Quantcast

Twenty-four hours of inspiring stories of regular people taking their future into their hands and taking action on climate.

Twenty-four hours of eye-opening conversations with the business innovators, government leaders, scientists, community voices and more leading the fight for solutions all around the planet. Names like New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, California Gov. Jerry Brown and World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab.

Read More Show Less

Twenty-four hours of inspiring stories of regular people taking their future into their hands and taking action on climate.

Twenty-four hours of eye-opening conversations with the business innovators, government leaders, scientists, community voices and more leading the fight for solutions all around the planet. Names like New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, California Gov. Jerry Brown and World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

iStock

The Orlando City Commission unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday establishing a goal to move Orlando to 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2050. Orlando is now the largest city in Florida to make such a commitment and joins a growing movement of more than three dozen cities nationwide that have committed to a 100 percent clean energy future.

Council chambers were filled with elated members of the First 50 Coalition, a broad-based alliance led by the League of Women Voters of Orange County that is pushing for sustainability in Central Florida.

Read More Show Less

In what's widely being described as the most shocking upset in U.S. election history, Donald J. Trump has beaten Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the U.S.

As one of the world's largest greenhouse gas emitters, any change at the top of U.S. politics warrants a consideration of what it might mean for the country's climate and energy priorities.

But given Trump's comments on the campaign trail, the U.S.'s recent reputation under Barack Obama as a nation serious about tackling climate change now looks to be in peril.

For example, Trump said he thought climate change was a "hoax" perpetrated by the Chinese. In addition, he pledged to end federal spending on low-carbon energy and to pull the U.S. out of the UN's Paris agreement on climate change. Carbon Brief has been asking climate scientists for their reactions.

Dr. Philip B Duffy, executive director of the Woods Hole Research Center and former senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy:

Dr. Malte Meinhausen, senior researcher in climate impacts at the University of Melbourne and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research:

"Trump said a lot of things. It looks like the Trump administration could do anything. From playing a destructive role in international climate protection to just letting others get on with the job … However, despite the momentum for climate protection having, in part, an autonomous motor due to the economics of lower cost renewable energies, a hostile Trump administration towards the Paris agreement could do a lot of damage.

"Trump won't be able to withdraw from the Paris agreement for three years (Article 28) now that it just entered into force—one of the world's major success stories. A hostile Trump administration could, however, withdraw from the UNFCCC Convention and thereby also from the Paris agreement indirectly. In theory, that could happen quicker. It's unlikely that the administration would do so much self-harm, so. But Trump seems to defy conventional wisdom, so we don't know.

"The Paris agreement without the U.S. would live on, but the spirit and the international focus on one of the defining challenges of our time could get lost. And the economic opportunities for the U.S. will get lost too … Not a good outcome for the U.S. in that respect. Not a good outcome for the climate. Too early to tell how bad it will be, though. One can hear the world gasping for air."

Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research:

"President-elect Donald Trump's stance on global warming is well known. Ironically, he contributed to the popularity of our recent Turn Down the Heat report series for the World Bank by attacking it on Twitter.

"Yet apart from this, science cannot expect any positive climate action from him. The world has now to move forward without the U.S. on the road towards climate-risk mitigation and clean-technology innovation.

"The U.S. de-elected expertise and will likely show a blockade mentality now, so Europe and Asia have to pioneer and save the world. Formally leaving the Paris agreement would take longer than one Presidential term, yet of course the U.S. could simply refuse reducing national emissions which would mean a de facto exit out of international climate policy. Now the U.S. are one of the world's biggest economies and even just four years of unbridled emission staying in the atmosphere for many hundreds years would make a substantial difference. The climate system doesn't forget and it doesn't forgive. The U.S. is prone to potentially devastating climate change impacts. Hurricanes hit U.S. coastal cities, the California drought affected farmers and a state like Florida is particularly exposed to sea-level rise. Sadly, in the long run nature itself might show the U.S. citizens that climate change as a matter of fact is not a hoax. But it might be too late."

Dr. Rachel James, research fellow in climate modeling at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford:

Dr. Twila Moon, lecturer in cryospheric sciences at the University of Bristol:

"Having a person in the position of U.S. President who does not acknowledge scientific facts establishing the clear reality of human-caused climate change is a disgrace. This is a sad and scary outcome for science and for action on halting harmful climate change.

"But I am hopeful that the American people—from all parties—are realizing that climate change is happening in our own backyards and the will of the people will push the political needle. I think our response must be to work harder, together to move forward on climate action locally, regionally, and, as best as possible, nationally. As a human being, I think it is our moral obligation."

Prof. Andrew Dessler, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University:

"I don't think anyone knows what this means for U.S. policy on climate science or emissions reductions. I think we all expected that the Clean Power Plan would end eventually up in front of the Supreme Court and its fate there is more doubtful now that Trump gets to appoint the next Justice. On the other hand, renewable power is getting cheap fast and my optimistic hope is that renewable energy gets so cheap that we switch to it without any national government policy. I guess we'll see!"

Prof. Shaun Marcott, professor in palaeoclimate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

"This election in terms of future global climate change was critical as the new president will be making decisions that will have long lasting consequences, both in the policy being set in the homeland and policies that they will help set with their international counterparts.

"Much like Britain and the Brexit vote, the U.S. now finds itself at a crossroad and heading in a direction that, in my opinion, does not appear to be sustainable. This is obvious, I think, to most people. I think the best way I've heard it described is that decisions made by this incoming president will set in policies that could have lasting climate change effects extending 10,000 years into the future. The stakes were high and unfortunately both of our leading candidates didn't even discuss, or did so very rarely, climate change at large in any of the debates."

Charles F Kennel, distinguished professor emeritus at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography:

Dr. Emily Shuckburgh, head of open oceans at the British Antarctic Survey:

"A significant theme of recent political discourse has been the use and misuse of evidence. In moving forward, rather than bemoan a 'post-truth world,' those of us who have roles in gathering, curating and disseminating evidence must strive to understand the process of human decision-making better.

"We absolutely need to make policy on climate and other matters that is consistent with the evidence base. But within a democracy, this has to be achieved through the will of the people. That requires broad and deep engagement by us with all sections of the wider society to understand the contextual circumstances and to proactively place the evidence in frames that are relevant to people.

"If we are to meet the objectives of the Paris agreement, it is abundantly clear that a major transformation of society will be required. This is a significant technological challenge, but the political events in the U.S. and UK that have surprised the establishment also serve to remind us the importance of recognizing the implications of change for all sectors of society. If we can learn from this, there is hope that we may be able to successfully navigate the perilous journey ahead of us in responding to the climate challenge."

Prof. Jean-Pierre Gattuso, professor of biological oceanography at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Sorbonne University and the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations.

"The result of the U.S. presidential election is very worrisome on many counts, including of course for climate negotiations. The Paris agreement is a construct that was many years in the making and is, therefore, extremely fragile. Even though the U.S. cannot formally leave the agreement in the next 4 years, not having the U.S. on board and pushing for the full implementation of the Paris agreement may well affect billions of people for hundreds of years. The outcome of this election is clearly not the end of the world but the consequences for humanity are potentially dreadful."

Prof. Jason Box, professor in glaciology at the Geologic Survey of Denmark and Greenland:

"Those of us in the sciences are all about the rational and we surround ourselves by rational media. The U.S. election outcome reflects the irrational and how those voters were influenced by irrational media."

Dr. Michael. E. Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University

"To quote James Hansen, I fear this may be game over for the climate."

Prof. Eric Steig, professor of earth and space science at the University of Washington:

"It's impossible to know just how far Trump and the Republican controlled House and Senate will want to push an anti-intellectual, anti-science agenda. I suspect there will be more immediate political concerns. In the medium term, I don't expect there will be major cuts to science funding; I think Trump will likely govern less as an ideologue and more as an opportunist in this respect. It now is exceedingly unlikely, of course, that any international climate change mitigation agreements will proceed; or if they do, it will not be with the U.S on board."

Dr. Niklas Höhne, professor for mitigation of greenhouse gases at Wageningen University and founding partner of the NewClimate Institute:

"This election result seriously threaten the U.S.'s federal climate action. In the worst case, Trump will work towards reversal of the Clean Power Plan. If the Clean Power Plan was to be permanently stopped, emissions projections would be significantly higher than in its absence and we would be seeing an increasing emissions trend over the next decade—at around 6 percent below 2005 levels in 2025. All eyes are now on the federal states to pursue further climate policies, but the impact on the USA's overall contribution may be limited. This means that the climate target that the USA communicated as part of the Paris agreement process, the 'nationally determined contribution,' will probably not be met and U.S. emissions will remain stable at current levels until 2030.

"In spite of this grave eventuality of no climate action from the new U.S. federal government on the horizon, there is still hope that global greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced. Technological developments can be triggered by transformative coalitions, smaller groups of countries that actively support a technology, to eventually achieve global scale. We have seen this model work for renewable energy. The renewable energy agenda was initially supported by a few pro-active countries such as Germany, which brought the costs down to the extent that renewable technologies are now the 'new normal' for new power plants in many places in the world. Similar developments can be seen with electric mobility where Norway, California and, in particular, China are aggressively supporting electric cars. It is fair to believe that these would also become the 'new normal' in a few years time."

Prof. Jim Skea, professor of sustainable energy at Imperial College London and co-chair of IPCC Working Group 3:

"IPCC is a scientific body with 195 countries making up its membership so I don't expect it to make any pronouncement on political developments. But as a scientist involved in IPCC, I can say that U.S. scientists have made a huge contribution to climate science in general and IPCC in particular across all the assessment reports. This is something that the U.S. can be very proud of. It's far too early to tell how the next administration will approach these issues. In my experience there has been a remarkable consistency in the U.S. approach to IPCC across different administrations. And, again, with much practical climate action in the U.S. taking place at the city and state level, it's too early to say how things will pan out in the policy domain."

Prof. Katharine Hayhoe, atmospheric scientist and associate professor of political science at Texas Tech University:

"The bright light of hope the Paris agreement shone on the bleak and discouraging landscape of climate change has been dimmed but not extinguished."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.

By Jeff Masters and Bob Henson

After a devastating 12-day rampage from the Caribbean to the U.S. Mid-Atlantic, Hurricane Matthew was reclassified as a post-tropical cyclone at 5 a.m. EDT Sunday by the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Matthew wasn't exactly slacking off—its top sustained winds remained 75 mph as of NHC's 2 p.m. Sunday advisory—but it no longer had the warm core required for tropical-cyclone status. At 2 p.m. EDT, Matthew was located about 150 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, moving east at 15 mph. After days of computer models suggesting a potential loop back toward Florida, it now appears Matthew will continue eastward and gradually dissipate.

Hurricane Matthew took at least 1,000 lives in Haiti and left entire towns across southern Haiti almost completely destroyed.arif_shamim

It will be some time before we have a more complete sense of Matthew's toll, but we already know that it is the deadliest hurricane in the Western Hemisphere since 2005. In Haiti, Matthew took at least 1,000 lives and left entire towns across southern Haiti almost completely destroyed. A handful of deaths and significant damage were also reported in Cuba, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Colombia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Dominican Republic. After Haiti, it was the U.S. that took the worst of Matthew's wrath. At least 17 U.S. deaths have been reported and insured damage is expected to total at least $4 billion. See our Saturday post for details on how you can provide much-needed help to those struggling with the aftermath of Matthew.

From Florida to Virginia, Astounding Rains and Storm Surge

Matthew traced a path remarkably similar to the coastline of the Southeast U.S. Although its center stayed within about 50 miles of the coast for more than 36 hours and hundreds of miles, Matthew officially came ashore only briefly as a Category 1 hurricane along the South Carolina and North Carolina coast on Saturday afternoon. Matthew's overall path kept its strongest winds just offshore, with few or no reports of sustained hurricane-force winds along the Southeast U.S. coast. Top wind gusts compiled by weather.com included 107 mph at Cape Canaveral, Florida (collected on a tower 54 feet above ground level) and 96 mph at Tybee Island, Georgia.

Matthew's just-offshore track may have spared the Southeast from billions of dollars in wind damage, but it didn't keep the hurricane from packing a phenomenal punch in the form of water. Like several other U.S. hurricanes in the last decade, including Ike (2008) and Sandy (2012), Matthew delivered a much more severe storm surge than one might expect from its landfall strength, thanks to the water built up by much higher winds earlier in its life offshore. Matthew's track along the concave Southeast coast also enhanced its ability to produce high surge. Major storm surge was reported as far north as the Hampton Roads area of southeast Virginia, which received an unexpectedly powerful blow from Matthew that also included tropical-storm-strength sustained winds (including a peak gust of 75 mph at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach) and torrential rain.

As of 8 a.m. EDT Sunday, Oct. 9, here are the approximate peak storm surges observed over the preceding 48 hours at all the tide gauges with a long-term period of record (at least a few decades) along the coasts of northern Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. (Storm surge is the added water produced by a storm atop the normal tidal cycles).

  • 7.8' Fort Pulaski, Georgia
  • 6.4' Fernandina Beach, Florida
  • 6.1' Charleston, South Carolina
  • 4.5' Mayport, Florida
  • 4.4' Springmaid Pier, South Carolina
  • 4.1' Wilmington, North Carolina
  • 4.1' Money Point (Norfolk), Virgina
  • 3.5' Sewells Point (Norfolk), Virgina
  • 3.3' Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, Virgina
  • 2.6' Beaufort, North Carolina
Three tide gauges with long-term historical records along this stretch of coast set all-time records on Friday through Sunday for their highest water level (also called the storm tide or the water level measured relative to high tide, MHHW):


Fort Pulaski, Georgia: 5.06'

Previous record: 3.40' during the Oct. 15, 1947 hurricane (records since 1935).

Wilmington, North Carolina: 3.53'

Previous record 3.47', during Hurricane Hazel on Oct. 15, 1954 (records since 1935).

Mayport, Florida: 3.28'

Previous record: 2.47', during Hurricane Jeanne on Sept. 27, 2004 (records since 1928).

Near-record high water levels were observed at three other stations:

At Charleston South Carolina, the water level during the Saturday morning high tide was the third highest on record: 3.53'. The record: 6.76' during Hurricane Hugo on Sept. 21, 1989; second highest, 4.47' during the Aug. 11, 1940 hurricane (records since 1921).

At Fernandina Beach, Florida, the water level during Friday afternoon's high tide was the second highest on record: 4.17'. The record: 6.91' during the Oct. 2, 1898 hurricane (records since 1897).

At Springmaid Pier, South Carolina the water level during Saturday afternoon's high tide was the second highest on record: 2.66'. The record 3.65', during the Jan. 1, 1987 nor'easter (records since 1957).

Multi-sensor analysis of precipitation for the 7-day period from 8:00 a.m. EDT Sunday, Oct. 2, to Sunday, Oct. 9. Nearly all of the precipitation shown across the Southeast fell during Hurricane Matthew. NOAA / NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service

Torrential Rains Wallop Unexpectedly Large Parts of the Carolinas and Virginia

Forecasters knew for days that extremely heavy rain was likely to develop on the north side of Matthew as it moved up the Southeast coast. As hurricanes move into the midlatitudes, they often interact with pre-existing frontal systems that intensify the rain-making processes on the poleward side of the storm. Matthew ended up generating torrential rain near the Southeast coast, as predicted, but it also produced record-smashing rainfall well inland and considerably further north than expected, especially over North Carolina and southeast Virginia. More than 880 rescues had taken place across North Carolina as of Sunday morning, according to Gov. Pat McCrory.

Here are the highest storm totals observed in each state along Matthew's path as of 11 a.m. EDT Sunday:

  • Florida: 7.89", Sanford/Orlando
  • Georgia: 17.49", Savannah/Hunter Army Air Field
  • South Carolina: 14.04", Beaufort MCAS
  • North Carolina: 15.65", William O. Huske Locke 3
  • Virginia: 12.84", 10 miles northwest of Chesapeake
  • Maryland: 5.52", 6 miles south of Berlin
  • Delaware: 3.13", Seaford

From Friday into Saturday, Savannah International Airport broke the city's official 24-hour rainfall record of 11.44" on Sept. 17-18, 1928, according to Weather Underground weather historian Christopher Burt. It's quite possible that an even higher 24-hour reading will be confirmed from one of the other Savannah-area reporting stations, as suggested by the storm total above.

Norfolk, Virginia, received 7.44" of rain on Saturday, making it the city's wettest October day on record (beating 6.23" from Oct. 17, 1999). Little more than three months ago, Norfolk set its all-time July calendar-day rainfall record with 6.98" on the 31st.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport picked up 6.45" on Saturday, beating the area's previous all-time calendar-day rainfall record of 5.96" set on Oct. 1, 1929. Raleigh-area records extend back to 1887.

Perhaps the single most phenomenal record on Saturday was at Fayetteville, North Carolina, where 14.00" of rain was reported on Saturday. This demolished the city's previous all-time calendar-day record of 6.80" observed during Hurricane Floyd on Sept. 16, 1999. In fact, there are only four entire months in Fayetteville weather history that have received more rain than Fayetteville picked up in 24 hours on Saturday! Fayetteville records extend back to 1871. The flooding situation in the Fayetteville area was made even worse by very heavy rains observed in parts of the area during late September.

Record Atmospheric Moisture Contributed to Matthew's Deluge

Several locations along Matthew's path through the Southeast recorded incredibly high amounts of atmospheric moisture on Friday and Saturday. At least two sites had record amounts of precipitable water (the total amount of liquid water that would cover the ground over a given location if all the moisture in a column of air above was condensed). These readings are taken with radiosonde soundings (balloon-borne instrument packages) that have been conducted regularly since 1948.

Jacksonville, Florida: 2.85" at 8 p.m. EDT Friday
Previous record: 2.82" on July 20, 1983.

Charleston, South Carolina: 2.93" at 2 a.m. EDT Saturday (special sounding)
Previous record: 2.70" on Aug. 15, 2010.

2nd place: Newport/Cape Hatteras, North Carolina: 2.85" at 8 p.m. EDT Saturday
Record: 3.05" on Aug. 27, 2011.

Matthew's Place in Hurricane Annals

Dr. Phil Klotzbach (Colorado State University) has assembled a handy list of the many records set during Matthew's long life. Here are a few highlights:

Intensity: Matthew was the lowest-latitude Category 5 hurricane on record in the Atlantic. Its strengthening of 80 mph in just 24 hours was the third fastest on record for the Atlantic, behind only Wilma (2005) and Felix (2007).

Longevity: Matthew maintained Category 4 or 5 strength for 102 hours, the longest such stretch on record for October in the Atlantic. Its 7.25 days as a major storm (Category 3 or stronger) is the fifth longest such period for any hurricane since satellite observations began in the Atlantic in 1966.

Landfall: Matthew is the first storm on record to make landfall as a major hurricane in Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas. Since 1866, the only two hurricanes to strike the Bahamas at Category 4 strength in October are Matthew and last year's Joaquin. Matthew's landfall near Myrtle Beach made it the first hurricane to strike the U.S. Atlantic coast north of Georgia in October since Hazel (1954).

Enhanced infrared image of Tropical Storm Nicole as of 1745Z (1:45 p.m. EDT) Sunday, Oct. 9.CIRA / CSU / RAMMB

A New Lease on Life for Nicole

Tropical Storm Nicole continues to languish in the open Atlantic. As of 11 a.m. EDT Sunday, Nicole was nearly stationary, spinning about 575 miles south of Bermuda with top sustained winds of around 60 mph. As a blocking ridge to its north moves eastward, Nicole should begin moving north an at increasing rate over the next couple of days. By midweek, it will be over the record-warm waters of the subtropical North Atlantic, which helped boost Hurricane Gaston to Category 3 strength at latitude 30°N in late August. With wind shear over Nicole decreasing by midweek, the storm may a chance to regain much of the strength it had on Friday. The 12Z Sunday run of the HWRF, one of our best intensity models, brings Nicole back to Category 2 strength by late this week. Our best track models (the GFS, ECMWF and UKMET) differ on whether Nicole will pass to the west or the east of Bermuda around Thursday. Given this uncertainty, as well as Nicole's potential to intensify, Bermudians should monitor this storm closely.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Weather Underground.

By Alex Kirby

Girdling the Earth are 25 mountains whose peaks stand out a brilliant white against the dark rock. But in 25 years from now, an Australian scientist says, the snow on these equatorial summits will have vanished—because climate change will have raised the temperature enough to melt every one of the glaciers.

By 2010, the glacier on Carstensz Pyramid—the highest mountain in Indonesia—was already thinning by almost 25 percent a year.25zero

So concerned is the explorer and author Tim Jarvis, UK-born but now living in Australia, that he is trying to make sure that, before that happens, all the mountains are climbed by people who will publicize their plight.

Jarvis, with a first degree in geomorphology and a master's in water pollution, spends much of his time as a global ambassador for WWF-Australia. And now he's taken on another responsibility as project leader for 25zero, set up to spread the word about climate change and the glaciers' demise.

The project has developed an app for smartphones that will record how far a user's daily activity—walking, running, whatever—goes towards matching the distance covered by mountaineers who climbed three mountains in Asia, Africa and South America to highlight the glaciers' demise.

Some versions will even record the height gained, allowing users to complete a virtual ascent of the peaks, with sponsorship money going to WWF-Australia.

Carihuairazo's glacier lost almost all of its mass during the last decade as a result of global warming and ash covers caused by the recent volcanic activity of its eastern neighbor Tungurahua. At Current rate Carihuairazo's glacier is expected to completely disappear between 2020 and 2030.25zero

Glacier Traces

On a visit to the UK, Jarvis told Climate News Network: "It's very simple—25 mountains at zero latitude; 25 years from now, zero ice."

All the 25 peaks lie within 200 miles either side of the Equator. And while Jarvis does concede that some glacier traces might linger for 30 years, he said that Kilimanjaro—Africa's highest mountain, at nearly 6,000 meters—will certainly be bare by 2040.

Several years ago, Jarvis headed a group that retraced the route taken in 1915-16 by the Anglo-Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton from Antarctica to South Georgia after his ship, The Endurance, became trapped in the pack ice.

There are lessons to be learned from the changes the intervening century has wrought, Jarvis said. "One is the amount of glacier melt caused by climate change. Shackleton and his men had three glaciers to cross. We had two—and an icy lake to wade through, where the third glacier had been.

"The other lesson is about leadership, and how that needs to be applied to an issue like climate change."

He believes that too much of the environmental movement spends its time talking to the converted. "People are too busy for statistics and hockey stick curves, and polar change is hard to represent," he said.

"You can't see or smell or taste carbon. But glaciers are a proxy for carbon, because they're tangible."

Then came 25zero, focused on the annual UN climate negotiations known as the Conference of the Parties—or COPs, in climate jargon.

Jarvis had attended one COP, and hadn't liked it. "People in suits, PAs rushing around, no sense of urgency," he recalls.

Summit Images

So for COP21, the 2015 round of climate talks in Paris, Jarvis decided to deploy the glaciers to highlight 25zero's concerns.

Three teams were set up, each planning to scale one glacier-clad mountain in Asia, Africa or South America. Jarvis reached the summits of two—Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia and Mount Stanley in Uganda—but logistical problems prevented his team heading for Chimborazo in Ecuador.

The two teams who did make it relayed statements and images from the summits direct to the Paris conference in real time, hoping to inject some of the urgency Jarvis said the COPs need.

For Jarvis, who will attempt to reach Chimborazo's summit later this month, the most arresting image remains the sight of what was Africa's largest icecap, on Mount Stanley. "It's shrunk since 1906 by 85 percent—from 7.5 sq km to about 1.5," he said.

And there's a vital difference between Shackleton's experience and his own, he adds. "Shackleton was trying to rescue his men from Antarctica. I am trying to rescue Antarctica, and the planet, from man."

Sponsored

Carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere stayed above 400 parts per million (ppm) during September—a time when CO2 levels typically hit the yearly low—raising fears that the planet has reached a point of no return.

A sunset over the Arctic during a NOAA Climate Program expedition north of Russia.NOAA Photo Library/Flickr cc 2.0

"Concentrations will probably hover around 401 ppm over the next month as we sit near the annual low point. Brief excursions towards lower values are still possible but it already seems safe to conclude that we won't be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year—or ever again for the indefinite future," Ralph Keeling, director of the CO2 program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, wrote in a blog post.

The increase in CO2 levels runs parallel to a marked increase in global temperatures.

For a deeper dive:

Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, Fortune, Think Progress, Motherboard, Global News

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

By Jeremy Deaton

You might know the feeling—after months of encouraging news from your bathroom scale, you discover the device is broken. The outlook on your weight-loss goal is worse than you realized.

Scientists just went through something similar, except instead of a scale, it was a system of satellites, and instead of your winter weight, it was the Greenland ice sheet.

Zachariae Isbrae, in northeast Greenland.Anders A Bjork/The Ohio State University

Researchers have been tracking Greenland's ice sheet melt by measuring the shrinking mass of the island via satellite. It now seems there was an error in measurement. A new study published in the journal Science Advances finds the ice is melting 7 percent faster than previously thought.

Scientists use satellites to map Earth's gravity field, gathering information about the distribution of mass around the globe. Earth doesn't exert gravity equally in all directions. Where there is more mass, satellites detect a stronger gravitational pull.

Using satellite data, scientists can measure various geophysical phenomena, including the melt of the Greenland ice sheet. As ice dissolves, the island loses mass and exerts a weaker gravitational pull—at least that's the idea.

An artist's rendering of NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites measuring Earth's gravity field.NASA/JPL-Caltech

In practice, it's a little more complicated. Satellites can only detect a change in mass. They can't determine how much of that mass is ice, how much is land and how much is mantle ebbing and flowing beneath the Earths' crust.

"[The system] cannot tell the difference between ice mass and rock mass," said study co-author Michael Bevis, professor of Earth sciences at Ohio State. "So, inferring the ice mass change from the total mass change requires a model of all the mass flows within the Earth."

Here's where this gets interesting.

A cross-section of Earth. The Earth's crust rests on a thick layer of mantle. Below that lies the Earth's solid core.NASA/JPL, Université Paris Diderot and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris

Tectonic plates are always moving. The plate under North America—including Greenland—has been traveling northwest for millions of years. Around 40 million years ago, Greenland slid over an extra hot column of partially molten rock. This hot spot softened up the crust below the island's east coast. (The hot spot now rests beneath Iceland, where it is driving all manner of volcanic activity—warming hot springs and fueling the country's geothermal power plants.)

The softening of Earth's crust beneath Greenland had consequences during the last ice age, when Greenland's ice sheet was significantly thicker. The weight of all that ice caused the island to sink into the supple crust below. When the ice age passed and the ice began to melt, the island rebounded. Mantle flowed in beneath Greenland, causing the land to rise again. It's still rising today.

You can imagine how this would interfere with satellite readings. The loss of ice is weakening Greenland's gravitational pull. At the same time, the accumulation of mantle is strengthening its gravitational pull.

One of dozens of GPS units researchers used to measure the rise of land.Dana J. Caccamise II/The Ohio State University

Scientists previously accounted for the flow of mantle, but they underestimated its effect. The study's authors used GPS technology to measure the rise of land at various points along Greenland's east coast. They discovered that mantle is gathering beneath Greenland more quickly than they had realized.

What this means is that scientists have been underestimating ice loss by 20 billion metric tons per year. More of the melting is occurring along Greenland's east coast than previously thought.

Water overflow from a lake formed from melted ice carved this 60-foot canyon into the Greenland ice sheet.Ian Joughin, University of Washington

"By refining the spatial pattern of mass loss in the world's second largest—and most unstable—ice sheet, and learning how that pattern has evolved, we are steadily increasing our understanding of ice-loss processes, which will lead to better-informed projections of sea-level rise," said Bevis.

The study has implications for Antarctica—the 800-pound gorilla of global sea-level rise. Scientist will need to deploy more GPS measurement stations at Earth's southern pole to accurately measure the flow of mantle beneath the continent and get a better reading of Antarctic ice melt.

Better data will allow scientists to predict future sea-level rise more accurately. That could prove crucial for coastal cities preparing for the impacts of climate change.

Sponsored