Beautiful photograph; but where are the glaciers?

October 6, 2015

Stupendous photo of evening advancing on Glacier National Park.

The Wilderness Society Tweeted out this shot of Glacier National Park (I cannot read the photographer to whom credit belongs).

The Wilderness Society Tweeted out this shot of Glacier National Park (I cannot read the photographer to whom credit belongs). “Wow. Outstanding sky over @GlacierNPS.”

I know. It’s summer. But still I wonder, where are the glaciers? Where did they go?

Annals of Global Warming: Warm the oceans, raise the sea level

September 15, 2015

Svein T veitdal is one of those rare scientists who can explain why science observations are important in effects on people in just living their lives. A good man to listen to (you can follow his Twitter account: @tveitdal).

Recently he sent this notice:

Critics of the science of climate change and the work to slow or halt warming don’t like charts like that. Sea level is something measured by humans, worldwide, for a long time. That’s real data.

And it’s scary.

T veitdal’s Tweet was just a small part of a very large graphic from NASA, explaining the observations that tell us sea levels rise, how the observations are made, and what it means to you and me.

NASA infographic on sea level rise

NASA infographic on sea level rise: We know seas are rising and we know why. The urgent questions are by how much and how quickly. Available to download, this infographic covers the science behind sea level rise, who’s affected, how much melting ice is contributing, and what NASA is doing to help.

Yeah. “Your planet is changing. We’re on it.”

As Ban-ki Moon said the other day, there is no Planet B. We have only one Earth.

General science teachers, geology teachers, physics and chemistry teachers, history, geography and human geography teachers should see if someone at your school has a plotter and can print this thing out for you, poster size.

Annals of Global Warming: A roadmap to the UN climate change treaty process

August 25, 2015

Alas, the U.S. has led a large contingent off-road.

From the Cut the Fluff blog:

A quick flick back in recent time to take a look at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in one mapped infographic via The Climate Group.

A quick flick back in recent time to take a look at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in one mapped infographic via The Climate Group.

If you stop the average climate change action opponent on the street (as many as 25 out of every 100 people, or every other person in Texas in my unscientific sample) they will be able to tell you they think scientists are all liars making big money off of scamming citizens and businesses, and that there is big money to be made in faking research. But they cannot seriously describe evidence to back their claims, nor can they describe the history of international work to stop human-caused warming.

As you might imagine, they cannot discuss the pending meetings in Paris, either. Heck, most scientists and well-informed people can’t explain the meetings, either.

I hope this helps.

“COP” and “UNFCC” are UN acronyms for Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Sustainable Information Forum (SIF15) explains the Paris Conference In not-too-turgid prose:

COP – What’s it all about?

The international political response to climate change began at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, where the ‘Rio Convention’ included the adoption of the UNFCCC. This convention set out a framework for action aimed at stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The UNFCCC which entered into force on 21 March 1994, now has a near-universal membership of 195 parties.

The main objective of the annual Conference of Parties (COP) is to review the Convention’s implementation. The first COP took place in Berlin in 1995 and significant meetings since then have included COP3 where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, COP11 where the Montreal Action Plan was produced, COP15 in Copenhagen where an agreement to success Kyoto Protocol was unfortunately not realised and COP17 in Durban where the Green Climate Fund was created.

In 2015 COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

France will play a leading international role in hosting this seminal conference, and COP21 will be one of the largest international conferences ever held in the country. The conference is expected to attract close to 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society.

Now you know, I hope.


Annals of global warming: Time to change maps of Arctic ice

August 11, 2015

National Geographic Society reminded us they’ve had to change maps of the arctic.

National Geographic Society composed this GIF to compare their maps over past 16 years: A GIF of National Geographic atlases from 1999 through 2014 shows how Arctic ice has melted over time.

National Geographic Society composed this GIF to compare their maps over past 16 years: A GIF of National Geographic atlases from 1999 through 2014 shows how Arctic ice has melted over time.

President Barack Obama noted the change in his announcement of U.S. actions to fight climate change. National Geo added details beyond what the president said.

As the ocean heats up due to global warming, Arctic sea ice has been locked in a downward spiral. Since the late 1970s, the ice has retreated by 12 percent per decade, worsening after 2007, according to NASA. May 2014 represented the third lowest extent of sea ice during that month in the satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

Ice loss is accelerated in the Arctic because of a phenomenon known as the feedback loop: Thin ice is less reflective than thick ice, allowing more sunlight to be absorbed by the ocean, which in turn weakens the ice and warms the ocean even more, NASA says.

Because thinner ice is flatter, it allows melt ponds to accumulate on the surface, reducing the reflectiveness of the ice and absorbing more heat. (See pictures of our melting world in National Geographic magazine.)

“You hear reports all the time in the media about this,” Valdés said. “Until you have a hard-copy map in your hand, the message doesn’t really hit home.”

(More at National Geo’s site.)

At the last edition of the National Geographic Atlas, a video described why and how changes were made.

We used to think the old Earth was so massive, little could humans do to change it. While it’s probably still true the rock will survive after humans are extinct, we now know we can foul our nest enough to make it uncomfortable, or impossible for our species to stay here.

Global warming is changing the planet. Maps must be changed to show the new face.

Have we acted soon enough, and hard enough to save space for humans to live?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Chris Tackett on Twitter.

Are those flames? Is that fiddle music I hear? Greenland is melting faster (Annals of Global Warming)

July 28, 2015

Discover Magazine caption: Greenland as seen by NASA’s Aqua satellite on June 29, 2015. (Source: NASA Worldview)

Discover Magazine caption: Greenland as seen by NASA’s Aqua satellite on June 29, 2015. (Source: NASA Worldview)

What is the price of our delay?

Greenland’s ice is melting faster than scientists predicted a few years ago. Incredibly, a sizable bloc of people work to stop action against climate change, claiming that it’s not occurring, or that it’s natural and shouldn’t be stopped, or that we can’t afford to save the planet this time.

Polar oceanographer Mark Brandon calls our attention to a good lay article in Discover Magazine’s .blog Imageo, by Tom Yulsman:

As brutal heat grips parts of Europe, Asia, North America and South America, another place is also experiencing a spike in temperatures — one that you may not have heard about.

It’s happening in Greenland, and high temperatures there over the past two weeks have caused a sudden jump in melting at the surface of the vast ice sheet (seen in that great expanse of white in the satellite image above).

Science critics argue the warming is slowing down, and will soon stop. Wish they were right. 18 years of their being wrong makes me skeptical.

Caption from ImaGeo: In the graph above, the red line traces a sudden increase in the extent of surface melting in Greenland. (Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center)

Caption from ImaGeo: In the graph above, the red line traces a sudden increase in the extent of surface melting in Greenland. (Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center)

In the meantime, as Galileo might have said, “Eppure, lei si scalda!”still, she warms.


Greenland is Melting, band graphic

Greenland is Melting, band graphic

National Parks timelapse movie, “The Untouched”

July 27, 2015

Title shot from "The Untouched," a movie of time-lapse shots of U.S. National Parks.

Title shot from “The Untouched,” a movie of time-lapse shots of U.S. National Parks.

The Wilderness Society said:

This filmmaker traveled to 30 states and national parks to capture this gorgeous time-lapse video showcasing the beauty of untouched nature and our dark skies

Watch the video and read the account of all that goes into making a film like this. Amazing work!

From .  Details at Vimeo, where Manievannan discusses what the Parks showed of destructive climate change during the filming.

How many places can you identify? How many of them have you visited?


Wind power ready for its closeup?

June 27, 2015

Climate Progress used this photo in a Tweet touting Denmark’s wind power progress:

Denmark sets world record for wind power production   (No other photo information in Tweet)

Denmark sets world record for wind power production (Photo credit: flickr/Vattenfall)

Awesome photograph, a 21st century version of those photos of men, machines, bridges and other industrial objects admired for their symmetry and sharp shadows from the 1920s and 1930s. I would guess it was captured by an airplane passenger passing over the at-sea windfarms springing up around Europe’s Atlantic Coast, off the coast of Denmark, if Climate Progress editors were careful.

Scientifically, the photo shows what happens when windmills reduce the air pressure downwind of the blades — condensation can suddenly become visible.  Condensation trails from windmills (won’t that vex the hell out of chemtrails tinfoil hatters?).

The photo illustrates what should be good news:

Denmark has been long been a pioneer in wind power, having installed its first turbines in the mid-1970s when oil shocks sent the import-dependent nation on a quest for energy security. Thirty-seven years later, the country has set a new world record for wind production by getting 39.1 percent of its overall electricity from wind in 2014. This puts the Northern European nation well on track to meet its 2020 goal of getting 50 percent of its power from renewables.

The news of Denmark’s feat adds to the national records the U.K. and Germany set for 2014 and further establishes Europe as a leader in the wind power industry. This is especially true when it comes to offshore resources, as countries like Scotland, England, and Denmark build out their offshore wind farms. Wind generated enough electricity to power just over 25 percent of U.K. homes in 2014 — a 15 percent increase from 2013. In December, Germany generated more wind power, 8.9 terawatt-hours, than in any previous month.

A big source of the surge of Denmark’s wind production this year came from the addition of around 100 new offshore wind turbines. In January of 2014, the peninsular country got just over 61 percent of its power from wind. This is more than three times the overall production of 10 years ago, when wind only made up 18.8 percent of the energy supply. The country has a long-term goal of being fossil fuel-free by 2050.

Anti-greens, and rational conservationists, see trouble though. Anti-greens holler that the windmills “kill birds,” as if the coal power plants the windmills displace do less environmental damage.  They will bring this up in every discussion of alternative energy sources, and in every discussion of working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to decrease pollution and damage from climate change.  I suppose they want us to throw up our hands and give up on conservation.  (Industry agents like CFACT have no compunction against giving half-truths on these issues.)

Conservationists, like Chris Clarke, see the dangers.  Bird kills do occur at wind farms, in greater numbers than any conservationist is comfortable with.  Off-shore wind farms could hammer migrating populations of songbirds and other migratory fowl, in addition to the sea-dwelling birds.  Few solid studies on bird damage exist.  We are particularly the dark about the songbirds, who migrate in enormous avian clouds at night.  An article in Nature sums up issues:

Wind turbines kill far fewer birds in general each year than do many other causes linked to humans, including domestic cats and collisions with glass windows. But wind power has a disproportionate effect on certain species that are already struggling for survival, such as the precarious US population of golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos canadensis).

“The troubling issue with wind development is that we’re seeing a growing number of birds of conservation concern being killed by wind turbines,” says Albert Manville, a biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Arlington, Virginia.

It is good news that wind power can replace fossil fuels. But industrial-sized enterprises inherently create environmental problems. Our policy makers need to be alert to the issues involved, and create incentives for development of alternative energy sources that will prevent our falling into the rut of industrial development that comes at enormous costs pushed to future generations.

Who is looking out for the birds? Can there be anyone who argues we should give up on climate change because of problems from alternative energy, really?

Chris Clarke tells us the problems, that we need accurate, relevant information, and we don’t have a methodical process to get it:

The issue of eagles being harmed by wind turbines in the U.S. is a huge topic, to put it mildly. And yet a paper documenting two eagle mortalities at a wind turbine facility in the last 20 years is “conceptually novel” enough to merit publication in a prestigious wildlife science journal.

Put it this way: The scientific community has more information on deaths among marine mammals, which spend much of their time in places it’s hard for us to get to, than it does about injuries and deaths to rather conspicuous birds in industrial facilities. Hell, we have better, more solid data on planets outside our solar system than we do on eagle mortalities at wind energy plants in California.

One could ask the rhetorical question “why is that the case,” but it’s almost a waste of time: it’s because wind energy companies would strongly prefer that data never gets released to the public.

And that’s what peer-reviewed journals are, for all their abstruse language and incomprehensible math and absurd paywalls: public information. Once that data gets analyzed and put in context by independent biologists, it becomes available to us all.

[USGS research ecologist Jeffrey] Lovich puts it this way:

Minimizing wildlife mortality at wind farms is a major goal of conservation, although research on how best to do that is in short supply. Compiling and publishing accurate data on mortality of Golden Eagles over time is an important first step in efforts to protect these iconic birds.

And doing so in the clear light of day is crucial if we in the public are ever to make scientifically sound decisions about our energy policy, regardless of whether we put windpower or wildlife first.

Who will provide that information? Who will even ask for it? If we can’t get consensus on whether we should save humanity’s home on Earth, how can we get consensus on asking the questions about how to go about it, and how to learn how to do it?


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