The plan was put forth by the Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation and released by the Bureau of Land Management. The plan calls for the start of seismic testing on millions of acres, spanning an 847.8 square mile area, on the east side of the refuge in an area where polar bears and other wildlife reside. The seismic testing will allow the Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation to detect the presence of oil in the area.
Seismic testing works in a way that is similar to ultrasound technology. It generates acoustic waves deep underground that produce a picture that can pinpoint oil deposits, according to The Hill.
The Bureau of Land Management said it would allow for 14 days of public comment before deciding if it should issue a permit, according to The New York Times.
Environmental activists have argued that the short timeframe means it is impossible to conduct an adequate environmental review of the proposal. The plan involves using heavy trucks fanned out across the area to create a grid pattern. It also requires a crew of 180 workers who would need ample supplies and mobile living quarters, according to The New York Times.
The National Wildlife Federation argues that the rushed comment period in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic ensures that public opposition will not be heard adequately.
"This is a desperate attempt to jam through a plan that could kill denning polar bears, imperil other wildlife, threaten the Gwich'in people, and cause long-lasting damage to the Arctic," said Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation, in a statement. "By rushing this plan through while ordinary Americans are focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and their own health and safety, it's clear this administration wants to cut the public out of public lands in order to advance its dangerously myopic and misguided energy agenda."
The company intending to conduct the seismic test said it will exercise caution should it encounter any wildlife during its exploration. Environmentalists countered that it's not the interactions that worry them as much as the permanent alterations to the Arctic tundra that could upset the delicate balance of the ecosystem that polar bears and other animals depend on.
"Allowing huge thumper trucks and camps onto sacred lands where they leave deep and lasting wounds is a threat to my people, the animals, our food, and our way of life," said Bernadette Demientieff, the executive director of the Gwich'in Steering Committee, in a statement, as The Hill reported. "We have raised concerns repeatedly about this administration rushing the process and shortcutting our review."
The Wilderness Society also sees the plan as a politically motivated move that will silence the public.
"The submission of this application and BLM's choice to act on it so close to the election shows how desperate the administration is to turn over one of the nation's most sensitive landscapes to the oil industry," said Lois Epstein, director of the Arctic program for the Wilderness Society, in a statement, as The New York Times reported. "The federal government is recklessly rushing and irresponsibly denying the public adequate time to assess the application and submit comments."
The New York Times also noted that the proposal calls for the work to be carried out by Houston-based SAExploration, which declared bankruptcy, and was accused of accounting fraud earlier this month by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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The largest Arctic research expedition in history returned to Germany Monday after 13 months in the Arctic, including several months with its ship deliberately trapped by sea ice, according to The New York Times.
The mission aboard the German Alfred Wegener Institute's Polarstern ship spent the year gathering vital information that would give scientists a window into the future of the Arctic during the climate crisis.
"We witnessed how the Arctic ocean is dying," said Markus Rex, the mission's leader, to Agence-France Presse (AFP). "We saw this process right outside our windows, or when we walked on the brittle ice."
The team aboard the Polarstern comprised more than 300 hundred scientists from 20 countries, including the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China. According to Rex, the dramatic consequences of a warming planet were evident in an area he described as "the epicenter of climate change," as AFP reported.
"We basically achieved everything we set out to do," Rex told The Associated Press (AP) by satellite phone as the expedition left the polar circle last week. "We conducted measurements for a whole year with just a short break."
The trip to measure the ice and gauge conditions in one of the planet's harshest environments cost $177 million, according to the AP, and the mission almost had to be abandoned months early when the coronavirus was detected on the mission.
The researchers had to break away from the ice in May to get new supplies and to rotate team members in order to adhere to new coronavirus protocols, which upended the mission's carefully planned logistics.
"Who knew when we went up there that life was going to take such an astoundingly strange turn?" said Carin Ashjian, a biological oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, as The New York Times reported.
And yet, the expedition was able to stay the course and complete its research.
"We're bringing back a trove of data, along with countless samples of ice cores, snow and water," said Rex, an atmospheric scientist at Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Ocean Research, as the AP reported.
The observations of the crew reflect a grim future for the Arctic. Rex warned that if the current warming trend the planet is on continues, then soon the Arctic will see ice-free summer. He noted that in some areas that were once covered in ice, the crew was able to sail through open water stretching out as far as the eye could see, as AFP reported.
"At the North Pole itself, we found badly eroded, melted, thin and brittle ice," said Rex, according to AFP.
While the returning crew is optimistic that the trove of samples and data they brought home will paint a clearer picture of how the Arctic is changing, the results will take years, and maybe even decades, to sift through and analyze, according to Melinda Webster, a sea ice expert at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, as the AP reported.
"We went above and beyond the data collection we set out to do," said Webster, according to the AP. The crew returned with 150 terabytes of data and more than 1,000 ice samples.
"This is an extremely exciting time to get into Arctic science because of the changes that are happening," Webster added. "We need to get all the help we can because it's important to understand what's going on and the more people help out, the better."
The scientists hope that the data will help them understand how floods, fires, storms and heatwaves will affect the Arctic over the next century, according to AFP. Rex said he hopes the data will be "a breakthrough in understanding the Arctic and climate system."
Throughout Texas, there are a number of solar power companies that can install solar panels on your roof to take advantage of the abundant sunlight. But which solar power provider should you choose? In this article, we'll provide a list of the best solar companies in the Lone Star State.
Our Picks for the Best Texas Solar Companies
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Sunpro Solar
- Longhorn Solar, Inc.
- Solartime USA
- Kosmos Solar
- Sunshine Renewable Solutions
- Alba Energy
- Circle L Solar
- South Texas Solar Systems
- Good Faith Energy
How We Chose the Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
There are a number of factors to keep in mind when comparing and contrasting different solar providers. These are some of the considerations we used to evaluate Texas solar energy companies.
Different solar companies may provide varying services. Always take the time to understand the full range of what's being offered in terms of solar panel consultation, design, installation, etc. Also consider add-ons, like EV charging stations, whenever applicable.
When meeting with a representative from one of Texas' solar power companies, we would always encourage you to ask what the installation process involves. What kind of customization can you expect? Will your solar provider use salaried installers, or outsourced contractors? These are all important questions to raise during the due diligence process.
Texas is a big place, and as you look for a good solar power provider, you want to ensure that their services are available where you live. If you live in Austin, it doesn't do you much good to have a solar company that's active only in Houston.
Pricing and Financing
Keep in mind that the initial cost of solar panel installation can be sizable. Some solar companies are certainly more affordable than others, and you can also ask about the flexible financing options that are available to you.
To guarantee that the renewable energy providers you select are reputable, and that they have both the integrity and the expertise needed, we would recommend assessing their status in the industry. The simplest way to do this is to check to see whether they are North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certified or belong to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or other industry groups.
Types of Panels
As you research different companies, it certainly doesn't hurt to get to know the specific products they offer. Inquire about their tech portfolio, and see if they are certified to install leading brands like Tesla or Panasonic.
Rebates and Tax Credits
There are a lot of opportunities to claim clean energy rebates or federal tax credits which can help with your initial solar purchase. Ask your solar provider for guidance navigating these different savings opportunities.
Going solar is a big investment, but a warranty can help you trust that your system will work for decades. A lot of solar providers provide warranties on their technology and workmanship for 25 years or more, but you'll definitely want to ask about this on the front end.
The 10 Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
With these criteria in mind, consider our picks for the 10 best solar energy companies in TX.
SunPower is a solar energy company that makes it easy to make an informed and totally customized decision about your solar power setup. SunPower has an online design studio where you can learn more about the different options available for your home, and even a form where you can get a free online estimate. Set up a virtual consultation to speak directly with a qualified solar installer from the comfort of your own home. It's no wonder SunPower is a top solar installation company in Texas. They make the entire process easy and expedient.
Sunpro Solar is another solar power company with a solid reputation across the country. Their services are widely available to Texas homeowners, and they make the switch to solar effortless. We recommend them for their outstanding customer service, for the ease of their consultation and design process, and for their assistance to homeowners looking to claim tax credits and other incentives.
Looking for a solar contractor with true Texas roots? Longhorn Solar is an award-winning company that's frequently touted as one of the best solar providers in the state. Their services are available in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, and since 2009 they have helped more than 2,000 Texans make the switch to energy efficiency with solar. We recommend them for their technical expertise, proven track record, and solar product selection.
Solartime USA is another company based in Texas. In fact, this family-owned business is located in Richardson, which is just outside of Dallas. They have ample expertise with customized solar energy solutions in residential settings, and their portfolio of online reviews attests to their first-rate customer service. We love this company for the simplicity of their process, and for all the guidance they offer customers seeking to go solar.
Next on our list is Kosmos Solar, another Texas-based solar company. They're based in the northern part of the state, and highly recommended for homeowners in the area. They supply free estimates, high-quality products, custom solar designs, and award-winning personal service. Plus, their website has a lot of great information that may help guide you while you determine whether going solar is right for you.
Sunshine Renewable Solutions is based out of Houston, and they've developed a sterling reputation for dependable service and high-quality products. They have a lot of helpful financing options, and can show you how you can make the switch to solar in a really cost-effective way. We also like that they give free estimates, so there's certainly no harm in learning more about this great local company.
"Powered by the Texas sun." That's the official tagline of Alba Energy, a solar energy provider that's based out of Katy, TX. They have lots of great information about solar panel systems and solar solutions, including solar calculators to help you tabulate your potential energy savings. Additionally, we recommend Alba Energy because all of their work is done by a trusted, in-house team of solar professionals. They maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and they have rave reviews from satisfied customers.
Circle L Solar has a praiseworthy mission of helping homeowners slash their energy costs while participating in the green energy revolution. This is another company that provides a lot of great information, including energy savings calculators. Also note that, in addition to solar panels, Circle L Solar also showcases a number of other assets that can help you make your home more energy efficient, including windows, weatherization services, LED lighting, and more.
You can tell by the name that South Texas Solar Systems focuses its service area on the southernmost part of the Lone Star State. Their products include a wide range of commercial and residential solar panels, as well as "off the grid" panels for homeowners who want to detach from public utilities altogether. Since 2007, this company has been a trusted solar energy provider in San Antonio and beyond.
Good Faith Energy is a certified installer of Tesla solar technology for homeowners throughout Texas. This company is really committed to ecological stewardship, and they have amassed a lot of goodwill thanks to their friendly customer service and the depth of their solar expertise. In addition to Tesla solar panels, they can also install EV charging stations and storage batteries.
What are Your Solar Financing Options in Texas?
We've mentioned already that going solar requires a significant investment on the front-end. It's worth emphasizing that some of the best solar companies provide a range of financing options, allowing you to choose whether you buy your system outright, lease it, or pay for it in monthly installments.
Also keep in mind that there are a lot of rebates and state and federal tax credits available to help offset starting costs. Find a Texas solar provider who can walk you through some of the different options.
How Much Does a Solar Energy System Cost in Texas?
How much is it going to cost you to make that initial investment into solar power? It varies by customer and by home, but the median cost of solar paneling may be somewhere in the ballpark of $13,000. Note that, when you take into account federal tax incentives, this number can fall by several thousand dollars.
And of course, once you go solar, your monthly utility bills are going to shrink dramatically… so while solar systems won't pay for themselves in the first month or even the first year, they will ultimately prove more than cost-effective.
Finding the Right Solar Energy Companies in TX
Texas is a great place to pursue solar energy companies, thanks to all the natural sunlight, and there are plenty of companies out there to help you make the transition. Do your homework, compare a few options, and seek the solar provider that's right for you. We hope this guide is a helpful jumping-off point as you try to get as much information as possible about the best solar companies in Texas.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
Now, a group of researchers is warning that the nature of Arctic fires may be changing, and it's important to understand how in order to better predict the future of the global climate.
"It's not just the amount of burned area that is alarming," University of Colorado Boulder fire and permafrost ecologist Dr. Merritt Turetsky said in a press release published by Phys.org. "There are other trends we noticed in the satellite data that tell us how the Arctic fire regime is changing and what this spells for our climate future."
1. Zombie Fires
Zombie fires, also known as holdover fires, occur when fires from the previous season continue to burn beneath the ground during the winter. These blazes can then reemerge when the snow melts and the weather warms.
Satellite monitoring data from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service confirmed that zombie fires helped drive 2020's unprecedented wildfire season, which broke records both for the number of blazes and the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere, as Live Science reported. But the scientists writing in Nature Geoscience say they still need to learn more about these unusual fires and how they may contribute to climate feedback loops.
"We know little about the consequences of holdover fires in the Arctic," Turetsky said in the press release, "except that they represent momentum in the climate system and can mean that severe fires in one year set the stage for more burning the next summer."
Indeed, the 2020 wildfire season broke records that had been set just the year before, in 2019's also unprecedented season.
2. Fires Where Fire Shouldn't Be
The other troubling feature of the 2019 and 2020 Arctic wildfire seasons is that their blazes ignited in areas typically resistant to burning, the scientists pointed out. This included tundra vegetation such as dwarf shrubs, sedges, grasses and mosses and previously burn-free environments like bogs, fens and marshes.
Significantly, more than 50 percent of the 2020 fires burning above 65° North occurred on ice-rich permafrost, which contains the most carbon of any Arctic soil.
"Nearly all of this year's fires inside the Arctic Circle have occurred on continuous permafrost, with over half of these burning on ancient carbon-rich peat soils," commentary coauthor and London School of Economics and Political Science fire scientist Dr. Thomas Smith said in the press release. "The record high temperatures and associated fires have the potential to turn this important carbon sink into a carbon source, driving further global heating."
The scientists called for more research into the dynamics of Arctic fires to better understand how they will contribute to the climate crisis. Part of this requires collaborating with local and Indigenous communities, who can provide on-the-ground observations to accompany satellite data.
"The burning Arctic is a global issue that requires a global solution," the scientists concluded. "While the expertise of the Indigenous communities of the North and Arctic nations will be central to any success, we cannot expect them to shoulder the responsibility alone."
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By Jessica Corbett
Climate action advocates and wildlife defenders celebrated Monday after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejected the Trump administration's approval of Liberty, a proposed offshore oil-drilling project in federal Arctic waters that opponents warned would endanger local communities, animals, and the environment.
"This is a huge victory for polar bears and our climate," declared Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. "This project was a disaster waiting to happen that should never have been approved. I'm thrilled the court saw through the Trump administration's attempt to push this project through without carefully studying its risks."
Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth, similarly applauded the ruling, saying that "thankfully, the court put the health of our children and our planet over oil company profits."
Both groups joined with fellow advocacy organizations Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace, and Pacific Environment for a lawsuit challenging the Hilcorp Alaska project, which was approved in 2018. The energy company planned to construct an artificial island, wells, and a pipeline along the Alaska coast in the Beaufort Sea.
BREAKING: In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center and allies, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit… https://t.co/6VuTXp84qH— Center for Bio Div (@Center for Bio Div)1607382461.0
Jeremy Lieb, an attorney at the nonprofit law organization Earthjustice, which represented the advocacy groups, praised the court for rejecting the administration's "inaccurate and misleading analysis of this project's impact to the climate." The court determined that the administration hadn't properly considered Liberty's climate impacts as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, specifically taking issue with an economic model claiming the project would benefit the climate.
"In the face of a worsening climate crisis, the federal government should not be in the business of approving irresponsible offshore oil development in the Arctic," Lieb said. "The world cannot afford to develop new oil prospects anywhere, but especially in the Arctic where warming is already taking such a significant toll."
Research has shown that the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world, which has devastating effects on its human and animal inhabitants — including caribou, polar bears, reindeer, and walruses — and the planet more broadly. As one expert put it last year: "What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic."
Calling the court ruling "a victory for the planet and its people," Greenpeace senior research specialist Tim Donaghy said that it "affirms that the U.S. must take steps to transition off of oil and gas if we are to have any hope of halting the climate crisis."
"If we are going to create a just, green, and peaceful future, it must start with rejecting destructive projects like Liberty," he explained, before referencing President-elect Joe Biden's win over President Donald Trump. Ahead of the November election, climate advocates had rallied around Biden while pushing him to embrace bolder policies.
"Climate action must happen now and the Biden administration needs to keep its promise to halt any new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters," Donaghy said.
BREAKING: A federal court just sided with us in court, shooting down down a proposed oil project in the Arctic for… https://t.co/OuAKQUoQWI— Friends of the Earth (Action) (@Friends of the Earth (Action))1607378030.0
In addition to the climate finding, the court also determined that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to sufficiently analyze Liberty's impact on polar bears, in violation of the Endangered Species Act — a decision that was welcomed by Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska program director at Defenders of Wildlife.
"Today's news is a victory for Alaska's imperiled polar bears that are threatened by oil and gas development throughout virtually all of their terrestrial denning critical habitat — in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, and in the nearshore marine environment as well," she said, vowing to "continue our fight against destructive oil and gas drilling and for the survival of polar bears in the Arctic."
Despite the win for the region's polar bears in terms of offshore drilling, the animals are still threatened by the Trump administration's ongoing effort to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas extraction — despite opposition from local Indigenous people as well as environmentalists.
The administration on Monday proposed an "incidental harassment authorization" that would allow energy companies to disrupt polar bears while looking for oil and gas deposits. According to Reuters:
The Fish and Wildlife Service said that no polar bears are expected to be injured or killed during seismic operations, some of which are scheduled to take place next month, and expects disturbances to impact only a few bears.
But several veteran Arctic scientists and environmentalists in Alaska have warned against seismic operations — which can involve blasting to produce sonic images of underground formations. They argue the testing will upset wildlife and that the heavy machinery and activity involved in the work will damage tundra and speed up the thaw of permafrost.
As Monsell concluded: "The Trump administration seems determined to push polar bears further down the path to extinction before leaving office."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Jessie Creamean and Thomas Hill
The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.
The Big Idea
Permafrost – frozen soil in the far north – is thawing, releasing greenhouse gases and long-lost microbes. But one thing that scientists have not studied extensively is whether permafrost contains certain kinds of particles that could affect clouds and weather.
As atmospheric scientists, we found in a recent study that thawing permafrost contains lots of microscopic ice-nucleating particles. These particles make it easier for water droplets to freeze; and if the ones in permafrost get airborne, they could affect Arctic clouds.
In the summer of 2018, one of us, Jessie Creamean, went to Fairbanks, Alaska, and collected samples of permafrost from a research tunnel deep underground. These samples ranged from 18,000 to 30,000 years old, and our team tested them to see how many ice-nucleating particles are hiding in permafrost.
It turns out permafrost contains a ton of them – up to 100 million highly active individual particles per gram of mostly dead microbes and pieces of plants. This density is on par with what is found in fertile soils, which are some of the most concentrated sources of ice-nucleating particles on Earth. Everywhere in the world, ice-nucleating particles typically play a major role in cloud behavior, and the strength of that effect is still being studied.
This 18,000-year-old permafrost sample contains millions of ice-nucleating particles per gram. Thomas Hill / CC BY-ND
Why It Matters
No one yet knows whether ice-nucleating particles from permafrost are getting into the atmosphere and affecting clouds. But the theory of how ice-nucleating particles change clouds is understood.
Clouds are made up of billions of tiny water droplets or ice crystals, often a mix of both. A cloud is like a forest of trees: All water droplets of the cloud require a seed – a tiny aerosol particle – to form and grow on. Almost any little speck of material from the land or the ocean can be the seed of a liquid cloud droplet. Because of their unique ability to line up water molecules into an icelike grid, they help supercooled liquid in a cloud to freeze at warmer temperatures.
Ice-nucleating particles are extremely good at forming small ice crystals – a rare skill found in less than 1 in a million of all the particles floating around in the air. Ice-nucleating particles can be mineral dust from deserts, specks of soil from farm fields or – like what we found in the permafrost – bacteria and bits of biological material from oceans or plants.
The ability to easily form ice has big consequences for clouds and weather.
Most of the time, airborne water droplets need to freeze before they can fall to the ground as snow or rain. Ice-nucleating particles allow cloud ice to form at warmer air temperatures than normal, up to around 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Without these particles, a water droplet can supercool to about negative 36 F before freezing. When ice-nucleating particles are in a cloud, water droplets freeze more easily. This can cause the cloud to rain or snow and disappear earlier, and reflect less sunlight.
As permafrost thaws, ice-nucleating particles are getting into rivers, lakes and eventually the ocean. National Park Service / C.Ciancibelli / Wikimedia Commons
What Still Isn’t Known
Our work found there are a lot of these ice-nucleating particles in thawing permafrost, which is important because permafrost covers 24% of the exposed land surface in the Northern Hemisphere. The question now is whether these particles are getting into the atmosphere or not. No other researchers that we're aware of have looked at permafrost's effect on cloud formation, or the mechanisms by which ice-nucleating particles from permafrost become airborne.
We hypothesize that ice-nucleating particles from thawing permafrost could get into lakes and rivers, make their way to coastal Arctic Ocean waters and spread over large areas. Then, winds could eject these ice-nucleating particles into the air, where they could enhance the freezing of clouds and affect weather.
There are still many unknowns and a lot of work to do.
This summer, we are teaming up with colleagues from the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Fairbanks and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, to set out for a six-week expedition to the Alaskan Arctic tundra. We will collect hundreds of samples of permafrost, lake water, river water, coastal ocean water and air samples to see whether ice-nucleating particles from permafrost are present, and in what amounts. Our goal is to use these findings in models to predict how thawing permafrost could alter the region's clouds.
Disclosure statement: Jessie Creamean receives funding for this work from the National Science Foundation (Award OPP-1946657). Thomas Hill receives funding for this work from the National Science Foundation (Award OPP-1946657).
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
"It was a surprise to see such a large increase in just 30 years," said Thomas Slater, a study co-author. There have been huge efforts to study ice loss research in individual regions of the world, allowing the researchers to combine data to assess ice loss worldwide. Their findings show that Arctic ice is disappearing the fastest, with 7.6 trillion tons melting between 1994 to 2017. The report also found land ice melt alone contributed to a global average sea level rise of 3.5 centimeters. However, land ice is only a small portion of the world's ice. Sea ice shelves, which float on water, are disappearing quickly. If they collapse, the land ice (glaciers) some sea ice shelves hold in place would be released and could accelerate sea level rise for centuries.
As reported by The Guardian:
The greatest quantities of ice were lost from floating ice in the polar regions, raising the risk of a feedback mechanism known as albedo loss. White ice reflects solar radiation back into space – the albedo effect – but when floating sea ice melts it uncovers dark water which absorbs more heat, speeding up the warming further in a feedback loop.
Glaciers showed the next biggest loss of ice volume, with more than 6tn tonnes lost between 1994 and 2017, about a quarter of global ice loss over the period. The shrinking of glaciers threatens to cause both flooding and water shortages in some regions, because as large volumes melt they can overwhelm downstream areas, then shrunken glaciers produce less of the steady water flow needed for agriculture.
Inès Otosaka, report co-author and a PhD researcher at the University of Leeds centre for polar observation and modelling, said: "As well as contributing to global mean sea level rise, mountain glaciers are also critical as a freshwater resource for local communities. The retreat of glaciers around the world is therefore of crucial importance, at both local and global scales."
For a deeper dive:
By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.
Earth had its second-warmest year on record in 2020, just 0.02 degrees Celsius (0.04°F) behind the record set in 2016, and 0.98 degrees Celsius (1.76°F) above the 20th-century average, NOAA reported January 14.
NASA and the European Copernicus Climate Change Service rated 2020 as tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record (NASA rates the margin of error at .05 degrees C); the Japan Meteorological Agency rated 2020 as the warmest year on record. Minor differences in rankings often occur among various research groups, the result of different ways they handle data-sparse regions such as the Arctic.
Global ocean temperatures in 2020 were the third-warmest on record, global land temperatures the warmest on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures in 2020 for the lowest eight kilometers of the atmosphere were the second-warmest or warmest in the 42-year record, according to the University of Alabama, Huntsville and Remote Sensing Solutions, respectively.
The Northern Hemisphere had its warmest year on record in 2020 and the Southern Hemisphere its fifth-warmest. By continent, here are the 2020 temperature rankings:
Europe: first warmest
Asia: first warmest
South America: second warmest
Africa: fourth warmest
Australia (and Oceania): fourth warmest
North America: 10th warmest
As detailed in a January 12 post at this site by Bob Henson, 2020 for the U.S. was the fifth-warmest year in history going back to 1895. Ten states had their second-warmest year on record and four had their third-warmest year. None of the contiguous 48 states was below-average in temperature in 2020.
Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for 2020, the second-warmest year the globe has seen since record-keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA. Record-high annual temperatures over land and ocean surfaces were measured across parts of Europe, Asia, southern North America, South America, and across parts of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. No land or ocean areas were record cold for the year. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
The remarkable global warmth of 2020 means that the seven warmest years on record since 1880 were the most recent seven years — 2014 through 2020. The near-record global warmth in 2020 is all the more striking since it occurred during the minimum of the weakest solar cycle in more than 100 years and during a year without a strong El Niño. Record-warm global temperatures typically occur during strong El Niño events and when the solar cycle is near its maximum. The warmth of 2020 is a testament to how significantly human-caused global warming is heating the planet.
Figure 2. Total ocean heat content (OHC) in the top 2000 meters from 1958-2020. Cheng et al., Upper Ocean Temperatures Hit Record High in 2020, Advances in Atmospheric Sciences
Warmest Year on Record for Total Ocean Heat Content
Despite the presence of a prominent La Niña event that began in August, the total heat content of the world's oceans in 2020 was the warmest in recorded human history, according to a January 13, 2021 paper by Cheng et al., Upper Ocean Temperatures Hit Record High in 2020, published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. In the uppermost 2,000 meters of the oceans, there were 211 to 234 zettajoules more heat in 2020 than the 1981-2010 average, and 2020 had 1 to 20 zettajoules more ocean heat content than in 2019 (a zettajoule is one sextillion joules — ten to the 21st power). For comparison, in 2010, humans used a total of 0.5 zettajoules of energy.
More than 90% of the increasing heat from human-caused global warming accumulates in the ocean because of its large heat capacity. The remaining heating manifests as atmospheric warming, a drying and warming landmass, and melting land and sea ice. Increasing ocean heat content causes sea-level rise through thermal expansion of the water and melting of glaciers in contact with the ocean. It also produces stronger and more rapidly intensifying hurricanes; causes more intense precipitation events that can lead to destructive flooding; contributes to "marine heat waves" that damage or destroy coral reefs; and disrupts atmospheric circulation patterns.
A Slew of Heat Records in 2020
International records researcher Maximiliano Herrera keeps the pulse of the planet in remarkable detail, and he logged 11 nations or territories that set or tied their all-time heat records in 2020. That total fell far short of the record of 24 such records in 2019. No nations or territories set or tied an all-time cold record in 2020. Here are the all-time heat records set in 2020:
Colombia: 42.6°C (108.7°F) at Jerusalem, February 19 (tie);
Ghana: 44.0°C (111.2°F) at Navrongo, April 6;
Cuba: 39.2°C (102.6°F) at Palo Seco, April 10; broken again April 11 with 39.3°C (102.7°F) at Veguitas, and again on April 12 with 39.7°C (103.5°F) at Veguitas;
Mayotte, France department: 36.4°C (97.5°F) at Trevani, April 14;
Taiwan: 40.5°C (104.9°F) at Taimali Research Center, July 16;
Lebanon: 45.4°C (113.7°F) at Houche Al Oumara, July 27;
United States: 54.4°C (129.9°F) at Death Valley, California, August 16;
Japan: 41.1°C (106.0°F) at Hamamatsu, August 17;
Dominica: 35.7°C (96.3°F) at Canefield Airport, September 15;
Puerto Rico (U.S. territory): 37.8°C (100.0°F ) at Aguirre, September 17; and
Paraguay: 45.5°C (113.9°F ) at Pozo Hondo, September 26.
Among global weather stations having at least 40 years of record-keeping, Herrera documented 348 that exceeded their all-time heat record in 2020; only eight stations with a long-term period of record set an all-time cold record in 2020. For comparison, 632 stations set their all-time heat record in 2019 and 11 their all-time cold record.
Notable Global Heat and Cold Records for 2020
Hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: 54.4°C (129.9°F) at Death Valley, U.S., August 16;
Coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -66.0°C (-86.8°F) at Summit, Greenland, January 2;
Hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 48.9°C (120.0°F) at Penrith Lakes, Australia, January 4;
Coldest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: -80.8°C (-113.4°F) at Dome Fuji, Antarctica, August 16;
Highest 2020 average temperature worldwide: 31.5°C (88.7°F) at Yelimane, Mali, and Matam, Senegal; and
Highest 2020 average temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 29.8°C (85.6°F) at Surabaya Airport, Indonesia, and Wyndham, Australia.
Earth's record for hottest yearly average temperature was 32.9°C (91.2°F) at Makkah, Saudi Arabia, in 2010 and 2016.
126 Additional Monthly National/Territorial Heat Records Beaten or Tied
In addition to the 11 all-time national heat records, 126 other national monthly heat records were set in 2020, for a total of 137 national monthly heat records:
– January (13): Norway, South Korea, Angola, Congo Brazzaville, Dominica, Mexico, Indonesia, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe, Cuba, British Indian Ocean Territory, Singapore;
– February (12): Spain, Antarctica, Azerbaijan, Costa Rica, The Bahamas, Switzerland, Maldives, Gambia, Russia, Seychelles, Dominican Republic, U.S. Virgin Islands;
– March (7): Paraguay, Cabo Verde, Mozambique, Seychelles, United States, Thailand, Northern Mariana Islands;
– April (14): Paraguay, Niger, St. Barthelemy, Honduras, Guernsey, Haiti, Congo Brazzaville, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, China, Saba, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic;
– May (10): Niger, Greece, Saba, Cyprus, Solomon Islands, Turkey, Haiti, Kazakhstan, Chile, Uzbekistan;
– June (6): Maldives, Thailand, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saba, Kenya, Ghana;
– July (7): Mozambique, U.S. Virgin Islands, Laos, Myanmar, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Northern Mariana Islands;
– August (6): Solomon Islands, Mexico, Australia, Cocos Islands, Paraguay, U.S. Virgin Islands;
– September (18): Laos, Taiwan, Japan, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Mexico, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Botswana, St. Barthelemy, Mayotte, Argentina, Brazil, British Indian Ocean Territory;
– October (11): Algeria, Brazil, Tunisia, Turkey, Cyprus, Jordan, Peru, Myanmar, Northern Marianas Islands, Botswana, Maldives;
– November (11): Luxembourg, Finland, Nepal, Mexico, Aland Islands, Sweden, Maldives, Northern Marianas, Taiwan, Swaziland, Sudan; and
– December (11): Mexico, Ghana, Pakistan, Algeria, Qatar, Maldives, Niger, Taiwan, Dominica, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands.
One Monthly National/Territorial Cold Record Beaten or Tied in 2020
– April: St. Eustatius.
An October monthly record reported in Aruba was judged to be unreliable.
Hemispherical and Continental Temperature Records in 2020
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere in January: 29.1°C (84.4°F) at Bonriki, Kiribati, January 17;
– Highest maximum temperature ever recorded in North America in January: 42.0°C (107.6°F) at Vicente Guerrero, Mexico, January 21;
– Highest temperature ever recorded in continental Antarctica and highest February temperature ever recorded in Antarctica plus the surrounding islands: 18.4°C (65.1°F) at Base Esperanza, February 6;
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in February in Antarctica: 7.6°C (45.7°F) at Base Marambio, February 9;
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in February in the Northern Hemisphere: 32.0°C (89.6°F) at Yelimane, Mali, February 23;
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in April in the Southern Hemisphere: 31.1°C (88.0°F) at Argyle, Australia, April 2;
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in May in Europe: 30.1°C (86.2°F) at Emponas, Greece, May 17;
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in May in North America: 35.0°C (95.0°F) at Death Valley, California (U.S.), May 28;
– Highest temperature ever recorded in the polar regions: 38.0°C (100.4°F) at Verkhoyansk, Russia, June 20;
– Highest reliable temperature ever recorded on Earth: 54.4°C (129.9°F) at Death Valley, California, August 16;
– Highest reliable minimum temperature ever recorded in August in North America: 40.0°C (104.0°F) at Death Valley, California (U.S.), August 17;
– Highest temperature ever recorded in Australia and Oceana in August: 40.7°C (105.3°F) at Yampi Sound, Australia, August 22; beaten again with 41.2°C (106.2°F) at West Roebuck, Australia, on August 23; and
– Highest temperature ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere in November: 44.8°C (112.6°F) at San Francisco and Tubares, Mexico, November 5.
December 2020: Earth's Eighth-Warmest December on Record
December 2020 was the eighth-warmest December since global record-keeping began in 1880, NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information reported January 14. NASA and the European Copernicus Climate Change Service rated the month as the sixth-warmest December on record, and the Japan Meteorological Agency rated it as the tenth-warmest. Again: Minor differences in rankings often occur among various research groups, the result of different ways they handle data-sparse regions such as the Arctic.
Figure 3. Departure of sea surface temperature from average in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W). Sea surface temperature were approximately one degree Celsius below average over the past month, characteristic of moderate La Niña conditions. Tropical Tidbits
A Moderate La Niña Event Continues
La Niña conditions remained in the moderate range during December and early January, prompting NOAA to continue its La Niña advisory in a January 14 monthly discussion of the state of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, or ENSO.
Over the past month, sea surface temperatures in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W) have been approximately 1 degree Celsius below average. The threshold for "strong" La Niña conditions is 1.5 degrees Celsius below average; "moderate" La Niña conditions are 1.0-1.5 degrees below average.
Forecasters at NOAA and at Columbia University's International Research Institute for Climate and Society expect La Niña conditions will continue through the winter (95% chance during January-February-March), and potentially transition to "neutral" during the spring (55% chance during April-May-June). About half of all La Niña events continue into a second year, but fewer than 20% of the ENSO models predicted that La Niña conditions would last into the summer of 2021.
Arctic Sea Ice: Third-Lowest December Extent on Record
Arctic sea ice extent during December 2020 was the third-lowest in the 42-year satellite record, behind 2016 and 2017, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Antarctic sea ice extent in December 2020 was near-average.
Notable Global Heat and Cold Marks for December 2020
– Hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: 41.5°C (106.7°F) at Matam, Senegal, December 2;
– Coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -57.5°C (-71.5°F) at Oymykon, Russia, December 29;
– Hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 48.7°C (119.7°F) at Birdsville, Australia, December 5; and
– Coldest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: -44.9°C (-48.8°F) at Dome A, Antarctica, December 3.
Major Weather Stations' New All-Time Heat or Cold Records in December 2020
Among global stations with a record of at least 40 years, two stations set all-time cold records in December, and no stations set an all-time heat record:
Hamamasu (Japan) min. -21.5°C (-6.7°F), December 31; and
Bibai (Japan) min. -26.5°C (-15.7°F), December 31.
Statistics courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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By Jessica Corbett
With temperatures across the globe — and particularly in the Arctic — rising due to lackluster efforts to address the human-caused climate crisis, one of the coldest towns on Earth is throwing its hat in the ring to host the 2032 Summer Olympics.
Salla is located in Finland's Lapland region and touts the tagline, "in the middle of nowhere." The average temperature is below freezing and the area boasts a ski resort, reindeer park, Arctic Circle safaris, and even a snow and ice hotel.
With support from Fridays for Future — the youth-led movement launched by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg — Salla announced its Olympic bid to build awareness about "the consequences of global warming and the need for urgent action."
"Our intention here is clear: we want to keep Salla as it is, and our winters cold and full of snow," said Salla Mayor Erkki Parkkinen. "So, there was this crazy idea: to host the Summer Games in one of the coldest towns on the planet."
"If we stand back and do nothing, letting global warming prevail," Parkkinen warned, "we will lose our identity, and the town we love — as well as many others around the world — will cease to exist as we know it."
The campaign, detailed at www.savesalla.com, includes a short video.
"Despite the obviousness of the global warming, the ideology of climate change denial is gaining traction all over the world and increasing every year," the campaign website says. "So, we've created this bid to raise attention about the climate emergency. Salla is changing. The whole planet is changing. Not in a good way."
As Common Dreams has reported, while projections for the entire planet are dire if policymakers don't urgently work to "effect unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society, including energy, land and ecosystems, urban and infrastructure as well as industry," the Arctic is particularly at risk.
"We have only one planet to live in and an immense responsibility to future generations. We can all make a difference. What we cannot do under any circumstances is deny the problem and omit ourselves. The risks will be severe and unavoidable," said Joe Hobbs, a Fridays For Future activist and operations director for Climate Cardinals. "Global warming does not have to be a self-fulfilling prophecy and everyone can make a significant and decisive contribution to stop this process."
Hobbs joined Parkkinen and multiple experts for a press conference about the campaign on Tuesday.
The event came a day after a new study that showed ice loss worldwide is increasing at a record rate. Lead author Thomas Slater of Leeds' Centre for Polar Observation and Modeling said that "although every region we studied lost ice, losses from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets have accelerated the most."
"The ice sheets are now following the worst-case climate warming scenarios set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change," Slater added. "Sea-level rise on this scale will have very serious impacts on coastal communities this century."
Also on Monday, Thunberg delivered an address to the World Economic Forum's annual meeting — held digitally rather than in Davos, Switzerland this year because of the raging coronavirus pandemic. She told political and business leaders that "when it comes to facing the climate emergency, the world is still in a state of complete denial."
"Safeguarding the future living conditions and preserving life on Earth as we know it is voluntary. The choice is yours to make," the 18-year-old Swede said. "But I can assure you this: You can't negotiate with physics. And your children and grandchildren will hold you accountable for the choices that you make."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Arctic Ocean sediments are full of frozen gases known as hydrates, and scientists have long been concerned about what will happen when and if the climate crisis induces them to thaw. That is because one of them is methane, a greenhouse gas that has 80 times the warming impact of carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. In fact, the U.S. Geological Survey has listed Arctic hydrate destabilization as one of the four most serious triggers for even more rapid climate change.
Now, scientists onboard the Russian research ship R/V Akademik Keldysh have told The Guardian that there is evidence this destabilization has already begun off Siberia's eastern coast.
"The discovery of actively releasing shelf slope hydrates is very important and unknown until now," vessel chief scientist Igor Semiletov of the Russian Academy of Sciences told The Guardian. "This is a new page."
The international team of 60 researchers said Tuesday they were the first to observe methane release over a wide area of the continental slope off of Eastern Siberia. They observed bubbles being released from ocean sediment at six different observation points over a 150 kilometer (approximately 93 miles) by 10 kilometer (approximately 6 miles) stretch of the slope.
They also recorded methane concentrations of as much as 1,600 nanomoles per liter at a depth of around 300 meters (approximately 984 feet) on the slope of the Laptev Sea. That's 400 times higher a concentration than would be expected in normal circumstances.
While the methane bubbles are still being absorbed by the ocean, the researchers did measure methane concentrations near the surface that were four to eight times higher than normal, and said this methane would make it into the atmosphere.
"At this moment, there is unlikely to be any major impact on global warming, but the point is that this process has now been triggered. This East Siberian slope methane hydrate system has been perturbed and the process will be ongoing," Swedish scientist Örjan Gustafsso of Stockholm University told The Guardian.
This isn't the first alarming find that Semitelov's expedition has turned up. Last fall, they released images of a methane fountain bubbling up from the floor of the East Siberian Sea, The Moscow Times reported.
However, the researchers urged caution in responding to their findings. They stressed that they needed to be confirmed once the expedition is over and the data can be reviewed and written up in a peer reviewed journal.
"Potentially they can have serious climate consequences," Semitelov told The Guardian of his discoveries, "but we need more study before we can confirm that."
Scientists who were not involved with the study responded with skepticism to The Guardian story, The Week reported.
Climate scientist Zeke Hausfather pointed to a major study of global methane emissions that relied on both satellite data and on-site observations and found that there was no increase in Arctic Ocean methane emissions as of 2017.
Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, argued that there was no evidence that Arctic methane had had a significant climate impact in earlier eras when the region was even warmer than it is today.
"This story is ... unconvincing," he tweeted. "First off it's just two scientists (no publication), one of whom has made similar (unsupported) claims before & ignores the context that permafrost & methane have been degrading in this region since it was inundated in the early Holocene."
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As the planet's temperature warms, the frequency of lightning strikes is expected to grow with it, Environmental Journal reported.
Currently, lightning strikes the earth's surface nearly eight million times a day. This number is expected to dramatically increase as global temperatures rise, according to a study published by Science. The U.S., for example, could experience a 50 percent increase in the number of lightning strikes by the end of the century, if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed.
"The distribution of lightning is directly linked to the Earth's climate," Nathan Neal, a marketing director at Biral, wrote. "The daily and seasonal heating of the continental landmasses results in large temperature fluctuations, which influences atmospheric stability and the development of thunderstorms."
In the fastest-warming part of the planet, the Arctic has reported an increase in lightning over the past decade. A recent study suggests that the number of annual summertime lightning strikes above a latitude of 65° North rose from around 35,000 in 2010 to nearly 250,000 in 2020, Nature reported.
These results are a "symptom of global climate change," Robert Holzworth, an atmospheric physicist at the University of Washington in Seattle and leader of the study, said in reference to the Arctic's two-year record for the largest area of land burnt by wildfires, some of which were ignited by lightning.
The Arctic is not alone in experiencing an increase in lightning strikes and resulting wildfires.
In August, 20,203 lightning strikes were recorded in California within just four days. Part of what CalFire called the "fire siege," the four-day event recorded more than half of the month's typical lightning total. More than 700 new wildfires followed, burning an area larger than the state of Delaware, The Washington Post reported.
So, how will the increase of lightning strikes cause future climate damage?
Unfortunately, monitoring lightning for climate science remains limited, Nathan Neal wrote.
"But it must not be forgotten that lightning is hazardous; it can strike and kill people, trigger potentially devastating wildfires, play a part in destructive floods and in the case of the U.S. can lead to the creation of tornados," he added.
Lightning, in relation to wildfires, is also an uncommon topic in public discourse, John Abatzoglou, an associate professor in management of complex systems at the University of California, Merced, told The New York Times. "We want to personify these fires. We want to blame somebody. But lightning doesn't have a face," he said.
Regardless of how climate change will impact lightning frequency, the resulting impacts of lightning strikes will grow more severe as the planet grows warmer and drier.
"Even if there were no changes in lightning frequency, the impact of warmer and drier conditions associated with climate change help make lightning more effective at igniting wildfires," Nina S. Oakley, a research scientist at the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, told The New York Times. "With drier vegetation, there is a greater likelihood of a lightning strike igniting a fire, and greater opportunity for that fire to grow."
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Climate Crisis Could Change Permafrost Soil Microbes, With ‘Unknown Consequences’ for Arctic Ecosystems, Scientists Say
Can the past predict the future?
In the case of communities of microbes living in the Arctic permafrost, researchers at the University of Alberta think it might. The scientists discovered that the microbes and chemistry of Arctic soil changed dramatically following the end of the last Ice Age, and the same thing could happen again due to the climate crisis.
"Since soils are where plants grow and where nearly all terrestrial life lives, this could have big impacts on the entire Arctic ecosystem," study coauthor and University of Alberta associate professor Brian Lanoi said in a university press release. "Our work shows this happened before, and it is possible that this could happen again as the result of current climate change."
How changes in ancient soil microbes could predict the future of the Arctic: https://t.co/bXBDfEeMFd #UAlberta… https://t.co/qj9PQShzDX— University of Alberta (@University of Alberta)1598547633.0
The study, published in Frontiers in Environmental Science this month, helped fill a gap in scientists' understanding of how the end of the Ice Age impacted soil communities. The shift between the Ice Age (the Pleistocene) and the current era (the Holocene) led to dramatic and well-documented changes in plant and animal life, but, until now, it had not been clear if it caused equally dramatic changes to the communities of microbes living in the Arctic soil.
However, previous studies had looked at permafrost sediments dating from either the Pleistocene or Holocene. To better understand the transition, the University of Alberta researchers looked at sediment that showed the transition between the two geological epochs. They then analyzed the samples under sterile conditions for both their genetic makeup and chemical composition, and found that both markers were very different before and after the transitional period.
"We found that both the microbial communities and the chemical parameters are stable within each era until they cross a threshold, driven by the change in climate," Lanoil explained in the press release. "After that threshold, there is an abrupt switch to a new microbial community and new soil chemistry. We argue that modern climate change could lead to a similar transition in state for soils in Arctic ecosystems, with unknown consequences."
Because current Arctic soil microbes help process carbon and nitrogen, a change in their makeup could impact the carbon and nitrogen cycles, the press release explained. However, Lanoil pointed out that more research is needed to understand how a change in soil microbes impacts the surrounding ecosystem.
The researchers did note that warming in the Western Arctic is now much greater than at the end of the last Ice Age, and the region may be reaching its highest temperatures in the last 14,000 years.
Previous research has shown that warming might not only change the composition of Arctic soil, it might also release microbes that have been frozen there. Scientists have warned that the climate crisis could cause deadly bacteria long trapped in frozen soil to reemerge.
"Permafrost is a very good preserver of microbes and viruses, because it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark," evolutionary biologist Jean-Michel Claverie told BBC in 2017. "Pathogenic viruses that can infect humans or animals might be preserved in old permafrost layers, including some that have caused global epidemics in the past."
A block of thawing permafrost topples off the Alaska coast. U.S. Geological Survey
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The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, thanks to protections put in place 60 years ago, has remained a pristine oasis in the most remote section of Alaska. Now, the Trump administration is finalizing plans to end those protections and to lease the federal lands to oil and gas exploration, according to The New York Times.
The maneuver will allow oil and gas companies to exploit the vast reserves that sit under what environmentalists call "the last great wilderness," according to The Guardian.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is estimated to sit above billions of barrels of oil. However, the 19-million acre sanctuary is home to polar bears, various waterfowl, migrating caribou and Arctic foxes that make the area their year-round home. In all, the refuge is home to more than 270 species, including the world's remaining Southern Beaufort Sea polar bears, 250 musk oxen and 300,000 snow geese, according to The Washington Post.
The Trump administration plans to open the perimeter to drilling, roughly 1.6 million acres in coastline, as The New York Times reported.
The Department of the Interior said it had completed all the requisite reviews and intended to start selling leases to the land soon. Speaking to reporters, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said, "I do believe there could be a lease sale by the end of the year," as The New York Times reported.
Bernhardt added that offering the leases, "marks a new chapter in American energy independence" and predicted it could "create thousands of new jobs," according to CNN.
He also said in his conference call with reporters that he was moving forward with a 2017 budget bill, passed by a Republican-led congress, that insisted that the Federal government open up oil and gas leasing on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, according to The Washington Post.
The push to open up the wildlife refuge marks a significant energy policy for an administration that has been hostile to the urgency of the climate crisis and invested heavily in greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels. According to research from the Centers for American Progress, the drilling would result in more than 4.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions, which is roughly 75 percent of the nation's annual carbon dioxide emissions, according to The Washington Post.
"This is our nation's last great wilderness," said Adam Kolton, the executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, as The Guardian reported. "Nowhere else in the five-nation circle polar north do you have such abundant and diverse wildlife."
The migrating porcupine caribou is important to the culture of the indigenous Gwich'in people, many of whom reside alongside the caribou's migrating pattern.
"This area they just opened is their calving grounds," said Bernadette Demienti, executive director of the Gwich'in steering committee, as The Guardian reported. "This is a place that is so sacred to the Gwich'in that we don't go there. Our creation story tells us that we made a vow with the caribou that we would take care of each other. They have taken care of us, and now it is our turn to take care of them."
Demienti added that the caribou have already started to change their migration pattern as global warming afflicts the Arctic at a rapid pace, changing the landscape and the vegetation that the ruminants rely on.
Environmentalists like Kolton intend to fight the leases in federal court, where a protracted legal battle is expected to play out.
"We will continue to fight this at every turn," said Kolton in a statement, as The New York Times reported. "Any oil company that would seek to drill in the Arctic Refuge will face enormous reputational, legal and financial risks."
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