Climate Blog and News Recap: 2010 09 10
The Ice Man cometh and while the fat lady hasn’t sung quite yet, there are more than a few posts about ice in one form or age or another:
Sea ice extent update 29: riding the slide (Neven)
Fullerminations (THE MASS BALANCE OF THE ICE SHEETS) (Tobis)
Arctic non-shocker: Ever-thinning sea ice melts out as area, extent, and volume approach record lows (Romm)
Major analysis finds “less ice covers the Arctic today than at any time in recent geologic history.” (Romm)
Arctic is “continuing down in a death spiral. Every bit of evidence we have says the ice is thinning.” (Romm)
Also note the Younger Dryas in the Science Daily bits below.
Running out of sciency stuff, I guess I’ll throw in some policy bits …
Davis et al, 2010: Future CO2 Emissions and Climate Change from Existing Energy Infrastructure
Roger Pielke Jr excerpts a discussion on this paper in Twenty-Five Wedges or More (Pielke Jr)
I didn’t know it at a time I posted at Roger’s blog, but the number of such wedges required has been the subject of much prior … ummm … discussion. (Romm)
Main Climate Threat from Carbon Dioxide Sources Yet to Be Built
Scientists have warned that avoiding dangerous climate change this century will require steep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions. New energy-efficient or carbon-free technologies can help, but what about the power plants, cars, trucks, and other fossil-fuel-burning devices already in operation? Unless forced into early retirement, they will emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for decades to come. Will their emissions push carbon dioxide levels beyond prescribed limits, regardless of what we build next? Is there already too much inertia in the system to curb climate change? …
…For a coal-fired power plant a “normal life” is about 40 years. For a late-model passenger vehicle in the United States it is about 17 years. After compiling data on lifetimes and emissions rates for the full range of fossil-fuel burning devices worldwide, the researchers found that that between the years 2010 to 2060 the total projected emissions would amount to about 500 billion tons of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere. To gauge the impact, they turned to the climate model. The researchers found that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 would stabilize at less than 430 parts per million (ppm) and the increase of global mean temperatures since preindustrial time would be less than 1.3°C (2.3°F).
“The answer surprised us,” says Davis. “Going into this study, we thought that existing sources of CO2 emissions would be enough to push us beyond 450 ppm and 2°C warming.” In light of common benchmarks of 450 ppm and 2°C, these results indicate that the devices whose emissions will cause the worst impacts have yet to be built…
Energy Technologies Not Enough to Sufficiently Reduce Carbon Emissions, Expert Concludes
Current energy technologies are not enough to reduce carbon emissions to a level needed to lower the risks associated with climate change, New York University physicist Martin Hoffert concludes in an essay in the latest issue of the journal Science…
…Two, reliance on carbon-emitting fuels is once again growing.
“As natural gas and oil approach peak production, coal production rises, and new coal-fired power plants are being built in China, India, and the United States,” writes Hoffert, a professor emeritus in NYU’s Department of Physics.
New Report Seeks to Improve Climate Forecasts
From farmers to government officials in charge of efficiently managing Earth’s precious water and energy resources, people all over the world rely on accurate short-term climate forecasts on timescales ranging from a few weeks to a few years to make more informed decisions…
Among the report’s key recommendations:
•Continue research to better understand and use information from key sources of climate predictability, and interactions between the ocean and atmosphere, atmosphere and land, as well as volcanic eruptions, greenhouse gases and land use changes.
•Improve the basic building blocks of climate forecasts through better physical climate models, making more sustained physical observations, better incorporating observations into forecast systems, and increasing collaboration between forecast agencies and stakeholders in developing and implementing forecast strategies.
•Adopt best practices such as working more closely with research communities, particularly universities; making data that feed into and come out of forecasts publicly available; minimizing subjective forecast components; and using forecast metrics that better convey to the public the probability aspects of forecasts
New Clue to How Last Ice Age Ended
As the last ice age was ending, about 13,000 years ago, a final blast of cold hit Europe, and for a thousand years or more, it felt like the ice age had returned. But oddly, despite bitter cold winters in the north, Antarctica was heating up. For the two decades since ice core records revealed that Europe was cooling at the same time Antarctica was warming over this thousand-year period, scientists have looked for an explanation.
A new study in Nature brings them a step closer by establishing that New Zealand was also warming, indicating that the deep freeze up north, called the Younger Dryas for the white flower that grows near glaciers, bypassed much of the southern hemisphere.
Termites Foretell Climate Change in Africa’s Savannas
Using sophisticated airborne imaging and structural analysis, scientists at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology mapped more than 40,000 termite mounds over 192 square miles in the African savanna. They found that their size and distribution is linked to vegetation and landscape patterns associated with annual rainfall. The results reveal how the savanna terrain has evolved and show how termite mounds can be used to predict ecological shifts from climate change.
GOCE Gravity Mission Back in Action
ESA’s GOCE gravity mission has recovered from a glitch that prevented the satellite from sending its flow of scientific data to the ground. News of the recovery comes earlier than expected, thanks to the fervent efforts of a team of experts.
Irrigation’s Cooling Effects May Mask Warming in Some Regions — For Now
Expanded irrigation has made it possible to feed the world’s growing billions — and it may also temporarily be counteracting the effects of climate change in some regions, say scientists in a new study. But some major groundwater aquifers, a source of irrigation water, are projected to dry up in coming decades from continuing overuse, and when they do, people may face the double whammy of food shortages and higher temperatures.
Watts links to an earlier paper by Christy which reaches the opposite conclusion in
Irrigation most likely to blame for Central California warming (Watts)
Risk of Beetle Outbreaks Rise, Along With Temperature, in the Warming West
The potential for outbreaks of spruce and mountain pine beetles in western North America’s forests is likely to increase significantly in the coming decades, according to a study conducted by USDA Forest Service researchers and their colleagues. Their findings, published in the September issue of the journal BioScience, represent the first comprehensive synthesis of the effects of climate change on bark beetles.
Melting Rate of Icecaps in Greenland and Western Antarctica Lower Than Expected
The Greenland and West Antarctic ice caps are melting at half the speed previously predicted, according to analysis of recent satellite data.
See also Ice Sheet Loss Cut In Half (Hoffman)
Did someone violate an embargo or blackout or whatever they call it?
Carbon Mapping Breakthrough
By integrating satellite mapping, airborne-laser technology, and ground-based plot surveys, scientists from the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology, with colleagues from the World Wildlife Fund and in coordination with the Peruvian Ministry of the Environment (MINAM), have revealed the first high-resolution maps of carbon locked up in tropical forest vegetation and emitted by land-use practices
The Forest Paradox During Heatwaves
Comparatively speaking, forests initially have a weaker cooling effect during heatwaves than open grassland. This is revealed in a study that could help refine models for weather and climate forecasts. Moreover, it also provides fresh arguments for the debate on reforestation in the context of climate change.