Climate Adaptation


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Arctic Ocean 'acidifying rapidly'

Scientists estimate that the average acidity of surface ocean waters worldwide is now about 30% higher than before the Industrial Revolution.

The researchers say there is likely to be major change to the Arctic marine ecosystem as a result. Some key prey species like sea butterflies may be harmed. Other species may thrive. Adult fish look likely to be fairly resilient but the development of fish eggs might be harmed.

The Artic’s Shrinking Ice Cover

Sea ice is any form of ice found at sea that originated from the freezing of sea water. It is the most visible feature of the Arctic Ocean, with its extent waxing and waning with the seasons. Ice thickness is highly variable, ranging from a thin veneer to tens of meters. While the existence of sea ice reflects the cold conditions inherent to high latitudes, sea ice also strongly modulates the energy budget and climate of the Arctic and beyond, particularly because it is white, and hence reflects much of the sun’s energy back to space (it has a high albedo) and also through acting as a lid, insulating the underlying ocean from a generally much colder atmosphere.

Historically, at its maximum extent in March, Arctic sea ice covered an area more than 15 million square kilometers, somewhat less than twice the size of the contiguous United States. The minimum extent, occurring in September, the end of the melt season, was typically around 7.0 x106 km2. However, as assessed over the modern satellite record spanning 1979 to the present, Arctic sea ice extent exhibits downward linear trends for all months, weakest in winter and strongest for September. The downward September trend appears to have accelerated over the past decade. Through 2001, the September trend stood at -7.0% per decade. Through 2012, it was more than twice as large at -14.3% per decade. The six lowest September extents in the satellite record have all occurred in the past six years, with September of 2012 setting a new low mark. Decreased summer ice extent has been accompanied by large reductions in winter ice thicknesses that are primarily explained by changes in the ocean’s coverage of thick multiyear ice (MYI). MYI is ice that has survived at least one summer melt season. In the mid-1980s, MYI accounted for 70% of total winter ice extent, whereas by the end of 2012 it had dropped to less than 20%. At the same time the proportion of ice older than 5 years declined from 50% of the MYI pack to less than 8%.

Ice loss is also contributing to strong rises in Arctic air temperature during autumn and winter, not just at the surface, but extending through a considerable depth of the atmosphere. As discussed, sea ice acts as a lid, insulating the underlying ocean from a generally much colder atmosphere. With less ice, the insulating effect is weaker, so heat can readily be transferred from the ocean to the atmosphere above. This strong warming, termed Arctic amplification, is starting to extend beyond areas of ice loss to influence Arctic land areas.

Continued loss of the ice cover is in turn likely to impact on patterns of atmospheric circulation and precipitation not just within the Arctic, but into middle latitudes; there is evidence that this is already occurring. The basic reason for this is that the outsized warming of the Arctic changes the atmospheric stability and temperature differences between the Arctic and lower latitudes. Finally, as the ice cover retreats, the Arctic is becoming more accessible for marine shipping as well as oil and natural gas exploration, increasing the economic and strategic importance of the region.

Chinese ship runs into protected UNESCO reef in Philippines — while transporting 11 tons of illegal Pangolin meat

A Chinese vessel that ran into a protected coral reef in the southwestern Philippines held evidence of even more environmental destruction inside: more than 22,000 pounds of meat from a protected species, the pangolin or scaly anteater.

The steel-hulled vessel hit an atoll on April 8 at the Tubbataha National Marine Park, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site on Palawan island.

Coast guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo said Monday that 400 boxes, each containing 25 to 30 kilograms of frozen pangolins, were discovered during a second inspection of the boat Saturday.

The World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines said the Chinese vessel F/N Min Long Yu could have been carrying up to 2,000 of the toothless, insect-eating animals rolled up in the boxes, with their scales already removed.

The boat’s 12 Chinese crewmen are being detained on charges of poaching and attempted bribery, said Adelina Villena, the marine park’s lawyer. She said more charges are being prepared against them, including damaging the corals and violating the country’s wildlife law for being found in possession of the pangolin meat.

The poachers posed as fisherman and now face up to 20 years in prison. Via NBC

Here’s a NatGeo video of the endangered pangolin.


A “saltie” is an oceangoing ship that comes into the Great Lakes. The StarTribune reported on this year’s early first Duluth saltie arrival here.

Click through to see a picture of the ship. Could mark a new era in shipping US made goods to the EU and N. Africa.

Rare Chinese Porpoises Dive Toward Extinction. Above, A Carcass of a Rare Yangtze Finless Porpoise.

"There are just 1,000 individual Yangtze finless porpoises left in the wild, according to a new report. That’s less than half of what a similar survey of the porpoises found six years ago.

The rapidly dwindling numbers have conservationists worried that the species could vanish from the wild as early as 2025.

"The species is moving fast toward its extinction,” said Wang Ding, head of the expedition to count the porpoises and a professor at the Institute of Hydrobiology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Yangtze finless porpoises, the only freshwater finless porpoise in the world, live mainly in the Yangtze River and China’s Dongting and Poyang lakes. They are threatened by shrinking food resources and man-made disturbances like shipping traffic.

The expedition, which took place over 44 days last fall, comes after a similar trek along the Yangtze in 2007 failed to find any surviving Baiji dolphins, a close relative of the finless porpoise that was subsequently declared functionally extinct.

The new report showed that some finless porpoises are splintering off into relatively isolated groups, which could hurt their ability to reproduce. The scientists also noted that more of the animals seemed to be flocking to wharf and port areas, perhaps to look for food.


Via LiveScience

Climate change will open up surprising new Arctic shipping routes

"Right now, the Arctic Ocean is still too icy and treacherous for open-water ships to traverse with any regularity. The Northwest Passage is only navigable during the summer months once every seven years or so. Too unreliable for commercial shipping.

But that will soon change. As the planet keeps warming, the Arctic’s summer sea ice is vanishing at a stunning pace. That rapid melt is expected to have all sorts of sweeping impacts, from speeding up climate change to wreaking havoc on weather patterns. On the flip side, the loss of sea ice could also open up some potentially lucrative new trade routes between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, led by UCLA geographer Laurence Smith, looks at how the Arctic will change under even modest levels of global warming. Through computer simulations, the researchers found that open-water vessels will be able to, in theory, cross the Northwest Passage and North Sea Route regularly in the summer by 2050 without icebreakers. And icebreaker ships may be able to ram right through the North Pole:

The blue lines show the fastest routes available for common open-water ships during the summer, while the red lines show routes available for Polar Class 6 ships with moderate icebreaker capacity. By 2040-2059, there are many more routes.

The change here is quite striking. Right now, no commercial shipping goes through the Northwest Passage that hugs northern Canada. Yet by mid-century, those routes could potentially be clear for open-water vessels every other summer. Likewise, the Northern Sea Route that hugs Russia is projected to be open in late summer 90 percent of the time, up from 40 percent today.”

Via WaPo

Drought threatens to close Mississippi to barges -

After months of drought, companies that ship grain and other goods down the Mississippi River are being haunted by a potential nightmare: If water levels fall too low, the nation’s main inland waterway could become impassable to barges just as the harvest heads to market.

Any closure of the river would upend the transport system that has carried American grain since before steamboats and Mark Twain.

Solid reporting on drought impacts!

These are the type of impacts that folks like me try to help manage. There’s no perfect way to analyze or predict the effects of climate change, but there are ways to discuss the issues with the public and politicians. Mainstream articles like this support the reasoning for adapting our cities (and economies) to environmental harms. The article explores the economic and local impacts from a drought stricken Mississippi. Many, many people depend on a steady flowing river for their livelihoods.

Of course, grumpy me, I have a pretty big quibble with this piece. Ideally, the journalists would have discussed how all those financial losses they discussed are covered by insurance. I feel the article misleads, most likely by accident. Yet one has to wonder - with all that focus on shipping goods, why skip discussing safety nets?

It’s true, the goods will be re-routed by other means of transportation - train or tractor trailer. And, as the article points out, there will be unrecoverable economic losses if the Mississippi becomes impassible for a month or so.

But the journalists skipped the fact that most losses (e.g., insured losses in law are called “perils" and "general averages”) will be covered by insurance.

To me, that’s the real nut of the story. They pull some great quotes from industry execs on estimated losses. In fact, one economist is quoted as saying there could be something like “$7 billion” in losses - a scary number. I don’t think it’s true. The execs don’t mention that most of their losses are covered by insurance contracts and government subsidies, which have perils built into them. I think that’s really where they should have poked and prodded their interviewees, double checked their figures.

Why? Because, if the Mississippi becomes too unreliable for shipping, insurance companies will have little incentive to continue to insure those goods. That’s when shit hits really hits the fan. When shippers extract their goods from the Mississippi and choose to haul on land either by rail or truck. The costs to local communities that depend on these barges will be utterly devastating.


what a beautiful place.

the affect of climate change means more people can visit, but that is not necessarily a good thing.

Svalbard: Norway’s ‘Galapagos’ in the North

French photographer Samuel Blanc has been leading tours to Svalbard, Norway’s archipelago in the Arctic, since 2007.

Climate change is having a direct impact on the unique ecosystem isolated on these islands more than 400 miles north of Europe.

This year the reduced sea ice allowed his expedition aboard the 12-passenger Polaris to circumnavigate the northern islands in early July rather than mid-August.

more animals…

“We are now in uncharted territory,”


Arctic sea ice reaches new low, shattering record set just 3 weeks ago

New sea ice is finally starting to form again in the Arctic, scientists reported Wednesday, but not before reaching another record low last Sunday. 

“We are now in uncharted territory,” Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said in a statement announcing the record low of 1.32 million square miles — nearly half the average extent from 1979 to 2010. The extent has been tracked by satellite since 1979.

Read the complete story.

(via nbcnews)

First Chinese ship crosses Arctic Ocean amid record melt

This is a true game-changer. The arctic is doomed.

The voyage highlights how China, the world’s no.2 economy, is extending its reach to the Arctic which is rich in oil and gas and is a potential commercial shipping route between the north Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, arrived in Iceland this week after sailing the Northern Route along the coast of Russia.

Expedition leader Huigen Yang, head of the Polar Research Institute of China, said he had expected a lot more ice along the route at this time of year than the vessel encountered.

"To our astonishment … most part of the Northern Sea Route is open," he told Reuters TV. The icebreaker would return to China by a route closer to the North Pole.

He said that Beijing was interested in the “monumental change” in the polar environment caused by global warming.


The Arctic Likely To Attract $100 Billion Investments In Coming Decade-Report


By Christina Zander and Alexis Flynn, Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

STOCKHOLM -(Dow Jones)- The Arctic region is likely to attract investment of $100 billion or more over the coming decade, according to a report by independent policy institute Chatham House and the Lloyd’s of London insurance market.

Interest in the Arctic region has intensified in recent years as a boom in commodities has seen companies scramble for precious resources to satisfy growing demand from China, among others.

A melting ice cap hasn’t only opened up new shipping routes that significantly cut transport times and distances between Europe and Asia, it has also made the region’s estimated rich deposits of oil, gas and minerals more accessible.

The report, published Thursday, notes that oil and gas, mining and the shipping industries will be the biggest drivers and beneficiaries of Arctic economic development in the coming years, but it says the Arctic’s economic future depends principally on local investment conditions and global commodity prices.

(via foucaultscat-deactivated2013121)

The Shipbreakers

Now re-re-reading. Oh man, Langewiesche is one of the best writers around.


by William Langewiesche

At Alang, in India, on a six-mile stretch of oily, smoky beach, 40,000 men tear apart half of the world’s discarded ships, each one a sump of toxic waste. Environmentalists in the West are outraged. The shipbreakers want to be left alone - and maybe they should be.

(via tetw)


Frozen #Danube closed to shipping. One of #Europe’s busiest waterways has frozen over. The River Danube crosses ten countries all the way from Austria to the Black Sea. But shipping and industry is being badly hit, including in Serbia as Jonah Hull reports.