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Tag Archives: climate change

Which country emits the most CO2?

The country that emits the most CO2 depends on how it is measured. Our World in Data has a graph of annual share of CO2 emissions by country. By this measurement, a graph with the top 5 countries (China, U.S., India, Russia, & Germany) in 2016 was downloaded from Our World in Data.  In this case, China has been the largest contributor of CO2 since 2005.  In fact, in 2016 China emitted 10,295 million metric tons of CO2 compared to 5,240 million metric tons by the U.S.  On the other hand, from EIA data, in 2016 each person in China emitted 7.3 tons of CO2 compared to a person in the U.S. at 16.2 tons.  The EIA data dates back to 1980, and from 1980 to 2106 China emitted 177,547 million metric tones of CO2 compared to 197,176 for the U.S.  Which is more important, per person, current, or total historical emissions?  How does this create challenges in climate talks? Further analysis with other countries can be done with EIA data. Data can also be downloaded from the Our World in Data post.  The Calculus Projects page has an example of using this data in a calculus class.

How fast is runoff from Greenland ice sheet increasing?

The Nature article Nonlinear rise in Greenland runoff in response to post-industrial Arctic warming by Luke Trusel et. el. (12/5/18)  reports on Greenland ice sheet runoff.  Referring to fig 4a (copied here) in their paper

We show that an exceptional rise in runoff has occurred over the last two decades, equating to an approximately 50% increase in GrIS-integrated runoff compared to pre-industrial runoff, and a 33% increase over the twentieth century alone.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) provides a less technical summary of the paper in their post Greenland Ice Sheet Melt ‘Off the Charts’ Compared With Past Four Centuries (12/5/18).

Ice loss from Greenland is one of the key drivers of global sea level rise. Icebergs calving into the ocean from the edge of glaciers represent one component of water re-entering the ocean and raising sea levels. But more than half of the ice-sheet water entering the ocean comes from runoff from melted snow and glacial ice atop the ice sheet. The study suggests that if Greenland ice sheet melting continues at “unprecedented rates”—which the researchers attribute to warmer summers—it could accelerate the already fast pace of sea level rise.

“Rather than increasing steadily as climate warms, Greenland will melt increasingly more and more for every degree of warming. The melting and sea level rise we’ve observed already will be dwarfed by what may be expected in the future as climate continues to warm,” said Trusel.

The WHOI post includes a short video with a graph similar to the one copied here and a summary of the science.  The Nature article has data available.

As an aside, while we are talking about Greenland,  in NASA news International team – NASA make unexpected discovery under Greenland ice (11/15/18)

An international team of researchers, including a NASA glaciologist, has discovered a large meteorite impact crater hiding beneath more than a half-mile of ice in northwest Greenland. The crater — the first of any size found under the Greenland ice sheet — is one of the 25 largest impact craters on Earth, measuring roughly 1,000 feet deep and more than 19 miles in diameter, an area slightly larger than that inside Washington’s Capital Beltway.

The NASA article includes a short video.

What are six trends in western U.S. wildfires?

NASA’s Earth Right Now blog post  Six trends to know about fire season in the western U.S. by Kasha Patel (12/5/18) provides these trends.  The first (see graph copied here from NASA RECOVER/Keith Weber),

Over the past six decades, there has been a steady increase in the number of fires in the western U.S. In fact, the majority of western fires—61 percent—have occurred since 2000.

There are five other trends with another graph and three maps. The last one notes

Research suggests that global warming is predicted to increase the number of very large fires (more than 50,000 acres) in the western United States by the middle of the century (2041-2070).

The map below shows the projected increase in the number of “very large fire weeks”—periods where conditions will be conducive to very large fires—by mid-century (2041-2070) compared to the recent past (1971-2000). The projections are based on scenarios where carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase.

There isn’t a direct link to the data for the graph here or the other one, but the link to the slides of Keith Weber include an email address. Requests for data for educational purposes are often successful.

How are U.S. CO2 emissions changing?

The recent EIA report Carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. power sector have declined 28% since 2005 (10/29/18) provides the graphic (copied here) showing the changes of the source of electricity generation and corresponding changes in CO2 emissions from 2005 to 2017.

Electricity related CO2 emissions declined but not all sectors decreased. The EIA report U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2017 (9/25/18) provides a detailed analysis of U.S. CO2 emissions.  Figure 4 (copied here) from the report shows that transportation related CO2 emissions have grown, although they haven’t reached pre 2008 levels. This report contains 11 graph and 2 tables with downloadable data.

Overall U.S. CO2 emissions have declined in the last three years (see figure 1 in the second report), but unfortunately according to the IEA after little change from 2014-2016:

Global energy-related CO2 emissions grew by 1.4% in 2017, reaching a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes, a resumption of growth after three years of global emissions remaining flat.

Further, according to the Quartz article Instead of falling, global emissions are set to rise in 2018 by Akshat Rathi (10/8/18)

“When I look at the first nine months of data, I expect in 2018 carbon emissions will increase once again. This is definitely worrying news for our climate goals,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, told the Guardian. “We need to see a steep decline in emissions. We are not seeing even flat emissions.”

Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate Research says he agrees with Birol’s assessment. Emissions from both China and the US, the world’s two largest emitters, are up in the first nine months of the year. The reason is likely tied to strong economic growth, according to Peters.

 

How do we take the temperature of the oceans?

APO is atmospheric potential oxygen.

The recent BBC article Climate change: Oceans ‘soaking up more heat than estimated’  b

The key element is the fact that as waters get warmer they release more carbon dioxide and oxygen into the air.

“When the ocean warms, the amount of these gases that the ocean is able to hold goes down,” said Dr Resplandy.

“So what we measured was the amount lost by the oceans, and then we can calculate how much warming we need to explain that change in gases.”

The image here is copied from the original article in Nature, Quantification of ocean heat uptake from changes in atmospheric O2 and COcomposition by Resplandy et. el (10/31/18) . The abstract to the paper provides a nice summary:

The ocean is the main source of thermal inertia in the climate system1. During recent decades, ocean heat uptake has been quantified by using hydrographic temperature measurements and data from the Argo float program, which expanded its coverage after 20072,3. However, these estimates all use the same imperfect ocean dataset and share additional uncertainties resulting from sparse coverage, especially before 20074,5. Here we provide an independent estimate by using measurements of atmospheric oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2)—levels of which increase as the ocean warms and releases gases—as a whole-ocean thermometer. We show that the ocean gained 1.33 ± 0.20  × 1022 joules of heat per year between 1991 and 2016, equivalent to a planetary energy imbalance of 0.83 ± 0.11 watts per square metre of Earth’s surface. We also find that the ocean-warming effect that led to the outgassing of O2 and CO2 can be isolated from the direct effects of anthropogenic emissions and CO2 sinks. Our result—which relies on high-precision O2 measurements dating back to 19916—suggests that ocean warming is at the high end of previous estimates, with implications for policy-relevant measurements of the Earth response to climate change, such as climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases7 and the thermal component of sea-level rise8.

The paper has other interesting graphs that could be used in a QL based class. For a calculus class, the graph here is an example of the use of the Δx notation in the “real world”.

How are climatic zones changing?

The Yale Environment 360 article Redrawing the Map: How the World’s Climate Zones Are Shifting  by Nicola Jones (10/23/18)  provides animated maps, such as the one below, and quantitative statements about changing ecology including rates (great for a calculus class):

Lauren Parker and John Abatzoglou of the University of Idaho tracked what would happen to hardiness zones from 2041 to 2070 under future global warming scenarios, and found the lines will continue to march northward at a “climate velocity” of 13.3 miles per decade.

One study in northern Canada found that the permafrost around James Bay had retreated 80 miles north over 50 years. Studies of ground temperatures in boreholes have also revealed frightening rates of change, says Schafer. “What we’re seeing is 20 meters down, it’s increasing as high as 1-2 degrees C per decade,” he says. “In the permafrost world that’s a really rapid change. Extremely rapid.”

North America is seeing the opposite phenomenon: Its arable land is romping northward, expanding the wheat belt into higher and higher latitudes. Scientists project it could go from about 55 degrees north today to as much as 65 degrees North — the latitude of Fairbanks, Alaska — by 2050. That’s about 160 miles per decade.

The article includes potential ramifications of these changes along with other quantitative information.

Graphic: Hardiness zones in the U.S., which track average low temperatures in winter, have all shifted northward by half a zone warmer since 1990. SOURCE: UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. GRAPHIC BY KATIE PEEK.

How much have fall nighttime temperatures risen?

According to the Climate Central post, Fall Nights Are Warming in Our Changing Climate (10/17/18), of 244 cities in the U.S., 83 percent have average fall low temperatures on the rise. For example, the graph here is for NYC. Why does this matter:

Warming fall nights mean more than just a delay in pulling out those comfortable sweaters and drinking hot apple cider. The lack of cool nights effectively lengthens the summer, as the first frost of the year also comes later. While warm-weather fans may celebrate, this also means that disease-carrying pests like mosquitoes and ticks will persist longer before dying off in the winter. Nationally, the long-term warming trend has lengthened the growing season by two weeks compared to the beginning of the 20th century. The allergy season is also getting longer, with ragweed pollens not disappearing until the first freeze of the fall.

The article has a drop down menu to select cities across the U.S. to see a graph similar to the one copied here for the selected city.  They don’t post the data that was used to create the graphs, but they do explain their data sources under methodology.

A statistics project could have students create this graph for their hometown.  One way to obtain the data was noted in our post, What do we know about nighttime minimum temperatures?: Go to  NOAA’s Local Climatological Data Map. Click on the wrench under Layers. Use the rectangle tool to select your local weather station. Check off the station and Add to Cart. Follow the direction from their being sure to select csv file. You will get an email link for the data within a day.  Note: You are limited in the size of the data to ten year periods. You will need to do this more than once to get the full data set available for your station.

What is in the new IPCC report?

The is too much in the new IPCC report (released this week) to cover here, but we can highlight a couple of points. The first is their graph copied here.  The main graph provides projections for change in global temperature based on what happens to CO2 and non-CO2 radiative forcing gasses.  For example, if net CO2 emissions reach zero by 2055 (CO2 emitted minus CO2 absorbed graph b) and non-CO2 gases are reduces (graph d), then we are likely to stay below the 1.5 °C threshold.  What the graph does not say is what happens if society does nothing.

We recently posted about see level and here is an excerpt from the report about that:

Model-based projections of global mean sea level rise (relative to 1986-2005) suggest an indicative range of 0.26 to 0.77 m by 2100 for 1.5°C global warming, 0.1 m (0.04-0.16 m) less than for a global warming of 2°C (medium confidence). A reduction of 0.1 m in global sea level rise implies that up to 10 million fewer people would be exposed to related risks, based on population in the year 2010 and assuming no adaptation (medium confidence). {3.4.4, 3.4.5, 4.3.2}

The executive summary and/or the graphs could be used in QL rich courses.

How well do we understand rising sea levels?

An ice-choked fjord in Greenland. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

NASA’s Vital Signs of the Planet feature,  Keeping score on Earth’s rising seas by Pat Brennan (9/1918) summarizes a recent paper that  “ ‘closes’ the sea-level budget to within 0.3 millimeters of sea-level rise per year since 1993.”

A just-published paper assembles virtually all the puzzle pieces – melting ice, warming and expanding waters, sinking coastlines and a stew of other factors – to arrive at a picture of remarkable precision. Since 1993, global sea level has been rising by an average 3.1 millimeters per year, with the rise accelerating by 0.1 millimeter per year, according to the study published Aug. 28 in the journal, “Earth System Science Data.”

“Global mean sea level is not rising linearly, as has been thought before,” said lead author Anny Cazenave of France’s Laboratory for Studies in Geophysics and Oceanography (LEGOS). “We now know it is clearly accelerating.”

The above paragraphs can be used as calculus in the news and sea level data is available from NASA’s Sea Level page.

How much have fall temperatures risen?

According to the Climate Central post, Fall Warming Trends Across the U.S. (9/5/18), the average fall temperature for the U.S. has risen nearly 3°F since 1970 (see their graph copied here).  Why does this matter:

Insects linger longer into the fall when the first freeze of the season comes later in the year. A new study from the Universities of Washington and Colorado indicates that for every degree (Celsius) of warming, global yields of corn, rice, and wheat would decline 10 to 25 percent from the increase in insects. Those losses are expected to be worst in North America and Europe.

The article has a drop down menu to select cities across the U.S. to see a graph similar to the one copied here for the selected city.  They don’t post the data that was used to create the graphs but they do explain their data sources under methodology.

A statistics project could have students create this graph for their hometown.  One way to obtain the data was noted in our post, What do we know about nighttime minimum temperatures?: Go to  NOAA’s Local Climatological Data Map. Click on the wrench under Layers. Use the rectangle tool to select your local weather station. Check off the station and Add to Cart. Follow the direction from their being sure to select csv file. You will get an email link for the data within a day.  Note: You are limited in the size of the data to ten year periods. You will need to do this more than once to get the full data set available for your station.