How quickly is Antarctica losing ice?

Time series of cumulative anomalies in SMB (blue), ice discharge (D, red), and total mass (M, purple) with error bars in billions of tons for (A) West Antarctica, (B) East Antarctica; (C) Antarctic Peninsula), and (D) Antarctica, with mean mass loss in billions of tons per year and an acceleration in billions of tons per year per decade for the time period 1979 to 2017.

 

The new paper, Four decades of Antarctic Ice Sheet mass balance from 1979–2017, by Eric Rignot, et. el (PNAS 1/14/19) states

The total mass loss from Antarctica increased from 40 ± 9 Gt/y in the 11-y time period 1979–1990 to 50 ± 14 Gt/y in 1989–2000, 166 ± 18 Gt/y in 1999–2009, and 252 ± 26 Gt/y in 2009–2017, that is, by a factor 6.

An interesting fact from the paper:

Antarctica contains an ice volume that translates into a sea-level equivalent (SLE) of 57.2 m.

Note: 52.2m is about 188 feet. The graph with caption here is from the paper. The Washington Post has a summary of the paper in the article Ice loss from Antarctica has sextupled since the 1970s, new research finds by Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis (1/14/19) and notes

It takes about 360 billion tons of ice to produce one millimeter of global sea-level rise.

Based on the last two quotes, How much ice is there on Antarctica?  NASA’s Vital Signs of the Planet has Antarctica Ice data on their Ice sheets page.

Related Post: How well do we understand rising sea levels?

How much coal does the U.S. consume?

According to the EIA article U.S. coal consumption in 2018 expected to be the lowest in 39 years:

EIA expects total U.S. coal consumption in 2018 to fall to 691 million short tons (MMst), a 4% decline from 2017 and the lowest level since 1979. U.S. coal consumption has been falling since its peak in 2007, and EIA forecasts that 2018 coal consumption will be 437 MMst (44%) lower than 2007 levels, mainly driven by declines in coal use in the electric power sector.

Why the decline?

One of the main drivers of coal retirements is the price of coal relative to natural gas. Natural gas prices have stayed relatively low since domestic natural gas production began to grow in 2007. This period of sustained, low natural gas prices has kept the cost of generating electricity with natural gas competitive with generation from coal. Other factors such as the age of generators, changes in regional electricity demand, and increased competition from renewables have led to decreasing coal capacity.

EIA coal consumption data can be found on the Monthly Energy Review page and in our Calculus Projects page.  A recent Think Progress article,
More coal plants shut down in Trump’s first two years than in Obama’s entire first term – The administration’s own data reveal coal isn’t coming back by Joe Romm (1/3/19) reports on the decrease in coal consumption.

What have we done to the broiler chicken?

The Royal Society research article, The broiler chicken as a signal of human reconfigured biosphere by Carys E. Bennett et. el. (12/12/18) , provides the evidence of how human intervention has changed a species.

Breeding by natural selection has been modified by human-directed selection. While the size of the domesticated chicken in historical times was little different to the red jungle fowl (figure 3), domestic chicken bone morphology shows that selective breeding practices took place as early as the sixteenth century [53,54]. Chickens from the late twentieth century are markedly different in terms of size (figures 3 and 4), growth rate (figure 5) and body shape. The change in body mass and body shape has been visually documented by photographs of broiler breeds throughout ontogeny from 1957, 1978 and 2005 [14]. Broilers from a 1957 breed are between one-fourth and one-fifth of the body weight of broilers from a twenty-first century breed [13,14]. The modern broiler is a distinctive new morphotype with a relatively wide body shape, a low centre of gravity [13] and multiple osteo-pathologies. If left to live to maturity, broilers are unlikely to survive. In one study, increasing their slaughter age from five weeks to nine weeks resulted in a sevenfold increase in mortality rate [55]: the rapid growth of leg and breast muscle tissue leads to a relative decrease in the size of other organs such as the heart and lungs, which restricts their function and thus longevity [56]. Changes in the centre of gravity of the body, reduced pelvic limb muscle mass and increased pectoral muscle mass cause poor locomotion and frequent lameness [15]. Unlike most other neobiota, this new broiler morphotype is shaped by, and unable to live without, intensive human intervention.

The article includes a number of interesting charts including the one copied here and in reference to the figure they refer to a derivative:

Chicken-meat consumption is growing faster than any other meat type and is soon to outpace pork

Data used in the paper is available under Supplemental Material (left side bar).

How many women have been in congress?

The Pew article, A record number of women will be serving in the new Congress by Drew Desliver (12/18/18) provides an historical overview and the chart copied here of women in congress.

When the 116th Congress convenes next month, women will make up nearly a quarter of its voting membership – the highest percentage in U.S. history, and a considerable increase from where things stood not too long ago.

A record 102 women will serve in the incoming House of Representatives, comprising 23.4% of the chamber’s voting members. More than a third of those women (35) won their seats for the first time in last month’s midterms.

The differences by party are notable. For instance, the most Republican women in the House of Representative was 25 in 2017-2019 and down to  13 this year.  On the other hand, there have been more than 25  Democrat women in the House since the 1993-1995 congress. As a percentage of each party’s delegation, women have never exceeded more than 10% of Republican House members. From 109th through 112th congress (2005-2013) women made up 9.9% of Republican House members. This is down to 6.5% (13 women) this year. On the other hand, women have been generally increasing as a percentage of Democrat House members since the 101st congress (1989-1991) and stand at 38% (89 women) this year.  Wikipedia posts this data in a table, which comes from a Congressional Research Service report.

Related post: World Development Indicators: Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments (3/2/17)

Happy New Year’s Eve

Thanks to all the visitors of sustainabilitymath.org.  Have a Happy New Year! In 2019 the goal is to continue to post sources of graph and data while adding some of our own interactive graphs to the site.

What are the top charts of 2018?

EPI puts forth its top twelve charts of 2018 in the post Top charts of 2018 Twelve charts that show how policy could reduce inequality—but is making it worse instead (12/20/2018). For example,  chart 10 (copied here) compares 11 economic and social indicators between white and African american families from 1968 to 2018.

Not nearly far enough. The chart shows that, while African Americans are in many ways better off in absolute terms than they were in 1968, they are still disadvantaged in important ways relative to whites. African Americans today are much better educated than they were in 1968—but young African Americans are still half as likely as young whites to have a college degree. Black college graduation rates have doubled—but black workers still earn only 82.5 cents for every dollar earned by white workers. And—as consequences of decades of discrimination—African American families continue to lag far behind white families in homeownership rates and household wealth. The data reinforce that our nation still has a long way to go in a quest for economic and racial justice.

There are 11 other economic related charts. Each chart has a link to data and can  be downloaded.

Are babies born uniformly throughout the year?

The graph here is produced from data made available at the Conversation article ‘Tis the season for conception by Micaela Martinez and Kevin M. Bakker (12/19/18). Is there a pattern that is similar for both New York and Texas? It sure seems like it.

It turns out reproduction is seasonal across all living organisms, from plantsto insectsto reptilesto birds and mammals – including human beings. The ultimate explanation for this phenomenon is an evolutionary one.

Earth’s environment is seasonal. Above or below the equator, the year is structured by the winter, spring, summer and fall. In equatorial regions, the wet and dry seasons punctuate the year. Organisms have evolved strategies to reproduce at the time of year that will maximize their lifetime reproductive success.

Humans are no exception and maintain this evolutionary outcome: birth seasonality. Researchers, including us, have recently been working to understand more about why births are seasonal because these patterns can have a big impact on childhood disease outbreaks.

The article has another graph, also with data. The R-script and csv file for the graph here.

Clinker is responsible for how much of CO2 emissions?

In 2016 clinker contributed almost 2 billion tonnes of CO2, about 7% of the world total. What is clinker? The BBC article Climate change: The massive CO2 emitter you may not know about by 

Cement is the source of about 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions,according to think tank Chatham House.

If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the world – behind China and the US. It contributes more CO2 than aviation fuel (2.5%) and is not far behind the global agriculture business (12%).

Clinker accounts for about 90% of the CO2 emissions related to concrete and so 90% of the 8% of world CO2 from cement is due to clinker.  Historical data for world cement production can be found on the USGS page  Historical Statistics for Mineral and Material Commodities in the United States. For the last couple of years see the Cement Statistics can Information page.  The BBC article has another a couple of other nice graphs and a diagram with an explanation of how cement is made.

Follow Up: How old is Arctic Ice?

In a follow up to our May 28, 2018 post, How old is Arctic Ice?, the Washington Post has an article, The Arctic Ocean has lost 95 percent of its oldest ice — a startling sign of what’s to come by  Chris Mooney (12/11/18). It notes:

In 1985, the new NOAA report found, 16 percent of the Arctic was covered by the very oldest ice, more than four years old, at the height of winter. But by March, that number had dropped to under 1 percent. That’s a 95 percent decline.

At the same time, the youngest, first-year ice has gone from 55 percent of the pack in the 1980s to 77 percent, the report finds. (The remainder is ice that is two to three years old.)

The loss of sea ice creates a feedback loop:

There is a well-known feedback loop in the Arctic, caused by the reflectivity of ice and the darkness of the ocean. When the Arctic Ocean is covered by lighter, white ice, it reflects more sunlight back to space. But when there is less ice, more heat gets absorbed by the darker ocean — warming the planet further. That warmer ocean then inhibits the growth of future ice, which is why the process feeds upon itself.

and

Because of this, Arctic sea ice loss has already increased the warming of the planet as a whole. Ramanathan said the impact is equivalent to the warming effect of 250 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions, or about six years of global emissions.

Ramanathan fears that entirely ice-free summers, if they began to occur regularly, could add another half- degree Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming on top of whatever else the planet has experienced by that time.

The Washington Post article has a few nice animated graphics. The graph and map here is from the sea ice sections of the Arctic Report Card: Update for 2018 – Effects of persistent Arctic warming continue to mount from NOAA. The Arctic Report card contains a half dozen charts and graphs including one that compares March and September sea ice extent. A data and project for this is in our Statistics Project page.