Archive for the ‘Global Warming’ Category

Climate change could affect the ratio of human males to human females that are born in some countries, a new study from Japan suggests. The researchers found that male fetuses may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Since the 1970s, temperature fluctuations from the norm have become more common in Japan, and at the same time there has been an increase in the deaths of male fetuses, relative to the number of deaths of female fetuses in that country, according to the study.

Over this period, the ratio of male to female babies born in the country has been decreasing, meaning there have been fewer and fewer male babies born relative to the number of female babies born.

http://www.livescience.com/48070-male-fetus-climate-change.html

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Glaciers in Antarctica are being melted not only by warmer ocean waters but also by underwater volcanoes, a change in our basic understanding of what’s happening underneath West Antarctica’s ice sheet, scientists say.

Geothermal heat from underneath is helping melt the region’s Thwaites Glacier, in the headlines recently for its rapid melt and retreat, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin say.

Scientists in the university’s Institute for Geophysics say they used ice-penetrating radar aboard aircraft to find significant geothermal heat sources — hotter and spread over a broader area than previously thought — underneath the glacier.

Caused by magma moving underground and volcanic activity associated with that movement, geothermal heat might represent a significant factor in changing the stability of the ice mass above, they researchers reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Rather than a uniform region of heat beneath, like a pancake griddle, geothermal sources under the Thwaites Glacier more resemble a stove top with a multitude of burners emitting heat in different locations and at different levels, research scientist Don Blankenship says.

“It’s the most complex thermal environment you might imagine,” he says. “And then you plop the most critical dynamically unstable ice sheet on planet Earth in the middle of this thing, and then you try to model it. It’s virtually impossible.”

The geothermal heat under the glacier averages around 100 milliwatts in each square meter, the researchers said, with some hotspots putting out 200 milliwatts per square meter.

Under the Earth’s other continents the average is less than 65 milliwatts per square meter, they said.

The Thwaites Glacer is an outflow glacier — pushing into the Amundsen Sea — that is the size of Florida and hold the key to trying to predict possible future rises in sea levels, they said.

Studying it could help yield clues to the future state of the entire West Antarctic Ice sheet, they added.

A complete collapse of Thwaites Glacier could push global sea levels up by three to six feet, and a melting of the entire ice sheet could double that, the researchers said.

The combination of warm ocean water and underlying geothermal heat makes the future of the glacier difficult to predict, lead study author Dusty Schroeder says.

“The combination of variable subglacial geothermal heat flow and the interacting subglacial water system could threaten the stability of Thwaites Glacier in ways that we never before imagined,” he says.

http://www.techtimes.com/articles/8268/20140610/underground-volcanoes-spur-antartic-glaciar-melt.htm

<> on June 9, 2010 in Houma, Louisiana.

By Susannah Cullinane, CNN

The world’s oceans have become 26% more acidic since the start of the Industrial Revolution and continue to acidify at an “unprecedented rate,” threatening marine ecosystems, aquaculture and the societies that rely on them, scientists say.

In a report released Thursday, researchers say that carbon dioxide emissions from human activities such as fossil fuel burning are the primary cause of ocean acidification.

They say the rate of change may be faster than at any time in the last 300 million years, predicting that by 2100 there will have been a 170% increase in ocean acidity, compared to pre-industrial times.

The report is based on the findings from a September 2012 Symposium on the Ocean, at which 540 experts from 37 countries discussed research on ocean acidification, and has been updated with more recent research.

Unless carbon dioxide emissions are reduced, marine ecosystems will be damaged and the impact of climate change will be worsened, the scientists warn. “The only known realistic mitigation option on a global scale is to limit future atmospheric CO2 levels.”

The report says oceans currently act as a CO2 “sinkhole” absorbing approximately a quarter of emissions.

“As ocean acidity increases, its capacity to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere decreases. This decreases the ocean’s role in moderating climate change,” they write.

The increased acidity will also change the ocean environment, with evidence suggesting that some organisms will be less able to survive, while others, such as seagrass, may thrive.

Acidification is faster in Arctic waters because cold water is richer in CO2, while melting sea ice worsens the problem, they say.

“Within decades, large parts of the polar oceans will become corrosive to the unprotected shells of calcareous marine organisms,” the report says, while in the tropics the growth of coral reefs may be hampered.

“People who rely on the ocean’s ecosystem services are especially vulnerable and may need to adapt or cope with ocean acidification impacts within decades,” it says. “Tropical coral reef loss will affect tourism, food security and shoreline protection for many of the world’s poorest people.”

“Very aggressive reductions in CO2 emissions are required to maintain a majority of tropical coral reefs in waters favorable for growth,” the report says.

One of the report’s authors is Daniela Schmidt, from the University of Bristol, in the UK.

Schmidt said the research highlighted the impact acidification would have on biodiversity and aquaculture and the societies that rely on them for their food and economic well-being.

“We’re talking about countries that strongly depend on this, in warmer countries where there are complex problems with climate change as it is,” Schmidt said.

“What I’m hoping is that people realize that CO2 is not just a question of global warming. That we are acidifying the ocean at a rate that has been unprecedented — for millions and millions of years,” she said.

“The more CO2 emissions, the more acidification,” Schmidt said. “The ocean is in direct interchange with the atmosphere.”

If acidification continued to increase at its current rate, “you will definitely see damage,” she said. “The first signs we can already see today, in oyster farms off the West Coast of the United States.”

Schmidt said while 90% of the world’s ocean was in equilibrium with the atmosphere, some oyster hatcheries in this area were located in the 10% that wasn’t.

Oysters in the larval stage were much more vulnerable to damage, she said. “When (more acidic) water comes up and hits the hatchery, they close the whole thing.”

While tanks could be closed off to more acidic seawater, Schmidt said that by 2100 the issue would be there every day. “So we can’t just switch off that tap anymore.”

She said the report would be presented in Warsaw, Poland, on November 18, during the U.N. Conference of the Parties climate change meeting.

Schmidt said while she hoped the research would lead to stricter emissions limits, “the realist in me thinks that we’ve been discussing this for decades. This isn’t a problem that is just going to go away. It’s simple. The consequences are frightening.”

The 2012 symposium that led to the report was sponsored by the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/14/world/ocean-acidification-report/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

bnurning earth

Scientists will this week issue their starkest warning yet about the mounting dangers of global warming. In a report to be handed to political leaders in Stockholm on Monday, they will say that the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation have now led to a warming of the entire globe, including land surfaces, oceans and the atmosphere.

Extreme weather events, including heatwaves and storms, have increased in many regions while ice sheets are dwindling at an alarming rate. In addition, sea levels are rising while the oceans are being acidified – a development that could see the planet’s coral reefs disappearing before the end of the century.

Writing in the Observer ahead of the report’s release, the economist and climate change expert Lord Stern calls on governments to end their dithering about fossil fuels and start working to create a global low-carbon economy to curtail global warming. Governments, he states, must decide what “kind of world we want to present to our children and grandchildren”.

The fifth assessment report on the physical science of climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that humanity is on course over the next few decades to raise global temperatures by more than 2C compared with pre-industrial levels. Such a rise could trigger the release of plumes of the greenhouse gas methane from the thawing Arctic tundra, while the polar ice caps, which reflect solar radiation back into space, could disappear.

Although the report does not say so, Earth would probably then be facing a runaway greenhouse effect.

The scientists’ warning – the most comprehensive and convincing yet produced by climate scientists – comes at a time when growing numbers of people are doubting the reality of global warming. Last week, the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) published a survey showing that the proportion of British people who do not think the world’s climate is changing has almost quadrupled since 2005.

Asked if they thought Earth’s climate was changing, 5% of respondents said “no” in 2005, a figure that rose to 11% last year and reached 19% this year.

But as the IPCC report underlines, scientists are becoming more and more certain that climate change poses a real danger to the planet.

Many believe the disconnection between popular belief and scientific analysis has been engineered by “deniers” explicitly opposed to the lifestyle changes – including restrictions on fossil fuel burning – that might be introduced in the near future.

“There are attempts by some politicians and lobbyists to confuse and mislead the public about the scientific evidence that human activities are driving climate change and creating huge risks,” said Stern.

“But the public should be wary of those who claim they know for certain that unmanaged climate change would not be dangerous. For they are not only denying 200 years of strong scientific evidence – the overwhelming view of the world’s scientific academies and over 95% of scientific papers on the subject – but they are often harbouring vested interests or rigid ideologies as well.”

The report will be discussed this week by political leaders meeting in Stockholm. The study – the work of more than 200 scientists – outlines the physical changes that are likely to affect Earth’s climate this century.

Future reports will cover the social impact of these changes and the efforts required to offset the damage caused by global warming. A United Nations meeting in Paris in 2015 will then debate what actions are needed to mitigate climate change.

According to the new report, humanity has emitted about half a trillion tonnes of carbon by burning fossil fuels over the past 250 years, a process that has caused atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to rise by 40%. The world is now on target to release another half trillion tonnes in the next few decades which could trigger a major jump in global temperatures.

Most measures that have been proposed for tackling global warming rely on curtailing the burning of fossil fuels and these will form the focus of the 2015 UN meeting in Paris. Given the poor record of previous summits, many are pessimistic an agreement can be reached.

However, other measures have been suggested to curb global warming. In particular, many scientists have backed geo-engineering projects that would involve either spraying particles into the atmosphere to reflect solar radiation back into space or extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in order to bury it in mines or depleted oil fields.

Both suggestions get short shrift in the new report: atmospheric aerosols could have widespread side-effects that could produce major disruptions to weather patterns, while not enough is known about the effectiveness of carbon dioxide extraction or burial. “We have to face up to the prospect of weaning ourselves off our addiction to oil and coal,” said one report author. “It is as simple as that.”

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/21/climate-change-ipcc-global-warming

Thanks to Mr. C for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Global-warming1

Scientists are increasingly convinced that human activity is behind the increase in global temperatures since the 1950s, which has boosted sea levels and the odds of extreme storms, according to a leaked draft of an upcoming U.N. report.

“It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010,” according to a summary of the draft obtained by CNN. “There is high confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level and changed some climate extremes in the second half of the 20th century.”

That conclusion comes from the upcoming report of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the fifth in a series of multiyear reports seen as a benchmark on the subject. The panel’s last report, in 2007, concluded that it was 90% certain that rising temperatures were due to human activity; the new draft raises that figure to 95%.

The science of global warming is politically controversial but generally accepted as fact by most researchers, who point to heat-trapping carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels as the major cause. A May study of research papers published between 1991 and 2011 found that more than 97% of those that expressed an opinion on the cause of increasing temperatures supported that consensus.

The panel’s report is slated for release in sections, starting in September.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/20/world/un-climate/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

plants

Plants that were frozen during the “Little Ice Age” centuries ago have been observed sprouting new growth, scientists say. Samples of 400-year-old plants known as bryophytes have flourished under laboratory conditions. Researchers say this back-from-the-dead trick has implications for how ecosystems recover from the planet’s cyclic long periods of ice coverage. The findings appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

They come from a group from the University of Alberta, who were exploring an area around the Teardrop Glacier, high in the Canadian Arctic. The glaciers in the region have been receding at rates that have sharply accelerated since 2004, at about 3-4m per year. That is exposing land that has not seen light of day since the so-called Little Ice Age, a widespread climatic cooling that ran roughly from AD 1550 to AD 1850.

“We ended up walking along the edge of the glacier margin and we saw these huge populations coming out from underneath the glacier that seemed to have a greenish tint,” said Catherine La Farge, lead author of the study.

Bryophytes are different from the land plants that we know best, in that they do not have vascular tissue that helps pump fluids around different parts of the organism. They can survive being completely desiccated in long Arctic winters, returning to growth in warmer times, but Dr La Farge was surprised by an emergence of bryophytes that had been buried under ice for so long.

“When we looked at them in detail and brought them to the lab, I could see some of the stems actually had new growth of green lateral branches, and that said to me that these guys are regenerating in the field, and that blew my mind,” she told BBC News. “If you think of ice sheets covering the landscape, we’ve always thought that plants have to come in from refugia around the margins of an ice system, never considering land plants as coming out from underneath a glacier.”

But the retreating ice at Sverdrup Pass, where the Teardrop Glacier is located, is uncovering an array of life, including cyanobacteria and green terrestrial algae. Many of the species spotted there are entirely new to science.

“It’s a whole world of what’s coming out from underneath the glaciers that really needs to be studied,” Dr La Farge said.

“The glaciers are disappearing pretty fast – they’re going to expose all this terrestrial vegetation, and that’s going to have a big impact.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22656239

South_Pole_ozone-130212

Good news from Antarctica: The hole in the ozone layer is shrinking, new measurements reveal.

Ozone is a molecule made of three oxygen atoms. It’s relatively highly concentrated in a particular layer of the stratosphere about 12 miles to 19 miles (20 to 30 kilometers) above Earth’s surface. This ozone layer prevents ultraviolet light from reaching Earth’s surface — a good thing, given that UV light causes sunburn and skin cancer.

Ever since the early 1980s, though, a hole in this layer has developed over Antarctica during September to November, decreasing ozone concentration by as much as 70 percent. The cause is human-produced chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were once heavily used in aerosols and refrigeration.

By international agreement, CFCs have been phased out of use. The policy has real effects, new satellite observations reveal. In 2012, the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica was smaller than it has ever been in the last 10 years.

The new observations, announced by the European Space Agency (ESA) on Feb. 8, come from Europe’s Met Op weather satellite, which has an instrument specifically designed to sense ozone concentrations. The findings suggest that the phase-out of CFCs is working, the ESA reports.

Antarctica is particularly vulnerable to ozone-depleting substances, because high winds cause a vortex of cold air to circulate over the continent. In the resulting frigid temperatures, CFCs are especially effective at depleting ozone. The result is that people in the Southern Hemisphere are at increased risk of exposure from UV radiation.

CFCs persist in the atmosphere for a long time, so it may take until the middle of the century for ozone concentrations to rebound to 1960s levels, the ESA reports. However, the hole in the ozone over Antarctica should completely close in the next few decades.

http://www.livescience.com/27049-ozone-hole-shrinks-record-low.html