October 20, 2018

    Plants insulated by snow thaw permafrost, thus increasing fresh water flow into lakes, rivers, and oceans
    Greening of the Arctic thaws permafrost - climate change science news

    Greening of the Arctic is not only the result of global warming, it has also become a local accelerator. When insulating snow covers the shrubs, it promotes the warming of the ground, thus thawing the permafrost. This will lead to increases in discharges of fresh water into rivers, lakes and oceans. These observations, strengthened with computer simulations, show that snow and vegetation interact to influence permafrost hydrology.

    Read the full story: Los Alamos National Laboratory
    Scientific publication: Environmental Research Letters


    Managing forest to optimize carbon sequestration will not lead to a decrease of global warming
    Forests are minor contributors to the mitigation of climate change - climate change science news

    Managing Europe’s forests to maximize carbon sequestration will have only a negligible effect on the global climate, a new study shows. Using computer modeling, it appeared that, for instance, changing evergreen forests to deciduous forests would result in a cooling of 0.3 degrees centigrade in Scandinavia and the Alps. This effect is too small to have a global impact. Rather, forests themselves will have to adapt to climate change to sustain the production of wood and conserve the forest’s ecosystem.

    Read the full story: Aarhus University
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Acidification of oceans impacts on marine ecosystems. Image: Liang Xue/ University of Delaware
    The chemistry of the oceans is changing - Earth science news

    The ongoing acidification of oceans has been attributed to vast capacity of the oceans to store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but new research has shown that this cannot be the only culprit. In the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, the western winds that strengthen during summer, bring more acidic surface water from higher latitudes, and from subsurface polar water that naturally stores much carbon dioxide. The resulting increased acidification of the Southern Ocean surface water is therefore greater than can be caused by increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The data help to understand how ocean acidification is controlled, which is important for predicting the impact that the changing chemistry will have on marine ecosystems in the future.

    Read the full story: University of Delaware
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Parts of New Jersey and New York with 8 feet of sea-level rise. Image: NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer
    Global sea level rise projected to be 50 feet by 2030 - climate science news

    Sea water level will rise by about 8 inches (20 cm) by 2100, and probably by 50 feet (1.5 m) by 2300, a new study reports. These estimations are based on methods that have reconstructed the past, and are then projected into the future. They represent a worst-case scenario, meaning a situation in which emissions of greenhouse gases remain high. These projected levels represent a real danger for coastal infrastructure, economies, and ecosystems around the world, including the 11 percent of the world’s 7.6 billion people living in coastal areas below 33 feet (1 m) above sea level.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: Annual Review of Environment and Resources


    The more variety in tree species, the more carbon a forest will store. Image: UZH
    Species-rich forests take up twice as much carbon as monocultures - Earth science news

    Subtropical forests with a rich variety of tree species store more than twice as much carbon as monocultures, new research shows. This has been concluded after evaluation of data from forests that had been planted especially for this study in China, and included over 150,000 trees. Species-rich forests stored 32 tons, while monocultures stored only 12 tons of carbon per hectare. These data follow the ones that had already been documented for grasslands in the US and Europe, and indicate that reforestation should involve the planting of many different tree species for better productivity and protection from climate changes.

    Read the full story: University of Zurich
    Scientific publication: Science


    Burning fires release aerosols in the atmosphere that reflect sunlight and cool the Earth
    Preindustrial fires cooled the Earth - global warming science news

    By analyzing fire proxy records such as ice cores, charcoal depositions in lake and marine sediments, and scarring in tree rings, researchers have found that fires were much more common before the industrial revolution than they are now. As fire burns, tiny particles known as aerosols are released in the atmosphere, and reflect sunlight back into space. Therefore, fires cool down climate, and counterbalance the total effect that human industrial activity has on global warming and climate change. Thus, preindustrial fire has to be factored in to better estimate the magnitude of global warming by manmade forms of combustion.

    Read the full story: Cornell University
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    3D printed robot jellyfish soon to patrol the oceans. Credit: Frame et al, Bioinspiration & Biomimetics
    Unexpected protectors of the oceans: the robot jellyfish - science news headlines

    Scientists came up with an original solution for monitoring the fragile ecosystems of the world’s oceans: a robotic jellyfish.

    A soft robot like this can easily explore and monitor difficult environments like a coral reef. To increase its performance, the robot was shaped after the shape of the moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) during the larvae stage of its life cycle.

    The new device could open a new era of oceanography and may soon play an important role in environmental actions and ecology.

    Read the full story: Florida Atlantic University
    Scientific publication: Bioinspiration & Biomimetics


    Dikes prevent inland migration of coastal wetlands
    Coastal wetlands need inland space to survive rising sea water - ecosystem short science news

    A global study has shown that for coastal wetlands to survive, more room to move inland (accommodation space) is necessary. In Europe and China, most of inland migration of marshes is strongly impaired by dikes, whereas in the US dikes are less common and marshes can move. Scientists argue that accommodation space should be expanded by using “natural and nature-based features”, meaning the replacement of dikes and the creation of nature reserves buffers in upland areas surrounding coastal wetlands. Protection of wetlands is important, as they are form one of the best defenses against hurricane’s and storm’s waves, and high sea water levels.

    Read the full story: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
    Scientific publication: Nature


    This is a fossil of Dickinsonia, the oldest known animal to live on Earth 558 million years ago. Image: The Australian National University (ANU)
    Oldest animal identified - paleontology short science news

    Is it a lichen, a giant single-celled amoebe, or an animal? Now, paleontologists have found the answer of what a bizarre fossil of 558 million years old really is: the earliest known animal to live on the Earth, named Dickinsonia. In an extremely well preserved fossil of Dickinsonia, scientists found cholesterol molecules, a hallmark of animal life. Thus, Dickinsonia, that could grow up to 1.4 meters in length, was a primitive animal that lived before what is known as the Cambrian explosion, when animal life became abundant and diverse 500 million years ago.

    Read the full story: Australian National University
    Scientific publication: Science


    Some insects and plants resist intensive farming, while most cannot. Image: Erwin van den Burg, Sciencebriefss
    When the going gets tough, some plants and insects get going - ecology short science news

    Ecologists have found that some plant and insect species resist to intensive farming, despite the decline of many other species. Surviving plants include species like brambles and thistles that can cope with increased soil fertilization and reduced water availability. Surviving insects are generalists, feeding on a variety of plants. Thus, while plants and pollinators are in general decline, some species seem to be very resistant, and are expected to be able to successfully face other environmental threats, such as climate change.

    Read the full story: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
    Scientific publication: Ecology Letters


    Pine tree remains show the impact on life of abrupt climate change
    Dead trees that lived 12,000 years ago show the consequences of abrupt climate change - climate short science news

    Burried remains of pine trees in the south of France that lived during a cold period, the Dryas, between 12,700 and 11,600 years ago reveal what an abrupt climate change might lead to. By measuring isotopes of oxygen and carbon, and looking at annual tree growth, scientists found that the trees experienced increased rainfall from the Atlantic, and decreased rainfall from the Mediterranean. The pine trees, that had started growing just before the cold period set in, likely died because of altered environmental conditions, such as changed air flow and precipitation, and not of the lower temperatures per se. In broader terms, periods of massive climate change can be associated with more instability in atmospheric circulation patterns, leading to greater variability on annual or decadal scales, and environmental stress.

    Read the full story: Helmholtz Centre Potsdam – GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports


    The ancient land masses of Laurentia, Avalonia and Armorica have collided to create England, Scotland and Wales. Image: University of Plymouth
    Geological study shows how Britain was formed - Earth science news

    New research suggests that Britain was formed from three ancient land masses, and not two as previously thought: Laurentia in the North, Avalonia in the centre and the South, and Armorica in the South West. The contribution of Armorica, the new finding of the study, came to light after analysis of minerals in rocks collected in Devon and Cornwall. Comparison with known mineral compositions of rocks in France and Europe revealed a strikingly similarity with those obtained from rocks in South West England. The European roots of South West England explain why this region is rich in tin and tungsten, while the rest of Britain is not.

    Read the full story: University of Plymouth (through Eurekalert.org)
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Organic farming stabilizes pollinator communities and sustains them over time
    Pollinators benefit from organic farming methods - science news

    Worldwide, there is a decline in pollinating insects (bumblebees, butterflies, bees) and this is bad news for agriculture, nature and eventually for us, humans. Recently, an extensive 3-year study from Sweden has found that organic farming methods can contribute to halting the pollinator decline. Organic farming is less dangerous for the insects since no insecticides are used. Moreover, it leads to a higher provision of flowers. This is the first large-scale study to show that organic farming has a consistent, stabilizing effect on pollinator diversity.

    Read the full story: Lund University
    Scientific publication: Biological Conservation


    Outside of Blombos Cave in the southern Cape in South Africa. Image: Magnus Haaland
    Abstract drawing found from 73,000 years ago - ancient history science news

    Archaeologists have made a spectacular discovery in the Blombos Cave in South Africa: an abstract drawing made by humans 73,000 years ago. This drawing predates any other drawing found in Europe, Asia, and Africa by as much as 30,000 years. It consists of three red lines cross-hatched with six separate lines, made with an ochre crayon, with a tip of between one and three millimeters thick. In the same archaeological layer in the cave were other objects, such as shell beads covered with ochre, and pieces of ochres engraved with abstract patterns, some of which looked like the drawing. These findings show that Homo sapiens used different techniques and materials to express symbolic thinking.

    Read the full story: University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Artist's impression of the Jurassic-era seas. Image: Nikolay Zverkov
    Fossil teeth show how reptiles adapted to rising sea water - global warming

    By analyzing fossil teeth from the Jurassic era, 150 million years ago, paleontologists have managed to assess which species thrived, and which species died out during climate and sea water level changes. It turns out that reptiles with sharp teeth living in shallow waters near the coast were the major victims of rising sea water. In contrast, reptiles living in the deeper parts of the oceans and were equipped with broader teeth for crunching and cutting prey became abundant. These results offer insights in what might happen with top predators in modern oceans as a consequence of global warming and rising sea water levels that we are experiencing today.

    Read the full story: University of Edinburgh
    Scientific publication: Nature Ecology & Evolution


    Global warming in the past forecasts dramatic floodings of rivers and loss of fertile soil
    Past global warming: dramatic forecast for the immediate future - global warming science news

    The Spanish Pyrenees tell a story of the consequences of global warming that occurred some 56 million years ago. By studying river sediments in ancient rock formations, scientists found that a relatively rapid temperature rise of 5 ° to 8 °C degrees in 10,000 to 20,000 years dramatically increased river floods, by a factor of 8 to 14. The expanded rivers brought the alluvium (fertile soil deposited by rivers) directly to the Atlantic Ocean, changing the landscape into an arid stony scenery without much vegetation. These findings give an example of might happen during the current period of global warming, with temperature changing now much more quickly than 56 million years ago. The consequences of global warming may thus be more dramatic than thought until now, and mathematical climate change models may have to be adjusted to accommodate the new findings.

    Read the full story: University of Geneva
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports


    Niwot Ridge, Colorado, where the effects of nitrogen air pollution have been studied. Image: William Bowman
    Alpine ecosystems hardly recover from nitrogen deposition - Earth science news

    An experimental study on Colorado’s Niwot Ridge at an elevation of 11,400 feet shows that alpine ecosystems struggle to recover from nitrogen deposition. After applying nitrogen for 12 years, researchers observed that biodiversity did not recover after nine years without nitrogen air pollution. While nitrogen is vital for life, agricultural and industrial activities have increased global levels over the last two centuries, with harmful effects on water and soil. The study shows that recovery of alpine ecosystems with decreasing nitrogen emissions will be an extremely slow process at best.

    Read the full story: University of Colorado – Boulder
    Scientific publication: Ecological Applications


    Flaring of gas significantly contributes to global warming
    Flaring of gas mapped out - climate change science news

    By tapping in to a variety of sources, scientists have been able to determine which countries have high oil production emissions. The emissions are the burning, or flaring, of unwanted gas that is produced together with oil, and contribute significantly to global warming. Several local authorities have sucessfully taken measures to reduce flaring, by promoting the use or re-injection of the gas. However, more federal action is needed, and developing countries should be supported to reduce these greenhouse gas emissions, researchers say.

    Read the full story: Stanford University
    Scientific publication: Science


    Crops under threat as more hungry insects will feed on them with global warming
    More hungry insects looking for crops with global warming - global warming science news

    With rising global temperatures, insects’ metabolism and population growth will be dramatically on the rise, leading to many hungry insect mouths to feed. This will be devastating to crops, especially wheat. maize and rice that are at the basis of our alimentation. Most damage will be done to wheat in the world’s temperate zones, where the effects of temperature on the physiology of insects will be the most important. In the tropics, where growth and metabolism of insects are already at their optimum, further temperature increases will induce some decline as it becomes too hot. The estimated losses are expected to be greatest in France, China, and the US, which are the major producers of crops, and amount to 10-25 % per degree Celcius rise.

    Read the full story: University of Vermont
    Scientific publication: Science


    Aggregates formed by polystyrene beads and biogenic particles during laboratory experiments. Image: Jan Michels/Future Ocean
    Fate of plastics in the ocean - Earth science news

    While many used plastics end up in the oceans, surprisingly few plastic particles are found high in the water column. Now, by doing experiments in the laboratory, scientists have found that plastic microparticles aggregate with biological material, such as living or dead plankton together known as biogenics, and then sink to the bottom of the sea. This effect is even stronger when the plastics have been in contact with biofilm that consists of bacteria and single cell algae. The results of these laboratory experiments should still be verified in the oceans, where the presence of biogenics and biofilm are the typical condition.

    Read the full story: Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (Geomar)
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the Royal Society B


    Earth's arctic regions are warming up and are invaded by plants
    Greening of the Arctic is in full swing - climate science news

    Using satellite images from the last 30 years, researchers have found that the Earth’s arctic zones (the poles and high mountains) are getting greener at a surprisingly fast pace. To date, already 16% of arctic regions are no longer temperature-limited for plant growth, increasing to 80% by the end of the century. Global warming is the underlying driving force of the greening of the Arctic, and has thus a huge impact on arctic ecosystems.

    Read the full story: Berkely Lab
    Scientific publication: Nature Climate Change


    Regions at mid-latitudes will experience more extreme summer weather as a result of the weakened jet streams
    Disturbed air circulation leads to extreme weather in summer - climate change news

    As the Arctic warms up faster than the rest of the globe, the difference between Arctic and mid-latitude temperatures decreases. This temperature difference is, however, the most important factor stimulating jet streams, so that air circulation will weaken. This likely leads to long and dry summers at mid-altitude, comparable to what we have experienced this year throughout Europe. Thus, global warming might accelerate in Europe, Canada and the US, and parts of Asia as a consequence of Arctic warming and disturbed air circulation.

    Read the full story: VU Amsterdam (in Dutch)
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Cables which carry internet might soon be submerged in water
    Yet another victim of rising sea-levels - the internet - short science articles

    Much of the infrastructure responsible for the fast internet of today in the US is due to the thousands of miles of buried fibre optic cable in the coastal regions. However, this critical communication infrastructure might soon be submerged by rising sea levels in the coming 15 years or so. Several of the conduits are already close to sea levels and a fraction of rise in the water levels due to polar ice melting could put several more in the harm's way. Buried fibre optic cables aren't waterproof like the marine cables that transmit information between continents under the ocean. This is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed.

    Read the full story: University of Wisconsin-Madison


    Melting of the West-Antarctic ice sheet is related to the deep ocean's temperature cycle
    Melting of the West-Antarctic ice sheet depends on deep ocean temperature - Earth science news

    Scientists have found that the temperature in the deep ocean is much more variable than previously thought, and shows a cycle of warming and cooling over the 16 years observation period. This cycle was found in the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, and appears to accelerate the melting of the West-Antarctic ice sheet during the warmer phase, while steadying it or even decreasing it during the cooler phases. The temperature cycle could be linked to El Nino in the tropical Pacific Ocean, and should be incorporated in the mathematical models that estimate how much ice will melt, and how much the sea water level will rise now that the Earth is warming up.

    Read the full story: British Antarctic Survey
    Scientific publication: Nature Geoscience


    Melting ice sheets are an underestimated source of silica for the oceans
    Melting ice provides oceans with precious silica nutrients - science news

    Silica is needed by a group of microscopic marine algae called diatoms, who use it to build their glassy cell walls. But where do these essential silica nutrients come from? A new study suggests that glacial meltwater, both in the present and during past ice ages, contains silica that could be useful in sustaining the growth of diatoms in the oceans around ice sheets, which are home to economically important fisheries and marine life. The researchers show that the silica in glacial meltwaters from the Greenland Ice Sheet has a distinctive isotopic signature, different to the that found in other rivers. The study concluded that glaciers and ice sheets are an under-appreciated component of the silica cycle in nature.

    Read the full story: University of Bristol
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


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