Doomiest graphs of 2018
31 December 2018 (Desdemona Despair) – At the end of every year since 2010, Des reviews all of the year’s posts and picks a few that are the “doomiest”. Because there are nearly 1,000 posts in a typical year, this is a time-intensive – and depressing – project. In November 2018, after trolling through all of the posts from January through August, Des finally decided that this manual indexing is ridiculous – after all, Des is a programmer in real life, and surely some of this laborious process can be automated.
After a few weekends of coding against Blogger’s Atom-based archive format and the Blogger API, Des developed the DesdemonaIndexer. This library extracts all of the blog posts from a Blogger archive, converts them into proper business objects, and saves them to a much simpler XML file. From this file, reports like Doomiest Graphs are generated.
In the past, these year-end summary posts were whittled down to the “doomiest” 50, which is an arbitrary number, by using arbitrary rules that depend on Desdemona’s mood that day. This year, Des is just posting them all, and you can decide which are the doomiest.
Without further exposition, here are the doomiest graphs of 2018.
- 2017 doomiest graphs, images, and stories
- 2016 doomiest graphs, images, and stories
- 2015 doomiest graphs, images, and stories
- 2014 doomiest graphs, images, and stories
- 2013 doomiest graphs, images, and stories
- 2012 doomiest graphs, images, and stories
- 2011 doomiest graphs, images, and stories
- 2010 doomiest graphs, images, and stories
Low and declining oxygen levels in the open ocean and coastal waters
4 January 2018 (SERC) – In the past 50 years, the amount of water in the open ocean with zero oxygen has gone up more than fourfold. In coastal water bodies, including estuaries and seas, low-oxygen sites have increased more than 10-fold since 1950. Scientists expect oxygen to continue dropping even outside these zones as Earth warms. To halt the decline, the world needs to rein in both climate change and nutrient pollution, an international team of scientists asserted in a new paper published 4 January 2018 in Science.
“Oxygen is fundamental to life in the oceans,” said Denise Breitburg, lead author and marine ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. “The decline in ocean oxygen ranks among the most serious effects of human activities on the Earth’s environment.”
The study came from a team of scientists from GO2NE (Global Ocean Oxygen Network), a new working group created in 2016 by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. The review paper is the first to take such a sweeping look at the causes, consequences and solutions to low oxygen worldwide, in both the open ocean and coastal waters. The article highlights the biggest dangers to the ocean and society, and what it will take to keep Earth’s waters healthy and productive.
Freedom in the world by aggregate score, 2018
18 January 2018 (Freedom House) – Political rights and civil liberties around the world deteriorated to their lowest point in more than a decade in 2017, extending a period characterized by emboldened autocrats, beleaguered democracies, and the United States’ withdrawal from its leadership role in the global struggle for human freedom.
Democracy is in crisis. The values it embodies—particularly the right to choose leaders in free and fair elections, freedom of the press, and the rule of law—are under assault and in retreat globally.
A quarter-century ago, at the end of the Cold War, it appeared that totalitarianism had at last been vanquished and liberal democracy had won the great ideological battle of the 20th century.
Estimated U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions growth, 2016-2019
9 January 2018 (EIA) – Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions: EIA estimates that energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide decreased by 1.0% in 2017 and forecasts these levels to increase by 1.7% in 2018 and by 0.2% in 2019. These forecasts are sensitive to assumptions about weather, economic growth, and fuel prices.
Total US oil production, 1997-2017
HOUSTON, 15 January 2018 (Reuters) – Surging shale production is poised to push U.S. oil output to more than 10 million barrels per day – toppling a record set in 1970 and crossing a threshold few could have imagined even a decade ago.
And this new record, expected within days, likely won’t last long. The U.S. government forecasts that the nation’s production will climb to 11 million barrels a day by late 2019, a level that would rival Russia, the world’s top producer.
The economic and political impacts of soaring U.S. output are breathtaking, cutting the nation’s oil imports by a fifth over a decade, providing high-paying jobs in rural communities and lowering consumer prices for domestic gasoline by 37 percent from a 2008 peak.
Change in PM2.5 pollution across China in 2017, year over year
29 January 2018 (The Globe and Mail) – The sight of sharp horizons and cerulean skies in the Chinese capital was, not so long ago, rare enough that it merited special designation.
There was “APEC Blue,” around the time Beijing hosted world leaders in 2014. There was “Parade Blue” for a 2015 military march past Tiananmen Square. There were multiple instances of “Two Sessions Blue” around annual political meetings – each permutation of blue the temporary result of government fiat. Once the parades, the foreign dignitaries and the politicians dispersed, the redolence of burnt coal returned.
But in the past few months, Beijingers have been toying with a less-familiar idea: Could blue skies be here to stay? Or has China’s ability to manufacture blue skies just grown more skilled, producing clean air around Beijing but leaving others mired in a toxic atmosphere? Both, it seems, are true.
Grey Water Footprint related to anthropogenic phosphorus loads from the agricultural, industrial, and domestic sectors, 2002–2010
WASHINGTON D.C., 25 January 2018 (AGU) – Man-made phosphorus pollution is reaching dangerously high levels in freshwater basins around the world, according to new research.
A new study published in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, estimated the global amount of phosphorus from human activities that entered Earth’s freshwater bodies from 2002 to 2010.
Phosphorus is a common component of mineral and manure fertilizers because it boosts crop yields. However, a large portion of phosphorus applied as fertilizer is not taken up by plants, and either builds up in the soil or washes into rivers, lakes and coastal seas, according to the study’s authors.
30 January 2018 (Zachary Labe) – Arctic sea ice extent had not reached 13 million km2 by 30 January 2018, which is a week past the previous record. In the 1980s, this was normally surpassed in mid December.
U.S. field production of crude oil, 1920-2017
NEW YORK, 31 January 2018 (Financial Times) – US oil production has returned to its record high point, 47 years after the previous peak during the final days of the last Texas oil boom, as the shale revolution that was temporarily set back by low crude prices has reignited.
The government’s Energy Information Administration estimated on Wednesday that US output was running at just under 10.04m barrels per day last November, fractionally below the previous record set in November 1970.
Soaring output from shale wells has put the US on course to overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s largest crude producer, shaking up oil markets and the geopolitics of energy.
U.S. military sites that indicated effects from climate change(flooding, extreme temperatures, wind, drought, wildfire)
2 February 2018 (The Center for Climate and Security) – On Friday, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics released a comprehensive new survey of climate change-related risks to military infrastructure worldwide. The study, prosaically titled “Climate-Related Risk to DoD Infrastructure Initial Vulnerability Assessment Survey (SLVAS) Report,” is a response to a Congressional request from 2016,* based on the DoD’s 2015 commitment to conducting a:
The vulnerability assessment, based on a qualitative survey of military personnel at each site (see the survey questions on page 19), does not offer any specific cost estimates related to these vulnerabilities, but it does paint a concerning picture of current climate change-related risks to military installations** both at home and abroad, with around 50% of 1,684 sites reporting damage from six key categories of those risks:
- Flooding due to storm surge
- Flooding due to non-storm surge events (e.g., rain, snow, sleet, ice, river overflow)
- Extreme temperatures (both hot and cold)
Given that rapid climate change is projected to exacerbate most of the above categories of risks throughout this century (its effect on wind is less certain), the reasonable expectation is that vulnerabilities to military sites will increase unless significant resources are devoted to adapting DoD assets to this changing operational environment, and/or the rate and scale of climate change is reduced. What is potentially significant about this survey, however, is how widespread climate change-related risks to military assets already are.
Temperature anomaly over eastern Russia and western Alaska, 30 January 2018
4 February 2018 (The Washington Post) – As an antidote to the report of minus-88 degree weather in the Siberian outpost of Oymyakon earlier this month, we give you this: The temperature in a settlement just to its east was an astonishing 126 degrees warmer two weeks later.
The mercury in Omolon, Russia, reached its highest January temperature ever recorded Monday: a relatively toasty 38.4 degrees.
But the warmth flooding east Siberia and parts of the Arctic may, in turn, displace the frigid air that is normally pooled there sending it surging south into the north central and Northeastern U.S. through mid-February.
Mercury in Northern Hemisphere permafrost zones for four soil layers
WASHINGTON D.C., 5 February 2018 (AGU) – Researchers have discovered permafrost in the northern hemisphere stores massive amounts of natural mercury, a finding with significant implications for human health and ecosystems worldwide.
In a new study, scientists measured mercury concentrations in permafrost cores from Alaska and estimated how much mercury has been trapped in permafrost north of the equator since the last Ice Age.
The study reveals northern permafrost soils are the largest reservoir of mercury on the planet, storing nearly twice as much mercury as all other soils, the ocean and the atmosphere combined.
Monthly average atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa, January 2014 – January 2018
2 February 2018 (RealClimate) – Based on NOAA’s ESRL “Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide” data, in particular “Mauna Loa CO2 monthly mean data”.
January 2018 continues the record-breaking growth of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Current estimates for the January monthly mean are ~408 ppm – another Record-Making High for January has been set (once the final figures are published.)
Total acres burned in U.S. wildfires, 1960-2017
11 February 2018 (Desdemona Despair) – The year 2017 was the second-worst year for wildfires in the U.S., according to data published by the National Interagency Fire Center. Nationwide, wildfires burned a total 10,026,086 acres, just 99,063 acres shy of the record, 10,125,149 acres, set in 2015.
In December, 2017 was on track to be the third-worst year on record, but California’s deadliest fire season, which included the Thomas fire, California’s largest on record, pushed 2017 to the Number Two spot. All of the Top Ten wildfire seasons have occurred since 2000.
Amount of plastic collected along the route of the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race
12 February 2018 (The Guardian) – Microplastics have been found in some of the most remote and uncharted regions of the oceans raising more concerns over the global scale of plastic pollution.
Samples taken from the middle of the South Indian Ocean – at latitude 45.5 degrees south – show microplastic particles detected at relatively high volumes. Sören Gutekunst, from the Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, who analysed the samples, said the data showed 42 particles per cubic metre, which was surprising given the remoteness of the area.
“Data on microplastics has not been taken from this extremely remote area before and what we found was relatively high levels,” he said. “There are places in the ocean which are not being observed and that is why it is so special for us to be doing this. It is amazing that we have the opportunity and this could lead to much further knowledge about what is happening with microplastics in the ocean.”
Global and regional impact of subsidy removal and NDCs on CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry under low oil prices
12 February 2018 (ClimateWire) – Ending financial assistance for fossil fuel companies has long been discussed as a tactic to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage investment in renewables. Oil, natural gas and coal companies worldwide receive hundreds of billions of dollars each year in tax breaks or other subsidies—and some experts argue that cutting them off would drive prices up and consumption down.
It’s a simple idea, but one that’s been sparsely investigated by scientists. Now, new research suggests that removing fossil fuel subsidies might not have the global effect that some climate advocates were hoping for.
The study, published yesterday in the journal Nature, used an ensemble of five models to investigate the impact of ending fossil fuel subsidies worldwide by the year 2030, assuming both high and low oil prices in the future. Doing so would have a modest impact on global greenhouse gas emissions, the research finds, cutting carbon dioxide emissions by a half-billion to 2 billion metric tons annually.
Ozone anomalies over 60°S–60°N between 1985 and 2016
14 February 2018 (Imperial College London) – The ozone layer is recovering at the poles, but unexpected decreases in part of the atmosphere may be preventing recovery at lower latitudes.
Global ozone has been declining since the 1970s owing to certain man-made chemicals. Since these were banned, parts of the layer have been recovering, particularly at the poles.
However, the new result, published today in the European Geosciences Union journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, finds that the bottom part of the ozone layer at more populated latitudes is not recovering. The cause is currently unknown.
Global mean sea level, 1993-2017
16 February 2018 (NASA) – Global sea level rise has been accelerating in recent decades, rather than increasing steadily, according to a new study based on 25 years of NASA and European satellite data.
This acceleration, driven mainly by increased melting in Greenland and Antarctica, has the potential to double the total sea level rise projected by 2100 when compared to projections that assume a constant rate of sea level rise, according to lead author Steve Nerem. Nerem is a professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, a fellow at Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), and a member of NASA’s Sea Level Change team.
If the rate of ocean rise continues to change at this pace, sea level will rise 26 inches (65 centimeters) by 2100 – enough to cause significant problems for coastal cities, according to the new assessment by Nerem and colleagues from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; CU Boulder; the University of South Florida in Tampa; and Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. The team, driven to understand and better predict Earth’s response to a warming world, published their work Feb. 12 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Abundance of the three largest orangutan metapopulations,1999-2015 and projected abundance for 2020 and 2050
15 February 2018 (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology) – Nearly 50 years of conservation efforts have been unable to prevent orangutan numbers on Borneo from plummeting. The latest data published by a team from 38 international institutions, led by researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Liverpool John Moores University in Great Britain, suggests that between 1999 and 2015 the total number of Bornean orangutans was reduced by more than 100,000 animals.
This result means two things. First, there were more orangutans on Borneo than previously estimated. Second, they are disappearing even faster than researchers had envisioned. The most dramatic rates of decline in orangutan populations were found in deforested areas and in areas converted into agricultural land. Surprisingly however, the absolute number of orangutans that were lost was greatest in selectively logged and primary forests, where most orangutans occur. In these forest areas human pressures, such as conflict killing, poaching, and the collection of baby orangutans for the pet trade have probably been the major drivers of decline. The new study, which represents the most comprehensive data coverage to date, is in line with another recently published analysis of orangutan population trends, and reinforces the recent uplisting of the Bornean orangutan to Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Lead author Maria Voigt of the Research Center iDiv and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology explains why the current rates of decline are so much higher than previously thought: “As we collected more data on orangutan density and presence our ability to model their distribution and population trends improves.” Voigt adds: “This is how we learned that orangutans are distributed much more widely and also occur in more degraded forest areas and even some plantations”.
Box modeling of petrochemical VOC emissions in outdoor Los Angeles air and in buildings
15 February 2018 (NOAA) – Emissions from volatile chemical products like perfumes, paints and other scented consumer items now rival vehicles as a pollution source in greater Los Angeles, according to a surprising new NOAA-led study.
Even though 15 times more petroleum is consumed as fuel than is used as ingredients in industrial and consumer products, the amount of chemical vapors emitted to the atmosphere in scented products is roughly the same, said lead author Brian McDonald, a CIRES scientist working at NOAA.
A paper presenting these study findings was published today in Science.
U.S. annual deficits projected to the year 2027
12 February 2018 (MSNBC) – President Trump released his fiscal 2019 budget on Monday, 12 February 2018. Steve Rattner says the country’s budgetary outlook is “potentially apocalyptic”.
Global map showing change in sea surface height, 1992-2014
19 February 2018 (NASA) – Global sea level rise has been accelerating in recent decades, according to a new study based on 25 years of NASA and European satellite data. This acceleration has been driven mainly by increased ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica, and it has the potential to double the total sea level rise projected by 2100, according to lead author Steve Nerem, a scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and the University of Colorado.
If things continue to change at the observed pace, sea level will rise 65 centimeters (26 inches) by 2100, enough to cause significant problems for coastal cities. The team—comprised of scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Colorado, the University of South Florida, and Old Dominion University—recently published their work in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“This is almost certainly a conservative estimate,” said Nerem, who is a member of NASA’s Sea Level Change team. “Our extrapolation assumes that sea level continues to change in the future as it has over the last 25 years. Given the large changes we are seeing in the ice sheets today, that is not likely.”
Average monthly Arctic ice extent, January 1979 to January 2018
6 February 2018 (NSIDC) – The new year was heralded by a week of record low daily ice extents, with the January average beating out 2017 for a new record low. Ice grew through the month at near-average rates, and in the middle of the month daily extents were higher than for 2017. However, by the end of January, extent was again tracking below 2017. The monthly average extent of 13.06 million square kilometers (5.04 million square miles) was 1.36 million square kilometers (525,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average, and 110,000 square kilometers (42,500 square miles) below the previous record low monthly average in 2017.
The pattern seen in previous months continued, with below average extent in the Barents and Kara Seas, as well as within the Bering Sea. The ice edge remained nearly constant throughout the month within the Barents Sea, and slightly retreated in the East Greenland Sea. By contrast, extent increased in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, off the coast of Newfoundland, in the eastern Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. Compared to 2017, at the end of the month, ice was less extensive in the western Bering Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk and north of Svalbard, more extensive in the eastern Bering Sea and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Overall, the Arctic gained 1.42 million square kilometers (548,000 square miles) of ice during January 2018. […]
The linear rate of decline for January is 47,700 square kilometers (18,400 square miles) per year, or 3.3 percent per decade. […]
In the Southern Hemisphere, after January 11 sea ice began tracking low, leading to a January average extent that was the second lowest on record. The lowest extent for this time of year was in 2017. Extent is below average in the Ross Sea and the West Amundsen Seas, while elsewhere extent remains close to average. The low ice extent is puzzling, given that air temperatures at the 925 hPa level are near average or below average (relative to the 1981 to 2010 period) over much of the Southern Ocean. The Weddell and Amundsen Seas were 1 to 2 degrees Celsius (2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit) below average. Slightly above-average temperatures were the rule in the northwestern Ross Sea. [more]
End of the Boom: Millennials are worse off on average than the generation born between 1966 and 1980
21 February 2018 (Bloomberg News) – The income boom enjoyed by people born between 1966 and 1980 has turned to “bust” for the generation that followed them, according to a report published Monday.
In an analysis of eight high-income countries, the Resolution Foundation think tank found that millennials in their early 30s have household incomes 4 percent lower on average than members of so-called Generation X at the same age.
Britain and Spain stand out. In the U.K., Generation X were 54 percent better off than baby boomers born between 1946 and 1965. By contrast, millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, had incomes just 6 percent higher than those of Generation X at the same age.
Change in the percentage of summer (May-September) days classified as heat-wave days in Europe
21 February 2018 (Newcastle University) – A landmark study shows the impact of flooding, droughts and heatwaves by 2050-2100 will exceed previous predictions. The research, by Newcastle University, UK, has for the first time analysed changes in flooding, droughts, and heatwaves for all European cities using all climate models.
Published today in the academic journal Environmental Research Letters, the study shows:
Using projections from all available climate models (associated with the high emission scenario RCP8.5 which implies a 2.6°C to 4.8°C increase in global temperature), the team showed results for three possible futures which they called the low, medium and high impact scenarios.
GFS 500mb geopotential height and anomaly over the eastern seaboard of the U.S., 21 February 2018
22 February 2018 (Weather Underground) – Astonishing summer-like heat cooked the Eastern U.S. on Wednesday, smashing all-time records for February warmth in cities in at least ten states, from Georgia to Maine. At least 24 cities recorded their hottest February temperature on record on Wednesday, including New York City (78°), Hartford, CT (74°) and Concord, NH (74°). According to Weather Underground weather historian Christopher C. Burt, February 20 – 21 marked the most extraordinary heat event to ever affect the Northeastern quadrant of the U.S. during the month of February, since official records began in the late 1800s. He catalogued the following eight states that tied or beat all-time February state heat records over the past two days, noting that in the case of Maine and Vermont, “It is simply amazing to beat a state temperature record by some 8°F!”:
The record February heat was caused by an unusually pronounced kink in the jet stream that brought a big trough of low pressure over the Western U.S. (accompanied by very cold temperatures) and a record-strength ridge of high pressure that locked in over the eastern half of the U.S. This ridge brought exceptional warmth miles above the eastern U.S. and northwest Atlantic. All else being equal, warmer air is less dense than cooler air, so a deep, warm air mass raises the heights of various benchmark heights such as 500 mb (roughly the midpoint of the atmosphere’s density, almost four miles up). As shown in Figure 2 below, the 500-mb map at 12Z Wednesday (7 am EDT) was simply mind-blowing for mid-February.
Estimated rainfall trends around the Seattle area, 1890-2017
23 February 2018 (The Seattle Times) – Attention, Seattle residents: Have you noticed more steady, long-lasting rainstorms in a city better known for gray skies, short showers and drizzle? Turns out you’re on to something.
Over the last 15 years, the city’s had more extreme rain, according to a new study by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) officials, who say the weather is a climate-change preview.
“This confirms our anecdotal evidence,” said James Rufo-Hill, an SPU meteorologist. “For years, people have been saying, ‘I think the rain is getting worse around here,’ and now the data shows that.”
The fading American Dream: Percent of US children earning more than their parents, by year of birth, 1940-1985
December 2016 (The Equality of Opportunity Project) – A defining feature of the “American Dream” is upward income mobility: the ideal that children have a higher standard of living than their parents. Our work shows that children’s prospects of earning more than their parents have fallen from 90% to 50% over the past half century. Understanding what has led to this erosion of the American Dream — and how we can revive it for future generations — is the motivation for the Equality of Opportunity Project.
We measure absolute mobility by comparing children’s household incomes at age 30 (adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index) with their parents’ household incomes at age 30. We find that rates of absolute mobility have fallen from approximately 90% for children born in 1940 to 50% for children born in the 1980s. Absolute income mobility has fallen across the entire income distribution, with the largest declines for families in the middle class. These findings are unaffected by using alternative price indices to adjust for inflation, accounting for taxes and transfers, measuring income at later ages, and adjusting for changes in household size.
Travel mode being substituted by ride-hailing services, like Uber and Lyft
BOSTON, 25 February 2018 (Associated Press) – One promise of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft was fewer cars clogging city streets. But studies suggest the opposite: that ride-hailing companies are pulling riders off buses, subways, bicycles and their own feet and putting them in cars instead.
And in what could be a new wrinkle, a service by Uber called Express Pool now is seen as directly competing with mass transit.
Uber and Lyft argue that in Boston, for instance, they complement public transit by connecting riders to hubs like Logan Airport and South Station. But they have not released their own specific data about rides, leaving studies up to outside researchers.
Surface air temperature for the Arctic averaged above 80°N, 25 February 2018
27 February 2018 (The Washington Post) – The sun won’t rise at the North Pole until March 20, and it’s normally close to the coldest time of year, but an extraordinary and possibly historic thaw swelled over the tip of the planet this weekend. Analyses show that the temperature warmed to the melting point as an enormous storm pumped an intense pulse of heat through the Greenland Sea.
Temperatures may have soared as high as 35 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) at the pole, according to the U.S. Global Forecast System model. While there are no direct measurements of temperature there, Zack Labe, a climate scientist working on his PhD at the University of California at Irvine, confirmed that several independent analyses showed “it was very close to freezing,” which is more than 50 degrees (30 degrees Celsius) above normal.
Global fishing vessel activity, May 2017 – November 2017
2 March 2018 (Mongabay) – Industrial fishing takes place across more than 55 percent of the world’s oceans, according to a new study published in Science.
Fishing is vital for food security and livelihoods across the globe, yet the extent of industrial fishing has remained largely unknown. Now, a team of researchers has tried to solve this problem by using the Automatic Identification System (AIS), an automatic ship-tracking system that uses satellite and land-based receivers to monitor a ship’s location, originally designed to help prevent ship collisions.
To see where and when fishing takes place, the researchers tracked 77,000 industrial ships, including more than 75 percent of large-sized commercial vessels, using 22 billion AIS positions from 2012 to 2016.
Spring Leaf Index Anomaly, 2 March 2018
2 March 2018 (The Washington Post) – For the second year in a row, spring has sprung early. In the Mid-Atlantic, cherry blossoms started to pop out of their buds in mid-February, and the crocuses have all but come and gone. Temperatures have dipped below freezing on only five mornings this February in the District, and nature is playing along — albeit, perhaps, grudgingly.
As much as spring is welcome when it arrives, it seems to feel better after a long winter. This year, winter never really started. December and January both got off to a cold start, but that quickly changed through the end of those months. By mid-February, we saw March flowers pop out of the ground. Winter is dead.
According to the National Phenology Network, spring is running 20 days or more ahead of schedule in parts of the Ohio River Valley and the Mid-Atlantic. That will soon be the case in the Midwest and the Northeast.
Continental-scale fragment size distribution of tropical and subtropical forests
14 February 2018 (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research) – Tropical forests around the world play a key role in the global carbon cycle and harbour more than half of the species worldwide. However, increases in land use during the past decades caused unprecedented losses of tropical forest. Scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) have adapted a method from physics to mathematically describe the fragmentation of tropical forests. In the scientific journal Nature, they explain how this allows to model and understand the fragmentation of forests on a global scale. They found that forest fragmentation in all three continents is close to a critical point beyond which fragment number will strongly increase. This will have severe consequences for biodiversity and carbon storage.
In order to analyse global patterns of forest fragmentation, a UFZ research group led by Prof. Andreas Huth used remote sensing data that quantify forest cover in the tropics in an extremely high resolution of 30 meters, resulting in more than 130 million forest fragments. To their surprise they found that the fragment sizes followed on all three continents similar frequency distributions. For example, the number of forest fragments smaller than 10,000 hectares is rather similar in all three regions: 11.2 percent in Central and South America, 9.9 percent in Africa and 9.2 percent in Southeast Asia. “This is surprising because land use noticeably differs from continent to continent,” says Dr. Franziska Taubert, mathematician in Huth’s team and first author of the study. For instance, very large forest areas are transformed into agricultural land in the Amazon region. By contrast, in the forests of Southeast Asia, often economically attractive tree species are taken from the forest.
When searching for explanations for the identical fragmentation patterns, the UFZ modellers found their answer in physics. “The fragment size distribution follows a power law with almost identical exponents on all three continents,” says biophysicist Andreas Huth. Such power laws are known from other natural phenomena such as forest fires, landslides and earthquakes. The breakthrough of their study is the ability to derive the observed power laws from percolation theory. “This theory states that in a certain phase of deforestation the forest landscape exhibits fractal, self-similar structures, i.e., structures that can be found again and again on different levels,” explains Huth. “In physics, this is also referred to as the critical point or phase transition, which for example also occurs during the transition of water from a liquid to gaseous state,” added co-author Dr. Thorsten Wiegand from UFZ. A particularly fascinating aspect of the percolation theory is that this universal size distribution is, at the critical point, independent of the small-scale mechanisms that led to fragmentation. This explains why all three continents show similar large-scale fragmentation patterns.
The prevalence of obesity and severe obesity among U.S. children 2 to 19 years of age, 1999-2016
3 March 2018 (Duke Health News) – Despite reports in recent years suggesting childhood obesity could be reaching a plateau in some groups, the big picture on obesity rates for children ages 2 to 19 remains unfavorable.
Three decades of rising childhood obesity continued their upward trend in 2016 according to a new analysis from Duke Health researchers. The findings, which appear 26 February 2018 in the journal Pediatrics, show 35.1 percent of children in the U.S. were overweight in 2016, a 4.7-percent increase compared to 2014.
“About four years ago, there was evidence of a decline in obesity in preschoolers,” said Asheley Cockrell Skinner, Ph.D., lead author and associate professor of population health sciences, who is also a member of the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI). “It appears any decline that may have been detected by looking at different snapshots in time or different data sets has reversed course. The long-term trend is clearly that obesity in children of all ages is increasing.”
US bank loans at least 90 days past due or in “non-accrual” status
NEW YORK (Financial Times) – Overdue US credit card debt has reached a seven-year high, underlining the difficulties faced by many consumers in spite of the strong performance of the economy.
Banking sector data show consumers were at least three months behind repayments or considered otherwise distressed on $11.9 billion of credit card debt at the turn of the year, a rise of 11.5 per cent during the fourth quarter.
More Americans are also falling behind on their mortgages, for which problematic debt levels rose 5.2 per cent over the same period to $56.7 billion.
Relationship between phenological trends and degrees north latitude
4 March 2018 (UC Davis) – Spring is arriving earlier, but how much earlier? The answer depends on where on Earth you find yourself, according to a study led by the University of California, Davis.
The study, published in Nature’s online journal Scientific Reports, found that for every 10 degrees north from the equator you move, spring arrives about four days earlier than it did a decade ago. This northward increase in the rate of springtime advance is roughly three times greater than what previous studies have indicated.
For example, at southern to mid latitudes such as Los Angeles, New Orleans, or Dallas, the study suggests spring might be arriving a mere one day earlier than it did a decade ago. Farther north, in Seattle, Chicago, or Washington D.C., it might be arriving four days earlier. And if you live in the Arctic, it might be arriving as much as 16 days earlier.
Depressive symptoms, in U.S. 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, by sex,1991–2015
5 March 2018 (IFLS) – Around 2012, something started going wrong in the lives of teens.
In just the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of U.S. teens who felt useless and joyless – classic symptoms of depression – surged 33 percent in large national surveys. Teen suicide attempts increased 23 percent. Even more troubling, the number of 13- to 18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31 percent.
In a new paper published in Clinical Psychological Science, my colleagues and I found that the increases in depression, suicide attempts, and suicide appeared among teens from every background – more privileged and less privileged, across all races and ethnicities and in every region of the country. All told, our analysis found that the generation of teens I call “iGen” – those born after 1995 – is much more likely to experience mental health issues than their millennial predecessors.
Countries requiring external assistance for food, March 2018
5 March 2018 (UN) – Increased hunger and food insecurity, fuelled by conflict and climatic challenges, continues to inflict suffering on populations in different parts of the world, forcing them to remain dependent on humanitarian assistance, a new United Nations report has warned.
According to the Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, issued Monday by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the need for external food assistance in 37 countries – either affected by conflict or adverse climate shocks – remains unchanged compared to the situation three months back.
“Civil war and insecurity are direct reasons for high hunger rates in 16 of those countries, ranging from Burundi to Yemen,” said FAO in a news release announcing the findings.
Arctic sea ice extent on 4 March 2018, with daily ice extent data for four previous years
6 March 2018 (Associated Press) – The Arctic winter has ended with more news that is worrying even the scientists who watch the effects of climate change closely.
The region experienced its warmest winter on record. Sea ice hit record lows for the time of year, new US weather data revealed on Tuesday.
“It’s just crazy, crazy stuff,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, who has been studying the Arctic since 1982. “These heat waves – I’ve never seen anything like this.”
North India to get hotter in 2018: IMD forecast of expected rise in maximum temperature across India between March and May 2018
7 March 2018 (The Better India) – Even though the month of March has just begun, parts of this country are already experiencing a taste of what promises to be a scorching summer.
On Wednesday, the Indian Meteorological Department warned the districts of Raigad, Ratnagiri, and Mumbai in Maharashtra that the heatwave-like conditions they are experiencing today are likely to persist.
Temperatures in these districts are expected to touch 38 degrees Celsius—six degrees above normal for this time of the year.
Projected largest global energy sources in the year 2040 and projected energy mix in 2040
NEW YORK (Financial Times) – ExxonMobil, the largest US energy group, has said it believes there is little risk that it will not be able to produce all of its proved oil and gas reserves, even in a world where government policies are set to limit the threat of catastrophic climate change, but it has acknowledged that some higher-cost assets may not be developed.
Exxon said that even if countries agreed to curb greenhouse gas emissions to limit the rise in global temperatures since pre-industrial times to 2C, there would still be a need for trillions of dollars of investment in new oil and gas production.
It added that demand for some of its assets, including its gas and US shale oil, would be particularly resilient even if fossil fuel consumption overall were to be constrained.
Dams existing or under construction and proposed in Andean Amazon river basins
8 March 2018 (Mongabay) – The scale of hydroelectric development in the Andean Amazon is far more extensive than previously thought, with numerous headwater dams fragmenting river habitats, disrupting natural systems, and affecting the lives and livelihoods of 30 million downstream Amazon basin inhabitants, according to a new study published in Science Advances.
If proposed dams in the region go ahead, sediment transport from the Andes to the Amazon floodplains will cease and migratory routes of freshwater fish will be blocked, threatening food security for downstream communities.
An international team of researchers led by Elizabeth Anderson, a freshwater ecologist at Florida International University in Miami, used satellite imagery to verify reported locations of existing dams in the Amazonian Andes of Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, and to quantify their impact on river connectivity.
Andes dams twice as numerous as thought are fragmenting the Amazon, with “huge ramifications for not only the rivers of the Andean region of the Amazon, but also for the ecology of the entire Amazon basin”
Number of annual plasma donations in the U.S., 1999-2016
16 March 2018 (The Atlantic) – Medicaid, housing subsidies, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—these are some of the things that make up the backbone of the U.S.’s social safety net. And the federal government, guided by President Trump’s proposed budget for 2019, is seeking to make deep cuts to all three of them.
Yet while this threatens the government’s social safety net, one of a different kind continues to expand. Americans are flooding into the country’s blood-plasma donation centers in greater numbers than ever before, seeking to make up for low wages or small benefits checks, or even as their only source of cash income during a spell of extreme poverty. Their blood plasma—which historically has been collected disproportionately in the country’s poorest communities—is fueling a multibillion-dollar worldwide industry.
Blood plasma, being a vital component of certain medical treatments, is extremely valuable, and there’s not much standing in the way of American adults who want to make some money off of what’s in their veins—so long as they weigh more than 110 pounds and are in good health. A standard visit lasts 90 minutes and usually pays between $30 and $50. Unlike other countries that ban giving plasma more than once a week or limit the number of sales in a year out of concerns for donors’ health, the U.S. permits up to two plasma donations a week, every week.
Hyperinflation Spiral: IMF sees Venezuela inflation accelerating to 13,000 percent by end-2018
CARACAS, Venezuela (NBC News) – Antonio Perez, 73, a semiretired real estate agent, woke up at 5 a.m. to stand in line outside a bank to cash his monthly pension. His breakfast was a cup of coffee.
By the time he arrived, there were already 140 people there waiting to cash their checks as well. An average monthly pension trades at about $1.81 on the black market.
He continues to try to work, but last year was the worst of his career. He couldn’t sell a single property.
Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, 1994-2017
16 March 2018 (Consortium News) – In Afghanistan, the world’s most powerful military is threatened by a small, pink flower.
Despite an escalation of the Afghan conflict under the Trump administration, a record opium crop, coupled with steady Taliban gains, foretell bitter fighting in the coming months for American forces and the Afghans stationed alongside them.
“Record-high opium production is but one indication of how badly U.S. efforts have failed and are continuing to fail,” said Andrew Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University and author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East. “It is both a major source of Taliban funding and an indication of how little control the Afghan government is able to exert.”
Total U.S. public debt outstanding, 2005-2018
17 March 2018 (CBS News) – About a year ago, President Trump pledged to eliminate the national debt “over a period of eight years.” But for the first time in history, the national debt surpassed $21 trillion this week, according to the U.S. Treasury.
The landmark comes shortly after Congress passed, and Mr. Trump signed, a suspension on the federal debt limit last month, allowing the government to borrow an unlimited amount of money until March 1, 2019.
When Mr. Trump took office on Jan. 20, 2017, the national debt was $19.9 trillion, according to U.S. Treasury data. Since then, the GOP-led Congress has passed a $1.5 trillion tax cut bill and a two-year spending deal which, together, are expected to drive the deficit and debt further upward. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates annual deficits could top $2.1 trillion per year in the next decade, which would send the national debt soaring even higher.
Prime property markets since the 2008 financial crisis
17 March 2018 (Financial Times) – In the stormy spring of 2008, the UK’s worsening property downturn was yet to hit Sloane Street in central London. A full year after the start of the credit crunch and the run on Northern Rock — which started a slide that would see more than 20 per cent chalked off the average house price — the local Savills office was still processing bumper sales.
“We had a fantastic, booming year in 2007,” says Jonathan Hewlett, head of their London region. “At the uber end values continued rising into 2008.” Receipts came in for £50m, £60m, even £70m homes. “Then Lehman Brothers crashed and everything changed,” he says. “The banking system appeared to be in meltdown.” He remembers taking calls from worried clients wanting to slash 35 per cent from their asking price.
“It was bleak,” says Liam Bailey, global head of research at Knight Frank. “From October 2008, the market pretty much stopped.”
Annual average U.S. unemployment rates, by race and education, 2017
19 March 2018 (NNPA Newswire) – Late last year, The Washington Post wrote that African Americans were the only group that showed no economic improvement since 2000.
They based their conclusions on Census data. This year, there was even more sobering news in a report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
The new study issued found “no progress” for African Americans on homeownership, unemployment and incarceration in 50 years.
Bird populations in France by species specialization, 1989-2017
20 March 2018 (AFP) – Bird populations across the French countryside have fallen by a third over the last decade and a half, researchers have said.
Dozens of species have seen their numbers decline, in some cases by two-thirds, the scientists said in a pair of studies – one national in scope and the other covering a large agricultural region in central France.
“The situation is catastrophic,” said Benoit Fontaine, a conservation biologist at France’s National Museum of Natural History and co-author of one of the studies.
Ground subsidence near hydraulic fracturing wells south of Pecos, Texas
23 March 2018 (SMU) – Analysis indicates decades of oil production activity have destabilized localities in an area of about 4,000 square miles populated by small towns, roadways and a vast network of oil and gas pipelines and storage tanks
Two giant sinkholes near Wink, Texas, may just be the tip of the iceberg, according to a new study that found alarming rates of new ground movement extending far beyond the infamous sinkholes.
That’s the finding of a geophysical team from Southern Methodist University, Dallas that previously reported the rapid rate at which the sinkholes are expanding and new ones forming.
Radar images show large swath of West Texas oil patch is heaving and sinking at alarming rates – “This region of Texas has been punctured like a pin cushion with oil wells and injection wells since the 1940s”
Forest loss density in Amazonia, 2001–2014
31 March 2018 (Mongabay) – A new study finds small-scale deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has been increasing over the past decade, with new hotspots emerging in Bolivia and Peru. The news somewhat dampens Brazil’s touted successes at combatting deforestation, with researchers saying the country’s forest monitoring system is not capable of detecting small areas of forest loss.
Over the past decade, numbers from Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE) have have shown big drops in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. After a spike of around 27,000 square kilometers of forest lost in 2004, INPE data indicate deforestation declined precipitously to less than 5,000 square kilometers in 2012. Since then, the data show deforestation in the region has remained relatively low compared to years past, with experts attributing the decline largely to the strengthening of environmental regulations in the mid-2000s.
However, Brazil’s drop in deforestation may not be quite as big as those numbers suggest. INPE uses a satellite monitoring system called PRODES to look for tree cover loss in the Amazon, a system that has been lauded by conservationists as a big force behind the deforestation decline in the Brazilian Amazon. But PRODES can only detect canopy gaps larger than 6.25 hectares, meaning that deforestation events smaller than that may be missed.
Measured changes in δ15N-values of bird and insect tissues over time, 1880-2013
31 March 2018 (Anthropocene) – No guild of North American birds is declining so rapidly as aerial insectivores: acrobatic marvels whose maneuvers make our hearts soar, and who provide a vital ecosystem service. Why are their numbers plummeting? A leading explanation is a widespread decline in insect populations — a troubling possibility, hinted at by many studies but also one difficult to pin down. There are few records of historical insect numbers against which to compare our own.
In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, researchers led by biologist Philina English of Simon Fraser University describe their ingenious workaround: they used museum specimens of whip-poor-wills, a medium-sized insect-eater whose populations are falling by 3.5 percent each year, as biological time machines. By contrasting the chemical composition of their bodies with the composition of living whip-poor-wills, the researchers could extrapolate how the birds used to eat.
“These results are consistent with the hypothesis that aerial insectivore populations are declining due to changes in abundance of higher trophic-level prey,” wrote the researchers. To translate that into normal speak: the birds are suffering because there seems to be a lot fewer big bugs than there used to be.
Global map of ozone for non-urban and urban sites
5 February 2018 (University of Edinburgh) – Potentially harmful levels of the air pollutant ozone are present in many regions around the world, a widespread study has shown.
Levels of ozone in the troposphere – the lower region of the atmosphere – have decreased in much of Europe and the US over the past 15 years. However, they are increasing in parts of East Asia in line with economic development.
Relatively high levels are found in both in urban and rural areas of the globe, with identifiable hot-spots in regions with major emissions, according to the results.
Trends in impacts on biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people and good quality of life indicators in Europe and Central Asia
23 March 2018 (IPBES) – Biodiversity – the essential variety of life forms on Earth – continues to decline in every region of the world, significantly reducing nature’s capacity to contribute to people’s well-being. This alarming trend endangers economies, livelihoods, food security and the quality of life of people everywhere, according to four landmark science reports released today, written by more than 550 leading experts, from over 100 countries.
The result of three years of work, the four regional assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services cover the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Africa, as well as Europe and Central Asia – the entire planet except the poles and the open oceans. The assessment reports were approved by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), in Medellín, Colombia, at the 6th session of its Plenary. IPBES has 129 State Members.
“Biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people sound, to many people, academic and far removed from our daily lives,” said the Chair of IPBES, Sir Robert Watson, “Nothing could be further from the truth – they are the bedrock of our food, clean water, and energy. They are at the heart not only of our survival, but of our cultures, identities and enjoyment of life. The best available evidence, gathered by the world’s leading experts, points us now to a single conclusion: we must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature – or risk not only the future we want, but even the lives we currently lead. Fortunately, the evidence also shows that we know how to protect and partially restore our vital natural assets.”
Number of social thresholds achieved versus number of biophysical boundaries transgressed for different countries
5 February 2018 (University of Leeds) – A study led by the University of Leeds has found that no country currently meets its citizens’ basic needs at a globally sustainable level of resource use.
The research, published in Nature Sustainability, is the first to quantify the sustainability of national resource use associated with meeting basic human needs for 151 countries.
Each country’s resource use and well-being achievements have been made available as a website built by the academics involved in the study.
Departure from average temperatures during the last 7 days in March 2018
4 April 2018 (Mashable) – It may be unusually cold in the eastern U.S. right now, but in parts of Asia, dangerous, scorching heat has been breaking records.
At least seven countries set monthly high temperature records at the end of March, according to national weather authorities and tracking by Etienne Kapikian, a meteorologist with MeteoFrance, along with climatologist Maximiliano Herrera.
According to the Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang blog, the worst of the heat was parked on top of Pakistan, which saw its hottest weather for so early in the season. On 30 March 2018, the temperature in Nawabshah, in Sindh Province, hit 45.5 degrees Celsius, or 113.9 degrees Fahrenheit. This beat the old monthly record of 45 degrees Celsius, or 113 degrees Fahrenheit, which was set in March of 1991.
Drought conditions over South America, 26 March 2018
30 March 2018 (Weather Underground) – A severe lack of rainfall during over southern South America during the summer of 2017 – 2018 has led to the worst drought in decades over portions of Argentina and Uruguay. According to insurance broker Aon Benfield, total losses are near $3.9 billion, making the drought the most expensive weather-related disaster on the planet so far in 2018–and the most expensive disaster in the history of both Argentina and Uruguay.
Hardest-hit was Argentina, where the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange predicted that the drought would likely cause an economic loss of $3.4 billion. Argentina’s 2018 soybean harvest is expected to be near the record-low harvest of the drought year of 2009; both severe droughts occurred during weak La Niña events. According to EM-DAT, the international disaster database, the $3.4 billion cost of this year’s drought exceeds a $3 billion flood (2018 dollars) from October 1985 as Argentina’s most expensive disaster on record.
Decline of late Changhsingian ammonoid sizes in Iran
14 March 2018 (FAU) – Mass extinctions throughout the history of the Earth have been well documented. Scientists believe that they occurred during a short period of time in geological terms. In a new study, FAU palaeobiologists and their research partners have now shown that signs that the largest mass extinction event in the Earth’s history was approaching became apparent much earlier than previously believed, and point out that the same indicators can be observed today.
Mass extinctions are rare events that have catastrophic consequences. These events often completely change the course of evolution. For example, the rise of mammals – and therefore of humans – would probably not have been possible had dinosaurs not become extinct 65 million years ago. A meteorite hit the Earth plunging it into darkness and causing a huge drop in temperature. The subsequent hunger crisis wiped out more than 70 percent of all animal species. Human ancestors were among the lucky survivors.
The consequences of the extinction of species that occurred around 250 million years ago at the Permian-Triassic boundary were even more catastrophic. Gigantic volcanic eruptions and the greenhouse gas emissions they caused wiped out around 90 percent of all animal species according to estimates. For over twenty years, the dominant opinion in research was that this “mother of all disasters” happened abruptly and without warning, when seen on a geological time-scale – estimates suggest a period of just 60,000 years.
Total number of marine heatwave days globally, 1982-2016
11 April 2018 (University of Tasmania) – An international study in Nature Communications co-authored by researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes and the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) reveals that marine heatwaves have increased globally over the past century in number, length and intensity as a direct result of warming oceans.
From 1925-2016, the study found the frequency of marine heatwaves had increased on average by 34% and the length of each heatwave had increased by 17%. Combined, this led to a 54% increase in the number of marine heatwave days every year.
“Our research also found that from 1982 there was a noticeable acceleration of the trend in marine heatwaves,” said lead author Dr Eric Oliver from Dalhousie University, Canada. “While some of us may enjoy the warmer waters when we go swimming, these heatwaves have significant impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity, fisheries, tourism, and aquaculture. There are often profound economic consequences that go hand in hand with these events.”
Ocean heatwaves becoming longer and more frequent – “With more than 90 percent of the heat from human-caused global warming going into our oceans, it is likely marine heatwaves will continue to increase”
Total number of days with any smoke plumes by California county, 1 May 2015 – 30 September 2015
14 April 2018 (TCTMD) – New data show a surprising pattern of increased emergency department (ED) visits for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular problems on days when wildfires are burning in California. Researchers say the fine particulate matter created by the fires poses significant risk beyond the state’s borders, and in particular to people over age 65, who appear to be most greatly affected.
The study adds to accumulating data on the association between air pollution and cardiovascular risk, and highlights the vulnerability of elderly patients with cardiac and vascular risk factors living in areas where the fires are common.
“It’s a local problem, but it’s also a national problem,” said the study’s senior author Ana G. Rappold, PhD (US Environmental Protection Agency, Durham, NC), in an interview with TCTMD. She noted that it is not uncommon for particulate matter from a wildfire in Alaska or the northwest territories to be detectable in the southern region of the United States, for example.
Assets of financial intermediaries, 2003-2016
5 Mar 2018 (Central Banking) – The assets of “other financial institutions” grew to their highest level since 2002 in 2016, the Financial Stability Board says.
Total assets of OFIs increased by 8% to $99 trillion in 2016, the body says in its 2017 report on the global shadow banking sector, published today (March 5).
OFIs’ assets grew less quickly in 2016 than those of central banks, but faster than those of commercial banks, insurance companies and pension funds.
In this county-level view of income predominance in the U.S., cities appear as beacons of prosperity
14 April 2018 (CityLab) – In Philly’s Center City live its richest residents—those who can pay the premium for that walkable, amenity-rich, green neighborhood. But just across the river, blocks away from the lush, expanding campuses of the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, the visual landscape of the city changes: Pawn shops, fast food eateries, boarded-up store fronts, and dilapidated houses. Only a few areas in West Philadelphia have become more prosperous (and whiter). The rest continue to suffer concentrated poverty and decline.
This is not just a Philadelphia story. To visualize the landscape of economic inequality in U.S. cities, the mapping whizzes at ESRI have created a captivating story map with multiple layers. It presents America’s stark income disparities—and in the few places where it exists, income diversity.
Let’s zoom in further on Philadelphia to understand ESRI’s three metrics. The first type of map divides census tracts into four differently colored categories based on the income brackets of the “predominant”—or most most numerous—household type.
Global coal power emissions compared to coal CO2 budgets
14 April 2018 (CNBC) – Once globally vilified for extensive air pollution due to heavy coal usage, China now talks a big game about its environmental efforts after the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate pact.
But, beyond its borders, the country has been the world’s biggest investor in coal power.
“Chinese banks’ and companies’ investments in coal abroad are a cause of major concern because of their potential to lock in more climate warming emissions in our carbon-constrained world,” said Huang Wei, a climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.
Carbon footprint of fishery-derived products for human consumption in 2011 compared to other sources of animal protein
4 April 2018 (University of Tasmania) – A new study by a team of Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and Canadian scientists has found that catching most types of fish produces far less carbon per kilo of protein than land-based alternatives such as beef or lamb.
The researchers undertaking the study found that fisheries for small pelagic species such as anchovies and sardines emit a fraction of the carbon generated by red meat production.
On average, global fisheries have a low-carbon footprint similar to that of poultry.
Unemployment rate and wage growth in advanced economies, 2005-2017
17 April 2018 (UN News) – While the world economy continues to show broad-based momentum, a new report released Tuesday by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is warning that there may be choppy seas ahead, caused by increasing protectionism or tit-for-tat trade wars.
“Global growth is projected to soften beyond the next couple of years,” said the report, explaining that: “Once their output gaps close, most advanced economies are poised to return to potential growth rates well below pre-crisis averages – held back by aging populations and lackluster productivity.”
Looking at the largest economies, the World Economic Outlook , the Fund’s semiannual report on the health of the international economy, shows growth projections at 2.4 per cent for the euro area, 1.2 per cent for Japan, 6.6 per cent for China and 2.9 per cent for the United States.
The effect of drought treatment on nectar-producing flowers
12 April 2018 (University of Exeter) – Bees could be at risk from climate change because more frequent droughts could cause plants to produce fewer flowers, new research shows.
Droughts are expected to become more common and more intense in many parts of the world, and researchers studied the impact on flowering plants using a field experiment.
They found that drought roughly halved the overall number of flowers. This means less food for bees and other pollinators, which visit flowers for the nectar and pollen that they provide.
Proxy reconstructions of changes in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation over the past 1,600 years
12 April 2018 (UCL News) – In the first comprehensive study of ocean-based records, published in Nature, scientists have observed a marked weakening of Atlantic circulation over the past 150 years. This weakening correlates with the end of the Little Ice Age, around 1850 AD, and the onset of the industrial revolution when glaciers and sea ice melted, causing an influx of freshwater.
It is believed that an influx of freshwater is causing significant disturbance to the ocean currents, and could have a dramatic impact on climates across North America and Western Europe.
“Our results suggest that when simulating historical climate events, leading climate change models are either not sensitive enough to changes in the natural environment, such as the influxes of freshwater, or they are not including all the relevant processes.”
Projected increase in maximum five-daily maximum temperatures for 1.5°C and 2.0°C simulations, relative to present decade
22 April 2018 (Nature) – Nations such as Bangladesh and Egypt have long known that they will suffer more from climate change than will richer countries, but now researchers have devised a stark way to quantify the inequalities of future threats.
A map of “equivalent impacts”, revealed at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) this month in Vienna, shows that global temperatures would have to rise by a whopping 3 °C before most people in wealthy nations would feel departures from familiar climate conditions equal to those that residents of poorer nations will suffer under moderate warming.
The Paris climate agreement, adopted by 195 countries in 2015, aims to limit the rise in global mean temperature to 1.5–2 °C above pre-industrial levels. The world has already warmed by one degree or so — and since 1900, the mean number of record-dry and record-wet months each year has also increased.
Decadal evolution of microplastic concentration in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Delft, the Netherlands, 22 March 2018 (The Ocean Cleanup) – 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 80,000 metric tons are currently afloat in an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – and it is rapidly getting worse. These are the main conclusions of a three year mapping effort conducted by an international team of scientists affiliated with The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, six universities and an aerial sensor company. Their findings were published today in the journal Scientific Reports.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), located halfway between Hawaii and California, is the largest accumulation zone for ocean plastics on Earth. Conventionally, researchers have used single, fine-meshed nets, typically less than a meter in size, in an attempt to quantify the problem. However, this method yields high uncertainty because of the small surface area that is covered. Additionally, these methods could not measure the magnitude of the problem to its fullest extent, because all sampling nets – small and large – were unable to capture objects greater than the size of the net.
In order to analyze the full extent of the GPGP, the team conducted the most comprehensive sampling effort of the GPGP to date by crossing the debris field with 30 vessels simultaneously, supplemented by two aircraft surveys. Although most vessels were equipped with standard surface sampling nets, the fleet’s mothership RV Ocean Starr also trawled two six-meter-wide devices, which allowed the team to sample medium to large-sized objects.
22 April 2018 (CNN) – Without intervention soon, the amount of plastic littering the world’s oceans is expected to triple within a decade, a new UK government report warns.
The Foresight Future of the Sea report from the UK Government Office for Science said our oceans have seen “unprecedented change as a result of direct human activity and climate change.”
It identified the rise of plastic in oceans, along with rising temperatures and sea levels and chemical pollution, as some of the biggest problems the marine environment faces.
Initial and longer-term response of coral assemblages to heat exposure
22 April 2018 (Nature) – Extreme heat in 2016 damaged Australia’s Great Barrier Reef much more substantially than initial surveys indicated, according to ongoing studies that have tracked the health of the coral treasure. The heatwave caused massive bleaching of the corals that captured worldwide attention.
In a paper published on 18 April 2018 in Nature, researchers report that severe bleaching on an unprecedented scale triggered mass death of corals. This drastically changed the species composition of almost one-third of the 3,863 individual reefs that comprise the Great Barrier Reef.
The world’s largest coral reef is unlikely to recover soon. The damage is a harbinger of what a warming future might hold for a wealth of tropical reef ecosystems, says lead study author Terry Hughes, director of the coral-reef centre at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. “If we fail to curb climate change, and global temperatures rise far above 2 °C [above the pre-industrial level], we will lose the benefits they provide to hundreds of millions of people.”
Pathway and microplastic content of sea ice cores in the Central Arctic
24 April 2018 (AWI) – Experts at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), have recently found higher amounts of microplastic in arctic sea ice than ever before. However, the majority of particles were microscopically small. The ice samples from five regions throughout the Arctic Ocean contained up to 12,000 microplastic particles per litre of sea ice. Further, the different types of plastic showed a unique footprint in the ice allowing the researchers to trace them back to possible sources. This involves the massive garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean, while in turn, the high percentage of paint and nylon particles pointed to the intensified shipping and fishing activities in some parts of the Arctic Ocean. The new study has just been released in the journal Nature Communications.
“During our work, we realised that more than half of the microplastic particles trapped in the ice were less than a twentieth of a millimetre wide, which means they could easily be ingested by arctic microorganisms like ciliates, but also by copepods,” says AWI biologist and first author Dr Ilka Peeken. The observation is a very troubling one because, as she explains, “No one can say for certain how harmful these tiny plastic particles are for marine life, or ultimately also for human beings.”
The AWI researcher team had gathered the ice samples in the course of three expeditions to the Arctic Ocean on board the research icebreaker Polarstern in the spring of 2014 and summer of 2015. They hail from five regions along the Transpolar Drift and the Fram Strait, which transports sea ice from the Central Arctic to the North Atlantic.
Researchers measure record concentration of microplastic in Arctic sea ice – “No one can say for certain how harmful these tiny plastic particles are for marine life, or ultimately also for human beings”
Home price growth in Seattle, Washington, 1990-2018
25 April 2018 (The Seattle Times) – As the Seattle area continues its run as the nation’s hottest real-estate market, it has now seen home prices surge upward for a full six years — with more growth in home values during the current boom than during last decade’s bubble. [cf. How the 2008 financial crash made cities unaffordable worldwide – Property markets in the world’s major cities have “synchronised”, leaving behind nations and citizens. –Des]
Single-family home costs across the metro area grew 12.7 percent in February from a year earlier, the biggest increase in the nation for the 18th month in a row, according to the monthly Case-Shiller home price index, released Tuesday.
The report marked six years since home values bottomed out in February 2012. Since then, values have increased 85 percent — nearly triple the region’s historical average for a typical six-year span. Only San Francisco and Las Vegas had bigger gains during that period.
Intense area of high pressure at high altitudes parked over Germany, 19 April 2018
26 April 2018 (The Washington Post) – While abnormally cold weather continues to grip the Eastern United States, a full-fledged dose of summer weather has overtaken much of Europe.
An enormous heat dome, parked over Germany, has covered a large part of the continent in record or near-record warmth.
High temperatures in the 70s and 80s (roughly 20 to 30 Celsius) were widespread Thursday.
Changes in northern UK rainfall by 2100 under a high-greenhouse gas scenario
27 April 2018 (Met Office) – A scientific study has given an initial view of potentially significant changes in rainfall patterns across northern England and Scotland by 2100.
An experimental approach using the Met Office Unified Model with a resolution of 1.5km provides a first look at changes in rainfall that could affect Scotland and northern England in both summer and winter several decades into the future. The 1.5km model allows us to look at changes in hourly rainfall at kilometre scales, not captured by traditional climate models.
The study ? published in the journal Climate Dynamics ? showed that during winter daily average rainfall would increase at the end of the 21?? Century for most parts of northern Britain, assuming a pathway leading to high greenhouse gas emissions ? the so-called: RCP8.5 pathway.
Trends in heavy rainfall for San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1950-2017
11 April 2018 (Climate Central) – With flooding in parts of the Mississippi Valley and a strong Pacific storm coming into the Northwest, we examined the trend in the number of days each year with heavy precipitation at 244 individual sites in the U.S. This expands our nationwide-averaged heavy precipitation analysis from earlier this year, complementing the 2017 Climate Science Special Report which indicated the heaviest precipitation events are increasing in all regions of the U.S. […]
For each location, we examined the number of calendar days each year that had more than 0.25, 0.50, 1, and 2 inches of rain (or liquid equivalent) from 1950 to 2017. For arid climates, we displayed the trends in those lower three thresholds. Locations that did not average one 2”+ rain event every two years were defined as arid. Trends in 0.50, 1, and 2 inches were displayed for moderate and wetter climates. For clarity, we have omitted the scatter plots for each year and displayed only the linear trend. Precipitation amounts are highly variable, so not all markets have positive trends in all thresholds. [more]
Percent change in population among 19 species of North American long-distance migrating shorebirds, 1975-2016
28 April 2018 (The New York Times) – A worldwide catastrophe is underway among an extraordinary group of birds — the marathon migrants we know as shorebirds. Numbers of some species are falling so quickly that many biologists fear an imminent planet-wide wave of extinctions.
These declines represent the No. 1 conservation crisis facing birds in the world today. Climate change, coastal development, the destruction of wetlands and hunting are all culprits. And because these birds depend for their survival, as we do, on the shorelines of oceans, estuaries, rivers, lakes, lagoons, and marshes, their declines point to a systemic crisis that demands our attention, for our own good.
No doubt you’ve seen some of these birds while on vacation at the beach, skittering back and forth along the cusp of waves as they peck with their long beaks for tiny sand flies or the eggs of horseshoe crabs. They can seem comic in their frenetic exertions, tiny Charlie Chaplins in bird suits.
Lies and misleading claims by President Trump, 20 January 2017 – 29 April 2018
1 May 2018 (The Washington Post) – In the 466 days since he took the oath of office, President Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. [For context, see I study liars. I’ve never seen one like President Trump. –Des]
That’s an average of nearly 6.5 claims a day.
When we first started this project for the president’s first 100 days, he averaged 4.9 claims a day. Slowly, the average number of claims has been creeping up.
Change in frequency of precipitation whiplash events in California, projected to 2100
1 May 2018 (UCLA) – California is headed for a future of precipitation extremes.
Research by UCLA climate scientists, published today in Nature Climate Change, projects that the state will experience a much greater number of extremely wet and extremely dry weather seasons — especially wet — by the end of the century. The authors also predict that there will be a major increase in the likelihood of severe flooding events, and that there will be many more quick changes from one weather extreme to the other.
Those who manage California’s water supply and protect residents from wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters should be planning for those changes, said lead author Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and The Nature Conservancy. Millions of lives, wildlife and the health of a multitrillion-dollar economy depend on it.
Difference between population of girls and boys in China and India, 1970-2018 and projected to 2100
5 May 2018 (The Washington Post) – Nothing like this has happened in human history. A combination of cultural preferences, government decree and modern medical technology in the world’s two largest countries has created a gender imbalance on a continental scale. Men outnumber women by 70 million in China and India.
The consequences of having too many men, now coming of age, are far-reaching: Beyond an epidemic of loneliness, the imbalance distorts labor markets, drives up savings rates in China and drives down consumption, artificially inflates certain property values, and parallels increases in violent crime, trafficking or prostitution in a growing number of locations.
Those consequences are not confined to China and India, but reach deep into their Asian neighbors and distort the economies of Europe and the Americas, as well. Barely recognized, the ramifications of too many men are only starting to come into sight.
Population size of the red wolf population in North Carolina
24 April 2018 (USFWS) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released a five-year status review and Species Status Assessment [pdf] outlining the latest science and data supporting its recommendation for no change in the red wolf’s overall status as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The status review is required every five years and is based on the latest science and data included in a Species Status Assessment (SSA) that serves as the foundation for the recommendation.
In addition, the Service expects to release an environmental assessment and a new proposed rule by late summer with alternatives for public comment covering future management of the non-essential, experimental population (NEP) of red wolves in eastern North Carolina. An NEP is one that is considered not essential for the continued existence of the species. The Service is also beginning work with an independent organization as directed by Congress to determine within one year if the red wolf represents a taxonomically valid species designation.
The red wolf was listed as endangered in 1967 and declared extinct in the wild in 1980. In 1995, a special rule was put in place to manage a nonessential, experimental population of captive-bred red wolves in five eastern North Carolina counties.
Mean temperature rise in Greater Himalaya zone of Western Himalaya
6 May 2018 (Mongabay) – Winters in the Himalayas are getting warmer, which is increasing the risk of avalanches, two new studies suggest.
The Himalayas, a massive 2,500-kilometre (1,553-mile) arc-shaped stretch of lofty mountains straddling Pakistan, China, India, Nepal, and Bhutan, are home to the largest concentration of glaciers outside of the poles.
So far, monitoring the trends and effects of changing climate in the Himalayas has been challenging because of the high altitudes and rugged terrain. Now, with the help of mountain-top observatories, Harendra Singh Negi of the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) in Chandigarh, India, and his team have analysed trends in winter (November-April) temperature and precipitation in the northwestern Himalayas and Karakoram from 1991 to 2015. Over this 25-year period, winters in the northwestern Himalayas have become warmer and wetter with less snowfall, the researchers report in a study published in Current Science.
Record low sea-ice extent in the Bering Sea, compared with the 168-year historic record
6 May 2018 (Scientific American) – April should be prime walrus hunting season for the native villages that dot Alaska’s remote western coast. In years past the winter sea ice where the animals rest would still be abundant, providing prime targets for subsistence hunters. But this year sea-ice coverage as of late April was more like what would be expected for mid-June, well into the melt season. These conditions are the continuation of a winter-long scarcity of sea ice in the Bering Sea—a decline so stark it has stunned researchers who have spent years watching Arctic sea ice dwindle due to climate change.
Winter sea ice cover in the Bering Sea did not just hit a record low in 2018; it was half that of the previous lowest winter on record (2001), says John Walsh, chief scientist of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “There’s never ever been anything remotely like this for sea ice” in the Bering Sea going back more than 160 years, says Rick Thoman, an Alaska-based climatologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
A confluence of conditions—including warm air and ocean temperatures, along with persistent storms—set the stage for this dramatic downturn in a region that to date has not been one of the main contributors to the overall reduction of Arctic sea ice. Whereas a degree of random weather variability teed up this remarkable winter, the background warming of the Arctic is what provides the “extra kick” to reach such unheard-of extremes, Walsh says. […]
Fuels burned by the US industrial and non-industrial bioenergy sectors, 2001–2016
6 May 2018 (Mongabay) – For the past ten years, Mary Booth, an ecologist with the Partnership for Policy Integrity in Pelham, Massachusetts, has immersed herself in the complex, nuanced, politically charged world of international carbon emissions accounting models as if the planet’s fate depends on it.
In many ways, it does.
Booth studies how countries count and report their emissions. In particular, she evaluates whether generating energy via the burning of wood pellets, or biomass, puts less carbon into the atmosphere than burning coal. In a rising trend, countries, especially in the European Union and United Kingdom, are converting existing coal-fired power plants to burn wood — a renewable, albeit controversial, fuel source.
Percentage of cities with increasing and decreasing PM2.5 or PM10 annual means, 2010-2016
2 May 2018 (UN News) – In a call for Member States to take action urgently, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, warned that air pollution “threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalized people bear the brunt of the burden.”
According to WHO’s ambient air quality database, despite some improvements, pollution levels are “still dangerously high” in most parts of the world.
This includes “many of the world’s megacities”, according to Dr Maria Neira, WHO’s Director of the Department of Public Health, Social and Environmental Determinants of Health, who added that air quality levels in those urban centres, exceed WHO guidelines “by more than five times”.
Average species richness change on mountain summits
9 May 2018 (Aarhus University) – It is not as lonely at the top as it used to be.
At least not for plants which, due to global warming, are increasingly finding habitats on mountain tops that were formerly reserved for only the toughest and most hardy species.
A large international research team has not only ascertained a considerable increase in the number of plant species on 302 European mountain peaks over the past 150 years; they have also found that this increase is accelerating. Moreover, it is certain that this development is linked to rises in temperatures; changes in precipitation and nitrogen input could not explain the increase.
Estimated terahashes per second performed by the Bitcoin network, 2009-2018
21 May 2018 (The Outline) – In addition to being insufferable, Bitcoin is also absolutely terrible for the environment. According to a letter published today in the energy journal Joule by financial economist and blockchain specialist Alex de Vries, the Bitcoin network is consuming roughly 2.55 gigawatts annually, at the absolute minimum. To put that in context, that’s nearly the same amount of energy consumed by the entirety of Ireland. That’s just the conservative current estimate; De Vries predicts that by December, the Bitcoin network could be using almost triple that.
Bitcoins cost energy to “mine,” because mining is just a computer running calculations; the longer Bitcoin is around, the more energy it takes to mine each subsequent unit (it takes four times as much energy to mine a single Bitcoin now as it did when the currency launched in 2009). There is a finite amount of Bitcoin, and the most recent projections show it will take about another 120 years to mine all 21 million Bitcoins. There is also, theoretically, a tipping point somewhere in there where the amount of energy it takes to mine a piece of Bitcoin is more valuable than the Bitcoin itself, though it all depends on the market value. But Bitcoin transactions, not just mining, require electricity (one transaction could currently power a home for a week), so the more widely used it is, the more carbon we are pumping into the atmosphere.
There’s been a considerable amount of debate over the last couple of years surrounding the extent of the energy impact of Bitcoin (for instance, is it pretty bad, or really really bad?), not least because energy use in most parts of the world contributes carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change. But in the wake of Bitcoin’s wild valuation ride throughout most of 2017 up to nearly $20,000 per coin, cryptocurrency mining doesn’t seem likely to slow down anytime soon. Researchers need concrete answers before it becomes far too late enact institutional restrictions and regulations on the practice, writes De Vries.
Antibiotic resistance increases with increasing temperature
23 May 2018 (Vector) – Over-prescribing has long been thought to increase antibiotic resistance in bacteria. But could much bigger environmental pressures be at play?
While studying the role of climate on the distribution of antibiotic resistance across the geography of the U.S., a multidisciplinary team of epidemiologists from Boston Children’s Hospital found that higher local temperatures and population densities correlate with higher antibiotic resistance in common bacterial strains. Their findings were published today in Nature Climate Change.
“The effects of climate are increasingly being recognized in a variety of infectious diseases, but so far as we know this is the first time it has been implicated in the distribution of antibiotic resistance over geographies,” says the study’s lead author, Derek MacFadden, MD, an infectious disease specialist and research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital. “We also found a signal that the associations between antibiotic resistance and temperature could be increasing over time.”
Aerosols and dust over northern India, 14 May 2018
25 May 2018 (NASA) – India has been hit by a streak of unusually intense thunderstorms, dust storms, and lightning so far in 2018. The events collapsed homes, destroyed crops, and claimed the lives of over a hundred people with even more casualties, calling for assistance by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In late April, the state of Andhra Pradesh in southeastern India was struck by about 40,000 lightning bolts in 13 hours—more than the number of strikes that occurred in the entire month of May 2017 — striking people and livestock.
On 2 May 2018, a cluster of strong thunderstorms, accompanied by strong winds and lightning, swept through the Rajasthan region in the north, knocking over large structures and harming those in the way. The potent thunderstorms whipped up one of the deadliest dust storms in decades.
Global CFC-11 emission, reported production and implied release rate from CFC-11 banks, 1995-2016
16 May 2018 (NOAA) – Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, were once considered a triumph of modern chemistry. Stable and versatile, these chemicals were used in hundreds of products, from military systems to the ubiquitous can of hairspray.
Then in 1987, NOAA scientists were part of an international team that proved this family of wonder chemicals was damaging Earth’s protective ozone layer and creating the giant hole in the ozone layer that forms over Antarctica each September. The Montreal Protocol, signed later that year, committed the global community to phasing out their use. Production of the second-most abundant CFC, CFC-11, would end completely by 2010.
Except that maybe it didn’t.
Return time for a 99 percent emerald ash borer mortality event
17 May 2018 (University of Waterloo) – More Canadian cities will experience damage from the emerald ash borer than previously thought. As a result of climate change and fewer days of extreme cold, the beetle may eat its way further north than originally estimated.
Kim Cuddington, a professor of biology at the University of Waterloo, led the team that produced a probability map for North America showing where the emerald ash borer is likely to kill trees.
“We ran specific predictions to help Canadian cities decide if they need to make plans before they’re affected,” said Cuddington. “Calgary is likely to experience damage, as are Thunder Bay, Prince George and Winnipeg. Edmonton and Saskatoon are less likely, but they should remain vigilant.”
Regional difference in projected distribution shifts of fish species under two global warming scenarios
28 May 2018 (Rutgers Today) – Climate change will force hundreds of ocean fish and invertebrate species, including some of the most economically important to the United States, to move northward, disrupting fisheries in the United States and Canada, a Rutgers University-led study reports.
The study, published today in the journal PLOS ONE, covers the North American continental shelfs on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Previous studies have been global or regional, thus being too large or too small to get a clear picture of the future for North America’s fisheries. The species surveyed include finfish, sharks and rays, crustaceans, and squid. Among those most affected are Pacific rockfishes, Atlantic cod and black sea bass.
Fish are sensitive to the temperatures of the water where they live, and as it becomes too warm, populations often shift to where the water temperature is right for them. This process has already begun, though at different rates in different places. As climate change continues and the oceans warm up, the study shows, more species of fish will move north to where the temperature range is habitable for them.
GDP, by value added of the agricultural sector and other sectors, and estimated gross value of opiate exports from Afghanistan, 2000-2017
21 May 2018 (UNODC) – In 2017, opium cultivation in Afghanistan reached a record high with an estimated 328,000 hectares, up 63 per cent compared with 201,000 hectares in 2016.
According to the latest survey report released today by UNODC, last year’s record levels of production has led to unprecedented levels of potential heroin production. From the 2017 opium harvest, some 550-900 tons of heroin of export quality (purity between 50 and 70 per cent) can be produced.
The report highlights that the levels of opium poppy cultivation create multiple challenges for the country, its neighbours and the many other countries that are transit for or destination of Afghan opiates. The significant levels of opium poppy cultivation and illicit trafficking of opiates further fuel instability, insurgency and increase funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan.
Change in anthropogenic NOx emission estimates in the U.S., 2005-2015
31 May 2018 (NASA) – The air we breathe today in the United States is much cleaner than it was in the 1960s and 70s. But recent satellite data show that air quality is not improving as quickly as predicted by models.
“Air quality is better than it was decades ago, but now we’re starting to see the improvement slow down,” said Helen Worden, atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
In a recent study supported by NASA, lead author Zhe Jiang, Worden, and a group of researchers used satellite data and advanced computer simulations to find that major air pollutants are not decreasing as rapidly as expected. That is, air quality is not improving as much as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) inventories and computer models indicate they should.
Mammalian relative abundance responses to selected landscape covariates in Llanos, Colombia
30 May 2018 (James Cook University) – With palm oil production exploding around the world, a new study of a leading producer has found ways to make the process easier on the environment.
James Cook University PhD candidate Lain Pardo studied the industry in Colombia – a country described as being on the “tip of the spear” in terms of burgeoning palm oil production.
The researchers used a new camera trapping technique across 2,000 square kilometres of the country’s most important palm oil production region and found that while palm oil plantations are not suitable for most mammals to live in, the situation could be improved.
Percentage gain in GDP per capita in 2050 and 2100 from achieving 1.5°C global warming instead of 2°C
1 June 2018 (Stanford University) – Failing to meet climate mitigation goals laid out in the U.N. Paris Agreement could cost the global economy tens of trillions of dollars over the next century, according to new Stanford research. The study, published 23 May 2018 in Nature, is one of the first to quantify the economic benefits of limiting global warming to levels set in the accord.
The agreement commits 195 countries to the goal of holding this century’s average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius above levels in the pre-industrial era. It also includes an aspirational goal of pursuing an even more stringent target of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. To date, the economic benefits of achieving these temperature targets have not been well understood.
“Over the past century we have already experienced a 1-degree increase in global temperature, so achieving the ambitious targets laid out in the Paris Agreement will not be easy or cheap. We need a clear understanding of how much economic benefit we’re going to get from meeting these different targets,” said Marshall Burke, assistant professor of Earth system science in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences and lead author of the study.
Atmospheric carbon emissions projected by IPCC in 1992 compared with observed emissions
3 June 2018 (Twitter) – In 1992, the world adopted the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to fight global warming.
The same year, the IPCC released a set of projections for future CO2. The most widely used, IS92a, depicted global growth under business-as-usual.
Today, CO2 is only ~5 ppm below what IS92a predicted.
Between 2000 and 2016, US poverty increased more sharply in suburbs than in urban and rural counties
3 June 2018 (Business Insider) – In the US, the geography of poverty is shifting.
According to a May report from the Pew Research Center, since 2000, suburban counties have experienced sharper increases in poverty than urban or rural counties.
The inequality of climate change from 1.5°C to 2°C of global warming
30 May 2018 (University of Melbourne) – Australia will still be the lucky country when it comes to changes in local climate as a result of climate change if global average surface temperatures reach the 1.5°C or 2°C limit set by the Paris agreement.
But in other countries right across the tropics, including close neighbour and major trading partner Indonesia, the heat of climate change hits hardest.
That is the finding of a new paper published today in Geophysical Research Letters, by a researcher from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, which compares the difference between climate change impacts for wealthy and poor nations.
Coal power financing by year
3 June 2018 (The New York Times) – Starting three years ago, the largest American banks vowed to cut back on lending to the coal industry.
“The bank has a responsibility to help mitigate climate change by leveraging our scale and resources to accelerate the transition from a high-carbon to a low-carbon society,” Bank of America said in its coal policy in May 2015.
Their pledges seemed so dramatic that Paul Argenti, a professor of corporate communication at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, began citing them in lectures as a rare example of a corporate principle’s trumping profits. “I read it as: They were done,” he said.
Monthly average temperature for May in the contiguous U.S., 1895-2018
9 June 2018 (Weather Underground) – After one of the coldest Aprils in U.S. history, last month delivered a stunning switch—the warmest May for the contiguous U.S. in records going back to 1895. May came in at 5.21°F above the 20th-century average, which beats out the Dust Bowl month of May 1934 (4.51°F above the 20th-century average). This is the third time in the past three years that a longtime monthly U.S. heat record has been eclipsed: December 2015 toppled a 1939 record, and June 2016 pushed out June 1933.
May’s warmth was remarkably well-distributed around the country. Whereas the nationally chilly April (13th-coldest on record) still had above-average warmth over the western U.S., every one of the Lower 48 states came in well above average for May—a rare feat. A total of 41 states had a top-ten-warmest May, and eight of those states had a record-warm May: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. The Oklahoma record is especially impressive given that western Oklahoma was near the epicenter of the devastating 1930s Dust Bowl.
Winter-weary residents of the Upper Midwest found themselves undergoing weather whiplash by Memorial Day weekend. Minneapolis had its earliest-ever 100°F reading on Sunday, 27 May 2018, and the Twin Cities also hit 90°F on six consecutive days, beating the May record string of four days, as reported by weather.com in a roundup of late May’s heat. Even heat-hardy Texans found themselves sweating a bit ahead of schedule. Lubbock not only endured its hottest May on record but reached the 100°F mark on eight days, beating the old May record of six days.
The NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI), 1700-2017
30 May 2018 (NOAA) – NOAA’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI), which tracks the warming influence of long-lived greenhouse gases, has increased by 41 percent from 1990 to 2017, up 1 percent from 2016 — with most of that attributable to rising carbon dioxide levels, according to NOAA climate scientists. [cf. NOAA’s greenhouse gas index up 40 percent since 1990 – Carbon dioxide increase is accelerating and Graph of the Day: NOAA annual greenhouse gas index (AGGI), 1700-2015. –Des]
The greenhouse gas index is based on precise measurements of gases in the atmosphere, which are collected from a network of sites around the globe and analyzed at NOAA’s Earth System Research Lab in Boulder, Colorado. The index is proportional to the change in the direct climate-warming influence (also known as climate forcing) exerted by five primary greenhouse gases since the onset of the industrial revolution.
“The greenhouse gas index is based on highly accurate measurements and long-established principles of physics, so it tells us how we are raising the amount of heat trapped in the atmosphere right now,” said James Butler, director of NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division.
Cumulative Antarctic Ice Sheet mass change, 1992-2017
13 June 2018 (University of Leeds) – Ice losses from Antarctica have increased global sea levels by 7.6 mm since 1992, with two fifths of this rise (3 mm) coming in the last five years alone.
It is the most complete picture of Antarctic ice sheet change to date – 84 scientists from 44 international organisations combined 24 satellite surveys to produce the assessment.
Hourly rain rate averages for the 40 most extreme summertime mesoscale convective systems in the current and future climate of the mid-Atlantic region
17 June 2018 (The Weather Channel) – Heavy rainfall from storms has increased by up to 70 percent in some areas of the United States since the 1950s and will only get worse in the coming years, thanks to global warming, scientists say.
The 2014 National Climate Assessment reported that downpours from storms are dumping more water across the nation than ever before, with the Midwest, Pacific Northwest and the Upper Plains receiving the greatest increase in heavy rainfall. The Environmental Protection Agency notes that heavy rainfall events have increased by 70 percent in the Pacific Northwest over the past six decades or so, more than any other region in the United States.
Andreas Prein of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) says peak rain rates, which arrive when the core of a storm is overhead, have increased across the country by 30 percent over the past 60 years. And while some areas will continue to get wetter from heavy downpours, other regions will get drier.
Sea-level contribution attributed to the Antarctic ice sheet,1992-2017
17 June 2018 (The Washington Post) – Antarctica’s ice sheet is melting at a rapidly increasing rate, now pouring more than 200 billion tons of ice into the ocean annually and raising sea levels a half-millimeter every year, a team of 80 scientists reported Wednesday.
The melt rate has tripled in the past decade, the study concluded. If the acceleration continues, some of scientists’ worst fears about rising oceans could be realized, leaving low-lying cities and communities with less time to prepare than they had hoped.
The result also reinforces that nations have a short window — perhaps no more than a decade — to cut greenhouse-gas emissions if they hope to avert some of the worst consequences of climate change.
For the first time in more than a decade, the number of people who are not getting enough to eat is trending upward
20 June 2018 (UN News) – Although more people are leading better lives than a decade ago, persistent poverty and hunger, as well as rapid urbanization, are challenging global efforts to create a more just and equitable world, according to a United Nations report launched on Wednesday.
The study provides a snapshot of progress towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders nearly three years ago.
“With just 12 years left to the 2030 deadline, we must inject a sense of urgency,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a forward to the report.
Urban populations in poverty at risk to extreme heat
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, 19 June 2018 (Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy) – Billions of people in thousands of cities around the world will be at risk from climate-related heatwaves, drought, flooding, food shortages, blackouts and social inequality by mid-century without bold and urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Fortunately, cities around the world are delivering bold climate solutions to avert these outcomes and create a healthier, safer, more equal and prosperous future for all urban citizens.
New research from C40 Cities, Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, the Urban Climate Change Research Network (UCCRN) and Acclimatise predicts how many urban residents will face potentially devastating heat waves, flooding and droughts by 2050 if global warming continues on its current trajectory. The Future We Don’t Want – How climate change could impact the world’s greatest cities [pdf] also looks at indirect climate impacts and estimates how climate change under a ‘business-as-usual scenario’ will impact urban food security and energy systems as well as the urban poor, who are most vulnerable to climate change.
Residential properties in the contiguous U.S. at risk of coastal flooding from sea level rise in 2045 and 2100
1 July 2018 (UCS) – Sea levels are rising. Tides are inching higher. High-tide floods are becoming more frequent and reaching farther inland. And hundreds of US coastal communities will soon face chronic, disruptive flooding that directly affects people’s homes, lives, and properties.
Yet property values in most coastal real estate markets do not currently reflect this risk. And most homeowners, communities, and investors are not aware of the financial losses they may soon face.
This analysis [Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods, and the Implications for US Coastal Real Estate (2018)] looks at what’s at risk for US coastal real estate from sea level rise—and the challenges and choices we face now and in the decades to come.
Study finds hundreds of thousands of U.S. homes at risk of chronic flooding due to sea level rise over the coming decades – “By 2100, there’s a 98–100 percent chance that we get 6 inches of sea level rise. It’s virtually guaranteed.”
Total world carbon dioxide emissions, 1965-2017
4 July 2018 (BP) – At first blush, some of last year’s data might seem a little disappointing. Growth in overall energy demand is up; gains in energy intensity are down. Coal consumption grew for the first time in four years. And, perhaps most striking of all, carbon emissions are up after three consecutive years of little or no growth.
What does this tell us about the energy transition? Is it progressing less rapidly than we thought? Has it gone into reverse?
I would caution against being too alarmed by the recent data. We always knew that some of the exceptional outcomes seen in recent years reflected the impact of short-run cyclical factors, as well as longer-term structural forces shaping the energy transition. Global GDP was growing at below average rates, weighed down by weakness in the energy-intensive industrial sector. Output from some of China’s most energy-intensive sectors was falling in outright terms. Those factors were unlikely to persist.
Maximum temperatures on 3 July 2018
6 July 2018 (The Washington Post) – From the normally mild summer climes of Ireland, Scotland and Canada to the scorching Middle East, numerous locations in the Northern Hemisphere have witnessed their hottest weather ever recorded over the past week.
Large areas of heat pressure or heat domes scattered around the hemisphere led to the sweltering temperatures. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports the heat is to blame for at least 34 deaths in southern Quebec, mostly in and near Montreal, which endured record high temperatures.
In Northern Siberia, along the coast of the Arctic Ocean – where weather observations are scarce – model analyses showed temperatures soaring 40 degrees above normal on July 5, to over 90 degrees. “It is absolutely incredible and really one of the most intense heat events I’ve ever seen for so far north,” wrote meteorologist Nick Humphrey, who offers more detail on this extraordinary high-latitude hot spell on his blog.
Forecast of high temperatures from the National Weather Service around Los Angeles, 6 July 2018
6 July 2018 (The Washington Post) – Record-crushing heat is likely in Southern California through Saturday from the same deadly heat dome that has torched the central and eastern United States and parts of Canada over the past week.
“Today [Friday] will be one for the record books,” the National Weather Service office serving Los Angeles wrote in its morning discussion. “Almost all if not all of the daily records will fall today. It is likely that several monthly records will fall and its possible that 1 or 2 all-time records will be made.”
Specifically, the Weather Service said the all-time high temperatures of 113 in Burbank and 117 in Woodland Hills are in jeopardy.
Global forest loss, 2001-2017
7 July 2018 (The Guardian) – The world lost more than one football pitch of forest every second in 2017, according to new data from a global satellite survey, adding up to an area equivalent to the whole of Italy over the year.
The scale of tree destruction, much of it done illegally, poses a grave threat to tackling both climate change and the massive global decline in wildlife. The loss in 2017 recorded by Global Forest Watch was 29.4m hectares, the second highest recorded since the monitoring began in 2001.
Global tree cover losses have doubled since 2003, while deforestation in crucial tropical rainforest has doubled since 2008. A falling trend in Brazil has been reversed amid political instability and forest destruction has soared in Colombia.
Observed water column temperature shift in the Barents Sea, 1970-2016
7 July 2018 (The Barents Observer) – The northern Barents Sea is an Arctic warming hotspot, says Sigrid Lind with the Marine Research Institute in Tromsø, Norway. Changes go from Arctic to Atlantic climate, concludes a study Lind and other scientists have made. The results are published in a recent article in Nature.
The ocean researchers have used a compilation of hydrographic observations from 1970 to 2016, investigating the link between changing sea-ice import and the warming hotspot of the northern Barents Sea.
“A sharp increase in ocean temperature and salinity is apparent from the mid-2000s, which we show can be linked to a recent decline in sea-ice import and a corresponding loss in freshwater, leading to weakened ocean stratification, enhanced vertical mixing and increased upward fluxes of heat and salt that prevent sea-ice formation and increase ocean heat content,” Sigrid Lind tells in the article.
Change in airborne black carbon in India, 2005 to 2016
7 July 2018 (NASA) – In recent decades, northern India has been plagued by a double-dose of air pollution due to nearby sources of desert dust and increasing amounts of airborne particles from human activities. New research suggests that winds are spreading the problem, moving some of the pollution southward in ever-increasing amounts.
Black carbon is one of several components of Indian air pollution described in new research led by Sudipta Sarkar of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Black carbon is a sooty black material that comes from the incomplete combustion of things like fossil fuels and vegetation and is easily transported by winds. It can cause respiratory and cardiovascular disease if inhaled, and it can also affect climate.
The map above, based on a model known as MERRA-2, shows how the amount of airborne black carbon, averaged for the month of November, has changed over a 12-year period from 2005 to 2016. Blue areas indicate where concentrations have decreased, while orange and red show increases.
Record high temperatures in Southern California, 6 July 2018
7 July 2018 (Los Angeles Times) – A record-setting heat wave sparked brush fires across Southern California that destroyed homes and forced thousands to evacuate from Santa Barbara to San Diego county.
The heat wave, coupled with moderate winds, helped fan nearly a dozen fires across the region, the most serious being in Alpine and Goleta.
Hundreds of residents fled the West Willows community near Alpine, with some saying they didn’t know whether their homes were still standing. […]
Model–data comparison of climate changes in the future and during the Last Interglacial
5 July 2018 (ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science) – Future global warming may eventually be twice as warm as projected by climate models under business-as-usual scenarios and even if the world meets the 2°C target sea levels may rise six metres or more, according to an international team of researchers from 17 countries.
The findings published last week in Nature Geoscience are based on observational evidence from three warm periods over the past 3.5 million years when the world was 0.5°C-2°C warmer than the pre-industrial temperatures of the 19th Century.
The research also revealed how large areas of the polar ice caps could collapse and significant changes to ecosystems could see the Sahara Desert become green and the edges of tropical forests turn into fire-dominated savanna.
Forest area as a proportion of total land area in 1990, 2010, and 2015
6 July 2018 (UN News) – Time is running out for the world’s forests, warns a new report by the United Nations agriculture agency, urging governments to foster an all-inclusive approach to benefit both trees and those who rely on them.
Halting deforestation, managing forests sustainably, restoring degraded forests and adding to worldwide tree cover all require actions to avoid potentially damaging consequences for the planet and its people, according to the State of the World’s Forests 2018, referred to as SOFO 2018.
Forests and trees contribute more to human livelihoods than most people know – playing crucial roles in food security, drinking water, renewable energy and rural economies.
Ozone-destroying emissions from illegal CFC-11 in insulating foam sector in China, projected to 2022
9 July 2018 (BBC News) – Cut-price Chinese home insulation is being blamed for a massive rise in emissions of a gas, highly damaging to the Earth’s protective ozone layer.
The Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA) found widespread use of CFC-11 in China, even though the chemical was fully banned back in 2010.
Scientists have been extremely puzzled by the mysterious rise in emissions.
World energy consumption and economic growth, 1991-2017
15 July 2018 (Peak Oil Barrel) – This figure compares the historical world economic growth rates and the primary energy consumption growth rates from 1991 to 2017. The primary energy consumption growth rate has an intercept of -0.012 at zero economic growth rate and a slope of 0.914. That is, primary energy consumption has an “autonomous” tendency to fall by about 1.2 percent a year when economic growth rate is zero. When economic growth rate rises above zero, an increase in economic growth rate by one percentage point is associated with an increase in primary energy consumption by 0.91 percent. R-square for the linear trend is 0.75.
In 2017, world primary energy consumption grew by 1.9 percent, a rate that is 0.4 percentage points below what is implied by the historical trend. The linear trend in Primary Energy Consumption Growth Rate = -0.012 + 0.914 * Economic Growth Rate (R-squared = 0.751).
[cf. World Energy Consumption and Economic Growth, 1991-2015. What this means is that there’s no evidence that global economic activity has “decoupled” from carbon emissions. The data point for 2017 is almost exactly on the the trend line, which hasn’t deflected noticeably since the last post in 2015. –Des]
Civilian deaths and injured in Afghanistan conflict, 2009-2018
15 July 2018 (UN News) – The number of civilians killed in Afghanistan hit a record high in the first half of the year, despite last month’s unprecedented ceasefire between the Afghan Government and the Taliban, the United Nations reported on Sunday.
According to the latest figures released on Sunday by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, known as UNAMA, there were 5,122 civilian casualties (1,692 deaths and 3,430 injured) in the first six months of 2018 – a three per cent overall decrease in casualties from last year.
But civilian deaths were up by one per cent, the most recorded in the same time period since UNAMA began documenting civilian casualties in 2009.
City of Cape Town annual water use, 1978-2018
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (Circle of Blue) – This is what a water panic looks like in a major global city.
People hoard water. They queue for hours, well into the night, to fill jugs at natural springs. Like mad Christmas shoppers, they clear supermarkets of bottled water. They descend on stockers before they can fill the shelves.
Restaurants, malls, and offices shut off bathroom faucets and install hand sanitizer dispensers. Exhortations to conserve water are plastered throughout buildings. Above one toilet stall at the University of Cape Town a paper placard with a hand-turned dial indicates the number of uses since the last flush. “Be A Wee-Wise Water Warrior. Only Flush After 4 (No. 1’s only),” it reads.
Wildfires and area burned in the US 1985-2017
17 July 2018 (FiveThirtyEight) – A California wildfire that started on Friday doubled in size over the weekend, killing a firefighter and threatening Yosemite National Park. And it’s not the only blaze burning. It’s looking like 2018 could be another big year for wildfires in the United States: 3,362,431 acres have already burned to date in 2018 — an area a little smaller than the state of Connecticut. That’s 4 percent more than the 10-year average for this time of year, despite the fact that the actual number of fires is about 6.7 percent less than the 10-year average.
That dichotomy — fewer fires, more land ablaze — is in keeping with long-standing trends. Since 1985, the trend in the number of wildfires hasn’t changed much, but the trend for total acreage burned has gone up and up and up. So what gives? Experts say there’s no single cause in the midst of all that smoke. Instead, the trend is probably related to the interaction of changing climate, short-term weather patterns and a philosophical shift in how we manage both forests and fires.
Weather cycles and climate changes both play a big role in shaping wildfires, said Carrie Bilbao, a public affairs specialist for the National Interagency Fire Center, the federal agency that coordinates predictive services and wildfire response throughout the United States. For instance, she said, 2017 had a late, wet spring followed by a dry, hot summer. The result was an abundance of vegetation growth that then dried out and turned to kindling. And while weather patterns like that bounce around from year to year, climate changes are also probably affecting long-term trends — with hotter weather, longer growing seasons and even stronger winds that help feed the flames.
Burden of incident diabetes attributable to PM2.5 air pollution per 100,000 population
18 July 2018 (Science News) – Air pollution caused 3.2 million new cases of diabetes worldwide in 2016, according to a new estimate.
Fine particulate matter, belched out by cars and factories and generated through chemical reactions in the atmosphere, hang around as haze and make air hard to breathe. Air pollution has been linked to chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes (SN: 9/30/17, p. 18), but this study is one of the first attempts to quantify the connection for diabetes. Researchers tracked 1.7 million U.S. veterans for almost a decade to assess their risk of developing diabetes. They also used data from global studies on diabetes risk, as well as air quality data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and NASA, to create equations that analyzed the connection between air pollution exposure and diabetes globally.
The new estimate, reported in July in The Lancet Planetary Health, holds air pollution responsible for about 14 percent of new cases of diabetes worldwide. Factors such as genetics, weight, activity level and diet also influence the risk of the disease, which is on the rise globally. (The World Health Organization estimates that 422 million people now live with type 2 diabetes — up from 108 million in 1980.)
The date of Earth Overshoot Day, the date when humanity uses nature’s resource budget for the entire year, 1970-2018
OAKLAND, California, 13 June 2018 (Global Footprint Network) – On August 1, humanity will have used nature’s resource budget for the entire year, according to Global Footprint Network, an international research organization that has pioneered the Ecological Footprint resource accounting metric. The Ecological Footprint adds up all of people’s competing demands for productive areas, including for food, timber, fibers, carbon sequestration, and accommodation of infrastructure. Currently, carbon emissions make up 60 percent of humanity’s Ecological Footprint.
Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth’s ecosystems can regenerate in that year. Earth Overshoot Day has moved from late September in 1997 to August 1st this year, the earliest date since the world first went into overshoot in the early 1970s. In other words, humanity is currently using nature 1.7 times faster than ecosystems can regenerate. This is akin to using 1.7 Earths.
The costs of this global ecological overspending are becoming increasingly evident around the world, in the form of deforestation; , fresh-water scarcity; soil erosion; biodiversity loss;, and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to climate change and more severe droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes.
Demand and supply of water in India, 2008 and projected to 2030
New Delhi (The Telegraph) – An Indian government think tank has warned that New Delhi is set to run out of groundwater within two years as climate change and dramatic population growth hit supplies [Composite Water Management Index - June 2018 –Des].
Based on data collected from 24 of 29 Indian states, the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) warned that the country’s worst ever water shortage is likely to adversely impact some 600 million people.
It said that by 2020 some 20 Indian cities besides Delhi, including global information technology centres like Bangalore and nearby Hyderabad, were also likely to run out of groundwater, impacting over 120 million residents or nearly twice Britain’s population.
Projected decadal mortality risk ratio compared to the historical mortality risk in the Middle East and North Africa
21 July 2018 (Environment International) – Climate change will substantially exacerbate extreme temperature and heatwaves. The impacts will be more intense across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a region mostly characterized by hot and arid climate, already intolerable for human beings in many parts. In this study, daily climate data from 17 fine-resolution Regional Climate Models (RCMs) are acquired to calculate wet-bulb temperature and investigate the mortality risk for people aged over 65?years caused by excessive heat stress across the MENA region. Spatially adaptive temperature thresholds are implemented for quantifying the mortality risk, and the analysis is conducted for the historical period of 1951–2005 and two future scenarios of RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 during the 2006–2100 period. Results show that the mortality risk will increase in distant future to 8–20 times higher than that of the historical period if no climate change mitigation is implemented. The coastal regions of the Red sea, Persian Gulf, and Mediterranean Sea indicate substantial increase in mortality risk. Nonetheless, the risk ratio will be limited to 3–7 times if global warming is limited to 2?°C. Climate change planning and adaptation is imperative for mitigating heat-related mortality risk across the region.
Global warming will increase the frequency and intensity of heat-waves and extreme high temperatures (Fischer and Knutti, 2015; Mora et al., 2017; Pal and Eltahir, 2016). Even if the global mean temperature increase is limited to 2 °C, the warming over land will be far beyond 2 °C in many regions (Coff el et al., 2017; Fischer et al., 2013; King et al., 2017). The social impacts of climate change and extreme temperatures garnered more attention after the 2003 European heatwave which caused high mortality (Christidis et al., 2015; Li et al., 2016). The ongoing anthropogenic temperature rise has raised serious concerns regarding human health (Kingsley et al., 2016; Mitchell et al., 2016; Williams et al., 2012) and economy (Dunne et al., 2013; Underwood et al., 2017; Zander et al., 2015; Zhao et al., 2016). Climate change has already prolonged the heatwaves and increased their frequency in various locations of the world (Sun et al., 2014). The severe heatwaves of Texas in 2011 (Luo and Zhang, 2012), Australia in 2012 (Lewis and Karoly, 2013), China in 2015 (Miao et al., 2016), and Egypt in 2015 (Mitchell, 2016) were all experienced at large spatial extent and prolonged duration.
The anthropogenic warming in MENA is strongest in summer; whereas elsewhere it is usually stronger in winter (Lelieveld et al., 2016; Waha et al., 2017). Considering the hot arid climate of the majority of MENA region, the morbidity and mortality risk of extreme high temperatures is one of the grand challenges facing human health and society (Russo et al., 2016). Studies have demonstrated that climate change will increase air temperature across the Middle East to thresholds not tolerable for human body, especially around the Persian Gulf (Im et al., 2017; Pal and Eltahir, 2016). Schär (2016)discussed that the air temperature has already exceeded the postulated tolerance threshold in some humid areas around the Persian Gulf (e.g. Bandar Mahshahr, Iran).
A sampling of all-time high temperatures reported around the world in 2018 thus far, rounded to the nearest degree Fahrenheit
21 July 2018 (Weather Underground) – The first five months of 2018 were the fourth warmest in global records going back to 1880, according to NOAA. Along the way, a number of extreme heat events have occurred already this year. In recent weeks across the Northern Hemisphere, these records have included an impressive number of all-time highs (an all-time high is the warmest temperature reported on any date at a given location).
Setting an all-time high is no small accomplishment, especially for locations that have long periods of record (PORs). All-time highs are especially noteworthy when you consider that, on average, the planet is warming more during winter than during summer, and more at night than during the day. Urban heat islands are no doubt contributing somewhat to the heat records achieved in large urban areas, but the extreme heat of 2018 has also played out in remote rural areas without any urban heat islands.
As of July 13, the U.S. Records summary page maintained by NOAA showed that 18 U.S. locations had set or tied all-time highs so far this year, as opposed to 10 locations that set or tied all-time lows. There is an even sharper contrast between the number of all-time warm daily lows (40) and all-time cool daily highs (5), which has been a common pattern in recent years.
Global trends in the state of the world’s marine fish stocks, 1974–2015
20 July 2018 (Mongabay) – About 3.2 billion people around the world currently rely on fish for nearly 20 percent of their animal protein. That means that humans eat more than 150 million metric tons of fish every year — and as the global population increases by a couple billion over the next few decades, that number will surely rise.
The fishing industry is eager to capitalize on this growth and boost profits, of course, but overfishing is already threatening the global supply of fish and there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical that this growth can and will be achieved sustainably. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations’ latest report on the state of the world’s fisheries and aquaculture, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re approaching “peak fish” — though it will require that fisheries management be strengthened and loss and waste reduced, while problems like climate change, illegal fishing, and pollution must also be dealt with.
“The fisheries sector is crucial in meeting FAO’s goal of a world without hunger and malnutrition, and its contribution to economic growth and the fight against poverty is growing,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in a statement. “The sector is not without its challenges, however, including the need to reduce the percentage of fish stocks fished beyond biological sustainability.”
Spatial pattern and magnitude of net forest loss in Southeast Asia during the early twenty-first century
22 July 2018 (Princeton University) – Researchers using satellite imaging have found much greater than expected deforestation since 2000 in the highlands of Southeast Asia, a critically important world ecosystem. The findings are important because they raise questions about key assumptions made in projections of global climate change as well as concerns about environmental conditions in Southeast Asia in the future.
Zhenzhong Zeng, a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University and the lead author of an article describing the findings in Nature Geoscience, said the researchers used a combination of satellite data and computational algorithms to reach their conclusions. The report shows a loss of 29.3 million hectares of forest (roughly 113,000 square miles or about twice the size of New York State) between 2000 and 2014. Zeng said that represents 57 percent more loss than current estimations of deforestation made by the International Panel on Climate Change. He said most of the forest has been cleared for crops.
Because forests absorb atmospheric carbon, and burning forests contribute carbon to the atmosphere, loss of forests could be devastating. An accurate estimation of forest cover also is critical for assessments of climate change. Zeng also said transformation of mountainous regions from old forest to cropland can have widespread environmental impacts from soil retention to water quality in the region.
Wet bulb temperature in India, 21 May 2016
24 January 2018 (Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences) – ABSTRACT: On 19 May 2016 the afternoon temperature reached 51.0C in Phalodi in the northwest of India – a new record for the highest observed maximum temperature in India. The previous year, a widely reported very lethal heat wave occurred in the southeast, in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, killing thousands of people. In both cases it was widely assumed that the probability and severity of heat waves in India are increasing due to global warming, as they do in other parts of the world. However, we do not find positive trends in the highest maximum temperature of the year in most of India since the 1970s (except spurious trends due to missing data). Decadal variability cannot explain this, but both increased air pollution with aerosols blocking sunlight and increased irrigation leading to evaporative cooling have counteracted the effect of greenhouse gases up to now. Current climate models do not represent these processes well and hence cannot be used to attribute heat waves in this area
The health effects of heat are often described better by a combination of temperature and humidity, such as a heat index or wet bulb temperature. Due to the increase in humidity from irrigation and higher sea surface temperatures (SSTs), these indices have increased over the last decades even when extreme temperatures have not. The extreme air pollution also exacerbates the health impacts of heat. From these factors it follows that, from a health impact point of view, the severity of heat waves has increased in India. For the next decades we expect the trend due to global warming to continue but the surface cooling effect of aerosols to diminish as air quality controls are implemented.
The expansion of irrigation will likely continue, though at a slower pace, mitigating this trend somewhat. Humidity will probably continue to rise. The combination will result in a strong rise in the temperature of heat waves. The high humidity will make health effects worse, whereas decreased air pollution would decrease the impacts.
Groundwater availability in the Middle East, 2006-2016
27 July 2018 (NASA) – On any given day, Zoubaida Salman instructs a classroom of 15-year-olds at the Sur Baher Girls School in East Jerusalem, where she has served as the science teacher and Environment and Health Coordinator for the past 22 years. One of the most important lessons comes from their backyard: water is scarce and precious in this region.
Water shortages can lead to major sanitation issues at schools, so students have to play an active role in managing it. At Sur Baher, the most significant use of water is for flushing toilets, which stop working if there is not enough water. If the water runs out, school administrators must buy it from the city. In other regions, the schools even close because of water shortages.
A team of scientists with the NASA DEVELOP program is helping address these water shortages by collaborating with a nonprofit called Water Resources Action Project (WRAP). WRAP designs and constructs rainwater harvesting systems for schools in the Middle East to capture rainfall during the five-month rainy season for use later. Selecting a geographically promising area is time-consuming and tedious work though for the small, volunteer-based team. The NASA DEVELOP team is using satellite data to help WRAP more easily identify suitable locations for the rainwater harvesting systems.
Extreme weather in July 2018 across the Northern Hemisphere has led to record heat waves, drought, deadly floods, and wildfires
28 July 2018 (The Washington Post) – In the town of Sodankyla, Finland, the thermometer on July 17 registered a record-breaking 90 degrees, a remarkable figure given that Sodankyla is 59 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in a region known for winter snowmobiling and an abundance of reindeer.
This is a hot, strange and dangerous summer across the planet.
Greece is in mourning after scorching heat and high winds fueled wildfires that have killed more than 80 people. Japan recorded its highest temperature in history, 106 degrees, in a heat wave that killed 65 people in a week and hospitalized 22,000, shortly after catastrophic flooding killed 200.
Change in overall mileage from Transportation Network Companies private-ride and shared-ride trips
28 July 2018 (The Washington Post) – The explosive growth of Uber and Lyft has created a new traffic problem for major U.S. cities and ride-sharing options such as UberPool and Lyft Line are exacerbating the issue by appealing directly to customers who would otherwise have taken transit, walked, biked or not used a ride-hail service at all, according to a new study. [cf. Studies are increasingly clear: Uber, Lyft congest cities. –Des]
The report by Bruce Schaller, author of the influential study, “Unsustainable?”, which found ride-hail services were making traffic congestion in New York City worse, constructs a detailed profile of the typical ride-hail user and issues a stark warning to cities: make efforts to counter the growth of ride-hail services, or surrender city streets to fleets of private cars, creating a more hostile environment for pedestrians and cyclists and ultimately make urban cores less desirable places to live.
Schaller concludes that where private ride options such as UberX and Lyft have failed on promises to cut down on personal driving and car ownership — both of which are trending up — pooled ride services have lured a different market that directly competes with subway and bus systems, while failing to achieve significantly better efficiency than their solo alternatives. The result: more driving overall.
Trends in the amplitude of the annual cycle of tropospheric temperature
19 July 2018 (LLNL) – For the first time, scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and five other organizations have shown that human influences significantly impact the size of the seasonal cycle of temperature in the lowest layer of the atmosphere.
To demonstrate this, they applied a so-called “fingerprint” technique. Fingerprinting seeks to separate human and natural influences on climate. It relies on patterns of climate change — typically patterns that are averaged over years or decades. But in the new research appearing in the 20 July 2018 edition of the journal Science, the team studied seasonal behavior, and found that human-caused warming has significantly affected the seasonal temperature cycle.
The researchers focused on the troposphere, which extends from the surface to roughly 16 kilometers in the atmosphere at the tropics and 13 kilometers at the poles. They considered changes over time in the size of the seasonal cycle of tropospheric temperature at different locations on the Earth’s surface. This pattern provides information on temperature contrasts between the warmest and coldest months of the year.
Satellite view of mountaintop coal mining expansion in Appalachia
DURHAM, North Carolina, 25 July 2018 (Duke Today) – The coal industry may have declined in the last decade because of the rise of cheap natural gas, but a coal mining method called mountaintop removal is still taking place, particularly in central Appalachia.
A new web-based mapping tool shows, in more detail than ever before, the land laid bare by mountaintop coal mining in central Appalachia each year, going back more than three decades.
The tool uses satellite imagery to identify and map the annual extent of mining activity across a four-state area including portions of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Comparison of 1976 and 2018 June temperature anomalies
27 July 2018 (Met Office) – In the UK the hot weather has been with us on and off since April. Some parts of East Anglia and southeast England have had virtually no rain in more than 55 days, and we may see our all time highest temperature record of 38.5C fall by the end of this week.
The Arctic Circle has seen temperatures top 30C, including at Badufoss and Makkaur in Norway, and in Finland temperatures have hit 33.4C.
Meanwhile in Japan on Monday, the city of Kumagaya reported a new record temperature for the country, 41.1C, and temperatures have exceeded 40C in central Tokyo for the first time ever and there have been reports of many people being taken sick with heat stroke.
Decline of phytoplankton-derived organic carbon in the 20th century
5 July 2018 (EGU) – The Baltic Sea is home to some of the world’s largest dead zones, areas of oxygen-starved waters where most marine animals can’t survive. But while parts of this sea have long suffered from low oxygen levels, a new study by a team in Finland and Germany shows that oxygen loss in coastal areas over the past century is unprecedented in the last 1500 years. The research is published today in the European Geosciences Union journal Biogeosciences.
According to the researchers, human-induced pollution, from fertilisers and sewage running off the countries surrounding the Baltic into the sea, is the main driver of recent oxygen loss in the region’s coastal waters. The spread of low-oxygen areas can have dire consequences for the environment and for local populations as it can reduce fish yields and even lead to massive mortality of marine animals.
“The Baltic was strongly impacted by human nutrient inputs in the 20th century and is still experiencing the legacy of those inputs today,” says Tom Jilbert, an assistant professor at the University of Helsinki, Finland, who took part in the research. But despite recent measures to reduce the release of polluting nutrients, the researchers write in the new study that they found “no evidence of recovery” from oxygen depletion in the Archipelago Sea, a coastal area between mainland Finland and Sweden that is part of the Baltic.
Natural forest and pine plantation area in the U.S. South since 1953
28 July 2018 (ChavoBart Digital Media) – The southeastern United States is losing trees fast. Between 2000 and 2012, trees in the region were cut up to four times faster than in South American rainforests.
Smith: “In the southeastern U.S., what’s driving the loss of forest cover is industrial-scale logging.”
That’s Danna Smith of the Dogwood Alliance, a nonprofit organization. She says that rainforests are often clear-cut for agriculture, whereas trees cut down in the Southeast are usually replanted.
Monthly snow making days for 20 weather stations in Germany and Austria
ABSTRACT: Ski resorts increasingly rely on snow making to ensure good quality skiing regardless of the variability of the natural snow cover. This study aims to quantify past changes in snow making conditions based on an analysis of long-term wet bulb temperature time series from 20 weather stations in Germany and Austria. The weather stations are located at a range of altitudes from 267 m to 3109 m, in the vicinity of ski resorts. The lengths of the time-series range from 54 to 83 years. Using a threshold mean daily wet bulb temperature of −2 °C we define ‘potential snow making days’ and track changes in the number of snow making days in the months of the early skiing season (October, November, December) by computing linear trends, comparing consecutive 20 year periods, and Mann-Kendall trend testing of overlapping sub-periods. The number of snow making days changes least in October and most in December when averaged over all stations. Very high stations show more change in October and less change in December than the lower stations. Several stations show a significant decrease of snow making days per month, particularly in more recent sub-periods, but trends vary strongly between stations and for different sub-periods. Sub-periods with positive trends are present in earlier phases of the time series at some stations and inter-annual variability is generally 1–2 orders of magnitude greater than detected trends. Detailed microclimatic studies are necessary to determine potential future effects of changes in snow making conditions on the scale of a ski resort.
Absolute change in global temperature rise implied by various indicators since mid-2017
29 July 2018 (Schroders) – The Climate Progress Dashboard was created to help Schroders’ analysts, fund managers and clients track climate action. Meeting global leaders’ commitments to limit temperature rises to 2°C will require action across a range of areas, by a range of stakeholders.
The dashboard plots the long-run rise in temperatures implied by efforts in each area, providing a bird’s eye view of the speed and scale of climate action across the spectrum of areas that will need to change. It provides a more complete view than any indicator in isolation.
When we launched it a year ago, the Climate Progress Dashboard pointed to a 4.1 degree temperature rise. Since then, it has fallen slightly to 4 degrees. Indicators are moving in the right direction, and there are reasons for optimism looking at individual indicators, but it is also clear that far faster action is needed and far more disruption lies ahead.
Energy release component percentile for vegetation in California, 29 July 2018
31 July 2018 (Los Angeles Times) – The northern Sacramento Valley was well on its way to recording the hottest July on record when the Carr fire swept into town Thursday.
The destruction adds to California’s worst wildfire year on record — dozens dead since October, with more than 10,000 structures lost from San Diego to Redding.
Country Overshoot Days for 2018
1 August 2018 (Sky News) – Earth Overshoot Day is the date when we have effectively consumed more resources than the planet can naturally replenish over the course of that entire year.
The day has shown a trend for appearing earlier and earlier since its inception – and today marks its earliest recorded point.
It means the planet has already consumed a year’s worth of resources in just seven months.
Weather model for maximum temperatures on the Iberian Peninsula, 4 August 2018
1 August 2018 (Weather Underground) – Wednesday, 1 August 2018, was the hottest day in Korean history, as a withering heat wave toppled all-time heat records throughout the peninsula. South Korea set a new all-time heat record of 41.0°C (105.8°F) at Hongcheon, a town in South Korea’s northeastern province of Gangwon. This is the highest reading observed anywhere in the nation since 1907, when the country began to compile the data, the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) said. The new record came on the 76th anniversary of the former South Korean national record of 40.0°C (104°F), set at Daegu on 1 August 1942.
Both Korean capitals saw their all-time heat records fall on 1 August 2018: Séoul, South Korea with 39.6°C (103.3°F) (previous record 38.4°C on 24 July 1994), and Pyongyang, North Korea with 37.8°C (100°F). (There was also a 37.8°C reading in Pyongyang on 5 August 1961, but this is of questionable reliability, according to weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera.) In an email, Mr. Herrera said that the all-time heat record for North Korea, 40.5°C (104.9°F) set at Hoeryong on 30 July 1977, could not be beaten in this heat wave. That station—located in the hottest part of the nation—was closed years ago, and no longer takes weather measurements. But for duration and intensity, Herrera said that the heat wave of 2018 beats the two other notable heat waves in Korean history, in 1942 and 1994, and is without a doubt is the greatest heat wave in the history of the Korean Peninsula.
Spatial distribution of extreme wet-bulb temperature in North China Plain
3 August 2018 (MIT News) – A region that holds one of the biggest concentrations of people on Earth could be pushing against the boundaries of habitability by the latter part of this century, a new study shows.
Research has shown that beyond a certain threshold of temperature and humidity, a person cannot survive unprotected in the open for extended periods — as, for example, farmers must do. Now, a new MIT study shows that unless drastic measures are taken to limit climate-changing emissions, China’s most populous and agriculturally important region could face such deadly conditions repeatedly, suffering the most damaging heat effects, at least as far as human life is concerned, of any place on the planet.
The study shows that the risk of deadly heat waves is significantly increased because of intensive irrigation in this relatively dry but highly fertile region, known as the North China Plain — a region whose role in that country is comparable to that of the Midwest in the U.S. That increased vulnerability to heat arises because the irrigation exposes more water to evaporation, leading to higher humidity in the air than would otherwise be present and exacerbating the physiological stresses of the temperature.
Fraser River water temperatures near Hope, B.C., on 2 August 2018
4 August 2018 (CBC News) – Sockeye salmon are on a mission up B.C.’s Fraser River right now, swimming “a marathon a day” to reach the gravel beds where they’ll lay eggs for the next generation.
But the waters of the Fraser — historically one of the world’s great salmon rivers — have been so warm this week, fisheries officials say the migrating sockeye are in danger of dying before they have a chance to spawn.
Daily temperature monitoring by Fisheries and Oceans Canada shows the Fraser hitting 20.7 C near Hope, B.C., for some days this week.
Manhattan condo prices, 2012-2018
31 July 2018 (Bloomberg News) – From London to Sydney and Beijing to New York, house prices in some of the world’s most sought-after cities are heading south.
Tax changes to damp demand, values out of kilter with affordability and tougher lending standards have combined to undermine the market. That could have wider implications because the world’s wealthy have been buying homes on multiple continents, meaning a downturn in one country could now pose more of a threat to markets elsewhere, according to the International Monetary Fund.
These charts explain the cracks appearing in some of the world’s most exclusive and desirable property markets.
Temperature forecast for Europe, 6 August 2018
5 August 2018 (Weather Underground) – The future-is-now Northern Hemisphere summer of 2018 roasted a new portion of Europe with all-time record heat over the weekend: Portugal and Spain. Portugal’s capital city Lisbon hit 111.2°F (44°C) on Saturday, its hottest temperature ever recorded. The previous record was 109.4°F (43°C) in 1981. Portugal’s weather service said new all-time highs were recorded at 26 of the 96 weather stations in the country, including all three weather stations in Lisbon, and more than 60 percent of the nation registered temperatures over 104°F (40°C). The hottest temperature in Portugal was 116.2°F (46.8°C) at Alvega in the center of the country, which fell short of the all-time Portuguese record of 117.3°F (47.4°C ) set on August 1, 2003 at Amareleja. According to weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera, in Spain, three out of the six weather stations in the capital of Madrid beat their all-time heat records on August 3, as did Reus, Spain, with 103.6°F (39.8°C). Three heat-related deaths were reported in Spain.
Herrera said that the most impressive record from the heat wave was an almost-unimaginable 113.9°F (45.5°C) measured at Setubal, Portugal–the highest temperature ever recorded on the coast of the Iberian Peninsula, trouncing the previous record by an remarkable margin. And on Sunday morning, August 5, a horribly hot minimum temperature of 89.8°F (32.1°C) occurred at Portalegre, Portugal – only 0.1°C from the national record of highest minimum set at Faro on 26 July 2004. Lisbon also set its record of highest minimum ever: 82.8°F (28.2°C) at Gago Coutinho, and 82.4°F (28.0°C) at the Geofisico Observatory, now part of the Instituto Dom Luiz (period of record since 1901). Their previous record was 82.0°F (27.8°C) on August 2, 1964. In the tweet below, weather records expert Etienne Kapikian summarized some significant stations that set new all-time maximum temperature records in Portugal on August 4. [more]
Global map of potential climate tipping cascades
6 August 2018 (Stockholm Resilience Centre) – An international team of scientists has published a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) showing that even if the carbon emission reductions called for in the Paris Agreement are met, there is a risk of Earth entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions.
A “Hothouse Earth” climate will in the long term stabilize at a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today, the paper says.
The authors conclude it is now urgent to greatly accelerate the transition towards an emission-free world economy.
Recent observed trends in regional Australian rainfall
8 August 2018 (The Conversation) – Australia is a continent defined by extremes, and recent decades have seen some extraordinary climate events. But droughts, floods, heatwaves, and fires have battered Australia for millennia. Are recent extreme events really worse than those in the past?
In a recent paper, we reconstructed 800 years of seasonal rainfall patterns across the Australian continent. Our new records show that parts of Northern Australia are wetter than ever before, and that major droughts of the late 20th and early 21st centuries in southern Australia are likely without precedent over the past 400 years.
This new knowledge gives us a clearer understanding of how droughts and flooding rains may be changing in the context of a rapidly warming world.
Map of damage to the Great Barrier reef from the marine heat waves of 2016 and 2017
8 August 2018 (National Geographic) – Half of the Great Barrier Reef has been bleached to death since 2016. Mass coral bleaching, a global problem triggered by climate change, occurs when unnaturally hot ocean water destroys a reef’s colorful algae, leaving the coral to starve. The Great Barrier Reef illustrates how extensive the damage can be: Thirty percent of the coral perished in 2016, another 20 percent in 2017. The effect is akin to a forest after a devastating fire. Much of the marine ecosystem along the reef’s north coast has become barren and skeletal with little hope of recovery. [more]
Monthly averaged global mean sea level observed by satellite altimeters, 1993–2017
2 August 2018 (NOAA) – It’s official: 2017 was the third-warmest year on record for the globe, trailing 2016 and 2015, according to the 28th annual State of the Climate report. The planet also experienced record-high greenhouse gas concentrations as well as rises in sea level.
The annual checkup for the planet, led by scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information and published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorology Society, is based on contributions from more than 500 scientists in 65 countries and offers insight on global climate indicators, extreme weather events and other valuable environmental data.
Notable findings from the international report include:
Particulate concentration in Seattle, 15 August 2018
15 August 2018 (Cliff Mass Weather and Climate Blog) – Air quality in western Washington is very poor right now.
Incredibly, in central Puget Sound it is probably the worst in the nearly two-decade observing record of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency for any time of the year.
I have been here a long time and I have never seen anything this bad. The view from the Seattle Space Needle Panocam is murky.
And the view from my department is very limited … no mountains and can’t even see across the Lake.
Projected increase in CH4 production across the Boreal Shield
4 May 2018 (University of Cambridge) – Latest research finds plant debris in lake sediment affects methane emissions. The flourishing reed beds created by changing climates could threaten to double the already significant methane production of the world’s northern lakes.
A new study of chemical reactions that occur when organic matter decomposes in freshwater lakes has revealed that the debris from trees suppresses production of methane – while debris from reed beds actually promotes this harmful greenhouse gas.
As vegetation in and around bodies of water continues to change, with forest cover being lost while global warming causes wetland plants to thrive, the many lakes of the northern hemisphere – already a major source of methane – could almost double their emissions in the next fifty years.
Outgassing of CO2 around Antarctica
18 August 2018 (UW News) – More than 100 oceanic floats are now diving and drifting in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica during the peak of winter. These instruments are gathering data from a place and season that remains very poorly studied, despite its important role in regulating the global climate.
A new study from the University of Washington, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Princeton University and several other oceanographic institutions uses data gathered by the floating drones over past winters to learn how much carbon dioxide is transferred by the surrounding seas. Results show that in winter the open water nearest the sea ice surrounding Antarctica releases significantly more carbon dioxide than previously believed.
“These results came as a really big surprise, because previous studies found that the Southern Ocean was absorbing a lot of carbon dioxide,” said lead author Alison Gray, a UW assistant professor of oceanography. “If that’s not true, as these data suggest, then it means we need to rethink the Southern Ocean’s role in the carbon cycle and in the climate.”
Germany set to miss 2020 climate goals
(Bloomberg) – Germany, the nation that did more than any other to unleash the modern renewable-energy industry, is likely to fall short of its goals for reducing harmful carbon-dioxide emissions even after spending over 500 billion euros ($580 billion) by 2025 to overhaul its energy system.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is grappling with the implications of failing to sufficiently raise the renewable share. Those may include extending the life of the most polluting fossil-fuel plants and scaling back future climate pledges under the landmark Paris Agreement, negotiated by more than 190 countries in 2015.
Projected global coal mine methane emissions by 2020
18 August 2018 (Climate Home News) – Across the US, a major, uncontrolled leak of a potent greenhouse gas is going unregulated and largely unnoticed.
Climate Home News analysis of government data has identified roughly 300 active and 200 abandoned coal mines, which are the source of almost one-tenth of US methane pollution.
Methane has 34 times the long-term warming effect of carbon dioxide and accounts for 10 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions. Its emissions from the oil and gas industry and the efforts of the Trump administration to roll back regulations on them have been widely publicised.
Global air conditioner stock projected to 2050
15 May 2018 (IEA) – The growing use of air conditioners in homes and offices around the world will be one of the top drivers of global electricity demand over the next three decades, according to new analysis by the International Energy Agency that stresses the urgent need for policy action to improve cooling efficiency.
A new IEA report – “The Future of Cooling” – shows that without new efficiency standards the world will be facing a “cold crunch” from the growth in cooling demand in coming decades.
Global energy demand from air conditioners is expected to triple by 2050, requiring new electricity capacity the equivalent to the combined electricity capacity of the United States, the EU and Japan today. The global stock of air conditioners in buildings will grow to 5.6 billion by 2050, up from 1.6 billion today – which amounts to 10 new ACs sold every second for the next 30 years, according to the report.
Global aerosols map, 23 August 2018
24 August 2018 (NASA) – Take a deep breath. Even if the air looks clear, it is nearly certain that you will inhale millions of solid particles and liquid droplets. These ubiquitous specks of matter are known as aerosols, and they can be found in the air over oceans, deserts, mountains, forests, ice, and every ecosystem in between.
If you have ever watched smoke billowing from a wildfire, ash erupting from a volcano, or dust blowing in the wind, you have seen aerosols. Satellites like Terra, Aqua, Aura, and Suomi NPP “see” them as well, though they offer a completely different perspective from hundreds of kilometers above Earth’s surface. A version of a NASA model called the Goddard Earth Observing System Forward Processing (GEOS FP) offers a similarly expansive view of the mishmash of particles that dance and swirl through the atmosphere.
The visualization above highlights GEOS FP model output for aerosols on 23 August 2018. On that day, huge plumes of smoke drifted over North America and Africa, three different tropical cyclones churned in the Pacific Ocean, and large clouds of dust blew over deserts in Africa and Asia. The storms are visible within giant swirls of sea salt aerosol (blue), which winds loft into the air as part of sea spray. Black carbon particles (red) are among the particles emitted by fires; vehicle and factory emissions are another common source. Particles the model classified as dust are shown in purple. The visualization includes a layer of night light data collected by the day-night band of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on Suomi NPP that shows the locations of towns and cities.
Projected average number of days above the minimum and maximum heat thresholds in the UK
LONDON (Reuters) – Premature deaths from heatwaves in Britain could more than treble to around 7,000 a year by mid-century if the government does not take action, a committee of lawmakers said on Thursday, 26 July 2018.
The warning is topical as Britain swelters in a heatwave, with temperatures of 32-34 degrees Celsius possible in southern and eastern England this week, according to the UK Met Office.
The lawmakers called on the government to develop a strategy to protect the health of the elderly in periods of extreme heat.
Temperature trend in the eastern Gulf of Mexico since 1975
27 August 2018 (The Washington Post) – Red tide is killing Florida’s southwest coast. Fish, manatees, sea turtles — some of them endangered — and nine dolphins have washed up dead on the beaches, and all of them are confirmed or suspected to have been poisoned by the algal bloom. The body of a young whale shark was found on a beach in late July, and biologists believe that it was the first known whale shark to have been killed by red tide.
Now the toxic algae — Karenia brevis — is working up the coast from Sanibel Island to Tampa Bay. Respiratory irritation in humans has been reported as far north as Manatee County, just south of Tampa Bay, where high concentrations of the algae were measured last week. The water off Pinellas County — Clearwater, Largo, St. Petersburg — had elevated concentrations of red tide beyond a normal “background” state for the first time this month.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for seven counties on the southwest coast Tuesday.
Projected average annual area burned by wildfire in California for 2035–2064 and 2070–2099
28 August 2018 (Los Angeles Times) – Heat waves will grow more severe and persistent, shortening the lives of thousands of Californians. Wildfires will burn more of the state’s forests. The ocean will rise higher and faster, exposing California to billions in damage along the coast.
These are some of the threats California will face from climate change in coming decades, according to a new statewide assessment released Monday by the California Natural Resources Agency.
The projections come as Californians contend with destructive wildfires, brutal heat spells, and record ocean temperatures that scientists say have the fingerprints of global warming.
Satellite view of Arctic sea ice pulling away from the Greenland coast, 27 July 2018 – 13 August 2018
29 August 2018 (The Guardian) – The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer.
This phenomenon – which has never been recorded before – has occurred twice this year due to warm winds and a climate-change driven heatwave in the northern hemisphere.
One meteorologist described the loss of ice as “scary”. Others said it could force scientists to revise their theories about which part of the Arctic will withstand warming the longest.
Maps showing risk of inadequate nutrient intake from elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations of 550 ppm
BOSTON, Massachusetts, 27 August 2018 (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) – Rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) from human activity are making staple crops such as rice and wheat less nutritious and could result in 175 million people becoming zinc deficient and 122 million people becoming protein deficient by 2050, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study also found that more than 1 billion women and children could lose a large amount of their dietary iron intake, putting them at increased risk of anemia and other diseases.
“Our research makes it clear that decisions we are making every day—how we heat our homes, what we eat, how we move around, what we choose to purchase—are making our food less nutritious and imperiling the health of other populations and future generations,” said Sam Myers, lead author of the study and principal research scientist at Harvard Chan School.
The study was published online on 27 August 2018 in Nature Climate Change.
As carbon dioxide levels climb, millions at risk of nutritional deficiencies – “We cannot disrupt most of the biophysical conditions to which we have adapted over millions of years without unanticipated impacts on our own health and wellbeing”
Debt in advanced economies, 2000-2017
4 September 2018 (The Washington Post) – Ten years after the worst financial panic since the 1930s, growing debt burdens in key developing economies are fueling fears of a new crisis that could spread far beyond the disruption sweeping Turkey.
The loss of investor confidence in the Turkish lira, which has surrendered more than 40 percent of its value this year, is only a preview of debt problems that could engulf countries such as Brazil, South Africa, Russia, and Indonesia, some economists say.
“Turkey is not the last one,” said Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan, an economics professor at the University of Maryland. “Turkey is the beginning.”
Estimated additional deaths in 2025 caused by Trump rollbacks in air pollution controls
GRANT TOWN, West Virgina (AP) – It’s coal people like miner Steve Knotts, 62, who make West Virginia Trump Country.
So it was no surprise that President Donald Trump picked the state to announce his plan rolling back Obama-era pollution controls on coal-fired power plants.
Trump left one thing out of his remarks, though: northern West Virginia coal country will be ground zero for increased deaths and illnesses from the rollback on regulation of harmful emission from the nation’s coal power plants.
Annual precipitation at Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, 1941–2016
PINEDALE, Wyoming (Reuters) – Hotter, drier conditions have led to more severe wildfires in Yellowstone National Park, while growing numbers of visitors have harmed everything from prized hydrothermal features to its famed grizzly bears, the park said in a report on Monday.
Average temperatures in Yellowstone, which has been designated as both World Heritage and Biosphere Reserve sites by a United Nations panel, are exceeding historical norms even as climate change is blamed for a string of fires that have increased in size and which last longer, according to the study.
The 60-page The state of Yellowstone vital signs and select park resources, 2017 [pdf] report is one of just four compiled in the past decade. They are designed to track one of the largest, nearly intact temperate ecosystems in the world.
Gulf of Maine sea surface temperatures, 1981-2017
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – The waters off of New England are already warming faster than most of the world’s oceans, and they are nearing the end of one of the hottest summers in their history.
That is the takeaway from an analysis of summer sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Maine by a marine scientist with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland. The average sea surface temperature in the gulf was nearly 5 degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term average during one 10-day stretch in August, said the scientist, Andy Pershing, who released the work Thursday.
8 August 2018 was the second warmest day in recorded history in the gulf, and there were other sustained stretches this summer that were a few degrees higher than the average from 1982 to 2011, Pershing said. He characterized this year as “especially warm” even for a body of water that he and other scientists previously identified as warming faster than 99 percent of the global ocean.
Percent change in adult obesity rates by U.S. state, 2012-2017
WASHINGTON, DC, 12 September 2018 (Trust for America’s Health) – Seven U. S. states had adult obesity rates at or above 35 percent in 2017, up from five states in 2016, and no state had a statistically significant improvement in its obesity rate over the past year, according to new national data reported in the 15th annual State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America [pdf] released today by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
Newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System show that states with high adult obesity rates are increasing with no less than one in five adults having obesity in every state. Levels of obesity vary considerably from state to state, with a low of 22.6 percent in Colorado and a high of 38.1 percent in West Virginia.
Loss in Human Development Index value due to inequality, by human development group, 2017
14 September 2018 (UN News) – While health, education, and income levels have improved overall across the globe, “wide inequalities” both among and within countries, are casting a shadow on sustained human development, a new United Nations report shows.
Looking at the widening gap in real terms, a child born in Norway today – the country with the highest human development index (HDI) – can expect to live beyond the age of 82, and spend almost 18 years in school. But the same child, if born in Niger – the lowest HDI – can expect only to live to 60, with just five years of formal education.
“While these statistics present a stark picture in themselves, they also speak to the tragedy of millions of individuals whose lives are affected by inequity and lost opportunities, neither of which are inevitable,” said Achim Steiner, the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which released the report today.
Map showing global distribution of anoxic ocean waters
KIEL, 7 September 2018 (UNESCO) – This week, more than 300 scientists from 33 countries met in Kiel, Germany, at an international conference to discuss the decline of oxygen in the ocean, the causes and the consequences. At the conclusion of the conference, the scientists published a haunting appeal, the “Kiel Declaration”, in which they call urgently for more marine and climate protection.
The numbers are alarming: over the past 50 years, oxygen has decreased by 2 percent in the global ocean. The volume of oxygen-depleted waters, has grown more than fourfold. The main reasons are the increasing global warming, but also the over-fertilization of the oceans. In the long term, these changes will not only jeopardize life in large parts of the world’s oceans, but also feedbacks to the atmosphere are expected, as greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide and methane form in oxygen-free water.
Scientists from all parts of the world who convened in Kiel for a conference organized by the Collaborative Research Centre 754 (SFB 754) “Climate and Biogeochemical Interactions in the Tropical Ocean” agreed that this problem must be immediately and urgently addressed to develop solutions in order to stop the oxygen loss as soon as possible. Therefore, they unanimously adopted an appeal for more marine and climate protection, the “Kiel Declaration”.
Retail price of regular milled rice in the Philippines, 2010-2018
15 September 2018 (BBC News) – Some 14 people have been killed in a massive storm which brought destruction to the northern Philippines, a presidential adviser says.
Typhoon Mangkhut ripped through the Philippines’ main island of Luzon, and is now moving west towards China.
Almost all buildings in the city of Tuguegarao sustained some damage, a government official said, and communications were down in places.
High-water levels in Wilmington, North Carolina, 1935-2018
14 September 2018 (Weather Underground) – Hurricane Florence was only a Category 1 storm on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale when it struck, but the hurricane’s massive wind field brought a huge storm surge to the coast that broke all-time high-water records as much as 65 years old. Two of the three tide gauges on the south coast of North Carolina that have long-term records going back to 1954 or earlier (Beaufort and Wilmington) had those records fall on Friday, and the other station (Wrightsville Beach) notched its third highest water level on record. Long-term storm surge records like this are very difficult to break, and speak to how large and dangerous Florence’s storm surge has been. The threat from Florence’s surge is not over yet, either–the National Hurricane Center was warning on Friday night that Florence’s storm surge could still bring water levels up to 12 feet above ground in eastern North Carolina.
The largest storm surges reported on Friday from Florence were in New Bern and Emerald Isle, North Carolina, where water levels reached 10.1 feet and 7.0 feet above ground, respectively, according to the National Hurricane Center. New Bern, a city of about 30,000 residents, saw significant storm surge flooding after the Neuse River overflowed its banks and swept into the town. Craven County spokeswoman Amber Parker told ABC News that some people were trapped on their roofs. “I would say certain areas of New Bern are very desperate,” she told the network. At least 200 people had been rescued on Friday morning, with another 120 people still awaiting rescue as of 10:30 a.m. Friday morning in New Bern, city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts told the Associated Press.
Monthly mortality in Puerto Rico, 2010-2018
“These numbers are only the latest to underscore that the federal response to the hurricanes was disastrously inadequate and, as a result, thousands of our fellow American citizens lost their lives.”
Accumulated precipitation for Wilmington, NC, 17 September 2018
20 September 2018 (Weather Underground) – Almost three weeks since it was first classified by the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Depression Florence is spreading heavy rain and flood risk toward the Northeast U.S., and its aftermath is still plaguing the Carolinas. Florence, which is being tracked by the NOAA/NWS Weather Prediction Center (WPC), was centered on Monday morning near the Ohio/Kentucky/West Virginia intersection, heading northeast at 15 mph. Winds are no longer a major problem with Florence, as top sustained winds are just 25 mph, but rains are still a big concern, mainly well to the northeast and east of Florence’s center.
Widespread 2” – 4” rains, with pockets up to 6”, will envelop much of the interior mid-Atlantic on Monday and southern New England on Tuesday. WPC has a moderate risk of flash-flood-producing rains for Monday along a swath from northwest Virginia to south-central New York, with a slight-risk area encompassing most of the interior mid-Atlantic. The main threat north of the Carolinas is for flash flooding, although moderate river flooding was already occurring along the South River at Waynesboro and is expected by Wednesday along the Potomac at Edwards Ferry.
Before they can even start on recovering from Florence, folks in the hardest-hit parts of southern North Carolina and adjacent South Carolina have days of river flooding to contend with. All road transport to the region’s largest city, Wilmington, was cut off by floodwaters on Sunday, which prompted officials to explore whether supplies might need to be airlifted to the city’s 120,000 residents. Road access to Wilmington was reopened on Monday, though it may again be lost by Tuesday as river flooding begins to peak, according to the state transportation director and Governor Roy Cooper.
Number of Puerto Rico households that sought help from FEMA after Hurricane Maria, compared with the number that received a grant for repairs
PUNTA SANTIAGO, P.R. (The New York Times) – When it rains, Maritza Cruz Sánchez springs into a well-rehearsed, 30-minute ritual: She climbs a ladder to where her roof used to be and sucks on a hose to siphon puddles from the plastic tarp suspended over her house.
The tarp is held aloft by a few thin wooden posts, which have begun to warp and now seem almost certain to collapse. The temporary contraption that shelters Ms. Cruz and what little she still owns has been in place since March.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency gave her $6,000 to replace waterlogged belongings, but nothing to help make her house habitable again.
Maternal mortality in developed nations, 1990-2015
23 September 2018 (Second Nexus) – A USA TODAY report has determined that the United States has become the “most dangerous place to give birth in the developed world.”
More than 700 women in the United States die from complications directly related to childbirth each year. In addition, more than 50,000 American women are severely injured as a result of childbirth on an annual basis. The report indicates that these injuries and deaths are the direct result of hospitals not following long-standard medical procedure.
The study, which lasted four years, indicates that the United States now has the highest maternal death rate anywhere in the developed world. This is in stark contrast to many other developing nations, which are experiencing all-time low rates in maternal deaths. [This finding corroborates earlier studies by CDC and NPR/ProPublica. –Des]
Estimated cost to rebuild Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria
As bad as the situation has been, there is reason for real hope. The complete and widespread devastation gives us an opportunity to view our island as a blank canvas, upon which we can implement innovative solutions that can make Puerto Rico a showcase for the world with a modern and more resilient infrastructure, a newer and stronger housing stock, and a more vibrant and competitive economy.
How Earth’s climate sensitivity evolves to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide over different timescales
25 September 2018 (The Guardian) – We’re currently on pace to double the carbon dioxide-equivalent (including other greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere by around mid-century. Since the late 1800s scientists have been trying to answer the question, how much global warming will that cause?
In 1979, top climate scientists led by Jule Charney published a report estimating that if we double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm to 560 ppm, temperatures will warm by 3 ± 1.5°C. Four decades later, ‘climate sensitivity’ estimates remain virtually unchanged, but some climate contrarians have argued that the number is at the low end of that range, around 2°C or less.
It’s an important question because if the contrarians are right, the 2°C resulting global warming would represent significantly less severe climate change consequences than if mainstream climate scientists are right and temperatures rise by 3°C. It would also mean our remaining carbon budget for meeting the 2°C Paris target is about twice as large than if the mainstream consensus is right. If the consensus is correct, we’re on pace to blow through the remaining Paris carbon budget by around 2030.
Spatial distribution of coastal wetland change by the year 2100 under sea level rise from global warming
13 September 2018 (University of Southampton) – A new global study involving researchers from the University of Southampton suggests coastal wetlands, such as those on the South Coast of England, can survive rising sea levels and continue to provide natural defence from flooding if they are able to migrate further inland.
Coastal wetlands, which include saltmarshes, mudflats and mangroves are found widely around the world’s coastlines. They provide productive habitats for wildlife and protect local communities from flooding and coastal erosion. Wetlands are declining around the world and rising sea levels are expected to increase the rate of these losses. However this new research shows that if coastal wetlands are given space to expand, they can adapt to rising sea levels and continue to protect coastal communities from the effects of climate change.
These findings will have particular implications for the South Coast. Saltmarshes are widely found in front of seawalls and dikes in estuaries such as the Solent or Poole Harbour and are declining. A number of projects in the region have seen manmade defences removed or relocated to restore the natural flood defence provided by wetlands. Schemes have been implemented around Chichester Harbour, at Thorness Bay on the Isle of Wight, the Rother, East Sussex and most notably the large project at Medmerry near Selsey Bill. Further schemes are being implemented or are planned in the coming decades.
World Debt Clock, 26 September 2018
26 September 2018 (New York Post) – Ten years ago, it was too-easy credit that brought financial markets to their knees. Today, it could be a global debt of $247 trillion that causes the next crash.
After a decade of escalating US household debt brought on by low wages and the national debt more than doubling over the same time frame, to $21 trillion, debt could soon put the brakes on this economic recovery, analysts warn.
“We think the major economies are on the cusp of this turning into the worst recession we have seen in 10 years,” said Murray Gunn, head of global research at Elliott Wave International.
Country-level contributions to the social cost of carbon
25 September 2018 (Nature) – Politics, according to the nineteenth-century German statesman Otto von Bismarck, is the art of the next best. The global approach of politicians to tackling climate change is a sorry example of this.
The problem: destructive storms that hit the United States and southeast Asia this month are the latest reminder of how vulnerable societies across the world are to climate extremes. The best political solution might seem to be to subordinate all policies — domestic and international — to the goal of stabilizing Earth’s climate. This is difficult. So, instead, the world must rely on the effectiveness of voluntary actions that nations have agreed on under a non-binding international compromise treaty forged in Paris in 2015.
For all its symbolic power, that Paris treaty is a truly second-best solution. Even if it had worked as advertised, the promised cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions are weak. And now the withdrawal of the United States — and, de facto, of Australia — has substantially weakened the global consensus before the treaty has even come into effect.
Radar estimated total rainfall from Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, 13 September 2018 – 17 September 2018
18 September 2018 (NWS Raleigh) – Here’s the unofficial, radar-estimated storm total rainfall from Hurricane Florence over all North Carolina (actual gauge-measured amounts not included). Using the average rainfall over the state, Florence dropped about 8.04 trillion gallons of rain on NC.
Note: these radar estimates are off by roughly a factor of 2 (too low) for Mecklenburg/Union/Cabarrus Counties. We had several reports of 11-14″ in Union County!
Accelerating carbon emissions in Alaska due to permafrost thaw
30 September 2018 (The Washington Post) – “The lake, about 20 football fields in size, looked as if it was boiling. Its waters hissed, bubbled and popped as a powerful greenhouse gas escaped from the lake bed. Some bubbles grew as big as grapefruits, visibly lifting the water’s surface several inches and carrying up bits of mud from below.”
That’s the picture I painted in my latest dispatch from the Arctic, where ecologist Katey Walter Anthony discovered Esieh Lake, which is emitting a large amount of methane gas for a single Arctic lake. It’s a volume that could pose a significant threat to the climate if lakes like this one turn out to be common.
Most of Esieh is quite shallow, averaging only a little more than three feet deep. But where the gas bubbles cluster, the floor drops suddenly, a plunge marked by the vanishing of all visible plant life.
Measurements showed that the lake dips to about 50 feet deep in one area and nearly 15 feet in another. When they first studied them, Walter Anthony and her graduate student Janelle Sharp named these two seep clusters W1 and W2, short for “Wow 1” and “Wow 2.”
There are already a number of so-called “thermokarst” lakes growing in the deep muck of the thawing Arctic permafrost that are emitting methane, a greenhouse gas that hits the climate system hard and fast. It’s more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term, though without the same long term impact.
Projected population trajectories of killer whales
1 October 2018 (The Guardian) – At least half of the world’s killer whale populations are doomed to extinction due to toxic and persistent pollution of the oceans, according to a major new study.
Although the poisonous chemicals, PCBs, have been banned for decades, they are still leaking into the seas. They become concentrated up the food chain; as a result, killer whales, the top predators, are the most contaminated animals on the planet. Worse, their fat-rich milk passes on very high doses to their newborn calves.
PCB concentrations found in killer whales can be 100 times safe levels and severely damage reproductive organs, cause cancer, and damage the immune system. The new research analysed the prospects for killer whale populations over the next century and found those offshore from industrialised nations could vanish as soon as 30-50 years.
Six species of tuna are threatened with extinction by overfishing
1 October 2018 (AFP) – Dozens of nations with commercial fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean will grapple next week with a new finding that bigeye tuna, the backbone of a billion dollar business, is severely depleted and overfished.
Unless catch levels are sharply reduced, scientists warned, stocks of the fatty, fast-swimming predator could crash within a decade or two.
Less iconic than Atlantic bluefin but more valuable as an industry, bigeye (Thunnus obesus)—one of several so-called tropical tunas—is prized for sashimi in Japan and canned for supermarket sales worldwide. It is not farmed.
Rainfall deciles in Australia for September 2018, which was the driest September in Australia overall on record
3 October 2018 (The Sydney Morning Herald) – Australia has notched its driest September on record, with less than a third of the usual rainfall for the month, extending the dry spell that has farmers and firefighters increasingly desperate for rain.
Victoria posted its second driest September, also collecting just a third of its typical September rain.
NSW also had another dry month, with less than half the normal rain, bringing the state’s year-to-date tally lower than any year but 1902 and 1965, according to Blair Trewin, senior climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology.
Carbon emissions by quarter in Australia, 2008-2018
4 October 2018 (The Sydney Morning Herald) – Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have continued to climb, reaching the highest levels on a quarterly basis since 2010, led by a surge in gas production.
For the 12 months to March 31 2018, emissions totalled 529.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent, up 1.3 per cent from a year earlier, the Environment Department said in the report released on Friday afternoon [pdf], Fugitive emissions, mostly from the gas sector, jumped 13.7 per cent.
The overall figure included a drop of 4.3 per cent in emissions from the electricity sector, which accounts for the biggest share of pollution. Another sector reporting a decline was land use change, with emissions down 5.2 per cent although the government qualified the figure as preliminary, subject to satellite imagery analysis.
Total coal power capacity in China, 2005 to mid-2018 and China’s 2020 coal cap
4 October 2018 (BBC News) – Building work has restarted at hundreds of Chinese coal-fired power stations, according to an analysis of satellite imagery.
The authors say this is the same capacity to produce electricity as the entire US coal fleet.
Risks to different Earth systems due to rising global mean surface temperature
8 October 2018 (The Guardian) – World leaders have been told they have moral obligation to ramp up their action on the climate crisis in the wake of a new UN report that shows even half a degree of extra warming will affect hundreds of millions of people, decimate corals, and intensify heat extremes.
But the muted response by Britain, Australia, and other governments highlights the immense political challenges facing adoption of pathways to the relatively safe limit of 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures outlined on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Human-induced warming reached approximately 1°C above pre-industrial levels in 2017
INCHEON, South Korea (The New York Times) – A landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.”
The report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.
The report “is quite a shock, and quite concerning,” said Bill Hare, an author of previous I.P.C.C. reports and a physicist with Climate Analytics, a nonprofit organization. “We were not aware of this just a few years ago.” The report was the first to be commissioned by world leaders under the Paris agreement, the 2015 pact by nations to fight global warming.
Total area deforested and deforestation rate in the Brazilian Amazon, 1988-2017
9 October 2018 (The Guardian) – The role of forests in combating climate change risks being overlooked by the world’s governments, according to a group of scientists that has warned halting deforestation is “just as urgent” as eliminating the use of fossil fuels.
Razing the world’s forests would release more than 3 trillion tons of carbon dioxide, more than the amount locked in identified global reserves of oil, coal, and gas. By protecting and restoring forests, the world would achieve 18% of the emissions mitigation needed by 2030 to avoid runaway climate change, the group of 40 scientists, spanning five countries, said in a statement.
“We must protect and maintain healthy forests to avoid dangerous climate change and to ensure the world’s forests continue to provide services critical for the well-being of the planet and ourselves,” the statement reads.
Illustrating Voroni-polygon and buffer-based approaches for estimating the area of wind power plants
10 October 2018 (The Harvard Gazette) – When it comes to energy production, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, unfortunately.
As the world begins its large-scale transition toward low-carbon energy sources, it is vital that the pros and cons of each type are well understood and the environmental impacts of renewable energy, small as they may be in comparison to coal and gas, are considered.
In two papers — published today in the journals Environmental Research Letters and Joule — Harvard University researchers find that the transition to wind or solar power in the U.S. would require five to 20 times more land than previously thought, and, if such large-scale wind farms were built, would warm average surface temperatures over the continental U.S. by 0.24 degrees Celsius.
Recent rapid hurricane intensification events in the Atlantic basin: Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, and Michael
12 October 2018 (The Washington Post) – The unforgettable thing about record-setting Hurricane Michael will always be how rapidly it became a near-Category 5 storm, perfectly timed for a sneak attack on the Florida Panhandle.
On Tuesday morning, Floridians knew a storm was coming but not how strong it would be. As of 5 a.m., Michael was a strong Category 1 hurricane with a minimum pressure of 973 millibars, a measure of atmospheric pressure indicating that air is rising in the storm, pulling winds toward its center. The official forecast took the storm up to mid-Category 3 at landfall.
But 24 hours later, Michael was already far stronger: It now had 140 mph winds and a pressure falling sharply. The wind speed increased 45 mph in just 24 hours, representing a leap from Category 1 to Category 4 — and the storm wasn’t done intensifying.
Projected changes in major hurricane density in the future experiments
27 September 2018 (NOAA) – New NOAA research that looks at the devastating 2017 Atlantic hurricane season projects that if similar weather conditions occur in the future, it’s likely that the number of major hurricanes (category 3 and higher) would increase by two in a similar active year at the end of century.
This increase would be driven by predicted climate warming, according to the research appearing today in Science.
The finding was reported by a team at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) that included lead author Hiroyuki Murakami, who conducted the research while an associate research scholar with the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at Princeton University
Annual exceedance probability of increases in peak wind speeds in tropical cyclones
12 October 2018 (Weather Underground) – As Hurricane Michael sped northward on 9 October 2018 toward a catastrophic landfall on Florida’s Panhandle, the mighty hurricane put on an phenomenal display of rapid intensification. Michael’s winds increased by 45 mph in the final 24 hours before landfall, taking it from a Category 2 hurricane with 110 mph winds to an extremely dangerous high-end Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds. It was a disturbing déjà vu of what had happened just one year earlier. On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey rapidly intensified by 40 mph in the 24 hours before landfall, from a Category 1 storm with 90 mph winds to a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds.
In a 2016 paper, “Will Global Warming Make Hurricane Forecasting More Difficult?” (available here from the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society), MIT hurricane scientist Kerry Emanuel explained that not only will global warming make the strongest hurricanes stronger, it will also increase how fast they intensify. Troublingly, intensification rates don’t increase linearly as the intensity of a storm increases–they increase by the square power of the intensity. Thus, we can expect future hurricanes to intensify at unprecedented rates, and the ones that happen to perform their rapid intensification just before landfall will be extremely dangerous.
Geopolitical Risk Index, 2010-2018
Page 23: A range of other factors continues to influence the medium-term outlook in various regions. Geopolitical risks (Figure 1.19) and domestic strife are weighing on the outlook in several economies, especially in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. Box 1.5 documents the depth of macroeconomic distress in several countries (such as Libya, Venezuela, and Yemen) and compares it to other cases of large GDP collapses in recent history. While the baseline forecast assumes a gradual easing of existing strains, an intensification of conflicts in the Middle East and Africa not only would have large negative domestic repercussions (Box 1.1 of the April 2017 WEO), but could trigger a rise in migrant flows into Europe, potentially deepening political divisions. In several systemically important economies, declining trust in national and regional institutions may increase the appeal of politically popular but unsustainable policy measures, which could harm confidence, threaten medium-term sustainability, and, in the case of Europe, undermine regional cohesion. Furthermore, many countries remain vulnerable to the economic and humanitarian costs of extreme weather events and other natural disasters, with potentially significant cross-border ramifications through migration flows.
To keep global temperature rises to under 2C by 2050, we need to eat much less of these foods (left) and much more of these (right)
16 October 2018 (The Guardian) – Huge reductions in meat-eating are essential to avoid dangerous climate change, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of the food system’s impact on the environment [pdf]. In western countries, beef consumption needs to fall by 90 percent and be replaced by five times more beans and pulses.
The research also finds that enormous changes to farming are needed to avoid destroying the planet’s ability to feed the 10 billion people expected to be on the planet in a few decades.
Food production already causes great damage to the environment, via greenhouse gases from livestock, deforestation, and water shortages from farming, and vast ocean dead zones from agricultural pollution. But without action, its impact will get far worse as the world population rises by 2.3 billion people by 2050 and global income triples, enabling more people to eat meat-rich western diets.
News deserts: U.S. counties without newspapers in 2018
16 October 2018 (Poynter) – It’s hardly a secret that news deserts are spreading, but just how bad is it?
A comprehensive new study released today by the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism shows that far more U.S. communities have totally lost news coverage — more than 1,300 — than previously known.
Acres of spruce beetle damage in Southcentral Alaska forests, 2015-2018
PALMER (Anchorage Daily News) – A beetle infestation already decimating Susitna Valley spruce trees worsened sharply this summer.
Spruce beetles killed trees across nearly 558,000 acres of forest this year and mostly in Mat-Su, according to an update released Monday by the U.S. Forest Service and Alaska Department of Natural Resources.
That brings the total area hit by Alaska spruce beetles to nearly 1 million acres since the outbreak started in 2016. It’s increased twofold every year.
Mean dry-weight arthropod biomass per 100 sweeps taken in the same sample area in the Luquillo rainforest in Puerto Rico during July 1976, January 1977, July 2011, and January 2013
16 October 2018 (The Washington Post) – Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations. A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico, the study found, and the forest’s insect-eating animals have gone missing, too.
In 2014, an international team of biologists estimated that, in the past 35 years, the abundance of invertebrates such as beetles and bees had decreased by 45 percent. In places where long-term insect data are available, mainly in Europe, insect numbers are plummeting. A study last year showed a 76 percent decrease in flying insects in the past few decades in German nature preserves.
The latest report, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that this startling loss of insect abundance extends to the Americas. The study’s authors implicate climate change in the loss of tropical invertebrates.
Water levels for three reservoirs in India’s Kerala state in 2017 and 2018
KOCHI/MUMBAI (Reuters) – Joby Pathrose, a farmer living a kilometre away from the usually languid Periyar river in southern India, was woken in the night by the sound of rushing waters.
Hours later his plantations and everything he owned were completely submerged.
“There was absolutely no warning from the government side,” said Pathrose, describing the devastating flooding that hit his village of Okkal, in Kerala state, on 15 August 2018.
Recorded climate-related disaster losses per income group compared to GDP losses, 1998-2017
10 October 2018 (UN News) – Climate-related and geophysical disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis have killed 1.3 million people over the last 20 years and left a further 4.4 billion injured, homeless or in need of emergency assistance, UN experts said on Wednesday.
The findings [pdf], published by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), also show that people in low- and middle-income countries are seven times more likely to die from natural disasters than those in developed nations.
“This puts a big emphasis on the need to…make sure that we curb greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ricardo Mena, UNISDR chief, in charge of implementing the Sendai Framework.
Trend in tornado frequency in the U.S.
WASHINGTON (AP) – Over the past few decades tornadoes have been shifting — decreasing in Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas but spinning up more in states along the Mississippi River and farther east, a new study shows. Scientists aren’t quite certain why.
Tornado activity is increasing most in Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, and parts of Ohio and Michigan, according to a study in Wednesday’s journal Climate and Atmospheric Science. There has been a slight decrease in the Great Plains, with the biggest drop in central and eastern Texas. Even with the decline, Texas still gets the most tornadoes of any state.
The shift could be deadly because the area with increasing tornado activity is bigger and home to more people, said study lead author Victor Gensini, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Northern Illinois University. Also more people live in vulnerable mobile homes and tornadoes are more likely to happen at night in those places, he said. […]
Global distribution of the current likelihood of hydro-political issues among the main transboundary basins
18 October 2018 (Gizmodo) – A United Nations report published last week said we have about a decade to get climate change under control, which—let’s be honest—isn’t likely to happen. So break out your goalie masks and harpoon guns, a Mad Max future awaits! Now, as new research points out, we even know where on Earth the inevitable water wars are most likely to take place.
Sarcasm aside, this report is actually quite serious.
Published today in Global Environmental Change, the paper identifies several hotspots around the globe where “hydro-political issues,” in the parlance of the researchers, are likely to give rise to geopolitical tensions, and possibly even conflict. The authors of the new report, a team from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), say the escalating effects of climate change, in conjunction with ongoing trends in population growth, could trigger regional instability and social unrest in regions where freshwater is scarce, and where bordering nations have to manage and share this increasingly scarce commodity.
U.S. Drought Monitor map for 18 October 2018
20 October 2018 (The Weather Channel) – An extreme drought that depleted half of Utah’s reservoirs has prompted Gov. Gary Herbert to declare a state of emergency.
The declaration allows drought-affected communities, agricultural producers and others to begin the process of accessing state or federal resources, according to a press release.
“The rainfall we have received helps, but the drought is at a level unseen for many years and will not be solved with a small series of storms. In some areas, the drought is at, or near, historic levels,” Herbert said.
U.S. household net worth vs. nominal GDP, 1951-2018
20 October 2018 (MarketWatch) – Much has been made about how much wealth is sloshing around in U.S. households and the significance of that fact.
Our call of the day pulls no punches as it warns that all of that oft-referenced increase in affluence has been artificially inflated by the Fed, which is ultimately bad news for the economy and the stock market. Here’s how Jesse Colombo, analyst at Clarity Financial, explains it:
“The U.S. household wealth boom since the Great Recession is a sham, a farce and a gigantic lie that is tricking everyone into believing that happy days are here again even though the engines that are driving it are bubbles that are going to burst and cause a crisis that will be even worse than the 2008 crash,” Colombo said in a video he posted via the Real Investment Advice blog.
Map of opioid overdose deaths in the US, 2000-2017
20 October 2018 (Visual Capitalist) – Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, who are now more likely to die from a drug overdose than from car accidents or firearms. The United States has the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage of drug-related deaths in the world.
While opioid abuse is a nationwide problem, there are specific areas that are being hit harder by this epidemic. Using the location data above, from NORC at the University of Chicago, we can see clusters of counties that have an extremely high rate of overdose deaths. Between 2012 and 2016, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio saw a combined 18,000 deaths related to opioid abuse.
A sharp increase in prescribed opioid-based painkillers and the rise of illegal fentanyl – which is up to 50 times stronger than heroin – has unleashed the worst public health crisis in American history.
Map of measles cases in the WHO European Region, January 2018 – August 2018
22 October 2018 (NBC News) – A raging measles outbreak in Europe may be a warning sign of what could occur in the U.S. if something doesn’t change soon, experts say.
So far this year, there have been 41,000 cases in Europe and 40 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The European experience may offer a window on how quickly things can go awry when parents choose not to vaccinate their children, doctors caution.
Because measles is relatively rare in the U.S., many Americans have no idea of the disease’s frightening impact and its stunning contagiousness.
Super Typhoon Yutu is the latest global storm to undergo explosive rapid intensification
25 October 2018 (NPR) – A massive typhoon slammed into a U.S. territory in the west Pacific, lashing the Northern Mariana Islands with gusts of Category 5 intensity Wednesday night local time. Super Typhoon Yutu brought to bear maximum sustained winds of about 180 mph — much more powerful, in other words, than the historically powerful storm that hit Florida two weeks ago.
The islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota remain under typhoon warnings from the National Weather Service, while Guam and several smaller islands have been placed under a tropical storm warning. And the NWS expects typhoon conditions to continue through late Thursday morning local time. […]
Meteorologists described the storm as not only “Earth’s strongest storm of 2018″ but also “one of the most intense hurricane strikes on record for the United States and its territories.” The more than 50,000 people who live in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands faced a storm surge of up to 20 feet and rainfall of up to 10 inches in certain areas.
Exports of plastic waste, parings, scrap from G7 countries before and after China’s “National Sword” policy shut its doors to imports of recycled material
27 October 2018 (Financial Times) – As Robert Reed examines a mountain of trash piled three storeys high, a thin white plastic bag catches his eye. He fishes it out and holds it up. “That is a problem plastic,” he says gravely. “These get stuck in the machines, and there is no market for them.” He gives it a little wave and lets it float back down on to the heap.
We are standing inside the largest recycling facility in San Francisco, which takes in household waste, sorts it and produces tidy bales of material at the end. Broken glass crunches underfoot as Reed, a 20-year veteran of the industry, explains with pride that this plant, owned by local waste-management company Recology, is the most advanced of its kind on the West Coast, using lasers, magnets and air jets to process 750 tonnes each day.
“See all this paper?” he says, approaching the mound of waste and gesturing to an Amazon box. “We’ve started to get a lot more of this because of all the online shopping.” Some of the materials sorted here are valuable, such as aluminium cans, steel and cardboard. But others are worthless, like coffee-cup lids or black plastic food trays.
U.S. workforce participation, 2002-2018
27 October 2018 (CBS News) – President Donald Trump is set Wednesday to sign another bill that aims to stem America’s opioid crisis. It comes as overdose deaths from the drugs have continued to surge. Roughly 70,000 people died from overdoses last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a 10 percent jump from 2016 – that’s more than the total number of U.S. military deaths in all 15 years of the Vietnam war.
In some communities, concerns about drugs rate higher than anything else. One in four Americans living in rural areas say drug addiction or abuse in their community is a top issue, recent polling from NPR and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows. “This has never been reported before,” the poll’s co-director said.
While the human tragedy of the opioid crisis is incalculable, the economic impact on the U.S. and on families can be estimated. In 2017, opioid addiction cost $115 billion, according to an analysis issued earlier this year by Altarum, a health care research nonprofit.
Average perceived expert consensus on human-caused global warming in the U.S.
28 October 2018 (The Guardian) – When queried about the most recent IPCC report, Republican lawmakers delivered a consistent, false message – that climate scientists are still debating whether humans are responsible. The previous IPCC report was quite clear on this, attributing 100% of the global warming since 1950 to human activities. As Nasa atmospheric scientist Kate Marvel recently put it, “We are more sure that greenhouse gas is causing climate change than we are that smoking causes cancer.”
Donald Trump articulated the incorrect Republican position in an interview on 60 Minutes:
We have scientists that disagree with [human-caused global warming] … You’d have to show me the [mainstream] scientists because they have a very big political agenda
To paraphrase, ‘I know scientists. I have the best scientists.’ And of course Trump thinks he has “a natural instinct for science” which, as astrophysicist Katie Mack noted, is not a thing. […]Americans badly underestimate the expert climate consensus
Count of prescribers by opioid costs in 2015
29 October 2018 (MarketWatch) – To sell addictive opioids, sales representatives were encouraged to “own” doctors, keeping a close eye on how and how much they prescribe.
Speaker programs that helped drive sales left out safety problems and, in one instance, didn’t say that Insys, the drug’s manufacturer, was sponsoring the event.
And high dosages of the addictive opioid Subsys were linked to bonus payments, with company presentations encouraging this behavior through slogans like “Strength Makes the Difference” and “Don’t Forget the Doses.”
Observed winter mean temperatures at Cypress Ski Resort at elevation 1124 meters, 1901-2015
TORONTO (The Guardian) – Scientists in Canada have warned that massive glaciers in the Yukon territory are shrinking even faster than would be expected from a warming climate – and bringing dramatic changes to the region.
After a string of recent reports chronicling the demise of the ice fields, researchers hope that greater awareness will help the public better understand the rapid pace of climate change.
The rate of warming in the north is double that of the average global temperature increase, concluded the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in its annual Arctic Report Card, which called the warming “unprecedented”.
Adult obesity rates in the United States, 1990-2017
14 September 2018 (Trust for America’s Health) – According to the most recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data, adult obesity rates now exceed 35% in seven states, 30% in 29 states and 25% in 48 states. West Virginia has the highest adult obesity rate at 38.1% and Colorado has the lowest at 22.6%. The adult obesity rate increased in Iowa, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and South Carolina between 2016 and 2017, and remained stable in the rest of states.
Likelihood of debris flow in a high-intensity storm in Northern California, around Redding
30 October 2018 (The Sacramento Bee) – Brent Larson awoke at 4 a.m. to the shake and rumble of what felt like a freight train rolling down the hill toward his Santa Barbara County home.
He leaped from his bed and woke his two sons. In seconds, a wall of water, mud and rock slammed into his house, smashing through one window, then the next, then a third, pouring in as the trio sprinted to the safety of the chimney at the home’s far corner.
“It was like out of ‘Indiana Jones,’” he said, nine months later, still shaken.
Biodiversity declines have continued despite repeated policy commitments aimed at slowing or halting the rate of loss
30 October 2018 (The Guardian) – The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends.
The analysis, the most comprehensive to date, indicates that animal populations plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with losses on track to reach 67% by 2020. Researchers from WWF and the Zoological Society of London compiled the report from scientific data and found that the destruction of wild habitats, hunting and pollution were to blame.
The creatures being lost range from mountains to forests to rivers and the seas and include well-known endangered species such as elephants and gorillas and lesser known creatures such as vultures and salamanders.
Frequency of tidal flooding in Venice, Italy, 1970-2016
1 November 2018 (Weather Underground) – An exceptionally strong upper-level storm and low-pressure center has played havoc this week with the weather across large parts of Europe, especially Italy, where high winds, intense thunderstorms, and a landslide caused at least 11 deaths. Most of the fatalities were from falling trees as a powerful squall line ripped across the length of the Italian peninsula on Monday afternoon. One man died in a wind surfing accident off the coast of the Emilia-Romagna district, and a woman near Trento in northern Italy died after a landslide engulfed her home, according to the Associated Press.
Northwest of Rome, a wind gust to 202 km/hr (126 mph) was recorded on the island of Montecristo. This is just shy of the nation’s record-high gust of 210 km/hr, according to independent weather researcher Maximiliano Herrera.
The costliest damage may have been on the Liguarian coast of western Italy, where close to 200 luxury yachts were reportedly destroyed in the port of Rapallo. Waves up to 10 meters (33 feet) high slammed into the marina, reported ANSA. The marina’s director said that a large section of a protective dam gave way despite having been bolstered after a storm in 2000.
How winter and summer temperatures will shift in the US by 2050
1 November 2018 (Vox) – Our world is getting warmer. This we know.
Just look at Los Angeles, which experienced all-time record heat in July 2018, topping out at 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Dozens of other heat records across the United States were smashed this summer alone.
But how much will temperatures in US cities change by 2050? By then, scientists say average global warming since preindustrial levels could be about twice what it is in 2018 — and much more obvious and disruptive. It’s a world you’ll (probably) be living in. And it’s the one we’re definitely handing off to the next generation.
Remaining wilderness areas in 2018
1 November 2018 (UQ News) – The world’s last wilderness areas are rapidly disappearing, with explicit international conservation targets critically needed, according to University of Queensland-led research.
The international team recently mapped intact ocean ecosystems, complementing a 2016 project charting remaining terrestrial wilderness.
Professor James Watson, from UQ’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said the two studies provided the first full global picture of how little wilderness remains, and he was alarmed at the results.
Annual billion-dollar global weather disasters, 1990-2018
3 November 2018 (Weather Underground) – During the summer of 2018, the future of climate change became the present. Highly amplified jet stream patterns that remained stuck in place for unusually long periods of time brought the planet a series of remarkable weather catastrophes—unprecedented heat waves in East Asia and Northern Europe, choking smoke from a record fire season in California and Washington, and Japan’s deadliest floods since 1982, to name a few.
The severe summer weather helped bring the 2018 tally of billion-dollar weather-related disasters to 35 – a startlingly high number that is already the third highest such total for any year since 1990, according to statistics supplied by Steve Bowen of insurance broker Aon Benfield. Research published on Wednesday (open access), led by climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann of Penn State, predicted that our future climate is likely to bring a significant increase in “stuck” summertime jet stream patterns capable of bringing a rise in extreme destructive weather events like we experienced in 2018. Their paper is titled, Projected changes in persistent extreme summer weather events: The role of quasi-resonant amplification. […]
Several newer studies have found further evidence of an increase in QRA events, including Mann, et al. (2017), Influence of Anthropogenic Climate Change on Planetary Wave Resonance and Extreme Weather Events, and Lehmann, et al. (2015), Increased record-breaking precipitation events under global warming.
Pollution from wildfires in California, 16 November 2018
16 November 2018 (BBC News) – Northern California’s air quality has become the worst in the world, according to monitoring groups, as the state battles devastating fires.
Air quality network Purple Air said on Thursday the air is now worse than smoggy cities in India and China.
Schools have cancelled classes, flights have been delayed, and internet searches for smoke masks are soaring.
Emissions and global warming projections for 2100, based on national pledges and current policies
18 November 2018 (The Australian Financial Review) – Insurance giant IAG has warned a failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could result in a world that is “pretty much uninsurable”, with poorer communities likely to bear the brunt of the effects.
In Australia, IAG said temperature increases of more than 3 degrees would expose greater swaths of Queensland to cyclones and flooding, while a rise of more than 4 degrees could make the risks to insurers prohibitive.
“It’s a big question because it depends on reinsurance capital, but if you take some of the models that are being done on cyclone risk, for example, there could be more of Queensland exposed to cyclone and flooding in a 3-degree world,” Jacki Johnson, IAG’s group executive people, performance and reputation, told The Australian Financial Review.
Average temperature in California from January through October of each year, 1895-2018
19 November 2018 (FiveThirtyEight) – The Camp Fire in Northern California has already been the most lethal and most destructive in state history, and it continues to burn. The death toll, currently at 63, is expected to grow — more than 600 people are currently reported missing. The fire has burned through 142,000 acres as of Friday morning, just eight days after it began.
It’s not the only major fire in California, either. The Woolsey Fire, near Malibu in the south, has blazed through another 98,000 acres, killing three people. And these fires are just two of the latest in a year when at least 1.6 million acres in the state have burned. There are other fires currently burning, as well.
Fires aren’t rare in California, and no one thing causes them. But the fires this season have grown to be big and destructive because a confluence of environmental changes, several related to climate change, have made the state more vulnerable. Those changes include drought, higher-than-average temperatures, and population growth near wilderness areas, all of which have created favorable fire conditions, exacerbated the blazes and made them more costly.
On 28 November 2018, Fire Danger Ratings reached “Catastrophic” for the first time in Queensland, Australia
SYDNEY, Australia (The Telegraph) – Authorities ordered more than 10,000 people to flee from “catastrophic” wildfires moving across north-east Australia, as heavy rains in the south-east caused flooding that left at least two people dead.
In the state of Queensland, a heatwave and strong winds fuelled a massive fire that destroyed homes and led to the evacuation of all 8,000 residents from the town of Gracemere, the first time this has happened in its 150-year history.
The fire was threatening the larger town of Rockhampton, which is about five miles away and has about 80,000 residents.
Age-adjusted suicide rates in the United States, by sex, 1999–2017
29 November 2018 (The Hill) – U.S. life expectancy declined in 2017 as more Americans died of drug overdoses and suicides, furthering a troubling trend of declining lifespans not seen in a century, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in a report released Thursday.
Life expectancy was 78.6 years in 2017, down from 78.7 years in 2016, the CDC said.
Life expectancy also declined in 2015 and stayed flat in 2016, making this the first three-year period of general decline since the late 1910s. That decline took place during World War I and a sweeping flu epidemic — and before dozens of medical advances.
Three-day heatwave assessment for Australia, 27 November 2018
30 November 2018 (Australian Associated Press) – There is no relief in sight for Queensland’s bushfire crisis as extreme heatwave conditions continue to grip the state on the first day of summer.
There have been no lives lost as wildfires raged across central Queensland this week but 110 are still burning around the state.
That number could grow as heat wave spreads to the state’s south east corner in coming days with possible storms with damaging winds.
Surface average atmospheric CO2 concentration
6 December 2018 (The Washington Post) – Global emissions of carbon dioxide are reaching the highest levels on record, scientists projected Wednesday, in the latest evidence of the chasm between international goals for combating climate change and what countries are doing.
Between 2014 and 2016, emissions remained largely flat, leading to hopes that the world was beginning to turn a corner. Those hopes appear to have been dashed. In 2017, global emissions grew 1.6 percent. The rise in 2018 is projected to be 2.7 percent.
The expected increase, which would bring fossil fuel and industrial emissions to a record high of 37.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, is being driven by a nearly 5 percent growth of emissions in China and more than 6 percent in India, researchers estimated, along with growth in many other nations. Emissions by the United States grew 2.5 percent, while those of the European Union declined by just under 1 percent.
Average reduction in grain protein relative to ambient CO2 for 18 cultivated rice lines
11 December 2018 (Scientific American) – Is it possible to starve yourself of nutrients while simultaneously gaining weight? It turns out the answer is yes. According to a growing body of research, rising carbon dioxide levels are making our food less nutritious, robbing key crops of vitamins essential to human development.
Studies have shown that crops as varied as wheat, maize, soybeans and field peas contain less protein, zinc, and iron when grown under levels of carbon dioxide expected by 2050. Many crops have already suffered losses in these nutrients; one study compared modern plants with historical herbarium specimens and found that levels of all minerals, including zinc, iron, and calcium, closely tracked carbon dioxide levels through time.
The latest paper on the topic, published earlier this year in Science Advances, found that concentrations of essential nutrients decreased in 18 strains of rice after being exposed to increased carbon dioxide levels in an experiment. The study was the first to show that B vitamins like riboflavin, which helps your body break down food to make energy, and folate, which is important for fetal development, dropped by as much as 30 percent.
PM2.5 concentration and use of solid fuels in the states of India, 2017
NEW DELHI, 6 December 2018 (Press Trust of India) – One in eight deaths in India last year was attributable to air pollution, which contributes to more disease burden than tobacco use, a study said Thursday while asserting the highest exposure to ultra-fine particulate matter, PM2.5, was in Delhi followed by Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
Around 1.24 million deaths in India in 2017 is attributable to air pollution, it said and termed air pollution a leading risk factor for deaths in the country where the average life expectancy would have been 1.7 years higher if the pollution levels were less than the minimal level causing health loss.
The study, published in the Lancet Planetary Health journal, asserted that with 18 per cent of the global population, India suffered 26 per cent of premature mortality and health loss attributable to air pollution globally.
Nighttime temperature forecast in Northern Territory, Australia for 23:00 AEDT on 12 December 2018
11 December 2018 (NT News) – Did your air con just not cut it in Darwin last night?
Well, no surprises there because the Top End capital has just sweltered through its hottest ever night on record.
In a message on social media this morning the Bureau of Meteorology (Northern Territory) posted: “This will not be a false alarm. Since 9am Tues morning, the temperature at Darwin Airport has not dropped below 30C, breaking the previous record of 29.7C”.
The previous overnight minimum record of 29.7C was recorded on Tuesday morning so it’s been a sweltering two nights in a row for Darwin residents.
Top 30 highest-volume four-day rainfall totals over areas of 14,000 square miles in the U.S. since 1949
8 December 2018 (Weather Underground) – Preliminary research by precipitation expert Dr. Kenneth Kunkel of the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, announced in September 2018, found that the three highest-volume rainfall events in the U.S. in the last 70 years have occurred since 2016: Hurricane Harvey in Texas/Louisiana in 2017, Hurricane Florence in North Carolina in 2018, and a March 2016 storm in Louisiana. It is highly unusual to get three such extreme events in one three-year period, and the odds of this occurring were increased by global warming, which boosts the amount of water vapor in the air and increases the frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events.
Dr. Kunkel’s ratings were based on four-day rainfall totals over an area of 14,000 square miles (an area 40% larger than the state of Maryland). Harvey delivered an average of 25.6 inches of rain over an area of 14,000 square miles, while Florence was a somewhat distant second place, with an average of 17.5 inches of rain over a like-sized area.
Cumulative CO2 emissions by world region, 1751-2015
19 December 2018 (The Conversation) – The global climate change conference in Katowice, Poland, that wrapped up on Dec. 15 had a challenging mission. Three years ago in Paris, 196 countries and regions agreed to curb global greenhouse gas emissions Now they had to agree on rules and guidelines for how to do it.
Two urgent realities hung over the negotiations. First, U.S. President Donald Trump announced in June 2017 that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement in November 2020 – the soonest that any nation can actually do so. Second, although countries that are responsible for 97 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions have pledged to make cuts, the initial reductions will surely not be enough to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius. So, a key question is how the Paris Agreement can facilitate increased ambition over time.
Delegates in Poland wanted to make progress by filling in details of the skeletal Paris Agreement. Was the meeting a success? A simple yes or no would be misleading. But from my perspective leading a delegation from the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements at the conference, there were were significant gains in two key areas.
Estimated greenhouse gas emissions under India’s INDC, 1990-2030
19 December 2018 (The Conversation) – The international climate change conference that concluded in Katowice, Poland on 15 December 2018 had limited ambitions and expectations – especially compared to the 2015 meeting that produced the Paris climate agreement. It will be remembered mainly for its delegates agreeing on a common “rulebook” to implement existing country commitments for reducing emissions.
The deal is vital. It keeps the new global climate regime alive. It maintains a path to deliver financial and technical assistance to vulnerable countries and peoples. Actors with quite divergent interests, including the United States, the European Union, oil producing states, China, India, and small island nations all accepted a common approach to measuring progress.
But from my perspective as a social scientist focusing on conservation and international development, the technical orientation of the Katowice meeting failed to match the urgency of needed climate action. Negotiators made little progress toward deeper emissions cuts. Nor did the meeting do much to help the most vulnerable people, ecosystems and nations.