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Scientists Say Greenhouse Gas Emissions Continue to Wreak Havoc on Climate

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Scientists Say Greenhouse Gas Emissions Continue to Wreak Havoc on Climate

Two new scientific studies, reported by Climate News Network, have added still more links between human-caused release of greenhouse gases and climate change.

Glaciers such as Artesonraju in the Peruvian Andes are melting at record rates. Photo credit: Edubucher via Wikimedia Commons

In Austria, scientist Ben Marzeion of University of Innsbruck’s Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics was part of a team that tracked changes in glaciers around the world between 1851 and 2010, using 19th-century photos and paintings as a baseline. Computer models allowed them to take into account natural factors like volcanic eruptions and variations on weather patterns.  Their research, reported in the journal Science, found that the pace of glacier retreat has picked up dramatically in the last two decades.

“In our data, we find unambiguous evidence of anthropogenic contribution to glacier mass loss,” said Dr Marzeion.

Dr. Marzeion's group figured that around a quarter of the melting between 1851 and 2010 is human-caused, and that between 1991 and 2010, the amount of human-caused melting has increased by two-thirds. 

“In the 19th century and first half of the 20th century we observed that glacier mass loss attributable to human activity is barely noticeable, but since then has steadily increased,” said Dr Marzeion.

Meanwhile, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. just published new research about "Rossby waves," waves in the jet stream that drive heat into cooler areas and cold into warmer areas, discovering that these waves are increasing in size and getting stuck, causing prolonged heat waves. The wave patterns are disrupted as more ice melts in Arctic regions, exposing more open sea which absorbs heat rather than reflecting it back into space.

With the Arctic warming twice as fast as the rest of Earth, its temperatures become more similar to other regions. But it's those variations that regulate the atmospheric circulation patterns that determine weather.

And, says the study's co-author Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, “This melting of ice and snow is actually due to our lifestyle of churning out unprecedented amounts of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels."

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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