March, 2017

Much of my news comes from The Daily Climate, whose wonderful subscription service clues me in to what's going on each day. Another great source of stories (and commentaries) comes from my friend Jim Poyser, at Apocadocs.


March, 2017


  • Energy Department Climate Office Bans Use of Phrase 'Climate Change': Employees of the Energy Department's Office of International Climate and Clean Energy were told this week not to use the phrases "climate change," "emissions reduction" or "Paris Agreement" in written memos, briefings or other written communication, sources told POLITICO.
  • 'Climate change is real': companies challenge Trump's reversal of policy: Mars Inc, Staples, The Gap and others speak out against Trump’s sweeping executive order that begins to dismantle Obama’s Clean Power Plan
  • Thinning ice creates undersea Arctic greenhouses: Light shining through could increasingly let phytoplankton bloom in polar region
    • Sea ice skylights formed by warming Arctic temperatures increasingly allow enough sunlight into the waters below to spur phytoplankton blooms, new research suggests. Such conditions, probably a rarity more than two decades ago, now extend to roughly 30 percent of the ice-covered Arctic Ocean during July, researchers report March 29 in Science Advances.


  • Asian Tiger Mosquito: Species On The Move
    • The Asian tiger mosquito arrived in the United States in the mid-1980s when it stowed away in tires imported from Asia. The mosquitoes, which have black and white stripes and are about a quarter of an inch long, have since found a home in the mid-Atlantic region. They have spread beyond their native home in Southeast Asia, and can be found in Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, South America and beyond.
    • Climate change will continue to expand the Asian tiger mosquito's range and the public health risk will grow, too. Scientists are working on projecting how the range will expand, so people in those areas can prepare. As the mosquitos spread further into areas without sufficient resources, there is greater risk of a public health crisis. One study found that by 2050, approximately 2.4 billion people could live in areas where the mosquitos also live. How far the range expands will be determined by how much climate action is or is not successful in limiting carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Farm Policy in Age of Climate Change Creating Another Dust Bowl, Critics Say: The last Farm Bill contained incentives for farmers to keep planting on degraded land, setting up potential environmental catastrophe.

3/24/2017 — "We are in uncharted territory."

  • Colorado appeals court says state must protect health and environment before allowing oil and gas drilling: The court sided with Boulder teen Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and said the protection of public health and the environment is “a condition that must be fulfilled”
  • State of the Warming Climate in 2016: 'Truly Uncharted Territory': World Meteorological Organization reveals extent of global warming's impacts last year, including epic Arctic melting, drought and extreme weather.
    • "This report confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record—a remarkable 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. That temperature rise marks a 0.06 degrees Celsius increase over the record set in 2015. The Paris climate agreement commits the world's nations to holding the atmospheric temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius, to try to stave off the most catastrophic global warming impacts.
    • Average atmospheric carbon dioxide levels hit a record high, at 400 parts per million, and projections for 2017 are even higher. The U.K. Met office recently forecast that this year's monthly CO2 level at Mauna Loa could reach nearly 410 parts per million in May, and the 2017 average could be 2-3 parts per million higher than last year.
    • While severe droughts brought food insecurity to millions across southern and eastern Africa and Central America, Hurricane Matthew was the first category 4 storm to make landfall since 1963. It ravaged parts of Haiti and caused significant damage in the United States.
    • In February, 11,743 warm temperature records were broken or tied in the U.S. alone, according to NOAA. "Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system," said David Carlson, the director of the WMO-sponsored World Climate Research Program. "We are now in truly uncharted territory."
  • Planting by Phenology (Natural Plant and Animal Cycles):
  • U.S. Warm Records Are Trouncing Cold Records by Over 4:1 in 2016:
  • Trump administration approves Keystone XL pipeline: The State Department determined that building it serves U.S. national interests
    • The Trump administration has dropped fighting climate change as a priority and left open the possibility of pulling out of the Paris deal.


  • Sierra snowpack: As world’s climate warms, California’s most important water source becomes less reliable:
    • … winter snowpack is a giant reservoir. In the watershed that supplies the local Nevada Irrigation District (NID), even average snowpack holds enough water — all by itself — to supply customers for one year.
    • In 2015, "snowpack level was the lowest in the last 500 years," said scientist Soumaya Belmecheri, of the University of Arizona's Laboratory of Tree Ring Research.
    • When the environment is changing so rapidly, new approaches to water supply are difficult, but urgent, said NID General Manager Rem Scherzinger. "We need to shift our thinking to prepare for more variability," Scherzinger said. "We need to prepare for a drier climate and make our water supply more sustainable."
  • Climate Change Needs to Be Tackled for Better Health, Medical Groups Urge: Heatstroke. Asthma. Zika. Climate change is helping illness and disease spread and become more common, a new consortium of medical groups said Wednesday. It's not just extreme heat and flooding, but more intense storms — including blizzards — and a steady warming trend that lets disease-carrying mosquitoes thrive, the new Medical Society Consortium on Climate Health said.
    • "We believe the most important action we can take to protect our health is to accelerate the inevitable transition to clean renewable energy," the group of 11 medical societies, which includes pediatricians, gynecologists and infectious disease specialists, said in a statement.
  • Earth Sets Record Temperature in 2016 — for Third Year in a Row: Last year was the hottest year ever recorded, marking the third year in a row that average global temperatures hit record-setting levels, NASA and NOAA said Wednesday.
    • Bernadette Woods Placky, chief meteorologist at the independent nonprofit Climate Central, told NBC News data showed that early last year "temperatures were already very close to 1.5 degrees" as a result of El Nino. While temperatures began to cool later in the year, Placky said the findings were incredibly significant. "That matters because when you add all this extra heat to our climate system our ice melts, our sea levels rise, and our oceans change their chemistry," she said. "It's leading to an increase in certain cases of extreme weather that are costing lives and are costing a lot of money," she said.
  • Our Cataclysmic Planet: How mass extinctions inform our understanding of human-caused climate change
    • If you could have been there, somewhere in Siberia at the end of the Paleozoic Era nearly 252 million years ago, you would have witnessed an apocalyptic horror that rarely visits our planet. Also, I mean, you would have been doomed. Almost certainly. It was a bad scene. Mass extinction is a real shitshow. But let’s say, somehow, you could have watched this madness unfold—without succumbing to the monstrous cloud of carbon dioxide belched up from the volcanoes of the Siberian Traps, without being incinerated by an ocean of lava, without starving in the ruins of the global acid rain that destroyed the ecosystems on land, and without being burned alive in the wildfires that scorched the earth. If you could have lived through all of this, which, by the way, you wouldn’t have, you would have been among the few creatures to survive what paleontologists now refer to as the Great Dying. It’s a good name for what happened.
    • There have only been five mass extinction events, that we know of, on Earth. The mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs was the most recent—but it wasn't the most devastating. The Great Dying, which preceded the demise of the dinosaurs by about 180 million years, was by far the worst: The planet warmed rapidly— roughly 50 degrees Fahrenheit over a 60,000-year period. Some 90 percent of all living creatures went kaput. It then took 10 million years for life on Earth to bounce back, which was a curiously long recovery period, even for an extinction of that magnitude.
    • “In one way it’s scary that we’re even in the same conversation as major mass extinction events,” Brannen added, referring to climate change. “But the Earth has seen way worse than we could ever dish out and it still recovers. The Earth, in the long run? The Earth will be fine." Humans, maybe not so much.
  • How Climate Change Might Kill People: "A rise in summer mean temperature of 1 degree C (just under 2 degrees F) was associated with a 1 percent higher death rate, whereas an increase in winter mean temperature corresponded to a 0.6 percent decrease in mortality," Joel Schwartz, a professor of environmental health at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health and colleagues wrote.
    • But the researchers also found that it's not so much a steady rise or fall in temperature that kills, but the up-and-down variation that takes temperatures out of their average range. "Variability mattered," Schwartz said. "We don't acclimate to temperature very fast," he added. "If the day-to-day variability within the season was higher, then more people died."
  • These Climate Programs Would Be Axed Under Trump's Budget: President Trump's first budget proposal includes cutting EPA funding by a third, ending international climate work, squelching research.



  • Massive Permafrost Thaw Documented in Canada, Portends Huge Carbon Release: Study shows 52,000 square miles in rapid decline, with sediment and carbon threatening the surrounding environment and potentially accelerating global warming.
    • Huge slabs of Arctic permafrost in northwest Canada are slumping and disintegrating, sending large amounts of carbon-rich mud and silt into streams and rivers. A new study that analyzed nearly a half-million square miles in northwest Canada found that this permafrost decay is affecting 52,000 square miles of that vast stretch of earth—an expanse the size of Alabama.
    • Similar large-scale landscape changes are evident across the Arctic including in Alaska, Siberia and Scandinavia, the researchers wrote in a paper published in the journal Geology in early February. The study didn't address the issue of greenhouse gas releases from thawing permafrost. But its findings could help quantify the immense global scale of the thawing, which will contribute to more accurate estimates of carbon emissions.
    • "Things have really taken off. Climate warming is now making that happen. It's exactly what we should expect with climate change," said Steven V. Kokelj, lead scientist on the Canadian mapping project. "And the maps that we produced clearly indicated it's not just a random pattern. We're sort of connecting dots here for the scientific community."
    • Other global evidence of similar large-scale permafrost changes have recently been documented in Siberia, where scientists with the Permafrost Laboratory at the University of Sussex (UK) are monitoring another rapidly growing scar in the earth. More than a half-mile of once-frozen ground has collapsed 280-feet deep, according to their study published in in the journal Quaternary Research in February. The researchers said they expect to see the rolling tundra landscape transform, including the formation of large new valleys and lakes.
    • "We've seen a significant reduction in the number of ice days (those with 24 hours of sub-freezing temperatures), especially in the summer months," said Reisenhofer, who works at a climate observatory at an elevation of 8,500 feet. "From 2010 to 2014, the number of ice days decreased by 11 in May, and 10 in June." During that span, the mountain beneath the research station crumbled, requiring a huge investment to stabilize the outpost, he said.

What went on: 2016

What went on: 2015

What went on: 2014

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