean.

Upwelling water, pushed upwards from the deep sea to the surface, is naturally more corrosive to the type of calcium carbonate used by the snails in the first place, but the scientists found that it was the added acidity brought about by dissolved carbon dioxide that enabled it to case such severe damage. “The finding”, says the British Antarctic Survey “supports predictions that the impact of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and food webs may be significant.”

A report by the European Project on Ocean Acidification concluded three years ago that the rate of change in oceanic chemistry “is, to the best of our knowledge, many times faster than anything previously experienced over the last 55 million years”. And Prof Ulf Reibesell if the Leibnitz Institute of Marine Sciences in Kiel, Germany, has warned that if the process continues as predicted, the oceans will reach a state unprecedented at any time in the last 20 million years.

Experts add that there is no practical way to turn back the acidification once it has occurred; all that can be down is to let nature take its course, a process that would take tens of thousands of years to return the seas to what they once were.

Britain may be particularly affected. For yet another report, by the marine group Oceana, has concluded that is the third most vulnerable country on earth to the process after Japan and France – because its waters contain one of world’s most productive fisheries, and because the seas around out island are cold and particularly salty, making them especially prone to acidification.
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PostTue Dec 04, 2012 12:48 am  Reply with quote  

Have you considered it is "TERRAFORMING"

edit: only post have been allowed to make in over a week.
Any relation to me being attacked in my own upstairs hallway on election day?

My ISP refuses to allow me to open any other website than this...
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Sore Throat

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2012 may be warmest year on record in U.S. PostSat Dec 08, 2012 12:15 am  Reply with quote

2012 may be warmest year on record in U.S.

This year has a 90 percent chance of ending as the warmest on record in the Lower 48 states, the U.S. National Climatic Data Center said Thursday.

By Brian K. Sullivan

BOSTON — This year has a 90 percent chance of ending as the warmest on record in the Lower 48 states, the U.S. National Climatic Data Center said Thursday.

Temperatures from January through October were 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the previous mark, set in 1998, and 3.4 degrees above the long-term average, said Jake Crouch, a climatologist at the center in Asheville, N.C. U.S. records go back to 1895.

Warmer-than-normal weather earlier this year reduced the need for energy to heat homes and businesses and helped push natural-gas futures to a 10-year low in April.

November and December will have to be "much cooler than average" to keep 2012 from becoming the warmest year ever in the contiguous 48 states, the climate center said.

Globally, temperatures are now 1.04 degrees above average, on pace for the eighth-warmest year on record, according to the center.

At the same time, the extent of snowcover across the Northern Hemisphere in October was the eighth-largest on record, Crouch said. Arctic sea ice was at its second-smallest level in October.

Scientists are still studying the impact that sea ice and snowcover have on weather patterns across the Northern Hemisphere, said Jon Gottschalck, a seasonal forecaster at the U.S. Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md. There is some research that shows less sea ice at the pole and more snowcover across the hemisphere can lead to cooler weather in the eastern United States.

Because that connection is still being researched, forecasters didn't use it when making their prediction for the next three months, Gottschalck said.

The forecast is for an above-average chance that temperatures will be higher than normal from the Rocky Mountains into Texas and potentially lower than normal across the northern Great Plains. He couldn't predict with any certainty what would happen in the eastern United States.

Another problem with making a long-range forecast this year is that an El Niño, a warming in the Pacific Ocean, failed to take place as expected, Gottschalck said. El Niños usually bring warmer-than-normal weather across the northern United States.
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Climate change deaths up 5-fold since 1970 PostFri Dec 14, 2012 12:00 am  Reply with quote

Climate change deaths up 5-fold since 1970

DELHI: Even as one in four deaths worldwide in 2010 was caused by heart disease or stroke the top two killers that have remained constant for the past 40 years human mortality caused by climate change has shown the most dangerous spurt over the last four decades.

The Global Burden of Disease Study, 2010, published by the British medical journal, The Lancet, on Thursday shows that there has been a 523% increase in mortality due to "exposure to forces of nature" the highest across 235 causes of death.

Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, thanks to ageing populations across the world, also saw a massive increase since 1970 by almost 245%. Mortality due to Parkinson's disease rose by over 107%.

Men died the most of cardiovascular disease (12.8%), with road injuries and HIV being the second biggest killers at 10.7%.

Interestingly, HIV became the biggest killer of women at 14.4% in 2010, with cardiovascular diseases accounting for nearly 11% of all deaths.

The study, which has taken more than five years, involving 486 authors in 50 countries found that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lower respiratory infections and lung cancer make up the top five killers for 2010.

Deaths due to HIV have made the largest jump - from 35th worst killer in 1970 to sixth in 2010. Mortality due to falls that was ranked 30th in 1970 jumped to 22nd in 2010, while liver cancer rose from the 24th slot to 16th worst killer. Chronic kidney disease was found to be the 18th deadliest killer as against 27th in 1970.

Diorrhoea, road injury, diabetes, tuberculosis and malaria figured in the list of top 11 killers in 2010, followed by cirrhosis, self-harm, hypertensive heart disease and preterm birth complications.

In absolute numbers, ischemic heart disease and stroke collectively caused 12.9 million deaths in 2010 compared to one in five of all deaths in 1990 (9.9 million deaths).

In 2010, there were 52·8 million deaths globally.

Non-communicable diseases (such as cancer, diabetes, and heart diseases) accounted for nearly two out of every three deaths worldwide in 2010, compared to around one in two of all deaths in 1990.

Around 38% more people died of cancer in 2010 compared to 1990 (8 million deaths in 2010, compared to 5.8 million in 1990).

The burden of HIV and malaria remain high, despite concerted efforts to tackle these communicable diseases in recent years.

Deaths from HIV/AIDS increased from 0.3 million in 1990 to 1.5 million in 2010, reaching a peak of 1.7 million in 2006. Malaria mortality also increased by an estimated 19.9% since 1990 to 1.17 million deaths in 2010.

Tuberculosis killed 1.2 million people in 2010. Deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) rose by just under 8 million between 1990 and 2010, accounting for two of every three deaths (34.5 million) worldwide by 2010.

Around 1.3 million deaths were due to diabetes twice as many as in 1990.

The fraction of global deaths due to injuries (5.1 million deaths) was marginally higher in 2010 (9.6%) compared with two decades earlier (8.8%). This was driven by a 46% rise in deaths worldwide due to road traffic accidents (1.3 million in 2010) and a rise in deaths from various falls.

For the study, the authors searched academic research papers, verbal autopsy results, hospital records, and censuses to identify as many published and unpublished data sources as possible which would be relevant to estimating causes of death in 187 countries in the last two decades. The data were then analyzed to estimate the number of deaths attributable to 235 different causes across all the countries.

Professor Rafael Lozano, of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, one of the study's authors, said, "Our analyses, for the first time, allow such comparative assessments and are important inputs into discussions about goals and targets for the post- MDG era. The rapid and global rise in premature death from leading non-communicable diseases argues strongly for inclusion of these conditions, and their principal causes, in this agenda, particularly in view of their close relation to poverty reduction goals."
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Weather warnings become reality PostSun Dec 23, 2012 10:03 pm  Reply with quote

Weather warnings become reality

Brooklyn streets are flooded as Superstorm Sandy pushed seawater into New York City in October. Photo: Bebeto Matthews, Associated Press / SF

As 2012 began, winter in the United States went AWOL. Spring and summer arrived early, with wildfires, blistering heat and drought. And fall hit the eastern third of the country with the ferocity of Superstorm Sandy.

In 2012, many of the warnings scientists have made about global warming went from dry studies in scientific journals to real-life video played before our eyes: Record melting of the ice in the Arctic Ocean. U.S. cities baking at 95 degrees or hotter. Widespread drought. Flooding. Storm surge inundating swaths of New York City.

All of that was predicted years ago by climate scientists and all of that happened in 2012.

America's heartland lurched from one extreme to the other without stopping at "normal." Historic flooding in 2011 gave way to devastating drought in 2012. And 2012 is on track to be the warmest year on record in the United States.

While much of the United States struggled with drought that conjured memories of the Dust Bowl, parts of Africa, Russia, Pakistan, Colombia, Australia and China dealt with the other extreme: deadly and expensive flooding.

But the most troubling climate development this year was the melting at the top of the world, said Michel Jarraud, secretary general for the World Meteorological Organization. Summer sea ice in the Arctic shrank to 18 percent below the previous record low.

Changes in the Arctic alter the rest of the world's weather and "melting of the ice means an amplifying of the warming," Jarraud said.

There were other weather extremes no one predicted: A European winter cold snap that killed more than 800 people. A bizarre summer windstorm called a derecho in the U.S. mid-Atlantic that left millions without power. Antarctic sea ice that inched to a record high. More than a foot of post-Thanksgiving rain in the western United States. Super Typhoon Bopha, which killed hundreds of people in the Philippines and was the southernmost storm of its kind.

Scientists - both those studying global warming and those studying hurricanes - have warned for more than a decade about a hurricane with big storm surge hitting New York City and flooding the subways.

For decades, scientists have predicted extensive droughts from global warming. This year, the drought was so extensive that nearly 2,300 counties - in almost every state - were declared agriculture disasters.

And with lack of water, came fire, something also mentioned as more likely in scientific reports about global warming.

"Take any one of these events in isolation, it might be possible to yell 'fluke!' Take them collectively, it provides confirmation of precisely what climate scientists predicted would happen decades ago if we proceeded with business-as-usual fossil fuel burning, as we have," Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann said in an e-mail.

"And this year especially is a cautionary tale," he said.
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West Antarctica Warming Faster Than Thought, Study Finds PostSun Dec 23, 2012 10:09 pm  Reply with quote

West Antarctica Warming Faster Than Thought, Study Finds


New research suggests that West Antarctica has warmed much more than scientists have thought over the last half century, an ominous finding given that the huge ice sheet there may be vulnerable to long-term collapse, with potentially drastic effects on sea level.

A paper released Sunday by the journal Nature Geoscience found that the temperature at a research station in the middle of West Antarctica has warmed by 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1958. That is roughly twice as much as scientists previously thought and three times the overall rate of global warming, making central West Antarctica one of the fastest-warming regions on earth.

“The surprises keep coming,” said Andrew J. Monaghan, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., who took part in the study. “When you see this type of warming, I think it’s alarming.”

Of course, warming in Antarctica is a relative concept. West Antarctica remains an exceedingly cold place, with average annual temperatures in the center of the ice sheet that are nearly 50 degrees Fahrenheit below freezing.

But the temperature there does sometimes rise above freezing in the summer, and the new research raises the possibility that it might begin to happen more often, potentially weakening the ice sheet through surface melting. The ice sheet is already under attack at the edges by warmer ocean water, and scientists are on alert for any fresh threat.

A potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is one of the long-term hazards that have led experts to worry about global warming. The base of the ice sheet sits below sea level, in a configuration that makes it especially vulnerable. Scientists say a breakup of the ice sheet, over a period that would presumably last at least several hundred years, could raise global sea levels by 10 feet, possibly more.

The new research is an attempt to resolve a scientific controversy that erupted several years ago about exactly how fast West Antarctica is warming. With few automated weather stations and even fewer human observers in the region, scientists have had to use statistical techniques to infer long-term climate trends from sparse data.

A nearby area called the Antarctic Peninsula, which juts north from West Antarctica and for which decent records are available, was already known to be warming rapidly. A 2009 paper found extensive warming in the main part of West Antarctica, but those results were challenged by a group that included climate change contrarians.

To try to get to the bottom of the question, David H. Bromwich of Ohio State University pulled together a team that focused on a single temperature record. At a lonely outpost called Byrd Station, in central West Antarctica, people and automated equipment have been keeping track of temperature and other weather variables since the late 1950s.

It is by far the longest weather record in that region, but it had intermittent gaps and other problems that had made many researchers wary of it. The Bromwich group decided to try to salvage the Byrd record.

They retrieved one of the sensors and recalibrated at the University of Wisconsin. They discovered a software error that had introduced mistakes into the record and then used computerized analyses of the atmosphere to fill the gaps.

The reconstruction will likely undergo intensive scientific scrutiny, which Dr. Bromwich said he would welcome. “We’ve tested everything we could think of,” he said.

Assuming the research holds up, it suggests that the 2009 paper, far from overestimating warming in West Antarctica, had most likely underestimated it, especially in summer.

Eric J. Steig, a University of Washington researcher who led the 2009 work, said in an interview that he considered his paper to have been supplanted by the new research. “I think their results are better than ours, and should be adopted as the best estimate,” he said. He noted that the new Byrd record matches a recent temperature reconstruction from a nearby borehole in the ice sheet, adding confidence in the findings.

Much of the warming discovered in the new paper happened in the 1980s, around the same time the planet was beginning to warm briskly. More recently, Dr. Bromwich said, the weather in West Antarctica seems to have become somewhat erratic. In the summer of 2005, the interior of West Antarctica warmed enough for the ice to undergo several days of surface melting.

Dr. Bromwich is worried that this could eventually become routine, perhaps accelerating the decay of the West Antarctic ice sheet, but the warming is not fast enough for that to happen right away. “We’re talking decades into the future, I think,” Dr. Bromwich said.
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Plastic Chokes Oceans and Trashes Beaches PostMon Dec 24, 2012 12:00 am  Reply with quote

Plastic Chokes Oceans and Trashes Beaches

Plastic and other debris pollute a beach on Midway Island, August 20, 2012. (Daisy Gilardini/Danita Delimont Photography/Newscom)

By Karin Schulze, SPIEGEL

A new exhibition in Hamburg seeks to alert people to the dangers of the plastic in our daily lives, painting a stark picture of how it accumulates in the world's oceans. It reveals how plastic particles can enter into the food chain and return to us through our dinner plates.

The unsightly mess is a must see for anyone who wants to have a bad conscience for the right reason during the orgy of consumerism that is Christmas. A meter-high (3.2 feet) mountain of plastic scrap collected from the sea is piled up in the middle of the exhibition space. A red plastic boat surfs on top of the heap. Underneath, car tires, chairs, bleached flip-flops and rubber ducks with holes are clumped together -- the kinds of things that an increasing number of people are throwing away at an ever-quicker pace. It's a cemetery of mass consumption.

The heap of floating debris comes from the beaches of the Hawaiian island of Kahoolawe, Germany's Baltic Sea island of Fehmarn and the North Sea island of Sylt. The trash mountain is on display as part of an exhibition called "Out to Sea? The Plastic Garbage Project" at Hamburg's Museum for Arts and Crafts (MKG) and it vividly illustrates one of the worst perils of plastic production. Every 10 to 15 seconds, an amount equal to that accumulated in the garbage heap at the museum finds its way out to the sea -- usually because it has been thrown away irresponsibly. And with 64-million tons of trash reaching the oceans each year, it is slowly turning into one big batch of plastic soup.

Mermaid Tears

Already today there isn't a single cubic meter of sea water that is free of plastic particles. Entire gyres have taken shape in our oceans in which a plethora of plastic debris is constantly being washed around in a pattern, trapped by the currents. The biggest water-based plastic trash heap, called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is estimated to be about the size of Central Europe. There, whirlpools 30 meters deep (nearly 100 feet) churn with massive multitudes of plastic sludge originating from the Pacific Rim countries.

Of course, plastic does hold many advantages as a material. It is inexpensive, light, pliable and variable. However, most plastic also has one decisive disadvantage: It doesn't decompose into biodegradable material. Instead it shrinks down through friction and light into ever smaller pieces. These pellets of plastic particle water pollution, euphemistically called "mermaid tears," arrive in some parts of the ocean in masses sometimes even greater than plankton. Some creatures mistake the particles for food, putting them directly into the food chain and possibly back on our plates. Mussels, for example, can store polyethylene particles in their tissues.

The exhibition first originated at the Zurich Design Museum (ZHDK) in Switzerland. Inspired by an article about the Pacific Trash Vortex in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper, curators there sought to raise awareness of the topic and transform it into a learning experience. And it certainly makes sense for a museum focused on form to consider products not only through the lens of good design, but also the way in which they are disposed of or how they affect the environment. After a stop in Hamburg, it will continue on to museums in Finland, Denmark and France.
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Arctic sea ice coverage plunges to record low PostSat Dec 29, 2012 6:18 pm  Reply with quote

Arctic sea ice coverage plunges to record low

Our planet's warming climate has been felt most strongly in the Arctic, and the ice that covers much of the sea has been responding accordingly. Although large areas of the Arctic Ocean freeze over every winter and spring (without sunlight, things are guaranteed to get very cold), the amount of ice cover seen during the melt season has been edging down since we started monitoring by satellite. Now, a combination of the general climate trends and an unusual weather event have pushed the Arctic ice cover to record lows and, with several weeks left in the melt season, the final low could be a dramatic one.

The annual rhythm of the Arctic Sea's changes looks a bit like a heartbeat. Ice starts to expand and thicken in the autumn, and reaches its peak in the early spring, a few months after the coldest part of winter. The ice then contracts, with the area covered shrinking throughout the spring and summer, and bottoming out in the first weeks of September.

Climate change hasn't stopped that cycle, but it has altered it in dramatic ways. Ice still expands rapidly in the autumn and winter—in fact, over the last few springs, the area covered with ice has often approached the average seen in the last few decades of the 20th century. (That includes this year, where May saw ice coverage that nearly reached the 1979-2000 average.)

However, the losses in recent summers, including the dramatic decline in ice seen in 2007, has changed the character of the heartbeat. Very little of this newly formed ice, which is relatively thin, can survive the warm temperatures of the summer. As a result, every year since 2007 has seen the loss of most of the thin ice formed during the winter, leading to a series of summer melts that were well below the baseline average of the satellite record.

This year started off following the same script. After approaching the baseline average in the spring, the sea ice extent (measured as the area of ocean with at least 15 percent ice coverage) followed a trajectory similar to those seen in most of the last five years before spending most of July just below the levels seen in 2007, the year that had set the previous record low.

Then, in early August, weather intervened, in the form of an unusual storm that entered the Arctic ocean and parked at the pole for several days. At the time, NASA expected it meant bad things for the sea ice. “It seems that this storm has detached a large chunk of ice from the main sea ice pack. This could lead to a more serious decay of the summertime ice cover than would have been the case otherwise, even perhaps leading to a new Arctic sea ice minimum,” said Claire Parkinson, a climate scientist with NASA Goddard. “Decades ago, a storm of the same magnitude would have been less likely to have as large an impact on the sea ice, because at that time the ice cover was thicker and more expansive.”

Parkinson's predictions have now been borne out. The sea ice saw a sudden and precipitous decline that started right about the start of the storm. Even after the storm dispersed, however, the ice has continued to melt at a pace similar to that seen in the early summer, and has shown no sign of the bottoming out that often begins to be apparent at this time of e year.

The RealClimate blog, using data obtained by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, has calculated that the daily sea ice extent readings are now the lowest on record. The NSIDC itself uses a five-day running average, and so its numbers will tend to trail the trends seen in the daily readings. Nevertheless, yesterday's data shows the 2012 melt as being at or below the previous record set in 2007. (The AP is now reporting that they've also called the record low, although their website does not yet reflect this.)

The obvious question on everyone's minds is where ice coverage will bottom out. The average from the first few decades of the satellite era is in the neighborhood of 7 million square kilometers, but this year is almost certain to see a bottom somewhere below 4 million. That's still a long way from an ice-free Arctic, but it's clear that we can't dismiss that scenario as being part of some distant, purely hypothetical future. A practically ice-free Arctic—one where shipping lanes consistently stay open for weeks—is likely to come even sooner.

The less obvious question, and one we won't answer anytime soon, is whether this year's record low will trigger the sort of regime change caused by the dramatic 2007 melt. Although new record lows didn't immediately follow on 2007, none of the years that followed it ever came close to the baseline average established last century. 2007 ensured that most of the ice would be too thin to survive, making certain that every other year would be similar to it even if the temperature and weather remained roughly stable. There's a very real chance that 2012's record, even though it was driven in part by an unusual weather event, will also alter the Arctic heartbeat.
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2012 was warmest year in U.S. history PostTue Jan 08, 2013 10:05 pm  Reply with quote

2012 was warmest year in U.S. history

2012 was also the nation's driest year since 1988.

Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

It's official: 2012 marked the warmest year on record for the contiguous USA, scientists from the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., announced Tuesday. The past year smashed the previous record for the warmest year, which was 1998.

The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3 degrees, 3.2 degrees above the 20th-century average, and 1 degree above 1998.

U.S. weather records date to 1895.

"We had the warmest spring on record, the warmest July on record, and the third-warmest summer on record," said Deke Arndt, chief of the climate monitoring branch of the climate center, late last year.

Every state had a warmer-than-average year. A total of 19 states, stretching from Utah to Massachusetts, had record warmth in 2012 and an additional 26 states had a Top 10 warm year.

"These records do not occur like this in an unchanging climate," said Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. "And they are costing many billions of dollars."

"What was truly astonishing," added Weather Underground weather historian Christopher Burt, "was the ratio of heat records vs. cold records that were established over the course of the year." Burt says that in 2012, there were 362 all-time record-high temperatures set across the nation, and zero all-time record lows.

The climate center also reported that 2012 was the driest year for the nation since 1988. Two states, Nebraska and Wyoming, had their driest years on record. Eight additional states had annual precipitation totals ranking among the bottom 10.

The large area of dry conditions in 2012 resulted in a very large footprint of drought conditions, which peaked in July with about 61% of the continental U.S. in moderate-to-exceptional drought, according to the climate report. "The footprint of drought during 2012 roughly equaled the drought of the 1950s, which peaked at approximately 60%."

The U.S. Climate Extremes Index also showed that 2012 was the second-most extreme year on record for the nation. The index, which evaluates extremes in temperature and precipitation, as well as tropical storms and hurricanes that make landfall, was nearly twice the average value and second only to 1998.

The past year had 11 disasters that reached the $1 billion threshold in losses, including Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Isaac, and tornado outbreaks in the Great Plains, Texas and Southeast/Ohio Valley.

"A picture is emerging of a world with more extreme heat," said Andrew Dessler, a Texas A&M University climate scientist. "Not every year will be hot, but when heat waves do occur, the heat will be more extreme. People need to begin to prepare for that future."

Global data will be released next week by the climate center. Through November, the Earth was seeing its eighth-warmest year on record.
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9 Facts That Prove Joe Stiglitz Is Right About Climate Chang PostTue Jan 08, 2013 10:17 pm  Reply with quote

9 Facts That Prove Joe Stiglitz Is Right About Climate Change Hurting The Economy

By Alexis Kleinman

Economist Joseph Stiglitz recently announced that he believes climate change is the most important issue facing the U.S. economy today. Certainly, climate change is serious global issue, but how exactly will it affect the U.S. economy? What follows are some statistics on climate change's impact on the U.S. economy, gathered primarily from non-governmental organizations that deal with climate-change issues.

•Climate change is projected to cost the average U.S. household $1,250 per year by 2020, $1,800 per year by 2040 and $2,750 per year by 2080.

•Climate change will likely cost the U.S. economy $3.8 billion per year by 2020, $6.5 billion per year by 2040 and $12.9 billion by 2080.

•The U.S. economy may be held back by 2% of GDP over the next 20 years because of climate change.

•Failure to act on climate change already costs the world economy 1.2 trillion dollars in lost prosperity each year, according to one study.

•Lost prosperity associated with rising temperatures and carbon-related pollution could double costs to 3.2% of world GDP by 2030.

•Climate change is a leading global cause of death, responsible for an estimated 5 million deaths each year.

•From 1980 through 2011, U.S. weather disasters caused losses of $1.06 trillion.

•In 2011, the United States broke the record for the most billion-dollar weather disasters in a year.

•Due to climate change, the timber industry is expected to suffer from an increased prevalence of pests, slower growth rates for trees and more frequent wildfires, resulting in a decrease in revenue of $1 billion to $2 billion per year.
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2012: The Year of Extreme Weather PostMon Jan 14, 2013 8:51 pm  Reply with quote

2012: The Year of Extreme Weather


The weather reports are in. 2012 was the hottest and the most extreme year on record in many places.

While parts of China are enduring the harshest winter in 30 years, the Antarctic is warming at an alarming rate. In Australia, out of control bushfires are partially the result of record-breaking weather (new colors were added to weather forecast maps, to account for the new kind of heat). In the United States, where Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New Jersey and New York and where extreme drought still lingers in the Midwest, the average temperature in 2012 was more than a whole degree Fahrenheit (or 5/9 of a degree Celsius) higher than average – shattering the record.

On Friday a long-term weather forecast for the United States was released, when the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee published a draft of the third Climate Assessment Report. Like last year’s weather, the assessment does not pull its punches.

“Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects, food, and water, and threats to mental health,” write the authors as part of their key findings.

Experts from 13 federal agencies, including NASA, the State Department and the Department of Defense put together the report under the auspices of the United States Global Change Research Program.

While some predictions have been adjusted upward from previous reports, the difference in tone in this newest assessment is striking. The second assessment, published in 2009, predicted of thresholds that will be crossed, while the 2013 draft presents a reality in which some of the changes are already irreversible.

“As a result of past emissions of heat-trapping gases, some amount of additional climate change and related impacts is now unavoidable,” wrote the authors in the executive summary.

Adaptation to climate change is discussed in the new draft, which is open for public comment before it is officially released early in 2014. The authors write:

Planning and managing based on the climate of the last century means that tolerances of some infrastructure and species will be exceeded. For example, building codes and landscaping ordinances will likely need to be updated not only for energy efficiency, but also to conserve water supplies, protect against insects that spread disease, reduce susceptibility to heat stress, and improve protection against extreme events.

The authors predict that within the next several decades, temperatures will go up between 2 and 4 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly 1 and 2 degrees Celsius. The experts discuss a possible 10 degree Fahrenheit (or more than 5 degrees Celsius) warming by the end of the century, in the case that not enough is done to curb emissions. (The World Bank recently released a report of the dangers of a world warmed by 4 degrees Celsius).

Sea levels could rise up to four feet, or 1.2 meters, within the century, according to the experts.

Though official assessments, predictions and studies like these serve to reinforce what many already fear, they do not necessarily lead to policy change. Andrew Restuccia predicted in a Politico article that the new report would ultimately do little to change the embittered climate-change politics in that country. He wrote:

But don’t hold your breath for serious action on climate change in Congress. Republicans and some moderate Democrats remain opposed to measures to address climate change. The Obama administration, meanwhile, is moving forward with its own efforts on climate change, including beefed-up fuel economy standards and greenhouse gas regulations for new power plants.

Sometimes official assessment reports provide substance for those who question man-made climate change.

My colleague Andrew C. Revkin recently reported on how a revision by Britain’s Weather and Climate Agency on short-term global temperature forecast became fodder for climate change deniers. The fact that the government agency had revised its numbers downward allowed climate change skeptics to argue that the world was not significantly warming after all.

In December, Alec Rawls, a climate-change skeptic, made a name for himself by leaking an unpublished Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, one of the major global players in climate change assessment. Mr. Rawls tried to argue that the panel’s language on solar radiation was an admission that much of the warming trends were caused by the sun, not human activity.

As Andrew reported at time, his claims were mostly debunked.
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Black carbon ranks as second-biggest human cause of global w PostWed Jan 16, 2013 6:22 pm  Reply with quote

Black carbon ranks as second-biggest human cause of global warming

By Juliet Eilperin

Soot ranks as the second-largest human contributor to climate change, exerting twice as much of an impact as previously  thought, according to an analysis released Tuesday.

The four-year, 232-page study of black carbon, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, shows that short-lived pollution known as soot, such as emissions from diesel engines and wood-fired stoves, has about two-thirds the climate impact of carbon dioxide. The analysis has pushed methane, which comes from landfills and other forces, into third place as a human contributor to global warming.

Black carbon, or soot, accelerates warming because the fine particles absorb heat when they are in the air and when they darken snow and ice. Although some lighter-colored fine particles can have a cooling effect because they block sunlight, other black carbon sources have a warming effect because they absorb it. They also accelerate glacier melting and can disrupt regional weather patterns.

The findings came out on the same day that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that last year’s global average temperature ranked as the 10th-warmest on record, and NASA found it was the ninth-warmest. The two agencies analyze temperature data differently, but both found that with the exception of 1998, the nine warmest years since 1880 have all occurred since 2000.

Piers Forster, one of the soot study’s authors and a professor at the University of Leeds School of Earth and Environment, said in a statement that reducing black carbon can help address rising temperatures.

“There are exciting opportunities to cool climate by reducing soot emissions but it is not straightforward,” Forster said, adding that cutting emissions from diesel engines and domestic wood and coal fires is “a no-
brainer” because it would improve public health and the climate. Fine particles cause heart and respiratory problems, leading to premature death, as well as asthma and other illnesses.

These emissions cuts would produce an immediate cooling effect, the authors estimated, which would avoid a nearly 1-degree Fahrenheit temperature rise in the near term.

“You save lives, and you produce really fast cooling,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.

Veerabhadran Ramanathan, an atmospheric scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego, identified black carbon in 2008 as the second-
biggest human contributor to climate change. But many researchers questioned his analysis because it was based on observations rather than computer modeling.

“We seem to have put one major debate behind us, that black carbon is a significant contributor to the planet’s heat,” Ramanathan said in a phone interview.

Although the United States has made major strides in curbing soot — Ramanathan and his colleagues recently found that black carbon concentrations in California have fallen by 50 percent in 25 years, largely because of stricter diesel emissions rules — Southeast Asia and China still suffer major pollution from diesel engines and wood- and coal-burning combustion.

Just this week, Beijing experienced a string of hazardous air days, driven, in part, by soot emissions.

The new study’s authors emphasized that in the long term, major cuts in carbon dioxide would be required to avert dangerous climate impacts.

“Mitigating black carbon is good for curbing short-term climate change, but to really solve the long-term climate problem, carbon dioxide emissions must also be reduced,” said one of the paper’s lead authors, Tami Bond, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign atmospheric scientist.

In describing last year’s temperature record, James E. Hansen, who directs NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, cautioned that just because 2012’s average was in keeping with recent years does not mean global warming has stalled.

“On the decadal time scale, it’s going to get warmer, because we know the planet is out of energy balance,” Hansen told reporters. “This standstill, I think, is a temporary one.”
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Slumping Arctic Soils Produce Significant Amounts of CO2 PostTue Feb 12, 2013 12:37 am  Reply with quote

Slumping Arctic Soils Produce Significant Amounts of CO2

by Carolyn Gramling

Each spring in the Arctic, the freshet—flooding triggered by melting snow—washes vast amounts of carbon-rich soil from the land into the water—both fresh water and the ocean. That's of particular interest to scientists studying global warming, because in those waters much of the carbon that's being released from melting permafrost is oxidized by bacteria into carbon dioxide, says Rose Cory, an environmental scientist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Carbon from surface waters amounts to as much as 40% of the total carbon that ultimately gets transferred from the Arctic to the atmosphere, she says.

But little research has been done on the transformation of organic carbon in Arctic waters into carbon dioxide. Instead, much of the work on permafrost degradation over the past few decades has focused on the widespread, slow melting of the icy soils from the top down, says Vladimir Romanovsky, a geophysicist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, who was not involved in the new study. Reports on the state of the Arctic, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 2012 Arctic Report Card, published in December, furnish Arctic temperatures and measurements of the changing thickness of the active layer of the permafrost, the layer of surface soil that melts and refreezes each year.

That melting does transfer carbon into surface waters, but scientists have recognized in recent years that there's much more to the permafrost story, Romanovsky says. As melting has progressed in the Arctic, large holes and landslides have popped up across the tundra. In permafrost, ice holds up the soil; when the ice melts, the land surface slumps, creating features known as thermokarst failures.

Compared with the slow, top-down melting of permafrost, thermokarst failures unleash rapid bursts of carbon-rich organic material, as rivulets of water from the melting ice cut deep channels into the soil and transport the carbon into rivers or the ocean. What happens to those gushes of carbon has not been well studied, Cory says.

So she and her team collected samples of water trickling out of seven Alaskan thermokarst failures into nearby lakes and streams. They analyzed the samples for colored dissolved organic matter, which contains light-absorbing molecules from the breakdown of plant polymers such as lignin. "The general idea is that the closer to the terrestrial source, the more color the carbon will have," Cory says. At six of the sites, the team also irradiated the samples with ultraviolet (UV) light, mimicking the effects of sunlight.

To their surprise, the researchers found that the samples from the thermokarst sites had lower levels of colored dissolved organic matter than did reference sites, suggesting that the carbon in the deeper soils exposed by thermokarst failure is significantly different from the carbon draining from the topmost, active layer of the permafrost, the team reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. When the team determined what happened to that carbon under UV light, they found that the deeper carbon was also about 40% more susceptible to photochemical and biochemical degradation into CO2 than was carbon from the active layer.

"What it means is that the carbon coming out of these sites is more reactive" than the carbon draining from the active layer of permafrost, Cory says. "[So] there is potential that these tremendous stores of carbon in these soils can be a positive feedback for more warming."

It's an important study, Romanovsky says. "[Thermokarst failure] is kind of a shortcut for the involvement of this frozen carbon in the present climate and the carbon cycle, and that's recognized very well right now," he says. "People are really starting to pay serious attention."

Understanding the transformations of the carbon in Arctic waters—including the paper's finding that exposure to light accelerates the decomposition—will be key to understanding the effect on climate, he adds.

Cory says that the team is now working on scaling up their findings. But with thermokarst data still sparse, it's a challenge to know how widespread the effect is. In a few areas—parts of Alaska and some patches in Siberia—scientists have begun doing more thorough analyses on thermokarst, Romanovsky notes. "But these features are still very localized," he says, "and the question of how important this is for the entire northern hemisphere is still unclear."
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Satellite reveals major loss of Arctic sea ice (pictures) PostThu Feb 14, 2013 12:46 am  Reply with quote

Satellite reveals major loss of Arctic sea ice (pictures)

Using new data from the European Space Agency's CryoSat satellite spanning 10 years, an international team of scientists has discovered an alarming rate of loss for the Arctic sea ice. Satellites whose mission is to closely watch variations in the coverage and thickness of polar ice show the volume of Arctic sea ice declined an astounding 36 percent during autumn and 9 percent during winter between 2003 and 2012.

The past six years have seen the lowest summer ice extent in three decades, according to the international team of scientists led by University College London, reaching the lowest levels last September at about 3.61 million square kilometers.

To measure the volume of Arctic ice, CryoSat's radar altimeter beams pulses of microwave energy towards the ice, bouncing waves off both the top sections of ice and through the cracks to the water below. The difference in height between these two surfaces allows scientists to calculate the "freeboard" -- the height of ice above the water -- and, as a result, the volume of the ice coverage.

This graphic shows data collected from NASA ICESat, ESA CryoSat, and Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) on sea ice thickness in the Arctic. Figure (a) shows the 2003-2007 average ICESat ice thickness for October/November and (b) the 2004-2008 average for February/March. Figures (c) to (f) are measurements based on CryoSat data -- for October/November 2010 (c), February/March 2011 (d), October/November 2011 (e) and February/March 2012 (f). The final two figures are based on PIOMAS measurements for October/November 2011 (g) and February/March 2012 (h).
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