The recent declassification of tens of thousands of images from Cold War spy satellites is helping climate scientists compare Siberian terrain between then and now, and they’re showing some obvious signs of climate change.
It was common practice during the Cold War for the U.S. and Soviet Union to spy on each other using any means necessary, which included satellite and aircraft images from space to find military bases and possible signs of invasion. After the Soviet Union was broken apart, the U.S. released their images from Corona and Gambit, two reconnaissance satellites that were decommissioned in the 1980s.
The University of Virginia is now using those images to study the remote area of the Siberian tundra. By using images from current satellites, they are able to create a time lapse of the terrain. They found that the shrubbery and forested areas expanded by 26 percent since the 1960s images were taken.
“These spy images are a gold mine as a reference point,” said Howie Epstein, coauthor of the research. “We know from Earth-observing satellite data that the Arctic generally has been greening for 35 years or so. But the Siberian tundra had not been as closely observed until relatively recently.
“We now know that a lot of greening has been going on there, too, with tall shrubs and woody vegetation. The vegetation has been getting both taller and expanding in space and range.”
Though this may sound normal or even natural, Siberia has been widely affected by this expansion. Increased vegetation means an increase in carbon dioxide uptake or heat absorption, leading to a warmer regional climate and less snowfall overall. This has altered the ratio of plants to animals and affected the food web in the area.
Posts tagged climate
Our foundation of Earth knowledge, largely derived from historically observed patterns, has been central to society’s progress. Early cultures kept track of nature’s ebb and flow, passing improved knowledge about hunting and agriculture to each new generation. Science has accelerated this learning process through advanced observation methods and pattern discovery techniques. These allow us to anticipate the future with a consistency unimaginable to our ancestors. But as Earth warms, our historical understanding will turn obsolete faster than we can replace it with new knowledge. Some patterns will change significantly; others will be largely unaffected, though it will be difficult to say what will change, by how much, and when.
Earlier this year our organization, the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF), announced that it would divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies. We mean to do this gradually, but in a public statement we singled out ExxonMobil for immediate divestment because of its “morally reprehensible conduct.”1 For over a quarter-century the company tried to deceive policymakers and the public about the realities of climate change, protecting its profits at the cost of immense damage to life on this planet. Our criticism carries a certain historical irony. John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil, and ExxonMobil is Standard Oil’s largest direct descendant. In a sense we were turning against the company where most of the Rockefeller family’s wealth was created. (Other members of the Rockefeller family have been trying to get ExxonMobil to change its behavior for over a decade.) Approached by some reporters for comment, an ExxonMobil spokesman replied, “It’s not surprising that they’re divesting from the company since they’re already funding a conspiracy against us.”2 What we had funded was an investigative journalism project.
The cloud, however, remains a model of the world, just not the one we have taken it to mean. The apparent growth of crisis is, in part, a consequence of our new, technologically-augmented ability to perceive the world as it actually is, beyond the mediating prism of our own cultural sensorium. The stories we have been telling ourselves don’t bear out. They’re weak all over. The cloud reveals not the deep truth at the heart of the world, but its fundamental incoherence, its vast and omniferous unknowability. In place of computational thinking, we must respond with cloud thinking: an accounting of the world which reclaims the recognition and the agency of unknowing. Aetiology is a dead end. The cloud, our world, is cloudy: it remains diffuse and forever diffusing; it refuses coherence. From our global civilisation and cultural history arises a technology of unknowing; the task of our century is to accommodate ourselves with the incoherence it reveals.
Talking about “peak oil” can feel very last decade. In fact, the question is still current. Petroleum markets are so glutted and prices are so low that most industry commenters think any worry about future oil supplies is pointless. The glut and price dip, however, are hardly indications of a healthy industry; instead, they are symptoms of an increasing inability to match production cost, supply, and demand in a way that’s profitable for producers but affordable for society. Is this what peak oil looks like?
When Hansen testified before a Congressional committee in 1988, the atmospheric level of CO2 was just passing 350 parts per million. Now we’ve gone beyond 400 ppm, we’ve seen the rapid melt of the Arctic, the acidification of the planet’s oceans, and the rapid rise in extreme weather events. (Just lately: “thousand-year-rainfalls” in South Carolina and Southern California so far this month, and now a typhoon dropping a meter or more of rain on the Philippines.) Thanks to Exxon’s willingness to sucker the world, that world is now a chaotic mess. We’ve finally begun to see the rise of a movement large enough to challenge the power of the oil companies, and that means that Paris will come out better than Copenhagen, but the quarter-century wasted will never be made up.
Those who reject the 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming often invoke Galileo as an example of when the scientific minority overturned the majority view. In reality, climate contrarians have almost nothing in common with Galileo, whose conclusions were based on empirical scientific evidence, supported by many scientific contemporaries, and persecuted by the religious-political establishment. Nevertheless, there’s a slim chance that the 2–3% minority is correct and the 97% climate consensus is wrong. To evaluate that possibility, a new paper published in the journal of Theoretical and Applied Climatology examines a selection of contrarian climate science research and attempts to replicate their results. The idea is that accurate scientific research should be replicable, and through replication we can also identify any methodological flaws in that research. The study also seeks to answer the question, why do these contrarian papers come to a different conclusion than 97% of the climate science literature?
A similar shift in the behavior of the jet stream has also contributed to the California drought and severe polar vortex winters in the Northeast over the past two years. An amplified jet-stream pattern has produced an unusual doldrum off the West Coast that’s persisted for most of the past 18 months. Daniel Swain, a Stanford University meteorologist, has called it the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” – weather patterns just aren’t supposed to last this long.
The “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge,” sometimes shortened to “Triple R” or “RRR,” is the nickname given to a persistent region of atmospheric high pressure that occurred over the far northeastern Pacific Ocean during 2013-2014. This anomalous atmospheric feature disrupted the North Pacific storm track during the winters of 2012-2013, 2013-2014, and 2014-2015, resulting in extremely dry and warm conditions in California and along much of the West Coast.  The Ridge comprises the western half of atmospheric ridge-trough sequence associated with the highly amplified “North American dipole” pattern, which brought persistent anomalous cold and precipitation to the eastern half of North America during 2014 in addition to record-breaking warmth and drought conditions in California
Kyocera Corporation, K.K. GAIA POWER, Kyudenko Corporation, and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation announced that the companies have made a joint investment in Kanoya Osaki Solar Hills LLC, a solar power operating company, to construct and operate a 92-megawatt (MW) solar power plant. Planned for construction on a site stretching across Kanoya City and Osaki Town in Kagoshima Prefecture, the project will become one of the largest solar installations in Japan.
Project planning began in January 2014, as the local community expressed interest in effectively using the project site, which had been designated for a golf course more than 30 years ago but subsequently abandoned. Covering a total of approximately 2,000,000m2 (approx. 494 acres), the site will accommodate 340,740 Kyocera solar modules, and is expected to generate roughly 99,230MWh annually — enough electricity to power approximately 30,500*1 typical households, offsetting roughly 35,730 tons of CO2 emissions per year
Landsat_8_4th_10am Sampson Flat
Version 1.0.0 of the Global Land Surface Databank has been released and data are provided from a primary ftp site hosted by the Global Observing Systems Information Center (GOSIC) and World Data Center A at NOAA NCDC. The Stage Three dataset has multiple formats, including a format approved by ISTI, a format similar to GHCN-M, and netCDF files adhering to the Climate and Forecast (CF) convention. The data holding is version controlled and will be updated frequently in response to newly discovered data sources and user comments. All processing code is provided, for openness and transparency. Users are encouraged to experiment with the techniques used in these algorithms. The programs are designed to be modular, so that individuals have the option to develop and implement other methods that may be more robust than described here. We will remain open to releases of new versions should such techniques be constructed and verified.
One way to appreciate the virtues of climate models is to compare them with a field where mirages are pretty much the standard product: economics. The computer models that economists operate have to use equations that represent human behaviour, among other things, and by common consent, they do it amazingly badly. Climate modellers, all using the same agreed equations from physics, are reluctant to consider economic models as models at all. Economists, it seems, can just decide to use whatever equations they prefer.
The data does tell us that climate change is happening. It does tell us that this change is linked to human behavior. It does tell us something about how certain levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases will impact our lives. And it does give us guidelines about how much we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and by when, in order to avoid negative consequences. What climate science doesn’t do is tell us how to value the different policies to reduce emissions, or how to deal with unintended consequences of those policies so we get the most benefits for the least harm.
The time has come: the new IPCC report is here! After several years of work by over 800 scientists from around the world, and after days of extensive discussion at the IPCC plenary meeting in Stockholm, the Summary for Policymakers was formally adopted at 5 o’clock this morning. Congratulations to all the colleagues who were there and worked night shifts. The full text of the report will be available online beginning of next week. Realclimate summarizes the key findings and shows the most interesting graphs.
Temperature chart for the last 11,000 years
Recently a group of researchers from Harvard and Oregon State University has published the first global temperature reconstruction for the last 11,000 years – that’s the whole Holocene (Marcott et al. 2013). The results are striking and worthy of further discussion, after the authors have already commented on their results in this blog.
Plants that were frozen during the “Little Ice Age” centuries ago have been observed sprouting new growth, scientists say. Samples of 400-year-old plants known as bryophytes have flourished under laboratory conditions.
This human-nature hybrid is true not just of the climate system, but of the planet as a whole, although it would be enough for it to be true of the climate system. We know from the new discipline of Earth system science that changes in the atmosphere affect not just the weather but the Earth’s hydrosphere (the watery parts), the biosphere (living creatures) and even the lithosphere (the Earth’s crust). They are all linked by the great natural cycles and processes that make the planet so dynamic. In short, everything is in play.
As things currently stand, the first two weeks of January 2013 now hold the records for the hottest Australian day on record, the hottest two-day period on record, the hottest three-day period, the hottest four-day period and, well, every sequential-days record stretching from one to 14 days for daily mean temperatures.
Deep purple … the Bureau of Meteorology’s interactive weather forecasting chart has added new colours. (via http://www.smh.com.au/environment/weather/temperatures-off-the-charts-as-australia-turns-deep-purple-20130108-2ce33.html)