A weather research station on a bluff overlooking the sea is closing down because of the climate crisis.
The National Weather Service (NWS) station in Chatham, Massachusetts was evacuated March 31 over concerns the entire operation would topple into the ocean.
"We had to say goodbye to the site because of where we are located at the Monomoy Wildlife Refuge, we're adjacent to a bluff that overlooks the ocean," Boston NWS meteorologist Andy Nash told WHDH at the time. "We had to close and cease operations there because that bluff has significantly eroded."
Chatham is located on the elbow of Cape Cod, a land mass extending out into the Atlantic Ocean that has been reshaped and eroded by waves and tides over tens of thousands of years, The Guardian explained. However, sea level rise and extreme weather caused by the climate crisis have sped that change along.
"It's an extremely dynamic environment, which is obviously a problem if you are building permanent infrastructure here," Andrew Ashton, an associate scientist at Cape-Cod based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, told The Guardian. "We are putting our foot on the accelerator to make the environment even more dynamic."
This was the case with the Chatham weather station. It used to be protected from the drop into the ocean by about 100 feet of land. However, storm action in 2020 alone washed away as much as six feet of land a day.
"We'd know[n] for a long time there was erosion but the pace of it caught everyone by surprise," Nash told The Guardian. "We felt we had maybe another 10 years but then we started losing a foot of a bluff a week and realized we didn't have years, we had just a few months. We were a couple of storms from a very big problem."
The Chatham station was part of a network of 92 NWS stations that monitor temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction and other data in the upper atmosphere, The Cape Cod Chronicle explained. The stations send up radiosondes attached to weather balloons twice a day to help with weather research and prediction. The Chatham station, which had been observing this ritual for the past half a century, sent up its last balloon the morning of March 31.
"We're going to miss the observations," Nash told The Cape Cod Chronicle. "It gives us a snapshot, a profile of the atmosphere when the balloons go up."
The station was officially decommissioned April 1, and the two buildings on the site will be demolished sometime this month. The NWS is looking for a new location in southeastern New England. In the meantime, forecasters will rely on data from stations in New York and Maine.
Nash said the leavetaking was bittersweet, but inevitable.
"[M]other nature is evicting us," he told The Cape Cod Chronicle.
By Jessica Corbett
Lead partners of a global consortium of news outlets that aims to improve reporting on the climate emergency released a statement on Monday urging journalists everywhere to treat their coverage of the rapidly heating planet with the same same level of urgency and intensity as they have the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since Covering Climate Now (CCNow) was co-founded in 2019 by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation in association with The Guardian and WNYC, over 460 media outlets — including Common Dreams — with a combined reach of two billion people have become partner organizations.
CCNow and eight of those partners are now inviting media outlets to sign on to the Climate Emergency Statement, which begins: "It's time for journalism to recognize that the climate emergency is here. This is a statement of science, not politics."
The statement notes that a growing number of scientists are warning of the "climate emergency," from James Hansen, formerly of NASA, to the nearly 14,000 scientists from over 150 countries who have endorsed an emergency declaration.
"Why 'emergency'? Because words matter," the CCNow statement explains. "To preserve a livable planet, humanity must take action immediately. Failure to slash the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will make the extraordinary heat, storms, wildfires, and ice melt of 2020 routine and could 'render a significant portion of the Earth uninhabitable,' warned a recent Scientific American article."
CCNow's initiative comes after U.S. government scientists said last week that "carbon dioxide levels are now higher than at anytime in the past 3.6 million years," with 2020 featuring a global surface average for CO2 of 412.5 parts per million (PPM) — which very likely would have been higher if not for the pandemic.
As Common Dreams reported last week, amid rising atmospheric carbon and inadequate emissions reduction plans, an international coalition of 70 health professional and civil society groups called on world leaders to learn from the pandemic and "make health a central focus of national climate policies."
"The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that health must be part and parcel of every government policy — and as recovery plans are drawn up this must apply to climate policy," said Jeni Miller, executive director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance.
CCNow also points to the public health crisis as a learning opportunity, describing the media's handling of it as "a useful model," considering that "guided by science, journalists have described the pandemic as an emergency, chronicled its devastating impacts, called out disinformation, and told audiences how to protect themselves (with masks, for example)."
"We need the same commitment to the climate story," the statement emphasizes.
Journalism should reflect what science says. https://t.co/MCbSRQMFch— The Nation (@The Nation)1618240621.0
CCNow executive director Mark Hertsgaard echoed that message Monday in The Nation, for which he serves as environment correspondent. He also addressed reservations that some reporters may have about supporting such a statement:
As journalists ourselves, we understand why some of our colleagues are cautious about initiatives like this Climate Emergency Statement, but we ask that they hear us out. Journalists rightly treasure our editorial independence, regarding it as essential to our credibility. To some of us, the term "climate emergency" may sound like advocacy or even activism — as if we're taking sides in a public dispute rather than simply reporting on it.
But the only side we're taking here is the side of science. As journalists, we must ground our coverage in facts. We must describe reality as accurately as we can, undeterred by how our reporting may appear to partisans of any stripe and unintimidated by efforts to deny science or otherwise spin facts.
According to Hertsgaard, "Signing the Climate Emergency Statement is a way for journalists and news outlets to alert their audiences that they will do justice to that story."
"But whether a given news outlet makes a public declaration by signing the statement," he added, "is less important than whether the outlet's coverage treats climate change like the emergency that scientists say it is."
Editor's Note: Common Dreams has signed on to the Climate Emergency Statement, which can be read in full below:
COVERING CLIMATE NOW STATEMENT ON THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY:
Journalism should reflect what the science says: the climate emergency is here.It's time for journalism to recognize that the climate emergency is here.
This is a statement of science, not politics.
Thousands of scientists — including James Hansen, the NASA scientist who put the problem on the public agenda in 1988, and David King and Hans Schellnhuber, former science advisers to the British and German governments, respectively — have said humanity faces a "climate emergency."
Why "emergency"? Because words matter. To preserve a livable planet, humanity must take action immediately. Failure to slash the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will make the extraordinary heat, storms, wildfires, and ice melt of 2020 routine and could "render a significant portion of the Earth uninhabitable," warned a recent Scientific American article.
The media's response to Covid-19 provides a useful model. Guided by science, journalists have described the pandemic as an emergency, chronicled its devastating impacts, called out disinformation, and told audiences how to protect themselves (with masks, for example).
We need the same commitment to the climate story.
We, the undersigned, invite journalists and news organizations everywhere to add your name to this Covering Climate Now statement on the climate emergency.
- Covering Climate Now
- Scientific American
- Columbia Journalism Review
- The Nation
- The Guardian
- Noticias Telemundo
- Al Jazeera English
- Asahi Shimbun
- La Repubblica
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
- The Media's Climate Coverage Is Improving, but Time Is Very Short ›
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- 'Climate Emergency' Named Oxford Word of the Year - EcoWatch ›
- New Zealand Declares Climate Emergency - EcoWatch ›
- New Bill Says Biden Must Declare a National Climate Emergency ... ›
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Researchers at UC-Riverside are investigating how barley, a key ingredient in beer, survives in such a wide variety of climates with hopes of learning what exactly makes it so resilient across climates.
Barley was first grown domestically in Southwest Asia about 10,000 year ago and is grown around the world, from Egypt to Minnesota.
Barley's prime growing regions have shifted northward in recent decades as global temperatures have risen due to climate change caused by human extraction and combustion of fossil fuels.
Chuck Skypeck, technical brewing projects manager for the Brewers Association located in Boulder, Colorado, told E&E climate change's effects are impacting the brewing industry.
"Certainly dynamic growing conditions, water scarcity, extreme weather events, growers' planting decisions can all affect both pricing and availability of brewers' supply of malted barley," he told E&E News.
For a deeper dive:
By Jessica Corbett
A new study is shedding light on just how much ice could be lost around Antarctica if the international community fails to urgently rein in planet-heating emissions, bolstering arguments for bolder climate policies.
The study, published Thursday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that over a third of the area of all Antarctic ice shelves — including 67% of area on the Antarctic Peninsula — could be at risk of collapsing if global temperatures soar to 4°C above pre-industrial levels.
An ice shelf, as NASA explains, "is a thick, floating slab of ice that forms where a glacier or ice flows down a coastline." They are found only in Antarctica, Greenland, Canada, and the Russian Arctic—and play a key role in limiting sea level rise.
"Ice shelves are important buffers preventing glaciers on land from flowing freely into the ocean and contributing to sea level rise," explained Ella Gilbert, the study's lead author, in a statement. "When they collapse, it's like a giant cork being removed from a bottle, allowing unimaginable amounts of water from glaciers to pour into the sea."
"We know that when melted ice accumulates on the surface of ice shelves, it can make them fracture and collapse spectacularly," added Gilbert, a research scientist at the University of Reading. "Previous research has given us the bigger picture in terms of predicting Antarctic ice shelf decline, but our new study uses the latest modelling techniques to fill in the finer detail and provide more precise projections."
Check out my piece for @ConversationUK on how & why #Antarctica's #IceShelves are at risk as global #temperatures r… https://t.co/YCMzgfliiR— Dr Ella Gilbert (@Dr Ella Gilbert)1617975049.0
Gilbert and co-author Christoph Kittel of Belgium's University of Liège conclude that limiting global temperature rise to 2°C rather than 4°C would cut the area at risk in half.
"At 1.5°C, just 14% of Antarctica's ice shelf area would be at risk," Gilbert noted in The Conversation.
While the 2015 Paris climate agreement aims to keep temperature rise "well below" 2°C, with a more ambitious 1.5°C target, current emissions reduction plans are dramatically out of line with both goals, according to a United Nations analysis.
Gilbert said Thursday that the findings of their new study "highlight the importance of limiting global temperature increases as set out in the Paris agreement if we are to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, including sea level rise."
"If temperatures continue to rise at current rates," she said, "we may lose more Antarctic ice shelves in the coming decades."
The researchers warn that Larsen C—the largest remaining ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula—as well as the Shackleton, Pine Island, and Wilkins ice shelves are most at risk under 4°C of warming because of their geography and runoff predictions.
"Limiting warming will not just be good for Antarctica—preserving ice shelves means less global sea level rise, and that's good for us all," Gilbert added.
All the more reason we need to push our leaders towards a quick end to the use of all fossil fuels! https://t.co/yrNUgjbkYG— Food & Water Watch (@Food & Water Watch)1617915642.0
Low-lying coastal areas such as small island nations of Vanuatu and Tuvalu in the South Pacific Ocean face the greatest risk from sea level rise, Gilbert told CNN.
"However, coastal areas all over the world would be vulnerable," she warned, "and countries with fewer resources available to mitigate and adapt to sea level rise will see worse consequences."
Research published in February examining projections from the Fifth Assessment Report of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as the body's Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate found that sea level rise forecasts for this century "are on the money when tested against satellite and tide-gauge observations."
A co-author of that study, John Church of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales, said at the time that "if we continue with large ongoing emissions as we are at present, we will commit the world to meters of sea level rise over coming centuries."
Parties to the Paris agreement are in the process of updating their emissions reduction commitments—called nationally determined contributions—ahead of November's United Nations climate summit, known as COP26.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
- Antarctica's 'Doomsday Glacier' Is Starting to Crack - EcoWatch ›
- Scientists Make Unexpected Find Beneath Antarctic Ice - EcoWatch ›
By Larry Brand
Millions of gallons of water laced with fertilizer ingredients are being pumped into Florida's Tampa Bay from a leaking reservoir at an abandoned phosphate plant at Piney Point. As the water spreads into the bay, it carries phosphorus and nitrogen – nutrients that under the right conditions can fuel dangerous algae blooms that can suffocate sea grass beds and kill fish, dolphins and manatees.
It's the kind of risk no one wants to see, but officials believed the other options were worse.
About 300 homes sit downstream from the 480-million-gallon reservoir, which began leaking in late March 2021. State officials determined that pumping out the water was the only way to prevent the reservoir's walls from collapsing. They decided the safest location for all that water would be out through Port Manatee and into the bay.
Florida's coast is dotted with fragile marine sanctuaries and sea grass beds that help nurture the state's thriving marine and tourism economy. Those near Port Manatee now face a risk of algal blooms over the next few weeks. Once algae blooms get started, little can be done to clean them up.
The phosphate mining industry around Tampa is just one source of nutrients that can fuel dangerous algae blooms, which I study as a marine biologist. The sugarcane industry, cattle ranches, dairy farms and citrus groves all release nutrients that often flow into rivers and eventually into bays and the ocean. Sewage is another problem – Miami and Fort Lauderdale, for example, have old sewage treatment systems with frequent pipe breaks that leak sewage into canals and coastal waters.
Red tide in recent years has killed large numbers of Florida's manatees, a threatened species. David Hinkel/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The Problem With Algae Blooms
Just down the coast from Port Manatee, the next three counties to the south have had algae blooms in recent weeks, including red tide, which produces a neurotoxin that feels like pepper spray if you breathe it in. Karenia brevis, a dinoflagellate, is the organism in red tide and produces the toxin.
This part of Florida's Gulf Coast is a hot spot for red tide, often fueled by agricultural runoff. A persistent red tide in 2017 and 2018 killed at least 177 manatees and left a trail of dead fish along the coast and into Tampa Bay. If the coastal currents carry today's red tide father north and into Tampa Bay, the toxic algae could thrive on the nutrients from Piney Point.
A map shows red tide reports just south of Tampa Bay. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Even blooms that are not toxic are still dangerous to ecosystems. They cloud the water, cutting off light and killing the plants below. A large enough bloom can also reduce oxygen in the water. A lack of oxygen can kill off everything in the water, including the fish.
This part of Florida has extensive sea grass meadows, about 2.2 million acres (8.9 billion square meters) in all, which are important habitat for lots of species and serve as nurseries for shrimp, crabs and fish. Scientists have argued that sea grass is also a major carbon sink – the grass sucks up carbon and pumps it down into the sediments.
Once the nutrients are in a large body of water, there isn't much that can be done to stop algae growth. Killing the algae would only release the nutrients again, putting the bay back where it started. Algae blooms can remain a problem for years, finally declining when a predator population develops to eats them, a viral disease spreads through the bloom or strong currents and mixing disperse the bloom.
Agriculture Runoff Poses Risks to Marine Life
The phosphate mining industry around Tampa is a large source of nutrient-rich waste. On average, more than 5 tons of phosphogypsum waste are produced for every ton of phosphoric acid created for fertilizer. In Florida, that adds up to over 1 billion tons of radioactive waste material that can't be used, so it's stacked up and turned into reservoirs like the one now leaking at Piney Point.
The reservoirs are obvious in satellite photos of the region, and they can be highly acidic. To get the phosphate out of the minerals, the industry uses sulfuric acid, and it leaves behind a highly acid wastewater. There have been at least two cases where it ate through the limestone below a reservoir, creating huge sinkholes hundreds of feet deep and draining wastewater into the aquifer.
Since saltwater had previously been pumped into the Piney Point reservoir, acidity is less of an issue. That's because the seawater would buffer the pH. There is some radioactivity, but only slightly above regulatory standards, according to state Department of Environmental Protection, and probably not much of a health hazard.
But the nutrients are a risk. In 2004, water releases from the Piney Point reservoir contributed to an algae bloom in Bishop Harbor, just south of the current release site. In 2011, it released over 170 million gallons into Bishop Harbor again after a liner broke.
Piney Point: Florida's Leaking Reservoir
Map: The Conversation/CC-BY-ND
Another significant source of algae-feeding nutrients is agriculture, particularly cattle ranching and the sugarcane industry. Nutrient runoff from cattle ranches and dairy farms north of Lake Okeechobee end up in the lake. South of the lake, much of the northern third of the Everglades was converted to sugarcane farms, and those fields back-pumped runoff into the lake for decades until the state started cracking down in the 1980s. Their legacy nutrients are still in the lake.
The nutrient-rich water in the lake then pours down the Caloosahatchee River and into the Gulf of Mexico near Fort Myers, south of Tampa. That's likely feeding the current red tide off the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River.
When water from the Everglades region's agriculture is pumped south instead, huge blooms tend to appear in Florida Bay at the southern tip of the state. Some scientists believe it may be damaging coral reefs there, though there's debate about it. During times that flow of water from the farms increased, reefs throughout the Florida Keys have been harmed. Those reefs have become overgrown with algae.
With the current red tide, the coastal currents have carried it north as far as Sarasota already. If they carry it farther north, it will run into the Piney Point area.
Larry Brand is a Professor of Marine Biology and Ecology, University of Miami.
Disclosure statement: Larry Brand has received funding from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, National Park Service, Department of Energy, Office of Naval Research, Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Health, Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management, Cove Point Foundation, and Hoover Foundation.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
- What Is Causing Florida's Algae Crisis? 5 Questions Answered ... ›
- Harmful Algal Blooms Are Increasing Across the U.S. - EcoWatch ›
- Toxic Algae Blooms Set New Records From Coast to Coast ... ›
Harmful algal blooms may be even more harmful than we thought.
They have already been shown to kill the fish that swim in the water they infest or the animals that drink from it. Now, new research indicates they could even poison the air. In a study published in Lake and Reservoir Management this month, scientists for the first time detected an airborne instance of the algal toxin anatoxin-a (ATX), also known as "very fast death factor."
"ATX is one of the more dangerous cyanotoxins produced by harmful algal blooms, which are becoming more predominant in lakes and ponds worldwide due to global warming and climate change," study lead author Dr. James Sutherland of the Nantucket Land Council said in a press release.
ATX is a toxin made by cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae. Despite their name, these single-celled organisms are not plants but rather bacteria that can photosynthesize. The toxin can cause loss of coordination, muscular twitching and respiratory paralysis. It has been known to kill livestock, pets and other animals that drink contaminated water.
"Although no previous studies have documented the capture of airborne ATX molecules or cyanobacteria cells containing ATX, we hypothesized that ATX could become airborne under certain environmental conditions," the study authors wrote.
To test this idea, the scientists devised a way to sample the air above a pond in Nantucket, Massachusetts dealing with a harmful algal bloom (HAB). They brought an air sampling device to the shore on windy days and collected airborne particles on filters. They also tested the water for the presence of the toxin.
The scientists collected their samples between July and October of 2019. They detected ATX in the water at concentrations as high as 21 nanograms per milliliter, Science Alert reported. And, on one foggy and windy day in September, they detected it in the air also. They recorded an average of 0.87 nanograms per filter on their air sampling device, which would equal an airborne exposure of 0.16 nanograms per meter squared.
The researchers are not sure how the toxin ended up in the air, but think the wind might have blown it in small droplets from the pond, and then the fog allowed it to persist for longer than usual. In any case, it is a problem worth investigating further.
"These findings indicate that emission of ATX molecules, or cyanobacteria containing ATX, during HABs presents a potential human health exposure not previously examined," the researchers wrote.
Harmful algal blooms are a problem for many other reasons, of course. They can deprive water of oxygen as they decompose, killing fish and degrading water quality, the press release explained. They are also made worse by human activity, according to Science Alert. They are fed partly by excess nutrient pollution from agricultural runoff. As Sutherland noted, they are also exacerbated by the climate crisis. The cyanobacteria prefer warmer water temperatures, and heavy rain from extreme weather events can wash more fertilizer and other nutrients into bodies of water.
The research just signals another reason to be wary of pond scum.
"People often recreate around these lakes and ponds with algal blooms without any awareness of the potential problems," Sutherland said in the press release. "Direct contact or inhalation of these cyanotoxins can present health risks for individuals, and we have reported a potential human health exposure not previously examined."
- Harmful Algal Blooms Are Increasing Across the U.S. - EcoWatch ›
- Toxic Algae Blooms Set New Records From Coast to Coast ... ›
NOAA also announced global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are higher than at any point in the last 3.6 million years. "It is very scary indeed," Euan Nisbet, professor of earth sciences at Royal Holloway University of London, told the Financial Times. About 60% of methane emissions are caused by human activity, and U.S. oil and gas operations are a major driver of recent methane pollution increases.
"Although increased fossil emissions may not be fully responsible for the recent growth in methane levels," NOAA research chemist Ed Dlugokencky said in a statement, "reducing fossil methane emissions are an important step toward mitigating climate change."
Methane is a far more potent heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide, and scientists are worried global warming could be triggering accelerated methane releases from tropical wetlands and melting Arctic permafrost. "Our path to net zero is obvious, challenging and necessary," Martin Siegert, a professor at the Imperial College London, told The Guardian, "and we must get on with the transition urgently."
As reported by The Guardian:
Professor Simon Lewis, from University College London, said: "It is easy to forget just how much and just how fast fossil fuel emissions are affecting our planet.
"It took over 200 years to increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 25%, and just 30 years to reach 50% above pre-industrial levels. This dramatic change is like a human meteorite hitting Earth."
But he added: "If countries make plans now to put society on a path of sustained and dramatic cuts to emissions from today, we can avoid ever-rising emissions and the dangerously accelerating impacts of climate change."
For a deeper dive:
About 66 million years ago, a 12-km asteroid struck Earth. The massive heat and impact likely triggered tidal waves and clouded the skies with ash, The Washington Post reported. Scientists estimate that up to 75 percent of all life on land went extinct, including the dinosaurs.
The space rock that triggered that mass extinction event is also the likely reason we have the Amazon Rainforest, a new study suggests. Published in the prestigious journal Science, the research indicates that that same asteroid that killed the dinosaurs also birthed all of Earth's tropical rainforests.
Mónica Carvalho, study co-author from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution (STRI) in Panama, examined tens of thousands of fossils in Columbia to understand how the plant life in Central and South America shifted from before and after the impact, reported Nerdist. Her team discovered that the type of vegetation comprising the continent's forests drastically changed from before and after. Before the crash, widely spaced conifers and ferns filled the region, allowing in large amounts of light, The Post reported.
After the asteroid struck, many species went extinct, particularly seed-bearing plants. Plant diversity declined about 45 percent after the impact, researchers found. Examining more than 50,000 fossil pollen records, the team discovered that flowering plants called angiosperms took over as the forests recovered during the next six million years. These filled in where other species had gone extinct, leading to the "reign of flowers," an STRI press release noted.
The impact also changed the spatial structure of forests, from widely spaced to densely packed. Leaf data from more than 6,000 fossils shows that the thick, dense tropical canopy associated with today's rainforests did not develop until after the impact. The data suggests that the spatial change from "relatively open to closed and layered... led to increased vertical stratification and a larger diversity of plant growth forms," News18 reported. As trees grew taller and closer, they partially blocked the sun, allowing different species of flowering plants to flourish, the Post reported. This is how Earth's most diverse terrestrial ecosystem — the tropical rainforests teeming with bright bromeliads and abundant orchids — developed, the study implies.
As for why, the researchers offered three theories: dinosaurs had kept the forest open and sparse by feeding on and trampling plants; falling ash enriched soils, giving an advantage to faster-growing flowering plants; and preferential extinction of conifers created the opportunity for flowering plants to take over.
While scientists aren't sure which theory, or combination of theories, created modern rainforests, Carvalho did conclude with one key takeaway: "The lesson learned here is that under rapid disturbances... tropical ecosystems do not just bounce back; they are replaced, and the process takes a really long time."
The end-Cretaceous asteroid impact that resulted in the destruction of nearly 75% of Earth's terrestrial life drast… https://t.co/nMS1dbmCCb— Science Magazine (@Science Magazine)1617726607.0
The shift in plant species and tree density likely also impacted the past and present climate, the STRI release added. Tropical rainforests, and the Amazon in particular, are some of the planet's most important carbon sinks. By absorbing greenhouse gases, the trees help curb the climate crisis and keep Earth habitable.
"The sparser canopies of the pre-impact forests, with fewer flowering plants, would have moved less soil water into the atmosphere than did those that grew up in the millions of years afterward," the STRI release explained. This increased humidity and cloud coverage, making the area much more productive, Wired reported.
Legume trees, a dominant feature in today's tropical rainforests, also entered the fossil record after the impact. These trees, with the help of symbiotic bacteria in their roots, fix nitrogen into soil, Wired reported. Without these shifts in forest spacing and makeup, today's climate could have developed differently.
The researchers hope the new study can help scientists understand how today's rainforests will respond to the rapidly changing climate currently threatening their existence.
According to Wired, Carvalho also warned, "The changes we are seeing today in relation to climate and deforestation are so rapid that we haven't really seen them in any other scenario in the history of the planet. Extinction is something that occurs really fast."
- Amazon Deforestation Rate Hits 3 Football Fields Per Minute, Data ... ›
- Amazon Rainforest on the Brink of Turning Into a Net Carbon Emitter ... ›
- Amazon Rainforest Will Collapse by 2064, New Study Predicts ... ›
The study, published in Environmental Research last week, found that children were more likely to develop central nervous system (CNS) tumors if their mothers had lived within 2.5 miles of land where pesticides were being sprayed when they were born.
"This study is the first, to our knowledge, to estimate effects for a large number of specific pesticides in relation to CNS tumor subtypes," Julia Heck, a study coauthor and the associate dean for research at the University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service said, as NBC Los Angeles reported.
The research looked at the California Cancer Registry to identify cases of certain cancers in children under six years old, the study explained. They focused on mothers who lived in rural areas and gave birth between 1998 and 2011 to identify 667 cases of childhood central nervous system tumors and 123,158 controls. They then compared these cases to data from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation's (CDPR) Pesticide Use Reporting (PUR) system to identify whether chemicals classed as possible carcinogens by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been sprayed within 2.5 miles of the mothers' homes at birth.
One important implication of the study is that the mothers did not have to be directly working in agriculture in order for their children to face dangerous exposure.
"California's agricultural work force numbers more than 800,000, according to state estimates," Dr. Christina Lombardi, study co-author and epidemiologist with the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told Beyond Pesticides. "In addition to the negative health effects of pesticides on workers there are large numbers of pregnant women and young children living adjacent to treated fields who may experience detrimental health effects as well."
This risk is exacerbated by the fact that farmland and residential land is not always clearly delineated in the state.
"This transition from farmland to residential neighborhoods is abrupt across California, and, of course, constantly changing as farmland is developed," study co-author Myles Cockburn of the University of Southern California told Beyond Pesticides.
The researchers found that some of the chemicals they studied increased tumor risk as much as 2.5 times. Overall, exposure to the pesticides chlorthalonil, bromacil, thiophanate-methyl, triforine, kresoxim-methyl, propiconazole, dimethoate and linuron all increased tumor risk.
This is far from the first study to show that pesticide exposure is a danger to pregnant mothers and children. In fact, researchers have been studying the link between pesticides and childhood cancer since the 1970s, according to NBC Los Angeles.
The report authors called for government action to better protect mothers and children.
"Policy interventions to reduce pesticide exposure in individuals residing near agricultural fields should be considered to protect the health of children," coauthor and UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health epidemiology professor Beate Ritz told NBC Los Angeles.
Previously, researchers thought they could measure ice melt simply by looking at the amount of meltwater sitting on top of glaciers and in moulins — shafts in the glacier that empty rivers from the surface to the interior, Earther explained. But the new study, published in Geophysical Research Letters on Monday, found that a glacier's speed increased when water pressure rapidly changed beneath the ice sheet, NASA explained.
"These findings will help to refine ice sliding models, which are critically important for predicting future ice sheet contributions to global sea level rise," Laurence Smith, study coauthor and Brown University environmental studies professor, told Earther.
The Greenland ice sheet is extremely important when it comes to global sea level rise. The size of Mexico, it currently contributes more to rising sea levels than any other source, NASA reported. If all of Greenland's ice sheet were to melt, it would increase water levels by 20 feet, according to Earther.
"The number one reason we are here is all about global sea level rise," Smith said in a video documenting the research. "Greenland is the single largest melting chunk of ice in the world. What really matters is how much of that water in the ice sheet gets out to the ocean."
To better understand the dynamics driving this melt, Smith and his team traveled to the Russell Glacier in southwestern Greenland in 2016 and studied a glacial river, NASA said. The researchers recorded the forward motion of the glacier itself, the amount of meltwater pouring into the moulin and the amount of meltwater pouring out from beneath the glacier at the water's edge. They determined that changes in subterranean water pressure were driving the glacier's overall speed.
"Even if the cavities are small, as long as the pressure is ramping up very fast, they will make the ice slide faster," Smith explained.
NASA Glaciologist Dr. Lauren Andrews compared a glacier moving over subterranean meltwater to car tires sliding on a wet road.
"If you have a rapid perturbation of water going into the subglacial system, you overwhelm the system, and so you create essentially a layer of water at the interface that's not contained in channels or cavities anymore," Andrews said.
The way that water pressure drives glacier speed had never been studied in the field before, NASA said. This new research now adds 168 hours of "rare in situ" measurements to understand the dynamics of glacial rivers, which had previously been overlooked.
"In 2015 when we started this study, there was surprisingly little attention paid to the hydrology of streams and rivers on the ice sheet, especially inland away from the ice edge, and we felt that this was a critical scientific gap," Smith said in the video.
The research supports the team's initial feeling.
"These findings affirm the importance of supraglacial rivers to subglacial water pressure and ice dynamics, even in relatively thick ice," the researchers wrote.
- Greenland Ice Sheet Melting Faster Than at Any Time in Last 12,000 ... ›
- Greenland's Ice Sheet Has Reached 'Point of No Return' - EcoWatch ›
- Record Shrinking of Greenland's Ice Sheet Raises Sea Levels ... ›
By Muntasir Akash
The smallest of the planet's 13 otter species finds its habitat shrinking every day. We know little about these mustelids — especially in Bangladesh, where I conduct my research — but they face a horde of threats.
Species Name and Description:
The Asian small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinereus) has a typical otter build with webbed digits, dark brown to blackish upper parts, and a pale vent. It can be distinguished from other otter species by its blunter muzzle, acutely arched back and a white neck devoid of any spots or streaks. Its claws are noticeably short and even often absent — a feature of its genus, Aonyx.
Where It's Found:
These otters live in the Himalayan foothills, Ganges Delta, Northeast India, Indochina, South China and Philippines, with isolated population in southern India. Their habitats range from forests and wetlands to coasts and mangroves. In Bangladesh they're thought to be confined to the Sundarbans mangrove.
A small-clawed otter in Bangladesh. Via iNaturalist and © Guenther Eichhorn, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
IUCN Red List Status:
Vulnerable, with a globally decreasing population trend; endangered in Bangladesh
Poaching for fur and extraction to supply a recently spiked demand in pet trade is the number one threat to Asia's most trafficked otter species. Habitat destruction, conflict with fishers, drying up streams, decreasing food supply and attacks by feral dogs are also affecting its already sharply plummeting population.
Otter pelts in India. © Ashwin Viswanathan, some rights reserved (CC-BY). Via iNaturalist
In Bangladesh there exists no study on the species outside the Sundarbans, its known habitat in the country. Even there, only a handful of research has been undertaken to date.
Notable Conservation Programs or Legal Protections:
In 2019 the species shifted to CITES Appendix I from Appendix II to plug the illegal trade and trafficking.
The IUCN Otter Specialist Group and International Otter Survival Fund are the strongest voices for the species. Although the animals are protected by law, there is no conservation scheme so far in Bangladesh.
My Favorite Experience:
Watching camera-trap footage of not one, not two, but multiple otter families is unforgettable. Hearing the cooing of otter pups on screen was heart-melting and one of those now-I-can-die-in-peace moments. And all these images were from a region that has long been deprioritized in conservation, without any prior systematic study.
The small-clawed otter, a globally vulnerable small carnivore, can still be found in certain protected areas of northeastern Bangladesh. This is the first camera-trap image from the region. Muntasir Akash / Northeast Bangladesh Carnivore Conservation Initiative
However, the joy comes with a caveat. In all existing anecdotes, northeastern forests are described as the home of the larger Eurasian and smooth-coated otters. Otters showed up, true. But to my extreme surprise, it was a species that has always been attributed to the Sundarbans — a forest hundreds of miles away from the study site. Although finding the Asian small-clawed otter here has sparked hope for the region, the apparent absence of the other two expected species has left me with an uneasy feeling: Do the larger otters really roam these forests? Or is the Eurasian otter, the rarest of the three, to become the next extinct carnivore in Bangladesh?
What Else Do We Need to Understand or Do to Protect This Species?
We need extensive studies on ecology and threats to the species in both known and newly discovered habitats in Bangladesh. Connecting otters with the exceptionally rich ichthyodiversity of riparian streams and mangrove creeks can strengthen conservation practices in the country.
Muntasir Akash is a lecturer at the Department of Zoology, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is focusing his career on the conservation of lesser-known carnivorous mammals, leading camera-trapping work in northeastern Bangladesh funded by the Conservation Leadership Programme, a partnership between BirdLife International, Fauna & Flora International and WCS.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
By Sam Baker
What really makes this reporter's stomach churn thinking about climate change? Thawing permafrost. A scenario where it all melts, releasing copious amounts of CO2 and methane (it holds twice as much carbon as the atmosphere holds right now), and there's no going back.
But what's at the top of the list of concerns for those who study how climate change is unfolding – on ice sheets and urban street corners, in oceans and farm fields – the climate scientists themselves?
DW asked a dozen experts spanning climatology, entomology, oceanography and yes, permafrost research, what keeps them up at night when it comes to the climate.
The Greatest Unknown – People
Nana Ama Browne Klutse studies changing weather with climate models at the University of Ghana. While she says tipping points like permafrost thaw worry her, she also worries how individuals will handle changing climates.
"What can you do as an individual to avoid the impact of climate change?" she asked. "We need government policies for resilience, building of community, city resilience. Then we need that global action."
Climate scientist Ruth Mottram studies the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and sea level rise for the Danish Meteorological Institute, but it's not the science that worries her.
"I'm less concerned that there are unknown processes going on that we don't understand, and there could potentially be some unforeseen catastrophe on the way," she said. "We know what a lot of the impacts are going to be. I think what keeps me awake at night in a metaphorical sense is really the interaction between the physical system and how human societies are going to handle it."
Giving the example of sea level, she says we will see a meter rise this century — in our lifetimes or that of our children — and will have to make tough decisions about our coastal cities. But she says it won't end there.
"I think that human societies have not really grasped what that means and that adaptation to sea level rise is going to be a long process and we are going to be doing it for hundreds of years," said Mottram, suggesting that we start thinking in terms of the lifetimes of cities (hundreds of years) rather than just human lifetimes.
Protecting the Vulnerable
Vladimir Romanovsky, a professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Permafrost Laboratory, said that while he thinks about how what happens in the Arctic will affect the rest of the world, his concerns are much more local.
"We should remember that there are still some people living in the Arctic," he said. Around 4 million people in fact who would have to deal with the real-life consequences of solid ground thawing beneath their feet and houses. "Changes in these local or regional kind of climates and environments, they impact these people and some of these impacts could be very severe."
Closer to the planet's other pole, Carolina Vera fears that existing inequalities will only be exacerbated by climate change.
"Climate change is already impacting the most vulnerable sectors of our planet," said Vera, who studies climate variability as a principal researcher for the National Council of Science of Argentina, a professor at the University of Buenos Aires and chief of staff for Argentina's Ministry of Science and Technology. Her work has led her to incorporate local knowledge and data collection into studies, involving communities that are balancing the problems of deforestation with their need to farm.
Heat and New Extremes
Perhaps not surprisingly, global heating is a key concern for many researchers, like Dim Coumou, who studies extreme weather at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Of most concern to him are heat and humidity extremes in the tropics – especially highly populated parts like West Africa, Pakistan and India – which will make it unbearable to be outside. When cooling down by sweating is no longer possible, people can't work outside and therefore can't grow food. The likely result being mass migration.
But it's not just the tropics.
Closely related to heat is the increase in extreme weather brought on by a warming climate. Coumou and his colleagues' research shows how changes to the jet stream will lead to more extreme weather in Europe, including floods and droughts.
This increase in extreme weather is climate scientist Abubakr Salih Babiker's biggest climate concern.
"A warmer atmosphere can hold more water in it and when it rains, it rains heavily leading to floods. A warmer ocean can lead to stronger tropical cyclones," said Babiker, who works for the East African Climate Center ICPAC in Nairobi. He explained that cyclones gain more energy from warmer water.
"We have seen evidence of all these events," he said. "The strongest tropical cyclones to impact the Arabian Peninsula, Somalia, and Mozambique occurred in the past 20 years!"
Science for Solutions
Pests, drought and flooding are on Esther Ngumbi's mind too.
An entomologist and professor of African American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she said that what keeps her up at night is the thought: "How can my science truly help?"
Ngumbi's work on pest and drought-resistant crops is driven by her concerns for vulnerable farmers who live in countries lacking social safety nets, where one season of crop devastation due to insects can mean going hungry and being unable to pay for their children's education.
"That truly makes me wake up every day and go to the lab to understand how my research can contribute to solutions that we need," she said.
Natasha Picone – an urban climatologist at the National University of Central Buenos Aires – says it's the solutions that occupy her thoughts too.
"With the pandemic, I realized that we are not doing enough for changing our cities to be more livable," she said. Her research informs urban planners about phenomena such as the urban heat island effect, air pollution and urban run-off that can lead to flooding. "If we don't change the path now, it will be really difficult to go back."
Weighing on the mind of oceanographer Renata Hanae Nagai at the University of Parana in Brazil is her four-year-old nephew and what his life will look like in a warmer world, but he also gives her hope. During a recent trip to the beach to watch nesting turtles, he warned others to leave the turtles alone.
She sees this same care in her students – learning about problems and coming up with solutions.
"People are the solution," she said. "We try, even under the hardest conditions."
'Scientists are Humans' Too
"For me, that's like morally totally unacceptable what they do – they lie," said the climate physicist from Maynooth University in Ireland, reflecting on encountering such people at public talks. "I mean, you can't argue with climate."
But this only pushes Caesar to better communicate what the science shows.
They Worry About Us
A common thread of this (rather unscientific) survey is that while we laypeople might be worrying about what the science says, climate scientists are often worrying about us.
"Scientists always think about what are the results of their studies, how are they important for, you know, for usual people, for normal people," the permafrost scientist told me. While doing his research, Romanovsky said he's always thinking about "how this could be used to make life of people easier or more predictable."
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.