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World Climate Report Card for 2016 – more warming and more pollution

Posted on March 27th, 2017 by in Chemical R&D

global climate change

A map of the February 2016 land-ocean temperature index (LOTI) anomaly shows that most of North America and Siberia were much warmer than the 1951-1980 base period. Much of the rest of Asia was also relatively warm*.

Reading fiction can be quite enjoyable.  Generations have been reading Jules Vern, H. G. Wells, C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling and others.  Fiction contains elements that are not realistic such as talking animals, magical powers and fictitious laws or theories of science set in other worldly environments.  If you sense these days the talk about the climate and environment sounds like science fiction, it is understandable because it is.  In 2017 those who should know better have thrown out Climate Science and replaced scientific facts with fiction (aka alternative facts).  Now, to the truth about the 2016 Climate Report Card based on science.

Temperatures at the Earth’s surface, in the troposphere (the active weather layer extending up to about 5-10 miles above the ground), and in the oceans have all increased over the recent decades. The largest increases in temperature are occurring closer to the poles, especially in the Arctic. This warming has triggered many other changes to the Earth’s climate. Snow and ice cover have decreased in most areas. Atmospheric water vapor is increasing in the lower atmosphere because a warmer atmosphere can hold more water.

Sea level is increasing because water expands as it warms and because melting ice on land adds water to the oceans. Changes in other climate-relevant indicators such as growing season length have been observed in many areas. Worldwide, the observed changes in average conditions have been accompanied by increasing trends in extremes of heat and heavy precipitation events, and decreases in extreme cold. It is the sum total of these indicators that leads to the conclusion that warming of our planet is unequivocal (Source: National Climate Assessment, http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/highlights/report-findings/our-changing-climate).

Global annual average temperature (as measured over both land and oceans) has increased by more than 1.5°F (0.8°C) since 1880 through 2012 as shown in Figure 1. Red bars show temperatures above the long-term average, and blue bars indicate temperatures below the long-term average. The black line shows atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in parts per million (ppm). While there is a clear long-term global warming trend, some years do not show a temperature increase relative to the previous year, and some years show greater changes than others. These year-to-year fluctuations in temperature are due to natural processes, such as the effects of El Niños, La Niñas, and volcanic eruptions.

Climate change Sina

Figure 1 Global annual average temperature versus atmospheric CO2 concentration between 1880-2012 (Source: Karl, T. R., J. T. Melillo, and T. C. Peterson, 2009: Global Climate Change Impacts in the U S, T.R. Karl, J.T. Melillo, and T.C. Peterson, Eds. Cambridge University Press)

An ostensibly reasonable argument is that the correlation observed in Figure 1 between CO2 and temperature does not necessarily imply causality.  Contrary to the short cycle of water in atmosphere carbon dioxide sticks around for a long time.  The prevalence of CO2 in the atmosphere increases with rising consumption of fossil fuels.  Carbon dioxide absorbs energy emitted by the Earth and reflects a part of it back to the surface.  Some return of energy prevents the Earth from becoming too cold.  Excessive carbon dioxide presence in the atmosphere returns too much energy thus causing the rise in the surface temperature of the Earth.  Based on Arctic ice core analyses the maximum CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has been ~280 ppm in the last 800,000 years.  In the last 100 years CO2 concentration has risen to ~400 ppm.

Highlights of 2016 Climate Report

 (Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Arctic Program, http://arctic.noaa.gov/Report-Card/Report-Card-2016)

  • The average surface air temperature for the year ending September 2016 is by far the highest since 1900, and new monthly record highs were recorded for January, February, October and November 2016.
  • After only modest changes from 2013-2015, minimum sea ice extent at the end of summer 2016 tied with 2007 for the second lowest in the satellite record, which started in 1979.
  • Spring snow cover extent in the North American Arctic was the lowest in the satellite record, which started in 1967.
  • In 37 years of Greenland ice sheet observations, only one year had earlier onset of spring melting than 2016.
  • The Arctic Ocean is especially prone to ocean acidification, due to water temperatures that are colder than those located further south.  The short Arctic food chain leaves Arctic marine ecosystems vulnerable to ocean acidification events.
  • Thawing permafrost releases carbon into the atmosphere, whereas greening tundra absorbs atmospheric carbon.  Overall, tundra is presently releasing net carbon into the atmosphere.
  • Small Arctic mammals, such as shrews, and their parasites, serve as indicators for present and historical environmental variability. Newly acquired parasites indicate northward shifts of sub-Arctic species and increases in Arctic biodiversity.

Each living species evolves to thrive in its own particular ecological niche – to live in a particular “home” with specific living conditions (including temperatures ranges and other plant and animal species). Some species are more adaptable than others. For example, rats and dogs can survive under many different conditions, but koalas can only live where there is eucalyptus, and pandas where there is bamboo. Human-caused climate change will alter temperatures, precipitation and sea level – wiping out some habitats and shifting others faster than many species can migrate.  Consequently, a looming disaster is the climate change related extinction of plant and animal species, shrinking the Earth’s biodiversity.  Unless we drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we can expect several factors to combine that will make the coming die out of species astonishingly severe (Source: www.greanpeace.com).

Scientific facts remain ubiquitous disregarding of political machinations, wishful thinking or filibuster.  Regardless of the denials of climate change and global warming the situation will continue to deteriorate.  That is, unless the world takes positive actions to slow down the calamitous climate change trends.  Otherwise human beings can look forward to a bleak future in the coming decades.

* Source: January 2017 was third-warmest January on record, NASA, Global Climate Change, https://climate.nasa.gov, Feb 15, 2017.

 

 


 

All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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