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2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #20B

Posted on 19 May 2013 by John Hartz

  • Burning tar sands = 'unsolvable' climate crisis: Hansen
  • Climate change has shifted the North and South Poles
  • Climate change is happening… So what?
  • Fiji's villagers move uphill to escape rising seas
  • Global warming has not stalled
  • Go fish (somewhere else): Warming oceans are altering catches
  • Ignoring the cost of climate change is bad business
  • Mount Everest's ice is melting
  • Profits vs. disaster in Arctic meltdown
  • Warmer springs linked to dwindling snow in Rocky Mountains
  • Why we know about the greenhouse gas effect
  • Zombie climate sceptic theories survive

Burning tar sands = 'unsolvable' climate crisis: Hansen

Fresh off his resignation from NASA, leading climate scientist James Hansen is making the rounds this week, warning media and lawmakers that not only are we heading for a "tremendously chaotic" climate, but if we dig up and burn Canadian tar sands, the climate crisis will be rendered "unsolvable."

Burning Tar Sands = 'Unsolvable' Climate Crisis: Hansen by Jacob Chamberlain, Common Dreams, May 17, 2013

Climate change has shifted the North and South Poles

Increased melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and other ice losses worldwide have helped to move the North Pole several centimeters east each year since 2005.

Climate Change Has Shifted the Locations of Earth's North and South Poles by Richard A. Lovett, Nature magazine, Scientific American, May 14, 2013

Climate change is happening… So what?

Seven in 10 U.S. citizens believe climate change is real and happening now. Yet most have never even contacted a government official about the issue, let alone volunteered with an environmental organisation or taken other action.

These findings are part of an exploration of Climate Change in the American Mind issued  by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

Climate Change Is Happening… So What? by Silvia Romanelli, Inter Press Service (IPS), May 16, 2013

Fiji's villagers move uphill to escape rising seas

Fiji's picturesque Natewa Bay must be a hard place to leave, and for none more so than the villagers of Vunidogoloa, who are preparing to abandon their ancestral home in the face of the rising sea. But they have little choice: big waves now overtop a once-protective sea wall, their salt-polluted vegetation is dying. They are to move as a community a mile inland, and uphill, to a new site on the northern island of Vanua Levu. Devout Methodists, they have named Kenani, Fijian for Canaan – the promised land. 

Fiji's villagers move uphill to escape global warming's rising seas by Geoffry Lean, The Telegraph, May 17, 2013

Global warming has not stalled

Suggestions that global warming has stalled are a "diversionary tactic" from "deniers" who want the public to be confused over climate change, according to the world's best-known climate scientist. Prof James Hansen, who first alerted the world to climate change in 1988, said on Friday: "It is not true that the temperature has not changed in the two decades." 

Global warming has not stalled by Damian Carrington, The Guardian, May 17, 2013

Go fish (somewhere else): Warming oceans are altering catches

The new study in Nature shows these anecdotes aren't simply a fluke. Data from fish catches from around the world show it's happening everywhere the ocean is warming — which is just about everywhere.

Go Fish (Somewhere Else): Warming Oceans Are Altering Catches by Richard Harris, NPR, May 15, 2013

Ignoring the cost of climate change is bad business

In the financial markets, volatility is rising and all manner of derivatives are employed to hedge against potentially catastrophic losses. In the real world, the climate is becoming more volatile, yet cities and businesses – make that entire industries – are doing little to protect themselves from extreme weather.

Ignoring the cost of climate change is bad business by Eric Reguly, The Globe and Mail, May 17, 2013

Mount Everest's ice is melting

Earth's global thaw has reached Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak, researchers said today (May 14) at the Meeting of the Americas in Cancun, Mexico.

Glaciers in the Mount Everest region have shrunk by 13 percent in the last 50 years and the snowline has shifted upward by 590 feet (180 meters), Sudeep Thakuri, a graduate student at the University of Milan in Italy, said in a statement. Located in the Himalaya Mountains on the border between China and Nepal, Everest's summit is 29,029 feet (8,848 m) above sea level.

Mount Everest's Ice is Melting by Becky Oskin, LiveScience, May 14, 2013

Profits vs. disaster in Arctic meltdown

Many eyes are turning north to the Arctic, some in horror at the rapid decline of a key component of our life support system, others in eager anticipation at the untapped resources beneath the vanishing snow and ice.

“I’ve worked in the north for 21 years and the scale and speed of change up there is astonishing,” said Douglas Clark of the University of Saskatchewan.

“These changes, taken as whole, and reflected in our report, keep me awake at night,” Clark told IPS.

Profits vs. Disaster in Arctic Meltdown by Stephen Leahy, International Press Service, IPS, May 16, 2013

Warmer springs linked to dwindling snow in Rocky Mountains

Snow cover across the Rockies has been shrinking since 1980. This meltwater accounts for 80 percent of the annual water supply for more than 70 million people in the U.S.

Warmer Springs Linked to Dwindling Snow in Rocky Mountains by Denise Chow and LiveScience, Scientific American, May 15, 2013 

Why we know about the greenhouse gas effect

Our understanding of how certain atmospheric gases trap heat dates back almost 200 years to 1824 when Joseph Fourier described what we know as the greenhouse effect. Fourier, a French mathematician and physicist, asked what seems to be a simple question: why doesn’t the planet keep heating up as it receives sunlight? What is regulating our atmospheric temperature? 

Why we know about the greenhouse gas effect by David Wogan, Scientific American, May 16, 2013

Zombie climate sceptic theories survive

Study finds overwhelming scientific consensus that humans have caused global warming, but media still hasn't caught up.

Zombie climate sceptic theories survive only in newspapers and on TV by Graham Readfearn. PlanetOz, The Guardian, May 17, 2013


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Comments 1 to 12:

  1. With respect to the Telegraph story on Fiji villagers moving uphill and others doing the same there is reference made to a new study on sea level rise by 2100 (but no link) where the maximum sea level rise is misquoted as 27cm. In fact the study claimed 27 inches or 69 cm.
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  2. There is some good comment with links on the report on sealevel rise projections just published here:,-but-is-this-better-or-worse-than-we-thought
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  3. An interesting article on the shifting poles due to the Greanland melt. Obviously they have the data from GRACE and the data should confirm the SLR contribution by icesheets.

    But an interesting aspect is, as Jianli Chen, the lead author says, they have some polar shift data going back 100y. With that data, they can estimate the Greenland melt, hopefully quite precisely for those 100y, well before GRACE. It will an interesting development.

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  4. chriskoz @3

    The paper by Chen et al is on-line here.

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  5. I am confused by this paper in Nature:

    Long-term warming restructures Arctic tundra without changing net soil carbon storage

    That shows that at a site where for 20 years there was simulated greenhouse warming, "there was no net change in total soil carbon ( P=0.5) or nitrogen stocks" and "After 14 years of warming, greenhouse plant carbon stocks had increased by 50%"

    I am not surprised from the increase in plant (vegetation) carbon, that was already found in other studies, but the "no change in total soil carbon" seems at odds with a lot of papers that studied this problem before.

    Any idea of what is going on?


    Note on "other papers": I was thinking in papers like this:

    The effect of permafrost thaw on old carbon release and net carbon exchange from tundra

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  6. What happened with my HTML hyperlinks?

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Manually writing the html results in what you initially saw.  The new commenting features incude a WYSIWYG interface.  You can highlight your selected text and then click the Insert/Edit Link button to establish a hyperlink to your selected text.  I fixed your html in your previous comment.

  7. Trying to blame climate change for a change in fish catches is like when the Canadians tried to blame the seals for the decline of fish on the Grand Banks.  (read Sea of Slaughter by Farley Mowat).  Yes there may be an effect but it is miniscule in relation to the destruction we have wrought on the fisheries stocks by our amazingly stupid fisheries policies.  In the future, climate may be the overwhelming factor but at present it is us.

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  8. If the snow pack is melting in the Rockies, providing the water too early for agriculture, they better start encouraging the spread of the Canadian Beaver.  They serve the same purpose as glaciers in shifting water from winter to summer, mitigating floods and eliminating catastrophic low water.  Read Three Against the Wilderness by Eric Collier to see just how effective beavers were in 1948 when the reverse happen.  There was a very heavy snow pack and a much delayed spring.  When it came, the floods were incredible and the Frazer Valley Delta by Vancouver had huge floods.  Only on Meldrum Creek where Eric had brought back the beavers from near extinction, were the waters held and released slowly.

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  9. #5. From Peru

    It may be that the authors used a non-permafrost area to conduct their experiment.  Their abstract doesn't mention permafrost (I haven't read the whole article).  The main concern about the warming Arctic is the release of methane from thawing permafrost and not the release of carbon from non-permafrost soils over a 20-year period.  Maybe someone who has read the whole article can elucidate.

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  10. William - actual research demonstrates that the effect of ocean warming on fish stocks is significant. I don't think that anyone here disputes that overfishing is a huge concern - many species are heading toward collapse. These pressures are not mutually exclusive.     

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  11. William -  OK, fish leaving one area for another with a more suitable water temperature may not be as "serious" as overfishing now.  Maybe climate change is miniscule in impact in comparison to overfishing now, but it is a warning that this will be a worsening problem to life as normal. In addition to overfishing, pollution, ocean acidification that may all get worse now we see there is this new and likely growing impact that will probably be a negative. What species will move to the warmest waters? To where will the coldest water species migrate?

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  12. Before expressing strong opinions on the Cheung(2013) paper, one might want to read it ?

    1)Impact of increasing fish exploitation:

    In the quote below, LME = Large Marine Ecosystem and MTC = Mean Temperature of Catch

    "Second, fishing efforts in many LMEs have been increasing con-
    tinuously since the 1970s. This coincided with increases in SST, result-
    ing in strong correlation between changes in SST and fishing effort in
    some LMEs. However, there is no evidence that fishing systematically
    alters MTC. Specifically, significant but weak relationships between
    maximum body size (positively related to vulnerability to fishing, in
    general) and the temperature preference of exploited species is found
    in only 19 LMEs, with the majority (13) of them showing a positive
    relationship, suggesting that the increasing MTC trend was not a result
    of the depletion of large fish by fishing that was reported by many
    fisheries (Supplementary Information)."

    2)"What species will move to the warmest waters? To where will the coldest water species migrate?"

    None and nowhere. See Figure 1 (which is available at no charge, as is the Supplementary information). The red curves in the panel on the left show local extinction.


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