Climate Change ☀️
Scientists Predict an ‘Above Normal’ Atlantic Hurricane Season
The forecast, which follows a record season in 2020, arrives as hurricanes are becoming more destructive over time.

2021 could see 13 to 20 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes, and three to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher in the Atlantic, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 until Nov. 30, though the last six years have seen storms form before its official start.

This year’s announcement comes after a record-shattering 2020 season of 30 named storms — so many that we ran through the alphabet for only the second time and resorted to using Greek letters.

Hurricanes have become more destructive over time, in no small part because of the influences of a warming planet. Climate change is producing more powerful storms, and they dump more water because of heavier rainfall and a tendency to dawdle and meander; rising seas and slower storms can make for higher and more destructive storm surges. But humans play a part in making storm damage more expensive, as well, by continuing to build in vulnerable coastal areas.


Matthew Rosencrans of NOAA’s climate prediction center said “we do not expect the 2021 hurricane season to be as active” as last year’s, but added that “it only takes one dangerous storm to devastate communities and lives.” The agency will issue another forecast later in the summer, before the height of hurricane season.

... The United States is approaching this hurricane season as those who respond to the nation’s disasters are stretched thin. On top of wildfires in the West, pounding rains and extensive flooding in parts of Louisiana and Texas, many areas are still struggling to recover from last year’s record hurricane season and the February freeze.

At the same time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has diverted thousands of personnel to help run the country’s coronavirus vaccination campaign, as well as help shelter unaccompanied children crossing the southern border.

With a year of record natural disasters and another tough season looming, FEMA employees are facing burnout. Currently, 29 percent fewer of the agency’s emergency staff are ready to deploy than at the start of last year’s hurricane season.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/20/climate/atlantic-hurricane-outlook.html

Facing Hurricane and Wildfire Seasons, FEMA Is Already Worn Out
Multiple missions, combined with years of record disasters, have strained the agency — and scientists predict an unusually severe disaster season ahead.

Workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been scouting shelters for the migrant children surging across the Southern border. They’ve been running coronavirus vaccination sites in Colorado, Massachusetts and Washington. And they are still managing the recovery from a string of record disasters starting with Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

On the cusp of what experts say will be an unusually destructive season of hurricanes and wildfires, just 3,800 of the agency’s 13,700 emergency workers are available right now to respond to a new disaster. That’s 29 percent fewer than were ready to deploy at the start of last year’s hurricane period, which began, as it does every year, on June 1.

FEMA has seldom been in greater demand — becoming a kind of 911 hotline for some of President Biden’s most pressing policy challenges. And the men and women who have become the nation’s first responders are tired.

... One problem FEMA doesn’t have is money. The federal fund that pays for its disaster work has about $50 billion on hand. It’s human resources that are in short supply.


Part of the strain reflects the large number of disaster-recovery operations that FEMA is still handling, from last year’s record-breaking 30 named storms that pummeled states like Louisiana and Texas to the wildfires that blazed through California last September. Those disasters, which take years to recover from, have translated into an escalating workload for the agency’s staff.

A growing number of employees have headed for the exits. In 2020, more FEMA workers transferred to other agencies than in any other year over the past decade — twice the typical annual number, according to federal data.

One former employee, who left FEMA for another agency in 2019 and asked not to be identified by name, worked in the office that manages outside contractors. As staff from her office were reassigned to work on disasters, they weren’t replaced. But her team’s workload wasn’t reduced, resulting in longer and longer workdays. She called it a “sweat shop.”

In interviews, current and former FEMA employees described 12-hour days, canceled vacations with their families, and not enough time to recover between assignments.

A current manager at FEMA, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press, said he has never seen staff stretched thinner.

Under President Biden, FEMA’s mission has expanded drastically. Lauded for his ability to empathize with those who are suffering, Mr. Biden has increasingly deployed to crises an agency that in the past had mostly managed distribution of disaster funds to state governments.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/20/climate/fema-staff-wildfires-hurricane-season.html

Yellowstone National Park is hotter than ever
New tree ring method highlights climatic changes over the last 1,250 years

Yellowstone National Park is famous for harsh winters but a new study shows summers are also getting harsher, with August 2016 ranking as one of the hottest summers in the last 1,250 years.

The new study drew upon samples of living and dead Engelmann spruce trees collected at high elevations in and around Yellowstone National Park to extend the record of maximum summer temperatures back centuries beyond instrumental records. The findings were published in Geophysical Research Letters, AGU's journal for high-impact, short-format reports with immediate implications spanning all Earth and space sciences.

The team, led by Karen Heeter, a dendrochronologist at the University of Idaho in Moscow, found that the 20th and 21st centuries, and especially the past 20 years, are the hottest in the new 1,250-year record. Previously, temperature records for the Yellowstone region were only available going back to 1905.

The climate data gleaned from the tree ring samples fits closely with the instrumental record over the past 100 years. The team was also able to identify several known periods of warming in the tree ring record, including the Medieval Climate Anomaly that occurred between 950 and 1250, as well as several multidecadal periods of cooling that occurred prior to 1500.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210520095041.htm

Global study of glacier debris shows impact on melt rate
The work is the first global assessment of Earth's 92,033 debris-covered glaciers and shows that debris, taken as a whole, substantially reduces glacier mass loss.

The results will affect sea level rise calculations and allow for improved assessment of hazards faced by nearby communities.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210520133700.htm

Airborne radar reveals groundwater beneath glacier
Researchers have detected groundwater beneath a glacier in Greenland for the first time using airborne radar data. If applicable to other glaciers and ice sheets, the technique could allow for more accurate predictions of future sea-level rise.

Melting glaciers and polar ice sheets are among the dominant sources of sea-level rise, yet until now, the water beneath them has remained hidden from airborne ice-penetrating radar.

With the detection of groundwater beneath Hiawatha Glacier in Greenland, researchers have opened the possibility that water can be identified under other glaciers from the air at a continental scale and help improve sea-level rise projections. The presence of water beneath ice sheets is a critical component currently missing from glacial melt scenarios that may greatly impact how quickly seas rise -- for example, by enabling big chunks of ice to calve from glaciers vs. stay intact and slowly melt. The findings, published in Geophysical Research Letters May 20, could drastically increase the magnitude and quality of information on groundwater flowing through the Earth's poles, which had historically been limited to ground-based surveys over small distances.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210520133720.htm

Forests and climate change: 'We can't plant our way out of the climate crisis'
Some climate activists advocate large-scale tree-planting campaigns in forests around the world to suck up heat-trapping carbon dioxide and help rein in climate change.

Instead of wasting money by planting lots of trees in a way that is destined to fail, it makes more sense to focus on keeping existing forests healthy so they can continue to act as carbon "sinks," removing carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and storing it in trees and soils, according to the researchers. At the same time, emissions must be reduced as much as possible, as quickly as possible.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210520145334.htm

Earth's vegetation is changing faster today than it has over the last 18,000 years
A global survey of fossil pollen has discovered that the planet's vegetation is changing at least as quickly today as it did when the last ice sheets retreated around 10,000 years ago. Beginning some 3,000-to-4,000 years ago, Earth's plant communities began changing at an accelerating pace. Today, this pace rivals or exceeds the rapid turnover that took place as plants raced to colonize formerly frozen landscapes and adapt to a global climate that warmed by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

The research, published May 20 in Science, suggests that humanity's dominant influence on ecosystems that is so visible today has its origin in the earliest civilizations and the rise of agriculture, deforestation and other ways our species has influenced the landscape.

This work also suggests ecosystem rates of change will continue to accelerate over the coming decades, as modern climate change further adds to this long history of flux. And by showing that recent biodiversity trends are the start of a longer-term acceleration in ecosystem transformations, the new study provides context for other recent reports that global biodiversity changes have accelerated over the last century.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210520145347.htm

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