Today, a UN special report was released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to asses the impact of climate change. Specifically, issues with global warming reaching 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
One of the world’s biggest climate targets is to keep global warming below 2°C. As of today, the IPCC believes that this goal is no longer sufficient for staving away the consequences of global warming. The report goes on to say that in order to avoid catastrophic damage we will need rapid advancements in the fields of energy, land use, infrastructure and personal lifestyle.
1.5°C vs. 2°C
Here is a breakdown on the potential difference between living in a world 2 degrees warmer, vs that of one 1.5 degree warmer:
Climate models project robust differences in regional climate characteristics between present-day and global warming of 1.5°C, and between 1.5°C and 2°C. These differences include increases in: mean temperature in most land and ocean regions, hot extremes in most inhabited regions, heavy precipitation in several regions, and the probability of drought and precipitation deficits in some regions.
By 2100, global mean sea level rise is projected to be around 0.1 metre lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared to 2°C. Sea level will continue to rise well beyond 2100, and the magnitude and rate of this rise depends on future emission pathways. A slower rate of sea level rise enables greater opportunities for adaptation in the human and ecological systems of small islands, low-lying coastal areas and deltas.
Limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2ºC is projected to reduce increases in ocean temperature as well as associated increases in ocean acidity and decreases in ocean oxygen levels. Consequently, limiting global warming to 1.5°C is projected to reduce risks to marine biodiversity, fisheries, and ecosystems, and their functions and
services to humans, as illustrated by recent changes to Arctic sea ice and warm water coral reef ecosystems.
Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C and increase further with 2°C.
A storm surge is the result of storm-related winds and atmospheric pressure changes causing the sea to rise. When a hurricane occurs, the storm surges that are part of it are considered to be the biggest threat to property and life.
Characteristics of a Storm Surge
Primarily, a storm surge happens when the winds from a storm push water onshore. The impact of a storm surge depends on multiple factors, such as the storm track, coast line orientation, local bathymetry and the size, intensity and speed of the storm.
Factors That Influence Storm Surge Severity
Even the smallest change in a storm’s forward speed, angle of approach, intensity, size and central pressure can cause a major change in a storm surge. The features of the coast, including the shape, size and the presence of natural elements, such as estuaries and bays, also play a role. Tides, waves and uneven topographic surfaces can also result in a change to this weather phenomenon. The size of a storm surge is determined by measuring the difference between the predicted astronomical tide and the storm tide height.
Why a Storm Surge is Dangerous
In coastal areas, this weather phenomenon often causes extreme flooding. This can be a threat to people and animals, as well as completely destroy property. It also has the potential to erode coastal highways and beaches. When the flooding happens, the water can be packed with debris and contaminants that have the potential to cause injury and make people and animals sick.
A storm surge is an incredible act of nature that can completely destroy the area that it hits. One example of the incredible devastation that a storm surge of capable of is hurricane Katrina, a storm that devastated parts of Louisiana in the United States in 2005.
A hurricane is described as a type of tropical cyclone. To expand on this definition, it is a tropical weather system of extreme intensity that involves thunderstorms. The surface circulation is well-defined and the maximum sustained winds are blowing at a minimum of 74 miles per hour. The winds associated with a hurricane are considered to be rotating.
The Basics of a Hurricane
This type of storm forms over an ocean in areas where the climate is tropical. It is an area of low pressure. It is possible for a hurricane to reach a diameter of 400 to 500 miles. When they hit land, they do so with tremendous force, resulting in heavy rain and massive waves. It is not uncommon for tornadoes to occur as the result of a hurricane. For a tornado to occur due to a hurricane, specific vertical shear and instability criteria have to be met.
It is interesting that a hurricane moves differently depending on which side of the equator it is on. A hurricane spins clockwise south of the equator and counterclockwise north of the equator. How the Earth rotates on its axis is responsible for this.
An eye forms at the center of a hurricane as it rotates faster and faster. At the area of the eye, there is very low air pressure and the storm is calm. Air from above that has a high pressure flows down into the storm’s eye.
A hurricane is put into a category and the category is determined by its sustained wind speed. The categories start at one and go through five. The higher the assigned category, the more dangerous the hurricane is.
Once a storm reaches hurricane status, it has the potential to severely threaten life and property. The worst hurricane in recorded history occurred in Bangladesh in 1970.
NASA is providing updates on Hurricane Harvey from the International Space Station as it continues to rain down on Texas and Louisiana.
“NASA focuses on developing new research capabilities that can be used by our partners in the operational and response communities,” said Dalia Kirschbaum, Research Physical Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “While we continue to innovate in the type of information from satellites, models, and airborne platforms, the main focus is to ensure that the partners that are responding operationally to this event have the information in the format that they need to make effective decisions on emergency response. We continually and actively engage to ensure that the data pipeline is as effective and useful as possible.”
Below, we’ve outlined a few ways in which NASA is watching the storm:
Astronaut Photos from the ISS
Infrared Imagery from NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite
NASA is also working with the National Hurricane Center to forecast data. On Aug. 29 at 7 a.m. CDT, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned “Catastrophic and life-threatening flooding continues and continued heavy rainfall today is expected to worsen the flood situation in southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana.” A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect from Mesquite Bay, Texas to Intracoastal City, Louisiana. A Storm Surge Watch is in effect from Port Bolivar, Texas to Morgan City, Louisiana.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those in Texas and Louisiana. Please stay safe. If you’re looking for updated reports on Hurricane Harvey, visit: www.nhc.noaa.gov
One of the largest icebergs ever recorded has just broken away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Over the past few years I’ve led a team that has been studying this ice shelf and monitoring change. We spent many weeks camped on the ice investigating melt ponds and their impact – and struggling to avoid sunburn thanks to the thin ozone layer. Our main approach, however, is to use satellites to keep an eye on things.
We’ve been surprised by the level of interest in what may simply be a rare but natural occurrence. Because, despite the media and public fascination, the Larsen C rift and iceberg “calving” is not a warning of imminent sea level rise, and any link to climate change is far from straightforward. This event is, however, a spectacular episode in the recent history of Antarctica’s ice shelves, involving forces beyond the human scale, in a place where few of us have been, and one which will fundamentally change the geography of this region.
Ice shelves are found where glaciers meet the ocean and the climate is cold enough to sustain the ice as it goes afloat. Located mostly around Antarctica, these floating platforms of ice a few hundred meters thick form natural barriers which slow the flow of glaciers into the ocean and thereby regulate sea level rise. In a warming world, ice shelves are of particular scientific interest because they are susceptible both to atmospheric warming from above and ocean warming from below.
Back in the 1890s, a Norwegian explorer named Carl Anton Larsen sailed south down the Antarctic Peninsula, a 1,000km long branch of the continent that points towards South America. Along the east coast he discovered the huge ice shelf which took his name.
For the following century, the shelf, or what we now know to be a set of distinct shelves – Larsen A, B, C and D – remained fairly stable. However the sudden disintegrations of Larsen A and B in 1995 and 2002 respectively, and the ongoing speed-up of glaciers which fed them, focused scientific interest on their much larger neighbour, Larsen C, the fourth biggest ice shelf in Antarctica.
This is why colleagues and I set out in 2014 to study the role of surface melt on the stability of this ice shelf. Not long into the project, the discovery by our colleague, Daniela Jansen, of a rift growing rapidly through Larsen C, immediately gave us something equally significant to investigate.
Nature at work
The development of rifts and the calving of icebergs is part of the natural cycle of an ice shelf. What makes this iceberg unusual is its size – at around 5,800 km² it’s the size of a small US state. There is also the concern that what remains of Larsen C will be susceptible to the same fate as Larsen B, and collapse almost entirely.
Our work has highlighted significant similarities between the previous behaviour of Larsen B and current developments at Larsen C, and we have shown that stability may be compromised. Others, however, are confident that Larsen C will remain stable.
What is not disputed by scientists is that it will take many years to know what will happen to the remainder of Larsen C as it begins to adapt to its new shape, and as the iceberg gradually drifts away and breaks up. There will certainly be no imminent collapse, and unquestionably no direct effect on sea level because the iceberg is already afloat and displacing its own weight in seawater.
This means that, despite much speculation, we would have to look years into the future for ice from Larsen C to contribute significantly to sea level rise. In 1995 Larsen B underwent a similar calving event. However, it took a further seven years of gradual erosion of the ice-front before the ice shelf became unstable enough to collapse, and glaciers held back by it were able to speed up, and even then the collapse process may have depended on the presence of surface melt ponds.
Even if the remaining part of Larsen C were to eventually collapse, many years into the future, the potential sea level rise is quite modest. Taking into account only the catchments of glaciers flowing into Larsen C, the total, even after decades, will probably be less than a centimetre.
Is this a climate change signal?
This event has also been widely but over-simplistically linked to climate change. This is not surprising because notable changes in the earth’s glaciers and ice sheets are normally associated with rising environmental temperatures. The collapses of Larsen A and B have previously been linked to regional warming, and the iceberg calving will leave Larsen C at its most retreated position in records going back over a hundred years.
However, in satellite images from the 1980s, the rift was already clearly a long-established feature, and there is no direct evidence to link its recent growth to either atmospheric warming, which is not felt deep enough within the ice shelf, or ocean warming, which is an unlikely source of change given that most of Larsen C has recently been thickening. It is probably too early to blame this event directly on human-generated climate change.
You may be interested in: When an Antarctic iceberg the size of a country breaks away, what happens next?
A 6,000 square kilometer (2,300 miles) section of the Larsen C Ice Shelf has separated from Antarctica and is now floating away in the ocean. We last spoke about the ice shelf on June 21st, when it was anticipated to break away.
It’s the day that climate change researchers have been dreading for a long time. The iceberg ‘calved’ sometime between Monday July 10th and Wednesday July 12th, it’s since been confirmed by infrared satellite imaging. ‘Calving’is the process when an iceberg or glacier break up into different pieces.
“We have been anticipating this event for months, and have been surprised how long it took for the rift to break through the final few kilometres of ice,” says Professor Adrian Luckman on July 12th. “We will continue to monitor both the impact of this calving event on the Larsen C Ice Shelf, and the fate of this huge iceberg.”
The problem began in the early 90’s with the break up of the Larsen A ice shelf, and the following breaking of the Larsen B shelf in 2002.
“The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is difficult to predict. It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments. Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters.”
A chilling article from the New York Times details how, and when the tenets of climate change will effect life for Humans.
Author David Wallace Wells paints a picture of climate change that threatens not only the lives of future generations, but so to within the “lifetime of a teenager today”. He describes key milestones in which civilization may face in the wake of climate change. Doomsday, heat death, the end of food, climate plagues, unbreathable air, perpetual war, permanent economic collapse, and poisoned oceans are all stops along the journey to human extinction according to the author.
In the phase of heat death Wells takes a scientific approach to understanding the problem where he notes that “at 11 or 12 degrees of warming, more than half the world’s population, as distributed today, would die of direct heat”. He doesn’t believe that we’ll get there in this century, but points out that we do have models that illustrate us getting to that point, someday.
The End of Food
The ‘end of food’ is depicted as a dire situation where the planet has “50 percent more people to feed and 50 percent less grain to give them”. The author aptly points out that we’ve actually begun this phase of horrific famine, where in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen famine is predicted to kill up 20 million this year alone.
Climate plagues details the possibility that our polar ice caps contains stores of virus’s from recent pasts, specifically small pox, and the bubonic plague. In May, the BBC reported this very phenomenon, where they found dormant diseases hiding in the Earth’s permafrost. It’s possible that these diseases would not survive being thawed out. However there is recorded instances of this happening. Just last year a boy was killed and 20 others were infected with anthrax upon discovering a reindeer carcass (hidden by permafrost) that was killed by the bacteria 75 years earlier.
Unbreathable air speaks to a point in which our air hits 1,000 ppm by 2100. At these levels, ‘compared to the air we breathe now, human cognitive ability declines by 21 percent.’ Recently, we just surpassed a dreaded 400 ppm level that scientists fear indicate a tipping point for our ecosystem.
Perpetual War and Permanent Economic Collapse
Perpetual war and permanent economic collapse go hand in hand with one an other. An endless fight over resources leading to a global destabilization is a real possibility in this apocalyptic world view.
In poisoned oceans Wells talks about the ocean as a “killer”. His research shows that we may see “four feet of sea-level rise and possibly ten by the end of the century.” This is a threat to all costal cities, and towns, power plants, ports, fisheries, and all other costal activities. Ocean acidification becomes a problem as the ocean currently absorbs two thirds of the carbon we produce, which has caused an extreme stress on marine wildlife as evidenced by phenomena such as coral bleaching.
Lastly the author argues that we’re blind to seeing the warnings that are right in front of our face because of our historical conditioning on story telling. He compares the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the attack at 9/11 as arguments for his example. Questions like “where where you when the Berlin Wall fell” or, “Where where you on 9/11″ imply a longevity of success, one we’re able to answer as we’ve solved the problem. He challenges readers to answer similar questions to understand how this line of conditioning will not solve our problems ‘Where were you at 400 ppm?’ or ‘Where were you when the Larsen B ice shelf broke up?” It’s possible we’ll never be able to answer these questions unless we do something about it before it happens.
If you have time to read the full article, we strongly encourage you to do so.
OSLO (Reuters) – One of the biggest icebergs on record is like a “niggling tooth” about to snap off Antarctica and will be an extra hazard for ships around the frozen continent as it breaks up, scientists said on Wednesday.
An area of the Larsen C ice shelf, about as big as the U.S. state of Delaware or the Indonesian island of Bali, is connected by just 13 km (8 miles) of ice after a crack has crept about 175 kms along the sheet, with a new jump last month.
“It’s keeping us all on tenterhooks,” Andrew Fleming, of the British Antarctic Survey, told Reuters of the lengthening and widening rift, adding “it feels like a niggling tooth” of a child as it comes loose.
Ice shelves are flat-topped areas of ice floating on the sea at the end of glaciers. The Larsen C ice is about 200 meters (656 ft) thick with about 20 meters jutting above the water.
Big icebergs break off Antarctica naturally, meaning scientists are not linking the rift to man-made climate change. The ice, however, is a part of the Antarctic peninsula that has warmed fast in recent decades.
“There is no other evidence of change on the ice shelf. This could simply be a single calving event which will then be followed by re-growth,” Adrian Luckman, a professor at the University of Swansea in Wales, told Reuters.
His team reckons the ice will break off within months, perhaps in days or years.
RISKS FOR SHIPPING
The ice, about 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 square miles), will add to existing risks for ships as it breaks apart and melts. The peninsula is outside major trade routes but the main destination for cruise ships visiting from South America.
In 2009, more than 150 passengers and crew were evacuated after the MTV Explorer sank after striking an iceberg off the Antarctic peninsula.
Fleming said the Larsen C iceberg would add an extra pulse of ice and would be hazardous especially if smaller chunks reached usually ice-free areas in the South Atlantic, rather than staying close to Antarctica’s coast.
The Larsen B ice shelf nearby broke up in 2002 and some of the ice drifted into the South Atlantic toward the island of South Georgia, east of Argentina.
In 2000, the biggest iceberg recorded broke off the Ross ice shelf and was about the size of Jamaica at 11,000 square kms. Bits have lingered for years.
The loss of ice shelves does not in itself affect sea levels because the ice is already floating. But their disappearance lets glaciers on land slip faster toward the ocean, thereby raising sea levels.
NASA estimates that the Larsen C ice shelf pins back ice on land that would add a centimeter (0.4 inch) to world sea levels, which have gained about 20 centimeters in the past century.
(Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Gareth Jones)
This amazing video was captured aboard Flight NZ1980 from New Zealand to the Antarctic Circle.
The first ever commercial flight to the Antarctic Circle from Dunedin New Zealand to intercept the auroral oval on the night of 23 March 2017. The 8 hour flight was a great success. This is a time-lapse video captured while we were still heading south on an intercept course with the international date-line and the 66th parallel.
The release of the first images today from NOAA’s newest satellite, GOES-16, is the latest step in a new age of weather satellites. This composite color full-disk visible image is from 1:07 p.m. EDT on Jan. 15, 2017, and was created using several of the 16 spectral channels available on the GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument. The image shows North and South America and the surrounding oceans. GOES-16 observes Earth from an equatorial view approximately 22,300 miles high, creating full disk images like these, extending from the coast of West Africa, to Guam, and everything in between.
GOES-16, formerly known as GOES-R, is the first spacecraft in a new series of NASA-built advanced geostationary weather satellites. NASA successfully launched the satellite at 6:42 p.m. EST on Nov. 19, 2016, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NOAA manages the GOES-R Series Program through an integrated NOAA-NASA office. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, oversees the acquisition of the GOES-R series spacecraft and instruments.
Following on the heels of GOES-R will be, GOES-S, the second of four spacecraft in the series. GOES-S is undergoing environmental testing at Lockheed Martin’s Corporation facility in Littleton, Colorado, where it was built. A full set of environmental, mechanical and electromagnetic testing will take about one year to complete. The GOES-S satellite will be moved into the other operational position as GOES-17 immediately after launch and initial checkout of the satellite, approximately nine months after GOES-16.
Originally published at NASA
OSLO (Reuters) – World temperatures hit a record high for the third year in a row in 2016, creeping closer to a ceiling set for global warming with extremes including unprecedented heat in India and ice melt in the Arctic, U.S. government agencies said on Wednesday.
The data, supported by findings from other organizations, was issued two days before the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who questions whether climate change has a human cause.
Average surface temperatures over land and the oceans in 2016 were 0.94 degrees Celsius (1.69 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th-century average of 13.9C (57.0F), according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
U.S. space agency NASA reported almost identical data, and the UK Met Office and University of East Anglia, which also track global temperatures for the United Nations, said 2016 was the hottest year on record.
Temperatures, lifted both by man-made greenhouse gases and a natural El Nino event that released heat from the Pacific Ocean last year, beat the previous record in 2015, when 200 nations agreed a plan to limit global warming. That peak had in turn eclipsed 2014.
“We don’t expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Global temperature records date back to the 1880s. Temperatures are unlikely to set a new peak in 2017 after the El Nino faded, even as greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels keep building up in the atmosphere, led by China and the United States.
Piers Forster, climate expert at the University of Leeds, said this year was likely to be cooler. “However, unless we have a major volcanic eruption, I expect the record to be broken again within a few years,” he said. Ash from big eruptions can dim sunlight.
Among last year’s extreme weather events, wildfires in Alberta were the costliest natural disaster in Canada’s history while Phalodi in west India recorded a temperature of 51C (123.8°F) on May 19, a national record.
North America also had its warmest year on record, the Great Barrier Reef off Australia suffered severe damage from rising temperatures, and sea ice in both the Arctic Ocean and around Antarctica is at record lows for mid-January.
At a conference in Paris in late 2015, governments agreed a plan to phase out fossil fuels this century and shift to renewable energies such as wind and solar power.
They agreed to limit warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) above pre-industrial times, while pursuing efforts for 1.5C (2.7F). By that yardstick, the rise stood at about 1.1C (2.0F) in 2016.
“Long-term indicators of human-caused climate change reached new heights in 2016,” Petteri Taalaas, head of the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organisation said, referring to rising levels of carbon dioxide and methane.
Trump, who has described climate change as a hoax, has threatened to cancel the Paris Agreement and shift to exploiting cheap domestic coal, oil and gas. At a meeting in Marrakesh days after Trump’s victory, however, almost 200 nations said it was an “urgent duty” to combat climate change.
“The hottest year on record is such a clear warning siren that even President-elect Trump cannot ignore,” said Mark Maslin, Professor of Climatology at University College London.
(Reporting By Alister Doyle; editing by John Stonestreet)
OSLO (Reuters) – A vast iceberg, expected to be one of the biggest ever recorded with an area almost the size of the U.S. state of Delaware or the Caribbean island state of Trinidad and Tobago, is poised to break off Antarctica.
A rift, slowly developing across the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula in recent years, expanded abruptly last month, growing by about 18 km (11 miles). It is now more than 80 km long with just 20 km left before it snaps, scientists said.
“The Larsen C Ice shelf in Antarctica is primed to shed an area of more than 5,000 square km (1,930 square miles) following further substantial rift growth,” scientists at Project Midas at the University of Swansea in Wales said in a statement.
The iceberg “will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula” and could herald a wider break-up of the Larsen C ice shelf, the statement said.
Ice shelves are areas of ice floating on the sea, several hundred metres thick, at the end of glaciers.
Scientists fear the loss of ice shelves around the frozen continent will allow glaciers inland to slide faster towards the sea as temperatures rise because of global warming, raising world sea levels.
Several ice shelves have cracked up around northern parts of Antarctica in recent years, including the Larsen B that disintegrated in 2002.
Andrew Fleming, remote sensing manager at the British Antarctic Survey who also tracks the Larsen C, said the ice was being thawed both by warmer air above and by warmer waters below.
In some cases, big icebergs simply float around Antarctica for years, causing little threat to shipping lanes as they melt. More rarely, icebergs drift as far north as South America.
“The Larsen B shattered like car safety glass into thousands and thousands of pieces. It disappeared in the space of about a week,” he told Reuters.
Last year was the warmest on record by a wide margin, stoked by greenhouse gases and an El Nino weather event that released heat from the Pacific Ocean, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said on Thursday.
In November, almost 200 nations reaffirmed plans to combat climate change as an “urgent duty”, worried that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will try to undo a hard-won global accord for limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
By Alister Doyle
(Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Andrew Heavens)
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China launched a satellite to monitor its greenhouse gas emissions early on Thursday, the latest step in efforts to cut its carbon footprint, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The launch follows the United States joining China in formally ratifying the Paris agreement to curb climate-warming emissions. It also comes as large sections of northern China have been shrouded in near-record levels of air pollution for most of the past week, disrupting flights, closing factories and schools, and forcing authorities to issue red alerts.
China launched the satellite via a Long March-2D rocket from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the northwestern Gobi Desert, Xinhua said.
The 620 kg (1,370 lbs) satellite TanSat was sent into a sun synchronous orbit about 700 km (435 miles) above the earth and will monitor the concentration, distribution and flow of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, said Yin Zengshan, chief designer of TanSat at the Chinese Academy of Sciences micro-satellite research institute.
The launch comes after an international study showed that world greenhouse gas emissions stayed flat for the third year in a row in 2016, thanks to falls in China.
The satellite will provide China’s policymakers with independent data for three years, the news agency said.
TanSat will take readings of global carbon dioxide every 16 days, accurate to at least 4 parts per million.
The rocket carrying TanSat also carried a high-resolution micro-nano satellite and two spectrum micro-nano satellites for agricultural and forestry monitoring, the agency added.
China is the third country after Japan and the United States to monitor greenhouse gases with its own satellite, the agency said.
(Reporting by Engen Tham)
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Small Pacific island states could be hit by more tropical cyclones during future El Nino weather patterns due to climate change, scientists said on Tuesday.
El Nino is a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific occurring every two to seven years which can trigger both floods and drought in different parts of the world.
Its opposite phase, a cooling of the same waters known as La Nina, is associated with the increased probability of wetter conditions over much of Australia and increased numbers of tropical cyclones.
Between 2070 and the end of the century, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands and Hawaii could face an increased frequency in powerful storms during El Nino of up to 40 percent, Australian meteorologists said in a study.
However cyclones may be up to 60 percent less frequent during the opposite La Nina pattern, according to the study published in Nature Climate Change magazine.
Cyclones bring destructive winds, torrential rain and storm surges that are likely to be exacerbated by rising sea levels caused by global warming, posing a serious threat to Pacific islands, the authors said.
“Storm surge…can lead to massive waves propagating far inland, devastating structures and vegetation in its path,” co-author Kevin Tory, of the Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) told the Thomson Reuters Foundation via email.
“Salt water inundation can also damage soil, leading to years of reduced agricultural yield,” he said.
Researchers said in the last three decades of the century, the ocean’s surface waters will be hotter than usual in the Western Pacific due to global warming, resulting in more frequent cyclones during El Nino.
“These results suggest tropical cyclone activity in these regions will increase in a future warmer climate,” one of the study’s authors, Savin Chand, of Federation University Australia said in an email.
The latest El Nino, which emerged in 2015 and ended in May this year resulted in sea temperatures rising to the highest levels in 19 years. [nL3N18L1ZJ]
Small island developing states are already suffering the impacts of climate change, including rising seas and worsening extreme weather, and have pushed hard for more ambitious international efforts to reduce planet-warming emissions.
The Marshall Islands, Fiji and Palau were the first three countries to ratify the Paris climate change agreement to limit global temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius earlier this year.
By Umberto Bacchi
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Katie Nguyen)
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla (Reuters) – A U.S. weather satellite that will “revolutionize” forecasting blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on Saturday, promising to deliver continuous high-definition views of hurricanes and other storms over the Western Hemisphere.
A detailed stream of images provided by the satellite is expected to sharpen weather forecasts, provide more advanced warning of floods and better tracking of wildfires, plumes and volcanic ash clouds.
Carried atop an Atlas 5 rocket, the GOES-R satellite lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 6:42 p.m. EST.
The launch was delayed an hour to resolve a technical issue with the rocket, developed by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp. <LMT.N> and Boeing Co. <BA.N>, said NASA launch commentator Mike Curie. A second, unrelated issue also contributed to the delay.
Once in position 22,300 miles (35,888 km) above the equator, GOES-R is designed to take a complete picture of the hemisphere every five minutes while simultaneously zooming in on specific regions to monitor fires, volcanic eruptions, heavy rainfall and storms.
The satellite, the 17th in the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) series, is the first to be launched since 2010. It is a step up from its predecessors, which take 30 minutes to image the hemisphere and are not capable of carrying out multiple tasks at the same time. “This is a quantum leap,” Sandra Cauffman, deputy director of Earth Sciences at NASA, said at a press conference on Thursday. “It will truly revolutionize weather forecasting.”
The heart of the new satellite is a high-resolution camera, designed and built Exelis Inc., a subsidiary of Harris Corp <HRS.N>. It can see in 16 wavelengths, compared with five available with the current system.
GOES-R, developed by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has four times better resolution and can take images five times faster than its predecessors, said NOAA program scientist Steven Goodman.
The satellite’s capabilities go beyond weather forecasting. The sharper view will enable forecasters to see waves in clouds, for example, so pilots can avoid turbulence and give airline passengers smoother rides.
GOES-R, built by Lockheed, includes the first operational lightning mapper, which will image lightning fields in the western hemisphere 200 times a second, NOAA said.
It is the first of four satellites in a system upgrade that will cost $11 billion, including launch fees, said NOAA Assistant Administrator Stephen Volz. The next satellite is slated for launch in 2018.
GOES, along with a second, polar-orbiting weather satellite network operated by NOAA, has faced cost overruns and program delays due to technical issues and mismanagement, according to a December 2015 U.S. Government Accountability Office report.
Once in orbit, the new satellite will undergo about 11 months of testing before it joins the operational fleet, which now numbers three units, NOAA said.
(Editing by Frank McGurty and Leslie Adler)
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – Launch pads and equipment at the Kennedy Space Center mostly escaped damage as Hurricane Matthew swept along Florida’s east coast, the director of the NASA facility said on Tuesday, but last week’s storm still caused millions of dollars in damages.
Several buildings had their roofs damaged or destroyed as the eye of the hurricane passed 20- to 25 miles (32- to 40 km) east of Cape Canaveral, home to the spaceport that serves as the U.S. launch site for human spaceflight. The center reopened for normal activity on Tuesday.
The damage allowed rain to flood equipment and furnishings, Kennedy Space Center director Robert Cabana said, estimating that repairs would cost in the millions of dollars. He declined to provide specific figures until evaluations were complete.
“It wasn’t as bad as it could have been,” Cabana told reporters on a conference call.
Processing hangars for the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), such as where its Orion spacecraft is being assembled for flight in 2018, were spared, Cabana said.
At launch pad 39A, which NASA is leasing to tech billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, winds reached 135 mph (217 kph) 100 feet (30 meters) off the ground and up 86 mph (138 kph) on the surface.
Still, SpaceX’s launch pad and a second pad, 39B, which NASA is refurbishing for its heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket, withstood the winds and appeared to be in good shape, Cabana said.
The hurricane tracked just off Florida’s east coast on Friday, sparing the state from a direct hit.
SpaceX’s second Florida launch site, located just south of Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, had some damage to the exterior of its payload processing facility, SpaceX spokesman John Taylor wrote in an email to Reuters.
The hurricane damage is in addition to still-undisclosed damages from the Sept. 1 explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad.
Among the severely damaged buildings at Kennedy Space Center was an iconic oceanfront house, where for decades astronauts have spent private time with their families and friends before blasting off into space.
Cabana said the house would be repaired, but is a much lower priority than the space center’s operational facilities.
By Irene Klotz
(Editing by Letitia Stein and Tom Brown)
Frightening news from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography shows that our planet has pushed carbon levels above the feared 400 parts per million, for good.
According to findings from the institute “it already seems safe to conclude that we won’t be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year—or ever again for the indefinite future.”. These findings were based on week to week observations in carbon levels at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory. At Mauna Loa scientists have been measuring carbon levels since way back in 1958.
This 400ppm finding is so alarming because scientists have been warning the general public for years about it’s consequences; If carbon levels are allowed to surpass 400ppm it marks a serious “tipping point” for some dire climate situations. The first example of these ramifications was the massive reduction in the polar ice caps noted in 2012.
Allegedly, we’re stuck at this level for good. And that’s a scary thought. Carbon levels traditionally reach there lowest around the end of September, and right now we’re hovering at 401ppm. Scientists note that it’s possible we haven’t seen this year’s lowest carbon levels, but it is believed to be “highly impossible”.
Obvious implications for the permanent effects of serious climate change include (but are not limited to) massive species extinctions, food chain issues, rising sea levels, and the acidification of oceans. The world wildlife funds estimates that nearly 10,000 species are going extinct every year, this number can only increase with massive eco system disruption.
The Paris Agreement is a convention dedicated to fighting the effects of climate change, it’s been ratified by 60 nations that account for roughly 50% of the world’s carbon emission. These nations are bound to prevent average global temperatures from rising above “pre-industrial levels” of 1.5 degrees celsius. Even with the agreement in place, our planet needs to find a way to control the remaning 50% of emissions.
Image: Rubén Moreno Montolíu
PARIS (Reuters) – Scientists from the United States, Japan, and China are racing to perfect satellite technology that could one day measure greenhouse gas emissions from space, potentially transforming the winner into the world’s first climate cop.
Monitoring a single country’s net emissions from above could not only become an important tool to establish whether it had met its promises to slow global warming, a point of contention at climate talks in Paris, but also help emitters to pinpoint the sources of greenhouse gases more quickly and cheaply.
“The real success of a deal here fundamentally revolves around whether we can see emissions and their removals,” said John-O Niles, director of the U.S.-based Carbon Institute, which studies methods of carbon dioxide (CO2) measurement.
“We know satellite technology is evolving so that there is an increasing ability to actually tell whether countries are telling the truth.”
Most estimates of greenhouse gas emissions are now based on calculations of energy use and other proxy data, rather than on-the-ground measurements, leaving a huge margin of error when nations submit their figures to the United Nations.
While space-based measurement is unlikely to be mentioned in any deal agreed by the nearly 200 countries negotiating in Paris, the European Union is leading a push for a universal system of measuring, reporting and verifying emissions data.
European and Japanese satellites have been monitoring overall carbon concentrations in the atmosphere since 2002, but calculating emissions at a national or local level is far harder.
For example, the margin of error for China, presumed to be the world’s top carbon polluter, is greater than the entire carbon footprint of Europe, according to experts.
Earlier this year, new data showed that China had consumed substantially more coal in 2014 than earlier reported, causing big revisions to carbon calculations. An earlier report showed its carbon output between 2000 and 2013 was about 3 billion tonnes less than previously estimated.
China announced plans ahead of the Paris talks to launch its first emissions-monitoring satellites next year. But it says trade restrictions are hampering cooperation.
“NASA and Japan are sharing the best sensors, but not China,” said Yi Liu, a lead scientist in China’s effort. “This is a problem. We need to work together to make this work.”
Red and Orange Blobs
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), launched its first satellite to measure atmospheric CO2 in July last year.
The challenge now is to convert the images – which pick up carbon concentrations in the form of yellow, orange, and red blobs – into emissions data, said Steven Pawson, chief of the Global Modelling and Assimilation Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
“What we can measure right now is the total column of CO2 in the atmosphere,” he said. “The current technology is not strong enough to give absolute values, but if there were a gross misrepresentation (of one country’s emissions), it would be quite possible to see.”
NASA scientist Lesley Ott said that the satellite, named OCO-2, also showed there was potential to zoom into urban areas to record carbon pollution. A new device with that capability, OCO-3, has been developed for use on the International Space Station, but has been delayed by budget constraints, she said.
Scientists are also struggling to measure changes in forests that absorb CO2, a key part of the calculation for net emissions, from space. Trees bind carbon while they are growing, but stop once they are mature.
Masanobu Shimada, a researcher at the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA, is working on distinguishing between the two on a global scale.
“We can get an idea about biomass from the shading of its images,” he said. But for now, the imagery is too fuzzy for certainty.
Down to Earth
Back on earth, climate activists hope a Paris deal will include helping poor countries to measure their own net carbon emissions on the ground, a process that can be difficult and costly.
Michael Gillenwater, of the not-for-profit Greenhouse Gas Management Institute, said that kind of monitoring was better suited than satellites to pinpointing the source of emissions.
“We need to know where emissions are coming from – which factory, what process,” he said.
But calculating net emissions at a single poultry farm in China, for example, requires a 54-page, U.N.-certified rulebook that factors in everything from the amount of methane removed from the chicken manure to local temperatures and animal weight to come up with a figure.
At some point, that kind of detailed analysis may also be possible from space.
A Canadian satellite company called GHGSat has launched a small-scale effort to do exactly that. Its nanosatellite, nicknamed CLAIRE, will launch in April aiming to provide a way for energy producers to measure their carbon footprint.
By Barbara Lewis, Richard Valdmanis and David Stanway
(Editing by Kevin Liffey)
A New NASA study of the Antarctic from space has muddles the case for climate change after finding that more new ice has formed in the Antarctic than has been lost to depleting glaciers.
NASA reports that the amount of ice in the Antarctic region is in fact increasing. Not decreasing.
Research from the US Space Agency claims that there’s an increase in Antarctic snow accumulation that began over 10,000 years ago. This increase is expected to outpace the observed melting of our glaciers. This latest news has thrown global warming theories into doubt after NASA also claimed that future sea level increases may not be as severe as initially expected.
Major studies including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2013 report have continued to maintain their precedence, yet a Nasa spokesman said: “According to the new analysis of satellite data, the Antarctic ice sheet showed a net gain of 112 billion tons of ice a year from 1992 to 2001.
That net gain slowed to 82 billion tons of ice per year between 2003 and 2008.
Here’s a NASA map showing the areas of ice gain found in the study
NASA does however agree that ice has been lost in Antarctic Peninsula and the Thwaites and Pine Island region of West Antarctica. But the gains throughout the rest of the region, totalling 200 billion tonnes a year, outweigh all of these losses at 65 billion tonnes/year. The net annual gain is 135 billion tonnes per year.
Scientists calculate this increase by detecting changes in surface height that are measured by satellite altimeters. In locations where the amount of new snowfall accumulating on an ice sheet is not equal to the ice flow downward and outward to the ocean, the surface height changes and the ice-sheet mass grows or shrinks. The NASA study analysed changes in the surface height of the Antarctic sheet with altimeters on two satellites provided by the European Space Agency with data spanning from 1992-2008.
Arguments have been made that the supposed “increase” is due to recent accumulations in snow mass. But the the rebuttal stems from data beginning in 1979 showing the opposite. They also used information provided on snow accumulation for tens of thousands of years from ice cores and other extraneous findings.
Extra snowfall that began 10,000 years ago has been slowly accumulating on the ice sheet and compacting into solid ice over millennia, thickening the ice in East Antarctica and the interior of West Antarctica by an average of 0.7 inches (1.7 centimetres) per year. This small thickening, sustained over thousands of years and spread over the vast expanse of these sectors of Antarctica, corresponds to a very large gain of ice – enough to outweigh the losses from fast-flowing glaciers in other parts of the continent and reduce global sea level rise.
More data showing that the amount of ice at the Antarctic is rising
Mr Zwally, spokesman for NASA goes on record to say, “At the end of the last Ice Age, the air became warmer and carried more moisture across the continent, doubling the amount of snow dropped on the ice sheet. The good news is that Antarctica is not currently contributing to sea level rise, but is taking 0.23 millimetres per year away.”
However, he did warn there is no room for complacency. Noting that it may only take a few decades for the growth to reverse. Zwally goes on to say “if the losses of the Antarctic Peninsula and parts of West Antarctica continue to increase at the same rate they’ve been increasing for the last two decades, the losses will catch up with the long-term gain in East Antarctica in 20 or 30 years”.
The Antarctic and it’s ice sheet seen from space
Image Credit: NASA