Alaska’s Waterways Are Turning Orange

Dozens of once crystal-clear streams and rivers in Arctic Alaska are now running bright orange and cloudy, and in some cases they are becoming more acidic. This otherwise undeveloped landscape now looks as if an industrial mine has been in operation for decades, and scientists want to know why…

The phenomenon is visually striking. “It seems like something’s been broken open or something’s been exposed in a way that has never been exposed before,” Roman Dial, a professor…at Alaska Pacific University said. “All the hardrock geologists who look at these pictures, they’re like, ‘Oh, that looks like acid mine waste.’” But it’s not mine waste. According to the researchers, the rusty coating on rocks and streambanks is coming from the land itself

The prevailing hypothesis is that climate warming is causing underlying permafrost to degrade. That releases sediments rich in iron, and when those sediments hit running water and open air, they oxidize and turn a deep rusty orange color. The oxidation of minerals in the soil may also be making the water more acidic. The research team is still early in the process of identifying the cause in order to better explain the consequences. “I think the pH issue”—the acidity of the water—“is truly alarming,” said Hewitt. While pH regulates many biotic and chemical processes in streams and rivers, the exact impacts on the intricate food webs that exist in these waterways are unknown. From fish to stream bed bugs and plant communities, the research team is unsure what changes may result.

That portion of Alaska’s economy that has marched along the All-American Highway of Economic Progress – regardless of environmental impact – already knows well how to deflect responsibility for death and destruction. And if they need guidance and help, there are beaucoup politicians of every stripe ready to run to their defense.

The “rice capital of California” is now a wasteland

San Francisco Chronicle

Normally, by September, the drive north from Sacramento on Interstate 5 showcases vast stretches of flooded rice fields on both sides, farms bustling with tractors and workers preparing for fall harvest.

Not this year, said Kurt Richter, a third-generation rice farmer in Colusa, the rice capital of California where the local economy relies heavily on agriculture. “It is now just a wasteland,” he said.

As drought endures for a third year with record-breaking temperatures and diminishing water supplies, more than half of California’s rice fields are estimated to be left barren without harvest — about 300,000 out of the 550,000 or so in reported acres, provisional data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows. This year, rice is estimated to account for just 2% of total planted acres across the state…

The dramatic reduction in rice acreage will translate to lost revenue of an estimated $500 million, about 40% of which will be covered by federal crop insurance, according to UC Davis agricultural economist Aaron Smith.

Insurance only covers set amounts. Surviving the death of your livelihood, what may be the last breath of spirit from generations of working families, can drive folks away from everything that has been root and branch of their whole lives.

‘Cascading’ Climate Disasters Can Destabilize Entire Societies

Climate change, which is driven by the human consumption of fossil fuels, is making extreme weather events such as hurricanes, heatwaves, floods, and droughts much more intense. Not only does this trend threaten people and ecosystems around the world, but a new study concludes that it could destabilize entire societies.

Extreme heat and drought, which frequently overlap in our warming world, can produce “cascading impacts” that “propagate through numerous sectors with far reaching consequences, potentially being able to destabilize entire socio-economic systems,” according to a study published on Wednesday in PLOS Climate…

“A relevant finding of our study is that the impact of compound heat and drought is not just the sum of their separate impact on different systems,” Laura Niggli said in an email. “It is well known how severely the impacts of extreme events can be e.g. for health (with high excess mortality related to extreme heat or bad air quality), food production (with large losses in the agriculture sector due to dry spells or extreme precipitation, and limited availability of fodder and water for animals), energy (related to limited cooling water for nuclear power plants, or limited water for hydropower generation) or mobility (e.g. waterway transport restrictions due to low flows in rivers, or buckling of rail tracks) etc.”

The material world interconnects in every conceivable dialectic. Sums increase. Actions increase. Futures are foretold in more than one way – every time.

Monarch Butterfly now officially “endangered”

A beloved visitor to summer gardens is officially an endangered species.

The migratory monarch butterfly—the iconic subspecies common to North America—was declared endangered today by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the global leading authority on the status of biological diversity.

The threat to monarchs comes from a combination of factors. Habitat destruction over decades in migratory monarchs’ wintering grounds has taken a massive toll. The impact is felt by both the western population, which is found west of the Rocky Mountains and winters on the California coast, and the eastern population, which is found in the eastern U.S. and Canada and winters in Mexico’s fir tree forests. In summer habitats, pesticides used in agriculture have killed monarchs and also milkweed, the plant they lay larvae in. Climate change, too, is an increasing threat as dramatic weather events such as hurricanes and drought become more common along the butterflies’ southern migration routes.

The western monarch population, less studied and more at risk, has plummeted 99.9 percent in recent decades, from around 10 million in the 1980s to just 1,914 in 2021, according to the IUCN. The eastern population declined by 84 percent between 1996 and 2014.

Monarch Butterflies have long been one of the first insects schoolchildren learned about. Along with bees, I imagine. I find it difficult to imagine what my childhood would have been like absent their beauty.

Earth Passes a New Climate Milestone

Charlie Riedel/AP

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in May were 50 percent higher than during the pre-industrial era, reaching levels not seen on Earth for about four million years, the main US climate agency said on Friday.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passed the threshold of 420 parts per million (ppm), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said. PPM is a unit of measurement used to quantify pollution in the atmosphere…

Last May, the rate was 419ppm, and in 2020, 417ppm.

Global warming caused by humans, particularly through the production of electricity using fossil fuels, transport, the production of cement, or even deforestation, is responsible for the new high, the NOAA said…

Its warming effect is already causing dramatic consequences, noted NOAA, including the multiplication of heatwaves, droughts, fires or floods…

“We have known about this for half a century, and have failed to do anything meaningful about it. What’s it going to take for us to wake up?”

What will it take…indeed? Humans are great at passing the buck. And, then, we complain about the cost figures generated by the public and private bodies charged with providing solutions.

Time for excuses has run out.

Both of Earth’s poles are having heatwaves, right now.

David Goldman/AP

Startling heatwaves at both of Earth’s poles are causing alarm among climate scientists, who have warned the “unprecedented” events could signal faster and abrupt climate breakdown.

Temperatures in Antarctica reached record levels at the weekend, an astonishing 40C above normal in places.

At the same time, weather stations near the north pole also showed signs of melting, with some temperatures 30C above normal, hitting levels normally attained far later in the year.

At this time of year, the Antarctic should be rapidly cooling after its summer, and the Arctic only slowly emerging from its winter, as days lengthen. For both poles to show such heating at once is unprecedented.

The rapid rise in temperatures at the poles is a warning of disruption in Earth’s climate systems. Last year, in the first chapter of a comprehensive review of climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of unprecedented warming signals already occurring, resulting in some changes – such as polar melt – that could rapidly become irreversible.

Read it and weep for what we have done. Ignoring what the barons of corporate wealth have done to our planet in their quest for more and more money and power is destroying the only home we have for our species. We can try for stopgap measures. The much harder task will be trying to claw back what commerce has destroyed. Simply as a side effect of greed.

It’s 70 degrees warmer than normal in East Antarctica…

The coldest location on the planet has experienced an episode of warm weather this week unlike any ever observed, with temperatures over the eastern Antarctic ice sheet soaring 50 to 90 degrees above normal. The warmth has smashed records and shocked scientists.

“This event is completely unprecedented and upended our expectations about the Antarctic climate system,” said Jonathan Wille, a researcher studying polar meteorology at Université Grenoble Alpes in France…

“Antarctic climatology has been rewritten,” tweeted Stefano Di Battista, a researcher who has published studies on Antarctic temperatures. He added that such temperature anomalies would have been considered “impossible” and “unthinkable” before they actually occurred.

Parts of eastern Antarctica have seen temperatures hover 70 degrees (40 Celsius) above normal for three days and counting, Wille said. He likened the event to the June heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, which scientists concluded would have been “virtually impossible” without human-caused climate change…

The historically high temperatures in Antarctica follow a pulse of exceptional warmth on the planet’s opposite end. On Wednesday, temperatures near the North Pole catapulted 50 degrees above normal, close to the melting point.

Put it on rewind and play it again and again. Sooner or later, folks in the GOUSA will begin to comprehend this is a legitimate emergency. A positive response is needed.

Humanity must also remove CO2 from the air

Two centuries of burning fossil fuels have put more carbon dioxide, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere than nature can remove.

As that CO2 builds up, it traps excess heat near Earth’s surface, causing global warming. There is so much CO2 in the atmosphere now that most scenarios show ending emissions alone won’t be enough to stabilize the climate — humanity will also have to remove CO2 from the air

Technology to remove carbon mechanically is in development and operating at a very small scale, in part because current methods are prohibitively expensive and energy-intensive. But new techniques are being tested this year that could help lower the energy demand and cost…

Since CO2 mixes quickly in the air, it doesn’t matter where in the world the CO2 is removed — the removal has the same impact. So we can place direct air capture technology right where we plan to use or store the CO2.

The method of storage is also important. Storing CO2 for just 60 years or 100 years isn’t good enough. If 100 years from now all that carbon is back in the environment, all we did was take care of ourselves, and our grandkids have to figure it out again. In the meantime, the world’s energy consumption is growing at about two percent per year…

The article proceeds in detail to examine both capture and storage of CO2. Process development is already underway. Production – requiring subsidy to start; but, with capacity to develop into cost efficient and profitable methods – is possible with existing research. More research, concurrent with production, is needed.