• Will the upcoming UN Climate Change Summit in Paris kick the can down the road again?

    Big hopes are riding on the 2015 United Nations climate change conference planned for Nov. 30-Dec. 11 in Paris, where more than 190 nations will strive to hammer out an international agreement aimed at lowering global temperatures through significant reductions in human-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But the meeting, known as COP21, or the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is also attracting a fair amount of skepticism.

    For good reason: More than two decades of UN climate summit meetings have yielded limited results. The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 established GHG emissions reduction commitments for a small number of industrialized countries from 2008 to 2012, but was not ratified by the U.S. because it made no demands on developing countries. Overcoming this hurdle, the Copenhagen meeting in 2009 produced voluntary pledges from both developed and developing countries through the year 2020 that promised little headway in keeping global temperatures below the 2 degree Celsius threshold identified by the UNFCCC as necessary to avoid the most serious impacts of climate change.

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  • Gradual melting of winter snow helps feed water to farms, cities and ecosystems across much of the world, but this resource may soon be critically imperiled. In a new study, scientists have identified snow-dependent drainage basins across the northern hemisphere currently serving 2 billion people that run the risk of declining supplies in the coming century. The basins take in large parts of the American West, southern Europe, the Mideast and central Asia. They range from productive U.S. farm land to war-torn regions already in the grip of long-term water shortages.

    Snow is an important seasonal water source mainly around large mountain chains. From higher elevations, snowmelt runs gradually into the lowlands during spring and summer growing seasons, when human demand peaks. But global warming is upsetting this convenient balance. Studies show that in many areas, more winter precipitation is falling as rain, not snow, and washing away directly; the snow that does fall is settling at progressively higher elevations, and melting earlier. The new study estimates snow’s potential to supply present human needs in both current and projected climates, taking both weather trends and population into account.

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  • Reduction in snow pack puts large areas at risk of insufficient water supplies

    Gradual melting of winter snow helps feed water to farms, cities and ecosystems across much of the world, but this resource may soon be critically imperiled. In a new study, scientists have identified snow-dependent drainage basins across the northern hemisphere currently serving 2 billion people that run the risk of declining supplies in the coming century. The basins take in large parts of the American West, southern Europe, the Mideast and central Asia. They range from productive U.S. farm land to war-torn regions already in the grip of long-term water shortages.

    Snow is an important seasonal water source mainly around large mountain chains. From higher elevations, snowmelt runs gradually into the lowlands during spring and summer growing seasons, when human demand peaks. But global warming is upsetting this convenient balance. Studies show that in many areas, more winter precipitation is falling as rain, not snow, and washing away directly; the snow that does fall is settling at progressively higher elevations, and melting earlier. The new study estimates snow’s potential to supply present human needs in both current and projected climates, taking both weather trends and population into account.

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  • What lies beneath Mount St. Helens?

    Geoscientists have for the first time revealed the magma plumbing beneath Mount St. Helens, the most active volcano in the Pacific Northwest. The emerging picture includes a giant magma chamber, between 5 and 12 kilometers below the surface, and a second, even larger one, between 12 and 40 kilometers below the surface. The two chambers appear to be connected in a way that could help explain the sequence of events in the 1980 eruption that blew the lid off Mount St. Helens.

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  • Invasive marine species benefit from rising CO2 levels

    Ocean acidification may well be helping invasive species of algae, jellyfish, crabs and shellfish to move to new areas of the planet with damaging consequences, according to the findings of a new report. Slimy, jelly-like creatures are far more tolerant of rising carbon dioxide levels than those with hard parts like corals, since exposed shells and skeletons simply dissolve away as CO2 levels rise. The study, conducted by marine scientists at Plymouth University, has found that a number of notorious ‘nuisance’ species – such as Japanese kelp (Undaria pinnatifida) and stinging jellyfish (Pelagia noctiluca) are resilient to rising CO2 levels. 

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  • Explaining Extreme Events from a Climate Perspective

    Human activities, such as greenhouse gas emissions and land use, influenced specific extreme weather and climate events in 2014, including tropical cyclones in the central Pacific, heavy rainfall in Europe, drought in East Africa, and stifling heat waves in Australia, Asia, and South America, according to a new report released today. The report, “Explaining Extreme Events of 2014 from a Climate Perspective” published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, addresses the natural and human causes of individual extreme events from around the world in 2014, including Antarctica. NOAA scientists served as three of the five lead editors on the report.

    "For each of the past four years, this report has demonstrated that individual events, like temperature extremes, have often been shown to be linked to additional atmospheric greenhouse gases caused by human activities, while other extremes, such as those that are precipitation related, are less likely to be convincingly linked to human activities,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information

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  • The massive Indonesian fires

    The fires that blazed in Indonesia’s rainforests in 1982 and 1983 came as a shock. The logging industry had embarked on a decades-long pillaging of the country’s woodlands, opening up the canopy and drying out the carbon-rich peat soils. Preceded by an unusually long El Niño-related dry season, the forest fires lasted for months, sending vast clouds of smoke across Southeast Asia.

    Fifteen years later, in 1997 and 1998, a record El Niño year coincided with continued massive land-use changes in Indonesia, including the wholesale draining of peatlands to plant oil palm and wood pulp plantations. Large areas of Borneo and Sumatra burned, and again Southeast Asians choked on Indonesian smoke.

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  • West Antarctica snow accumulation increased in the 20th century

    Annual snow accumulation on West Antarctica’s coastal ice sheet increased dramatically during the 20th century, according to a new study published today (Wednesday 4 November) in the American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters. The last three decades saw more snow build up on the ice sheet than at any other time in the last 300 years.

    The research gives scientists new insight into Antarctica’s ice sheet. Understanding how the ice sheet grows and shrinks over time enhances scientists’ understanding of the processes that impact global sea levels.

    The new study used ice cores to estimate annual snow accumulation from 1712 to 2010 along the coastal West Antarctic. Until 1899, annual snow accumulation remained steady, averaging 33 and 40 centimeters (13 and 16 inches) water, or melted snow, each year at two locations.

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  • Southern Ocean ecosystems acidifying

    As a result of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, the chemistry of the Southern Ocean is expected to change so fast over the next few decades that tiny creatures at the base of the food web may soon struggle to form their shells. New research by scientists from UH Mānoa and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF) finds that, for some organisms, the onset of such critical conditions will be so abrupt, and the duration of events so long, that adaption may become impossible.

    The study, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, uses a number of Earth System Models to explore how the uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide and the resulting ocean acidification will affect the Southern Ocean over the next century. 

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  • Should government buildings offer free Electric Vehicle charging?

    As governments around the world continue to push the concept of electric vehicles there are growing calls for all government buildings to offer free EV charging. This would certainly kickstart the concerns regarding EV charging networks which seems to be at the forefront of the minds of many sceptics. So, how would this concept work and is it really viable?

    Helping the electric vehicle industry

    While many governments around the world are doing a significant amount of work behind the scenes to help the electric vehicle market, could they do more? It would be wrong to suggest that all government buildings do not offer any form of electric vehicle charging but for many people these services are few and far between. When you consider that countries such as the UK employ more than 50% of the workforce in public services there must be an enormous scope to assist the industry?

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