Category Archives: Climate Change

DC Climathon Challege!!!

George Washington University is hosting the DC Climathon where teams can come together over 24 hours to create the best project around the climate change challenge (DC’s challenge is waste). The teams’ ideas are judged and then the winning teams are selected to continue working and potentially present at the UN’s COP21 in Paris. Attached is a flyer for the DC Climathon.

Learn more:

Feel free to email Meghan Chapple at GW if you are interested in participating.

NASA Is Just Killing It With These Earth-Watching Satellites

Eric Roston in BloombergBusiness 27 Feb 2015

Five satellites launched in the past year are keeping an eye on Earth, wind and fire. And water.

This map shows solar-induced fluorescence, a plant process that occurs during photosynthesis, from Nov. through Dec. 2014 as measured by NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2. NASA/JPL-Caltech
This map shows solar-induced fluorescence, a plant process that occurs during photosynthesis, from Nov. through Dec. 2014 as measured by NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2.

Anybody can drive a shovel into the ground to see how moist the soil is. What’s tricky is doing it over every square yard of land on Earth. From 426 miles above the surface of the planet. Every 100 minutes.

Fortunately, we don’t have to. Now there’s SMAP, the newest NASA Earth-observing satellite, which from its orbit can read soil moisture levels two inches deep, just about anywhere there’s soil. It will help predict floods and weather, watch droughts, and monitor agricultural conditions, particularly where people’s lives may be urgently at stake.

SMAP is one of five Earth satellites launched in the past year, all of which will produce data helpful to hurricane first-responders, weather forecasters, farmers, climate scientists, or anybody who likes to look at beautiful animated graphics on the Internet.  Click here to read more.

Can America’s Desert Cities Adapt Before They Dry Out And Die?


Los Angeles traffic is worse than usual as hordes of parched citizens evacuate a concrete tomb that once supported millions of lives. Savvy entrepreneurs are selling bottled water from wheeled coolers for $40 a piece. Windshields are caked with desert dust and cars are overheating. The city is nearly engulfed by wildfires. People swarm slowly moving cars after they abandon their own on the road, because the gas stations have gone dry from overuse. Children eat canned food; it’s all they have left.

America is unlikely to let a city slip into that sort of dystopic future. But some of our Western cities are on a dangerous path to losing access to water. And the results could be devastating to the future of those communities if they don’t fundamentally alter how they manage their resources.  Click to continue reading.

Warming Seas Drive Rapid Acceleration of Melting Antarctic Ice  By Warren Cornwall  4 Dec 2014

A satellite image from November 2013 shows an iceberg called B3, about 21 miles (34 kilometers) across, breaking off Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier and drifting into the Amundsen Sea.
A satellite image from November 2013 shows an iceberg called B3, about 21 miles (34 kilometers) across, breaking off Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier and drifting into the Amundsen Sea.

Melting Antarctic glaciers that are large enough to raise worldwide sea level by more than a meter are dropping a Mount Everest’s worth of ice into the sea every two years, according to a study released this week.

A second study, published Thursday in the journalScience, helps explain the accelerating ice melt: Warm ocean water is melting the floating ice shelves that hold back the glaciers.

The two new pieces of research come as officials of the World Meteorological Organization announcedWednesday that 2014 is on track to be the warmest year on record.

Scientists have long worried that the West Antarctic ice sheet is a place where climate change might tip toward catastrophe. The ice sheet holds enough water to raise sea level by 16 feet (5 meters). The region along the Amundsen Sea is the sheet’s soft underbelly, where the ice is most vulnerable. (See “Rising Seas” in National Geographic magazine.)

Earlier this year, researchers at the University of California, Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory reported that the glaciers flowing into the Amundsen Sea—notably the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers—were already doomed to collapse, and at the current rate of melting would be gone in 200 years. A study released Tuesday by members of the same team, published in Geophysical Research Letters, confirms those troubling measurements with ones made by other researchers using a total of four different techniques.

The study shows that ice loss from the Amundsen Sea glaciers has accelerated sharply over the past two decades. Between 2003 and 2011 it averaged an eye-popping 102 billion metric tons every year. Mount Everest—rocks, ice, and all—weighs approximately 161 billion metric tons. (See also West Antarctica Glaciers Collapsing, Adding to Sea-Level Rise.)

The decline is driven less by melting on the surface or changes in snowfall, and more by a speeding up of the glaciers’ journey to the ocean, the scientists concluded. In some cases, glaciers reached speeds of more than a third of a mile in a year as they approached the Amundsen Sea, where they either merge into a floating ice shelf, or fall into the water and become icebergs.

The momentum behind this moving ice means the glacier loss is unlikely to stop any time soon, said University of California, Irvine geophysicist Isabella Velicogna, one of the authors of the new study. Velicogna likened the process to a ball at the top of a hill. “Once you give the first push, the ball just keeps rolling,” she said.  Click here to read more.


What the GOP Congress might mean for climate change  Science Friday  by Ira Flatow  25 November 2014 1:15EST

Credit: Phil Ostroff/Flickr Green energy is popular in blue states and in red states, like Texas, where this wind farm was built.
Credit: Phil Ostroff/Flickr
Green energy is popular in blue states and in red states, like Texas, where this wind farm was built.

In the aftermath of the Republican takeover of Congress, several events bear watching, especially as eyes turn toward 2016 and the presidential and senatorial races.

To start off, there is the elevation of the Senate’s chief climate change denier, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who’s preparing to chair (for the second time) the committee that deals with global warming — the Environment and Public Works committee. Author of the book “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future,” this in-your-face politician has not wavered in his views. And no amount of facts can make any difference, as CNN’s Jake Tapper found out recently.

How much undoing of recent environmental progress (see the EPA’s proposed rule for slashing carbon emissions from coal plants and President Barack Obama’s recent meeting with China’s president, Xi Jinping) will the senator accomplish?

Clashing with Inhofe’s view of global warming are the facts about the increasing acceptance of green energy by the American public. A recent Deutsche Bank study found that by 2016, in most states solar energy will be “as cheap or cheaper than average electricity bill prices,” reports Tom Randall for Bloomberg. Add to that the dramatic increase in centralized wind power in IowaTexas and other states, mix in the jobs that go along with building the infrastructure, and you find success even in red states that don’t buy into the “global warming conspiracy” theory. These states have learned that green power is also about the color of money. (And oh, by the way, how is any politician going to campaign against energy tax credits in these states that love them so much? Stay tuned for a lot of backtracking.)

Meanwhile, the Senate earlier this month rejected the Keystone XL pipeline extension, “leaving the $8 billion pipeline still on the table for the ascendant Republican Party to push the project to President Barack Obama’s desk in January,” writes Elana Schor for Politico. But as the oil market continues its months-long collapse, with the price per barrel of crude dropping into the $70 range, squeezing crude from Canada’s tar sands becomes even less profitable.

America is awash in oil. (“In the U.S., hydraulic fracturing has unleashed a torrent of new crude that is flooding the market, reports Russell Gold for The Wall Street Journal.) Why do we need more from Canada? Keep in mind that, as Jeff Brady and Scott Horsley report for NPR, “producing crude from oil sands emits an estimated 17 percent more greenhouse gases than traditional oil drilling in the U.S.”

A final thought: When will certain media begin treating climate change as the threat it represents instead of insisting on “fair and balanced” reporting in this regard? We all know where a road paved with good intentions takes us. Peter Dystra’s excellent election eve piece points out the false equivalences still rampant in climate journalism from people who should know better.

If a real discussion of the future of the planet is to take place between now and the 2016 election, reporters are going to have become journalists. One can hope. Perhaps we might even get a question or two about climate change into the debates, and maybe even a follow-up. (Wolf: are you listening?)

Of course, if that happens, someone is bound to write a book calling it all another green conspiracy. Wink, wink.

Obama to Introduce Sweeping New Controls on Ozone Emissions  NOV. 25, 2014

Emissions from a power plant in Kentucky. The sweeping regulation will aim at smog from power plants and factories across the country. Credit Luke Sharrett for The New York Times
Emissions from a power plant in Kentucky. The sweeping regulation will aim at smog from power plants and factories across the country. Credit Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is expected to release on Wednesday a contentious and long-delayed environmental regulation to curb emissions of ozone, a smog-causing pollutant linked to asthma, heart disease and premature death.

The sweeping regulation, which would aim at smog from power plants and factories across the country, particularly in the Midwest, would be the latest in a series of Environmental Protection Agency controls on air pollution that wafts from smokestacks and tailpipes. Such regulations, released under the authority of the Clean Air Act, have become a hallmark of President Obama’s administration.

Environmentalists and public health advocates have praised the E.P.A. rules as a powerful environmental legacy. Republicans, manufacturers and the fossil fuel industry have sharply criticized them as an example of costly government overreach.

The proposed regulation would lower the current threshold for ozone pollution from 75 parts per billion to a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion, according to people familiar with the plan. That range is less stringent than the standard of 60 parts per billion sought by environmental groups, but the E.P.A. proposal would also seek public comment on a 60 parts-per-billion plan, keeping open the possibility that the final rule could be stricter.

Public health groups have lobbied the government for years to rein in ozone emissions and said the regulation was one of the most important health decisions Mr. Obama could make in his second term.

“Ozone is the most pervasive and widespread pollutant in the country,” said Paul Billings, a senior vice president of the American Lung Association. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said, “Ozone is not only killing people, but causing tens of millions of people to get sick every day.”

But industry groups say that the regulation would impose unwieldy burdens on the economy, with little public health benefit.

“Air quality has improved dramatically over the past decades, and air quality will continue to improve under the existing standards,” said Howard Feldman, director of regulatory affairs for the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies for the oil industry. “The current review of health studies has not identified compelling evidence for more stringent standards, and current standards are protective of public health.”

The proposed ozone rule comes as the longstanding battle over Mr. Obama’s use of the Clean Air Act to push his environmental agenda is erupting in Congress and the courts. The ozone rules are expected to force the owners of power plants and factories to install expensive technology to clean the pollutants from their smokestacks.

Next year, the E.P.A. is expected to make final two more historic Clean Air Act rules aimed at cutting planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Those rules, which are intended to curb pollutants that contribute to climate change, could lead to the shutdown of hundreds of power plants and freeze construction of future coal plants.

The Republican-majority Congress, to be led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the incoming majority leader, has vowed to block or overturn the entire group of rules. In a separate development, the Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to take up a challenge led by industry groups against another E.P.A. rule intended to curb emissions of mercury from coal plants.

“We’re facing a series of regulations, and the cumulative cost of compliance and the burden of permitting is significant,” said Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council, a group which has lobbied aggressively against the rules. “An industry such as ours is poised to make significant investments in growth, but these regulations make that harder.”

The standard for ozone was last set in 2008 by the Bush administration at a level of 75 parts per billion, above the range of 60 to 70 parts per billion recommended by the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory panel at the time, although never enacted. Environmental and public health groups challenged the Bush standard in court, saying it would endanger human health and had been tainted by political interference. Smog levels have declined sharply over the last 40 years, but each incremental improvement comes at a significant cost to business and government.

The E.P.A. had planned to release the new ozone rule in August of 2011, but as Republicans and powerful industry groups prepared to go on attack against the plan, Mr. Obama decided to delay its release, fearing that opposition to the regulation would hurt his re-election chances in 2012.

At the time, Mr. Obama said the regulation would impose too severe a burden on industry and local governments at a time of economic distress.

Environmental advocates, who took the delay as a setback, then sued the Obama administration, and earlier this year a federal judge ordered the E.P.A. to release the rule by Dec. 1.

Correction: November 25, 2014
An earlier version of this article reported incorrectly the ozone pollution thresholds. They are measured in parts per billion, not parts per million.

A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2: A Striking Visualization  in Environment, Science | November 25th, 2014

During the same week when House Republicans passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA on its own research, NASA climate scientists (coincidentally but maybe inconveniently) released a video documenting A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2. According to NASA, “The visualization is a product of a simulation called ‘Nature Run,’” which “ingests real data on atmospheric conditions and the emission of greenhouse gases and both natural and man-made particulates. The model is then left to run on its own and simulate the natural behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere.”  The video above visualizes how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traveled around the globe from January 2006 through December 2006. Hopefully the take-away isn’t look at all the pretty colors. The video is in the public domain and can be downloaded here.

To learn more about climate change, see the University of Chicago’s course, Global Warming. It’s a free 23-lecture course presented by David Archer, a professor in the Department of The Geophysical Sciences.

NOAA’s Latest Climate Analysis

Is there any room left for climate change doubters?

Click here for the NOAA Global Analysis website.

October 2014 Selected Climate Anomalies and Events Map
October 2014 Selected Climate
Anomalies and Events Map

Global Highlights

  • The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for October 2014 was the highest on record for October, at 0.74°C (1.33°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.1°F).
  • The global land surface temperature was 1.05°C (1.89°F) above the 20th century average of 9.3°C (48.7°F)—the fifth highest for October on record.
  • For the ocean, the October global sea surface temperature was 0.62°C (1.12°F) above the 20thcentury average of 15.9°C (60.6°F) and the highest for October on record.
  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January–October period (year-to-date) was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 14.1°C (57.4°F). The first ten months of 2014 were the warmest such period on record.


Temperature anomalies and percentiles are shown on the gridded maps below. The anomaly map on the left is a product of a merged land surface temperature (Global Historical Climatology Network, GHCN) and sea surface temperature (ERSST.v3b) anomaly analysis developed by Smith et al. (2008). Temperature anomalies for land and ocean are analyzed separately and then merged to form the global analysis. For more information, please visit NCDC’s Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page. The maps on the right are percentile maps that complement the information provided by the anomaly maps. These provide additional information by placing the temperature anomaly observed for a specific place and time period into historical perspective, showing how the most current month, season, or year compares with the past.

The most current data may be accessed via the Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page.