Scientists are building a system that could turn atmospheric CO2 into fuel

Scientists in Canada are developing an industrial carbon dioxide recycling plant that could one day suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and convert it into a zero-carbon e-diesel fuel. Developed by tech start-up Carbon Engineering and partly funded by Bill Gates, the system will essentially do the job of trees, but in places unable to host them, such as icy plains and deserts.

Just like these new solar cells that are designed to split water into a hydrogen fuel, the CO2 recycling plant will combine carbon dioxide with hydrogen split from water to form hydrocarbon fuel. The plan is to provide the technology that could one day produce environmentally friendly fuel to complement the renewable energy systems we have now. “How do you power global transportation in 20 years in a way that is carbon neutral?” Geoff Holmes, business development manager at Carbon Engineering, told Marc Gunther at The Guardian. “Cheap solar and wind are great at reducing emissions from the electricity. Then you are left with the transport sector.”Carbon Engineering is one of a handful of companies around the world that are now set on coming up with ways to suck enough carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to actually put a dent in the effects of climate change. There’s also the New York City-based start-up Global Thermostat, and Swiss-based Climeworks, which demonstrated earlier this year with Audi how its technology can capture carbon dioxide, and deliver it to German company Sunfire, where it was recycled into a zero-carbon diesel fuel.

While Climeworks’ demonstration was impressive, what all three companies now need to do is figure out how to make their atmospheric carbon dioxide to fuel systems economically viable. And this won’t be easy. One problem they’re going to have to overcome is the high cost of heating their carbon dioxide to around 400 degrees Celsius so they can process it properly. Another problem is that few investors are interested in giving them money until they can prove that this is actually feasible.

As Gunther reports for The Guardian, governments and private investors aren’t interested in paying anyone to come up with ways to simply suck carbon dioxide out of the environment, no matter how beneficial to the environment it might be. Plus even if someone was interested, they’d better be willing to fork out the billions of dollars it’s going to take to build a system that could actually make a discernible difference to the world’s climate. These developers need to offer their investors something valuable in return, and the obvious answer is fuel.

co2-capture

Right now, Carbon Engineering’s planned system could only capture only about 450 tonnes of CO2 each year, which would barely cover the carbon emissions of 33 average Canadians, but they say this system could be scaled up to 20,000 times to make it more practical.

As the video explains below, direct air capture seems to be the only potentially feasible way to absorb carbon dioxide that’s already been emitted from small mobile sources such as cars, trucks, and planes, which make up 60 percent of carbon dioxide emissions today. The systems require 1,000 times less land than carbon-sucking trees, and can be installed on land, like desert plains, that isn’t worth cultivating or inhabiting.

“I believe we have reached a point where it is really paramount for substantive public research and development of direct air capture,” Klaus Lackner of Arizona State University’s Centre for Negative Carbon Emissions said at the American Physical Society meeting in the US earlier this year.

“Scientists are increasingly convinced that we are going to need large scale removal systems to fight climate change,” Noah Deich from the California-based Centre for Carbon Removal told The Guardian. “I’m excited about direct air capture. It could be a really important technology to add to the portfolio.”

Watch the video below to see how Carbon Engineering plans on doing it. It’s going to take a while before we see the captured carbon to fuel model become a viable solution, but that’s not stopping the likes of Carbon Engineering, Climeworks, and Global Thermostat. We’re excited to see what they come up with.

Scientists are building a system that could turn atmospheric CO2 into fuel

Why we live on Earth and not Venus

Compared to its celestial neighbours Venus and Mars, Earth is a pretty habitable place. So how did we get so lucky? A new study sheds light on the improbable evolutionary path that enabled Earth to sustain life.

The research, published this week in Nature Geoscience, suggests that Earth’s first crust, which was rich in radioactive heat-producing elements such as uranium and potassium, was torn from the planet and lost to space when asteroids bombarded the planet early in its history. This phenomenon, known as impact erosion, helps explain a landmark discovery made over a decade ago about the Earth’s composition.

Researchers with the University of British Columbia and University of California, Santa Barbara say that the early loss of these two elements ultimately determined the evolution of Earth’s plate tectonics, magnetic field and climate.

“The events that define the early formation and bulk composition of Earth govern, in part, the subsequent tectonic, magnetic and climatic histories of our planet, all of which have to work together to create the Earth in which we live,” said Mark Jellinek, a professor in the Department of Earth, Ocean & Atmospheric Sciences at UBC. “It’s these events that potentially differentiate Earth from other planets.”

On Earth, shifting tectonic plates cause regular overturning of Earth’s surface, which steadily cools the underlying mantle, maintains the planet’s strong magnetic field and stimulates volcanic activity. Erupting volcanoes release greenhouse gases from deep inside the planet and regular eruptions help to maintain the habitable climate that distinguishes Earth from all other rocky planets.

Venus is the most similar planet to Earth in terms of size, mass, density, gravity and composition. While Earth has had a stable and habitable climate over geological time, Venus is in a climate catastrophe with a thick carbon dioxide atmosphere and surface temperatures reaching about 470 C. In this study, Jellinek and Matt Jackson, an associate professor at the University of California, explain why the two planets could have evolved so differently.

“Earth could have easily ended up like present day Venus,” said Jellinek. “A key difference that can tip the balance, however, may be differing extents of impact erosion.”

With less impact erosion, Venus would cool episodically with catastrophic swings in the intensity of volcanic activity driving dramatic and billion-year-long swings in climate.

“We played out this impact erosion story forward in time and we were able to show that the effect of the conditions governing the initial composition of a planet can have profound consequences for its evolution. It’s a very special set of circumstances that make Earth.”

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of British ColumbiaNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. A. M. Jellinek, M. G. Jackson. Connections between the bulk composition, geodynamics and habitability of EarthNature Geoscience, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2488
Why we live on Earth and not Venus

3 things needed for #greengrowth: #energy, responsible resource management; good governance

Three areas are critical to achieve this: access to energy, responsible resource management, and good governance.

First, people need access to energy to leave poverty behind. But the energy sector also has a very high potential for reducing poverty while making “green” gains.
However, the electricity challenge remains daunting. In Ethiopia, with a population of 91 million people, 68 million are living in the dark. Without electricity children cannot do homework at night, people cannot run competitive businesses, and countries cannot power their economies.
This is why access to sustainable energy is a development goal in itself. According to the latest data, more poor people are gaining access to electricity at a faster rate than ever before. But the gains in renewables and progress in efficiency are too slow. Almost 3 billion still cook with polluting fuels like kerosene, charcoal and dung.
The second critical area for a sustainable and inclusive growth shift is responsible resource management.
The fishery sector, for example, holds many opportunities for smart and sustainable resource management.
A well-managed “blue” economy can ensure food security, promote sustainable tourism, and build resilience. Ineffective fish-stock management and illegal fishing waste $75 billion to $125 billion of global output annually, undermining food security and forgoing revenue.
Indonesia has more than 2.6 million fishermen. It is the world’s second-largest producer of wild-capture fish. 
If it improves governance of the fisheries sector and invests in large scale maritime transport and trade infrastructure, it can double fish production by the year 2019. 
Governance is the third area which needs urgent attention. For many countries, this is the biggest challenge.
Estimates suggest that illegal logging generates approximately $10 billion to $15 billion annually worldwide.
This is a problem of implementing existing regulations or designing better laws. And it is a global issue, rife in many resource-rich countries.
Improving transparency and monitoring is key. Government agencies often don’t know the extent to which sectors are sustainable and which natural resources are being depleted.
The energy sector, for example, needs more and better data on simple energy use and emissions. This comprehensive “green accounting” is currently lacking.
But it is also a matter of leadership, building consensus, taking on vested interests and juggling trade-offs to make the shift from ‘dirty’ and exclusive to sustainable and inclusive growth. 
So how can we overcome the obstacles to making growth sustainable and inclusive?
There are many who fear that greening growth is too expensive, could slow output, or should concern only high-income countries. This fear is short-sighted. Sustainable growth is neither unaffordable nor is it technically out of reach.
But it comes with challenges, including large up-front costs and long-term financing of 15 to 25 years. Few developing countries have suitable capital markets or banking sectors.
Improving the energy mix, for example, will reduce both environmental and fiscal risks. Turkey drastically reduced the share of oil in favor of gas. Thailand has decreased its dependency on petroleum products, from two-thirds to a third.
Another challenge is cost recovery and the right policy environment that ensures we are not only building schools, but also improve education. No power station is of use if the utility company is operating at a massive loss. Few infrastructure projects can charge at full cost. So we should find ways to ease cost recovery, while keeping services affordable for low-income families and communities.
We need to use our opportunities wisely. From 2011 to 2012, investments in clean technology in developing countries increased by 19%. And 90% of clean technology businesses increased their revenue even during the global economic downturn.
China has grown by double digits for decades, but lost a staggering 9% of its expected GDP to “brown growth.” In response, China is shifting economic activity to innovation and higher value-added production.
East Asia could take the lead on green development. Cambodia and Vietnam have integrated green growth plans into economic policies. Thailand’s most recent multi-year development plan includes a goal to reduce energy intensity by 25% by the year 2030.
Others can learn from these experiences. The good news is that more and more countries, developed and developing countries, now understand that their success will depend on how they will grow, not just by how much.
This blog is based on a speech delivered in June 2015.

Source: The Case For Inclusive Green Growth

3 things needed for #greengrowth: #energy, responsible resource management; good governance

Tundra study uncovers impact of climate warming in the Arctic

Scientists are using ring growth data, like these shown in a willow shrub, to assess the age and growth of shrubs in a huge study of the Arctic tundra.
Credit: Isla Myers-Smith

Significant changes in one of Earth’s most important ecosystems are not only a symptom of climate change, but may fuel further warming, research suggests.

One of the biggest studies to date of key vegetation in the Arctic tundra provides strong evidence that dramatic changes in the region are being driven by climate warming.

Studies of tundra shrubs — which act as a barometer of the Arctic environment — show that they grow more when temperatures are warmer. Increased shrub growth, driven by recent and future warming in the Arctic, could cause more warming in tundra ecosystems and for the planet as a whole.

Taller shrubs prevent snow from reflecting heat from the sun back into space, warming Earth’s surface. They can also influence soil temperatures and thaw permafrost. Increased shrubs can change the cycling of nutrients and carbon in soil, affecting its decomposition and the amount of carbon released to the atmosphere. All these factors can contribute to climate warming both in the Arctic and on a global scale.

Shrub species in wet landscapes at mid-latitudes of the Arctic are the most sensitive to climate warming, the study found. These areas are vulnerable to change as they store large amounts of carbon in frozen soil, which could be released by warming and permafrost thaw.

An international team of scientists at 37 sites in nine countries, led by the University of Edinburgh, studied records of shrub growth spanning 60 years by analysing annual growth rings in the plant stems, to explore links between climate and vegetation change.

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, was funded by the International Arctic Science Committee. The findings will help improve models of future changes to tundra ecosystems and the impacts of these changes on the global climate.

Dr Isla Myers-Smith, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who co-ordinated the study, said: “Arctic shrub growth in the tundra is one of the most significant examples on Earth of the effect that climate change is having on ecosystems. Our findings show there is a lot of variation across this landscape. Understanding this should help improve predictions of climate change impacts across the tundra.”


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided byUniversity of EdinburghNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Isla H. Myers-Smith, Sarah C. Elmendorf, Pieter S. A. Beck, Martin Wilmking, Martin Hallinger, Daan Blok, Ken D. Tape, Shelly A. Rayback, Marc Macias-Fauria, Bruce C. Forbes, James D. M. Speed, Noémie Boulanger-Lapointe, Christian Rixen, Esther Lévesque, Niels Martin Schmidt, Claudia Baittinger, Andrew J. Trant, Luise Hermanutz, Laura Siegwart Collier, Melissa A. Dawes, Trevor C. Lantz, Stef Weijers, Rasmus Halfdan Jørgensen, Agata Buchwal, Allan Buras, Adam T. Naito, Virve Ravolainen, Gabriela Schaepman-Strub, Julia A. Wheeler, Sonja Wipf, Kevin C. Guay, David S. Hik, Mark Vellend. Climate sensitivity of shrub growth across the tundra biomeNature Climate Change, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2697
Tundra study uncovers impact of climate warming in the Arctic

If we protect our soils and manage them sustainably we can combat climate change.

A look at how our Soils help to combat climate change in their role of sequestering CO2, and how our collective habits can damage this benefit with potentially devastating consequences.

If we protect our soils and manage them sustainably we can combat climate change.

Clean energy solutions that achieve benefits in health

Energy access is a basic requirement for human development and well-being, but it is vastly different for the poorest 3 billion people on Earth than it is for the richest 1 billion. The top billion consume 50 per cent of available fossil energy while—more than two centuries after the industrial revolution—the poorest 3 billion are still forced to rely on traditional fires (fueled by wood, dung, agricultural waste, charcoal and coal) to cook and heat their homes. One third of them are also forced to use kerosene and candles for lighting. This imbalance in access to modern energy comes at enormous costs to human health and the environment, and creates further disparities in how the effects of those costs are experienced.

In their use of fossil fuels, the top 1 billion contribute more than half the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that cause global warming. If they (and the middle-income 3 billion) continue current rates of fossil fuel consumption, the world will witness warming of 2°C or more in a few short decades. The brunt will be borne by the bottom 3 billion, who live on the edge of subsistence and are most vulnerable to the resulting droughts or other changes in weather and climate.

At the same time—through being limited to using inefficient cooking fires and lamps—the poorest 3 billion are exposed to large quantities of soot (or black carbon) and brown carbon. Once emitted, black carbon particulates both escape into the atmosphere and contribute to household health risks. They are unquestionably deadly. About 4 million people die each year from the toxic smoke emitted by household fires and lights. Exposure to household air pollution kills more people than malaria, TB and HIV combined.

Such household emissions may also contribute as much as 20 per cent to black carbon emissions worldwide. This is vastly significant because black carbon (from stoves and other sources) is the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide and leads to crop loss, deforestation and the melting of glaciers, threatening critical food and water sources.

About 4 million people die each year from the toxic smoke emitted by household fires and lights. Exposure to household air pollution kills more people than malaria, TB and HIV combined.

The consequences of energy imbalance are dire.

But the new United Nations initiative Sustainable Energy for All, which aims to provide access to sustainable and renewable energy sources to everyone, is unprecedented and extremely productive.

The health benefits of providing energy to the bottom 3 billion would be far ranging, and the climate benefits would be felt by all.

Project Surya, which we lead, focuses on clean energy solutions for the poorest that achieve benefits in health, climate and sustainability by employing clean cooking and lighting technologies that reduce smoke emissions by 90 per cent or more. One chronic issue with these advanced technologies—which still use locally available solid biomass— is that with the added performance comes additional cost. The costs—typically, about six weeks of income for rural households—along with the lack of robust supply chains, inhibit scaling up the technologies to the hundreds of millions of households where they are needed.

Yet the use of advanced energy technologies enables us to leverage the link between household pollution and climate change. Surya now provides users of advanced improved stoves with the credit they deserve for mitigating climate change. Households that employ them generate quantifiable reductions in black carbon and carbon dioxide, with direct positive impacts on the climate—and so should be able to sell the resulting credits in a market. Much as a company can sell carbon credits for cleaning up its operations, we believe individual women should also receive financial benefits for their actions to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and black carbon.

Generating carbon credits for switching to improved stoves is nothing new. After all, burning firewood leads to 1-2 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year. The contributions from each household do not reflect the total potential climate mitigation achieved, although improved stoves also help to reduce deforestation. But quantifying the black carbon reductions—which work separately from carbon dioxide—reveals that their true carbon savings are two to three times greater. Moreover, including black carbon may bring new investors and buyers to carbon markets because reducing it has more immediate climate mitigation impacts than cutting carbon dioxide and has clear health and sustainability benefits. So this new approach could catalyze new funds to support energy access at scale.

While this seems straightforward in principle, there are some formidable challenges. One example of these is verifying the use of clean stoves on a house-by-house basis. Another is accurately translating stove usage to “climate credits”, saleable via a carbon market (or results-based financing mechanism), which encompass reductions in both carbon dioxide and black carbon particulates from adopting the cleaner energy technology.
And a third is distributing the financial credits to the women using the stoves, or the stove distributor.

Project Surya’s Climate Credit Pilot Project (C2P2) combines cutting-edge air pollution and climate change science with pioneering wireless sensor technologies to work towards universal access to advanced cook stoves and solar lighting systems. Through an international partnership that includes NGOs, private donors, academics, government banks, The Gold Standard Foundation’s Voluntary Carbon market, rural entrepreneurs, village chiefs and small women’s groups, Surya uses wireless sensors integrated into kitchens to document climate credits generated by using improved stoves. Close to a quarter of households now use the improved stoves for 50-100 per cent of their daily cooking needs. Each household that uses the stove for all cooking could earn approximately $35 per year (assuming an estimate of $6 per tonne of CO2 equivalent). Carbon markets ensure a level of transparency and standardization of methods for verification and validation that will be important if this initiative is to scale up beyond Surya or any single institution. Surya is now working to expand this carbon market approach to encourage the adoption of clean lighting, as well as cooking, technologies.

Through this work, Project Surya is celebrating and rewarding the role of the poorest women in the world as climate warriors.

We acknowledge the contributions of Tara Ramanathan in leading the Nexleaf Analytics cookstove programme in the field and significant contributions from Omkar Patange in India. We thank Charlie Kennel and Ellen Lehman, Mac McQuown, Qualcomm Wireless Reach, UK AID, and the United Nations Environment Programme for their explicit support of C2P2.

Source: Credit Where it’s Due

Clean energy solutions that achieve benefits in health

Take a look at the 1st “Blue Marble” image since 1972! Learn more about #DSCOVR #EarthRightNow

CKXYtgKWwAAOHLhThe Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) is an Earth-observing satellite, originally proposed by former Vice President Al Gore in 1998. Inspired by Apollo 17’s photograph, The Blue Marble—the first image to show the fully illuminated face of our planet—Vice President Gore challenged NASA to create a satellite that would allow anyone to view Earth and its changing face through a continuous real-time image via the Internet.

After years of delay, DSCOVR was finally launched from Cape Canaveral onboard a Space X Falcon 9 rocket on February 11, 2015. The mission is a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United States Air Force.

DSCOVR is located at the LaGrangian Point 1, or “L1,” a unique point in space—more than 1 million miles from Earth—where the gravity of the Earth and Sun are balanced. From L1,DSCOVR co-orbits the Earth and conducts its scientific missions, which include the first ever measurement of the energy budget for planet Earth.

Source: Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR)

Take a look at the 1st “Blue Marble” image since 1972! Learn more about #DSCOVR #EarthRightNow

This Is How The World’s Climate Changed Last Year

The state of the world’s climate is complex enough that it takes 413 scientists from 58 countries half a year to completely summarize a year’s worth of data.

And 2014 was a doozy.

According to the American Meteorological Society and NOAA’s “State of the Climate in 2014″report, several markers measuring the earth’s climatic trends set historical records. This is the 25th year that scientists have provided this report, and it was full of hundreds of pages of detailed atmospheric and oceanic summaries of what’s happening to our air, land, and water.

“The year 2014 was forecast to be a warm year, and it was by all accounts a very warm year, in fact record warm according to four independent observational datasets,” the report said. The reason: “the radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases continued to increase, owing to rising levels of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other radiatively active trace gases.”

The world’s experts know that climate change is happening, and why, and provide reports like these every year spelling out the impacts in excruciating detail.

“The variety of indicators shows us how our climate is changing, not just in temperature but from the depths of the oceans to the outer atmosphere,” said Thomas R. Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

For those without the time to peruse nearly 300 pages of scientific summaries, here are seven records that fell in 2014.

Heat

Average temperature in 2014 compared to the 1981-2010 average. Adapted from Plate 2.1c in State of the Climate in 2014.

Average temperature in 2014 compared to the 1981-2010 average. Adapted from Plate 2.1c in State of the Climate in 2014.

Though the world knew this back in January thanks to NOAA data, the report confirmed, and elaborated upon, the certainty around the record broken by 2014 as the hottest year on record.

With the glaring exception of the eastern North American continent, many countries — more than 20 — broke high temperature records last year. Much of Europe and Mexico had their hottest years, while Australia, Argentina, Uruguay, and much of Africa came close.

“Australia’s annual mean temperature anomaly, with respect to 1961–90, was +0.91°C, making 2014 the third warmest year for the country since national temperature records began in 1910,” the report said. The year before, 2013, was the hottest year on record.

With emissions continuing and El Nino coming on strong, it should not be a surprise that 2015 looks to easily break 2014’s global average surface temperature record.

Sea Levels

To convey the surreality of their findings, G.C. Johnson and A.R. Parsons, the authors of the Global Oceans section of the report used a tactic uncommon in climatology. Haikus. Haikus for sea level rise and rising temperatures.

Not quite El Niño,
North Oceans’ fluxes, warmth shift,
dance with weird weather.

Seas warm, ice caps melt,
waters rise, sour, rains shift salt,
unceasing, worldwide.

Measuring average global sea level is fantastically complex stuff. Winds can move large volumes of water around, temperature shifts can make the ocean shrink in some places and not others, while the daily tides, currents, and other variables conspire together to sabotage an accurate reading. So experts use a variety of different measurements and data streams to get something accurate and useful. And it told them that 2014 broke another sea level record.

slr

“Owing to both ocean warming and land ice melt contributions, global mean sea level in 2014 was also record high and 67 mm greater than the 1993 annual mean, when satellite altimetry measurements began,” the report said.

Sea levels do not rise when icebergs or ice sheets floating in them melt — the water has already been displaced. Melting land ice does make sea levels rise, and this is the cause of sea level rise that most people know. However, the heat being pumped into the oceans from the greenhouse effect not only increases the temperature, it also causes the water to expand, which makes sea levels rise.

Hot Days, Warm Nights

daysnights

Most of Europe had excessively large numbers of hot days and nights — daily maxima and minima. Several countries set records for warmest annual values.

“These continuous warm anomalies contributed to 2014 seeing the largest frequency of warm days and nights on record: on a continental average over a quarter of days (and nights) had temperatures in the warmest 10% of the climatological (1961–90) temperature distribution,” the report said.

The winter minimum in most of Alaska was also the warmest on record, which helped it break its regional heat record.

Storms In Hot Water

“Across the major tropical cyclone basins, 91 named storms were observed during 2014, above the 1981–2010 global average of 82,” the report said. “The Eastern/Central Pacific and South Indian Ocean basins experienced significantly above-normal activity in 2014; all other basins were either at or below normal.”

By many accounts, however, 2014 was a weak year for tropical cyclones, especially compared to the large number of strong storms in 2013. But the strong cyclones of 2014 were often extremely powerful.

Of the 91 named storms, seven became Category 5 systems: Marie and Genevieve, Cyclone Gillian, and then Super Typhoons Halong, Vongfong, Nuri, and Hagupit.

“The rate of typhoons that reached super typhoon status in 2014 was 67%, exceeding the previous record rate of 58% in 1970,” the report noted. Usually, only 23 percent of normal typhoons can hit super typhoon intensity each year.

Yearly mean Optimal Interpolation of Sea Surface Temperature anomaly.

Yearly mean Optimal Interpolation of Sea Surface Temperature anomaly.

One factor at play is extremely high ocean surface temperatures.

“But it was the oceans that drove the record global surface temperature in 2014,” the report said. “Although 2014 was largely ENSO-neutral [EL Niño Southern Oscillation], the globally averaged sea surface temperature (SST) was the highest on record.”

Disappearing Glaciers

“In higher latitudes and at higher elevations, increased warming continued to be visible in the decline of glacier mass balance, increasing permafrost temperatures, and a deeper thawing layer in seasonally frozen soil,” the report said. This was particularly dramatic in Greenland. Warm temperatures melt ice faster than snowfall can replenish it, and darker melt pools on the top of the glaciers absorb more energy from the sun than frozen white ice.

This has been going on for decades, and the rate has been accelerating:

glacierloss

The World Glacier Monitoring Service received preliminary data from Argentina, Austria, Chile, China, France, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. It indicated that for the 31st consecutive year, the world saw no “positive annual balances,” of the water stored by glaciers. Specifically, the earth saw the loss of 0.853 meters of water equivalent — “the equivalent depth of water resulting from snow or ice melt.”

Since 1980, that cumulative mass balance loss hit 16.8 meters in 2014.

Pollution

The report said carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide all hit record concentrations in the atmosphere last year, as they have for essentially each year beforehand.

“Carbon dioxide increased by 1.9 ppm [parts per million] to reach a globally averaged value of 397.2 ppm for 2014,” the abstract began. “Altogether, 5 major and 15 minor greenhouse gases contributed 2.94 W/m² of direct radiative forcing, which is 36% greater than their contributions just a quarter century ago.”

ghgemissionschart

Some climate watchers are familiar with the Keeling Curve, which has plotted the carbon dioxide concentration readings taken from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii since 1958. In 2013, the tracker passed above 400 ppm for the first time in recorded history, and each year since, more days have been spent above that symbolic number.

Using other measurements to supplement the data, the report estimated that the 2014 global average was 397.2 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, a 1.9 ppm bump from 2013. This year, the number will continue its inexorable climb, unless global emissions slow significantly.

One graph unknown to most is the methane concentration graph, let alone the nitrous oxide graph. Those, according to the report, show a similar upward sweep. The CFC graph at the bottom alone displays a slow decline in atmospheric concentrations because the world came together more than 25 years ago to address the hole in the ozone layer CFCs were creating, and agreed on the Montreal Protocol. This limited CFCs’ use in aerosols and other products. They were largely replaced, however, by HFCs, which are also extremely potent greenhouse gases.

The CFC graph shows what a successful emissions reduction regime might look like for the other greenhouse gases.

Source: This Is How The World’s Climate Changed Last Year

This Is How The World’s Climate Changed Last Year

A New Record Linked to Climate Change Was Just Set in Greenland. It May Seem Esoteric, But It’s Really Important.

esoteric

Back in early July, unusual warmth helped trigger a sudden and dramatic spike in melting at the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet. Exactly what was happening, and whether the trend would continue, was unclear.

Two weeks later, we now know that while the extent of surface melting is still significantly above average, it has not come close to breaking the record (at least not yet).

At the same time, another significant milestone has been reached: The amount of sunlight reflected by snow on the ice sheet’s surface plummeted during the first week of July to the lowest levels seen in the 16 years that it has been measured by satellite.

Reflectivity of snow is not as esoteric as it may seem. It’s actually an important climate variable — one that played a critical role in Greenland’s record-setting surface melt in July of 2012. At that time, just a little less than 100 percent of the surface experienced melting.

It was an astonishing event, and warm temperatures were partly to blame. But so was another factor: darkening of the snow by soot from wildfires burning many hundreds of miles away. And as you’ll see in a minute, soot may have been a factor this summer too.

esoteric

When snow at the surface melts, and even when it warms just shy of the melting point, it will become darker. This causes its reflectivity, or “albedo,” to drop. Although this summer started out cold and snowy in Greenland, by the second half of June, “temperatures were everywhere markedly higher than average,” according to National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Those warm temperatures, as well as bright, sunny skies, were linked to a dome of unusually high atmospheric pressure that formed over Greenland in June. This was in keeping with a trend in recent decades of higher pressures over Greenland and part of the Central Arctic Ocean during summer.

esoteric

The surface of an ice sheet can also become darker when winds carry soot in from distant wildfires. And, in fact, by early July smoke traveling west from wildfires in Alaska, and drifting east from conflagrations in Canada, converged over Greenland.

We’ll have to wait until data from surface surveys are available to know how much of an impact wildfire soot may have had on the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet in early July.

We do know that during 2012’s record melting, it turned out to be a key factor.

That year, temperatures at the surface were unusually warm, and those balmy conditions were enhanced by a low layer of clouds consisting of tiny water droplets. The cloud layer was thin enough to allow sunlight to pass through and help melt the surface. At the same time it was also thick enough to trap a significant amount of thermal energy being radiated upward from the surface.

But a study published last year suggests those factors alone probably weren’t enough to cause surface melting in the high, dry central region of the ice sheet. Yet melting happened there too — because soot from distant wildfires had lowered the albedo of the snow below a critical threshold, the researchers found.

And that’s why albedo — however esoteric the concept may seem — is really important.

In fact, global warming, wildfires, albedo, and melting snow and ice, are all potentially tied together in a reinforcing feedback loop. Here’s how:

Warmer temperatures due to human activities have been contributing to increased wildfire activity. This has caused darkening of the snow in Greenland, which — as we’ve seen — has helped lead to increased melting at the ice sheet’s surface. More melting of the ice sheet’s surface decreases its albedo, which causes still more melting. Now, add in more global warming from human activities, and you’ve got more fires, lower albedo, more melting, lower albedo, etc., etc.

In 2012, the biggest spike in surface melting in Greenland occurred about mid way through the warm season. That’s where we’re at right now. I wouldn’t bet on a similar event happening this year, because it would take an extraordinary confluence of events.

Extraordinary, but not impossible.

Source: A New Record Linked to Climate Change Was Just Set in Greenland. It May Seem Esoteric, But It’s Really Important.

A New Record Linked to Climate Change Was Just Set in Greenland. It May Seem Esoteric, But It’s Really Important.

Sydney weather: Brace for coldest couple of days in 20 years

Sydney is set for another cold and wet day on Friday with an east coast low expected to form offshore and bring damaging winds and rain during the morning.

Friday’s maximum in the city is forecast to reach just 13 degrees, roughly in line with Thursday’s top of 13.4 degrees, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. If realised, that would make it Sydney’s coldest two days in a row since June 1995, said David Barlow, an information officer with the bureau.

The bureau has issued an updated severe weather warning  on Friday morning for damaging winds and surf generated by “a trough linked to the deepening low off the Illawarra coast” for the metropolitan, Hunter and Illawarra districts.

A woman takes cover during rainy weather on Thursday in Sydney.A woman takes cover during rainy weather on Thursday in Sydney. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Sustained winds will reach about 70km/h with peak gusts on Friday of 90km/h for coastal areas from Illawarra to the Central Coast, the bureau said.

“It will be within a few kilometres of the coast where the strongest winds will be,” Mr Barlow said.

The wild weather should reach Sydney around sunrise and although there will be some rain, “the main focus will be on the wind”, he said. “With that wind, it won’t be a very nice day.”

Wind rather than rain may be the main concern on Friday.Wind rather than rain may be the main concern on Friday. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Sydney had collected about 12 millimetres of rain by late on Thursday and can expect 10-25 millimetres more on Friday, the bureau said.

Surf conditions will also be “very heavy”, which may lead to localised damage and coastal erosion. “Beach conditions in these areas could be dangerous and people should stay well away from the surf and surf-exposed areas,” the bureau said.

Also known as “east coast cyclones”, the low pressure systems are formed by upper level cold air combining with moist unstable air offshore, creating a deep low-pressure system. Rainfall totals and wind impacts depend on how long they linger near the coast.

A Sydney commuter endures Thursday's rain.A Sydney commuter endures Thursday’s rain. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Rob Sharpe, a meteorologist with Weatherzone, said Friday’s east coast low is likely to be “brief and intense”.

“We will experience an east coast low but it’s not going to be a particularly powerful one and it’s not going to be a long-lasting one,” Mr Sharpe said.

It is unlikely, for instance, to be in the same league as the east coast low that dumped about 225mm of rain on Sydney and caused flooding in the Hunter Valley on April 21-22.

Mr Sharpe said the worst of the rain and winds should be over by Friday afternoon, with showers easing.

Conditions will be relatively settled over the weekend with more showers on Saturday.

Although many will be looking forward to the arrival of summer – just 137 days until December 1 – there will be some relatively mild conditions arriving next week as a high-pressure system dominates for a while.

On current forecasts, Sydney can expect tops of 19 degrees from Tuesday to Thursday with mostly sunny conditions – before the arrival of another cold front.

Unlike the present front that is bringing 10 centimetres or more of snow to the Alpine peaks, the next one will not be as cold by the time it reaches eastern Australia. It will deliver more rain that will be welcomed by farmers if not by the ski resorts.

“It’d be hitting the slopes this weekend until Tuesday when the rain might come in and ruin things,” Mr Sharpe said.

Source: Sydney weather: Brace for coldest couple of days in 20 years 

Sydney weather: Brace for coldest couple of days in 20 years