November 22nd, 2010 by Zachary Shahan
1. Nature: “Global warming blamed for 40% decline in the ocean’s phytoplankton”: “Microscopic life crucial to the marine food chain is dying out. The consequences could be catastrophic.”
If confirmed, it may represent the single most important finding of the year in climate science. Seth Borenstein of the AP explains, “plant plankton found in the world’s oceans are crucial to much of life on Earth. They are the foundation of the bountiful marine food web, produce half the world’s oxygen and suck up harmful carbon dioxide.” Boris Worm, a marine biologist and co-author of the study said, “We found that temperature had the best power to explain the changes.” He noted, “If this holds up, something really serious is underway and has been underway for decades. I’ve been trying to think of a biological change that’s bigger than this and I can’t think of one.”
2. Science: Vast East Siberian Arctic Shelf methane stores destabilizing and venting: NSF issues world a wake-up call: “Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.”
4. Nature Geoscience study: Oceans are acidifying 10 times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred and Geological Society: Acidifying oceans spell marine biological meltdown “by end of century” — Co-author: “Unless we curb carbon emissions we risk mass extinctions, degrading coastal waters and encouraging outbreaks of toxic jellyfish and algae.”
This is from a special issue of 16 articles in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (Biological Science), “Biological diversity in a changing world,”– which notes “Never before has a single species driven such profound changes to the habitats, composition and climate of the planet.”
A biogeochemist quoted by Nature explained that “perhaps [the] most likely explanation is that increasing temperatures have increased rates of decomposition of soil organic matter, which has increased the flow of CO2. If true, this is an important finding: that a positive feedback to climate change is already occurring at a detectable level in soils.”
Another major study in the February 2010 issue of the journal Ecology by Finnish researchers, “Temperature sensitivity of soil carbon fractions in boreal forest soil,” had a similar conclusion. The Finnish Environment Institute, which led the study, explained the results in a release, “Soil contributes to climate warming more than expected”
There were so many important climate science findings this year I didn’t get to write on all of them. This one in particular was misunderstood:
Reasonable worst-case scenarios for global warming could lead to deadly temperatures for humans in coming centuries, according to research findings from Purdue University and the University of New South Wales, Australia.
The study notes that even a 12°F warming would be dangerous for many. In fact, we could well see these deadly temperatures in the next century or century and a half over large parts of the globe on a very plausible emissions path.
For more info on these studies and their findings, read the full piece over on Climate Progress: A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice.
This post is a quickie, a way for us to share more news with you by quickly covering good news stories on other sites.
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