Climate Science

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Report Finds North America Hit Hardest by Weather Events, Munich Re (Oct. 17, 2012). A report by the reinsurance firm Munich Re finds that North America has been most affected by extreme weather since 1980 compared to other continents, experiencing a fivefold increase in the number of weather-related losses in that time period. The number of natural catastrophes increased by fourfold in Asia and doubled in Europe over the same period, according to the report, Severe Weather in North America. North America suffered more than $1.06 trillion in overall losses from weather catastrophes from 1980 to 2011 and $510 billion in insured losses. The report also finding that climate change is likely driving increases in thunderstorm-related losses and recommends that stakeholders support climate change mitigation measures to limit long-term global warming to a manageable level.

Killer Summer Heat: Projected Death Toll from Rising Temperatures in America Due to Climate Change, Natural Resources Defense Council (May 2012). This report projects that 39 of 40 major U.S. cities will experience an increase in excessive heat event days over the historical average and more than 150,000 heat-related deaths by the end of the century. The report describes the health effects of heat and the interaction of such variables as temperature, humidity, cloud cover, and wind speed. The report emphasizes EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, indicating that emissions reduction is the best way to prevent an increase in summertime deaths.

Doubled Trouble:  More Midwestern Extreme Storms, Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, Natural Resources Defense Council (May 16, 2012). This report documents an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events in the Midwest, with the most severe downpours events doubling over the last half-century. The report, which is based on an analysis of precipitation in eight Midwestern states since 1961, also presents new evidence that links extreme Midwest storms to major flooding events. The report also offers recommendations for federal action, including mandatory limits on global warming emissions and efforts to ensure that green infrastructure techniques are fully incorporated into infrastructure projects.

Report Says Southwest U.S. to See Higher Temperatures, Increased Flooding, Southwest Climate Alliance (March 28, 2012). A draft report developed by a consortium of research institutions projects that the U.S. Southwest region will see continued impacts from anthropomorphic greenhouse gas emissions throughout the 21st century, including rising temperatures, increased droughts, and more intense flooding. The report, Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States: A Technical Report Prepared for the U.S. National Climate Assessment, will be incorporated into the National Climate Assessment report to Congress to be published in December 2013. The draft document was available for comment until April 11, 2012, and the final report is currently under development. The draft document has been removed from public access while final revisions are underway.

In the Path of the Storm: Global Warming, Extreme Weather, and the Impacts of Weather-Related Disasters in the United States, Environment America Research & Policy Center (Feb. 16, 2012). This report cites the breadth and severity of recent extreme weather events in the United States, along with the emerging science on their connection to climate change, in calling for governments to take steps to reduce global warming pollution and protect communities from related impacts. Recommended steps include increasing use of renewable energy, promoting energy and fuel efficiency, adopting caps on greenhouse emissions from power plants and the transport sector, and incorporating the potential for extreme weather into the design of public infrastructure.

Study Finds Melting Sea Ice is Weakening the Arctic Ocean’s Capacity to Capture, Store Atmospheric Carbon, Catlin Arctic Survey (Nov. 15, 2011). A study conducted by researchers at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada at the Catlin Arctic Survey’s Ice Base in March and April 2010 finds that melting sea ice is weakening the Arctic Ocean’s capacity to capture and store atmospheric CO2. The research focused on the efficiency of a biological ocean 'pump,' where phytoplankton near the sea surface to capture CO2 and draw it down and store it on the sea floor. According to the research, future increases in surface freshwater from melting sea ice will likely affect this process of carbon draw-down in the Arctic Ocean, affecting the ocean’s capacity to mitigate increasing atmospheric CO2 emissions. A scientific paper based on the research is to be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Study Addresses Projected Temperature Rise Beyond 2 Degrees Celsius (Oct. 23, 2011). A study conducted by researchers in the United Kingdom and New Zealand and published in the online journal Nature Climate Change finds that average temperatures across large portions of Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and Canada could increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by 2040. The projected rise exceeds the 2 degree threshold considered to be a tipping point beyond which the impact of climate change becomes dangerous. According to the study, surpassing the 2 degree threshold could be delayed by several decades if emissions were substantially reduced. In a separate study researchers said that to have at least a 66 percent chance of avoiding a 2 degree global temperature rise, emissions will need to peak and then fall to about 44 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent annually by 2020.

Research Study Shows Forests Absorb One Third of Fossil Fuel Emissions, Science Daily (Aug. 9, 2011). Research published in the journal Science has found that established forests remove 2.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere, equivalent to one third of current annual fossil fuel emissions. The research team used data from forest inventories, modeling, and satellites to construct a profile of forests as major regulators of atmospheric CO2.  Another surprising finding of the research, according to one of its authors, is the large capacity of tropical forest re-growth to remove atmospheric CO2. Such re-growth takes place following human activities such as logging.

Pew Center Reports Link Climate Change, Extreme Weather Frequency, Pew Center on Global Climate Change (June 28, 2011). The Pew Center has released two white papers that examine the link between climate change and the frequency of extreme weather events. The first paper, Extreme Weather and Climate Change: Understanding the Link, Managing the Risk, finds that a combination of factors leads to extreme weather events, but that climate change is making those events more frequent. The paper recommends “probability-based risk management framework” as the “correct way to consider the link between climate change and extreme weather.” The second paper, A Climate of Extreme Weather Events: U.S. Risks and Vulnerabilities, provides an overview of extreme weather events in the United States over the past 15 years and includes an interactive map of extreme weather events including droughts, floods, heat waves, and wildfires.

Climate Change and Your Health: Rising Temperatures, Worsening Ozone Pollution, Union of Concerned Scientists (June 3, 2011). This report finds that unchecked global warming could increase levels of ground-level ozone, resulting in threats to public health and the economy. The report estimates the health consequences of climate-induced ozone pollution in 2020 and 2050 for most of the continental U.S., including increases in respiratory symptoms and hospital visits, lost school days, and premature mortality. The report also projects an estimated cost of these health impacts in 2020 of $5.4 billion.

American Climate Attitudes, the Resource Innovation Group’s Social Capital Project (May 18, 2011). This report reviews public opinion research and polling data over the last several years and compares the findings with trends since 1997. The report finds a growing gap between public understanding and scientific understanding of global warming and a decline in the number of Americans who believe global warming is caused by human activities in recent years. The report offers recommendations on ways to better communicate with and engage the public on climate change issues.

Climate Change 101: Understanding and Responding to Global Climate Change, Pew Center on Global Climate Change (March 3, 2011). This newly updated series provides brief reports on climate change topics such as climate science; adaptation measures; and U.S Federal, State, and local action. The updated reports highlight issues including the significance of the global negotiations, local efforts to address climate change, and current predictions on global temperature changes. Individual reports can be accessed at the following links: Overview, Science and Impacts, Adaptation, Technology,  Business, International,  Federal, State, Local, and Cap and Trade.

Communicating and Learning About Global Climate Change: An Abbreviated Guide for Teaching Climate Change, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2007). This document is intended to provide science educators with an overview of the recommendations by AAAS Project 2061 for what all students should learn about climate change and its environmental and societal implications.

Assessing an IPCC Assessment: An Analysis of Statements on Projected Regional Impacts in the 2007 Report, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) (July 2010). This report follows an investigation of the scientific foundations for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summary conclusions of the Fourth Assessment Report of 2007 on projected regional climate-change impacts. The investigation found no errors that would undermine the main conclusions in the 2007 report, but in some instances the foundations for the summary statements should have been made more transparent.

Study Says Undersea Release of Methane is Underway, the New York Times (March 2010). This article highlights research conducted by the University of Alaska and elsewhere showing that releases of the greenhouse gas methane triggered by melting of the Arctic permafrost is currently under way in a little-studied undersea area, the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.