Extreme Weather and Global Warming

Pollution from human activities is warming our climate. The 10 warmest years on record all occurred since 1990, and the last decade was the hottest recorded since worldwide record keeping began more than 100 years ago. The period between January and June of 2010 was the warmest six months on record.
A warming climate increases the chance that we will experience extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and intense storms, and ramps up the risk that severe weather events will cause catastrophic damage.
The floods, fires and droughts we’re seeing in places like Pakistan and Russia are consistent with the effects of global warming, including temperature increases, increased precipitation in some parts of the world, and droughts in others.
In early August, a 97-square mile chunk of ice–the largest since 1962–broke away from the northwest coast of Greenland.1 Canadian officials fear the massive “ice island” could pose a risk to ships and oil platforms.2
Unless we significantly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, we are likely to see even more extreme weather events and the consequences they bring.

1. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Earth Observatory, “Ice Island Calves off Petermann Glacier,” August 13, 2010.
2. Randy Boswell, “Giant iceberg drifting toward Canada could threaten ships, oil platforms,” Montreal Gazette, August 10, 2010.

Most glaciers receding – US Geological Service

The U.S. Geological Survey released today a comprehensive historical atlas of glaciers stretching across Asia, from Kazakhstan to Bhutan, many of which are beating a rapid retreat in the face of global warming, the agency said.

The report, written in collaboration with 39 international scientists, found that glaciers are retreating in stubbornly individual ways. For example, in the mountainous nation of Bhutan, 66 glaciers have decreased 8.1 percent over the last 30 years. Meanwhile, several prominent Himalayan glaciers in India have seen their mass fall by 12 percent in the last 16 years.

The retreat of the Himalayan glaciers is a particular concern for many of India’s impoverished residents, said Jane Ferrigno, a USGS scientist, in a statement announcing the atlas.

“Glacier behavior impacts the quality of life of tens of millions of people,” Ferrigno said. “Glaciers in the Himalaya are a major source of fresh water and supply meltwater to all of the rivers in northern India.”

While most of Asia’s glaciers are in recession, a minority has been found advancing, the report finds. The mechanisms behind these surges remain poorly understood, though likely each cause is related to local conditions — like most geology, glaciers insist on heterogeneity.

The USGS study, while it includes updated information, is built off a set of satellite images taken in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The atlas, the ninth in a worldwide series prepared by the survey in deliberate fashion, will provide a baseline for future studies of glacier loss.

Scotland: Floating offshore wind turbines

This will make it possible to have wind turbines in very deep water. Yeehaa for renewable energy !
The Scottish government wants the world’s first floating wind farm, being planned by Norwegian energy company Statoil, off its coast.

The company has already successfully tested a prototype 10 kilometers off the coast of Norway called Hywind, and is now looking for places to situate a full-scale wind farm. Statoil is also considering sites in Norway and the United States and will make a final decision in 2011, a spokesman said.

Such a farm would hold three to five floating turbines that would demonstrate commercial viability. Executives of the company met with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond to discuss two prospective sites in Scotland yesterday.

Salmond said that the talks had been “very positive” and that the project could revolutionize the offshore wind industry.

“The Hywind II wind farm project would see a Scotland-Norway collaboration push the boundaries of deepwater offshore wind beyond the 100-meter mark and open up vast areas of the world’s oceans to the development of wind energy for the first time,” said Salmond (James Murray, London Guardian, Aug. 17). —

Coal burns underground. What a mess. Kick our habit.

Deep Underground, Miles of Hidden Wildfires Rage – Coal Seam Fires
Coal fires in the Powder River Basin of northeast Wyoming, along the Tongue
River north of the town of Sheridan

These fires go on for decades on end.
Though geologic records show evidence of underground coal fires dating to the Pleistocene era, modern-day coal fires are often an unintended side effect of mining operations that open coal seams to oxygen. Once exposed, the coal undergoes a chemical reaction that releases heat. In some climate conditions the coal spontaneously combusts. Otherwise, lightning, wildfires or an ill-placed spark can trigger the blaze. The flames rip inside the buried coal seams at temperatures exceeding 1,000