"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Global Ecosystems Failure’

Sea Change: The Ecological Disaster That Nobody Sees

In Uncategorized on September 28, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Sea Change: The Ecological Disaster That Nobody SeesOldspeak: “The ocean is alive; it is a living minestrone soup with an even greater diversity of life than on the land, It is where most of our oxygen is created and carbon is taken out of the atmosphere. With every breath you take, you need to thank the ocean… .The ocean drives climate and weather, It is a planetary life-support system that we have taken for granted . . . We simply must protect the machinery, the natural systems upon which our life depends.” –Sylvia Earle, former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chief scientist.

Experts warn that we are currently facing an extinction event in the oceans which may rival the “Great Death” of the Permian age 250 million years ago, when 95 percent of marine species died out due to a combination of warming, acidification, loss of oxygen and habitat – all conditions that are rife today…. Within the past half century the oceans have been transformed from the planet’s most productive bioregion into arguably its most abused and critically endangered…. Trillions of microscopic ocean plants called phytoplankton contribute seasonally between 50 to 85 percent of the oxygen in earth’s atmosphere, far more than all of the world’s forests combined. Nobody knows for certain how plankton will adapt to warming seas. But one study published in the United Kingdom last year suggested, worryingly, that changes in the temperature and chemical composition of the oceans would make these critical organisms less productive. Planktonremoves carbon from the atmosphere during the process of photosynthesis. Fewer plankton will mean less oxygen and more of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which will further intensify “a vicious cycle of climate change…Equally scary is the prospect that, as some researchers speculate, changes in ocean temperature may melt a frozen form of methane called “clathrates,” which is ubiquitous under the planet’s continental shelves. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 20 times as potent in the short term as carbon dioxide. If these vast reserves bubble up into the atmosphere, it will truly be “game over” for the climate as we know it… But up to now, there has been little political will to tackle the tough issues that are leading to a death by a thousand cuts for the seas around us. The Global Ocean Commission reports that the toothless international treaties that purport to regulate human use of the oceans have failed utterly to protect them.” -Richard Schiffmann

“So basically, we’re running out of air. As time passes and conditions worsen, our air supply will steadily lessen, as greenhouse gasses further intensify. Our oceans in less than 50 years have been transformed from our planets most productive bioregion, into its most abused and critically endangered. Our oceans are the true lungs of the ecology. And they are boiling, acidifying, and dying. This cannot be stopped by human actions. While our attention is being directed toward manufactured threats like ISIS, Russia, and Ebola, We’re slowly and surely suffocating our way to extinction. Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick……” -OSJ

By Richard Schiffmann @ Truthout:

On September 21, in what is being advance-billed as the largest climate march in history, thousands of protesters will converge on New York City to focus public attention on the slow-motion train wreck of global warming. But while Americans are becoming increasingly aware that our industrial civilization is destabilizing the earth’s climate, fewer know about another environmental disaster-in-the-making: the crisis of the global oceans.

Experts warn that we are currently facing an extinction event in the oceans which may rival the “Great Death” of the Permian age 250 million years ago, when 95 percent of marine species died out due to a combination of warming, acidification, loss of oxygen and habitat – all conditions that are rife today.

Within the past half century the oceans have been transformed from the planet’s most productive bioregion into arguably its most abused and critically endangered. That is the conclusion of a report issued earlier this summer by the Global Ocean Commission, a private think tank consisting of marine scientists, diplomats and business people, which makes policy recommendations to governments.

The report catalogues a grim laundry list of environmental ills. Commercial fish stocks worldwide are being overexploited and are close to collapse; coral reefs are dying due to ocean acidification – and may be gone by midcentury; vast dead zones are proliferating in the Baltic and the Gulf of Mexico caused by an influx of nitrogen and phosphorous from petroleum-based fertilizers; non-biodegradable plastic trash – everything from tiny micro-plastic beads to plastic bags and discarded fishing gear – is choking many coastal nurseries where fish spawn; and increased oil and gas drilling in deep waters is spewing pollution and posing the risk of catastrophic spills like the Deepwater Horizon disaster which dumped an estimated 4.2 million barrels of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico during a five-month period in 2010.

Yet these worrying trends have failed to spark public indignation. It may be a matter of “out of sight, out of mind.”

“If fish were trees, and we saw them being clear-cut, we would be upset,” renowned oceanographer Carl Safina observed in an interview with Truthout. “But the ocean is invisible to most people, an alien world.” It is hard for those of us who only see ocean life when it ends up on our dinner plates to get worked up about its destruction, Safina said.

Nevertheless, this world under the waves is vital to our survival, according to Sylvia Earle, former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chief scientist. “The ocean is alive; it is a living minestrone soup with an even greater diversity of life than on the land,” Earle told Truthout. “It is where most of our oxygen is created and carbon is taken out of the atmosphere. With every breath you take, you need to thank the ocean.”

Trillions of microscopic ocean plants called phytoplankton contribute seasonally between 50 to 85 percent of the oxygen in earth’s atmosphere, far more than all of the world’s forests combined. Nobody knows for certain how plankton will adapt to warming seas. But one study published in the United Kingdom last year suggested, worryingly, that changes in the temperature and chemical composition of the oceans would make these critical organisms less productive. Planktonremoves carbon from the atmosphere during the process of photosynthesis. Fewer plankton will mean less oxygen and more of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which will further intensify “a vicious cycle of climate change,” according to the study’s authors.

Equally scary is the prospect that, as some researchers speculate, changes in ocean temperature may melt a frozen form of methane called “clathrates,” which is ubiquitous under the planet’s continental shelves. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 20 times as potent in the short term as carbon dioxide. If these vast reserves bubble up into the atmosphere, it will truly be “game over” for the climate as we know it.

“The ocean drives climate and weather,” Earle said. “It is a planetary life-support system that we have taken for granted . . . We simply must protect the machinery, the natural systems upon which our life depends.”

But up to now, there has been little political will to tackle the tough issues that are leading to a death by a thousand cuts for the seas around us. The Global Ocean Commission reports that the toothless international treaties that purport to regulate human use of the oceans have failed utterly to protect them.

In an email to Truthout, former UK Foreign Minister David Miliband, a co-chair of the commission, wrote bluntly that the high seas are “a failed state . . . beyond the jurisdiction of any government, where governance and policing are effectively non-existent and anarchy rules the waves.” Miliband insists that the open ocean beyond national boundaries needs to be brought under the rule of international law. At present, global treaties make nonbinding recommendations, which are routinely violated by nations and commercial enterprises.

Perhaps not surprisingly, it is the wealthy countries that are disproportionally to blame for the ocean’s woes. According to the commission, the freedom of the seas is being “exploited by those with the money and ability to do so, with little sense of responsibility or social justice.”

One way this is happening is the chronic over-harvesting of the high seas by massive, technologically advanced ships largely from countries like France, Spain, Denmark, Japan and South Korea (the United States is actually a relatively minor player with a lower yearly catch than many far smaller countries). These floating factories frequently employ highly destructive methods like bottom trawling,the practice of dragging a heavy net on the bottom of the ocean, a process which can destroy ancient deep sea coral colonies and other fragile ecosystems.

Other questionable practices include fishing out of season and the use of cyanide and underwater explosives that stun or kill all marine life over vast swaths of the sea. Indiscriminate trawl nets and long-line fishing take untold thousands of sea birds, turtles, marine mammals and non-target fish species (called bycatch) daily, according to Earle. “It is like using a bulldozer to catch songbirds. You simply throw away the trees and all the rest.”

The results have been catastrophic. In 1950, less than 1 percent of fish species were overexploited or close to collapse. Today, that number has swollen to 87 percent, according to the Global Ocean Commission report. Not only are there “too many boats trying to catch too few fish,” but this overfishing is being abetted in many cases by government fossil fuel subsidies, which have driven an otherwise flagging industry into dangerous overdrive.

The irony is that, while the productivity of commercial fishing has never been lower, and boats need to go ever farther to catch fewer fish, the number of vessels exploiting the ocean has never been higher. While affluent countries spend tens of millions of their tax dollars to prop up their national fishing industries, coastal fisheries in the global south are being depleted and some fisher folk are barely able to survive on their diminished catches, as I discovered during a recent reporting trip to Barbados. They simply can’t compete with the big commercial fleets that are operating with impunity just beyond their territorial boundaries.

This problem is exacerbated in Barbados and elsewhere in the Caribbean by the rapid coral die-off. Instead of the thriving reefs that one would have seen only a few years back, there are now ghost forests of bleached white skeletons covered in slime. As the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide increasingly gets absorbed by the ocean’s surface waters, it creates carbonic acid, which changes the pH of the sea, making it more difficult for coral polyps and other shell-forming organisms to produce their rigid homes.

When corals die (Earle said fully half of the world’s reefs are already gone, or in steep decline) the fish and other organisms that breed among them die off as well. Equally important, reefs are an invaluable line of defense against storm surges and destructive waves. Without these natural seawalls, beach erosion and damage to low-lying coastal areas during hurricanes can spiral out of control.

Human-made physical changes to the world’s coastlines pose another threat. Productive natural hatcheries like mangrove swamps, mudflats and salt marshes are being cleared in many areas to make way for coastal development, barrier islands are dredged to build ship channels, and freshwater streams, which fish use to spawn, are blocked by dams.

In his eloquent book Running Silver, marine biologist John Waldman writes that in East Coast streams, where our forebears could “walk dry-shod on the backs” of schools of striped bass, shad, sturgeon and other fish during their spring migrations, today’s runs are as low as 2 percent of what they once were. In some cases, they’ve disappeared entirely. Cold-loving fish like salmon and cod are leaving their traditional ranges and heading toward the poles in search of cooler waters.

Amid this rising tide of bad news, however, there are some glimmers of hope. Carl Safina told Truthout that the US coastal fish populations were in free fall “until about 1998 when the Sustainable Fisheries Act went into effect [which sets strict fishing quotas]. We saw a recovery of inshore species which are wholly managed by US law and policy, at the same time as there was a continuing decline of the big offshore species like shark, tuna and many billfish in international waters.”

The challenge, as Safina sees it, is to bring the rule of law that has worked for some US fisheries to the high seas, which he calls “the Wild West in the space age.” We need something like a UN peacekeeper force for the open oceans, he said, to enforce treaties, clamp down on illegal fishing and draft strict environmental regulations.As a model for what he has in mind, Safina points to regional multination fishery boards (like those which already manage and set quotas for fisheries shared by the United States and Canada.) As this kind of international cooperation spreads, we’ll have a fighting chance to save imperiled species that are currently being fished to exhaustion. Safina alsosaid we need to stop fishing some critical areas to give them an opportunity to recover.

President Obama was clearly thinking along these lines when he announced in June the creation of the largest marine sanctuary on earth, a no-fishing and drilling zone comprising 782,000 square miles of open ocean surrounding small, unpopulated US territories in the South Pacific. Pacific island nations like the Cook and Kiribati quickly followed suit, banning fishing in their own territorial waters.

Sylvia Earle told Truthout that these are big steps in the right direction: “Here’s the good news: places where fish are protected, where we stop the killing, if enough resilience is there, these systems can be returned to abundance. It’s happened in the Florida Keys; it’s happened in protected areas off the coast of Chile, in Mexico, where grouper, snapper and sharks are making a reappearance.”

Still, until we address climate change and pollution, and find a way to establish justice and accountability on the high seas, the prospects for the world’s largest ecosystem remain grim.

 

 

 

 

Massive Stores Of Carbon In Earths Soils Higher Than Projected, More Suseptible To Warming Than Previously Thought

In Uncategorized on September 22, 2014 at 9:09 pm
tundra

Colder soils are more vulnerable to releasing extra carbon in a warmer world

Oldspeak: “Researchers found that microbes in the soil were more likely to enhance the release of CO2 in a warming world.  Soils from colder regions and those with greater amounts of carbon were seen to emit more as temperatures went up. The world’s soils hold about twice the amount of carbon as the atmosphere… The research team found that soils from boreal regions and the Arctic were impacted the most…The scientists aren’t sure about the mechanism of action involved in this process… Whatever about the mechanism, the research implies that current soil carbon and Earth system models may be underestimating the impact of warming on the huge reserves that sit in the ground…. According to Dr Karhu, this level of increase in colder regions raises concerns as more than half of the carbon that’s stored in soils in the world is found in these locations. “It means that more carbon can be released from the northern soils than is projected by the models at the moment. This is worrying because these soils have a lot of carbon.” Matt McGrath

SO. There’s That. As temperatures increase,  twice the amount of carbon that is already in the atmosphere and being increased every day by hyperconsumptive human activity will be released into the atmosphere from earths rapidly deteriorating soils. The areas of soil that are heating most drastically, the arctic and antarctic regions are the same areas where the soils are most vulnerable to heating, and where the most carbon is stored in the soils. This irreversible non-linear feedback loop is already in progress. Researchers have no idea how this action works, but know our climate models do not account for this reality. There is noting to be done. Contemplate and accept this reality. TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK.” -OSJ

By Jeff Spross  @ Think Progress:

The Earth’s soils play an important part in managing climate change by storing carbon, and thus keeping it out of the atmosphere. But research published Wednesday in Nature suggests that as global temperatures rise, the ability of soils to perform that service goes down.

The researchers tested 22 different soil samples from different points along the climatic gradient, from the Arctic all the way to the Amazon. It’s the microbes in each sample that determine how much carbon the soil stores versus how much it releases over a given time. So the researchers applied different temperature changes to each sample over a 90-day period to see how the mircobes would respond.

The question is an important one because soils and their microbes around the world store more than twice as much carbon as the atmosphere does, and release around 60 billion metric tons of that carbon into the atmosphere every year. Some of that carbon is absorbed by other parts of the planetary ecosystem — forests or the ocean, for instance — and eventually makes its way back to the microbes again before being re-released into the atmosphere.

But if temperature changes alter the microbes’ respiratory behavior, they could be releasing enormous amounts of carbon at greater rates, meaning there would be more carbon in the atmosphere at a given time. That, in turn, would exacerbate climate change.

Up until now, the general assumption has been that the microbes would probably acclimate to temperature changes: after briefly changing the way they take in and release carbon, the microbes would get used to the new temperature and settle back into their previous pattern.

But Kristiina Karhu from the University of Helsinki, the Nature study’s lead author, told the BBC that based on the researchers findings, that wasn’t what happened.

“We show that for these 22 soils, this type of acclimation of microbial respiration doesn’t really happen,” she said. “Sometimes the opposite happens, in response to long-term temperature change, the microbes enhance the short term effect of temperatures so that the sensitivity of respiration gets actually higher.”

In other words, as the temperatures went up, many of the microbes tended to release more carbon.

The effect was particularly pronounced in soils from northern climates, such as the Arctic and boreal regions. “Microbial community response increased the temperature sensitivity of respiration in high latitude soils by a factor of 1.4 compared to the instantaneous temperature response,” according to the study. As Karhu pointed out, that’s worrying because northern soils and their microbes store more carbon than soils at other latitudes.

“The soils that had this enhancing response were also soils that had a high carbon to nitrogen ratio,” Karhu said. “So it could be something in this interaction between carbon and nitrogen cycles, and there are some studies that suggest that maybe the enzymes related to nitrogen may be more temperature sensitive than the carbon related enzymes.”

It’s an example of what climate scientists call a feedback loop. Human beings pump more carbon into the atmosphere, which drives up global warming. But then that warming also changes the Earth’s natural ecosystems, so that the natural carbon cycle also begins dumping more carbon into the atmosphere than it did before, driving global temperatures up still further.

As hard as scientists work to build models to accurately project ecosystem changes and the effects of global warming, it’s a horrendously complex system — and this research suggests the models are underestimating the amount of carbon northern soils especially will release as global warming proceeds.

“Big advances have been made in recent years, and there are now models that simulate key microbial processes,” said Iain Hartley, another author of the study, told the BBC.”We have a great opportunity to really advance this subject, and improve predictions of rates of carbon dioxide release from soils under global warming, but there is still a huge amount that we need to understand better.”

The complexities abound: some forms of fungi grow more profusely in hotter temperatures, and one type of fungi in particular — ecto- and ericoid mycorrhizal (EEM) fungi, to be specific — can affect the ability of soil to store carbon. Because EEM fungi changes the decomposition process in soil, places heavy in EEM fungi end up storing carbon longer in the ground. And the difference can be dramatic, altering the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere at a given time by as much as 70 percent.

NOAA Report: Summer 2014 Hottest On Record, 2014 On Pace To Be Hottest Ever. World’s Oceans Account For Most Heat Rise.

In Uncategorized on September 22, 2014 at 8:25 pm

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/global/map-percentile-mntp/201406-201408.gif

Oldspeak: “All the conditions that existed in Earth’s previous 5 mass extinctions, exist right now. Today. No other extinction event has progressed as rapidly as the one we’re bearing witness to. The oceans are heating & dying at an unprecedented rate.  We have zero ability to stop what is happening.  We must accept this. I can’t say it better than the esteemed eco-pirate Captain Paul Watson:

The world is full of ecological fools who deny ecological reality. The world is full of mindless mobs of morons obsessed with petty trivialities or distracted by fantasies ranging from silly religions to entertainment.

What the world is lacking are ecological engineers and warriors ready and willing to address the threats to our planet and especially to our oceans.

What the great majority of people do not understand is this: unless we stop the degradation of our oceans, marine ecological systems will begin collapsing and when enough of them fail, the oceans will die.

And if the oceans die, then civilization collapses and we all die.

It’s as simple as that….

One thing for certain however is that we are running out of time.”

TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK….

By NOAA National Climatic Data Center:

 

Global Highlights

  • The combined average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces for August 2014 was record high for the month, at 0.75°C (1.35°F) above the 20th century average of 15.6°C (60.1°F), topping the previous record set in 1998.
  • The global land surface temperature was 0.99°C (1.78°F) above the 20th century average of 13.8°C (56.9°F), the second highest on record for August, behind 1998.
  • For the ocean, the August global sea surface temperature was 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.4°F). This record high departure from average not only beats the previous August record set in 2005 by 0.08°C (0.14°F), but also beats the previous all-time record set just two months ago in June 2014 by 0.03°C (0.05°F).
  • The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for the June–August period was also record high for this period, at 0.71°C (1.28°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.5°F), beating the previous record set in 1998.
  • The June–August worldwide land surface temperature was 0.91°C (1.64°F) above the 20th century average, the fifth highest on record for this period. The global ocean surface temperature for the same period was 0.63°C (1.13°F) above the 20th century average, the highest on record for June–August. This beats the previous record set in 2009 by 0.04°C (0.07°F).
  • The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for January–August (year-to-date) was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.3°F), the third highest for this eight-month period on record.

Supplemental Information

Introduction

Temperature anomalies and percentiles are shown on the gridded maps below. The anomaly map on the left is a product of a merged land surface temperature (Global Historical Climatology Network, GHCN) and sea surface temperature (ERSST.v3b) anomaly analysis developed by Smith et al. (2008). Temperature anomalies for land and ocean are analyzed separately and then merged to form the global analysis. For more information, please visit NCDC’s Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page. The maps on the right are percentile maps that complement the information provided by the anomaly maps. These provide additional information by placing the temperature anomaly observed for a specific place and time period into historical perspective, showing how the most current month, season, or year compares with the past.

The most current data may be accessed via the Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page.

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Temperatures

In the atmosphere, 500-millibar height pressure anomalies correlate well with temperatures at the Earth’s surface. The average position of the upper-level ridges of high pressure and troughs of low pressure—depicted by positive and negative 500-millibar height anomalies on the August 2014 and June 2014–August 2014 maps—is generally reflected by areas of positive and negative temperature anomalies at the surface, respectively.

August

With records dating back to 1880, the global temperature across the world’s land and ocean surfaces for August 2014 was 0.75°C (1.35°F) higher than the 20th century average of 15.6°C (60.1°F). This makes August 2014 the warmest August on record for the globe since records began in 1880, beating the previous record set in 1998. Nine of the 10 warmest Augusts on record have occurred during the 21st century. Additionally, August 2014 marked the 38th consecutive August with a temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average global temperature for August occurred in 1976. The departure from average for the month was also record high for the Northern Hemisphere, at 0.92°C (1.66°F) above average. The Southern Hemisphere temperature was 0.56°C (1.01°F) above average, the fourth highest on record for this part of the world.

Globally, the average land surface temperature was the second highest on record for August behind only 1998, at 0.99°C (1.78°F) above the 20th century average. Warmer than average temperatures were evident over most of the global land surfaces, except for parts of the United States and western Europe, northern Siberia, parts of eastern Asia and much of central Australia stretching north. Overall, 26 countries across every continent except Antarctica had at least one station reporting a record high temperature for August. The United States and the Russian Federation each had stations that reported record warm temperatures as well as at least one station with a record cold temperature for the month. One station in Antarctica also reported a record cold August temperature for its 30-year period of record. The period of record varies by station.

Select national information is highlighted below. (Please note that different countries report anomalies with respect to different base periods. The information provided here is based directly upon these data):

  • Averaged across the country, Australia was only 0.06°C (0.11°F) above its 1961–1990 average; however, there were some large variations between regions. Western Australia had its fifth highest maximum August temperature on record (10th highest average temperature) while the Northern Territory had its fourth lowest minimum August temperature on record (also fourth lowest average temperature).
  • Following a record warm July, August was a bit more temperate in Norway, although still warm compared to normal, with a monthly temperature that was 1.0°C (1.8°F) higher than the 1961–1990 long-term average for the country.
  • The United Kingdom had its coolest August since 1993, with a temperature 1.0°C (1.8°F) below its 1981–2010 average. This ended a streak of eight consecutive warmer-than average months.
  • August was 1.1°C (2.0°F) cooler than the 1981–2010 average in Austria, marking the country’s coolest August since 2006. The high alpine regions were 1.5°C (2.7°F) cooler than average.

The average August temperature for the global oceans was record high for the month, at 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th century average, beating the previous record set in 2005 by 0.08°C (0.14°F). It was also the highest departure from average for any month in the 135-year record, beating the previous record set just two months ago in June 2014 by 0.03°C (0.05°F). Record warmth was observed across much of the central and western equatorial Pacific along with sections scattered across the eastern Pacific and regions of the western Indian Ocean, particularly notable in the waters east of Madagascar. After cooling briefly in July, ocean temperatures in the Niño 3.4 region—the area where ENSO conditions are monitored—began warming once again. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center estimates that there is a 60–65 percent chance that El Niño conditions will develop during the Northern Hemisphere fall and winter. This forecast focuses on the ocean surface temperatures between 5°N and 5°S latitude and 170°W to 120°W longitude.

August Anomaly Rank
(out of 135 years)
Records
°C °F Year(s) °C °F
Global
Land +0.99 ± 0.24 +1.78 ± 0.43 Warmest 2nd 1998 +1.03 +1.85
Coolest 134th 1912 -0.75 -1.35
Ocean +0.65 ± 0.05 +1.17 ± 0.09 Warmest 1st 2014 +0.65 +1.17
Coolest 135th 1910, 1911 -0.45 -0.81
Land and Ocean +0.75 ± 0.12 +1.35 ± 0.22 Warmest 1st 2014 +0.75 +1.35
Coolest 135th 1912 -0.51 -0.92
Northern Hemisphere
Land +1.07 ± 0.21 +1.93 ± 0.38 Warmest 1st 2010, 2014 +1.07 +1.93
Coolest 135th 1912 -0.94 -1.69
Ties: 2010
Ocean +0.84 ± 0.04 +1.51 ± 0.07 Warmest 1st 2014 +0.84 +1.51
Coolest 135th 1913 -0.57 -1.03
Land and Ocean +0.92 ± 0.15 +1.66 ± 0.27 Warmest 1st 2014 +0.92 +1.66
Coolest 135th 1912 -0.65 -1.17
Southern Hemisphere
Land +0.80 ± 0.12 +1.44 ± 0.22 Warmest 7th 2009 +1.37 +2.47
Coolest 129th 1891 -0.78 -1.40
Ocean +0.51 ± 0.06 +0.92 ± 0.11 Warmest 4th 1998 +0.57 +1.03
Coolest 132nd 1911 -0.48 -0.86
Ties: 2003, 2005, 2013
Land and Ocean +0.56 ± 0.06 +1.01 ± 0.11 Warmest 4th 2009 +0.67 +1.21
Coolest 132nd 1911 -0.51 -0.92
Ties: 1997

The most current data August be accessed via the Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page.

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Seasonal (June–August)

June–August 2014, at 0.71°C (1.28°F) higher than the 20th century average, was the warmest such period across global land and ocean surfaces since record keeping began in 1880, edging out the previous record set in 1998. The global ocean temperature was a major contributor to the global average, as its departure from average for the period was also highest on record, at 0.63°C (1.13°F) above average. The average temperature across land surfaces was not far behind, at fifth highest for June–August. Regionally, the Northern Hemisphere temperature across land and oceans combined was also record high for its summer season, while the Southern Hemisphere temperature was fourth highest for its winter season.

Select national information is highlighted below. (Please note that different countries report anomalies with respect to different base periods. The information provided here is based directly upon these data):

  • Winter (June–August) was warmer than average for Australia; however, while the maximum temperature was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above average, the minimum temperature was 0.14°C (0.25°F) below average, making for a greater-than-average daily temperature range. The highest maximum temperature anomalies were observed in the states of Tasmania (second highest on record) and Western Australia (tied for third highest on record). The Northern Territory had below-average winter maximum and minimum temperatures, with the average temperature tying as the 33rd coolest winter temperature in its 105-year period of record.
  • Summer 2014 was 0.2°C (0.4°F) higher than the 1981–2010 average for Austria, but it also marked the coolest June–August for the country since 2005. The north and east were 0.4–0.7°C (0.7–1.3°F) above average while most other regions were near average.
  • The summer temperature for Norway was 1.9°C (3.4°F) above its 1961–1990 average. Western Norway, Trøndelag, and Nordland saw temperatues 2–3°C (4–5°F) above their long-term averages.
  • Summer in Denmark was 1.6°C (2.9°F) warmer than its 1961–1990 average and 0.4°C (0.7°F) warmer than the more recent 2001–2010 average. The second highest July temperature on record contributed to the summer warmth.
June–August Anomaly Rank
(out of 135 years)
Records
°C °F Year(s) °C °F
Global
Land +0.91 ± 0.20 +1.64 ± 0.36 Warmest 5th 2010 +1.02 +1.84
Coolest 131st 1885 -0.58 -1.04
Ocean +0.63 ± 0.05 +1.13 ± 0.09 Warmest 1st 2014 +0.63 +1.13
Coolest 135th 1911 -0.48 -0.86
Land and Ocean +0.71 ± 0.12 +1.28 ± 0.22 Warmest 1st 2014 +0.71 +1.28
Coolest 135th 1911 -0.46 -0.83
Northern Hemisphere
Land +0.94 ± 0.18 +1.69 ± 0.32 Warmest 5th 2010 +1.17 +2.11
Coolest 131st 1884 -0.68 -1.22
Ties: 2006
Ocean +0.76 ± 0.05 +1.37 ± 0.09 Warmest 1st 2014 +0.76 +1.37
Coolest 135th 1913 -0.54 -0.97
Land and Ocean +0.83 ± 0.15 +1.49 ± 0.27 Warmest 1st 2014 +0.83 +1.49
Coolest 135th 1913 -0.50 -0.90
Southern Hemisphere
Land +0.80 ± 0.12 +1.44 ± 0.22 Warmest 5th 2005 +1.01 +1.82
Coolest 131st 1911 -0.70 -1.26
Ocean +0.53 ± 0.06 +0.95 ± 0.11 Warmest 4th 1998 +0.59 +1.06
Coolest 132nd 1911 -0.50 -0.90
Ties: 2002
Land and Ocean +0.57 ± 0.07 +1.03 ± 0.13 Warmest 4th 1998 +0.65 +1.17
Coolest 132nd 1911 -0.53 -0.95

The most current data August be accessed via the Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page.

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Year-to-date (January–August)

The first eight months of 2014 (January–August) were the third warmest such period on record across the world’s land and ocean surfaces, with an average temperature that was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 57.3°F (14.0°C). If 2014 maintains this temperature departure from average for the remainder of the year, it will be the warmest year on record.

The average global sea surface temperature tied with 2010 as the second highest for January–August in the 135-year period of record, behind 1998, while the average land surface temperature was the fifth highest.

January–August Anomaly Rank
(out of 135 years)
Records
°C °F Year(s) °C °F
Global
Land +1.01 ± 0.23 +1.82 ± 0.41 Warmest 5th 2007 +1.14 +2.05
Coolest 131st 1885, 1893 -0.68 -1.22
Ocean +0.55 ± 0.05 +0.99 ± 0.09 Warmest 2nd 1998 +0.57 +1.03
Coolest 134th 1911 -0.50 -0.90
Ties: 2010
Land and Ocean +0.68 ± 0.11 +1.22 ± 0.20 Warmest 3rd 1998, 2010 +0.70 +1.26
Coolest 133rd 1911 -0.51 -0.92
Northern Hemisphere
Land +1.08 ± 0.28 +1.94 ± 0.50 Warmest 5th 2007 +1.29 +2.32
Coolest 131st 1893 -0.78 -1.40
Ocean +0.61 ± 0.07 +1.10 ± 0.13 Warmest 1st 2014 +0.61 +1.10
Coolest 135th 1910 -0.49 -0.88
Land and Ocean +0.79 ± 0.17 +1.42 ± 0.31 Warmest 2nd 2010 +0.81 +1.46
Coolest 134th 1893, 1913 -0.51 -0.92
Southern Hemisphere
Land +0.84 ± 0.15 +1.51 ± 0.27 Warmest 6th 2005 +1.00 +1.80
Coolest 130th 1917 -0.77 -1.39
Ocean +0.52 ± 0.05 +0.94 ± 0.09 Warmest 5th 1998 +0.60 +1.08
Coolest 131st 1911 -0.52 -0.94
Land and Ocean +0.57 ± 0.07 +1.03 ± 0.13 Warmest 3rd 1998 +0.66 +1.19
Coolest 133rd 1911 -0.54 -0.97
Ties: 2002, 2003, 2005

The most current data August be accessed via the Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page.

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Precipitation

August

The maps below represent precipitation percent of normal (left) and precipitation percentiles (right) based on the GHCN dataset of land surface stations using a base period of 1961–1990. As is typical, August precipitation anomalies varied significantly around the world. As indicated by the August precipitation percentiles map below, extreme wetness was observed across part of the central United States, parts of northern Europe, central Siberia, Japan, and eastern Australia. Much of Japan received heavy rainfall from Typhoons Nakri and Halong during the first half of the month. Extreme dryness was scattered across small regions of each of the major continents.

Select national information is highlighted below. (Please note that different countries report anomalies with respect to different base periods. The information provided here is based directly upon these data):

Seasonal (June–August)

The maps below represent precipitation percent of normal (left) and precipitation percentiles (right) based on the GHCN dataset of land surface stations using a base period of 1961–1990. As is typical, precipitation anomalies during June 2014–August 2014 varied significantly around the world.

  • According to the India Meteorological Department, the Southwest Monsoon brought just 82 percent of the long-term (1951–2000) average rainfall to the country from June 1 to August 27. All regions were below average. Northwest India received just 66 percent of its average amount for the period, while the South Peninsula was closest to its long-term average among all regions, at 89 percent of average. By the end of August, the monsoon trough was generally near the Himalayan foothills.
  • In France, even with a drier than average June, total summer (June–August) precipitation was more than 140 percent of average, marking one of the 10 wettest summers since national records began in 1959. It was the wettest July–August period on record.

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References

Peterson, T.C. and R.S. Vose, 1997: An Overview of the Global Historical Climatology Network Database. Bull. Amer. Meteorol. Soc., 78, 2837-2849.

Quayle, R.G., T.C. Peterson, A.N. Basist, and C. S. Godfrey, 1999: An operational near-real-time global temperature index. Geophys. Res. Lett., 26, 333-335.

Smith, T.M. and R.W. Reynolds, 2005: A global merged land air and sea surface temperature reconstruction based on historical observations (1880-1997), J. Clim., 18, 2021-2036.

Smith et al., 2008, Improvements to NOAA’s Historical Merged Land-Ocean Surface Temperature Analysis (1880-2006), J. Climate., 21, 2283-2293.

 

Biological Scientists Warn: Anthropocene Defaunation A Pervasive Component Earth’s Ongoing 6th Mass Extinction

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2014 at 5:49 pm

https://sjoseph8819.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/we_are_in_the_midst_of_a_sixth_mass_extinction_by_armonah-d5fc0pt.png

Oldspeak: “We live amid a global wave of anthropogenically driven biodiversity loss: species and population extirpations and, critically, declines in local species abundance. Particularly, human impacts on animal biodiversity are an under-recognized form of global environmental change. Among terrestrial vertebrates, 322 species have become extinct since 1500, and populations of the remaining species show 25% average decline in abundance. Invertebrate patterns are equally dire: 67% of monitored populations show 45% mean abundance decline. Such animal declines will cascade onto ecosystem functioning and human well-being. Much remains unknown about this “Anthropocene defaunation”; these knowledge gaps hinder our capacity to predict and limit defaunation impacts. Clearly, however, defaunation is both a pervasive component of the planet’s sixth mass extinction and also a major driver of global ecological change” –Rodolfo Dirzo et Al, “Defaunation In The Anthropocene”

“As our infotainment networks focus on contrived human scale news, this planetary scale,  global ecology affecting, human driven mass extermination of life that will at some point include humans, goes largely unreported. Everything living is dying at an unprecedented and accelerated rate. This irreversible and ever worsening human activity driven reality is destroying essential ecosystems and is impacting human well-being right now. There is no stopping it.  We have no ability to predict or limit impacts. That’s big fucking news in my book. Why are we continually being fed rubbish information and propaganda that has nothing to do with anything real in this new and unknown context? Why aren’t we being told how dire our prospects for survival are? Why aren’t we drastically changing our way of being to incorporate the knowledge the extinction level event we’ve wrought? Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick….”-OSJ

By Bjorn Carey @ Stanford News Service:

The planet’s current biodiversity, the product of 3.5 billion years of evolutionary trial and error, is the highest in the history of life. But it may be reaching a tipping point.

In a new review of scientific literature and analysis of data published in Science, an international team of scientists cautions that the loss and decline of animals is contributing to what appears to be the early days of the planet’s sixth mass biological extinction event.

Since 1500, more than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct. Populations of the remaining species show a 25 percent average decline in abundance. The situation is similarly dire for invertebrate animal life.

And while previous extinctions have been driven by natural planetary transformations or catastrophic asteroid strikes, the current die-off can be associated to human activity, a situation that the lead author Rodolfo Dirzo, a professor of biology at Stanford, designates an era of “Anthropocene defaunation.”

Across vertebrates, 16 to 33 percent of all species are estimated to be globally threatened or endangered. Large animals – described as megafauna and including elephants, rhinoceroses, polar bears and countless other species worldwide – face the highest rate of decline, a trend that matches previous extinction events.

Larger animals tend to have lower population growth rates and produce fewer offspring. They need larger habitat areas to maintain viable populations. Their size and meat mass make them easier and more attractive hunting targets for humans.

Although these species represent a relatively low percentage of the animals at risk, their loss would have trickle-down effects that could shake the stability of other species and, in some cases, even human health.

For instance, previous experiments conducted in Kenya have isolated patches of land from megafauna such as zebras, giraffes and elephants, and observed how an ecosystem reacts to the removal of its largest species. Rather quickly, these areas become overwhelmed with rodents. Grass and shrubs increase and the rate of soil compaction decreases. Seeds and shelter become more easily available, and the risk of predation drops.

Consequently, the number of rodents doubles – and so does the abundance of the disease-carrying ectoparasites that they harbor.

“Where human density is high, you get high rates of defaunation, high incidence of rodents, and thus high levels of pathogens, which increases the risks of disease transmission,” said Dirzo, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “Who would have thought that just defaunation would have all these dramatic consequences? But it can be a vicious circle.”

The scientists also detailed a troubling trend in invertebrate defaunation. Human population has doubled in the past 35 years; in the same period, the number of invertebrate animals – such as beetles, butterflies, spiders and worms – has decreased by 45 percent.

As with larger animals, the loss is driven primarily by loss of habitat and global climate disruption, and could have trickle-up effects in our everyday lives.

For instance, insects pollinate roughly 75 percent of the world’s food crops, an estimated 10 percent of the economic value of the world’s food supply. Insects also play a critical role in nutrient cycling and decomposing organic materials, which helps ensure ecosystem productivity. In the United States alone, the value of pest control by native predators is estimated at $4.5 billion annually.

Dirzo said that the solutions are complicated. Immediately reducing rates of habitat change and overexploitation would help, but these approaches need to be tailored to individual regions and situations. He said he hopes that raising awareness of the ongoing mass extinction – and not just of large, charismatic species – and its associated consequences will help spur change.

“We tend to think about extinction as loss of a species from the face of Earth, and that’s very important, but there’s a loss of critical ecosystem functioning in which animals play a central role that we need to pay attention to as well,” Dirzo said. “Ironically, we have long considered that defaunation is a cryptic phenomenon, but I think we will end up with a situation that is non-cryptic because of the increasingly obvious consequences to the planet and to human wellbeing.”

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The coauthors on the report include Hillary S. Young, University of California, Santa Barbara; Mauro Galetti, Universidade Estadual Paulista in Brazil; Gerardo Ceballos,  Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico; Nick J.B. Isaac, of the Natural Environment Research Council Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in England; and Ben Collen, of University College London.