One of the things that makes getting a handle on climate change less than simple is that it can manifest in so many ways. There are large scale effects taking place over vast distances; there are things happening in peoples guts. There are geopolitical considerations; there are things happening at the level of particular biological communities. Follow me below the Orange Omnilepticon for a sampling of news items that illustrate this. While the stories don't always make headlines or get front page treatment, more and more you'll find news organizations are starting to collect them on their web pages in in climate change and/or environment sections.
It is perhaps fortunate that the Anthropocene Age overlaps the Space Age. Eyes in orbit are showing us things that would be hard to track otherwise. The BBC has a report on how ESA's Cryosat satellite is picking up (among other things) increased melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
West Antarctica continues to lose ice to the ocean and this loss appears to be accelerating, according to new data from Europe's Cryosat spacecraft.Speaking of melting ice, Vladimir Putin is looking at the Arctic Ocean, and is rehabbing Soviet era military bases that had been left to moulder. According to the BBC, it's a trend among trans-polar nations:
The dedicated polar mission finds the region now to be dumping over 150 cubic km of ice into the sea every year.
It equates to a 15% increase in West Antarctica's contribution to global sea level rise.
Cryosat was launched in 2010 with a radar specifically designed to measure the shape of ice surfaces.
And the instrument's novel design, scientists believe, is enabling the European Space Agency satellite to observe features beyond the capability of previous missions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has told his military leadership they should build up their forces in the Arctic as a priority.We're talking about major untapped gas and petroleum reserves, for starters - the same kind of fossil fuels of course whose continued exploitation will only accelerate Climate Change. Charles P. Pierce refers to it as The Very, Very Cold War
Commending the recent restoration of an airfield in the region, he said Russia needed to use every means to protect its national interests in the region.
He was speaking after Canada announced plans to claim the continental shelf under the North Pole.
Russia and Denmark also lay claim to parts of the resource-rich shelf.
Mr Putin has spoken about the need to increase Russia's military capacity in the Arctic before but this was one of his most direct orders yet, the BBC's Daniel Sandford reports from Moscow.
It is a sign of the growing manoeuvring by the Arctic nations for the potentially valuable resources beneath the northern seas, our correspondent says.
Alas, of course, this is all about access to newly accessible sources of carbon fuels, sources which are accessible at all only because of the environmental damage wrought by our previous use of carbon fuels. What is wrong with humans anyway?Meanwhie, the Guardian has a report that Australia's spring was the warmest on record, climate records show
The spring of 2013 has been Australia's warmest on record. Mean temperatures for the season were 1.57C above the 1961-1990 average, surpassing the previous record of 1.43C (set in 2006) by 0.14C. Daytime maximum temperatures were also the highest on record, coming in 2.07C above average and 0.24C above the previous record (also set in 2006), while overnight minimum temperatures were the fourth-warmest on record.Why Australia is experiencing this just might tie in with an article in New Scientist a few weeks earlier Extreme weather could become norm around Indian Ocean.
The warmth was most dramatic in September, which saw a mean temperature anomaly of +2.75C, setting a new monthly record by more than a degree. October was also a very warm month, 1.43C above average. Temperatures during November were closer to normal, 0.52C above average, but were still warm enough to complete a record spring.
What do the torrential rains that swept across a swathe of East Africa in 1997 have in common with the record-breaking drought that Australia has just emerged from? Both can be blamed on El Niño's Indian Ocean sibling.And if that weren't enough news to digest, the problem of greenhouse gasses continues to get more unsettling as more research is done. Consider this New Scientist report on U.S. methane emissions.
A study looking at how climate change will affect this ocean oscillation pattern has predicted that if the world is allowed to warm uncontrollably, these kinds of extreme events will become the norm by 2050.
Emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, are 1.5 to 1.7 times higher in the US than current estimates. The findings are the latest in a series of contentious studies attempting to determine the climate impact of the nation's recent boom in fossil fuel production.Expect the fossil fuel lobbies to do their best to downplay or discredit the report. And if that weren't enough, the Guardian has a report on a newly discovered greenhouse gas that's really effective at trapping heat.
The switch from burning dirty coal to cleaner natural gas should have cut greenhouse gas emissions in the US. But the latest evidence suggests this effect may be outweighed by the amount of gas leaking into the atmosphere during fossil fuel production.
A new greenhouse gas that is 7,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the Earth has been discovered by researchers in Toronto.Granted, the compound does not occur in amounts in the atmosphere to have a significant impact yet - but it persists for centuries, has no known 'sinks' that remove it from the atmosphere, and is just one of a class of related compounds about which the environmental effects are still largely unknown.
The newly discovered gas, perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA), has been in use by the electrical industry since the mid-20th century.
The chemical, that does not occur naturally, breaks all records for potential impacts on the climate, said the researchers at the University of Toronto's department of chemistry.
"We claim that PFTBA has the highest radiative efficiency of any molecule detected in the atmosphere to date," said Angela Hong, one of the co-authors.
The study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found PFTBA was 7,100 times more powerful at warming the Earth over a 100-year time span than CO2.
If you were planning to sit down to some fresh shrimp from Maine any time soon, guess again. New Scientist reports Shrimp crash forces first fishery closure for 35 years. The entire story is not in yet, but...
"When we saw that, it was very alarming," says Anne Richards of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Surveys in Greenland show similar declines, suggesting that a rise in numbers of cod, which prey on shrimp, is to blame. The most likely reason for this is warmer waters. Shrimp reproduction is also dependent on water temperature.As if White Nose Syndrome wasn't enough of a problem for bats, warming temperatures may have an unanticipated effect on their ability to navigate and feed around the globe. Again from New Scientist:
The decline might be an early warning of climate change, says Richards. "In 2012, the temperature on the surface was the highest on record. 2013 was almost the same. It's crazy," she says.
Some bats will find it harder to hunt in a warmer world, says the first study of how echolocation will be affected by climate change.Small differences like this can affect just how well different species of bats can compete with each other, what kind of reproductive success they have, and so on. Considering that temperature effects will also have consequences for their insect prey, the night sky could be in for some changes.
Bats home in on their prey by sending out high-pitched squeaks and listening for the echo. Rising temperatures will change how far their call can penetrate and how loudly it returns, depending on the frequency of their call. This sound attenuation means some bats will be able to "hear" further as a result; but many will be all but deafened.
While humans may believe their adaptability and technology make them more resistant to Climate Change, that may not be entirely the case. New Scientist reports on America's hidden epidemic of tropical diseases.
When the letter arrives, it must come as a shock. Would-be blood donors are politely rejected because they've tested positive for a deadly tropical infection – and their doctors aren't much help. Kristy Murray at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, recalls one doctor telling a patient: "The test is wrong. That disease doesn't exist in the US!"The article goes on to list other disease problems American physicians may not recognize because they've been uncommon until recently or had been largely eradicated. Climate Change is only going to make the problem worse.
But an estimated 330,000 US citizens, and possibly as many as a million, carry the parasite that causes Chagas disease. It is a chronic, silent infection that leads to lethal heart or gut damage in 40 per cent of cases. It is the most common parasitic disease in the Americas, and it can be treated – if the doctor is aware of it. Most US doctors aren't.
Consider the Asian Tiger Mosquito for one. Dengue Fever is lurking out there. Valley Fever too. And let's not forget ticks - turns out those guys have all kinds of goodies to share. It's not just the problem of old diseases spreading into new areas where they're not diagnosed; it's also potential new diseases that have gone under the radar till now.
Climate Change: it's one of those things that can't be ignored to death because it touches on so many different things, from a global level all the way down to the personal.
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