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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2017 11:59 pm 
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Arctic report card: Permafrost thawing faster than before
By SETH BORENSTEIN
December 12, 2017

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Permafrost in the Arctic is thawing faster than ever, according to a new report released Tuesday.

Water is also warming and sea ice is melting at the fastest pace in 1,500 years at the top of the world. The annual report released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed slightly less warming in many measurements than a record hot 2016. But scientists remain concerned because the far northern region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe and has reached a level of warming that's unprecedented in modern times. "2017 continued to show us we are on this deepening trend where the Arctic is a very different place than it was even a decade ago," said Jeremy Mathis, head of NOAA's Arctic research program and co-author of the 93-page report.

Findings were discussed at the American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans. "What happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic; it affects the rest of the planet," said acting NOAA chief Timothy Gallaudet. "The Arctic has huge influence on the world at large."

Permafrost records show the frozen ground that many buildings, roads and pipelines are built on reached record warm temperatures last year nearing and sometimes exceeding the thawing point. That could make them vulnerable when the ground melts and shifts, the report said. Unlike other readings, permafrost data tend to lag a year. Preliminary reports from the U.S. and Canada in 2017 showed permafrost temperatures are "again the warmest for all sites" measured in North America, said study co-author Vladimir Romanovsky, a professor at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

Arctic sea ice usually shrinks in September and this year it was only the eighth lowest on record for the melting season. But scientists said they were most concerned about what happens in the winter - especially March - when sea ice is supposed to be building to its highest levels. Arctic winter sea ice maximum levels in 2017 were the smallest they've ever been for the season when ice normally grows. It was the third straight year of record low winter sea ice recovery. Records go back to 1979. About 79 percent of the Arctic sea ice is thin and only a year old. In 1985, 45 percent of the sea ice in the Arctic was thick, older ice, said NOAA Arctic scientist Emily Osborne.

New research looking into the Arctic's past using ice cores, fossils, corals and shells as stand-ins for temperature measurements show that Arctic ocean temperatures are rising and sea ice levels are falling at rates not seen in the 1,500 years. And those dramatic changes coincide with the large increase in carbon dioxide levels in the air, the report said. This isn't just a concern for the few people who live north of the Arctic Circle. Changes in the Arctic can alter fish supply. And more ice-free Arctic summers can lead to countries competing to exploit new areas for resources. Research also shows changes in Arctic sea ice and temperature can alter the jet stream, which is a major factor in U.S. weather.

This is probably partly responsible for the current unusual weather in the United States that brought destructive wildfires to California and a sharp cold snap to the South and East, according to NOAA scientist James Overland and private meteorologist expert Judah Cohen. "The Arctic has traditionally been the refrigerator to the planet, but the door of the refrigerator has been left open," Mathis said.

Outside scientists praised the report card. "Overall, the new data fit with the long-term trends, showing the clear evidence of warming causing major changes," in the Arctic, said Pennsylvania State University ice scientist Richard Alley.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 3:43 pm 
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The vengeful sea devouring Albania's coast
by Briseida MEMA, Nicolas GAUDICHET
13 December 2017

QERRET, Albania (AFP) - Asim Krasniqi watches anxiously as the Adriatic Sea creeps ever closer to his beach bar in Albania, a country faced with an alarming pace of coastal erosion.

"I'm nostalgic for how this place used to be," the septuagenarian told AFP wistfully, remembering when this beach in Qerret, to the west of the capital Tirana, was bigger and "many more" foreign tourists came. "Today everything is degraded," he said.

Environmentalists say a dangerous mix of climate change and rampant, unregulated urban development are behind the rapid disappearance of the shoreline in the impoverished Balkan country. "The sea has swallowed the coast. She is taking revenge on man, who has destroyed nature," said Sherif Lushaj, an environmental specialist at Polis University in Tirana. The initially "inconspicuous" phenomenon has become far more serious in recent years, Lushaj told AFP.

Further north along the coast, near the concrete constructions in the beach resort town of Shengjin, dozens of tree trunks are decaying in water, a reminder that there used to be a forest between the sea and Kune lagoon. The lagoon is now threatened, less and less protected by a thin strip of land that is fast disappearing. Once perched on sand dunes, nuclear bunkers built during the communist era of dictator Enver Hoxha also now barely emerge above the water. Others have been engulfed by the sea.

Of the 427 kilometres (265 miles) of Albania's coast, "154 are affected by erosion", Environment Minister Blendi Klosi told AFP. Sometimes barely perceptible, the advance of the sea in other areas has reached a frightening pace of 20 metres a year, he said. Near Shengjin, it has engulfed "some 400 metres of ground in the course of the last 15 years," said the minister.

"This place will disappear if the state does not take necessary measures," said Osman Demi, a fisherman in his sixties who remembers the "terrible night" of December 31, 2009, when sudden floods submerged his village. "We fish bass, crab, mullet here. The destruction of this lagoon would be a catastrophe," said his colleague Albert Pati, adding that in certain corners, once full of fish, "the water is already dead".

Pelicans have disappeared from the lagoon. A census conducted a year ago found just 7,000 birds, down from 50,000 in the 1970s. Soon, if nothing is done, the people living here will also leave. There are 2,000 whose homes are threatened by the water, according to Jak Gjini, in charge of environmental issues in the Lezhe municipality, which covers Shengjin. "The situation is dramatic," he said.

Everything is working in favour of the sea's conquest. There is climate change, with increasingly violent winter storms driving the water further and further in. Then there is Albania's massive deforestation, the extraction of sand from the rivers and rampant urbanisation along the coast.

Almost deserted in winter, Shengjin is home to 15,000 people in the summer as holidaymakers and seasonal staff take up residence in blocks of multi-storey concrete buildings, constructed on the sandy soil of the lagoon. Those who have invested here are "the bosses", said a fisherman with an enigmatic smile. These "bosses" build without permits, which they get after the building is erected using bribery during election campaigns, or hard cash. "People are afraid to take on the interests of the powerful. It's the law of the strongest," said Gjini. "These constructions are the result of pressure exerted by individuals to build without regard for urban planning."

In his bar in Qerret, Krasniqi points out the rocky piers perpendicular to the coast that are sinking into the sea. They were built without authorisation by the owners of villas or hotels on the coast who hoped to protect their own property from erosion -- but in doing so, they simply shifted the problem onto neighbouring constructions. "They have changed the currents, aggravating the problem," he said. Minister Klosi promises that "all the illegal construction in the sea will be destroyed and those responsible will be punished".

But even this unprecedented action would not be enough, according to Eglantina Bruci, climate change specialist for the United Nations Development Programme in Tirana. "The only solution... would be the construction of rock structures parallel to the coast and dune replenishment." Gjini said the cost of such measures would be "extraordinary" for one of the poorest countries in Europe -- but by doing nothing, Albania anyway gets poorer by the day, he warned. "Albania's land is shrinking."

Source: AFP

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:52 am 
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Hottest' Ashes Test day on record as Australia swelters
7 January 2018

SYDNEY (AFP) - Sydney sweltered through one of its hottest days on record Sunday as temperatures soared in southern Australia and authorities imposed a fire ban in a sizzling start to summer.

Australia's largest city recorded its hottest day since 1939 as the mercury rose to 47.3 degree Celsius (117.14 degrees Fahrenheit) in the western suburb of Penrith. More than 200 weather records were broken nationwide during the last summer, with intense heatwaves, bushfires and flooding plaguing the December 2016-February 2017 season.

Top tennis players were called off the courts Sunday at the Sydney International, a warm-up tournament for the Australian Open Grand Slam, after thermometers recorded temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius. The heat took its toll on French star Kristina Mladenovic, who retired midway through her match citing heat stress. "43degrees but probably 50 on court when started. I'm sorry to the fans. I think it's 1st time in my career I retired a match..it says it all," the world number 11 tweeted.

Australian and English cricketers slogging through the final Ashes match in Sydney may have also experienced the hottest day on record for a Test match in Australia. The hottest Test day on record appeared to be 43.1 degree Celsius in Adelaide in 1908, the Bureau of Meteorology told the Sydney Morning Herald. Weather stations near the Sydney Cricket Ground were recording maximum temperatures of 43.4-43.7 degree Celsius Sunday.

Total fire bans were imposed to reduce the risk of bush fires, which are common during Australia's arid summers. Numerous blazes had already sprung up on Saturday, with several homes and buildings lost in bush fires in the states of Victoria and South Australia.

Australia has warmed by approximately 1.0 Celsius since 1910, according to a report from the weather and national science body CSIRO. Experts have also warned that climate change had pushed up land and sea temperatures, leading to more extremely hot days and severe fire seasons.

Source: AFP

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2018 8:36 am 
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Australia swelters through one of hottest years on record
10 January 2018

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia sweltered through its third-hottest year on record in 2017 despite the lack of a warming El Nino weather phenomenon, official figures showed Wednesday.

Seven of the vast continent's 10 warmest years have occurred since 2005, with only 2011 cooler than average, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said in its annual climate statement. "Despite the lack of an El Nino -- which is normally associated with our hottest years -- 2017 was still characterised by very warm temperatures," the weather bureau's climate monitoring chief Karl Braganza said in a statement. "Both day- and night-time temperatures were warmer than average, particularly maximum temperatures, which were the second-warmest on record."

The data came ahead of the release of global mean temperatures by the World Meteorological Organisation, with BOM projecting that 2017 was one of the world's three warmest years on record -- and the hottest without an El Nino. El Nino occurs when trade winds that circulate over waters in the tropical Pacific start to weaken and sea surface temperatures rise. Australia's annual mean temperature has increased by approximately 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1910, with most of this warming occurring since 1950, the bureau added in its report.

Experts have also warned that climate change has pushed up land and sea temperatures, leading to more extremely hot days and severe fire seasons. Last year, the national mean temperature was 0.95 degrees Celsius hotter than the 1961?1990 average. In 108 years of recorded temperatures, only 2013 and 2005 were warmer.

The eastern states of New South Wales and Queensland were the hardest hit, recording their hottest year ever in 2017. Some regions also had their driest months on record, including Victoria state in June, and New South Wales and vital river system the Murray-Darling Basin in September. But the last three months took a wetter turn, with above-average rainfall in many areas, Braganza added.

Meanwhile, oceans around Australia recorded temperatures "well above average" for the year. Prolonged high sea surface temperatures linked to climate change saw significant coral bleaching on the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef during early 2017. Australia is one of the world's worst per capita greenhouse gas polluters, due to its heavy use of coal-fired power.

Source: AFP

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2018 8:01 am 
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Iceland is having the worst summer for 100 years – is Britain’s heatwave to blame?
By Lucy Jones
6 July 2018

Reykjavík’s ice-cream vendors, camp sites and outdoor swimming pools are struggling as Britain's unusually pleasant summer spells bad news for its north-western neighbours. As Britons enjoy the sunshine, spare a thought for Iceland. It is having the greyest, wettest summer since 1914, preceded by rain every single day in May.

According to Icelandic meteorologist Trausti Jonsson, the UK heatwave is to blame for Iceland’s struggling ice-cream vendors, outdoor pools and campsites. “The people of Reykjavík are paying for the sunshine in England and southern Scandinavia,” he said, thanks to high pressure over western Europe changing the jet stream and pushing clouds over the north of the continent.

But is England's sunny luck really causing Iceland’s damp squib? “It’s a chicken-and-egg scenario,” says the Met Office’s Alex Deakin. “Is the high pressure causing the jet stream, or is the jet stream causing the high pressure?” The location of the jet stream (a group of strong winds above the Earth’s surface, which helps to steer weather around the world) is the main driver of heatwaves. To necessitate Icelanders getting the sun cream out, it needs to move north. If it moves closer to Britain, it could bring sun to the country, but they won’t get much heat.

No other countries have the strong meteorological relationship that the UK does with Iceland. “Often our weather is the opposite to what’s happening in Iceland,” says Deakin. “The geography is such that the width of the jet stream is either going to be across Iceland or the UK.” Both countries are in exposed positions in a huge ocean, whereas the rest of Europe is influenced by the large land mass.

Are any other countries affected by our heatwave? “Iceland has borne the brunt of it in this scenario,” says Deakin. With high pressure across the UK and north-west Europe, low-pressure systems can appear across the Mediterranean, which lead to thunderstorms, such as those recently across Greece.”

At some point, for the sake of England's lawns, it may want the jet stream back. Will that happen any time soon? “It looks very unlikely. This fine and sunny weather will continue for most of next week.” Sorry, Iceland.

Source: Guardian UK

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2018 7:00 am 
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Heatwave sees record high temperatures around world this week
By Jonathan Watts
13 July 2018

Record high temperatures have been set across much of the world this week as an unusually prolonged and broad heatwave intensifies concerns about climate change.

The past month has seen power shortages in California as record heat forced a surge of demand for air conditioners. Algeria has experienced the hottest temperature ever reliably registered in Africa. Britain, meanwhile, has experienced its third longest heatwave, melting the roof of a science building in Glasgow and exposing ancient hill forts in Wales.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the rising temperatures were at odds with a global cyclical climate phenomenon known as La Niña, which is usually associated with cooling. “The first six months of the year have made it the hottest La Niña year to date on record,” said Clare Nullis of the WMO.

Taiwan is the most recent place to report a new high with a temperature of 40.3C in Tianxiang on Monday. This followed a flurry of other anomalies. Last week, a weather station at Ouargla in Algeria’s Sahara Desert, reported a maximum temperature of 51.3C on 5 July, the highest temperature reliably recorded in Africa.

Even when the sun goes down, night is not providing the cooling relief it once did in many parts of the world. At Quriyat, on the coast of Oman, overnight temperatures remained above 42.6C, which is believed to be the highest “low” temperature ever recorded in the world. Downtown Los Angeles also saw a new monthly July minimum overnight record of 26.1C on 7 July.

Globally, the warmest year on record was in 2016, boosted by the natural climate cycle El Niño. Last year, temperatures hit the highest level without that amplifying phenomenon. This year, at the other cooling end of the cycle, is continuing the overall upward trend.

Swathes of the northern hemisphere have seen unusually persistent warmth due to strong, persistent high pressure systems that have created a “heat dome” over much of Eurasia. “What’s unusual is the hemispheric scale of the heatwave,” said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “It’s not just the magnitude in any one location but that high temperatures are being seen over such a large area.”

Northern Russia’s exceptionally sunny weather – seen on TV by billions thanks to the World Cup – has caused wildfires that affected 80,000 hectares of forest near the Krasnoyarsk region, which reported daily anomalies of 7C above average. The Western Siberian Hydromet Center has issued storm warnings after temperatures of more than 30C for five days. Climate watchers fear this will accelerate the melting of permafrost, releasing methane – a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

In California, daytime records were also set last week at Chino (48.9C), Burbank airport (45.6C) and Van Nuys airport (47.2C). In Canada, at least 54 deaths have been attributed to the prolonged heatwave and high humidity in Quebec. Montreal saw a new record high temperature of 36.6C on 2 July.

In Europe, the WMO has warned of droughts, wildfires and harvest losses after the second hottest June on record. Over the past two weeks, records have been set in Tbilisi (40.5C), Shannon (32C), and Belfast (29.5C)

Britain has cooled slightly in the past two days, after 17 days of temperatures over 28C. This was the third longest heatwave on record, following the record 19-day run in 2013 and the famous summer of 1976, when there were two prolonged spells of 18 days and 15 days. Dean Hall of the UK’s Met Office said Britain’s temperatures were forecast to rise again over the coming week.

The concern is that weather fronts – hot and cold – are being blocked more frequently due to climate change. This causes droughts and storms to linger, amplifying the damage they cause. This was a factor in the recent devastating floods in Japan, where at least 150 people died after rainfall up to four times the normal level.

Paolo Ruti of the WMO said it was difficult to ascribe any one weather event to climate change, but that recent high temperatures, intense rains and slow-moving fronts were in line with forecasts of how rising emissions will affect the climate. “Recent analysis suggests that anthropogenic forcing might indeed affect the characteristics of summer blocking events in the Euro-Asia sector, in particular leading to longer blocking episodes,” he said.

Extreme weather events have buffeted much of the world over the past 12 months, from the “Day Zero” drought in Cape Town to the abnormally powerful hurricanes Harvey and Irma that buffeted the east coast of the US and Caribbean. Underscoring the link, a new report from scientists at the World Weather Attribution group indicates that man-made climate change and its effect on rainfall made the recent Cape Town drought three times more likely.

Source: Guardian UK

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