» Climate and Meteorology

A global reanalysis of storm surges and extreme sea levels

Extreme sea levels, caused by storm surges and high tides, can have devastating societal impacts. To effectively protect our coasts, global information on coastal flooding is needed. Here we present the first global reanalysis of storm surges and extreme sea levels (GTSR data set) based on hydrodynamic modelling. GTSR covers the entire world’s coastline and consists of time series of tides and surges, and estimates of extreme sea levels. Validation shows that there is good agreement between modelled and observed sea levels, and that the performance of GTSR is similar to that of many regional hydrodynamic models. Due to the limited resolution of the meteorological forcing, extremes are slightly underestimated. This particularly affects tropical cyclones, which requires further research. We foresee applications in assessing flood risk and impacts of climate change. As a first application of GTSR, we estimate that 1.3% of the global population is exposed to a 1 in 100-year flood. Read More

Local biomass burning is a dominant cause of the observed precipitation reduction in southern Africa

Observations indicate a precipitation decline over large parts of southern Africa since the 1950s. Concurrently, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols have increased due to anthropogenic activities. Here we show that local black carbon and organic carbon aerosol emissions from biomass burning activities are a main cause of the observed decline in southern African dry season precipitation over the last century. Near the main biomass burning regions, global and regional modelling indicates precipitation decreases of 20–30%, with large spatial variability. Increasing global CO2 concentrations further contribute to precipitation reductions, somewhat less in magnitude but covering a larger area. Whereas precipitation changes from increased CO2 are driven by large-scale circulation changes, the increase in biomass burning aerosols causes local drying of the atmosphere. This study illustrates that reducing local biomass burning aerosol emissions may be a useful way to mitigate reduced rainfall in the region. Read More

Seven Climate Records Set So Far in 2016

The Arctic had its warmest winter on record in 2015-16. Arctic sea ice is melting at a rate that by September could see it beat the record low set in 2012. The maximum extent of sea ice in winter was at a record low, and the extent in May was the lowest for that month ever, by more than 500,000 sq km. Read More

Aerial surveys of the northern Great Barrier Reef during the 2016 coral bleaching event

This footage shows extensive coral bleaching (white/yellow patches) on the northern Great Barrier Reef as seen from the helicopter during scientific aerial surveys in March 2016. On 29th March 2016, aerial surveys of more than 500 coral reefs from Cairns to Papua New Guinea revealed that the most pristine section of the Great Barrier Reef experienced the worst mass bleaching event in its history, with the overwhelming majority of reefs being ranked in the most severe bleaching category. The surveys were conducted by Prof Terry Hughes from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, convener of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, and James Kerry, project manager of the taskforce. Footage is free to use for editorial purposes but MUST be credited ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies / James Kerry. Read More

Global 500 Greenhouse Gases Performance 2010-2015: 2016 Report on Trends

Are the 500 largest businesses in the world (Global 500) reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at a rate that follows the global scientific consensus on the risks of climate change? As a group, they were not in our prior reports covering performance from 2010 through 2013, and they are not now, according to the most recent data, current to the beginning of 2016. However, the gap, or the difference, between actual performance and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidance is now improving slightly, offering some grounds for hope coming out of COP21. In addition to this updated gap analysis, this report will seek to engage with the Global 500 and their stakeholders by creating a new “sustainable growth view,” which will provide insight into how companies are performing with respect to growing their businesses while at the same time reducing their emissions. This approach adopts the operating assumption coming out of COP21 that the world will and should continue to grow economically, but only by decoupling that growth from GHG emissions and decreasing them in a manner consistent with warming less than 2° C. Finally, we will also provide an update on the latest planetary trends to put the private sector progress, or lack thereof, in a planetary frame of reference. Read More

North American forests unlikely to save us from climate change, study finds

Forests take up 25-30 percent of human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide—a strong greenhouse gas—and are therefore considered to play a crucial role in mitigating the speed and magnitude of climate change. However, a new study that combines future climate model projections, historic tree-ring records across the entire continent of North America, and how the growth rates of trees may respond to a higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has shown that the mitigation effect of forests will likely be much smaller in the future than previously suggested. Published in the journal Ecology Letters, the study is the first to reveal the possible impact of a changing climate on the growth rate of trees across all of North America, in other words, how their growth changes over time and in response to shifting environmental conditions. The result are detailed forecast maps for the entire North American continent that reveal how forest growth will be impacted by climate change. Read More

Ecological and Evolutionary Responses to Recent Climate Change

Ecological changes in the phenology and distribution of plants and animals are occurring in all well-studied marine, freshwater, and terrestrial groups. These observed changes are heavily biased in the directions predicted from global warming and have been linked to local or regional climate change through correlations between climate and biological variation, field and laboratory experiments, and physiological research. Range-restricted species, particularly polar and mountaintop species, show severe range contractions and have been the first groups in which entire species have gone extinct due to recent climate change. Tropical coral reefs and amphibians have been most negatively affected. Predator-prey and plant-insect interactions have been disrupted when interacting species have responded differently to warming. Evolutionary adaptations to warmer conditions have occurred in the interiors of species’ ranges, and resource use and dispersal have evolved rapidly at expanding range margins. Observed genetic shifts modulate local effects of climate change, but there is little evidence that they will mitigate negative effects at the species level. Read More

Climate-Ready Soil: How Cover Crops Can Make Farms More Resilient to Extreme Weather Risks

NRDC examined the carbon capture and water-holding benefits of soil stewardship methods to increase soil organic matter in the 10 highest-value-producing agricultural states in the United States. This analysis estimates that using cover crops on just half of the acres devoted to the nation’s two most ubiquitous crops—corn and soybeans—in those top 10 states could help capture more than 19 million metric tons of carbon each year and help soils retain an additional trillion gallons of water. Read More

Household energy consumption and carbon emissions for sustainable cities – A critical review of modelling approaches

The purpose of this paper is to conduct a review of how household energy consumption and carbon emissions (HECCE) modelling paradigms have evolved over the years. This is achieved by adopting the literature review methodology for the study. The paper first reviewed the previous studies that are serving as the theoretical framework underpinning the HECCE models. Further to this, the paper identified an array of energy models that have evolved over the years together with their capability of analysing energy consumption and their associated carbon emission trends in housing sector of the economy. The results of the study showed that econometric (mainly top-down), building physics, and statistical (mainly bottom-up) methods are the existing approaches that have found application in modelling HECCE issues. However, a number of limitations were noticed in these existing modelling techniques. These are (1) lack of transparency in the model algorithms, (2) inability to account for the complex, interdependencies, and dynamic nature of the issue of energy consumption and carbon emissions, (3) limited evidence to show for the occupants–dwelling interactions, and (4) lack of enough capacity to accommodate qualitative data input. And as such, the study concluded that there is the need to scout for more robust and sophisticated modelling approaches that take into consideration the kind of complexity involved in issues relating to HECCE. Read More

Assessing the significance of climate and community factors on urban water demand

Ensuring adequate water supply to urban areas is a challenging task due to factors such as rapid urban growth, increasing water demand and climate change. In developing a sustainable water supply system, it is important to identify the dominant water demand factors for any given water supply scheme. This paper applies principal components analysis to identify the factors that dominate residential water demand using the Blue Mountains Water Supply System in Australia as a case study. The results show that the influence of community intervention factors (e.g. use of water efficient appliances and rainwater tanks) on water demand are among the most significant. The result also confirmed that the community intervention programmes and water pricing policy together can play a noticeable role in reducing the overall water demand. On the other hand, the influence of rainfall on water demand is found to be very limited, while temperature shows some degree of correlation with water demand. The results of this study would help water authorities to plan for effective water demand management strategies and to develop a water demand forecasting model with appropriate climatic factors to achieve sustainable water resources management. The methodology developed in this paper can be adapted to other water supply systems to identify the influential factors in water demand modeling and to devise an effective demand management strategy. Read More


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