The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

For the first time, scientists identify human-driven climate change as the cause of global heat waves in 2016

Global heat waves in 2016 resulted purely from human-driven climate change: study, SBS, Last year’s global heat record, extreme heat in Asia and unusually warm waters off the coast of Alaska happened purely because the planet is getting warmer because of human activities like burning fossil fuels, a study said Wednesday.

The findings mark the first time that global scientists have identified severe weather that could not have happened without climate change, said the peer-reviewed report titled “Explaining Extreme Events in 2016 from a Climate Perspective.”

Until now, the contribution of human-driven climate change has been understood to raise the odds of certain floods, droughts, storms and heat waves – but not serve as the sole cause.

“This report marks a fundamental change,” said Jeff Rosenfeld, editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, which published the peer-reviewed report.

“For years scientists have known humans are changing the risk of some extremes. But finding multiple extreme events that weren’t even possible without human influence makes clear that we’re experiencing new weather, because we’ve made a new climate.”

The report included 27 peer-reviewed analyses of extreme weather across five continents and two oceans.

A total of 116 scientists from 18 countries took part, incorporating historical observations and model simulations to determine the role of climate change in nearly two dozen extreme events.

Records shattered

In 2016, the planet reached a new high for global heat, making it the warmest year in modern times.

These record average surface temperatures worldwide were “only possible due to substantial centennial-scale anthropogenic warming,” said the report.

Asia also experienced stifling heat, with India suffering a major heat wave that killed 580 people from March to May. Thailand set a new record for energy consumption as people turned on air conditioners en masse to cool off.

Even though the tropical Pacific Ocean warming trend of El Nino was pronounced in 2015 and the first part of 2016, researchers concluded that it was not to blame.

“The 2016 extreme warmth across Asia would not have been possible without climate change,” said the report.

“Although El Nino was expected to warm Southeast Asia in 2016, the heat in the region was unusually widespread.”

In the Gulf of Alaska, the nearby Bering Sea, and off northern Australia, water temperatures were the highest in 35 years of satellite records.

This ocean warming led to “massive bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and one of the largest harmful algal blooms ever off the Alaska shore,” according to the report.

“It was extremely unlikely that natural variability alone led to the observed anomalies.” Another chapter found that the so-called “blob” of sub-Arctic 2016 warmth “cannot be explained without anthropogenic climate warming.”

Most, not all

Most of the extreme events studied were influenced to some extent by climate change, as in the past six years that the work has been published.

Climate change was found to have boosted the odds and intensity of El Nino, the severity of coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef, and warmth in the North Pacific Ocean.

Flash droughts over southern Africa, like the one in 2015 and 2016, have tripled in the last 60 years mainly due to human-caused climate change, it said.

“Extreme rains, like the record-breaking 2016 event in Wuhan, China are 10 times more likely in the present climate than they were in 1961.” The unusual Arctic warmth observed in November–December 2016 “most likely would not have been possible without human-caused warming,” it added.

But not all extreme weather was influenced by global warming.

About 20 percent of the events studied were not linked to human-caused climate change, including a major winter snowstorm in the Mid-Atlantic United States, and the drought that led to water shortages in northeast Brazil.

The findings were released at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans.


December 16, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Climate change effects intensify – and California burns

California burns as the effects of climate change intensify, Independent Australia  Norm Sanders As the California fires continue to rage and over 200,000 homes are evacuated, Trump, Abbott and others can deny it all they want but climate change is to blame, writes Dr Norm Sanders. “………At this writing, more than 210,000 acres had burned and 200,000 people had had to flee their homes. The flames were approaching the eastern edge of Santa Barbara at Montecito where I had lived with my family. Residents have been ordered to evacuate. Some are staying put. …..

Is climate change to blame? California Governor Jerry Brown thinks so. Governor Brown has told the State’s residents to get used to destructive wildfires in winter, declaring them “the new normal”. He said it will take “heroic” efforts in the U.S. and abroad to stem climate change and urged Congress to pay more attention to dealing with natural disasters such as fires, floods and earthquakes. He told network television that Donald Trump did not appreciate that actions such as withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate deal might contribute to more such devastating events.

The California fire season was once largely confined to the hotter months when rain is scarce, but firefighters are coming to realise that climate change is now a year-round threat. It is now official: 2017 is the deadliest and most destructive year on record for wildfires in California. Dry conditions, high temperatures, roaring winds and bone-dry trees and brush are all factors responsible for the devastation. A key factor is wind.

UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain told KPCC radio:……..

Lack of rain is another factor. Between 2012 and 2016, California was riddled with extreme drought. Droughts in and of themselves aren’t uncommon, but the most recent one was made worse by human-caused climate change, according to a paper written by A. Park Williams, a climate scientist at Columbia University. (There has been no rain in Los Angeles at all so far in this “wet” season.)

The current lack of rain can be blamed on a ridge of high pressure sitting off the west coast of North America, blocking storms from passing over the State.

USDA agriculture meteorologist Brad Rippey said:

“Hopefully this’ll [SIC] be a temporary feature, maybe it’ll stick around for just a couple of weeks, but man, I sure hope it’s not going to stick around for the entire winter.”

Abundant research supports the theory that warming in the western tropical Pacific is associated with the arrival of blocking ridges This area seems to be warming faster than the other parts of the ocean.

The melting of Arctic sea-ice could also contribute to the formation of ridges off the West Coast according to another recent study. Caused by global warming, the Arctic could be ice-free during the summer months resulting in large shifts in climatic patterns.

The other important factor in the fires is the fuel load. There was enough rain last winter to promote grass growth and there was also an abundance of dead brush, which had died during the drought. The grass has become tinder dry since then, not only from a lack of rain but also because of the heat during the record-setting summer and fall.

As temperatures rise, so does the speed at which moisture evaporates from the soil. Higher temperatures combined with a lack of rain and dry hills covered in brush create perfect conditions for rapidly spreading fires……..,11022

December 12, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Climate scientists – physicians to the planet – need to speak out – Katherine Hayhoe

Climate change, that’s just a money grab by scientist… right   Global Weirding with Katharine Hayhoe

Katherine Hayhoe: ‘The true threat is the delusion that our opinion of science somehow alters its reality’   Whilst the climate is changing rapidly, climatologist Katherine Hayhoe says that scientists have no option but to fight against the politicisation of science , Wired,  

In her 2009 book, co-authored with husband Andrew Farley, Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions, Katharine Hayhoe wrote: “Most Christians are not scientists, and it’s hard to say how many scientists are Christians. In our family, we are both.” The Texas Tech atmospheric physicist, who’s also an Evangelical Christian, has long been one of the most vocal evangelists for the environment. Hayhoe has been featured in the James Cameron-produced TV series Years of Living Dangerously and once nominated as one of the most influential people in the world by TIME. She talks to WIRED about president Trump, clean energy, and, of course, climate change.

Katherine Hayhoe on anti-science sentiment 

Most people don’t reject science wholesale because they actually have a problem with the science. The same equations of radiative transfer and non-linear fluid dynamics that explain how our stoves work or how airplanes fly provide the basis of our climate models, too. Rather, people selectively reject a specific set of scientific findings: those they perceive to be a threat to their ideology or worldview, and hence to their identity.

How can the reality of climate change be perceived as a threat? First, there’s the pragmatic aspect: six out of ten of the wealthiest corporations in the world either extract oil or create the cars that use them. And there’s no getting around it – to fix the climate, we have to wean ourselves off fossil fuels as quickly as we can. These companies have a significant financial stake in muddying the waters on the science and delaying action on climate as long as possible; because every year that carbon emissions continue, they make an additional profit. Climate change solutions threaten their bottom line.

On the responsibility of scientists

Climate scientists are like the physicians of the planet…….

December 11, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

New Paris Climate Summit to focus on finance

Macron’s ‘real world’ climate summit to focus on finance, by Catherine HOURS, 11 Dec 17, Paris (AFP) – Two years to the day after 195 nations adopted the Paris Agreement, French President Emmanuel Macron will convene a follow-up climate summit Tuesday to jump-start the lagging transition to a greener global economy.

Launched in part to counter US President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the landmark 2015 treaty, the One Planet Summit — co-sponsored by the United Nations and the World Bank — will centre on how to finance the shift in developing countries trying to simultaneously reduce their carbon footprints, adapt to climate change impacts, and accommodate growing populations.

“The focus on finance is particularly timely because that was the area we had the least progress on at the COP23,” said Alden Meyer, a climate policy expert at the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists, referring to the “Conference of the Parties” UN negotiations in Bonn last month.

Some 50 world leaders are set to attend the Paris meeting, including Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto, Theresa May of Britain, Spain’s Mariano Rajoy, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and numerous African leaders.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will also be in attendance, along with ministers from China, India, Canada.

– ‘The other America’ –

Officially, the United States — which helped seal the Paris deal under Barack Obama — will be represented by a low-level official from the Paris embassy. In November, an aide to Macron said Trump had not been invited.

But what some call “the other America” will also be present in force: California Governor Jerry Brown, whose state — the sixth largest economy globally — boasts among the most ambitious carbon-cutting targets in the world; former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has spearheaded a climate coalition of dozens of megacities, and corporate guidelines for assessing climate risk; and megastars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Leonardo Di Caprio.

“It’s a mobilisation of all those who want to pick up the pace,” said Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation and one of the main architects — as France’s climate ambassador — of the Paris pact.

“Everything must be done to show that it is necessary and possible to do more than what was pledged in 2015,” she told AFP.

The Paris Agreement calls for capping global warming at “well under” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and at least $100 billion per year (85 billion euro), from 2020, in climate finance to poor nations. So far, neither commitment is assured.

Voluntary national plans, annexed to the treaty, to cut greenhouse gas emissions would still result in a rise of 3 C by century’s end, a recipe for human misery on an unprecedented scale, scientists say.

With only a single degree Celsius of global warming so far, the planet has already seen a crescendo of deadly droughts, heatwaves and superstorms engorged by rising seas.

Ramping up financial flows to the developing world is also not on track, especially when long-term needs — beyond the 2020 horizon — are taken into account.

“One of the big topics in Paris next week is the need to scale up financing, which is still not nearly enough to meet the Paris commitments,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

More broadly, the International Energy Agency has estimated it will take $3.5 trillion (3 trillion euros) a year in investments until mid-century to contain the rise of global temperatures and retool the global economy.

Macron’s team foresees a dozen “major announcements” during the summit.

A new “Transport Decarbonisation Alliance” may, for the first time, constrain the rapidly expanding shipping sector, which — if it were a country — would be the 7th or 8th largest CO2 emitter.

The transport sector accounts for 15 percent of man-made CO2 emissions, on track to increase 50 percent by mid-century.

The Powering Past Coal Coalition of nations committing to shutter coal-fired power plants, launched last month, will likely take on new members, and a couple dozen countries that have laid out climate strategies to 2050 will also be joined by a raft of cities and sub-national regions.

“This is the real world, with leaders and ministers and business leaders and NGOs coming to talk about what’s happening in the real economy,” said Meyer.

The number of global companies committed to implementing Bloomberg?s climate-risk assessments will also grow, sources said.

A large group of institutional investors, meanwhile, will band together in a five-year campaign to pressure companies with large carbon footprints

December 11, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Climate crisis in America – California’s wildfires

California’s Climate Emergency, Rolling Stone, By Fires continue to burn Southern California, and climate scientists have warned us for years that the region was entering a year-round fire regime In the hills above the Pacific Ocean, the world crossed a terrifying tipping point this week.

As holiday music plays on the radio, temperatures in Southern California have soared into the 80s, and bone-dry winds have fanned a summer-like wildfire outbreak. Southern California is under siege.

As the largest of this week’s fires skipped across California’s famed coastal highway 101 toward the beach, rare snowflakes were falling in Houston, all made possible by a truly extreme weather pattern that’s locked the jet stream into a highly amplified state. It’s difficult to find the words to adequately describe how weird this is. It’s rare that the dissonance of climate change is this visceral.That one of California’s largest and most destructive wildfires is now burning largely out of control during what should be the peak of the state’s rainy season should shock us into lucidity. It’s December. This shouldn’t be happening.

The Thomas fire is the first wintertime megafire in California history. In a state known for its large fires, this one stands out. At 115,000 acres, it’s already bigger than the city of Atlanta. Hundreds of homes have already been destroyed, and the fire is still just 5 percent contained.

In its first several hours, the Thomas fire grew at a rate of one football field per second, expanding 30-fold, and engulfing entire neighborhoods in the dead of night. Hurricane force winds have produced harrowing conditions for firefighters. Faced with such impossible conditions, in some cases, all they could do is move people to safety, and stand and watch.

“We can’t control it,” firefighter and photographer Stuart Palley told me from a beach in Ventura. “In these situations, you can throw everything you’ve got at it, tanker planes dropping tens of thousands of gallons of flame retardant, thousands of firefighters, hundreds of engines, you can do everything man has in their mechanical toolbox to fight these fires and they’re just going to burn and do whatever the hell they want. We have to learn that.” As we spoke, another wall of flames crested a nearby ridge, reflecting its orange glow off the sea.

The Thomas fire isn’t the only one burning right now. At least six major fires threaten tens of thousands of homes and have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee in recent days. “California fires enter the heart of Los Angeles” read one New York Timesheadline, a statement so dire it could double as a plot synopsis in a nearby Hollywood movie studio. Million-dollar mansions in Bel Air were evacuated, and the 405 freeway, one of L.A.’s busiest, was transformed into a dystopian hellscape during the morning commute. Ralph Terrazas, the Los Angeles fire chief, called the conditions the worst he’s seen in his entire 31-year career. “There will be no ability to fight fires in these kinds of winds,” said Ken Pimlott, the state fire chief. Shortly after these statements, state officials sent an unprecedented push notification to nearly everyone in Southern California, ominously warning millions of people to “stay alert.”

For years, climate scientists have warned us that California was entering a year-round fire regime. For years, climate campaigners have been wondering what it would take to get people to wake up to the urgency of cutting fossil fuel emissions. For years, we’ve been tip-toeing as a civilization towards a point of no return.

That time is now.

The advent of uncontrollable wintertime megafires in California is a turning point in America’s struggle to contain the impacts of a rapidly changing climate. …….

December 9, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Coal-fired power stations in Europe now facing a financial “death spiral”

FT 8th Dec 2017, More than half of the coal-fired power stations in the EU are lossmaking
and almost all will be by 2030, according to a study that says the fossil
fuel faces a “death spiral” in Europe. Analysis of more than 600 power
plants by Carbon Tracker, the climate think-tank, estimates that £22bn of
losses could be avoided by phasing out coal in the EU by the end of the
next decade. The research comes ahead of a climate summit to be hosted by
French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday aimed at building on
the international agreement on emissions cuts struck in the same city two
years ago.

December 9, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, climate change, EUROPE | Leave a comment

America’s EPA removes climate change and renewable energy references from its website

EPA removes climate change references from website, report says (CNN)  By Madison Park
December 8, 2017   References to climate change and the Environmental Protection Agency’s use of renewable energy have been removed from several of its web pages, according to an analysis by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative.

The group regularly monitors tens of thousands of federal environmental agency web pages to document what has been changed or scrubbed. It released a report Friday, noting changes to the website in the fall, including links to the EPA’s climate change adaptation plan and policy that have been removed.
This is not the first time references to climate change have been cut from its website.
CNN reported previously that the Trump administrationhas been swapping out the phrase “climate change,” while avoiding references to global warming. And in April, environmental groups were dismayed when climate change information was removed from the EPA site with a message that the page was being updated to “reflect the approach of new leadership.”
CNN has reached out to the EPA for comment.
However, there are more than 5,000 results when the term “climate change” is searched on the EPA’s website.
Here are some of the changes reported by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative:…….

December 9, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

A new Climate Summit in Paris next week

The Climate-Change Fight Returns to Paris  Project Syndicate,  

In 2015, the so-called “high ambition coalition” of developed and developing countries pushed the Paris climate agreement past the finish line. But when global leaders reconvene in Paris for new talks on climate change at the upcoming One Planet Summit, financial commitments must be the order of the day.

PARIS – Nearly two years have passed since France’s then-foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, struck his gavel and declared: “The Paris agreement for the climate is accepted.” Next week, President Emmanuel Macron and the French government will host world leaders and non-state actors for the One Planet Summit. The purpose of this gathering is to celebrate climate gains made since 2015, and to boost political and economic support for meeting the goals and targets of the Paris agreement………

the need for ambitious coalitions has returned. Strong global leadership on climate change scored a diplomatic victory two years ago, and today, new economic and political alliances are needed to turn those commitments into action.

The diplomatic success of the Paris accord is worthy of praise in its own right; it was a remarkable leap forward in the fight against climate change. But we must not rest on our laurels. With the United States, the world’s largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases, dismissive of the accord, the rest of the global community must reaffirm its commitment to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Dramatic, meaningful, and immediate steps must be taken.

The best available science estimates that the world has only three years to begin a permanent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions if there is to be any hope of achieving the Paris accord’s goal of keeping warming to “well below 2°C” relative to pre-industrial levels. And, whatever urgency science cannot convey is being communicated by the planet itself – through a ferocious display of hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and deadly droughts.

Given the immediacy of the challenge, what can and should be done to avert crisis?

Solutions start with money, and a main objective of the One Planet Summit is to mobilize public and private financing to fund projects that can reduce climate-changing pollution today. During the summit’s “Climate Finance Day,” companies, banks, investors, and countries will announce new initiatives to help fund the costly transition to a carbon-free future…….

December 9, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Media to blame for focussing on Trump trivia, minimising climate change

Climate change is the story you missed in 2017. And the media is to blame   Lisa Hymas

Some of Trump’s tweets generate more national coverage than devastating disasters. As the weather gets worse, we need journalism to get better, 

December 7, 2017 Posted by | climate change, media, USA | Leave a comment

The most accurate climate predictions are turning out to be the worst case scenarios


The Worst-Case Climate Predictions Seem To Be the Most Accurate Ones

The climate models that predict the most warming over the next century were the best at predicting climate change over the past decade.  Dec 8, 2017 

It’s hard to predict the exact effects of climate change over the course of a few decades. Even while broad trends appear, the litany complex interactions between the air, the water, polar ice, land masses, and so on, make exact predictions elusive. To deal with this problem, scientists develop models that simulate a few of these elements at one time and see which models are the most accurate.

This variety of climate models is the reason long-term predictions tend to be all over the place, with some models predicting only a few degrees of warming while other models predict a lot more. While some people have been pointing to the more milder predictions as evidence that climate change might not be that bad, there is some bad news. A team of researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science has found that the most accurate models so far also tend to be the most severe ones.

The new study, published in Nature, compared more than a decade’s worth of data from climate satellites to a wide range of different climate models. This data included the amount of sunlight reflected back into space, how much heat is leaving the Earth, and how much total energy is entering and leaving the atmosphere. Scientists then analyzed various climate models for that period to see which ones came closest to predicting reality.

The researchers found that the most accurate models were the ones that predicted the most warming over the next century. This means that rather than see only a few degrees of warming—as predicted by some of the milder models—we’re much more likely to see almost twice that.

According to the paper, there’s a good chance we could see 5 degrees C of warming by 2100, and a 95 percent chance of more than 4 degrees of warming, assuming we do nothing to stop it. The goal set by the Paris agreement in 2015—to keep warming below 2 degrees C by the end of the century—is looking increasingly impossible. Source: MIT Technology Review

December 7, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

New York City’s public advocate, Letitia James, focuses on climate action

New York City’s watchdog sets her sights on climate change, Grist,  As New York City’s public advocate, Letitia James is first in line to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio. The first woman of color to be elected to hold citywide office in the Big Apple, she investigates complaints against city agencies and introduces legislation in the city council. Effectively, she’s the city’s official watchdog. And she recently set her sights on climate change, which she regards as an imminent threat to New Yorkers.

December 7, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

The already high cost of climate change – and the cost will hit us all

Climate change already costs us all money, and it’s going to get worse When it comes to floods and wildfires, the damage is shared with the public. JOHN TIMMER – 

December 7, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

US government report finds steady and persistent global warming

Skeptical Science , December 2017 by John Abraham

The US Global Change Research Program recently released a Climate Science Special Report. It is clearly written – an authoritative summary of the science, and easy to understand.

The first main chapter deals with changes to the climate and focuses much attention on global temperatures. When most people think of climate change, they think of the global temperature – specifically the temperature of the air a few meters above the Earth surface. There are other (better) ways to measure climate change such as heat absorbed by the oceans, melting ice, sea level rise, or others. But the iconic measurement most people think of are these air temperatures, shown in the top frame of the figure below. [on original] ……..

December 7, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Antarctica – so remote, but so significant in climate science

Why remote Antarctica is so important in a warming world  The Conversation.Chris Fogwill, Professor of Glaciology and Palaeoclimatology, Keele UniversityChris Turney, Professor of Earth Sciences and Climate Change, UNSWZoe Robinson, Reader in Physical Geography and Sustainability/Director of Education for Sustainability, Keele University

“……..What was once thought to be a largely unchanging mass of snow and ice is anything but. Antarctica holds a staggering amount of water. The three ice sheets that cover the continent contain around 70% of our planet’s fresh water, all of which we now know to be vulnerable to warming air and oceans. If all the ice sheets were to melt, Antarctica would raise global sea levels by at least 56m.

Where, when, and how quickly they might melt is a major focus of research. No one is suggesting all the ice sheets will melt over the next century but, given their size, even small losses could have global repercussions. Possible scenarios are deeply concerning: in addition to rising sea levels, meltwater would slow down the world’s ocean circulation, while shifting wind belts may affect the climate in the southern hemisphere.

  1. In 2014, NASA reported that several major Antarctic ice streams, which hold enough water to trigger the equivalent of a one-and-a-half metre sea level rise, are now irreversibly in retreat. With more than 150m people exposed to the threat of sea level rise and sea levels now rising at a faster rate globally than any time in the past 3,000 years, these are sobering statistics for island nations and coastal cities worldwide.

    An immediate and acute threat

    Recent storm surges following hurricanes have demonstrated that rising sea levels are a future threat for densely populated regions such as Florida and New York. Meanwhile the threat for low-lying islands in areas such as the Pacific is immediate and acute.

  2. Multiple factors mean that the vulnerability to global sea level rise is geographically variable and unequal, while there are also regional differences in the extremity of sea level rise itself. At present, the consensus of the IPPC 2013 report suggests a rise of between 40 and 80cm over the next century, with Antarctica only contributing around 5cm of this. Recent projections, however, suggest that Antarctic contributions may be up to ten times higher.Studies also suggest that in a world 1.5-2°C warmer than today we will be locked into millennia of irreversible sea level rise, due to the slow response time of the Antarctic ice sheets to atmospheric and ocean warming.

    We may already be living in such a world. Recent evidence shows global temperatures are close to 1.5°C warmer than pre-industrial times and, after the COP23 meeting in Bonn in November, it is apparent that keeping temperature rise within 2°C is unlikely.

  3. So we now need to reconsider future sea level projections given the potential global impact from Antarctica. Given that 93% of the heat from anthropogenic global warming has gone into the ocean, and these warming ocean waters are now meeting the floating margins of the Antarctic ice sheet, the potential for rapid ice sheet melt in a 2°C world is high.In polar regions, surface temperatures are projected to rise twice as fast as the global average, due to a phenomenon known as polar amplification. However, there is still hope to avoid this sword of Damocles, as studies suggest that a major reduction in greenhouse gases over the next decade would mean that irreversible sea level rise could be avoided. It is therefore crucial to reduce CO₂ levels now for the benefit of future generations, or adapt to a world in which more of our shorelines are significantly redrawn.

    This is both a scientific and societal issue. We have choices: technological innovations are providing new ways to reduce CO₂ emissions, and offer the reality of a low-carbon future. This may help minimise sea level rise from Antarctica and make mitigation a viable possibility.

    Given what rising sea levels could mean for human societies across the world, we must maintain our longstanding view of Antarctica as the most remote and isolated continent.

December 6, 2017 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, climate change | Leave a comment

An immense glacier is melting, in Antarctica

UNFROZEN IN TIME, Huffington Post, Video and Pictures: Tom Compagnoni | Words: Josh Butler, 1 December 17 There’s a glacier in Antarctica so immense that, if it melted, would raise sea levels globally by 3.5 metres.

It’s melting. Right now.

“The facts around climate change are undeniable. It’s happening,” Australian glaciologist Ben Galton-Fenzi told The Huffington Post Australia. “The research we do now isn’t about trying to convince ourselves it’s real, because it’s irrefutable. What we’re trying to do is understand what the response time of the system is going to be into the future, so we can adapt to it.”

The Totten glacier is the biggest in east Antarctica. The glacier itself is around 120 kilometres long, 30 kilometres wide and drains some 538,000 square kilometres of the continent. That’s an area bigger than California. The ice is kilometres thick, but it’s melting at 70 metres a year in some spots. A study released in December reported warmer water was melting the Totten ice from below.

Galton-Fenzi and his small team will spend the next few months trying to work out exactly how fast the glacier is melting, gathering data to build better models to predict melt rates and how that will affect sea levels.

“The majority of the heat that has gone into the global climate system has gone into the ocean, about 90 percent over the last few decades of measurements,” he said. “The hypothesis is ocean temperatures around Antarctica will keep warming and drive the melting of the glaciers. If the glaciers flow faster, sea levels will rise, and that has profound implications for global civilisation.”……..“Climate change is a reality. There’s the whole debate around how we deal with it, and the work we do in Antarctica is influencing our ability to look forward and genuinely understand how much things are going to change,” Australian Antarctic Division director, Dr Nick Gales told HuffPost Australia from Hobart, the base of operations for the AAD.

“It is alarming. There is huge change going on there. The more we learn, the more we see change happening at rates faster than we predicted. It’s fundamentally important to support the science, communicate the science really well, and make sure the policy makers are aware of the science so they can take account of that in forming mitigation and adaptation strategies around the world.”
The AAD is the government body that administers Australian operations in Antarctica, from delivering workers and equipment to the continent, to selecting the research applications to be undertaken each season, to making sure the kitchen at Casey is well stocked with chocolate.

“When we started doing science in Antarctica, it was important and interesting because we were learning about things we simply didn’t know about.”

“Nowadays, the science is really critically important to what we do in the future.”

It’s critical to our wellbeing and our ability to understand what’s coming, and adapt and mitigate the effects. What about the droughts? Are they going to become more regular? What will happen to our low-lying areas and Pacific islands in relation to sea level rise? The science we do is critical for informing that.”This season, the AAD will support almost 100 projects in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. More than 500 expeditioners will make their way down each year for major “season-defining” projects such as Galton-Fenzi’s Totten glacier work, and smaller-scale operations. Gales said around two-thirds of the Australian-led research in Antarctica is related to climate science.

It is a continent almost entirely covered by ice, the largest ice sheet in the world and the planet’s largest single reserve of fresh water. It’s almost entirely untouched by humans, uninhabited but for the research teams (and a whole lot of amazing animal life, as we soon discovered); a continent literally devoted to science.

The 1959 Antarctic treaty, signed by the 12 countries which had been active in Antarctica — Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and United States — agreed to set aside territorial claims and enshrine the continent as a place for peace, science and international collaboration. Scientists work together, sharing resources, manpower and findings, for the good of humanity under this treaty, which states:

– Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only (Art. I)
– Freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and cooperation toward that end … shall continue (Art. II).
– Scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available (Art. III).

“It’s unique. It’s extraordinary that, in a place like that, the world can agree to set aside differences and focus on those really important issues,” Gales said………
Johnstone and Black are cutting through the frozen sea ice for experiments on ocean acidification. As the Earth continues to emit carbon dioxide, the oceans soak up a large percentage of that extra CO2; around 30 percent, Black said.

Rob King, an AAD biologist based in Hobart, said around eight billion tonnes of CO2 is going into oceans each year.

“It increases the acidity of the ocean and lowers the pH. The global ocean average is about 8.2pH, and we’re expecting by the year 2100 with the current emissions scenarios we have, the pH will drop to 7.8,” Black said.
That’s a massive change for the ocean, with the water becoming far more acidic. That’s bad news for many tiny organisms and plankton that make up the bottom of the oceanic food chain, upon which larger creatures like penguins, fish, dolphins, seals, sharks and whales depend. Black and Johnstone have planted tiny chambers on the ocean floor to simulate how the water and the organisms will react to more acidic waters. They will also collect water and loads of these tiny organisms for experiments in the lab.

“As we acidify the water, anything with a calcium carbonate structure in its shell, like shellfish, pteropods and other organisms, will actually have trouble forming that shell and maintaining it,” Black said.

“When we look at the relative biomass of different organisms, we get about 600 million tonnes of phytoplankton down here. That’s the most biomass of any organism in the Southern Ocean. While they seem small and insignificant, they are the most important part of the ecosystem. Any change in that under climate change conditions will have flow on effects up the food chain.”……….
“Under the sea ice you’ve got a really stable environment. It’s always the same temperature, even though it’s a really harsh temperature of minus 1.85C all year, but it doesn’t vary much so they only have to adapt to one temperature,” the marine biologist said.’

“There’s very little current under here, because for 10 months of the year, there’s a covering of sea ice. They don’t have to deal with big tidal currents or waves or storms or wind action, or temperature changes. The conditions are relatively stable through the year.”

The word ‘frozen’ is often used to denote something which has stopped; static, not moving. It is synonymous with lifelessness, death, a barren wasteland. Antarctica is a frozen continent, but it is by no means dead. It grows and shrinks like a living organism. With the yearly melt and refreeze, as the continent effectively doubles in size during the winter as sea water becomes ice, it is arguably the most alive continent on Earth. The life that exists down here — human, animal and plant alike — is some of the hardiest, most resilient on the planet. It’s an entire continent devoted to peace and science, to work for the betterment of the entire planet.

It’s alive with purpose……….

December 2, 2017 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, climate change | Leave a comment