Plants migrate to higher altitudes because of climate change
September 16, 2015 02:46 PM - Aarhus University

Although most of the world’s species diversity is found in tropical areas, there are very few studies that have examined whether tropical mountain species are affected by climate change to the same extent as temperate species. A new study has now determined that major changes have taken place during the last two centuries.

By comparing the migration of plant communities on the Chimborazo volcano in Ecuador with historical data from 1802, Aarhus University researchers found an average upslope shift of more than 500 metres. The entire vegetation boundary has moved upwards from 4,600 metres to almost 5,200 metres. The main explanation for this dramatic shift is climate change over the last 210 years.

Climate talks in Paris may not make enough of a difference
September 14, 2015 11:37 AM - Fred Pearce, Yale Enviornment360.

It’s Paris or bust. Climate diplomats are preparing for a United Nations climate conference in the French capital in December that scientists say is probably the last realistic chance for the world to prevent global warming going beyond 2 degrees Celsius. Some kind of a deal will probably be done. But will it be one more diplomatic fudge or a real triumph for the climate? 

In the run-up to Paris, governments have been asked to deliver pledges to cut emissions of the greenhouse gases known to cause climate change. The pledges, covering the period between 2020, when the agreement should enter into force, and 2030, are known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs in the U.N. jargon. 

Huge Permafrost study will help improve climate models

This Saturday at a conference in Quebec, Canada an international research team will present the first online data portal on global permafrost. In the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost researchers first collect all the existing permafrost temperature and active thickness layer data from Arctic, Antarctic and mountain permafrost regions and then make it freely available for download. This new portal can serve as an early warning system for researchers and decision-makers around the globe. A detailed description of the data collection is published today in an open access article on the Earth System Science Data portal.

Although the world's permafrost is one of the most important pieces in Earth's climate-system puzzle, to date it has been missing in most climate models. The reason: data on temperature and the active layer thickness were neither comprehensive nor were they available in a standard format suitable for modelling. With the new Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTN-P), scientists from 25 countries have now filled this gap in the data.

Oceanic Phytoplankton contribute to ice formation in clouds
September 10, 2015 08:49 AM - British Antarctic Survey.

Researchers from the Arctic Research Programme, managed at British Antarctic Survey, have shown for the first time that phytoplankton (plant life) in remote ocean regions can contribute to rare airborne particles that trigger ice formation in clouds.

Results published today in the journal Nature show that the organic waste from life in the oceans, which is ejected into the atmosphere along with sea spray from breaking waves, stimulates cloud droplets to freeze into ice particles. This affects how clouds behave and influence global climate, which is important for improved projections of future climate change.

MIT study shows climate change mitigation potential of geoengineering the oceans
September 9, 2015 07:23 AM - Mark Dwortzan | Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, MIT

Like the leaves of New England maples, phytoplankton, the microalgae at the base of most oceanic food webs, photosynthesize when exposed to sunlight. In the process, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, converting it to carbohydrates and oxygen. Many phytoplankton species also release dimethyl sulfide (DMS) into the atmosphere, where it forms sulfate aerosols, which can directly reflect sunlight or increase cloud cover and reflectivity, resulting in a cooling effect. The ability of phytoplankton to draw planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and produce aerosols that promote further cooling has made ocean fertilization — through massive dispersal of iron sulfite and other nutrients that stimulate phytoplankton growth — an attractive geoengineering method to reduce global warming.

Ice sheets may be more resilient than previously thought
September 8, 2015 09:24 AM - Miles Traer, Stanford Report

Sea level rise poses one of the biggest threats to human systems in a globally warming world, potentially causing trillions of dollars' worth of damages to flooded cities around the world. As surface temperatures rise, ice sheets are melting at record rates and sea levels are rising.

But there may be some good news amid the worry. Sea levels may not rise as high as assumed.

Climate change mitigation needs more ambitious emissions reductions
September 3, 2015 05:44 AM - ClickGreen staff

The collective climate targets submitted by Governments to the UN will lead to global emissions far above the levels needed to hold warming to below 2°C, researchers at the Climate Action Tracker warned today.

The analysis by the consortium of four research organisations was released today in Bonn where Governments are meeting for the second to last week of negotiations ahead of the Paris summit on climate action.

MIT study looks at benefits of acting on climate change
September 2, 2015 07:25 AM - Mark Dwortzan | Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, MIT

Since the 1990s, scientists and policymakers have proposed limiting Earth’s average global surface temperature to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, thereby averting the most serious effects of global warming, such as severe droughts and coastal flooding. But until recently, they lacked a comprehensive estimate of the likely social and economic benefits — from lives saved to economies preserved — that would result from greenhouse gas emissions reduction policies designed to achieve the 2 C goal.

Now, a team of researchers from the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change has published a study in Climatic Change that provides scenarios that climate scientists can use to estimate such benefits. The study projects greenhouse gas emissions levels and changes in precipitation, ocean acidity, sea level rise and other climate impacts throughout the 21st century resulting from different global greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation scenarios. The scenarios include a business-as-usual future and one aimed at achieving significant GHG emission reductions limiting global warming since pre-industrial times to 2 C. Research groups convened by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have already begun using the MIT projections to evaluate the benefits of a 2 C emissions reduction scenario for agriculture, water, health, and other global concerns.

Climate Change will Cost Trillions
September 1, 2015 09:09 AM - Bill Roth, Triple Pundit

The economic ramifications of continuing the 20th century’s economic model, where unsustainable extraction and pollution conveys competitive advantage, are coming into sharp focus. Citigroup now projects a staggering $72 trillion global cost tied to man-made climate change during the 21st century. 

Can rain clean the atmosphere?
August 28, 2015 02:31 PM - MIT News

As a raindrop falls through the atmosphere, it can attract tens to hundreds of tiny aerosol particles to its surface before hitting the ground. The process by which droplets and aerosols attract is coagulation, a natural phenomenon that can act to clear the air of pollutants like soot, sulfates, and organic particles. Atmospheric chemists at MIT have now determined just how effective rain is in cleaning the atmosphere. 

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