Air Force ignored memos about rising seas – including those from island where they’re building

Click to enlargeRob Griffith/AP

❝ The U.S. Air Force is spending nearly $1 billion to build a radar installation that will help keep astronauts and satellites safe by tracking pieces of space junk as small as a baseball. That is, if global warming doesn’t get in the way.

❝ The Space Fence is being constructed on a tiny atoll in the Marshall Islands that scientists say could be regularly swamped by rising seas within a couple of decades as a result of climate change. The salt water could play havoc with the equipment…

The Associated Press found that neither the military nor its contractor, Lockheed Martin, gave serious consideration to that threat when designing the installation and choosing a site, despite warnings from the island nation’s environmental agency.

“The future “does not look good for a lot of these islands,” said Curt Storlazzi, an oceanographer with the U.S. Geological Survey who is leading a study at Kwajalein Atoll, where the Space Fence complex is being built.

Dana Whalley, a civilian who is managing the Space Fence program, said that the radar installation has a projected lifespan of 25 years and that he doesn’t expect sea levels to rise enough over that period to cause a problem. But if necessary, he said, the base could take steps to improve its seawalls.

Still, because of budget pressures, military equipment is often used well beyond its projected lifespan. In fact, a key part of the radar tracking system that the Space Fence replaces was built during the dawn of the space age and was badly outdated by the time it was shut down 50 years later in 2013…

❝ The military chose the Marshall Islands because the Space Fence works best near the equator. But it means the installation is being built just 10 feet above sea level…

RTFA for details and some truly disingenuous excuses from assorted bureaucrats.

Scientists work from above to learn how Greenland is melting from below

Click to enlargeNASA

❝ If the climate keeps warming the way it has, Greenland may finally live up to its name…The island’s glacier-crusted surface is melting, and a lot of this is from balmier atmospheric temperatures. But as the saying goes, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The oceans are becoming more tepid as well, and that warmer water is causing the glaciers to thaw from below.

❝ Scientists have good measurements of how much ice melts due to warmer air. And now, thanks in part to torpedo-like probes, they are getting better data on the ice being lapped away by sea water. Those submarines are part of NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland campaign — OMG, for short. And that’s a fairly accurate acronym, because…those glaciers are melting fast…

❝ Greenland’s glacier-gouged coastline provides the deep, warm water a path to the inland ice. Ancient ice sheets carved subsurface fjords and canyons, many of which reach down to the same level as the Atlantic-Arctic currents at the continental shelf. Problem is, “the seafloor around Greenland’s coast isn’t very well known,” says Josh Willis, a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the project lead for OMG. “The location and depths of these underwater fjords and canyons have just been poorly mapped out…”

Willis and his crew have spent the past five weeks flying over Greenland’s coastline, dropping torpedo-shaped probes into the underwater fjords. These units are called…AXCTDS, or Airborne Expendable Conductivity, Temperature and Depth Sensors…

❝ Mission OMG…spans five years and will look for ocean-caused changes to Greenland’s ice sheet. This spring, the team measured glacier height with aircraft radar, comparing past and future data to ascertain which glaciers are vanishing the fastest. The subsurface torpedo work took place this fall, when Arctic sea ice was at its minimum. It was the first time underwater probes had collected data on Greenland’s continental shelf depth, salinity and temperature.

Ultimately, the group wants to know how much of Greenland’s melting is because of air temperature, and how much is caused by water. Koppes, who has worked with the OMG team, believes air temperature and ocean water will play a 50/50 role in glacial melting.

❝ OMG will need time to analyze the data and confirm, but so far they’ve encountered some surprises. “The amount of warm water was bigger than expected, and we saw it in more places than expected,” continues Willis. “Almost everywhere along the shelf where the water was deep enough, we found Atlantic water interacting with the glaciers.”…

And the stakes are high. The deep current warming turns Greenland’s 27,000 miles of coastline — a distance greater than the Earth’s circumference at the equator — into a melt factory. The island’s interior is three times the size of Texas, and holds enough frozen water to raise global sea levels by 20 feet. More than enough to drown the Maldives, Venice, and New Orleans.

RTFA for detail about how research is proceeding, understanding all the processes contributing to the increased melt.

The West Is burning — How much blame goes to climate change?

Click to enlargeJohn McColgan, USDA

❝ So far this year, wildfires have scorched nearly 5 million acres in the U.S. That sounds like a lot, but compared to 2015, the season has been downright tame. Last year at this time, more than 9 million acres had already burned, and by the end of the year, that number would rise to more than 10 million — the most on record. In 2015, the Okanogan grew into the largest fire Washington had ever seen, breaking a record set just the year before. California recorded some of its most damaging fires, including the Valley Fire, which torched around 1,300 homes. More than 5 million acres burned in Alaska alone. But that’s not to say that this year has been without drama. For instance, California’s Soberanes Fire, which was sparked by an illegal campfire in July, is still smoldering. The effort it took to contain that blaze is believed to be one of the most expensive — if not the most expensive — wildfire-fighting operations ever.

❝ With wildfire, such superlatives have, paradoxically, become normal. Records are routinely smashed — for acreage burned, homes destroyed, firefighter lives lost and money spent fighting back flames. A study published earlier this year found that, between 2003 and 2012, the average area burned each year in Western national forests was 1,271 percent greater than it was in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Like the extreme hurricanes, heat waves and floods that have whipped, baked and soaked our landscape in recent years, such trends raise the question: Is this what climate change looks like?

❝ John Abatzoglou and his co-author, Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, estimate that human-caused climate change was responsible for nearly doubling the area burned in the West between 1984 and 2015. If the last few decades had been simply dry, instead of some of the hottest and driest on record, perhaps 10.4 million fewer acres would have burned, they say.

❝ Wildfire is particularly responsive to temperature increases because heat dries things out. It sucks moisture from twigs and needles in the forest the same way it does from clothes in a dryer, turning this vegetation into the kindling, or “fine fuel,” that gets wildfires going…

To shore up confidence in their estimates, they repeated the analyses in their study using eight different fuel-aridity metrics and then averaged the results. “One thing that gives me confidence is that all eight of these essentially lead to the same conclusion,” Williams said. “All eight have been increasing. All correlate well with fire.”

❝ In the end, they found that more than half of the observed increase in the dryness of fuels could be attributed to climate change. Fuel aridity, in turn, correlated very closely with fire activity for the time period they looked at — it explained about 75 percent of the variability in acreage burned from year to year. “That means that it is a top dog,” Williams said. “Correlation is not causation, but the correlation is so strong that it’s very hard to get a relationship like this if it’s not real.”

Williams added that as aridity increased, wildfire activity increased exponentially. “This isn’t a gradual process. Every few years we’re kind of entering a new epoch, where the potential for new fires is quite a bit bigger than it was a few years back.”

RTFA for more detail. Once again, science and maths point the finger at responsibility. Not only for cause; but, for the refusal to offer any constructive solutions. Congressional conservatives are so set in their commitment to stopping any change brought by our nation’s first Black president they’re willing to burn in a hell of their own creation.

Yes, of course, they won’t. Neither will the contributors to their demented campaign. The voters who keep them in office? That may be a different story.

Examples of China’s commitment to combating climate change

Click to enlargeReuters/Jason Lee

❝ Two years after President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that their countries would work together to combat climate change, Republicans and conservatives in the U.S. continue to cite China’s rising carbon emissions as a reason not to bother cutting our own.

Earlier this month, Donald Trump’s economic advisor Stephen Moore claimed that limiting our carbon pollution is pointless because of China’s supposedly growing coal dependency. “Every time we shut down a coal plant in the U.S., China builds 10,” Moore told E&E News. “So how does that reduce global warming?”

❝ Not only is Moore’s statement simply untrue, but the broader conservative theory behind it is badly outdated. China’s coal use and carbon emissions have dropped for the last two years. In 2015, China cut its coal use 3.7 percent and its emissions declined an estimated 1–2 percent, following similar decreases in 2014.

If China continues to cut its emissions, or even just keeps them at current levels, the country will be way ahead of its goal of peaking emissions by around 2030, which it laid out in 2014 and recommitted to during the Paris climate talks last December.

❝ In part, China’s emissions are dropping because the country is undergoing a dramatic shift in the nature of its economy. For years, China had been rapidly industrializing and growing at a breakneck pace. Growth often causes emissions to rise, all the more so when a country has an expanding manufacturing sector and is building out its basic infrastructure such as highways and rail lines. Heavy industrial activity — especially making cement and steel, which are needed for things like buildings, roads, and rail tracks — can be extremely energy intensive and have a massive carbon footprint…Now, as China is becoming more fully industrialized, its growth is slower and driven more by service industries, like technology, that are much less carbon intensive.

RTFA for several indicators. The author missed one of the most important because it’s still mostly under the radar of those who don’t read deeply into political economy.

Like the UK and many industrial Europeans nations – before the 1960s – China has relied on home coal fires for heating and cooking. China now is on the way to making the same change the West did. Switching to gas. Major pipeline conduits are under construction to bring natgas from Siberia, other regions outside of China. Different pipelines will link into LNG landing facilities at major harbors. As the last-mile, last city block hookups fall into place, the change will be rapid. And welcome.

China wants to deal with their immediate air pollution as much as the ongoing effect on climate. That shouldn’t surprise anyone.

NASA finds August 2016 tied July 2016 for hottest month ever recorded

Click to enlarge

❝ August 2016 was the warmest August in 136 years of modern record-keeping, according to a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies…

❝ Although the seasonal temperature cycle typically peaks in July, August 2016 wound up tied with July 2016 for the warmest month ever recorded…

“Monthly rankings, which vary by only a few hundredths of a degree, are inherently fragile,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “We stress that the long-term trends are the most important for understanding the ongoing changes that are affecting our planet.”

The record warm August continued a streak of 11 consecutive months dating back to October 2015 that have set new monthly high-temperature records.

❝ The monthly analysis by the GISS team is assembled from publicly available data acquired by about 6,300 meteorological stations around the world, ship- and buoy-based instruments measuring sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research stations. The modern global temperature record begins around 1880 because previous observations didn’t cover enough of the planet.

Nothing like having a clear idea of how human beings are screwing up the planet.

Well, actually a small number of human beings. Like 1%.

California is about to institute a radical climate policy — will they succeed and lead?

❝ California has long prided itself on being a world leader on climate change — and with good reason…Within the United States, California is No. 1 in solar power and No. 3 in wind power. It boasts the third-lowest carbon dioxide emissions per capita behind New York and Vermont. Since 2000, the state has managed to shrink its overall carbon footprint slightly even as its population grew and economy boomed:

But now California is taking on a far, far more audacious task: trying to prove to the world that it’s possible — desirable, even — to pursue the really drastic emission cuts needed to stave off severe global warming.

❝ The state is already on track to nudge its greenhouse-gas emissions back down to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Then last week, after much fierce debate, the California Assembly and Senate passed a new bill, known as SB 32, that would go much further, mandating an additional 40 percent cut in emissions by 2030…

The stakes are enormous: Policymakers everywhere will be watching to see if California can pull this off. Getting a 40 percent cut will require more than bucking up wind and solar and putting more electric cars on the road. It will mean reshaping virtually every facet of the state’s economy, from buildings to transportation to farming and beyond…

❝ So far, these programs have worked reasonably well. California is on pace to push its emissions back down to 1990 levels by 2020 — and the economy has thrived…

Anyone can put lofty climate goals on paper. The real question is whether California can undertake the specific actions needed to actually cut emissions.

California is essentially offering itself as a guinea pig in the world’s most important policy experiment. Everyone else will be watching and learning from the state’s successes and failures — whether it can develop the needed clean tech, whether it can spur innovation, whether it can control costs and navigate political opposition, whether it can rejigger the grid to accommodate enormous quantities of renewable power. No pressure!

Watch this space.

A strange thing happened in the stratosphere — and no one knows (yet) what’s going on

Republican meteorology

“The quasi-biennial oscillation is the stratosphere’s Old Faithful,” said Paul Newman, Chief Scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center…“If Old Faithful stopped for a day, you’d begin to wonder about what was happening under the ground.”

❝ Winds in the tropical stratosphere, an atmospheric layer that extends from about 10 to 30 miles above Earth’s surface, circulate the planet in alternating easterly and westerly directions over roughly a two-year period. Westerly winds develop at the top of the stratosphere, and gradually descend to the bottom, about 10 miles above the surface while at the same time being replaced by a layer of easterly winds above them. In turn, the easterlies descend and are replaced by westerlies.

This pattern repeats every 28 months. In the 1960s scientists coined it the “quasi-biennial oscillation.” The record of these measurements, made by weather balloons released in the tropics at various points around the globe, dates to 1953.

The pattern never changed — until late 2015. As the year came to a close, winds from the west neared the end of their typical descent. The regular pattern held that weaker easterly winds would soon replace them. But then the westerlies appeared to move upwards and block the downward movement of the easterlies. This new pattern held for nearly half a year, and by July 2016 the old regime seemed to resume.

❝ The quasi-biennial oscillation has a wide influence on stratospheric conditions. The amount of ozone at the equator changes by 10 percent between the peaks of the easterly and westerly phases, while the oscillation also has an impact on levels of polar ozone depletion.

❝ With this disruption now documented, Newman and colleagues are currently focused on studying both its causes and potential implications. They have two hypotheses for what could have triggered it — the particularly strong El Niño in 2015-16 or the long-term trend of rising global temperatures. Newman said the scientists are conducting further research now to figure out if the event was a “black swan,” a once-in-a-generation event, or a “canary in the coal mine,” a shift with unforeseen circumstances, caused by climate change.

Of course, if it’s the latter, you can be certain the usual pimps for the fossil fuel industry will line up to deny [a] that anything really happened and [b] if it happened it’s not important.

Earth approaches climate change – on a visual record – even if politicians see nothing

Click to enlarge

Scientists are getting better at producing visualizations that make climate change, a pretty heady topic, simple enough to take in at a glance. This image charts global temperature changes each year since 1850, using the period from 1961 to 1990 as a baseline. The color scale ranges from dark blue (-2.5 degrees C) to dark red (+2.5 degrees C).

It was created by climate scientist Ed Hawkins…

Evidence-based data and analysis is key to scientific understanding. Then there are those who care not for science or understanding. They rely on conditioned-responses from decades of earnest dedication to reality TV and pronouncements from prominent people.

Same as it ever was.

Of course, cockroaches aren’t too worried about climate change

As the planet warms, insects will migrate into new habitats and environments as they adapt…For some insight into the not-so-humble cockroach and its future, Nexus Media News reached out to journalist Richard Schweid, author of The Cockroach Papers: A Compendium of History and Lore.

Public perception is that cockroaches would survive a nuclear holocaust (though the science on that has been mixed), but are they thriving in a warming planet?

Whether or not cockroaches would survive a nuclear holocaust depends on the level of radiation released, of course. They were reported to have survived the blasts at Hiroshima’s and Nagasaki’s grounds zero. What is certain is that they can survive substantially higher doses of radiation than Homo sapiens. What’s more, if both species face extinction, it’s a pretty sure bet that we’ll disappear before the roaches will, regardless of whether the cause is radiation, climate change, or some other, as of yet unimagined threat to our fragile existence.

Roaches are designed for survival; compared to them we are barely hanging on. So, unless climate change is reversed, we may be heading toward a planet where cockroaches are the dominant species, thriving and multiplying in a world where humans were a blip on the geological timeline and roaches have inherited the earth. They were here before us, and unless we pay closer attention to how we treat our world, they will inherit it…

What traits have allowed roaches to adapt to a dynamic world?

The cockroach is one of evolution’s grand success stories, a wholly admirable design for survival of a species. It can and will eat anything apart, it is said, from cucumbers.

What they will eat and metabolize ranges from book-binding glue to human feces, dead skin and toenails, to rotten anything-at-all. Those that live far from humans are able to eat whatever their world provides — presumably — from rotting trees to dead animals.

What’s more, cockroach species seem to mutate readily in order to protect themselves.

RTFA. Amusing, scientifically accurate. Perhaps providing additional motivation for you to nudge the political animals in our government most closely resembling cockroaches. You do understand that the pimps for fossil fuel barons and other climate change deniers are certain they are assured immortality.