Friday, May 16, 2008

New Climate Change Study

What a coincidence. Yesterday, I blogged about the James Dobson et al "We Get It" effort to deny climate change. Yesterday, NASA scientists issued a new report showing a strong causal link between human activity and climate change. Here is the Science Daily report:

A vast array of physical and biological systems across the earth are being affected by warming temperatures caused by humans, says a new analysis of information not previously assembled all in one spot. The effects on living things include earlier leafing of trees and plants over many regions; movements of species to higher latitudes and altitudes in the northern hemisphere; changes in bird migrations in Europe, North America and Australia; and shifting of the oceans' plankton and fish from cold- to warm-adapted communities.

"Humans are influencing climate through increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and the warming world is causing impacts on physical and biological systems attributable at the global scale," said lead author Cynthia Rosenzweig, a scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Columbia Center for Climate Systems Research. Both are affiliates of The Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Observed impacts included changes to physical systems, such as glaciers shrinking, permafrost melting, and lakes and rivers warming. Biological systems also were impacted in a variety of ways, such as leaves unfolding and flowers blooming earlier in the spring, birds arriving earlier during migration periods, and plant and animal species moving toward Earth's poles and higher in elevation. In aquatic environments such as oceans, lakes, and rivers, plankton and fish are shifting from cold-adapted to warm-adapted communities.

Rosenzweig and researchers from 10 other institutions across the world analyzed data from published papers on 829 physical systems and some 28,800 plant and animal systems, stretching back to 1970. Their analysis of revealed a picture of changes on continental scales; previous studies had looked mainly at single phenomena, or smaller areas. In physical systems, 95% of observed changes are consistent with warming trends. These include wastage of glaciers on all continents; melting permafrost; earlier spring river runoff; and warming of water bodies. Among living creatures inhabiting such systems, 90% of changes are consistent with warming.

The researchers say it is unlikely that any force but human-influenced climate change could be driving all this; factors like deforestation or natural climate variations could not explain it. Their work builds upon the consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which in 2007 declared manmade climate warming "likely" to have discernible effects on biological and physical systems.

"It was a real challenge to separate the influence of human-caused temperature increases from natural climate variations or other confounding factors, such as land-use changes or pollution," said coauthor David Karoly, a climate scientist at the University of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. "This was possible only through the combined efforts of our multi-disciplinary team, which examined observed changes in many different systems around the globe, as well as global climate model simulations of temperature changes."

Read it all here. Further coverage can be gound at the Nature Climate Feedback blog and at Gristmill.

You can read my previous posts on Climate change here.

1 comment:

eredux said...

Check out this US Carbon Footprint Map, an interactive United States Carbon Footprint Map, illustrating Greenest States. This site has all sorts of stats on individual State energy consumptions, demographics and State energy offices.