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Posts Tagged ‘Runaway Global Warming’

“Essentially The Walking Dead”: Study Shows Earth’s 6th Great Mass Extinction Happening Faster Than 5 Previous; Humans “very likely” To Be Among First Wave Of Species To Go Extinct

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2015 at 2:07 pm
An irrigation canal near a parched field in Manteca, Calif., April 24, 2015. California's drought has made the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta's limited supply of fresh water, which helps feed more than three million acres of farmland, a central battle zone between farmers and environmentalists. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)

An irrigation canal near a parched field in Manteca, California, April 24, 2015. California’s drought has made the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s limited supply of freshwater, which helps feed more than 3 million acres of farmland, a central battle zone between farmers and environmentalists. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Oldspeak:”[The study] shows without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event. There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead.” –Dr. Paul Ehrlich, Bing professor of population studies in biology and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

Life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on…. We emphasize that our calculations very likely underestimate the severity of the extinction crisis.” –Dr. Gerardo Ceballos, Universidad Autónoma de México

“Yep. This is where we’re at. Esteemed scientists talking matter of factly about the unprecedented accelerated rate of this Mass Extinction event; estimating that humans will likely be among the 1st to go. Emphasizing that their calculations, horrific as they are are likely underestimating the severity of the extinction crisis. A celebrated scientist regarding humans efforts to save the planet as as “foolish and romantic extravagance.” While technocrats cut funding for climate research, and limit Environmental Protection Agency efforts to curb toxic fossil fuel emissions. We’re fucked. We’re The Walking Dead. We’re the zombies, mindlessly and hedonistically shuffling about, dimly aware of the world around us, insatiable in our desires for more, bigger, faster, being “productive”, “efficient”, “hacking” our lives to squeeze more work out of ourselves to accumulate more sense-pleasuring things and stuff. This is unsustainable and omnicidal. Is this the way you want to live your last days on this plane of existence? I invite You to choose to spend these last hours here doing & consuming less; instead being & loving more. Endeavoring to be in a place of mindfulness, wonder, reverence, gratitude and acceptance of all that exists.” –OSJ

Written By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

At the end of May, a few friends and I opted to climb a couple of the larger volcanoes in Washington State. We started on Mount Adams, a 12,280-foot peak in the southern part of the state.

We were able to drive to the Cold Springs Campground at 5,600 feet, where the climb would begin. This itself was an anomaly for late May, when the dirt road tended to still be covered with snowpack. But not this year, one in which Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee has already declared a statewide drought emergency, given this year’s record-low snowpack.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

In fact, we hiked up bare earth until around 7,500 feet before we even had to don our crampons (metal spikes that attach to climbing boots to improve traction), itself another anomaly. During a short visit to the Forest Service ranger station the day before, the ranger had informed us that we were already experiencing mid- to late-August conditions, though it wasn’t yet June.

A few days later and much further north on Mount Baker, a 10,781-foot glacial-clad volcano not far from the border of Canada, we experienced the same thing. We camped on terra firma at around 5,500 feet, in an area that normally would have found us camping on several feet of snowpack. When we headed up the peak, the route was already in late season (August) conditions. We found ourselves having to navigate around several large open crevasses where snow bridges that had offered access had already collapsed due to rising temperatures and melting snow.

During our descent after visiting the summit, two of my climbing partners punched through snow bridges over crevasses, and the lower part of the route was more like a Slurpee than a glacier. I would not have wanted to be on the mountain a day later than we were.

The signs of the increasing rapidity and intensification of our warming planet are all around us. And bigger-picture reports, studies and warnings are multiplying every day.

If current rates of ACD continue, “Life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on.”

NASA recently released its global temperature data for the month of May, and it was 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the norm. The agency’s data also revealed that 2015 has had the hottest five months of any year ever recorded. As of right now, 2015 is already hotter than last year, according to NASA; in fact, if it stays on the same track, it will be the hottest year ever recorded for the planet.

Things are bad enough that President Obama’s science adviser issued a warning that anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is currently barreling forward so quickly that the entire state of California could be “overwhelmed”: The state’s efforts to adapt will be unable to keep pace with the rapidly intensifying developments on the ground. Essentially, this means the state does not have the financial nor physical resources to keep pace with rising seas, drought and wildfires that are all becoming the norm there.

Scientists like Bill Nye (“the Science Guy”) are warning us to expect even more weather extremes as ACD progresses. For example, they predict the recent deluge of rain and flooding in Texas will become the norm for that state going forward.

A study recently published in Nature Climate Change has shown that if carbon dioxide and methane emissions are not dramatically cut extremely rapidly, ACD is set to bring about the most dramatic and encompassing rearrangement of ocean species in at least the last 3 million years. For example, the study shows that by 2100, the polar regions, which currently host some of the most diverse and widespread sea life on the planet, will likely be drained of much of their marine life.

It’s not news that Arctic sea ice is melting at a record-breaking pace and that the odds of there being summer ice-free periods by next year are high. But an interesting twist resulting from this development is that this thinning Arctic ice, along with a lack of air support, has officially forced an end to trekking expeditions to the North Pole this year … and quite likely, forever.

All of these changes are portentous.

However, the most important development this month is clearly a recently published study in Science that states, unequivocally, that the planet has officially entered its sixth mass extinction event. The study showed that species are already being killed off at rates much faster than they were during the other five extinction events, and warned ominously that humans could very likely be among the first wave of species going extinct.

The lead author of the study, Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Autónoma de México, told reporters that if current rates of ACD, deforestation and pollution are allowed to continue, “Life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on.”

Another alarming feature of the study is that it is admittedly conservative. On page three it states: “We emphasize that our calculations very likely underestimate the severity of the extinction crisis.”

Study co-author Paul Ehrlich, a Bing professor of population studies in biology and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, told Stanford News, “[The study] shows without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event. There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead.”

As we explore ACD’s impact upon the four quadrants of the planet this month, we see developments that certainly confirm the aforementioned report’s findings.

Earth

As warming from ACD continues to fuel increases in diseases and pests, moose in North America are dying by the thousands, according to a recent scientific report.

Another report revealed recently that the warming waters in Long Island Sound are dramatically altering fish populations, as summer flounder and sea bass that usually prefer warm water are now appearing in the northern locale.

As California’s mega-drought lumbers on, redwoods and other iconic trees in that state are now dying in record numbers. As one example, Monterey pines – in one area that covers nearly 15 square acres – are already as much as 90 percent dead.

Even more disturbing is a recent report that polar bears have been seen killing and eating dolphins. That in itself isn’t news, but the fact that it happened this spring, instead of during the warmer summer months, has never been seen before.

Water

Recent NASA data has given us some remarkable graphics that show how the world’s aquifers are losing their water at “alarming” rates, according to scientists. The data shows that more than half of the planet’s 37 largest aquifers are being depleted. Given that the groundwater reserves take thousands of years to accumulate, one of the scientists described the situation as “critical.”

São Paulo, Brazil, a mega-city of over 20 million people, has been pushed to the verge of severe water rationing, as its largest water reservoir is on pace to dry up completely by August.

In Chile, most of the ski areas have completely bare slopes. Santiago, which sits below all the ski resorts, has seen a scant 1.2 centimeters of rain this year, which is a jaw-dropping 86 percent less than normal.

North Korea is facing its worst drought in recorded history, which has sparked fears of a worsening of already severe food shortages.

The worst regional drought in nearly 10 years is hammering southern Africa, causing Zimbabweans to go hungry as crop failure has become rampant. The drought threatens to persist.

Meanwhile Nicaragua, the country with the most abundant water sources in its region (it even has the word “agua” as part of its very name), is experiencing one of its worst water shortages in five decades.

California’s drought has taken at least a $2.7 billion toll on the state’s agriculture.

In the United States, a record drought in Oklahoma has given wheat farmers there a glimpse of what is to come, although recent wet weather has ended the drought for now. Scientists are warning that the region should brace itself for a growing number of hotter, drier days in the future.

Farms in Utah are being wracked by drought, as officials in that state have begun rationing water, causing farmers there to worry about even more cutbacks as summer progresses.

In California, the Salton Sea – the largest lake in the state – is drying out of existence, giving us another indicator of how deep the drought is now embedded in the state’s climate.

In monetary terms, a recent report shows that California’s drought has taken at least a $2.7 billion toll on the state’s agriculture. Obviously, that number is sure to continue to rise.

As is happening globally now, residents in some towns in central California are suffering from a health crisis that stems from not having running water and breathing increasingly dusty air, due to the drought. Respiratory problems are becoming rampant throughout the state.

In Canada, John Pomeroy, the director of the Centre for Hydrology at the University of Saskatchewan, recently spent time high up in the Rocky Mountains, along the British Columbia-Alberta divide. He witnessed clear signs of the highly damaging drought plaguing his country. Due to record dry spells, dramatically decreased river flows and the shortage of runoff water, Pomeroy said that western Canada is likely in the midst of a long-term drought.

The flip side of the water climate coin is flooding. In the United States, unprecedented amounts of rainfall across Texas and Oklahoma recently are evidence of what happens when a warming atmosphere becomes saturated with more water vapor than it used to be able to hold: yet another harbinger of our future.

By the end of the century, it is feasible that Mount Everest could be entirely without glaciers.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that the latest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report showed that this May was the wettest month ever recorded in the United States, despite the mega-drought in California and the West. Obviously, scientists have linked these phenomena to ACD.

Dramatic changes are happening in most of the planet’s highest places, given the rapidly accelerating melting of glaciers. Even Mount Everest, the highest point on earth, is witnessing massive changes. A recent report in the journal The Cryosphere found that thousands of glaciers across the Himalayas will likely shrink by 70 to 99 percent by 2100.

Thus, by the end of the century, it is feasible that Mount Everest could be entirely without glaciers.

Another recent study linked intensifying weather events – like the extreme cold that wracked the eastern United States last winter and spring, along with the record flooding that hit Britain – to the rapid loss of Arctic ice. This doesn’t bode well, as the Arctic summer sea ice will likely begin to vanish entirely for short periods, starting as early as next summer.

A unique photography project in Alaska has captured ACD impacts over time in a stunning way. The photos are hard to look at, but everyone should see them. They represent a kind of before-and-after view of what ACD is doing to one of the most beautiful areas on the planet. The project shows dramatically reduced glacial coverage in multiple areas of Alaska, including areas that used to be heavily glaciated, which are now completely ice-free.

The project became even more relevant when a recent report was published that shows how glaciers in Alaska have lost 75 gigatons (75 billion metric tons) of ice per year, from 1994 through 2013.

In comparison, this number is roughly half of the amount of ice loss for all of Antarctica (159 billion metric tons). This new data also indicates that the Alaska region alone likely contributed several millimeters to the global sea level rise in the past few decades.

Air

The changing chemistry of the planet’s atmosphere is causing new positive feedback loops to occur. For example, in Mexico City, warmer temperatures are exacerbating the already horrible smog in that mega-city, as higher temperatures mean that industrial pollutants are released more rapidly into the air.

Another recent report from NASA begins with this worrisome observation: “In the third week of May, it was warmer in Fairbanks, Alaska, than in Washington, DC. The small town of Eagle, Alaska, was hotter on May 23 than it has been on any day in Houston or Dallas this year. In what has become a frequent occurrence in the past few years, temperature profiles in North America appeared to be upside down.”

The report, titled “Baked Alaska,” includes a fascinating temperature anomaly map, and notes:

On May 23, the air temperature at Fairbanks International Airport reached 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius), breaking the record of 80°F (26.7°C) from 2002. That same day, thermometers hit 91°F (32.8°C) in Eagle, marking the earliest 90-degree day in state history. The town had nine consecutive days above 80°F. In Barrow, Alaska, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, temperatures climbed to 47°F on May 21, close to 18°F above normal. Temperatures normally do not reach that high until mid-June.

Thus, not surprisingly, Alaska had its hottest May in recorded history.

India, ranked as the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, recently had to cope with one of the single deadliest heat waves to ever have hit the country, which killed over 2,500 people. The heat wave was at least the fourth deadliest in world history.

“Let us not fool ourselves that there is no connection between the unusual number of deaths from the ongoing heat wave and the certainty of another failed monsoon,” Harsh Vardhan, India’s earth sciences minister, told Reuters. “It’s not just an unusually hot summer; it is climate change.”

As the heat and death toll continued to rise in India, scientists asked if this was really a glimpse of earth’s future: a planet rife with skyrocketing temperatures and the human impacts to match.

Lastly in this section, a recent study published in Geophysical Research Letters shows that the warming generated by carbon dioxide released by burning coal exceeds the heat generated by said combustion in a mere 34 days. In other words, ACD does not take years or decades for its impacts to be felt, as was previously believed: Changes can happen alarmingly quickly.

Fire

As wildfires burn out of control from southern California all the way up the West Coast of the United States and across Alaska, a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists is worth highlighting. The group has warned of the direct links between ACD and drier soil, less moisture, changing precipitation levels and patterns, droughts, and the increasing frequency and severity of wildfires. Scientists emphasize that the connection between the fires and ACD must be recognized and confronted.

Denial and Reality

This month, the voices of climate denial did not fail to disappoint.

Not surprisingly, shareholders of the top two largest US oil companies, Exxon and Chevron, recently rejected proposals to add directors with expertise in studying ACD to their boards. It’d be bad for profits, of course.

The oil giants got some help from the US House of Representatives, which this month passed a bill that would make funding cuts to climate research done by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

On the other hand, Pope Francis let loose on ACD deniers in his recently released encyclical, in which he stated unequivocally that “the bulk of global warming” is anthropogenic, and called on everyone to take steps to mitigate the damage by reducing consumption and reliance upon fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, another recently published report has shown that as carbon dioxide levels continue to increase over time, the planet will become progressively less able to sequester carbon dioxide in the soil or deep in the oceans, as both carbon sinks become supersaturated.

“If all of the carbon of permafrost was released, at that point, this is not going to be a habitable planet for humans.”

A climate researcher with the Woods Hole Research Center, Susan Natali, recently told a reporter that as global temperatures continue to increase, thawing permafrost is releasing larger amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, which of course cause temperatures to warm even further. Thus, the positive feedback loop feeds upon itself, a phenomenon that underpins runaway ACD.

“If all of the carbon of permafrost was released, at that point, this is not going to be a habitable planet for humans,” Natali warned.

All of this information, taken together, paints an increasingly bleak scene for the planet and its species – including, of course, humans.

This could be why James Lovelock, the celebrated scientist and environmentalist who created the Gaia hypothesis, recently stated, “Saving the planet is a foolish, romantic extravagance.”

He added that as climate disruption spins further out of control, “The civilizations of the northern hemisphere would be utterly destroyed, no doubt about it. But it would give life elsewhere a chance to recover. I think actually that Gaia might heave a sigh of relief.”

Overheating Earth Staggers Into Last Chance Saloon

In Uncategorized on June 2, 2015 at 2:25 pm
Overheating Earth staggers into Last Chance Saloon

Trying to beat the heat in India, where the temperature in some southern states has recently topped 47°C. And thousands have died from heat related causes. Image: Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons

Oldspeak: “More hopium-fueled nonsense here. Understand this article in a couple basic contexts. First, the “The 2°C limit has been set by politicians to prevent the planet overheating dangerously” is at this point nothing more than fantasy. Especially when you consider the the last sentence of this article “India is exploiting far more of its coal reserves, and jeopardising hopes of global reductions in emissions.” With global carbon emissions rising from major human emmiters and natural sources alike, and no way to halt the increase in natural emissions, this limiting to 2c bullshit isn’t happening. It should also be understood that 3 years ago, it was established that “According to the latest research, the level of damages once expected at 2 degrees C is now expected at considerably lower temperatures…the exact same social and political considerations that settled on 2 degrees C as the threshold of safety by all rights ought to settle on 1 degree C [1.8 degrees F]. After all, we now know 2 degrees C is extremely dangerous.” We are seeing this right now, with LESS THAN 1 degree C of warming. 1,000 year droughts. 500 year floods. Temperatures 20 degrees higher in places where previously thought to be “permafrost” is melting rapidly. Monstrous hurricanes and typhoons. Resource Shocks. Oceans acidic enough to melt sea shells. Triple the amount of methane off-gassing. The large scale breakdowns of ecosystems and mass extinctions at rates 10,000 time greater than geologic average. The inane and intractable meetings and conferences to negotiate, reach agreements, set targets and establishing limits are utterly and completely pointless. We are long past the point where human activities will change our fate in any non-extinction inducing way. We’re on track currently for 4c and greater warming in the near term. There is zero evidence to suggest that track will change measurably any time soon, in any direction for but the worse.  What else is there to plan for or meet about? The only thing left to plan for is extinction. Enjoy the Kabuki Theater tho. Our last chance is gone.” -OSJ

By Paul Brown @ Climate News Network:

Hard bargaining in Bonn this week will probably decide whether the crucial climate talks in Paris in December can save human civilisation from ultimate collapse.

LONDON, 1 June, 2015 − The text of the agreement on how the world will tackle climate change and set targets that will keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels is being negotiated in Bonn this week.

The 2°C limit has been set by politicians to prevent the planet overheating dangerously − but the cuts in carbon emissions required to achieve it have so far not been agreed.

It is this gap between the policy goals agreed  by world leaders and their lack of action to achieve them that the Bonn conference seeks to address.

The meeting, which opened today, will last for 10 days as working groups grapple with action to reduce carbon emissions, how to finance technology transfer, and how to adapt to sea level rise and other unavoidable consequences of present warming − such as the current heatwave affecting India, where temperatures in some southern states have topped 47°C.

Devastating consequences

Scientists and environment groups have said that this year’s negotiations are humanity’s “Last Chance Saloon”. If steep emissions cuts are not agreed and implemented quickly, the global temperature has little chance of staying under 2°C − with devastating consequences for the natural world and human civilisation.

There are signs that momentum towards agreement is increasing. A report by Globe International, which will be given to delegates, reveals that three-quarters of the world’s annual emissions of greenhouse gases are now limited by national targets.

The 2015 Global Climate Legislation Study shows that the number of climate laws and policies aimed at limiting emissions passed by national governments had increased to 804 this year, up from 426 in 2009 when the Copenhagen climate talks collapsed, and from just 54 in 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol was agreed.

“This growing amount of legislation provides
evidence that the world’s major emitters are taking serious steps to tackle climate change in their countries”

The lead author of the study, Michal Nachmany, a researcher at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, says: “With three-quarters of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions now covered by national targets, we can be more confident about the credibility of the pledges that countries will make ahead of the crucial summit in Paris.

“While collectively these pledges are unlikely to be consistent with the international goal of avoiding global warming of more than 2°C, the existence of national legislation and policies should provide the opportunity for countries to strengthen the ambition of their emissions cuts after the summit.”

Professor Samuel Fankhauser, co-director of the Grantham Institute and co-author of the study, says: “Every five or so years, the number of climate laws and policies across the world has doubled. This growing amount of legislation provides evidence that the world’s major emitters are taking serious steps to tackle climate change in their countries.

“By writing their intentions into law, the world’s leaders have shown that international climate change talks do lead to national action in the vast majority of countries.”

The problem is, as the report points out, that current targets and timetables to achieve them are not enough to limit greenhouse gases sufficiently to get below the agreed 2°C limit.

Under pressure

However,  politicians are coming under pressure to improve their pledges. Ahead of the Bonn meeting, a business summit in Paris showed that many companies are pushing their political leaders for action.

This is a marked change from the last two decades, a time when the fossil fuel industry has lobbied to slow decisions on tackling climate change.

In Paris, 25 worldwide business networks − representing 6.5 million companies from 130 countries − demanded political action to achieve a low-emission, climate-resilient economy.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the organiser of the Bonn conference, says: “With some 200 days to the UN climate convention conference in Paris, the growing momentum for change and for action is rapidly gaining ground across countries, companies, cities and citizens.

“News of yet another group of stakeholders committing to long-term emission reduction targets or ambitious investments in renewable energies is emerging almost daily – building confidence and a sense of ‘can do’ among nations as we enter the final six months of 2015.”

Whether this optimism is justified will be seen in the next week as the working groups refine the technical agreements that heads of governments are expected to sign in Paris in December.

Recurring problems

Among the many recurring problems that have created a stumbling block is the amount of money pledged by rich nations to developing countries to help them avoid fossil fuel use and adapt to climate change. So far, the pledges to provide billions of dollars in technical help and adaptation have not been followed by the cash.

As well as trying to seal an agreement for action after 2020, the Bonn conference is also working  to accelerate action in the five years until then – which  are currently covered by no legally-binding international agreement. The particular focus here will be on  scaling up the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency in urban areas.

The fact that China and the US are now working together to reach an agreement in Paris is also helping move the talks along.

However, some developing countries, notably India, are still saying their priority is lifting their poor out of poverty, rather than reducing their emissions.

To this end, India is exploiting far more of its coal reserves, and jeopardising hopes of global reductions in emissions. – Climate News Network

The Mother Of All Catch 22s: Industrial Civilization Threatens All Life On The Planet

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Oldspeak:”This piece is originally titled “Capitalism Threatens All Life On The Planet”. The interviewee would say it more like the title I gave it. Focusing the blame on Capitalism gives the impression that everything would be ok if we just went another way, with another economic system. It assumes the economic system is the key to “fixing this”, as if the economic system is our primary concern. It’s just not so. It’s is a “civilization” level predicament we find ourselves that has no fix. We’re long past the point of dealing with this existential threat in any meaningful way. It’s time we accept this. This is where we are at this moment. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t. If we continue on, business as usual, we’re fucked. If we continue on with “conservation”/”mitigation”/or “green energy” market-based strategies, we’re fucked. If we stopped and went indigenous today, we’re fucked. We can talk around and bargain about and deny this stark reality until we’re blue in the face, but As Led Zeppelin opined  “The Song Remains The Same.” There is no good outcome for Humans here kids. Too many humans (this one included) are utterly dependent on Industrial Civilization, which has brought about Earth’s 6th Mass Extinction and have no interest in changing that state of affairs measurably. We can only use 2.1 Earth’s worth of resources every year for so much longer.  Resources and tolerable habitat are dwindling faster than we realize. The extinction train is rollin and it ain’t got no breaks… Enjoy the ride, doing the least harm, with as much love and compassion as you can.” -OSJ

By Dylan Murphy @ The People’s Voice:

“Let’s be honest. The activities of our economic and social system are killing the planet. Even if we confine ourselves merely to humans, these activities are causing an unprecedented privation, as hundreds of millions of people-and today more than yesterday, with probably more tomorrow-go their entire lives with never enough to eat. Yet curiously, none of this seems to stir us to significant action. And when someone does too stridently point out these obvious injustices, the response by the mass of the people seems so often to be . . . a figurative if not physical blow to the gut, leading inevitably to a destruction of our common future.” -Derek Jensen, The Culture of Make Believe

Tomorrow you will wake up and may well have a hot shower to start your day. Then you will go to your kitchen and use a variety of electrical devices to prepare breakfast. If you are lucky enough to have a job then you will travel to work in a car or use public transport. All of this activity requires the use of finite energy resources while producing varying amounts of carbon dioxide. According to the people at the World Wildlife Fund I alone need 2.19 planets to sustain my lifestyle. http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/.

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The unsustainable lifestyle that people lead is based upon the ever increasing consumption of finite resources which is destroying the natural world at in increasing rate of knots. The extinction of 200 species a day is just one manifestation of how capitalism and the industrial civilization it has spawned is killing the planet.

Critics may well say why are you so pessimistic? All we need to do is improve energy conservation and introduce renewable energy sources on a mass scale and everything will be fine and we can keep on enjoying our turbo consumerist lifestyle. Tim Garrett an associate professor of climate sciences at Utah University has exposed this belief as nothing short of wishful thinking:

“Making civilization more energy efficient simply allows it to grow faster and consume more energy,” says Garrett. “I’m just saying it’s not really possible to conserve energy in a meaningful way because the current rate of energy consumption is determined by the unchangeable past of economic production. If it feels good to conserve energy, that is fine, but there shouldn’t be any pretense that it will make a difference.”

Professor Garrett makes the controversial point that carbon dioxide emissions, which are a major cause of runaway climate change, can only be stabilized by a complete collapse of the global industrial economy or society builds the equivalent of one nuclear reactor per day.

“Stabilization of carbon dioxide emissions at current rates will require approximately 300 gigawatts of new non-carbon-dioxide-emitting power production capacity annually – approximately one new nuclear power plant (or equivalent) per day,” Garrett says. “Physically, there are no other options without killing the economy.”

Every week new scientific reports are published that note how industrial civilization is driving us towards catastrophic climate change. Last week the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, announced that March was the first month to surpass global carbon dioxide levels of 400 parts per million since measurements began. This is driving us towards the 2 degree rise in temperature that is seen by many as the upper limit for the planet. In the same week a new study was published in Nature Climate Change which reveals that sea level rise rates are speeding up. This poses a threat to the one billion people who live along shore lines around the world.

Runaway climate change is already having a massive impact all over the world. California is experiencing its worst drought in 1200 years. Professor Jay Famiglietti, from the University of California, Irvine, has revealed how California has only one year of water supply stored in its reservoirs and needs to start immediate water rationing.

Corporate politicians all over the world are beholden to their big business paymasters and so keep on glossing over or ignoring the issues. Meanwhile, the corporate media tries to lull the population into a false sense of security with its endless stories full of hopium that science and technology will save the day.

I spoke to Guy McPherson who is professor emeritus of natural resources and the environment at the University of Arizona, where he taught for twenty years. He is the author of a dozen books and has had hundreds of articles published on the consequences of our fossil fuel addiction: catastrophic climate change leading to near term human extinction. Guy lives in an off the grid straw bale house where he practices sustainable organic farming and working with members of his local community where a gift economy is in operation.

1) Many people believe that catastrophic climate change can be averted if we adopt the following measures as a matter of urgency on a global scale: energy conservation measures, stopping the use of fossil fuels and nuclear together with the mass use of renewables. Would such measures help avert catastrophic climate change?

No, they would not, for many reasons. First and foremost, civilization is a heat engine, as pointed out in Tim Garrett’s work. In addition, as I’ve written here, the notion of a Third Industrial Revolution is seriously flawed: http://transitionvoice.com/2013/11/hopium-for-the-masses-renewable-energy-edition/

2) Is geo-engineering a possible solution to global warming?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) admits global warming is irreversible without geoengineering in a The IPCC is among the most conservative scientific bodies on the planet, and their reports are “significantly ‘diluted’ under political pressure.” On 22 April 2014, Truth-out correctly headlines their assessment, “Intergovernmental Climate Report Leaves Hopes Hanging on Fantasy Technology.” Time follows up two days later with a desperate headline, “NASA Chief: Humanity’s Future Depends On Mission To Mars” (first up: greenhouses on Mars). As pointed out in the 5 December 2013 issue of Earth System Dynamics, known strategies for geoengineering are unlikely to succeed (“climate geo-engineering cannot simply be used to undo global warming“). “Attempts to reverse the impacts of global warming by injecting reflective particles into the stratosphere could make matters worse,” according to research published in the 8 January 2014 issue of Environmental Research Letters. In addition, as described in the December 2013 issue of Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, geoengineering may succeed in cooling the Earth, it would also disrupt precipitation patterns around the world. Furthermore, “risk of abrupt and dangerous warming is inherent to the large-scale implementation of SRM” (solar radiation management), as pointed out in the 17 February 2014 issue of Environmental Research Letters. About a week later comes this line from research published in the 25 February 2014 issue of Nature Communication: “schemes to Finally, in a blow to technocrats published online in the 25 June 2014 issue of Nature Climate Change, a large and distinguished group of international researchers concludes geo-engineering will not stop climate change. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences piles on with a report issued 10 February 2015, concluding geoengineering is not a viable solution for the climate predicament. As it turns out, the public isn’t impressed, either: Research published in the 12 January 2014 issue of Nature Climate Change “reveals that the overall public evaluation of climate engineering is negative.” Despite pervasive American ignorance about science, the public correctly interprets geo-engineering in the same light as the scientists, and contrary to the techno-optimists.

3) In your work you talk about feedback loops that have already been set in motion that will have very detrimental effects upon the planet. Could you explain how feedback loops will have a devastating effect upon the living planet?

These self-reinforcing feedback loops, or “positive feedbacks,” feed upon themselves. For example, methane released from the Arctic Ocean heats the region, hence the ocean. As a result, methane is release more rapidly from the ocean. The process continues until a negative feedback overwhelms the process.

Many of these feedback loops have been triggered. They are contributing to a rapid rise in global-average temperature. The relatively slow rise in global-average temperature to date has outstripped the ability of organisms to keep up: The rate of evolution trails the rate of climate change by a factor of 10,000, according to paper in the August 2013 issue of Ecology Letters. If plants cannot keep up with the ongoing, gradual rate of change, we can only imagine the destruction of the living planet now that abrupt climate change has been triggered.

The Sixth Great Extinction is proceeding very rapidly. We’re on track to exceed the rate of extinction during all prior events, including the Great Dying from about 250 million years ago. During that extinction event, more than 90% of the species on the planet were driven to extinction.

4) When the issue of near term human extinction arising from catastrophic climate change is raised with many people they get very defensive. Reactions range from ridicule suggesting that you are crazy to outright hostility. Why do you think people often react this way?

I suspect they are afraid. We’ve grown up during a time of enormous privilege. The technology surrounding us is astonishing: It seems we can fix anything with a simple app on our cell phones!

The race for technology has overwhelmed the living planet. Already, according to an August 2010 report from the United Nations, the rate of extinction is 150-200 species per day. Industrial civilization allows us to foul the air, dirty the water, and erode the soil into the ocean while communicating in real time across the globe.

The race for technology has overwhelmed our sense of humanity. Most people I know love civilization, which destroys life on Earth. And they especially love industrial civilization and the resulting toys.

5) It is clear that the capitalist class across the globe have neither the intention nor the intention nor the knowledge of how to stop catastrophic climate change. The pursuit of hydraulic fracking, tar sands, nuclear energy, geo-engineering all reveal how the capitalist system is blind to the pursuit of profit at all costs. We cannot place any faith in corporate politicians of any stripe to help ordinary people cope with the effects of climate change as it gets worse and worse. Who should ordinary people turn to for help in coping with climate change?

The corporate governments and the corporate media are not interested in we, the people. They are interested in profits for the corporations.

As individuals and as a species, I doubt we have much time left on the planet. I recommend passionately pursuing a life of excellence rooted in love. Identify what you love. Pursue it, with passion. Throw off the shackles of a culture gone seriously awry. Along the way, you’ll be viewed as insane. Most professional psychotherapists, embedded in an omnicidal culture, will provide little help.

Find your tribe. Spend time with those you love. Love the ones you’re with.

6) Tim Garrett of Utah University has done some very valuable research into runaway climate change. Could you summarize the research of Professor Garrett and explain its implications for us all?

Garrett’s work is published in refereed journal articles, the “gold standard” of science. His research points out that only collapse of civilization prevents runaway greenhouse. It does not point out that collapse of civilization triggers the catastrophic meltdown of the world’s nuclear facilities.

7) Many people sign petitions, send letters, organise lobbies of politicians and regulators in the hope of stopping the destruction of the environment. Is this type of resistance enough to stop capitalist civilization from destroying the planet?

Apparently not. This type of work has been proceeding for decades, and the 150-200 species are still driven to extinction each day.

8) You recently published a book with Carolyn Baker called Extinction Dialogs. How should we prepare for the extinction of all life on the planet?

By living with death in mind. By loving what is, not what should be. By identifying what we love, and pursuing it. By pursuing excellence in our lives. By doing what is right, without attachment to the outcome. All of which applies even if we live forever.

“Something really awful happening.”: Dangers From Accelerating Rates Of Methane Releases & Polar Ice Melt Are Multiplying

In Uncategorized on May 18, 2015 at 8:09 pm
https://i2.wp.com/images.sciencedaily.com/2013/11/131125172113-large.jpg

Methane burns as it escapes through a hole in the ice in a lagoon above the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Credit: Photo courtesy of Natalia Shakhova

Oldspeak: “There are three huge reservoirs of Arctic methane till recently safely controlled by the Arctic freezing cold environment. They are now all releasing additional methane to the atmosphere as the Arctic rapidly warms…We do not like what we see. We do not like it at all.” Dr. Natalia Shakhova, September, 2012

There is a so-called methane threat in the north of the bog. On top of that, the ice shelf is also thawing, releasing methane hydrates and something really awful is happening.” Professor Sergey Kirpotin, May, 2015

When scientists start sayin shit like this, it’s not good.  I feel it’s safe to say that, things in the planet’s polar air conditioners and adjacent environs are going terribly wrong, very fast, faster every day. What happens when these previously frozen bogs catch fire because the temperature is 40 degrees hotter than normal near the arctic? Well that’s happening, wildfires in the fucking arctic have been happening since early April, earlier than ever coincidentally, so I guess we’ll see soon enough won’t we? Expect these fires to proliferate as summer progresses, generating even more voluminous releases of C02 and CH4. Shit is goin to hell in a handbasket mighty quick ain’t it? Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…. it’s gonna really suck when the Arctic Methane Time Bomb goes boom.” -OSJ

By Robert Hunziker @ Dissident Voice:

Methane (CH4) is 25 times more efficient at entrapping solar radiation and effectuating global warming than is carbon dioxide (CO2).

As the Arctic becomes more and more ice-free, the release of methane entrapped for millennia in Arctic ice accelerates. This, in turn, increases the risks of a planetary catastrophe. Yet, the scientific community does not like using words like “catastrophe,” which is considered alarmist. So, forewarned, this is an alarmist article.

Not only is this article alarmist, it is an indictment of views about climate change held by most, if not all, of the Republican candidates for presidency. Regardless of their individual personal beliefs about climate change, they are beholden to fossil fuel interests and extremely rich right-wing whackos that clandestinely pour money into phony orgs and payoffs for weak-kneed, cowering scientists to disseminate “confusing information to the public about global warming/climate change.” Without a doubt, these are the nation’s top gun eco terrorists. Similar to Al Qaeda, they work in the shadows.

Over the past couple of centuries, the rate of increase of CO2 versus CH4 in the atmosphere is running askew as carbon dioxide’s increase of 40% is a far distant second place to methane’s 250% increase. There’s nothing confusing about those numbers.

As it happens, by all accounts, climate scientists are wringing their hands over the 40% increase in carbon dioxide. That’s understandable as CO2 remains in the atmosphere for up to hundreds of years, blocking solar radiation from bouncing back into outer space. Ergo, over time global warming consumes the planet in a dreadful event that is currently tracking headlong towards bright red flashing lights at the end of the tunnel of doom.

Thereby, CO2 blanketing the earth is similar to turning on an oven, the more CO2 is emitted, similar to turning up the oven, the more heat builds, as it gets hotter and hotter and hotter over time whilst the “CO2 blanket” traps solar radiation. In time, humanity is toast.

Considering the fact that scientists worry about CO2 in the atmosphere, they must be experiencing migraines, sleeplessness and outright gloominess about CH4 because, with gigatons of methane trapped under Arctic ice, only a fraction of that CH4 could turn the planet into something akin to an oven, assuming too much Arctic ice melts. And, that is precisely the point as Arctic melt is already occurring at an alarming rate!

It’s all about runaway global warming as the Arctic threatens to turn ice-free in September, during its minimal cycle, in an upcoming year. Some Arctic experts believe it could happen within a few years, some several years, some in decades or longer.

There is a lot of mystery behind the likely impact of an ice-free Arctic because it has never happened before in human history. Questions arise: How much methane is trapped under the ice and how quickly does it release into the atmosphere and how soon does agricultural land turn bad?

Of course, the process takes considerable time to play out because nature still follows a geological time clock, which is very slow. Nevertheless, human-induced climate change has already proven to speed up nature’s course, increasing the risks of a runaway global warming nightmare, maybe within current lifetimes, who knows?

After all, the proof is found in facts. As a result of excessive levels of greenhouse gases like CO2 in the atmosphere, the Arctic is warming up 2-3 times faster than lower latitudes, which fact shall be discussed further on.

Still, nobody knows how this will play out. After all, how many scrapes with extinction has humanity experienced? The answer is: None, this will be the first go-around.

Along those same lines, scientists have calculated approximately how much methane is buried under and within the ice, but in the interest of maintaining some decorum of sanity and in the spirit of forestalling outright public panic, that information will not be divulged.

Arctic Update- Things Getting Worse, Not Better

It appears that the rise of methane in the atmosphere is accelerating… Things look set to get worse… global methane levels have risen from a low of 723 ppb a couple of centuries ago to mean methane levels as high as 1,839 ppb in 2014. That’s a rise of more than 254%. The situation is dire….1

Not only that, unruly spikes of methane up to 2,845 ppb are becoming more commonplace in the Arctic.

Meanwhile, the Arctic’s big spring melt-down is now in full swing.

During April, the decline in ice extent starts to accelerate… April 2015 was marked by a fairly rapid decline during the first week of the month, little change during the middle of the month, and then a steep decline over the final week.2 Uh-huh.

Additionally, and of crucial interest: “April was marked by higher than average air temperatures (1 to 3 degrees Celsius or 2 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit) throughout the Arctic,” which is the evidence of Arctic temperature increasing 2-3 times faster than elsewhere on the planet.

Multi-Year Ice Dissipating Fast, Increasing Risks of Ice-Free Arctic

Arctic ice experts are quick to point to the risks associated with loss of multi-year ice because multi-year ice maintains the integrity of the Arctic. Loss of multi-year ice is precedent to an ice-free Arctic, which is precedent to runaway global warming.

Ice thickness over the central Arctic Ocean has declined from an average of 3.59 meters (11.78 feet) to only 1.25 meters (4.10 feet), a reduction of 65% over the period 1975 to 2012.3

The Lindsay results carry the distinctive footprint of global warming, nothing confusing about that. Significantly, the Lindsay study includes over 3,000 thickness measurements by sonar from submarines and from air by satellites as well as aircraft.

The significance of multi-year ice is that it constitutes what is popularly known as the North Pole and its ice environs or the Arctic. Multi-year ice constitutes thicker, more solid, longer-lasting ice, or structure, same as the Arctic has existed for thousands upon thousands of years.

However, nowadays, with human-caused global warming as a result of fossil fuel CO2 emissions coincident with extreme warming of the northern latitudes, multi-year ice is dissipating fairly quickly. This, therefore, opens up the Arctic to increase potential of methane release as solar radiation is absorbed into the dark background of water rather than reflected back out into outer space by the white background of ice and snow, scientifically known as the “albedo effect.”

Therein lies the focal point of risks of runaway global warming, turning the planet into a hotbed of human warfare squabbling over tillable land. Over time, these battles for survival will likely take the human socialization process back in time to something akin to the Neanderthal Age, with cell phones!

Leading Siberian Scientist Delivers Stark Warning- Frozen Bogs Becoming New Methane Threat

Inauspiciously, a newly recognized methane threat has been discovered in the Russian hinterlands, which is one more horrendous example of disastrous blowback from use of fossil fuels. Assuredly, the billionaire eco terrorists will now have to sic their spin-doctors on this one.  Maybe they could say Russians cannot be trusted. Something like that might work.

Russian Professor Sergey Kirpotin, director of the BioClimLand Centre of Excellence for Climate Change Research discovered thawing frozen bogs in western Siberia, which will release billions of tonnes of methane, greatly speeding up effects of global warming.

Just like that, a new force of methane appears to be kicking into gear in the bogs with uncanny timing, as Arctic ice-melt is opening up clear water passageways for oil and gas exploration. Talk about a Catch-22, this is it in spades!

Prof Kirpotin, 51, first made the discovery about the threat 10 years ago when it was found the permafrost melting for the first time since being formed at the end of the Ice Age.

He warned at the time that it could be ‘an ecological landslide that is probably irreversible.’ Now it seems the situation is more advanced than first thought.4

Remarkably, Prof Kirpotin’s discovery is essentially a trip back in geologic time to the last Ice Age, 100,000-to-20, 000 years ago, which is amazing and also filled with scary after-effects. Just to think: The permafrost Dr. Kirpotin investigated has not melted since the last Ice Age, until now! This is yet another distinctive footprint of global warming.

According to Prof Kirpotin:

There is a so-called methane threat in the north of the bog. On top of that, the ice shelf is also thawing, releasing methane hydrates and something really awful is happening.

“Something really awful happening” is not exactly a nerve-soothing statement by a leading expert on Siberian bogs.

Science is Radically Divided on the Timing Issue of Climate Change

Without question, scientists are radically divided on the issue of climate change and few predict an upsurge any time soon. Nevertheless, it’s the scientists who base opinions on first hand knowledge “boots on the ground” who are screaming the loudest. They do not let “computer models” override what they personally experience. In contrast, they see and feel the “reality in the field.” They are like scientific pioneers in the field, in the marsh, below and above the ice, on expeditions into the wilderness where nobody cares to tread. It’s hard work.

And, they happen to be the scientists who do not like what they see.  For example, Dr. Natalia Shakhova, one of the world’s leading authorities on methane. She heads the Russia-U.S. Methane Study at the International Arctic Research Center, at the University Alaska Fairbanks and the Pacific Oceanological Institute, Far Eastern Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Shakhova’s expeditions “boots on the ground” to the Arctic convince her that only a tiny percentage of the vast amounts of methane buried in Arctic ice is necessary to double current atmospheric methane. Worse yet, she suspects an outburst of 50 gigatons could happen at any time, which would likely cripple civilization. Decidedly, it would be a disaster beyond repair, further burdening an increasingly fracturable ecosystem, which may one day burst wide open, catching all humanity flatfooted!

By all appearances, the ecosystem has increasingly become more fragile within the context of a very resilient planet that has already withstood five extinction events, but it is still standing.

Thankfully, pioneering scientists like Dr. Kirpotin and Dr. Shakova travel to the field and report their findings. Otherwise, nobody would ever truly know how dangerously civilization is on edge and at risk. Meanwhile, fossil fuels burn away ever-faster, facilitating capitalism’s neoliberal experiment, truly a life or death enterprise.

Every hour the sun beams on to Earth more than enough energy to satisfy global energy needs for an entire year. Capture it!

  1. Methane Levels As High As 2,845 ppb, April 26, 2015 []
  2. The National Snow andIce Data Center (NSIDC), University of Colorado, Boulder, as of May 6th, 2015. []
  3. R. Lindsay and A. Schweiger, “Arctic Sea Ice Thickness Loss Determined Using Subsurface, Aircraft, and Satellite Observations”, Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, August 2014 []
  4. Vera Sainitskaya, “New Warning About Climate Change Linked to Peat Bogs”, The Siberian Times, May 13, 2015. []

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Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.

World On Fire: Experts Warn of “Cataclysmic Changes” & “Unimaginable Consequences For Human Civilization” As Planetary Temperatures Rise

In Uncategorized on April 30, 2015 at 7:47 pm
Two unprecedentedly high temperatures were recorded in Antarctica, providing an ominous sign of accelerating ACD as one of the readings came in at just over 63 degrees Fahrenheit. (Photo: Iceberg via Shutterstock)

Two unprecedentedly high temperatures were recorded in Antarctica, providing an ominous sign of accelerating climate change as one of the readings came in at just more than 63 degrees Fahrenheit.

Oldspeak: “As the “faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity…” grow ever fainter, the planet burns. Global temperatures are rising, ice is melting faster, seas are dying and rising, freshwater is vanishing, forrests & untold variety of lifeforms are dying off, fields are fallow and anthropogenic emissions are increasing. Conditions are steadily deteriorating, usually faster that predicted. Dahr Jamail is back with his latest dispatch from the end of the world. All the news is bad, and it’s gettin late, early. Though if you payed attention to the corporate infotainment streams, you’d believe that Civil Unrest, Gay Marriage, Terrorism, Mayweather vs Pacquiao, Hillary, & Iran are most worthy of your attention. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program “Our Dying World”, already in progress.” OSJ

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

This month’s anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) dispatch begins with the fact that recently released National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data show that this March was, by far, the hottest planetary March ever recorded, and the hottest January to March period on record as well.

We are watching unprecedented melting of glaciers across the planet, increasingly high temperature records and epic-level droughts that are now becoming the new normal: Planetary distress signals are increasing in volume.

One of these took place recently in Antarctica, of all places, where two unprecedentedly high temperatures were recorded, providing an ominous sign of accelerating ACD as one of the readings came in at just over 63 degrees Fahrenheit.

A fascinating recent report shows that approximately 12 million people living in coastal areas will be displaced during the next 85 years, with areas along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States seeing some of the most dramatic impacts.

In the US, another report shows that the Navajo Nation is literally dying of thirst, with one of the nation’s leaders flatly sounding the alarm by stating, “We’re going to be out of water.”

A study just published in Geophysical Research Letters bolsters the case that a period of much faster ACD is imminent, if it hasn’t already begun.

On that note, leading climate researchers recently said there is a possibility that the world will see a 6-degree Celsius temperature increase by 2100, which would lead to “cataclysmic changes” and “unimaginable consequences for human civilization.”

With these developments in mind, let us take a look at recent developments across the planet since the last dispatch.

Earth

Signs of ACD’s impact across this sector of the planet are once again plentiful, and the fact that the Amazon is suffering is always a very loud alarm buzzer, given that every year the world’s largest rainforest cycles through 18 billion tons of carbon when its 6 million square kilometers of trees breathe in carbon dioxide and then release it back into the atmosphere when they die. This is twice the amount of carbon that fossil fuel burning emits in an entire year. A recent report shows that while the Amazon is continuing to absorb more carbon than it is releasing, a tipping point is coming, and likely soon, as deforestation, drought and fires there continue to remove precious trees at a frightful rate. With 1.5 acres of rainforest lost every single second, somewhere around the world, the situation in the Amazon does not bode well for our future.

In the United States, in Harvard Forest, located 70 miles west of the university’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, hemlock trees are dying at an alarming rate. Harvard Forest is a case study, as it is part of a network of 60 forests around the world called the Center for Tropical Forest Science-Forest Global Earth Observatories, where they are being studied for their response to ACD and other anthropogenic issues. Kristina Anderson-Teixeira, an ecologist with the network, said its forests are “being impacted by a number of different global change factors. We do expect more of this, be it pests or pathogens or droughts or heat waves or thawing permafrost.”

Another report from April revealed that Russia has been losing an amount of forest the size of Switzerland (16,600 square miles of tree cover) every year, for three years running.

Terrestrial animals continue to struggle to survive in many areas. It should come as no surprise that in the Arctic, a recent study shows that the theory that polar bears will be able to adapt to ice-free seas in the summer by eating on land has been debunked. Without ice in the summer, polar bears will starve and die off.

Another study shows that ACD is threatening mountain goats, due to the warming that is occurring even at the higher elevations where the goats live, as the rate of warming there is two to three times faster than the rest of the planet. According to the study, due to the warming, the goats’ future is now uncertain.

In California, sea lion strandings have already reached more than 2,250 for this year alone, which is a record. The worsening phenomenon is being blamed on warming seas that are disrupting the food supply of marine mammals.

Across the United States, hunters are seeing their traditions being changed by ACD. “I could point you to a million different forums online where hunters are complaining about the season and how hunting is terrible,” said one hunter in a recent report. “At the end of the day, it’s changing weather patterns. Winters around here are not as cold as they used to be.”

A March report from a researcher in Rhode Island showed that the growth and molting rates of juvenile lobsters are decreasing “significantly” due to oceans becoming increasingly acidic from ACD. This makes the animals more vulnerable to predations, thus leading to fewer adult lobsters and an overall rapidly declining population.

Air

There have been a few major developments recently in this sector of our analysis.

Interestingly, some of the more commonly used anesthetics are apparently accumulating in the planet’s atmosphere, thus contributing to warming of the climate, according to a report in April. It is a small amount, mind you, but the volume is increasing.

Bad news on the mitigation front comes in the form of a study that revealed that ongoing urban sprawl and auto exhaust is hampering cities’ best efforts toward lowering carbon dioxide emissions. If people continue to drive as much as they are, and development continues apace, the push to build more dense housing, better transit systems and more bike lanes in urban centers will be for naught.

Speaking of lack of mitigation, the US Environmental Protection Agency recently announced that US greenhouse gas pollution increased 2 percent over the previous year in 2013.

Drought plagued California gets more bad news in this sector, as recently released data shows that the state continues to have its warmest year ever recorded, with statewide temperatures coming in nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the previous record, which was set in 2014. The state is quite literally baking.

Another study showed that the frozen soil (permafrost) of the planets’ northern polar regions that holds billions of tons of organic carbon is melting and that melting is being sped up by ACD, hence releasing even more carbon into our already carbon dioxide-supersaturated atmosphere.

Lastly in this section, those who believe in technological fixes for our predicament received some bad news in April, which came in the form of a report that shows that any attempts to geoengineer the climate are likely to result in “different” climate disruption, rather than an elimination of the problem. The most popular proposed idea of solar radiation management that would utilize stratospheric sulfate aerosols to dim the sun has been proven to be, well, destructive. Using a variety of climate models, Ken Caldeira from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California, has investigated the likely consequences of such geoengineering on agriculture across the globe.

According to a report on the matter:

His research showed that while dimming could rapidly decrease global temperatures, high carbon dioxide levels would be expected to persist, and it is the balance between temperature, carbon dioxide, and sunlight that affects plant growth and agriculture. Exploring the regional effects, he finds that a stratospherically dimmed world would show increased plant productivity in the tropics, but lessened plant growth across the northerly latitudes of America, Europe and Asia. It is easy to see how there might be geopolitical shifts associated with changes in regional food production across the globe. “It’s probably the poor tropics that stand to benefit and the rich north that stands to lose,” said Prof Caldeira.

Hence, given that the results would be detrimental to the “rich north,” which by far and away has pumped more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the “poor tropics,” the results of geoengineering would indeed be karmic.

Water

In the United States, California’s epic drought continues to lead in the water sector of analysis.

For the first time in California’s history, mandatory water use reductions have been imposed on residents after a winter of record-low snowfalls, and hence a record-low snowpack. “People should realize we are in a new era,” Gov. Jerry Brown said at a news conference there in April, standing on a patch of brown and green grass that would normally be thick with snow that time of year. “The idea of your nice little green lawn getting watered every day, those days are past.”

Climate scientists also recently announced, disconcertingly, that California’s record-breaking drought is merely a preview of future ACD-generated megadroughts.

Shortly after Brown announced the mandatory water restrictions for his state, another study was released showing that California will also be facing more extreme heat waves, along with rising seas, caused by increasingly intense impacts from ACD. According to the study, the average number of days with temperatures reaching 95 degrees will double or even triple by the end of this century. Simultaneously, at least $19 billion worth of coastal property will literally disappear as sea levels continue to rise.

Experts also announced in April that in “drought-era” California, “every day” should now be considered “fire season.” NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert said of California, “We are in an incendiary situation.”

California’s state climatologist, Michael Anderson, issued a very stark warning in April when he said the state faces dust bowl-like conditions, as he compared the water crisis in California to the legendary US dustbowl. “You’re looking on numbers that are right on par with what was the Dust Bowl,” he said.

As aforementioned, this year’s dry, warm winter has left the entire western United States snowpack at record-low levels. Given that this is a critical source of fresh surface water for the entire region, this will only exacerbate the already critical water shortages that are plaguing the region.

One ramification of this is exampled by how the once-powerful Rio Grande River has been reduced to a mere trickle still hundreds of miles from its destination at the end of its 1,900-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico, thanks to the increasing impacts of ACD. Farmers and residents who rely on it for water are in deep trouble.

And it’s not just California and the US Southwest that are dealing with major water shortages. The Government Accountability Office recently released a report showing that 40 out of the 50 US states will face a water shortage within the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, up in Alaska, that state’s iconic Iditarod sled dog race has been reduced to having mushers have their dogs drag their sleds across large swaths of mud that spanned over 100 miles in some areas, due to warmer temperatures there melting snow and ice that used to cover the course. “I love the challenge, being able to overcome anything on the trail,” said four-time winner Martin Buser of the new conditions. “But if this is a new normal, I’m not sure I can sustain it.”

In this writer’s backyard, glaciers are melting away at dramatic rates in Olympic National Park. Pictures tell the story, which was also addressed in detail recently at a talk given at the park by University of Washington research professor Michelle Koutnik, who was part of a team monitoring the park’s Blue Glacier. By way of example, an entire section of the lower Blue Glacier that existed in 1989 was completely gone by 2008, and melt rates are increasing. A sobering “before and after” look at the photographic evidence should not be missed.

A recent study gave another grim report on glaciers, this one focusing on Canada where glaciers in British Columbia and Alberta are projected to shrink by at least 70 percent by the end of this century, and of course ACD was noted as the main driving force behind the change. “Most of that is going to go,” one of the researchers said of Canada’s glaciers. “And most seems to be on its way out.”

A study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that as the Arctic Ocean warms and loses its sea ice cover, phytoplankton populations will explode. This creates another positive feedback loop for ACD, as it further amplifies warming in a region that is already heating up twice as fast as the rest of the globe.

On the other end of the water spectrum, rising seas continue to afflict Venice, where the city is seeing dramatic changes. According to a recent report: “In the 1920s, there were about 400 incidents of acqua alta, or high water, when the right mix of tides and winds drives the liquid streets up into homes and shops in the lowers parts of the city. By the 1990s, there were 2,400 incidents – and new records are set every year.”

Fire

An April report shows that ACD is predicted to bring more fires and less snow to the iconic Yellowstone National Park. These changes will likely fuel catastrophic wildfires, cause declines in mountain snows and threaten the survival of animals and plants, according to the scientists who authored the report. It shows that expected warming over the US West over the next three decades will transform the land in and around Yellowstone from a wetter, mostly forested Rocky Mountain ecosystem into a more open landscape, more akin to the arid US Southwest.

“Ecological Implications of Climate Change on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” compiled by more than 20 university and government scientists, said that such dry conditions in that area have not been seen for the last 10,000 years, and extremely destructive wildfires like the one in 1988 that burned thousands of acres of the park are going to become more common, while years without major fires will become rare.

Denial and Reality

The climate disruption deniers have been barking loudly over the last month, which should be expected as irrefutable evidence of ACD continues in an avalanche.

Following Florida’s lead, Wisconsin officially became the next state to censor its employees’ work regarding climate disruption. Wisconsin has banned its employees from working on ACD, after Florida banned the use of the terms “climate change” and “global warming.”

Perhaps this is what played a role in inspiring acclaimed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to proclaim that politicians denying science is “the beginning of the end of an informed democracy.”

Facing a loss of high-profile corporate sponsors, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), now tired of being accused of ACD denial, has threatened action against activist groups that accuse it of denying ACD. This “action” could come in the form of lawsuits.

The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication released very interesting county-by-county maps of the United States, which show the various levels of ACD denial across the country and are worth examining.

Not to be outdone by fellow Republican ACD-denying presidential candidates, Marco Rubio voluntarily donned the dunce cap by stating that scientists have not determined what percentage of ACD is due to human activities compared to natural climate variability, and added brilliantly, “climate is always changing.”

This year has seen us cross yet another milestone in the Arctic – this one being that sea ice covering the top of the world reached the lowest maximum extent yet observed during the winter. This means, ominously, that in just the last four years Arctic sea ice has seen a new low both for its seasonal winter peak (2015) and for its summer minimum (2012). While most sane people would see this as a gut-wrenching fact to have to process emotionally, Robert Molnar, the CEO of the Sailing the Arctic Race, is busily planning an “extreme yacht race” for the summer and fall of 2017 there. “The more ice that’s being melted, the more free water is there for us to be sailing,” he said.

In stark contrast, US Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting the Arctic amid concerns over the melting ice, and some of the mainstream media, in this case The Washington Post, are running op-eds claiming that ACD deniers are actually now in retreat due to their own outlandish comments.

In a historic move, even oil giant BP’s shareholders voted overwhelmingly to support a resolution that would force the company to disclose some of its ACD-related risks.

Also on the reality front, recently released analysis shows that densely populated Asian islands and countries like Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines are likely to face even more intense climatic events in the future.

Another report, this one titled “An Era of Extreme Weather” by the Center for American Progress, shows that major weather events across the United States in 2014 cost an estimated $19 billion and caused at least 65 human fatalities. The report also shows that over the last four years, extreme weather events in the US caused 1,286 fatalities and $227 billion in economic losses spanning 44 states.

US President Barack Obama formally submitted to the UN a commitment to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Critics believe this is far too little, too late, but at least it is a move in the right direction.

In an interesting twist of fate, while many Florida Republican lawmakers are busily denying ACD, other Florida Republicans are busy working to protect their state’s coastal areas from rising seas resulting from advancing ACD.

Lastly in this month’s dispatch, a recently published study shows that acidic oceans helped fuel the largest mass extinction event in the history of the planet, which wiped out approximately 90 percent of all life on earth.

The carbon released that was one of the primary drivers of that extinction event was found to have been released at a similar rate to modern emissions. Dr. Matthew Clarkson, one of the authors of the study, commented: “Scientists have long suspected that an ocean acidification event occurred during the greatest mass extinction of all time, but direct evidence has been lacking until now. This is a worrying finding, considering that we can already see an increase in ocean acidity today that is the result of human carbon emissions.”

Global Temperatures And Atmospheric CO2: Hottest March Ever; CO2 Hits All-Time High Of 404 ppb. Last 12 Months On Earth Hottest In Recorded History

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2015 at 6:29 pm

Oldspeak:March 2015 was Earth’s warmest March since global record keeping began in 1880, said NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) on Friday. NASA rated March 2015 as the 3rd warmest March on record (small differences in analysis techniques can lead to slightly different rankings from agency to agency, and the two estimates were quite close to each other.) March 2015’s warmth makes the year to date period (January – March) the warmest such period on record, and the past twelve months the warmest twelve-month period in recorded history. By NOAA’s reckoning, seven of the past eleven months (May, June, August, September, October, and December 2014, along with March 2015) have tied or set new record high monthly temperatures. According to NASA, March 2015 had the 5th largest departure from average for warmth of any month in recorded history. Out of the ten months with the largest departures from average in the NASA database, five have occurred in the past year.” -Dr. Jeff Masters

“As temperatures and CO2 rise, our chances of survival dwindles. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick tick….” -OSJ

By Jon Plotkin @ Decoded Science:

The map of March land and sea temperatures shows warmth over much of the globe, with a cold pocket over eastern Canada and New England. Analysis courtesy of NOAA.

NOAA published its report on global land and sea temperatures for March on Friday, April 17. Inasmuch as five of the previous seven months set new records, it was not surprising that March’s land and sea temperatures were the highest ever recorded for that month.

The three months of January through March, and the most recent calendar year are also the warmest ever recorded for those periods of time.

Separately, but not coincidentally, the instruments on Mount Mauna Loa in Hawaii found atmospheric CO2 concentrations to be above 404 parts per billion for the first time on April 14. That was the first of four consecutive days above 400.

An Overview Of March Worldwide Land And Sea Temperatures

Most of the Earth was warmer than normal in March – let’s look at some specifics:

      • Very much above normal temperatures stretched across all of northern Europe and Asia.
      • The United Sates and Canada were split down the middle, with very cold temperatures in the east and very warm temperatures in the west.
      • All of South America, except for the northern tip, was warm.
      • Most of Africa was warm, but the northwest was cold.
      • Northern and eastern Australia were very warm.
      • All of India was colder than normal.
      • The largest ocean temperature anomaly continues to be off the west coast of the US and Canada, with the maximum in the Gulf of Alaska.
      • Overall, warmth was spread evenly between land and sea: The land surface temperatures were second highest for March, and ocean temperatures were third highest.
      • Warmth was also spread uniformly between the northern and southern hemispheres: The northern hemisphere had its second warmest March and the southern hemisphere tied its third warmest.

The map of precipitation anomaly for March shows that much of the US and western Europe were dry, while Turkey and the Balkans were very wet. Analysis courtesy of NOAA.

March Precipitation

Though precipitation varies greatly from month to month, some trends continued in March:

  • The drought goes on in California and the American west.
  • Most of Europe continued to be dry.
  • Heavy rains inundated the Balkans and Turkey.
  • Australia and the southern part of South America were dry.
  • India was wetter than normal.

Arctic Sea Ice Extent

Arctic sea ice extent has been measured by satellite since 1979.

The March measurement was 7.9% below the 1981-2010 average — the lowest Arctic sea ice extent ever measured for the month of March.

Atmospheric CO2 Reaches New High

The plot of daily CO2 readings on Mount Mauna Loa shows that the atmospheric concentration has been over 404 ppb for the last four days, something that never happened before. Graph courtesy of NOAA.

Since pre-industrial times, the atmospheric content of carbon dioxide (CO2) has risen from 280 to over 400 parts per billion (ppb). In the past week, the value of this greenhouse gas concentration, as measured on Mount Mauna Loa in Hawaii surpassed, 404 ppb for the first time.

The highest reading of 404.83 came on April 14, and the concentration was over 404 for four consecutive days before falling to 403.44 yesteday.

The weekly average for the week starting April 12 was 404.02, surpassing the old record of 403.42 set the previous week.

Carbon dioxide concentration normally peaks in May, so new daily and weekly records are likely to be set in the next few weeks.

Where Is The CO2 Coming From?

Though some of the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide may be coming from other sources, the majority comes from power plants and automobile tailpipes.

The process of energy production from hydrocarbons is not a complicated one: A single carbon atom combines with a molecule of oxygen (consisting of two atoms) to make a carbon dioxide molecule (CO2). This chemical reaction releases energy, which is used to power our modern world. The CO2 produced by the combustion process is normally released into the air by power plants and cars.

Carbon dioxide has a natural atmospheric cycle in which the gas is expelled from volcanic sources and washed out of the atmosphere by precipitation. However, this process is a long one; the rate of increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide in the last 150 years is unprecedented except for times of very high volcanic activity.

Stemming The Tide Of CO2 Increase

Though the production of greenhouse gases in general, and carbon dioxide in particular, has leveled off in the United States in recent years, the production of energy from fossil fuel burning continues to increase in developing countries. India and China are building coal-fired power plants — the worst of the fossil fuel power sources in terms of CO2 emissions — at a rate of about one plant per week.

The basic facts of the intransigent problem of increasing energy use hasn’t changed: Developed countries want to retain their lavish lifestyle; and developing countries want to acquire that lifestyle. A new UN-sponsored climate conference will convene in Paris in December. Representatives of the two sides will try again to reach a compromise that will actually reduce worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.

Decoded Science wishes them luck.

Long-Awaited ‘Jump’ In Global Warming Now Appears ‘Imminent’

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2015 at 9:20 pm
NASA temperature data.

NASA temperature data dispel the myth of a recent slow-down in long-term warming trend. But there was a big jump in temps during the mid-1990s. Many scientists believe another jump is “imminent.

Oldspeak:One way of thinking about global warming from the human influences is that it’s not just a gradual increase, but perhaps it’s more like a staircase, and we’re about to go up an extra step to a new level…” Dr. Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research

“What kind of temperature increase are we talking about? Trenberth says it could mean a rise of two- or three-tenths-of-a-degree Celsius, or up to half a degree Fahrenheit. The change could occur “relatively abruptly,” but then stick around for five or 10 years… While those numbers may seem small, in the context of global climate, a shift of that magnitude could have devastating consequences….. “With that kind of an increase, there is about 2 percent increase in moisture in the atmosphere, which feeds into all the weather systems that occur, and it gets concentrated and magnified by all of the storms, so you can get double or quadruple the effects,” Trenberth says. ” –Jared Goyette

When I read this, the sentiment that seemed apropos was this one: Our Great Mother Earth as Carlito Brigante, Al Pacino’s aging gangster character in the brilliant film “Calito’s Way”:

I’m reloaded! Okay? Come on in here, you motherfuckers! Come on, I’m waitin’ for ya! What, you ain’t comin’ in? Okay, I’m comin’ out! Oh, you up against me now, motherfuckers! I’m gonna blow your fuckin’ brains out! You think you’re big time? You gonna fuckin’ die big time! You ready? HERE COMES THE PAIN!-OSJ

By Joe Romm @ Climate Progress:

NASA temperature data dispel the myth of a recent slow-down in long-term warming trend. But there was a big jump in temps during the mid-1990s. Many scientists believe another jump is “imminent.’

We may be witnessing the start of the long-awaited jump in global temperatures. There is “a vast and growing body of research,” as Climate Central explained in February. “Humanity is about to experience a historically unprecedented spike in temperatures.”

A March study, “Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change,” makes clear that an actual acceleration in the rate of global warming is imminent — with Arctic warming rising a stunning 1°F per decade by the 2020s.

Scientists note that some 90 percent of global heating goes into the oceans — and ocean warming has accelerated in recent years. Leading climatologist Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research explained here in 2013 that “a global temperature increase occurs in the latter stages of an El Niño event, as heat comes out of the ocean and warms the atmosphere.”

In March, NOAA announced the arrival of an El Niño, a multi-month weather pattern “characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.”

How much of a temperature jump should we expect? Last month, Trenberth explained to Living on Earth:

Trenberth says it could mean a rise of two- or three-tenths-of-a-degree Celsius, or up to half a degree Fahrenheit. The change could occur “relatively abruptly,” but then stick around for five or 10 years.

I interviewed Trenberth this week, and he told me that he thinks “a jump is imminent.” When I asked whether he considers that “likely,” he answered, “I am going to say yes. Somewhat cautiously because this is sticking my neck out.”

Trenberth explained that it’s significant the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) “seems to have gone strongly positive” because that is “perhaps the best single indicator to me that a jump is imminent.” During a PDO, he explains, “the distribution of heat in the oceans changes along with some ocean currents.”

The PDO is a “pattern of Pacific climate variability similar to ENSO [El Niño Southern Oscillation] in character, but which varies over a much longer time scale.” While El Niños and La Niñas tend to last only 6 to 18 months, the PDO can remain primarily in one phase for a decade or even longer, as this figure from NOAA’s March “Global Ocean Monitoring” report shows:

Pacific Decadal Oscillation

“The positive phase of PDO [Pacific Decadal Oscillation] index has persisted 8 months since Jul 2014 with PDO index = + 1.6 in Feb 2015.” Via NOAA.

If you compare the PDO chart with the NASA global temp chart at the top, you’ll see that a negative PDO appears to temporarily offset the long-term global warming trend, whereas a positive PDO corresponds to a “catch up” phase (see discussion here). That is one reason, Trenberth explains, that global temperatures seem to look more like a staircase than a ramp (a steadily-rising straight-line or linear trend).

Making things even more confusing, the staircase-shaped rise in temperatures is further modulated by El Niños, which tend to set the record for the hottest years (since the regional warming adds to the underlying global warming trend) and by La Niña years, which tend to be cooler than normal years.

The fact that NOAA projects that the current El Niño could last most of 2015 means we are still on track for what is likely to be the hottest calendar year on record — very possibly beating 2014 by a wide margin (0.1°C).

And record global temps mean extreme temperatures and weather locally. So far this year, “five nations or territories have tied or set all-time records for their hottest temperature in recorded history,” explains meteorologist Jeff Masters.

Antarctica appears to have set its all-time temperature record — 63.5°F (17.5°C) — on March 24 at the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. That is “more than 30°F (17°C) above average.” This was actually part of a heat wave since the Antarctic record it broke was set the day before (63.3°F). Also in March, the Chilean desert was deluged by “over fourteen years of rain in one day.”

It was the hottest February on record in California, a full 1°F higher than the second-warmest February on record. And that followed California’s driest January ever recorded. These type of records are not good news.

“So it is a bad year for the Earth and an equally bad year for the politicians, talk show radio ‘scientists’, climate-denial funders, and second rate scientists who told us not to worry,” as climate expert Professor John Abraham told me. “They told us global warming had stopped nearly two decades ago. The problem is, science and climate change marched forward. Perhaps next time we will believe the real scientists.”

Indeed it will be a very bad year for the Earth and for climate science deniers if 2015 proves to be the beginning of the long-awaited temperature jump.

The last time global temps jumped sharply (see top chart), it was during an extended period of positive PDO, from 1992 and 1998. The super El Niño in 1998 at the end of that period set a new global temperature record by a wide margin. That was a high bar for subsequent years to match, which cherry-picking climate science deniers used — with some success — to persuade conservative politicians and media outlets that global warming had paused or slowed down. In fact we have merely been in an extended period of the PDO negative phase, with only occasional switches to a mild positive phase. And that, coupled with some recent La Niñas, gave an appearance of a short-term slowdown in warming in some datasets.

But the NASA chart at the top makes clear there has in fact been no slowdown in warming. Indeed the March study, “Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change” makes clear the only “pause” there has been was in the long-expected speed-up of global warming. The rate of surface warming should have started to accelerate in the past decade, rather than stay fairly constant.

The authors warned that, by 2020, human-caused warming will move the Earth’s climate system into a regime of rapid multi-decadal rates of warming. It projected that within the next few years, “there is an increased likelihood of accelerated global warming associated with release of heat from the sub-surface ocean and a reversal of the phase of decadal variability in the Pacific Ocean.”

That would be Trenberth’s imminent jump. And it may be starting now.

Siberia’s Permafrost Is Exploding. Is Alaska’s Next?

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2015 at 8:15 pm

One of the dozens of newly discovered craters on the Yamal Peninsula in northern Siberia, as seen on August 25, 2014. Photo by VASILY BOGOYAVLENSKY/AFP/Getty Images

Oldspeak: “The warming has started to decompose the gas hydrates. The pressure increased so high that it actually erupted the material out of the hole…. It’s still much more questions than answers at this point. For all my 40 years of studying permafrost, I’ve never read about these kinds of things. Nobody knows any examples of these happening in the past… At this point, I would say it is possible. There are several candidate places in Alaska or in Northwest Canada.” –Dr. Vladimir Romanovsky

“Short answer? Probably. Scientists are seeing very similar conditions in Alaska and northern Canada as they have in Siberia. And with northern Canada hotter than it’s been in the last 44,000 fucking years, it’s not a matter of if, but when methane starts blowing up and venting in large quantities in North America. The hotter those regions get, the faster the permafrost will thaw, the greater methane releases we’ll see. Also found it interesting that the methane blowholes found in Siberia are in areas of methane gas extraction. Could these blowholes be something like the sinkhole effect we’re seeing in areas of groundwater extraction? The warming and the extraction can’t be a good combination for hydrate stability. In the midwestern U.S. where methane gas extraction occurs  there have been reports of earthquakes in places where there usually aren’t. The most disturbing sentence in this piece for me is “It’s still much more questions than answers at this point.” At this late stage, scientists are still trying to figure out what’s goin on. Not good. Not good ATAL. Stay tuned Boppers.” -OSJ

By Eric Holthaus @ Slate:

Temperatures are warming faster in the Arctic than anywhere else on Earth, at twice the rate of the global average. In northern Canada, it hasn’t been this warm in at least 44,000 years, according to our best estimates.

That means weird things are starting to happen. Last summer, giant mysterious craters discovered by reindeer herders in a remote section of northern Siberia captured the world’s attention. Upon closer inspection, it was obvious these craters formed recently with some explosive force behind them. Since then, there have been further scientific excursions to the craters, including this one in November:

According to measurements made by Russian scientists, methane concentration at the bottom of one of the holes was thousands of times higher than in the regular atmosphere. A more thorough recent expedition identified “dozens” of new holes, all of which apparently formed in the last year or two.

The Siberian holes draw into question the near-term stability of Arctic permafrost, which traps enough carbon, if fully unleashed, to double atmospheric concentrations and potentially push global warming into a frightening new phase. Scientists are quite certain it will take at least a century for that to happen in a worst-case scenario, but it’s clear that the release has already begun.

A recent study estimated continued warming would produce an additional 35-205 billon tons of carbon emissions (about 2-10 percent of current global totals) from permafrost by 2100. The wide range reflects how little we still know about the response of permafrost to increased temperatures. Since the permafrost thaw is already in progress, it could be difficult to slow down: Even a sharp cutback in emissions from cities and cars may only be able to cut those numbers in half. With the atmosphere only able to hold another 400 billion tons or so before we’re committed to a rise in global temperatures of more than 2 degree Celsius, the point after which “dangerous” impacts become much more likely.

Katey Walter Anthony, of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has been measuring methane seeps in Arctic lakes in Alaska, Canada, and Russia for about a decade. Her estimates show that global atmospheric methane concentrations could increase tenfold in the coming years. She explained her research in a 2010 video, in which she ignited a few of the bubbles, resulting in an impressive ball of flame.

I spoke with her colleague, Vladimir Romanovsky, who was a co-author on the study that quantified the amount of carbon that may be released from permafrost this century. Romanovsky believes the Siberian holes are an example of a new type of Arctic landform that has never been seen before.

“The warming has started to decompose the gas hydrates,” Romanovsky told Slate. “The pressure increased so high that it actually erupted the material out of the hole.” The Siberian craters are found in a primary area of industrial natural gas extraction. “It’s still much more questions than answers at this point,” he said. “For all my 40 years of studying permafrost, I’ve never read about these kinds of things. Nobody knows any examples of these happening in the past.”

Could the same thing happen in Alaska? Romanovsky says yes. “At this point, I would say it is possible. There are several candidate places in Alaska or in Northwest Canada.”

Charles Miller, a permafrost scientist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, disagrees slightly with Romanovsky. According to Miller, whose work has focused on collecting aircraft measurements of the amount of methane currently being released from North American permafrost, the Siberian holes are more likely to be formed as a result of a more well-established landform called a pingo. “If one looks back at the older [satellite] images of the same locations, these pingos were at the exact same locations.”

But Miller does agree they could happen in Alaska. On his flights over the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic, Miller says the landscape is littered with pingos. “In principle, the same mechanisms [as the exploding Siberian holes] might be able to operate in Alaska.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Melting Accelerates In Antarctica: So Far, 2015 Is Hottest Year Yet

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Iceberg melt

Oldspeak: “Intrepid reporter Dahr Jamail returns with his monthly update of the ongoing global ecological collapse. Unsurprisingly, shit is getting worse, and it’s getting worse faster and more unpredictably non-linear than projected. Earth’s air conditioners at the poles are melting faster than ever, earth’s lungs are dying at faster rates than previously thought expelling more carbon than they sequester, freshwater is rapidly depleting, and global temperatures are set to jump. “Buckle your seatbelt Dorothy, ’cause Kansas is going bye-bye.” –Cipher, “The Matrix”. Only Love remains.” -OSJ

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

The dramatically rapid melting of the earth’s poles is the biggest news in this month’s climate dispatch.

Increasingly fast melting in Antarctica, which will be discussed in more detail below, is now expected to increase sea levels by 10 feet worldwide in less than 100 years, according to recent NASA satellite calculations.

This will “recurve” heavily populated coastlines and reshape the world in which we live, according to one geophysicist with whom Truthout spoke. In addition, a second geophysicist, from Harvard, said that parts of Antarctica are thawing out so quickly that the icy continent has become “ground zero of global climate change, without a doubt.”

According to NASA, every year for the last decade alone, 130 billion tons of ice have melted in Antarctica. For context, that is the weight of more than 356,000 Empire State Buildings and enough ice melt to fill more than 1.3 million Olympic swimming pools. And the melting is accelerating at a pace that is making scientists’ heads spin.

To make matters worse, recent research casts doubt on other studies that have oversold the role of the natural climate’s ability to halt anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) during the next 15 years. Climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann, one of the authors of the study said, “Our work reinforces the notion that there is no pause in human-caused global warming. If anything, we’ve been lulled into a false complacency by the fact that internal oscillations in the climate system temporarily masked some of that warming. That may come back to bite us as these oscillations swing back in the other direction and add to global warming in the decades ahead.”

Another study published in Nature Climate Change revealed how, as bad as things already are, we are actually standing on the precipice of a new planet where warming is likely to accelerate at rates not seen for at least 1,000 years (that is, abrupt ACD is upon us).

A story that has recently been covered in this series is worth mentioning again now, given the dramatic events covered in this month’s dispatch relating to the poles, temperature records and droughts. A resiliency scientist recently showed how the planet has already passed through four of the nine limits for hospitable life, and is racing quickly toward those that have not yet been crossed. Take a look at his chart.

The National Climatic Data Center released its statistics recently, which showed the following:

– Globally, this was the hottest winter on record. The previous record was 2007.

– This was the 19th warmest winter in US history.

– Globally this was, by far, the hottest start to any year (January-February).

Buckle up as we go through the sectors of the planet, as this last month has seen a dramatic ramping-up of climate disruption.

Earth

This month, this sector is facing a whole lot of bad news.

Tropical forests are now vanishing at rates much faster than previously thought. This is disastrous news, given that the plant life in these areas sequesters massive amounts of carbon. When the plant life is removed, carbon is released back into the atmosphere, which is the last thing we need right now. A recent study shows that the rate of loss has increased by 62 percent from the 1990s to the 2000s.

Adding insult to injury, scientists have warned that now ongoing droughts in the Amazon are speeding up ACD. The forests there, dubbed the “lungs of the planet,” are now emitting more carbon dioxide than they are capturing. A 2010 drought there released more than 8 billion tons of carbon dioxide, which is as much as China and Russia’s annual emissions, combined.

Scientists have also warned that ACD now threatens to kill off more aspen forests by 2050, with the possibility of all of them in North America being gone by then.

Another recent report warned that ongoing deforestation, which is occurring largely to expand agricultural lands, may well be exposing more people to diseases like the Black Death, which wiped out more than one-third of Europe’s population during the Middle Ages.

On a similar front, Brazil’s drought-stricken Sao Paulo is now battling an outbreak of dengue fever, as hundreds have been infected with the mosquito-borne virus. Scientists have been warning for a long time how diseases are guaranteed to increase in frequency and intensity of outbreaks as the impacts of ACD progress.

More bad news for forests comes in the form of a pine beetle epidemic in North America, where the warming climate has allowed the beetles to ravage western forests. Now they are rapidly spreading east across much of Canada.

A US-based climate study showed that ACD will cause deserts in Australia to expand to the south, as droughts and record high temperatures continue to plague that country.

Another study has shown that spring is “shifting” in trees: The season is now coming earlier because of ongoing temperature increases, causing changes in plants’ growing patterns. The study predicts that ACD will alter the order in which trees begin to grow their leaves, which entails long-term implications for the survival of several plants that grow in woodlands.

The size of the massive cyclone that pummeled the South Pacific country of Vanuatu has been linked to ACD, according to the country’s president and several climate scientists. One of the aid workers who arrived on the scene to help survivors said, “It looks like the town center has been hit by a bomb.” Oxfam executive director Helen Szoke said of the situation: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that we are now dealing with worse than the worst case scenario in Vanuatu.”

The impacts of climate disruption on nature continue to escalate. A recent study by Florida Institute of Technology confirmed that ACD is fueling a disease that has now almost completely wiped out all of the coral reefs in the Caribbean. In just 40 years, the disease has caused a 90 percent decline in coral reefs there.

Meanwhile, a study by the University of British Columbia revealed a 50 percent drop in seabird populations in the Pacific Northwest, and showed that it is primarily because the birds are starving to death. “It’s a pretty strong message that the marine ecosystem has changed,” said the study’s lead author. “And not for the better.”

A recent report by US Geological Survey experts revealed a “significant” drop in seabird populations in the Gulf of Alaska and northeast Bering Sea, and they blame warmer waters.

Other disconcerting news comes in the form of a whale showing up on the wrong side of the world: A gray whale, a species that has never been seen outside of the Pacific, showed up off the coast of Israel. Plus, Europe’s bees are now threatened with extinction, and ACD is one of the primary factors.

A study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that ACD may well lead to disturbances in marine life that will take, literally, thousands of years to recover from, not hundreds of years, as was previously thought.

Another recent study has shown how ACD played a critical role in sparking the horrific war in Syria, by causing a dramatic increase in the odds that a terrible drought in the Fertile Crescent would occur just before the fighting began.

Scientists also recently warned that as populations continue to increase around the world, cities will become much more vulnerable to both droughts and floods.

Lastly in this section, an article published by Slate, titled, “Baked Alaska: If the Last Frontier is the canary in the climate coal mine, we’re in trouble,” provides a stark view of both how rapidly and severely Alaska is being impacted by ACD. There, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Alaska said, “Homer, Alaska, keeps setting record after record, and I keep looking at the data like, ‘Has the temperature sensor gone out or something?'”

“A new report shows that warming in Alaska, along with the rest of the Arctic, is accelerating as the loss of snow and ice cover begins to set off a feedback loop of further warming,” according to the Slate article. “Warming in wintertime has been the most dramatic – more than 6 degrees in the past 50 years. And this is just a fraction of the warming that’s expected to come over just the next few decades.”

Water

This month has seen a range of dire water-related crises around the world.

In the United States, lack of water continues to grow as a major issue in the Southwest and Western states. A 2012 federal supply-and-demand study of the Colorado River predicts that by 2060, the demand shortfall for the Colorado River could likely reach 1 trillion gallons, which is enough water to supply 6 million homes in the Southwest for one full year.

An excellent series of articles published in The Republic focused on the profound crisis that besets the Colorado River and thus the US Southwest. With every single drop of that river already guarded and being squeezed further, cities like Las Vegas, which gets 90 percent of its water from the Colorado, are facing deep trouble.

With 30 million people and billions of dollars of farm production reliant upon the dwindling Colorado River, the likelihood that younger generations will witness massive Southwest cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas becoming largely unlivable is high. The Republic series outlines how residents in some areas already fear they will no longer be able to remain where they currently live.

On that note, a recent study showed that California is likely to face droughts nearly every single year from now on.

As though to drive home that point, NASA recently warned that California only has one year of water left at current usage levels.

And the Southwest is not the only region with water woes.

In the Pacific Northwest, this winter saw a record-low snowpack across Washington State. That state’s Olympic Peninsula’s snowpack is a stunning 90 percent below normal levels. Several ski areas across the state never opened this year, and preparations for an impending summer drought are already underway.

Internationally, lack of water is becoming an increasingly urgent issue. A recent report showed how fresh water shortages will likely cause the next global crisis. By way of example, the drought in Sao Paulo has gotten bad enough that residents have attempted to drill through their basement floors in search of groundwater. As reservoirs continue to dry up across the globe, more than 1 billion people already lack access to safe drinking water. Water rationing and battles to control supply will only increase and worsen.

In fact, the UN recently warned that the entire planet will likely experience a 40 percent shortfall of water by 2030. Let that sink in for a moment; 2030 is a mere 15 years from now.

As warming continues to increase, in Alaska, the famous Iditarod annual sled dog race had to move its official starting point all the way to Fairbanks due to lack of adequate snow cover. For the first time in over a decade, a different course had to be used due to lack of snow, warm weather, the melting of previously frozen rivers and thawing permafrost.

Also in that state, the newest artist-in-residence at Denali National Park, photographer Camille Seaman, spoke to the media about her deep worries about ACD, since she has been photographing the Arctic for over a decade. Seeing Alaska as on the front lines of ACD, Seaman said, “No one can deny what Alaskans are experiencing and witnessing first hand.”

In neighboring Canada, experts are predicting a “foreseeable end” to outdoor hockey, due to warming temperatures and less ice cover.

As sea levels continue to rise, California’s iconic surfing business is in jeopardy. For example, in Monterey Bay, new climate modeling by the US Geological Survey shows that waves are getting larger, but then are falling flat as sea levels continue their inevitable rise.

On the other side of the country, in Florida, rising sea levels and invasive species, both obviously due to ACD, are threatening rare plants in Everglades National Park.

Finally in this section, the melting ice caps are again making the news. A recent report from a Nobel Prize-winning scientist showed, yet again, how increasing temperatures are rising even faster in the Arctic, and predicted that that region’s temperature will rise by at least 7 degrees Celsius within a century, and that the Arctic could be completely ice free within 35 years. However, some predict that we will begin seeing an ice-free Arctic much sooner – even this coming summer.

Giving credence to the predictions that this will happen very soon, US scientists recently announced that the Arctic sea ice has fallen to its lowest level for the winter season ever.

The melting in the Antarctic, which has already been profound, just worsened dramatically. A recent study showed that the Totten Glacier in East Antarctica is being melted from warm seawater underneath it, which is now the world’s fastest thinning area of the world’s largest ice sheet. Losing the Totten means that at least 10 feet of sea level rise just got added to the equation of rising seas.
The current ice loss of the Totten, a floating ice shelf, is now equivalent to 100 times the volume of Australia’s Sydney Harbor for every year of water released from its melting.

In just the last 10 years, ice sheets in Western Antarctica are reported to be melting at least 70 percent faster, according to another study – and this is a low-end estimate.

Fire

A report from late 2014 showed us that lightning strikes around the world will significantly increase with a warming planet. This means a dramatic increase in wildfires caused by said lightning, because ACD is causing an increase of up to 8 million lightning strikes every single day.

The entire country of Chile recently declared a national fire alert due to major wildfires in three of its national parks and reserves that are threatening trees that are a thousand years old. In one region that has been suffering from several years of drought, firefighters have been struggling for weeks to try to contain the fires.

In California, tiny bark beetles are ravaging the drought-weakened pine trees throughout the state in what scientists are calling a fast spreading epidemic that they fear could very soon turn catastrophic.

Air

A recent study has revealed that the Gulf Stream system is most likely already weakening. This is very, very bad news: It means that the current fueling the ocean pattern that transports warm water from the tropics to the North Atlantic has now weakened to its lowest level in 1,100 years, likely due to an influx of freshwater from Greenland’s melting ice sheet. In short, this means that ACD is slowing down the Gulf Stream system much sooner than anyone expected it would, essentially locking in far harsher winters across Europe and dramatically faster sea level rise along the East Coast.

German researchers recently announced that the United States, Europe and Russia will face longer heat waves, since summer winds that previously brought in cool ocean air have now been weakened by ACD.

Recent research revealed how winds that are being changed in velocity by ACD patterns are rendering several airstrips across the Arctic less safe.

NASA announced that the vast methane cloud that has been hovering over the US Southwest is real. There was debate about its existence only because it was so large (the size of Delaware) and the methane readings were so unusually high, that at first it was believed to be an instrument error. The methane cloud is from massive coal mines in the region.

Seven massive craters that began appearing in Siberia last summer, now known to have resulted from melting permafrost and succeeding methane explosions, continue to garner media attention as more people begin to realize the dire impacts. As an increasing amount of methane is released into the atmosphere, the rapidity of ACD’s impact rises, since methane is 100 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the short term. Hence, these craters are yet another runaway feedback loop caused by ACD. Russian scientists have unequivocally tied the methane crater phenomenon to climate disruption.

More research continues to link the wild weather patterns that have been wracking the United States (deep freezes in the Midwest, record low temperatures and high snowfalls in the Northeast, warm winters in the West) to ACD. A NASA-generated image gives a clear picture of the dramatic US weather patterns, revealing the stark difference in temperature anomalies (temperature variations outside the norm) across the country.

At the same time, other scientific reports have linked large Pacific Ocean cycles with warming temperatures on the planet’s surface, which means that as Pacific trade winds slacken in the coming years, as they are expected to do, seas will begin absorbing less of ACD’s energy, and some of the heat they are already holding will be released into the atmosphere, hence speeding up ACD even more.

Denial and Reality

Certainly the top of the barrel of denial dung from this last month comes from the denier-in-chief, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma). His latest antic found him bringing a snowball to the US Senate floor, because in his world, holding a snowball apparently proves that ACD is a “hoax.”

Willie Soon, a “scientist” who works at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, whose funding sources – oil and coal interests – were recently revealed, told the media he was “saddened and appalled” by the “attacks” against him. “Deniers” is the perfect term to describe people like Soon.

It also came out recently that Florida Department of Environmental Protection employees were ordered not to use the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails or reports.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, another outspoken denier, compared himself to Galileo and called those who believe in ACD “flat-earthers.” Cruz told the Texas Tribune that contemporary “global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers,” and added, “You know it used to be accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier.”

Famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson recently shot back at the ACD denier camp. During a March lecture he said, “I don’t blame the politicians for a damn thing because we vote for the politicians. I blame the electorate.” Tyson went on to add, “Now we have a time where people are cherry-picking science. The science is not political. That’s like repealing gravity because you gained 10 pounds last week.”

Using the church segue from the Galileo reference, the US Episcopal Church announced that addressing ACD is on par morally with the civil rights movement, and that ACD denial is “immoral.”

A recently released “must-see” documentary called Merchants of Doubt, based on the must-read book with the same title, exposes the dirty tricks the spin doctors from the fossil fuel industry use to fuel the “denial” movement.

Confirming how effective this film is at exposing the denial machine, ACD denier Fred Singer started lobbying fellow skeptics to generate backlash and legal action against the filmmakers.

Also on the reality front, climate scientists at leading universities around the world are now joining forces in order to formulate a plan that will govern investment (read – divestment) in fossil fuels.

Cruz and other denier politicians are now getting schooled by 12-year-olds on ACD. Given that 90 percent of eighth graders accept the reality of human-caused climate change, an event organized by the advocacy group Avaaz brought a group of kids to climate-denying lawmakers’ offices and asked them to take a simple elementary school quiz on the science behind ACD.

As ACD progresses and accelerates, population growth, growing demands for all resources, ACD impacts and lack of potable water have already combined to cause many countries to fall into a state of chronic emergency, as a world made more violent by ACD is upon us.

Lastly, in March, right-wing Tea Party Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was rebuffed in a Senate subcommittee hearing while trying to criticize NASA’s recent decision toward an increase in funding for studying earth-based phenomena, along with a slight decrease in money for space exploration.

Cruz questioned NASA’s aiming funding toward studying ACD, said he felt it was more important to explore space, and while talking to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “I would suggest that almost any American would agree that the core function of NASA is to explore space. That’s what inspires little boys and little girls across this country. It’s what sets NASA apart from any agency in the country.”

To which Bolden replied, “We can’t go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater and we don’t know it – and that’s understanding our environment. It is absolutely critical that we understand Earth’s environment because this is the only place we have to live.”

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Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last ten years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.

His third book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with William Rivers Pitt, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in Washington State.

Climate Change Driving Decline In Arctic Sea Ice Coverage; Results In Record Low Extent For Winter. Ice Retreat Proceeding Faster Than Models Expect

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2015 at 2:19 pm
Melting sea ice off western Alaska, on February 4, 2014. Alaska lies to the east in this image, and Russia to the west. The Bering Strait, covered with ice, lies between to two. South of the Bering Strait, the waters are known as the Bering Sea. To the north lies the Chukchi Sea. Melting sea ice off western Alaska, on February 4, 2014

Melting sea ice off western Alaska. Photograph: MODIS/Aqua/NASA

Oldspeak: This seems to be a recurring theme in the scientific analysis of this ever-accelerating extinction event. The rate of change is underestimated by climate models. Probably due to the fact that the models don’t include all the factors that are contributing to the changes. In all probability, there are factors we have no idea about that are yielding impacts that are unknown to us. Considering this in the context that “We are experiencing change 200 to 300 times faster than any of the previous major extinction events.“, makes this reality all the more dire, uncertain and unpredictable. In my view, the Achilles Heel in our scientific analysis of this event is attempting to study everything separately. Failing to account for the interconnectedness of All. Using the same science and technology that created the problem in an attempt to understand it. An exercise in futility, when it all comes down to it.” -OSJ

Arctic sea ice has hit a record low for its maximum extent in winter, which scientists said was a result of climate change and abnormal weather patterns.

The US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) said on Thursday that at its peak the ice covered just over 14.5m sq km of the northern seas. This was 130,000 sq km smaller than the previous lowest maximum in 2011.

The peak occurred on 25 February, which the NSIDC’s senior research scientist Ted Scambos said was “very early but not unprecedented”.

Climate change is driving declining ice coverage in the Arctic, with a recent study finding it has also become significantly thinner, down 65% since 1975.

Scambos said northern oceans have progressively warmed because of climate change. This winter, the warmer seas combined with mild weather to create exceptionally poor conditions for the annual freeze.

“[The record low extent] is significant, in that it shows that the Arctic is being seriously impacted by our warming climate,” said Scambos. “In general, sea ice retreat has proceeded faster than modelling expects in the Arctic, although models are catching up.”

Bob Ward, at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE, said: “This is further evidence that global warming and its impacts have not stopped despite the inaccurate and misleading claims of climate change ‘sceptics’.

“Over the past few weeks, there has been an increase in the amount of misinformation from climate change ‘sceptics’ in the UK and elsewhere which is intended to mislead the public and policy-makers into believing that the effects of global warming on the polar regions are absent or negligible.”

The most pronounced deviation from the 1981-2010 average cover was in the Bering and Okhotsk seas in the northern Pacific. There, the ice edge was 100-200km further north than in a normal year.

After March the summer thaw will begin, with the ice retreating towards its summer minimum, which usually occurs in September. The summer ice cover in the Arctic is also on a long-term decline, although Scambos says a low winter maximum does not necessarily indicate a low minimum is on the way.

The loss of ice from the Arctic has raised questions over when the region will experience its first ice-free summer. Scambos said he expects the summer minimum to dip below 1m sq km (386,100 sq miles) within the next 15 years. At this stage, he said, the Arctic will be profoundly changed.

“A less than 1m sq km summer would mean that the north pole would be open water, that a broad seaway would exist north of Siberia and that major ecosystems and fauna would be severely impacted. My own guess is that we will reach this level around 2030.”

The absence of sea ice and abnormally mild weather affects communities and wildlife in the Arctic circle, which are adapted to extreme conditions.

In Svalbard, Kim Holmén, the international director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, said the fjords there remained unfrozen and instead of the normal snowfall the island experienced rain which froze when it hit the ground.

“Much of Svalbard is covered with ice on land, which is a fatal state for the reindeer. When the landscape is covered by ice they can’t move around and they can’t eat.”

Too much ice on the land and none in the sea has also made life difficult for the 2,600 people who live on Svalbard.

“This iced landscape is miserable to travel across on your snowmobile and your skis,” said Holmén. “We can’t ride our snowmobiles across the fjord so there are places where people want to go that they can’t go. We have had tragic events with avalanches. Living in Svalbard we’ve always had avalanches but we’ve had one casualty this winter. Some of the risks are changing because we have more icing events.”

He said this type of weather is expected to become normal under a changing climate.

“This winter is an example of what we believe will become more common and has profound influence on the reindeer and the ptarmigan [a species of bird] and other creatures that roam the land,” he said.

This week, on the opposite side of the Arctic Ocean, Alaska’s Iditarod sled race was forced to shift its start 362km (225 miles) further north due to a lack of snow. This has only happened once before in the race’s 43-year history, in 2003.

Meanwhile, the NSIDC said ice floes surrounding Antarctica reached a relatively high summer minimum on 20 February. The extent of ice was 1.38m sq km, the fourth largest on record. Antarctic sea ice has confounded some scientific modelling by growing in recent years. There are several theories why the extent of the ice is growing despite a general warming trend across the southern continent.

“This is a matter of considerable debate,” said Scambos. “The important thing to say is that the Antarctic is most definitely seeing the effects of warming and circulation changes – it is participating in ‘global warming’ in its own way. There are several effects in play. Primarily it seems that increased strength in low-pressure areas near the Ross and Weddell seas are pushing ice outward from the continent.”