Signs of serious global warming impacts piled up in 2016

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2016 is on track to be the third year in a row with a record-warm average global temperature.

There wasn’t any relief from a wave of worrisome global warming news in the spring of 2016, including a study from Harvard showing how rising temperatures will send ozone levels surging to dangerous highs across parts of the U.S.

“In the coming decades, global climate change will likely cause more heat waves during the summer, which in turn could cause a 70 to 100 percent increase in ozone episodes, depending on the region,” said Lu Shen, first author and graduate student at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Even if the president-elect follows through on his threat to cut funding for Earth observation programs, there are other international science agencies that will continue to monitor climate change impacts, including the European Space Agency. In April, data from ESA ice-observing instruments showed that the meltdown of Antactic ice shelves may be irreversible at this point. The thick shelves of ice that sit at the edge of the continent act as breaks on inland glaciers. If the ice shelves vanish, it could mark a point of no return for Antarctica’s ice, the ESA reported.

The global warming meltdown also continued to affect mountain regions, including Austria, where scientists measured yet another year of dramatic glacial retreat. Nearly all of Austria’s 900 glaciers retreated last year amid record-setting heat by an  an average of 72 feet in 2015, more than twice the rate of the previous year. Three of the country’s glaciers retreated by more than 320 feet. Austria’s largest glacier, the Pasterz, retreated by 177 feet in 2015. Its volume has declined by half since it was first accurately measured in 1851. More details in this InsideClimate New story.

And there was more evidence that melting ice in the Arctic is affecting weather patterns in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, including Europe and North America. A study of large-scale weather patterns over Greenland going back to 1851 found that so-called blocking high pressure systems have become more frequent, which can result in more persistent extreme weather events.

In Colorado, a group of city and county governments banded together under the auspices of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization to lobby the state government on climate change issues, not a small challenge in the fracking friendly state. The new group, Communities for Climate Action, wants more aggressive action on climate and energy policies.

In Alaska, a team of researchers concluded that global warming is likely to spur more wildfires as a result of a climate shift that is  far outside the range of natural variability we’ve seen in the last 6,000 to 32,000 years.

“There are a lot of things going on in the Arctic that 20 years ago we didn’t think about or dream of,” the researchers said. “And small events can have really large-scale consequences. The reason for that is, you’re burning away decades of organic matter with all the carbon going into the atmosphere. Some of these changes are definitely permanent into the foreseeable future.” More details in this story at InsideClimate News.

And despite global efforts to curb global warming, federal climate trackers reporting in June that concentrations heat-trapping pollution are increasing at an accelerating pace in Earth’s atmosphere. CO2 emissions totaled between 35 and 40 billion tons in 2015, according to several agencies. Some of that is absorbed by forests and oceans, but those natural systems are being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new CO2. As a result, the inventory shows, the average global concentration increased to 399 parts per million in 2015, a record jump of almost 3 ppm from the year before

 

 

 

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