Tag: global warming

Climate: Sea ice at both poles way below average

Antarctic sea ice retreat could set stage for ice shelf collapses

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Melting Greenland glaciers in September 2015, photographed from a passenger jet. @bberwyn photo.

Staff ReportMonths of above-average temperatures in the Arctic slowed the growth of sea ice formation to a crawl during the second half of October, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported in its latest monthly update.The ice scientists said that, starting Oct. 20, Arctic sea ice started setting daily record lows for extent.  After mid-October, ice growth returned to near-average rates, but extent remained at record low levels through late October. Both sea surface and air temperatures have remained unusually high, extending from the surface high up into the atmosphere. Continue reading “Climate: Sea ice at both poles way below average”

Earth’s plants are soaking up more of our CO2 these days

Study suggests carbon uptake by forests has doubled since the 1950s

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Forests have doubled their CO2 uptake since the 1950s, a new study says. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Scientists say they’ve place yet another piece in the complex global plant-carbon cycle, with a new study suggested that atmospheric CO2 levels have plateaued in recent years because forests and grasslands are removing more of the heat-trapping gas. The research was led by a scientist with the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory .

Fossil fuel burning and other human activities continue to emit increasing amounts of carbon, but the study found that, between 2002 and 2014, the rate at which CO2 increased in the atmosphere held steady at about 1.9 parts per million annually. Continue reading “Earth’s plants are soaking up more of our CO2 these days”

Global hot streak continues in October

No let up in global warming spiral, especially in the Arctic

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Surface air temperature anomaly for October 2016 relative to the October average for the period 1981-2010. Source: ERA-Interim. (Credit: ECMWF, Copernicus Climate Change Service)

Staff Report

The average global temperature for October 2016 was 0.57 degrees Celsius above the 1981 to 2010 average, continuing a spell of “exceptional global warmth that has now lasted more than a year, according to the European Climate Change Service.

Global temperature anomalies topped out in February with the peak of El Niño, then declined in spring and rose again in summer, declining only slightly in September. The October departure from normal was only slightly lower in October,  just 0.07 degrees Celsius under the all-time record for the month, set just last year.

With the exception of June, each month from October 2015 to October 2016 has been more extreme than January 2007, which was previously the month with the warmest anomaly. Each month from August 2015 to September 2016 successively became the warmest on record for that particular month.

October 2016 was cooler than the 1981-2010 average over much of Europe, but warmer than average in the far north of the continent and over the Iberian Peninsula and Mediterranean.  Well-above normal temperatures also occurred over the USA and parts of Africa. Temperatures were most above normal over much of the Arctic and Antarctic, with record-low sea extent in both regions.

Temperatures were below average along the equator over the eastern Pacific Ocean, indicating weak La Niña conditions, over some oceanic regions of the southern hemisphere and over part of the North Atlantic. Other land areas with below-average temperatures include most of Australia, western and north-eastern Canada and much of the southern half of South America. The zone of below-average temperatures bounded north and south by above-average temperatures extended eastwards across Asia.

Averaging over twelve-month periods smooths out the shorter-term variations. Globally, the warmest twelve-month period on record is from October 2015 to September 2016, with a temperature 0.64 degrees Celsius above the 1981-2010 average.

Uncertainty in the global value is relatively high for the year 2005, but there is agreement between various datasets regarding:

  • the exceptional warmth of 2016, and to a lesser extent 2015;
  • the overall rate of warming since the late 1970s;
  • the sustained period of above-average values from 2001 onwards.

There is more variability in average European temperatures, but values are less uncertain because observational coverage of the continent is relatively dense. Twelve-month averages for Europe have been at a persistently high level for the last three years or so. They are nevertheless lower than the averages from around the middle of 2006 to the middle of 2007.

The Paris climate agreement is now in force

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Can the world live up to the ambitions of the Paris climate agreement? @bberwyn photo.

Now the hard work begins …

Staff Report

As the Paris climate agreement goes into effect, it’s important to remember that, so far, there’s been a lot more talk than action by the global community. Plans are one thing, action is another, and unless there are significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in the next few years, there’s almost no chance to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

Here are some sobering facts to show why immediate action is needed, starting with the latest annual greenhouse gas bulletin from the World Meteorological Organization.

Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide all reached new record high concentrations in the atmosphere in 2015. According to the analysis, CO2 levels are not 144 percent higher than in pre-industrial times; methane is 256 percent higher, and nitrous oxide is 121 percent higher. It’s likely that CO2 concentrations, as measured at Mauna Loa, will stay above 400 parts per million for all of 2016. The increase of methane from 2014 to 2015 was larger than that observed from 2013 to 2014 and that averaged over the last decade. Continue reading “The Paris climate agreement is now in force”

Study shows how soils could become source of CO2

A classic "Vierkant" farmhouse in the Mühlviertel.
When do agricultural lands become net sources of carbon, rather than carbon sinks? @bberwyn photo.

More conversion to forests and grasslands needed …

Staff Report

Aggressive land disturbance could turn Earth’s soils into sources of CO2 by the end of the century, researchers warned in a new study combining models of soil carbon and land use change with climate change predictions, using France as a case study.

Currently, soil is considered to be a net carbon sink, partially counteracting the impacts of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, but study projects that up to 25 percent of the carbon in found in soil in France could be lost to the atmosphere during the next 100 years.

Business-as-usual land use change has limited capacity to counteract this trend, experts from the University of Exeter, INRA and CERFACS in France and University of Leuven in Belgium say in the journal Scientific Reports. If soils lose a significant amount of carbon it will endanger their ability to produce food and store water, potentially leading to increased soil erosion and flood damage. Continue reading “Study shows how soils could become source of CO2”

How do clouds fit into the climate change puzzle?

New study says projections based on observed trends may underestimate future global warming

Tonight's full moon rise was fully obscured by clouds, so I reached back into the archives for moon shot.
Shifting cloud patterns could affect future warming trend. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

The impact of clouds is still a missing piece in the global warming puzzle, but scientists with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory say they’ve identified a mechanism that could help narrow the information gap. In a new report, the researchers say the spatial pattern of clouds is key to determining how they affect Earth’s energy balance — and that studies relying solely on recent observed trends are likely to underestimate how much Earth will warm due to increased carbon dioxide.

Clouds influence Earth’s climate by reflecting incoming energy from the sun and reducing outgoing thermal radiation. As the surface of the Earth gets warmer, the  net radiative effect of clouds also changes, contributing a feedback to the climate system. Continue reading “How do clouds fit into the climate change puzzle?”

New surveys confirm Great Barrier Reef damage

Heat-driven coral bleaching continues to take a toll

Staff Report

A new survey of the Great Barrier Reef shows that an ocean heat wave that peaked last March killed up to 95 percent of corals in some parts of the northern reef.  And in the aftermath of the worst coral-bleaching event on record, predatory snails are now taking on toll on the remaining corals.

According to the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, researchers recently returned to 83 reefs they surveyed at the height of the bleaching event.

“Millions of corals in the north of the Great Barrier Reef died quickly from heat stress in March and since then, many more have died more slowly,” said Dr. Greg Torda whose team recently returned from re-surveying reefs near Lizard Island. Continue reading “New surveys confirm Great Barrier Reef damage”