Current environmental issues

Clouds are notoriously hard to simulate in computer programs that model climate. A new study suggests why -- either clouds are more variable than scientists give them credit for, or those bright white clouds in the sky are much dirtier than scientists thought.

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The July average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.46°F (0.81°C) above the 20th century average. As July is climatologically the warmest month for the year, this was also the all-time highest monthly temperature in the 1880-2015 record, at 61.86°F (16.61°C), surpassing the previous record set in 1998 by 0.14°F (0.08°C). For more information click here.

Scientists have observed an increase in carbon dioxide's greenhouse effect at Earth's surface for the first time. They measured atmospheric carbon dioxide's increasing capacity to absorb thermal radiation emitted from Earth's surface over an 11-year period at two locations in North America. They attributed this upward trend to rising carbon dioxide levels from fossil fuel emissions. 

"We see, for the first time in the field, the amplification of the greenhouse effect because there's more CO2 in the atmosphere to absorb what the Earth emits in response to incoming solar radiation," says Daniel Feldman, a scientist in Berkeley Lab's Earth Sciences Division and lead author of the Nature paper.

The measurements also enabled the scientists to detect, for the first time, the influence of photosynthesis on the balance of energy at the surface. They found that CO2-attributed radiative forcing dipped in the spring as flourishing photosynthetic activity pulled more of the greenhouse gas from the air.

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An ultra-high-resolution NASA computer model has given scientists a stunning new look at how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere travels around the globe.

Plumes of carbon dioxide in the simulation swirl and shift as winds disperse the greenhouse gas away from its sources. The simulation also illustrates differences in carbon dioxide levels in the northern and southern hemispheres and distinct swings in global carbon dioxide concentrations as the growth cycle of plants and trees changes with the seasons.

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The Antarctic ozone hole reached its annual peak size on Sept. 11, according to scientists. The size of this year's hole was 24.1 million square kilometers (9.3 million square miles) -- an area roughly the size of North America. For more information, clicke here.

Noting that “climate change is one of the defining issues of our time,” a 26 February report jointly issued by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Royal Society in the United Kingdom aims to provide a clearly written reference document for policy makers, educators, and others about the current state of climate change science. More information can be found here.

Τhe majority of Europe will experience higher warming than the global average if surface temperatures rise to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, according to a new study published today.Under such a scenario, temperatures greater than the 2 °C global average will be experienced in Northern and Eastern Europe in winter and Southern Europe in summer; however, North-Western Europe -- specifically the UK -- will experience a lower relative warming.

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Click here to find out how the extremely low temperatures in North America are related to the global warming!

NASA scientists have revealed the inner workings of the ozone hole that forms annually over Antarctica and found that declining chlorine in the stratosphere has not yet caused a recovery of the ozone hole. Please read the full article here.

Glaciers in West Antarctica and Greenland are discharging ice into the oceans in response to warming, and sea levels have risen as a result. Yet we hear little about the much larger East Antarctic ice sheet, thought less vulnerable to climate change because of its location in an extremely cold climate. In "Nature" journal  comes evidence from satellite imagery that the glaciers along the Pacific coast of East Antarctica are in fact responding to decadal climate variability. A summary of this study can be found here.

The global treaty that headed off destruction of earth's protective ozone layer has also prevented major disruption of global rainfall patterns, even though that was not a motivation for the treaty, according to a new study in the Journal of Climate. More information can be found here.

According to a newly-published NOAA-led study in Geophysical Research Letters, as the globe warms from rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, more moisture in a warmer atmosphere will make the most extreme precipitation events more intense.

The study shows a 20-30 percent expected increase in the maximum precipitation possible over large portions of the Northern Hemisphere by the end of the 21st century if greenhouse gases continue to rise at a high emissions rate.

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A team led by the University of Colorado Boulder looking for clues about why Earth did not warm as much as scientists expected between 2000 and 2010 now thinks the culprits are hiding in plain sight -- dozens of volcanoes spewing sulfur dioxide. More information can be found HERE.

Although Earth's atmosphere consists of nearly 80% dinitrogen (nitrogen gas, N2), most living organisms cannot use this form of the element and require it to be converted into usable forms, such as ammonia. Humans have long exploited the ability of leguminous crops to fix dinitrogen into usable reactive nitrogen compounds, improving soil fertility. But the amount of reactive nitrogen produced in this way is now greatly exceeded by that produced industrially. Together with nitrogen oxides, another form of reactive nitrogen produced as a by-product of combustion processes, nitrogen compounds released into the environment by human activity are weaving a web of unforeseen consequences. Liu et al. quantify in their paper in "Nature" the massive scale of these changes to the nitrogen cycle across China, which are a direct result of increases in human activities such as food production, travel and energy consumption.

The average area covered by the Antarctic ozone hole this year was the second smallest in the last 20 years, according to data from NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites. Scientists attribute the change to warmer temperatures in the Antarctic lower stratosphere. More in Science Daily

The steady and dramatic decline in the sea ice cover of the Arctic Ocean over the last three decades has become a focus of media and public attention. At the opposite end of Earth, however, something more complex is happening. More in Science Daily web page

For decades, scientists have known that the effects of global climate change could have a potentially devastating impact across the globe, but Harvard researchers say there is now evidence that it may also have a dramatic impact on public health.

As reported in a paper published in the July 27 issue of Science, a team of researchers led by James G. Anderson, the Philip S. Weld Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry, are warning that a newly-discovered connection between climate change and depletion of the ozone layer over the U.S. could allow more damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation to reach the Earth's surface, leading to increased incidence of skin cancer.

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The greatest climate change the world has seen in the last 100,000 years was the transition from the ice age to the warm interglacial period. New research from the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen indicates that, contrary to previous opinion, the rise in temperature and the rise in the atmospheric CO2 follow each other closely in terms of time. The results have been published in the scientific journal, Climate of the Past.

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According to NOAA scientists, the globally averaged temperature for June 2012 marked the fourth warmest June since record keeping began in 1880. June 2012 also marks the 36th consecutive June and 328th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average temperature June was June 1976 and the last below-average temperature month was February 1985. More in

Observational analyses have shown the width of the tropical belt increasing in recent decades as the world has warmed. This expansion is important because it is associated with shifts in large-scale atmospheric circulationand major climate zones. Inn a new study, just published in "Nature" journal,  a climate model with detailed aerosol physics is used to show that increases in heterogeneous warming agents—including black carbon aerosols and tropospheric ozone—are noticeably better than greenhouse gases at driving expansion, and can account for the observed summertime maximum in tropical expansion. Mechanistically, atmospheric heating from black carbon and tropospheric ozone has occurred at the mid-latitudes, generating a poleward shift of the tropospheric jet, thereby relocating the main division between tropical and temperature air masses. More in

In celebration of this year's Earth Day on April 22, NASA's Webby Award-winning Global Climate Change website, , has unveiled a new version of its popular image gallery, "State of Flux." The gallery, which can be found at , presents stunning images, mostly from space, of our ever-changing planet, chronicling changes taking place over time periods ranging from days to centuries. More in

The past decade has been one of unprecedented weather extremes. Scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany argue that the high incidence of extremes is not merely accidental. From the many single events a pattern emerges. At least for extreme rainfall and heat waves the link with human-caused global warming is clear, the scientists show in a new analysis of scientific evidence in the journal Nature Climate Change. Less clear is the link between warming and storms, despite the observed increase in the intensity of hurricanes.

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The Montreal Protocol led to a global phase-out of most substances that deplete the ozone layer, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). A happy side-effect of the gradual ban of these products is that Earth's climate has also benefited because CFCs are also potent greenhouse gases. However, now a "rebound effect" threatens to accelerate the rate of global warming. More in

Earth's clouds got a little lower, about one percent on average, during the first decade of this century, finds a new NASA-funded university study based on NASA satellite data. The results have potential implications for future global climate. More in

The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists. The finding continues a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000. More in

A new study led by a NASA scientist highlights 14 key air pollution control measures that, if implemented, could slow the pace of global warming, improve health and boost agricultural production. More in

A high-resolution reconstruction of past sea-ice cover changes in the Arctic shows that the recent sea-ice loss is unprecedented in the past 1,450 years. This supports the suggestion that the recent decrease in summer Arctic sea ice is consistent with forcings from anthropogenic warming. More in

According to a new paper published in "Nature", the climate models suggest that the conversion of forest to grasslands or crops could create a cooling effect through an increase in surface albedo, and this work shows that the models are right. More in

Increased emissions of black carbon, sulphates and other polluting aerosols have altered the atmospheric circulation in the pre-monsoon season over the Arabian Sea, leading to decreased vertical wind shear. These anthropogenic emissions appear to have caused an increase in the intensity of tropical cyclones in the pre-monsoon season.  More details in

The Antarctic ozone hole, which yawns wide every Southern Hemisphere spring, reached its annual peak on September 12, stretching 10.05 million square miles, the ninth largest on record. Above the South Pole, the ozone hole reached its deepest point of the season on October 9 when total ozone readings dropped to 102 Dobson units, tied for the 10th lowest in the 26-year record. More information in

 If global warming continues as expected, it is estimated that almost a third of all flora and fauna species worldwide could become extinct. More information in

Several large-scale climate patterns influenced climate conditions and weather patterns across the globe during 2010.

The 2010 average global land and ocean surface temperature was among the two warmest years on record.

Annual global precipitation over land areas was about five percent above normal. Precipitation over the ocean was drier than normal after a wet year in 2009.

Sea ice conditions in the Arctic were significantly different than those in the Antarctic during the year.

Greenland glaciers lost more mass than any other year in the decade-long record.

Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continued to rise and ozone depleting substances continued to decrease.

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The percent of contiguous U.S. land area experiencing exceptional drought in July reached the highest levels in the history of the U.S. Drought Monitor. More in

Aerosol particles, including soot and sulfur dioxide from burning fossil fuels, essentially mask the effects of greenhouse gases and are at the heart of the biggest uncertainty in climate change prediction. New research from the University of Michigan shows that satellite-based projections of aerosols' effect on Earth's climate significantly underestimate their impacts.

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On March 23 every year, the world meteorological community celebrates Meteorology. The theme differs every year. This year's theme is "Climate for You". On the following link you can see the message of the Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization on the occasion of the World Meteorological Day 2011.

A novel explanation for the long-term temperature record in Antarctic ice cores invokes local solar radiation as the driving agent. This proposal will prompt palaeoclimate scientists to pause and to go back to basics. More information in

The overcast skies were almost three times brighter than clear at our rural location, and ten times as bright within the city itself. More information at