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2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #51A

Posted on 16 December 2013 by John Hartz

  • A better answer to climate change is hidden in the clouds
  • A tale of two cities: America's bipolar climate future
  • Antarctica's crumbling Larsen B ice shelf
  • Big batteries needed to make fickle wind and solar power work
  • Climate change and slavery: the perfect storm?
  • Climate makes refugees out of young Ghanaians
  • Kilimanjaro's shrinking glaciers could vanish by 2030
  • Reindeer will feel effects of climate change
  • The start of the “Sand Wars”
  • Tree find confirms Italian alpine melt
  • We’re still losing ice at the poles
  • Why climate change threatens Peru's poverty reduction mission

A better answer to climate change is hidden in the clouds

Climate scientists are studying a bewildering array of changes taking place in the air, on land and in the sea. But where should they concentrate their efforts? First and foremost, it seems, are clouds. Better understanding of how clouds affect global warming, and how airborne particles affect cloud formation, is one of three gaps in knowledge that could most improve predictions of how extensively and quickly Earth’s climate will change.

A Better Answer to Climate Change Is Hidden in the Clouds by Mark Fischetti, Scientific American, Dec 13, 2013

A tale of two cities: America's bipolar climate future

When Veronica White and Tom Thompson stand on the coastline of their respective cities, 680 kilometers (423 miles) apart, they gaze out at the same ocean, but see different things

White, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, believes "we have to prepare the entire coastline for disasters, including storms and rising floodwaters." Thompson, a former city planner in New Bern, North Carolina -- an eight-hour drive to the south -- argues the opposite. "All this panic about the climate always amazes me, but people like to believe horror stories," he says.

A Tale of Two Cities: America's Bipolar Climate Future by By Marc Hujer and Samiha Shafy, Spiegel Online International, Dec 13, 2013

Antarctica's crumbling Larsen B ice shelf

Antarctica's crumbling Larsen B Ice Shelf is poised to finally finish its collapse, a researcher said Tuesday (Dec. 10) here at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

The Scar Inlet Ice Shelf will likely fall apart during the next warm summer, said Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. Scar Inlet's ice is the largest remnant of the vast Larsen B shelf still attached to the Antarctic Peninsula. (Another small fragment, the Seal Nunataks, clings on as well.) In the Southern Hemisphere's summer of 2002, about 1,250 square miles (3,250 square kilometers) of the enormous Larsen B Ice Shelf splintered into hundreds of icebergs. Scar Inlet is about two-thirds the size of the ice lost from Larsen B.

This Antarctic Ice Shelf Will Be the Next to Collapse by Becky Oskin, LiveScience, Dec 12, 2013

Big Batteries Needed To Make Fickle Wind And Solar Power Work

Giant batteries are coming to a power grid near you. In fact, they're already starting to appear on the grid in California.

That's because California is planning to rely increasingly on power supplies that aren't necessarily available every minute of every day. The state plans to get one-third of its electricity from wind and solar energy by 2020.

Utilities in the state are trying to figure out how they can cope with that uncertain power supply. Batteries aren't a panacea, but they could help.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is already starting to figure out how to make the most of batteries with a test at its Vaca-Dixon substation, near the Northern California town of Vacaville.

Big Batteries Needed To Make Fickle Wind And Solar Power Work by Richard Harris, National Public Radio (NPR), Dec 11, 2013

Climate change and slavery: the perfect storm?

For years, researchers in a variety of sectors have known two key concepts about the intersection of poverty and the environment. The first is that unsustainable use of natural resources can and does cause poverty. The second is that poverty can, and does, cause environmental degradation. But many anti-slavery activists and climate change researchers are making more connections.

Increasingly it seems that there's a link between a damaged environment and growth in modern-day slavery.

Climate change and slavery: the perfect storm? by Cameron Conaway, Guardian Professional, Dec 13, 2013

Climate makes refugees out of young Ghanaians

The Northern Region is a predominantly rural-based community, and farmers there have become vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

“The problem is that the Northern Region currently is experiencing low rainfall, soil infertility, and increased temperatures as high as 47 degrees Celsius. It is evident from research conducted over the past few years that land scarcity and soil infertility are one of the main elements pushing people off the land to seek a safe-haven in the south,” he said.

Climate Makes Refugees Out of Young Ghanaians by Albert Oppong-Ansah, Inter Press Service (IPS), Dec 13, 2013

Kilimanjaro's shrinking glaciers could vanish by 2030

Kilimanjaro's shrinking northern glaciers, thought to be 10,000 years old, could disappear by 2030, researchers said here yesterday (Dec. 12) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

The entire northern ice field, which holds most of Kilimanjaro\'s remaining glacial ice, lost more than 140 million cubic feet (4 million cubic meters) of ice in the past 13 years, said Pascal Sirguey, a research scientist at the University of Otago in New Zealand. That\'s a cube measuring roughly 520 feet (158 m) on each side.

The loss in volume is approximately 29 percent since 2000, while the total surface area lost is 32 percent, Sirguey said. Last year, the ice field split in two, revealing ancient lava that may not have seen the sun for millennia. [Video: Kilimanjaro's Shrinking Glaciers]

Kilimanjaro's Shrinking Glaciers Could Vanish by 2030 by Becky Oskin, LiveScience, Dec 13, 2013

Reindeer will feel effects of climate change

The heat is on for the world’s caribou with a new study warning the creatures could lose as much as 60 per cent of their range within 60 years.

Caribou, often called reindeer, are among the most numerous and mysterious animals in Canada, but many herds are in decline.

And while it might be fun to think they can fly with Santa, the report says there will be no escaping the rising temperatures transforming their habitat.

Reindeer will feel effects of climate change: study by Margaret Munro, Postmedia News,, Dec 15, 2013

The start of the “Sand Wars”

Sand is becoming New England coastal dwellers’ most coveted and controversial commodity as they try to fortify beaches against rising seas and severe erosion caused by violent storms.

From Westerly, Rhode Island to Eliot, Maine, debates over who gets sand, who pays for it and where it comes from are fast becoming some of the region’s most contentious oceanfront issues. In many cases, taxpayers are being asked to foot some of the bill for beach-rebuilding projects.

“It’s called the sand wars,’’ said S. Jeffress Williams, a coastal geologist and scientist emeritus with the United States Geological Survey in Woods Hole and the University of Hawaii. The disputes, happening across the coastal U.S., “are only going to get more intense,” he said.

Among the seaside squabbles, some residents in Salisbury want $300,000 in state taxpayer dollars for sand to help protect private homes from the ocean’s fury.

The Start Of The “Sand Wars” by Beth Daley, New England Center for Investigative Reporting, Dec 15, 2013

Tree find confirms Italian alpine melt

Evidence from high in the Italian Alps confirms that they are warming at twice the global rate, with the region’s glaciers in retreat everywhere.

Tree find confirms Italian alpine melt by Tim Radford, Climate News Network, Dec 16, 2013

We’re still losing ice at the poles

One of the key indicators and consequences of global warming is ice loss at the Earth’s poles. As the planet warms, on average and over time, every summer more ice melts. It refreezes in the winter, but again as temperatures rise, in general we’ll see less ice at any given time as compared to the year before.

The situation for the two poles is different. In the north the Arctic ice floats on the ocean, and on the south the Antarctic ice is over land and sea. This means that they way they melt — how quickly, how much, even where specifically in those regions — are different. Still, the fact is the ice at both poles is melting. We’ve known this for quite some time.

And some new data show it’s even worse than we thought.

We’re Still Losing Ice at the Poles by Phil Plait, Bad Astromy/Slate, Dec 14, 2013

Why climate change threatens Peru's poverty reduction mission

The Peruvian Amazon became a net emitter of carbon dioxide rather than oxygen for the first time in 2012, according to the UN Development Programme's (UNDP) latest human development country report

The reversal of the rainforest's usual role as a carbon sink is a direct result of the droughts in the western Amazon in 2005 and 2010 – and a stark reminder, say scientists, that this mega-biodiverse country is highly vulnerable to climate change. 

Peru, which has four of the five geographical areas most vulnerable to climate change – ranging from fragile mountain ecosystems to low-lying coastal areas – will host the 20th UN climate change conference in 2014.

Why climate change threatens Peru's poverty reduction mission by Dan Collyns, Poverty Matters Blog/The Guardian, Dec 13, 2013


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Comments 1 to 2:

  1. I am thankful that my country appears here. 2014 will be an interesting year.

    So far almost nobody talks about the COP 20 (the Pan-American Games of 2019 are mentioned more frequently), and everybody talks either about the political scandal of the week or about the increase in criminal activity. I hope this state of things in the media improves next year.

    One the bright side, I must say that while the issue of Climate Change is mentioned very rarely, there is a broad consensus over all the political spectrum that this is a real and a serious problem. However I am concerned  that as next year the conference get closer, there will be a disinformation campaign (so far nonexistent in my country)  that targets my country population and a lot of people will be fooled.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Thank you for the positive feedback. Pleased keep us apprised of how the media in your country is covering climate change. Generally speaking, I would like to include more articles from South America in the news roundups.

  2. Piece of news from Federal Aus politics:

    Renewable energy target faces cut by Abbott

    The Abbott-Hunt (env minister) duo, already famous for using selective quotes from wikipedia as their scientific consultation, now want Australia to become "affordable energy superpower" (whatever they mean by that) and apparently renweable energy is in the way of that dream. Meanwhile, the electricity demand is falling (due to people installing more and more rooftop PVs and drawing from them) and some utility companies are worried that the renewable target will be "overshoot"... Aha! That's why the target needs to be reduced: because Tony wants to keep said utility cmpanies in business.

    I don't need to add that LNP went into the election with a promise to keep the renewable energy target & the 5% decrease in CO2 levels by 2020. A broken promise is emerging here. Who is going to pinpoint and expose that?

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