2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #10A

Arctic sea ice being lost at a rate of five days per decade

The ice-free season across the Arctic is getting longer by five days per decade, according to new research from a team including Prof Julienne Stroeve (UCL Earth Sciences). New analysis of satellite data shows the Arctic Ocean absorbing ever more of the sun's energy in summer, leading to an ever later appearance of sea ice in the autumn. In some regions, autumn freeze-up is occurring up to 11 days per decade later than it used to.

The research, published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters, has implications for tracking climate change, as well as having practical applications for shipping and the resource industry in the Arctic regions.

New data confirms Arctic ice trends: Sea ice being lost at a rate of five days per decade, Phys.org, Mar 4, 2014

Cause and effect  

Why are scientists so confident that a business as usual future based on fossil fuels will lead to major changes in the Earth’s climate?  Because we seek to understand climate in terms of cause and effect.

A very common misconception about climate change is that projections of future warming are based on extrapolation of recent warming trends. This misconception is fed by media reporting: both “fourth warmest January on record” and “global warming pause” narratives suggest that we’re waiting with bated breath to see what the climate will do, and whether emerging trends can be understood. Even well-intentioned science outreach often starts off with a graph showing rising temperatures as if this is the basis for our understanding and prediction.

But our expectations of future warming are not based on extrapolation of recent trends. Rather, we expect climate to be warmer in the future than in the past because we know that greenhouse gases absorb and then re-emit thermal radiation. As people around the world burn more and more fossil fuels, concentrations of greenhouse gases increase, so that solar energy accumulates under the extra absorbing gas. Scientists expect accumulating heat to cause warming temperatures because we know that when we add heat to things, they change their temperatures.

Cause and Effect, by Scott Denning, Climate Change National Forum, March 2, 2014

El Niño may return late this year

El Niño, nature's most powerful influence on weather around the globe, has  been in a lull for two years. But indications suggest that could change as early  as fall.

Since spring 2012, the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean has not warmed enough  to create an El Niño. Nor has it cooled to form a La Niña. Instead, it has  lingered in an in-between state some experts call "La Nada."

Though it is too early to predict with much certainty, scientists say their  observations and computer models show increasing signs of El Niño's return,  which might portend more rain for California.

El Niño may return late this year, experts say by Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times, Mar 2, 2014

Extreme weather is 'silver lining' for climate action

Devastating extreme weather including recent flooding in England, Australia's hottest year on record and the US being hit by a polar vortex have a "silver lining" of boosting climate change to the highest level of politics and reminding politicians that climate change is not a partisan issue, according to the UN's climate chief.

Christiana Figueres said that it was amoral for people to look at climate change from a politically partisan perspective, because of its impact on future generations.

The "very strange" weather experienced across the world over the last two years was a sign "we are [already] experiencing climate change," the executive secretary of the UN climate secretariat told the Guardian. 

Extreme weather is 'silver lining' for climate action: Christiana Figueres by Adam Vaughan & John Vidal, The Guardian, Mar 5, 2014 

European support for climate change action 'not dented by financial crash'

The financial crisis and recession across Europe have not put people off fighting climate change, a new poll for the European Commission has shown.

It found the number of people supporting a “green economy” has risen in the past three years. At least two thirds of people in all EU member states said that transforming the economy on to a green footing, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and investing in green technologies, would boost the economy and reduce unemployment.

Even in those member states that have suffered the worst effects of the financial crisis and recession, a large majority are of the opinion that energy efficiency and moves to a greener economy could be beneficial. Nearly nine in ten over respondents in Greece, Spain and Portugal said they believed that fighting climate change and using energy more efficiently would boost the economy and jobs.

European support for climate change action 'not dented by financial crash' by Fiona Harvey, The Gurdian, Mar 3, 2014

Geo-engineering could make climate worse

Far from offering a simple fix, sci-fi solutions to global warming may in fact make the problem worse, a probe of “geo-engineering” options says.

Once mocked as unscientific, geo-engineering proposals are gaining traction as carbon emissions soar, placing Earth on track for warming of maybe 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.

Ideas, mainly experimental or untested, include building mirrors in space to reflect the sun’s rays or growing plankton to boost absorption of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2).

Geo-engineering could make climate worse, study says, AFB/The Japan Times, Mar 2. 2014

Global warming slows down Antarctica's coldest currents

A shift from briny to fresh in Antarctica's ocean waters in recent decades could explain the shutdown of the Southern Ocean's coldest, deepest currents, a new study finds.

The cold currents, called the Antarctic Bottom Water, are chilly, salty rivers that flow from the underwater edge of the Antarctic continent north toward the equator, keeping to the bottom of the seafloor. The currents carry oxygen, carbon and nutrients down to the deepest parts of the ocean. Previous studies have found this deep, dense water is disappearing, though researchers aren't sure if the shrinkage is part of a long-term trend linked to global warming, or a natural cycle. 

Global Warming Slows Down Antarctica's Coldest Currents by Becky Oskin, LiveScience, Mar 4, 2014

How money changes climate debate

Searching for a reason major climate change legislation hasn't passed Congress yet?

You could do worse than start looking around Washington, D.C., with its endless think tanks, lobbying firms and trade groups, many of which have swung into action in the past to block such bills and stand ready to do so in the future.

A recent study published in the journal Climatic Change finds that much of the millions of dollars that funds these groups comes from secret sources, and a good portion of the rest is from publicity-shy conservative foundations. 

How Money Changes Climate Debate by Daniel Lippman and ClimateWire, Scientific American, Mar 5, 2014  

How to debate climate change deniers (w/o scaring them off)

If you want to see an expression of pure despair, ask a college freshman to parse Rachel Carson’s rhetorical choices at 8:00 in the morning. That’s what I’m doing this semester for a composition class I’m teaching at the University of Virginia. The course is called “Representing Climate Change,” and our collective goal is to discover and deploy effective methods of talking and writing about our looming environmental crisis. The task is daunting. Climate change is at once really easy and really hard to write about. It’s easy because there is so much to say, and hard because progress toward a solution is so slow.

How to debate climate change deniers (without scaring them off) by Stephanie Bernard, Salon, Mar 2, 2014

Keystone XL would have much larger impact

The State Department's final environmental impact analysis for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline downplays the significance the pipeline would have for development of the Canadian tar sands, according to a new analysis from a United Kingdom-based group. The analysis also argues that the State Department underestimated the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that would come with that development.

The Carbon Tracker Initiative, a nonprofit that focuses on how carbon budgets interact with financial markets, released the new report on Monday, making its case for why Keystone XL is more important in the context of global emissions than the State Department's study indicates.

Study Finds Keystone XL Would Have Much Larger Impact Than State Department Suggests by Kate Shepard, The Huffington Post, Mar 3, 2014 

New daily temperature dataset from Berkeley

Berkeley Earth has a newly released homogenized daily temperature field is built as a refinement upon our monthly temperature field using similar techniques. In constructing the monthly temperature field, we identified inhomogeneities in station time series caused by biasing events such as station moves and instrument changes, and measured their impact. The daily analysis begins by applying the same set of inhomogeneity breakpoints to the corresponding daily station time series.  

New daily temperature dataset from Berkeley by Zeke Hausfather and Robert Rohde, Rezal Climate, Mar 5, 2014

Sydney Opera House and Statue of Liberty 'will be lost to sea level rise'

Famous global landmarks including the Statue of Liberty, Tower of London and Sydney Opera House will be lost to rising seas caused by climate change, scientists have warned.

Even with just a further 3C of warming – well within the range to which the UN climate science panel expects temperatures to rise  by the end of the century – nearly one-fifth of the planet's 720 world heritage sites will affected as ice sheets melt and warming oceans expand.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, looked at how many Unesco sites would be threatened after 2000 years of rising sea levels, but the authors said the first impacts would "definitely" be felt much sooner without action on flood defences. 

Sydney Opera House and Statue of Liberty 'will be lost to sea level rise' by Adam Vaughn, The Guardian, Mar 4, 2014

Posted by John Hartz on Wednesday, 5 March, 2014

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