Tuesday, July 8, 2014

While you were denying... (part 2)

South Africa endures a brutal drought. (Picture swiped from SABC)
As promised in part 1 of this post, these are items I've noted in the last few months' news that show scientists (as well as businesses) who are using the accumulated knowledge about climate change in their own research and planning. The point: people who deal with climate change in their work have moved well past the debate over its existence in which contemporary politics is stuck.

             Homebuilders in Alaska are trying to adapt to climate, particularly widespread melting of permafrost, which has caused extensive damage to roads and houses. Temperatures in Alaska have risen twice as fast as those in the “lower 48.” (USA Today, 12/16/13)

            After a decade of increasing damage to Coca-Cola’s balance sheet as global droughts dried up the water needed to produce the soda, the company has embraced the idea of climate change as an economically disruptive force. Coke reflects a growing view among American business leaders and mainstream economists who see global warming as a force that contributes to lower G.D.P’s, higher food and commodity costs, broken supply chains and increased financial risk. (NYT, 1/24/14)

            Life has never been easy for just-hatched Magellanic penguins, but climate change (intense storms, warmer temperatures) is making it worse, according to a decades-long study of the largest breeding colony of the birds. Lead author is P. Dee Boersma of University of Washington. (NYT, 1/30/14)

            Extreme weather, along with dwindling habitat, has caused shrinking in the annual winter migration of monarch butterflies, according to the World Wildlife Fund. (NYT, 2/4/14)

            Despite record cold temperatures in the eastern United States, January 2014 was the fourth-warmest January on record planet-wide. It was the 347th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th century average. (NYT, 2/25/14)

            A study published in the journal Geology finds that for 500 years the size of the Quelccaya ice cap of Peru has varied with temperature (as opposed to snowfall amounts or ice accumulation). The glacier is now melting at an accelerating pace consistent with global warming. Authors are Justin S. Stroup and Meredith A. Kelly of Dartmouth College. (NYT, 2/26/14)

            Scientists are studying the effects of climate change on Svalbard reindeer on the Arctic island of Spitsbergen. Warmer temperatures have led to more rainfall, which freezes and makes it difficult for the reindeer to forage for food in the winter. (Smithsonian, 3/14)

            Pennsylvania’s Climate Impacts Assessment Update (2013) expects state climate to be more like Virginia’s by 2050. U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Maps have been revised with many places a zone warmer than in 1990. National Audubon Society’s 2009 Birds and Climate Change report found 70 percent of bird species observed in Christmas bird counts had shifted their ranges north since 1970 by an average of 35 miles. (National Wildlife, 3/14)

            During the past 39 years, global warming has added more than a month to the wildflower season in the southern Colorado Rockies, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences tracking the local effects of global warming on plant life there. Impacts on plant and animal species are unknown. Lead author is Paul CaraDonna of University of Arizona. (CSM, 3/19/14)

            A number of economists work to estimates the likely future impact of climate change and, based on that, what would be a rational response in current policy. Most (though not all) economists argue the future benefits of spending to limit climate change outweigh the current costs. (NYT, 4/29/14)

            Biologists studying plants’ response to climate change note that the average beginning of the growing season has moved forward about three weeks in some places. Individual plant responses vary widely, and some bloom later due to increased CO2. These include Richard B. Primack of Boston University (in Concord MA), Amy M. Iler and colleagues of the University of Maryland (in the Colorado Rockies) and Heidi Steltzer of Fort Lewis College (on a prairie in Wyoming). (NYT, 4/29/14)

            Scientists studying coral reefs have noticed many (though not all) coral species have been devastated by warmer ocean waters. (NYT, 4/29/14)

            The National Climate Assessment Report released this week notes seas levels have risen eight inches since 1870. Meanwhile, business owners in Miami Beach’s Alton Road commercial district note a sudden increase in the incidence of flooding. While local officials have announced projects to attempt to mitigate the effects of flooding, statewide Republican officials are maintaining a studied silence (NYT, 5/8/14)

            A large section of the West Antarctica ice sheet has begun falling apart and its continued melting now appears to be unstoppable. In one paper, Eric Rignot of the University of California-Irvine and co-authors used satellite and air measurements to document an accelerating retreat over the past several decades of six glaciers draining into the Amundsen Sea region. In another, Ian Joughin of the University of Washington used computer modeling to study the slow collapse of one glacier from warm water eating away at the ice. Papers in Science and Geophysical Research Letters analyze the increasingly destructive impact of warmer ocean waters on the Thwaites glacier in western Antarctica. (The Guardian, 5/12/14; NYT, 5/13/14)

            Water vapor in the lower atmosphere over the United States has increased by 3-4 percent since the 1970s, which translates to nearly two trillion gallons of extra water in the air. Predictions made in a 1995 paper by A.M. Fowler (University of Auckland) and K.J. Hennessy (Australian national research program) that such increases would lead to more intense rains across the world have been borne out. (NYT, 5/13/14)

            The Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board, a leading government-funded military research organization, has concluded in a report published this week that climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water and escalating longstanding regional and ethnic tensions into violent clashes, and that rising sea levels are putting people and food supplies at risk in southern and southeast Asia, which could lead to a new wave of refugees. (NYT, 5/14/14)

            Radar measurements by the European Space Agency’s Crysosat satellite show the melt loss rate from Antarctic ice during the period 2010-2013 has doubled since observations made 2005-2009. Paper published in Geophysical Research Letters (BBC, 5/19/14)

            Light-colored species of butterflies and dragonflies are taking over areas of Europe once dominated by their darker counterparts, in response to warming in the traditional range of the darker insects, according to research reported in the journal Nature Communications. (NYT, 6/3/14)

            A paper in Journal of Climate finds accelerating melting in the Northern Hemisphere leading to higher sea levels (cited in skepticalscience.com, 6/10/14)

            Scientists studying the Greenland ice sheet’s unusual meltage in 2012 have found evidence in ice cores of unusual amounts of “black carbon” from forest fires. Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (cited in skepticalscience.com, 6/10/14)

           A paper in Science finds more intense winds along the coasts of the Americas and South Africa, to which climate change is a likely contributor. The impacts on coastal marine life may be both beneficial (more nutrients and greater populations of prey) and harmful (greater turbulence, acidification and lower oxygen levels) (LA Times, 7/3/14)

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