Future Urban Climates

❝ By the 2080s, the climate of North American urban areas will feel substantially different, and, in many cases, completely unlike contemporary climates found anywhere in the western hemisphere north of the equator. If emissions continue unabated throughout the 21st century,the climate of North American urban areas will become, on average, most like the contemporary climate of locations about 500 miles away and mainly to the south…

❝ Scientists analyzed 540 urban areas that encompassed approximately 250 million inhabitants in the United States and Canada. For each urban area, they mapped the similarity between that city’s future climate expected by the 2080s and contemporary climate in the western hemisphere north of the equator using 12 measures of climate, including minimum and maximum temperature and precipitation during the four seasons.

Check out the examples nearest you. Gives you some idea what awaits not-so-future generations

Giant ice disc rotating in the Presumpscot River in Maine

❝ A disk of ice roughly 100 yards across that formed on the Presumpscot River and was slowly rotating and gaining size Monday had Westbrook buzzing almost as much as when city police spotted a giant snake eating a beaver in roughly the same location in June 2016.

Nothing ever came of those mysterious snake sightings – the reptile was dubbed “Wessie” by locals – but the sight of an alien-looking circle of ice stuck in the river had some people wondering about that section of the river’s knack for producing weird events.

And little ice discs in the Housatonic River in Connecticut

❝ Cliff Bates was hiking the Appalachian Trail in Northwest Connecticut with his dog in 9-degree weather Jan. 1 when he saw slowly-rotating discs of ice on the Housatonic River that resembled UFO saucers…

“It was just down there in the gorge…it was this kind of weird triangle and the ice chunks slowly circled inside that but never really left it,” Bates said…

❝ The discs are found in the cold climates of North America and Europe, Ryan Hanrahan, chief meteorologist for NBC Connecticut, said the past two weeks are the longest stretch on record of consecutive subfreezing temperatures. Given the extreme cold, he said it’s not a surprise to see things like the ice discs across the state.

Along with being rare, they are a more recently-documented phenomenon. Gil Simmons, chief meteorologist for WTNH said research has been ongoing for only 100 years, trying to understand the occurrence…

Read both articles – especially the second – which seems to explain how and why the discs rotate. At least in a laboratory. 🙂

Climate Change Redraws the Map

Tornado Alley moves 500 miles east in the last 30 years

❝ As human-caused emissions change the planet’s atmosphere, and people reshape the landscape, things are changing fast. The receding line of Arctic ice has made headlines for years, as the white patch at the top of our planet shrinks dramatically. The ocean is rising, gobbling up coastlines. Plants, animals, and diseases are on the move as their patches of suitable climate move too.

Sometimes, the lines on the map can literally be redrawn: the line of where wheat will grow, or where tornadoes tend to form, where deserts end, where the frozen ground thaws, and even where the boundaries of the tropics lie.

❝ The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies summarizes some of the littler-known features that have shifted in the face of climate change and pulled the map out from under the people living on the edges. Everything about global warming is changing how people grow their food, access their drinking water, and live in places that are increasingly being flooded, dried out, or blasted with heat waves. Seeing these changes literally drawn on a map helps to hammer these impacts home.

Had some great friends at Yale Forestry over the years. The school has done wonderful serious science on climate change. A worthwhile read.

June set another global temperature record – in case you didn’t notice

This June has joined every other month of this year so far in setting an all-time monthly record for global temperatures, according to two separate federal science agencies — though the globe was not as extremely warm last month as it was earlier in the year.

“Warmer to much-warmer-than-average conditions dominated across much of the globe’s surface, resulting in the highest temperature departure for June since global temperature records began in 1880,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Globally averaged temperatures in June were 0.9 degrees Celsius (1.62 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the average across the 20th century, according to NOAA. That slightly surpassed temperatures measured in the prior record June of last year…

Overall, the data suggest the fading strength of the dramatic 2015-2016 El Niño event is slowly taming the record-breaking spike in global temperatures. Current Pacific Ocean conditions are neutral, with a shift into La Niña conditions expected later this year, according to NOAA…

Nonetheless, it has been a staggering run for the planet of late. “This was also the 14th consecutive month the monthly global temperature record has been broken — the longest such streak in NOAA’s 137 years of recordkeeping,” NOAA reported. Both NOAA and NASA have rated every month this year so far as a record-breaker…

Right now, 2016 is running far ahead of the prior record year, 2015, for temperatures. In a press conference Tuesday, NASA’s Gavin Schmidt, who directs the agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, provided a temperature analysis not just for June of 2016, but for the first six months of this so-far record warm year.

“This is the first time that we’re doing an analysis mid-year, mainly because the average temperatures for the first half of this year are so in excess of any first part of the year that we’ve seen,” Schmidt said.

Increases in temperature are Yuuge – except where Republicans and other Know-Nothings control the media, perception of reality for folks who don’t read beyond sports scores.

Growing seasons are longer – not necessarily better


Are leaves and buds developing earlier in the spring? And do leaves stay on the trees longer in autumn? Do steppe ecosystems remain green longer and are the savannas becoming drier and drier? In fact, over recent decades, the growing seasons have changed everywhere around the world. This was determined by a doctoral candidate at the Goethe University as part of an international collaboration based on satellite data. The results are expected to have consequences for agriculture, interactions between species, the functioning of ecosystems, and the exchange of carbon dioxide and energy between the land surface and the atmosphere.

Will they make any difference in nations where politicians are bought and sold like secondhand video games at a local thrift shop run by lobbyists?

There is almost no part of Earth that is not affected by these changes,” explains Robert Buitenwerf, doctoral candidate at the Institute for Physical Geography at the Goethe University. He has evaluated satellite data from 1981 to 2012 with regard to 21 parameters on vegetation activity, in order to determine the point in time, the duration, and the intensity of growth from the northernmost conifer forests to tropical rain forests. His conclusion: On 54 percent of the land surface, at least one parameter of vegetation activity has moved away from the mean value by more than two standard deviations.

As reported by researchers from Frankfurt, Freiburg and New Zealand in the current edition of the professional journal “Nature Climate Change,” leaves are now sprouting earlier in most of the climate zones of the far north. Although they are also dropped somewhat earlier in autumn, the overall vegetation period has grown longer. On the other hand, in our latitudes, trees and shrubs are losing their leaves later than they have up to now…

The study is clear about relevancy limited to the northern hemisphere. Whether the same factors are changing in the southern hemisphere isn’t a question. There simply isn’t sufficient data.

Meanwhile, the effects of climate change measurably affect large enough geographies to analyze and begin to understand. That is – for people and nations interested in knowing their world, managing their future for the betterment of all.

Climate change felt in deep of Antarctic Bottom Water


In 1974, just a couple years after the launch of the first Landsat satellite, scientists noticed something odd in the Weddell Sea near Antarctica. There was a large ice-free area, called a polynya, in the middle of the ice pack. The polynya, which covered an area as large as New Zealand, reappeared in the winters of 1975 and 1976 but has not been seen since.

Scientists interpreted the polynya’s disappearance as a sign that its formation was a naturally rare event. But researchers reporting in Nature Climate Change disagree, saying that the polynya’s appearance used to be far more common and that climate change is now suppressing its formation.

What’s more, the polynya’s absence could have implications for the vast conveyor belt of ocean currents that move heat around the globe.

Surface seawater around the poles tends to be relatively fresh due to precipitation and the fact that sea ice melts into it, which makes it very cold. As a result, below the surface is a layer of slightly warmer and more saline water not infiltrated by melting ice and precipitation. This higher salinity makes it denser than water at the surface.

Scientists think that the Weddell polynya can form when ocean currents push these denser subsurface waters against an underwater mountain chain known as the Maud Rise. This forces the water up to the surface, where it mixes with and warms colder surface waters. While it doesn’t warm the top layer of water enough for a person to comfortably bathe in, it’s enough to prevent ice from forming. But at a cost—the heat from the upwelling subsurface water dissipates into the atmosphere soon after it reaches the surface This loss of heat forces the now-cool but still dense water to sink some 3,000 meters to feed a huge, super-cold underwater ocean current known as Antarctic Bottom Water.

Antarctic Bottom Water spreads across the global oceans at depths of 3,000 meters and more, delivering oxygen into these deep places. It’s also one of the drivers of global thermohaline circulation, the great ocean conveyor belt that moves heat from the equator towards the poles.

But for the mixing to occur in the Weddell Sea, the top layer of ocean water must become denser than the layer below it so that the waters can sink.

Continue reading

Researchers pressure cook wet algae into crude oil in one minute

Researchers at the University of Michigan have discovered a fast way to turn algae into biocrude oil, a clean substitute for conventional crude oil. Chemical engineering professor Phil Savage and doctoral student Julia Faeth were able to pressure cook microalgae in 1,100-degree-Fahrenheit sand for about one minute, converting 65 percent of it into biocrude.

It’s a revolutionary way to speed up the natural process, given that waiting for dead organisms to decompose can take millions of years. It’s a big improvement over the lab’s own research. Two years ago, the team was able to speed things up to less than half an hour while converting about 50 percent of the microalgae into biocrude.

The researchers have been mimicking the natural process that forms crude oil with marine organisms. Savage and Faeth filled a steel pipe with wet, green microalgae from the genus Nannochloropsis, and pressured it into hot sand. Within a minute, the algae made it to 550 degrees all the way through, and 65 percent of it turned into biocrude…

It won’t be competing directly with dry algae anytime soon. The Michigan researchers used only 1.5 milliliters of microalgae for testing, and still don’t know exactly why they were able to convert to biocrude within one minute. Algae biofuels have huge potential for reducing vehicle carbon emissions and dependency on foreign oil, but it will take a while for any version of algae to make it to gas stations – even if you can cook it in a minute.

But, that’s only a description of early proof of concept processes. If and when Professor Savage and Julia Faeth are are able to ramp up to the smallest pilot plant, they’ll have a clearer picture of the capabilities and costs of their new method.

I wish them well.

NASA climate forecasting is adding salt

Global differences between evaporation and precipitation

Salt is essential to human life. Most people don’t know, however, that salt — in a form nearly the same as the simple table variety — is just as essential to Earth’s ocean, serving as a critical driver of key ocean processes. While ancient Greek soothsayers believed they could foretell the future by reading the patterns in sprinkled salt, today’s scientists have learned that they can indeed harness this invaluable mineral to foresee the future — of Earth’s climate.

The oracles of modern climate science are the computer models used to forecast climate change. These models, which rely on a myriad of data from many sources, are effective in predicting many climate variables, such as global temperatures. Yet data for some pieces of the climate puzzle have been scarce, including the concentration of dissolved sea salt at the surface of the world’s ocean, commonly called ocean surface salinity, subjecting the models to varying margins of error. This salinity is a key indicator of how Earth’s freshwater moves between the ocean, land and atmosphere.

Enter Aquarius, a new NASA salinity-measurement instrument slated for launch in June 2011 aboard the SAC-D spacecraft built by Argentina’s CONAE. Aquarius’ high-tech, salt-seeking sensors will make comprehensive measurements of ocean surface salinity with the precision needed to help researchers better determine how Earth’s ocean interacts with the atmosphere to influence climate. It’s a mission that promises to be, to quote the old saying, “worth its salt…”

Density-driven ocean circulation, according to Gary Lagerloef, is controlled as much by salinity as by ocean temperature. Sea salt makes up only 3.5 percent of the world’s ocean, but its relatively small presence reaps huge consequences.

Salinity influences the very motion of the ocean and the temperature of seawater, because the concentration of sea salt in the ocean’s surface mixed layer — the portion of the ocean that is actively exchanging water and heat with Earth’s atmosphere — is a critical driver of these ocean processes. It’s the missing variable in understanding the link between the water cycle and ocean circulation. Specifically, it’s an essential metric to modeling precipitation and evaporation…

Until now, researchers had taken ocean salinity measurements from aboard ships, buoys and aircraft – but they’d done so using a wide range of methods across assorted sampling areas and over inconsistent times from one season to another. Because of the sparse and intermittent nature of these salinity observations, researchers have not been able to fine-tune models to obtain a true global picture of how ocean surface salinity is influencing the ocean. Aquarius promises to resolve these deficiencies, seeing changes in ocean surface salinity consistently across space and time and mapping the entire ice-free ocean every seven days for at least three years.

RTFA. The advance work has been accomplished, sensors and data collection have been tuned. Now the task of collecting data will begin with the launch of Aquarius, this month.

The latest in bed-warmers at Holiday Inns

Standard issue bed-warmer in our family

International hotel chain Holiday Inn is offering a trial human bed-warming service at three hotels in Britain this month.

If requested, a willing staff-member at two of the chain’s London hotels and one in the northern English city of Manchester will dress in an all-in-one fleece sleeper suit before slipping between the sheets…

The bed-warmer is equipped with a thermometer to measure the bed’s required temperature of 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit)…

Florence Eavis, Holiday Inn spokeswoman told Reuters that the “innovative” bed-warming method was a response to Britain’s recent cold weather and marked the launch of 3,200 new Holiday Inns worldwide.

She could not explain why the beds were not being warmed by hot water bottles or electric-blankets, but admitted the human method was quirky.

Holiday Inn are promoting the service with the help of sleep-expert Chris Idzikowski, director of the Edinburgh Sleep Center, who said the idea could help people sleep.

All the sleep experts I ever knew in the Edinburgh area were more likely to recommend Laphroig as a sleep aid.

Treelines rising, moving North – in a warming world

Trees around the world are colonising new territories in response to higher temperatures. From the US west coast to northern Siberia and south-east Asia, trees are growing at higher elevations, and at higher latitudes as the climate warms…

The shift is revealed by the first global analysis of treelines published in the journal Ecology Letters.

However, the trees aren’t responding quite how scientists expected. Instead of advancing as summer temperatures rise, the trees’ ability to colonise new areas appears to be more dependent on whether winter temperatures warm…

Treelines tend to form wherever conditions for growth become too harsh. For example, at high altitudes and latitudes, the climate often becomes too cold for trees to survive. At this boundary, a treeline occurs, with forest on one side and shorter, hardier plants such as shrubs and plants on the other.

However, around the world, average air temperatures have risen during the past century. This warming has been most pronounced at high altitudes and latitudes, the exact places where treelines form. So in theory, trees should take advantage of these warmer, more hospitable climates, allowing treelines to advance higher and closer towards the poles…

Crucially, the trees do not seem to be responding to warmer summer temperatures. “We expected growing season warming to be the dominant driver,” says Melanie Harsch. “But we found that it was not, winter temperature was.”

RTFA. Been years since I spent a significant portion of my free time at or above treeline. But, I understand what this is all about.

You should, too.