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Global Warming Could Cause Wildlife Loss in Rann of Kutch, India – December 22nd, 2012

24.0N 70.1E

December 22nd, 2012 Category: Climate Change, Image of the day, Wetlands

Pakistan and India – December 21st, 2012

Climate-related disasters have brought widespread misery and huge economic losses to India, adversely affecting public health, food security, agriculture, water resources and biodiversity. The situation is likely to worsen if human beings continue to pump ‘greenhouse gases’ like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These gases trap heat from the sun and thus lead to global warming.

As the Earth’s temperature rises, a series of reactions take place – for instance, sea levels rise and inundate land, weather patterns change and have an impact on agricultural productivity, precious fresh water evaporates faster, disease carrying vectors increase, thus leading to epidemics.

One place in India that may be particularly affected by climate change are the saltwater marshes and mudflats of the Rann of Kutch (appearing as a white area near the image center) in Gujarat. As global warming causes a rise in sea level, these marshes and mudflats are likely to be submerged. One of the largest breeding colonies of the Greater Flamingo and the habitat of the endangered Lesser Florican and Indian Wild Ass, both found in the Rann of Kutch, could also be lost.

Bodies of Water in the Western Half of Tibet’s Lakes Region

31.2N 83.5E

October 28th, 2009 Category: Climate Change, Lakes

Tibet, China - September 24th, 2009

Tibet, China - September 24th, 2009

Lakes of various colors interrupt the arid landscape of Tibet’s Lakes Region. The ones visible here, mainly salt or alkaline, are found at an altitude of about 4800 meters on the western side of the region.

Although the bodies of water visible here appear free of ice, lakes in this area often freeze solid due to the high altitude and low temperatures. In fact, the Tibetan Plateau contains the world’s third-largest store of ice.

The China Meteorological Administration has reported that temperatures in Tibet are rising four times faster than elsewhere in China, and that the Tibetan glaciers are retreating at a higher speed than in any other part of the world.

The administration noted that although this may be good for agriculture and tourism in the short term, it will cause also lakes to expand and bring floods and mudflows. In the long run the glaciers, which supply water to Asian rivers such as the Indus and the Ganges, could melt and disappear, putting water supplies in those regions in danger.

Ice-Free Foxe Basin in Late Summer, Canada – September 30th, 2009

67.7N 76.2W

September 30th, 2009 Category: Climate Change, Image of the day

Canada - August 26th, 2009Hudson Bay

Canada - August 26th, 2009

The waters of Foxe Basin, a shallow oceanic basin north of Hudson Bay, in Nunavut, Canada, located between Baffin Island (above) and the Melville Peninsula (left), appear greenish due to sediments and phytoplankton growth.

Foxe Basin is a broad, predominantly shallow depression, generally less than 100 metres (330 ft) in depth, while to the south, depths of up to 400 metres (1,300 ft) occur.

For most of the year, Foxe Basin is blocked by ice floes. In fact,  open pack ice is common throughout the summer and the basin is rarely ice-free until September.

In this image, taken in late August, very little ice is present, allowing the greenish waters to be observed. The nutrient-rich cold waters found in the basin are known to be especially favorable to phytoplankton and to have a high sediment content, explaining their color.

The numerous islands in the basin, including the rounded Prince Charles Island near the center, are important bird habitats. Bowhead whales migrate to the northern part of the basin each summer.

Also of note here is the bright white Barnes Ice Cap on central Baffin Island, north of Prince Charles Island. It covers close to 6000 km2 and has been thinning due to global warming. Between 1970 and 1984, the ice cap thinned 1.7 m. The ice cap is Canada’s oldest ice, being approximately 20,000 years old. It is a remnant of the Laurentide ice sheet, which covered much of Canada during the last ice age.

Climate Change Affects Lake Baikal, Russia – August 20th, 2009

53.1N 107.6E

August 20th, 2009 Category: Climate Change, Image of the day, Lakes

Lake Baikal, Russia - August 12th, 2009

Lake Baikal, Russia - August 12th, 2009

Olkhon Island

Olkhon Island



Siberia’s Lake Baikal, the world’s largest and most biologically diverse lake, faces the prospect of severe ecological disruption as a result of climate change, according to team of U.S. and Russian scientists, CNN reports.

Publishing their analysis in BioScience magazine the team found the most pressing threat came from the dependence of the lake’s food chain on microscopic algae. Lake Baikal’s algae are particularly vulnerable to expected reductions in the length of time the lake is frozen each winter. Here, the lake can be seen unfrozen during the summer months. For a winter image, please click here. The close-ups focus on the southern part of the lake and Irkutsk, Siberia’s largest city, Olkhon Island in the lake’s central section, and the Selenga River Delta on the eastern shores.

Selenga Delta

Selenga Delta

The report’s authors say Lake Baikal’s climate has become measurably milder over recent decades, and that annual precipitation is expected to increase. The average ice depth in the lake is believed to have decreased in recent decades, and the ice-free season to have increased. Changes in the lake’s food-chain composition have been noted, the scientists say.
Shorter periods of ice cover is expected to slow the growth of the lake’s algae, the authors say; the organisms bloom under the ice in springtime and are highly dependent on ice cover for their reproduction and growth.
Algae is the principal food of tiny crustaceans abundant in the lake, which in turn are food sources for the lake’s fish. The crustaceans could also be affected by changes in the transparency of the ice, an expected result of shifting precipitation and wind patterns.
Shortened periods of ice cover and changes in the ice’s transparency may also harm the Baikal seal, the lake’s top predator and the world’s only exclusively freshwater seal. Because the seals mate and give birth on the ice, premature melting forces them into the water before molting and drastically reduces their fertility, the authors say.
A warmer, wetter climate may be the principal threat to Lake Baikal’s unique biological heritage, but it is not the only one, say the report’s scientists. The secondary effects of climate change, including greater nutrient inputs and industrial pollution from melting permafrost, may also exact a toll on an already-stressed ecosystem.

Global Warming Threatens Coral Triangle

7.9N 117.0E

May 20th, 2009 Category: Climate Change

Palawan and Balabac Islands, Philippines - May 12th, 2009

Palawan and Balabac Islands, Philippines - May 12th, 2009

Balabac Island (bottom) and the southern tip of Palawan Island (top), in the Philippines, are located on the western edge of the Coral Triange.

The Coral Triangle is a geographical term referring to an area covering more than 5.4 million square kilometers in the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste with an abundance of coral reef.

Although the Coral Triangle covers only 1% of the earth’s surface, it contains a third of all the world’s coral, and three-quarters of its coral reef species.

It is the most diverse marine environment in the world, with over 600 reef-building coral species and more than 3,000 species of fish.

The world’s most important coral region is in danger of being wiped out by the end of this century unless fast action is taken, reports the BBC.

The international conservation group WWF warns that 40% of coral reefs and mangroves in the Coral Triangle have already been lost. Problems such as pollution and the inappropriate use of coastal areas are trapping CO2 in the ocean and causing water temperatures to rise (a 0.7 degree increase in temperature has already changed water currents), thus destroying the ocean’s productivity.

If the world’s richest coral reef is destroyed, the fish that people rely on for food could be gone. In the worst-case scenario, this means that by the end of the century, 100 million people across South East Asia could be on the march, looking for something to eat, thus breaking communities apart and ruining economies.

The WWF is calling for significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and better controls on fishing and coastal areas in order to avoid this worst-case scenario.