Yet Another Effect of Climate Change

Marine mammals can reflect climate change intrinsically, though changes in their diet and condition, as well as extrinsically, through shifts in their range and habitat, Moore said. Many research reports presented at the conference document the way climate change is affecting species from polar bears to sea otters. Depending on regional conditions, climate change is likely to present new opportunities for some species such as humpback whales that will have access to new habitat, even as it poses new problems for other species, such as walrus and polar bears that have less ice to haul out or hunt on.

Source: Rapid Arctic warming drives shifts in marine mammals — ScienceDaily

Researchers must partner with subsistence hunters and local fishermen to track ecosystem changes in the Arctic, scientists said.  The Society of Marine Mammology’s conference was held in San Francisco this week, with researchers from several universities presenting reports.  The consensus was that there have already been many changes, and more are coming.

The potential for increasing competition between species from whales to polar bears reflects just one of many examples of how climate change is affecting marine mammals globally, introducing new interactions, altering food sources and shifting habitat, researchers at the conference reported. More than 2,000 researchers are attending the conference, the world’s largest gathering of scientists studying marine mammals, with climate change one of the leading themes.

More Ice Loss Than We Thought

“We have a solution that is very solid, very detailed and unambiguous,” said co-author Frederik Simons, a Princeton associate professor of geosciences. “A decade of gravity analysis alone cannot force you to take a position on this ice loss being due to anthropogenic global warming. All we have done is take the balance of the ice on Antarctica and found that it is melting — there is no doubt. But with the rapidly accelerating rates at which the ice is melting, and in the light of all the other, well-publicized lines of evidence, most scientists would be hard pressed to find mechanisms that do not include human-made climate change.”

via Gravity data show that Antarctic ice sheet is melting increasingly faster — ScienceDaily.

Solid evidence that the ice loss is increasing.  Hope you don’t live on a low island in the Pacific, or near a coast, because you’d be in real trouble.

America’s Dirtiest Power Plants

How Close do You Live to America’s Dirtiest Power Plants? | BillMoyers.com.

Out of about 6,000 power plants in the US, These are the dirtiest.

The researchers found that the 50 dirtiest power plants in the U.S. are responsible for 30 percent of the energy industry’s CO2 emissions, and a full two percent of all emissions worldwide — these 50 plants were responsible for more climate change than all but six countries in the world.

Click the link above to open the map.

Dashboard 1

 

Waste Not, Want Not

Why our environmental obsession with plastic bags makes no sense - Vox

Why our environmental obsession with plastic bags makes no sense – Vox.

Plastic bags are certainly harmful to the environment; but we are doing other things that are much worse.

Plastic bags are

 a pretty small percentage of the total amount of plastic we throw away: 31.8 million tons annually. And this total is still smaller than the amount of food waste we throw away — 36.4 million tons per year.

And the most effective thing we can do is not only eliminating waste, its changing what we buy.  Climate change is a much bigger threat to our way of life.

Why our environmental obsession with plastic bags makes no sense - Vox

Banning plastic bags is a start, and it would help decrease some garbage in the great oceanic garbage patches, but

 it would be extremely hard to find a marine biologist willing to argue that garbage patches are more of a threat to ocean ecosystems than acidification.

If we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to reinvent our energy systems and make other big, structural changes. An environmentalism that focuses on personal choices and visible, superficial steps is not one that leads to it.

Why You Should Care – $$$ and Health

Farming practices and climate change at root of Toledo water pollution | World news | theguardian.com.

The toxins that contaminated the water supply of the city of Toledo – leaving 400,000 people without access to safe drinking water for two days – were produced by a massive algae boom. But this is not a natural disaster.

Every store and restaurant had to close, people couldn’t bathe or cook with the water.  No tooth-brushing, no rinsing fruit or veggies – all because of the environment’s response to people’s actions.

Residents were warned not to drink the water on Saturday, after inspectors at the city’s water treatment plant detected the toxin known as microcystin. The toxin is produced by microcystis, a harmful blue-green algae; it causes skin rashes and may result in vomiting and liver damage if ingested. It has been known to kill dogs and other animals and boiling the water does not fix the problem; it only concentrates the toxin.

In the 1960s and 1970s, before the ban on phosphorus in laundry detergents, the main sources of phosphorus in Lake Erie were urban and industrial waste. Now it’s farming, which accounts for the vast majority of the phosphorus entering the lake through the Maumee River.

This satellite image provided by NOAA shows the algae bloom on Lake Erie in 2011 which according to NOAA was the worst in decades. Photograph: AP

With warmer waters and more spring rain due to the changing climate, the fertilizer running off the farms feeds the algae.  The massive bloom produces toxins, which poison the water.

Expect more of this in the future.

A Much Drier Future

Global warming to cut snow water storage 56 percent in Oregon watershed.

July 26, 2013 — A new report projects that by the middle of this century there will be an average 56 percent drop in the amount of water stored in peak snowpack in the McKenzie River watershed of the Oregon Cascade Range — and that similar impacts may be found on low-elevation maritime snow packs around the world.

At lower elevations, and warmer climes, the precipitation will fall as rain, and run off.  That which falls as snow will stick around until summer, then melt and feed the rivers, which supply water to farmers and cities.

“In the Willamette River, for instance, between 60-80 percent of summer stream flow comes from seasonal snow above 4,000 feet,” he said. “As more precipitation falls as rain, there will more chance of winter flooding as well as summer drought in the same season.

Lower amounts of snow will have impacts around the world

Globally, maritime snow comprises about 10 percent of Earth’s seasonal snow cover.
Snowmelt is a source of water for more than one billion people.

What will happen to farmers, and the food they produce, when the rivers run dry in the summer? How will cities provide water for their citizens?  Will hydro-electrical production drop?  And who is planning for this future?

400 ppm – Pliocene Levels of CO2

An instrument near the summit of Mauna Loa in Hawaii has recorded a long-awaited climate milestone: the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere there has exceeded 400 parts per million ppm for the first time in 55 years of measurement—and probably more than 3 million years of Earth history.

via Climate Milestone: Earth’s CO2 Level Nears 400 ppm.

Its been at least 800,000 years since it was this high. This has serious, and scary, implications for the people, plants, and animals on earth.  We are already seeing shifting agricultural zones, pests, and flora.

How will changing climate zones impact food production, and the pests that go with them?  Will we be able to produce enough food?  Will the changing climate be drier where we need it to be wetter?  Will we be creative enough to cope with 9 billion people dependent on a steady food supply?

If anything, those numbers understate how different the Pliocene climate was. The tropical sea surface was about as warm as it is now, says Alexey Fedorov of Yale University, but the temperature gradient between the tropics and the poles—which drives the jet streams in the mid-latitudes—was much smaller. The east-west gradient across the Pacific Ocean—which drives the El Niño-La Niña oscillation—was almost nonexistent. In effect, the ocean was locked in a permanent El Niño. Global weather patterns would have been completely different in the Pliocene.

What was it like when camels roamed Ellsmere Island?

Beavers and camels on Ellesmere Island, instead of glaciers, might not be so bad.  But there was a lot less ice in general in the Pliocene. That means there was a lot more water in the ocean, which means sea level was a lot higher—how high exactly, no one knows.

“The estimates have been all over the map,” Raymo says. They’ve ranged from 10 meters (33 feet) to 40 meters (131 feet) higher than today. But even the conservative estimate, were it to recur today, would mean flooding land inhabited by a quarter of the U.S. population.

Where will these people go?  And more importantly, who will pay for it?  And that’s just the US.  Rising seas will impact cities all over the world.  What sort of global trade will take place if the ports are flooded?

What questions do you have about climate change?

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