Sometimes a new scientific result is so clearly important that the bottom line needs no explaining — a report showing how ocean acidification threatens food security around the world, for example, or one that ties melting ice in the Arctic to the threat of colder, snowier winters for the U.S.
But it’s tougher to see why anyone should care about the fact that sea level could rise by 3 and a half feet or higher . . . by the year 3000. Nevertheless, that’s what a study published on Tuesday in Environmental Research Letters says — and it is, believe it or not, an important result.
Here’s why: climate scientists have known for a long time that once you pump heat-trapping carbon dioxide into atmosphere by burning coal and oil, it stays there for a thousand years or more. Even if we reduced emissions to zero as of today, Earth would continue warming, and it would stay warm for many centuries to come.
This obviously isn’t going to happen, which makes the paper purely theoretical. Even so, it’s still a useful exercise to ask what the result would be, since it tells us how much climate disruption we’ve already committed to so far. Any greenhouse-gas emissions we create tomorrow, or next week, or over the next 10 years will be on top of that.
Some climate change is already visible in the form of higher seas, rising temperatures and an increase in droughts, heat waves and torrential rainstorms; more is already guaranteed by the emissions we’ve already created...
The villagers of Vunidogoloa on Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island, know firsthand how sea level rise can affect their daily life. According to this article from Alternet, throughout 2012, the Fijians have been in the process of relocating their seaside village — which has been affected by rising seas, erosion, and flooding — to higher, drier ground.
Small coastal communities such as this one are on the front lines of climate change, despite the fact that they have contributed very little global warming gases to the atmosphere in the first place. A similar process is underway in the village of Kivalina, Alaska. Villagers of Kivalina have sued Exxon Mobil for damage incurred by sea level rise, but on Sept. 21, a federal appeals court ruled that the village didn't have legal standing to sue the company, and must instead seek remedies through the legislative process.
The summer meltback of Arctic sea ice still hadn't reached it's full extent when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released this video on Monday (best guess was that it would happen within a few days), but what it shows is dramatic enough as it is: you can watch the ice shrink inexorably from January 1 through September 14, 2012, at which point it covers nearly 40 percent less area than its historical average.
The melting this year has been so rapid and extensive that the previous record minimum, set in 2007, had already been shattered by August 26, with at least three weeks left in the melt season. For the month of August overall, which was the fourth warmest on record globally, ice cover averaged just 1.82 million square miles, the lowest for any August since modern observations. During August, the Arctic lost an average of 35,400 square miles of ice per day, NOAA reported, which was the fastest rate ever observed for the month. That is the equivalent of losing an area of ice equal to the state of Maine every day for 31 days.
With an active Atlantic Hurricane Season underway, NASA is getting a chance to take advantage of its new fleet of Global Hawk research drones. These drones, which Climate Central's Michael Lemonick wrote about on September 4, are designed to loiter for many hours above a storm, gathering data on storm structure, and providing forecasters with clues as to storm movement and intensification.
Image showing the track of the Global Hawk research aircraft superimposed on an atmospheric water vapor image.
NASA seems determined to set some flight-time records while they're at it (there's gotta be a record for longest time spent gathering data on a hurricane, right?), having sent a Global Hawk to gather data on what is likely to become Tropical Storm Nadine during the next few days. The drone was launched on Tuesday, but won't touch back down at its base on Wallops Island, Va., until Wednesday, after flying for about 26 hours (you can track the flight live online). That's far longer than the endurance of human-piloted hurricane research flights.
To put that in further perspective, the longest regularly scheduled passenger flight is between Singapore and Newark, N.J., which clocks in at a comparatively paltry 18 hours and 55 minutes.
The drones help complement the existing fleet of Air Force Hurricane Hunter planes, which fly at much lower altitudes, right into the heart of a storm's strongest winds, as well as aging research aircraft operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which also fly inside the storm. The drones fly at h...
Credit: flickr/Cliff Cheng LF
A beautiful grove of bamboo in the Arashiyama bamboo forest outside Kyoto, Japan. Bamboo has been a huge part of Japanese culture and is an amazing green resource.
As the Japanese have discovered, bamboo is incredibly versatile and is reported to be stronger than many steel alloys and does not fall victim to termites. Bamboo’s strength and flexibility have been used in houses that have withstood a 9.0 magnitude earthquake. It’s the fastest growing plant in the world and can grow 1-to-4 inches in a day and regrows quickly after being cut down, making it the No. 1 renewable resource.
Since the plant’s health is improved by cutting, bamboo can be re-harvested every three years without any harmful effects on the environment. With the average 500-year life span of a redwood tree, a bamboo plant could be harvested and regrown more than 150 times.