Earth on Fire: The Overheating Planet

Earth on Fire: The Overheating Planet


The reason some popular posts are tagged ‘no title’ is not because they have no title—they all do—but because the old Blogger embedded the title at the top of text, and the new software does not see that. You can see the titles in capitals at the start of each snippet. (It would be nice if Blogger introduced an upgrade program that could fix this little problem.)

Popular Posts

Wednesday 1 December 2010


The rate at which the global climate heats could lead to a rapid release of carbon from peatlands that would further accelerate the heating, reports ScienceDaily. Two recent studies published by the Mathematics Research Institute at the University of Exeter highlight the risk that this 'compost bomb' instability could pose, and show that there is a dangerous rate of warming beyond which the instability occurs, which then accelerates climate-change. It is the speed of change that tips the bomb. That contrasts with the general belief that tipping-points correspond to dangerous levels of warming. The researchers are exploring the link with the peat fires round Moscow earlier this year.

Tuesday 30 November 2010


In the first comprehensive global survey of temperature trends in major lakes ( reported on ScienceDaily )NASA researchers have found that Earth's largest lakes have warmed during the past 25 years in response to climate-change. Satellite data was used to measure the surface temperatures of 167 large lakes, which showed an average warming-rate of 0.45 degrees Celsius per decade, with some lakes warming as much as 1 degree Celsius per decade. The trend was global; the greatest increases were in the mid- to high-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.

The results have implications for lake ecosystems, which can be adversely affected by even small water temperature changes.

Tuesday 26 October 2010


Reported in
ScienceDaily, an analysis of weather systems in the northern and southern hemispheres by an atmospheric scientist at MIT says they will respond differently to global overheating. There will be more intense storms in winter in the northern hemisphere and all year round in the southern hemisphere.

Saturday 23 October 2010


The Arctic Report Card, an annual assessment of Arctic conditions, prepared in 2010 by a team of 69 scientists, shows taht the region is continuuing to heat up, affecting local populations and ecosystems as well as weather patterns in the most populated parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

Highlights this year include: record-setting high temperatures in Greenland, causing loss of glaciers; summer sea-ice continuing to decline; and the duration of snow cover at its lowest since record-keeping began in 1966.

Full report in ScienceDaily.

Thursday 21 October 2010


An authoritative study published in the October 8 issue of Science magazine (the publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) sounds the alarm over what humans are doing to the Earth's nitrogen cycle.

Micro-organisms have been controlling the cycle since life began on the planet. With life evolving around it, nitrogen became both an essential nutrient and a major regulator of climate.

The study in Science (pages 192-196, Vol 330, Oct 8 2010) reviews the major changes there have been to the nitrogen cycle throughout the Earth's history. Most of the time they coincided with the arrival of new organisms that provided new metabolic pathways.

But the last century has seen humans push the biological nitrogen cycle into a very different stage. Adding large amounts of fixed nitrogen in the form of fertiliser chokes out aquatic life that relies on run-off, and significantly increases the amount of NO2 in the atmosphere ( a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than CO2).

Micro-organisms may one day restore balance in the nitrogen cycle that they helped shape for billions of years, but humans must change their behaviour, or risk causing irreversible changes to life on Earth.

The United States and many other heavily populated countries face a growing threat of severe and prolonged drought in coming decades, according to a new study by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Aiguo Dai, and reported on ScienceDaily. The detailed analysis concludes that warming temperatures associated with climate change will probably create increasingly dry conditions across much of the globe in the next 30 years, possibly reaching a level in some regions by the end of the century rarely, if ever, observed in modern times.

Wednesday 20 October 2010


New analysis shows populations of tropical species are plummeting and humanity's demands on natural resources are sky-rocketing to 50 per cent more than the earth can sustain, reveals the 2010 edition of WWF's Living Planet Report (the leading survey of the planet's health)--full report on ScienceDaily.

Saturday 16 October 2010


Water vapoUr and clouds are the major contributors to Earth's greenhouse effect, but a new atmosphere-ocean climate modeling study by Andrew Lacis and colleagues at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York shows that the planet's temperature ultimately depends on the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide.

The notable feature of the team's study of the nature of Earth's greenhouse effect was to identify the importance of non-condensing greenhouse gases--such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and chlorofluorocarbons. Without them, water vapour and clouds could not provide the feedback mechanisms that amplify the greenhouse effect. The study's results were published on the 15th of October in Science. The consequence is that carbon-dioxide is responsible for 80% of the greenhouse effect.

Full story in ScienceDaily.

Monday 4 October 2010


Analysis of geological records by climate-change experts at the University of Exeter, records that preserve details of the last known period of global warming, has revealed 'startling' results that suggest current targets for limiting climate change are unsafe. The study, reported on ScienceDaily, has important implications for international negotiators who are aiming to agree binding targets for future greenhouse gas emission targets.

Saturday 2 October 2010


And were the unusually high temperatures caused by global over-heating? The answers are on ScienceDaily.

Thursday 30 September 2010


An increase in the global temperature of up to 4.2 ยบ C and the end of coral reefs could be reality by 2100 if national targets in the Copenhagen Accord are not revised--see ScienceDaily for the full report.

A global analysis of the risk of extinction for the world's plants, conducted by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Natural History Museum, London, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), has revealed that they are as threatened as mammals. One in five species face extinction.

Full story in ScienceDaily.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

A unique natural laboratory in the Mediterranean is revealing the effects of rising carbon-dioxide levels on ocean life, and shows a bleak future as ocean acidity rises.

Scientists from the University of Plymouth in England and the University of Santa Catarina in Brazil studied single-celled organisms called Foraminifera round volcanic carbon-dioxide vents off Naples in Italy. The study, published in the September issue of the Journal of the Geological Society, found that increasing CO2 levels caused foram diversity to fall from 24 species to only 4. A tipping-point occurs at mean pH 7.8, the pH level predicted for the end of the century.

Wednesday 25 August 2010


Reported in ScienceDaily is a new technology aimed at making every household and place of business a generator of electricity. Every point of consumption will also be a point of generation. The energy-base of society will be sunlight and water, not oil and coal. And huge transmission-lines will vanish.

The technology to do all that has been with us for years (the International Space Station runs on it). The new technology makes it much more efficient.

Tuesday 20 July 2010


Data published by America's NOAA Satellite and Information Service, shows that the alarming temperatures continue:

The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for June 2010 was the warmest on record at 16.2°C (61.1°F), which is 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 15.5°C (59.9°F). The previous record for June was set in 2005.

June 2010 was the fourth consecutive warmest month on record (March, April, and May 2010 were also the warmest on record). This was the 304th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last month with below-average temperature was February 1985.

The June worldwide averaged land surface temperature was 1.07°C (1.93°F) above the 20th century average of 13.3°C (55.9°F)—the warmest on record.

It was the warmest April–June (three-month period) on record for the global land and ocean temperature and the land-only temperature. The three-month period was the second warmest for the world's oceans, behind 1998.

It was the warmest June and April–June on record for the Northern Hemisphere as a whole and all land areas of the Northern Hemisphere.

It was the warmest January–June on record for the global land and ocean temperature. The worldwide land on average had its second warmest January–June, behind 2007. The worldwide averaged ocean temperature was the second warmest January–June, behind 1998.

Click for the full report.

Saturday 3 July 2010


Scientists at the Carnegie Institution have found that if we removed 100 billion tons of carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere the average global temperature would drop only 0.16 degrees Celsius.

Which means that to reverse the damage we have done to the planet we would have to remove about 500 billion tons.

Even if we knew how to do that it would take many lifetimes.

Full report at ScienceDaily.

Monday 21 June 2010


The first comprehensive synthesis on the effects of climate change on the world's oceans has found they are now changing at a rate not seen for several million years, reports ScienceDaily.

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, lead author of the report and Director of The University of Queensland's Global Change Institute, says the findings have enormous implications for mankind, particularly if the trend continues.

He said that the Earth's ocean, which produces half of the oxygen we breathe and absorbs 30% of human-generated CO2, is equivalent to its heart and lungs. "Quite plainly, the Earth cannot do without its ocean. This study, however, shows worrying signs of ill health.

"It's as if the Earth has been smoking two packs of cigarettes a day!"

He warned that we may soon see "sudden, unexpected changes that have serious ramifications for the overall well-being of humans," including the capacity of the planet to support people. "This is further evidence that we are well on the way to the next great extinction event."

Wednesday 19 May 2010


The combined global land and sea surface temperatures for April, and for January to April, were the warmest on record, according to measurements by

Friday 14 May 2010


Expanding on work published two years ago, MIT's Daniel Nocera and associates have found another formulation, based on inexpensive and widely available materials, that can efficiently catalyse the electrolysis of water. It could be the basis for new storage-systems that would allow buildings to be independent and self-sustaining in energy. They would use energy from intermittent sources like sunlight or wind to create hydrogen fuel, which could then be used in fuel cells or other devices to produce electricity or transportation fuels. The technology eliminates any need for expensive platinum, which has been an obstacle to the move to a sunlight/wind and split-water economy.

Full report at ScienceDaily.

Thursday 6 May 2010


Reasonable worst-case scenarios for global warming could mean deadly temperatures for humans in coming centuries, according to research findings from Purdue University and the University of New South Wales, Australia.

Researchers have for the first time calculated the highest tolerable wet-bulb temperature and found that it could be exceeded for the first time in human history in future climate scenarios if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate--ultimately reaching temperatures not seen on earth for 50 million years.

Wet-bulb temperature is equivalent to what is felt when wet skin is exposed to moving air. It includes temperature and atmospheric humidity and is measured by covering a standard thermometer bulb with a wetted cloth and fully ventilating it.

The researchers calculated that humans and most mammals, which have internal body temperatures near 37 degrees Celsius, will experience a potentially lethal level of heat stress at a wet-bulb temperature over 35 degrees that continues for six hours or more.

At worst whole countries would intermittently be subject to severe heat stress requiring large-scale adaptation efforts. Livestock would still be exposed. Outside work would be hazardous.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates of business-as-usual warming by 2100 are 4 degrees Celsius, eventual warming of 14 degrees is feasible.

"We found that a warming of 7 degrees would cause some areas of the world to surpass the wet-bulb temperature limit, and a 12-degree warming would put half of the world's population in an uninhabitable environment. When it comes to evaluating the risk of carbon emissions, such worst-case scenarios need to be taken into account. It's the difference between a game of roulette and playing Russian roulette with a pistol. Sometimes the stakes are too high, even if there is only a small chance of losing."

A person produces 100 watts of heat, which has to be got rid of. If the wet-buld temperature is too high that becomes impossible.

"The wet-bulb limit is the point at which people would overheat even if they were naked in the shade, soaking wet and standing in front of a large fan. Although we are very unlikely to reach such temperatures this century, they could happen in the next."

Monday 3 May 2010


A team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, Berkeley has discovered an inexpensive metal catalyst that can effectively generate hydrogen gas from water.

The new proton-reduction catalyst is based on a molybdenum-oxo metal complex that is about one seventieth the cost of platinum, the most widely used metal catalyst for splitting the water molecule. The new catalyst does not need organic additives, and can operate in neutral water, even if it is dirty. It can also operate in sea water, the most abundant source of hydrogen on earth and a natural electrolyte. It is therefore ideal for renewable energy and sustainable chemistry.

The research team found that the complex catalyses the generation of hydrogen from neutral buffered water or even sea water with a turnover frequency of 2.4 moles of hydrogen per mole of catalyst per second.

Thursday 22 April 2010


The monthly measurements by NOAA show that the combined land and ocean temperature for the planet made March the hottest on record (since 1880), reports ScienceDaily.

Wednesday 7 April 2010

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Saturday 3 April 2010


The rise in human emissions of carbon dioxide is driving fundamental and dangerous changes in the chemistry and ecosystems of the world's oceans, international marine scientists have warned in a study reported in ScienceDaily.

surface waters have already acidified an average of 0.1 pH units from pre-industrial levels, and we are seeing signs of its impact even in the deep oceans.

"Future acidification depends on how much CO2 humans emit from here on--but by 2100 various projections indicate that the oceans will have acidified by a further 0.3 to 0.4 pH units, which is more than many organisms like corals can stand," says co-author, Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and The University of Queensland. "This will create conditions not seen on Earth for at least 40 million years. These changes are taking place as much as 100 times faster than they ever have over the last tens of millions of years."

Under such circumstances, "Conditions are likely to become very hostile for calcifying species in the north Atlantic and Pacific over the next decade and in the Southern Ocean over the next few decades," the researchers warn.

Besides directly impacting on the fishing industry and its contribution to the human food supply at a time when global food demand is doubling, a major die-off in the oceans would affect birds and many land species and change the biology of Earth as a whole profoundly, Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg adds.

The scientists say there is now persuasive evidence that mass extinctions in past Earth history, like the "Great Dying" of 251 million years ago and another wipeout 55 million years ago, were accompanied by ocean acidification, which may have delivered the deathblow to many species that were unable to cope with it.

"These past periods can serve as great lessons of what we can expect in the future, if we continue to push the acidity the ocean even further" said lead author, Dr. Carles Pelejero, from ICREA and the Marine Science Institute of CSIC in Barcelona, Spain.

Saturday 27 March 2010


Some good news amongst the climate-change gloom, in this report from an AAAS page.

The global conveyor-belt, the great current circling much of the planet, which keeps Europe warm, is not slowing down, according to careful analysis at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

So The Day After Tomorrow is still just a very good movie.

ScienceDaily reports that the world's capacity to meet projected future oil demand is at a tipping point, according to research by the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University.

It says that the age of cheap oil has ended as demand starts to outstrip supply, that current estimates of oil-reserves should be downgraded from between 1150-1350 billion barrels to between 850-900 billion barrels, and that we must accelerate the development of alternative energy fuel resources to ensure energy security and reduce emissions. But the oil-shortage cannot be mitigates with biofuels; there is not enough land.

Thursday 25 March 2010


The ice-loss off Greeenland is accelerating up its northwest coast, according to satellite measurements. Full report in ScienceDaily.

Wednesday 24 March 2010


Charles H. Greene, Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University, one of the authors of 'A Very Inconvenient Truth,' published in the peer-reviewed journal Oceanography (March 2010), says that he and his co-authors conclude that the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 Fourth Assessment Report underestimates the potential dangerous effects that man-made climate change will have on society.

'Even if all man-made greenhouse gas emissions were stopped tomorrow and carbon-dioxide levels stabilized at today's concentration, by the end of this century the global average temperature would increase by about 2.4 degrees [Celsius] above pre-industrial levels, which is significantly above the level which scientists and policymakers agree is a threshold for dangerous climate change. Of course, greenhouse gas emissions will not stop tomorrow, so the actual temperature increase will likely be significantly larger, resulting in potentially catastrophic impacts to society unless other steps are taken to reduce the Earth's temperature.'

He also says that thermal inertia in the oceans means that the temperature rise this century will last for a thousand years.

Full report in ScienceDaily.

Saturday 6 March 2010


A section of the Arctic Ocean seafloor that holds vast stores of frozen methane is showing signs of instability and widespread venting of the powerful greenhouse gas, according to the findings of an international research team led by University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov.

The research results, published in Science on March 5th, show that the permafrost under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, which has long been considered an impermeable barrier that seals in methane, is perforated, and is leaking large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climatic warming.

'The amount of methane currently coming out of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is comparable to the amount coming out of the entire world's oceans,' said Shakhova, a researcher at UAF's International Arctic Research Center. 'Subsea permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap.'

Methane is a greenhouse gas more than 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

The full report is on ScienceDaily

Tuesday 23 February 2010


New data shows that ice-shelves are retreating in the southern section of the Antarctic Peninsula due to climate change, which can can cause glaciers to retreat and a rise in sea-levels if warming continues, threatening coastal communities and low-lying islands.

Research by the U.S. Geological Survey is the first to document that every ice-front in the southern part of the Antarctic Peninsula has been retreating overall from 1947 to 2009, with the most dramatic changes occurring since 1990. The USGS previously documented that the majority of ice fronts on the entire Peninsula have also retreated during the late 20th century and into the early 21st century.

The ice-shelves, which are attached to the continent and floating, hold in place the Antarctic ice-sheet that covers about 98% of the Antarctic continent. As they break off, it is easier for outlet glaciers and ice-streams to flow into the sea and raise it.

Full report in ScienceDaily.

Thursday 18 February 2010


The southern limit of permafrost is now 130 kilometres further north in the James Bay region than it was 50 years ago.

The average temperature in the area has increased 2 degrees Celsius in the last twenty years.

Researchers have found that ocean currents in the North Atlantic have changed to the extent that sub-tropical water is now reaching deep into Greenland's glaciers all year round, driving melting and probably triggering an accelerated loss of ice. Full report in ScienceDaily.

Sub-tropical heat is being rapidly transported to the glaciers--in months, not years.

Monday 8 February 2010


Climate-change is transforming the Arctic environment faster than expected and accelerating the disappearance of sea ice, reports the biggest-ever study of Canada's changing north, which involved more than 370 scientists from 27 countries. Collectively they spent 15 months, starting in June 2007, aboard a research vessel above the Arctic Circle, the first time a ship has stayed mobile in Canada's high Arctic for a whole winter.

'(Climate change) is happening much faster than our most pessimistic models expected,' says David Barber, a professor at the University of Manitoba and the study's lead investigator.

Models predicted only a few years ago that the Arctic would be ice-free in summer by the year 2100, but the increasing pace of climate change now suggests it could happen between 2013 and 2030, Barber said.

The cost of the Arctic's rapid melt will be $US2.4 trillion by 2050 as the region loses its ability to cool the global climate, says the U.S.-based Pew Environment Group, which released a report showing the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet.

Full report in NewsDaily.

Thursday 28 January 2010


NASA says the average global temperature for the last ten years are the warmest decade on record (since 1880), reports ScienceDaily.