Climate Change Weekly Roundup: 08/13/12

Publication – NewsWise
Date: August 6, 2012

Forged for Infamy: 2012 the Hottest Year on Record for Northeast

New data released by the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University shows the Northeast’s seven-month average (January through July) of 49.9 degrees was the warmest such period since 1895, the year which record keeping began, according to NewsWise. It was the second warmest such period in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and the warmest first seven months of the year in the rest of the Northeast region of the United States.

The 12 months that ended July 31 was also the warmest period in 117 years in the Northeast, and in all of the states except West Virginia – where the average temperature of 54.7 degrees missed tying the record set in 1932 by 0.1 degree.

According to the article, “New maximum temperature records were set at many of the region’s first-order stations during July as the mercury soared into the upper 90s and low 100s. The sensor at Washington’s National Airport recorded 105 degrees on July 7, surpassing the record of 102 degrees set just two years ago. Baltimore’s new record temperature of 104 degrees on the 18th broke the city’s long-standing record of 102 degrees set in 1887.”

Publication – Science Daily
Date: August 8, 2012

July 2012 Marked Hottest Month On Record for Contiguous U.S.; Drought Expands to Cover Nearly 63 Percent of the Lower 48

According to NOAA scientists, the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during July was 77.6°F, 3.3°F above the 20th century average, marking the hottest July and the hottest month on record for the nation, according to the article.

During July, the contiguous U.S. averaged a precipitation total of 2.57 inches, which was 0.19 inch below average. Near-record dry conditions were present for the middle of the nation, with the drought footprint expanding to cover nearly 63 percent of the Lower 48, according the U.S. Drought Monitor — while some areas such as the Gulf Coast and the Southwest had wetter-than-average conditions.

The May-July months, an important period for agriculture, was the second warmest and 12th driest such three-months for the Lower 48, contributing to rapid expansion of drought. The central regions of the country were hardest hit by the drought, where ten states had three-month precipitation totals among their ten driest, including Nebraska, Kansas, and Arkansas which were record dry.

According to the Palmer Drought Severity Index, whose record spans the 20th century, about 57 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing moderate-to-extreme drought in July. The last drought this extensive was in December 1956 when about 58 percent of the nation was in moderate-to-extreme drought.

Publication – Yahoo! News
Date: August 8, 2012

Sink or Swim: 6 Ways to Adapt to Climate Change

With droughts hitting harder, floodwaters rising higher and entire island nations potentially sinking beneath the waves, humans must adapt to life in a world of climate change.

Yahoo! News provided six adaptation ideas for climate change:

  • Waterworld homes: When the waters rise, tomorrow’s buildings may rise with them as floating structures. Koen Olthuis, head of Waterstudio.NL, has begun working on projects ranging from floating apartments in the Netherlands to a floating mosque in the United Arab Emirates. The Netherlands firm has also designed a series of floating hotels, conference centers and other buildings for the Maldives, an island country in the Indian Ocean that faces complete submersion by 2080.
  • Underground cities: Mucking about like imaginary mole people may sound unappealing, but moving more cities underground could offer added protection from the harsher extremes of climate change. Putting power lines underground has already made the difference for many cities between having electricity and seeing the lights go out in the aftermath of severe storms — and megacities such as Hong Kong also see the added bonus of saving on space by moving power stations and water reservoirs below the surface.
  • Floating farms: Farmers in Bangladesh build floating rafts out of straw, rice stubble and a weed called water hyacinth, before adding upper layers of decaying waterworts to act as manure. The rafts become moveable floating surfaces that replace flooded agricultural land and can actually produce much more crops than traditional fields — an idea other countries might adapt with their own local twists.
  • Smart energy: A warming planet means many homes and businesses will use more energy and spend more on electricity bills to keep cool. Tomorrow’s power grids must not only connect to new sources of clean energy — such as renewable solar, wind, tidal or geothermal power — but also become smarter to juggle the mix of old and new energy sources and respond quickly to changing energy demands at different times of day.
  • Vertical farms: The vertical farms provide an indoor, controlled climate to grow crops in a space-saving setup that can prove more efficient than growing crops in open fields, said Dickson Despommier, a microbiologist and ecologist at Columbia University who helped pioneer the vertical farm movement. Countries such as the U.S., Sweden, the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea and Singapore have all begun experimenting with their own vertical farms.
  • Climate-adapted crops: Crops don’t have to move indoors to survive if they can adapt to the droughts and temperature shifts of climate change. Drought-resistant corn that is able to grow with less water has already debuted in different versions from companies such as Monsanto, DuPont and Sygenta. The agribusiness giants have begun investing billions of dollars in genetically engineering “climate-ready” crops to resist drought, flooding, heat, cold and salt — an effort spanning 1,633 patents as of 2010, according to a report by the ETC Group.

Publication – Yahoo! News
Date: August 8, 2012

To confront climate change, US agriculture seeks hardier breeds that can survive long droughts

Confronted with the hottest, driest summer in decades, the nation’s farmers and crop scientists are looking ahead to the future heat waves and water shortages that are expected to result from climate change, according to Yahoo! News.

They’ve concluded that it’s too late to fight the shifting weather patterns, and instead, are aiming to adapt with a new generation of hardier animals and plants specially engineered to survive in intense heat with little rain.

In Texas, according to the article, a rancher is breeding cattle with genes that trace to animals from Africa and India, where their ancestors developed tolerance to heat and drought. In seed laboratories, researchers are developing corn with larger roots to gather more water. Someday, the plants may even be able to “resurrect” themselves afte
r a long dry spell, recovering quickly when rain returns.

Publication – Science Daily
Date: August 9, 2012

1.5 Million Years of Climate History Revealed After Scientists Solve Mystery of the Deep

Scientists have announced a major breakthrough in understanding Earth’s climate machine by reconstructing highly accurate records of changes in ice volume and deep-ocean temperatures over the last 1.5 million years, according to the article.

The study, which is published in Science, offers new insights into a decades-long debate about how the shifts in Earth’s orbit relative to the sun have taken Earth into and out of an ice-age climate.

The new study, carried out by researchers in the University of Cambridge Department of Earth Sciences, appears to have resolved this problem by introducing a new set of temperature-sensitive data. This allowed them to identify changes in ocean temperatures alone, subtract that from the original isotopic data set, and then build what they describe as an unprecedented picture of climatic change over the last 1.5 million years — a record of changes in both oceanic temperature and global ice volume.

“Now, for the first time, we have been able to separate these two components, which means that we stand a much better chance of understanding the mechanisms involved. One of the reasons why that is important, is because we are making changes to the factors that influence the climate now,” Professor Harry Elderfield, who led the research team, told Science Daily. “The only way we can work out what the likely effects of that will be in detail is by finding analogues in the geological past, but that depends on having an accurate picture of the past behaviour of the climate system.”

Publication – Environmental News Network
Date: August 9, 2012

New Discovery Linked To Climate Change and Human Health

A new atmospheric compound is connected to both climate change and human health issues, according to researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Helsinki.

This compound reacts with sulfuric dioxide to form sulfuric acid. The new composite was formed from a family of both natural and man-made hydrocarbons, known as alkenes, according to the article. Sulfuric dioxide is mainly produced from the aftereffects by coal and other combusting fossil fuels at power plants.

According to Roy Mauldin III, a research associate at the University of Colorado Boulder’s atmospheric and oceanic sciences department and lead study author, this was the first time this complex contact between the two compounds has been documented. Mauldin said, this is important to the field of environmental science because the end product of the combination — sulfuric acid — is the driving force of acid rain production in the atmosphere.

“Sulfuric acid plays an essential role in Earth’s atmosphere, from the ecological impacts of acid precipitation to the formation of new aerosol particles, which have significant climatic and health effects,” Mauldin told ENN. “Our findings demonstrate a newly observed connection between the biosphere and atmospheric chemistry.”

Publication – Environmental News Network
Date: August 11, 2012

Extreme Drought Impacting Crop Yields

Federal forecasters are predicting record prices for corn and soybeans, raising fears of a new world food crisis as the worst United States drought in half a century continues to ravage key farm states, according to ENN.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday said, according to the article, production of U.S. corn and soybeans is expected to be down 17 percent from its forecast last month of nearly 13 billion bushels, and 13 percent lower than last year. It was the second month in a row when the USDA has cut its production estimate.

Corn prices briefly surged to a record on the USDA’s forecast, but then retreated because the government said demand for the grain would fall due to its soaring cost.

Inventories of soybeans, a key component of livestock feed from India to Indiana, are expected to be the smallest in nine years, the government report said.

The grim report is an abrupt reversal from just two months ago when farmers, making the largest corn plantings in 75 years, expected a record haul. Consumers worldwide were also hopeful that a robust harvest from the biggest agricultural exporter would help end a period of depleted global stockpiles.

Now, however, many fear record-high prices and meager stockpiles will rule commodity markets for at least a year more — and it may worsen if growing signs of shortages prompt some countries to impose export bans or make panic purchases, as they did during the last dramatic price spike in 2008.

Have you seen breaking climate change news or discussion that should be included in our next “Roundup?”  Let us know!