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Reading Recommendations

January 2019

The Oceans are warming faster than scientists thought

The world’s oceans are warming at an accelerated rate and are much warmer than scientists thought — and things could get a lot worse if nothing is done to stop climate change, according to a new study.


How 300 Years of Urbanization and Farming Transformed the Planet


Three centuries ago, humans were intensely using just around 5 percent of the Earth’s land. Now, it’s almost half. Humans are transforming the Earth through our carbon emissions. Arctic sea ice is shrinking, seas are rising, and the past four years have been the hottest since record-keeping began. But long before the first cars or coal plants, we were reshaping the planet’s ecosystems through humbler but no less dramatic means: pastures and plows.


City Lab

How to globalize the circular economy

Yong Geng, Joseph Sarkis & Raimund Bleischwitz

Set up an international platform to share data and experiences, and coordinate industrial policies and trade to conserve resources and energy.



NASA Science Shows Human Impact of Clean Air Policies

Steve Cole

As local, federal, and international policies targeting the quality of the air we breathe continue to evolve, questions arise of how effective existing policies have been in improving human health. For example, how many lives have been saved by tough air pollution policies? How many illnesses have been caused by lax policies?es will have greater incentives to conserve energy and pollute less.



Compounding tropical and stratospheric forcing of the record low Antarctic sea-ice in 2016

Guomin Wang et al.

After exhibiting an upward trend since 1979, Antarctic sea ice extent (SIE) declined dramatically during austral spring 2016, reaching a record low by December 2016. Here we show that a combination of atmospheric and oceanic phenomena played primary roles for this decline. The anomalous atmospheric circulation was initially driven by record strength tropical convection over the Indian and western Pacific Oceans.


Nature Communications

Agricultural practices contribute to global air pollution, the industry must adapt

Gary Fuller

What is the world’s most polluted city? Ask this question in the 1950s and early 1960s and the answer would have been London, having attained infamy for the deaths of thousands of its residents during thick pea souper smogs.



Air pollution

Priscilla Totiyapungprasert

SMOG HANGING OVER cities is the most familiar and obvious form of air pollution. But there are different kinds of pollution—some visible, some invisible—that contribute to global warming. Generally any substance that people introduce into the atmosphere that has damaging effects on living things and the environment is considered air pollution.


National Geographic

Anthropogenic stresses on the world’s big rivers

Jim Best

The world’s big rivers and their floodplains were central to development of civilization and are now home to c. 2.7 billion people. They are economically vital whilst also constituting some of the most diverse habitats on Earth. However, a number of anthropogenic stressors, including large-scale damming, hydrological change, pollution, introduction of non-native species and sediment mining, challenge their integrity and future, as never before.


Nature Geoscience

The Little Ice Age and 20th-century deep Pacific cooling

G. Gebbie, P. Huybers

Earth’s climate cooled considerably across the transition from the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age about 700 years ago. Theoretically, owing to how the ocean circulates, this cooling should be recorded in Pacific deep-ocean temperatures, where water that was on the surface then is found today. Gebbie and Huybers used an ocean circulation model and observations from both the end of the 19th century and the end of the 20th century to detect and quantify this trend. The ongoing deep Pacific is cooling, which revises Earth’s overall heat budget since 1750 downward by 35%.



A unified wetting and drying theory

Jacob Scheff

For years, theory and model simulations have strongly disagreed on whether global warming will lead to scarcer or more plentiful water supplies. An elegant study now supplies the missing theoretical piece, strengthening the case that global water resources will increase in a warmer world.


Nature Climate Change

Rise of carbon dioxide–absorbing mountains in tropics may set thermostat for global climate

By Paul Voosen

Hate the cold? Blame Indonesia. It may sound odd, given the contributions to global warming from the country’s 270 million people, rampant deforestation, and frequent carbon dioxide (CO2)-belching volcanic eruptions. But over much longer times, Indonesia is sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere.



From myths to action

Michael P. Vandenbergh & Kristian Steensen Nielsen

Correcting misperceptions provides an opportunity to reduce household GHG emissions across multiple domains. Now research shows that consumers greatly underestimate emissions from foods, but these misperceptions can be successfully corrected with carbon labelling.



Fire air pollution reduces global terrestrial productivity


Fire emissions generate air pollutants ozone (O3) and aerosols that influence the land carbon cycle. Surface O3 damages vegetation photosynthesis through stomatal uptake, while aerosols influence photosynthesis by increasing diffuse radiation. Here we combine several state-of-the-art models and multiple measurement datasets to assess the net impacts of fire-induced O3 damage and the aerosol diffuse fertilization effect on gross primary productivity (GPP) for the 2002–2011 period




Methane beneath Greenland’s ice sheet is being released

Lauren C. Andrews

Methane produced in sediments beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet is released to the atmosphere by meltwater in the summer. This suggests that glacial melt could be an important global source of this greenhouse gas.



Altimeter-era emergence of the patterns of forced sea-level rise in climate models and implications for the future

John T. Fasullo and R. Steven Nerem

Regional patterns of sea-level rise have been observed from satellites since 1993 and are associated with increased coastal impacts in many regions. It is unknown whether such patterns will be transient, arising from natural climate variations, or persistent, driven by external climate forcing. Here, using climate model ensembles, we demonstrate that forced changes are likely to have contributed significantly to observe altimeter-era patterns of rise and that these patterns may persist for decades to come, with increased intensity as climate change progresses.



Economic carbon cycle feedbacks may offset additional warming from natural feedbacks

Dawn L. Woodard, Steven J. Davis, and James T. Randerson

The response of different economic sectors and energy infrastructure to climate warming is complex and difficult to compare with land and ocean carbon cycle feedbacks. Our analysis provides a framework for assessing such economic responses and comparing climate feedbacks in integrated assessment and earth system models. A better understanding of the potential effect of an economically driven feedback may improve our ability to estimate limits on cumulative emissions necessary to meet specific climate stabilization targets.



Strengthened scientific support for the Endangerment Finding for atmospheric greenhouse gases

Christopher B. Field et al.

We assess scientific evidence that has emerged since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2009 Endangerment Finding for six well-mixed greenhouse gases, and find that this new evidence lends increased support to the conclusion that these gases pose a danger to public health and welfare.



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