El Ninos are getting stronger thanks to climate change, a new study found. The study, which examined 33 El Ninos since 1901, found that since 1971, the El Ninos were being formed in warmer waters, therefore were emerging stronger than before. Why this is a problem is that stronger El Ninos are known to trigger drought in places like Australia and India and flooding in places like California. The number of hurricanes increases in the Pacific and drops in the Atlantic during a stronger El Nino.
A separate study revealed climate change may have led to the widespread dying of European peatlands, which are a natural carbon sink. The study’s results are significant because peatlands lock up five times more carbon than forests in Europe alone. According to the study the peatlands are so dry and fragile and may end up releasing carbon instead of absorbing it.
Population at risk from coastal flooding more than triple that of previous estimates: Climate Central study
A new study by Climate Central published in the journal Nature Communications has revealed that by 2050 sea level rise will push average annual coastal floods higher than land now home to 300 million people. Further, high tide lines could permanently rise above land occupied by some 150 million, including 30 million in China. Six Asian countries (China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand) are home to the great majority of people–approximately 237 million combined–living in places that without coastal defenses could experience coastal flooding at least annually by 2050, more than quadrupling estimates based on older elevation data. The new estimates puts some 36 million people at risk in India as compared to the estimate of 5 million in previous assessments. The new estimates are based on CoastalDEM which uses machine learning methods to correct for systematic errors in the principal elevation dataset used until now for international assessment of coastal flood risks. The main dataset used for global coastal research so far, NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) measures elevations closest to the sky such as treetops or rooftops and hence overestimate coastal elevations by 2-4m.
Thawing permafrost turning Arctic into a carbon emitter
The Arctic, which is home to permafrost that act like a carbon sink, is thawing so quickly because of the warming planet, that it is now a source for emissions instead of being a sink. Scientists estimate that the melting ice is emitting 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon annually between October and April – this is twice as high as previous estimates.
Speaking of thawing ice, melting glaciers have revealed five new islands in the remote Arctic, according to the Russian navy. The islands are yet to be named.
New carbon sinks discovered in glacial rivers
In a surprising bit of optimistic news, a new study has revealed that glacial rivers could be pulling carbon from the atmosphere faster than the Amazonian rainforest. Researchers from the University of British Columbia found that low rates of organic decay in glacial rivers and high rates of chemical weathering which results in glacial rivers becoming carbon dioxide sinks that can sequester up to 40 times more than the Amazon rainforest pre unit area. The limited size of glacial rivers though means the amount is still much less than what the rainforest pulls.
In some separate news though, all is not well for the Amazon. New research has suggested that if current rates of deforestation continue, the rainforest will cease to produce enough rain to sustain itself as early as 2021. Crossing this tipping point would mean a gradual degradation of the rainforest into a savannah releasing billions of tonnes of carbon. The claim has split experts with some estimating that the tipping point is still at least 20 years away.
Global Hunger Index links climate change to rising global hunger
This year’s Global Hunger Index claimed that climate change is one of the reasons why global hunger has been rising since 2015. It points to extreme climate events affecting crops since the 1990s to make its case. The study highlights the strong overlap between climate vulnerability and malnutrition
Most delayed monsoon withdrawal on record set to disrupt Australian summer monsoon
While officially India’s monsoon season ended on 31 September, the monsoon is yet to withdraw completely from the subcontinent a month after the official date. The monsoon, affected all season long by spatial and temporal distributive abnormalities, ended 10 per cent surplus, the largest seen in recent years. The withdrawal, the most delayed on record, is now expected to negatively impact the Australian summer monsoon. The culprit is the positive Indian Ocean Dipole which heats up the western Indian Ocean more than the east. While the phenomenon, which has lasted longer than typical, favours rains during the Indian monsoon, it has a debilitating effect on the Australian summer monsoon.
Wildfires rage in California as residents face huge power cuts
A new round of wildfires ignited this fortnight in California, sending millions of residents into a panic caused by power blackouts, evacuations and poor air quality. An estimated 1.5 million more people in California are set to lose power as utility firm Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) tries to stop damaged cables triggering wildfires.
Authorities and local newspapers have issued advisories on how Californians can detect air quality levels and protect themselves from the toxic smoke.
Study unveils detailed roadmap to make land sector carbon neutral for 2040
A study by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis laid out a way forward for governments to make the land sector carbon neutral by 2040. This is the first comprehensive look at how the land sector can help achieve the 1.5°C target and it identifies specific land use actions, their related geographies, and implementation pathways to reduce land use emissions by 50% per decade between 2020 and 2050.
One of the immediate solutions, according to the researchers, is to restore forests, peatlands, wetlands and agriculture soil. But in the long term, additional negative emissions technology, such as direct air capture and low-impact bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), will have to be developed to ‘sustainably remove carbon from the atmosphere’, the researchers said.