Air pollution kills 10 million people every year

Source: Reuters (2013)

Our toxic air

New measurements of global atmospheric chemistry obtained from satellite data has improved our understanding of the global spread of air pollutants. And we know from before that ozone and fine particulate matter increases the likelihood of diseases and deaths. In a new study researchers estimate that the effects of particle pollutants killed 3.15 million individuals and ozone related mortality revealed a total estimate of 3.30 million people dying prematurely in 2010. An additional 3.54 million deaths per year are attributed to indoor air pollution caused by the use of solid fuels such as coal.

Worst in mega-cities in Asia

Air pollution hot spots are found in large cities, especially those in India and China. Air pollution is one of the top causes of death in China, no wonder the Chinese now want gas masks to outside. Many Chinese kids have never seen stars due to the constant smog and many get lung cancer. Pollution comes from a number of different sectors such as energy (CO2, SO2, NOx), agriculture (ammonia), traffic and natural sources such as dirt and dust. The extent of air pollution, globally, is now so massive that it is very unlikely governments are willing to pay for the societal costs of environmental damage "externalised" by industry. Especially since the global economy shows signs of deflation. But perhaps if we are lucky a downturn in economic activity could decrease pollution levels, of course this is not a solution we wish for but the planet is full, there is no more room for expansion. If we are such a clever species that we claim to be we should have realised this a long time ago and changed our behaviour, instead we are now reaching limits. And I'm afraid the outcome wont be pretty. 

0 kommentarer:

Disappearing snowpack and massive forest fires in California

Images of the snow cover in the Sierra Nevada in California and Nevada showing average winter snowfall, 2010 compared with 2015. Credit: NASA/MODIS

Getting drier and drier

California cannot catch a break from the massive climate disruption that now plagues the exceptionally dry region. New measurements from the University of Arizona show that 2015 has experienced the lowest level of snowpack in California's Sierra Nevada mountains in the past 500 years.The winter of 2014/15 was extreme and the low levels have contributed to the three year ongoing drought in California, which has also experienced extreme wild fires this summer. Researchers say that climate change is making the situation worse as higher temperatures lead to more severe drought.

In April the governor declared the first-ever mandatory water restrictions throughout the state. The lack of snow in 2015 stems from extremely low winter precipitation combined with record high temperatures in California in January. Right now, more than 100,000 acres of northern California are on fire while thousands flee their homes. The governor has called a state of emergency. Below is a stunning video of a man fleeing Anderson Springs.

0 kommentarer:

Arctic Sea Ice on the verge of collapse??

Arctic Sea Ice

Every September, Arctic sea ice reaches it's yearly minimum. While some experts have estimated that we might see an ice free Arctic this year or the next, most scientists probably agree that 2020 is more the consensus view. However, the image below shows a recent drop in sea ice extent that is so dramatic (red line) that some think it could be something wrong with the measurement (it was a measurement problem!). 

But still it's a very strong reinforcing feedback in the climate system that will increase further warming. IPCC's models were so very wrong regarding the Arctic, they predicted this wouldn't happen until the end of the century. Now we know that too conservative climate science can be dangerous too.

Arctic sea ice extent up to September 7, 2015.
Source: Arctic Regional Ocean Observing System,

0 kommentarer:

Desertification from 1950s onward

More arid climate types raises questions about future food production

A new study in Nature shows how the world’s dry and semi-arid climate regions have expanded since 1950, mainly due to human-induced climate change. This expansion of dry regions fits with basic climate predictions. But that the trend is so broadly observable is very worrying, especially for the future of agriculture.

In “Significant anthropogenic-induced changes of climate classes since 1950” Chan and Wu (2015) found that 5.7% of the global total land area has shifted toward warmer and drier climate types, and that this cannot be explained as natural variations. Worst impacted are highly populated mid-latitude continental climates and polar regions. According to the study, rising temperatures and decreasing precipitation both played a big role in semi-arid expansion in Asia and North America, while lack of precipitation played a bigger role in semi-arid climates in North Africa, South Africa och South America. The map below shows the globe broken down by climate types.

World Köppen-Geiger map, climate type B is expanding while E is shrinking.
Modified version. Source: University of Melbourne (CC BY-SA 3.0)

While semi-arid and arid regions (B) expand, extra heat in the polar regions (E) goes into thawing carbon rich frozen tundra, permafrost, with potential amplifying feedback's on climate. Even if climate predictions indeed foresaw some of this change I think many are still surprised how little global average temperature would have to increase to lead to such a massive change. Imagine how 2-3℃ would look like if “only” +0.85℃ warming (global average temperature) has lead to this!! Just look at the situation in the Middle East, with millions of refugees, lack of fresh water in almost every country that has over pumped their ground water to grow wheat in the desert for a growing population. Its insane.

0 kommentarer:

Warming Arctic, wavy jet stream and extreme weather

Evidence getting stronger

A new study, published in Nature Geoscience, adds to the growing evidence that record-breaking extreme weather events have been influenced by human-induced climatic changes in the Arctic

Jong-Seong Kug et al (2015) used observations and modeling to investigate potential connections between extreme cold winter weather over North America and East Asia last winter and historically low levels of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. They found that the reduced extent of summer sea ice in the Barents-Kara Sea region influenced cold weather in East Asia, while harsh winters in North America related to warmer temperatures in the East Siberian-Chukci Sea region.

Warm conditions in these areas of the Arctic Ocean weakens the polar jet stream (stream of high-speed winds flowing west to east high up in the atmosphere) which is driven by temperature differences between the Arctic and the equator. This, in turn, makes the jet stream pattern more wavy, creating ridges and blocking weather systems so that cold (or hot) conditions get stuck over a longer time period. Which leads to more extreme weather events.

"As we watch the Arctic continue to warm and melt - with regional differences from one year to the next - the research presented by Kug et al may provide early warning of extreme winter weather in heavily populated areas of the northern hemisphere, thereby saving energy and lives" says researcher Jennifer Francis in an interview with the Carbon Brief.

These changes to jet stream patterns are believed to be responsible for Californias long standing drought conditions and record cold winters in eastern United States. This summer parts of Alaska experienced really warm weather that lead to major forest fires, and some 30 whales washed up dead on their shores. Probably due to warmer waters and loss of food supply (krill).
The jet stream, which once used to move over North America horizontally, has become more wavy, pushing warm air north on the left, while drawing cold air from the Arctic south on the right. Source: Arctic News blog
It also influences weather patterns in Europe, causing record  floodings and storms in the UK and warmer weather in central Europe, this year leading to a record drought (loss of soil moisture) that negatively impacted crop yields.

Omega wind heatwave June 28- July 04, 2015. Credit: NOAA

0 kommentarer: