Learn More About Climate Change
EPA rates State Department's 2,000-page draft review of the Keystone pipeline project as “insufficient.”
April 22, 2013
(Reuters) - The U.S. environment regulator on Monday said the State Department must take a harder look at climate and other impacts of the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil sands pipeline before the Obama administration issues a final decision on the project.
The Environmental Protection Agency rated the State Department's 2,000-page March 1 draft review of the TransCanada Corp pipeline project as "insufficient," in a letter to department officials as a public comment period ended on Monday.
The agency's tough stance signals that unless the State Department addresses its concerns in a final review, it could create more hurdles for a $5.3 billion dollar project which has been pending for more than four years.
Backers say the project would boost North American energy security and provide thousands of construction jobs. Opponents argue that it would lead to higher releases of greenhouse gases.
The EPA said it was concerned about carbon emissions from the oil sands that are energy-intensive to produce, and about the safety of transporting Canadian crude via pipeline following a high profile spill in a Michigan river in 2010.
There was a reminder of the threat last month when an Exxon Mobil pipeline spilled thousands of barrels of Canadian crude in Arkansas, but the EPA letter did not mention that incident.
The agency was also concerned about the State Department's conclusion that the climate would not be affected by approval of the line because rail would be a major transport alternative.
"This analysis should include further investigation of rail capacity and costs, recognizing the potential for much higher per barrel rail shipment costs," the letter said.
April 22, 2013
A comprehensive new analysis of temperature changes over the continents through 2,000 years has found that a long slide in temperatures in most regions preceded the unusual global warming of recent decades, but with a lot of regional variability and other fascinating details. A National Science Foundation news release has ample background.
The 78-author paper, published Sunday in Nature Geoscience, used a variety of indirect indicators of temperature, from tree rings to pollen grains, to build on other work charting temperature shifts since the end of the last ice age — including the recent Marcott et al paper, explored here, which used seabed sediments to chart 11,000 years of temperatures.
The new paper drew no conclusions about Africa (you’ll see it’s missing from the chart above) because there are too few spots where long climate records accumulate in lakes or caves. (In most other populated regions, instrumental records have covered the last 100 years, but much of Africa remains a data-free zone even now.)
But along with supporting the general picture of a long temperature slide until the modern era’s warming, the analysis reveals fascinating regional variations, including these:
The Arctic was also warmest during the twentieth century, although warmer during 1941–1970 than 1971–2000 according to our reconstruction….
In Europe, slightly higher reconstructed temperatures were registered in A.D. 741–770, and the interval from A.D. 21–80 was substantially warmer than 1971–2000. Antarctica was probably warmer than 1971–2000 for a time period as recent as A.D. 1671–1700, and the entire period from 141–1250 was warmer than 1971–2000.
April 22, 2013
As the planet warms, Earth’s climate zones are shifting at an accelerating pace, says a new study led by a scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, a joint venture between the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The acceleration of change means that the species inhabiting each zone have less time to adapt to the climatic changes, said lead author Irina Mahlstein, a CIRES scientist who works at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. “The warmer the climate gets, the faster the climate zones are shifting. This could make it harder for plants and animals to adjust.”
The study is the first to look at the accelerating pace of the shifting of climate zones, which are areas of the Earth defined by annual and seasonal cycles of temperature and precipitation, as well as temperature and precipitation thresholds of plant species. Over 30 different climate zones are found on Earth; examples include the equatorial monsoonal zone, the polar tundra zone and cold arid desert zone.
“A shift in the climate zone is probably a better measure of ‘reality’ for living systems, more so than changing temperature by a degree or precipitation by a centimeter,” said Mahlstein.
The scientists used climate model simulations and a well-known ecosystem classification scheme to look at the shifts between climate zones over a two-century period, 1900 to 2098. The team found that for an initial 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit of warming, about 5 percent of Earth’s land area shifts to a new climate zone.
The models show that the pace of change quickens for the next 3.6 F of warming as an additional 10 percent of the land area shifts to a new climate zone. The paper was published online in the journal Nature Climate Change on April 21.
Certain regions of the globe, such as northern middle and high latitudes, will undergo more changes than other regions, such as the tropics, the scientists found. In the tropics, mountainous regions will experience bigger changes than low-altitude areas.
In the coming century, the findings suggest that frost climates -- the coldest climate zone of the planet -- will largely decrease. In general, dry regions in different areas of the globe will increase, and a large fraction of land area will change from cool summers to hot summers, according to the study.
The scientists also investigated whether temperature or precipitation had a greater impact on how much of the land area changed zones. “We found that temperature is the main factor, at least through the end of this century,” said Mahlstein.
John Daniel at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory and Susan Solomon at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology co-authored the study.
Irina Mahlstein, 303-497-4746
Jane Palmer, CIRES science writer, 303-883-4389
Washington, DC - April 12, 2013
Jeremy Jones, pro snowboarder and Founder of the global nonprofit, Protect Our Winters was honored yesterday at a White House ceremony along with other “Champions of Change,” in recognition of “ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.”
Jones is being recognized for his contribution to raising awareness about the impact of climate change on the winter sports industry by creating Protect Our Winters, a foundation established in 2007 to unite and mobilize the global winter sports community against climate change.
The ceremony took place at the White House on Thursday afternoon.
Twelve Champions of Change were honored for working to prepare their communities for the consequences of climate change. These individuals are leaders and innovators working tirelessly to build community resilience by preparing for increasingly extreme weather and other costly climate-related impacts. The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative.
“As we take action to reduce carbon pollution and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy, we must also take action to prepare for the impacts of climate change we are already seeing, including more frequent and severe extreme weather,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “This week, we look forward to welcoming Champions of Change who are doing smart, innovative work to protect the health, safety and prosperity of their communities in the face of climate change.”
In January 2010, a crew of scientists voyaged by ship from the southern tip of Chile into the frigid Antarctic to search for clues to one of the great unknowns of climate change. They planned to crisscross a remote patch of sea near the spot where, a year earlier, another crew had injected a tankful of an inert chemical one mile below the surface. The new crew had seven weeks of funding and good weather to sample the seawater throughout the region and discover where the chemical went.
By mapping its spread over the course of the year, the scientists hoped to disentangle the forces that drive the circulation of the Southern Ocean — one of the most important, but least understood, regulators of Earth’s climate.
But four days from port, the ship’s captain died in the night. “There was a lot of confusion,” said Angel Ruiz-Angulo, a scientist on board. “Eventually, they said he died of heart failure.” Out of helicopter range, the crew had no choice but to put the captain’s body in a refrigerator designed for seawater samples and set course through gale-force winds for Punta Arenas, Chile, with the first mate at the helm. On shore, a short service was held, and the ship was examined. Then the scientists quickly returned to sea.
“It was a somber mood,” said Jim Ledwell, an oceanographer with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and chief scientist on the expedition.
“He had been with the crew a long time.” But there was little time to reflect. With only five weeks to collect data, Ledwell formulated a plan to reduce the number of stops the ship would make, focusing on the most essential sampling locations.
“Jim managed to handle everything very well. The results were as good as they could have been otherwise,” Ruiz-Angulo said. The data are now part of emerging models that are expected to yield a far more accurate picture of future climate change.
April 14, 2013
A new study finds that it is possible to greatly slow the rate of sea level rise, which is one of the biggest threats global warming poses, by cutting so-called “short-lived climate pollutants,” which warm the climate on timescales of a few weeks to a decade, in combination with reductions in long-lived greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2).
The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that reducing emissions of these short-lived climate pollutants, including soot and methane, by 30 to 60 percent by 2050 would slow the annual rate of sea level rise by about 18 percent by 2050. Combining reductions in short-lived pollutants with decreasing CO2 emissions could cut the rate of sea level rise in half by 2100, from 0.82 inches to 0.43 inches per year, while reducing the total sea level rise by 31 percent during the same period.
Related research by Climate Central scientists shows that the emissions reductions would potentially benefit more than 2 million Americans by 2100, who might otherwise be living below sea level at that point.
Denver TV Meteorologist Mike Nelson shares his thoughts on human-caused climate change with Yale Media Forum
April 10, 2013
Extreme drought, destructive wildfires, tornado warnings at night in Denver, the warmest June and July on record, a new record for the number of days over 90 and 100 degrees — are these random events or are they related to global warming?
The answer is not as easy as a simple yes or no, but overall the answer appears to be a carefully qualified yes. It is complicated and controversial, but I am going to give you some background from my perspective after nearly 50 years of being a “weather nut”. Yes, I have been fascinated by weather and climate since grade school.
Proceeding with Caution
I address this topic at some peril. In many ways, the job description for the TV “Weathercaster” is to simply be the nice friendly person who tells you what the high was, how much rain will fall and what to expect next weekend. Especially in recent years, broaching the topic of global warming can stir up deep emotions within viewers and can bring some rather rough responses via e-mail and Facebook.
Over the course of time, I have been called many different things while talking and writing about this subject. From courageous to foolish, to “the Pied Piper of Anti-Science.” I appreciate the fact that my viewers have many differing views and opinions on many issues, and climate change is one topic that seems to bring a strong reaction.
Nonetheless, TV meteorologists are often asked to provide their viewers with insight and explanations on earthquakes, meteors and comets, tsunamis and volcanoes. For many Americans, we are as close to a scientist as they will get, and they invite us into their living rooms.
They may not agree with my comments and explanations, but I hope they will appreciate the attempt and still choose to watch my weather reports.
So, with that said, here we go. More>
April 9, 2013
The politically touchy topic of climate change will be taught more deeply to students under proposed new national science standards released Tuesday.
The Next Generation Science Standards, developed over the last 18 months by California and 25 other states in conjunction with several scientific organizations, represent the first national effort since 1996 to transform the way science is taught in thousands of classrooms. The multi-state consortium is proposing that students learn fewer concepts more deeply and not merely memorize facts but understand how scientists actually investigate and gather information.
"What's important here is that the standards will give students a deep understanding of how science and scientists actually work," said Phil Lafontaine, a California Department of Education official who helped create the proposed standards. "It's not just what we know but how we came to know it."
Each state will decide on its own whether to adopt the benchmarks, which are based on a 2011 framework by the National Research Council. In California, they will be reviewed by a panel of science experts, with public hearings set to begin later this month in Sacramento, Santa Clara and Riverside. The state Board of Education is expected to vote on them in the fall, with partial implementation scheduled for 2014-15.
On Monday April 1st, students, educators, researchers, journalists, and the greater Boulder community came together at Macky Auditorium for "A Conversation with James Balog on the Art of Chasing Ice.”
Balog's work captures the disappearance of the world's glaciers through time-lapse photography. Since Chasing Ice premiered last fall, the documentary has experienced worldwide success winning numerous awards and drawing attention to the issue of climate change. In the two-part program last Monday, Beth Osnes took the stage with Balog for a live interview to discuss his career and experiences documenting the effect of climate change on the world’s glaciers.
During the interview, Balog expressed the change in public perception from “belief” in climate change, to understanding based on empirical evidence:
"We no longer talk about it in terms of believing. You don't believe in climate change, you either understand it or you don't. Regardless of ideology - we are humans who are capable of rational thought and that is what enables us to understand this issue. It's not a matter of belief."
When asked what advice he would offer students and people wanting to share the story of climate change, Balog encouraged the audience to learn and use all types of media to get the story out.
The second part of the program combined Balog’s photography and video with music as he shared his own poetry, imparting urgency and enormity of the changes going on in the world’s ice-covered landscapes. This premiere of what Balog describes as the “beauty and horror” of glacial calving was shown in images and footage not previously released to the public. The evening connected art with science to leave a lasting impression on all who attended. For Balog, as for many of the climate scientists and educators in the audience, this is his life’s work:
“I picture myself in 25 years with my daughters saying ‘the world is totally different now - wildfires and droughts all the time - what were you doing when you knew this was coming?’ I want to be able to say I did everything I could using the skills I had."
Learn More About Climate was pleased to sponsor “A Conversation with James Balog on the Art of Chasing Ice.” The event was hosted by Inside the Greenhouse, an interdisciplinary project led by CU Professors Beth Osnes, Max Boykoff, and Rebecca Safran and Earth Vision Trust, a nonprofit organization founded by James Balog.
Fasten seatbelts for bumpier flights: climate study shows changes in the atmospheric winds where planes fly
Apri 8, 2013
Already, atmospheric turbulence injures hundreds of airline passengers each year, sometimes fatally, damaging aircraft and costing the industry an estimated $150 million (115 million euros), scientists said.
"Climate change is not just warming the Earth's surface, it is also changing the atmospheric winds ten kilometres (six miles) high, where planes fly," said study co-author Paul Williams of the University of Reading's National Centre for Atmospheric Science in southeastern England.
"That is making the atmosphere more vulnerable to the instability that creates clear-air turbulence," he told AFP by email.
"Our research suggests that we'll be seeing the 'fasten seatbelts' sign turned on more often in the decades ahead."
Turbulence is mainly caused by vertical airflow -- up-draughts and down-draughts near clouds and thunderstorms.
Clear-air turbulence, which is not visible to the naked eye and cannot be picked up by satellite or traditional radar, is linked to atmospheric jet streams, which are projected to strengthen with climate change.
The study authors used supercomputer simulations of the North Atlantic jet stream, a strong upper-atmospheric wind driven by temperature differences between colliding Arctic and tropical air.
The jet stream affects traffic in the aviation corridor between Europe and North America -- one of the world's busiest with about 300 eastbound and 300 westbound flights per day.