32 Global Warming News Articles
for March of 2018
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3-16-18 Bottled water is bad – but microplastics aren’t the reason
Microplastic particles may taint some bottled water, but the ecological cost of bottles is a better reason to turn on the tap instead. The discovery that most bottled water is contaminated with tiny fragments of plastic has stirred up a mild panic. But do these microplastics actually pose a risk? According to a study commissioned by Orb Media, a global consortium of journalists, samples from 93 per cent of 259 bottles contained microplastic particles – an average of 10 particles wider than 100 micrometres, or roughly the width of a human hair, per litre. The bottles were purchased from countries in five different continents, although not in Europe. Sherri Mason of the State University of New York at Fredonia, who carried out the work, found that 54 per cent of these particles were polypropylene, the plastic from which bottle caps are fabricated, suggesting that the caps may have been the source of the particles. Four per cent were industrial lubricants, suggesting that contamination occurred in the factory. Mason also found smaller particles – an average of 325 per litre, although some samples contained up to 10,000 per litre. These were too small to be verified as microplastics, but it seems likely they are, says Mason. These accounted for 95 per cent of all particles found, ranging from 6.5 to 100 micrometres in size. Does it matter if we swallow this stuff? We don’t really know, but there’s no need to panic. “There’s no clear evidence about human health risks,” says Richard Thompson of the International Marine Litter Research Unit at the University of Plymouth, UK. (Webmaster's comment: What is shown is that the companies bottling the water don't even bother to filter it.)
3-16-18 What we can and can’t say about Arctic warming and U.S. winters
It certainly feels like the northeastern United States is getting snowier. In the first two weeks of March, three winter storms slammed into the northeast corridor from Washington, D.C., to Boston. Over the past decade, a flurry of extreme winter storms has struck the region, giving birth to clever portmanteau names such as Snowpocalypse (2009), Snowmageddon (2010) and Snowzilla (2016). So what’s going on? Researchers have previously suggested that extreme weather in the mid-latitudes might be linked to climate change’s impacts on the Arctic (SN Online: 12/2/11), particularly the dramatically decreased sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean. And now, a study published online March 13 in Nature Communications reports a strong correlation between the severe winter weather experienced in the northeastern U.S. over the past decade and the warming trend in the Arctic. Two of the study’s authors, climatologist Judah Cohen of the Massachusetts-based climate and weather risk assessment group Atmospheric and Environmental Research and atmospheric scientist Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University, have long been proponents of the hypothesis that the warming Arctic is having profound effects on weather at the midlatitudes (SN: 3/12/15), from severe snowfalls to heat waves. It was Francis who, with a colleague, proposed in 2012 that sea ice loss in the Arctic slows the polar jet stream, a band of air currents flowing above the northern and middle latitudes of Earth. The slowed jet stream would become wavier, with large meanders that might jut deep into the midlatitudes; such waves, the researchers suggested, could allow winter storms to push south and linger.
3-16-18 Cracking new ways to fight plastic waste
Plastic is one of the world's favourite packaging materials - it's cheap, practical and hard wearing. But its durability is part of the problem. Plastic pollution is now a huge issue and consumers are increasingly demanding greener alternatives. So how are companies responding to the pressure? From chocolate biscuits to toothpaste, razors to cigarettes, low-cost products wrapped in plastic line supermarket shelves around the world. The short lifespan and high turnover of these items mean they are a major culprit when it comes to single-use plastic - packaging used just once before being thrown away. For those trying to cut down on their use of plastic, a trip to the supermarket can be a depressing affair. But some manufacturers are finding solutions to the problem. For example, Tipa is an Israeli company that makes compostable plastic packaging. It features a multi-layer film made out of plant-based polymers which disintegrates in the heat and humidity of a home compost heap. British firm Snact, which sells fruit snacks made from food waste, uses Tipa's "bioplastic" packaging. "Just like traditional packaging, we have multiple layers in the film," explains Snact co-founder Michael Minch-Dixon. "One [layer] we print on and that gives all the brand information, and then the other layer is what acts as the barrier, so that keeps out the moisture and the air and makes sure the food stays fresh and safe to eat." He says the material is almost indistinguishable from conventional plastic ,but even the inks and glue are fully home-compostable. "So we can just put it in the compost bin, and like an orange peel it will decompose in about six months' time," he says.
3-15-18 Plastic particles found in bottled water
Tests on major brands of bottled water have found that nearly all of them contained tiny particles of plastic. In the largest investigation of its kind, 250 bottles bought in nine different countries were examined. Research led by journalism organisation Orb Media discovered an average of 10 plastic particles per litre, each larger than the width of a human hair. Companies whose brands were tested told the BBC that their bottling plants were operated to the highest standards. (Webmaster's comment: What a bunch of BS! They haven't even filtered it!) The tests were conducted at the State University of New York in Fredonia. Sherri Mason, a professor of chemistry at the university, conducted the analysis and told BBC News: "We found [plastic] in bottle after bottle and in brand after brand. "It's not about pointing fingers at particular brands; it's really showing that this is everywhere, that plastic has become such a pervasive material in our society, and it’s pervading water - all of these products that we consume at a very basic level." Currently, there is no evidence that ingesting very small pieces of plastic (microplastics) can cause harm, but understanding the potential implications is an active area of science. Commenting on the results, Prof Mason said: "It's not catastrophic, the numbers that we're seeing, but it is concerning." Experts have told the BBC that people in developing countries where tap water may be polluted should continue to drink water from plastic bottles.
3-14-18 The Arctic is sending us signals of impending climate chaos
The immediate disasters of The Day After Tomorrow remains wild exaggeration, but melting ice could yet cause dramatic climate changes by altering ocean currents. WHEN the global warming catastrophe movie The Day After Tomorrow was released in 2004, climate scientists found themselves in the unenviable position of having to put the facts in the way of a good story. The premise of the film is that climate change causes the Gulf Stream to shut down abruptly, plunging the northern hemisphere into a sudden and catastrophic ice age. Although loosely based on science, the deep-freeze scenario is wildly implausible and scientists queued up to pour cold water on it. “It is safe to say that global warming will not lead to the onset of a new ice age,” two distinguished climate scientists wrote in the journal Science. In a curious instance of life imitating art, scientific anxiety about the Gulf Stream also had cold water poured on it around the same time. The idea that the North Atlantic current – a northern extension of the Gulf Stream – could shut down was first proposed in 1961. By the late 1990s, the scientific consensus was that it had stopped in the past and could do so again, possibly with disastrous consequences – albeit not overnight. Gulf Stream anxiety reached its apogee in 2005 when scientists at the University of Southampton, UK, discovered that the North Atlantic current had weakened by a third. But follow-up measurements by the same team showed no clear trend. In 2006, the science was clear enough for New Scientist to declare: “No new ice age for western Europe.”
3-14-18 Polar melt may shut down the Atlantic current that warms Europe
Melting Arctic ice flooding into the Atlantic could put the ocean circulation that warms Europe in danger, triggering dramatic sea level rise and drought. DTHE ocean current that gives western and northern Europe a relatively mild climate might be at greater risk of shutdown than we thought. If the North Atlantic current – the northern segment of the Gulf Stream – does grind to a halt, the effects could be severe, from greater sea level rise on Atlantic coasts to more intense droughts in Africa. During the winter months, seawater in the Arctic cools and sinks, causing warm water to flow into the region from the tropics. But this convection of water to the depths is threatened by the rapid warming in polar regions. To investigate, Marilena Oltmanns and her colleagues at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, studied seawater salinity and temperature data collected in the Irminger Sea to the south of Greenland between 2002 and 2014. In some summers, the seawater at the surface had an unusually high temperature and low salinity – particularly in 2010. This is a sign that more fresh water was flooding into the region, perhaps from melting ice in Greenland or the Arctic Ocean. The fresh water poses a threat to convection because, being less dense than seawater, it has to be cooled to a greater degree before it will sink. To make matters worse, Oltmanns’s team also found evidence that the summers featuring the largest bodies of fresh water are followed by winters that are too mild to provide adequate chilling. Measurements taken during the northern hemisphere winter of 2010-11 confirmed the significance of the problem. Conditions were mild, and so much fresh water had accumulated during the previous summer that 40 per cent of it still remained in the upper 200 metres of the water column when spring arrived.
3-14-18 Rising carbon dioxide levels impair coral growth
Coral reefs are under threat if atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, new research has shown. When CO2 dissolves in the ocean, it raises the water's acidity level. This prevents a build up of calcium carbonate, which corals draw from seawater to build their skeleton. The study, published today in Nature, was conducted on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. This marks the first time that ocean acidification has been tested in this way on a natural coral reef community, say the paper's authors. Previous lab-based studies have focused on how particular organisms are impacted by ocean acidification. "But when we try to scale that to understanding how individual ecosystems respond, it would be comparable to looking at a single tree and saying that's how a rainforest would respond," said Dr Rebecca Albright from the California Academy of Sciences, lead author on the study. Dr Claudia Benitez-Nelson at the University of South Carolina described the research as exciting. "We have very few studies that directly examine the impact of ocean acidification in the field, much less at the ecosystem level. Coral ecosystems are unique and complex. Trying to emulate the diversity of such ecosystems is difficult if not impossible," she said.
3-14-18 How concrete and condoms could turn a greenhouse gas green
We need to suck CO2 from the air to solve the climate crisis, but what do we do with it? A budding industry is turning the gas into useful stuff. TAKE a breath. You have just inhaled about 0.6 grams of air, including 0.4 milligrams of carbon dioxide. Had you lived in the 1600s, you would have taken in less than 0.3 milligrams of CO2 with each breath. Although it might not seem like a big difference, the additional greenhouse gas now in the atmosphere is altering the climate at a pace that threatens global havoc. What if we could take CO2 right back out of the air and put it to use? What if, instead of being the most dangerous waste product in human history, it could become the basis for new industries that clean up the planet instead of harming it – and turn a profit too? That is the promise of carbon capture and use (CCU), a burgeoning industry that has attracted billions of dollars in investment, some of it from major oil and gas companies. There are notable success stories. Already, companies are turning carbon dioxide into plastics, fuel and concrete – meaning that you could build your house or power your car with products that keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The real question is whether these start-ups can grow fast enough and to be big enough to make a difference. For that, they need to use enough CO2 to make a significant dent in the billions of tonnes that we emit each year. Governments have agreed to reduce annual emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 or 2°C, the international target enshrined in the 2016 Paris Agreement. But they have left it so late that even if we all made huge cuts to our greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, the target is nigh-on impossible.
3-14-18 War on plastic may do more harm than good, warns think tank
A green think tank has warned of the risk of unintended consequences from the wave of concern about plastics. The Green Alliance, a parliamentary group, said plastics played a valuable role and couldn't be simply abolished. It wants to transform the notion of a "War on Plastics" into a "War on Plastic Litter". The group - like many environmentalists - gave a grudging welcome to Chancellor Philip Hammond's call for evidence on taxes on single use plastics. But it warned that rejecting all plastic food packaging could prove counter-productive. Agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, so reducing food waste is vital. Well-packed food - perhaps in plastic - helps protect food from damage, so it can actually save on greenhouse gases. The other potential area of concern is the substitution of plastics with plant-based materials. Forests are already being felled to grow crops to feed the world's booming demand for meat production and wild land is also disappearing to produce bio-fuels for cars and electricity generation. But there is a finite amount of land. The Green Alliance fears that a demand for plastic substitutes could also increase the pressure for deforestation. This would, in turn, lead to more greenhouse gases that would warm and acidify the oceans people are anxious to protect.
3-12-18 Polar melt may shut down the Atlantic current that warms Europe
Melting Arctic ice flooding into the Atlantic could put the ocean circulation that warms Europe in danger, triggering dramatic sea-level rise and drought. The ocean current that gives western and northern Europe a relatively mild climate might be at greater risk of shutdown than we thought. If the North Atlantic current – the northern segment of the Gulf Stream – did grind to a halt the effects could be severe, from greater sea-level rise on Atlantic coasts to more intense droughts in Africa. Surface seawater in the subpolar region chills during the winter months, which makes it so cold and dense that it sinks. This process, known as ocean convection, is an important part of the large-scale ocean circulation. But the process is threatened by the rapid warming in polar regions. To investigate, Marilena Oltmanns and her colleagues at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, studied seawater salinity and temperature data collected in the Irminger Sea to the south of Greenland between 2002 and 2014. In some summers, the seawater at the surface had an unusually high temperature and low salinity – particularly in 2010. This is a sign that more fresh water was flooding into the region, perhaps from melting ice in Greenland or the Arctic Ocean. The fresh water poses a threat to convection, because, being less dense than seawater, it has to be cooled to a greater degree before it will sink. To make matters worse, Oltmanns’s team also found evidence that the summers featuring the largest bodies of fresh water are followed by winters that are too mild to provide adequate chilling.
3-12-18 US climate report warns nation will lose out if it doesn’t act
A draft of a US government report argues that the country could reap huge economic and health benefits by cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Global warming is caused by human activity and failure to address it will cost the US dearly. That’s the uncompromising message from a draft of a major US report on climate science. The full report is due to be published in the spring by the US Global Change Research Program, a body charged by Congress with assessing climatic impacts on the US every four years. But some of the report’s contents are now public, because it has been reviewed by a committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Their comments were published on Monday and they suggest the government report will pull no punches in detailing the threats posed by climate change. That message might not go down well in the White House. President Trump has previously suggested global warming is a concept “created by and for the Chinese”. Almost no one in the scientific community doubts that climate change is a threat to civilisation, and is largely caused by human activity. But because of Trump’s views, scientists have expressed fears that the White House could change or suppress government reports on climate science. So far, though, it does not seem to be happening. In November the US Global Change Research Program published volume one of its Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), on the causes of climate change.
3-12-18 Microplastics are 'littering' riverbeds
Microscopic plastic beads, fragments and fibres are littering riverbeds across the UK - from rural streams to urban waterways. This is according to a study that analysed sediments from rivers in north-west England. Scientists from the University of Manchester tested river sediments at 40 sites throughout Greater Manchester and found "microplastics everywhere". There is evidence that such small particles can enter the food chain. The findings, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, are the first from a "systematic basin-wide" study, the researchers say. In a first round of tests, just one of the sites - in the upper reaches of the River Goyt, which is one of the tributaries of the River Mersey - contained no plastic. But when the researchers returned to that site to repeat their test, that area had become contaminated. "I think that it is likely that there are even higher concentrations in some of the large rivers passing through global megacities," said lead researcher Dr Rachel Hurley. "We just need to get out there and see. We still don't know the full scale of the microplastic problem," she told BBC News. "Wherever you have people and industry, you will have high levels of microplastic," added Prof Jamie Woodward, from Manchester University's School of Geography.
3-9-18 Eco-friendly nanowood is a super strong and recyclable Styrofoam
Nanowood is a strong yet lightweight material made by chemically stripping wood to its skeletal fibres. It’s eco-friendly and insulates better than Styrofoam. Wood is the new Styrofoam. By stripping away all the filler material in wood, leaving just bare fibres, researchers have shown that the resulting “nanowood” material outperforms just about all existing insulators. Liangbing Hu of the University of Maryland in College Park, led the team that developed nanowood. To make it, they expose wood to cheap, simple chemicals – sodium hydroxide, sodium sulphite and hydrogen peroxide. Together, these strip out the cell walls in wood, made up of lignin and hemicellulose, leaving just the skeletal nanofibres of cellulose. It is the parallel arrangement of these surviving nanofibers that gives nanowood its unusual properties. Heat can’t travel easily across the fibres and is mostly reflected, not least because all the solid filler material in wood that would otherwise convey the heat is gone, replaced by poorly-conducting air. And because the surviving fibres are parallel, they help to dissipate any heat that does penetrate, so it can’t become concentrated. This duality of heat conductance – stopping heat penetrating through in one direction and guiding away any that does in another – gives it a big edge over other insulators, says Hu. “This really shows that nature has outperformed humankind, once again,” says Jeff Youngblood of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Illinois, whose work also focuses on producing industrially useful products derived from wood. “We just have to unlock her secrets.”
3-8-18 A record winter warm spell in the Arctic
Scientists are growing increasingly alarmed by the unseasonably warm temperatures in the Arctic. It’s currently winter at the North Pole: The Arctic region hasn’t seen daylight since October and is usually a frigid minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit at this time of year. But a weather station at the northern tip of Greenland has seen a record 61 hours of above-freezing temperatures since Jan. 1, with the mercury rising to a balmy 43 degrees at one point. While the Arctic has become increasingly warmer in recent decades, this heat wave is particularly unusual, with average February temperatures exceeding norms by 27 degrees—with some days 60 degrees above normal. “This is an anomaly among anomalies,” Michael Mann, a climatologist at Penn State University, tells TheGuardian.com. “It is a suggestion that there are further surprises in store as we continue to poke the angry beast that is our climate.” The warmer temperatures in the Arctic have had a knock-on effect in Europe, causing an unprecedented cold snap that left large swaths of the region blanketed with snow last week. Warmer air and melting Arctic ice weaken the polar jet stream, the strong band of winds that forms at the point where balmy air from lower latitudes meets the frosty air of the Arctic. Weaker winds cause the jet stream to lose strength and become wobbly, allowing the cold air normally trapped in the Arctic to descend farther south.
3-8-18 Record low Arctic ice linked to freak weather in US, Europe
The unusually cold and snowy conditions hitting the US now, and experienced last week across Europe, may be a direct consequence of the Arctic's warmer winter. Another year, another climate record broken. But don’t let this one wash over you. Arctic sea ice is usually at its most extensive in early March, which marks the end of the Arctic winter – but this year’s winter ice cap is the smallest recorded in almost 40 years of monitoring. The previous record low was set only last year. Around Antarctica, meanwhile, sea ice levels are the second lowest on record. In February, Arctic sea ice covered about 13.9 million square kilometres. This is 1.74 million square kilometres below the seasonal average recorded between 1981 and 2010. Global warming is largely to blame for the ice loss. The Arctic has experienced its warmest winter on record, with temperatures far higher than seasonal averages. This has had an impact on the formation of sea ice during the Arctic winter. As millions of people in Europe last week and the eastern United States right now are finding out, the effects are not confined to the Arctic. Warm weather in the polar region is thought to influence atmospheric air streams, forcing colder air further south where it can pass over densely populated regions. The unusually cold conditions experienced last week across Europe may be a direct consequence of the Arctic’s warmer winter. The east coast of the United States is experiencing extreme winter weather. Winter Storm Quinn was expected to dump more than 50 centimetres of snow across the region this week. Some of the affected areas are still recovering from the effects of Winter Storm Riley, which blasted across the region last week.
3-8-18 Winter storm dumps snow and knocks out power on US East Coast
Thousands of people were left without power as a storm brought more than 2ft (60cm) of snow to the US east coast. More than 800,000 customers were without electricity, including some who have been without power since last Friday's powerful winter storm. Heavy snow and icy roads prompted officials to close schools and cancel or delay thousands of flights across the region. It is the second storm to hit the US East Coast in less than a week. More snow and wind gusts of up to 55 miles (88km/h) were expected to stretch across eastern New York through northern Maine on Thursday. Up to 18 inches (45cm) of snow could fall on northern New England, according to the National Weather Service. At least one death has been blamed on the storm. An 88-year-old woman died after she was struck by a falling tree in Suffern, New York, according to the Journal News newspaper. Amtrak rail operator suspended service between New York City and Boston until 11:00 local time (16:00 GMT) on Thursday, according to the company. Dozens of routes had also been cancelled and residents were advised to avoid travel unless necessary. More than 2,000 flights were cancelled as of Wednesday night, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.
3-8-18 Climate change 'impacts women more than men'
Women are more likely than men to be affected by climate change, studies show. UN figures indicate that 80% of people displaced by climate change are women. Roles as primary caregivers and providers of food and fuel make them more vulnerable when flooding and drought occur. The 2015 Paris Agreement has made specific provision for the empowerment of women, recognising that they are disproportionately impacted. In central Africa, where up to 90% of Lake Chad has disappeared, nomadic indigenous groups are particularly at risk. As the lake's shoreline recedes, women have to walk much further to collect water. "In the dry season, men go to the towns... leaving women to look after the community," explains Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, coordinator of the Association of Indigenous Women and People of Chad (AFPAT). With dry seasons now becoming longer, women are working harder to feed and care for their families without support. "They become more vulnerable... it's very hard work," Ibrahim recently told the BBC's 100 Women initiative.
3-7-18 A cracking idea: The radical way to open up frozen seas
Arctic routes are getting busier and some ships get trapped in the ice. Rather than smash them out with brute force, there is a more elegant way to free them. IT WAS snowing at the edge of Lake Erie during the commissioning ceremony for the USS Little Rock in December 2017. The US Navy ship cost more than $300 million and is designed to have the speed and manoeuvrability needed for anti-submarine warfare. Towards the end of the ceremony, the ship’s chaplain prayed for its crew: “Protect them from the perils of the sea and the violence of the enemy.” Ice probably wasn’t at the forefront of his mind, yet it is the most troublesome foe the ship has faced to date. It is trapped in port, its route to sea frozen shut. The USS Little Rock is only the latest ship to be frozen out of action. Freight and research vessels routinely get stuck in Arctic ice, leaving crews twiddling their thumbs until an icebreaker ship arrives to smash a path out. But icebreakers make slow progress and frequently get stuck themselves. Luckily, there is an alternative approach that promises to clear ice much quicker: just give it the right sort of shake. Despite the risks of ice, Arctic seas are getting busier. The Northern Sea Route running along the coast of Russia, for example, provides a shortcut for cargo ships between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, reducing the distance compared with the Suez Canal route by about 40 per cent. As the ice cap thins, the Arctic route is becoming increasingly viable: a record high of almost ten million tonnes of cargo travelled that way in 2017. But although the route isn’t frozen solid these days, there will still be plenty of ice floating around for decades to come – so a way to clear it is more important than ever.
3-7-18 Parts of San Francisco are sinking faster than the sea is rising
Rising seas are already boosting the flood risk in places like San Francisco, but the problem is even worse than that because land is also subsiding. Rising seas aren’t the only problem facing low-lying coastal areas. Many of these areas are also sinking, vastly increasing the risk of flooding. In the San Francisco Bay area, sea level rise alone could inundate an area of between 50 and 410 square kilometres by 2100, depending both on how much action is taken to limit further global warming and how fast the polar ice sheets melt. But when land subsidence is also taken into account, the area vulnerable to flooding during high tides and storm surges rises to between 130 and 430 square kilometres. That’s the conclusion of Manoochehr Shirzaei at Arizona State University and Roland Bürgmann at the University of California, Berkeley. They used satellite data from 2007 to 2010 to work out how land heights changed in the Bay area at this time. A few areas such as Santa Clara Valley were rising slightly, likely because of increased groundwater storage. But most areas were sinking slightly, by 1 or 2 millimetres per year. Some places, including parts of the city itself, plus San Francisco International Airport and Foster City, were sinking by up to 10mm per year. That’s because these areas are built on natural mud deposits, or landfill sites that are still compacting. The subsidence means these areas are sinking even faster than sea level is rising because of global warming: currently 3mm per year and accelerating. The results show the importance of taking land subsidence into account when calculating the risk from coastal flooding, the researchers say.
3-7-18 Elon Musk wants to turn our homes into one big power plant
Tesla has already built a massive battery in Australia, and now plans to fit more in 50,000 homes to create the world's largest virtual power plant. FIRST there was ride-sharing and room-sharing. Now Tesla is bringing us energy-sharing, with the announcement that it is building the world’s largest “virtual” power plant in Australia. Last month, the government of South Australia revealed that it had hired Elon Musk’s firm to fit 50,000 homes with solar panels and lithium ion batteries. The aim is to shake up the traditional model of having all houses connect to a central power station.Instead, houses that can generate power themselves will be wired up separately. The government says that by producing their own solar energy, participating households will shave 30 per cent off their energy bills. Anything they don’t use will be stored in their batteries and fed into the grid to reduce bills for everyone in the state, to the tune of $140 million per year (all prices given are in US dollars). It sounds like a win-win for everyone – if it works. Paul Graham at Australia’s national science organisation CSIRO says conditions are ripe for a shift towards decentralised energy. A major driver is the dramatic fall in the prices of solar panels and batteries, he says. “Just two years ago, batteries were twice the cost they are now.” As prices fall, it makes sense for individual households to install their own power systems, but the coordination offered by a virtual power plant means the entire community can benefit.
3-7-18 Cars buck falling CO2 emissions trend
Britain's carbon emissions have sunk to the level last seen in 1890 – the year before penalties were first awarded in football. In 2017, CO2 emissions from fossil fuels fell by 2.6%. This was mainly driven by a 19% decline in coal use. It follows a 5.8% fall in 2016, which saw a record 52% drop in coal use, according to the green website Carbon Brief. The figure is doubly striking as emissions from cars have been going up. The analysis is based on government energy-use figures. The government will publish its own CO2 estimates later in March. Last year, Carbon Brief's preliminary assessment of CO2 proved accurate. This year’s shows that the UK's total CO2 emissions are currently 38% below 1990 levels. They have been decreasing steadily since 2012, with big falls in 2014 and 2016. The decline continued in 2017. Oil and petroleum use increased slightly, though not enough to offset the falls in CO2 associated with other fuels. Leo Hickman, editor of Carbon Brief, told BBC News: "The data highlights the dramatic impact that the rapid decline of coal-fired power plants is having on the UK's emissions. "The drop was not as pronounced as in 2016, but in 2017 coal was joined by a fall in the use of gas due to a milder winter." But he warned: "If the UK is to meet its climate targets over the next few decades, this rate of decline will need to be maintained, even accelerated. "Action will need to be focused on the transport and building sectors, where emission reductions remain elusive." Vehicles are a creating a real CO2 headache for the government, with average emissions for new cars rising for first time since 2000. The motor industry blamed the public backlash against diesel vehicles driven by concerns about local air pollution. But environmentalists said it was also caused by a manufacturing trend towards SUVs. (Webmaster's comment: It's still not near enough! Worldwide CO2 levels continue to rise and not even slow down. Recent Monthly Average Mauna Loa CO2: February 2017: 406.42 ppm, February 2018: 408.35 ppm)
3-7-18 Diver swims through 'horrifying plastic cloud'
The Indonesian island of Bali is popular with tourists and known for its beautiful beaches. British diver Rich Horner lives on a nearby island, and filmed himself swimming through rubbish in the sea.
3-6-18 When bogs burn, the environment takes a hit
The peat sequestered in the wet ground keeps much of Earth’s carbon out of the atmosphere. In 2015, massive wildfires burned through Indonesia, sending thick smoke and haze as far as Thailand. These fires were “the worst environmental disaster in modern history,” says Thomas Smith, a wildfire expert at King’s College London. Smith estimates that the fires and smoke killed 100,000 people in Indonesia and neighboring countries and caused billions of dollars in damage. The fires were costly for the rest of the planet, too: At their peak, the blazes belched more climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each day than did all U.S. economic activity. Two years later and 13,000 kilometers away, a fire smoldered on the fringes of a barren, northern landscape. The remote blaze could have gone unnoticed. But Jessica McCarty and other fire researchers actively monitor satellite imagery of Earth the way some people check Facebook. One Sunday in August, McCarty, of Miami University in Ohio, was surprised to see massive plumes of what appeared to be white smoke over a swath of Greenland. The giant landmass had not been on her fire radar. It’s mostly ice, and the parts that aren’t have sparse vegetation. The settings of these two blazes couldn’t have been more different, but scientists suspect the two had something important in common: plenty of decaying organic matter known as peat.
3-5-18 By 2100, damaged corals may let waves twice as tall as today’s reach coasts
Conserving reefs is key to defending coastal communities, simulations suggest. A complex coral reef full of nooks and crannies is a coastline’s best defense against large ocean waves. But coral die-offs over the next century could allow taller waves to penetrate the corals’ defenses, simulations suggest. A new study finds that at some Pacific Island sites, waves reaching the shore could be more than twice as high as today’s by 2100. The rough, complex structures of coral reefs dissipate wave energy through friction, calming waves before they reach the shore. As corals die due to warming oceans (SN: 2/3/18, p. 16), the overall complexity of the reef also diminishes, leaving a coast potentially more exposed. At the same time, rising sea levels due to climate change increasingly threaten low-lying coastal communities with inundation and beach erosion — and stressed corals may not be able to grow vertically fast enough to match the pace of sea level rise. That could also make them a less effective barrier. Researchers compared simulations of current and future sea level and reef conditions at four sites with differing wave energy near the French Polynesian islands of Moorea and Tahiti. The team then simulated the height of a wave after it has passed the reef, known as the back-reef wave height, under several scenarios. The most likely scenario studied was based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s projections of sea level height by 2100 and corresponding changes in reef structure.
3-5-18 Pollution regulations help Chesapeake Bay seagrass rebound
The bay’s nitrogen concentrations have dropped 23 percent since 1984. Underwater grasses are growing back in the Chesapeake Bay. The plants now carpet three times as much real estate as in 1984, thanks to more than 30 years of efforts to reduce nitrogen pollution. This environmental success story shows that regulations put in place to protect the bay’s health have made a difference, researchers report the week of March 5 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Rules limiting nutrient runoff from farms and wastewater treatment plants helped to decrease nitrogen concentrations in the bay by 23 percent since 1984. That decline in nitrogen has allowed the recovery of 17,000 hectares of grasses, the new study shows — enough to cover roughly 32,000 football fields. “This is one of the best examples we have of linking long-term research data with management to show how important that is in restoring this critical habitat,” says Karen McGlathery, an environmental scientist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville who wasn’t involved in the research. ”I don’t know of any other system that’s so large and so complicated where these connections have been made.”
3-3-18 Winter storms batter US eastern seaboard
Severe storms have battered the US eastern seaboard, causing coastal flooding and power outages and bringing travel services to a halt. More than a million residences were without power in the Northeast and Midwest while rail operator Amtrak suspended its Northeast service. Heavy rains and damaging winds also led to the cancellation of more than 2,600 US flights. At least six people have been killed, US media report. They died when strong winds brought branches or entire trees down on streets, cars, and homes. Seawater flooded Boston's coastal streets for the second time this year caused by an extreme high tide. A foot (30cm) of snow fell on northern and western areas of New York state. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency on Friday afternoon in order to marshal resources and "appropriate preparedness, response, and recovery measures", according to a statement. (Webmaster's comment: Chaotic weather will soon become the new normal.)
3-3-18 Critter-finding mission to Antarctica’s Larsen C iceberg scrapped
Too much ice prevented the research vessel from reaching the calving site. Thick sea ice has thwarted researchers’ plans to explore what creatures lived beneath an Antarctic ice shelf. A mission to study seafloor life suddenly exposed by the breaking away of the Larsen C iceberg last July was delayed as it tried to navigate through floating ice, some chunks as thick as 5 meters. With 400 kilometers still to go, the captain of the vessel, the RRS James Clark Ross, canceled the mission February 28. "It was nature [that] defeated us," said principal investigator and marine biologist Katrin Linse of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge in a video released by BAS March 2. “We knew this mission was high risk and high reward.” Not all is lost, though. The vessel is now heading to the nearby Larsen A ice shelf, where an iceberg broke away in 1995. There, researchers will study a never-explored deep-sea seafloor ecosystem 1,000 meters beneath the ocean’s surface.
3-2-18 Mission to giant A-68 berg thwarted by sea-ice
Scientists have had to abandon their plan to investigate the waters around the world's biggest iceberg. The team, led by the British Antarctic Survey, was thwarted in its attempts to reach the massive block known as A-68 by thick sea-ice in the Weddell Sea. The iceberg broke away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula last July. It revealed portions of the sea-floor that had been covered for many thousands of years. The team, which is on the Royal Research Ship James Clark Ross, had been hoping to sample what were likely to be new species. These animals would have had to adapt to an environment devoid of light to survive. "We knew that getting through the sea-ice to reach Larsen C would be difficult," said expedition leader Dr Katrin Linse. "Naturally, we are disappointed not to get there but safety must come first. "But we have a 'Plan B'; we will head north to areas which have never been sampled for benthic biodiversity. "The Prince Gustav Channel Ice Shelf and neighbouring Larsen A Ice Shelf collapsed in 1995. We'll be sampling deeper than we planned at Larsen C - down to 1,000m - so we're excited about what deep sea creatures we might find."
3-2-18 Ireland shutdown as Europe severe weather continues
Severe weather continues to bring chaos to large parts of Europe, where at least 55 people have died amid sub-zero temperatures. Most transport and flights have been suspended in Ireland where strong winds brought by a storm left some 24,000 homes and businesses without power.Several other countries have faced disruptions caused by snow and ice. The death toll rose in Poland, and the public has been told to alert officials if they see people sleeping outside. The unusually cold spell brought by a Siberian weather system was being felt as far south as the balmy Mediterranean. The system has been given various nicknames - in the UK it is "the Beast from the East" while the Dutch call it the "Siberian bear" and Swedes the "snow cannon". It met Storm Emma on Thursday, causing blizzards and strong winds in parts of England, Wales and Ireland. Flights in and out of Dublin and Cork airports were suspended until Saturday at the earliest. All schools in the country were shut and people were urged not to drive. Some rail services operated by Eurostar between London, Paris and Brussels were axed, while the airport in the Swiss city of Geneva was shut because of snow. In parts of central Italy, ice forced the closure of several roads and railways.
3-1-18 Temperatures in the Arctic soared
Temperatures in the Arctic soared 45 degrees higher than normal last week, even though the sun hasn’t shone in the region since October. The Cape Morris Jessup weather station at the northernmost tip of Greenland, just 400 miles from the North Pole, registered more than 24 hours of above-freezing temperatures. At one point, the temperature at the North Pole rose to about the melting point.
3-1-18 ‘Beast From the East’
Europe was blasted with extreme cold this week, bringing rare snow to Rome and the French Riviera and disrupting travel across the continent. Schools and government offices shut down from Belgium to Bulgaria. In Poland, at least 18 people died from hypothermia; in Romania, the cold caused at least three deaths. Meteorologists said the cold snap came from Siberia, leading British media to call it the “Beast From the East”—although one commentator, moaning about Britons’ lack of hardiness, labeled it “hysteria from Siberia.” Several European cities opened extra shelters and sent police to round up the homeless, saying it was too cold to allow anyone to sleep outdoors. In parts of Germany, temperatures dipped to minus 5.
3-1-18 Snow in Europe: Icy blizzards stall transport networks
Fresh heavy snowfalls lashing Europe have caused transport delays, with the deep freeze expected to continue. The airport in the Swiss city of Geneva has been forced to shut down temporarily and snow ploughs have been attempting to clear the runway. Large parts of the Continent continue to shiver in the grip of a Siberian weather system that has brought the coldest temperatures for several years. The cold snap has been given various nicknames in different countries. In Britain it is "the Beast from the East" - with Storm Emma close behind - while the Dutch are calling it the "Siberian bear" and Swedes the "snow cannon". Icy blizzards have seen trains cancelled and roads come to a standstill. About 2,000 drivers were stranded on a motorway near the French city of Montpellier, with some complaining of being stuck for as long 24 hours. Meanwhile, dozens of people have been reported dead across the continent - including 21 in Poland, according to AFP news agency. Many are believed to have been rough sleepers. The cold spell has spread as far south as the Mediterranean and to the far north-west, where Ireland is prepared for what is predicted to be its heaviest snowfall in decades.
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32 Global Warming News Articles
for March of 2018
Global Warming News Articles for February of 2018