State-by-state temperature records for 2012. Last year was the warmest on record for the continental U.S. going back to the late 19th Century. Courtesy of NOAA.
Climate change is on the march across the U.S. according to a new draft report written by U.S. government scientists with input from 240 experts. It documents increasing and worsening extreme weather, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification among other impacts. Released Friday for public review, the report will be officially launched later this year or early in 2014.
“Americans are noticing changes all around them,” reads a letter accompanying the report. “Summers are longer and hotter, and periods of extreme heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced. Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours, though in many regions there are longer dry spells in between.”
Released months after tropical storm Sandy ravaged portions of the East Coast and just days after it was announcement that 2012 was the warmest year on record for the continental U.S., the report notes that the primary cause of current climate change is greenhouse gas emissions.
“Global climate is changing, and this is apparent across the U.S. in a wide range of observations. The climate change of the past 50 years is due primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels,” reads the report, which notes that average temperatures have risen by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the U.S. with 80 percent of this rise happening in just the last 30 years.
Climate impacts have been observed in every region of the U.S., according to the report from historic droughts in the Southwest to heatwaves in the Northeast to shrinking Arctic sea ice in Alaska and vanishing freshwater supplies in Hawaii.
One of the biggest impacts on the country will be rising sea levels. Already, sea level rise is contributing to more severe storm surges such as the one that hit New York City and the New Jersey shoreline from Hurricane Sandy.
“After at least two thousand years of little change, sea level rose by roughly 8 inches over the last century, and satellite data provide evidence that the rate of rise over the past 20 years has roughly doubled,” the report reads. “In the U.S., millions of people and many of the nation’s assets related to military readiness, energy, transportation, commerce, and ecosystems are located in areas at risk of coastal flooding because of sea level rise and storm surge.”
The report predicts that sea levels could rise between 1-4 feet (0.3-1.2 meters) by the end of the century.
The report argues that both mitigation (i.e. cutting greenhouse gas emissions) and adaptation are needed to deal with climate change, but also notes that “more effective mitigation measures can reduce the amount of climate change, and therefore the need for adaptation in the future.”
To date the U.S. has no comprehensive legislation tackling its greenhouse gas emissions, and the Obama Administration has largely avoided discussion of climate change following its inability to pass legislation in 2010. Still, Obama has recently stated that climate and energy issues are one of his priorities for the next four years, though it once again appears to be overshadowed by the economy, immigration, and guns.
(01/09/2013) Yesterday Australia recorded its highest average temperature yet: 40.33 degrees Celsius (104.59 Fahrenheit). The nation has been sweltering under an unprecedented summer heatwave that has spawned wildfires across the nation, including on the island of Tasmania where over 100 houses were engulfed over the weekend. Temperatures are finally falling slightly today, providing a short reprieve before they are expected to rise again this weekend.
(01/08/2013) 2012 was the warmest year on record for the contiguous U.S. according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
(12/03/2012) Marine snails, also known as sea butterflies, are dissolving in the Southern Seas due to anthropogenic carbon emissions, according to a new study in Nature GeoScience. Scientists have discovered that the snail’s shells are being corroded away as pH levels in the ocean drop due to carbon emissions, a phenomenon known as ocean acidification. The snails in question, Limacina helicina antarctica, play a vital role in the food chain, as prey for plankton, fish, birds, and even whales.
(12/03/2012) Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial sources are set to hit a new record high this year according to a new analysis by Global Carbon Project. The analysis in Nature Climate Changes predicts that CO2 emissions will rise another 2.6 percent, hitting 35.6 billion tonnes. The scientists warn that such steep climbs in global emissions year-after-year means that the door is rapidly closing on a global agreement to keep temperatures from rising 2 degree Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
(12/03/2012) A massive team of scientists have used multiple methods to provide the best assessment yet of ice loss at the world’s poles, including Greenland and a number of Antarctic ice sheets. Their findings—that all major ice sheets are shrinking but one; that ice loss is speeding up; and that this is contributing to the rise in sea levels—add more evidence to the real-time impacts from global climate change. Melting ice sheets at the poles have raised sea levels 11.1 millimeters, or about 20 percent of observed sea level rise, in the past twenty years, according to the landmark study in Science.
(11/28/2012) Arctic snowfall accumulation plays a critical role in ringed seal breeding, but may be at risk due to climate change, according to a new study in Geophysical Research Letters. Sea ice, which is disappearing at an alarming rate, provides a crucial platform for the deep snow seals need to reproduce. Ringed seals (Phoca hispida) require snow depths of at least 20 centimeters (8 inches): deep enough to form drifts that seals use as birth chambers.
(11/28/2012) Sea levels are rising 60 percent faster than Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated, according to a new study in the open access Environmental Research Letters. In addition to imperiling coastal regions and islands, global sea level rise is worsening the damage inflicted by extreme weather such as Hurricane Sandy, which recently brought catastrophic flooding to the New Jersey coast and New York City.
(11/20/2012) As expected, greenhouse gas concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere hit another record last year, according to a new UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases means that radiative forcing—changes in the atmosphere’s energy balance that leads to warming—has jumped 30 percent in the last twenty years.
(11/20/2012) A new report by the World Bank paints a bleak picture of life on Earth in 80 years: global temperatures have risen by 4 degrees Celsius spurring rapidly rising sea levels and devastating droughts. Global agriculture is under constant threat; economies have been hampered; coastal cities are repeatedly flooded; coral reefs are dissolving from ocean acidification; and species worldwide are vanishing. This, according to the World Bank, is where we are headed even if all of the world’s nations meet their pledges on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. However, the report also notes that with swift, aggressive action it’s still possible to ensure that global temperatures don’t rise above 4 degrees Celsius.