Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Dying Earth - 05/15/2017

The Dying Earth


Climate & Extreme Weather News #24 (May 9th to May 12th 2017)







Sea ice in the Arctic. Photo: Tom Rippeth
Sea ice in the Arctic. Photo: Tom Rippeth

The seasonal sea-ice retreat across the Arctic Ocean is perhaps one of the most conspicuous indicators of climate change. In September 2012, a new record was set for the time that we have been tracking sea ice with satellites: the minimum sea ice extent was some 50% below the climatic average for that month. Four years on, and the September 2016 record tied with 2007 for the second lowest sea ice extent since measurements began in 1978. The Conversation

The seasonal retreat of sea ice is largely because the atmosphere in the Arctic is heated under 24 hours of daylight in the summer, and this makes the ice melt. In the cold of the perpetual darkness of winter, the sea ice extent returns to its winter norm: the only heat available to slow sea ice growth is from winds and ocean currents moving warm air and water in from the south.


However, during the winter of 2016/17, the sea ice did not return to its winter norm. In fact, the sea ice extent was the lowest ever recorded for this time of year.

An El Nino sees warmer water in the eastern Pacific and hot, drier, conditions in Australia.


IT’S called El Tio and it’s waiting to pounce. if it joins forces with El Nino it could send global warming into overdrive.

EL NINO, and its sister La Nina, have long been one of the key drivers of Australia’s weather.

But environmental scientists now suspect they could be little more than the climactic equivalents of cheeky kids at the family barbecue. Instead, a “kindly aunty” and “cranky uncle” could have a far more wide reaching effect on our climate.

With El Nino being the Spanish for “the boy” and La Nina “the girl” scientists have named these overarching systems El Tio meaning, “the uncle,” and La Tia “the aunt”.

And if the boy and the uncle join forces, things may be about to get hairy. At the very least, you may want to slap on some more sunscreen


Bleached coral off the coast of northeastern Australia is the result of warming ocean temperatures. Save a dramatic weather event to lower the water temperatures within the next few weeks, most of this coral will die. (Photo: Megan Proctor)

One scientist has already gone so far as to declare the Great Barrier Reef is now in a "terminal stage." Most of those studying the reef agree that what is happening is unprecedented. This is because, at a minimum, two-thirds of the 1,400-mile long reef bleached out last year, which led to 22 percent of it dying. Now another bleaching event has resulted in at least two-thirds of the reef bleached again.

"The bleaching this year has moved much farther south and has taken scientists by surprise in its severity and extent," Miller said. And he fears the state of the reef could be even worse than scientists realize, since only aerial surveys have been conducted to assess the damage and no research vessel is currently active on the reef to provide finer details.

With ocean temperatures rising across the globe as anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) continues to pick up speed, the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral ecosystem on Earth, may well be an example of what is happening to all of the coral on the planet.


Skyscrape of Dubai, seen from the beach. Photo: ZeNahla via Flickr (CC BY-NC).
Skyscrape of Dubai, seen from the beach. Photo: ZeNahla via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

A crucial component of concrete, sand is vital to the global construction industry, writes Nick Meynen. China alone is importing a billion tonnes of sand a year, and its increasing scarcity is leading to large scale illegal mining and deadly conflicts. With ever more sand fetched from riverbeds, shorelines and sandbanks, roads and bridges are being undermined and beaches eroded. And the world's sand wars are only set to worsen.



The heat index or "init factor" may not be a measure of actual temperature, but it can make for very scorching days.

This was especially true this past week, as PAGASA noted heat indexes in the high forties at several monitoring stations across the country.

On Thursday, May 11, the heat index in Sangley Point, Cavite, hit 47.5°C.

In San Jose City, Occidental Mindoro, and Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, the heat index was up to 48.1°C and 47.5°C, respectively, according to PAGASA data shared with GMA News' 24 Oras.

But Dagupan posted the highest heat index record to date this year, at a blistering 53.6°C last May 8. Dagupan also holds the distinction of having the highest heat index on record, at 55.8°C on May 6, 2016.

The heat index is an indication of apparent heat, based on actual temperature and humidity.

A heat index of just 41°C is already considered dangerous as it poses potential health risks.


Study shows 52,000 square miles in rapid decline, with sediment and carbon threatening the surrounding environment and potentially accelerating global warming.

Melting permafrost is altering the landscape in northern Canada


Huge slabs of Arctic permafrost in northwest Canada are slumping and disintegrating, sending large amounts of carbon-rich mud and silt into streams and rivers. A new study that analyzed nearly a half-million square miles in northwest Canada found that this permafrost decay is affecting 52,000 square miles of that vast stretch of earth—an expanse the size of Alabama.

According to researchers with the Northwest Territories Geological Survey, the permafrost collapse is intensifying and causing landslides into rivers and lakes that can choke off life downstream, all the way to where the rivers discharge into the Arctic Ocean.


Los Angeles River near Willow Street, Long Beach, California
The POLYPHAGOUS SHOT HOLE borer, a brown-black beetle from southeast Asia, never gets bigger than a tenth of an inch. It breeds inside trees; pregnant females drill into trunks to create networks of tunnels where they lay their eggs. The beetles also carry a fungus called Fusarium; it infects the tunnels, and when the eggs hatch, the borer larvae eat the fungus.

Unfortunately Fusarium also disrupts the trees’ ability to transport nutrients and water. Holes where the beetle bored into the tree get infected and form oily lesions. Sometimes sugars from the tree’s sap accumulate in a ring around the hole—that’s called a “sugar volcano.” The tree dies, and the wee baby beetles fly off to continue the circle of disgusting life.

This would just be a scary story for arborists and tree-huggers, except: Fusarium dieback is on track to kill 26.8 million trees across Southern California in the next few years, almost 40 percent of the trees from Los Angeles to the Nevada border and south to Mexico. That’s more than just an aesthetic tragedy. It means that thousands of human beings are going to die, too.


Millions of salmon feared dead on US west coast

Hundreds of millions of Pacific salmon are missing, presumed dead, along the US west coast amid fears that ocean life are dying in “stunning numbers” following the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

According to The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, preliminary data from the Sacramento River indicates that salmon runs have dropped to record low levels.


It still is, faster and faster, and the canal is just one victim of what has become a vicious cycle. Always short of water, Mexico City keeps drilling deeper for more, weakening the ancient clay lake beds on which the Aztecs first built much of the city, causing it to crumble even further


It is a cycle made worse by climate change. More heat and drought mean more evaporation and yet more demand for water, adding pressure to tap distant reservoirs at staggering costs or further drain underground aquifers and hasten the city’s collapse.


Los Angeles River near Willow Street, Long Beach, California
The POLYPHAGOUS SHOT HOLE borer, a brown-black beetle from southeast Asia, never gets bigger than a tenth of an inch. It breeds inside trees; pregnant females drill into trunks to create networks of tunnels where they lay their eggs. The beetles also carry a fungus called Fusarium; it infects the tunnels, and when the eggs hatch, the borer larvae eat the fungus.

Unfortunately Fusarium also disrupts the trees’ ability to transport nutrients and water. Holes where the beetle bored into the tree get infected and form oily lesions. Sometimes sugars from the tree’s sap accumulate in a ring around the hole—that’s called a “sugar volcano.” The tree dies, and the wee baby beetles fly off to continue the circle of disgusting life.

This would just be a scary story for arborists and tree-huggers, except: Fusarium dieback is on track to kill 26.8 million trees across Southern California in the next few years, almost 40 percent of the trees from Los Angeles to the Nevada border and south to Mexico. That’s more than just an aesthetic tragedy. It means that thousands of human beings are going to die, too.


Microscopic soil creatures may determine how quickly tree species march toward cooler conditions


As the climate warms and some tree species shift toward cooler, more hospitable habitats, new research finds soil microbes could be playing a crucial role in determining where young trees can migrate and how well they survive when they arrive.

Much like humans, whose guts and skin are teeming with microbes, the soil below plants and trees contains a unique cornucopia of microscopic creatures that help the tree take in nutrients and water.

Published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, a new study finds nuance in the role played by soil biota. In some instances, the tiny fungi and bacteria constrain where offspring can grow, but in higher elevations — where the species is headed as the climate warms — a less robust soil microbiome seems to create conditions where baby trees can thrive upslope.


All one has to do to see the alarming rate of deforestation of the last remaining wilderness areas left in the world is take a good look at Google Maps. “But” you say, ”that’s on another continent, it doesn’t affect me.” The reality is that it affects every living thing on the planet.

Since 1993 the seemingly most intelligent species on the planet has destroyed over one tenth of the remaining wilderness and even with the slowdown of deforestation rates if nothing is done to stop this destruction there will be none left, possibly within the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren.

The Brazilian rainforest, central and northern Africa, upper North America, northern Russia, central Australia, and smaller areas near the Himalayas and the South Sea Islands are disappearing faster than they can be protected. Most of these areas are home to endangered species that won’t last more than a few decades unless things change quickly. Even more importantly, mankind is killing itself by removing life giving carbon that creates the ecological balance so necessary for life on Earth




Global warming has sapped Glacier National Park of its once-abundant ice sheets, according to the US Geological Survey, which says just 26 active glaciers remain at the protected wilderness area in Montana.

Dubbed the ‘Crown of the Continent,’ the popular North American tourist attraction was once home to an estimated 150 glaciers back in 1850.


However, studies by the USGS concerning the park’s 37 named ice giants suggests an uncertain future for the Rocky Mountain site.

For a glacier to be considered ‘active’ its area must measure more than 25 acres in size. However, only 26 glaciers at the park now meet this criteria. By comparing ice mass data from 1966 to 2016, USGS analysts Dr Daniel Fagre and Andrew G Fountain found that some glaciers had depleted by nearly 85 percent.



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