The Ecologist


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Pizol Glacier and summit in the Swiss Alps, July 2013. Photo: HD Zimmermann via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Global warming reduces snows that water 2 billion people

Tim Radford

24th November 2015

New research warns that rising temperatures will reduce the mountain snow in 97 major river basins worldwide, writes Tim Radford - cutting summer water supply to 2 billion people in lowland areas who depend on the meltwaters. more...
Cattle killed by the drought, district of Admitullu Jiddo Kombolcha in Ethiopia, 2009. Photo: Zeresenay Berhane Mehar / Oxfam International via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Warming world means more drought in Horn of Africa

Alex Kirby

18th October 2015

Evidence stretching back 40,000 years shows that global warming will increase drying in a region of East Africa where drought already causes humanitarian crises, writes Alex Kirby - dashing earlier hopes of increased rainfall. more...
Killer Whales in Monterey Bay, California - helping to sequester the carbon emissions from those smokestacks in the background. Photo: © John Krzesinski 2012 via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Predators keep the oceans' carbon pump ticking

Peter Macreadie, Euan Ritchie, Graeme Hays & Trisha B Atwood

29th September 2015

By keeping marine herbivores in check, predators from sharks to crabs are essential to keep the oceanic 'carbon pump' working - with seaweed and plankton fixing atmospheric carbon and bearing it down to deep waters and sediments before getting munched. It's time to give ocean predators the protection they deserve, for climate's sake. more...
There's a mammoth surprise lurking in the permafrost: 1,700 billion tonnes of frozen carbon. Let that go and the world's climate may never be the same. BC Museum Photo: Tyler Ingram via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Mammoth Arctic carbon thaw would cost us $43 trillion

Tim Radford

23rd September 2015

Something scary is lurking in the melting Arctic permafrost, write Tim Radford & Oliver Tickell: 1,700 Gt of carbon. That's 53 years worth of current emissions, and if we let it melt the impact would cost the world $43 tn. Or act now, and we could preserve the Arctic ice for a seventh as much. more...
Comparison of Sierra Nevada snowpack in 2015 v 2010. Photo: NASA / MODIS.

The 2015 Sierra Nevada snowpack is at a 500-year low

Valerie Trouet & Soumaya Belmecheri

15th September 2015

The lack of snow in California's Sierra Nevada is historically unprecedented, write Valerie Trouet & Soumaya Belmecheri. It's also seriously bad news for the state's water supplies - and may be an indicator of even worse to come in a warming world. more...
Going, going ... Photo: ad for WWF by TBWA\PARIS, France via brett jordan on Flickr (CC BY).

Three trillion trees live on Earth - and we need every one of them

James Dyke

3rd September 2015

Isn't three trillion trees enough to keep our planet healthy? It sounds like a lot, writes James Dyke, but they are under threat as never before, from deliberate deforestation and climate change. Many of the 1.5 billion trees we are losing a year are in the last great rainforests - key ecosystems under threat of drying out forever under our escalating double onslaught. more...
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Photo: News Muse via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

The lesson of Hurricane Katrina: the worst is yet to come

Kerry Emanuel

25th August 2015

Climate change shows its true face in extreme events, writes Kerry Emanuel: the storm surge with a 12 inch head start thanks to rising sea levels, propelled by a wind that's 20 mph faster, dropping an extra inch of rain beyond the 'normal' storm. Hurricane Katrina and Typhoon Haiyan are sending us a clear message: the world must get ready for bigger and badder, fast. more...
Do wild boar eat in the woods? Photo:  bzd1 via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Warmer winters boost Europe's wild boar

Paul Brown

23rd August 2015

Increasingly mild winters have caused an abundance of acorns and beech nuts in Europe's woodlands, writes Paul Brown, triggering a wild boar population explosion - just one of the effects of warming climate on wildlife populations. more...
The NK cement plant near Manpo, From across the Yalu River, Ji'an. Cement making is a major source of emissions in China due to the breakneck pace of construction. Photo: Caitriana Nicholson via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY).

China's emissions 14% lower than IPCC thought

Eliza Berlage

20th August 2015

The IPCC has over-estimated China's emissions since 2000 by 14%, almost 3 gigatonnes of carbon since 2000, while its energy consumption has been 10% higher than realised, writes Eliza Berlage. The country is far more carbon-efficient than we ever knew. more...
Umef Stock in the middle of Blüemlisalp glaciers, near Kandersteg, 11th August 2007. Photo: TonnyB via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA).

World's glaciers melting at 'unprecedented' rate

Alex Kirby

7th August 2015

Glaciers around the world are melting on a scale without precedent in recorded history, writes Alex Kirby. Measurements of over 5,000 glaciers show that they have been retreating so fast so far this century that even if climate is stablised, the ice losses will continue for years to come. more...
The new normal? We simply don't know. Fires along the Rio Xingu, Brazil, 17th September 2011. Photo: NASA's Earth Observatory via Flickr (CC BY).

The scariest part of climate change is what we don't know

Bill Laurance

4th August 2015

The 'knowns' of climate change are already plenty scary enough, writes Bill Laurance. But far more worrying are the unknowns. And in a system as complex and convoluted as the global climate system there are lots of them, creating scope for many nasty surprises to emerge. more...
It's getting hot, and we're racing towards for even hotter. Photo: SMADE|MEDIA Galleria via Flickr (CC BY).

Global warming's record-breaking trend continues

Alex Kirby

29th July 2015

A detailed update of key climate indicators by hundreds of scientists reveals that 2014 saw rises in temperatures, sea levels and greenhouse gases to record levels, writes Alex Kirby. more...

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The Gerlache strait, Andvord Bay, Antarctica. Photo: Rita Willaert via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

The world is already committed to a six meter sea level rise

Pete Dolack / Systemic Disorder

24th July 2015

The climate change discourse rarely looks beyond 2100, writes Pete Dolack. Maybe that's because even at current levels of CO2, we are committed to thousands of years of warming and polar ice melt that will raise sea levels by at least six meters. However the implacable imperatives of capitalism mean there's little prospect of change for a long time to come. more...
The melting on the southern Antarctic peninsula has been so sudden, that even the scientific expedition's supply ship seems to have been caught out. Photo: J Bamber,

Once-stable Antarctic glaciers have suddenly started melting

Bert Wouters

23rd May 2015

A dramatic shift has taken place in the glaciers of the southern Antarctic peninsula, writes Bert Wouters. Six years ago these previously stable bodies suddenly stated shedding 60 cubic kilometres of ice per year into the ocean. A stark warning of further surprises to come? more...
The mass extinction that closed the Triassic period was marked by massive CO2 emissions from volcanoes - like the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland. Photo: Óli Jón via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

End-Triassic CO2 surge and mass extinction - an analog for climate change today?

Jessica H. Whiteside

13th April 2015

The end of the Triassic era 200 million years ago was marked by a surge in CO2 and anoxic oceans saturated with toxic hydrogen sulfide, writes Jessica H. Whiteside - enough to finish off half of all known organisms. Could humans now be embarking on a similar experiment? more...
Dried beans in Blantyre Market, Malawi. Photo: Michaelphoya via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

'Heat beater' beans could feed millions in warmer world

Alex Kirby

27th March 2015

Thirty new heat tolerant varieties of bean - a staple food crop around the world's tropical regions - will help people survive in a world as much as 4C warmer that it is now, writes Alex Kirby - and look: no genetic modification! more...
Where ice meets ocean - Antarctic coastline by McKay Savage via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Antarctic warmth brings more snow, reducing sea level rise

Alex Kirby & Oliver Tickell

18th March 2015

Rising temperatures will result in more snow falling in Antarctica, and the build-up of ice will reduce sea level rise from other sources. But as the extra weight of ice makes Antarctica's glaciers flow faster, the continent will still be a net contributor to sea level rise. more...
Michael Mann on a Tundra Buggy looking for polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba (13th November 2010). Photo: via Michael Mann.

Unlikely hero (or villain): Michael Mann, creator of the hockey stick graph

Brendan Montague / DeSmog UK

16th March 2015

Michael Mann will be remembered as the creator of the 'hockey stick' graph of rising global temperatures, which has put him forever in the crosshairs of climate change sceptics. But as Brendan Montague found, he is a curiously unlikely hero, or villain: rather a dedicated scientist living the American dream, who just happened, to his own surprise, to stumble on something big. more...
NASA image of the Arctic sea ice on March 6, 2010. Image: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio; Blue Marble data courtesy of Reto Stockli (NASA/GSFC), via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Coming soon: the 'Big Heat'

Nafeez Ahmed

3rd March 2015

Global warming has been on vacation for a few years, writes Nafeez Ahmed. But that's only because the excess heat - two Hiroshima bombs-worth every second - has been buried in the deep ocean. But within a few years that's set to change, producing a huge decade-long warming surge, focused on the Arctic, that could overwhelm us all. more...
The future Amazon? Keep on deforesting the Amazon, and Leticia in the Colmbian rainforest, which currently gets 2500mm of rain a year, could get as little rain as Israel's Negev Desert, with 20mm. Photo of the Negev by Francois BESSONNET via Flickr (CC BY

Without its rainforest, the Amazon will turn to desert

Peter Bunyard

2nd March 2015

Mainstream climatologists predict a 15% fall in rainfall over the Amazon if it is stripped of its rainforest. But the 'biotic pump' theory, rooted in conventional physics and recently confirmed by experiment, shows that the interior of a forest-free Amazon will be as dry as the Negev desert. We must save the Amazon before it enters a permanent and irreversible dessication. more...
Industrial fumes caught in early morning sunshine in Chilwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo: Light Brigading via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Survivable IPCC projections are based on science fiction - the reality is much worse

Nick Breeze

27th February 2015

The IPCC's 'Representative Concentration Pathways' are based on fantasy technology that must draw massive volumes of CO2 out of the atmosphere late this century, writes Nick Breeze - an unjustified hope that conceals a very bleak future for Earth, and humanity. more...
Gigatonnes of carbon rising from the frigid Southern Ocean put an end to the last ice age. Photo: Natalie Tapson via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Carbon stored deep in Antarctic waters ended the last ice age

Miguel Martinez-Boti & Gianluca Marino

12th February 2015

The last ice age came to an end following the massive release of carbon dioxide from the Southern Ocean, write Miguel Martinez-Boti and Gianluca Marino, and the signature of that event is written in planktonic shells. It's a timely reminder that the oceans contain 60 times more carbon than the atmosphere - and we want to keep it there. more...
Global average temperature anomaly 1850-2015. Image: WMO.

WMO: 2014 was hottest year on record

The Ecologist

3rd February 2015

The World Meteorological Organization has ranked 2014 as the hottest year on record. And it's no flash in the pan: 14 of the 15 hottest years have been in the 21st century, a powerful indication of warming trend. more...
The SPICE project will investigate the release of small particles into the stratosphere to cool the Earth by reflecting a few percent of incoming solar radiation. Photo: Hugh Hunt CC BY-SA 3.0.

What's worse than geoengineering the climate?

Nick Breeze

23rd December 2014

Film maker Nick Breeze has conducted a series of interviews with experts on 'geo-engineering' to forestall runaway global warming. Here he presents the distilled wisdom from his meetings - and concludes that we should at least be experimenting with the techniques, and studying their impacts. more...
Rising sea level? What rising sea level? Peter, CC BY-SA.

I'll talk politics with climate change deniers - but not science

Mark Maslin

17th December 2014

The responses that climate change demands of us are collective, writes Mark Maslin, and force us to accept the finite nature of global resources and the need for equitable sharing. So when climate change collides with belief in neoliberalism, free markets, strong property rights and rugged individualism, denial trumps science every time. more...


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