Climate Notebook

Delores Broten

Tree Rings & Droughts

A report recently published in the Journal of Hydrology compared 350 years of tree-ring data and long-term coastal drought records and concluded that droughts in the coming decades could be worse than at any time in the last three to four centuries.
Co-author Bethany Coulthard is set to meet next month with BC drought planners and warns, “If we don’t implement more conservative mitigation strategies, the region will be seriously underprepared when one of these droughts hits. The impacts would be disastrous for stream ecology and salmon.”

— May 4, 2016
Rising Seas

A Rutgers University study published in March found that the rate of sea level rise in the 20th century was faster than in any of the previous 27 centuries. Another paper published at the same time found that warming could speed up the rate of ice loss around Antarctica, potentially contributing as much as one metre to sea level by the end of the century.

Climate scientist Maureen Raymo explains that, until now, thermal expansion and melting mountain glaciers have dominated sea level rise. In future, the melting of Greenland and Antarctic ice will play a larger role, but these changes will unfold potentially over centuries. “If all the ice on the planet melted, sea level would rise by about 55m…. The last time this happened on Earth, about 40 million years ago, atmospheric [carbon dioxide] levels may have been as high as 1,000 parts per million.” Carbon dioxide levels are currently just over 400ppm.

— April 11, 2016
The Greening Arctic

A report published in the Journal of Remote Sensing examined 87,000 images captured by the NASA Landsat satellite and found that Alaska, Quebec, and other regions became greener between 1984 and 2012. The Arctic is the fastest-warming region of the northern hemisphere. The scientists saw grassy tundra convert to shrubland, and shrubs grow in size and density. Such changes will inevitably start to play into water, energy and carbon cycles. Somewhere between 37 and 77 million tonnes of carbon resides in the soils and the permafrost, and the permafrost is predicted to shrink by 25% by 2100.

—Climate News Network, June 4, 2016

Frack Gas Bans

The debate over whether fracking causes earthquakes is over, especially following some large ones, not to mention landslides of contaminated soil, in the Peace region of BC. Now the talking points have shifted to whether the cause is waste water injection or the actual fracking, and whether the earthquakes matter.
In May, Scotland banned fracking outright, New Brunswick announced that province’s moratorium would continue indefinitely, and Newfoundland and Labrador decided to continue its “pause” on the practice.

Meanwhile, as a decision by the federal government on the Petronas LNG terminal on Lelu Island, BC is pending, 90 scientists from around the world have written to PM Trudeau, pointing out that the project would blow Canada’s greenhouse gas commitments out of the water. The scientists say, on top of the emissions, there is no evidence the gas would displace Chinese use of coal, as the BC government claims.

—CBC News, March 29, 2016; May 30, 2016; Common Dreams, June 1, 2016

Arctic Drilling Stops

US government documents obtained by environmental group Oceana show that ConocoPhillips Co., Italy’s Eni and Iona Energy Inc., have abandoned all their leases in the Chukchi Sea, northwest of Alaska. Royal Dutch Shell has said it plans to relinquish all but one. Statoil, Total, EnCana and Armstrong have also given up Chukchi leases. Eighty per cent of all area in the American Arctic leased for drilling in a 2008 sale has been or will be abandoned.

— May 10, 2016

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