People Impacted by Climate Change – The Nenets

The Nenets are reindeer herders in Russia’s Arctic that migrate 800 miles each year. The National Geographic Article, They Migrate 800 Miles a Year. Now It’s Getting Tougher, tells their story.

The Nenets have undertaken this annual migration for centuries, and at 800 miles round-trip, it’s one of the longest in the world. Yuri’s group, called Brigade 4, is a relic of a Soviet collective—under Soviet rule the Nenets endured decades of forced collectivization and religious persecution. They survived centuries of Russian rule before that. Through it all, they’ve managed to sustain their language, their animist worldview, and their nomadic traditions.

The Nenets are facing challenges.

As I talk to Yuri, the region is suffering another record-hot summer; the thermometer has already hit 94°F. It hasn’t rained for weeks, and it’s hard for reindeer to pull the loaded sleighs across the dry tundra. Before the summer is out, a boy and more than 2,300 reindeer will die from anthrax on southern Yamal, and dozens of people will get sick—a direct result of thawing permafrost, which allowed animal carcasses buried during an outbreak in the 1940s to reemerge, still bearing infectious microbes.

And it isn’t just climate related challenges.

Yet climate change isn’t even the greatest threat to the Nenets. Development is. Russia’s quest for new sources of hydrocarbons has encroached on pastures that were already tight for the estimated 255,000 reindeer and the 6,000 nomadic herders that live on Yamal.

Read the article, which includes a video and a number of great photos and maps: They Migrate 800 Miles a Year. Now It’s Getting Tougher.

Related permafrost articles from this blog: Climate Change, Melting Permafrost, and Disease, Melting Permafrost and a Feedback Loop, Climate Change – Impacts on People, and Methane Bubbles – A Feedback Loop.

Are We Seeing More Hurricanes in the North Atlantic?

The Tropical Meteorology Project at CSU posts data on hurricanes (and tropical storms). From their data we created this bar chart that shows the top 21 years of hurricanes based on the number of storms.  Of the top 21, eleven have occurred since 2000, and 2017 will already be in the top 21 with 16 storms. This will make it twelve of the top 21 since 2000 at years end.  The posted data set at the Tropical Meteorology Project includes named storm days, hurricanes, hurricane days, major hurricanes, major hurricane days, and accumulated cyclone energy.

Are Falls Getting Warmer?

Climate Central has your answer by providing graphs of the number of above average warm days in the fall since 1970, for most major cities in the U.S.  Here is their graph for Duluth MN from their article More Warm Fall Days Across the U.S.   In 2016 Duluth had over 70 days in the fall of above average temperatures, almost the entire fall. They don’t provide the data, but you can contact them and they might provide it to you. Alternatively, their methodology is listed and so you can create a graph for your town with some effort (maybe a student project?). There are potential linear regression assignments waiting to be created here that could include comparing cities.

Which World Region Emits the Most CO2?

Our World in Data’s latest visualization is this graph of CO2 emissions by world region.  If you go to the page you will find the usual high quality interactive graph with data in a excel file.  You can read off the graph that in 2015 China emitted 10.23 Gt of CO2 while the U.S. emitted 5.1 Gt.  On the other hand, while China emitted about twice as much CO2 their population is about four times the size of the U.S.

How can we investigate snow cover?

NOAA has a page, Sea Ice and Snow Cover Extent, where you can create graphs for snow cover by four regions (Northern Hemisphere, North America and Greenland, Eurasia, and North America) for each month of the year. For example the graph here is for North America in March. The green line is the average and the red the trend. For each graph you can download the associated data or simply download the graph.

How much land would the world need if everyone ate like the U.S.?

Our World in Data has the answer in their post, 50% of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture. If we all ate like New Zealanders we would need 200% of habitable land, which is supplied in the chart. Simply put, the world all can’t eat like the U.S. The world can’t eat like the countries colored in orange but can with those colored in green. Why?

Livestock takes up nearly 80% of global agricultural land, yet produces less than 20% of the world’s supply of calories. This means that what we eat is more important than how much we eat in determining the amount of land required to produce our food.

There is an association between wealth and diet as can be seen in the chart below, but there are variations.

Nonetheless, there are still large differences in dietary land requirements between countries of a similar income-level. Why, for example, is the requirement for a New Zealander more than double that of a UK citizen, despite them having similar levels of prosperity?

As always Our World in Data includes the data for each of their charts and there are more than the two here. They also allow you to download the graphics which was done for this post.

How Much Are Fossil Fuels Subsidized?

Here is a post from the International Energy Agency (IEA). Energy Subsidies,with an interactive graph and data in an Excel spreadsheet. The data is in Millions of USD and you’ll see that the subsidies aren’t insignificant.

The value of global fossil-fuel consumption subsidies in 2015 is estimated at around USD 320 billion, much lower than the estimate for 2014, which was close to USD 500 billion.

Interestingly, the U.S. isn’t in the chart or Excel file and so the global subsidies likely don’t include the U.S. Still, the data is useful.

County Level Temperature Data and Projections

One of the best ways to engage students in sustainability discussions is to use local information. NOAA has you covered with The Climate Explorer.  You can type in your zip code and get historical and projected climate data.  Today we highlight temperature. For example, the associated graph is the average annual maximum temperature for Tompkins County (home of this blog). The dark gray boxes are historical data. The blue and red lines are projections based on low and high emission scenarios. You can download the graph (just like we did here) and the data. There are numerous choices including average annual minimum temperatures, days above 95 degrees and days below 32 degrees.  You can also select monthly or seasonal data. The site is phenomenal and there must be numerous courses that can take advantage of the graph and data.

The Human Impact of Climate Change – The Guna People

This blog focuses on data, but we pause periodically to put the data into perspective. When educating about sustainability we want stories along with the data. The BBC provides such a story: The island people with a climate change escape plan.  The Guna people live on small islands off Panama.

Most Guna communities live on the archipelago, and have done for centuries, after they were driven offshore by disease and venomous snakes. But now many believe that only a move back to the mainland can secure their future.

They have a plan, but completing the plan isn’t simple.

However, today work on the school and hospital has halted, as a result of a litany of contractual hiccups – and crucially, a failure to plan for adequate supplies of water and electricity. Work never began on the 300 houses.

Along with rising water there are other environmental issues.

“Coral reefs stop wave action. So when you remove the coral, even down to 3m in depth, you have no protection. This has created chaos for people,” says Dr Hector Guzman, a research scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Institute in Panama City.

This is an excellent story with great photos. Take the time to read it.

Ocean Heat Content and Climate Change

NOAA’s Climate Change: Ocean Heat Content page provides a summary of the role the Ocean plays in Climate Change.

Heat absorbed by the ocean is moved from one place to another, but it doesn’t disappear. The heat energy eventually re-enters the rest of the Earth system by melting ice shelves, evaporating water, or directly reheating the atmosphere. Thus, heat energy in the ocean can warm the planet for decades after it was absorbed. If the ocean absorbs more heat than it releases, its heat content increases. Knowing how much heat energy the ocean absorbs and releases is essential for understanding and modeling global climate.

The page is dated July 2015, but the interactive graph and the data, used to create the graph here, is up to date.  Connected to this is NOAA’s Hurricanes form over tropical oceans, where warm water and air interact to create these storms.

Recent studies have shown a link between ocean surface temperatures and tropical storm intensity – warmer waters fuel more energetic storms.