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Climate Change Weekly Roundup 6/11/12 and 6/18/12

Publication – NewsWise

Date: June 5, 2012

Divided Public: Climate Survey Shows Skepticism and Alarm Rising Over the Past Decade

Between 2002 and 2010, the images of emotions that the American public associates with global warming significantly shifted, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

According to the article, “Four consecutive nationwide surveys found both increasing skepticism and growing alarm among respondents. The researchers assessed Americans’ “cognitive risk representations” including the words, thoughts, and images, and the positive or negative feelings the public associates with global warming. The study also measured the underlying values of egalitarianism and individualism, as well as a variety of political, social and demographic characteristics.

Several significant shifts in the associations Americans have with the phrase “global warming” over time were identified. The most significant being an increase in the proportion of “naysayer” images – such as “hoax.” The proportion of naysayer images was less than 10 percent in 2002, but rose to over 20 percent in 2010

Publication – Science Daily
Date: June 6, 2012

Today’s Climate More Sensitive to Carbon Dioxide Than in Past 12 Million Years

Paleoclimate researchers recently found that about 12.5 million years ago global climate was decoupled from atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. New evidence of this finding comes from deep-sea sediment cores dated to the late Miocene period of the earth’s history.

During that time, temperatures across a broad strip of the North Pacific were between nine to 14 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than today, while atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations remained relatively low near values prior to the Industrial Revolution.

“The research shows that, in the last five million years, changes in ocean circulation allowed Earth’s climate to become more closely coupled to changes in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. The findings also illustrate that the climate of modern times more readily responds to changing carbon dioxide levels than it has during the past 12 million years,” according to the article.

Publication – AlertNet
Date: June 6, 2012

Scientists warn geoengineering may disrupt rainfall

Due to large-scale engineering projects aimed at fighting global warming, rainfall in Europe and North America could be substantially reduced, according to a team of scientists from four European countries.

Geoengineering projects range from mimicking the effects of large volcanic eruptions by releasing sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, to deploying giant mirrors in space to deflect the sun’s rays.

Supporters say the projects could be a rapid response to rising global temperatures while environmentalists argue that they are a distraction from the need to reduce man-made carbon emissions. Critics also point to a lack of solid research into unintended consequences, along with the absence of any international governance structure for such projects, whose effects could transcend national borders.

Publication – Science Daily
Date: June 7, 2012

U.S. Experienced Second Warmest May, Warmest Spring On Record, NOAA Reports

The average temperature for the U.S. during May 2012 was 64.3 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term average, according to NOAA scientists. This unusually high tempertaure made last month the second warmest May on record.

According to the article, “The recent month’s high temperatures also contributed to the warmest spring, warmest year-to-date, and warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced since recordkeeping began in 1895.

Publication – Environmental News Network
Date: June 11, 2012

The Greening of the Arctic Tundra

Rising temperatures in the Arctic Circle have caused changes in vegetation in the last few decades: plants are growing taller, there is less bare ground devoid of vegetation, and even some shrubs are growing – all signs of potentially becoming a more lively ecosystem.

A recent study from biologists at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden documents the dramatic changes that are occurring.

According to the article, “Their study analyzed data across the Arctic from 1980 to 2010 collected by the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX). Changes in 158 plant communities from 46 locations were observed and their trends were recorded. They found that vascular species (shrubs and plants) have become more prevalent. The cause of the prevalence was linked directly to locally warmer temperatures.”

The degree of vegetation change was not uniform throughout the Arctic tundra, however, as some areas grew more or less depending on factors such as climate zone, soil moisture, and the presence of permafrost.

Publication – Environmental News Network
Date: June 12, 2012

Global Warming over last 50 yrs caused primarily by human activity

New research by a team of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists and international collaborators found that the observed ocean warming over the last 50 years is consistent with climate models only if the models include the impacts of observed increases in greenhouse gas during the 20th century.

The research is the first to provide an in-depth examination of how observational and modeling uncertainties impact the conclusion that humans are primarily responsible.

The group looked at the average temperature – or heat content – in the upper layers of the ocean. The observed global average ocean warming (from the surface to 700 meters) is approximately 0.025 degrees Celsius per decade, or slightly more than 1/10th of a degree Celsius over 50 years, according to ENN.

The sub-surface ocean warming is noticeably less than the observed Earth surface warming, primarily because of the relatively slow transfer of ocean surface warming to lower depths. Nevertheless, because of the ocean’s enormous heat capacity, the oceans likely account for more than 90 percent of the heat accumulated over the past 50 years as Earth has warmed.

Publication – Science Daily
Date: June 13, 2012

Global Climate Change: Underestimated Impact of Sea-Level Rise On Habitat Loss?

Global climate change is expected to cause sea level rise of approximately 1-2 meters before 2100, and studies are beginning to project the consequences for humans and global biodiversity.

While the direct consequences of sea level rise due to flooding and primary effects are beginning to be assessed, no studies have yet considered the possible secondary effects from sea-level rise due to the relocation of human refugees into the hinterland, according to Science Daily.

Researchers from the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, with lead author Florian Wetzel and senior researcher Dustin Penn, collaborated with scientists from the Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity Group of Aarhus University, Denmark to assess and project the potential secondary impacts of sea-level rise on habitat availability and the distribution of mammals.

They found that in more populated regions secondary effects can lead to an equal or even higher loss of habitat than primary displacement effects.

The results are published in the new issue of the international journal Global Change Biology.

Researchers examined the potential ecological consequences of sea-level rise on habitat availability on more than 1200 islands in the Southeast Asian and Pacific region. Most models predict a sea level rise around one meter in this century, which is the lowest scenario they considered; though the team also looked at three to six meter scenarios, as they are possible in this or the next century.

According to the article, “Depending upon the sea-level rise scenario, between 3 and 32 percent of the coastal zone of these islands could be lost from primary effects, and consequently around 8 to 52 million people could become flood refugees.”

Publication – Science Daily
Date: June 13, 2012

Green Fuel from Carbon Dioxide

With tons and tons of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere every day, many are concerned with its effects on global warming. A research team at the Freiburg Materials Research Center (FMF) has now developed a new system for producing methanol that uses CO2 and hydrogen.

Methanol can, for example, be used as an environmentally friendly alternative for gasoline. The goal of the scientists is to harness the power of CO2 on a large scale and integrate it into the utilization cycle as a sustainable form of energy production, according to Science Daily.

In order to produce methanol, lead chemist Prof. Dr. Ingo Krossing’s doctoral candidates combined the carbon dioxide with hydrogen in a high pressure environment, a process known as hydrogenolysis.

Doctoral candidate Elias Frei has already been conducting research on methanol for several years. “Our goal is to develop new catalyst systems and methods for accelerating the chemical reaction even more,” Frei told Science Daily.

According to the article, “The researchers at FMF use the metal oxides copper, zinc, and zirconium dioxide as catalysts, enabling the reaction to happen at lower temperatures. In this way, the gases don’t have to be heated as much. Together the catalysts form a so-called mixed system of surface-rich porous solid matter with defined properties. If the catalysts consist of nanoparticles, their activity is increased even more.”

Publication – Science Daily
Date: June 15, 2012

Studying Soil to Predict the Future of Earth’s Atmosphere

A new study by researchers at BYU, Duke and the USDA found that soil plays an important role in understanding climate change and controlling the planet’s atmospheric future.

Earth’s current atmospheric carbon dioxide is 390 parts per million, up from 260 parts per million at the start of the industrial revolution; and will likely rise to more than 500 parts per million in the coming decades, according to Science Daily.

The researchers set out to find how intact ecosystems are responding to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. What they found, published in the current issue of Nature Climate Change, is that the interaction between plants and soils controls how ecosystems respond to rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

The research showed that even in the absence of climate change, humans are impacting vital ecosystems as the composition of Earth’s atmosphere changes. They observed that changes in atmospheric CO2 caused changes in plant species composition and the availability of water and nitrogen.

“As we forecast what the future is going to look like, with the way we’ve changed the global atmosphere, often times we overlook soil,” BYU biology professor Richard Gill, a coauthor on the study, told Science Daily. “The soils matter enormously and the feedbacks that occur in the soil are ultimately going to control the atmosphere.”

Researchers worry that if the ability of plants and soils to absorb carbon becomes saturated over time, CO2 in the atmosphere will increase much more rapidly than in the past, according to Science Daily.

Publication – Environmental News Network
Date: June 15, 2012

Warmer forests expel carbon from soils creating “vicious cycle”

A new study predicts as the world warms, temperate forecasts could become a source of carbon dioxide emission rather than a sink.

Scientists found in a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) that two forest sites in the U.S. (Wisconsin and North Carolina) emitted long-stored carbon from their soils when confronted with temperatures 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit (5.5-11.1 degrees Celsius) higher than average, according to ENN.

The researchers also discovered that topsoils (15 centimeters and up) could release between 1,750 to 4,700 kilograms of carbon dioxide per square meter at higher temperatures. But most importantly, the scientists found that older carbon – at least ten year old – was vulnerable to warming.

Carbon in the atmosphere recently hit 400 parts per million above the Arctic for the first time in at least 800,000 years, according to ENN.

According to the article, “Forests are vital carbon storehouses through sequestering the greenhouse gas and storing it long-term in their soils. However this study raises concerns that if temperatures rise high enough, long-buried carbon could create a feedback cycle that would be difficult, if not impossible, to stall.”


Our second installment of Climate Change Weekly Roundup is hot off the presses! Each Monday we’ll share synopsis articles from the preceding week, featuring key climate change discussions and information. This week’s installment combines articles both from the week of June 11 and the week of June 18.

Find any content that should be included in the next week’s Roundup? Let us know!


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