Climate Change Weekly Roundup: 08/20/12

Publication – NewsWise
Date: August 13, 2012

Nobel Prize-Winning Scientist Cites Evidence of Link Between Extreme Weather, Global Warming

At an American Chemical Society meeting August 13, Nobel Laureate Mario J. Molina, Ph.D. said new scientific analysis strengthens the view that record-breaking summer heat, crop-withering drought and other extreme weather events in recent years indeed result from human activity and global warming.

Molina, who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for helping save the world from the consequences of ozone depletion, emphasized that there is no “absolute certainty” that global warming is causing extreme weather events, according to the article. But he said that scientific insights during the last year or so strengthen the link.

“People may not be aware that important changes have occurred in the scientific understanding of the extreme weather events that are in the headlines,” Molina said. “They are now more clearly connected to human activities, such as the release of carbon dioxide ― the main greenhouse gas ― from burning coal and other fossil fuels.”

Even if the scientific evidence continues to fall short of the absolute certainly measure, the heat, drought, severe storms and other weather extremes may prove beneficial in making the public more aware of global warming and the need for action, said Molina.

“It’s important that people are doing more than just hearing about global warming,” he said. “People may be feeling it, experiencing the impact on food prices, getting a glimpse of what everyday life may be like in the future, unless we as a society take action.”

Molina, of the University of California, San Diego, suggested a course of action based on an international agreement like the Montreal Protocol that phased out substances responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer, according to the article.

“The new agreement should put a price on the emission of greenhouse gases, which would make it more economically favorable for countries to do the right thing. The cost to society of abiding by it would be less than the cost of the climate change damage if society does nothing,” he said.

Publication – Science Daily
Date: August 15, 2012

Climate Change Will Have Profound Effects On Northeast U.S. Forests, Report Says

A new report by U.S. and Canadian scientists outlines the effects of climate change on multiple aspects of forests in the northeastern corner of the United States and eastern Canada and concludes with recommendations on adaptive and mitigating strategies for dealing with future effects.

The report, “Changing Climate, Changing Forests: The impacts of climate change on forests of the northeastern United States and eastern Canada,” references all aspects of forest health, from changes in the water cycle to changes in trees, wildlife and nuisance species. The report focuses on established science and offers recommendations for decision-makers on steps that will make forests more resilient to the effects of climate change, according to the article.

“Nothing is certain about climate change except that it poses a tremendous challenge to forests,” Michael T. Rains, Director of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, told Science Daily. “Forest Service science is developing tools such at this report that will inform decision-making and contribute to making the nation’s forests more resilient to changing conditions.”

The region covered by the report includes seven states in the U.S. — Maine, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island — and the Canadian provinces of Quebec, Labrador, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

The report is a result of the work of Northeast Forests 2100 Initiative, a coalition of 38 U.S. and Canadian scientists.

Publication – Science Daily
Date: August 16, 2012

Global Warming Causes More Extreme Shifts of the Southern Hemisphere’s Largest Rain Band, Study Suggests

An international study, led by CSIRO oceanographer Dr Wenju Cai, focuses on how the frequency of movements in the South Pacific rain band may change in the future responding to greenhouse warming. The study finds the frequency will almost double in the next 100 years, with a corresponding intensification of the rain band.

Occasionally, the rain band moves northwards towards the Equator by 1000 kilometres, inducing extreme climate events, according to the article.

“During extreme El Niño events, such as 1982/83 and 1997/98, the band moved northward by up to 1000 kilometres. The shift brings more severe extremes, including cyclones to regions such as French Polynesia that are not accustomed to such events,” Dr. Cai, a scientist at the Wealth from Oceans Flagship, told Science Daily.

“Understanding changes in the frequency of these events as the climate changes proceed is therefore of broad scientific and socio-economic interest.”

Publication – Science Daily
Date: August 16, 2012

Report Card Shows Australia’s Oceans Are Changing

A “report card” on Australia’s oceans provides information about the current and predicted-future state of Australia’s marine climate and its impact on our marine biodiversity, and outlines actions that are underway to help marine ecosystems adapt to climate change.

“Australia has some of the world’s most unique marine ecosystems. They are enjoyed recreationally, generate considerable economic wealth through fisheries, aquaculture, and tourism, and provide irreplaceable services including coastal defence, oxygen production, nutrient recycling and climate regulation,’ Project leader CSIRO’s Dr Elvira Poloczanska told Science Daily.

“Although there are some concerning findings in the 2012 report card, the information we’ve compiled is helping to ensure that ocean managers and policy makers are best placed to respond to the challenge of managing the impact that climate change is having on these systems.”

Key findings show:

― warming sea temperatures are influencing the distribution of marine plants and animals, with species currently found in tropical and temperate waters likely to move south
― new research suggests winds over the Southern Ocean and current dynamics are strongly influencing foraging of seabirds that breed in south-east Australia and feed close to the Antarctic each summer
― some tropical fish species have a greater ability to acclimatise to rising water temperatures than previously thought
― the Australian science community is widely engaged in research, monitoring and observing programs to increase our understanding of climate change impacts and inform management
― adaptation planning is happening now, from seasonal forecast for fisheries and aquaculture, to climate-proofing of breeding sites for turtles and seabirds.

Publication – Environmental News Network
Date: August 17, 2012

Cold-blooded species may adapt to climate change faster than thought

Ecologists studying evolutionary responses to climate change forecast that cold-blooded tropical species are not as vulnerable to extinction as previously thought, according to the article. The study considers how fast species can evolve and adapt to compensate for a rise in temperature.

The research, carried out at the University of Zurich, was led by Dr Richard Walters, now at Reading University, alongside David Berger now at Uppsala University and Wolf Blanckenhorn, Professor of Evolutionary Ecology at Zurich.

“Forecasting the fate of any species is difficult, but it is essential for conserving biodiversity and managing natural resources,” Walters told ENN. “It is believed that climate change poses a greater risk to tropical cold-blooded organisms (ectotherms), than temperate or polar species. However, as potential adaptation to climate change has not been considered in previous extinction models we tested this theory with a model forecasting evolutionary responses.”

Ectotherms, such as lizards and insects, have evolved a specialist physiology to flourish in a stable tropical environment, according to ENN. Unlike species that live in varied habitats, tropical species operate within a narrow range of temperatures, leading to increased dangers if those temperatures change.