Greenland Is Melting Faster Than We Thought in 'One of the Worst Years on Record'

Florida may face ferocious storms as record heat broils the state, and a green FIFA? Climate change stories you shouldn’t miss this week

Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster
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Greenland's ice sheet is seen breaking up as climate change continues.
Greenland's ice sheet is seen breaking up as climate change continues.Credit: Keith Virgo/AP
Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster

Greenland melting faster than we thought

The year 2019 “was one of the worst years on record” for Greenland’s ice sheet, which shrunk by hundreds of billions of tons, the Earth Institute of Columbia University report in The Cryosphere. It wasn’t only because the Arctic is warming at roughly double the speed of average global warming. “Exceptional atmospheric circulation patterns” resulting in clear blue skies heavily contributed to the ice sheet’s shrinkage. Worse, such conditions are developing more frequently.

Current climate simulations don’t factor in changing atmospheric circulations, leading to the suspicion that the Greenland ice sheet will melt much faster than is currently predicted, warns Marco Tedesco from Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

All this begs the question of how much the Greenland ice sheet weighs. A 2017 article from the Atlantic beautifully explains the island and its ice. 

Meanwhile, unusually weak upper atmospheric “wave” events from December through March ultimately depleted ozone over the Arctic in mid-March 2020, NASA reported, falling short of tying the sluggish movement of air with climate change, saying the cause is unclear. NASA add that the ozone depletion would have been much worse if we were still using chlorofluorocarbons, compounds which were banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1978.

Study warns of accelerated warning, acidification in estuaries

Estuaries along 1100 kilometers southeast Australian coast are warming twice as fast as the oceans and the atmosphere, and are acidifying faster, University of Sydney researchers report in Nature Communications. The estuaries warmed by 2.16 °C over just the last 12 years; lagoons suffered most with an increase of up to 3.65°C. Contributing factors include the depth (shallowness) of the water, the degree of water exchange with the ocean and the degree of human impact. Moreover, “all estuaries were found to be acidifying, with lagoons and creeks acidifying the fastest and lakes the slowest,” the team reports. The warming is, yet again, happening faster than predicted by air or oceanic models. The findings are likely to apply broadly, not just to Australia.

Parents switch climate care for childcare

On the one hand, parents worry about the state of the planet they’re leaving for the kids. On the other hand, in Sweden, two-adult households with children emit over 25 percent more carbon dioxide than two-adult households without children, new research by University of Wyoming economists and a colleague in Sweden has found. Reported in PLOS One, they study suggests that after becoming parents, convenience may take precedence over climatic caution. Linda Thunstrom noted that if this is the case in climate-conscious Sweden, it’s probably worse elsewhere.

Forecast for Florida: An umbrella may not cut it

Record heat in Florida this April, featuring temperatures more familiar in high summer, could portend violent storms, Bloomberg Green report. In Miami this has been the hottest April in any of the 80 years on record, following the second-hottest March. Last Wednesday Miami was at 93 degrees F, which is 34 C, and which is 10 degrees F above normal. Though why pick on Florida. “Parts of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans all hit the record books for warmth,” Brian Sullivan reported – which could portend extreme weather from the Americas to Australia and, in sweltering Florida, a ferocious summer hurricane season. There is no doubt in anybody’s minds that the ocean warming is caused by climate change.

People run on the beach in Jacksonville, Florida, April 17, 2020
People run on the beach in Jacksonville, Florida, April 17, 2020Credit: AFP

Ladybird, ladybird, nowhere to go

Grassland insect life had been expected to shelter from the swelter and prosper in nice cool forests, but it’s not going to happen: woodlands are just as affected by climate change as grasslands, a team report in Global Change Biology. Separate research found a decline in insectivorous birds that was not paralleled by a decline in omnivorous birds, a problem on which this study may also shed fresh light: the timing of separate biological events affected by climatic conditions (among other things), such as insect propagation and bird migrations, are getting out of whack.

Global warming won’t save us from coronavirus

Just to be clear, it isn’t that pulmonary system virus particles like flu or the new coronavirus, SARS-COV-2, are “less infectious” in summer or in unseasonally warm weather. It’s that when it’s cold people tend to hunker down indoors, or inside the office, not stroll around in the nice fresh air. Since we don’t normally self-isolate, in confined conditions we can freely sneeze at one another and fill the air with our little droplets of disease. Also, coronavirus has appeared in some blistering hot places, including Florida, which as said is suffering from a heat wave. Coronavirus may or may not wane this summer and may or may not pick up again next fall and winter, but one thing you can count on is global warming, which isn’t helpful even in this.

Nurses wearing protective clothing and face masks take care of a COVID-19 patient at the Karolinska hospital in Solna, near Stockholm, Sweden, on April 19, 2020
Nurses wearing protective clothing and face masks take care of a COVID-19 patient at the Karolinska hospital in Solna, near Stockholm, Sweden, on April 19, 2020Credit: AFP

However, environmentally friendly soccer championship?

“Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani has committed to organizing an environment-friendly FIFA World Cup 2022,” Anadolu Agency announced on Saturday. How? “It will be the first carbon-neutral tournament using solar-powered stadiums. Water and energy will be saved in cooling and lighting technology,” the site reported. And this is why? because climate change is hitting Qatar hard: “The region is already experiencing environmental hazards like an increase in sea level, high temperature, ocean acidification, the intensity of sand storms and increased desertification,” among other things. Its groundwater depletion is also just getting worse. It is good that the leader has noticed

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