'A Red Screaming Alarm Bell' to Banish Fossil Fuels: NASA Confirms Last 5 Years Hottest on Record
By Julia Conley
NASA scientists confirmed in a report Wednesday that 2018 was one of the hottest years on record, continuing what the New York Times called "an unmistakable warming trend."
Last year was the fourth-warmest on record since scientists began recording such data 140 years ago, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). This finding makes the last five years the five hottest years ever, scientists said, slapping down any question that the planet is growing warmer.
"2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend," said GISS director Gavin Schmidt in a statement.
"The five warmest years have, in fact, been the last five years," he told the Times. "We're no longer talking about a situation where global warming is something in the future. It's here. It's now."
Earth's global surface temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest since 1880. The past five years are, collective… https://t.co/qHhCGVGUmn— NASA Climate (@NASA Climate)1549472388.0
GISS also noted that the average temperature of the globe in 2018 was 1º Celsius (or 1.8º Fahrenheit) higher than the average temperature at the end of the 19th century, as human activities began emitting more and more carbon into the atmosphere following the Industrial Revolution.
The report follows a year marked by wildfires which scorched more than 1.5 million acres in California and an extended drought across much of Europe, as well as news that glaciers at the North and South Poles are melting at far faster rates than previously believed.
Of the top 20 hottest years on record, the agency said, 18 of them have been since 2001.
"Kids graduating from high school have only known a world of record-breaking temperatures," said Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science at the Union for Concerned Scientists. "With global emissions rising for the second year in a row, this disastrous trend shows no signs of changing any time soon."
As climate scientists have said for decades, the warming of the planet affects far more than the hotter temperatures that are observable by humans each year. Global warming has influenced shifts in oceans that have may cause increasingly destructive and deadly hurricanes, and changes in the jet stream which scientists say contribute to extreme cold snaps across whole regions of the U.S. just last week.
These shifts have brought about a "new normal," Ekwurzel said, "with stronger hurricanes, polar vortex shifts, recurrent high tide flooding, life-threatening heat waves, longer wildfire seasons, and more rain during heavy downpours."
"It also comes at a cost—with both the loss of human lives and catastrophic economic impacts," she added. "According to NASA and NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration], there were a total of 14 billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events in the U.S. in 2018 alone, costing the nation $91 billion in direct economic damages and resulting in 247 deaths."
Hoda Baraka, communications director for 350.org, called the report "a red screaming alarm bell that we must stop the fossil fuel industry."
"Temperatures are rising year on year, breaking records everywhere, and causing untold damage across the world—meanwhile coal, oil, and gas companies intend to continue profiting from spewing their pollution into the atmosphere. The science is clear, to have a realistic chance of limiting temperature rise to 1.5C we must end the fossil fuel industry, starting today," said Baraka.
The report was released as two House committees convened for their first climate crisis-related hearings in a decade, leading to hope among green campaigners that the U.S. government—led by a president who has denied the existence of the climate crisis and indicated he will exit the Paris climate agreement, refusing to take even minor steps to curb carbon emissions—will begin to take seriously its role in stemming the crisis.
"For years, climate change has been grossly ignored by President Trump, as well as Congress writ large," said Ekwurzel, who testified at the House Energy and Commerce Committee's hearing Wednesday. "With roughly one decade left to tackle this problem head on, House Democrats have signaled that the climate crisis is at the top of their agenda by scheduling a slew of hearings on the subject this month."
In the 8 years the @HouseGOP held the House majority, we experienced historic hurricanes, raging wildfires, long dr… https://t.co/Tj3vt9M1VB— Rep. Adam Smith (@Rep. Adam Smith)1549463782.0
No more climate denialism. No more evasions. @HouseDemocrats are in charge. Led by @RepRaulGrijalva, the Natural Re… https://t.co/TwvaaoGHuj— Natural Resources Committee (@Natural Resources Committee)1549310234.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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