Articles Posted in Reports

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NASA is continuing a multi-year study which, so far, is demonstrating that Arctic permafrost is warming more rapidly than the air. In a release this week the situation in the Arctic is referred to as the “canary in the coal mine” for climate change.

The extreme conditions in the Arctic prevent decomposition of most plant and animal material. Each year there is a partial thaw which allows vegetation to grow, which then dies and is added to the permafrost when the colder weather returns. The result is thousands of years of stored organic material. The report notes:

“…Arctic permafrost soils have accumulated vast stores of organic carbon – an estimated 1,400 to 1,850 petagrams of it (a petagram is 2.2 trillion pounds, or 1 billion metric tons). That’s about half of all the estimated organic carbon stored in Earth’s soils. In comparison, about 350 petagrams of carbon have been emitted from all fossil-fuel combustion and human activities since 1850. Most of this carbon is located in thaw-vulnerable topsoils within 10 feet (3 meters) of the surface.”

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On June 11, 2013 New York City Mayor Bloomberg announced a plan for the City to address the impacts of climate change. The full report details a multi-billion dollar plan described in the introduction as providing initiatives that:

“…will further protect the coastline-our first defense against storms and rising sea levels-as well as strengthen the buildings in which New Yorkers live and work, and all the vital systems that support the life of the city, including our energy grid, transportation systems, parks, telecommunications networks, healthcare system, and water and food supplies. Meanwhile, for the areas of New York that Sandy hit especially hard, this plan proposes local rebuilding initiatives that will help these communities emerge safer, stronger, and better than ever.

The underlying goal of this report is resiliency. That is, to adapt our city to the impacts of climate change and to seek to ensure that, when nature overwhelms our defenses from time to time, we are able to recover more quickly.”

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For the first time in what is believed to be 3 million years, carbon dioxide levels were recorded this week at 400 ppm on top of the 11,000 foot Mauna Loa mountain in Hawaii. As noted by National Geographic, the last time CO2 was at those levels:

” the Earth then was in the final stage of a prolonged greenhouse epoch, and CO2 concentrations were on their way down. This time, 400 ppm is a milepost on a far more rapid uphill climb toward an uncertain climate future.”

-Steven Silverberg

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NASA released a study predicting that, with increased global warming, areas prone to heavy rains will see increases in rainfall while areas prone to drought will experience even less rainfall. The the announcement of the study released on May 3, 2013 notes:

“The models project for every 1 degree Fahrenheit of carbon dioxide-induced warming, heavy rainfall will increase globally by 3.9 percent and light rain will increase globally by 1 percent. However, total global rainfall is not projected to change much because moderate rainfall will decrease globally by 1.4 percent….Some regions outside the tropics may have no rainfall at all. The models also projected for every degree Fahrenheit of warming, the length of periods with no rain will increase globally by 2.6 percent. ”

-Steven Silverberg

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A study released on March 31, 2013 projects a significant increase in Arctic tree cover and resultant impacts on climate change into the 2050s. As reported in Science Daily, a study appearing in Nature Climate Change Projects a 50% increase in wooded areas. The increase in tree cover is projected to absorb greater heat and therefore add further to global warming.

-Steven Silverberg

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On March 26, 2013 the Obama Administration released what it calls the “first nationwide strategy to help public and private decision makers address the impacts that climate change is having on natural resources and the people and economies that depend on them.” In a press release the Climate Adaptation Strategy for Fish, Wildlife and Plants is referred to as providing “a roadmap of key steps needed over the next five years to reduce the current and expected impacts of climate change.”

The strategy sets for seven steps for safeguarding fish, wildlife and plants as:

” Conserve habitat to support healthy fish, wildlife, and plant populations and ecosystem functions;

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The State Department released the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline last week. Along with the full report is a summary of the history of the project.

The discussion of the impacts of climate change on the proposed pipeline, while acknowledging significant ongoing changes in temperature and weather patterns, concluded in section 4.14.2.2:

“In summer, warmer summer temperatures, increased number of hot days, increased number of consecutive hot days and longer summers are predicted, which could lead to impacts associated with heat stress and wildfire risks. Keystone has confirmed that the proposed Project is designed in accordance with U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) regulations and the PHMSA 57 Special Conditions (Appendix B), and that these design standards are sufficient to accommodate an increased number of hot days or consecutive hot days. Keystone has also stated that because the proposed pipeline would be buried to at least 4 feet of cover to the top of the pipe, it would be below most surface temperature impacts, including wild fires and frequent freezing and thawing (Keystone 2012).”

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NASA has released a report showing severe impacts on a large area of the Amazon rain forest resulting from the effects of climate change. The report notes that a 2005 drought, likely resulting from the same weather patterns that brought severe weather to the Southern United States, severely impacted 270,000 square miles of the forest with an even larger area having less severe impacts.

The report found that the impacts of the drought were more long lasting than anticipated. As a result, the forest had not fully recovered from the 2005 drought when another drought hit in 2010 that impacted nearly half the forest. NASA notes

“The drought rate in Amazonia during the past decade is unprecedented over the past century. In addition to the two major droughts in 2005 and 2010, the area has experienced several localized mini-droughts in recent years. Observations from ground stations show that rainfall over the southern Amazon rainforest declined by almost 3.2 percent per year in the period from 1970 to 1998. Climate analyses for the period from 1995 to 2005 show a steady decline in water availability for plants in the region. Together, these data suggest a decade of moderate water stress led up to the 2005 drought, helping trigger the large-scale forest damage seen following the 2005 drought.”

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The National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee has released a draft climate assessment report for public comment. The Draft Report discusses the various aspects of climate change and specific impacts on the various regions of the United States.

The Executive Summary provides an overview of the report with cross references to topics contained in specific chapters.

Noting human contribution to climate change the Executive Summary states:

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In the Environmental Research Letter released this week in IOP Science, a new study concludes that recent projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underestimate actual sea level rise. The study concludes: ” the rise in CO2 concentration and global temperature has continued to closely match the projections over the past five years, while sea level continues to rise faster than anticipated. The latter suggests that the 21st Century sea-level projections of the last two IPCC reports may be systematically biased low. Further support for this concern is provided by the fact that the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are increasingly losing mass (Rignot et al 2011, Van den Broeke et al 2011), while those IPCC projections assumed that Antarctica will gain enough mass in future to largely compensate mass losses from Greenland (see figure 10.33 in Meehl et al (2007)).”

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