Monday, 30 November 2015

Climate Change - Increasing Greenhouse Effect measured "in the wild"

Scientists have observed an increase in carbon dioxide’s greenhouse effect at the Earth’s surface for the first time. 



These graphs show carbon dioxide’s increasing greenhouse effect at two locations on the Earth’s surface. 

The first graph shows COradiative forcing measurements obtained at a research facility in Oklahoma

The second graph shows similar upward trends at a research facility on the North Slope of Alaska. (Credit: Berkeley Lab)
The researchers link this upward trend to rising CO2 levels from fossil fuel emissions.

Radiative forcing is a measure of how much the planet’s energy balance is altered by atmospheric changes. 

Positive radiative forcing occurs when the Earth absorbs more energy from solar radiation than it emits as heat radiation back to space.

“We see, for the first time in the field, the amplification of the greenhouse effect because there’s more COin the atmosphere to absorb what the Earth emits in response to incoming solar radiation,” says Daniel Feldman.



Dr Feldman is a scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division and is lead author of the paper.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Climate Change - 2014 - Warmest Year in Modern Record

The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since records began in 1880.


9 of the 10 warmest years in the instrumental record have now occurred since the year 2000.



The exception was 1998, which was affected by a very strong El Nino event.

That means nobody born since 1976 has experienced a colder-than-average year.

2014 was not even affected by an El Nino, which has been the case for previous record years.



For a more complete picture of 2014, there is a detailed report:

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Climate Change - The Carbon Bubble

Burning fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide.


Carbon dioxide emissions need to be limited. 

However, the potential carbon dioxide emissions contained in fossil fuel reserves are vast.



So it's not possible for all current fossil fuel reserves to be used, if the Earth's warming is to be kept below 2 °C. 

This huge excess quantity of fossil fuel is sometimes called the 'Carbon Bubble'.

Many say the number is simply too high.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has pointed out that a two-degree global average rise might result in Africa’s temperature rising as much as 3.5 degrees—a potentially disastrous change.


Friday, 27 November 2015

Climate Change - Climate prediction is not weather forecasting

The chaotic nature of weather makes it unpredictable beyond a few days. 

To predict the weather you need to know exactly what is happening in the atmosphere down to the smallest scale. 


Climate is the average weather pattern of a region over many years (usually a period of 30 years).

Weather forecasts depend on knowing exactly what is going on in the atmosphere, down to the smallest scales. 

Climate forecasts look for patterns over a longer time. 
Will it be generally wetter in winter? 
Will there be more heavy downpours?
A paper published in the journal Science in August 1981 made several projections regarding future climate change.

The projections were rather accurate — and their future is now our present.

"Potential effects on climate in the 21st century include the creation of drought-prone regions in North America and central Asia as part of a shifting of climate zones, erosion of the West Antarctic ice sheet with a consequent worldwide rise in sea level, and opening of the fabled Northwest Passage.”

Their predictions have turned out to be correct.

"Drought-prone regions" are receiving less rainfall.

The Antarctic ice has begun to crack and crumble.

Some ships are using the Northwest Passage as a polar short-cut. 

Projecting changes in climate due to changes in atmospheric composition or other factors is easier than predicting the weather.


It is impossible to predict the age at which any particular man will die, but we can say with high confidence what the average age of death for men is.

Similarly, a climate prediction might say that average summer rainfall over London is predicted to be 50% less by the 2080s.

It will not predict that it will be raining in London on the morning of 23rd August 2089.

Another way to predict the outcomes of climate change is to examine the geological record of ancient events.

Atmospheric CO2 is now around 400 parts per million (ppm).
It last reached similar levels during the Pliocene, 5.3-2.6 million years ago.


Global average temperatures were 2-3°C warmer than today.


Sea level rose by up to 20 metres in places.

In the middle Pliocene, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air ranged from about 380 to 450 parts per million. 

During this period, the area around the North Pole was much warmer and wetter than it is now.
Summer temperatures in the Arctic were around 15 degrees C, which is about 8 degrees C warmer than they are now.

There were no humans then, and no farming.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Climate Change - Comparing the Polar Regions

Earth's poles are warming faster than the rest of the planet.

One reason is that energy is carried to the poles by large weather systems.



The Arctic includes an ocean covered by sea ice.

Arctic sea ice melts in Summer and then refreezes in Winter.

The area of Arctic sea ice is largest in March each year, and at its lowest each September.
It is reducing over time - the graph comes from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Research suggests the remarkable decline of  Arctic sea ice over the last century is far beyond anything seen for a long time. 


The Antarctic is a continent covered by ice, unlike the ocean in the Arctic.

The sea ice surrounding Antarctica melts almost to the coast each summer.

The winter sea ice has increased by around 1 % over the last few decades.

This is due to complex processes.

It is linked to melting of the land ice on Antarctica…..

Here is an outline of what is happening in the seas around Antarctica:

Seawater does not freeze until around minus 2 degrees C because it is salty.

This effect of salt, of course, is used to help defrost roads.

The meltwater off Antarctica’s ice sheets is freshwater.

Freshwater has a low density, so it forms a layer on top of the sea.

Freshwater freezes (of course) at zero degrees C.




The top layer of fresh water freezes more easily than  normal seawater.

Also wind-chill helps to freeze that top layer.

So there is more winter sea ice now.


For a useful comparison of Antarctic and Arctic sea ice follow this link……

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Climate Change - "Weather on Steroids" in 2010

There were some very unusual weather events in 2010, which may be a warning of future effects of climate change.

Each time there are extreme weather events, people debate "Is there a link to climate change?"

It might be hard to prove in many cases.

Some recent events, however, are extraordinary.

The phrase 'weather on steroids' has been used to describe these events.


In 2010, China and Brazil had serious droughts, and in the first part of the year the Northern Hemisphere warmed fast, melting the winter snow cover very quickly.



The picture shows the dried-up River Negro in Brazil, with a bridge in the distance.  

But the biggest events were the heatwave in Russia and the flooding in Pakistan.

In PakistanGovernment officials said that from July 28 to Aug. 3, parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province recorded almost 12 feet (3.6 metres) of rainfall in one week

The province normally averages slightly above 3 feet (around 1 metre) for an entire year.

        
       Pakistan Floods                                  Russian forest fire

In Russia, the heatwave went on for weeks, causing forest fires and destroying crops.

The Russian harvest was reduced in 2010, so the government stopped exports of grains.

The link between the floods and the heatwave was a blocked jet stream.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Climate Change - Animals are moving

Animals are reacting to climate change very quickly.

Some move to higher places, others move north or south.

Dragonflies love warmer temperatures.

UK dragonflies have mainly stayed in the south of the country, until recently.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum)
That is over 2km per year..... nearly 6 metres per day.

For example, the ruddy darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) and the hairy dragonfly, (Brachytron pratense), have moved into north-west England. 

This is evidence that the UK’s climate is growing warmer.

"So much has happened to dragonflies in Britain since the 1990s that there is a most compelling case for the Government to adopt them as indicators of climate change", said Steve Brooks.
Mr Stephen Brooks

Scientists from the University of York  found that, on average, living things have "moved uphill" at 12.2 metres per decade.
  They are moving away from the equator at 17.6 kilometres per decade.
“These changes are equivalent to animals and plants shifting away from the Equator at around 20 cm per hour, for every hour of the day, for every day of the year. 
This has been going on for the last 40 years and is set to continue for at least the rest of this century.”
Dr I-Ching Chen said: 


“We have for the first time shown that the amount by which the distributions of species have changed is correlated with the amount the climate has changed in that region.”

I-Ching Chen and her colleagues discovered that moths had on average moved 67 metres uphill on Mount Kinabalu in Borneo.

Comma butterfly. Photo: Butterfly Conservation & Jim Asher
The Comma butterfly has moved 220 kilometres northwards from central     England to Edinburgh, in only two decades.

Birds in North America are showing similar changes.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Climate Change - Where does the heat go?



As global warming continues, heat goes into all parts of the Earth's systems.

The Earth is gaining more heat than it loses, and most of that heat is going into the oceans.

More heat is going into the upper parts of the oceans.

The water in the oceans is expanding, which is one reason sea level is rising.



The deepest oceans are still cold.

Some of the heat is involved in melting ice, including Arctic sea ice.



The recent reduction in Arctic sea ice is very dramatic.

The ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are also melting.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Climate Change - "The climate has always changed .......what is all the fuss about?"

The climate has changed before.


When people say "It's changed before without people, so people can't be involved this time" ....think of forest fires.



Fires happened throughout time, does that mean people can't start fires?

Ice ages, warm times ... the geological record in the rocks shows many events.

Even so, the current changes are very unusual.





Graph based on a paper published in 2013



The recent rise in temperature is very fast.



What other kinds of changes are happening?


Geologists have compared the past with the present.


This report -
Climate Change Evidence: The Geological Society of London


explains what they have discovered.

This is based on part of that report:

"Before the current warming trend began, temperatures were declining.

This cooling took Earth’s climate into the ‘Little Ice Age’ (1450 – 1850). 

Calculations indicate that this period of cool conditions should continue for about another 1,000 years. 

Nevertheless, after 1900 the overall decline in temperature sharply reversed." 

So the Earth should be cooling.

There's lots of evidence for human involvement in these changes.  
Atmospheric CO2 is now around 400 parts per million (ppm).
It last reached similar levels during the Pliocene, 5.3-2.6 million years ago.
Outcrop view

In the middle Pliocene, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air ranged from about 380 to 450 parts per million. 

During this period, the area around the North Pole was much warmer and wetter than it is now.

Summer temperatures in the Arctic were around 15 degrees C, which is about 8 degrees C warmer than they are now.
Global average temperatures were 2-3°C warmer than today.

Sea level rose by up to 20 metres in places.

What are the risks?
This source gives examples relating mainly to the USA ..........

but applicable more widely too.

For more interesting information, see -

Fact Sheets produced by 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Climate Change - Greenland

The invention of the name Greenland may mark the start of the advertising industry.

The Saga of the Greenlanders tells how Erik the Red, the Icelandic Viking who wanted to get people to join his planned settlement, called it Greenland because a pleasant name would attract more settlers:

He called the land which he had found Greenland, because, quoth he, "people will be attracted thither, if the land has a good name." 

The ice sheet on Greenland covers most of this huge island.




Greenland is losing ice, and the mass of ice lost is measured by satellites called GRACE.

Embedded image permalink

A survey of Greenland's glaciers has shown they are speeding up.

The speed has increased by about 30% in 10 years.

A new NASA project called Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) will observe changing water temperatures on the continental shelf surrounding Greenland, and how marine glaciers react to the presence of warm, salty Atlantic water.

Updates about Greenland's ice sheet are regularly posted by the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Climate Change - Global Temperature information for October 2015

The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for October 2015 was the highest temperature for any October in the 136-year period of record since 1880, at 0.98°C (1.76°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.1°F), according to NOAA.



October 2015 was the sixth consecutive month a monthly global temperature record has been broken.

It was also the greatest departure from average for any month in the 1630 months of record-keeping (since 1880), surpassing the previous record high departure set just last month by 0.13°F (0.07°C). 

The first 10 months of 2015 comprised the warmest such period on record across the world's land and ocean surfaces, at 0.86°C (1.55°F) above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record of 2014 by 0.12°C (0.22°F). 

This margin is larger than the uncertainty associated with the dataset. 

To date, eight months this year have been record warm for their respective months. 

The exceptions were: January was the second warmest January on record and April third warmest.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Climate Change - The last 22,000 years of global temperature change



This graph shows how temperatures have changed over the last 11,000 years, since the end of the last glacial stage.

The graph uses data from modern temperature records, plus information about the past from a research paper that combined data from over 70 different scientific studies.

The next graph adds data from even further back in time:


The green part covers the time as the last glacial stage was coming to an end, and the great ice sheets were melting.

The last glacial stage ended about 10,000 years ago. 

Then, for nearly 5,000 years, global temperature was surprisingly stable

In the next 5,000 years, up to about 1800, global temperature declined by about 0.7 deg.C.

There were some variations in that slow decline:


From 1800 until 2000, temperature rose by about 0.8 deg.C, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.



This chart shows the annual average global temperatures from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)

One thing to note ….. every La Nina ‘year’ since 1998 was warmer than every El Nino ‘year’ before 1995.  

Temperatures now are higher than during any part of the Holocene.
The United States National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration has produced this graphic of the modern instrumental temperature record.

Global surface temperature anomaly for 2015 so far is in green - the 6 previous warmest years are in red.



The recent rise in temperature has happened as industrial societies have burned fossil fuels.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Climate Change - The Experts

In the latest survey by Dr James Powell, 69,402 out of 69,406 climate change researchers accept human activity is the cause of global warming.

What do scientists who research climate change say?

Professor Tim Palmer FRS, Royal Society Research Professor in Climate Physics, University of Oxford:



“The threat of dangerous man-made changes to global climate is quite unequivocal. 
It follows that if we want to reduce this threat, we must cut our emissions of greenhouse gases."

Professor John Shepherd FRS, Ocean & Earth Science, University of Southampton:


“The evidence is very clear that the world is warming, and that human activities are the main cause. 
Natural changes and fluctuations do occur but they are relatively small."

Professor Joanna Haigh CBE FRS, Professor of Atmospheric Physics, Imperial College London:



The concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere now exceeds anything it has experienced in the past 3 million years and its continuing upward trend is almost certain to result in further global warming."

Professor Sir Brian Hoskins FRS, Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London:




“The evidence of changes in many different aspects of the climate system, from the ice sheets to the deep ocean, shows that climate change is happening.   
To reduce the serious risks posed by increasing changes in the climate, we need to redouble our efforts globally to limit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Royal Society has also published a "Short Guide to Climate Change" 

Another organisation offering an important document is the Geological Society of London.

                                  
The Geological Society of London say -

This rate of increase of CO2 is unprecedented.....

even in comparison with the massive injection of carbon into the atmosphere 55 million years ago that led to the major PETM warming event....

and is likely to lead to a similar rise in both temperature and sea level. 

From.....

Climate Change: Evidence from the Geological Record

Another expert who is good at explaining climate change is 



Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Climate Change - Glacial archaeology

Norway is dotted with small glaciers, and 'permanent' snow patches .

Around 7,000 years ago (5000 BC) the Earth was enjoying a warm climate:



Then it cooled, allowing those icy areas to form.



Now those glaciers and patches of perennial ice in the high mountains of Southern Norway have started to melt again, as the Earth is warming. 

They contain all sorts of archaeological treasures.

Anything from ancient shoes to 5000-year-old arrowheads. 

As a result a new kind of archaeology has begun - Glacial archaeology.

6_norways-oldest-shoe

In 2006, an amateur archaeologist came across an amazingly well-preserved ancient leather shoe in the Lendbreen ice patch in Norway. 

When the shoe was examined and tested, archaeologists discovered the shoe was over 3,000 years old, and dated from the Bronze Age.

"Actually we should be slowly approaching a new ice age. 
But in the past 20 years we have witnessed artefacts turning up in summer from increasingly deeper layers of the glaciers." says Lars Pilø.
Lars does fieldwork in glaciers and ice patches, finding things discarded or lost by people long ago.

Glacial archaeology is becoming a fascinating new field of research.