Climate change

Visualizing Climate Change

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Climate Change is Rewriting the History Books is an infographic from Climate Central that uses a heatmap design style to show how average temperatures have changed over the last 137 years.

This March clocked in as the second warmest March on record when compared to the 20th century average, according to newly released data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NASA data published last week came to the same conclusion, comparing temperatures to a 1951-1980 baseline.

The NOAA data shows the planet was 1.9°F (1.05°C) above the 20th century average for March, the first time any month has breached the 1°C threshold in the absence of El Niño. This March is the latest freakishly hot month following three years in a row of record heat.

NOAA and NASA baselines don’t really tell the whole story. How much the world has warmed since pre-industrial times is a crucial measuring stick for international climate talks and a more accurate representation of how much climate change is altering the planet.

Using the baseline of 1881-1910, a new, more dire picture of global warming emerges. This March was 2.4°F (1.3°C) above the pre-industrial average by that measure. More notably, this March marks a whopping 627 months in a row of warmer than normal temperatures. If you were born after December 1964, you’ve never experienced a month cooler than average on this planet.

To understand what that looks like, take a peek at the global temperature chart below. Each month is represented by a box. Cool blues have been disappearing, replaced by a wave of…

Regardless of Trump, US businesses are speeding toward a low-carbon world

While Trump’s administration grapples with its position on climate change, it’s worth stepping back to see the wider picture in the US, believes Lance Pierce, North America president of the CDP. In fact – he writes from New York – it is business that is really taking action on climate

It is vital for the US to lead on the Paris Agreement on climate change. This is, of course, the global commitment made in 2015 enabling the world to tackle rising CO2 emissions and prevent a catastrophic further two degrees warming of the planet. Global warming doesn’t just increase temperatures, it threatens food security, clean water, and people’s health. Some 145 countries, including the UK and the US, have sealed the deal. It is this agreement that is currently being scrutinised by the US government. Will President Trump pull out?

We need to accelerate our joint actions as people, organisations and nations to have maximum impact, and the Paris Agreement represents a meaningful shift towards a low carbon economy. That is, it provides a clear path to guide our emissions reductions together with the rest of the world.

Everyone is quickly learning that cutting carbon pays

Our country’s power is not all in the capital in Washington. In fact, it is spread right across our vast nation, spanning boardrooms, city and state borders. Governments are not working alone: companies, investors, citizens, cities, states and regions are thankfully awake to the urgent need for tackling climate change and are the major force behind the move to a low carbon world. This will continue regardless of the US federal government’s position, a crucial point to remember.

Climate change is an urgent concern and our investors at the CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, want to know how companies are dealing with environmental risk and working to build a green and fair economy. We see investors buying into those…

Tiffany & Co. Has A Powerful Message For Donald Trump

Within the next few days, President Trump may make a decision about whether or not to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a 2015 climate deal brokered between 195 nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. But before Trump comes to a conclusion, Tiffany & Co has an important message for him.

The jewelry company blasted out a statement for Trump on Tuesday, by way of its Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as an ad in the New York Times.

“Dear President Trump, we’re still in for bold climate action,” the message reads. “Please keep the U.S. in the Paris Climate Agreement. The disaster of climate change is too real, and the threat to our planet and to our children is too great.”

The message has over 19,000 likes on Facebook and 69,000 likes on Instagram. The reaction to the statement has been mostly positive:

“Well done Tiffany & Co. Speaking up for the benefit of the world,” one commenter wrote on the company’s Facebook post. “I think many customers world…

Long-term Fate of Tropical Forests May Not Be So Dire

After years of believing that our rainforests were drowning in water, one man found that they were actually flourishing – which means a much more hopeful future for tropical climates everywhere.

According to the study conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado, rainforests are valuable carbon sinks that absorb massive amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. Without these tropical ecosystems, the earth wouldn’t have nearly as much mitigation on the global effects of climate change.

Up until now, scientists have spent decades believing that as global temperatures rise and rainfall increases, rainforests essentially start to drown and die out due to the excess water.

WATCH: How This Couple Nursed a Rainforest Back to Life

However, this groundbreaking research conducted by Phillip Taylor, a research associate with the Institute of Arctic…

Lakes worldwide feel the heat from climate change

Lake Huron
Oceans aren’t the only bodies of water affected by climate change. Lake Huron (shown) and many lakes worldwide could experience ecological, recreational and economic impacts from warming.

HOT WATER

About 40 kilometers off Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, in the waters of Lake Superior, rises the stone lighthouse of Stannard Rock. Since 1882, it has warned sailors in Great Lakes shipping lanes away from a dangerous shoal. But today, Stannard Rock also helps scientists monitor another danger: climate change.

Since 2008, a meteorological station at the lighthouse has been measuring evaporation rates at Lake Superior. And while weather patterns can change from year to year, Lake Superior appears to be behaving in ways that, to scientists, indicate long-term climate change: Water temperatures are rising and evaporation is up, which leads to lower water levels in some seasons. That’s bad news for hydropower plants, navigators, property owners, commercial and recreational fishers and anyone who just enjoys the lake.

When most people think of the physical effects of climate change, they picture melting glaciers, shrinking sea ice or flooded coastal towns (SN: 4/16/16, p. 22). But observations like those at Stannard Rock are vaulting lakes into the vanguard of climate science. Year after year, lakes reflect the long-term changes of their environment in their physics, chemistry and biology. “They’re sentinels,” says John Lenters, a limnologist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

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Lake Tanganyika
Lake Tanganyika is a major food source for people throughout eastern Africa. Fish stocks are dwindling as water temperatures in the lake rise.

LAKE LIFE

Globally, observations show that many lakes are heating up — but not all in the same way or with the same ecological consequences. In eastern Africa, Lake Tanganyika is warming relatively slowly, but its fish populations are plummeting, leaving people with less to eat. In the U.S. Upper Midwest, quicker-warming lakes are experiencing shifts in the relative abundance of fish species that support a billion-dollar-plus recreational industry. And at high global latitudes, cold lakes normally covered by ice in the winter are seeing less ice year after year — a change that could affect all parts of the food web, from algae to freshwater seals.

Understanding such changes is crucial for humans to adapt to the changes that are likely to come, limnologists say. Indeed, some northern lakes will probably release more methane into the air as temperatures rise — exacerbating the climate shift that is already under way.

Lake layers

Lakes and ponds cover about 4 percent of the land surface not already covered by glaciers. That may sound like a small fraction, but lakes play a key role in several planetary processes. Lakes cycle carbon between the water’s surface and the atmosphere. They give off heat-trapping gases such as
carbon dioxide and methane, while simultaneously tucking away carbon in decaying layers of organic muck at lake bottoms. They bury nearly half as much carbon as the oceans do.

Yet the world’s more than 100 million lakes are often overlooked in climate simulations. That’s surprising, because lakes are far easier to measure than oceans. Because lakes are relatively small, scientists can go out in boats or set out buoys to survey temperature, salinity and other factors at different depths and in different seasons.

A landmark study published in 2015 aimed to synthesize these in-water measurements with satellite observations for 235 lakes worldwide. In theory, lake warming is a simple process: The hotter the air above a lake, the hotter the waters get. But the picture is far more complicated than that, the international team of researchers found.

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A recent survey of 235 lakes worldwide found that from 1985 to 2009 most warmed (red dots) while several cooled (blue).

C.M. O’REILLY ET AL/GEOPHYS. RES. LETT. 2015

On average, the 235 lakes in the study warmed at a rate of 0.34 degrees Celsius per decade between 1985 and 2009. Some warmed much faster, like Finland’s Lake Lappajärvi, which soared nearly 0.9 degrees each decade. A few even cooled, such as Blue Cypress Lake in Florida. Puzzlingly, there was no clear trend in which lakes warmed and which cooled. The most rapidly warming lakes were scattered across different latitudes and elevations.

Even some that were nearly side by side warmed at different rates from one another — Lake Superior, by far the largest of the Great Lakes, is warming much more rapidly, at a full degree per decade, than others in the chain, although Huron and Michigan are also warming fast.

“Even though lakes are experiencing the same weather, they are responding in different ways,” says Stephanie Hampton, an aquatic biologist at Washington State University in Pullman.

Such variability makes it hard to pin down what to expect in the future. But researchers are starting to explore factors such as lake depth and lake size (intuitively, it’s less teeth-chattering to swim in a small pond in early summer than a big lake).

Depth and size play into stratification, the process through which some lakes separate into layers of different temperatures. Freshwater is densest at 4° C, just above freezing. In spring, using the Great Lakes as an example, the cold surface waters begin to warm; when they reach 4°, they become dense enough to sink. The lake’s waters mix freely and become much the same temperature at all depths.

Some lakes stratify twice a year, separating into
layers of different temperatures. Surface waters become warm enough (in spring) or cool enough (in autumn) to reach 4° Celsius, the temperature at which these waters become dense and sink toward the lake’s bottom, mixing the waters. In summer and winter, the layers separate. Lake Superior is stratifying earlier each year, giving its surface waters more time to heat up in summer, contributing to its long-term warming.

But then, throughout the summer, the upper waters heat up relatively quickly. The lake stops mixing and instead separates into layers, with warm water on top and cold, dense water at the bottom. It stays that way until autumn, when chilly air temperatures cool the surface waters to 4°. The newly dense waters sink again, mixing the lake for the second time of the year.

Lake Superior is warming so quickly because it is stratifying earlier and earlier each year. It used to separate into its summer layers during mid- to late July, on average. But rising air temperatures mean that it is now stratifying about a month earlier — giving the shallow surface layers much more time to get toasty each summer. “If you hit that starting point in June, now you’ve got all summer to warm up that top layer,” Lenters says.

Deep lakes warm very slowly in the spring, and small changes in water temperature at the end of winter can lead to large changes in the timing of summer stratification for these lakes. Superior is about 406 meters deep at its greatest point, so it is particularly vulnerable to such shifts.

In contrast, shallow lakes warm much more quickly in the spring, so the…

Trump admin sneaks in big EPA website change on eve of climate march

Arctic ice melt is a climate change indicator. But will that information be on the
Arctic ice melt is a climate change indicator. But will that information be on the “updated” EPA climate site?

Yet another fear among scientists and climate activists has become reality in the era of Trump.

Years of research and data about carbon emissions, other greenhouse gases, and more was hidden from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website by the Trump administration Friday as the climate change webpage goes under “review.”

Adding insult to injury, this comes on the eve of the People’s Climate March.

Climate change activists have been wringing their hands ever since Inauguration Day, fearing that the new administration would do something just like this. The EPA has been chipping away at climate change mentions on its website since January, but Friday’s takedown seems to be the biggest step yet.

The webpage, which has been in existence for more than 20 years, explained what climate change is, what caused it and, how it affects your health, among other things. In opposition to what Trump has said in the past about climate change (he doesn’t believe it is man-made), the webpage notes many times how humans have contributed to climate change.

“Research indicates that natural causes do not explain most observed warming, especially warming since the mid-20th century. Rather, it is extremely likely that human activities have been the dominant…

Climate Change Has Forced Mussels to Toughen Up

Researchers writing in the journal Science Advances say blue mussels are rapidly evolving stronger shells to protect themselves against rising acid levels in sea water.

Bivalves like mussels, clams, and oysters aren’t good swimmers, and they don’t have teeth. Their hard shells are often the only things standing between themselves and a sea of dangers.

But even those shells have been threatened lately, as pollution and climate change push the ocean’s carbon dioxide to dangerous levels. Too much carbon dioxide interferes with a bivalve’s ability to calcify (or harden) its shell, leaving it completely vulnerable.

A team of German scientists wondered what, if anything, the bivalves were doing to cope. They studied two populations of blue mussels (Mytilus edulis): one in the Baltic Sea, and another in the brackish waters of the North Sea.

The researchers…

One Man’s Quest to Get Elon Musk to Change His Mind

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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk listens to US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 23, 2017. (Photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Unusual full-page ads in Sunday editions of the New York Times and the Washington Post called on the iconic entrepreneur Elon Musk to “dump Trump.” The ads were taken out by a Silicon Valley startup investor Doug Derwin, who told CNN he paid $400,000 for 4 ads (which also ran in the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News).

What motivated Derwin to make such an extravagant expenditure? He believes Elon Musk has too close a relationship with Donald Trump, serving on his advisory council. Derwin maintains a site for this campaign called “Elon Dump Trump” where he calls Musk a “an important propaganda symbol for Donald Trump”. More specifically, the site says Musk’s relationship with Trump legitimizes the President’s “disastrous” policies on climate change.

The newspaper ads are actually just part of a larger $1 million campaign by Derwin which already included ad vehicles and a billboard close to Tesla HQ in Palo Alto. The effort also has an additional $1 million dollars to be donated to charity if Musk denounces Trump’s environmental policies and changes to the EPA.

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, SpaceX and Neuralink, is a man of many ideas. What makes him a modern-age Edison (with a touch of Tesla) is that he finds a way to put his ideas into action. Which is why it is not surprising he would be looking to work with President Trump. Especially if you consider Trump’s stated goal of investing into large infrastructure projects.

Musk has…

Color Your Way Through Air Pollution With a Climate Change Coloring Book

A new coloring book will help you understand just how much climate change is altering our world. The Climate Change Coloring Book contains 20 different coloring activities related to the causes and effects of climate change. Some are directly related, like coloring in the amount of Arctic ice that has been lost over the last two decades, while others are more metaphorical ways of understanding environmental change, such as a page that instructs you to color in 20 football fields in a minute, representing the speed and magnitude of forest destruction…

Improbable ‘black swan’ events can devastate animal populations

black swan
Like black swans, black swan events are rare. But for animal populations, they can be devastating. That’s why conservation managers need to keep them in mind, a new study argues.

Sometimes, the improbable happens. The stock market crashes. A big earthquake shakes a city. A nuclear power plant has a meltdown. These seemingly unpredictable, rare incidents — dubbed black swan events — may be unlikely to happen on any specific day, but they do occur. And even though they may be rare, we take precautions. A smart investor balances their portfolio. A California homeowner stores an earthquake preparedness kit in the closet. A power plant designer builds in layers of safeguards.

Conservation managers should be doing the same thing, scientists warn. Black swan events happen among animals, too, and they rarely have positive effects, a new study finds.

How often do black swan events impact animals? To find out, Sean Anderson of the University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues looked at data for 609 populations of birds, mammals and insects. Often, the data were noisy; there could be lots of ups and downs in population sizes, not always with good explanations for what happened. But, Anderson notes, “it turns out that there are plenty of black swan events that are so extreme that we can easily detect them with available data.”

The researchers looked for upswings or…