Something (early) for the weekend: grim forecast for oceans and the roots of denial

By Gareth Renowden 17/10/2013

Something of a miscellany today, coupled with an open thread, to keep you going during a brief pause in posting. First up: a study published this week in PLOS Biology looks at changes in ocean chemistry, temperature and primary productivity over the next century under two emissions scenarios, and finds that no corner of the ocean escapes untouched. From Science Daily:

“When you look at the world ocean, there are few places that will be free of changes; most will suffer the simultaneous effects of warming, acidification, and reductions in oxygen and productivity,” said lead author Camilo Mora, assistant professor at the Department of Geography in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. “The consequences of these co-occurring changes are massive — everything from species survival, to abundance, to range size, to body size, to species richness, to ecosystem functioning are affected by changes in ocean biogeochemistry.”

It’s been a productive few weeks for Mora: he was lead author on a recent study1 published in Nature that estimated when climate in different parts of the world would move beyond anything experienced in the last 150 years — have a play with this interactive map to find out when your part of the world will move into the unknown. See also Climate Central, Science Daily, and a huge amount of press coverage.

Nicely complementing Mora’s oceans study, Sebastian Ostberg and others from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research looked at terrestrial ecosystems and found that “80 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is at risk of profound ecosystem transformation by 2100″. As you might expect, business as usual emissions scenarios have the biggest impact, but even strong mitigation won’t prevent significant changes. From Science Daily:

…even if the warming is limited to 2 degrees, some 20 percent of land ecosystems — particularly those at high altitudes and high latitudes — are at risk of moderate or major transformation, the team reveals.

Physics Today‘s October issue includes an excellent overview of the rapid climate change taking place in the Arctic — The Arctic shifts to a new normal. (hat tip to John at the warren). For a very clear explanation of how Arctic changes can influence northern hemisphere atmospheric circulation, see Dr Ricky Rood’s latest post at his Wunderground blog.

David Archer at RealClimate extols the virtues of the new eight week Science of Climate Change course starting soon on Coursera. It sounds like something worth exploring, even if you don’t complete the full course or only play with the visualisations. I might be bold, and suggest that attendance should be compulsory for all climate cranks, sceptics and deniers.

Oh dear, I used the “d” word. Expect lots of faux outrage from those in denial of the need to act on climate change — but as Josh Rosenau of the National Centre for Science Education points out, the roots of that usage of the word go back long before any imagined link with genocide in Germany during WW2.

While NZ’s own little coterie of cranks and deniers lick their wounds over a lost court case, one of their “science advisers” has rushed into print in the NZ Herald drawing the longest of long bows on the import of some recent research on atmospheric aerosol formation. Chris de Freitas, the Auckland University geographer (not an atmospheric physicist or chemist, note) who long ago sold his soul to the Anything But Carbon (ABC) crowd, decides to suggest that the new research means that NZ’s pastoral farmers are working to cool the planet and should get more carbon credits than foresters. Considering that CdF consistently argues we don’t know enough to act on climate change, it’s immensely hypocritical of him to oversell the relevance of an interesting, but preliminary piece of research. For a somewhat more sane discussion of the study, see RealClimate.

And finally: I’m going to be taking a break from HT for a while, because I’m going into hospital tomorrow for what the surgeon describes as a relatively minor procedure on my inner ear2. I hope to be back at my keyboard sometime next week, if all goes well. Please accept my apologies in advance if comments get stuck in moderation, or other issues arise.

  1. Full text, free!
  2. Endolymphatic sac surgery, which if all goes well should put an end to the vertigo attacks associated with Meniere’s disease in my left ear — but it does mean drilling a hole in my skull. I’ve asked for a processor and memory upgrade while he’s in there… ;-)