Climate fears rise with hotter oceans, jet-stream research, giant Antarctica iceberg, and southern rain in Vancouver
This has not been a wonderful week for those who pay attention to the growing impacts of a warming planet.
A study published in the journal Nature has revealed that oceans are retaining far more carbon dioxide than previously believed. And that could lead to them heating up more quickly than scientists anticipated.
The study also suggests that less carbon dioxide is escaping the atmosphere and reaching space and, rather, is remaining within the Earth's system.
Researchers relied on high-precision O2 measurements to determine the level of carbon dioxide being stored.
This data provides "a much-needed confirmation of the recent upward revisions in estimates of ocean warming", according to the study.
This, in turn, means that the "maximum allowable cumulative" carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced by 25 percent worldwide from previous estimates.
This is necessary to keep the Earth's average temperature at 2° C above what it was just before the Industrial Revolution.
The danger is that when oceans reach a certain level of warmth, they will release massive amounts of stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The planet would then continue warming no matter how much human beings curb their emissions.
The 2° C threshold is when many scientists believe these feedback loops may start to kick in.
Another potential feedback loop could occur with the continued melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean. This results in less heat being reflected back into the atmosphere and more warmth being absorbed in the water.
A third feedback loop would happen if massive amounts of methane begin to be released in the area ringing the Arctic Ocean.
Antarctica is back in the news
Then there are rising sea levels.
Climate-change watchers were reminded of this threat on October 29 when a giant iceberg sheared away from Antarctica's Pine Island glacier.
According to livescience.com, this iceberg was initially 300 square kilometres in size—five times the size of Manhattan. It started breaking apart within 24 hours.
It was only last June that Nature published a study indicating that Antarctica had lost three trillion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2017.
In sum, the study noted, the Antarctica ice sheets contain enough water to raise global sea levels by 58 metres.
This is the backdrop for a powerful rainstorm hitting Vancouver over the next 24 hours.
To mark the beginning of November, the Lower Mainland will be pounded by a "subtropical plume of moisture", according to Environment Canada.
It will bring 50 to 80 millimetres of rain.
While there's nothing to indicate that this is linked to climate change, the ferocity of the storm might lead to media reminders about the impact of a warming atmosphere on precipitation. This is leading to the formation of more "atmospheric rivers", which bring sudden flash flooding.
"We have discovered recently that atmospheric rivers derive their energy from the temperature gradient between the poles and the tropics," Canadian hydrological expert Robert Sandford wrote in his book Storm Warning.
And more extreme summer weather could be on the way in the coming years, according to a new study published in Science Advances.
That's because aerosols and emissions could be wreaking more havoc than previously understood on the jet stream, which influences weather systems in the Northern Hemisphere.
The coauthors included prominent Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann and Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research.
"The findings suggest that summers like 2018, when the jet stream drove extreme weather on an unprecedented scale across the Northern Hemisphere, will be 50 percent more frequent by the end of the century if emissions of carbon dioxide and other climate pollutants from industry, agriculture and the burning of fossil fuels continue at a high rate," wrote Bob Berwyn on the Inside Climate News website.More