(First published on Feb. 14, 2017, on State of the Planet.)
Aaron Putnam sits atop a boulder high in the Sierras of central California, banging away with hammer and chisel to chip out a sample of ice age history. Each hunk of rock is a piece of a vast puzzle: How did our climate system behave the last time it warmed up like it’s doing today?
Filed under Climate, Science
(First published on Jan. 18, 2017, on State of the Planet.)
The news doesn’t come as a surprise to scientists and others who’ve been watching, but marks a milestone nonetheless: 2016 was the warmest year on record, dating back to the start of modern record keeping in 1880. And it’s the third record year in a row, keeping up a long-term trend of warming.
The graphs show the rightward shift—to warmer temperatures—in different regions of the world. The greater the shift, the more likely people in the region will experience summers or winters warmer than the average recorded between 1951-1980. The most dramatic changes can be seen in the Middle East and Southeast Asian summer months. Graphics: Hansen and Sato, Environmental Research Letters, March 2016
(First published on March 2, 2016, on State of the Planet.)
The global trend toward hotter summers could make parts of the Middle East and tropics “practically uninhabitable” by the end of the century, new research published this week contends.
The work, by climate scientist James Hansen and Makiko Sato of Columbia University’s Program on Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions, builds on earlier research showing that summers generally are more often becoming hotter than the average recorded between 1951-1980. The new paper updates their analysis of the data and looks at how temperatures are changing region by region. The authors conclude that summers in particular have continued to grow hotter, and that extreme heat events are occurring more frequently.
(First published Oct. 23, 2015, on State of the Planet.)
Three interesting pieces of news about climate change, in case you missed them:
For starters, 2015 is shaping up to be the warmest year on record since 1880, according to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Potential sea level rise in Guilford, CT. Source: Climate Central
Second, if you’re wondering about the longer-term impacts of climate change: Climate Central has produced a startling new, interactive graphic that shows the potential effects of sea level rise, should the world continue to grow warmer, melting more and more of the world’s ice sheets and glaciers. From a general view of the impacts on the United States, you can drill down into the graphic and see what’s likely to happen in your nearest coastal community. You can adjust the scene to see what might happen under various scenarios, should we actually succeed in cutting back carbon emissions.
Translation? My former hometown’s downtown would be pretty much under water, along with a substantial stretch of the Amtrak line running up through coastal Connecticut, by the end of the century. Posted Oct. 14, you can check it out here—just in case you want to plan ahead.
First posted Dec. 8, 2011 on the Earth Institute’s State of the Planet blog.
A core section shows shells of foraminifera, and reduced carbonate preservation, at the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. During the period, researchers believe up to half of deep-sea benthic foraminifer species suffered extinction. Photo: Laura Foster, University of Bristol
Oceans turned more acidic during a period of great warming some 56 million years ago, leading to an extinction of bottom-dwelling marine species known as foraminifera, a scenario that could be repeated as a result of human-induced global warming today, only much more quickly.
To better understand what could happen in the near future, geochemist Bärbel Hönisch of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and a few colleagues studied ocean acidity events over the past 250 million years to confirm whether acidification took place during periods of global warming. The conditions of one period in particular – the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum — were similar to the worst-case scenarios scientists project for future climate change.
“The earlier changes affected the biology, so we’d expect that would happen today,” Hönisch said. She doesn’t like to speculate on precisely what the impact might be; some creatures may disappear, others may adapt.
“I don’t think it will destroy the earth — the earth will cope with us,” she said. “We may not like what happens.” Hönisch gave a talk on her research today at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, as part of a broader discussion there of findings related to ocean acidification.