Climate change tipping point could be coming sooner — Vegetation and soil may not be able to sequester as much carbon due to variability in soil moisture

A net gain of carbon on the land surface, would actually be almost twice as high if it weren’t for the variability in soil moisture

Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science Read full ScienceDaily article here

  • Julia K. Green, Sonia I. Seneviratne, Alexis M. Berg, Kirsten L. Findell, Stefan Hagemann, David M. Lawrence & Pierre Gentine. Large influence of soil moisture on long-term terrestrial carbon uptakeNature, 2019 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0848-x

A new study confirms the urgency to tackle climate change. While it’s known that extreme weather events can affect the year-to-year variability in carbon uptake, and some researchers have suggested that there may be longer-term effects, this study is the first to actually quantify the effects through the 21st century and demonstrates that wetter-than-normal years do not compensate for losses in carbon uptake during dryer-than-normal years, caused by events such as droughts or heatwaves.

…Anthropogenic emissions of CO2 — emissions caused by human activities — are increasing the concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere and producing unnatural changes to the planet’s climate system. The effects of these emissions on global warming are only being partially abated by the land and ocean. Currently, the ocean and terrestrial biosphere (forests, savannas, etc.) are absorbing about 50% of these releases — explaining the bleaching of coral reefs and acidification of the ocean, as well as the increase of carbon storage in our forests.

“It is unclear, however, whether the land can continue to uptake anthropogenic emissions at the current rates,” says Pierre Gentine…

Permafrost Is Warming Around the Globe, Study Shows, Raising Concerns about Surge in Planet-Warming Methane and CO2

By Bob Berwyn See full Inside Climate News article here

Vast areas of permafrost around the world warmed significantly over the past decade, intensifying concerns about accelerated releases of heat-trapping methane and carbon dioxide as microbes decompose the thawing organic soils.

The warming trend is documented in a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications. Detailed data from a global network of permafrost test sites show that, on average, permafrost regions around the world—in the Arctic, Antarctic and the high mountains—warmed by a half degree Fahrenheit between 2007 and 2016.

The most dramatic warming was found in the Siberian Arctic, where temperatures in the deep permafrost increased by 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Along with increased greenhouse gas emissions, the disintegration of permafrost is causing big problems for communities in the Arctic by damaging roads and other infrastructure as the land destabilizes and erodes. The permafrost meltdown also threatens ecosystems with massive discharges of silt and sediments into rivers and coastal areas.

The findings, from what the authors describe as the first globally consistent assessment of permafrost temperature change, add to an expanding body of global warming evidence, including studies published in just the past week showing that the world’s oceans have been warming at an accelerating rating and Antarctica has been losing six times more ice mass yearly than it was four decades ago.  

…..By some estimates, the Arctic permafrost contains enough carbon to nearly double the amount of CO2 currently in the Earth’s atmosphere. A rapid meltdown would be disastrous because it could release a lot of CO2—in addition to methane, a powerful short-lived climate pollutant—to the atmosphere, where it would cause additional warming, said Ted Schuur, a permafrost expert at Northern Arizona University…

Waves are increasingly stronger as a consequence of climate change

University of California – Santa Cruz Read ScienceDaily article here

Borja G. Reguero, Iñigo J. Losada, Fernando J. Méndez. A recent increase in global wave power as a consequence of oceanic warmingNature Communications, 2019; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-08066-0

Sea level rise puts coastal areas at the forefront of the impacts of climate change, but new research shows they face other climate-related threats as well. Scientists found that the energy of ocean waves has been growing globally, and they found a direct association between ocean warming and the increase in wave energy.

A wide range of long-term trends and projections carry the fingerprint of climate change, including rising sea levels, increasing global temperatures, and declining sea ice. Analyses of the global marine climate thus far have identified increases in wind speeds and wave heights in localized areas of the ocean in the high latitudes of both hemispheres. These increases have been larger for the most extreme values (e.g., winter waves) than for the mean conditions. However, a global signal of change and a correlation between the localized increases in wave heights and global warming had remained undetected….

….While the study reveals a long-term trend of increasing wave energy, the effects of this increase are particularly apparent during the most energetic storm seasons, as occurred during the winter of 2013-14 in the North Atlantic, which impacted the west coast of Europe, or the devastating 2017 hurricane season in the Caribbean, which offered a harsh reminder of the destructive power and economic impacts of coastal storms.

The effects of climate change will be particularly noticeable at the coast, where humans and oceans meet, according to coauthor Fernando J. Méndez, associate professor at Universidad de Cantabria. “Our results indicate that risk analysis neglecting the changes in wave power and having sea level rise as the only driver may underestimate the consequences of climate change and result in insufficient or maladaptation,” he said.


Antarctica losing six times more ice mass annually now than 40 years ago

Climate change-induced melting will raise global sea levels for decades to come

University of California – Irvine Read ScienceDaily article here Read Washington Post article here: An alarming study shows massive East Antarctic ice sheet already is a significant contributor to sea-level rise

Eric Rignot, et al. Four decades of Antarctic Ice Sheet mass balance from 1979–2017PNAS, January 14, 2019 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1812883116

Antarctica experienced a sixfold increase in yearly ice mass loss between 1979 and 2017, according to a study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Glaciologists from the University of California, Irvine, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Netherlands’ Utrecht University additionally found that the accelerated melting caused global sea levels to rise more than half an inch during that time.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak,” said lead author Eric Rignot, Donald Bren Professor and chair of Earth system science at UCI. “As the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we expect multi-meter sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries.”

For this study, Rignot and his collaborators conducted what he called the longest-ever assessment of remaining Antarctic ice mass. Spanning four decades, the project was also geographically comprehensive; the research team examined 18 regions encompassing 176 basins, as well as surrounding islands….

The pace of melting rose dramatically over the four-decade period. From 1979 to 2001, it was an average of 48 gigatons annually per decade. The rate jumped 280 percent to 134 gigatons for 2001 to 2017. …

From WaPo:

The findings are the latest sign that the world could face catastrophic consequences if climate change continues unabated. In addition to more-frequent droughts, heat waves, severe storms and other extreme weather that could come with a continually warming Earth, scientists already have predicted that seas could rise nearly three feet globally by 2100 if the world does not sharply decrease its carbon output. But in recent years, there has been growing concern that the Antarctic could push that even higher.

That kind of sea-level rise would result in the inundation of island communities around the globe, devastating wildlife habitats and threatening drinking-water supplies. Global sea levels have already risen seven to eight inches since 1900…..

Desalination plants produce more waste brine than than previously thought

There’s enough wastewater from the world’s facilities to cover Florida a foot deep—here’s why that’s a potential problem.

By Tik Root Read full National Geographic article here

As clean freshwater has become scarcer around the world—especially in arid regions such as the Middle East and North Africa—those countries that can afford it have increasingly turned to desalination. That energy-intensive process extracts salt from sea (or other saline) water, transforming it into water that’s fit for human consumption. There are now nearly 16,000 desalination plants either active or under construction across the globe.

“[But] they don’t just produce desalinated water,” explains Manzoor Qadir, a researcher at the United Nations University in Canada. “They also produce brine.” Brine is the concentrated salt water that’s left after desalination. But Qadir says, “there is no comprehensive assessment” of how much is being produced. …Qadir’s team analyzed available literature as well as a database of roughly 20,000 desalination plants (including some that are no longer active)….

The literature had long assumed a one-to-one ratio. But Qadir’s study found that the average desalination plant actually produced 1.5 times more brine than desalinated water—fifty percent more than previously thought. That translates to 51.8 billion cubic meters of brine each year, which Qadir says is enough to cover all of Florida, a foot deep.

….Arguably best known [deleterious impact of desalination] is the copious amount of fossil fuels that are often used to power the plants, resulting in a significant amount of emissions. Most desalination plants work by reverse osmosis, meaning energy is needed to push water past a membrane at high pressure in order to separate the salt (learn more how it works). A typical plant takes an average of 10 to 13 kilowatt hours of energy per every thousand gallons processed. That energy use adds to the cost of the process. A recent desalination plant in California cost a billion dollars, and now provides about ten percent of the drinking water of the county of San Diego. The cost, and environmental impacts, of this overall industry have spurred researchers to look for alternatives, including developing more efficient separation membranes and desalination units that can be powered by solar energy. (Learn more about these emerging efforts.)

On the intake side, Burt says that small organisms such as fish larvae and coral can get sucked into a plant. But the greater risk comes at the other end of the process, when the brine is put back into the ocean (where the majority of desalination is done)…..

“Brine will be substantially higher in salinity than normal oceanic water,” he said. “The brine discharge is also warm.” Those conditions, he says, can make it more difficult for marine life in the immediate vicinity of the discharge to survive or thrive.

What Burt is more concerned about, however, are the chemicals that are often in the brine. Qadir’s study points to copper and chlorine as particularly troublesome compounds. …

India’s electric vehicle goals being realized on two wheels, not four

Rajendra Jadhav, Aditi ShahRead full Reuters article here

…Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has set a target of electric vehicles making up 30 percent of new sales of cars and two-wheelers by 2030 from less than 1 percent today.

But its efforts to convince carmakers to produce electric vehicles have flopped mainly because of no clear policy to incentivize local manufacturing and sales, lack of public charging infrastructure and a high cost of batteries.

….Electric scooters make up a fraction of the total but are growing fast. In fiscal 2017-18, sales more than doubled to 54,800 from a year ago while electric car sales fell to 1,200 from 2,000 over the same period, according to data from the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV).

By 2030, sales of electric scooters are expected to cross 2 million a year, even as most carmakers resist bringing electric cars to India….

India is now working on a new policy which aims to incentivize investments in electric vehicle manufacturing, batteries and smart charging, instead of only giving benefits on sales.

The government also wants to push the use of electric vehicles for public use, a revolution already led by three-wheeled autorickshaws. Sales of these vehicles, ubiquitous on Indian city roads, are expected to double to 935,000 units a year by 2023, according to consulting firm P&S Market Research.

10 CLIMATE CHANGE BOOKS TO HELP YOU UNDERSTAND OUR ENVIRONMENT

Rebecca Renner Read full bookriot

In case you haven’t heard, a climate disaster is looming. The effects of climate change—like rising seas and intensifying weather patterns—are already here. Even though the worst is yet to come, there are still things that we can do to fight for our planet. One thing you can do right now is to educate yourself by reading climate change book article here…

HOT, HUNGRY PLANET: THE FIGHT TO STOP A GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS IN THE FACE OF CLIMATE CHANGE BY LISA PALMER

THE SIXTH EXTINCTION: AN UNNATURAL HISTORY BY ELIZABETH KOLBERT

FEVERED: WHY A HOTTER PLANET WILL HURT OUR HEALTH—AND HOW WE CAN SAVE OURSELVES BY LINDA MARSA


THE GREAT DERANGEMENT: CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE UNTHINKABLE BY AMITAV GHOSH….

STAYING ALIVE: WOMEN, ECOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENT BY VANDANA SHIVATHIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: CAPITALISM VS. THE CLIMATE BY NAOMI KLEIN

DUMPING IN DIXIE: RACE, CLASS, AND ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY BY ROBERT D. BULLARD

TOXIC COMMUNITIES: ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM, INDUSTRIAL POLLUTION, AND RESIDENTIAL MOBILITY BY DORCETA E. TAYLOR

if fiction is more of your jam, check out “What Is Cli-Fi? A Beginner’s Guide to Climate Fiction

Oceans are warming even faster than previously thought

Recent observations show ocean heating in line with climate change models

January 10, 2019 University of California – Berkeley Read full ScienceDaily article here

Lijing Cheng, John Abraham, Zeke Hausfather, Kevin E. Trenberth. How fast are the oceans warming? Science, 2019 DOI: 10.1126/science.aav7619

Heat trapped by greenhouse gases is raising ocean temperatures faster than previously thought, concludes an analysis of four recent ocean heating observations. The results provide further evidence that earlier claims of a slowdown or ‘hiatus’ in global warming over the past 15 years were unfounded.

Ocean heating is critical marker of climate change because an estimated 93 percent of the excess solar energy trapped by greenhouse gases accumulates in the world’s oceans. And, unlike surface temperatures, ocean temperatures are not affected by year-to-year variations caused by climate events like El Nino or volcanic eruptions.

The new analysis, published Jan. 11 in Science, shows that trends in ocean heat content match those predicted by leading climate change models, and that overall ocean warming is accelerating….. “The fact that these corrected records now do agree with climate models is encouraging in that is removes an area of big uncertainty that we previously had,” he said. …

Trends in ocean heat content match those predicted by leading climate change models. Overall ocean warming is accelerating. Credit: Copyright Michele Hogan

For these flycatchers, global warming spells a rise in fatal conflicts

Cell Press Read full ScienceDaily coverage here

Samplonius and Both. Climate Change May Affect Fatal Competition between Two Bird SpeciesCurrent Biology, 2019 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.11.063

Researchers have found yet another way in which climate change has been detrimental to migrating birds. As European winters have become warmer, pied flycatchers traveling from Africa to reach breeding grounds in the Netherlands are arriving to find that resident great tits have already claimed nesting sites for the season. As a result, the number of flycatchers killed in great tit nests has risen dramatically….

….Climate change has differentially affected the schedules of these interspecific competitors, leading to greater synchrony, the evidence shows. Great tits have been able to respond to warmer winters by shifting the breeding season earlier in a way the flycatchers can’t, Samplonius explains. Because flycatchers spend much of the year in Africa, they aren’t able to adjust to changing conditions in Europe in the same way.

The researchers also found that great tits occupy more nest boxes after mild winters. Not surprisingly, fatal competition is higher in years when and in areas where there are more breeding tits….

… Samplonius says the findings highlight the importance of long-term research for understanding the many and complex effects of a changing climate. “As a scientific community, we have to continue doing and supporting long-term research as climate change continues at increasing rates,” he says.

Two billion birds migrate over Gulf Coast: earliest seasonal movements are starting 1.5 days sooner per decade, though peak activity timing hasn’t changed

Cornell University Read full ScienceDaily article here

Kyle G. Horton et al. Holding steady: Little change in intensity or timing of bird migration over the Gulf of MexicoGlobal Change Biology, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14540

A new study combining data from citizen scientists [eBird] and weather radar stations is providing detailed insights into spring bird migration along the Gulf of Mexico and how these journeys may be affected by climate change. Findings on the timing, location, and intensity of these bird movements have been published. …

…. “We calculated that an average of 2.1 billion birds crosses the entire length the Gulf Coast each spring as they head north to their breeding grounds. Until now, we could only guess at the overall numbers from surveys done along small portions of the shoreline.”

…Knowing where and when peak migration occurs means efforts can be made to turn off lights and wind turbines, which are known threats to migratory birds.

Migration timing is also critical for birds. Although migration has evolved in the past as climates changed, the current rate of change may be too rapid for birds to keep pace. This study shows that the earliest seasonal movements are starting sooner, advancing by about 1.5 days per decade, though peak activity timing hasn’t changed, which may be cause for concern. These findings provide important baseline information that will allow scientists to assess the long-term implications of climate change for migratory birds.

“If birds aren’t changing their migration timing fast enough to match the timing for plants and insects, that’s alarming,” Horton says. “They may miss out on abundant resources on their breeding grounds and have less reproductive success.”