Archive for the ‘research’ Category

Layers of Earth’s atmosphere


Have experts missed a huge tropical ozone hole that has existed since the 1980s? — asks Geographical. Or could it be more a question of definitions?
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In July, an extraordinary research paper, documenting a huge, previously undetected ozone hole over the tropics, prompted a flurry of news stories.

Said to be seven times the size of the well-known ozone hole over Antarctica, the discovery is cause for ‘great global concern’, according to Qing-Bin Lu, a professor at the University of Waterloo, Canada, and author of the report.

His research suggests that, unlike the Antarctic hole, which only opens in spring, the tropical hole remains open year-round, putting roughly half the world’s population at higher risk from ultraviolet radiation.

Most surprisingly of all, Lu claims that the hole has existed since the 1980s.

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Nature’s carbon cycle still working as expected.
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Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have contributed to a rise in wood volume or biomass of forests in the US, according to a new study.

The research, published recently in the Journal Nature Communications, found that elevated carbon levels have led to a consistent increase in wood volume in 10 different temperate forest groups across the US, says The Independent.

By bulking up this way, trees are helping shield Earth’s ecosystem from the impacts of global warming, say scientists, including those from the Ohio State University.

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Credit: NOAA


Some IPCC-supporting climate alarmists – you may have heard of some of them – are complaining about a research article by four Italian scientists in which they question the existence of a ‘climate crisis’. The objectors claim their ability to attribute climate change to human factors has improved, or something.
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A fundamentally flawed study claiming that scientific evidence of a climate crisis is lacking should be withdrawn from the peer-reviewed journal in which it was published, top climate scientists have told AFP.

Appearing earlier this year in The European Physical Journal Plus, published by Springer Nature, the study purports to review data on possible changes in the frequency or intensity of rainfall, cyclones, tornadoes, droughts and other extreme weather events, says Phys.org.

It has been viewed thousands of times on social media and cited by some mainstream media, such as Sky News Australia.

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Current rates of temperature increase, if accurate, don’t look all that startling despite the odd few hot days. For example, Roy Spencer reports a linear warming trend of +0.13C per decade since 1979. We know previous cooling trends must have occurred over the centuries from the regular advance and retreat of glaciers, to cite one obvious line of evidence. Focussing on CO2 all the time is a bit like looking through the wrong end of the telescope.
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How did plants and animals survive around 200 million years ago when the carbon dioxide concentration went up to 6,000 parts per million?

Paul Olsen, a geologist and paleontologist at Columbia Climate School’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, walked us through what scientists know about carbon dioxide levels over time, says Phys.org.

Although no one was around to measure the atmosphere’s CO2 concentration millions of years ago, paleoclimatologists can reconstruct past temperature and carbon dioxide levels using ice cores, tree rings, corals, ancient pollen, and sedimentary rocks.

These natural recorders of climate fluctuations can also reveal how various animals and plants thrived or perished during different geological periods.

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Australian coral [image credit: heraldsun.com.au]


Probably not much of a shock. One researcher said: “The models are accurate in projecting at a global scale that cyclones in the future are highly likely to be more intense because of climate change. But they are less accurate in projecting how those cyclones will affect individual coral reefs — that is the result of more localised conditions such as the pounding of waves.” But ‘accurately projecting’ that something is ‘highly likely’ in the future sounds more like an assertion than actual science.
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Climate models are unreliable when it comes to predicting the damage that tropical cyclones will do to sensitive coral reefs, according to a study published in the journal Earth’s Future.

With the expectation that tropical cyclones will increase in intensity with climate change, there has been interest among conservationists to use the models to identify the vulnerability of reef communities to storm damage, and to target conservation and protection efforts at those coral reefs that are less likely to be impacted by climate change, says Science Daily.

But a team of researchers from the University of Leeds in the UK, the Australian Institute for Marine Science and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CISRO) is urging caution when using the climate models, arguing they are not yet reliable enough to determine which reefs will be most at risk from cyclone damage.

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Southern Ocean surrounds Antarctica [image credit: theozonehole.com]


Another hole in ‘settled’ climate science? Over-sensitivity to changing conditions may sound familiar. Researchers find “The major implication is that, even though the latest CMIP models improve the simulation of their mean states, such as radiation fluxes at the top of the atmosphere, the detailed cloud processes are still of large uncertainty.” Southern Ocean clouds seem to have been ‘improperly simulated’ when compared to data.
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Clouds can cool or warm the planet’s surface, a radiative effect that contributes significantly to the global energy budget and can be altered by human activities, claims Eurekalert.

The world’s southernmost ocean, aptly named the Southern Ocean and far from human pollution but subject to abundant marine gases and aerosols, is about 80% covered by clouds.

How does this body of water and relationship with clouds contribute to the world’s changing climate?

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Credit: weather.com


A 2020 news report (H/T Belfast Telegraph) headlined Extreme weather being caused by jet stream ‘not because of Arctic warming’, with the sub-heading: ‘Any link is more likely to be a result of random fluctuations in the jet stream influencing Arctic temperatures, researchers say’ – cites a study that comprehensively contradicts the findings described in the article below. “The well-publicised idea that Arctic warming is leading to a wavier jet stream just does not hold up to scrutiny”, said Professor James Screen [University of Exeter]. “With the benefit of 10 more years of data and model experiments, we find no evidence of long-term changes in waviness despite on-going Arctic warming.” But the stated lack of evidence hasn’t deterred this new research. Are they flogging the proverbial dead horse?
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A quartet of researchers, two with the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics and two with Pukyong National University, has created a group of simulations of changes to the jet stream under global warming, says Phys.org.

In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes using math theory to describe wind motion under given circumstances to create their simulations.

Over the past several years, the jet stream has become wavier than it used to be. Both peaks and valleys have become more extreme.

This has led to changes in weather patterns—some places have grown wetter and some drier, and there have also been more extended hot and cold spells around the globe.

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Antarctica


Climate cycles and natural variability do exist then?! No need to re-visit those discussions. Quote: “One of the key findings is that the ice sheet was responding to temperature changes in the Southern Ocean”. The study says: ‘Our findings imply that oscillating Southern Ocean temperatures drive a dynamic response in the Antarctic ice sheet on millennial timescales, regardless of the background climate state.’
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By analyzing unusual rock samples collected years ago in Antarctica, scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have discovered a remarkable record of how the East Antarctic Ice Sheet has responded to changes in climate over a period of 100,000 years during the Late Pleistocene, says Phys.org.

The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is the world’s largest ice mass. Understanding its sensitivity to climate change is crucial for efforts to project how much sea level will rise as global temperatures increase.

Recent studies suggest it may be more vulnerable to ice loss than previously thought.

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2015 Gulf of Carpentaria mangrove die-off, from space [image credit: NASA]


Even the type of local tides was involved. Researchers conclude: we can chalk the 2015 mass death up to “natural causes.”
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Over the summer of 2015, 40 million mangroves died of thirst, says Phys.org.

This vast die-off—the world’s largest ever recorded—killed off rich mangrove forests along fully 1,000 kilometers of coastline on Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria.

The question is, why? Last month, scientists found a culprit: a strong El Niño event, which led to a temporary fall in sea level.

That left mangroves, which rely on tides covering their roots, high and dry during an unusually dry early monsoon season.

Case closed. Or is it?

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Icebergs in the North Atlantic [image credit:
maritime-executive.com]


Perhaps, but there’s plenty of ‘suggesting’ that something might possibly occur here. Plus of course the usual remarks about supposed human involvement in Earth’s climate. ‘An increased export of Arctic sea-ice into the subpolar North Atlantic’ is proposed as a driver of destabilisation (see study).
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Scientists have used centuries-old clam shells to see how the North Atlantic climate system reached a “tipping point” before the Little Ice Age, says Phys.org.

The Little Ice Age —a period of regional cooling, especially in the North Atlantic—lasted several centuries, ending in about 1850.

A long-standing theory suggests initial cooling in this period was sustained by “sea-ice to ocean feedbacks”—sea ice expanded and this slowed ocean currents which in turn reduced the flow of warm water from the south.

The new study, by the University of Exeter, used the shells of quahog clams—which can live for several hundred years—to understand how the ocean has evolved and responded to external changes over recent centuries.

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Jupiter [image credit: NASA]


Even less feasible than permanently changing Earth’s climate with tiny amounts of trace gases, but theorists have ideas to test.
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We have exactly one world, in all the Universe, that we know for a fact to be hospitable to life: ours, says Science Alert.

So when we’re looking for habitable planets in other planetary systems, beyond our own corner of the galaxy, we often use Earth as the perfect template.

But a new study has revealed Earth isn’t as habitable as it could be. In fact, it could be even more livable, if Jupiter’s orbit shifted slightly.

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Image credit: sanibelrealestateguide.com


What a surprise, said no-one.
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A new study found that even if we did have the infinite power to artificially cool enough of the oceans to weaken a hurricane, the benefits would be minimal, says Phys.org.

The study led by scientists at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science showed that the energy alone that is needed to use intervention technology to weaken a hurricane before landfall makes it a highly inefficient solution to mitigate disasters.

“The main result from our study is that massive amounts of artificially cooled water would be needed for only a modest weakening in hurricane intensity before landfall,” said the study’s lead author James Hlywiak, a graduate of the UM Rosenstiel School.

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Some like to call it the Doomsday Glacier. The research results are probably open to a variety of interpretations, in terms of predictions. But we’re told that whatever is being observed at present is by no means exceptional, making attempts at attribution of its ever-changing condition to human activity even more problematic. Volcanic activity is an obvious confounding factor here.
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The Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica — about the size of Florida — has been an elephant in the room for scientists trying to make global sea level rise predictions, says Science Daily.

This massive ice stream is already in a phase of fast retreat (a “collapse” when viewed on geological timescales) leading to widespread concern about exactly how much, or how fast, it may give up its ice to the ocean.

The potential impact of Thwaites’ retreat is spine-chilling: a total loss of the glacier and surrounding icy basins could raise sea level from three to 10 feet.

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Arctic sea ice [image credit: Geoscience Daily]


The authors propose that sea-ice formation is the key factor and not biology. In their paper, we read: ‘Results: Carbon dioxide is very strongly correlated with sea ice dynamics, with the carbon dioxide rate at Mauna Loa lagging sea ice extent rate by 7 months.’ However, drawing conclusions from correlations can go wrong. The authors conclude: ‘If sea ice does not drive the net flux of these gases, it is a highly precise proxy for whatever does. Potential mechanisms should be investigated urgently.’
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Could we be wrong about the annual cycle of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? – asks Net Zero Watch.

That’s the suggestion by a pair of distinguished Oxford zoologists Clive Hambler and Peter Henderson who have just published a paper that could change our understanding about one of the key observations of this greenhouse gas.

They propose that sea-ice formation is the key factor and not biology.

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Some bold claims made here. Results needed to back them up.
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New research shows that a “solar clock” based on the sun’s magnetic field, rather than the presence or absence of sunspots, can precisely describe and predict many key changes throughout the solar cycle, says Eurekalert.

The new framework offers a significant improvement over the traditional sunspot method, because it can predict surges in dangerous solar flares or changing weather trends years in advance.

It also accurately describes many more parameters related to the solar cycle than sunspots alone.

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Smoke from a California wildfire [image credit: BBC]


There’s a ‘fundamental design problem’, namely that the forests have an unfortunate tendency to burn down. Research finds it ‘incredibly unlikely’ that such schemes will work, and not only in California.
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Researchers have found that California’s forest carbon buffer pool, designed to ensure the durability of the state’s multi-billion-dollar carbon offset program, is severely undercapitalized, says Eurekalert.

The results show that, within the offset program’s first 10 years, estimated carbon losses from wildfires have depleted at least 95% of the contributions set aside to protect against all fire risks over 100 years.

This means that the buffer pool is unable to guarantee that credited forest carbon remains out of the atmosphere for at least 100 years.

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The ocean carbon cycle [credit: IAEA]


“Based on our model calculations, we assume that current estimates of oceanic carbon uptake must be substantially corrected upwards”, said one researcher. A major revision, of ‘roughly 10% of our carbon budget’, is suggested. Phytoplankton hold the key.
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Phytoplankton need light and nutrients to grow. The microscopic algae rarely find both at the same time in sufficient quantities in the ocean. In the upper water layers, they usually lack nutrients, and further down, they lack light.

A new study led by the Helmholtz Center Hereon now says: Phytoplankton can migrate back and forth between deeper layers and the water surface.

If this were confirmed, it would have enormous consequences for the calculations of the natural carbon pump and thus for current calculations of the carbon budget.

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California wildfire [image credit: NASA]


Another day, another topic of model uncertainty. ‘Refining’ an admitted high level of uncertainty is an odd concept, but researchers assert the issue will be ‘cleared up’. However, their belief in ‘potent climate-warming agents’ doesn’t inspire confidence.
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New research refining the amount of sunlight absorbed by black carbon in smoke from wildfires will help clear up a long-time weak spot in earth system models, enabling more accurate forecasting of global climate change, says Phys.org.

“Black carbon or soot is the next most potent climate-warming agent after CO2 and methane, despite a short lifetime of weeks, but its impact in climate models is still highly uncertain,” said James Lee, a climate researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory and corresponding author of the new study in Geophysical Research Letters on light absorption by wildfire smoke. “Our research will clear up that uncertainty.”

The Los Alamos research resolves a long-time disconnect between the observations of the amount of light absorbed by black carbon in smoke and the amount predicted by models, given how black carbon is mixed with other material such as condensed organic aerosols that are present in plumes.

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Monsoon region


A familiar story of inaccurate climate models. The overestimates would undermine various predictions.
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Global climate tools being used to predict future temperature rises and rainfall across Asia are significantly overestimating their potential growth and impact, according to new research.

A study published in Nature Communications suggests predictions by the World Climate Research Program’s Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) are overestimating future temperature growth by between 3.4% and 11.6%, says Phys.org.

Based on revised calculations, an international team of researchers say this could result in the rate of snow cover loss in Asia, notably in the Himalayas, being between 10.5% and 40.2% lower than previously predicted.

As well as the physical effects on the landscape, this, they add, could have significant knock-on effects on both predicted future climate warming and water availability in Asia.

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CO2 is not pollution


The researchers are not going overboard with positivity, but seem clear that the Earth’s carbon cycle is still working much as expected. Unsurprisingly perhaps, they theorise problems might occur by 2100 if some presently unknown limit is approached, but say ‘the Twilight Zone region of the ocean’ needs more research. In short, so far so good.
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The amount of carbon stored by microscopic plankton will increase in the coming century, predict researchers at the University of Bristol and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

Using the latest IPCC models (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the team expects the “biological pump”—a process where microscopic plants, often called phytoplankton, take up carbon and then die and sink into the deep ocean where carbon is stored for hundreds of years—to account for between 5 and 17% of the total increase in carbon uptake by the oceans by 2100.

Their findings were published today in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), says Phys.org.

Lead author Dr. Jamie Wilson, of the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, explained, “The biological pump stores roughly double the amount of carbon dioxide that is currently in our atmosphere in the deep ocean. Because plankton are sensitive to climate change, this carbon pool is likely to change in size, so we set out to understand how this would change in the future in response to climate change by looking at the latest future projections by IPCC models.”

Microscopic organisms called plankton, living in the sunlit surface of the ocean, use carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. When these plankton die, their remains rapidly sink down through the “Twilight Zone” of the ocean (200–1000m), where environmental factors, such as temperature and oxygen concentration, and ecological factors, such as being eaten by other plankton, control how much reaches the deep ocean where the carbon from their bodies is stored away from the atmosphere for hundreds to thousands of years.

Warming of the oceans slows down the circulation, increasing the time that carbon is stored in the deep ocean.

Contributing author Dr. Anna Katavouta, who worked alongside early-career scientist Dr. Chelsey Baker, both from the National Oceanography Centre, added, “Our research found a consistent increase in the carbon stored in the ocean by the biological carbon pump over the 21st century in the latest IPCC model projections. In contrast, we found a decline in the global export production (the amount of organic matter, such as dead plankton, sinking below the ocean surface), which suggests that export production may not be as accurate a metric for the biological carbon pump than previously thought. We demonstrated that the organic matter flux at 1000 meters is instead a better predictor of long-term carbon sequestration associated with the biological carbon pump. This outcome will help us to better understand the processes that control the biological carbon pump and to predict more reliably how much of the carbon released due to human activity will be stored in the ocean in the future.”

However, the IPCC models have no consistent representation of the environmental and ecological processes in the Twilight Zone. This leads to a large uncertainty in how much carbon dioxide originating from the atmosphere the biological pump will store beyond the end of the century.

In theory, after 2100, carbon storage by the biological pump could stall and instead may start acting as a source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which could exacerbate climate change further.

Full article here.