Category Archives: Nature

Climate catastrophe looms under Trump’s agenda


Under to corporate backed regime of President-elect Donald J. Trump, perhaps the world’s most prominent denier of human-caused climate change, the fate of modern human society may be sealed, given the seemingly inexorable pace of global warming.

An apocalyptic warning from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a collaboration of more than 100 of the nation’s leading universities:

If society continues to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the current rate, Americans later this century will have to endure, on average, about 15 daily maximum temperature records for every time that the mercury notches a record low, new research indicates.

That ratio of record highs to record lows could also turn out to be much higher if the pace of emissions increases and produces even more warming, according to the study led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Over the last decade, in contrast, the ratio of record high temperatures to record lows has averaged about two to one.

“More and more frequently, climate change will affect Americans with record-setting heat,” said NCAR senior scientist Gerald Meehl, lead author of the new paper. “An increase in average temperatures of a few degrees may not seem like much, but it correlates with a noticeable increase in days that are hotter than any in the record, and nights that will remain warmer than we’ve ever experienced in the past.”

The United States has experienced unusual warmth lately, as indicated by this July 22, 2016, weather map showing much of the country facing highs in the 90s and 100s and lows in the 70s. New research indicates that more record high temperatures may be in store. (Weather map by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Weather Prediction Center.)

The United States has experienced unusual warmth lately, as indicated by this July 22, 2016, weather map showing much of the country facing highs in the 90s and 100s and lows in the 70s. New research indicates that more record high temperatures may be in store. (Weather map by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center.)

The 15-to-1 ratio of record highs to lows is based on temperatures across the continental United States increasing by slightly more than 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above recent years, which is about the amount of warming expected to occur with the current pace of greenhouse gas emissions.

The new research appears this week in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” It was funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is NCAR’s sponsor. The study was coauthored by NCAR scientist Claudia Tebaldi and by Dennis Adams-Smith, a scientist previously at Climate Central and now at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

Hotter days 

In a 2009 study, Meehl and colleagues found that the ratio of record daily high temperatures to record daily low temperatures has steadily increased since the 1970s as average temperatures over the United States have warmed. Computer models at that time indicated that the ratio could continue to increase during this century, although the research team looked into just one scenario of future emissions. The scientists also found that the models were overstating the ratio of record highs to record lows in recent years, compared to observations.

By digging further into the issue and analyzing why the models differed from observations, Meehl and his co-authors have now produced a better calibrated projection of future record-breaking daily highs across the U.S. They based their projections on the average temperature increase over the continental United States, rather than on a particular scenario of future emissions.

By about 2065, for example, U.S. temperatures will rise by an average of slightly more than 3 degrees C (5.4 degrees F) if society maintains a “business as usual” increase in the emission of greenhouse gases. Under such a scenario, the ratio of record daily high temperatures to record daily lows will likely be about 15 to 1, although it could range anywhere from 7 to 1 up to 22 to 1, the study found.

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Map of the day: New heartland fracking quakestorm


From the U.S. Geological Survey, the latest cluster in Kansas and Oklahoma, with the state border show by the line in the upper half of the map:

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Headline of the day: Lethal idiocy from Littlefingers


From the Guardian:

Trump to scrap Nasa climate research in crackdown on ‘politicized science’

  • Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century.
  • This would mean the elimination of Nasa’s world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena. Nasa’s network of satellites provide a wealth of information on climate change, with the Earth science division’s budget set to grow to $2bn next year. By comparison, space exploration has been scaled back somewhat, with a proposed budget of $2.8bn in 2017.
  • Bob Walker, a senior Trump campaign adviser, said there was no need for Nasa to do what he has previously described as “politically correct environmental monitoring”.

Fukushima quake: Injuries, no serious nuke woes


An update on yesterday’s quake [reported as a magnitude 6.9 shock by the U.S. Geological Survey] that struck near the site of the disastrous 11 March 2011 magnitude 9.1 Tohoku earthquake that caused than 16,000 deaths and a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Diaichi reactor system.

Seismologists see Monday’s quake as an aftershock of the 2011 giant, but unlike this one, nobody was killed and the problems at the Fukushima reactor complex were short-lived.

First, from Reuters:

There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries hours after the quake hit at 5:59 a.m. (2059 GMT Monday). It was centered off the coast of Fukushima prefecture at a depth of about 10 kilometers (6 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.

A wave of up to 1.4 meters (4.5 ft) high was recorded at Sendai, about 70 km (45 miles) north of Fukushima, with smaller waves hitting ports elsewhere along the coast, public broadcaster NHK said.

Television footage showed ships moving out to sea from harbors as tsunami warnings wailed after alerts of waves of up to 3 meters (10 feet) were issued.

“We saw high waves but nothing that went over the tidal barriers,” a man in the city of Iwaki told NTV television network.

Aerial footage showed tsunami waves flowing up rivers in some areas, and some fishing boats were overturned in the port of Higashi-Matsushima before the JMA lifted its warnings.

More from the London Telegraph on the reactor complex:

The operator of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant said there were no abnormalities observed at the plant, though a swelling of the tide of up to 1 metre was detected offshore.

The plant was swamped by the 2011 tsunami, sending three reactors into meltdown and leaking radiation into the surrounding area. The plant is being decommissioned but the situation remains serious as the utility figures out how to remove still-radioactive fuel rods and debris and what to do with the melted reactor cores.

Plant operator Tepco said a pump that supplies cooling water to a spent fuel pool at the nearby Fukushima Dai-ni plant stopped working, but that a backup pump had been launched to restore cooling water to the pool.

The Japan Times covers the damage and injuries:

According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, a total of 17 people in Fukushima, Chiba, Tokyo and Miyagi prefectures were injured as a result of the quake. They included an 82-year-old woman in Chiba who fell down some stairs in her home and fractured her hip. In Fukushima, three people were injured, two of whom were elderly women who tripped and suffered broken bones.

>snip<

No abnormalities were observed at other nuclear plants in northeastern Japan, according to Tepco and other power companies. Reactors at these nuclear plants have been offline.

New quake hits Fukushima; reactor cooling fails


And a tsunami warning and calls for immediate evacuation has been issued for the coastal region where the disastrous 11 March 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami [previously] caused more than 16,000 deaths and a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Diaichi reactor system.

This map from the U.S. Geological Survey pinpoints the quake’s epicenter:

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From Japanese state broadcaster NHK World:

Municipal authorities in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, are urging residents of coastal areas to evacuate to higher ground following a powerful earthquake on Tuesday morning.

The Japan Meteorological Agency says the magnitude 7.4 earthquake hit off Fukushima Prefecture around 6 AM. It issued a warning for tsunami of up to 3 meters.

A tsunami of 90 centimeters was observed at Soma Port in the city of Soma after 7 AM.

Firefighting officials in the city of Iwaki said a fire broke out at a petrochemical complex in the district of Nishikimachi, but they have extinguished it at around 6:40 AM.

More from Bloomberg:

A magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck Japan off the coast of Fukushima, home to the nuclear power plant badly damaged in the March 2011 triple disaster, triggering a tsunami alert.

The temblor struck at 5:59 a.m. local time at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, which issued a warning for a tsunami of three meters (10 feet) for the coast of Fukushima and a lesser warning for the northeastern coast of the country. The warning is the largest issued since the aftermath of the 2011 disaster.

A tsunami of 90 centimeters was detected in Soma port in Fukushima, as local authorities and the national broadcaster urged residents to remember the experience of 2011 and evacuate to higher ground. The office of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on its Twitter account it had set up a liaison office to gather information.

NHK warned bigger tsunami waves could hit the coast.

Workers at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, which was crippled after the record tsunami almost six years ago, were evacuated, according to a spokesman.

Reactor cooling system fails

Making matters worse, the cooling system for at least one of the remaining nuclear reactors at the plant has failed, according to numerous reports.

From the Australia’s 9 News:

Tokyo Electric Power Co told national broadcaster NHK the water cooling system in reactor number 3 that supplies cold water to the nuclear rods in Fukushima’s Daini power plant has stopped working.

It is checking other reactors at Onagawa and the sister plant in Daiichi, Fukushima which was the centre of a catastrophic nuclear disaster in the 2011.

Finally, a brief video excerpt of ongoing coverage of the quake and tsunami by NHK:

No nation is on target to hit CO2 reduction goals


Surprise, surprise.

With corporate bottom lines totally dependent on getting us to buy more stuff, stiff made as cheaply as possible to sell for as much as possible, the notion of cutting back or installing massive and costly manufacturing changes doesn’t sit well with either boards or investors.

And so it should come as no surprise that none of the 95 countries responsible for nine-tenths of those nasty carbon dioxide emissions  stands a chance of hitting the goals needed to cap global warming at two degrees Celsius.

And the United States, which has just elected the only national leader to deny that human activity has any impact on the climate, is among the worst offenders, actually losing ground on all measures.

Oh, and Myron Ebell, that man Trump picked to oversee appointments to the Environmental Protection Agency, the federal agency charged with overseeing the health of the nation’s air, land, and water, is another moral idiot who denies human agency in climate change and abhors regulations.

From Agence France Presse:

Despite a boom in renewables, especially solar and wind, “the necessary energy revolution is still happening too slowly,” the Climate Change Performance Index 2017 reported on the margins of UN climate talks in Marrakesh.

The annual assessment of national policies and actions to curb global warming found that the European Union has gone from leader to laggard, with the exception of some of its member states.

France took top honours, in part due to its role in ushering in the landmark Paris Agreement, signed in the French capital last December. Sweden and Britain took the silver and bronze, mainly for policies put in place by governments no longer in power.

Canada, Australia and Japan filled out the bottom of the ranking, though recent changes of government in Canberra and Ottawa may bode well for future improvements.

The United States, the second largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world after China, got a “poor” rating, losing ground across all categories, the report found.

From the report, a map of how the nations of the world are faring in their efforts to meet CO2 reduction goals [click on the image to enlarge]:

blog-climateMore on the report from GermanWatch:

 Recognizing the urgency to take immediate action in protecting the global climate, the 21st Conference of the Parties, held in December 2015 in Paris, made a groundbreaking achievement in adopting the goal to limit global warming to “well below” 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit warming to a 1.5°C. Under the Paris Agreement, climate action was anchored in the context of international law. This requires countries to make their own unique contribution to the prevention of dangerous climate change. The next crucial step to follow this agreement is the rapid implementation by the signing parties of concrete measures to make their individual contributions to the global goal. For the past 12 years, the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) has been keeping track of countries’ efforts in combating climate change. The varying initial positions, interests and strategies of the numerous countries make it difficult to distinguish their strengths and weaknesses and the CCPI has been an important tool in contributing to a clearer understanding of national and international climate policy.

To demonstrate existing measures more accurately and to encourage steps toward effective climate policy, the CCPI methodology was evaluated in 2012 and continues to be improved. The integration of emissions data from deforestation and forest degradation was one of the major steps in this process, made possible due to the data provided by the FAO Global Forest Resource Assessment 2015. Deforestation and forest degradation are another important source of anthropogenic CO2 alongside energy-based emissions. By including these emissions in the data, we are able to present a more comprehensive view of man-made impacts on the world’s climate.

The following publication is issued by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe. However, only with the help of around 280 energy and climate experts from all over the world are we able to include a review of each country’s national and international policies. The review charts the efforts that have been made to avoid climate change, and also evaluates the various countries’ current efforts regarding the implementation of the Paris Agreement, starting from this year. We greatly appreciate these experts for their time, efforts and knowledge in contributing to this publication. The experts are mainly representatives of NGOs who work within their respective countries, fighting for the implementation of the climate policy that we all so desperately need.

Maps of the day: Large parts of U.S. hit by drought


Every week in our DroughtWatch feature we graphically chronicle the state of California’s ongoing drought, the one Donald Trump claims is a fabrication.

But it’s not just California, as our maps of the day reveal, first in a pair from from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

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More from NOAA:

Extremely warm temperatures across much of the United States in September and October 2016 have conspired with much lower than average precipitation in parts of the country to bring (or sustain) severe drought to three separate “hotspots” in early November.

Between California—still in drought after nearly 5 years—the Southeast, and New England, 11% of the contiguous United States (i.e., the Lower 48 states) was experiencing severe, extreme, or exceptional drought as of November 8, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor project.

The maps at [above] show the drought status across the country as of November 8, 2016 [top] along with the outlook for the remainder of November [bottom]. The large versions of the maps [here and here] show Alaska and Hawaii. Of the country’s hardest hit areas, only inland areas of New England are likely to improve throughout the month. In the Southeast and Southern California, drought-stricken areas are likely to persist or worsen and possibly expand.

These maps are part of Climate.gov’s Data Snapshots map collection, which provides popular NOAA maps in variety of sizes and formats for easy re-use and sharing.

Drought brings massive fires to the U.S. Southeast

Our second two maps come from NASA’s Earth Observatory, the first a view from space with an overlay showing state boundaries:

blog-drought-se-sat

The story from NASA:

Wildfires in the southeastern United States are usually small and do not produce much smoke compared to the big blazes in the western United States, Canada, or Russia. But a cluster of fires in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky in November 2016 defied that trend.

On November 7, 2016, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite observed thick plumes of smoke streaming from forests in the southern Appalachians. Extreme drought fueled the outbreak of fires, and strong winds spread smoke broadly across the Southeast.

The ongoing—and in some areas record-breaking—drought began in May 2016 and intensified throughout the summer. By November, data from the U.S. Drought Monitor showed exceptional drought—the highest level on the scale—across parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. All of the American Southeast, except for coastal areas, faced at least moderate drought.

blog-drought-se-map

The map above shows areas that have faced intense evaporative stress between October 6 and November 6, 2016, as represented by the Evaporative Stress Index (ESI). The ESI is not a measure of precipitation; rather, this dataset is based on observations of land surface temperatures (collected by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s geostationary satellites) and on observations of leaf area index from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The combination makes it possible to gauge evapotranspiration—how much water is evaporating from the land surface and from the leaves of plants. Measuring evapotranspiration is useful because unusually low evapotranspiration is an early indicator that plants are facing stress—even if the leaves have not wilted or turned brown yet.