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Archive for Climate Change

Climate Change Risks for Madeira Archipelago

32.7N 16.9W

June 25th, 2013 Category: Climate Change VIIRSSuomi-NPP

Canada – June 25th, 2013

Climate change can have severe effects on the natural environment, including water resources and ecosystems. Islands are unique systems more vulnerable to climate change than continental areas. Madeira, an Atlantic subtropical island (image center), has a quite unique flora and fauna and is considered a biodiversity ‘hot-spot’.

The lower altitudes of Madeira are predominantly occupied by urban areas and agricultural crops; exotic forest plantations are widespread at low- to mid-altitudes. The native forest, Laurissilva, an extremely important and rare ecosystem, occurs up to 1450 m and is replaced in higher altitudes by heaths and other altitude vegetation.

Future climatic scenarios project reduced rainfall and higher average temperatures across Madeira. The potentially suitable area for the main agricultural crops is expected to expand in altitude. Suitable area for the exotic forests and the Laurissilva is expected to increase as the expansion in altitude will be greater than the retraction in lower reaches.

The suitable climatic range for heaths will suffer a severe reduction: it is expected to retract in lower reaches but cannot expand in altitude because it is predominantly in the higher elevations already. These shifts in habitat distributions may translate into large changes in ecosystem services supply. Altitude species, including endemic and rare ones, may suffer range reductions or even disappear (click here for more information).

Climate Change and the Loss of Sea Ice in the Canadian Arctic

69.0N 120.4W

June 24th, 2013 Category: Climate Change MODISTerra

Canada – June 22nd, 2013

Climate change affects every part of the world in a different way, but most experts agree the North will be impacted more than any other region. Sea ice spans most of the Arctic’s coastal and inter-island channels from eight to 12 months of the year and supports a number of species. It’s expected to undergo the most significant transformation.

The effects of climate change in the North are not new occurrences. Actually, changes have been happening for quite some time. Over the past 25 years, Inuit and scientists have observed a decrease of roughly seven percent in sea ice area, with the largest rate of decrease during the summer months.

Using highly scientific models of prediction, it has been determined that if warming trends continue at their current rate, by the end of this century the Arctic Ocean will be nearly ice-free during the summer.

If Arctic sea ice melted away, large sections of the Arctic Archipelago would open up. This would create more noise, traffic, pollution and safety issues for both humans and wildlife. Because of increased noise, traffic and pollution, marine ecosystems would be disturbed. Sea ice is a major control on the interactions between marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

The undersurface of sea ice is a growth site for algae and invertebrates that sustain the food web (a food source for many types of fish). If sea ice melted away there would be a decrease in amounts of sub-ice phytoplankton, a key source of food for copepods and fish. The fish that depend on phytoplankton for food are a main source of nutrition for narwhals, beluga whales and seals. Polar bears depend on seals for food. Because of sea-ice depletion and a decrease in marine food, seal populations would drop, having a direct impact on polar bears.

Human beings are ultimately being affected by a decrease of sea ice in many ways. Northern communities have reported changes in the physical environment over the last 20 to 30 years. They have not been able to hunt as much because of a lack of traditional food species such as fish, seals and whales. Hunters depend on these species not only for food but also for money, as they can sell tusks or furs. In addition, a warmer climate could cause difficulty in conserving perishable food through cold-storage or natural freezing. Should sea ice thaw and the Arctic Archipelago open up there would be safety issues because the area would be more prone to landslides, floods and overall lack of coastal stability (click here for more information).

Arctic Ice by Canada and Greenland

80.8N 71.4W

June 24th, 2013 Category: Climate Change MODISTerra

Canada and Greenland – June 22nd, 2013

This image shows glacial ice and sea ice in the Arctic, between Canada and Greenland. Effects of Arctic climate change include a marked decrease in Arctic sea ice; thawing permafrost, leading to the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas; the release of methane from clathrates, leading to longer time-scale methane release; the observed increase in melt on the Greenland Ice Sheet in recent years; and potential changes in patterns of ocean circulation.

Scientists worry that some of these effects may cause positive feedbacks which could accelerate the rate of global warming. The sea ice in the Arctic region is in itself important in maintaining global climate due to its albedo (reflectivity). Melting of this sea ice will therefore exacerbate global warming due to positive feedback effects, where warming creates more warming by increased solar absorption.

Climate Change and Water Levels in Great Slave Lake, Canada

62.6N 110.5W

June 23rd, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Lakes MODISTerra

Canada – June 22nd, 2013

A wide array of climate change scenarios arise from global climate models, with a clear warming trend common to most of them. All lakes and reservoirs in Canada will be affected by climate change.

Models have shown that Canada’s large lakes, such as the Great Slave Lake, visible here, indicate that the over-lake meteorological conditions are conducive to increased annual lake evaporation. Under sunny conditions, the Great Slave Lake can increase its seasonal evaporation by 28% (click here for more information).

Climate Change’s Effect on Glaciers Around Lake Issyk Kul, Kazakhstan

40.6N 79.6E

June 22nd, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Deserts, Lakes VIIRSSuomi-NPP

Kazakhstan and China – June 21st, 2013

In the last 15 years, all of the 22 glaciers around Lake Issyk Kul (center, between Lake Balqash and the Taklamakan Desert), in Kazakhstan, have retreated. There are a number of reasons for the degradation of glaciation in Issyk Kul, but the increase in surface pollution and climate change are the main ones.

Both contribute to more intense melting and therefore degrade the mass balance of the glacier. The average yearly temperature in the glaciation zone has risen by 0.2ºC; summers are warmer by 0.6ºC, evidenced not only by melting rates but by a longer ablation period. This continued warming trend will accelerate glacial collapse and, most important, lead to a change in the water volume in the rivers the glaciers help to feed (click here for more information).