Climate

Why does water rationing in California exclude fracking and agribusiness?
April 6, 2015 07:31 AM - Evan Blake, The Ecologist

California has responded to the drought by rationing water, with $500 fines for domestic 'water wasters', writes Evan Blake. But agribusiness and water-intensive industries like fracking remain untouched by the restrictions, even though they consume over 90% of the state's water.

There are immense water efficiencies to be gained, but any rational reorganization is blocked by the US financial oligarchy, which, controlling the entire political system, will not abide any impingement on its profits.

The unprecedented drought gripping California has deepened for the fourth consecutive year, having already set new records for the lowest annual precipitation levels on record.

Plant roots may accelerate carbon loss from soils
April 3, 2015 02:33 PM - Oregon State University

Soil, long thought to be a semi-permanent storehouse for ancient carbon, may be releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere faster than anyone thought, according to Oregon State University soil scientists. In a study published in this week’s online edition of the journal Nature Climate Change, the researchers showed that chemicals emitted by plant roots act on carbon that is bonded to minerals in the soil, breaking the bonds and exposing previously protected carbon to decomposition by microbes.

Ice melt endangers Arctic mammals
April 2, 2015 02:47 PM - Tim Radford, The Ecologist

Three kinds of whale, six varieties of seal, the walrus and the polar bear all have these five things in common: they are marine mammals; they depend on the Arctic for their survival as species; they are vulnerable; and biologists know surprisingly little about them. And since the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, their future could become even more threatened as climate change increases habitat loss.

Carbon storage in world's biomass is increasing
April 2, 2015 02:08 PM - Steve Williams, Care2

The threat of deforestation is understood as one of the major problems in the world today, but a new study suggests that the total amount of vegetation in the world appears to have increased in the past decade, suggesting a rare ray of light in conservation and climate change news.

The study, which was published late last month in the journal Nature Climate Change, saw researchers from Australia assess the amount of carbon stored in living plant mass, also known as biomass, stored above ground. This is one established way that we can measure not just how much carbon is stored but also the density of biomass in any given area and so provides us with an interesting way of assessing regional and global forest densities.

Polar Bears Won't be Satisfied by Terrestrial Foods Alone
April 1, 2015 01:48 PM - USGS Newsroom

A team of scientists led by the U.S. Geological Survey found that polar bears, increasingly forced on shore due to sea ice loss, may be eating terrestrial foods including berries, birds and eggs, but any nutritional gains are limited to a few individuals and likely cannot compensate for lost opportunities to consume their traditional, lipid-rich prey—ice seals.

New deep-water methane reservoir found deep in the Arctic Ocean
March 31, 2015 07:57 AM - University of New Hampshire via EurekAlert.

Research led by a University of New Hampshire professor has identified a new source of methane for gas hydrates -- ice-like substances found in sediment that trap methane within the crystal structure of frozen water -- in the Arctic Ocean. The findings, published online now in the May 2015 journal Geology, point to a previously undiscovered, stable reservoir for abiotic methane -- methane not generated by decomposing carbon -- that is "locked" away from the atmosphere, where it could impact global climate change.

"We've found an example where methane produced at a mid-ocean ridge is locked up in stable, deep water gas hydrate, preventing it from possibly getting out of the seafloor," says lead author Joel Johnson, associate professor of geology at UNH and guest researcher at the Center for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate (CAGE) at UiT The Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø. Johnson notes that the findings, which pinpointed a source of abiotic methane ¬produced in seafloor crust, indicate gas hydrates throughout the Arctic may be supplied by a significant portion of abiotic gas.

Oceans' heat-buffering ability may be weakening
March 30, 2015 10:23 AM - Cheryl Katz, Yale Environment 360

For decades, the earth’s oceans have soaked up more than nine-tenths of the atmosphere’s excess heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions. By stowing that extra energy in their depths, oceans have spared the planet from feeling the full effects of humanity’s carbon overindulgence. But as those gases build in the air, an energy overload is rising below the waves. A raft of recent research finds that the ocean has been heating faster and deeper than scientists had previously thought. And there are new signs that the oceans might be starting to release some of that pent-up thermal to significant global temperature increases in the coming years. 

Climate change doesn't cause severe winters after all
March 28, 2015 06:59 AM - ETH Zurich via ScienceDaily

Cold snaps like the ones that hit the eastern United States in the past winters are not a consequence of climate change. Scientists at ETH Zurich and the California Institute of Technology have shown that global warming actually tends to reduce temperature variability.

Repeated cold snaps led to temperatures far below freezing across the eastern United States in the past two winters. Parts of the Niagara Falls froze, and ice floes formed on Lake Michigan. Such low temperatures had become rare in recent years. Pictures of icy, snow-covered cities made their way around the world, raising the question of whether climate change could be responsible for these extreme events

Shifting temperatures will affect flavors, quality of food
March 27, 2015 10:34 AM - S.E. Smith, Care2

Love scrumptious vegan pizza? You’d better enjoy it while you can, because climate change is moving in to hog a slice. According to an Australian report, Appetite for Change, climate change isn’t just going to decimate existing crops — it’s also going to change the way the survivors taste. And not in a good way. The researchers say that we’re going to be eating increasingly bland, tasteless, mushy food because of the way shifting temperatures are affecting farming, and in fact, it’s already started happening.

Antarctic ice loss is accelerating
March 27, 2015 07:08 AM - British Antarctic Survey

New research published this week in the journal Science Express describes how the ice shelves around Antarctica are thinning and therefore allowing more of the ice sheet behind them to flow into the sea. 

Using nearly two decades of satellite data, the team of international researchers observed an acceleration of ice loss from the continent’s ice shelves, with an increase in loss of 70% in West Antarctica over the last decade. In the Amundsen and Bellingshausen regions, some ice shelves have lost up to 18% of their thickness in less than two decades. 

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