Climate Change ☀️
First humans in Tasmania must have seen spectacular auroras
A small sub-alpine lake in western Tasmania has helped establish that 41,000 years ago Australia experienced the Laschamp geomagnetic excursion and that Tasmanian, Aboriginals, would've seen it.

Drilling a 270,000-year old core from a Tasmanian lake has provided the first Australian record of a major global event where the Earth's magnetic field 'switched '- and the opportunity to establish a precedent for developing new paleomagnetic dating tools for Australian archaeology and paleosciences.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210216092853.htm

Shrubs and soils: A hot topic in the cool tundra
As the climate warms in the Arctic, shrubs expand towards higher latitudes and altitudes. Researchers investigated the impacts of dwarf shrubs on tundra soils in the sub-Arctic Fennoscandia.

Climate change is rapid in the Arctic. As the climate warms, shrubs expand towards higher latitudes and altitudes. Researcher Julia Kemppinen together with her colleagues investigated the impacts of dwarf shrubs on tundra soils in the sub-Arctic Fennoscandia.

The study revealed that the dominance of dwarf shrubs impacts soil microclimate and carbon stocks. Microclimate describes the moisture and temperature conditions close to ground surface. Shrubs are the largest plant life form in the Arctic, and in comparison, to other arctic plants, shrubs use more water and cast more shade.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210216100132.htm

Biologists devise new way to assess carbon in the ocean
A new study by USC scientists explains how marine microbes control the accumulation of carbon matter with important implications for global warming.

The study, published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides a universal accounting method to measure how carbon-based matter accumulates and cycles in the ocean. While competing theories have often been debated, the new computational framework reconciles the differences and explains how oceans regulate organic carbon across time.

Surprisingly, most of the action involving carbon occurs not in the sky but underfoot and undersea. The Earth's plants, oceans and mud store five times more carbon than the atmosphere. It accumulates in trees and soil, algae and sediment, microorganisms and seawater.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210216114950.htm

Quantum leaps in understanding how living corals survive
A new imaging technique has been developed to improve our ability to visualize and track the symbiotic interactions between coral and algae in response to globally warming sea surface temperatures and deepening seawaters.

Coral reefs have thrived for millions of years in their shallow ocean water environments due to their unique partnerships with the algae that live in their tissues. Corals provide a safe haven and carbon dioxide while their algal symbionts provide them with food and oxygen produced from photosynthesis. Using the corals Orbicella annularis and Orbicella faveolate in the southern Caribbean, researchers at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) have improved our ability to visualize and track these symbiotic interactions in the face of globally warming sea surface temperatures and deepening seawaters.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210216115037.htm

A Glimpse of America’s Future: Climate Change Means Trouble for Power Grids
Systems are designed to handle spikes in demand, but the wild and unpredictable weather linked to global warming will very likely push grids beyond their limits.

Huge winter storms plunged large parts of the central and southern United States into an energy crisis this week, with frigid blasts of Arctic weather crippling electric grids and leaving millions of Americans without power amid dangerously cold temperatures.

The grid failures were most severe in Texas, where more than four million people woke up Tuesday morning to rolling blackouts. Separate regional grids in the Southwest and Midwest also faced serious strain. As of Tuesday afternoon, at least 23 people nationwide had died in the storm or its aftermath.

Analysts have begun to identify key factors behind the grid failures in Texas. Record-breaking cold weather spurred residents to crank up their electric heaters and pushed power demand beyond the worst-case scenarios that grid operators had planned for. At the same time, a large fraction of the state’s gas-fired power plants were knocked offline amid icy conditions, with some plants suffering fuel shortages as natural gas demand spiked. Many of Texas’ wind turbines also froze and stopped working.

The crisis sounded an alarm for power systems throughout the country. Electric grids can be engineered to handle a wide range of severe conditions — as long as grid operators can reliably predict the dangers ahead. But as climate change accelerates, many electric grids will face extreme weather events that go far beyond the historical conditions those systems were designed for, putting them at risk of catastrophic failure.

While scientists are still analyzing what role human-caused climate change may have played in this week’s winter storms, it is clear that global warming poses a barrage of additional threats to power systems nationwide, including fiercer heat waves and water shortages.

Measures that could help make electric grids more robust — such as fortifying power plants against extreme weather, or installing more backup power sources — could prove expensive. But as Texas shows, blackouts can be extremely costly, too. And, experts said, unless grid planners start planning for increasingly wild and unpredictable climate conditions, grid failures will happen again and again.

... But some climate scientists have also suggested that global warming could, paradoxically, bring more unusually fierce winter storms. Some research indicates that Arctic warming is weakening the jet stream, the high-level air current that circles the northern latitudes and usually holds back the frigid polar vortex. This can allow cold air to periodically escape to the South, resulting in episodes of bitter cold in places that rarely get nipped by frost.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/16/climate/texas-power-grid-failures.html

Slow motion precursors give earthquakes the fast slip
At a glacier near the South Pole, earth scientists have found evidence of a quiet, slow-motion fault slip that triggers strong, fast-slip earthquakes many miles away.

During an earthquake, a fast slip happens when energy builds up underground and is released quickly along a fault. Blocks of earth rapidly slide against one another.

However, at an Antarctic glacier called Whillans Ice Plain, the earth scientists show that "slow slips" precede dozens of large magnitude 7 earthquakes. "We found that there is almost always a precursory 'slow slip' before an earthquake," said lead author Grace Barcheck, research associate in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University.

Barcheck said that these slow-slip precursors -- occurring as far as 20 miles away from the epicenter -- are directly involved in starting the earthquake. "These slow slips are remarkably common," she said, "and they migrate toward where the fast earthquake slip starts."
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210216185904.htm

Biden gets his first energy crisis — and an opening
The resulting crisis could be a boon to Biden’s proposal to spend huge sums of money to harden the nation’s electric grid as it connects giant wind and solar power plants to cities and states thousands of miles away. That’s an essential step if the U.S. is to make a major turn toward relying on solar, wind and other renewable energy to keep the lights on.

“When supply doesn't show up, legislative or regulatory intervention begins,” said Kevin Book, managing director at the consulting firm ClearView Energy Partners. “The reactivity to a supply shock is one of the few things you can rely on.”


Freezing temperatures sent energy demand soaring in Texas to levels that eclipsed even the hottest summer days. Grid operators there and across the Midwest implemented rolling blackouts to prevent further damage to the grid, but in Texas alone 4 million customers have been without power since Monday.

... National Republicans — and those with national aspirations — seized on pictures of frozen wind turbines to hammer Washington’s green energy agenda, even though Texas operates a grid outside of federal oversight and has spent decades making its own energy decisions.

... But the extreme cold shut down a large share of those fossil fuel sources, too. Natural gas wellheads froze, and coal and nuclear generators in Texas were thrown off line, as Abbott himself acknowledged.

In addition, the national debate about green energy versus fossil fuels is no longer what it was 10 or 20 years ago. The balance of power has shifted as the auto industry, Wall Street and even some fossil fuel companies line up behind renewables and move to shape the multibillion-dollar transition to cleaner energy, a shift they defend on economic grounds.


“Wind and solar and, increasingly, storage are the most cost-competitive options on the grid,” said Jeff Dennis, a managing director at Advanced Energy Economy, a national association of big power users and other businesses that advocates for clean energy. “There’s a real case to be made for rapidly scaling our investment in those technologies to improve both our reliability and our resilience.”

The shift has made the usual Washington energy blame-game less one-sided. Biden’s allies in and out of government spread the message that the Arctic blast showed the urgency of countering climate change and was another taste of the disasters the nation can expect from extreme weather.

"We need to think how our overall infrastructure can accommodate increasingly common uncommon events," said Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.). "It's tragic that so many people on the other side of the aisle are using it to bash renewables."

Clean energy groups were quick to provide support for Democrats. The American Council on Renewable Energy, a clean energy business trade group, said specific regional conditions worsened the crisis in Texas: The state’s grid, though geographically large, is almost entirely cut off from the rest of the country, so it could not draw power from other regions. In contrast, parts of the Midwest that avoided Texas’ fate are members of regional power networks linked by high-voltage transmission lines.
Read the full article: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/02/16/texas-energy-outage-469217

Ford says it will phase out gasoline-powered vehicles in Europe.
Ford Motor became the latest automaker to accelerate its transition to electric cars, saying Wednesday that its European division would soon begin to phase out standard gasoline-powered vehicles. By 2026, the company will offer only electric and plug-in hybrid models.

The plan is part of a bid to generate steady profits in Europe, where Ford has struggled for several years, as well as to meet increasingly strict emissions standards in the European Union.


“We successfully restructured Ford of Europe and returned to profitability in the fourth quarter of 2020,” Stuart Rowley, president of Ford of Europe, said in a statement. “Now we are charging into an all-electric future.”

Ford and other automakers are moving more rapidly on electric vehicles in Europe than in the United States. Last year the European Union began imposing penalties on carmaker which do not adhere to limits on carbon dioxide emissions, forcing them to sell more electric cars.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/17/business/ford-says-it-will-phase-out-gasoline-powered-vehicles-in-europe.html

Climate change, periodic modification of Earth’s climate brought about as a result of changes in the atmosphere as well as interactions between the atmosphere and various other geologic, chemical, biological, and geographic factors within the Earth system.

Source: Climate change - Evidence for climate change | Britannica
Climate Change is the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment. From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Without drastic action today, adapting to these impacts in the future will be more difficult and costly.

Source: Climate Change | United Nations