Thursday, May 30, 2013
The HMS Challenger set sail 135 years ago. It was the world's first scientific survey of ocean life. But the HMS Challenger also studied ocean temperatures along the way by dropping thermometers attached to Italian hemp ropes hundreds of meters deep – an effort that has been used as a baseline for global warming in oceans since pre-industrial times.
Now, according to a new study, U.S. and Australian researchers have combined the work of the HMS Challenger with modern-era climate science models – and have some surprising results. The study found we may be significantly under-estimating global warming's impact and heat content in the oceans; and sea level rise from global warming seems to be split 60/40, with 40 percent coming from expansion of sea water caused by warming, and the remaining 60 percent coming from melting ice sheets and glaciers.
The U.S. and Australian researchers who re-examined the HMS Challenger thermometer readings in light of modern supercomputer climate models say it provides further confirmation of human-produced global warming over the past century.
"Our research revealed warming of the planet can be clearly detected since 1873 and that our oceans continue to absorb the great majority of this heat," said Dr. Will Hobbs, the study's lead author and a researcher at the University of Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. "Currently scientists estimate the oceans absorb more than 90 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases, and we attribute the global warming to anthropogenic causes."
The HMS Challenger expedition ran from 1872 to 1876, and was the world's first global scientific survey of life beneath the ocean surface. But, while it wasn't part of its central research mission, the Challenger also dropped thermometers deep into the ocean at different points. More than a century later, researchers used state-of-the-art climate models to get a more accurate picture of how the world's oceans have changed since the Challenger's voyage. More
Sunday, May 26, 2013
May 26th 2013 Over the last few years, media outlets have been among the worst offenders maintaining virtual radio silence on how extreme weather patterns may be the result of manmade climate change.
But CBS broke this so-called “climate silence” on Face the Nation Sunday, hosting a panel of meteorologists and climatologists to discuss the floods, droughts, and tornadoes that have plagued the country with increasing ferocity.
The panel — consisting of CBS meteorologist David Bernard, Chief Climatologist for Climate Central Heidi Cullen, TIME journalist Jeffrey Kluger, and President of the American Meteorological Society, Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd — didn’t shy away from addressing the overall patterns that indicate global climate change is driven by human production of carbon dioxide. “We’re getting a level of consensus on thousands of peer reviewed studies over decades that have established the human contribution to climate change,” Kluger told host Bob Schieffer.
Even as some studies suggest the potential for double-digit warming across the globe, the media has been stubbornly silent, treating climate change as an issue that is still up for political debate, instead of a scientific reality. Cullen summed up this problem well during the panel discussion, saying that addressing climate change is “the biggest procrastination problem in the sense that the longer you wait to fix it the tougher it gets to fix, so the sooner we start the better off we are.”
Members of the panel also suggested some solutions. Kluger focused on “a slow transition to renewables, the increase in mileage standards for cars,” but warned that such measures were “sort of putting out the fringes of the wildfire that’s blazing. We have to get to the heart of it and begin shut it down.” Bernard took the less optimistic, but more realistic approach, suggesting that “we have to learn to live with the way climate is going and that means responsible development. We can’t keep building in the same places that maybe more prone to floods.”
Earlier this month, as the midwest was plagued by devastating floods, only three percent of media coverage even mentioned the term “climate change.” Overall in 2012, media coverage of climate change increased slightly, though it was still down sharply from a 2009 peak. More
For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA's Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).
These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.
"With the devastation of Sandy fresh in our minds, and another active season predicted, everyone at NOAA is committed to providing life-saving forecasts in the face of these storms and ensuring that Americans are prepared and ready ahead of time." said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA acting administrator. "As we saw first-hand with Sandy, it's important to remember that tropical storm and hurricane impacts are not limited to the coastline. Strong winds, torrential rain, flooding, and tornadoes often threaten inland areas far from where the storm first makes landfall."
Three climate factors that strongly control Atlantic hurricane activity are expected to come together to produce an active or extremely active 2013 hurricane season. These are:
- A continuation of the atmospheric climate pattern, which includes a strong west African monsoon, that is responsible for the ongoing era of high activity for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995;
- Warmer-than-average water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea; and
- El Niño is not expected to develop and suppress hurricane formation.
"This year, oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the Atlantic basin are expected to produce more and stronger hurricanes," said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. "These conditions include weaker wind shear, warmer Atlantic waters and conducive winds patterns coming from Africa."
NOAA's seasonal hurricane outlook is not a hurricane landfall forecast; it does not predict how many storms will hit land or where a storm will strike. Forecasts for individual storms and their impacts will be provided throughout the season by NOAA's National Hurricane Center.
New for this hurricane season are improvements to forecast models, data gathering, and the National Hurricane Center communication procedure for post-tropical cyclones. In July, NOAA plans to bring online a new supercomputer that will run an upgraded Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) model that provides significantly enhanced depiction of storm structure and improved storm intensity forecast guidance.
Also this year, Doppler radar data will be transmitted in real time from NOAA's Hurricane Hunter aircraft. This will help forecasters better analyze rapidly evolving storm conditions, and these data could further improve the HWRF model forecasts by 10 to 15 percent. More
The Carribean doppler radar network includes Doppler systems in Belize, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad. Editor
Friday, May 24, 2013
An ice shelf is a thick plate of ice attached to a coastline on one side and floating over the ocean on the other side. Many ice shelves fringe Antarctica, including the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula, which underwent a series of breakup events in 1998, 2008, and 2009.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
From Hurricane Sandy’s devastating blow to the Northeast to the protracted drought that hit the Midwest Corn Belt, natural catastrophes across the United States pounded insurers last year, generating$35 billion in privately insured property losses, $11 billion more than the average over the last decade.
And the industry expects the situation will get worse. “Numerous studies assume a rise in summer drought periods in North America in the future and an increasing probability of severe cyclones relatively far north along the U.S. East Coast in the long term,” said Peter Höppe, who heads Geo Risks Research at the reinsurance giant Munich Re. “The rise in sea level caused by climate change will further increase the risk of storm surge.” Most insurers, including the reinsurance companies that bear much of the ultimate risk in the industry, have little time for the arguments heard in some right-wing circles that climate change isn’t happening, and are quite comfortable with the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the main culprit of global warming.
“Insurance is heavily dependent on scientific thought,” Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, told me last week. “It is not as amenable to politicized scientific thought.”
Yet when I asked Mr. Nutter what the American insurance industry was doing to combat global warming, his answer was surprising: nothing much. “The industry has really not been engaged in advocacy related to carbon taxes or proposals addressing carbon,” he said. While some big European reinsurers like Munich Re and Swiss Re support efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, “in the United States the household names really have not engaged at all.” Instead, the focus of insurers’ advocacy efforts is zoning rules and disaster mitigation.
Last week, scientists announced that the concentration of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had reached 400 parts per million — its highest level in at least three million years, before humans appeared on the scene. Back then, mastodons roamed the earth, the polar ice caps were smaller and the sea level was as much as 60 to 80 feet higher.
The milestone puts the earth nearer a point of no return, many scientists think, when vast, disruptive climate change is baked into our future. Pietr P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told my colleague Justin Gillis: “It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem.” And it raises a perplexing question: why hasn’t corporate America done more to sway its allies in the Republican Party to try to avert a disaster that would clearly be devastating to its own interests?
Mr. Nutter argues that the insurance industry’s reluctance is born of hesitation to become embroiled in controversies over energy policy. But perhaps its executives simply don’t feel so vulnerable. Like farmers, who are largely protected from the ravages of climate changeby government-financed crop insurance, insurers also have less to fear than it might at first appear.
The federal government covers flood insurance, among the riskiest kind in this time of crazy weather. And insurers can raise premiums or even drop coverage to adjust to higher risks. Indeed, despite Sandy and drought, property and casualty insurance in the United States was more profitable in 2012 than in 2011, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.
But the industry’s analysis of the risks it faces is evolving. One sign of that is how some top American insurers responded to a billboard taken out by the conservative Heartland Institute, a prominent climate change denier that has received support from the insurance industry.
The billboard had a picture of Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, who asked: “I still believe in global warming. Do you?”
Concerned about global warming and angry to be equated with a murderous psychopath, insurance companies like Allied World, Renaissance Re, State Farm and XL Groupdropped their support for Heartland.
Even more telling, Eli Lehrer, a Heartland vice president who at the time led an insurance-financed project, left the group and helped start the R Street Institute, a standard conservative organization in all respects but one: it believes in climate change andsupports a carbon tax to combat it. And it is financed largely with insurance industry money. More
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Monday, May 20, 2013
A lot of what’s known about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be traced back to a chemist named Charles David Keeling, who, in 1958, persuaded the U.S. Weather Bureau to install a set of monitoring devices at its Mauna Loa observatory, on the island of Hawaii.
By the nineteen-fifties, it was well understood that, thanks to the burning of fossil fuels, humans were adding vast amounts of carbon to the air. But the prevailing view was that this wouldn’t much matter, since the oceans would suck most of it out again. Keeling thought that it would be prudent to find out if that was, in fact, the case. The setup on Mauna Loa soon showed that it was not.
Carbon-dioxide levels have been monitored at the observatory ever since, and they’ve exhibited a pattern that started out as terrifying and may be now described as terrifyingly predictable. They have increased every year, and earlier this month they reached the milestone of four hundred parts per million. No one knows exactly when CO2 levels were last this high; the best guess is the mid-Pliocene, about three million years ago. At that point, summertime temperatures in the Arctic were fourteen degrees warmer than they are now and sea levels were some seventy-five feet higher.
When the milestone was passed, Keeling’s son Ralph, a geochemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, glossed the event as follows: “It means we are quickly losing the possibility of keeping the climate below what people thought were possibly tolerable thresholds.” Maureen Raymo, a marine geologist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, was more blunt. “It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” she told the Times.
President Obama will make a decision in the next few months—unless he puts it off again, as he did in 2011—about whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. The question before him is whether it’s in the “national interest” to grant the permits needed for constructing Keystone, which is supposed to dogleg from Alberta to Nebraska, and join a pipeline that will extend to Texas, connecting Canada’s tar-sands deposits with American refineries. The latest figures from Mauna Loa reveal what’s at stake.
Last week, as the President was otherwise engaged—with the uproar over the I.R.S., the Justice Department’s subpoena of phone records from the Associated Press, and the e-mails about the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi—lobbying for the pipeline reached a new level of intensity. At the start of the week, the Canadian government launched an ad campaign to build support for the pipeline in the U.S. One ad, featuring construction workers fitting sections of pipe, says, “America and Canada: Standing together for energy independence.” Although the Canadians have not released the cost of the campaign, the Globe and Mail reported that Canada’s natural-resources department has set aside more than sixteen million dollars for advertising this year. (Canada’s natural-resources minister, Joe Oliver, recently travelled to France and England to push the tar sands; he ended up threatening the European Union, which is considering labelling tar-sands oil as “highly polluting,” with taking the case to the World Trade Organization.) Then, at the end of the week, Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, came to New York to make the pitch himself. “All the facts are overwhelmingly on the side of approval,” he said, at the Council on Foreign Relations. With a touch of menace, he added, “I know the Administration will do a thorough analysis before arriving at the right decision.”
The arguments in favor of Keystone run more or less like this: Americans use a lot of oil—more than eighteen million barrels per day. It has to come from somewhere, and Canada is a more reliable trading partner than, say, Iraq. The U.S. already imports roughly a million barrels of Canadian tar-sands oil a day, and if it doesn’t import the rest some other country will. “It’s overwhelmingly likely the oil would find another way to market,” USA Today observed in a recent editorial. For instance, a pipeline could be built to British Columbia, and the oil shipped from there to China, though there are many political and logistic barriers to such a plan—among them the Canadian Rockies.
If the arguments in favor of Keystone are persuasive, those against it are even stronger. Tar-sands oil is not really oil, at least not in the conventional sense of the word. It starts out as semi-solid and has to be either mined or literally melted out of the ground. In either case, the process requires energy, which is provided by burning fossil fuels. The result is that, for every barrel of tar-sands oil that’s extracted, significantly more carbon dioxide enters the air than for every barrel of ordinary crude—between twelve and twenty-three per cent more.
Alberta’s tar sands contain an estimated 1.7 trillion barrels of oil. Assuming that only a tenth of that is recoverable, it’s still enough to generate something like twenty-two billion metric tons of carbon. There are, it should be noted, plenty of other ways to produce twenty-two billion metric tons of carbon. Consuming about a seventh of the world’s remaining accessible reserves of conventional oil would do it, as would combusting even a small fraction of the world’s remaining coal deposits. Which is just the point. More
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Saturday, May 18, 2013
|Research facility at Mauna Loa|
The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years.
Scientific instruments showed that the gas had reached an average daily level above 400 parts per million — just an odometer moment in one sense, but also a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control are faltering.
The best available evidence suggests the amount of the gas in the air has not been this high for at least three million years, before humans evolved, and scientists believe the rise portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea.
“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a unit of Columbia University.
“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.
Ralph Keeling, who runs another monitoring program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said a continuing rise could be catastrophic. “It means we are quickly losing the possibility of keeping the climate below what people thought were possibly tolerable thresholds,” he said.
Virtually every automobile ride, every plane trip and, in most places, every flip of a light switch adds carbon dioxide to the air, and relatively little money is being spent to find and deploy alternative technologies.
China is now the largest emitter, but Americans have been consuming fossil fuels extensively for far longer, and experts say the United States is more responsible than any other nation for the high level.
The new measurement came from analyzers atop Mauna Loa, the volcano on the big island of Hawaii that has long been ground zero for monitoring the worldwide trend on carbon dioxide, or CO2. Devices there sample clean, crisp air that has blown thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, producing a record of rising carbon dioxide levels that has been closely tracked for half a century.
Carbon dioxide above 400 parts per million was first seen in the Arctic last year, and had also spiked above that level in hourly readings at Mauna Loa.
But the average reading for an entire day surpassed that level at Mauna Loa for the first time in the 24 hours that ended at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Thursday. The two monitoring programs use slightly different protocols; NOAA reported an average for the period of 400.03 parts per million, while Scripps reported 400.08.
Carbon dioxide rises and falls on a seasonal cycle, and the level will dip below 400 this summer as leaf growth in the Northern Hemisphere pulls about 10 billion tons of carbon out of the air. But experts say that will be a brief reprieve — the moment is approaching when no measurement of the ambient air anywhere on earth, in any season, will produce a reading below 400.
“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a unit of Columbia University.
From studying air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice, scientists know that going back 800,000 years, the carbon dioxide level oscillated in a tight band, from about 180 parts per million in the depths of ice ages to about 280 during the warm periods between. The evidence shows that global temperatures and CO2 levels are tightly linked.
For the entire period of human civilization, roughly 8,000 years, the carbon dioxide level was relatively stable near that upper bound. But the burning of fossil fuels has caused a 41 percent increase in the heat-trapping gas since the Industrial Revolution, a mere geological instant, and scientists say the climate is beginning to react, though they expect far larger changes in the future.
Indirect measurements suggest that the last time the carbon dioxide level was this high was at least three million years ago, during an epoch called the Pliocene. Geological research shows that the climate then was far warmer than today, the world’s ice caps were smaller, and the sea level might have been as much as 60 or 80 feet higher.
Experts fear that humanity may be precipitating a return to such conditions — except this time, billions of people are in harm’s way.
“It takes a long time to melt ice, but we’re doing it,” Dr. Keeling said. “It’s scary.”
Dr. Keeling’s father, Charles David Keeling, began carbon dioxide measurements on Mauna Loa and at other locations in the late 1950s. The elder Dr. Keeling found a level in the air then of about 315 parts per million — meaning that if a person had filled a million quart jars with air, about 315 quart jars of carbon dioxide would have been mixed in.
His analysis revealed a relentless, long-term increase superimposed on the seasonal cycle, a trend that was dubbed the Keeling Curve.
Countries have adopted an official target to limit the damage from global warming, with 450 parts per million seen as the maximum level compatible with that goal. “Unless things slow down, we’ll probably get there in well under 25 years,” Ralph Keeling said. More
If we want to continue life in some semblance to what we have become accustomed there needs to be a drastic global reduction in carbon output into the atmosphere. If we care about the lives of our children and grand children we need to speak out now. Our governments spend an obscene amount of money on the military driven by the lobbying of the defence industry which needs to be spent on reducing greenhouse gas output.
You the people must speak out. Demand action from your governments. Demonstrate. Take to the streets.
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
— James Madison, Political Observations, 1795
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Why I’m Marking Passing 400 ppm By Getting Back On An Aeroplane
By Rob Hopkins
16 May, 2013
In November 2006, I sat at the back of the Barn Cinema, Dartington, and watched ‘An Inconvenient Truth‘. It had such an impact on me that by the time it ended, I had decided that I couldn’t just leave the cinema without marking the event by making some kind of change in my life. I decided that evening not to fly again, and I haven’t flown since. I have played an active part in supporting the growth of an international movement in 40 countries since then, participating in countless workshops, and discussing Transition internationally through Skype and pre-recorded talks, most of which I begin with how much carbon I have saved by not travelling in person. However, I recently watched the film ‘Chasing Ice’, and it had, if anything, a more visceral impact than ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. My resolution at the end of watching it, re-enforced by the recent passing, for the first time, of 400 ppm of C02 in the atmosphere, was that it was time to get back on a plane, and I want to use this post to tell you why.
When I was born, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere was 325.36 ppm. I was 19 when it passed 350 ppm for the first time, the level which climate scientists such as James Hansen argueis the highest concentration possible if we are to “preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted” When, in 2004, the first seeds of Transition were sown when I sat with my students in a classroom at Kinsale Further Education College to watch The End of Suburbia, we were at 376.15 ppm. On the day this blog first began with its first post, we were at 378.29 ppm.
When I watched ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, it was 380.18 parts per million (ppm). On the day Transition Network was formally established we had reached 386.40 ppm. On the day I left Venice last September, following the Degrowth conference (which I had travelled to by train), seeing Venice from the sea as this extraordinary jewel just inches above sea level, concentrations had reached 391.06ppm. When I sat down to watch ‘Chasing Ice’ it was 395.55 ppm.
A couple of weeks ago we passed, for the first time, 400 ppm. It’s just a number, but it had a deep impact on me, a sobering line in the sand, a deeply troubling face. As Joe Romm at Climate Progress puts it:
Certainly as we hit 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human existence, with not even a plan to avoid 600 ppm, 800 ppm, and then 1000 — not even a national discussion or an outcry by the so-called intelligentsia – it is worth asking, why? Is there something inherent in homo “sapiens” that makes us oblivious to the obvious?
This means that current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are far higher than they have been for the last 4.5 millions years at least. The graph below shows how concentrations have fluctuated over the past 800,000 years. By way of context, 30,000 years ago, Cro-Magnon man was flourishing, hunting and gathering and painting cave walls. The Guardian have created a great infographic that tells the story of 400 ppm and what it means in a very understandable way. As Damien Carrington in The Guardian puts “the last time so much greenhouse gas was in the air was several million years ago, when the Arctic was ice-free, savannah spread across the Sahara desert and sea level was up to 40 metres higher than today”.
In spite of all the efforts of the green movement, Transition initiatives, a slew of international conferences and meaningless agreements, the rise has continued inexorably. It shows little sign of slowing, the International Energy Agency warning last year that the world is on track for at least a 6 degree rise in temperatures by 2100. More
I have just been accepted by Al Gore's Climate Reality project for training a a presenter. I am therefore off to Istanbul on June 11th. See http://climaterealityproject.org/leadership-corps/ I have been trying for four years to get invited to the training, but finally succeeded this year. I will then have all the materials, videos, PPT's to present around the world. I am doing this for the same reason that Rob Hopkins speaks about in the above article. I refuse to give up, I refuse to give in to what looks inevitable. Editor
Monday, May 13, 2013
Étang Saumâtre and Lago Enriquillo are saline lakes along the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Located on the floor of a rift valley which offers no outflow, incoming water is balanced only by evaporation. Water levels have been rising in recent years because of increased rainfall and increased runoff and sedimentation due to forest reduction. The higher lake levels have flooded adjacent towns and agricultural lands and have occasionally blocked the road between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. More
Rainfall may now be increasing, however, it is also possible that it may decrease in the future. All Caribbean nations therefore have to be aware of Water Security. Editor
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Nick Robson Director-General of the Cayman Institute has been invited to Istanbul to take part in former Vice-President Al Gore's Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
United Natures is a documentary movie on the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, permaculture, philosophy, spirituality and a neo-indigenous future for humanity.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
"How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean."
The only home that the human race has and we therefore have to preserve and protect it. Protect it from ourselves!