A Tale of Two Ice Caps: As Arctic Ocean Heads Toward Ice-Free Summers, New Study Shows Human Warming Takes Out 56% of Antarctic Sea Ice by 2050

Thus far, the Arctic has been ground zero for human-caused climate change. A combination of sea ice melt, albedo loss, a warming ocean that transports heat beneath a melting ice cap, regions of Jet Stream retreat into the far north, and an overburden of greenhouse gasses near the pole, among other factors, have all resulted in a very rapid pace of local warming.

Global temp anomaly

(Global surface temperature anomaly over the last month features a high degree of, very visible, Arctic heat amplification. Most global warming models show the Arctic warms rapidly first under human warming. Then, as second stage warming progresses, heat begins to spike over other regions of the globe. Image source: NOAA ESRL.)

While global warming totals about .8 C above the 1880s average, about 1/6th the difference between now and another ice age, but on the side of hot, Arctic warming has pushed above 3.0 C during the same time period. And as the Arctic is warming four times as fast as the rest of the globe, many of human climate change’s most extreme impacts are now visible there.

The Arctic’s Massive and Dramatic Loss of Sea Ice

A primary measure of Arctic warming has been sea ice melt. And Arctic sea ice melt during the past few decades has been nothing if not dramatic. By end of summer 2012, a time when sea ice melt is most intense, area and extent totals had fallen more than 50% below their 1979 measurements. Meanwhile, Arctic sea ice volume, a measure of area + thickness, had fallen by as much as 80%. These losses are dramatic and raise the possibility for ice free summers, if the weather conditions line up, during a period between now and 2030.

arctic-death-spiral-1979-201302

(Arctic death spiral showing sea ice volume measurements for all months from 1979 through early 2013. Image source: Skeptical Science. Data source: PIOMAS.)

Thin Ice Over Warming Water

As hinted at above, the Arctic has a number of unique characteristics that make it vulnerable to rapid warming in the context of a more slowly warming globe. And chief among these is geography — warmer continents surrounding a mostly frozen ocean.

A lion’s share of the northern polar ice cap area is composed of sea ice. By area, even after the stunning losses seen since 1979, the sea ice cap composes about 10.5 million square kilometers on average. Greenland, in contrast, only boasts an ice sheet of around 2 million square kilometers. This large layer of ice provides an amazing amount of cooling just due to its white, reflective properties. In the past, this albedo has helped to maintain a zone of very cold air centered almost directly over the pole.

But this Arctic system of cold amplification and northern refrigeration has a major Achilles heel. For the sea ice sits upon an ocean that is much closer to the melting point of water than any frozen land mass. Furthermore, all ocean systems are connected and, to one degree or another, readily transport heat.

Melting Arctic Sea Ice

(Melting Arctic sea ice during summer. Image source: NASA.)

In the context of human-caused warming, the majority of northern polar ice area is little more than a relatively thin layer sitting atop an ocean that is rapidly collecting atmospheric heat. A context that can result in rather dramatic consequences. In short, what this means is that northern polar ice sheet inertia isn’t quite so strong as was previously hoped.

A warming ocean eats away at the bottom ice. And as the thin, frozen ice layer of white, reflective ice is, at first gradually, and then more rapidly, replaced by dark, absorptive ocean the Arctic refrigerator breaks down and, increasingly, turns into a heat amplifier. A quickening pace of albedo loss means an even more rapid pace of warming for the ocean waters below. As warmth concentrates, more feedbacks come into play. Greenhouse gasses like methane and CO2 become liberated from the ice and also go to work in setting off warming. These feedbacks work in concert and, for a time, the Arctic heat rapidly amplifies.

Arctic heat amplification is now plainly visible in winter months when heat absorbed by a mostly ice-free Arctic Ocean during summer radiates up through thin and crack-riddled ice. In this way, heat bubbling up through the ice displaces cold, Arctic air southward, sparking off severe weather. An ongoing event that was particularly extreme during the winters of 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 when Arctic air first fled south over Europe and then the central and eastern United States (see polar vortex collapse).

An extended period of heat amplification has been the story of Arctic warming ever since the world began to heat up during the 1880s. A more moderate spurt of sea ice loss coincided with the growing Arctic warmth from the 1920s to the 1950s before stalling in the 60s and 70s, only to resume with a vengeance during the 1980s. Today, the extreme of Arctic heat amplification results in a number of rather severe knock-on effects that threatens everything from even larger Arctic greenhouse gas releases (methane, CO2) and severe changes to the Jet Stream that may well wreck the periods of relatively stable weather human beings in the north have been used to for 10,000 years running.

Antarctic — Vast Continental Ice Sheets Surrounded By Oceans

Moving southward into the still frozen austral regions, we find a geography and related pace of climate change that is markedly different. Here the vast glaciers pile atop a Continent that has now been buried and frozen for millions and millions of years. The cold is locked into ice sheets that reach thousands of feet in height, cover an area of nearly 14 million square kilometers, and plunge deep into the long-frozen Earth. If the ice in the Arctic is merely a thin facade covering warmer oceans, the Antarctic ice is a thick fortress atop adamant and frozen earth.

The degree of inertia this represents for human-caused climate change is, therefore, much greater than what we see up north. And though the Antarctic fortress is far from impenetrable to the radically strong assaults of human warming, it will resist their insults for longer, giving way its great piles of ice in a more ablative fashion with, likely, even more stark and shocking results.

This densely frozen geography coming into conflict with human-caused warming has resulted in far-reaching, though less visible, impacts. Overall, largely due to the heat-insulation effect of Antarctica, southern hemisphere warming has progressed far more slowly than warming in the north. Here the battle is one of inches in which regions closer to the equator, such as Australia and the equatorial oceans, show the highest rates of warming. Meanwhile, Antarctica has remained, for the most part, a bastion of cold with increasingly intense wind fields isolating it from the more rapidly warming regions. In this case, and in contrast to the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream, the upper level winds surrounding the South Pole have strengthened even as they have slowly receded.

Antarctica summer storms

(Antarctica surrounded by storms on March 2 of 2014 as a combination of austral summer and human warming shove the Southern Hemisphere Jet Stream toward the pole. Image source: Lance-Modis.)

Such a recession resulted in very hot, dry weather for southern Australia as equatorial heat shoved the strong winds and related storms ever southward. Meanwhile, increased rates of evaporation held in check the benefits of equatorial rain expansion into northern regions. Only the occasional challenge to this new, retreating Jet Stream, breaks the pattern of expanding drought in the south with extraordinary precipitation and storm events. And so Australia has suffered a series of worst droughts and fires on record interrupted by brief but very intense rain events over the past decade.

While the vast ice sheets of Antarctica have, so far, served as a buttress against atmospheric warming even as the Jet Stream retreated southward, heat in the ocean again went to work. Though mostly protected by vast and frozen continental lands to the west, the more northerly segment of East Antarctica featured large sections of submerged continents upon which rested immense, sea terminating ice sheets. Some of these great ice sheets had sections submerged hundreds of feet below sea level. And though the surface waters only gradually warmed, deeper down, the story was much different.

The endless calving of Antarctica’s glaciers sends off thousands of ice bergs from the shores of Antarctica each year. This massive calving cools the surface waters near Antarctica through both the melting of these frozen hills and mountains as well as the chilling effect they have on nearby air currents. As such, cold waters continually flow out from Antarctica. But even these waters have been impacted by human caused climate change, grudgingly increasing in temperature over the decades.

Pine Island Glacier Calves into Amundsen Sea

(Pine Island Glacier calves into the Amundsen Sea. A recent study found this large ice sheet was in the first stages of irreversible collapse. Image source: iSTAR-NERC.)

If the cold surface waters surrounding Antarctica have warmed only slowly, the story of the depths is somewhat different. Down-welling warmer and saltier waters contacting the Antarctic Circumpolar Current create a growing pool of warmth extending to the Antarctic Continental Shelf boundary. There, water circulation dynamics cause the warm water in the abyss to up-well even as it contacts the ocean terminating polar ice sheets.

The warm water thus eats away at the undersides of these ice sheets, causing increasing instability in some of the most vulnerable regions of West Antarctica. This heat transfer from the ocean depths has set off a significant erosion in a number of very large ice sheets and is now spurring the massive Pine Island Glacier (PIG) into an unstoppable rush to the sea.

Models Show Antarctic Sea Ice to Rapidly Decline through Mid Century

If Antarctic warming has been more subtle than the explosive heat amplification of northern regions, it is no less ominous. At the very least, it resulted in locking in 1-2 meters of sea level rise through irreversible ice sheet collapse spurred by warm water upwelling and now puts at risk many more meters of eventual increases to follow.

But, at the surface of the waters, despite a period of slowly rising warmth, the buffer zone of Antarctic sea ice has remained somewhat stable since 1979, even showing periods of moderate increase in overall area and extent. As described above, this is in marked contrast to a stunning collapse of Northern Hemisphere sea ice. A contrast that has served as foil for much debate over the ongoing impacts of human warming even as it was exploited as fodder by climate change deniers, when they weren’t out chasing the most recent snowstorm.

seaice.anomaly.antarctic

(Antarctic sea ice area anomaly since 1979 shows a slight increase in overall coverage, primarily due to a counter-trend increase in Ross Sea ice coverage. New studies show Antarctic sea ice is now set to rapidly decline. Image source: Cryosphere Today.)

Looking more closely, though, one finds that the current expansion of Antarctic sea ice may well be very precarious. For of the three embayments containing Antarctic sea ice only one — the Ross Sea — has shown sea ice growth in recent years. The other two have either remained stable or shown slow recession.

Polar researchers had attributed the moderate net expansion of southern sea ice to a combination of increasingly strong winds spreading out Ross ice flows during winter, a freshening of surface waters through the ongoing melt of Antarctica’s ice sheets that increases the melt temperature of ice and thus encourages its formation, and to changes to ocean currents and rates of precipitation. Now, a new study conducted by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science has found that this relative period of Ross sea ice stability and growth is about to end.

Warmth About to Crash Through Antarctica’s Gates

The various fragile conditions that have conspired to expand Ross Sea ice are now about to collapse under an onrush of increasing temperatures. For according to a new study entitled The Effects of Changing Winds and Temperatures on the Oceanography of the Ross Sea During the 21rst Century high resolution climate models show both increasing temperatures and rapidly melting ice in this critical and climatologically sensitive region under a regime of business as usual fossil fuel emissions.

According to the study’s authors:

We examined the effects of projected changes in atmospheric temperatures and winds on aspects of the ocean circulation likely important to primary production using a high-resolution sea ice–ocean–ice shelf model of the Ross Sea. The modeled summer sea ice concentrations decreased by 56% by 2050 and 78% by 2100.

In short, the bounding Jet Stream, the insulating continental Antarctic ice, and the cold surface waters surrounding the continent can’t keep out an ever increasing level of human-caused warming indefinitely. Over the coming decades this warmth will pulse higher in the region surrounding Antarctica with profound impacts to sea ice, resulting in a more than 50% reduction by 2050 and a 78% reduction by 2100.

The study also found that:

The ice-free season also grew much longer, with the mean day of retreat in 2100 occurring 11 days earlier and the advance occurring 16 days later than now.

In essence, the spring and summer melt season throughout the Antarctic region was shown to extend nearly one month longer than today’s period of melt and warmth. Such an expansion of heat intensity and duration will have profound impacts not only for sea ice, but for land ice and for life in the oceans as well.

Mixing Layers Reduced, Large Phytoplankton Blooms to Follow

Perhaps less visible but somewhat more ominous are ocean changes that are projected as Antarctic sea ice goes into rapid decline. Study authors found that ocean mixing over the region would fall by 12% by 2050 and a remarkable 44% by 2100. This dramatically increased stratification would, at first, result in very large blooms of phytoplankton as the surface waters see far more oxygen and the depths become ever-more deprived. This riot of microbial life may seem a positive development for the Ross Sea. But, if anything, it is a sign of oceanic productive zones moving southward to the polar region.

More ominous is the impact on krill and larger animals dependent on these small swimmers. Sea ice is critical to the survival of many krill species. And with its decline, these marine animals are likely to be negatively impacted.

According to lead author, Dr. Walker Smith:

our results suggest that phytoplankton production will increase and become more diatomaceous. Other components of the Ross Sea food web will likely be severely disrupted, creating significant but unpredictable impacts on the ocean’s most pristine ecosystem.

Links:

The Effects of Changing Winds and Temperatures on the Oceanography of the Ross Sea During the 21rst Century

The Storms of Arctic Warming

Arctic Sea Ice Melt, Methane Release Shows Amplifying Feedbacks to Human-Caused Climate Change

Arctic Heat Wave to Rip Polar Vortex in Half

Scientists: Ocean Warming, Upwelling to Make an End to Antarctica’s Vast Pine Island Glacier

NOAA ESRL

Lance-Modis

NASA

Cryosphere Today

Skeptical Science

PIOMAS

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51 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on There Are So Many Things Wrong With This and commented:
    It’s helpful to frame this as cold being vulnerable to heat, and the planet needing heat-free zones. We tend to be acculturized to see cold as a presence instead of an absence, but the relative absence of heat is critical for many life cycles.

    Reply
  2. “This densely frozen geography coming into conflict with human” humans, not human.

    Reply
  3. The public remains unaware of the role of the Arctic ice cap in the climate. We’re on the same wavelength in recognizing and doing our bit to alert them. I wonder if it’s just too much for people to believe.

    I’m convinced that we’re going to see some very unstable jet stream activity once the summer is ice-free–which, I’m afraid, may be within a few years. I still say, save the ice cap, but sometimes I sense it’s too late.

    Reply
    • I hear you, my friend. If we can’t somehow get atmospheric CO2 below 390 ppm and methane below 1000 ppb, I’m afraid the northern ice cap is pretty much finished long term.

      If we get to around 500 to 600 ppm, both will eventually collapse.

      Reply
  4. Tom

     /  March 4, 2014

    Great post Robert – i’ve linked to it and quoted you over on NBL.

    Business as usual will do us in before the Antarctic melts significantly (2050). As Miep’s site name states – there’s just so much wrong with what we’re doing (industrial civilization) that it will shortly impact food production enough to affect most of the global population. Besides food production we have (especially potable) water loss, novel diseases, increased storms and volcanic activity, unstoppable nuclear radiation, continuing oil spills and other pollution (like coal-ash, mine fires, and run-off of toxic chemicals used in farming, paper production and many others). Now, on top of that list there’s the usual penchant for human violence and all the tipping points we’ve crossed – the self-reinforcing feedback loops that aren’t being reversed (and probably can’t be). It’s fairly obvious to those of us paying attention that we’re in serious trouble and can’t expect to continue this bizarre set of living arrangements indefinitely.

    Reply
    • A global food crisis will impact non-producer states and politically weak/unstable producer states first (see Ukraine). The first phase is increasing poverty in states that are unable to provide low-cost food to populations. This stress will switch production more to low-cost goods such as plant-based foods on first a regional and then an international basis.

      Countries at the periphery will suffer severe strain and instability, should such a crisis arise and even those living in producer nations with relatively high stability will feel a pinch. Food importers will see budget deficits again rise and the relative value of their own non-food industries fall.

      The issue is somewhat similar to the 2008 oil price crisis in that it will put stress on financial systems not geared toward lower leverage/less risk.

      But, in itself, the first wave will not be enough to wreck civilization. It will be a near miss.

      By the time the 2030s roll around, the difficulties will be far greater. But humans are resilient. So there will be a lot of ingenuity thrown into survival at that point. Now, we’re still mostly sleep walking…

      Reply
    • Ancient “Giant Virus” Revived From Siberian Permafrost

      Climate change could release more ancient viruses. Is there a risk to humans?
      Buried deep in the Siberian permafrost and untouched for over 30,000 years, researchers have discovered what is thought to be the newest representative of what are loosely known as “giant viruses.”

      A team led by Jean-Michel Claverie and Chantal Abergel of Aix-Marseille University in Marseille, France, made the discovery of the previously unknown virus, which has been dubbed Pithovirus sibericum and can be revived in the lab.

      Reply
    • I saw this and thought of your concerns, Bob.

      Reply
  5. Tom

     /  March 4, 2014

    Colorado Bob: yes – I saw that and posted it as yet another potential “problem” from melting Arctic ice that no one seems to realize. The same holds true from rainforest destruction, but that isn’t ceasing either.

    Robert (and others): here’s a little more on that back of the envelope calculation that was brought up in a recent post.

    http://survivalacres.com/blog/ghg.html

    and this by Kevin Moore over on xraymike’s blog (in fact the above is the link mike provides):

    I’ve done this quickly but I think you will find it correct: let me know if it’s not.

    You need to consider that the initial values for CO2 (290ppm) CH4 (750ppb) and NOx (270ppb) corresponded with a relatively steady state, with orbital factors associated with elliptical transition and wobble largely determining changes in overall heating, and there fore average temperature. Lower concentrations of than those would probably have resulted in a mini (or maxi) ice age.

    So the important factor is the elevation of greenhouse gas concentrations and their relative forcing compared to the relative increase in heat loss as the temperature rises.

    Yes, CO2 is about 40% higher than pre-industrial, so its warming effect is about 40% greater.

    Atmospheric methane was starting to level out around 2007, but has increased significantly since then. The relative warming factor is somewhat in excess of 100 in the short term, but we can use the figure of 100 x CO2. 1750ppb = approximately 2ppm, so the relative forcing of methane is around 2 x 100 = 200ppm CO2 equivalent, giving a total CO2 equivalent of 400 + 200 = 600ppm for CO2 + CH4..

    Using 300ppb and a relative forcing of 300 for NOx gives us 0.3 x 300 = about 100 ppm CO2 equivalent for atmospheric NOx.

    That currently gives a total CO2 equivalence of around 700ppm CO2, approximately twice the pre-industrial level of warming.

    That gives us no cause for complacency because a lot of warming results from water vapour. Whilst water vapour can never be a primary forcing agent (because it condenses or freezes), water vapour will contribute substantially to warming cause by primary drivers. And the warmer it gets, the more water vapour will be generated.

    Not considered in you analysis is the fact that oceans have been absorbing anthropogenic CO2 for 200 years and have been reducing the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere. Should significant warming of the oceans occur their capacity to absorb CO2 will become significantly reduced, and if really high ocean temperatures are achieved they will become net exporter of CO2 to the atmosphere.

    And, as has been discussed at length, there are numerous semi-sequestered forms of methane and carbon dioxide which are being desequestered by current levels of warming.

    All the evidence indicates it is too late to slow down warming (not that anyone of significance is seriously attempting to do so).

    All the best Robert, others.

    Reply
    • Tom –
      CHICAGO, ILLINOIS—When wildlife pathologists arrived at Hay Island off the coast of Nova Scotia in March 2012, they met an eerie sight. Of the thousands of silver and black-speckled gray seals that lay on the rocky outcrop, roughly a fifth were dead, despite showing no outward signs of disease. Necropsies revealed that 406 dead seals were infested with a crescent moon-shaped parasite that had destroyed their livers, but it wasn’t clear what the organism was or how the seals had contracted the parasite. Researchers revealed the parasite’s identity here today at the annual meeting of AAAS, which publishes Science. They also explained how melting ice in the Arctic Circle is helping such pathogens disperse throughout the world’s oceans.

      http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/02/melting-arctic-ice-releases-deadly-seal-parasite

      Reply
      • Tom

         /  March 5, 2014

        You’re an amazing source of information Colorado Bob. Thanks!

        There will be many “knock-on” effects from the warming world that we haven’t considered, most will be detrimental to humanity, but certainly all species, plant, animal, bird, reptile, etc. will be susceptible.

        Reply
    • Forcing from CO2 rise since 1880: 1.8 Watts per meter squared.
      Forcing from CH4 rise since 1880: .6 Watts per meter squared.
      Forcing from NOx rise since 1880: .1 Watts per meter squared.

      Negative forcing from Sulfates: -.5 Watts per meter squared.

      Updated info from NASA and IPCC.

      Given these measures, and assuming that NASA and IPCC are correct, we end up with an equivalent CO2e forcing of approximately 445 ppm value before taking out the effect of sulfate aerosols which gets us back down to approximately 415 ppm CO2e.

      The above over-counts dramatically even if there are error bars in the NASA/IPCC estimates. In short, you have to double count, over-count, and massage figures to get to 700 ppm CO2e.

      In any case, I’ve been quoting NASA stats to climate change deniers since day one. So I don’t think it’s reasonable to abandon them now. For my part, I believe this is the best of science that is available for use now. So there’s no reason to resort to back of the napkin analysis, when there’s already quality analysis out there.

      http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/lacis_01/

      http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-chapter2.pdf

      http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309095069

      In any case, I might as well right an article on radiative forcing and see if I can dig up all the latest references to give a better overall assessment. But my bet is that this comes very close to the current state of the science on the matter.

      Reply
    • One more point to look at is the energy imbalance at the top of the atmosphere. In recent years we’ve ranged between .6 to .9 Watts per meter squared. This is in rough alignment with a net forcing around 400 ppm CO2e when factoring in solar flux and taking into account feedbacks not yet in play (but that are likely locked in). This gives us a Charney warming (equilibrium) of around 1.6 C total and an Earth Systems Sensitivity warming of around 2.8 to 3.2 C, long term at steady state net forcing.

      If actual CO2e were in the 500 or 700 ppm range, you’d expect energy imbalance to be double to triple what we see now.

      Reply
  6. SINGAPORE – The month of February has set a record for being the driest month in Singapore since 1869. In addition, it is also the most windy month in the last 30 years.
    http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/february-sets-record-driest-month-1869

    Reply
  7. Australia is being hit by more days of extreme heat and high fire danger, trends that may accelerate as the planet heats up, says the latest State of the Climate report by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO.

    The biennial survey found mean temperatures nationwide had risen 0.9 degrees since 1910 and will be another 0.6 to 1.5 degrees warmer by 2030, compared with the 1980-99 average. Further, southern Australia is drying out.

    By 2050, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow at the pace of the past decade, temperatures will rise between 2.2 and 5 degrees above the 1980-99 average, the agencies said. “We expect there to be a continuation of (the) warming and probably an acceleration … in the decades to come,” said Penny Whetton, a climate projection expert at CSIRO.

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/australia-experiencing-more-extreme-heat-high-fire-danger-days-says-the-latest-state-of-the-climate-report-20140303-340cf.html#ixzz2uzqYGPEI

    Reply
  8. I have what is probably a goofy question, but I’m going to ask it anyway: As the ocean becomes more acidic, does the chemical reaction of that acid with calcium contribute to warming?

    Reply
    • Not directly. The products are carbonic acid and carbonate ions which tend to remain dissolved in the water column and don’t tend to become gasses.

      But increasing levels of CO2 in the oceans reduces the ability of oceans to uptake atmospheric CO2 over time. In essence, the stores fill up. If atmospheric levels of CO2 drop, some of the ocean excess may gas out, keeping atmospheric levels higher than they would have been otherwise.

      Reply
  9. Andy

     /  March 4, 2014

    As a young guy, I worked in the North West Territories (typical young guy adventures). This was over 30 years ago, and in the past few years I’ve watched the temperatures in the winter. Where it was below -45C when I lived there, it now shows -30C as a terrible cold. It is now showing snowfall at times in the winter where it was too cold to snow back then. Last winter it crept above 0C in December at times. Currently -10 to – 20C, it should be less than -30C daytime. Yes, this is anecdotal but if we consider that Hay River NWT is on the path where the cold air is being drawn from, this implies higher temperatures further to the north.

    My thoughts have gone beyond seeking proof, verification is done (causation / correlation). I look beyond mitigation, we are incapable as a species to do so. Rather I have been looking at consequences. For example, reduced crop yields in the US generating social unrest in net importer countries. I see this as a growing discussion of importance. Now I try to determine “when” and “where”.

    As a teen I read a lot of Aldous Huxley, one quote stuck with me and I always carried it. It was tremendously fortuitous. “Forests precede man, deserts follow him”.

    Excellent work, excellent information. I look forward to reading your blog every new post.

    Reply
    • Andy your quote from Huxley –
      “Forests precede man, deserts follow him”.

      Waterless World: China’s ever-expanding desert wasteland

      For decades, researchers have battled desertification in this part of Inner Mongolia, which sends sandstorms blasting into Beijing every spring. Scientists first came in the 1960s to tame sand dunes that had spread because of excessive farming and grazing.

      In the 1980s institutes like the Naiman Semi-Arid Research Center were founded to develop methods to help bring back the grasslands. They planted trees such as poplars and aspen pines, and enclosed fields to encourage the growth of native grasses.

      When it came to slowing local causes of desertification, their efforts were largely successful. From 1985 to 2005, the amount of degraded land in Naiman decreased from 733 square miles to 463 square miles (an area about the size of New York City’s five boroughs).

      But now climate change is bringing drier, hotter weather, threatening to undo all their work.

      Since the turn of the century, average rainfall has decreased 10 percent in this part of Inner Mongolia, according to the Naiman research center. The average temperature has risen by about 1 degree Fahrenheit.
      Link

      Reply
  10. The biggest disaster you’ve probably never heard of

    One of the world’s worst droughts has been quietly killing farms in northeastern Brazil. GlobalPost took a weeklong trip to see how they’re faring.

    Link

    Brazil drought pushes Arabica prices up 78% in 4 months

    Link

    Reply
  11. There have been heatwaves in Slovenia and Australia, snow in Vietnam and the return of the polar vortex to North America. Britain has had its wettest winter in 250 years but temperatures in parts of Russia and the Arctic have been 10C above normal. Meanwhile, the southern hemisphere has had the warmest start to a year ever recorded, with millions of people sweltering in Brazilian and southern African cities.

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/feb/25/world-2014-extreme-weather-events

    Reply
  12. KUALA LUMPUR: Haze shrouded Malaysia’s capital and its surroundings on Tuesday, causing “unhealthy” air quality due to fires from a drought that has led to water rationing.

    While dry spells are common in the tropical nation, the current two-month heatwave has been unusually long, sparking bushfires and water supply cuts to more than two million people as reservoirs threaten to run dry.

    Read more: Link

    Reply
  13. New data confirms Arctic ice trends: Ice-free season getting longer by five days per decade
    Date:
    March 4, 2014
    Source:

    University College London

    Summary:
    The ice-free season across the Arctic is getting longer by five days per decade, according to new research from a team including Prof Julienne Stroeve (UCL Earth Sciences). New analysis of satellite data shows the Arctic Ocean absorbing ever more of the sun’s energy in summer, leading to a later appearance of sea ice in the autumn. In some regions, autumn freeze-up is occurring up to 11 days per decade later than it used to.

    Link

    Reply
  14. More crazy –
    Snowfall 3 times average levels in Kanto, Koshin

    The eastern areas of the nation experienced severe winter weather for the third successive year. In addition, there were a number of low pressure systems off the southern coast of Honshu in February. The systems caused massive snowfalls on the Pacific side of the archipelago on Feb. 7 to 8 and Feb. 14 to 16. Snowfall records were broken at 19 of 330 measuring points across the nation. Kofu recorded 114 centimeters, Maebashi recorded 73 centimeters and Chiba marked 33 centimeters.

    Meanwhile, snowfall totals fell below average in many places on the Sea of Japan coast because the severe cold in the upper atmosphere shifted south temporarily. In the Hokuriku region, snowfall was the second least on record, reaching only 34 percent of average annual totals.
    http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001087291

    Reply
  15. As a system nears a tipping point it moves to the extremes.

    Tipping Points: What Wall Street and Nature Have in Common
    http://www.livescience.com/7874-tipping-points-wall-street-nature-common.html

    Reply
  16. Steve Goddard –
    Not one of the finer brains at the turn of the century. This guy predicted the rebound of Arctic Sea Ice in 2008, and used half governor Palin in his words.

    His “scientific” end was :
    “You bet Ya’.
    The Artic Sea Ice was “rebounding nicely” that year he said.
    4 years later the ASI fell out of bed in 2012.
    This Feb. was the weakest in the satellite record.
    Notice this strange thing on the chart :

    Notice how we’ve bottomed out at Plus or Minus 2 standard deviations , and the blue line, is growing flat at the bottom.

    We just moved down -2 standard deviations in Feb. That’s a pretty slick trick to do in the dark if everything is, “Oakly – Dokly”.
    https://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

    Reply
    • Yep. And NSIDC includes all record low years in their average. So the -2 SD line just keeps falling.

      Reply
    • Poor Steve. It must be terrible to continuously make ardent predictions only to be proven wrong time and again. I wonder what tales of global warming denial and sea ice recovery he’s spinning up now?

      Reply
  17. New dating :

    New evidence establishes for the first time that Cahokia, a sprawling, pre-Columbian city situated at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, hosted a sizable population of immigrants…………….(they) tested the chemical composition of 133 teeth from 87 people buried at Cahokia during its heyday …………. graduate. student Philip Slater discovered that immigrants formed one-third of the population of the city throughout its history (from about AD 1050 through the early 1300s).
    http://phys.org/news/2014-03-native-american-city-mississippi-america.html

    Reply
  18. Robert,
    Do you have access to the various formulas used for the different gasses which were calculated by Prinn to come up with 478ppm CO2e?

    Reply
  19. I have been saying that New Zealand has been experiencing the most equitable weather on the planet, albeit cooler than normal.

    That is changing. Christchurch, which has suffered sunken ground and damaged infrastructure from the 2011 earthquakes, has had more than its share of floods and extreme weather, Just last week it had devastating floods following on from a tornado and 100 mph winds.

    Now cyclone Lusi is on its way
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11218607

    Reply
    • I honestly don’t think anyone will be spared extreme weather as human warming ramps up. Antarctic ice melt will eventually play havoc with southern hemisphere weather the way NH is being currently riled by Arctic melt.

      Reply
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