39 Global Warming News Articles
for April of 2017
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
4-25-17 Iceberg 'doodles' trace climate history
Iceberg 'doodles' trace climate history
It is as if a child has been doodling with large coloured crayons. What you see are actually the great gouge marks left on the seafloor when the keel of a giant block of ice has dragged through the sediments. The arcs and loops record the movement of the berg as it turns about, caught in the wind, currents and tides. This "ice art" is from a stunning new collection of images that detail how glacial action has shaped the ocean floor in Earth's polar regions. The atlas is the work of more than 250 scientists from 20 countries and represents our most comprehensive view yet of what the seabed looks like at high latitudes. "We now have a critical mass of high-resolution imagery, of the imprints left by the action of ice," explained Dr Kelly Hogan, one the collection's editors from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). "We can see where the ice has been and what it's done, and this allows us to compare and contrast. Looking at what has happened in the past can help us understand what may happen in the future with modern ice sheets as they respond to climate change."
4-24-17 Plastic-eating caterpillar could munch waste, scientists say
Plastic-eating caterpillar could munch waste, scientists say
A caterpillar that munches on plastic bags could hold the key to tackling plastic pollution, scientists say. Researchers at Cambridge University have discovered that the larvae of the moth, which eats wax in bee hives, can also degrade plastic. Experiments show the insect can break down the chemical bonds of plastic in a similar way to digesting beeswax. Each year, about 80 million tonnes of the plastic polyethylene are produced around the world. The plastic is used to make shopping bags and food packaging, among other things, but it can take hundreds of years to decompose completely. However, caterpillars of the moth (Galleria mellonella) can make holes in a plastic bag in under an hour. Dr Paolo Bombelli is a biochemist at the University of Cambridge and one of the researchers on the study. "The caterpillar will be the starting point," he told BBC News. "We need to understand the details under which this process operates. "We hope to provide the technical solution for minimising the problem of plastic waste."
4-24-17 Plastic-munching caterpillars may show us how to dissolve waste
Plastic-munching caterpillars may show us how to dissolve waste
A chance discovery that honeycomb moth caterpillars can digest plastic means they could hold an enzyme that will break down some of our most persistent waste. Caterpillars could hold the key to our growing problem of plastic waste. While doing some routine beehive maintenance, a team of researchers in Spain has chanced upon one type of caterpillar that seems to have a taste for the stuff. Federica Bertocchini at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria was picking honeycomb moth caterpillars out of a beehive and placing the beeswax-eating pests in a plastic bag for disposal. After a while she found that the caterpillars had broken loose and were milling everywhere. She and her team later confirmed the caterpillars can eat through plastic, and they now want to develop a quick way of breaking down polyethylene – used to make plastic bags – with enzymes from the caterpillars. The team found that 100 caterpillars of the Galleria mellonella moth can riddle a supermarket shopping bag with holes in under an hour, and can consume 92 milligrams of plastic in half a day – that’s just over 3 per cent of a shopping bag. “That’s quite fast,” says Bertocchini, considering that it takes at least 100 years for one to decompose naturally.
4-24-17 Road verges 'last refuge' for plants - conservation charity
Road verges 'last refuge' for plants - conservation charity
Roadside verges are becoming the last refuge for some of the rarest wild flowers and plants in the UK, according to a conservation charity. Plantlife is calling for better management of grassy verges to preserve a wealth of different flowering plants. It says road margins are a haven for wild plants that have been lost from the countryside. Some wild plants, such as wood calamint and fen ragwort, are now found naturally only on road verges. The charity says such plants can be brought back from near extinction, with conservation management. But it says even endangered plants on verges deemed nature reserves have been mown or cleared. For too long road verges have been thought of as "dull, inconsequential places that flash by in the wing mirror," said Dr Trevor Dines of Plantlife. "Sadly, road verges have been woefully disregarded for decades and are increasingly poorly managed for nature," he added. "Some exceptionally rare plants including fen ragwort and wood calamint are only hanging on thanks to the existence of some remaining well-managed verges. "But we must not get complacent - only genuine management for nature will safeguard these and other plants from extinction." (Webmaster's comment: The same is true in America. Our country roadsides are full of weeds and wild flowers.)
4-21-17 Ancient carvings show comet hit Earth and triggered mini ice age
Ancient carvings show comet hit Earth and triggered mini ice age
Headless human and animal symbols carved into stone in Turkey tell the story of a devastating comet impact that triggered a mini ice age more than 13,000 years ago. Ancient symbols carved into stone at an archaeological site in Turkey tell the story of a devastating comet impact that triggered a mini ice age more than 13,000 years ago. Evidence from the carvings, made on a pillar known as the Vulture Stone, suggests that a swarm of comet fragments hit the Earth in around 11000 BC. One image of a headless man is thought to symbolise human disaster and extensive loss of life. The site is at Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey, which experts now believe may have been an ancient observatory. Computer software was used to match carvings of animals – interpreted as astronomical symbols – to patterns of stars and pinpoint the event to 10950 BC. Other evidence for the impact from a Greenland ice core suggests roughly the same time frame. The cataclysm ushered in a cold climate lasting 1,000 years and is likely to have resulted from the break-up of a giant comet in the inner solar system.
4-21-17 The EPA’s toxic betrayal
The EPA’s toxic betrayal
When you bite into a strawberry, said Timothy Egan, “you shouldn’t have to think about childhood brain development.” But now you do, courtesy of Donald J. Trump. In his zeal to abolish government regulations, the president is “putting chemical industry toadies between our food and public safety.” Trump’s EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, recently rescinded a proposed ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that research has linked to neurological damage in children, including lower IQs, ADHD, and autism. The pesticide was banned from household use 20 years ago, but is currently in wide use in commercial agriculture on about 50 types of crops, including berries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, apples, and peaches. During the Obama administration, the EPA proposed banning the chemical, based on studies of its potential impact on human health. But “the election changed everything.” Trump and his cronies see anxiety over poisoned food, water, and air “as alarmist whining,” and plan to gut research into a host of chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects—supposedly in the name of job creation. Not incidentally, the maker of chlorpyrifos, Dow Chemical, gave $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee. What a stunning “betrayal of public health.”
4-20-17 Environment chief says US should exit Paris climate agreement
Environment chief says US should exit Paris climate agreement
The US appears to be getting closer to quitting the Paris climate agreement, with Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, saying it’s a bad deal for the country. Scott Pruitt, the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, has said that the US should back out of its commitment to the Paris climate agreement, the landmark plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions in a bid to limit global warming to below 2°C. This follows President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to cancel the agreement, with a decision on whether he will do so expected within the next month. “It’s a bad deal for America,” Pruitt told cable news show Fox & Friends last week. “China and India had no obligations under the agreement until 2030.” But not everyone agrees with what he said. “That statement is either deliberately misleading or woefully uninformed about what the Paris agreement is and what it does,” says Alden Meyer at the Union of Concerned Scientists. China and India have already taken action to reach the goals they set for 2030, and China has committed to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by a higher percentage than US commitments. “Pruitt is really off the mark here,” Meyer says. “It’s very clear that China is going to overachieve its Paris objectives.”
4-20-17 Plot twist in methane mystery blames chemistry, not emissions, for recent rise
Plot twist in methane mystery blames chemistry, not emissions, for recent rise
Falling levels of a molecule that destroys the greenhouse gas may be behind increasing concentrations since 2007. Changes in the concentration of a highly reactive compound in the atmosphere called hydroxyl may be to blame for a rise in global methane levels since 2007, new research suggests. Redder regions in this simulation of a typical March hydroxyl distribution contain higher concentrations of the molecule. A recent upsurge in planet-warming methane may not be caused by increasing emissions, as previously thought, but by methane lingering longer in the atmosphere. That’s the conclusion of two independent studies that indirectly tracked concentrations of hydroxyl, a highly reactive chemical that rips methane molecules apart. Hydroxyl levels in the atmosphere decreased roughly 7 or 8 percent starting in the early 2000s, the studies estimate. The two teams propose that the hydroxyl decline slowed the breakdown of atmospheric methane, boosting levels of the greenhouse gas. Concentrations in the atmosphere have crept up since 2007, but during the same period, methane emissions from human activities and natural sources have remained stable or even fallen slightly, both studies suggest. The research groups report their findings online April 17 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
4-19-17 The Arctic is a final garbage dump for ocean plastic
The Arctic is a final garbage dump for ocean plastic
A recent expedition to the Arctic found that some areas of the seemingly pristine waters, particularly around Greenland and in the Barents Sea, are littered with copious amounts of plastic debris. The Arctic Ocean is a final resting place for plastic debris dumped into the North Atlantic Ocean, new research suggests. A 2013 circumpolar expedition discovered hundreds of tons of plastic debris, from fishing lines to plastic films, ecologist Andrés Cózar of the University of Cádiz in Spain and colleagues report April 19 in Science Advances. While many areas remain relatively unpolluted, the density of plastic trash in the Arctic waters east of Greenland and north of Europe rivals plastic pileups in waters closer to the equator, despite few nearby human populations. Even more plastic probably lurks on the seafloor, the researchers suspect.
4-19-17 Why a neonicotinoid ban isn’t enough to protect the environment
Why a neonicotinoid ban isn’t enough to protect the environment
Neurotoxic pesticides hurt more than just bees, and they have spread throughout the environment. A ban is a good thing, but it could create another problem. SPRING brings the hum of bees, and this year it heralds further rumours of their demise – and the spread of the pesticide that seems to be to blame. Neonicotinoids, already subject to temporary bans in the EU, UK and parts of Canada, are under intense scrutiny. Regulators in Europe are poring over hundreds of studies to guide whether these temporary restrictions will become an outright ban. But what effect will a ban actually have? These compounds aren’t just in pesticides – you might find them in products for your pet. And from many sources, they have leached into the environment, and seem to show up wherever we look, including last week in US drinking water. Although a ban seems like a rational response, it may lead to worse problems. So what are the right lessons to take from the neonicotinoid saga?
4-18-17 Internal migration of millions as seas rise will rattle whole US
Internal migration of millions as seas rise will rattle whole US
It's not just coastal areas that will be affected by rising waters, and the US might be hopelessly underprepared unless planning starts now, says Jeff Goodell. It’s an obvious truth that rising seas are going to displace a lot of people. How many, and how fast, depends on many factors, especially the stability of marine-based glaciers in west Antarctica. Recent studies indicate that nearly 190 million people are directly at risk from sea-level rise, and that in more extreme scenarios over 1 billion people who live at lower elevations would be put in jeopardy. Where exactly will these people go? What impact will they have on the cities and states they flee to? Mathew Hauer, a geographer at the University of Georgia in Athens, has taken a stab at answering these questions in a paper published this week. Focusing on the US, he has looked at studies identifying populations at risk if sea level rises 1.8 metres by 2100, and has scrutinised 319 counties where more than 13 million people are likely to be displaced. Hauer reasons that they are likely to follow paths of earlier migrants and refugees, those paths often defined by location of family, friends and economic opportunity. To try to predict the patterns, he has used Internal Revenue Service figures that show county-to-county migration from 1990 to 2013. The most compelling and thought-provoking result is that rising seas are not just a problem for coastal elites with their beach houses and waterfront condos. Every state in the US will be impacted, either by residents fleeing or by people seeking refuge.
4-18-17 Slims River: Climate change causes "river piracy" in Canada's Yukon
Slims River: Climate change causes "river piracy" in Canada's Yukon
A team of scientists say a melting glacier in Canada's Yukon has caused a river to completely change course. Their findings, published in Nature Geoscience, show how climate change can cause surprising geological events. The Slims River once flowed out to the Bering Sea, but now it flows into the Kaskawulsh River instead. This phenomenon, known as "river piracy", typically takes centuries but the study documented it over the course of one spring. "Nobody's ever seen a river piracy occur in modern times, at least to my knowledge," lead author Dan Shugar told the BBC.
4-17-17 ‘River piracy’ on a high glacier lets one waterway rob another
‘River piracy’ on a high glacier lets one waterway rob another
Channel formed by melting ice diverts water flow, leaving loser high and dry. The melting of Kaskawulsh Glacier in northwestern Canada diverted water flow from one river into another, plummeting water levels in the waterway that once fed Kluane Lake. Ahoy! There be liquid booty on the move in the high mountains. Since May 2016, a channel carved through one of northwestern Canada’s largest glaciers has allowed one river to pillage water from another, new observations reveal. This phenomenon, almost certainly the result of climate change, is the first modern record of river piracy caused by a melting glacier, researchers report online April 17 in Nature Geoscience. Such piracy was rampant as the colossal ice sheets of the Last Glacial Maximum began shrinking around 18,000 years ago.
4-17-17 California’s wet year eases drought but many still lack water
California’s wet year eases drought but many still lack water
Don’t be fooled by the superbloom. Despite record-breaking rains, California’s drought is still ongoing in four counties, and the driest five years on record will have lasting effects. Just a week after Governor Jerry Brown declared the end of the California drought emergency, the northern half of the state logged its wettest year into the record books. But that doesn’t mean California’s water problems are over. On 13 April, rainfall measuring stations in the Sierra Nevada mountains recorded 89.7 inches of water. The previous record set in 1983 was 88.5 inches. In the past 12 months, California has simultaneously dealt with the effects of not enough water and far too much of it. After the five driest years on record, which required Californians to limit water use, the state has been deluged by storms that overflowed dams and helped the snowpack in the Sierras rebound from unprecedented lows. “While extreme weather by itself is not unusual, this is more extreme than anything in the historical record,” says Peter Gleick, a hydroclimatologist at the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California.
4-16-17 How road salt is ruining America's lakes
How road salt is ruining America's lakes
Hundreds of lakes in the northeast and midwest of North America are getting saltier, according to a study published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In the 1940s, people started using salt to make roads less icy, and today the U.S. and Canada dump and estimated 23 million tons of it into roadways every year (the U.S. accounts for almost 80 percent of that). Previous studies have found that salt quickly dissolves into waterways, affecting rivers and groundwater, but researchers knew little about its effect on lakes. So researchers from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies looked at chloride levels for 371 lakes in the U.S. and Canada over the past few decades. Looking at the area surrounding each lake, they charted the changes in chloride levels against both changes in snowfall patterns and changes in the human footprint on the land, such as the amount of land covered by roads. They also compared the chloride levels of the lakes to areas that were covered by trees in order to ensure their results were specific to lakes. Forty-four percent of the lakes had been getting saltier over the course of decades, they found. A few lakes in Maine hadn't been getting saltier, likely because they also take in a lot of freshwater rain every year. The researchers suspect that a similar trend might be seen in more than 7,000 lakes in the U.S. and Canada, based on the characteristics of the lakes in the study.
4-14-17 The EPA at a crossroads
The EPA at a crossroads
The sprawling regulatory agency President Trump vowed to eliminate “in almost every form” is essentially a child of the ’60s. During that era, smog-choked cities and contaminated rivers and lakes made Americans increasingly anxious about pollution from emissions, industrial waste, raw sewage, and other sources. In response, President Richard Nixon—a Republican—established the EPA in 1970 and named as its first administrator William Ruckelshaus, an assistant attorney general. Until then, only the states had enforced environmental laws. “They competed with one another so fiercely for the location of industry that they weren’t very good regulators of those industries,” Ruckelshaus explains. “It was very hard to get widespread compliance.” Ruckelshaus started by trying to establish and enforce air quality standards and target major water polluters. It wasn’t until Congress passed landmark environmental legislation, however, that the EPA gained real muscle.
- How did the EPA begin?
- What was the legislation?
- Has the agency been successful?
- What will happen under Trump?
- Will the EPA survive?
- The first Gorsuch
Irony, after officials at the Kentucky Coal Museum decided to install solar panels on the building’s roof to lower electricity costs. “Coal comes from nature, the sun rays come from nature,” explained a museum founder. “So it all works out.’’
4-14-17 CO2 could cause unprecedented warming
CO2 could cause unprecedented warming
If mankind continues burning fossil fuels at the current rate, by the end of this century the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could reach its highest concentration in 50 million years. That’s the worrying conclusion of a new study that analyzed data from previous research to examine how the atmosphere has changed over the past half a billion years. Atmospheric CO2 levels are currently hovering around 400 parts per million, up from about 280 ppm before the Industrial Revolution. Researchers at the University of Southampton in the U.K. calculated that unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, that concentration will rise to about 900 ppm by the year 2100—a level not seen since the early Eocene Epoch, when ice was rare and sea levels were significantly higher than they are now. If emissions remain unchecked until 2400, the researchers found, the concentration could rise to as high as 5,000 ppm. With the sun now brighter and hotter than it used to be, that increase would result in temperatures higher than anything seen in the past 420 million years. Future global temperatures could be influenced by many different factors, and historical estimates for ancient carbon levels—which are based on isotopes in soil, the ocean, and fossils—are by no means flawless. But study author Gavin Foster tells The Washington Post his findings show that “as far as we know, the [warming] in the future is going to be unprecedented.”
4-14-17 Arctic mystery solved?
Arctic mystery solved?
Scientists were flummoxed when they discovered in 2011 that algae was growing beneath the Arctic’s surface, turning the sparkling white landscape shades of green. Plankton needs light to photosynthesize, and it was assumed that almost all the sunlight that hit Arctic ice was being reflected back into space. But researchers at Harvard think they have solved the mystery, reports LiveScience.com. Using a computer simulation of sea ice conditions from 1986 to 2015, they found that warmer temperatures have thinned the Arctic’s ice, creating pools of melted snow that have darkened its surface. These melt ponds are absorbing sunlight that was once reflected, allowing more light to penetrate the thinning ice. The researchers calculate that about 30 percent of Arctic sea ice is now thin enough for blooms of plankton to grow beneath the surface—up from about 3 percent two decades ago. They note this trend could dramatically reshape the Arctic marine food chain. “All of a sudden,” says study lead author Chris Horvat, “our entire idea about how this ecosystem works is different.”
4-11-17 Renewables' deep-sea mining conundrum
Renewables' deep-sea mining conundrum
British scientists exploring an underwater mountain in the Atlantic Ocean have discovered a treasure trove of rare minerals. Their investigation of a seamount more than 500km (300 miles) from the Canary Islands has revealed a crust of "astonishingly rich" rock. Samples brought back to the surface contain the scarce substance tellurium in concentrations 50,000 times higher than in deposits on land. Tellurium is used in a type of advanced solar panel, so the discovery raises a difficult question about whether the push for renewable energy may encourage mining of the seabed. The rocks also contain what are called rare earth elements that are used in wind turbines and electronics.
4-11-17 It’s not too late to save Great Barrier Reef from politicians
It’s not too late to save Great Barrier Reef from politicians
Australia is pushing ahead with plans for a giant coal mine, despite the threat it poses to the imperilled reef and hints that the appetite for coal is waning. More bad news about Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef emerged this week. Two-thirds of its coral has now been bleached following the scorching summers of 2017 and 2016. The scientific consensus is clear: the increased frequency of mass bleaching events is being driven by global warming – both directly by warming water and perhaps more indirectly by extreme weather that ravages the coral. The only way to save the precious remains of the reef is to rein in our carbon dioxide emissions. So it might come as a surprise that the Australian government seems hell-bent on doing the exact opposite. On the same day the latest reef report card was released, Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was in India finalising a deal with multinational conglomerate Adani to build the biggest coal mine in Australia – just 300 kilometres from the Great Barrier Reef. Will this seal the reef’s fate for good? The emissions certainly won’t help. Coal from the A$22 billion (US$16.5 billion) Carmichael megamine will be transported by rail to the Abbot Point coal port in the central section of the reef and shipped to power stations in India. When burned, it will pump out 128 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year – more than the annual output of New Zealand. Even though the coal will be burned in India, the emissions will contribute to overall global warming and further damage the reef. When a senator from the Australian Greens party raised concerns about the recent mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef in parliament, those from the ruling Liberal party told him he needed a hanky. (Webmaster's comment: We can't help ourselves. It's always about the money!)
4-11-17 Climate change scientists' bid to drill Everest glacier
Climate change scientists' bid to drill Everest glacier
Climate-change scientists are to travel to the Himalayas in a bid to become the first team to successfully drill through the world's highest glacier. The Aberystwyth University-led group will use a drill adapted from a car wash to cut into the Khumbu glacier in the foothills of Everest. They will work at an altitude of 5,000m (16,400ft), in the hope of finding out how climate change affects Khumbu. Project leader Prof Bryn Hubbard said there will be "particular challenges". The 10-mile (17km) long glacier, in north eastern Nepal, flows from as high as 7,600m (25,000ft) down to 4,900m (16,000ft) and is often used by climbers on their way to Everest base-camp. Once the drilling is done, the team will be able to study the internal structure of the glacier - measure its temperature, how it flows and how water drains through it.
4-10-17 Great Barrier Reef: Two-thirds damaged in 'unprecedented' bleaching
Great Barrier Reef: Two-thirds damaged in 'unprecedented' bleaching
Unprecedented coral bleaching in consecutive years has damaged two-thirds of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, aerial surveys have shown. The bleaching - or loss of algae - affects a 1,500km (900 miles) stretch of the reef, according to scientists. The latest damage is concentrated in the middle section, whereas last year's bleaching hit mainly the north. Experts fear the proximity of the two events will give damaged coral little chance to recover. Prof Terry Hughes, from James Cook University, said governments must urgently address climate change to prevent further bleaching. "Since 1998, we have seen four of these events and the gap between them has varied substantially, but this is the shortest gap we have seen," Prof Hughes told the BBC. "The sooner we take action on global greenhouse gas emissions and transition away from fossil fuels to renewables, the better." (Webmaster's comment: Includes maps of the damaged reef area.)
4-9-17 Mass bleaching hits Great Barrier Reef for second year in a row
Mass bleaching hits Great Barrier Reef for second year in a row
The reef’s central portion is bleaching fast this year, following huge losses in the northern part last year – and climate change is the culprit. The bad news for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef just keeps on getting worse. Last month, scientists from James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, reported that the northern third of the reef was severely bleached in 2016. Well over half the corals there were lost in that event. Today, the same team announced that the central portion of the reef, a popular tourist area, is now suffering a similar fate. Corals bleach – and can die – when stresses such as abnormal heat make them expel their symbiotic algae. In 2016, the bleaching was caused by El Niño, a periodic global climate event that heats up a vast band of the ocean’s surface in the equatorial Pacific. But this year’s bleaching is occurring during a so-called “normal” year without such an event. “The water is just too damn hot,” says Terry Hughes, the leader of the survey, who fears that climate change is creating a new norm that corals are unable to endure. Hughes flew over the worst-affected area in a small aircraft to investigate the gradual whitening of the reef, which started to be noticeable in early February. Nearly 200 divers have also been documenting the destruction under the waves.
4-7-17 Climate change: Can Trump revive coal?
Climate change: Can Trump revive coal?
“Climate change doesn’t matter.” That’s the “devastating” message President Trump sent out with his executive order on “energy independence” last week, said David Roberts in Vox.com. Trump ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to review and rewrite the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era edict to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants. He also asked the EPA to relax carbon rules for new power plants; loosen limits on methane emissions in oil and gas production; and rescind a moratorium on new coal mining on federal land. “You’re going back to work,” the president told the coal miners he had invited to the executive order’s signing ceremony. Trump didn’t “formally withdraw” from the Paris climate accords, the landmark 194-nation agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said Amy Davidson in The New Yorker. But by killing the Clean Power Plan, which is currently stuck in the courts, Trump has made it impossible for the U.S. to fulfill its emissions targets—and ended our “participation in the fight against climate change.” (Webmaster's comment: Almost no one wants coal anymore so who is going to buy it?)
4-7-17 What's lurking at the bottom of the ocean? Pollution, apparently.
What's lurking at the bottom of the ocean? Pollution, apparently.
What's lurking at the bottom of the ocean? Pollution, apparently. There is no corner of the world safe from the destructive shadow cast by human pollution, a recent study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution has found — not even the darkest depths of the sea. Marine scientists studied crustaceans taken from two of the deepest ocean trenches in the world, the Mariana Trench located in the North Pacific nearby Guam, and the Kermadec Trench, found in the South Pacific off the eastern coast of New Zealand. Looking specifically for persistent organic pollutants (POPs), a type of pollution that only very slowly degrades and causes serious health problems in many life forms, they were taken aback by what they saw. All the critters studied had "extraordinary levels" of POPs, even higher than what's typically found in the surrounding sea life of places known for hosting factories and other abundant sources of pollution. The findings, the researchers wrote, contradict the perception of the deep sea being a "pristine," untouched environment, and suggest that even pollution we had stopped creating decades ago is still harming marine life.
4-7-17 Climate change stalls jet stream
Climate change stalls jet stream
Climate scientists have long understood that global warming can make extreme weather events like the Texas heat wave of 2011 and last year’s floods across Europe more common. But new research suggests this rise in extreme weather isn’t simply due to increasing atmospheric temperatures: Climate change might also be altering the flow of planet-scale air patterns like the jet stream. Normally, the jet stream moves from west to east across the Northern Hemisphere, with ribbon-like air currents that undulate from the equator to the North Pole. A large temperature difference between the tropics and the Arctic causes the winds to blow faster. But when the difference is smaller, the jet stream slows and whole regions can be left under the same weather for long periods, turning hot days into heat waves, dry spells into droughts, and wet conditions into floods. Using temperature records and climate model simulations, an international team of researchers found that such stalls are increasing in frequency, largely because climate change is causing the Arctic to warm faster than the rest of the planet.“Human activity has been suspected of contributing to this pattern before,” study leader Michael Mann tells The Guardian (U.K.). “But now we’ve uncovered a clear fingerprint.”
4-6-17 Flight turbulence to get three times more common because of CO2
Flight turbulence to get three times more common because of CO2
Air travel is likely to get a lot bumpier as carbon dioxide levels rise and affect the jet streams. Air travel is likely to get a lot bumpier because of climate change, a new study suggests. Turbulence strong enough to bounce unbuckled passengers around an aircraft cabin could become three times more common as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rise, experts predict. Sudden up and down movements as an aircraft travels through rough air are part of the normal experience of flying. But occasionally passengers and flight crew are subjected to white-knuckle levels of turbulence with the potential to cause serious injury, especially when it occurs unexpectedly in cloudless “clear air”.
4-6-17 Record amounts of renewable energy added to the mix in 2016
Record amounts of renewable energy added to the mix in 2016
Renewable energy sources added 138.5 gigawatts to global power capacity, equivalent to the total installed capacity of Canada. Record amounts of new renewables were added to energy systems worldwide last year at a lower cost as clean technology prices fell, a report shows. Wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, small-scale hydropower, marine energy and waste-to-energy schemes added 138.5 gigawatts (GW) to global power capacity, equivalent to the total installed capacity of Canada. The figure, which excludes large hydroelectric dams, is up 8 per cent from 127.5GW in 2015. Despite the increase, global investment in new renewables was down almost a quarter to $241.6 billion as the costs of renewables such as solar and wind fell. The spending per unit of power capacity from solar and wind dropped by more than a tenth in 2016, the report by UN Environment, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre and Bloomberg New Energy Finance found. Investment in new renewables was roughly double the amount going into fossil fuel plants and the clean technologies accounted for 55 per cent of capacity added worldwide in 2016. Electricity coming from renewables, excluding large hydroelectric dams, rose from 10.3 per cent of total generation in 2015 to 11.3 per cent in 2016, preventing an estimated 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
4-6-17 UN report: Clean power is up, costs are down
UN report: Clean power is up, costs are down
The world added record levels of renewable energy capacity in 2016, according to the UN. But the bill was almost a quarter lower than the previous year, thanks to the plunging cost of renewables. The cost of offshore wind energy installations has tumbled over the past three years. Investment in renewables capacity was roughly double that in fossil fuels, says the report from UN Environment. It follows news that the cost of offshore wind power has fallen by around a third since 2012 – far faster than expected. But the report’s authors sound the alarm that just as costs are plunging, some major nations are scaling back their green energy investments. This, they say, reduces the likelihood of meeting the Paris climate agreement. The paper is published in conjunction with Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Ulf Moslener, a co-author, told BBC News: “Things are heading the right way, and the learning and technical costs of renewables have done a large part of their job. But investments are not yet there to meet the structural change agreed in Paris." (Webmaster's comment: And they never will be with people like Trump in office!)
4-6-17 Buffalo's big plan to get rich
Buffalo's big plan to get rich
A clean, green economy is sprouting in Buffalo. It's easy to pick on Buffalo: It's cold, it's snowy, the economy has been in the dumps for four decades, and the Bills lost four straight Super Bowls. But around the turn of the 20th century, Buffalo was THE place to be. It had the most millionaires, per capita, of any city in America. It hosted a World's Fair. It was a bustling inland port, the terminus of the Erie Canal, with hulking grain elevators and steel mills. One of the world's largest mills used to stand on the shores of Lake Erie. These days, all you hear is the wind roaring off the water. For Paul Curran the managing director of BQ Energy, that's the sound of opportunity. "We're standing at the bottom of turbine #1, there are 14 turbines in all that generate 35 megawatts of electricity," says Curran. "Today it's a bit windy, which is good for business." His turbines supply enough power for about 10,000 homes. Driving around the 1,200 acre site, you see industrial ruins alongside wind turbines and rows of solar panels. It's something of a success story — repurposing toxic, polluted land in a way that's helping combat climate change. But it's not a jobs story. "There used to be something like 25,000 jobs on the land we're sitting on right now, today there are zero," says Curran. But projects like this could become a Buffalo jobs story. Right now, Curran buys many of his parts from overseas, and "to the extent that they were made here in Buffalo, that would great for us as a consumer of that type of equipment," he says. That's what the state of New York is betting on, trying to create a so-called "cluster economy" for clean technology.
4-6-17 First study finds neonic pesticides in US drinking water
First study finds neonic pesticides in US drinking water
Small traces of the world's most widely used insecticides have been detected in tap water for the first time. Samples taken by scientists in the US state of Iowa showed that levels of neonicotinoid chemicals remained constant despite treatment. However drinking water treated using a different method of filtration showed big reductions in neonic levels. Scientists say they cannot draw any conclusions relating to human health but argue that further study is needed. The use of neonicotinoids has increased rapidly since their introduction in the early 1990s. These systemic chemicals were seen as an advance because they are usually applied as a seed coating and are lethal to insects but not to other species. In the US, sales of seeds pre-treated with neonics tripled from 2004 to 2014. (Webmaster's comment: It will be first bad for children, and later on for adults as the contamination grows!)
4-5-17 A year on thin ice: Four seasons in a radically changed Arctic
A year on thin ice: Four seasons in a radically changed Arctic
The ice that was once rock-solid is now rotten and see-through in places, weakened by a winter of freak heatwaves. Discover the new normal at the North Pole. CHANGE is afoot at the top of our world. Spring has sprung, marking a crucial moment in the Arctic’s annual cycle. Each year, the ice sheet reaches its maximum extent in March, then begins to shrink as temperature warm up. But this year, something is different. The floating sea ice, which at its peak normally extends as far as the eye can see and feels as solid underfoot as a continental shelf, is rotten. For the third year in a row, its maximum March extent is at a record low, following a winter of heatwaves. February temperatures were above freezing. These are the symptoms of a new Arctic that is being created – perhaps the most profound change to the look of our planet for millions of years, with consequences for the rest of the planet. In all likelihood the Arctic Ocean will soon be ice-free in the summer, surrounded by snow-free lands. “We are in a new Arctic regime,” says marine biologist Antje Boetius.
4-4-17 When coal replaces a cleaner energy source, health is on the line
When coal replaces a cleaner energy source, health is on the line
Tennessee Valley case study links higher air pollution to lower birth-weight babies. In response to nuclear power plant shutdowns, Kentucky’s coal-fired Paradise Fossil Plant (shown) began producing more power, and more air pollution. Babies born nearby were smaller, an indicator of poorer health, a study finds. Where I grew up in Tennessee, a coal-fired power plant perches by the river, just down from the bridge that my wild brothers and their friends would jump off in the summer. Despite the proximity, I never thought too much about the power plant and the energy it was churning out. But then I read an April 3 Nature Energy paper on coal-fired energy production that used my town — and others in the Tennessee Valley Authority area — as a natural experiment. The story the data tell is simultaneously fascinating and frustrating, and arrives at a politically prescient time. In recent weeks, the Trump administration has signaled a shift in energy policy back toward the fossil fuel. The roots of this story were planted in the 1930s, when the TVA was created as a New Deal project to help haul America out of the Great Depression. The organization soon got into the power business, relying on a mix of energy sources: hydropower, coal and nuclear. After the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island — a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania — stricter regulations driven by public fear prompted TVA to shut down its two nuclear reactors. Those temporary closures in 1985 left a gaping hole in the region’s energy production, a need immediately filled by coal.
4-4-17 Miami's fight against rising seas
Miami's fight against rising seas
Just down the coast from Donald Trump's weekend retreat, the residents and businesses of south Florida are experiencing regular episodes of water in the streets. In the battle against rising seas, the region – which has more to lose than almost anywhere else in the world – is becoming ground zero. The first time my father’s basement flooded, it was shortly after he moved in. The building was an ocean-front high-rise in a small city north of Miami called Sunny Isles Beach. The marble lobby had a waterfall that never stopped running; crisp-shirted valets parked your car for you. For the residents who lived in the more lavish flats, these cars were often BMWs and Mercedes. But no matter their value, the cars all wound up in the same place: the basement. When I called, I’d ask my dad how the building was doing. “The basement flooded again a couple weeks ago,” he’d sometimes say. Or: “It’s getting worse.” It’s not only his building: he’s also driven through a foot of water on a main road a couple of towns over and is used to tiptoeing around pools in the local supermarket’s car park. Ask nearly anyone in the Miami area about flooding and they’ll have an anecdote to share. Many will also tell you that it’s happening more and more frequently. The data backs them up. (Webmaster's comment: Now global warming is coming home!)
4-4-17 CO2 set to hit levels not seen in 50 million years by 2050
CO2 set to hit levels not seen in 50 million years by 2050
We are pumping CO2 into the atmosphere so fast that by the middle of this century the gas could soar to its highest levels for 50 million years. We are pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere so fast that it could soar to its highest level for at least 50 million years by the middle of this century. And that’s even worse news than it sounds, because the sun is hotter now than it was then. This is one of the conclusions of a study looking at how CO2 levels in the atmosphere have changed over the past half billion years and comparing that with future scenarios. “CO2 in the past was not as high as we thought,” says Gavin Foster at the University of Southampton in the UK. Thanks to bubbles of air trapped in Antarctic ice, we have a good picture of CO2 levels over the past 800,000 years. But going further back in time is much more challenging. Foster and his colleagues have compiled data from more than 100 different studies to produce the best estimate yet of how CO2 levels changed in the past 420 million years. Among other things, the researchers corrected for the fact that studies based on carbonates in fossil soils are now known to have overestimated past CO2 levels. Their compilation suggests that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere never rose above 3000 parts per million during this time period, whereas some earlier studies have suggested levels were as high as 5000 ppm at times. And by looking at future CO2 emission scenarios, they say the level will soon reach its highest for at least 50 million years. What’s not in doubt is that when CO2 levels were higher than in pre-industrial times, the planet was much warmer and had no ice at the poles. (Webmaster's comment: This is how the human race will end. The great frying!)
4-3-17 Public Opinion Context for Trump's Environmental Actions
Public Opinion Context for Trump's Environmental Actions
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed a "sweeping" executive order that will rollback a number of Obama-era environmental regulations. The president's stated reasons for taking these actions include the following: make the U.S. "energy independent," cheapen the price of different forms of energy (or at least stop the price from rising) and keep states from shutting down energy production sites, like coal mines, which otherwise might have closed because of existing emissions standards. Gallup recently conducted its annual Environment Gallup Poll Social Series (GPSS) survey. Generally speaking, when compared with recent years, a larger portion of the public is sympathetic to protecting the environment and limiting human pollution, and less worried about energy production or cost. To some extent, this may be an anticipatory reaction to the new Trump Administration, given Trump's campaign promises and statements about energy and the environment. To that point, fewer than half of Americans said Trump was doing a good job protecting the nation's environment (36%) or improving the nation's energy policy (46%) even before Trump issued his executive order affecting energy and the environment. Results show that the majority of Americans do not believe two of the main aims of Trump's environmental policy -- increasing production of energy in the U.S. and keeping it cheap -- should be prioritized over environmental protection. In particular, 59% of Americans agreed that protection of the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of limiting the amount of energy supplies, up from 41% in 2011. And 56% of Americans said that protection of the environment should be prioritized over economic growth.
4-3-17 California's drought is over. Now what?
California's drought is over. Now what?
Now that California has had significant rain, can the state ever go back to "normal"? At the height of California's multi-year drought, Rafael Surmay's well - the only source of water to his house - went dry. For two and a half years, Surmay, his wife, and his four children showered, cleaned, drank and cooked using a water tank and 10 gallons of bottled water per month. They depended on monthly deliveries to refill their water tank. "To manage the water was practically the main track of each day," he says."We disconnected the washer and had to go to the public laundry. For showering, every time I tell my boys, soap, close the shower [faucet], wash, close." Over the past several months, rainstorms have brought relief to parts of California, which has been suffering from drought since 2012. Some areas have had record rain, and snowpack across the Sierra Nevada is close to 200% of normal. Though a small percentage of California is still in moderate to severe drought, California Governor Jerry Brown may declare an official end to the drought emergency in the near future. But several years of widespread, deeply dry conditions have exacted a toll on the state that will take more than one wet season to fix. In some cases, the landscape may be forever altered. In parts of San Joaquin Valley, where the Surmays live, the ground is sinking as fast as two feet a year, because of over-pumping of groundwater, according to a new study by Nasa's Jet Propulsion Lab.
4-3-17 Sci-fi forest tracks carbon impact
Sci-fi forest tracks carbon impact
An industrial-scale experiment in a Staffordshire forest will help fill gaps in knowledge about climate change. The project has created an outdoor laboratory by encircling trees with 25m masts gushing high levels of carbon dioxide. The site is surrounded by a 3m anti-climb fence, and silvery tubes snake along the forest floor in what looks like a sci-fi alien invasion. The scientists behind the experiment want to find how forests will respond to the levels of carbon dioxide expected in the atmosphere by the middle of the 21st Century. That means full lab conditions: no food and drink in the woods, and no relieving yourself behind a tree. The role of plants in taking up CO2 is one of the known unknowns in climatology. CO2 is a plant fertiliser and researchers think that as levels increase the trees will fix more of it into their trunks, roots and organic matter in the earth. But they believe the fertilizing effect will be limited over time by other factors such as lack of nutrients, lack of water and rising temperatures. Humans and forests currently participate in a mutually beneficial exchange in which trees are fed by increasing CO2, and the trees in turn lock up carbon that would otherwise remain in the atmosphere, heating the planet. Trees are estimated to be storing between a quarter and a third of the carbon produced by burning fossil fuels, and the earth is becoming greener as a result. One of the great imponderables in climate science is how long forests will continue to buffer climate change as CO2 levels continue to spiral.
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