Category Archives: Essays

The permafrost is melting!

A new study has concluded that the world’s permafrost is getting warmer and that it was in Siberia that the biggest rise has occurred. In Siberia the frozen soil temperatures have risen three times more than anywhere else.

With this warming of the permafrost more greenhouses gases are being released into the atmosphere and therefore will contribute to climate change.

As the thawing permafrost contains organic material they can contribute to climate change in a significant way. The only solution is naturally to reduce our greenhouse emissions so that the permafrost does not melt to a high degree. Unfortunately it seems that we are going in the other direction..

The increased thawing of the permafrost will also affect buildings and roads in Northern areas, with increased costs to reduce the problem and contain it.


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Vast warming of the seas underway.

New research has found that the seas have absorbed 90% of the climate change energy in the past 150 years. Because of this extra amount of energy sea level have risen and this has also enabled hurricanes and typhoons to be more intense.

Rising sea levels are endangering millions of people who live in coastal cities. This increased heat is also expanding the water in the oceans as well as well as provoking melting in Greenland.

Not all the seas have warmed up everywhere at the same level. In the Atlantic only half the rise seen since 1971 was due to the increased heat transported by ocean currents. More studies will be needed to see if there is much variation in the different levels of heating in the various seas. It is possible that some seas will warm up more than others. Already indications are that cold frigid waters such as those found in the Arctic areas will be much warmer than elsewhere.

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Ecosystems in tidal flats being lost!

According to a new survey coastal development and sea level rise are causing the decline of tidal flats along the world’s coastlines. From 1984 to 2016 it seems that there was a decline of 16%.

Tidal flats are important as they act as a buffer to storms and sea level rise and they also provide a habitat for many species such as migratory birds and fish nurseries. These tidal flats can be mud flats, sand flats or rocky reef platforms. Fully 50% of these tidal flats can be found in just eight countries, of which the United States and Canada are part of.

It happens often that airports, aquaculture and other infrastructure are built over these tidal flats, further contributing to the decline. Less sediment flow from rivers can also contribute to less sediments being deposited as tidal flats. Damming rivers will often reduce the flow of sediments to rivers.

These tidal flats were hard to observe in the past due to the fact that they are often submerged but with the use of satellite imagery they can now be better documented. The hope is that just as deforestation was better understood once people saw the images the demise of tidal flats will also be now be on the radar as the information is freely available for all to see.

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Pollution found in deepest parts of the ocean.

Researchers have recently examined the deepest point in the oceans and what they found was depressing; plastics have been found in the Mariana Trench, the lowest place on earth. The highest levels of micro plastics were found there in the open ocean, even more than those found elsewhere in the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

The research was done in part to find out where all the millions of tonnes of plastic end. The plastics collected in the trench was from water samples and sediment samples that are between 2.500 meters down to 11,000 below sea level.

It seems that the lower they went and the higher the concentration of plastics was found. These plastics were coming from the industrialized nations in east Asia, including China and Japan. Micro plastics have been known to harm sea life and how they can affect humans is now being studied.

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Failure in cleaning up the great garbage patch.

In the Pacific there is an area where garbage accumulates in such quantities that marine life is hurt. One solution proposed was to collect this garbage by means of a giant floating barrier, part of a 20 million dollar project. However, it seems that the plastics that are collected escapes eventually from the barrier.

This negative report on the U-shaped device is not surprising, as theoretical testing sometimes is not as good as real life. The inventor of the barrier says that the slow speed of the barrier is to blame. Naturally, engineers are working on possible solutions. It is possible that the span of the barrier must be widened so it can catch more wind and waves to go faster.

The project was supposed to collect 50% of the plastics in the area within five years but skeptics remain. Some argue that the sheer number of these systems, 60 devices, could adversely affect the ecosystem.

Naturally the best solution is to prevent plastics from entering the oceans in the first place. Education of people is needed. But still, others maintain that for the plastic already in the oceans solutions are needed. This one seems to need more tinkering.

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The melting in Antarctica.

Scientists have discovered that an area of Antarctica called East Antarctica is less stable than previously thought. It seems that the warmer seas are melting a group of glaciers on the coastline. As this area holds vast amount of ice the melting would raise global sea levels and would affect coastal settlements around the world.

It was once thought that the freezing temperatures in that area would keep this region stable but recent research indicates that the area is being affected by climate change.

Several glaciers in that area are being affected; the Totten glacier is in retreat, to the east of Totten the height of glaciers has fallen and to the west of Totten the rate of loss has doubled since 2009. All this information comes from maps of ice movement speed and height created by Nasa from its satellites.

In West Antarctica ice is already in full retreat with a threefold acceleration in recent years. With melting hidden beneath the ocean surface it is possible that Antarctica will overtake Greenland as the biggest contributor to sea level rise.

What this all means is that we could expect higher sea levels than predicted by models. Our projections of what to expect in the future could be off by a wide margin. That would create a rude shock to those living on the coast or to island nations.

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Health and climate change.

A new report on climate change and how it will affect the health of humans has been produced and the results are not good. Among the threats are heat stress which can kill people indirectly as well as diminish the ability of people to work, especially in agriculture.

More extreme rainfall could also overwhelm the water and sewer systems and contribute to a shortage of drinking water. Higher temperatures could also bring more viruses such as dengue, Zika, yellow fever and chikungunya.

The report lists a number of problems that could have a domino effect on the health of people. For example, extreme heat would affect more people. In England and Wales over a 15 day period in 2017 there were 700 more deaths as compared to previous times.

Most vulnerable people would be in Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean region as more older people live in the cities. In both regions more than 40% of people over the age of 65 were thought to be at risk.

Warmer conditions will have an effect on the risk of diseases spread by mosquitoes. As the habitat warms up the Zika virus might expand its range in the United States. Since the 1950’s the cholera bacteria has expanded it range into the Baltic coastline and malaria has spread to higher altitudes in sub-Saharan Africa.

Food production could also be adversely affected as rising temperatures and extreme weather events could affect how much is produced. Even the quality of some foods is expected to decline because as carbon dioxide rises it will reduce the presence of key nutrients such as iron, zinc and proteins in crops and seafood.

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