Climate

U.S. Emissions Reach 20-Year Low, but its not time to congratulate ourselves just yet!
September 6, 2012 06:24 AM - Reese Rogers, Worldwatch Institute

Climate scientists are getting their fair share of surprises this year, from the record-breaking ice melt in the Arctic to the fact that first-quarter U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have hit their lowest point since 1992. CO2 emissions from energy consumption for the January-March period fell to 1.34 billion metric tons, down 8 percent from a year ago. While the depressed economy and rising renewable energy generation have contributed to emissions reductions in the past few years, the early 2012 low-point is due mainly to a combination of three factors: the relatively warm winter, reduced gasoline demand, and the continued decline in coal-fired electricity. Carbon emissions from energy consumption fell to 1.34 billion metric tons. (EIA) The declining demand for coal power is especially significant. Although emissions from natural gas and petroleum each dropped nearly 3 percent from the same period in 2011 (mainly because of lower heating demands in the mild winter), coal emissions fell 18 percent, to their lowest point since 1986.

Mackenzie River Basin Governance Forum
September 5, 2012 07:10 AM - ScienceDaily

The governance of Canada's massive Mackenzie River Basin holds enormous national but also global importance due to the watershed's impact on the Arctic Ocean, international migratory birds and climate stability, say experts convening a special forum on the topic. "Relevant parties in western Canada have recognized the need for a multi-party transboundary agreement that will govern land and water management in the Mackenzie River watershed. Successful collaboration will effectively determine the management regime for a watershed covering 1.8 million square kilometers or about 20 percent of Canada -- an area roughly three times the size of France -- and include the country's vast oil sands," says University of California Prof. Henry Vaux, Chair of the Rosenberg Forum, which meets Sept. 5-7 at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University with the support of the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation. The Forum's goals include identifying legal and scientific principles relevant to the processes leading ultimately to a coordinated basin-wide approach to management, as well as prioritizing knowledge gaps.

Biodiversity Typically Rises with Higher Temperatures, but Not this Time
September 4, 2012 03:08 PM - David A Gabel, ENN

Looking back through the eons of the Earth's history by studying fossil and geological records, a trend appears. Biodiversity, or the abundance of life, generally increases as the planet warms. More heat creates more energy for plants and animals to thrive. Of course, not all species flourish in a warmer environment. Many will go extinct as others grow more numerous, but the overall number normally increases. Unfortunately, we will not likely see any rebound in biodiversity during our currently changing climate. According to a new study from the University of Leeds, it is the speed at which the climate is changing that will instead cause biodiversity loss. Some species die off, but others cannot fill the void because there is not enough time to evolve.

Arctic summer sea ice decline seems irreversible
September 4, 2012 11:09 AM - Fen Montaigne, Yale Environment 360

Scientists say this year's record declines in Arctic sea ice extent and volume are powerful evidence that the giant cap of ice at the top of the planet is on a trajectory to largely disappear in summer within a decade or two, with profound global consequences. As the northern summer draws to a close, two milestones have been reached in the Arctic Ocean — record-low sea ice extent, and an even more dramatic new low in Arctic sea ice volume. This extreme melting offers dramatic evidence, many scientists say, that the region's sea ice has passed a tipping point and that sometime in the next decade or two the North Pole will be largely ice-free in summer.

How Can Cities Reduce the "Heat Island" They Create?
September 4, 2012 06:19 AM - RICHARD HARRIS, NPR

More than 20,000 high-temperature records have been broken so far this year in the United States. And the heat is especially bad in cities, which are heating up about twice as fast as the rest of the planet. High temperatures increase the risk of everything from asthma to allergies, and can even be deadly. But a researcher in Atlanta also sees this urban heat wave as an opportunity to do something about our warming planet. The story starts at Ebenezer Baptist Church, arguably the most famous place in Atlanta; it was Martin Luther King Jr.'s church and the heart of the civil rights movement.

Atmospheric Methane Reductions Attributed to not Venting it!
September 3, 2012 08:51 AM - ScienceDaily

Increased capture of natural gas from oil fields probably accounts for up to 70 percent of the dramatic leveling off seen in atmospheric methane at the end of the 20th century, according to new UC Irvine research being published in the journal Nature. "We can now say with confidence that, based on our data, the trend is largely a result of changes in fossil fuel use," said chemistry professor Donald Blake, senior author on the paper. Methane has 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, although CO2 is filling the atmosphere in far larger amounts. After decades of increases due to worldwide industrial and agricultural activity, the tapering off of methane from the 1980s through 2005 was remarkable. Scientists have long wrestled with the cause.

Soot and Climate
August 31, 2012 11:50 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Soot is a general term that refers to impure carbon particles resulting from the incomplete combustion of a hydrocarbon. Global climate models may be overstating the warming properties of black carbon particles, according to new research led by the University of California, Davis. The study will be published online Friday (Aug. 31) in the journal Science. Black carbon is a climate forcing agent formed through the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel, and biomass, and is emitted in both anthropogenic and naturally occurring soot. It consists of pure carbon in several linked forms. Black carbon warms the Earth by absorbing heat in the atmosphere and by reducing albedo, the ability to reflect sunlight, when deposited on snow and ice.

American Meteorological Society confirms Climate Change and Man's Role
August 31, 2012 06:29 AM - Gina-Marie Cheeseman, Triple Pundit

Weathercasters in the U.S. not only tend to not ever mention climate change, but the majority of them do not even believe it is human-caused, as an article I recently wrote shows. However, that may change. The American Meteorological Society (AMS) released an official position statement on climate change this week which not only said that it is occurring, but it is human-caused. What is so great about the statement by the AMS is that it includes so much information about climate change, including that there is scientific consensus. The AMS makes it clear that the statement is "based on the peer-reviewed scientific literature and is consistent with the vast weight of current scientific understanding." The statement details how the climate is changing, both in the U.S. and around the world. The changes listed include increases in globally averaged air and ocean temperatures, the widespread melting of snow and ice, and the rising of globally averaged sea level. As the statement puts it, "Warming of the climate system now is unequivocal, according to many different kinds of evidence." That is not good news for the world's population, but it is good news that the AMS is acknowledging that climate change is real and is occurring.

Isaac packs a punch to the Gulf Coast
August 30, 2012 06:21 AM - SCOTT NEUMAN, NPR

Isaac might not be in the same league as Hurricane Katrina seven years ago, but the latest storm to batter Louisiana's Gulf Coast is punching above its weight class in more ways than one, scientists say. The 2005 Hurricane Katrina, which devastated Louisiana and parts of Mississippi and Alabama, was a Category 3 storm (sustained winds of 125 mph) moving at about 15 mph when it made landfall on the Gulf Coast. By comparison, Isaac was a weak Category 1 storm as measured on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with sustained winds of 74-95 mph. By Wednesday afternoon, Isaac had been downgraded to a tropical storm, although it still was close to the Gulf Coast and continued to dump torrential rain. While Isaac is considerably less intense than Katrina, it is large and slow — a dangerous combination — and it's moving west of the Mississippi River, a track that intensifies storm surge, says Timothy Shott, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Tropical Cyclone Program.

Study Reveals that Drought Brought Down Ancient Egypt
August 29, 2012 06:33 AM - Tim Wall, Discovery News

The drought parching the United States is one of the worst in the nation's history, but it hasn't been as destructive as the drought that may have withered ancient Egypt's Old Kingdom. Pollen and charcoal buried in the Nile Delta 4,200 years ago tell the tale of a drought of literally Biblical proportions associated with the fall of the pyramid builders. "Even the mighty builders of the ancient pyramids more than 4,000 years ago fell victim when they were unable to respond to a changing climate," said U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt in a press release. "This study illustrates that water availability was the climate-change Achilles Heel then for Egypt, as it may well be now, for a planet topping seven billion thirsty people."

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