81 Global Warming News Articles
for November of 2017
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11-30-17 Is crude oil killing children in Nigeria?
When thunder crackles in the Niger Delta, like the sound of a short burst of fire, the pounding rain is never far behind it. Caught in the downpour in the town of Kogbara Dere, known as K Dere, a woman runs to the shelter of a restaurant by the side of the road. The plastic bottles of homemade petrol she was selling are beaten off their wooden perch by the heavy rain. The smell of petrol rises up from the ground and hangs briefly in the air before being washed down a mucky lane. Following the shiny oil slick, through a warren of small concrete houses, we arrive at the home of Love Sunday .Love gave birth to her fifth child just over a month ago. For two weeks everything was fine. "When I had the baby there was no problem," she says. "But then I was carrying him in my arms. He took three breaths and was gone. "I'm still mourning, I weep every day." Love doesn't know how her baby died because she didn't see a doctor. But she's not the only one in her village dealing with this grief. Patience Sunday and her husband Batom, who live just on the other side of town, were also expecting their first child in October. "When the baby was first born he wasn't breathing but then the nurse was taking care of him and he started to breathe," she says. "They took the baby to the house to bathe him and the baby collapsed." He only lived a few hours. For Barinaadaa Saturday and Chief Bira Saturday, it's a similar story. "I gave birth and the child died at the same time," says Barinaadaa. She still has a picture of her child framed in her home. He's wearing a blue and pink woolly hat and looks like he could be sleeping. It happened in 2014 but Barinaada and her husband haven't been able to have a child since. Their farm sits on the site of the last big spill in K Dere, which happened that same year. (Webmaster's comment: For crude oil corporations only profit matters, human lives mean nothing.)
11-29-17 The fashion industry can only go green
Fashion is facing up to how wasteful it is, but its impact on the environment goes far beyond fast fashion and ever-changing trends. Green is the new black, if efforts to acknowledge the environmental harm caused by the fashion industry are to be believed. A report released yesterday by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation highlighted the damage done by our efforts to look absolutely fabulous, and they make for grim reading. The clothes industry uses a huge amount of resources to create its wares, it says, including 93 billion cubic metres of water per year for growing cotton and the like. It also creates a vast amount of pollution, from the hazardous chemicals used during processing and dyeing, to the plastic microfibres that enter the oceans when we wash our clothes, to 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide or equivalent per year from producing fibres and turning them into clothes. The source of some of the numbers in the report isn’t clear, but even if some are overestimates, the big picture is still horrifying. “[It’s] an industry that is incredibly wasteful and harmful to the environment,” said fashion designer Stella McCartney at the report’s launch. But while we should praise industry leaders like her for acknowledging fashion’s problems, the industry as a whole is still moving in the wrong direction. In rich countries people often wear the clothes they buy only a few times before discarding them, and those in developing countries are starting to follow suit as they grow wealthier. Efforts to develop “smart clothes” could lead to even more waste and pollution. What’s to be done?
11-28-17 In the deep ocean, these bacteria play a key role in trapping carbon
The organisms oxidize the nitrogen compound nitrite to “fix” inorganic carbon dioxide. A mysterious group of microbes may be controlling the fate of carbon in the dark depths of the world’s oceans. Nitrospinae bacteria, which use the nitrogen compound nitrite to “fix” inorganic carbon dioxide into sugars and other compounds for food and reproduction, are responsible for 15 to 45 percent of such carbon fixation in the western North Atlantic Ocean, researchers report in the Nov. 24 Science. If these microbes are present in similar abundances around the world — and some data suggest that the bacteria are — those rates may be global, the team adds. The total amount of carbon that Nitrospinae fix is small when compared with carbon fixation on land by organisms such as plants or in the sunlit part of the ocean, says Maria Pachiadaki, a microbial ecologist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine, who is lead author on the new study. “But it seems to be of major importance to the productivity and health of the 90 percent of the ocean that is too deep and too dark for photosynthesis.” These bacteria likely form the base of the food web in much of this enigmatic realm, she says. Oceans cover more than two-thirds of Earth’s surface, and most of those waters are in the dark. In the shallow, sunlit part of the ocean, microscopic organisms called phytoplankton fix carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. But in the deep ocean where sunlight doesn’t penetrate, microbes that use chemical energy derived from compounds such as ammonium or hydrogen sulfide are the engines of that part of the carbon cycle.
11-28-17 ‘Super-spreader’ coral could restore trashed Great Barrier Reef
Most of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef may well be destroyed in the next few decades, but hubs of resilient coral could make larvae to restore it all. They are the seed banks of the sea. Hubs of healthy coral in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef could help rebuild damaged areas by spreading their larvae via ocean currents. Protecting these areas could be key to the future of the ecosystem. The Great Barrier Reef is threatened by repeated coral bleaching, outbreaks of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish, choking sludge from farms on land and cyclones. Surveys published in April showed that two-thirds of the reef is now badly degraded. But there’s still hope, says Peter Mumby at the University of Queensland in Australia. His team has identified 112 of 3800 coral reefs in the Great Barrier network that are relatively safe. These reefs could at least partially regenerate their neighbours. The researchers looked for reefs that had the best chance of surviving future stressors, and which could conceivably seed new reefs if and when conditions improve. These refuges needed to be located in areas with low risks of overheating and starfish outbreaks, based on historical records. They also needed to be connected to other reefs by ocean currents, so they could spread their coral larvae and replenish struggling areas. The refuge reefs were mainly located towards the south and away from the mainland. This area is flushed with cool water from an ocean current known as the South Caledonian Jet. Most of the coral here survived the heatwaves of 2016 and 2017, which devastated northern parts.
11-28-17 What the Pliocene epoch can teach us about future warming on Earth
About 3 million years ago, carbon dioxide levels were similar to today’s. What other changes might we expect? Imagine a world where the polar ice sheets are melting, sea level is rising and the atmosphere is stuffed with about 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Sound familiar? It should. We’re living it. But the description also matches Earth a little over 3 million years ago, in the middle of the geologic epoch known as the Pliocene. To understand how our planet might respond as global temperatures rise, scientists are looking to warm periods of the past. These include the steamy worlds of the Cretaceous Period, such as around 90 million years ago, and the boundary of the Paleocene and Eocene epochs, about 56 million years ago. But to many researchers, the best reference for today’s warming is the more recent Pliocene, which lasted from 5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago. The mid-Pliocene was the last time atmospheric CO2 levels were similar to today’s, trapping heat and raising global temperatures to above the levels Earth is experiencing now. New research is illuminating how the planet responded to Pliocene warmth. One set of scientists has fanned out across the Arctic, gathering geologic clues to how temperatures there may have been as much as 19 degrees Celsius higher than today. The warmth allowed trees to spread far to the north, creating Arctic forests where three-toed horses, giant camels and other animals roamed. When lightning struck, wildfires roared across the landscape, spewing soot into the air and altering the region’s climate.
Amount of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere (parts per million): Mid-Pliocene 350–450, Pre-Industrial 280, Today 400+ and going up. In 20 years we'll be above 450.
11-28-17 Why millions of Americans could be drinking bad water
While Flint made headlines two years ago when 12 people died due to high lead levels in the city's water, more than 1,000 water systems across the US have drinking water that fails safety standards for lead.
11-27-17 What to expect if Indonesia’s volcano erupts in a big way
Mount Agung's last big eruption was in 1963, and a major blast could create an ash cloud that disrupts air travel for weeks, and temporarily cool the global climate as well. The Mount Agung volcano in Bali began erupting on 24 November, and it is feared an even larger eruption could occur. Explosions in Mount Agung are hurling clouds of white and dark grey ash up to 3000 metres into the atmosphere, and lava is welling up in the crater. Mudflows, caused by the ash mixing with rain, are already flowing down some valleys. On Monday, the Indonesian authorities ordered a mass evacuation of people from an expanded danger zone extending 10 kilometres around the volcano. Around 40,000 of the 90,000 people in the zone have evacuated already, spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference in Jakarta. But others have not left because they feel safe or do not want to abandon their livestock, he said. “If needed we will forcibly evacuate them.” Ash clouds also reached the island’s international airport on Monday, forcing it to close and stranding tens of thousands of travellers. Volcanic ash can damage jet engines. Soldiers and police distributed masks on the weekend as ash began to settle on villages and resorts around the volcano. Volcanic ash irritates eyes and makes breathing difficult. Heavy ash falls can also make roofs collapse and kill crops. Besides producing more ash and mudflows, a larger eruption could also lead to pyroclastic flows, caused by clouds of hot gases and debris flowing down mountains at high speed. Pyroclastic flows killed most of the 1100 people who died during the volcano’s last major eruption in 1963. That eruption began in February 1963.
11-27-17 Good news: one form of air pollution may be falling in Europe
Levels of nitrogen dioxide in European city air rose throughout the 2000s but seem to have reached a peak in 2010 – suggesting Europe might get cleaner air sooner than expected. The fumes belched out by road vehicles are deadly – but levels of one harmful component, nitrogen dioxide, may already have peaked in Europe. “It’s not air quality solved or anything, but it is positive,” says lead author Stuart Grange at the University of York, UK. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a polluting chemical released by petrol and diesel vehicles. Each molecule contains one nitrogen atom and two oxygen atoms. NO2 is blamed for tens of thousands of deaths in Europe each year. A second variant, nitric oxide (NO), contains only one oxygen atom per molecule – but over time it tends to change into NO2. Collectively, the two are known as NOX. Grange and his colleagues analysed data from nearly 500 roadside monitoring stations across 61 urban areas in Europe. They focused on how much of the total NOX in the air at the roadside was in the form of NO2. This is important because people’s health is thought to be most affected near roads where concentrations of the gas are high. Between 1995 and 2010, the proportion of NOX in the form NO2 dramatically grew, probably because of an increase in the number of diesel vehicles – which governments supported because they release smaller quantities of greenhouse gases than petrol ones. However, since 2010, NO2 levels have either stabilised or begun falling. Although the measurements don’t tell us why, it may be partly thanks to the gradual influx of new less-polluting cars. Also, older vehicles generally emit less NO2 as they age.
11-27-17 Clean air target 'could be met more quickly'
Targets for reducing illegal levels of NO2 pollution from vehicles will be achieved more quickly than the government expects, a study says. Researchers say government projections of future NO2 are too pessimistic, because they ignore the latest real world data. They say cities may achieve roadside emissions standards several years earlier than ministers expect. The research is published in the journal Nature Geoscience. The authors at the University of York warn that despite the adjustment, the government is still lagging badly on NO2 targets. And they say the air in the UK's big cities remains dangerously polluted from many different compounds. But how did the government miscalculate NO2? The authors say it's because they relied on projections of future emissions, rather than on real world roadside emissions data at the European Environment Agency (EEA). The government's figures are based on tailpipe readings from vehicles with new particle filters. They projected these figures forward to estimate future pollution levels. But that projection doesn't take into account that as a filter ages it fortuitously creates less NO2. It seems that the government has been either unwilling or unable to update its estimates by harnessing the real world road site data collected in recent years.
11-27-17 EU settles dispute over major weedkiller glyphosate
EU countries have voted to renew the licence of glyphosate, a widely used weedkiller at the centre of environmental concerns. The proposal at the EU Commission's Appeal Committee received 18 votes in favour and nine against, with one abstention, ending months of deadlock. The Commission says the new five-year licence will be ready before the current one expires on 15 December. However, France plans to ban the use of glyphosate within three years. In a tweet, French President Emmanuel Macron said he had ordered a ban on the use of glyphosate in France "as soon as alternatives are found, and within three years at the latest". Glyphosate is marketed as Roundup by the US agrochemical giant Monsanto. One UN study called the chemical "probably carcinogenic", but other scientists said it was safe to use. The UK was among the states in favour of glyphosate renewal. Germany and Poland were also among them - though they had previously abstained. France and Belgium were among the states that voted against. Portugal abstained. The EU Commission says the current proposal on the weedkiller "enjoys the broadest possible support by the member states while ensuring a high level of protection of human health and the environment". Glyphosate was introduced by Monsanto in 1974, but its patent expired in 2000, and now the chemical is sold by various manufacturers. (Webmaster's comment: More Poison and Business as Usual!)
11-27-17 Scientists warn Lake Victoria is dying
Scientists are warning that Lake Victoria, Africa's largest freshwater lake, is under threat of dying. They blame over-fishing and pollution for severely damaged fish stocks.
11-25-17 Climate foiled Europeans’ early exploration of North America
‘A Cold Welcome’ examines how the Little Ice Age and other factors shaped colonial history. Many people may be fuzzy on the details of North America’s colonial history between Columbus’ arrival in 1492 and the Pilgrims’ landing on Plymouth Rock in 1620. But Europeans were actively attempting to colonize North America from the early 16th century onward, even though few colonies survived. As historian Sam White explains in A Cold Welcome, most early attempts were doomed by fatally incorrect assumptions about geography and climate, poor planning and bad timing. White weaves together evidence of past climates and written historical records in a comprehensive narrative of these failures. One contributing factor: Explorers assumed climates at the same latitude were the same worldwide. But in fact, ocean currents play a huge role in moderating land temperatures, which means Western Europe is warmer and less variable in temperature from season to season than eastern North America at the same latitude. On top of that, explorations occurred during a time of global cooling known as the Little Ice Age, which stretched from the 13th to early 20th centuries. The height of exploration may have occurred at the peak of cooling: Starting in the late 16th century, a series of volcanic eruptions likely chilled the Northern Hemisphere by as much as 1.8 degrees Celsius below the long-term average, White says. This cooling gave Europeans an especially distorted impression of their new lands. For instance, not long after Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno landed in California’s Monterey Bay in December 1602, men’s water jugs froze overnight — an unlikely scenario today. Weather dissuaded Spain from further attempts at colonizing California for over a century.
11-24-17 Keystone spill
About 5,000 barrels of oil, roughly 210,000 gallons, leaked from the Keystone Pipeline last week, staining a field in a remote part of the state. No livestock or drinking-water sources were threatened by the spill, which happened at least a mile away from any homes. Calgary-based TransCanada, which owns the pipeline, said the leak was “completely isolated” within 15 minutes. The news galvanized environmentalists opposed to the controversial Keystone XL extension, which would carry an estimated 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska to meet the existing Keystone pipeline. “This disastrous spill from the first Keystone Pipeline makes clear why Keystone XL should never be built,” said Jared Margolis, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. Days after the spill, the Nebraska regulators approved the Keystone XL route through the state.
11-24-17 Nasa timelapse paints 'most complete picture of life' to date
A new timelapse video created by Nasa captures 20 years of life on land and sea, in what scientists are calling the "most complete global picture of life on Earth to date".
11-23-17 Deep fat fryers may help form cooling clouds
Fatty acids released into the air from cooking may contribute to the formation of clouds that cool the climate, say scientists. Fatty acid molecules comprise about 10% of fine particulates over London, and such particles help seed clouds. But researchers dismiss the idea that cooking fats could be used as a geo-engineering tool to reduce warming. Instead, the research is designed to help reduce uncertainties about the role of cooking fats on climate. Researchers believe the fatty molecules arrange themselves into complex 3-D structures in atmospheric droplets. These aerosols persist for longer than normal and can seed the formation of clouds which experts say can have a cooling effect on the climate. The authors say the study will shed new light on the long term role of aerosols on temperatures. Atmospheric aerosols are one of the areas of climate science where there are considerable uncertainties. The description covers tiny particles that can be either solid or liquid, ranging from the dusts of the Saharan desert to soot to aerosols formed by chemical reaction. These can have a variety of impacts, while most aerosols reflect sunlight back into space others absorb it.
11-22-17 Light pollution is set to double between now and 2050
The first global “light census” shows that the area affected by artificial lighting is growing by 2.2 per cent every year, posing risks to wildlife and human health. Light pollution is getting exponentially worse. The area of Earth lit by artificial lights grew by 9 per cent in four years. If that continues, the total illuminated area of the Earth will double from what it was in 2012 before 2050. The retreat is likely to impact nocturnal wildlife and people’s health, by disrupting natural day-night cycles, as well as further obscuring our view of the heavens. “Dark areas are being lost in places where nocturnal animals, insects and plants have adapted to darkness over billions of years,” says Franz Hölker of the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin, Germany. “Our most dramatic result is the exponential growth in illuminated areas and light levels globally.” Hölker, Christopher Kyba of the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam and their colleagues used data from a satellite that senses light with wavelengths between 500 and 900 nanometres – from green light to infrared. The satellite could resolve surface features as small as 750 metres, allowing precision monitoring of artificial lighting in towns and cities. From 2012 to 2016, the area illuminated and global brightness both rose by 2.2 per cent per year. If that continues, “the Earth’s lit area could double in 32 years from 2012,” says Kyba.
11-22-17 Light pollution: Night being lost in many countries
A study of pictures of Earth by night has revealed that artificial light is growing brighter and more extensive every year. Between 2012 and 2016, the planet's artificially lit outdoor area grew by more than 2% per year. Scientists say a "loss of night" in many countries is having negative consequences for "flora, fauna, and human well-being". A team published the findings in the journal Science Advances. Their study used data from a Nasa satellite radiometer - a device designed specifically to measure the brightness of night-time light. It showed that changes in brightness over time varied greatly by country. Some of the world's "brightest nations", such as the US and Spain, remained the same. Most nations in South America, Africa and Asia grew brighter. Only a few countries showed a decrease in brightness, such as Yemen and Syria - both experiencing warfare. The nocturnal satellite images - of glowing coastlines and spider-like city networks - look quite beautiful but artificial lighting has unintended consequences for human health and the environment.
- In 2016, the American Medical Association officially recognised the "detrimental effects of poorly designed, high-intensity LED lighting", saying it encouraged communities to "minimise and control blue-rich environmental lighting by using the lowest emission of blue light possible to reduce glare. The sleep-inducing hormone melatonin is particularly sensitive to blue light.
- A recent study published in the journal Nature revealed that artificial light was a threat to crop pollination - reducing the pollinating activity of nocturnal insects.
- Research in the UK revealed that trees in more brightly lit areas burst their buds up to a week earlier than those in areas without artificial lighting.
- A study published earlier this year found that urban light installations "dramatically altered" the behaviour of nocturnally migrating birds.
11-22-17 Dan McKenzie: The man who made Earth move
50 years ago, the theory of plate tectonics was radical counterculture – until some chance happenings in the Summer of Love sent it mainstream. IT WAS 1967, and a profound shift in our understanding of the planet was taking place. In San Francisco, hippies gathered to celebrate counterculture and jolt our social consciousness. Meanwhile, in the far south of California, a young geologist was working on an idea that would cause as profound a revolution in Earth science as the discovery of DNA in biology. Dan McKenzie spent the Summer of Love figuring out the theory of plate tectonics. For decades, suspicion had been growing that Earth’s surface wasn’t static, that the continents could and did move. In the early 1900s, Alfred Wegener proposed that continents drifted like giant icebergs floating on the ocean. It certainly looked as if they did, since the outlines of Africa and South America, and their rock types and fossils, matched up in ways that suggested the two continents had once been joined. But Wegener couldn’t say why continents moved – so few people took his idea seriously. The fact remained, however, that certain things taking place on the surface of the planet just didn’t make sense. Volcanic eruptions were a mystery, earthquakes even more so. And no one quite knew why mountain ranges formed. In many ways, it wasn’t surprising that people didn’t understand what was happening, since there was so little to go on. In the early 20th century, there was no seismology, no accurate location data for earthquakes and no detailed knowledge of the sea floor. That all changed after the second world war. (Webmaster's comment: The actual first Scientist to propose Continental Drift was Alfred Wegener in 1915. You can read about what he proposed in the chapter "Continents on the Move" in the book The Mysterious World: An Atlas of the Unexplained on the Sioux Falls Free Thinkers website. He was way ahead of his time.)
11-21-17 A mysterious ancient 'geomagnetic spike' is challenging what we know about Earth
What's really happening beneath Earth's surface? Researchers are starting to get some clues. The Earth's magnetic field, generated some 3,000 kilmoeters below our feet in the liquid iron core, threads through the whole planet and far into space — protecting life and satellites from harmful radiation from the sun. But this shielding effect is far from constant, as the field strength varies significantly in both space and time. Over the last century, the field strength has changed relatively slowly: The biggest change is a 10 percent fall in the southern Atlantic, which is still a large enough effect to cause electronic problems for satellites that have passed through the region. However, new observations and modeling suggest that a much greater change strangely occurred around 1000 B.C. in a much smaller region. This "geomagnetic spike" offers a potentially profound new insight into the dynamics and evolution of Earth's hidden interior that is now starting to be uncovered. So what are geomagnetic spikes and what are the prospects and implications of another one coming along? The geomagnetic spike of 1000 B.C. was first identified from copper slag heaps located in Jordan and Israel. These were dated from organic material within the slag heaps using radiocarbon dating. Scientists then investigated the copper using sophisticated laboratory techniques to work out what the Earth's magnetic field was at the time — relying on the fact that when melted iron cools rapidly, it freezes with a signature of the field at that instant. By taking samples from different layers of the slag heap — with slightly different ages and magnetization — they could also see how the field strength changed with time. They found that the copper slag had recorded Earth's magnetic field strength rising and then falling by over 100 percent in only 30 years.
11-21-17 Latest climate talks actually made progress despite US obstinacy
While the US tried to promote “clean coal” at the COP23 Bonn climate meeting, other countries called for the dirty fossil fuel to be rapidly phased out. The latest meeting to discuss international action on climate change has made modest progress. It did so despite the US stating earlier this year that it plans to withdraw from the Paris agreement. “It showed that the rest of the world is steadfast in its support for the Paris agreement, despite the backwards steps being taken by the federal government in the United States,” said Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics. At the meeting in Bonn, Germany, last week, over 20 governments called for a rapid phase-out of coal. The “Powering Past Coal Alliance” was led by the UK and Canada, which have unilaterally decided to phase out coal by 2025 and 2030 respectively. However, the other countries have not committed to a specific date. Coal is one of the dirtiest fuels, both in terms of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, so phasing it out quickly would make a huge difference. Global emissions of carbon dioxide from coal are already falling, because it is being outcompeted by other energy sources and because China is trying to cut air pollution. However, many countries – including Germany – still rely heavily on coal. Globally, around 1600 new coal plants are still planned or being built. At the only official event held by the US delegation in Bonn, officials and business leaders called for “cleaner fossil fuels”. The event was disrupted by protestors, and the attempt to promote “clean coal” was widely condemned. “Promoting coal at a climate summit is like promoting tobacco at a cancer summit,” said New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Donald Trump has pledged to revive coal’s fortunes in the US, but he is unlikely to deliver. Not only is coal facing tough competition from gas and renewables, but many US states and cities remain committed to climate action.
11-21-17 Keystone XL oil pipeline will go ahead despite last week’s spill
Last week the Keystone pipeline spilled 5,000 barrels of oil. This week Nebraska decided to allow the Keystone XL extension to be built right through the state. Nebraska has given the okay for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to run through the state – even though the existing Keystone pipeline spilled thousands of barrels of oil just last week. On Thursday morning, the Keystone pipeline sprang a leak near Amherst, South Dakota. It spilled 5,000 barrels of oil – nearly 800,000 litres – that leeched through the ground to the surface. Despite local concerns, the spill doesn’t seem to have affected the region’s aquifers or surface water. “There may be some shallow ground water present at the site, but it is not part of a mapped aquifer system,” says Brian Walsh at the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Clean-up efforts are focused on disposing of contaminated soil. The Keystone pipeline is owned by TransCanada, an energy company based in Calgary. It transports oil from western Canada’s tar sands region to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, where the oil is refined and processed into usable gasoline and diesel. Tar sands produce some of the lowest grade oil in the world: it is so thick and goopy, it has to be diluted to move through pipelines. The South Dakota spill came just days before a key decision on a proposed extension to the pipeline, Keystone XL. But while it might have been expected to cause some hesitation, it did not. Yesterday the Nebraska Public Service Commission decided to approve a route for the $8 billion pipeline through their state. (Webmaster's comment: Profits first, safety and the enviroment second. Plus it's obvious American workers are no longer competent to build a pipeline that doesn't leak!)
11-21-17 Bialowieza forest: EU threatens Poland with fine over logging
Europe's top court has given Poland 15 days to prove it has complied with a court order to stop logging in Europe's oldest forest or face fines of €100,000 ($118,000; £89,000) a day. The European Court of Justice said it was taking action to avoid serious and irreparable damage to the Bialowieza forest, a Unesco World Heritage site. Poland has not yet commented. In a controversial decision last year, it approved a threefold increase in logging to combat spruce bark beetle. The European Commission, which is taking legal action against Poland, has said the logging threatens the habitat of birds and animals, including bison, and can only continue in places where public safety is at risk. The ECJ said it agreed to the imposition of daily fines because there were grounds to doubt that Poland had complied with its ruling in July to immediately halt the logging. The European Commission argues that Poland has simply ignored the July court order and large mechanical harvesters have continued to remove trees. Environmental groups say this is the first time the court has felt the need to impose fines on a country before the case is concluded.
11-21-17 Even a tiny oil spill spells bad news for birds
Eating small amounts of the crude form left the animals lagging. Birds don’t need to be drenched in crude oil to be harmed by spills and leaks. Ingesting even small amounts of oil can interfere with the animals’ normal behavior, researchers reported November 15 at the annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry North America. Birds can take in these smaller doses by preening slightly greasy feathers or eating contaminated food, for example. Big oil spills, such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, leave a trail of dead and visibly oily birds (SN: 4/18/15, p. 22). But incidents like last week’s 5,000-barrel spill from the Keystone pipeline — and smaller spills that don’t make national headlines — can also impact wildlife, even if they don’t spur dramatic photos. To test how oil snacks might affect birds, researchers fed zebra finches small amounts of crude oil or peanut oil for two weeks, then analyzed the birds’ blood and behavior. Birds fed the crude oil were less active and spent less time preening their feathers than birds fed peanut oil, said study coauthor Christopher Goodchild, an ecotoxicologist at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. Oil-soaked birds will often preen excessively to try to remove the oil, sometimes at the expense of other important activities such as feeding. But in this case, the birds didn’t have any crude oil on their feathers, so the decrease in preening is probably a sign they’re not feeling well, the researchers say. (Webmaster's comment: It like being bathed in poison. Thanks people!)
11-21-17 Russia confirms ‘extremely high’ radiation levels in toxic cloud
Earlier this month, France's nuclear safety agency said it had recorded radioactivity in the area near the Ural Mountains - and Russia has now verified the readings. Russian authorities have confirmed reports of a spike in radioactivity in the air over the Ural Mountains. The Russian Meteorological Service said it recorded the release of Ruthenium-106 in the southern Urals in late September and classified it as “extremely high contamination”. France’s nuclear safety agency earlier this month said that it recorded radioactivity in the area between the Volga River and the Ural Mountains from a suspected accident involving nuclear fuel or the production of radioactive material. It said the release of the isotope Ruthenium-106 posed no health or environmental risks to European countries. At the time, Russia’s state-controlled Rosatom corporation said there had been no radiation leak from its facilities. The Russian meteorological office’s report, however, noted high levels of radiation in the villages adjacent to Rosatom’s Mayak plant for spent nuclear fuel. Mayak has denied being the source of contamination. The plant said it has not conducted any work on extracting Ruthenium-106 from spent nuclear fuel “for several years”. Mayak, in the Chelyabinsk region, has been responsible for at least two of Russia’s biggest radioactive accidents. In 2004 it was confirmed that waste was being dumped in the local river. Nuclear regulators say that no longer happens, but anti-nuclear activists say it is impossible to tell given the level of state secrecy. Environmental pressure group Greenpeace said it would petition the Russian Prosecutor General’s office to investigate “a possible concealment of a radiation accident” and check whether public health was sufficiently protected.
11-21-17 Russia denies nuclear accident after radioactive traces found
Russia says a nuclear accident has not occurred on its territory despite "extremely high" traces of a radioactive isotope being found. Russia's weather service acknowledged it had measured pollution of ruthenium-106 at 1,000 times normal levels in the Ural mountains. It said there was no health risk. The announcement appeared to confirm a report by France's nuclear safety institute which detected a cloud of radioactive pollution over Europe. The Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) said on 9 November it had detected ruthenium-106 in France. It added that the source of contamination could have been an accident at a nuclear facility in either Russia or Kazakhstan. Both countries said nothing untoward had happened at their plants. The report by the Russian meteorological service, Roshydrome, is the first official data from the country supporting the French report. Roshydrome said two stations in the southern Ural mountains found "extremely high pollution" of the radioactive isotope between September and October. A station close to the Mayak nuclear facility in Chelyabinsk region indicated levels 986 times those of the previous month, it said, without specifying the origins of the pollution. Mayak, owned by state nuclear company Rosatom, is a large plant that reprocesses nuclear fuel. It said it was not the source of the increased level of ruthenium-106 while Rosatom said there were no accidents at any of its facilities.
11-20-17 Spongy clay might create huge water deposits deep inside Earth
We might finally know how ocean-sized deposits of water hundreds of kilometres below Earth's surface are getting there: a spongy sort of clay that is bringing it underground. We might finally know how ocean-sized deposits of water hundreds of kilometres below Earth’s surface are getting there. A form of clay, called kaolinite, might be soaking up water like a sponge and bringing it deep underground. Depending on the location, kaolinite accounts for between 5 and 60 per cent of ocean sediment . Now, geologists have demonstrated how it can act as an irrigation system for the upper mantle, the mineral and rock layer that descends to more than 400 kilometres beneath our feet. The clay gets sucked down underground when an oceanic plate collides with the continental crust and nosedives beneath it in a process called subduction, reaching depths sometimes deeper than the upper mantle after millions of years. Lab experiments simulating the escalating pressures and temperatures encountered during the descent have now shown for the first time that kaolinite can absorb huge amounts of water. In its “super-hydrated” form, water accounts for 29 per cent of its weight. This is the maximum amount it can carry, and happens at depths of around 75 kilometres where the clay meets temperatures of 200 degrees Celsius and pressures of 2.7 Giga Pascal, more than 25,000 times the pressure at sea level. Halfway to the upper mantle boundary, at depths of around 200 kilometres where the temperatures top 500 degrees Celsius and pressures exceed 5 Giga Pascal, the clay starts to lose its water, and continues doing so till it reaches the boundary and beyond, down as far as 480 kilometres.
11-20-17 Tropical forests are now producing more carbon dioxide than they soak up
That's not good. Conventional wisdom has long held that tropical forests soak up carbon dioxide and help blunt the impact of industrial greenhouse gas emissions. But recent research finds that the tropics are now adding to the problem of global warming faster than they can absorb excess carbon. In other words, tropical forests are now a net carbon source rather than the carbon "sinks" they were previously thought to be. The research, recently published in Science Magazine, finds that the world's tropical forests have annual net carbon emissions of 425 teragrams. For some perspective, that is more than the total annual emissions from cars and trucks in the U.S. and almost as much as the entire U.S. transportation sector. The study looked at the period between 2003 and 2014. During that time, some tropical areas were net carbon sources, some were net carbon sinks and others changed from being a sink to a source, says lead author Alessandro Bassini of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. For example, he says, up to the year 2007, the Democratic Republic of Congo was a net carbon sink. After 2007, it became a net carbon source. Human activity is the biggest threat to the continued ability of tropical forests to store carbon. While deforestation has for years been the primary concern, Bassini says his research was also, for the first time, able to quantify losses due to degradation and disturbance. "Until now, the focus has been on deforestation and we knew that there was something more happening," he explains. "This study is showing how [the] removal of single trees here and there, and just the mortality of trees in the forest, results in a significant amount of loss."
11-20-17 Antarctic glacier's rough belly exposed
The melting Antarctic ice stream that is currently adding most to sea-level rise may be more resilient to change than previously recognised. New radar images reveal the mighty Pine Island Glacier (PIG) to be sitting on a rugged rock bed populated by big hills, tall cliffs and deep scour marks. Such features are likely to slow the ice body’s retreat as the climate warms, researchers say. The study appears in the journal Nature Communications. "We've imaged the shape of the bed at a smaller scale than ever before and the message is really quite profound for the ice flow and potentially for the retreat of the glacier," said lead author Dr Rob Bingham from Edinburgh University. "Where the bed is flat - that’s where we will see major retreat. But where we see these large hills and these other rough features - that’s where we may see the retreat slowed if not stemmed," he told BBC News. The PIG is a vast feature in West Antarctica. The glacier runs alongside the Hudson mountains into the Amundsen Sea, draining an area covering more than 160,000 sq km - about two-thirds the size of the UK. Its remoteness makes it extremely difficult to study, and it is only in the past 20 years or so, with the aid of satellites, that scientists have realised the glacier is undergoing significant change. The PIG has sped up and thinned as warmer ocean waters have got under its floating front to melt the ice from below. The grounding line - the point where this front starts to become buoyant - has pulled back towards the land by more than 30km since the early 1990s, leading some researchers to believe the whole glacier could collapse within a few hundred years if global warming accelerates matters. But to have real confidence in modelling its future behaviour, scientists need to know far more about the PIG. In particular, they need to understand better the type of ground over which the ice is sliding.
11-20-17 Watch NASA’s mesmerizing new visualization of the 2017 hurricane season
Supercomputers and advanced physics made the stunning new simulation possible. How do you observe the invisible currents of the atmosphere? By studying the swirling, billowing loads of sand, sea salt and smoke that winds carry. A new simulation created by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., reveals just how far around the globe such aerosol particles can fly on the wind. The complex new simulation , powered by supercomputers, uses advanced physics and a state-of-the-art climate algorithm known as FV3 to represent in high resolution the physical interactions of aerosols with storms or other weather patterns on a global scale (SN Online: 9/21/17). Using data collected from NASA’s Earth-observing satellites, the simulation tracked how air currents swept aerosols around the planet from August 1, 2017, through November 1, 2017. In the animation, sea salt (in blue) snagged by winds sweeping across the ocean’s surface becomes entrained in hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria, revealing their deadly paths. Wisps of smoke (in gray) from fires in the U.S. Pacific Northwest drift toward the eastern United States, while Saharan dust (in brown) billows westward across the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. And the visualization shows how Hurricane Ophelia formed off the coast of Africa, pulling in both Saharan dust and smoke from Portugal’s wildfires and transporting the particles to Ireland and the United Kingdom.
11-19-17 Bosnia's silent killer: The coal industry
After the US decision to quit the Paris climate agreement, the European Union set its sights on becoming a global leader in curbing fossil fuel emissions. But some of its eastern neighbours that seek to join the bloc have severe levels of air pollution. Many people are switching back to coal as a cheaper alternative to imported gas from Russia. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the high level of air pollution has become a cause for alarm for the locals.
11-18-17 How worried should we be about melting ice caps?
The UN climate change conference in Bonn, designed to activate the Paris agreement about greenhouse gases in 2020 that President Trump pulled out of earlier this year, has come to an end. BBC Science Editor David Shukman has looked into how worried we actually should be about melting polar caps.
11-18-17 Small steps forward as UN climate talks end in Bonn
UN climate talks in Bonn have concluded with progress on technical issues, but with bigger questions about cutting carbon unresolved. Delegates say they are pleased that the rulebook for the Paris climate agreement is finally coming together. But these technical discussions took place against the backdrop of a larger battle about coal, oil and gas. It means that next year's conference in Poland is set for a major showdown on the future of fossil fuels. This meeting, known as COP23, was tasked with clarifying complex operational issues around the workings of the Paris climate agreement. One of the most important elements was the development of a process that would help countries to review and ratchet up their commitments to cut carbon. Fiji, holding the presidency of this meeting, proposed what's being called the Talanoa Dialogue. Over the next year, a series of discussions will take place to help countries look at the promises they have made under the Paris pact. "A key element in Poland is this Talanoa dialogue, to make sure it doesn't result in just a talk show," said Yamide Dagnet with the World Resources Institute. "In Poland, ministers will have to look each other in the eye and say they will go home and enhance their actions, so that by 2020 we end up with national plans that will be a much more ambitious set of climate actions." Looming over these discussions in Bonn was the question of coal, oil and gas. US coal and nuclear companies organised a presentation here arguing that fossil fuels should be a key part of the solution to rising temperatures. (Webmaster's comment: Of course the United States would argue for making more money for it's coal, oil and gas executives. That's who rules America. The rich executives!)
11-17-17 The key to breaking down plastic may be in caterpillars’ guts
Insect larvae that eat polyethylene have diverse bacterial cocktail in their stomach To destroy plastic, caterpillars go with their gut bacteria. Caterpillars that nibble through polyethylene plastic cultivate a diverse community of digestive bacteria that process the plastic, researchers reported November 13 at the annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry North America. Dousing old plastic in a similar mix of bacteria might speed the breakdown of the persistent pollutant. Polyethylene is widely used to make plastic bags and other packaging materials, but it hangs around in landfills for decades, perhaps even centuries. Recently, scientists identified several species of caterpillars that appear to eat and digest the plastic, breaking it down. But dumping old shopping bags into a den of caterpillars isn’t really a practical large-scale strategy for getting rid of the plastic. So to figure out the insects’ secret, researchers fed polyethylene to the larvae of pantry moths, Plodia interpunctella, and then looked at the bacteria in the caterpillars’ guts. Caterpillars that ate a control diet of bran and wheat had guts mostly dominated by Turicibacter, a group of bacteria commonly found in animals’ digestive tracts. But the caterpillars that munched on the plastic had a much more diverse native microbial community. In particular, they had high levels of a few types of bacteria: Tepidimonas, Pseudomonas, Rhizobiales and Methylobacteriaceae.
11-17-17 Air pollution will only get worse
New Delhi is choking under a dense cloud of toxic smog, said Darryl D’Monte. Schools were closed last week, flights were canceled, and poor visibility led to car accidents. The rich stayed inside, sucking down pure air through their home filters. Everyone else had to breathe in the thick white haze, an experience akin to smoking 50 cigarettes a day. This smog descends on New Delhi every year as winter approaches, when pollutants settle on the city, mixing with smoke from burning crop waste in neighboring states. And it’s not only the capital: the World Health Organization says 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India. The “public health menace” isn’t just bad for our bodies. It also hurts the economy, through slowed production, soaring hospital bills, and lost tourism. Government intervention is sorely needed. Farmers should be encouraged to recycle waste rather than burning it, and power stations must be cleaned up and strictly regulated. But the main issue is vehicles. The big cities need better public transportation, and particularly green bus systems. Car owners should be discouraged from driving, with drastic increases in parking fees and the adoption of alternate-day restrictions based on license plates. If authorities in the capital fail to implement these commonsense policies, Delhi will remain “the air pollution pariah of the world.”
11-17-17 Ozone hole shrinking
The hole in Earth’s critical ozone layer is the smallest it has been in 30 years, primarily thanks to a ban on the chemicals that created it, according to scientists at NASA and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Back in 1974, chemists at the University of California, Irvine warned that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in aerosols, air conditioners, and refrigerators were accumulating in the upper atmosphere and would deplete atmospheric ozone, which shields life on Earth from the sun’s harmful UV rays. As predicted, CFCs eventually chewed a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica. The 1987 Montreal Protocol eliminated the use of CFCs, although these chemicals linger in the atmosphere for decades. Using satellite data, weather balloons, and ground observations, researchers monitoring the hole found it had a maximum size of 7.6 million square miles this year—1.3 million square miles less than in 2016 and 3.9 million square miles less than at its peak in 2000. The global ban on CFCs is slowly healing the ozone layer, but scientists estimate it won’t return to its pre-1980 condition until about 2070. Had there been no CFC ban, scientists say, there would have been 2 million additional skin cancer cases a year by 2030.
11-17-17 Why setting ‘safe’ limits for environmental damage won’t work
The boundaries set for human impacts on the planet are deeply flawed and only encourage us to keep pushing towards them, warns Stuart Pimm. It is such a seductive idea at a time when environmental worries seem to be multiplying rapidly. So long as we keep the impacts of human activity within set limits we can carry on as we are without jeopardising the ability of Earth’s ecosystems to recover. Breaching these “planetary boundaries”, goes the argument, takes us to tipping points – rapid and irreversible transitions to a world much less favourable to human existence. This school of thought combines the whiff of some serious mathematics – catastrophe theory – with folksy wisdom that says “we’re safe, so long as we don’t cross the line”. Alas, this is deeply flawed for several reasons. With more and more predictions of environmental doom and use of the boundaries idea to guide us, my colleagues and I felt the need to raise the alarm (Trends in Ecology and Evolution, doi.org/cgcg). First, there is no evidence that the natural systems in question work in this way and, indeed, there are compelling arguments that they cannot. The original idea of planetary boundaries involved looking at nine global, environmental processes affected by human actions, such as fresh water consumption, and the safe limits for them. One of those – the rate of species extinction – was argued to have broken the boundary value of 10 extinctions per million species per year and so was into tipping point territory.
11-17-17 Fishing 'best argument for seagrass conservation'
The importance of seagrasses is further emphasised in a new report that looks at how they underpin fishing worldwide. These flowering plants, which grow in near-shore waters, are under intense pressure - some estimates suggest global losses are running at 7% a year. The grasses provide shelter and food for many sea creatures and that makes them a natural draw to fishers. But Richard Unsworth and colleagues say this valuable resource will need better management if it is to be sustained. "Our study is really the first to show just how important seagrass meadows are to fishing," explained the researcher from Swansea University in the UK. "Wherever you get seagrasses, you get fishing, basically," he told BBC News. Seagrass meadows are found around every continent except Antarctica. The plants cycle nutrients, stabilise sediments, and - as photosynthesisers - act as a "sink" for carbon dioxide. They also provide nursery habitat for juvenile fish, which hide from predators among the stems. However, the scale of the importance of the meadows to fisheries has been more supposition than fact because of a paucity of data on how they are actually used, according to Dr Unsworth.
11-17-17 Fluorescence could help diagnose sick corals
Imaging technique offers a new way to monitor reef health. Sickness makes some corals lose their glow. Disease reduces a coral’s overall fluorescence even before any sign of the infection is visible to the naked eye, a new study finds. An imaging technique that illuminates the change could help with efforts to better monitor coral health, researchers report November 6 in Scientific Reports. Many corals naturally produce fluorescent proteins that glow in a wavelength of light that human eyes can’t see in natural light. Previous studies have shown that heat stress and wounding, among others stressors, can affect coral fluorescence, but the new study is the first to look at the relationship between fluorescence and infectious disease. Jamie Caldwell, a disease ecologist now at Stanford University, and colleagues used a technique called live-imaging laser scanning confocal microscopy to compare fluorescence in living fragments of healthy and diseased Montipora capitata coral. The reef coral, common in Hawaii, fluoresces in red and cyan, and can contract a bacterial infection called Montipora white syndrome, which causes coral lesions and tissue loss.n
11-17-17 Tesla’s electric trucks are great but they won’t save the planet
The electric trucks being unveiled by Tesla and co will speed the transition from fossil fuels. But to cut transport emissions, we must curb road freight too. Electric cars used to be a joke – the ugly, expensive option for wealthy tree-huggers. But thanks to companies like Tesla, they are now sleek, desirable and increasingly affordable. With the car revolution already under way, Tesla and other manufacturers are turning their attention to heavier vehicles. Yesterday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled his all-electric truck, the Tesla Semi, in a showy event attended by hundreds of guests. Just a few years ago it seemed unlikely that diesel’s dominance in heavy vehicles could ever be challenged. Now the question is how long the transition away from diesel will take – and whether it will deliver the massive and rapid reductions in emissions we so desperately need to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Road transport produces around 4 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide a year, about a sixth of annual greenhouse emissions. These road emissions are growing inexorably, and could triple by 2050. There is wide agreement that it is time to start phasing out cars with internal combustion engines. A few countries even intend to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles – Norway plans to do it as early as 2025. Cars are the easy part, however. Around 40 per cent of road transport emissions comes from freight. To reduce these, we really need electric trucks to take off in a big way. But there is a fundamental problem. The further you want to go in an electric vehicle, the more batteries you need. These are big and heavy, so the more you put in a truck, the less cargo you can haul.
11-17-17 Tesla unveils first truck - and roadster
Tesla has unveiled its first electric articulated lorry, designed to challenge diesel trucks as king of the road. The long-anticipated Tesla Semi has a range of 500 miles on a single charge. Tesla says the vehicle - known in the US as a semi-trailer truck - will go into production in 2019. Chief executive Elon Musk also unexpectedly revealed a new Roadster, which he said would be "the fastest production car ever" made. The red sports car was driven out of the trailer of the electric lorry during Tesla's presentation on Thursday. The Roadster will have a range of close to 1,000km (620 miles) on a single charge and will do 0-100mph in 4.2 seconds. Mr Musk described it as "a hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars". He said riding in traditional cars would be like driving "a steam engine with a side of quiche". The new Roadster becomes available in 2020. The Tesla Semi will achieve 0-60mph in 20 seconds when pulling 36,287kgs (80,000lbs), the maximum allowed on US roads. Speaking on stage at Tesla's facility in Los Angeles, chief executive Elon Musk said: "It's not like any truck that you've ever driven." However, the charismatic Mr Musk faces continued pressure from investors and customers as the firm struggles to meet demand for its Model 3 car. The Model 3 is behind schedule due to factory delays, a situation Mr Musk described recently as “production hell”
11-16-17 UK and Canada lead global alliance against coal
The UK and Canada have launched a global alliance of 20 countries committed to phasing out coal for energy production. Members including France, Finland and Mexico, say they will end the use of coal before 2030. Ministers hope to have 50 countries signed up by the time of the next major UN conference in Poland next year. However some important coal consuming nations, including China, the US and Germany have not joined the group. Reducing global coal use is a formidable challenge, as the fuel produces around 40% of the world's electricity at present. As a highly carbon intensive source, coal contributes significantly to the rising levels of CO2 emissions that scientists reported earlier this week. Researchers say that if the world is to curb dramatic temperature rises this century then coal use must be limited. Called the Powering Past Coal Alliance, this new initiative sees countries, regions and provinces, signing up to setting coal phase-out targets and committing to no new investments in coal-fired electricity in their national jurisdictions or abroad. The UK has said it will end the generation of electricity from unabated coal by 2025. Unabated means that the coal is burnt without capturing the resulting carbon emissions. Already, the move away from coal in the UK has been rapid. Around 40% of electricity was still being generated from coal in 2012 but in April this year the UK had its first full day without coal power in 135 years. "We have not sacrificed growth," said Claire Perry, the UK's minister for climate change and industry. "Since 1990 Britain has cut its emissions buy 42% and our economy has grown by 67%, that's the best performance in the G7 so this is not something that's a win-lose, it's a win-win situation."
11-16-17 Nasa forecast: Which cities will flood as ice melts?
A forecasting tool reveals which cities will be affected as different portions of the ice sheet melt, say scientists. It looks at the Earth's spin and gravitational effects to predict how water will be "redistributed" globally. "This provides, for each city, a picture of which glaciers, ice sheets, [and] ice caps are of specific importance," say the researchers. The tool has been developed by scientists at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Their findings are published in the journal Science Advances. Senior scientist Dr Erik Ivins said: "As cities and countries attempt to build plans to mitigate flooding, they have to be thinking about 100 years in the future and they want to assess risk in the same way that insurance companies do." And this new tool provided a way for them to work out which ice sheets they should be "most worried about". It suggests that in London sea-level rise could be significantly affected by changes in the north-western part of the Greenland ice sheet. While for New York, the area of concern is the ice sheet's entire northern and eastern portions. Sea level changes in Sydney, the forecast shows, are "very strongly influenced" by ice changes that occur along the north-northeast and north-northwest coasts of Antarctica. Dr Eric Larour, the lead developer on this project from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explained that three key processes influenced the "sea-level fingerprint", or pattern of sea-level change around the world. The first is gravity. "These [ice sheets] are huge masses that exert an attraction on the ocean," said Dr Larour. "When the ice shrinks, that attraction diminishes- and the sea will move away from that mass." As well as this "push-pull influence" of ice, the ground under a melting ice sheet expands vertically, having previously been compressed by the sheer weight of ice. The last factor involves the rotation of the planet itself. "You can think of the Earth as a spinning top," said Dr Larour. "As it spins it wobbles and as masses on its surface change, that wobble also changes. "That, in turn, redistributes water around the Earth."
11-15-17 Climate's magic rabbit: Pulling CO2 out of thin air
UN climate negotiators are meeting in Bonn amid a welter of reports indicating that concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have broken records, while international attempts to curb greenhouse gases are not doing enough to avoid dangerous levels of warming. Our environment correspondent Matt McGrath has travelled to Switzerland to see if technology to remove CO2 from the air could be the answer to this ongoing carbon conundrum. While CO2 concentrations are now higher than they have been in at least 800,000 years, the gas still only accounts for a tiny 0.04% of our atmosphere. However, extracting carbon dioxide from well mixed air is not just technically difficult, it's expensive as well. A half-hour outside Zurich stands one of the frontline attempts to develop a commercial approach to sucking down CO2. On the roof of a large recycling centre at Hinwil stand 18 metal fans, stacked on top of each, each about the size of a large domestic washing machine. This is not supposed to be a demonstration of a clever technology - for the developers, making money from CO2 is critical. "This is the first time we are commercially selling CO2; this is the first of its kind," co-founder Jan Wurzbacher told BBC News. "It has to be for business; CO2 capture can't work for free." Right now Climeworks is selling the gas to the vegetable growers next door for less than $600 per tonne, which is very expensive. But the company says that this is because it has built its extraction devices from scratch - everything is bespoke. The firm believes that like solar and wind energy, costs will rapidly fall once production is scaled up. "The magic number we always say is $100 per tonne," said Jan Wurzbacher. "We have drawn a road down to the region of $100 and that is something we think is feasible. We can do it by scaling up the mass production of our components. I'd say half of the way to go there - we know what to do. We just have to do it over the next two or three years." (Webmaster's comment: I have yet to see the cost of one of these machines published! It certainly doesn't look cheap.)
11-15-17 Trump team looks for alternative approaches to Paris pact
President Trump's special adviser on climate says that the US is seeking ways of continuing to be part of international climate discussions. George David Banks said the US was considering reviving the Major Economies Meeting (MEM). The Bush-era forum allowed the US to remain in climate discussions even when outside the formal process. The leaders of France and Germany will address the talks today amid concern over slow progress in cutting carbon. The group first met in September 2007 and featured delegations from the US, China, the EU, the UK and other countries with high levels of carbon emissions. At the time the US was outside the formal UN climate negotiating process, having signed but not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which limited the emissions of richer nations only. When President Obama came into office, the MEM became the Major Emitters Forum, which helped shape the approach of larger economies in the run up to the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. The forum continued, in a much-reduced form until 2015. Now, President Trump's key climate change adviser thinks it might be a way forward for discussions. "We are looking into the possibility of having a major economies meeting, it is being discussed," he told reporters on the sidelines of this meeting in the former German capital. "The only way you are going to have a rational discussion about climate mitigation and policy in general is if you bring in the economic and energy advisers, you are not going to have kind of conversation as long as it dominated by environment ministries."
11-15-17 Europe steps in to cover US shortfall in funding climate science
French president Emmanuel Macron says that Europe will cover any shortfall in funding for global climate body, the IPCC. The scientific organisation has faced uncertainty since President Donald Trump outlined plans earlier this year to cut US funding. The UK government also pledged to double their IPCC contribution. Speaking at UN talks in Bonn, Mr Macron said that climate change was the most significant struggle of our times. Today saw the start of the high level segment at this meeting of global climate negotiators known as COP23. In his statement to negotiators, the French president outlined the need for increased commitments to cut carbon. Mr Macron said these decisions must be based on clear scientific information. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has long been seen as a key element of that system of advice to governments. Their assessment reports, which come out every six or seven years, are critical in informing the public and governments about the causes and impacts of climate change.
11-14-17 If we only ate organic it would be an environmental disaster
Organic food production requires more land, but a study claims cutting meat eating and food waste will solve this problem. It won’t. Should the world’s farms go 100 per cent organic to protect the environment? Absolutely not. One huge problem is that organic farming requires far more land than conventional farming to produce the same amount of food. According to a study out today, going all-organic would require up to a third more land to feed the world by 2050 (some studies say more than twice as much land would be needed). But the authors say we should do it anyway because, they claim, massive cuts in food waste and meat consumption mean we could make the switch with no increase in land use overall. Spot the logical flaws. This is the equivalent of arguing that it’s OK for everyone to start smoking because yet-to-exist medical advances will prevent any rise in the number of deaths caused by smoking. Of course we should try to get people to eat less meat and waste less food. But with meat consumption rising relentlessly as the world’s growing population gets wealthier, the idea that it can be hugely reduced seems wildly implausible. As does the idea that food waste can be reduced by half. And how would this work in practice? Would farmers be forbidden to go organic unless meat consumption falls? Will they be ordered to switch back to conventional farming if food waste increases?
11-14-17 Trump touts big energy deals in Asia
US President Donald Trump wraps up a 12-day tour of Asia on Tuesday which he said created $300bn (£228bn) in sales to companies in the region and several major energy deals. Energy agreements made up roughly half the total value of deals in China. If it proceeds, a project in Alaska would mark the first major investment by a Chinese energy firm in the US. But analysts have doubts over whether this, and other, multi-billion dollar projects will be realised. Mr Trump adopted a defiant tone on commerce during his five-nation tour through Asia and said the US would no longer tolerate "chronic trade abuses". He stressed the need to narrow "unfair" trade deficits while touting billions of dollars in commercial deals, mostly with China. "We've made some very big steps with respect to trade, far bigger than anything you know, in addition to about $300bn in sales to various companies, including China - that was $250bn and going up very substantially from that," he said in Manila on Monday. But it is unclear how much of the total figure includes past agreements or potential future deals. Many of the deals are non-binding, and some had been previously announced. (Webmaster's comment: More lies and exaggerations by the biggest liar ever to sit in the oval office.)
11-14-17 Norway oil: Environmentalists sue over oil exploration
Environmental groups are suing Norway for issuing oil exploration licences, despite signing up to the Paris agreement on climate change. They are challenging 10 licences issued last year to explore the Barents Sea above the Arctic circle. Greenpeace says global energy companies have already discovered more oil and gas than the world can safely burn. Norway denies it is breaking a constitutional commitment to safeguard the environment for future generations. Greenpeace, which is joined by the Nature and Youth group in bringing the case, says the licences - the first to be issued in 20 years - are in violation of the Paris agreement and the Norwegian constitution. They accuse Norway of violating a section of the country's constitution, amended in 2014, that guarantees the right to a healthy environment. Greenpeace's director in Norway, Truls Gulowsen, told the BBC the world could not safely use all the oil and gas that is already known about, so it was wrong to seek even more. "Our main logic here is to address the challenge that the world as such has already found more fossil fuels than the world can already burn, in order to combat climate change within two or 1.5 degrees. "So this is not about Norway's emissions only. It's about the imbalance in the world's carbon budget and the need for fossil-fuel-producing countries to stop looking for more oil when we have already found more than the world can afford that we continue to burn."
11-14-17 Camera spots hidden oil spills and may find missing planes
For the first time, a polarising infrared camera – never before used on Earth – has been made small and light enough to detect concealed oil spill. There are thousands of oil spills each year in US waters alone. One major source is illegal dumping of oil in harbours when ships empty their bilges, typically at night to avoid detection. However, a new kind of polarising camera can now spot offenders immediately. Its ability to detect otherwise invisible oil sheens could even lead investigators to lost planes. Like many oil imagers, the Pyxis camera sees the infrared radiation emitted by all objects. That is important because there is often a temperature difference between oil and water. However, if there isn’t one, thermal imagers don’t work. So the Pyxis has another trick up its sleeve: it also detects differences between the way oil and water scatter light. Thanks to this differing polarisation, it works not only when the oil and water are the same temperature – but also in pitch darkness. This is the first time a polarising infrared filter has been made for terrestrial use. Infrared polarimetry is used in astronomy to help identify distant stellar objects, but nowhere else as previous devices were slow, fragile, hefty and expensive. Only astronomers can afford to use big, immobile set-ups and focus long exposures on stationary subjects. The Pyxis camera, developed by Polaris Sensor Technologies in Alabama, changes this. “The optical system and the physics behind it are very complex,” says company president David Chenault. “We started building infrared polarimeters several decades ago, but they were bulky and not capable of looking at dynamic scenes.” Only in the past few years did it become possible to significantly shrink the sensor – now roughly the size of a fist – and make it capable of imaging moving scenes. That is important for detecting oil on water. The new camera can see spills invisible to the naked eye from 2 kilometres away. Its size means it can be mounted on a small drone or other robot.
11-14-17 Antarctica's warm underbelly revealed
This is the best map yet produced of the warmth coming up from the rocks underneath the Antarctic ice sheet. This "geothermal heat flux" is key data required by scientists in order to model how the White Continent is going to react to climate change. If the rockbed's temperature is raised, it makes it easier for the ice above to move. And if global warming is already forcing change on the ice sheet, a higher flux could accelerate matters. The map was made by researchers at the British Antarctic survey and is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. "The heat coming from the Earth’s interior is important to understand the overall conditions that control the dynamics at the base of the ice sheet and hence the ice flow,” explained Yasmina Martos, currently affiliated to the US space agency. "If this heat flux is elevated, the ice base can melt and produce water that acts as a sliding film. "One result of our study is that the heat flux is higher underneath West Antarctica, where more ice is currently melting, than underneath East Antarctica. "Even a little melting at the base helps the ice sheet to slide faster. We also identified areas of low heat flux, which will help stabilising the ice sheet," she told BBC News.
11-13-17 Climate change blamed for Arabian Sea’s unexpected hurricanes
A flurry of hurricane-strength storms struck the Arabian Sea in 2014 and 2015, and climate change seems to have played a role. In the last four years the Arabian Sea has experienced unprecedented storms, and a new study reveals that climate change has made such events more likely to strike. The Arabian Sea sits between Yemen, Oman and India. Cyclones are rare there – yet in 2014, cyclone Nilofar caused flash-floods in north-east Oman, killing four people. A year later, two cyclones hit back-to-back for the first time. Chapala and Megh both made landfall in Yemen as “extremely severe cyclonic storms” – with winds as strong as hurricanes – killing 26 people and displacing tens of thousands. These events puzzled Hiroyuki Murakami at Princeton University in New Jersey. He says storms this severe typically occur in spring, months before the monsoons. Yet the three deadly cyclones all hit in October and November, late in the monsoon season. Wondering if climate change might be changing cyclone behavior, Murakami and his colleagues used a sophisticated climate model to compare conditions in 2015 to conditions in 1860, when humanity’s carbon footprint was much smaller. They found that, in 2015, 64 per cent of the increased hurricane risk in the Arabian Sea was down to climate change. “We’re seeing that human activity affects not only climate, but shorter events like rainfall and cyclones,” says Murakami. “These results are striking and add to the large volume of information connecting human activities to tropical cyclone behavior,” says James Kossin at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He says the Arabian Sea is at particular risk, because many people live nearby and cyclones there have nowhere to go except land.
11-13-17 Bad news: Carbon emissions have suddenly started rising again
Emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel are on the rise again. We desperately need more action to stop climate change, and that means putting a price on carbon. If the world does not do more to limit greenhouse gas emissions soon, the final slender hope of preventing global temperature rise being much above 2°C will slip away. Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry are set to rise sharply this year, after remaining stable for the past three years. “This is really not good news,” says Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the UK, who led the research by the Global Carbon Project. The findings are yet more evidence that, despite the 2015 Paris agreement, the world is still not doing nearly enough to limit emissions. Yet there is wide agreement on what needs to be done: introducing a meaningful price on carbon. “We need to cost the negative effects of carbon into the activities that produce it,” says Le Quéré. “A carbon price is absolutely essential,” economist Nicholas Stern told a meeting in London organised by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures earlier this month. “We may be on a path to 3°C. The risks are enormous.” The biggest global obstacle to investment in clean growth is governments’ failure to pursue clear, credible and predictable policies, Stern said. A well-designed carbon price is an indispensable part of any strategy for efficiently reducing emissions. The European Union does have a carbon trading scheme, but it has produced a low and erratic carbon price – which doesn’t incentivise cutting emissions. The scheme has been close to meaningless, says Wendel Trio of Climate Action Network Europe. Reforms announced last week won’t change this. “What businesses want to know is that the price of carbon is going to be high, and that the price will increase,” says Le Quéré. Le Quéré’s team previously found that, from 2014 to 2016, emissions from fossil fuels and industry remained flat despite continuing economic growth. This led some to hope that global emissions had peaked, although many experts warned it was too early to tell. Now fossil fuel and industry emissions are projected to rise 2 per cent in 2017, to a record 37 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide. Whether emissions will continue to rise in the coming years or flatten out again is not clear, says Le Quéré. “We can’t say what trajectory is going to be realised.”
11-13-17 First CO2 rise in four years puts pressure on Paris targets
Global emissions of CO2 in 2017 are projected to rise for the first time in four years, dashing hopes that a peak might soon be reached. The main cause of the expected growth has been greater use of coal in China as its economy expanded. Researchers are uncertain if the rise in emissions is a one-off or the start of a new period of CO2 build-up. Scientists say that a global peak in CO2 before 2020 is needed to limit dangerous global warming this century. The Global Carbon Project has been analysing and reporting on the scale of emissions of CO2 since 2006. Carbon output has grown by about 3% per year in that period, but growth essentially declined or remained flat between 2014 and 2016.Concern at first CO2 rise in four years The latest figures indicate that in 2017, emissions of CO2 from all human activities grew by about 2% globally. There is some uncertainty about the data but the researchers involved have concluded that emissions are on the rise again. "Global CO2 emissions appear to be going up strongly once again after a three-year stable period. This is very disappointing," said the lead author of the study, Prof Corinne Le Quéré from the University of East Anglia. "With global CO2 emissions from human activities estimated at 41 billion tonnes for 2017, time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below 2 degrees C, let alone 1.5C." The most important element in causing this rise has been China, which is responsible for around 28% of the global total. Emissions there went up 3.5% in 2017, mainly because of increased coal use, driven in the main by a growing economy. (Webmaster's comment: And Trump wants American to use more coal. That is the dumbest idea imaginable!)
11-10-17 Climate report
A massive federal government study released last week concludes that humans are the “dominant cause” of global climate change, and that heavy rains, heat waves, and forest fires are expected to become more frequent in the U.S. if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed. There is “no convincing alternative explanation” for global warming outside of human activity, the study says, contradicting statements by President Trump. The report, produced by scientists from 13 federal agencies, says that average global temperatures have increased 1.8 degrees over the past 115 years, an “unambiguous” warming trend caused by emissions, and that sea levels have risen by 7 inches over the same period. The White House has worked to downplay discussions of climate change, which Trump has called an “expensive hoax.” But government scientists say the report has met with little official pushback.
11-10-17 Climate change already costing lives
Climate change is already taking an “unequivocal and potentially irreversible” toll on the world’s population, causing more severe heat waves, droughts, flooding, wildfires, disease outbreaks, and food shortages, a new international study warns. A multidisciplinary team of 63 researchers—including economists, ecologists, and mathematicians—found that temperature increases since the 1980s have contributed to a 46 percent rise in the frequency of extreme weather. Heat waves and droughts have reduced crop yields and contributed to unstable food supplies, as well as a 5.3 percent loss in labor productivity. Rising sea levels have forced thousands of coastal residents to migrate inland. Warmer temperatures have extended allergy season and expanded the range of ticks and mosquitoes, resulting in significantly more outbreaks of dengue fever, Lyme disease, and other vector-borne illnesses. Since 1990, fine-particle air pollution has increased by 11 percent. The report concludes that the world’s failure to significantly reduce emissions over the past 25 years has put hundreds of millions of lives at risk. It also urges governments to ramp up their response to climate change. “The impacts we’re experiencing today are already pretty bad,” lead author Nick Watts, from University College London, tells The Guardian (U.K.). “The things we’re talking about in the future are potentially catastrophic.”
11-10-17 The boomtown built on lies
Cape Coral, Fla., was built on a swamp by hucksters and could be wiped off the map by a powerful storm, said journalist Michael Grunwald. It also just happens to be the fastest-growing city in the U.S. The ads promised paradise: “Legendary Lazy Living” in a “Waterfront Wonderland.” The brochures sold the Florida dream, “an enchanted City-in-the-Making (average temperature: 71.2 degrees)” without winter, worries, or state income taxes. Cape Coral was America’s land of tomorrow, just $20 down and $20 a month for a quarter-acre slice of heaven: “Breathtaking, isn’t it? How could it be otherwise when Nature was so lavishly generous to begin with?” The Rosens also left a brutal environmental legacy that still haunts Cape Coral. They tore down most of the coastal mangroves that had provided natural storm protection to this exposed spit of land, as well as vital spawning and feeding grounds for its fisheries. They drained and paved wetlands that once absorbed the area’s floodwaters and recharged its aquifers; local wells ran dry from the start, and the city now mines its drinking water from a finite supply 800 feet underground. “Cape Coral is what happens when you obliterate your natural resources,” says Cynthia Barnett, author of a book about Florida’s water called Mirage. “It’s supposed to be the water wonderland, and they’ve got one water crisis after another. When you borrow that heavily from the environment, the bill comes due.” (Webmaster's comment: Sooner or later you'll have to reap what you sow and kiss it all goodbye!)
11-10-17 Scale of 'nitrate timebomb' revealed
Huge quantities of nitrate chemicals from farm fertilisers are polluting the rocks beneath our feet, a study says. Researchers at the British Geological Survey say it could have severe global-scale consequences for rivers, water supplies, human health and the economy. They say the nitrate will be released from the rocks into rivers via springs. That will cause toxic algal blooms and fish deaths, and will cost industry and consumers billions of pounds a year in extra water treatment. In a paper in Nature Communications, the scientists from BGS and Lancaster University estimate that up to 180 million tonnes of nitrate are stored in rocks worldwide - perhaps twice the amount stored in soils. They say this is the first global estimate of the amount of nitrate trapped between the soil layer and the water-bearing aquifers below. They warn that over time the nitrate will inevitably slowly seep into the aquifers. Most nitrate, the team says, is in rocks in North America, China and Europe where fertiliser has been lavishly applied for decades. In some developed countries, the amount of nitrate stored in the rocks is increasing, despite improvements in farming practice and the introduction of rules to control the pollutant. In developing countries, the problem is currently not so severe. But there is an urgent need for early intervention to avoid the environmental damage experienced by rich countries. "Water and the pollutant travels through the rocks below our feet very slowly. This and a history of intensive agriculture means that a large store of nitrate pollution has built up over time. "When this pollution is released, it will continue to impact water quality for decades, in some cases, even where controls on fertiliser use have been put in place."
11-10-17 Toxic city
Thick gray clouds of toxic smog descended on New Delhi this week, leading the Indian Medical Association to declare a public health emergency and advise that residents stay indoors. Doctors reported an increase in people suffering breathing difficulties, and many schools asked parents to equip their children with face masks. Levels of dangerous PM 2.5 particles—small enough to enter people’s bloodstreams—hit 742 micrograms per cubic meter; the World Health Organization’s safe limit is 60 micrograms. Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, said the city had “become a gas chamber.” Air quality often dips in the capital at this time of year, as farmers burn crops in neighboring states and the smoke combines with car exhaust, smokestack emissions, and fumes from burning garbage.
11-10-17 Pesticides may affect IVF
Eating pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables could reduce women’s chances of getting pregnant through in vitro fertilization, reports Time.com. Researchers at Harvard followed 325 women undergoing IVF, giving them detailed questionnaires about their diet and other factors that could affect the success of their fertility treatment, such as age and reproductive history. The team then used a Department of Agriculture database to calculate the average pesticide residues on specific fresh fruits and vegetables. They found that the women who ate more than two servings of produce with the most chemical residues—including conventionally grown strawberries, spinach, and peppers—were 18 percent less likely to conceive than those who ate less than one serving of these high-risk fruits and vegetables. Lead author Jorge Chavarro says more research is needed but admits he is “more willing to buy organic apples than I was a few months ago.”
11-9-17 Trump emissions threat to US car industry
The US car industry will be wrecked if President Trump relaxes emissions standards, California's governor says. Jerry Brown said China would dominate car manufacture because it was heavily promoting the electric vehicles that would dominate the future. He said huge investment was needed on electric vehicles, along with federal rules to encourage their purchase. He said President Trump and US car-makers were "half asleep" and hadn't understood the scale of the challenge. He told BBC Radio 4's Costing the Earth: "There will be a serious threat to the US auto industry. "The Chinese have taken over the world in wind turbine production, and photovoltaic. "They're going to take over the American car industry - and the people in Detroit are half asleep. They have to wake up - and I'm hoping they will. "China's investing billions in battery technology and electric cars - and introducing a regulatory regime that will produce for their market a percentage of electric cars that to my knowledge no American executive can even imagine." Mr Brown said he believed the electric car had a good prospect of being "very competitive" with petrol and diesel cars within five years. California has special powers as a state to set its own car standards but Mr Brown believes federal action is essential to create a big enough market. Mr Brown is leading a group of 15 states refusing to follow Mr Trump's attempt to lower CO2 standards for vehicles and electricity. "We can pursue an intelligent, forceful climate agenda without jeopardising jobs and damaging our economy - which is the message of Trump," he said.
11-9-17 EU split over use of major weedkiller glyphosate
An EU vote has failed to resolve a controversy over the use of glyphosate, the world's biggest-selling weedkiller. One UN study called the chemical "probably carcinogenic", but other scientists said it was safe to use. The current glyphosate licence runs out in the EU on 15 December. Only half of the 28 member states backed a European Commission proposal to renew the licence for five years. An EU appeal committee will now try to rule on the issue. The UK was among the 14 states backing the Commission position on glyphosate. Nine voted against - including France and Italy. Germany was among the five who abstained. Glyphosate was introduced by US agrochemical giant Monsanto in 1974, but its patent expired in 2000, and now the chemical is sold by various manufacturers. The Monsanto weedkiller is called Roundup. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans. Critics say widespread use of glyphosate reduces biodiversity, by killing plants that are essential for many insects and other animals. Some countries and regions have banned glyphosate use in public parks and gardens. Its effect on plants is non-selective, meaning it will kill most of them when applied. It is usually mixed with other chemicals that help it get into plants, where it blocks a key enzyme pathway. The disruption prevents plants from making certain proteins needed for their growth.
11-8-17 When it comes to climate, Donald Trump is in a club by himself
With pariah state Syria now backing the UN pact to curb global warming, the US stands against the other 195 nations of the world. What a disgrace, says Owen Gaffney. With Syria’s announcement it will join the Paris Agreement on climate change, the US now stands alone. Until yesterday, it was one of the final two nations either rejecting or refusing to sign the UN agreement. In September, a third holdout – Nicaragua – announced it was in after two years of stubborn refusal. But it had always argued the deal failed to go far enough to protect societies. Syria is an international pariah, a dysfunctional basket-case of a failed state. Its economy is broken and its emissions small. Yet its intention to join the Paris Agreement, announced yesterday at the annual United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany, is symbolic, but not for obvious reasons. Three decades of data show that nearly a quarter of conflicts that break out in countries with existing ethnic tensions, like Syria, coincide with climate shifts such as heatwaves and droughts. So climate change can significantly reduce resilience in politically fragile societies, even if the direct link with conflict is complex and ambiguous. To add to that debate, on 13 November Future Earth and the Earth League, two international alliances of scientists, will publish a report amid the climate negotiations in Bonn. It will list 10 key findings from climate research, including the increasing fragility of societies as temperatures soar. It will also put forward options to avoid this fate.
11-8-17 The unseen puppet masters that control life in the oceans
Trace elements have the power to give life and snuff it out. For the first time, we are getting to grips with where they come from and how they act. Seawater is a cocktail of elements. Some – like the sodium and chloride that make it salty – are abundant. Others exist in vanishingly small quantities but pack a powerful punch. Iron controls where life can thrive; mercury has the power to snuff it out; and a delicate balance in selenium levels can drive bursts in biodiversity and mass extinctions. Like unseen puppet masters, these trace elements control all the living things in the oceans, yet stubbornly resist our best efforts to detect them. Now, for the first time, elaborate studies are revealing where they come from and the grip they exert on ocean ecosystems. Andy Ridgway investigates.
- Iron: Even in iron-rich regions of the oceans there is just 30 nanograms of it per kilogram of seawater. It is so critical that it is the main factor limiting life in one-third of the ocean.
- Nitrogen: The importance of nitrogen wasn’t lost on the architects of the 20th century’s green revolution, which saw a huge rise in the use of nitrogen fertilisers and the dawn of intensive farming.
- Phosphorus: Phosphorus is part of the structure of DNA, cell membranes and the energy molecule ATP. As a result, its availability sets a limit to how much life there can be in the oceans, together with nitrogen and iron.
- Selenium: There is a narrow window where levels of this micronutrient are just right for life – call it the selenium Goldilocks zone.
- Mercury: Mercury isn’t a force for good. It has no function within cells and is toxic to nervous systems.
- Lead: Like mercury, lead accumulates in the food chain. It is absorbed by plankton, and moves into herbivores and the animals that eat them.
- Neodymium: Some trace elements are neither a nutrient or a toxin. Our interest lies in what they tell us about other trace elements.
11-7-17 Planting trees could mop up ten years’ worth of greenhouse gases
The planet is still warming inexorably, with 2017 set to be one of the three hottest years on record, but a major programme of tree-planting could help cool the world. Only statistical numbskulls would call it good news, but 2017 is set to be slightly less warm than the record-breaking 2016. Instead, it will merely be one of the three warmest years on record, and the hottest ever without an El Niño to boost temperatures. However, a massive programme of tree-planting could significantly reduce the warming trend. The new temperature figures come from the latest State of the Climate report from the World Meteorological Organization. Climate negotiators are meeting in Bonn, Germany this week to discuss how to implement the pledges on curbing climate-warming greenhouse gases that were made in Paris in 2015. They have plenty to ponder. The WMO said the first nine months of this year were 1.1 °C warmer than pre-industrial levels. That means the world is more than two-thirds of the way to the limit of 1.5 °C agreed in Paris. That is having real effects on real lives. Hong Kong and Shanghai, California and southern Spain have all experienced unprecedented temperature highs this year, the WMO reported. So, in the southern hemisphere, did Australia and Argentina. In May, temperatures reached a staggering 54 °C near the border between Pakistan and Iran, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in Bonn. Around 30 per cent of the world’s population now lives in places where they suffer life-threatening heatwave conditions for several days a year. At its winter maximum in March, the Arctic had less sea ice this year than ever recorded – matching the even greater recent declines in summer minima. But at least heavy snowfall added bulk to the Greenland ice sheet. In more bad news, the seas are rising faster again – at 3.5 millimetres a year. (Webmaster's comment: Though it will help, you ain't gonna fix this by planting trees!)
11-7-17 What we’re doing now will make the ocean completely unlivable
Climate change could reduce oxygen levels in the oceans by 40 per cent over the next 8000 years, leading to dramatic changes in marine life. OUR actions today will change the world’s oceans for thousands of years. That is the conclusion of a study simulating a little-discussed consequence of climate change: it could choke entire ecosystems by cutting oxygen levels in the ocean. In the most extreme scenarios, with the planet warming by almost 10°C, the oceans could be starved of oxygen for 8000 years. Oxygen-poor waters have always existed in the sea, but in the last 50 years these “oxygen minimum zones” have grown. Climate change is one cause: the sea is warming, and warmer water can dissolve less of the gas. Marine life is sensitive to these anoxic conditions, so a fall in oxygen of just a few per cent is enough to put enormous stress on ecosystems. The Late Devonian extinction 360 million years ago, one of the biggest die-offs ever, unfolded largely in the oceans. It wiped out a fifth of all families in the tree of life, and anoxia was a key contributing factor. Previous studies suggested the oceans will lose 7 per cent of their oxygen by 2100. But many effects of climate change, like rising seas, play out over millennia, and the same is true of deoxygenation. Gianna Battaglia and Fortunat Joos at the University of Bern, Switzerland, simulated changes in ocean oxygen levels between now and the year 10,000. They looked at temperature stabilising at four different levels above pre- industrial conditions: 1.5°C (the key target set by the Paris Agreement), 1.9°C, 3.3°C and 9.2°C. Average oxygen levels fell 6 per cent when warming met the Paris target, whereas 9°C of warming led to a 40 per cent fall (Earth System Dynamics, doi.org/cfwq). The study is awaiting peer review, but the implications are stark.
11-7-17 Paris climate accord: Syria 'to sign up', isolating US
The US is set to become isolated in its stance on the Paris climate agreement, after reports that Syria is preparing to join the deal. The Paris deal unites the world's nations in tackling climate change. Syria and Nicaragua were the only nations outside the deal when it was agreed in 2015. Nicaragua signed in October. In June the US said it would withdraw, but the rules of the agreement state that this cannot be done until 2020. Syrian officials at climate talks in Bonn, Germany, were quoted as telling delegates of the 196 participating nations that the country was about to send the UN its ratification documents. The accord would be signed "as soon as possible", AP quoted one Syrian delegate as saying. Correspondents say Syria was effectively an international pariah when the accord was first signed, and sanctions would have made it difficult for officials to attend the discussions in Paris. Also, the meetings coincided with some of the fiercest fighting in Syria's civil war, meaning the country was in no position to sign. Announcing the US decision in June, President Donald Trump said it was part of his "solemn duty to protect America" and he would seek a new deal that would not disadvantage US businesses. He claimed that the accord would cost the US 6.5 million jobs and $3tn (£2.2tn) in lost GDP - while rival economies like China and India were treated more favourably. (Webmaster's comment: America is the biggest bully on the planet and Trump the biggest liar!)
11-7-17 China’s dreadful air pollution seems to have got a bit better
While China’s capital Beijing is once again suffering a severe smog, a new study suggests that nationally pollution has fallen 21 per cent over two years. China has taken some baby steps towards cleaning up its horrendous air pollution – but there is a long way still to go. Eastern China, especially Beijing, is notorious for its smogs, driven by the country’s rapid industrialisation. On Friday Beijing issued an orange smog alert, the second highest danger level. By Monday, levels of PM2.5 – pollution consisting of tiny particles 2.5 micrometres across or less – were up to 158 micrograms per cubic metre. Similarly high levels triggered orange alerts in Tianjin and some cities in Henan, Hebei, Shandong and Shanxi provinces, according to the Xinhua news agency. In 2013, horrendous Beijing smogs prompted a national outcry and the launch of a comprehensive air pollution control plan. According to a new study, this plan has had some success – despite the ongoing smogs. The study used satellite measurements to estimate pollution concentrations. It claims that PM2.5 levels fell nationally by 21 per cent between 2013 and 2015, going from 60.5 to 47.5 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre of air. That is still way higher than the World Health Organization’s recommended limit of 10 micrograms per cubic metre. Average levels in Europe mostly remain below 25 micrograms. Nevertheless, the reduction should have cut the number of associated deaths from heart attacks and strokes by nine per cent, from 1.22 to 1.10 million. “Our study marks the first estimate of the impact of this stringent action plan on pollution levels and mortality rates from 2013 to 2015,” says lead author Yixuan Zheng of Tsinghua University in Beijing.
11-6-17 2017 'very likely' in top three warmest years on record
The year 2017 is "very likely" to be in the top three warmest years on record, according to provisional figures from the World Meteorological Organization. The WMO says it will likely be the hottest year in the absence of the El Niño phenomenon. The scientists argue that the long-term trend of warming driven by human activities continues unabated. They say many of the "extraordinary" weather events seen this year bear the hallmarks of climate change. On the opening day of this year's key UN climate talks, researchers from the WMO have presented their annual State of the Global Climate report. It follows hot on the heels of their greenhouse gases study from last week which found that concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere were the highest on record. While the new study only covers January to September, the WMO says the average global temperature was 1.1C above the pre-industrial figure. This is getting dangerously close to the 1.5 degrees threshold that many island states feel temperatures must be kept under to ensure their survival. The analysis suggests that 2017 is likely to come in 0.47C warmer than the 1981-2010 average. This is slightly down on 2016 when the El Niño weather phenomenon saw temperatures that were 0.56C above the average. According to the WMO, this year vies with 2015 to be the second or third warmest mark yet recorded.
11-5-17 Anger over Trump support for coal at UN climate talks
Plans by the Trump administration to promote coal as a solution to climate change at a major UN meeting have angered environmentalists. An adviser to the president is expected to take part in a pro-coal presentation in Bonn this coming week. Separately, a group of governors will say that the US is still committed to climate action despite Mr Trump's rejection of the Paris agreement. The talks begin on Monday and aim to flesh out the rules for the Paris pact. This meeting, officially known as COP23, will be the first full gathering of climate negotiators since President Trump vowed to take the US out of the Paris treaty. "The bottom line is that the Paris accord is very unfair, at the highest level, to the United States," he said last June, announcing the US intention to withdraw. However under the rules, the US cannot leave the agreement until 2020 so they will be sending a team of negotiators to this meeting. However the official US delegation, mainly career civil servants, may well be overshadowed by other groups with very different visions for how the US should combat climate change. According to reports, members of the Trump administration, will lend their support to an event to promote fossil fuels and nuclear power as solutions to climate change. (Webmaster's comment: Promoting one of the major causes of the problem as the solution is insane. It's only a way to increase the wealth of the already rich.)
11-5-17 Invasive species are a growing global threat
New book blames invasions on climate change and humankind. Burmese pythons are consuming large numbers of mammals in the Everglades and nearby ecosystems. Remote Bouvet Island, a tiny, glacier-smothered landmass in the South Atlantic rimmed by 500-meter-tall cliffs, has a notable distinction: It’s the only known spot on Earth, scientists say, that has zero invasive species. Every other place, and every person, on the planet is at least indirectly affected by one or more species that has been transported — either intentionally or inadvertently — to new lands from the ecosystems in which the species evolved. In The Aliens Among Us, biologist and science journalist Leslie Anthony chronicles the detrimental effects of invasive species, as well as how these organisms spread and how they can be fought. In the United States, such interlopers — everything from zebra mussels in the Great Lakes to Burmese pythons in the Everglades — damage crops, infrastructure or otherwise cost taxpayers about $145 billion annually. Invasive species, Anthony writes, are “children born of globalization and consumerism.” Their numbers increase as international trade widens and accelerates. Some species surreptitiously hitch a ride to their new homes on human transport: Think seeds and burrs on hikers’ clothing, or fish in ballast water of cargo ships. Others have been deliberately released, like earthworms or baitfish set loose by fishermen, or exotic lizards and snakes set free by careless pet owners. Rats, the world’s foremost invasive species, have traveled the world with explorers and traders; so have tropical fire ants, which genetic studies suggest have hitchhiked from southwestern Mexico to Asia and beyond starting in the 16th century in soil used as ballast in Spanish ships.
11-4-17 Climate change: US report at odds with some in Trump team
The White House has sought to downplay a major climate change report, which was compiled by 13 US federal agencies. The study is at odds with assertions from President Donald Trump and several members of his administration. It says it is "extremely likely" human activity is the "dominant cause" of global warming. A spokesman for the White House said it supported "rigorous scientific analysis and debate" but added that the climate was "always changing". White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah said it was not certain how sensitive the Earth's climate was to greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Trump, who has embarked on a tour of Asia, once said the concept of global warming was created by the Chinese in order to make American manufacturing less competitive. Earlier this year, he announced he was pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement to cut global emissions. The Climate Science Special Report, which was approved by the White House, was compiled by US government scientists. It argues that it is "extremely likely" that human activity is causing rapid global warming with dire consequences for the US and the world.Running to nearly 500 pages, the report concludes that the current period is "now the warmest in the history of modern civilisation". It is "extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause", it finds, adding that "there is no convincing alternative explanation". President Trump has made it easier for industry to pollute and he has appointed to key government positions men who are sceptical of their own scientists, the BBC's James Cook, in Los Angeles, says. The scientists' predictions include:
- A global sea level rise of up to 8ft (2.4 metres) cannot be ruled out by the end of the century
- Risks of drought and flooding will increase
- There will be more frequent wildfires and devastating storms
11-3-17 Humans are driving climate change, federal scientists say
New U.S. report tallies impacts from hottest-ever years to extreme weather threats. Jakobshavn Glacier in western Greenland (its front edge, where ice is calving into the ocean is one of the world’s fastest-shrinking glaciers. A new U.S. report increases projections of average global sea level rise due to accelerating ice sheet melting if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. It is “extremely likely” that humans are driving warming on Earth since the 1950s. That statement — which indicates a 95 to 100 percent confidence in the finding — came in a report released November 3 by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. This interagency effort was established in 1989 by presidential initiative to help inform national science policy. The 2017 Climate Science Special Report, which lays out the current state of scientific knowledge on climate change, will be rolled into the fourth National Climate Assessment, set to be released in late 2018. The last national climate assessment, released in 2014, also concluded that recent warming was mostly due to humans, but didn’t give a confidence level (SN Online: 5/6/14). Things haven’t gotten better. Ice sheet melting has accelerated, the 2017 report finds. As a result, projections of possible average global sea level rise by 2100 under a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario (in which emissions rise unabated throughout the 21st century) have increased from 2 meters to as much as 2.6 meters. In addition, the report notes that three of the warmest years on record — 2014, 2015 and 2016 — occurred since the last report was released; those years also had record-low sea ice extent in the Arctic Ocean in the summer.
See the Global Temperature History Charts
See the Global Ice Loss Charts
11-3-17 Europe and the US were most responsible for deadly heatwave
A lethal heatwave that struck Argentina in 2013 was made more likely by climate change – and greenhouse gases from Europe and the US played the biggest role A severe heatwave has been attributed to man-made climate change – and for the first time we can also identify the countries whose emissions are most responsible. Friederike Otto of the University of Oxford, UK and her colleagues studied a heatwave that struck Argentina in 2013/14. The heatwave brought some of the highest temperatures ever recorded in the nation’s capital Buenos Aires, killing many and collapsing the city’s power grid. In a 2015 study, Otto examined whether climate change made the heatwave more likely. She simulated temperatures in Argentina with and without humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions and found that heatwaves like the one from 2013/14 were significantly more likely when our emissions were included. “Anthropogenic climate change made the Argentinian heatwave approximately five times more likely,” says Otto. The next step was to determine which countries were responsible. Otto’s team calculated how much carbon dioxide each country had emitted between 1850, the dawn of the industrial era, and 2013. They found that the European Union (including the UK) contributed the most to making the heatwave more likely. The EU was followed by the US, China and the rest of Asia. South America, where the heatwave occurred, came in fifth. This arguably underplays the role of Western nations. That is because the emissions from manufacturing a product are attributed to the country where the product was made, rather than where it was consumed. While emissions from countries like China and India are increasing, the goods manufactured there are often consumed in affluent countries. Many climate activists argue that developed countries, which have historically contributed the most to climate change, should be held most responsible for stopping it. “The aim of the study was to explore what science could contribute to the debate about climate justice,” says co-author Ragnhild Bieltvedt Skeie of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, Norway. However, it is unlikely that Western nations will be made to pay up to pay damages for fouling the atmosphere anytime soon. The Paris climate change agreement of 2015, which almost all countries have now signed up to, focuses primarily on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. As the study observes, the agreement “ruled out the possibility that addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change should provide a basis for liability or compensation”. Instead, co-author Myles Allen, also at the University of Oxford, wants to take the world’s biggest emitters to court for their role in causing climate change.
11-2-17 Romania to investigate illegal logging in national park
The Romanian government has promised to act against illegal logging, after campaigners showed that a large swathe of trees in a protected forest has disappeared. A member of the public recently took dramatic drone footage in the Semenic-Cheile Carasului National Park, on the border with Serbia, showing about 50 hectares (124 acres) of missing woodland on a mountain top, Digi24 TV reports. Semenic contains one of the largest virgin beech forests in Europe, and was included in Unesco's World Heritage List this summer. Corneliu Sturza of the GEA Nera ecological group told Digi24 that the main problem was the failure of the environment ministry to draw up a plan to limit logging in the park. "We've asked the ministry to deal with this for the last 13 years," he complained. The Timosoara Forest Guard agrees. It told the TV station that it was only authorised to repair damage caused by logging, "mainly through replanting and cultivating seedlings", and had no remit to stop illegal deforestation. Although the drone footage has caused a media stir, campaigners and opposition MPs have been demanding urgent action from the government over the Semenic forest for months, citing reports from local ramblers and foreign tourists about vanishing woodlands. Illegal logging is widespread throughout Romania, with an average of 26 cases a day registered last year, according to Greenpeace Romania, and costing the state an estimated $10.4m (£7.8m). Members of the public are very active in tracking the damage, accounting for 42% of all reports in 2016, the Greenpeace report says.
11-3-17 Energy: Trade panel calls for solar tariffs
Trade officials this week recommended that the U.S. restrict imports of solar power equipment, setting up one of President Trump’s first major trade decisions, said Chris Mooney in The Washington Post. Two solar companies brought the case before the International Trade Commission, alleging that they had been forced into bankruptcy by an influx of cheap Chinese solar panels. But import restrictions are opposed by “most of the U.S. solar industry,” which argues that the move would “raise overall panel prices, costing solar jobs.” The recommendations will be sent to the president by Nov. 13. (Webmaster's comment: Forcing all Americans to pay more for Green Energy!)
11-3-17 Mild winter ahead
Americans bracing for “snowmageddon” or blasts of Arctic air from the dreaded polar vortex can probably relax: Federal forecasters are predicting yet another unseasonably mild winter for most of the continental U.S. For the third time in three years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is forecasting warmer-than-normal temperatures across the Lower 48, with only parts of the Northern Plains and the Pacific Northwest expected to be colder than usual. Snowfall is predicted to be relatively low in the coastal Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, but higher than normal in the Northern Rockies. NOAA forecasters caution that this prediction could change significantly. Their outlook is largely based on the forecasted development of the weather system La Niña, which they think has a 55 to 65 percent chance of happening. The opposite of the weather system El Niño, La Niña occurs when temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean cool down, altering the storm track over North America. “If La Niña conditions develop, we predict it will be weak and potentially short-lived,” NOAA deputy director Mike Halpert tells CBSNews.com. “But it could still shape the character of the upcoming winter.”
11-3-17 The devastating cost of pollution
Pollution around the world claims an estimated 9 million lives a year—more than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined—a major new study has found. In the most comprehensive global analysis of the issue to date, an international team of researchers collected data from more than 130 countries on the causes of disease and premature deaths. They found that contaminated air, water, soil, and workplaces kill 1 in 6 people worldwide. Air pollution is the biggest culprit: In 2015, 6.5 million fatal cases of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and other respiratory illnesses were tied to poor air quality stemming from sources such as cars, power plants, and wood-burning stoves. Tainted water caused gastrointestinal diseases and parasitic infections that killed 1.8 million people, the report found. Noxious work environments, such as coal mines and dye factories, were associated with 800,000 deaths. The vast majority of pollution-related mortality—nearly 92 percent—occurs in poor or rapidly industrializing countries. But the study’s authors warn that pollution is a costly issue for the whole world: They estimate the price tag for health-care expenses associated with pollution-related disease in 2015 was $4.6 trillion, or more than 6 percent of global GDP. “Pollution is much more than an environmental challenge,” study leader Philip Landrigan tells BBC?.com. “It is a profound and pervasive threat that affects many aspects of human health and well-being.”
11-3-17 The concentration of carbon dioxide
The concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere surged to an 800,000-year high in 2016, the World Meteorological Organization said. Concentrations of the greenhouse gas averaged 403.3 parts per million, up from 400 ppm a year earlier and 280 ppm before the Industrial Revolution. The last time Earth had a comparable concentration, the planet was 3 degrees Celsius warmer and sea levels were 20 meters higher than now.
11-3-17 The electric car revolution
Is the era of the conventional combustion engine coming to an end? Right now, they make up just 1 percent of the global automobile market. But sales jumped 36 percent last year, to 750,000 worldwide, and China, the world’s largest car market, is betting big on electric. In September, Beijing announced it plans to completely ban the sale of gas and diesel vehicles at some future, unannounced date, while India, Britain, France, and other countries have set their own 2030 or 2040 deadlines. U.S. automakers are now racing to get a piece of the emerging electric market. GM and Ford have promised to roll out a combined total of more than 30 electric models by 2023. Volvo will introduce only battery-powered or hybrid new models starting in 2019. The range and speed of electric vehicles is constantly improving; when their up-front sales price finally matches a conventional car’s, “that’s when the real shift occurs,” says Colin McKerracher, head of advanced transport analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The Chinese government is doubling down on electric, not just to reduce the choking smog blanketing its cities but also to help its car manufacturers seize control of the global automobile market. Those manufacturers have already developed 100 electric models, leaving other nations’ automakers in the dust. Even without Beijing’s push, many analysts believe that electric cars have the winning economic formula—so much so that researchers at Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimate plug-ins will make up the majority of cars worldwide by 2040. Electric vehicles (EVs) have fewer than 20 moving parts, as opposed to 2,000 in combustion engines, and thus require less maintenance. Their fuel costs are much lower. When up-front prices finally drop to below those of gas-guzzlers, says Tona Seba of technology think tank RethinkX, “the rational economic choice will be to buy the EV.” Every self-respecting environmentalist drives a hybrid or a plug-in. But these vehicles may not be as low-emission as many proud owners believe. While all-electrics produce zero emissions on the road, their batteries get their juice from power plants—many of which generate electricity by burning the dirtiest fuel of all, coal. By way of comparison, gas-powered cars produce an average of 411 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. In California, which has a high proportion of “clean electricity” from solar or wind power, an electric car produces 100 grams of greenhouse gas pollution per mile. If you’re recharging in Minnesota, though, where most of the electricity is coal-generated, that figure rises to 300 grams. As power plants get cleaner in the future, thanks to the continuing decline in coal-fired plants and to carbon capture and other technologies, it’s more logical to focus on the source of the problem, says Qin Lihong, president of electric automaker NextEV. “It’s much easier for society to make hundreds of power plants better,” says Qin, “than change the hundreds of millions of cars in thousands of cities.”
- How popular are electric cars?
- Why are sales growing?
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- What about other concerns?
- What incentives do governments offer?
- Why is China so important?
- How green are electric cars?
11-3-17 Suspicious contract
Puerto Rico this week moved to cancel a $300 million power-reconstruction contract with a tiny, two-year-old Montana firm linked to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, amid growing questions over how the controversial deal was struck. Whitefish Energy had just two employees when it was chosen to rebuild the island’s power grid in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The company planned to subcontract much of the work—charging $227 per hour for a lineman, plus more than $400 per worker for daily meals and lodging—and the contract barred the government from auditing the company’s labor rates or profits. The firm is based in Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish (pop. 7,300), and chief executive Andrew Techmanski and Zinke know each other. Both men said that Zinke had no role in securing the contract, and Whitefish said it was suited for the work because of its experience in mountainous terrain. But Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló pulled the deal, saying it was a “distraction” from the island’s disaster response.
11-1-17 Wind may be driving the melting of East Antarctica’s largest glacier
If all of Totten Glacier’s ice slid into the ocean, global sea level would rise by at least 3.5 meters. The wind is helping to awaken one of Antarctica’s sleeping giants. Warm ocean waters, driven inland by winds, are undercutting an ice shelf that holds back a vast glacier from sliding into the ocean, researchers report November 1 in Science Advances. Totten Glacier is East Antarctica’s largest glacier, with a drainage basin encompassing about 550,000 square kilometers, an area about the size of France. Its floating front edge, the Totten ice shelf, sticks out like a tongue over the water and acts as a buttress for the giant glacier, slowing its movement toward the ocean. If the entire land-based glacier destabilizes and slips into the sea, it could raise global sea level by at least 3.5 meters. Satellite and on-the-ground studies have previously shown that Totten Glacier and its buttressing ice shelf are thinning. Last year, scientists determined that the ice shelf is being melted from below by warm water. The ice shelf floats within a pool of its own cold meltwater that sits atop a deeper, saltier and warmer layer; the two layers generally don’t mix, like oil and water. The warmer layer periodically rises up, becoming shallow enough to access grooves in the seafloor that extend beneath the ice shelf. But what controls the inflow of that warm water was unknown. Wind is the likely culprit, geophysicist Chad Greene at the University of Texas at Austin and colleagues now report.