Category Archives: Climate Change

The Statistical Probability That Climate Change Is Not Manmade Is 0.01 Percent

That climate science relies too heavily on models is one of the last arguments that climate change deniers cling to—many of them argue that proving climate change is manmade is impossible. But one researcher says he’s basically just done the opposite: he used statistics, actual observed data, and, most importantly, no computer models at all to prove that climate change has not been a natural phenomenon…. read the rest here

 

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Climate Trends in the Arctic as Observed from Space: It’s melting. Fast.

A clear and concise look at the massive climate trend in the Arctic. It’s not pretty.

Climate Trends in the Arctic as Observed from Space: It’s melting. Fast..

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Climate change is already changing the Australian landscape

from David Donaldson at the Guardian

Climate zones along the coast of southeastern Australia have already moved south by around 350km. Those fluctuations are also altering the way rural communities live.

tree guardian

I was in high school when crested pigeons started showing up at the farm where I grew up. Situated in a flat, pastoral corner of southwest Victoria, the pointy-haired birds first seemed out of place – a budding wildlife enthusiast, I’d previously only seen photos of them in the desert.

But thanks to the millennium drought – which became progressively worse from around the time I started primary school until my final year of high school – the crested pigeons had obviously decided southwest Victoria was now sufficiently dehydrated for them to take up residence. Though the drought ended several years ago, the pigeons are now a permanent fixture on the farm; I hear their distinctive whirring sound every time I go back to visit.

The same thing happened with galahs when my father was young. The pink and grey cockatoos flew in from the north during the 1965-68 drought and have never left. Other birds, such as the charismatic grey fantail, have changed their migratory behaviour in recent years as winters become milder and shorter, as have countless species right around the world.

It’s not just the wildlife that’s changing. The hotter, drier climate gradually imposing itself on southeastern Australia is forcing changes to agriculture. In southwest Victoria, this means it’s becoming harder to produce the beef and wool my father grew when I was a child. Cereal cropping, which uses less water and creates fewer jobs, is becoming more popular.

A Crested Pigeon.
A Crested Pigeon. Photograph: Ed Dunens/Flickr

Old European trees in gardens and town centres are dying in the long, waterless summers. Aquifers are becoming harder to access as runoff remains low, while decreasing autumn precipitation is leading to a shorter growing season. Frosts are becoming less common, though clear skies, which allow heat to escape at night-time, mean minimum temperatures are not increasing at the same rate as maximums.

The changes are also altering the way rural communities live. The drought in particular had a huge and traumatic effect. Livestock previously had to be shot when feed and water ran out. Many workers ended up leaving farming because it was just too hard. Tragically, the suicide rate among farmers spiked during the final years as entire livelihoods were reduced to dust. Though drought is a recurrent theme of the Australian landscape, this one was especially long and harsh – and the research suggests such phenomena will only become more common.

As the IPCC’s fifth assessment report has reiterated, climate change is not merely a beast of the future – it’s been happening for a while. Victoria’s average annual mean temperature has increased by almost 0.9°C over the past century, around the same as the rest of Australia. Although rainfall is more variable, droughts are becoming longer and drier. Record high temperatures are regularly broken, while record lows are becoming harder to find.

Climate zones along the coast of southeastern Australia have already moved south by around 350km. Those on the northeast coast have shifted around 200km. Fish species are travelling further south than before. Long-spined sea urchins, previously found only as far south as southern NSW, have been caught in eastern Tasmania. Other organisms have specific, geographically-bound ranges that do not allow them to move, and will find it difficult to adapt to warmer seas.

Terrestrial animals will increasingly face the same problem. Our national parks are poorly connected in large areas of Australia, meaning many creatures will be unable to migrate as temperatures increase. Some animals escaping monsoonal northern Australia will find it difficult to survive in drier inland areas. Alpine animals, such as the Leadbeater’s Possum, will be especially challenged as thin snowfall and bigger bushfires cause their habitat to disappear.

But while the outlook is concerning for agricultural production and downright terrible for our natural habitat, there are a few glimmers of hope. It’s reassuring that, despite the acrimony surrounding climate politics at a national level, there are plenty of community groups and governmental bodies conducting important research into how we deal with a hotter, drier Australia. While politicians and vested interests have muddied the waters of public opinion for strong action to stop climate change, pragmatism based on evidence is leading progress in adaptation and mitigation.

Though it may be politically conservative, southwest Victoria is no exception. In 2013 for example, Moyne shire released an extensive coastal hazard assessment report for popular holiday town Port Fairy, finding that several hundred buildings would be at risk of inundation by seawater as ocean levels rise.

Individual farmers, landcare groups and catchment management authorities are working on a range of projects to increase biodiversity and improve agricultural processes. Nationally, the CSIRO is breeding new types of drought-tolerant wheat that will hopefully prevent a decline in productivity as the landscape becomes drier.

We’re already seeing the effects climate change is having on the natural world. Even if governments start making a serious effort to combat climate change today, we won’t be starting from zero – the clock started long ago, but we’re still crouched at the starting block.

Sooner or later, we’ll all be touched by climate change in some way, as indeed many already have. Hopefully we’ll be prepared for it.

Original story here

 

 

 

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IPCC WG2 Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

Instead of relying on leaked drafts of this report, you can now download the final version. Before you do though, please have a read of Graham Readfearn’s take, but before you do even that, please consider this story from the New York Times about the awful mudslide in Oso, Washington. To me, it is almost an analogy for the entire human race and our human caused climate change.

A Mudslide, Foretold

Timothy Egan

DON’T tell me, please, that nobody saw one of the deadliest landslides in American history coming. Say a prayer or send a donation for a community buried under a mountain of mud along a great river in Washington State, the Stillaguamish. Praise the emergency workers still trying to find a pulse of life in a disaster that left 25 people dead and 90 missing.

But enough with the denial, the willful ignorance of cause and effect, the shock that one of the prettiest valleys on the planet could turn in a flash from quiet respite in the foothills of the North Cascades to a gravelly graveyard.

“This was a completely unforeseen slide,” said John Pennington, the emergency manager of Snohomish County. “It was considered very safe.” He said this on Monday, two days after the equivalent of three million dump truck loads of wet earth heaved down on the river near the tiny town of Oso. Unforeseen — except for 60 years’ worth of warnings, most notably a report in 1999 that outlined “the potential for a large catastrophic failure” on the very hillside that just suffered a large catastrophic failure.

It is human nature, if not the American way, to look potential disaster in the face and prefer to see a bright and shining lie. The “taming” of this continent, in five centuries and change, required a mighty mustering of cognitive dissonance. As a result, most of us live with the danger of wildfire, earthquake, tornado, flooding, drought, hurricane or yet-to-be-defined and climate-change-influenced superstorm. A legacy of settlement is the delusion that large-scale manipulation of the natural world can be done without consequence.

What happened when the earth moved on a quiet Saturday morning in the Stillaguamish Valley was foretold, in some ways, by the relationship that people have with that sylvan slice of the Pacific Northwest.

Almost 25 years ago, I went into one of the headwater streams of the Stillaguamish with Pat Stevenson, a biologist with the American Indian tribe that bears the same name as the river and claims an ancient link to that land. The rain was Noah-level that day — just as it’s been for most of this March.

We drove upriver, winding along the drainage of Deer Creek, one of the main tributaries of the Stillaguamish. We couldn’t see Whitehorse Mountain, the dreamy peak that towers over the valley, that day. We could barely see beyond our windshield wipers. At last, we arrived at an open wound near road’s end. I’d never witnessed anything like it: an active slide, sloughing mud and clay down into the formerly pristine creek. We watched huge sections of land peel and puddle — an ugly and terrifying new landscape under creation before our eyes.

Stevenson pointed uphill, to bare, saturated earth that was melting, like candle wax, into the main mudslide. Not long ago, this had been a thick forest of old growth timber. But after it was excessively logged, every standing tree removed, there was nothing to hold the land in place during heavy rains. A federal survey determined that nearly 50 percent of the entire basin above Deer Creek had been logged over a 30-year period. It didn’t take a degree in forestry to see how one event led to the other.

The Stilly, as locals call the river, is well known to those who chase fish with a fly rod, and to native people who have been living off its bounty for centuries. Zane Grey, the Western novelist, called it the finest fishing river in the world for steelhead, the big seagoing trout that can grow to 40 pounds. What Stevenson showed me that day in a November storm was how one human activity, logging, was destroying the source of joy and sustenance for others. When the crack and groan of an entire hillside in collapse happened a week ago Saturday, I thought instantly of Stevenson and that gloomy day at Deer Creek.

And, sure enough, logging above the area of the current landslide appears to have gone beyond the legal limits, into the area that slid, according to a report in The Seattle Times.

Yes, but who wants to listen to warnings by pesky scientists, to pay heed to predictions by environmental nags, or allow an intrusive government to limit private property rights? That’s how these issues get cast. And that’s why reports like the ones done on the Stillaguamish get shelved. The people living near Oso say nobody ever informed them of the past predictions.

Just upriver from the buried community along the Stillaguamish is Darrington, a town with a proud logging tradition. The folks who live there are self-described Tarheels, transplanted from Southern Appalachia several generations ago after their own timber mills went bust. They hold a terrific bluegrass festival every year, and they show up in force at public hearings where government and environmentalists are denounced with venom. It’s not their fault that the earth moved, certainly. But they should insist that their public officials tell them the plain truth when the science is bad news.

An Act of God is a legal term to describe an event outside of human control. No one can be held responsible. Exactly 50 years ago Thursday, in Alaska, the second largest earthquake in recorded history, magnitude 9.2, remade the Last Frontier State. What had been gravel beaches rose to become 30-foot cliffs. What had been forests at sea level were submerged, leaving only the ghostly silver tips that you can still see. In Anchorage, 42,000 people were left homeless.

That quake was an Act of God. Even so, cities along the West Coast have adopted strict seismic standards to lessen the human misery, should another earthquake of that size strike.

The Dust Bowl, arguably the greatest environmental disaster in American history, was not an Act of God. A drought, even a prolonged one, was no stranger to the High Plains — same as heavy rain is to the west side of the Cascade Mountains. But those regions have been considerably altered by human hands. In both cases, you love the land, but you should never forget that it can turn on you.

Now, I’m an atheist, so the whole “Act of God” thing doesn’t even register in my thoughts as everything has a cause and most things arise from chance. Anthropogenic climate change, like the American Dust Bowl, is not occurring due to chance. It is most definitely of our making. The predictions and warnings have been coming from the scientific community for much longer than the 25 years or so of IPCC reports and yet, still our emissions continue to grow and at some point, like the millions of tons of mud in Oso, Washington, climate change will come crashing down on us.

Graham Readfearn’s take is here

The IPCC report is here.

The original NYT article is here.

 

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The hellish monotony of 25 years of IPCC climate change warnings

This is the title of the latest article from Graham Readfearn at the Guardian. For me, I think an equally acceptable one would be…

25 years with our heads in the sand. Not even ostriches are stupid enough to do that.

Anyway, Graham writes…

The latest blockbuster United Nations report on the impacts of climate change makes dire reading, just as the first one did almost a quarter of a century ago.

Entire island nations “rendered uninhabitable”, millions of people to be displaced by floods and rising seas, uncertainties over global food supplies and severe impacts on human health across the world.

The news from the United Nations on the likely impacts of climate change is dire, especially for the poorest people on the planet.

There will likely be more floods, more droughts and more intense heatwaves, says the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

As human emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise, natural ecosystems come under extreme stress with “significant” knock-on effects for societies….

Read the full article here.

 

 

 

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UN climate change report card: Scientists predict Australia will continue to get hotter | ABC Radio Australia

and yet our dopey politicians are prepared to let Australia burn along with the rest of the world because taking action on climate will burn holes in the very very very large pockets of the business people who pay for their electioneering.

UN climate change report card: Scientists predict Australia will continue to get hotter | ABC Radio Australia.

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Not a pretty picture – well done world!

I’m not usually one to pay much attention to “leaked draft reports” from the IPCC because they are just drafts, but I doubt there will be many changes given the Working Group 2  ‘Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’ report is due out by the end of this month. It’s not difficult to imagine that the writers for the movie “Elysium” had a sneak peak.

The Working Group II summary of thousands of peer-reviewed papers, predicts crop yields will fall by 2 per cent per decade until 2100 leading to a 20% rise in malnutrition arounfd the world.

Hundreds of millions of people are expected to be displaced, increasing the risk of violent conflict. Trillions of dollars are expected to be wiped from the global economy. Sea level rise will force mass migration across low lying areas of southern and eastern Asia raising the chances of conflict.

As usual, it will be the poor and underpriveleged who will bear the brunt of these future conditions. The wealthy, those responsible for most of the climate change, will just but their way out of trouble, like in Elysium. They should however, take heed of how that movie ends.

 

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Warming induced phenological shifts – flowering period

A new paper in PNAS disucusses shifts in flowering phenology in 60 species of wildflowers in the Rocky Mountains. This thorough study with a massive data set adds to the overwhelming body of evidence that anthropogenic global warming is affecting where and how many species of plants, animals, insects and bacteria exist and interact within their ecosystems.

Abstract

Phenology—the timing of biological events—is highly sensitive to climate change. However, our general understanding of how phenology responds to climate change is based almost solely on incomplete assessments of phenology (such as first date of flowering) rather than on entire phenological distributions. Using a uniquely comprehensive 39-y flowering phenology dataset from the Colorado Rocky Mountains that contains more than 2 million flower counts, we reveal a diversity of species-level phenological shifts that bring into question the accuracy of previous estimates of long-term phenological change. For 60 species, we show that first, peak, and last flowering rarely shift uniformly and instead usually shift independently of one another, resulting in a diversity of phenological changes through time. Shifts in the timing of first flowering on average overestimate the magnitude of shifts in the timing of peak flowering, fail to predict shifts in the timing of last flowering, and underrepresent the number of species changing phenology in this plant community. Ultimately, this diversity of species-level phenological shifts contributes to altered coflowering patterns within the community, a redistribution of floral abundance across the season, and an expansion of the flowering season by more than I mo during the course of our study period. These results demonstrate the substantial reshaping of ecological communities that can be attributed to shifts in phenology.

Significance

Seasonal timing of biological events, phenology, is one of the strongest bioindicators of climate change. Our general understanding of phenological responses to climate change is based almost solely on the first day on which an event is observed, limiting our understanding of how ecological communities may be responding as a whole. Using a unique long-term record of flowering phenology from Colorado, we find that the number of species changing their flowering times likely has been underestimated and the magnitude of phenological change overestimated. In addition to earlier first flowering, we document a diverse assortment of other changes, such as delayed last flowering, as temperatures warm. This variety of species-level phenological shifts has ultimately reshaped various temporal components of the plant community.

To access the paper, you will need a subscription to PNAS. Go here.

 

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A remarkably accurate global warming prediction, made in 1972

I don’t know about my readers, but I am sick to the back teeth with uneducated idiots sitting at their computers typing bullshit feelpinions about their (I’m being generous) perception of climate science, using the argument that because the science is imprecise, nothing should be done to reduce carbon emissions.  Like other concern trolls, they try to give the impression of reasonableness, but are they? Is it reasonable to reject a consensus of 97% of experts that are 95% certain there is a serious problem, while insuring their houses and vehicles against accidents that only have a 1% or less chance of occurring, according to experts? It’s a bizarre position to take especially when the consequences of taking no action against climate change are far more serious. It’s idiotic.

But to the notion that climate systems are poorly understood and the predictions inaccurate. Dana Nuccitelli writing for the Guardian discusses a 1972 Nature paper from John Stanley Sawyer which has proven remarkably accurate.

 

John Stanley (J.S.) Sawyer was a British meteorologist born in 1916. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1962, and was also a Fellow of the Meteorological Society and the organization’s president from 1963 to 1965.

A paper authored by Sawyer and published in the journal Nature in 1972 reveals how much climate scientists knew about the fundamental workings of the global climate over 40 years ago. For example, Sawyer predicted how much average global surface temperatures would warm by the year 2000.

The increase of 25% CO2 expected by the end of the century therefore corresponds to an increase of 0.6°C in the world temperature – an amount somewhat greater than the climatic variation of recent centuries.

Remarkably, between the years 1850 and 2000, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels did increase by very close to 25 percent, and global average surface temperatures also increased by just about 0.6°C during that time.

Sawyer also discussed several other important aspects of the Earth’s climate in his paper. For example, he addressed the myth and misunderstanding that as a trace gas in the atmosphere, it may seem natural to assume that rising levels of carbon dioxide don’t have much impact on the climate. Sawyer wrote,

Nevertheless, there are certain minor constituents of the atmosphere which have a particularly significant effect in determining the world climate. They do this by their influence on the transmission of heat through the atmosphere by radiation. Carbon dioxide, water vapour and ozone all play such a role, and the quantities of these substances are not so much greater than the products of human endeavour that the possibilities of man-made influences may be dismissed out of hand.

Sawyer referenced work by Guy Callendar in the late 1930s and early 1940s, in which Callendar estimated that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had increased by about 10 percent over the prior 100 years (an impressively accurate measurement, as current estimates put the increase during that time at about 9 percent). Sawyer also referenced the Keeling Curve, which included continuous reliable measurements of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere beginning in 1958.

Compared to measurements of human carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, Sawyer noted that only about half of those human emissions were remaining in the atmosphere. The other half, climate scientists had concluded, were being absorbed by the oceans and the biosphere. Sawyer wrote,

Industrial development has recently been proceeding at an increasing rate so that the output of man-made carbon dioxide has been increasing more or less exponentially. So long as the carbon dioxide output continues to increase exponentially, it is reasonable to assume that about the same proportion as at present (about half) will remain in the atmosphere and about the same amount will go into the other reservoirs.

Indeed, over the past four decades, human carbon dioxide emissions have continued to increase more or less exponentially, and about half has continued to remain in the atmosphere with the other half accumulating in natural reservoirs. The carbon dioxide being absorbed by the oceans has contributed to the problem of ocean acidification, sometimes referred to as “global warming’s evil twin.”

Climate scientists also had a good idea how quickly carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would continue to rise as a result of human activities.

Bolin has estimated that the concentration of carbon dioxide will be about 400 ppm by the year 2000. A recent conference put the figure somewhat lower (375 ppm).”

The latter prediction at the referenced 1971 conference on “the Study of Man’s Impact on Climate” turned out to be quite accurate. In 2000, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were measured at about 370 ppm.

In his paper Sawyer discussed the predicted impacts resulting from a continued rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide. He noted that directly “it might make some vegetation grow a little faster,” which is generally true, although the situation is complicated. Sawyer noted that rising carbon dioxide levels would cause an increased greenhouse effect, and the associated warming would lead to more evaporation and more water vapor in the atmosphere. As a greenhouse gas itself, that rise in water vapor would act to further amplify human-caused global warming.

…if world temperatures rise due to an increase in carbon dioxide, it is almost certain that there will be more evaporation of water–the water vapour content of the atmosphere will also increase and will have its own effect on the radiation balance.

Sawyer referenced a 1967 paper by Manabe and Wetherald, who had calculated that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide would by itself cause approximately 1.3°C global surface warming, but that warming would be amplified by a further 1.1°C due to rising water vapor concentrations if the relative humidity were to remain constant. Observations have indeed unequivocally shown that water vapor strongly amplifies human-caused global warming, for example as found in a 2009 study by Andrew Dessler and Sun Wong from Texas A&M University.

Sawyer also discussed that melting ice and snow in a warming world would act to amplify global warming, but suggested that increasing cloud cover might dampen global warming and act to regulate the global climate. However, recent research has shown that clouds may actually weakly amplify global warming as well. Sawyer also understood that significant global warming would cause changes in weather and wind patterns around the world.

All in all, Sawyer’s 1972 paper demonstrated a solid understanding of the fundamental workings of the global climate, and included a remarkably accurate prediction of global warming over the next 30 years. Sawyer’s paper was followed by similarly accurate global warming predictions by Wallace Broecker in 1975 and James Hansen in 1981.

This research illustrates that climate scientists have understood the main climate control knobs for over four decades. Perhaps it’s about time that we start listening to them.

Here’s to that. Original article here.

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Greenland’s Ice Sheet woes.

from David Twomey at Eco News

Global warming melts last Greenland ice

Greenland-Zachariae-ice-stream-NASA

Scientists have revealed the last edge of the Greenland ice sheet that resisted global warming has now become unstable, adding billions of tonnes of melt-water to rising seas.

In a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers said a surge in temperature from 2003 had eased the brakes on a long “river” of ice that flows to the coast in north eastern Greenland.

The French newsagency AFP reports that known as an ice stream, the “river” takes ice from a vast basin and slowly shifts it to the sea, in the same way that the Amazon River drains water.

In the past, the flow from this ice stream had been constrained by massive build-ups of ice debris choking its mouth.http://econews.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Greenland-glacier-melt-testing.jpg

However, a three-year spell of exceptionally high temperatures removed this blockage and, like a cork removed from a bottle, helped accelerate the flow, the study said.

AFP reports the ice stream, called Zachariae, is the largest drain from an ice basin that covers a whopping 16 per cent of the Greenland ice sheet.

From 2003 to 2012, north eastern Greenland disgorged 10 billion tonnes of ice annually into the ocean, the study found.

Professor Michael Bevis Ohio State University“North-east Greenland is very cold. It used to be considered the last stable part of the Greenland ice sheet,” said study leader Professor Michael Bevis, who specialises in Earth sciences at Ohio State University.

“This study shows that ice loss in the north-east is now accelerating.

“So, now it seems that all the margins of the Greenland ice sheet are unstable.”

Greenland is estimated to contribute 0.5mm to the 3.2mm annual rise in global sea levels.

The main tool in the study was data from a network of 50 Global Positioning System (GPS) sensors along the Greenland coast.

AFP reports the monitors use Earth’s natural elasticity as a stethoscope of the ice sheet.

Professor-Jonathan-Bamber-Britain-University-Bristol.Ice is heavy, so when it melts in massive quantities the land rebounds and the position of the sensors changes slightly.

To get a wider picture, the GPS data was then overlaid with data from three US satellites and one European that measured ice thickness from space.

“The Greenland ice sheet has contributed more than any other ice mass to sea level rise over the last two decades and has the potential, if it were completely melted, to raise global sea level by more than seven metres,” said Professor Jonathan Bamber, at Britain’s University of Bristol.

“About half of the increased contribution of the ice sheet is due to the speed-up of glaciers in the south and north-west.

Until recently, north-east Greenland has been relatively stable, but this new study shows that it is no longer the case,” Professor Bamber added.

Original article here

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