Search Results for Tag: research
Climate impacts should spur emissions curb
- Professor Wolfgang Lucht and Ioanna Mouratiadou at a session on “What’s still missing” to address climate impacts
Here in Potsdam at the Impacts World 2013, I have been searching for the links between climate impacts research and political action to curb emissions. I have talked to a lot of the scientists present from different parts of the world about this, both in the sessions and one-to-one. My concern is that the increasing focus on adaptation to cope with the effects of climate change could detract from awareness of the need for urgent political action. Professor Wolfgang Lucht , who’s in charge of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research PIK) and Professor of Sustainability Studies at Berlin’s Humboldt-University told me he thinks the very opposite is the case. He is convinced the evidence being amassed on the impacts of climate change will strengthen the case for stricter emissions targets. He is convinced better networking of the available data will help provide politicians with the material they need to get on with both mitigation and adaptation.
Cynthia Rosenzweig is head of the Climate Impacts Group at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. She says Hurricane Sandy was a kind of “tipping point” in awareness of the possible effects of climate change and the links to extreme weather events. She had been advising the city of New York on climate for 15 years before that. The interest, unsurprisingly, has intensified considerably.
She is also pushing very hard for better linking of different models, especially relating to the future of agriculture, and ultimately food security for the future. She introduced the conference to “AgMIP”, not a really catchy acronym, but easier than “The Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project”. This whole conference is moving around better integration of information, better links and networks. The image of the “food web” came to me, which replaced the old “food chain”. Models at global level, domestic, regional, local, scientific bodies, ngos, governments, local authorities, have to be woven together to pool their knowledge – but in such a way that individual actors can access the info they need. A challenge indeed. There are also those here who say global scientific climate models have little relevance to adaptation to the effects of climate change on the ground. I am with Professor Lucht, who says we need the global models and the two degree target as a framework for the rest.
DateMay 29, 2013 | 4:07 pm
Climate Impacts World in Potsdam
- Artist in residence makes a visual summary of the discussion.
Potsdam, around half an hour from Berlin, is the home of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), which has become one of the world’s leaders in its field. This week , the Institute is co-hosting “Impacts World 2013”, an “International Conference on Climate Change Effects”, along with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
I suppose you could describe climate impact research as a kind of bridge between climate science and what it means for the rest of us.
Droughts, floods, health risks, crop failures – there seem to be few areas of our lives where climate change does not have an impact.
There is a whole myriad of climate models, using different parameters and scenarios and focussing on different sectors. The ambitious aim of this gathering is to bring scientists and decision-makers together to try to understand how different sectors relate to each other and find ways of “joining the dots”..
Let me just share a couple of insights or thoughts with you that I picked up in the course of the day.
We need to bring the mass of information together in ways that make it possible for society to be prepared for extreme events and to cope with changing availability of water, different growing conditions, coastal erosion, sea-level rise.
Global trends in temperature rise are one thing – the impacts on the ground will be very different in different parts of the globe. Fitting the parts of the jigsaw together is a huge challenge.
Scientists themselves (this is based not only on the official sessions but conversations in the coffee breaks) are often confused by the differences in climate models and predictions. Slight changes to parameters can lead to hugely different results.
Feeding information from impact researchers “on the ground” back into models seems highly desirable but does not always happen.
There has been a lot of talk about communication. Some scientists think their job is to “do science”, not communicate with politicians or the public. Others want to communicate but are not very good at it. Some are very good at it and appear frequently in the media. My colleague Fiona Harvey from the Guardian, who chaired a debate on “Are the products of climate impact research really useful?” argued that all scientists should communicate their knowledge and not leave it up to a talented few. Otherwise, those who make the headlines may not be the ones who represent the consensus view. Indeed!
The media came in for a lot of stick as usual. We do have a huge influence and with it, a huge responsibility to get things right. My appeal to the scientific community – please do not put us all in the same boat. Not all of us are out to find sensations and just headlines that will attract the most attention whether they are accurate or not.
That is why I will head back into the conference and listen to more talk of the “Inter-sectoral impact model intercomparison project”, “Community-driven syntheses of climate change impact analyses”, “projection of global soil carbon dynamics”, “global multi-model perspectives on the potential and limitations of irrigation…” with the ultimate aim of finding out more about the impacts of climate change on or societies today and tomorrow. Then I will continue to try to explain it to those who rely on the media for relevant information in words they can understand…
DateMay 29, 2013 | 7:05 am
Russia to evacuate floating ice station
Russia is preparing to evacuate a crew of 16 from a drifting Arctic research station because the ice floe it is sitting on has started to disintegrate. The news agency AFP said Natural Resources and Ecology Minister Sergei Donskoi had set a three-day deadline to draft an evacuation plan for the North Pole-40 floating station. That was yesterday afternoon. (See also Times Live for report and photo!)
“The destruction of the ice has put at risk the station’s further work and life of its staff,” the ministry said in a statement. The station is currently home to 16 personnel including oceanologists, meteorologists, engineers and a doctor. It conducts meteorological research, monitors environmental pollution and conducts a number of tests. If the situation is not addressed, it may also result in the loss of equipment and contaminate the environment near Canada’s economic zone where the station is currently located, the ministry added. The floating station is to be relocated to Bolshevik Island in the Russian Arctic with the help of an ice breaker.
Vladimir Sokolov, who oversees the floating station at the Saint Petersburg-based Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, said the ice was disintegrating due to climate change. Russia created its first floating research station in the Arctic, the North Pole 1 in 1937. The first floating station put up by post-Soviet Russia was put together in 2003. The crew had to be rescued when the ice floe beneath it broke up in 2004.
The experts in charge say the crew’s lives are not in danger, but working conditions have become impossible. They say the fast melt of the ice is making it more difficult for research to keep pace with developments.
Not surprising, but surely another spectacular illustration of what’s happening up in the High North? Has anybody seen this making a big splash (sorry!) in the international headlines?
DateMay 24, 2013 | 11:28 am
10 years French-German Arctic Station
Congratulations to the team of the joint French-German Arctic research station in Ny Alesund, Svalbard. It is ten years since the German polar authority AWI (Alfred-Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research) and its French counterpart IPEV (Institut Polaire Paul Emile Victor) joined forces at the world’s northernmost research base.
The station was my first Arctic destination in 2007, so it has a special significance for me. During the IPY, I was involved in an international radio cooperation to report on polar science, which was how the Ice Blog was born.
AWIPEV is the biggest of the research stations in Ny Alesund, and takes up to 150 scientists from France and Germany in the course of a year.
I visited again in 2010 with a team looking at ocean acidification. Their equipment was transported up by the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, a “first” in terms of cooperation between scientists funded by the EU’s EPOCA programme and the environment group. Greenpeace offered the ship to help out when none of the scientific research vessels was available for the project.
The station has also just been the first to be officially approved by the climate data network GRUAN. Not a terribly attractive acronym, but definitely easier to say/write than the whole title: Global Climate Observing System Reference Upper Air Network. Basically, the idea is to standardize and the measurement of climate parameters around the world so that the figures are really comparable. It was initiated by the World Meteorological Organization, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, UNESCO, UNEP and the International Council for Science.
Keep up the good work everyone up there at AWIPEV.
DateApril 29, 2013 | 2:55 pm
Antarctic Peninsula is thawing faster
Ice in parts of the Antarctic Peninsula is now melting during the summer faster than at any time during the last thousand years, according to new research results. The scientists have reconstructed changes in the intensity of ice-melt, and the mean temperature on the northern Antarctic Peninsula since AD 1000, based on the analysis of ice cores.
According to the study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the coolest conditions and lowest melt occurred from about AD 1410 to 1460, when mean temperature was 1.6 °C lower than that of 1981–2000. Since the late 1400s, there has been a nearly tenfold increase in melt intensity from 0.5 to 4.9%. The warming has occurred in progressive phases since about AD 1460, but the melting has intensified, and has largely occurred since the mid-twentieth century. The study concludes that “ice on the Antarctic Peninsula is now particularly susceptible to rapid increases in melting and loss in response to relatively small increases in mean temperature”.
Paul Brown of Climate News Network says the findings explain a series of sudden collapses of ice shelves in the last 20 years, which scientists studying them had not expected. He also quotes the researchers as saying the current melting could lead to “further dramatic events, making the loss of large quantities of ice on the Peninsula more likely, and adding to sea level rise”.
The study is also of interest against the background of the debate going on over the last 20 years on whether the Antarctic would gain mass through extra snow falling and so REDUCE sea level rise, or would lose ice because of higher sea and air temperature and so exacerbate the effect.
The scientists use a 364-metre ice core from James Ross Island to get in insight into both past temperatures and ice melt. Layers in the core show periods when summer snow on the ice cap thawed and then refroze. By measuring the thickness of the layers, they could tell how the history of the melting related to changes in temperature at the site over the last thousand years.
Lead author Dr. Nerilie Abram of the Australian National University and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) said: “Summer melting at the ice core site today is now at a level that is higher than at any other time over the last 1,000 years. And whilst temperatures at this site increased gradually in phases over many hundreds of years, most of the intensification of melting has happened since the mid-20th centrtury.
Dr. Robert Mulvaney from the BAS, who led the drilling expedition and co-authored the paper said: “Having a record of previous melt intensity for the Peninsula is particularly important because of the glacier retreat and ice shelf loss we are now seeing in the area. Summer ice melt is a key process that is thought to have weakened ice shelves along the Antarctic Pensinsula leading to a succession of dramatic collapses, as well as speeding up glacier ice loss across the region over the last 50 years”.
The changes on the Antarctic Peninsula do not necessarily apply to other parts of Antarctica, such as the West Antarctic ice Sheet. Melting is also occurring there and could have an even greater risk of large-scale sea level rise.
Paul Brown from Climate News Network notes “it is not clear that the levels of recent ice melt and glacier loss in West Antarctica are exceptional or are caused by human-driven climate changes.”
Lead author Abram says: “This new ice core record shows that even small changes in temperature can result in large increases in the amount of melting in places where summer tempearatures are near to 0°C, such as along the Antarctic Peninsula, and this has important implications for ice instability and sea level rise in a warming climate”.
I interviewed Andrew Shepherd, Professor of Earth Observation at the British University of leeds, on a major satellite sutdy of the polar ice melt towards the end of last year. It makes interesting listening to complement this latest development:
DateApril 16, 2013 | 12:43 pm