Climate Change

  • Antarctica Just Hit its Hottest Temperature Ever: 18.3°C / 65°F

    The Argentinian Esperanza base thermometer measured an amazing 18.3°C (65°F) on February 6, 2020, beating the previous record by 0.8°C (1,5°F).


    The Esperanza reading breaks the record for the Antarctic continent.

    The record for the Antarctic region – that is, everywhere south of 60 degrees latitude – is 19.8°C, taken on Signy Island in January 1982.

    No Link to Global Warming

    The reading is impressive as it’s only five years since the previous record was set and this is almost one degree centigrade higher. It’s a sign of the warming that has been happening there that’s much faster than the global average.

    As a scientists told The Guardian, the higher temperatures in the region tended to coincide with strong northwesterly winds moving down mountain slopes – a feature of the weather patterns around Esperanza in recent days. Sot it’s a combination of natural variations and Earth changes.

    As shown in a previous article, Antarctica is retreating across the seafloor. Ocean melting may a piece of the puzzle, but scientists always forget to talk about how volcanic and ‘geothermic’ Antarctica really is. But geothermal heat probably is not the only reason behind the melting as on the surface of the white continent, ice seems to disappear due to changing wind patterns. So either from above or below the ice melts and the situation won’t get better.

    The lowest temperature ever recorded in Antarctica – and anywhere on Earth – was at the Russian Vostok station, when temperatures dropped to -89.2°C (-128,6°F) on 21 July, 1983.

    To have a new temperature record set that quickly in Antarctica is surprising but who knows how long that will last?  Some scientists are now proclaiming that we are entering a mini ice age



  • Large and Unusual Ozone Hole Developes Over Arctic and Northern Canada

    The formation of a large ozone hole is extremely rare over the Arctic regions during the late winter/early spring season.

    This year is beating records of unusual weather anomalies… And we get an unusually large area of ozone depletion.

    The Ozone layer is a protective zone at 20-30km altitude that protects us from dangerous ultraviolet radiation (UV).

    An ozone hole is when that protective layer is gone, letting more UV radiation through

    This year, the ozone has started depleting in January 2020, when a mini ozone hole formed over northern Europe.

    Such ozone holes over the North Pole aren’t triggered by aerosols and their chemical destruction processes like over Antarctica, but just dispersed by specific weather circulation patterns.

    These events are mostly short-lived and tend to occur every year during the cold season.

    Arctic ozone destruction process going on

    But as shown in the diagram below, the concentration of ozone in early March (red line) is decreasing although its concentration should start growing.

    There is currently a giant hole forming over the Arctic, and this time it is linked to an ozone destruction process.

    How is ozone destroyed?

    In Antarctica, the ozone hole is triggered by a mix of very cold air (below -78°C), sunlight, and human emissions (CFCs and HFCs).

    Cold temperature enables the formation of stratospheric clouds. Then sunlight reacts with those clouds and starts a photochemical process that destroys ozone, forming a large ozone hole.

    Since sunlight is limited during Arctic winter, ozone depletion is very rare. And when sunlight reaches the pole in late February and March, the stratosphere isn’t cold enough to produce these stratospheric clouds.

    But this year, the stratosphere over the North Pole is abnormally cold. Stratospheric clouds can form while sunlight reaches the pole, triggering ozone destruction, as shown in the diagram below.

    The map below shows pressure (geopotential height) and temperature at 18-20km altitude.

    The pink area shows the area which is cold enough for stratospheric clouds to form, suggesting that the clouds are currently forming over northern Canada, Greenland, and the Arctic ocean.

    This is exactly where the ozone hole sits.

    The ozone depletion over the Arctic is unusually large for the Northern Hemisphere, and has record low ozone values, going down to 217 Dobson Units at lowest.

    However, it is still not as big and strong as the Antarctica ozone hole due to cooler temperatures in the south and the presence of aerosols.

    But the Arctic ozone hole will slowly disappear within the next days as temperatures in the stratosphere are going to rise, becoming to warm for stratospheric clouds to forms and thus decreasing the rate of ozone depletion.

  • Spring arriving earlier across the US throwing wildlife into disarray

    Across much of the United States, a warming climate has advanced the arrival of spring. This year is no exception. In parts of the Southeast, spring has arrived weeks earlier than normal and may turn out to be the warmest spring on record.

    Apple blossoms in March and an earlier start to picnic season may seem harmless and even welcome. But the early arrival of springtime warmth has many downsides for the natural world and for humans.

    Rising temperatures in the springtime signal plants and animals to come alive. Across the United States and worldwide, climate change is steadily disrupting the arrival and interactions of leaf buds, cherry blossoms, insects and more.

    In my work as a plant ecologist and director of the USA National Phenology Network, I coordinate efforts to track the timing of seasonal events in plants and animals. Dramatically earlier spring activity has been documented in hundreds of species around the globe.

    Phenology is the study of the timing of life cycle events, such as plant flowering and animal migrations. Resource managers and citizen scientists are studying phenological events in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    Lilies, blueberries, birds and more... all sped up

    Records managed by the USA National Phenology Network and other organizations prove that spring has accelerated over the long term. For example, the common yellow trout lily blooms nearly a week earlier in the Appalachian Mountain region than it did 100 years ago. Blueberries in Massachusetts flower three to four weeks earlier than in the mid-1800s. And over a recent 12-year period, over half of 48 migratory bird species studied arrived at their breeding grounds up to nine days earlier than previously.

    Warmer spring temperatures have also led beetles, moths and butterflies to emerge earlier than in recent years. Similarly, hibernating species like frogs and bears emerge from hibernation earlier in warm springs.

    All species don't respond to warming the same way. When species that depend on one another — such as pollinating insects and plants seeking pollination - don't respond similarly to changing conditions, populations suffer.

    In Japan, the spring-flowering ephemeral Corydalis ambiguaproduces fewer seeds than in previous decades because it now flowers earlier than when bumblebees, its primary pollinators, are active. Similarly, populations of pied flycatchers - long-distance migrating birds that still arrive at their breeding grounds at the regular time - are declining steeply, because populations of caterpillars that the flycatchers eat now peak prior to the birds' arrival.

    Warmth followed by frost can kill

    Earlier springs can devastate valuable farm crops. Cherry, peach, pear, apple and plum trees blossom during early warm spells. Subsequent frost can kill the blooms, which means the trees will not produce fruit.

    In March 2012, Michigan cherry blossoms opened early after temperatures climbed into the 80s. Then at least 15 frosts from late March through May destroyed 90% of the crop, causing US$200 million in damages. And in 2017, after Georgia peach trees flowered during an extremely early warm spell, frost killed up to 80% of the crop.

    Early springs also affect ornamental plants and gardens. They hasten allergy symptoms and the appearance of turf pests. Popular species like tulips open up sooner than they used to a decade or more ago. In recent years, tulips have bloomed before "tulip time" festivals in Iowa, Oregon and Michigan.

    Cherry trees around Washington D.C.'s Tidal Basin bloom at dramatically different times from year to year. They are expected to bloom weeks in advance of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in the coming decades.

    Springtime shifts by region

    The start of spring isn't advancing at the same rate across the United States. In a recent study with climatologist Michael Crimmins, I evaluated changes in the arrival of springtime warmth over the past 70 years.

    We found that in the Northeast, warmth associated with the leading edge of springtime activity has advanced by about six days over the past 70 years. In the Southwest, the advancement has been approximately 19 days. Spring is also arriving significantly earlier in the Southern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest. In contrast, in the Southeast the timing of spring has changed little.

    How much earlier is spring?

    In some parts of the U.S., spring is starting, on average, 6 to 18 days earlier than it has in the past.

    Chart: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND Source: Crimmins, T.M. and M.A. Crimmins. 2019 Get the data

    Although the trend over decades toward earlier springs is clear, weather patterns unfolding across the continent can vary the start of the season dramatically from year to year at any one spot. The USA National Phenology Network produces maps that document the onset of biological activity over the course of the spring season.

    The network also maintains a live map showing where spring has arrived. In some parts of the Southeast, spring 2020 has been the earliest in decades.

    Help scientists document change

    While numerous studies have documented clear changes in the timing of activity in certain plants and animals, scientists have little to no information on the cycles of most of the millions of species on Earth. Nor do they know the consequences of such changes yet.

    One important way to fill knowledge gaps is documenting what's happening on the ground. The USA National Phenology Network runs a program called Nature's Notebook suited for people of nearly all ages and skill levels to track seasonal activity in plants and animals. Since the program's inception in 2009, participants have contributed more than 20 million records.

    These data have been used in over 80 studies, and we are looking for more observations from the public that can help scientists understand what causes nature's timing to change, and what the consequences are. We welcome new volunteers who can help us unravel these mysteries.

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