Tag Archives: carbon sinks

Climate clippings 133

1. Mt Everest’s poo problem

Every year climbers of Mt Everest leave behind 26,500 pounds of poo. I make that about 12 tonnes.

Sherpas pick it up, bring it down in blue barrels, dig a hole and dump it. Now the proposal is to build an anaerobic digester in a small village near Everest’s base to create biogas to produce power. Apparently human poo is not the best, but it works.

2. Arctic sea ice record

I think it’s time to call it. The Arctic sea ice winter maximum is the lowest on record. This graph shows 2015 ice against the previous record of 2011 and the 1981-2010 average:

sea ice_Feb 25_cropped_600

Also the maximum extent was reached on February 25, the second earliest on record.

According to a recent survey, thinning has been quite dramatic:

… annual mean ice thickness has decreased from 3.59 meters [11.8 feet] in 1975 to 1.25 m [4.1 feet] in 2012, a 65% reduction. This is nearly double the 36% decline reported by an earlier study….

In September the mean ice thickness has declined from 3.01 to 0.44 m [from 9.9 to 1.4 feet!], an 85 % decline.

Climate Central has a graphic showing the loss of ‘old’ ice. In 1987 it used to be 26% of the ice pack, now it’s down to 10%.

Polar bears will struggle to adapt.

3. Shell looks to drill in Arctic

Shell hopes to drill in the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic this summer. It looks as though Obama’s Department of the Interior will allow it, even though an Environmental Impact Report released by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) noted a 75% chance of one or more large spills occurring under the current plan. In 1989 the Exxon Valdez disaster spilled nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil into the Alaskan Gulf, polluting over 1300 miles of coastline. It is estimated that only 14% of the oil was cleaned up.

By comparison BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig spilled 168 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast.

Yet Obama himself stresses the need to move early on climate change. More than half of Republican politicians deny or question the science. Voter pressue will change that eventually.

A recent Stanford University poll found that two-thirds of voters were more likely to vote for a candidate that campaigned on a platform of fighting climate change, and were less likely to vote for a candidate that outright denies climate change.

4. Land, ocean carbon sinks are weakening

We are destroying nature’s ability to help us stave off catastrophic climate change. That’s the bombshell conclusion of an under-reported 2014 study, “The declining uptake rate of atmospheric CO2 by land and ocean sinks,”…

Based on actual observations and measurements, the world’s top carbon-cycle experts have determined that the land and ocean are becoming steadily less effective at removing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This makes it more urgent for us to start cutting carbon pollution ASAP, since it will become progressively harder and harder for us to do so effectively in the coming decades.

Joe Romm calls the study “one of the most consequential recent findings by climatologists”

More than half of emissions are currently absorbed by land and ocean-based carbon sinks. Increasingly these emissions will stay in the air.

5. Reasons the Australian solar market is so interesting

Clean Technica has found 7 reasons the Australian solar market is so interesting republished at RenewEconomy.

One reason is that we have so much sunlight, as shown below:


However, most of us live in the more cloudy parts in big cities and along the south-east edge. A commenter pointed out that for insolation Ney York lies between Melbourne and Sydney.

A second reason is that we are enthusiastic about roof-top solar, with over 20% of houses now with panels installed.

A third is that, along with Germany, Italy and The Netherlands, we reached socket (aka grid) parity in 2013.

Climate clippings 71b

This post was written in October 2012 trialling the site. I’ve decided to leave it in time sequence and fiddle the numbering.

1. Did climate change shape human evolution?

There’s no evidence yet that it did according to Richard Leakey.

I’m not sure about his four key questions, though. Yes, bipedalism seems to be important as does using tools to make tools. But I can’t see the importance of migration out of Africa as important to our evolution. Apart from picking up some Neanderthal genes presumably in a palm grove somewhere in the Middle East, which did boost our immune system, those of us who left Africa are much the same genetically as those who stayed behind.

I’d say the development of language was important. If you want a fourth I’d suggest our patterns of social organisation – how we interact and how we co-operate within groups. But I don’t know how much of that is in our genes.

2. Aid for climate refugees

Speaking of climate and migration, displacement by extreme weather events does not qualify you as a refugee under present UN arrangements. The International Organisation of Migration (IOM) hopes this will change at the annual United Nations climate change summit to be held in Qatar later this year, gaining access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and other sources. It seems that 42 million people were displaced by storms, floods and droughts in Asia and the Pacific during 2010 and 2011.

3. Ocean heat content update

Skeptical Science recently posted on an update by Levitus et al on ocean heat content, which increases apace. Around 93% of additional warming goes into the ocean which is truly vast with, for example, an average depth of around 3,790 metres. This graph indicates the changing heat content within bands of the upper 2000m:

4. Southern Ocean research shows decrease in dense Antarctic bottom water

Antarctic Bottom Water is a massive current of super dense salty water which used to be which used to occupy the bottom mile of the Great Southern Ocean. Used to. Researchers are now able to report that the current is diminished by 60% compared to what it was in 1970.

Antarctic Bottom Water is colder than the normal freezing point and is a vast store of CO2. Understanding changes in this deep ocean current are crucial to understanding the likely future of global climate patterns as the planet warms. The researchers have not only been able to make direct observations, they have distributed buoys which should be able to provide data at times of the year when field work is impossible.

5. Plants flower faster than climate change models predict

For years scientists have been doing experiments to find out how much earlier plants will flower and leaf with global warming. A new study using field observations has found that plants are responding much faster than they had thought. Their research suggests that that spring flowering and leafing will continue to advance at the rate of 5 to 6 days per year for every degree celsius of warming.

What surprises me is that they thought they could model natural conditions in the lab.

It seems they will have to rethink the impacts of global warming on ecosystems and food production.

See also Science Daily.

6. Climate change experimentation goes bush

Another approach is to manipulate the environment on a large scale and monitor what happens. Researchers are using to control the amount of CO2 available to plants.

The idea is explore the role of “Australia’s large tracts of undeveloped land, known as bush” in storing carbon. They will be able to add carbon or take it away.

I’m not sure it doesn’t suffer from the same problems as experiments with plants, where only one variable was controlled, neglecting changes in precipitation patterns and cloudiness, for example.

7. Wind farms do not cause global warming

There has been a raft of articles in the MSM suggesting that wind farms cause global warming, mainly in the headlines, it seems.

In fact a study of some large wind farms in remote areas of Texas found local warming. The authors don’t know what’s going on but the suggestion is that thermal energy is being redistributed, perhaps by pulling down warmer air from higher altitudes during the nights.

For the spinning blades of wind turbines to increase the overall temperature of the planet some basic laws of physics would need to be rewritten.

Climate clippings 35

Australian greenhouse graphs

The ABC has a graph of Australia’s greenhouse gases. I’ve extracted the pie chart here:

Australian GHG emissions 2009-10

The figures are for 2009-10 and exclude land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) which in 2005 was 6%.

Lots of GHG information can be found at the UNFCCC GHG data site, including a global map (may take a while to load).

This graph is of changes, 1990-2008 (including LULUCF), showing Australia and NZ in a bad light, but Turkey is the runaway champion. I suspect outsourcing of manufacturing from the EU.

There’s an interesting champagne glass image Jo Abess’s blog (scroll down) but I’m not sure of it’s pedigree. Continue reading Climate clippings 35