Death by Ice and Fire—the Making of Another Mars – Is it all True series #308

Climate ChangeBesides my lifetime adventures in the world of UFO/ Paranormal, I have always been interested in meteorology and climatology, and I know, without a doubt, global warming is happening, big time. I cannot tell you how much is a natural factor and how much is manmade, but that is not important. What is important is that it is happening and happening in a freaking big way. And there is no stopping it. The media plays all this down, because panic among nearly 7 billion people in the short-term would be worse than what is coming in the next 10 years.

As I continue my personal research on the subject, primarily reading academic studies and talking to researchers around the world, we are enjoying our last good or reasonably good years on Earth. The next 5 years will be up and down, hot summers and mild winters, and this more normal January for the US is just the product of rapid summer melting of the tundra in the upper northern hemisphere creating large area of cold air in late fall. Once everything is melted the fire and heat will build through the middle latitudes.

Of course during all this methane gas is flowing into the atmosphere at a record pace, adding greenhouse gas to the fire. I believe Mars and the civilizations on Mars about 260,000 years ago faced the same problem, a rapidly heating atmosphere. Their solution was to move to Earth or go underground, and I believe they did both. There is probably a small subterranean civilization on Mars presently, but many move back and forth to Earth and they are extremely upset with mainstream Earthlings and their passive – suicidal behavior. So chances are high there is a covert Martian movement to save Earth, because they know it’s the last habitable planet in our solar system.

Sleep Tight, but be aware our world is rapidly changing, and if humans haven’t the will to change, Mars 2 is around the corner.


Study: Sea-level rise threatens 1,400 U.S. cities by Wendy Koch, USA TODAY

Climate ChangeJuly 29, 2013 | 06:54 PM EDTPeter Morgan, AP A rise in sea levels will threaten 1,400 U.S. cities if trends continue, a study says.

A rise in sea levels threatens the viability of more than 1,400 cities and towns, including Miami, Virginia Beach and Jacksonville, unless there are deep cuts in heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, says an analysis out Monday.

Prior emissions have already locked in 4 feet of future sea-level rise that will submerge parts of 316 municipalities, but the timing is unclear and could take hundreds of years, according to the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If global warming continues at its current rate through the year 2100, at least an additional 1,100 cities and towns will be mostly under water at high tide in the distant future.

“It’s like this invisible threat,” says author Benjamin Strauss,a scientist at Climate Central, a non-profit, non-advocacy research group based in Princeton, N.J., that’s funded by foundations, individuals and federal grants. He says these sea levels are much higher than what’s predicted this century – typically 1 to 4 feet – because climate change multiplies their impact over hundreds of years.

He says many people have the mistaken notion that if greenhouse gas emissions stop, the problem of sea levels rising will go away. It won’t, he says, because carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for centuries – even millenniums – and contributes to two factors that raise sea levels: higher temperatures and the loss of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

His dire projections suggest that the billions of dollars in damages from last year’s Superstorm Sandy are a harbinger of the future. “The current trend in carbon emissions likely implies the eventual crippling or loss of most coastal cities in the world,” writes Strauss, who directs Climate Central’s program on rising sea levels.

To calculate U.S. cities at risk, he looked at elevation data and 2010 Census population figures. He blended that with a finding, published last month in a PNAS paper led by Anders Levermannof the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, that each degree Fahrenheit of global warming translates to 4.2 feet of sea-level rise in the long run (as much as two millenniums.)

“This is probably the most unique and novel way I’ve seen of talking about a longer time frame,” says Peter Ruggiero, a coastal engineering scientist at Oregon State University. He says it’s “useful,” because most analyses look only at this century, and “the world doesn’t end in 2100.”

Yet he says there are huge “uncertainties” projecting so far into the future, and the paper has “a bit of fuzziness” because its estimates on the number of people who could be affected assume no change in coastal population or land features. The estimates also do not account for potential engineering solutions.

Some climate scientists say the findings may be counterproductive. Looking at such a distant tomorrow “could scare people about something that might not happen for centuries,” says Jayantha Obeysekera of the South Florida Water Management District, a regional government agency. He says such long-term projections may not be helpful to U.S. planners who tend to focus on the next few decades.

Strauss’ analysis says 3.6 million Americans live in the 316 municipalities – including New Orleans, Atlantic City and Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach – that are already considered at risk, because half of their populations live below the future high tide level that prior emissions have locked in.

Florida is the most vulnerable state by far, Strauss says, adding that Louisiana, New Jersey and North Carolina also face enormous difficulties. Unless major change occurs, he says, more than 100 cities in each of these states could be threatened.

Strauss says tragedy can be avoided or mitigated with deep global pollution cuts followed by technology that sucks CO2 from the atmosphere. Such bold steps, he says, could help preserve hundreds of coastal communities.

If current emissions continue, his analysis projects the year when global carbon emissions will lock hundreds of U.S. cities into the eventual sinking – below the high-tide line – of the land that now houses half their residents: Galveston, Texas (2030); Miami (2040); Norfolk, Va., (2044); Coral Gables, Fla. (2044); and Virginia Beach (2054).

Greenland's Isolated Glaciers Melting Quickly

Climate Change

Melting from stand-alone glaciers in Greenland accounts for a whopping 10 percent of the total sea level rise worldwide from melting ice, which is more than expected, a new study finds.

These “peripheral” glaciers are isolated from the main ice sheet, flowing independently to the sea, and make up just 5 to 7 percent of Greenland’s total ice coverage, researchers found. But they are rapidly losing ice, making up 20 percent of the island’s total contribution to sea level rise. Because the glaciers cover a smaller area than the ice sheets, they are losing ice about 2.5 times faster than the giant ice sheet, the researchers calculated.

The Elephant Foot Glacier in northeast Greenland, one of the island’s thousands of peripheral glaciers. CREDIT: Dirk van AS (GEUS)

“The ice loss with respect to area is significantly higher than of the ice sheet,” lead study author Tobias Bolch of the University of Zurich in Switzerland said in a statement. “This means that the local glaciers react faster with respect to climate change. This information will help to improve the predictions of the future contribution of Greenland’s ice to sea-level rise.”

Bolch and his colleagues estimated the changing mass of the glaciers using lasers that measure the height of the ice from space and a recently completed inventory of Greenland’s glaciers and ice caps. The study appeared in the March 13 issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

About 12 cubic miles (50 Gigatons) of water poured into the ocean from the isolated glaciers each year between 2003 and 2008, the study found.

“Beside the large ice sheet, there are thousands of peripheral glaciers which are not connected to the ice sheet or can be separated from it due to the existence of ice divides,” Bolch said. “The area of those glaciers is about 50 times higher than the ice cover of the European Alps. Consequently, it is important to investigate not only the ice sheet, but also these local glaciers.”

Temperature Change Makes Arctic Seasons More Like the South's

Climate Change
3/11/2013 11:53:06 AM

In eastern North America, people are accustomed to experiencing distinct seasons at distinct times of the year. Similarly, the Arctic and its plants and animals are accustomed to distinct seasons, particularly extremely cold winters and short summers, when plants and animals rapidly squeeze in the growth that winter prevents.

Oliver Taylor

But new research published yesterday in the journal Nature Climate Change shows that the differences between those Arctic summers and winters are lessening. Winter is becoming warmer — a lot warmer.

“The colder seasons are warming more rapidly than the summer,” said Liang Xu, a co-author on the study and a doctoral student at Boston University.

The study, funded by NASA, used both ground and satellite data to look at how changes in temperature are affecting vegetation. A team of authors from seven countries, including the United States’ Woods Hole Research Center, contributed to the research.

Showing that Arctic winters are warming a lot more than the other seasons is significant, said Ranga Myneni, another co-author of the study and a BU researcher who has been working on the impacts of temperature increases on the Arctic and boreal regions for decades.

“Most of the time, people talk about global warming at a steady rate, 1 degree Celsius per decade. That does not really even convey what it means,” Myneni said, because the warming in the north is happening so much more in the winter.

More greening, trees and forest fires

In the Arctic, this means the region is getting greener, with unknown impacts to the ecosystem, Myneni said. The study found that 32 to 39 percent of the Arctic had an increase in plant growth over the past 30 years.

“It is a big deal because in the north … there are no trees, it is mostly grasses, lichen and mosses, and now you are creating sufficient warmth for trees to grow,” Myneni said. “So the trees will try to move north. What will that do to existing Arctic vegetation? We don’t know.”

Bruce Forbes, a research professor at the University of Lapland’s Arctic Center who works with the reindeer-herding Nenets people of Russia’s Arctic, says the transition of the tundra into trees is already affecting them.

In the past 30 years, areas that used to be pasture and shrubs are becoming trees and large shrubs, he said. “[Nenets] can notice the shrubs increasing to tree size because they use the same campsites year after year.” This affects the reindeer herders because they have to avoid these areas, since they can lose their reindeer in the denser growth.

“So far, they are just trying to avoid these areas, but that is becoming more difficult” as the quantity of shrubs and trees increases, Forbes said. Oil and gas development in the region has also shrunk the availability of pasture, another complication in addition to climate change.

Long-range forecast: Detroit-like weather

Boston University’s Myneni said that because seasons are so important for a variety of ecological processes, he thinks the rapid changes in seasonality will lead to some mismatches in the food web, although it is currently hard to predict exactly how this will play out.

The higher temperatures may contribute to more growth in the Arctic, but in the boreal region there are mixed effects by continent.

North America’s boreal region has higher temperatures but has also been drier. This means trees are experiencing drought, increased fire risk, and more pest and disease outbreaks. So this region of the boreal forest is actually getting less green.

The Eurasian boreal areas, though, have seen enough precipitation to keep some of those effects at bay. Whether this is a trend that will hold true for the future remains to be seen, Myneni said.

Between 1951 and 1980, the temperature profile of the Arctic — the graph that shows how temperatures change season to season — resembled that of lands north of 65 degrees latitude, or just above the latitude of Fairbanks, Alaska. By the decade of 2000-2010, the temperature profile resembled that of lands above 61 degrees north, or closer to Anchorage, Alaska — 360 miles south of Fairbanks.

At the end of this century, the authors predict the temperature profile of the Arctic could resemble that of lands around 42 degrees latitude — about the latitude of Detroit.

Myneni’s group has created a website to explain its work to the public.

Reprinted from Climate Wire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500. E&E Publishing is the leading source for comprehensive, daily coverage of environmental and energy issues. Click here to start a free trial to E&E’s information services.

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Climate Change in 2013: 5 Things to Expect in the New Year

Climate Change

Climate Change in 2013 5 Things to Expect in the New Year

It’s a brand new year and we can expect it to bring climate challenges, both new and old. Most of the predictions for climate change in 2013 and beyond build upon the trends we have seen over the past years, and especially in 2012 — from Hurricane Sandy to the hottest month on record.

Climate is an average of the weather we experience every day — the climate influences the probability of certain weather events, but it does not make them a certainty; making predictions about the impact of climate change in any given year cannot be done with 100% certainty — typically, the best we can do is say what is likely (even that can be challenging). Yet there are several factors related to climate change for which we are relatively sure what will happen:

1) It will keep getting warmer: And we will keep breaking temperature records. Many scientific papers have found an upward trend in temperature records, which averages somewhere around 0.16 degrees Celsius per year; indeed, this is the signature effect of climate change, so much so that this global warming prediction almost goes without saying.
This warming trend is obscured by the variability of day-to-day weather, and by noise that can largely be attributed to three sources – solar activity, El Niño, and volcanic activity – but it is relatively straightforward to remove those effects and reveal the underlying trends attributed to global warming. These trends have been confirmed in many ways, most notably by satellite observations that show more heat entering the atmosphere than exiting it due to atmospheric gases (i.e. greenhouse gases), which would lead to the observed warming in the thin coat of air that we call home.

El Niño is associated with global temperature maximums approximately 4 months after the event, as effects of the ocean’s heat release are felt. El Niño conditions are not currently predicted to develop in 2013, but if it does happen, expect it to contribute to more record-breaking high temperatures. For more information, Stefan Rahmstorf, a prominent climate scientist, offers a wonderfully clear explanation of climate change, El Nino, and solar activity on Slate.

2) Droughts will persist: Notably in the U.S.’ southwest. The Southwest has seen devastating droughts in the past year, and they are expected to intensify in 2013, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Climate change will continue to make such droughts more likely into the future, as well; watch this video from Climate Central for a quick primer on the link between drought and climate change.

Drought will increase in the US southwest in 2013

3) Artic Ice coverage will again be very low:

On September 16, 2012, a record minimum was set for Arctic sea ice – both in ice extent and volume. That means that a huge portion of the ice in the Arctic this winter is first-year ice, especially since large quantities of older ice melted in 2012. The younger ice is thinner and melts more rapidly in the summer than older ice. These conditions make the Arctic more susceptible to significant ice depletion in 2013; even if it does not set a new record, it is very likely that ice coverage will be startlingly low again. Overall trends suggest that the minimum Arctic ice extent is decreasing by 13% per decade.

4) Summer will be a little longer: Fall will keep coming later, and spring earlier. The leaves stay on the trees approximately 10 days longer now than they did in the early 1980s in the United States. Spring has likewise been arriving earlier and earlier over the last half-century, as measured by the arrival of new leaves. Both of these seasonal shifts have their roots in an increase in average temperature; the length of the day and rainfall patterns also affect seasonal changes, leading to plenty of inter-annual variability. However, the overall trend points towards a longer summer in the future.

5) Storms and sea level rise: will continue to put low-lying costal areas at risk.
Climate change brings the forbidding threesome of rising sea levels, more storm-surge-causing weather, and more intense rain. These three factors put low-lying areas at risk – as New York and New Jersey learned only too well this past hurricane season. Such weather-triggered events cannot be predicted in advance, but climate change makes them increasingly likely. Average sea level has risen approximately 8 inches since 1880, and will continue to rise. Low-lying island nations have felt these impacts acutely, and in 2013 will continue to see increased flooding of their fields and homes – if they haven’t already been forced to relocate.

In the face of such continuing challenges, we can also expect those working to promote solutions – from scientists to politicians, from solar cell designers to activists, to continue fighting in 2013 against climate change’s impacts and causes. If you procrastinate like me and still haven’t gotten around to finalizing your new years resolutions (and even if you have!), consider adding to your list the resolution to do your part against climate change in 2013.

Climate Change And The Blizzard: Nor'easters More Fierce With Global Warming, Scientists Say

Sandy storm

A car sits in the ditch as a winter snow storm bears down on Buffalo, N.Y., on Friday. (AP)

Climate change may or may not have helped generate the nor’easter lashing the East Coast this weekend. Such storms happen with some regularity, after all. But the amount of snow the storm called “Nemo” ultimately dumps, and the extent of flood damage it leaves in its wake, may well have ties to global warming, climate scientists suggested.

Michael Mann, a climatologist who directs the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, compared a major storm like Nemo — or Hurricane Irene or Superstorm Sandy, for that matter — to a basketball slam-dunk with a lower net.

“If you take the basketball court and raise it a foot, you’re going to see more slam-dunks,” Mann said. “Not every dunk is due to raising the floor, but you’ll start seeing them happen more often then they ought to.”

The two key ingredients in a big snow: just cold-enough temperatures and a lot of moisture. Combine the chilled air converging on the East with the massive moisture coming from the Gulf of Mexico region and you’ve got the “perfect setup for a big storm,” Kevin Trenberth, of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, told The Huffington Post in an email.

As Trenberth explained, the ideal temperature for a blizzard is just below freezing — just cold enough to crystalize water into snow. Below that, the atmosphere’s ability to hold moisture to create those snowflakes drops by 4 percent for every one degree Fahrenheit fall in temperature.

“In the past, temperatures at this time of year would have been a lot below freezing,” Trenberth said. In other words, it’s been too cold to snow heavily. But that may become less of an obstacle for snow in the Northeast.

In addition to warming the air, climate change is adding moisture to it.

Sea surface temperatures are about two degrees Fahrenheit warmer than they were before 1980, raising the potential for a big snow by about 10 percent, according to Trenberth. And any individual storm, including this nor’easter, will pick up more moisture as it spins across a warmer ocean. What’s more, as Mann explained, a warm ocean clashes with cold air masses from the Arctic. A bigger contrast in temperatures may mean a bigger storm, he said.

Michael Oppenheimer, a climate change expert at Princeton University, said global warming is increasing extreme storms. “Storms like this tend to be heavier than they used to be,” he told HuffPost. “That’s a fact.”

As HuffPost reported on Friday, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration records show that the Northeast saw a 74 percent increase in precipitation during the heaviest rain and snow events from 1958 to 2011.

Still, connecting any specific weather event to global warming remains inexact. A new area of study called “event attribution science” is mining data in an attempt to make more definitive links, or at least better gauge the odds of an extreme event in the context of climate change that results partly from human activities, including burning fossil fuels. But the field is young.

And, truth is, nor’easters happen.

In fact, Jeff Masters, a climatologist and founder of Weather Underground, noted that the number of intense nor’easters hasn’t increased over the last three or four decades. A warmer climate, he explained, can decrease the length of the snowy season, and therefore the time window for nor’easters.

Further, nor’easters are defined not only by heavy snowfall, but by high winds. There’s less evidence for links between winter winds and climate change. Warm weather storms, such as Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, are another story. “Since hurricanes are heat engines, they drive power from ocean waters,” said Masters.

Another climate-linked ingredient could propel this weekend’s storm into the history books: rising sea levels.

“A three-foot storm surge, on top of a higher sea level, will do more damage,” Masters said, noting that sea levels in Boston, expected to bear the brunt of the nor’easter with an historic storm surge, have risen a foot in the last 90 years.

Penn State’s Mann also likes to use baseball metaphors when describing climate’s influence on major storms — “home runs,” he calls them. “What we’re seeing now with climate change is weather on steroids.”

Solar Activity Affects Earth's Climate In Surprisingly Complex Ways, Scientists Say

By: Charles Q. Choi

Even small changes in solar activity can impact Earth’s climate in significant and surprisingly complex ways, researchers say.

The sun is a constant star when compared with many others in the galaxy. Some stars pulsate dramatically, varying wildly in size and brightness and even exploding. In comparison, the sun varies in the amount of light it emits by only 0.1 percent over the course of a relatively stable 11-year-long pattern known as the solar cycle.

Still, “the light reaching the top of the Earth’s atmosphere provides about 2,500 times as much energy as the total of all other sources combined,” solar physicist Greg Kopp at the University of Colorado told As such, even 0.1 percent of the amount of light the sun emits exceeds all other energy sources the Earth’s atmosphere sees combined, such as the radioactivity naturally emitted from Earth’s core, Kopp explained.

To learn more about how such tiny variations in solar energy might impact terrestrial climate, the National Research Council (NRC) convened dozens of experts in many fields, such as plasma physics, solar activity, atmospheric chemistry, fluid dynamics and energetic particle physics.

Sun’s role in Earth’s climate

Many of the ways the scientists proposed these fluctuations in solar activity could influence Earth were complicated in nature. For instance, solar energetic particles and cosmic rays could reduce ozone levels in the stratosphere. This in turn alters the behavior of the atmosphere below it, perhaps even pushing storms on the surface off course. [Sun’s Wrath: Worst Solar Storms Ever]

“In the lower stratosphere, the presence of ozone causes a local warming because of the breakup of ozone molecules by ultraviolet light,” climate scientist Jerry North at Texas A&M University told

When the ozone is removed, “the stratosphere there becomes cooler, increasing the temperature contrast between the tropics and the polar region. The contrast in temperatures in the stratosphere and the upper troposphere leads to instabilities in the atmospheric flow west to east. The instabilities make for eddies or irregular motions.”

These eddies feed the strength of jet streams, ultimately altering flows in the upper troposphere, the layer of atmosphere closest to Earth’s surface. “The geographical positioning of the jets aloft can alter the distribution of storms over the middle latitudes,” North said. “So the sun might have a role to play in this kind of process. I would have to say this would be a very difficult mechanism to prove in climate models. That does not mean it may not exist — just hard to prove.”

In addition, climate scientist Gerald Meehl at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and his colleagues suggest that solar variability is leaving a definite imprint on climate, especially in the Pacific Ocean.

When researchers look at sea surface temperature data during sunspot peak years, the tropical Pacific showed a pattern very much like that expected with La Niña, a cyclical cooling of the Pacific Ocean that regularly affects climate worldwide, with sunspot peak years leading to a cooling of almost 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in the equatorial eastern Pacific. In addition, peaks in the sunspot cycle were linked with increased precipitation in a number of areas across the globe, as well as above-normal sea-level pressure in the mid-latitude North and South Pacific.

“The Pacific is particularly sensitive to small variations in the trade winds,” Meehl said. Solar activity may influence processes linked with trade wind strength.

Sun’s impact on history

Scientists have also often speculated whether the Maunder Minimum, a 70-year dearth of sunspots in the late 17th to early 18th century, was linked with the coldest part of the Little Ice Age, during which Europe and North America experienced bitterly cold winters. This regional cooling might be linked with a drop in the sun’s extreme ultraviolet radiation. In fact, the sun could currently be on the cusp of a miniature version of the Maunder Minimum, since the current solar cycle is the weakest in more than 50 years.

“If the sun really is entering an unfamiliar phase of the solar cycle, then we must redouble our efforts to understand the sun-climate link,” said researcher Lika Guhathakurta at NASA’s Living with a Star Program, which helped fund the NRC study.

Although the sun is the main source of heat for Earth, the researchers note that solar variability may have more of a regional effect than a global one. As such, solar variability is not the cause of the global warming seen in recent times.

“While the sun is by far the dominant energy source powering our climate system, do not assume that it is causing much of recent climate changes. It’s pretty stable,” Kopp said. “Think of it as an 800-pound gorilla in climate — it has the weight to cause enormous changes, but luckily for us, it’s pretty placidly lazy. While solar changes have historically caused climate changes, the sun is mostly likely responsible for less than 15 percent of the global temperature increases we’ve seen over the last century, during which human-caused changes such as increased greenhouse gases caused the majority of warming.”

Tracking the sun

In the future, researchers suggested that to better understand how solar variability might affect the Earth, a future space observatory might include a radiometric imager. Such a device could essentially map the surface of the sun and reveal the contributions of each of its surface features to the sun’s luminosity.

The solar disk is dotted by dark sunspots and bright magnetic areas known as faculae. Sunspots tend to vanish during low points in the solar cycle, and a radiometric imager could help reveal the links between prolonged spotlessness on the sun and Earth’s climate.

Ancient signals of climate such as tree rings and ice cores might also help shed light on the link between the sun and climate. Since variations in Earth’s magnetic field and atmospheric circulation might disrupt this evidence on Earth, a better long-term record of solar radiation might lie in the rocks and sediments of the moon or Mars, researchers added.

The scientists detailed their findings Jan. 8 in a report, “The Effects of Solar Variability on Earth’s Climate,” issued by the National Research Council.


NOAA: 2012 was warmest year ever for US, second most 'extreme'

Matt Rourke / AP file

People play in water from an open fire hydrant during the afternoon heat on July 18, 2012, in Philadelphia. July was the hottest month ever on record in the contiguous U.S.
By Elizabeth Chuck, NBC News
If you found yourself bundling up in scarves, hats, and long underwear less than usual last year, you weren’t alone: 2012 was the warmest year on record in the contiguous United States, according to scientists with The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3 degrees Farenheit, 3.2 degrees above normal and a full degree higher than the previous warmest year recorded — 1998 — NOAA said in its report Tuesday. All 48 states in the contiguous U.S. had above-average annual temperatures last year, including 19 that broke annual records, from Connecticut through Utah.

It was also a historic year for “extreme” weather, scientists with the federal agency said. With 11 disasters that surpassed $1 billion in losses, including Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Isaac, and tornadoes across the Great Plains, Texas, and the Southeast and Ohio Valley, NOAA said 2012 was second only to 1998 in the agency’s “extreme” weather index.

Advertise | AdChoicesA long-term warming trend for the U.S., combined with drought and a northerly jet stream, led to the record heat, explained one of NOAA’s scientists.

“During the winter season, the jet stream tended to stay further north of the U.S.-Canadian border, so that limited colder outbreaks in the country. It also limited precipitation. So that led to a warm and dry winter season, and that persisted through the spring,” Jake Crouch, a climate scientist from the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, said.

“That warm and dry spring and winter laid the groundwork for the drought we had this summer… . When we have drought, it tends to drive daytime temperatures upward.”

The unprecedented warm weather wasn’t contained to the United States.

A corresponding rise in global temperatures prompted the World Meteorological Organization to call the rate at which the Arctic sea ice was melting “alarming” in its Nov. 28, 2012, report.

“The extent of Arctic sea ice reached a new record low. The alarming rate of its melt this year highlighted the far-reaching changes taking place on Earth’s oceans and biosphere. Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records,” World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said.

Each year since 2001 has been among the warmest on record worldwide, with 2012 likely to “be no exception despite the cooling influence of La Niña early in the year,” the report added.

‘Horrible’ sea level rise of more than 3 feet plausible by 2100, experts say

Watch NBC’s special coverage of the 2012 drought

NOAA expects to have global data for 2012 sometime in the coming weeks, but Crouch said scientists already know with certainty “it’s going to be in the top ten” warmest years ever.

Adding to the extremes: 2012 was the driest year on record for the U.S., with 26.57 inches of average precipitation — 2.57 inches below average. Those dry conditions created an ideal environment for wildfires in the West, which charred 9.2 million acres — the third highest amount ever recorded, NOAA said Tuesday.

Other notable climate activity from 2012:

•Snowpack totals across the Central and Southern Rockies were less than half normal.
•July was the hottest month ever on record in the contiguous U.S.
•Tornado activity was concentrated toward the beginning of the season, with large outbreaks in March and April in the Ohio Valley and Central Plains, but the final 2012 tornado count will likely be less than 1,000 — the least since 2002. “The factors behind that are kind of related to what was going on with the drought. We didn’t have these large storm systems moving through the country, so that limited precipitation, and that also limited severe weather outbreaks,” Crouch said. What made this year so high on the extreme weather index were cyclones, hurricanes, and the heat, he said.
•Alaska was cooler and slightly wetter than average, and had a record-cold January. “Their January temperatures were 14 degrees below average. Many locations in Alaska had temperatures 30 degrees below zero,” Crouch said, adding that Anchorage, Alaska, set a new snow record.
•Hawaii experienced growing drought conditions, with 47.4 percent of the state experiencing moderate-to-exceptional drought at the beginning of 2012 and 63.3 percent at the end of the year. Alaska and Hawaii were not included in the bulk of NOAA’s 2012 report because of terrain issues, and because scientists don’t have records dating back as far as states in the contiguous U.S.
Advertise | AdChoicesWhile NOAA made no meteorological forecasts for 2013, Crouch said the drought was going to continue to be an issue.

“The drought got a lot of attention this summer when it was having impacts on agriculture. More than 60 percent of the country is still in drought,” he said. “And if things don’t change, the drought is going to continue to be a big story in 2013.”

Climate — New York Times Environment -As Permafrost Thaws, Scientists Study the Risks

Temperature Rising

Josh Haner/The New York Times

Katey M. Walter Anthony, a scientist, investigated a plume of methane, a greenhouse gas, at an Alaskan lake. Dr. Walter Anthony is a leading researcher in studying the escape of methane. More Photos »

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — A bubble rose through a hole in the surface of a frozen lake. It popped, followed by another, and another, as if a pot were somehow boiling in the icy depths.
Temperature Rising

Trouble in the Arctic

Green Blog: Arctic Methane: Is Catastrophe Imminent? (December 20, 2011)

In an Alaskan lake, bubbles of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, collect beneath the ice. More Photos »

Every bursting bubble sent up a puff of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas generated beneath the lake from the decay of plant debris. These plants last saw the light of day 30,000 years ago and have been locked in a deep freeze — until now.

“That’s a hot spot,” declared Katey M. Walter Anthony, a leading scientist in studying the escape of methane. A few minutes later, she leaned perilously over the edge of the ice, plunging a bottle into the water to grab a gas sample.

It was another small clue for scientists struggling to understand one of the biggest looming mysteries about the future of the earth.

Experts have long known that northern lands were a storehouse of frozen carbon, locked up in the form of leaves, roots and other organic matter trapped in icy soil — a mix that, when thawed, can produce methane and carbon dioxide, gases that trap heat and warm the planet. But they have been stunned in recent years to realize just how much organic debris is there.

A recent estimate suggests that the perennially frozen ground known as permafrost, which underlies nearly a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere, contains twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere.

Temperatures are warming across much of that region, primarily, scientists believe, because of the rapid human release of greenhouse gases. Permafrost is warming, too. Some has already thawed, and other signs are emerging that the frozen carbon may be becoming unstable.

“It’s like broccoli in your freezer,” said Kevin Schaefer, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. “As long as the broccoli stays in the freezer, it’s going to be O.K. But once you take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge, it will thaw out and eventually decay.”

If a substantial amount of the carbon should enter the atmosphere, it would intensify the planetary warming. An especially worrisome possibility is that a significant proportion will emerge not as carbon dioxide, the gas that usually forms when organic material breaks down, but as methane, produced when the breakdown occurs in lakes or wetlands. Methane is especially potent at trapping the sun’s heat, and the potential for large new methane emissions in the Arctic is one of the biggest wild cards in climate science.

Scientists have declared that understanding the problem is a major priority. The United States Department of Energy and the European Union recently committed to new projects aimed at doing so, and NASA is considering a similar plan. But researchers say the money and people devoted to the issue are still minimal compared with the risk.

For now, scientists have many more questions than answers. Preliminary computer analyses, made only recently, suggest that the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions could eventually become an annual source of carbon equal to 15 percent or so of today’s yearly emissions from human activities.

But those calculations were deliberately cautious. A recent survey drew on the expertise of 41 permafrost scientists to offer more informal projections. They estimated that if human fossil-fuel burning remained high and the planet warmed sharply, the gases from permafrost could eventually equal 35 percent of today’s annual human emissions.

The experts also said that if humanity began getting its own emissions under control soon, the greenhouse gases emerging from permafrost could be kept to a much lower level, perhaps equivalent to 10 percent of today’s human emissions.

Even at the low end, these numbers mean that the long-running international negotiations over greenhouse gases are likely to become more difficult, with less room for countries to continue burning large amounts of fossil fuels.

In the minds of most experts, the chief worry is not that the carbon in the permafrost will break down quickly — typical estimates say that will take more than a century, perhaps several — but that once the decomposition starts, it will be impossible to stop.

“Even if it’s 5 or 10 percent of today’s emissions, it’s exceptionally worrying, and 30 percent is humongous,” said Josep G. Canadell, a scientist in Australia who runs a global program to monitor greenhouse gases. “It will be a chronic source of emissions that will last hundreds of years.”

A troubling trend has emerged recently: Wildfires are increasing across much of the north, and early research suggests that extensive burning could lead to a more rapid thaw of permafrost.

Rise and Fall of Permafrost

Standing on a bluff the other day, overlooking an immense river valley, A. David McGuire, a scientist from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, sketched out two million years of the region’s history. It was the peculiar geology of western North America and eastern Siberia, he said, that caused so much plant debris to get locked in an ice box there.

These areas were not covered in glaciers during the last ice age, but the climate was frigid, with powerful winds. The winds and rivers carried immense volumes of silt and dust that settled in the lowlands of Alaska and Siberia.

A thin layer of this soil thawed on top during the summers and grasses grew, capturing carbon dioxide. In the bitter winters, grass roots, leaves and even animal parts froze before they could decompose. Layer after layer of permafrost built up.

At the peak of the ice age, 20,000 years ago, the frozen ground was more extensive than today, stretching deep into parts of the lower 48 states that were not covered by ice sheets. Climate-change contrarians like to point to that history, contending that any melting of permafrost and ice sheets today is simply the tail end of the ice age.

Citing permafrost temperatures for northern Alaska — which, though rising rapidly, remain well below freezing — an organization called the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change claimed that permafrost is in “no more danger of being wiped out any time soon than it was in the days of our great-grandparents.”

But mainstream scientists, while hoping the breakdown of permafrost will indeed be slow, reject that argument. They say the climate was reasonably stable for the past 10,000 years or so, during the period when human civilization arose. Now, as people burn immense amounts of carbon in the form of fossil fuels, the planet’s temperature is rising, and the Arctic is warming twice as fast. That, scientists say, puts the remaining permafrost deposits at risk.

For several decades, researchers have been monitoring permafrost temperatures in hundreds of boreholes across the north. The temperatures have occasionally decreased in some regions for periods as long as a decade, but the overall trend has been a relentless rise, with temperatures now increasing fastest in the most northerly areas.

Thawing has been most notable at the southern margins. Across huge areas, including much of central Alaska, permafrost is hovering just below the freezing point, and is expected to start thawing in earnest as soon as the 2020s. In northern Alaska and northern Siberia, where permafrost is at least 12 degrees Fahrenheit below freezing, experts say it should take longer.

“Even in a greenhouse-warmed world, it will still get cold and dark in the Arctic in the winter,” said Mark Serreze, director of the snow and ice data center in Boulder.

Scientists need better inventories of the ancient carbon. The best estimate so far was published in 2009 by a Canadian scientist, Charles Tarnocai, and some colleagues. They calculated that there was about 1.7 trillion tons of carbon in soils of the northern regions, about 88 percent of it locked in permafrost. That is about two and a half times the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

Philippe Ciais, a leading French scientist, wrote at the time that he was “stunned” by the estimate, a large upward revision from previous calculations.

“If, in a warmer world, bacteria decompose organic soil matter faster, releasing carbon dioxide,” Dr. Ciais wrote, “this will set up a positive feedback loop, speeding up global warming.”

Plumes of Methane

Katey Walter Anthony had been told to hunt for methane, and she could not find it.

As a young researcher at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, she wanted to figure out how much of that gas was escaping from lakes in areas of permafrost thaw. She was doing field work in Siberia in 2000, scattering bubble traps around various lakes in the summer, but she got almost nothing.

Then, that October, the lakes froze over. Plumes of methane that had been hard to spot on a choppy lake surface in summer suddenly became more visible.

“I went out on the ice, this black ice, and it looked like the starry night sky,” Dr. Walter Anthony said. “You could see these bubble clusters everywhere. I realized — ‘aha!’ — this is where all the methane is.”

When organic material comes out of the deep freeze, it is consumed by bacteria. If the material is well-aerated, bacteria that breathe oxygen will perform the breakdown, and the carbon will enter the air as carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas. But in areas where oxygen is limited, like the bottom of a lake or wetland, a group of bacteria called methanogens will break down the organic material, and the carbon will emerge as methane.

Scientists are worried about both gases. They believe that most of the carbon will emerge as carbon dioxide, with only a few percent of it being converted to methane. But because methane is such a potent greenhouse gas, the 41 experts in the recent survey predicted that it would trap about as much heat as the carbon dioxide would.

Dr. Walter Anthony’s seminal discovery was that methane rose from lake bottoms not as diffuse leaks, as many scientists had long assumed, but in a handful of scattered, vigorous plumes, some of them capable of putting out many quarts of gas per day. In certain lakes they accounted for most of the emerging methane, but previous research had not taken them into consideration. That meant big upward revisions were probably needed in estimates of the amount of methane lakes might emit as permafrost thawed.

Most of the lakes Dr. Walter Anthony studies were formed by a peculiar mechanism. Permafrost that is frozen hard supports the ground surface, almost the way a concrete pillar supports a building. But when thaw begins, the ground sometimes turns to mush and the entire land surface collapses into a low-lying area, known as a thermokarst. A lake or wetland can form there, with the dark surface of the water capturing the sun’s heat and causing still more permafrost to thaw nearby.

Near thermokarst locations, trees often lean crazily because their roots are disturbed by the rapid changes in the underlying landscape, creating “drunken forests.” And the thawing, as it feeds on itself, frees up more and more ancient plant debris.

One recent day, in 11-degree weather, Dr. Walter Anthony and an assistant, Amy Strohm, dragged equipment onto two frozen thermokarst lakes near Fairbanks. The fall had been unusually warm and the ice was thin, emitting thunderous cracks — but it held. In spots, methane bubbled so vigorously it had prevented the water from freezing. Dr. Walter Anthony, six months pregnant, bent over one plume to retrieve samples.

“This is thinner ice than we like,” she said. “Don’t tell my mother-in-law! My own mother doesn’t know.”

Dr. Walter Anthony had already run chemical tests on the methane from one of the lakes, dating the carbon molecules within the gas to 30,000 years ago. She has found carbon that old emerging at numerous spots around Fairbanks, and carbon as old as 43,000 years emerging from lakes in Siberia.

“These grasses were food for mammoths during the end of the last ice age,” Dr. Walter Anthony said. “It was in the freezer for 30,000 to 40,000 years, and now the freezer door is open.”

Scientists are not sure yet whether thermokarst lakes will become more common throughout the Arctic in a warming climate, a development that could greatly accelerate permafrost thaw and methane production. But they have already started to see increases in some regions, including northernmost Alaska.

“We expect increased thermokarst activity could be a very strong effect, but we don’t really know,” said Guido Grosse, another scientist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. He is working with Dr. Walter Anthony on precision mapping of thermokarst lakes and methane seeps, in the hope that the team can ultimately use satellites and aerial photography to detect trends.

With this kind of work still in the early stages, researchers are worried that the changes in the region may already be outrunning their ability to understand them, or to predict what will happen.

When the Tundra Burns

One day in 2007, on the plain in northern Alaska, a lightning strike set the tundra on fire.

Historically, tundra, a landscape of lichens, mosses and delicate plants, was too damp to burn. But the climate in the area is warming and drying, and fires in both the tundra and forest regions of Alaska are increasing.

The Anaktuvuk River fire burned about 400 square miles of tundra, and work on lake sediments showed that no fire of that scale had occurred in the region in at least 5,000 years.

Scientists have calculated that the fire and its aftermath sent a huge pulse of carbon into the air — as much as would be emitted in two years by a city the size of Miami. Scientists say the fire thawed the upper layer of permafrost and set off what they fear will be permanent shifts in the landscape.

Up to now, the Arctic has been absorbing carbon, on balance, and was once expected to keep doing so throughout this century. But recent analyses suggest that the permafrost thaw could turn the Arctic into a net source of carbon, possibly within a decade or two, and those studies did not account for fire.

“I maintain that the fastest way you’re going to lose permafrost and release permafrost carbon to the atmosphere is increasing fire frequency,” said Michelle C. Mack, a University of Florida scientist who is studying the Anaktuvuk fire. “It’s a rapid and catastrophic way you could completely change everything.”

The essential question scientists need to answer is whether the many factors they do not yet understand could speed the release of carbon from permafrost — or, possibly, slow it more than they expect.

For instance, nutrients released from thawing permafrost could spur denser plant growth in the Arctic, and the plants would take up some carbon dioxide. Conversely, should fires like the one at Anaktuvuk River race across warming northern landscapes, immense amounts of organic material in vegetation, soils, peat deposits and thawed permafrost could burn.

Edward A. G. Schuur, a University of Florida researcher who has done extensive field work in Alaska, is worried by the changes he already sees, including the discovery that carbon buried since before the dawn of civilization is now escaping.

“To me, it’s a spine-tingling feeling, if it’s really old carbon that hasn’t been in the air for a long time, and now it’s entering the air,” Dr. Schuur said. “That’s the fingerprint of a major disruption, and we aren’t going to be able to turn it off someday.”

A version of this article appeared in print on December 17, 2011, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: As Permafrost Thaws, Scientists Study the Risks.

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UN warns of looming worldwide food crisis in 2013- Observer

• Global grain reserves hit critically low levels
• Extreme weather means climate ‘is no longer reliable’
• Rising food prices threaten disaster and unrest

The Observer,

A Zimbabwean peasant farmer in a crop of maize destroyed by drought. One expert warns: ‘The geopolitics of food is fast overshadowing the geopolitics of oil.’ Photograph: Howard Burditt/Reuters
World grain reserves are so dangerously low that severe weather in the United States or other food-exporting countries could trigger a major hunger crisis next year, the United Nations has warned.

Failing harvests in the US, Ukraine and other countries this year have eroded reserves to their lowest level since 1974. The US, which has experienced record heatwaves and droughts in 2012, now holds in reserve a historically low 6.5% of the maize that it expects to consume in the next year, says the UN.

“We’ve not been producing as much as we are consuming. That is why stocks are being run down. Supplies are now very tight across the world and reserves are at a very low level, leaving no room for unexpected events next year,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). With food consumption exceeding the amount grown for six of the past 11 years, countries have run down reserves from an average of 107 days of consumption 10 years ago to under 74 days recently.

Prices of main food crops such as wheat and maize are now close to those that sparked riots in 25 countries in 2008. FAO figures released this week suggest that 870 million people are malnourished and the food crisis is growing in the Middle East and Africa. Wheat production this year is expected to be 5.2% below 2011, with yields of most other crops, except rice, also falling, says the UN.

The figures come as one of the world’s leading environmentalists issued a warning that the global food supply system could collapse at any point, leaving hundreds of millions more people hungry, sparking widespread riots and bringing down governments. In a shocking new assessment of the prospects of meeting food needs, Lester Brown, president of the Earth policy research centre in Washington, says that the climate is no longer reliable and the demands for food are growing so fast that a breakdown is inevitable, unless urgent action is taken.

“Food shortages undermined earlier civilisations. We are on the same path. Each country is now fending for itself. The world is living one year to the next,” he writes in a new book.

According to Brown, we are seeing the start of a food supply breakdown with a dash by speculators to “grab” millions of square miles of cheap farmland, the doubling of international food prices in a decade, and the dramatic rundown of countries’ food reserves.

This year, for the sixth time in 11 years, the world will consume more food than it produces, largely because of extreme weather in the US and other major food-exporting countries. Oxfam last week said that the price of key staples, including wheat and rice, may double in the next 20 years, threatening disastrous consequences for poor people who spend a large proportion of their income on food.

In 2012, according to the FAO, food prices are already at close to record levels, having risen 1.4% in September following an increase of 6% in July.

“We are entering a new era of rising food prices and spreading hunger. Food supplies are tightening everywhere and land is becoming the most sought-after commodity as the world shifts from an age of food abundance to one of scarcity,” says Brown. “The geopolitics of food is fast overshadowing the geopolitics of oil.”

His warnings come as the UN and world governments reported that extreme heat and drought in the US and other major food-exporting countries had hit harvests badly and sent prices spiralling.

“The situation we are in is not temporary. These things will happen all the time. Climate is in a state of flux and there is no normal any more.

“We are beginning a new chapter. We will see food unrest in many more places.

“Armed aggression is no longer the principal threat to our future. The overriding threats to this century are climate change, population growth, spreading water shortages and rising food prices,” Brown says.

Food scarcity: the timebomb setting nation against nation
As the UN and Oxfam warn of the dangers ahead, expert analyst Lester Brown says time to solve the problem is running out
GM food: we can no longer afford to ignore its advantages
George Monbiot: If extreme weather becomes the norm, starvation awaits
New EU biofuels law could be last straw for farmers hit by wet weather and rising costs
Treating food like stocks and shares is a recipe for disaster