Farmer and Poet, Wendell Berry gives his thoughts on climate change and the future in Yes Magazine Click Here to read his article
As well as being a driver of climate change through land use change and greenhouse gas emissions, burgeoning building construction around the globe is having other significant environmental and social effects through the demand for building materials like sand – Vince Beiser reports in Wired Click Here for the story
Climate scientists say this year looks likely to enter the record books as the world’s hottest, with the warming of the oceans causing striking changes.
By Alex Kirby
LONDON, 3 December 2014 − It’s official, even though it won’t be conclusive for a few months yet: if present trends continue, 2014 will be one of the hottest years on record − and quite possibly the hottest of them all.
Preliminary estimates by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) − published to provide information to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change annual round of negotiations, currently being held in Lima, Peru − show this year is set to be a record breaker largely because of record high global sea surface temperatures.
These, combined with other factors, helped to cause exceptionally heavy rainfall and floods in many countries and extreme drought in others.
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the Convention, said: “Our climate is changing, and every year the risks of extreme weather events and impacts on humanity rise.”
It is the warming of the oceans − which the WMO says “will very likely remain above normal until the end of the year” − that is chiefly perplexing the scientists.
The WMO’s provisional statement − to be finalised in March next year − on the Status of the Global Climate in 2014 shows that the global average air temperature over the land and sea surface from January to October was about 0.57°C above the average of 14°C for the 1961-1990 reference period, and 0.09°C above the average for 2004 to 2013.
If November and December follow the same trend, the WMO says, then 2014 will probably be the hottest on record, ahead of 2010, 2005 and 1998. This confirms the underlying long-term warming trend.
“The provisional information for 2014 means that 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century,” said the WMO secretary-general, Michel Jarraud. “There is no standstill in global warming.
“What we saw in 2014 is consistent with what we expect from a changing climate. Record-breaking heat, combined with torrential rainfall and floods, destroyed livelihoods and ruined lives. What is particularly unusual and alarming this year are the high temperatures of vast areas of the ocean surface, including in the northern hemisphere.
“Record-high greenhouse gas emissions and associated atmospheric concentrations are committing the planet to a much more uncertain and inhospitable future.”
The high January to October temperatures occurred in the absence of a full El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). An ENSO occurs when warmer than average sea-surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific combine, in a self-reinforcing loop, with atmospheric pressure systems, affecting weather patterns globally.
Among the remarkable features of 2014’s first 10 months are land surface temperatures. The WMO says they averaged about 0.86°C above the 1961-1990 average, the fourth or fifth warmest for the same period on record.
Global sea-surface temperatures were unequivocally the highest on record, at about 0.45°C above the 1961-1990 average. Temperatures were particularly high in the northern hemisphere from June to October for reasons, the WMO notes, that “are subject to intense scientific investigation”.
The ocean heat content for January to June was estimated to depths of 700m and 2000m, and both were the highest recorded. Around 93% of the excess energy trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases from fossil fuels and other human activities ends up in the oceans, so the heat they contain is essential to understanding the climate system.
The early part of 2014 saw global-average measured sea level reach a record high for the time of year. Arctic sea-ice extent was the sixth lowest on record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, in the US, but Antarctic daily sea ice reached a new record for the third consecutive year.
Some impressively anomalous rainfall and floods made 2014 a year to forget as fast as possible. The UK winter was the wettest on record, with 177% of the long-term average precipitation. In May, devastating floods in south-east Europe affected more than two million people, and in Russia, in late May and early June, more than twice the monthly average precipitation fell in parts of southern Siberia.
In September, southern parts of the Balkan peninsula received over 250% of the monthly average rainfall, while parts of Turkey had more than 500%. Heavy rains caused severe flooding in northern Bangladesh, northern Pakistan and India, affecting millions of people.
In contrast, parts of north-east China, large areas of the western US, Australia, and Brazil experienced searing drought.
But the incidence of tropical storms and cyclones recorded was lower than the 1981-2010 average in much of the world.
The WMO Global Atmosphere Watch Programme shows that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) reached new highs in 2013 − the most recent data processed to date.
Globally-averaged atmospheric levels of CO2 reached 396.0 parts per million (ppm), approximately 142% of the pre-industrial average. The increase from 2012 to 2013 was 2.9 ppm, the largest year to year increase.
Atmospheric CH4 concentrations reached a new high of 1,824 parts per billion (ppb) in 2013, about 253% of the pre-industrial level, and concentrations of N2O reached 325.9 ± 0.1 ppb, a rise of 121%. − Climate News Network
Bob has just run another rocket stove design and build course for the Green Back Yard in central Peterborough . Participants learned about the history and basic theory behind the famous sustainable stoves and were given tips on the correct way to build one before they put it all into practice and built their own stoves from recycled materials One team had to finish their stove to cook their evening meal on – another team made a hefty 6″ bore “industrial strength” stove made from old olive tins!
The course, which is fully funded for participants, is set to be repeated Jan or Feb 2015 – space is limited so contact Jasmine or Rennie at The Green Backyard for the date and to book a place.
If you can’t make it, dont worry – Bob also runs Stove Building courses at other venues – please check out the Rocket Stove Course page on this site for more details.
Want to live rent free in an ecovillage project for a year ? Then check out The Simplicity Collective Project
Bloomberg reports on a leaked IPCC report on irreversible damage to the planet being already seen from climate change click here for more
By Tim Radford
Vital data on the Arctic ice sheet before extensive fossil fuel use began to impact on climate has been gleaned from a new study analysing the log books of British whaling ships’ journeys more than 200 years ago.
LONDON, 5 July, 2014 − British whaling ships from Tyneside in the north-east of England made 458 trips to the edge of the Arctic ice between 1750 and 1850. Their log books contained detailed records of perilous journeys, whales caught, and the tons of blubber and barrels of oil they brought home.
For Matthew Ayre, a PhD student at the University of Sunderland, UK, and Dennis Wheeler, the university’s Emeritus Professor of Climatology, these log books and other records by merchant ships and Arctic explorers such as Sir John Franklin − who tried in 1845 to navigate the icy North-West Passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific − represent an extraordinary resource.
They give an account of the southern edge of the ice sheet, the prevailing weather, the spring and summer extremes, the storms, and the condition of the Arctic ice shelf.
And the log books offer a snapshot of conditions in the century before the first systematic use of fossil fuels began subtly to alter the planetary climate.
The catch, of course, is that the log books were composed in the technical language used by the masters of sailing ships more than 200 years ago, augmented by the jargon appropriate to a trade abandoned by the British more than a century ago.
For Ayre, the first great challenge was to compile a systematic sea ice dictionary and translate it into the language used by scientists today. He then validated his data with five weeks on the US Coastguard ice breaker and research vessel, USCGC Healy, exploring the edge of the polar ice at first hand. His study, which is part of the collaborative ARCdoc project, concentrates on the Davis Straits between north America and Greenland, and the north-west Atlantic.
The evidence confirms satellite observations made in the last three decades that the extent of the polar ice was once far greater, and that the Arctic ice is in historic retreat.
“Significantly, this is the first time we have ever had direct observational information on the ice fronts in the north Atlantic and the Davis Straits area before 1900,” Dr Wheeler said. “Until the introduction of satellite information from the 1970s, we didn’t know what the ice was doing.
“Well, now we know it was more advanced − therefore, the retreat of the ice in the last 30 years is part of a more recent and new pattern of climate change. So these log books contain absolutely vital climatological information.”
All systematic weather records are relatively recent. The oldest continuous temperature series dates from England in 1659, but records from most of the world, until the last century, were random or simply sparse.
So climate researchers go for what they call proxy data – such as ice cores, lake sediments and tree rings – that provides overall clues to changing patterns of climate during the millennia.
There are other secondary sources – such as monastery and historic estate archives recording farm yields − that offer clues to bygone summers.
Life or death
But the richest resource is probably the log books of the naval ships and merchantmen, the whalers and adventurers who took to the seas in the great age of exploration that began in the 16th century. For such men, the state of the ice and the weather at its edge was a matter of life or death.
The challenge was to match what 18th-century observers recorded with the scientific observations to be made now.
Ayre got his chance aboard the US research vessel, using as a guide an epic account of the Arctic regions, written in 1820 by the Whitby whaler and pioneer scientist, William Scoresby.
“I was making observations every four hours aboard Healy, using Scoresby’s definitions and the Healy researchers’ own daily records, testing how accurate our data is to validate what is in the sea ice dictionary,” Ayre said.
“Apart from modern day research vessels, these are the only books in history from ships that seek out the ice edge in great detail and follow it.” – Climate News Network
Author Ugo Bardi comments on the looming mineral resouirce crisis in Extracted-the Movie - in association with the Club of Rome. It is the subject of his new book Extracted - about Peak Everything…
These days most people incorrectly think Wind Turbines are a recent development but thats not the case: in reality they have been around since the 1920’s powering many isolated rural farmsteads around the worlf. . MotherJones article on the pioneers of the Wind Power Industry including an interview with Marcellus Jacobs of Jacobs Wind Electric, Inc. who sold a great many highly successful wind turbine power systems during the inter-war period and created many turbine innovations from the 1920’s to 1950’s still in use today
The history of entrepreneurs in green industries is largely unwritten, a fact that Harvard Business School business historian Geoffrey Jones is trying to remedy. In a new paper, Jones explores the edge-of-society pioneers who created the wind turbine industry. Click here to read the article