Tag Archives: Temperature rise

UK’s ‘really shocking’ climate record is damned

Britain, host of November’s UN talks, COP-26, is pilloried by its own advisers for the UK’s “really shocking” climate record.

LONDON, 17 June, 2021 − In a searing indictment of its failure to act fast enough to prepare for the onslaught of rising heat, there is condemnation of the British government by its independent advisers for the UK’s “really shocking” climate record.

The latest science says the world could warm by an average of 4°C over historic levels by 2100, an increase which would prove devastating to human life and the natural world.

The advisers’ assessment says the UK’s plans are inadequate to cope even with a 2°C temperature rise, a risky limit which exceeds the 1.5°C maximum most of the world’s nations agreed to aim for as the maximum tolerable rise in the Paris Agreement of 2015.

The report is the work of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent statutory body set up to advise the UK government and the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, on emissions targets, and to report to Parliament on progress made in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

“Adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored”

The CCC’s chief executive, Chris Stark, said CCC members were so frustrated with the lack of progress on climate-proofing the UK that they deliberately made this report “spiky”. He said: “It’s really troubling how little attention the government has paid to this.

“Overall, the level of risk that we are facing from climate change has increased since five years ago. Our preparations are not keeping pace with the risks that we face. That is a very concerning conclusion.”

Dr Stark told BBC News: “The extent of planning for many of the risks is really shocking. We are not thinking clearly about what lies ahead.”

The CCC’s assessment examines risks and opportunities affecting every aspect of life in the UK. It concludes that action to improve the nation’s resilience is failing to keep pace with the impacts of a hotter planet and the growing climate risks the UK faces.

Threat to net zero

The UK is already committed to a legally-binding goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by the middle of the century. This  CCC assessment focuses, not on mitigation emissions cuts but on adaptation preparing to live with the inevitable. The government’s failure to act on adaptation is putting its net zero goal in jeopardy, the New Scientist reports.

Since the CCC’s last assessment five years ago, more than 570,000 new homes have been built in the UK that are not resilient to future high temperatures; since 2018 over 4,000 heat-related deaths have been recorded in England alone.

Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee, said: “Adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, still sitting in rags by the stove: under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored. A detailed, effective action plan that prepares the UK for climate change is now essential and needed urgently.”

UK-wide, nearly 60% of the risks and opportunities assessed in the 1500-page report have been given the highest urgency score. Among the priority risk areas identified by the CCC as needing immediate attention, within the next two years at the most, are:

  • Terrestrial and freshwater habitats and species from multiple hazards
  • Risks to soil health from increased flooding and drought
  • Risks to crops, livestock and commercial trees
  • Risks to supplies of food, goods and vital services from climate-related collapse of supply chains and distribution networks
  • Risks to people and the economy from climate-related failure of the power system
  • Risks to human health, wellbeing and productivity from increased exposure to heat in homes and other buildings
  • Multiple risks to the UK from climate change impacts overseas

The changing climate will create some opportunities for the UK, the CCC acknowledges, but these are massively outweighed by the risks.

It says the government must deliver a much better action plan to support good adaptation planning across the UK and integrate this into all relevant government plans and policies. The government has to date not heeded the CCC’s advice on the importance of this plan or on funding it adequately, and this needs to change, the Committee says.

In response, a government spokesman commented: “We welcome this report and will consider its recommendations closely as we continue to demonstrate global leadership on climate change ahead of COP-26 [the UN climate summit to be hosted by the UK] in November.” − Climate News Network

Britain, host of November’s UN talks, COP-26, is pilloried by its own advisers for the UK’s “really shocking” climate record.

LONDON, 17 June, 2021 − In a searing indictment of its failure to act fast enough to prepare for the onslaught of rising heat, there is condemnation of the British government by its independent advisers for the UK’s “really shocking” climate record.

The latest science says the world could warm by an average of 4°C over historic levels by 2100, an increase which would prove devastating to human life and the natural world.

The advisers’ assessment says the UK’s plans are inadequate to cope even with a 2°C temperature rise, a risky limit which exceeds the 1.5°C maximum most of the world’s nations agreed to aim for as the maximum tolerable rise in the Paris Agreement of 2015.

The report is the work of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent statutory body set up to advise the UK government and the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, on emissions targets, and to report to Parliament on progress made in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

“Adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored”

The CCC’s chief executive, Chris Stark, said CCC members were so frustrated with the lack of progress on climate-proofing the UK that they deliberately made this report “spiky”. He said: “It’s really troubling how little attention the government has paid to this.

“Overall, the level of risk that we are facing from climate change has increased since five years ago. Our preparations are not keeping pace with the risks that we face. That is a very concerning conclusion.”

Dr Stark told BBC News: “The extent of planning for many of the risks is really shocking. We are not thinking clearly about what lies ahead.”

The CCC’s assessment examines risks and opportunities affecting every aspect of life in the UK. It concludes that action to improve the nation’s resilience is failing to keep pace with the impacts of a hotter planet and the growing climate risks the UK faces.

Threat to net zero

The UK is already committed to a legally-binding goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by the middle of the century. This  CCC assessment focuses, not on mitigation emissions cuts but on adaptation preparing to live with the inevitable. The government’s failure to act on adaptation is putting its net zero goal in jeopardy, the New Scientist reports.

Since the CCC’s last assessment five years ago, more than 570,000 new homes have been built in the UK that are not resilient to future high temperatures; since 2018 over 4,000 heat-related deaths have been recorded in England alone.

Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee, said: “Adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, still sitting in rags by the stove: under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored. A detailed, effective action plan that prepares the UK for climate change is now essential and needed urgently.”

UK-wide, nearly 60% of the risks and opportunities assessed in the 1500-page report have been given the highest urgency score. Among the priority risk areas identified by the CCC as needing immediate attention, within the next two years at the most, are:

  • Terrestrial and freshwater habitats and species from multiple hazards
  • Risks to soil health from increased flooding and drought
  • Risks to crops, livestock and commercial trees
  • Risks to supplies of food, goods and vital services from climate-related collapse of supply chains and distribution networks
  • Risks to people and the economy from climate-related failure of the power system
  • Risks to human health, wellbeing and productivity from increased exposure to heat in homes and other buildings
  • Multiple risks to the UK from climate change impacts overseas

The changing climate will create some opportunities for the UK, the CCC acknowledges, but these are massively outweighed by the risks.

It says the government must deliver a much better action plan to support good adaptation planning across the UK and integrate this into all relevant government plans and policies. The government has to date not heeded the CCC’s advice on the importance of this plan or on funding it adequately, and this needs to change, the Committee says.

In response, a government spokesman commented: “We welcome this report and will consider its recommendations closely as we continue to demonstrate global leadership on climate change ahead of COP-26 [the UN climate summit to be hosted by the UK] in November.” − Climate News Network

Solve nature and climate together or not at all

Sink or swim as one, says science. Solve nature and climate together, or neither of the twin crises will be soluble.

LONDON, 11 June, 2021 − Two of the world’s leading scientific institutions have joined forces to arrive at a not very surprising conclusion: solve nature and climate together, or forget them both. If the world does not work to tackle the climate crisis and the extinction threat confronting millions of wild species together, it has little hope of solving either of them separately.

So says a report published by the snappily-titled Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), each respected for their commanding knowledge in their own fields.

The report, the IPBES/IPCC Workshop Report, which marks the first collaboration between the two bodies’ scientists, is not content simply to urge joint action on the intertwined problems threatening the world. It goes on to identify what it says are key options for solving them.

Both biodiversity loss and climate change are driven by human economic activities and mutually reinforce each other, the report says.

While previous policies have largely tackled the twin crises independently of each other, addressing the synergies between the two simultaneously offers hope of maximising benefits and meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“The warmer the world gets, the less food, drinking water and other key contributions nature can make to our lives”

“Human-caused climate change is increasingly threatening nature and its contributions to people, including its ability to help mitigate climate change. The warmer the world gets, the less food, drinking water and other key contributions nature can make to our lives, in many regions”, said Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the report’s scientific steering committee.

“Changes in biodiversity, in turn, affect climate, especially through impacts on nitrogen, carbon and water cycles,” he said. “The evidence is clear: a sustainable global future for people and nature is still achievable, but it requires transformative change with rapid and far-reaching actions of a type never before attempted, building on ambitious emissions reductions.

“Solving some of the strong and apparently unavoidable trade-offs between climate and biodiversity will entail a profound collective shift of individual and shared values concerning nature − such as moving away from the concept of economic progress based solely on GDP growth, to one that balances human development with multiple values of nature for a good quality of life, while not overshooting biophysical and social limits.”

The authors also warn that narrowly-focused action to combat climate change can directly and indirectly harm nature, and vice versa, but say there are many ways to benefit both areas.

Their suggestions include:

* Stopping the loss and degradation of carbon- and species-rich ecosystems on land and in the ocean and restoring them. The authors say reducing deforestation and forest degradation can help to lower human-caused greenhouse gas emissions by between 0.4 and 5.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent every year.

End damaging subsidies

* Increasing sustainable agriculture and forestry to improve the capacity to adapt to climate change, improve biodiversity, increase carbon storage and reduce emissions. The report estimates this improved management of cropland and grazing systems could offer annual climate change mitigation potential of 3 to 6 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent.

* Enhanced and better targeted conservation supported by strong climate adaptation and innovation. Protected areas currently represent about 15% of land and 7.5% of the ocean. Global estimates of what the world needs range from 30 to 50% of all ocean and land surface areas.

* Eliminating subsidies that support both local and national activities harmful to biodiversity, such as deforestation, excessive fertilisation and over-fishing, can also support climate change mitigation and adaptation. It can also help to change individual consumption patterns, reduce loss and waste and shift diets, especially in rich countries, towards more plant-based options.

The report also warns against climate mitigation and adaptation measures which it says can harm biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. These measures, it says, include increasing irrigation capacity, a common response to adapt agricultural systems to drought which it says often leads to water conflicts, dam building and long- term soil degradation from salinisation. − Climate News Network

Sink or swim as one, says science. Solve nature and climate together, or neither of the twin crises will be soluble.

LONDON, 11 June, 2021 − Two of the world’s leading scientific institutions have joined forces to arrive at a not very surprising conclusion: solve nature and climate together, or forget them both. If the world does not work to tackle the climate crisis and the extinction threat confronting millions of wild species together, it has little hope of solving either of them separately.

So says a report published by the snappily-titled Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), each respected for their commanding knowledge in their own fields.

The report, the IPBES/IPCC Workshop Report, which marks the first collaboration between the two bodies’ scientists, is not content simply to urge joint action on the intertwined problems threatening the world. It goes on to identify what it says are key options for solving them.

Both biodiversity loss and climate change are driven by human economic activities and mutually reinforce each other, the report says.

While previous policies have largely tackled the twin crises independently of each other, addressing the synergies between the two simultaneously offers hope of maximising benefits and meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“The warmer the world gets, the less food, drinking water and other key contributions nature can make to our lives”

“Human-caused climate change is increasingly threatening nature and its contributions to people, including its ability to help mitigate climate change. The warmer the world gets, the less food, drinking water and other key contributions nature can make to our lives, in many regions”, said Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the report’s scientific steering committee.

“Changes in biodiversity, in turn, affect climate, especially through impacts on nitrogen, carbon and water cycles,” he said. “The evidence is clear: a sustainable global future for people and nature is still achievable, but it requires transformative change with rapid and far-reaching actions of a type never before attempted, building on ambitious emissions reductions.

“Solving some of the strong and apparently unavoidable trade-offs between climate and biodiversity will entail a profound collective shift of individual and shared values concerning nature − such as moving away from the concept of economic progress based solely on GDP growth, to one that balances human development with multiple values of nature for a good quality of life, while not overshooting biophysical and social limits.”

The authors also warn that narrowly-focused action to combat climate change can directly and indirectly harm nature, and vice versa, but say there are many ways to benefit both areas.

Their suggestions include:

* Stopping the loss and degradation of carbon- and species-rich ecosystems on land and in the ocean and restoring them. The authors say reducing deforestation and forest degradation can help to lower human-caused greenhouse gas emissions by between 0.4 and 5.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent every year.

End damaging subsidies

* Increasing sustainable agriculture and forestry to improve the capacity to adapt to climate change, improve biodiversity, increase carbon storage and reduce emissions. The report estimates this improved management of cropland and grazing systems could offer annual climate change mitigation potential of 3 to 6 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent.

* Enhanced and better targeted conservation supported by strong climate adaptation and innovation. Protected areas currently represent about 15% of land and 7.5% of the ocean. Global estimates of what the world needs range from 30 to 50% of all ocean and land surface areas.

* Eliminating subsidies that support both local and national activities harmful to biodiversity, such as deforestation, excessive fertilisation and over-fishing, can also support climate change mitigation and adaptation. It can also help to change individual consumption patterns, reduce loss and waste and shift diets, especially in rich countries, towards more plant-based options.

The report also warns against climate mitigation and adaptation measures which it says can harm biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. These measures, it says, include increasing irrigation capacity, a common response to adapt agricultural systems to drought which it says often leads to water conflicts, dam building and long- term soil degradation from salinisation. − Climate News Network

Global heating causes 1 in 3 heat-related deaths

In a heatwave, global warming driven by fossil fuels becomes an act of self-harm. It causes 1 in 3 heat-related deaths.

LONDON, 1 June, 2021 − As temperatures rise, so do the numbers of people dying from heat stroke and other temperature-related health conditions. And now statisticians can separate the extra hazard delivered by global heating: 1 in 3 heat-related deaths now occurs because of the profligate use of fossil fuels for the last century.

The additional stress of heat caused entirely by human action now claims 172 lives in Rome every year; 189 in Athens, 177 in Madrid and even 82 Londoners. Across the Atlantic, the extra greenhouse gas kills 141 New Yorkers annually and 136 in Santiago, Chile. In Bangkok, 146 perish because of anthropogenic heat stress; in Tokyo, 156, in Ho Chi Minh City, 137.

Extreme heat kills: it can do so in at least 27 different ways. Extremes of heat are a summer hazard even in temperate climate zones. Annual averages might suggest pleasantly warm conditions, but that’s not a reliable guide: summers have always arrived with the risk of sometimes murderous heat.

But all the evidence from past decades suggests that global average temperatures have risen by at least one degree Celsius in the last hundred years. And with that rise in temperature, so has the risk of more prolonged, more intense and more frequent extremes of heat risen too.

“We expect the proportion of heat-related deaths to continue to grow if we don’t do something about climate change”

An international consortium of 68 researchers reports in the journal Nature Climate Change that daily temperature readings and mortality tables from 732 centres in 43 countries revealed what rising levels of mercury driven by human activity so far could do for mortality and morbidity associated with heat.

The findings are likely to be conservative: some tropical regions with the highest risk of extreme heat and very high rates of population growth were excluded because the daily death figures were not available.

Not surprisingly, the proportion of death from heat extremes attributable to climate change varied: from 20% to more than 75%, delivering an average of 37%, or one death in three. And these extra deaths occurred between 1991 and 2018. That is, climate change is silently claiming lives already.

The study is not the first to try to quantify the extra cost of global heating driven by fossil fuel use. Extreme events happen anyway: climate change tends to make them more extreme, and in May researchers tried to estimate the extra lives lost and the additional homes flooded during one terrible storm made even more terrible by human-triggered sea level rise.

Worse to come

There is now a huge body of evidence to suggest that more frequent and more devastating extremes of heat are on the way.

“We expect the proportion of heat-related deaths to continue to grow if we don’t do something about climate change or adapt,” said Ana M. Vicedo-Cabrera of the University of Bern in Switzerland, the first author.

“So far the global average temperature has only increased by about 1°C, which is a fraction of what we could face if emissions continue to grow unchecked.”

And her co-author Antonio Gasparrini of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine added: “The message is clear: climate change will not just have devastating impacts in the future, but every continent is already experiencing the dire consequences of human activities on the planet. We must act now.” − Climate News Network

In a heatwave, global warming driven by fossil fuels becomes an act of self-harm. It causes 1 in 3 heat-related deaths.

LONDON, 1 June, 2021 − As temperatures rise, so do the numbers of people dying from heat stroke and other temperature-related health conditions. And now statisticians can separate the extra hazard delivered by global heating: 1 in 3 heat-related deaths now occurs because of the profligate use of fossil fuels for the last century.

The additional stress of heat caused entirely by human action now claims 172 lives in Rome every year; 189 in Athens, 177 in Madrid and even 82 Londoners. Across the Atlantic, the extra greenhouse gas kills 141 New Yorkers annually and 136 in Santiago, Chile. In Bangkok, 146 perish because of anthropogenic heat stress; in Tokyo, 156, in Ho Chi Minh City, 137.

Extreme heat kills: it can do so in at least 27 different ways. Extremes of heat are a summer hazard even in temperate climate zones. Annual averages might suggest pleasantly warm conditions, but that’s not a reliable guide: summers have always arrived with the risk of sometimes murderous heat.

But all the evidence from past decades suggests that global average temperatures have risen by at least one degree Celsius in the last hundred years. And with that rise in temperature, so has the risk of more prolonged, more intense and more frequent extremes of heat risen too.

“We expect the proportion of heat-related deaths to continue to grow if we don’t do something about climate change”

An international consortium of 68 researchers reports in the journal Nature Climate Change that daily temperature readings and mortality tables from 732 centres in 43 countries revealed what rising levels of mercury driven by human activity so far could do for mortality and morbidity associated with heat.

The findings are likely to be conservative: some tropical regions with the highest risk of extreme heat and very high rates of population growth were excluded because the daily death figures were not available.

Not surprisingly, the proportion of death from heat extremes attributable to climate change varied: from 20% to more than 75%, delivering an average of 37%, or one death in three. And these extra deaths occurred between 1991 and 2018. That is, climate change is silently claiming lives already.

The study is not the first to try to quantify the extra cost of global heating driven by fossil fuel use. Extreme events happen anyway: climate change tends to make them more extreme, and in May researchers tried to estimate the extra lives lost and the additional homes flooded during one terrible storm made even more terrible by human-triggered sea level rise.

Worse to come

There is now a huge body of evidence to suggest that more frequent and more devastating extremes of heat are on the way.

“We expect the proportion of heat-related deaths to continue to grow if we don’t do something about climate change or adapt,” said Ana M. Vicedo-Cabrera of the University of Bern in Switzerland, the first author.

“So far the global average temperature has only increased by about 1°C, which is a fraction of what we could face if emissions continue to grow unchecked.”

And her co-author Antonio Gasparrini of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine added: “The message is clear: climate change will not just have devastating impacts in the future, but every continent is already experiencing the dire consequences of human activities on the planet. We must act now.” − Climate News Network

UN declares 2021 is ‘year for action’ on climate

The year of plague and fire, record heat, melting ice and rising seas: who’s surprised 2021 is UN’s “year for action”?

LONDON, 23 April, 2021 − The world’s most authoritative global forecasters have soberly confirmed conclusions first outlined in January. The year 2020, the year of Covid-19, of planet-wide economic slowdown, did almost nothing to damp global heating, which is why the UN says 2021 must be a “year of action”.

Even at a point in the natural weather cycle in which tropical conditions should have been cooler, it was hotter: one of the three warmest years on record.

The decade 2011-2020 is now the hottest on record. Global average temperatures reached 1.2°C above the long-term average for most of human history.

Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere − for most of human history around 285 parts per million − have now reached 410 ppm. This year they could reach 414 ppm, thanks to ever-greater use of fossil fuels.

Relentless change

Six years after the nations of the world vowed, in Paris in 2015, to act to keep global temperature rise “well below” 2°C, and ideally at 1.5°C, the last six years have all been the warmest since records began.

All this is catalogued in the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report State of the Global Climate 2020. It is the 28th such report since 1993. It simply confirms and underscores provisional conclusions published in January.

“The basic message remains the same, and we now have 28 more years of data that show significant temperature increases over land and sea as well as other changes like sea level rise, melting of sea ice and glaciers, and changes in precipitation patterns,” said Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary-general.

“All key climate indicators and associated impact information in this report highlight relentless, continuing climate change, an increasing occurrence and intensification of extreme events, and severe losses and damage, affecting people, societies and economies.”

“The bottom line? The way we are running human affairs is destabilising the climate system, with predictable and increasingly dire consequences”

The report appeared as US President Biden convened a virtual summit on climate. It showed, said UN secretary-general António Guterres, that there is no time to waste: “The climate is changing and the impacts are already too costly for people and the planet. This is the year for action.”

In the 2020 summer, the Arctic sea ice dwindled, for only the second time in recorded history, to below below 4 million square kilometres. The Greenland ice sheet lost 152 billion tonnes of ice between September 2019 and August 2020. The Antarctic ice sheet has been losing between 175 and 225 billion tonnes of ice a year in meltwater.

Because such loses are difficult to imagine, the report helpfully points out that 200 billion tonnes is about twice the annual discharge of the river Rhine into the North Sea.

It was a year of record temperatures: the mercury reached 38°C in the town of Verkhoyansk in the Siberian Arctic. Death Valley in California recorded an all-time global record of 54.4°C. Cuba, Dominica, Grenada and Puerto Rico all experienced record national temperatures. In a suburb of Australia’s city Sydney, the thermometer tipped 48.9°C.

Same but worse

Heavy rain and floods in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa triggered destructive swarms of the desert locust. An estimated 690 million people − 9% of humankind − were undernourished. The US saw its largest wildfires ever. Until 2020, the record number of hurricanes to hit the US coasts had stood at nine. Last year there were 12: one of these, Hurricane Laura, caused $19bn in losses.

Scientists have greeted the report with weary resignation and impatience. “Here we go again: 28 issues since the annual exercise began, the message is the same, yet incrementally worse. More floods, fires, heatwaves, storms, melting ice, and natural and human impacts,” said Chris Rapley, a climate scientist at University College London.

“Especially worrisome is that, despite the societal impact of Covid, the signals − atmospheric greenhouse concentrations, ocean heat content, decadal temperature − continued to rise, in some cases with clear acceleration. With estimates of the global mean temperature rise since pre-industrial times now in the range 1.15-1.28°C, the 1.5°C Paris guard-rail is close to being breached.

“The bottom line? The way we have organised and are running human affairs is destabilising the climate system, with predictable and increasingly dire consequences.” − Climate News Network

The year of plague and fire, record heat, melting ice and rising seas: who’s surprised 2021 is UN’s “year for action”?

LONDON, 23 April, 2021 − The world’s most authoritative global forecasters have soberly confirmed conclusions first outlined in January. The year 2020, the year of Covid-19, of planet-wide economic slowdown, did almost nothing to damp global heating, which is why the UN says 2021 must be a “year of action”.

Even at a point in the natural weather cycle in which tropical conditions should have been cooler, it was hotter: one of the three warmest years on record.

The decade 2011-2020 is now the hottest on record. Global average temperatures reached 1.2°C above the long-term average for most of human history.

Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere − for most of human history around 285 parts per million − have now reached 410 ppm. This year they could reach 414 ppm, thanks to ever-greater use of fossil fuels.

Relentless change

Six years after the nations of the world vowed, in Paris in 2015, to act to keep global temperature rise “well below” 2°C, and ideally at 1.5°C, the last six years have all been the warmest since records began.

All this is catalogued in the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report State of the Global Climate 2020. It is the 28th such report since 1993. It simply confirms and underscores provisional conclusions published in January.

“The basic message remains the same, and we now have 28 more years of data that show significant temperature increases over land and sea as well as other changes like sea level rise, melting of sea ice and glaciers, and changes in precipitation patterns,” said Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary-general.

“All key climate indicators and associated impact information in this report highlight relentless, continuing climate change, an increasing occurrence and intensification of extreme events, and severe losses and damage, affecting people, societies and economies.”

“The bottom line? The way we are running human affairs is destabilising the climate system, with predictable and increasingly dire consequences”

The report appeared as US President Biden convened a virtual summit on climate. It showed, said UN secretary-general António Guterres, that there is no time to waste: “The climate is changing and the impacts are already too costly for people and the planet. This is the year for action.”

In the 2020 summer, the Arctic sea ice dwindled, for only the second time in recorded history, to below below 4 million square kilometres. The Greenland ice sheet lost 152 billion tonnes of ice between September 2019 and August 2020. The Antarctic ice sheet has been losing between 175 and 225 billion tonnes of ice a year in meltwater.

Because such loses are difficult to imagine, the report helpfully points out that 200 billion tonnes is about twice the annual discharge of the river Rhine into the North Sea.

It was a year of record temperatures: the mercury reached 38°C in the town of Verkhoyansk in the Siberian Arctic. Death Valley in California recorded an all-time global record of 54.4°C. Cuba, Dominica, Grenada and Puerto Rico all experienced record national temperatures. In a suburb of Australia’s city Sydney, the thermometer tipped 48.9°C.

Same but worse

Heavy rain and floods in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa triggered destructive swarms of the desert locust. An estimated 690 million people − 9% of humankind − were undernourished. The US saw its largest wildfires ever. Until 2020, the record number of hurricanes to hit the US coasts had stood at nine. Last year there were 12: one of these, Hurricane Laura, caused $19bn in losses.

Scientists have greeted the report with weary resignation and impatience. “Here we go again: 28 issues since the annual exercise began, the message is the same, yet incrementally worse. More floods, fires, heatwaves, storms, melting ice, and natural and human impacts,” said Chris Rapley, a climate scientist at University College London.

“Especially worrisome is that, despite the societal impact of Covid, the signals − atmospheric greenhouse concentrations, ocean heat content, decadal temperature − continued to rise, in some cases with clear acceleration. With estimates of the global mean temperature rise since pre-industrial times now in the range 1.15-1.28°C, the 1.5°C Paris guard-rail is close to being breached.

“The bottom line? The way we have organised and are running human affairs is destabilising the climate system, with predictable and increasingly dire consequences.” − Climate News Network

Loss of Arctic sea ice can spoil French wine harvest

What happens in the Arctic may not stay there. Loss of Arctic sea ice can dump the polar blizzards elsewhere.

LONDON, 19 April, 2021 − Once again, scientists have linked a weather-related catastrophe directly to human-induced climate change. Extreme frost and springtime snowfalls in Western Europe can be pinned to the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice.

So, paradoxically, global heating may have had the unexpected effect of wiping out around one third of the French wine harvest for this coming year, after temperatures so low that growers were forced to light bonfires in their vineyards to save the first buds from the chill.

“Climate change doesn’t always manifest in the most obvious ways,” said Alun Hubbard, of the Arctic University of Norway. “It’s easy to extrapolate models to show that winters are getting warmer and to forecast a virtually snow-free future in Europe, but our most recent study shows that is too simplistic. We should be beware of making broad, sweeping statements about the impacts of climate change.”

Professor Hubbard and colleagues report in the journal Nature Geoscience that they measured telltale isotope signatures in water vapour from Finland in February 2018 during an episode of freezing snow in Europe, in an anticyclone dubbed “the Beast from the East” by meteorologists and the media.

“The abrupt changes being witnessed across the Arctic now really are affecting the entire planet”

They found that the Barents Sea north of Scandinavia was anomalously warm. And 60% of the sea’s surface was free of ice, and the same sea lost 140 billion tonnes of water to evaporation during this too-warm February. This enormous atmospheric burden of water vapour provided, they calculate, 88% of the snow that was to fall over northern Europe that month.

Then they looked at the pattern over the years from 1979 to 2020, to find that, for every square metre of ice that vanished in the month of March − itself part of a pattern of Arctic temperature rise − evaporation across the Barents Sea increased by 70 kg, and this could be matched with increases in Europe’s maximum snowfall.

“Our analysis directly links Arctic sea ice loss with increased evaporation and extreme snow fall,” they write, and warn that by 2080 an ice-free Barents Sea “will be a major source of winter moisture for continental Europe.”

The Beast from the East brought much of Europe to a halt, at an economic cost of an estimated $1bn (£0.72bn) a day. It is still rare for researchers to directly link any particular weather event with climate change driven by profligate use of fossil fuels − that is because climate is what forecasters can reasonably expect, but weather is what actually happens − but some scientists have begun to do so with increasing confidence. And this time, they can explain why.

Natural complexity

The ice cover over the Barents Sea has fallen by 54% since 1979, at the rate of 11,200 sq kms a year, and snow mass across Eurasia has increased. The latest study confirms the link: the isotope signature of Barents water was repeated in the European snows that arrived with the Beast from the East.

“What we’re finding is that sea ice is effectively a lid on the ocean. And with its long term reduction across the Arctic, we’re seeing increasing amounts of moisture enter the atmosphere during winter, which directly impacts our weather further south, causing extremely heavy snowfalls,” said Hannah Bailey of the University of Oulu in Finland, who led the research.

“It might seem counter-intuitive, but nature is complex and what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.”

And Professor Hubbard said: “This study illustrates that the abrupt changes being witnessed across the Arctic now really are affecting the entire planet.” − Climate News Network

What happens in the Arctic may not stay there. Loss of Arctic sea ice can dump the polar blizzards elsewhere.

LONDON, 19 April, 2021 − Once again, scientists have linked a weather-related catastrophe directly to human-induced climate change. Extreme frost and springtime snowfalls in Western Europe can be pinned to the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice.

So, paradoxically, global heating may have had the unexpected effect of wiping out around one third of the French wine harvest for this coming year, after temperatures so low that growers were forced to light bonfires in their vineyards to save the first buds from the chill.

“Climate change doesn’t always manifest in the most obvious ways,” said Alun Hubbard, of the Arctic University of Norway. “It’s easy to extrapolate models to show that winters are getting warmer and to forecast a virtually snow-free future in Europe, but our most recent study shows that is too simplistic. We should be beware of making broad, sweeping statements about the impacts of climate change.”

Professor Hubbard and colleagues report in the journal Nature Geoscience that they measured telltale isotope signatures in water vapour from Finland in February 2018 during an episode of freezing snow in Europe, in an anticyclone dubbed “the Beast from the East” by meteorologists and the media.

“The abrupt changes being witnessed across the Arctic now really are affecting the entire planet”

They found that the Barents Sea north of Scandinavia was anomalously warm. And 60% of the sea’s surface was free of ice, and the same sea lost 140 billion tonnes of water to evaporation during this too-warm February. This enormous atmospheric burden of water vapour provided, they calculate, 88% of the snow that was to fall over northern Europe that month.

Then they looked at the pattern over the years from 1979 to 2020, to find that, for every square metre of ice that vanished in the month of March − itself part of a pattern of Arctic temperature rise − evaporation across the Barents Sea increased by 70 kg, and this could be matched with increases in Europe’s maximum snowfall.

“Our analysis directly links Arctic sea ice loss with increased evaporation and extreme snow fall,” they write, and warn that by 2080 an ice-free Barents Sea “will be a major source of winter moisture for continental Europe.”

The Beast from the East brought much of Europe to a halt, at an economic cost of an estimated $1bn (£0.72bn) a day. It is still rare for researchers to directly link any particular weather event with climate change driven by profligate use of fossil fuels − that is because climate is what forecasters can reasonably expect, but weather is what actually happens − but some scientists have begun to do so with increasing confidence. And this time, they can explain why.

Natural complexity

The ice cover over the Barents Sea has fallen by 54% since 1979, at the rate of 11,200 sq kms a year, and snow mass across Eurasia has increased. The latest study confirms the link: the isotope signature of Barents water was repeated in the European snows that arrived with the Beast from the East.

“What we’re finding is that sea ice is effectively a lid on the ocean. And with its long term reduction across the Arctic, we’re seeing increasing amounts of moisture enter the atmosphere during winter, which directly impacts our weather further south, causing extremely heavy snowfalls,” said Hannah Bailey of the University of Oulu in Finland, who led the research.

“It might seem counter-intuitive, but nature is complex and what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.”

And Professor Hubbard said: “This study illustrates that the abrupt changes being witnessed across the Arctic now really are affecting the entire planet.” − Climate News Network

Climate heating may speed up to unexpected levels

When the ice thaws, ocean levels rise. And four new studies show climate heating can happen fast.

LONDON, 15 April, 2021 − If climate heating continues apace and the planet goes on warming, then up to a third of Antarctica’s ice shelf could tip into the sea.

And tip is the operative word, according to a separate study: at least one Antarctic glacier could be about to tip into rapid and irreversible retreat if temperatures go on rising.

And rise they could: evidence from the past in a third research programme confirms that at the end of the last Ice Age, Greenland’s temperature rose by somewhere between 5°C and 16°C in just decades, in line with a cascade of climate change events.

And ominously a fourth study of climate change 14,600 years ago confirmed that as the ice retreated, sea levels rose at 10 times the current rate, to 3.6 metres in just a century, and up to 18 metres in a 500-year sequence.

Each study is, on its own, an examination of the complexities of the planetary climate machine and the role of the polar ice sheets in climate change. But the message of the four together is a stark one: climate change is happening, could accelerate and could happen at unexpected speeds.

Unstable at 4°C

The Antarctic ice sheet floats on the sea: were it all to melt, sea levels globally would remain much the same. But the ice sheet plays an important role in stabilising the massive reserves of ice on the continental surface.

“Ice shelves are important buffers preventing glaciers on land from flowing freely into the ocean and contributing to sea level rise,” warned Ella Gilbert, a meteorologist at the University of Reading in the UK. “When they collapse, it’s like a giant cork being removed from a bottle, allowing unimaginable amounts of water from glaciers to pour into the sea.”

She and colleagues report in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that their detailed study of the vulnerable platforms of floating ice around the continent revealed that half a million square kilometres of shelf − 34% in total, including two-thirds of all the ice off the Antarctic Peninsula − would become unstable if global temperatures rose by 4°C, under the business-as-usual scenario in which nations went on burning ever-greater quantities of fossil fuel.

If however the world kept to the limit it agreed in Paris in 2015, that would halve the area at risk and perhaps avoid significant sea level rise. But already, just two Antarctic glaciers are responsible for around 10% of sea level rise at the current rate, and researchers have been warning for years that the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers in West Antarctica could be at risk.

Now researchers in the UK report in the journal The Cryosphere that their computer simulation had identified a series of tipping points for the Pine Island flow.

“Ice shelves are important buffers preventing glaciers on land from contributing to sea level rise. When they collapse, it’s like a giant cork being removed from a bottle, allowing unimaginable amounts of water to pour into the sea”

The third of these, triggered by ocean temperatures that had warmed just 1.2°C, would lead to irretrievable retreat of the entire glacier. Hilmar Gudmundsson, a glaciologist at the UK’s Northumbria University and one of the authors, called the research a “major step forward” in the understanding of the dynamics of the region.

“But the findings of this study also concern me”, he said. “Should the glacier enter unstable irreversible retreat, the impact on sea level could be measured in metres, and as this study shows, once the retreat starts it might be impossible to halt it.”

Rapid polar melt is part of the pattern of climate history. Danish researchers report in Nature Communications that, on the evidence preserved in Greenland ice cores, they identified a series of 30 abrupt climate changes at the close of the Last Ice Age, affecting North Atlantic ocean currents, wind and rainfall patterns and the spread of sea ice: a set of physical processes that changed together, like a row of cascading dominoes.

The precise order of events was difficult to ascertain, but during that sequence the temperature of Greenland soared by 5°C to 16°C in decades to centuries. The question remains open: could such things happen today?

“The results emphasise the importance of trying to limit climate change by, for example, cutting anthropogenic emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, both to reduce the predictable, gradual climate change and to reduce the risk of future abrupt climate change,” said Sune Olander Rasmussen, at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, one of the authors.

Greenland’s future role

“If you do not want the dominoes to topple over, you are better off not to push the table they stand on too much.”

And another study in the same journal by British scientists reports on a close study of geological evidence to decipher the pattern of events during the largest and most rapid pulse of sea level rise at the close of the last Ice Age.

Their study suggested that although the sea levels rose 18 metres in about 500 years − a rate of about 3.6 metres a century − it all happened with relatively little help from a melting Antarctica. As the great glaciers retreated from North America, Europe and Asia, so the oceans rose.

“The next big question is to work out what triggered the ice melt, and what impact the massive influx of meltwater had on ocean currents in the North Atlantic,” said Pippa Whitehouse of the University of Durham, one of the researchers.

“This is very much on our minds today − any disruption to the Gulf Stream, for example due to melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, will have significant consequences for the UK climate.” − Climate News Network

When the ice thaws, ocean levels rise. And four new studies show climate heating can happen fast.

LONDON, 15 April, 2021 − If climate heating continues apace and the planet goes on warming, then up to a third of Antarctica’s ice shelf could tip into the sea.

And tip is the operative word, according to a separate study: at least one Antarctic glacier could be about to tip into rapid and irreversible retreat if temperatures go on rising.

And rise they could: evidence from the past in a third research programme confirms that at the end of the last Ice Age, Greenland’s temperature rose by somewhere between 5°C and 16°C in just decades, in line with a cascade of climate change events.

And ominously a fourth study of climate change 14,600 years ago confirmed that as the ice retreated, sea levels rose at 10 times the current rate, to 3.6 metres in just a century, and up to 18 metres in a 500-year sequence.

Each study is, on its own, an examination of the complexities of the planetary climate machine and the role of the polar ice sheets in climate change. But the message of the four together is a stark one: climate change is happening, could accelerate and could happen at unexpected speeds.

Unstable at 4°C

The Antarctic ice sheet floats on the sea: were it all to melt, sea levels globally would remain much the same. But the ice sheet plays an important role in stabilising the massive reserves of ice on the continental surface.

“Ice shelves are important buffers preventing glaciers on land from flowing freely into the ocean and contributing to sea level rise,” warned Ella Gilbert, a meteorologist at the University of Reading in the UK. “When they collapse, it’s like a giant cork being removed from a bottle, allowing unimaginable amounts of water from glaciers to pour into the sea.”

She and colleagues report in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that their detailed study of the vulnerable platforms of floating ice around the continent revealed that half a million square kilometres of shelf − 34% in total, including two-thirds of all the ice off the Antarctic Peninsula − would become unstable if global temperatures rose by 4°C, under the business-as-usual scenario in which nations went on burning ever-greater quantities of fossil fuel.

If however the world kept to the limit it agreed in Paris in 2015, that would halve the area at risk and perhaps avoid significant sea level rise. But already, just two Antarctic glaciers are responsible for around 10% of sea level rise at the current rate, and researchers have been warning for years that the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers in West Antarctica could be at risk.

Now researchers in the UK report in the journal The Cryosphere that their computer simulation had identified a series of tipping points for the Pine Island flow.

“Ice shelves are important buffers preventing glaciers on land from contributing to sea level rise. When they collapse, it’s like a giant cork being removed from a bottle, allowing unimaginable amounts of water to pour into the sea”

The third of these, triggered by ocean temperatures that had warmed just 1.2°C, would lead to irretrievable retreat of the entire glacier. Hilmar Gudmundsson, a glaciologist at the UK’s Northumbria University and one of the authors, called the research a “major step forward” in the understanding of the dynamics of the region.

“But the findings of this study also concern me”, he said. “Should the glacier enter unstable irreversible retreat, the impact on sea level could be measured in metres, and as this study shows, once the retreat starts it might be impossible to halt it.”

Rapid polar melt is part of the pattern of climate history. Danish researchers report in Nature Communications that, on the evidence preserved in Greenland ice cores, they identified a series of 30 abrupt climate changes at the close of the Last Ice Age, affecting North Atlantic ocean currents, wind and rainfall patterns and the spread of sea ice: a set of physical processes that changed together, like a row of cascading dominoes.

The precise order of events was difficult to ascertain, but during that sequence the temperature of Greenland soared by 5°C to 16°C in decades to centuries. The question remains open: could such things happen today?

“The results emphasise the importance of trying to limit climate change by, for example, cutting anthropogenic emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, both to reduce the predictable, gradual climate change and to reduce the risk of future abrupt climate change,” said Sune Olander Rasmussen, at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, one of the authors.

Greenland’s future role

“If you do not want the dominoes to topple over, you are better off not to push the table they stand on too much.”

And another study in the same journal by British scientists reports on a close study of geological evidence to decipher the pattern of events during the largest and most rapid pulse of sea level rise at the close of the last Ice Age.

Their study suggested that although the sea levels rose 18 metres in about 500 years − a rate of about 3.6 metres a century − it all happened with relatively little help from a melting Antarctica. As the great glaciers retreated from North America, Europe and Asia, so the oceans rose.

“The next big question is to work out what triggered the ice melt, and what impact the massive influx of meltwater had on ocean currents in the North Atlantic,” said Pippa Whitehouse of the University of Durham, one of the researchers.

“This is very much on our minds today − any disruption to the Gulf Stream, for example due to melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, will have significant consequences for the UK climate.” − Climate News Network

Global farming feels the impacts of global heating

Global heating has already set back farming around the world, and wiped out seven years of steady advance.

LONDON, 12 April, 2021 − Climate change has begun to harm the world’s farmers. Compared with a notional world in which global heating is not being driven ever higher by fossil fuel use, a new study finds that the riches to be gleaned from the soil have fallen by 21%.

This, the researchers say, is as if the steady advance in agricultural productivity worldwide − in crop breeding, in farming technologies and in fertiliser use − has been eroded everywhere by more extreme temperatures, more prolonged droughts and more intense rainfall.

“We find that climate change has basically wiped out about seven years of improvements in agricultural productivity over the past 60 years,” said Ariel Ortiz-Bobea, an economist at Cornell University in the US.

“It is equivalent to pressing the pause button on productivity growth back in 2013, and experiencing no improvements since then. Anthropogenic climate change is already slowing us down.”

He and colleagues from Maryland and California report in the journal Nature Climate Change that they developed new ways of looking at farm costs and yields that could account for climate- and weather-related factors. The findings are potentially alarming.

Productivity drops

In the last century, the planet has warmed by at least 1°C above the long term average for most of human history, and is heading for 3°C or more by the end of this century.

By 2050, the total global population could have risen to 10bn: more than two billion extra mouths to be fed. But during the last 60 years, growth in agricultural productivity in the US has been slowed by somewhere between 5 and 15%. In Africa, in Latin America and the Caribbean, growth has slowed by between 26 and 34%.

A study of this kind − comparing the present world with one that might have been − is always open to challenge, and farmers have always had to gamble on good weather and cope with bad harvests.

But over the last seven years, researchers have repeatedly confirmed that a hotter world promises to be a hungrier one. Studies have found that yields of wheat, maize and rice are all vulnerable to climate change.

They have warned that higher temperatures and more atmospheric greenhouse gases could actually affect the nutritional values of legumes, fruit and vegetables, and that changes in weather patterns − in droughts, rainfall and heat waves − will hit harvests.

“Most people perceive climate change as a distant problem. But this is something that is already having an effect”

And since the higher temperatures that global heating brings  inevitably threaten more intense, more prolonged and more extensive heat extremes and droughts, the chances of calamitous harvest failure in more than one continent at the same time will be much greater: global famine could follow.

So the latest study simply provides another way of confirming anxieties already expressed. This time there is a new perspective: the attrition of climate change began decades ago. In the constant race to keep up with demand and compensate for possible loss, the farmers may be falling behind. Technological progress has yet to deliver climate resilience.

“It is not what we can do, but where we are headed,” said Robert Chambers, of the University of Maryland, a co-author. “This gives us an idea of trends to help see what to do in the future with new changes in the climate that are beyond what we’ve previously seen.

“We are projected to have almost 10 billion people to feed by 2050, so making sure our productivity is stable but growing faster than ever before is a serious concern.”

And Dr Otiz-Bobea said: “Most people perceive climate change as a distant problem. But this is something that is already having an effect. We have to address climate change now so that we can avoid further damage for future generations.” − Climate News Network

Global heating has already set back farming around the world, and wiped out seven years of steady advance.

LONDON, 12 April, 2021 − Climate change has begun to harm the world’s farmers. Compared with a notional world in which global heating is not being driven ever higher by fossil fuel use, a new study finds that the riches to be gleaned from the soil have fallen by 21%.

This, the researchers say, is as if the steady advance in agricultural productivity worldwide − in crop breeding, in farming technologies and in fertiliser use − has been eroded everywhere by more extreme temperatures, more prolonged droughts and more intense rainfall.

“We find that climate change has basically wiped out about seven years of improvements in agricultural productivity over the past 60 years,” said Ariel Ortiz-Bobea, an economist at Cornell University in the US.

“It is equivalent to pressing the pause button on productivity growth back in 2013, and experiencing no improvements since then. Anthropogenic climate change is already slowing us down.”

He and colleagues from Maryland and California report in the journal Nature Climate Change that they developed new ways of looking at farm costs and yields that could account for climate- and weather-related factors. The findings are potentially alarming.

Productivity drops

In the last century, the planet has warmed by at least 1°C above the long term average for most of human history, and is heading for 3°C or more by the end of this century.

By 2050, the total global population could have risen to 10bn: more than two billion extra mouths to be fed. But during the last 60 years, growth in agricultural productivity in the US has been slowed by somewhere between 5 and 15%. In Africa, in Latin America and the Caribbean, growth has slowed by between 26 and 34%.

A study of this kind − comparing the present world with one that might have been − is always open to challenge, and farmers have always had to gamble on good weather and cope with bad harvests.

But over the last seven years, researchers have repeatedly confirmed that a hotter world promises to be a hungrier one. Studies have found that yields of wheat, maize and rice are all vulnerable to climate change.

They have warned that higher temperatures and more atmospheric greenhouse gases could actually affect the nutritional values of legumes, fruit and vegetables, and that changes in weather patterns − in droughts, rainfall and heat waves − will hit harvests.

“Most people perceive climate change as a distant problem. But this is something that is already having an effect”

And since the higher temperatures that global heating brings  inevitably threaten more intense, more prolonged and more extensive heat extremes and droughts, the chances of calamitous harvest failure in more than one continent at the same time will be much greater: global famine could follow.

So the latest study simply provides another way of confirming anxieties already expressed. This time there is a new perspective: the attrition of climate change began decades ago. In the constant race to keep up with demand and compensate for possible loss, the farmers may be falling behind. Technological progress has yet to deliver climate resilience.

“It is not what we can do, but where we are headed,” said Robert Chambers, of the University of Maryland, a co-author. “This gives us an idea of trends to help see what to do in the future with new changes in the climate that are beyond what we’ve previously seen.

“We are projected to have almost 10 billion people to feed by 2050, so making sure our productivity is stable but growing faster than ever before is a serious concern.”

And Dr Otiz-Bobea said: “Most people perceive climate change as a distant problem. But this is something that is already having an effect. We have to address climate change now so that we can avoid further damage for future generations.” − Climate News Network

Longer summers will probably prove bummers

By the century’s end, longer summers could last for almost half the year − probably a bit too much for many of us.

LONDON, 18 March, 2021 − Summer’s lease, mourned William Shakespeare more than 400 years ago in one of his most quoted sonnets, “has all too short a date.” Not for much longer. Thanks to global heating, by the close of the century the longer summers arriving by then may have been extended to almost six months.

The lengthening of the northern hemisphere summer has already begun, according to a new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The four seasons are normally defined as calendar events, pinned to the progress of a tilted planet in its annual orbit of the sun.

But Chinese scientists took a simpler approach. They defined summer’s commencement as the onset of temperatures in the hottest 25% of the year, winter by the coming of the coldest 25%.

And then they looked at the temperature data to work out what had already happened, and what is likely to happen as global average temperatures rise, in response to ever-higher greenhouse gas emissions linked to fossil fuel combustion and forest destruction.

They found that in 1952, summer could be counted as 78 days long; by 2011, this had stretched to 95 days in the northern hemisphere. Winter contracted from 76 to 73 days in duration. Spring had dwindled from 124 days to 115; autumn from 87 to 82 days.

Health risk

And if this trend continues, and humans go on burning fossil fuels under the notorious “business as usual” scenario, then by 2100 spring and autumn will go on diminishing, and winter will be over in just two months. Summer will however have been extended to nearly half the year.

“The changing seasonal clock,” the scientists write, “signifies disturbed agriculture seasons and rhythm of species activities, more frequent heat waves, storms and wildfires, amounting to increased risks to humanity.”

The findings will present no immediate surprise to farmers, nor to phenologists, those scientists who have spent a lifetime observing changes in the timing of the natural order: the first buds, the first leaves and flowers, the arrival of insects and migrating birds, all of them affected by the increasingly early arrival of spring.

The abbreviation of winter may not however make the natural world more fecund or productive: many crops and a very large number of deciduous trees rely for health and strength on a reliable period of winter chill, and a shorter winter is inevitably going to be a warmer one.

Conversely a long hot summer is unlikely to be particularly welcome: these will arrive with more intense, more enduring and more extensive heat waves, to pose a threat to both harvests and to human health for perhaps a billion or more people.

“The changing seasonal clock signifies disturbed agriculture seasons,  more frequent heat waves, storms and wildfires, amounting to increased risks to humanity”

The researchers warn that longer, hotter summers will affect the capacity to produce energy while at the same time accelerating demand for electricity to power air-conditioning systems.

Longer summers mean more stress for plants and for forests, more and larger wildfires and health hazards for outdoor workers.

Higher temperatures have been linked to high crime rates in some parts of the US and − the researchers warn − earlier and colder spring seasons can mean more “false springs” followed by severe frosts of the kind that, in 2012 in Michigan, cost fruit growers more than $500,000 in crop
losses.

In yet a further caution they say that virus-bearing mosquitos will have a wider range and longer breeding seasons, to produce sudden outbreaks of disease in regions once considered safe. Those sensitive to plant pollen will find the season of sneezes has suddenly got a lot longer.

“As global warming intensifies, the four seasons of a year no longer have equal months, and their onsets are irregular,” the authors write. This change of seasonal lengths, they add. can trigger a chain of reactions, and “policy-making for agricultural management, health care, and disaster prevention requires adjustment.” − Climate News Network

By the century’s end, longer summers could last for almost half the year − probably a bit too much for many of us.

LONDON, 18 March, 2021 − Summer’s lease, mourned William Shakespeare more than 400 years ago in one of his most quoted sonnets, “has all too short a date.” Not for much longer. Thanks to global heating, by the close of the century the longer summers arriving by then may have been extended to almost six months.

The lengthening of the northern hemisphere summer has already begun, according to a new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The four seasons are normally defined as calendar events, pinned to the progress of a tilted planet in its annual orbit of the sun.

But Chinese scientists took a simpler approach. They defined summer’s commencement as the onset of temperatures in the hottest 25% of the year, winter by the coming of the coldest 25%.

And then they looked at the temperature data to work out what had already happened, and what is likely to happen as global average temperatures rise, in response to ever-higher greenhouse gas emissions linked to fossil fuel combustion and forest destruction.

They found that in 1952, summer could be counted as 78 days long; by 2011, this had stretched to 95 days in the northern hemisphere. Winter contracted from 76 to 73 days in duration. Spring had dwindled from 124 days to 115; autumn from 87 to 82 days.

Health risk

And if this trend continues, and humans go on burning fossil fuels under the notorious “business as usual” scenario, then by 2100 spring and autumn will go on diminishing, and winter will be over in just two months. Summer will however have been extended to nearly half the year.

“The changing seasonal clock,” the scientists write, “signifies disturbed agriculture seasons and rhythm of species activities, more frequent heat waves, storms and wildfires, amounting to increased risks to humanity.”

The findings will present no immediate surprise to farmers, nor to phenologists, those scientists who have spent a lifetime observing changes in the timing of the natural order: the first buds, the first leaves and flowers, the arrival of insects and migrating birds, all of them affected by the increasingly early arrival of spring.

The abbreviation of winter may not however make the natural world more fecund or productive: many crops and a very large number of deciduous trees rely for health and strength on a reliable period of winter chill, and a shorter winter is inevitably going to be a warmer one.

Conversely a long hot summer is unlikely to be particularly welcome: these will arrive with more intense, more enduring and more extensive heat waves, to pose a threat to both harvests and to human health for perhaps a billion or more people.

“The changing seasonal clock signifies disturbed agriculture seasons,  more frequent heat waves, storms and wildfires, amounting to increased risks to humanity”

The researchers warn that longer, hotter summers will affect the capacity to produce energy while at the same time accelerating demand for electricity to power air-conditioning systems.

Longer summers mean more stress for plants and for forests, more and larger wildfires and health hazards for outdoor workers.

Higher temperatures have been linked to high crime rates in some parts of the US and − the researchers warn − earlier and colder spring seasons can mean more “false springs” followed by severe frosts of the kind that, in 2012 in Michigan, cost fruit growers more than $500,000 in crop
losses.

In yet a further caution they say that virus-bearing mosquitos will have a wider range and longer breeding seasons, to produce sudden outbreaks of disease in regions once considered safe. Those sensitive to plant pollen will find the season of sneezes has suddenly got a lot longer.

“As global warming intensifies, the four seasons of a year no longer have equal months, and their onsets are irregular,” the authors write. This change of seasonal lengths, they add. can trigger a chain of reactions, and “policy-making for agricultural management, health care, and disaster prevention requires adjustment.” − Climate News Network

Antarctic warming speed-up alarms researchers

The world’s largest reservoir of snow and ice could be melting faster than ever. Two new studies highlight Antarctic warming.

LONDON, 4 March, 2021 − Antarctic warming is accelerating: at least one of the southern continent’s ice shelves has been melting faster than ever. The polar summer of 2019-20 set a new record for temperatures above freezing point over the George VI ice shelf off the Antarctic Peninsula.

The finding is ominous: the ice shelves form a natural buttress that slows the rate of glacier flow from the continental bedrock. The faster the glaciers flow into the sea, the higher the hazard of sea level rise.

And a second study confirms that this is already happening in West Antarctica: researchers looked at 25 years of satellite observation of 14 glaciers in the Getz sector to find that meltwater is flowing into the Amundsen Sea ever faster. Between 1994 and 2018, these glaciers lost 315 billion tonnes of ice, enough to raise global sea levels by almost 1mm.

Melting rates in Antarctica have been a source of alarm for years. The latest studies confirm the picture of continuing melt.

“The high rates of increased glacier speed − coupled with ice thinning − confirm the Getz basin is losing more ice than it gains through snowfall”

US scientists report in the journal The Cryosphere that they too used satellite observation − 41 years of it − to measure summer meltwater on the ice and in the near-surface snow of the northern part of the George VI ice shelf. They identified the most widespread melt and the greatest total of melt days of any season during the 2019-2020 summer.

Air temperatures were above freezing for up to 90 hours, allowing pools of meltwater to collect on the shelf. At its peak 23% of the region was covered with water: the equivalent, in glaciology’s favourite popular measure, of 250,000 Olympic swimming pools.

“When the temperature is above zero degrees Celsius, that limits refreezing and also leads to further melting,” said Alison Banwell, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, who led the study. “Water absorbs more radiation than snow and ice, and that leads to even more melting.”

Remote and untrodden

The Getz shelf is one of the biggest of a sector of the West Antarctic known as Marie Byrd Land. A new report in Nature Communications confirms that all 14 measured glaciers there have picked up speed and reach the ocean ever more swiftly.

Three of them have accelerated by more than 44%. And over the years the loss of ice has been the equivalent of 126 million Olympic swimming pools − all of it now adding to global sea level rise.

“The Getz region of Antarctica is so remote that humans have never set foot on most of this part of the continent,” said Heather Selley, of the University of Leeds, UK, first author. “Satellite radar altimetry records have shown substantial thinning of the ice sheet.

“However, the high rates of increased glacier speed − coupled with ice thinning − now confirm the Getz basin is in dynamic imbalance, meaning that it is losing more ice than it gains through snowfall.” − Climate News Network

The world’s largest reservoir of snow and ice could be melting faster than ever. Two new studies highlight Antarctic warming.

LONDON, 4 March, 2021 − Antarctic warming is accelerating: at least one of the southern continent’s ice shelves has been melting faster than ever. The polar summer of 2019-20 set a new record for temperatures above freezing point over the George VI ice shelf off the Antarctic Peninsula.

The finding is ominous: the ice shelves form a natural buttress that slows the rate of glacier flow from the continental bedrock. The faster the glaciers flow into the sea, the higher the hazard of sea level rise.

And a second study confirms that this is already happening in West Antarctica: researchers looked at 25 years of satellite observation of 14 glaciers in the Getz sector to find that meltwater is flowing into the Amundsen Sea ever faster. Between 1994 and 2018, these glaciers lost 315 billion tonnes of ice, enough to raise global sea levels by almost 1mm.

Melting rates in Antarctica have been a source of alarm for years. The latest studies confirm the picture of continuing melt.

“The high rates of increased glacier speed − coupled with ice thinning − confirm the Getz basin is losing more ice than it gains through snowfall”

US scientists report in the journal The Cryosphere that they too used satellite observation − 41 years of it − to measure summer meltwater on the ice and in the near-surface snow of the northern part of the George VI ice shelf. They identified the most widespread melt and the greatest total of melt days of any season during the 2019-2020 summer.

Air temperatures were above freezing for up to 90 hours, allowing pools of meltwater to collect on the shelf. At its peak 23% of the region was covered with water: the equivalent, in glaciology’s favourite popular measure, of 250,000 Olympic swimming pools.

“When the temperature is above zero degrees Celsius, that limits refreezing and also leads to further melting,” said Alison Banwell, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, who led the study. “Water absorbs more radiation than snow and ice, and that leads to even more melting.”

Remote and untrodden

The Getz shelf is one of the biggest of a sector of the West Antarctic known as Marie Byrd Land. A new report in Nature Communications confirms that all 14 measured glaciers there have picked up speed and reach the ocean ever more swiftly.

Three of them have accelerated by more than 44%. And over the years the loss of ice has been the equivalent of 126 million Olympic swimming pools − all of it now adding to global sea level rise.

“The Getz region of Antarctica is so remote that humans have never set foot on most of this part of the continent,” said Heather Selley, of the University of Leeds, UK, first author. “Satellite radar altimetry records have shown substantial thinning of the ice sheet.

“However, the high rates of increased glacier speed − coupled with ice thinning − now confirm the Getz basin is in dynamic imbalance, meaning that it is losing more ice than it gains through snowfall.” − Climate News Network

Alpine plants face risk from growing climate heat

Like many mountainous regions, the European Alps are warming fast. Alpine plants will suffer – and life below ground as well.

LONDON, 1 March, 2021 – The early melting of snow in the Alps is not just bad news for ardent skiers and for those who are dependent on the money they earn during the winter sports season: Alpine plants are in danger too.

Rising temperatures due to climate change are also having a negative impact deep below the surface of the ground.

New research by scientists at the University of Manchester in the UK demonstrates that warming in the area is threatening microbes which live in the Alpine soils.

The microbes play a critical role in supporting life forms above ground, recycling key nutrients upon which animals, plants – and humans – depend.

“More extreme advances in snowmelt timing are forecast for the end of the century”

The microbes also control the amount of carbon stored in the soil: if the cycle of microbial activity is disrupted, then more carbon is released into the atmosphere, resulting in further global warming.

Arthur Broadbent, lead author of a research paper in the ISME Journal,  says climate change is having an alarming impact on microbial communities in Alpine soils.

“Using a high-alpine experiment in the Austrian Alps, we discovered that spring snowmelt triggers an abrupt seasonal transition in soil microbial communities, which is closely linked to rapid shifts in carbon and nitrogen cycling”, he said.

During the winter, microbes in the Alpine soils depend on snow to act as an insulating blanket, allowing them to continue to work throughout the cold months.

Himalayan disaster

The researchers say that climate change in the Alps is taking place at double the rate of the global average. Separate research indicates that profound changes are happening in the Alps and in many other mountainous regions around the world.

In February a flash flood in Uttarakhand in northern India killed nearly 70 people, with 136 more missing and now presumed dead. Most scientists believe the warming climate was the cause of the glacier melt which triggered the disaster.

There are predictions that over the next 80 years more than 90% of glacier ice in the Alpine region will be lost due to ever-rising temperatures.

“Snowmelt is predicted to occur 50 to 130 days earlier in alpine regions due to climate change by the end of the century”, says Dr Broadbent.

Increased warming

“Using experimental manipulations, we demonstrated that earlier snowmelt, of even just 10 days, leads to an earlier seasonal transition in microbial communities and biogeochemical cycling.”

The research paper says that changes in the microbial cycle caused by snow melt will result in less carbon being retained in the soil and so have a negative impact on the growth and productivity of plants.

“This would negatively affect agricultural production and disrupt natural ecosystems. It will also alter annual carbon fluxes in these ecosystems with the potential to cause further climate warming.”

The authors conclude with a clear warning: “More extreme advances in snowmelt timing are forecast for the end of the century.” – Climate News Network

Like many mountainous regions, the European Alps are warming fast. Alpine plants will suffer – and life below ground as well.

LONDON, 1 March, 2021 – The early melting of snow in the Alps is not just bad news for ardent skiers and for those who are dependent on the money they earn during the winter sports season: Alpine plants are in danger too.

Rising temperatures due to climate change are also having a negative impact deep below the surface of the ground.

New research by scientists at the University of Manchester in the UK demonstrates that warming in the area is threatening microbes which live in the Alpine soils.

The microbes play a critical role in supporting life forms above ground, recycling key nutrients upon which animals, plants – and humans – depend.

“More extreme advances in snowmelt timing are forecast for the end of the century”

The microbes also control the amount of carbon stored in the soil: if the cycle of microbial activity is disrupted, then more carbon is released into the atmosphere, resulting in further global warming.

Arthur Broadbent, lead author of a research paper in the ISME Journal,  says climate change is having an alarming impact on microbial communities in Alpine soils.

“Using a high-alpine experiment in the Austrian Alps, we discovered that spring snowmelt triggers an abrupt seasonal transition in soil microbial communities, which is closely linked to rapid shifts in carbon and nitrogen cycling”, he said.

During the winter, microbes in the Alpine soils depend on snow to act as an insulating blanket, allowing them to continue to work throughout the cold months.

Himalayan disaster

The researchers say that climate change in the Alps is taking place at double the rate of the global average. Separate research indicates that profound changes are happening in the Alps and in many other mountainous regions around the world.

In February a flash flood in Uttarakhand in northern India killed nearly 70 people, with 136 more missing and now presumed dead. Most scientists believe the warming climate was the cause of the glacier melt which triggered the disaster.

There are predictions that over the next 80 years more than 90% of glacier ice in the Alpine region will be lost due to ever-rising temperatures.

“Snowmelt is predicted to occur 50 to 130 days earlier in alpine regions due to climate change by the end of the century”, says Dr Broadbent.

Increased warming

“Using experimental manipulations, we demonstrated that earlier snowmelt, of even just 10 days, leads to an earlier seasonal transition in microbial communities and biogeochemical cycling.”

The research paper says that changes in the microbial cycle caused by snow melt will result in less carbon being retained in the soil and so have a negative impact on the growth and productivity of plants.

“This would negatively affect agricultural production and disrupt natural ecosystems. It will also alter annual carbon fluxes in these ecosystems with the potential to cause further climate warming.”

The authors conclude with a clear warning: “More extreme advances in snowmelt timing are forecast for the end of the century.” – Climate News Network