Monday, December 31, 2012

Is Climate Change causing an exponential rate of Ice sheet Mass Loss, sea level rise?

Climate scientist James Hansen and his colleague Makiko Sato have released a new discussion paper with updated data on ice sheet mass loss from Greenland and Antarctica, with implications for possible multi-metre sea level rise this century. It makes for some interesting reading - there is a link to Hansen's website and the paper at the end.

The thesis that Hansen has put forward for several years is that Ice Sheet collapse is a non-linear process: that with the inclusion of amplifying climate feedbacks it is likely to follow an exponential rate of acceleration - a doubling rate. It might be a 10 year doubling time, or less. This will lead to extensive sea level rise, perhaps in the order of 5 metres this century.

But accurate data measurements of ice mass loss via laboriously estimating mass input and output has only been available since the early 1990s, and accurate satellite measurements (Gravimetry) via the GRACE satellites since 2000.

What these measurements show is that ice mass loss from both Greenland and Antarctica are accelerating, but the data for the time period is still too short to determine whether ice sheet mass loss will follow a somewhat linear path, or an exponential path doubling every 10 years or shorter time period.

Caption: Figure 2: Greenland (a) and Antarctic (b) mass change deduced from gravitational field measurements by Velicogna (2009) and best-fits with 5-year and 10-year mass loss doubling times. From NASA: Earth's Climate History: Implications for Tomorrow Hansen and Sato July 2011

Update 14 Jan 2013: Matt Owens from Fairfax Climate Watch had a similar idea in reviewing Hansen's discussion paper. Read his initial analysis: Sea level rise could crimp GDP; US direct losses could top 1/4 trillion per year during 2040-2050. On 11 January 2013 he updated his analysis with a new article: Surprising negative feedback could mean epic disaster. Both are worthwhile reading.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Elevated sea surface temps threatening marine biodiversity in Western Australia

High sea surface temperatures (SST) of up to five degrees above normal are currently being experienced off the north-western Australian coast in a marine heatwave event. Like the extreme marine heatwave event in 2011 this will change marine ecosystems causing coral bleaching and fish mortality and impact on fisheries management and biodiversity.

A similar event occurred over several weeks during the 2010/2011 summer which impacted seafood stocks and marine ecosystems and was associated with an extremely strong La Niña event and a record strength Leeuwin Current down the Western Australian coast.

Friday, December 28, 2012

China's coral reef ecosystems suffer devastating 80 per cent decline

In the last 30 years the coral reef ecosystems off the coast of mainland China and Hainan Island have suffered an 80 per cent decline largely due to unrestrained economic development driving coastal development, pollution and overfishing.

The study, published in the journal Conservation Biology - The Wicked Problem of China's Disappearing Coral Reefs - was conducted jointly by scientists from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University, and from the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"A wicked problem is one that is very hard to solve without having a whole lot of other foreseen and unforeseen consequences to people, industries and to the environment itself," said lead author Professor Terry Hughes.

Gas fired power stations for NSW and Victoria placed on hold

EnergyAustralia has announced shelving plans for construction of a 1000MW gas fired power station in the Latrobe Valley at it's Yallourn site saying that low wholesale energy prices and reduced electricity demand did not make the project viable. EnergyAustralia is a division of Hong Kong-based utility CLP Holdings Ltd.

EnergyAustralia's group executive manager, energy markets, Mark Collette, as reported in the Age, said that suppressed wholesale electricity prices and continued falling demand for energy had led to the decision. Proliferation of rooftop solar panels and energy-saving efforts by households and business were also contributing to reduced energy demand.

In Australia's east coast National Electricity Market demand for electricity has been falling since late 2010.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Increase in cyclone frequency in Indonesia blamed on climate change

Cyclone frequency in Indonesia in 2012 is 28 times that for the year 2002, according to the Indonesian Disaster Management Agency BNPB, with the increase attributed to the persistent impact of systemic climate change.

Indonesia straddles the equator on the edge of two important cyclone generating basins: the West Pacific basin, which can affect the eastern part of the country, and Indian Ocean basin, which affects the western and southern regions of Indonesia.

Sutopo Purwo Yuwono, spokesperson with the Indonesian disaster management agency (Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana) BNPB told the Xinhua newsagency, "Global warming has resulted in the formation of more cumulonimbus clouds that could incite cyclones,"

Sutopo went on to predict that more cyclones would hit in Indonesia in March to April next year. Floods and landslides are expected to strike from January to March.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Global Warming on West Antarctic Ice Sheet three times the global average


The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is warming at three times the global average, according to temperature measurements at Byrd Polar Station. This has implications for the melting of the West Antarctic Ice sheet (WAIS) and sea level rise.


The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is inherently unstable due to it's grounding in a deep depression below sea level. Warm Southern ocean currents are already reducing ice shelves holding back ice discharge from glaciers. As these ice shelves are undermined and break up it will allow significant acceleration of glacier discharge increasing the rate of sea level rise.

Lead study author David H. Bromwich from Ohio State University said:

"Our record suggests that continued summer warming in West Antarctica could upset the surface mass balance of the ice sheet, so that the region could make an even bigger contribution to sea level rise than it already does," said Bromwich.

"Even without generating significant mass loss directly, surface melting on the WAIS could contribute to sea level indirectly, by weakening the West Antarctic ice shelves that restrain the region's natural ice flow into the ocean."

Related: Global warming in Antarctica: Thwaites and Pine Island Glaciers | Waking the giant: Global Warming in the Weddell Sea | Southern Ocean warming impact on Antarctic Ice Sheet and global sea level

Saturday, December 22, 2012

"We do have an emergency" - Arctic Methane Feedback amplifying warming


As James Hansen in this video says "We DO have an emergency". He talks about climate tipping points such as the loss of summer Arctic sea ice amplifying the release of methane in permafrost on tundra landscapes and methane hydrates in the shallow East Siberian and Alaskan continental shelves. These tipping points have catastrophic consequences for our climate.

Climate tipping points are processes we don't want to launch. They are climate feedback mechanisms which take any sort of control over global warming out of our hands and threaten widespread species extinction and threaten the viability of civilisation and perhaps even human survival.

They could act either as slowly accelerating feedback mechanisms which keep increasing global temperatures by several degrees or a relatively sudden 'methane bomb' in which a large abrupt release of methane occurs. In either case, it would be disastrous for human civilisation, although in the first instance we would be like the frog in a pot of water being brought slowly to the boil, not having the where-with-all to notice the incremental changes before it is way too late.

Related: The United Nations Environment Program released a scientific report - Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost - at the Doha climate talks highlighting the threat from methane from melting permafrost. See Methane and CO2 in thawing Arctic permafrost a climate tipping point | Radio Ecoshock: Climate: Arctic Thermostat Blows Up , particularly the Interview with Paul Beckwith (MP3) from the Arctic Emergency Methane Group

2 Arctic seal species listed as Endangered due to Climate Change

The Centre for Biological Diversity reports that as a result of their 2008 petition, the US Federal Government has added Ringed seals and Bearded seals, found in the waters off Alaska, to the list of endangered species.

Both seal species are dependent on the existence of sea ice which is rapidly declining during summer, with some scientists saying the Arctic could be largely ice free as early as 2016. These are the first species since polar bears to be protected primarily because of climate change threats.

“Arctic animals face a clear danger of extinction from climate change,” said Shaye Wolf, the Center’s climate science director. “The Endangered Species Act offers strong protections for these seals, but we can’t save the Arctic ecosystem without confronting the broader climate crisis. The Obama administration has to take decisive action, right now, against greenhouse gas pollution to preserve a world filled with ice seals, walruses and polar bears.”

Related: Centre for Biological Diversity: Saving the Bearded, Ringed and Spotted Seals

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Coal protest: activists scale Yallourn power station Cooling Tower


Four days ago two intrepid climate change activists scaled one of the cooling towers at Yallourn coal fired power station in Victoria's La Trobe Valley. In the end they spent 30 hours on the cooling tower, the longest power station occupation of it's kind in Australia, finally coming down voluntarily to be arrested and charged with various offences.

The protest highlighted the enormous multi-million compensation being given by the Australian Government to power operators for the imposition of the carbon tax. The brown coal fired power stations in Victoria's La Trobe valley are some of the dirtiest most carbon emissions polluting power stations in Australia and the world.

Related: Latrobe Valley Coal power and Climate change | Further subsidies for Victorian coal by Victorian and Federal Governments

Electricity Demand Falling in Eastern Australia according to CEDEX


New research on energy demand in the National Energy Market (NEM) by Pitt and Sherry's carbon emissions Index (CEDEX) shows demand for power for electricity has been falling since late 2010. Power generation from black coal (mainly in NSW) has been falling since the start of 2009, while there has been a fall in generation from (Victorian) brown coal since July 2012.

Almost certainly the Federal Governments Renewable Energy Target (RET) driving construction of wind farms, and now the Carbon Tax increasing the cost of coal fired power, as well as energy efficiency programs and drop in electricity demand from consumers, has been driving these trends.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Extreme Weather: Tropical Cyclone Evan pounds Samoa and Fiji

Updated 19 December, 2012: The tropical paradise of Samoa in the South Pacific has been lashed with gale force winds, flash flooding from torrential rain and a 3 metre storm surge from Category 2 tropical cyclone Evan on Thursday and Friday. After two days the tropical cyclone is now moving west and intensifying as it heads in the direction of Fiji. Wallis and Fortuna Islands also lie directly in the storm path and northern atolls of Tonga may also be affected to some degree.

The cyclone arrived with little warning at Samoa on Thursday morning, December 13, pounding the islands. Up to 4,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes and villages and took refuge in evacuation centres in schools and church halls.

On Thursday afternoon Samoan Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Chairman of the National Disaster Council, Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo, made a “declaration of disaster” on the national radio.The cyclone was still near Samoa's Upohu island on Friday causing waves of up to 6 metres.

While Fiji waits for Evan to hit on Sunday, a massive cleanup had started in Samoa to assess the extent of the damage to infrastructure, restore power and rebuild after the destruction wrought by the cyclone.

Doha talks fail to cut emissions, Kyoto Protocol extended to 2020

Climate Negotiations are over for another year with little progress in Doha by any one's measure as the scientific statements on climate change and the impacts we are already feeling as evidenced in record Arctic melting, and extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy and Typhoon Bopha, growing much stronger.

We are hurtling along, actually accelerating, heading for a climate cliff towards a chaotic and dangerous future and negotiators think we can put on the brakes at the last minute. Unfortunately what action the global community takes using an agreement negotiated by 2015 to come into effect by 2020 will be far too little too late. Climate physics will trump all the hot air in climate policy negotiations.

It is the failure of leadership and ambition of industrialised countries like the United States, Canada and Australia in making the deep cuts to emissions necessary which is hampering and sometimes actively obstructing progress. The Bali roadmap in 2007 adopted the scientific projections of 25 to 40 percent emission cuts by industrialised countries on 1990 levels by 2020 for a 50 percent chance of not exceeding 2 degrees of warming.

Related: Photos by World Resources Institute | Photos by Oxfam | The Verb: Climate March in Doha | The Verb: COP18 Actions

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Global warming breaking records in Arctic says 2012 Report card

Records were broken in the Arctic during 2012 with rapid changes occurring in sea ice extent and surface melt of Greenland Ice sheet according to the latest Arctic Report Card. These changes happened despite air temperatures being fairly unremarkable. It was the warmest summer in the last 170 years on Greenland.

“The Arctic is changing in both predictable and unpredictable ways, so we must expect surprises,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, during a press briefing at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco, Calif. “The Arctic is an extremely sensitive part of the world and with the warming scientists have observed, we see the results with less snow and sea ice, greater ice sheet melt and changing vegetation.”

Death toll from Typhoon Bopha rises as Philippines climate negotiator appeals for action


A week ago Category 5 tropical cyclone Typhoon Bopha (Locally known as Pablo) slammed into the Philippines island of Mindinao bringing death and destruction. The Typhoon storm track was the most southerly tropical cyclone ever recorded in the western Pacific and the strongest to hit the Philippines this year. The Philippines is subjected to typhoons on a regular basis, but systematic climate change is making them more intense and changing their paths of destruction.

Naderev Saño, head of the Philippines climate delegation at the Doha UNFCC climate talks described to Democracy Now, "The path of Typhoon Bopha is slightly more to the south of what struck Mindanao last year, but it is affecting the same areas. And it is sobering for us to know that a typhoon like this, that normally doesn’t hit that part of the country, in fact, this is a — in half a century, this is the first time that a typhoon that has crossed as south as Bopha."

The storm's high winds and torrential rain caused flash flooding in several provinces in the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental in eastern Mindanao were particularly hard hit. The town of New Bataan in Compostela Valley has been obliterated by raging floodwaters. Communications to many areas were cut as roads and bridges were destroyed. The death toll approaches 500 with some 170,000 displaced people.

Update 8 December: Typhoon Bopha has turned back on the Philippines in the South China Sea and is expected to slam into the northern tip of the main island of Luzon on Sunday, threatening the Ilocos provinces and La Union area. The Typhoon has maintained it's intensity with maximum sustained winds of 130 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 160 kph with estimated rainfall amount from 15 to 25 mm per hour (heavy - intense) within the 400 km diameter of the Typhoon.

A state of national calamity has been declared by President Benigno Aquino to speed up the release of funds for rescue and retrieval operations.

Related: Landslide Blog - Evaluating the causes of the Typhoon Bopha / Pablo disaster | The Free - Climate Chaos caused Bopha/Pablo. Oil Companies to be Sued ??

Friday, December 7, 2012

Professor Kevin Anderson on Real clothes for the Emperor: Facing the challenges of climate change

Kevin Anderson
Professor Kevin Anderson explains in 58 minutes the challenges we face with combatting climate change. The future is looking pretty bleak, but unless we do a realistic assessment we are not going to be successful in resolving the challenge of climate change. The stakes are high with human civilisation and human survival in the balance.

It is looking decidedly unlikely we will limit global warming to 2 degrees of warming, while 4 degrees is still possible and quite achieveable, but due to climate feedback mechanisms and tipping points may prove to be just a pathway to 6 degrees, 8 degrees and beyond. And real questions need to be asked about whether our civilisation could survive a four degree warmer world, let alone temperatures much higher.

In this talk he delivers the Cabot Institute Annual Lecture 2012 at the University of Bristol in the UK on 6th November 2012. It was published on youtube on 22 Nov 2012. Quite an animated talk with lots of graphs well worthwhile watching.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Professor: prepare economy for war on climate change

_MG_2421s_DanielPauly_byGraceOngVisiting Professor Dr Daniel Pauly from the University of British Colombia in Canada has told ABC radio AM current affairs program that governments should be putting their economies on a 'war footing' to fight climate change.

Dr Pauly, a world renown marine biologist and fisheries scientist, has been researching the impact of climate change on fisheries. He is currently visiting Australia on a lecture tour.

Related: Great post by David Spratt at Climate Code Red - Scientists call for war on climate change, but who on earth is listening?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Methane and CO2 in thawing Arctic permafrost a climate tipping point

A new report on permafrost slowly thawing in the Arctic creating methane and carbon dioxide emissions highlights an approaching dangerous climate tipping point. There is a huge amount of organic matter frozen in permafrost, estimated to contain 1,700 gigatonnes of carbon, twice the amount of carbon currently in the atmosphere. And it is starting to melt. With no way to stop it except indirectly through us reducing the rate of global warming by reducing our own emissions.

"The release of carbon dioxide and methane from warming permafrost is irreversible: once the organic matter thaws and decays away, there is no way to put it back into the permafrost," said lead author Kevin Schaefer, from the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center.

"Anthropogenic emissions' targets in the climate change treaty need to account for these emissions or we risk overshooting the 2°C maximum warming target," he added.

Watch this youtube interview with Lead author Professor Kevin Schaefer, Research Scientist at the University of Colorado being interviewed at the climate talks in Doha:


The report - Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost (PDF) - was published by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and launched at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at Doha on November 27. (See media release)