• DYI experiment demonstrates the physics of climate change for students

    There are two main causes of rising sea levels — thermal expansion and melting land-based ice. Thermal expansion is responsible for most of the rising sea levels during the past century, but an increasing amount of rising levels into the future will be due to the melting Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, as well as melting glaciers across the globe, especially the Himalayas, experts say. The rising sea level is a global phenomenon and will affect all coastal cities, but some places are more vulnerable than others. For example, the sea level on the North American Atlantic coast north of Cape Hatteras is rising three to four times faster than the global average, which has been attributed to a reduction in the strength of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current.

  • To “see” climate change, check your thermometer

    Scientists often use satellites, supercomputers, or high-tech arrays of instruments to show how the climate is changing. But now researchers have shown how climate change can be visible, even at just one location, with the simplest instrument of all: a thermometer.

  • Climate change will soon make atolls in the Pacific, Indian oceans uninhabitable

    More than half a million people live on atolls throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans. A new study shows that the combined effect of storm-induced wave-driven flooding and sea level rise on island atolls may be more severe and happen sooner than previous estimates of inundation predicted by passive “bathtub” modeling for low-lying atoll islands, and especially at higher sea levels forecasted for the future due to climate change.

  • History shows more big wildfires likely as climate warms

    The history of wildfires over the past 2,000 years in a northern Colorado mountain range indicates that large fires will continue to increase as a result of a warming climate, according to a new study. Researchers examined charcoal deposits in twelve lakes in and near the Mount Zirkel Wilderness of northern Colorado, finding that wildfires burned large portions of that area during a documented spike in temperatures in North America starting about 1,000 years ago. That period, known as the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), lasted about 300 years, when temperatures rose just under 1 degree Fahrenheit.

  • Government climate pledges, if implemented, would warm world by 2.7°C

    The combination of government climate action plans – or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) — if implemented, would bring global warming down to 2.7°C, according to a new analysis. This is the first time since 2009, when the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) began calculating temperature estimates from climate action pledges, that projected warming has dipped below 3°C.

  • The West is on fire – and the US taxpayer is subsidizing it

    The western United States is burning. This year’s damaging experience is just the latest in a recent series of devastating wildfire seasons, a trend that will only likely increase over the coming years. There are two main reasons behind the growing conflagrations. The first is the legacy of fire suppression polices that snuff out fires as they appear, but leads to the build-up of fuel that is the raw material for larger, more devastating fires. The second is climate change, which is making the West hotter and drier. The higher temperatures wick away moisture from the trees, making them more combustible. The combination of more combustible material and a hotter, drier climate leads to more fires. A number of economic practices and social issues, however, are exacerbating our forest fire problems – chief among them is the enlargement of what is known as the wildland-urban interface (WUI). More people are building homes in the interface close to the wildlands and forests. The full costs of having more people moving into areas subject to greater risk of fire are not borne by these local actors. The federal government picks up between one-half and two-thirds of the cost of protecting people and property in the WUI by providing financial and technical assistance to states and volunteer firefighters. In effect, the federal government, the U.S. taxpayer, picks up the tab. We are on an unsustainable path as the WUI continues to grow and expand, fuel buildup continues and the climate warms. The risk of fire is increasing. But the WUI continues to expand. The U.S. taxpayer should not be subsidizing and underwriting such risky behavior.

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  • Flood risk for New York City, New Jersey coast rising

    Flood risk for New York City and the New Jersey coast has increased significantly during the last 1,000 years due to hurricanes and accompanying storm surges. For the first time, researchers compared both sea-level rise rates and storm surge heights in prehistoric and modern eras and found that the combined increases of each have raised the likelihood of a devastating 500-year flood occurring as often as every twenty-five years. “A storm that occurred once in seven generations is now occurring twice in a generation,” says one of the researchers. What does that mean for residents along the New York/New Jersey coast? “An extra 100,000 people flooded in the region during Hurricane Sandy who would not have flooded if sea level had not been rising,” the researcher says of the 2012 storm.

  • Partnering to build climate change resiliency

    South Florida ranks as the world’s most vulnerable urban region because of the large number of assets exposed to the effects of sea level rise. To build climate change resiliency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) partnered with Florida International University (FIU) to provide local community leaders with the knowledge and tools to assess and improve their capabilities to prevent, mitigate, respond to, and recover from climate impacts, including sea level rise, drought and wildfires, heatwaves, floods, powerful storms, and other hazards.

  • Climate change consensus extends beyond climate scientists

    A survey of nearly 700 scientists from nonclimate disciplines shows that more than 90 percent believe that average global temperatures are higher than pre-1800s levels and that human activity has significantly contributed to the rise. The study is the first to show that consensus on human-caused climate change extends beyond climate scientists to the broader scientific community. Previous studies have shown that about 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists believe in human-caused climate change, and a review of scientific literature on the existence of climate change indicated that about 97 percent of studies affirm climate change is happening.

  • Helping replenish groundwater by flooding farms in the winter

    California is in chronic groundwater overdraft: There is more water being pumped from the ground than filtering in, and the state’s aquifers are shrinking as more growers pump groundwater to keep crops alive. But that fertile farmland may also provide the means for replenishing groundwater to benefit everyone in the drought-stricken state. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, are encouraged by early results from tests to see whether deliberately flooding farmland in winter can replenish aquifers without harming crops or affecting drinking water.

  • Rising seas, bigger storms may greatly magnify U.S. East Coast floods

    Over the past century, the East Coast has seen sea-level rise far above the 8-inch global average — up to a foot in much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, including New York City. Many studies predict that future sea-level rise along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts will increase flooding. Others suggest that the human-caused warming driving this rise will also boost the intensity and frequency of big coastal storms. Up to now, though, these two hazards have been assessed mostly in isolation from each other. Now, a new study quantifies how they could interact to produce alarming spikes in the combined height and duration of flooding. It projects that coastal flooding could possibly shoot up several hundredfold by 2100, from the Northeast to Texas.

  • El Niño, La Niña will exacerbate coastal hazards across entire Pacific

    The projected upsurge of severe El Niño and La Niña events will cause an increase in storm events leading to extreme coastal flooding and erosion in populated regions across the Pacific Ocean, according to a multi-agency study. The impact of these storms is not presently included in most studies on future coastal vulnerability, which look primarily at sea level rise. New research data, from forty-eight beaches across three continents and five countries bordering the Pacific Ocean, suggest the predicted increase will exacerbate coastal erosion irrespective of sea level rise affecting the region.

  • Rather food versus fuel, think in terms of both food and fuel

    Whether you have taken a side or a backseat in the discussion, the “food versus fuel” debate affects us all. Some say growing more biofuel crops today will decrease greenhouse gas emissions, but will make it harder to produce food tomorrow, which has prevented the United States from maximizing the potential of environmentally beneficial biofuels. Scientists argue that farmers can sustainably, and affordably, meet humanity’s growing demand for food and fuel.

  • Snowpack of Sierra Nevada lowest in 500 years, worsening California water woes

    Snowpack in California’s Sierra Nevada in 2015 was at the lowest level in the past 500 years, according to a new report. “Our study really points to the extreme character of the 2014-15 winter. This is not just unprecedented over 80 years — it’s unprecedented over 500 years,” said the lead author of the report. On 1 April of this year, California Governor Jerry Brown declared the first-ever mandatory water restrictions throughout the state while standing on dry ground at 6,800-foot elevation in the Sierra Nevada. The historical average snowpack on that site is more than five feet, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

  • NOAA: El Niño may accelerate nuisance flooding

    Nuisance flooding causes public inconveniences such as frequent road closures, overwhelmed storm water systems, and compromised infrastructure. The extent of nuisance flooding depends on multiple factors, including topography and land cover. According to a new NOAA report issued yesterday, many mid-Atlantic and West Coast communities could see the highest number of nuisance flooding days on record through April due to higher sea levels and more frequent storm surge, compounded by the strengthening El Niño, which is likely to continue into the spring. These communities may experience a 33 to 125 percent increase in the number of nuisance flooding days, the report said.