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Reading Recommendations

October 2020

Climate Change May Cause More Storms to Rapidly Intensify, As Delta Did Hurricane Delta is currently churning toward the Gulf Coast, expected to make landfall in Louisiana later today. Delta is the 25th named storm this season and the ninth hurricane. It’s the earliest in the year that any season has reached 25 storms. An average Atlantic hurricane season sees only 12 named storms, six of which typically become hurricanes and three of which grow into major hurricanes.   Scientific American
A comprehensive quantification of global nitrous oxide sources and sinks Nitrous oxide (N2O), like carbon dioxide, is a long-lived greenhouse gas that accumulates in the atmosphere. Over the past 150 years, increasing atmospheric N2O concentrations have contributed to stratospheric ozone depletion1 and climate change2, with the current rate of increase estimated at 2 per cent per decade. Existing national inventories do not provide a full picture of N2O emissions, owing to their omission of natural sources and limitations in methodology for attributing anthropogenic sources.   NATURE
Dissolved black carbon is not likely a significant refractory organic carbon pool in rivers and oceans Rivers are the major carriers of dissolved black carbon (DBC) from land to ocean; the sources of DBC during its continuous transformation and cycling in the ocean, however, are not well characterized. Here, we present new carbon isotope data for DBC in four large and two small mountainous rivers, the Yangtze and Yellow river estuaries, the East China Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. We found that the carbon isotope signatures of DBC are relatively homogeneous, and the DBC 14C ages in rivers are predominantly young and increase during continuous transport and cycling in the ocean. The results of charcoal leaching experiments indicate that DBC is released from charcoal and degraded by bacteria.   NATURE
Personal exposure to fine particulate air pollutants impacts blood pressure and heart rate variability Air pollution has increasingly been recognized as a major healthcare concern. Air pollution, particularly fine particulate matter (≤ 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter [PM2.5]) has demonstrated an increase in adverse cardiovascular events.   NATURE
Temperature variability implies greater economic damages from climate change A number of influential assessments of the economic cost of climate change rely on just a small number of coupled climate–economy models. A central feature of these assessments is their accounting of the economic cost of epistemic uncertainty—that part of our uncertainty stemming from our inability to precisely estimate key model parameters, such as the Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity. However, these models fail to account for the cost of aleatory uncertainty—the irreducible uncertainty that remains even when the true parameter values are known. We show how to account for this second source of uncertainty in a physically well-founded and tractable way, and we demonstrate that even modest variability implies trillions of dollars of previously unaccounted for economic damages.   NATURE
Burn more oil.’ Exxon’s internal plans reveal rising CO2 Darren Woods entered 2018 with big plans for Exxon Mobil Corp. In a presentation to investors early that year, the CEO of America’s most prominent oil company outlined a strategy to double Exxon’s earnings by 2025. It called for a massive increase in drilling: 25 new projects capable of boosting production by about 1 million barrels a day.   E&E
The Earth Is on Fire It’s immoral to saddle today’s young people with an inheritance of environmental catastrophe. As some of the worst wildfires on record tear through the American West, painting the sky orange, and as hurricanes ravage the South, leaving behind apocalyptic fields of ruin. In today’s pandemic moment, nature’s storyline has reached a low point.   Scientific American
Crop switching reduces agricultural losses from climate change in the United States by half under RCP 8.5 A key strategy for agriculture to adapt to climate change is by switching crops and relocating crop production. We develop an approach to estimate the economic potential of crop reallocation using a Bayesian hierarchical model of yields. We apply the model to six crops in the United States, and show that it outperforms traditional empirical models under cross-validation. The fitted model parameters provide evidence of considerable existing climate adaptation across counties. If crop locations are held constant in the future, total agriculture profits for the six crops will drop by 31% for the temperature patterns of 2070 under RCP 8.5.   NATURE
Oil companies push into biorefining French firm Total is latest to convert a fossil fuel refinery to biofuels, but the trend has its limits. The French oil and petrochemical giant Total will invest around $600 million to convert its refinery in Seine-et-Marne, France, from refining petroleum to refining natural oils and fats. Other oil companies are also deploying this strategy in response to the Paris climate agreement and coming legislation in California.   CEN
Biomass-burning-derived particles from a wide variety of fuels – Part 2: Effects of photochemical aging on particle optical and chemical properties Particles in smoke emitted from biomass combustion have a large impact on global climate and urban air quality. There is limited understanding of how particle optical properties – especially the contributions of black carbon (BC) and brown carbon (BrC) – evolve with photochemical aging of smoke.   Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Greenland Is Melting at Some of the Fastest Rates in 12,000 Years If greenhouse gas emissions do not decline, melt rates could quadruple and further add to sea level rise. The vast Greenland ice sheet is melting at some of its fastest rates in the past 12,000 years. And it could quadruple over the next 80 years if greenhouse gas emissions don’t decline dramatically in the coming decades. Research published yesterday in the journal Nature warns that the ice sheet’s future losses depend heavily on how quickly humans cut carbon emissions today.   Scientific American
Banks pushed to track carbon-heavy lending A first-of-its-kind framework to push banks, insurers and other financial firms to set emissions reduction targets was released yesterday by a coalition of environmental groups. The coalition, known as the Science Based Targets initiative, has identified nearly 1,000 companies across the economy that are working to take “science-based climate action.” Nearly half of those companies have received a stamp of approval by the initiative, which was formed in 2015 and whose members include the U.N. Global Compact, the World Wide Fund for Nature, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and CDP, an environmental nonprofit.   E&E
Fire in our future It can seem like Earth itself is on fire. In places such as Australia and California for which fire is a natural feature, landscapes are burning at historic if not epic scales. In the Arctic and Greenland, where fire is rare, tundra is smoldering and melting permafrost. In Amazonia, Indonesia, and Mediterranean Europe, fires are interacting with the land clearing of rainforest, the draining of peatlands, and the abandonment of rural lands to create damaging, even lethal conditions. There is no single driver except humanity behind this outbreak. But increasingly, anthropogenic climate change is recognized as an enabler, performance enhancer, and globalizer. Fire seasons are lengthening, fire severity is escalating, and collateral damages are compounding.   SCIENCE
Atmospheric dispersion of methane emissions from sugarcane burning in Mexico Methane is a potent greenhouse gas whose atmospheric dispersion may have different implications at distinct scales. One significant contributor to methane emissions is sugarcane farming in tropical areas like in Mexico, which has the sixth highest production level in the world.   Environmental Pollution
Europe is building a ‘digital twin’ of Earth to revolutionize climate forecasts The European Union is finalizing plans for an ambitious “digital twin” of planet Earth that would simulate the atmosphere, ocean, ice, and land with unrivaled precision, providing forecasts of floods, droughts, and fires from days to years in advance. Destination Earth, as the effort is called, won’t stop there: It will also attempt to capture human behavior, enabling leaders to see the impacts of weather events and climate change on society and gauge the effects of different climate policies.   SCIENCE
Ninety Percent of U.S. Cars Must Be Electric by 2050 to Meet Climate Goals Any move away from gas-powered cars should also be accompanied by efforts to beef up public transportation. The United States is not expected to electrify passenger cars fast enough to stay on track with the Paris climate accord’s goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, according to a new study. Published in the journal Nature Climate Change yesterday, the study by engineers at the University of Toronto concludes that 90% of light-duty cars on American roads would need to be electric by 2050 to keep the transportation sector in line with climate mitigation targets.   Scientific American
The worst is yet to come for the Greenland ice sheet An assessment of past, present and future ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet shows that rates of loss in the twenty‑first century will be much higher than those at any time during the past 11,700 years.   NATURE
Can China, the world’s biggest coal consumer, become carbon neutral by 2060? China’s surprise pledge last week to cut its net carbon emissions to zero within 40 years has reignited hopes of limiting global climate change to tolerable levels. The country is the world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide (CO2), accounting for 28% of global emissions, and its move may inspire other countries to follow suit. But observers warn that China faces daunting challenges in reaching its goals. Kicking its coal habit will be particularly hard.   SCIENCE
Anatomy of the March 2016 severe ozone smog episode in Mexico-City This paper reports continuous detection of the daytime convective boundary layer height, the stable boundary layer height, and the residual layer height as estimated from the vertical profiles of virtual potential temperature, and moisture retrieved from a microwave radiometer (MWR) in Mexico City for the period 6–18 March 2016.   Atmospheric Environment
Future warming exacerbated by aged-soot effect on cloud formation Clouds play a critical role in modulating the Earth’s radiation balance and climate. Anthropogenic aerosol particles that undergo aging processes, such as soot, aid cloud droplet and ice crystal formation and thus influence the microphysical structure of clouds.   NATURE
Human Activity is Increasing Severity and Frequency of Major Marine Heatwaves Marine heatwaves have become more than 20 times more frequent over the past 40 years due to human activity and the burning of greenhouse gases, according to a new study published in the journal Science. The research is the first to analyze the anthropogenic impacts on marine heatwaves, and points to the need for ambitious climate action.   Yale Environment 360
High-impact marine heatwaves attributable to human-induced global warming Anthropogenic climate change is causing not only more episodes of historically high air temperatures but also more frequent spells of unusually increased ocean temperatures. Marine heatwaves, defined as periods of anonymously high regional surface ocean temperatures, have also become common in recent decades. SCIENCE
Mapping carbon accumulation potential from global natural forest regrowth To constrain global warming, we must strongly curtail greenhouse gas emissions and capture excess atmospheric carbon dioxide. Regrowing natural forests is a prominent strategy for capturing additional carbon, but accurate assessments of its potential are limited by uncertainty and variability in carbon accumulation rates. To assess why and where rates differ, here we compile 13,112 georeferenced measurements of carbon accumulation. Climatic factors explain variation in rates better than land-use history, so we combine the field measurements with 66 environmental covariate layers to create a global, one-kilometre-resolution map of potential aboveground carbon accumulation rates for the first 30 years of natural forest regrowth.   NATURE
Investigating PM2.5 responses to other air pollutants and meteorological factors across multiple temporal scales In this study, we explored such interaction at various temporal scales, taking the city of Nanjing, China as a case study ensemble empirical mode decomposition-meteorological factors-Daily scales NATURE
The hysteresis of the Antarctic Ice Sheet More than half of Earth’s freshwater resources are held by the Antarctic Ice Sheet, which thus represents by far the largest potential source for global sea-level rise under future warming conditions1. Its long-term stability determines the fate of our coastal cities and cultural heritage. Feedbacks between ice, atmosphere, ocean, and the solid Earth give rise to potential nonlinearities in its response to temperature changes. So far, we are lacking a comprehensive stability analysis of the Antarctic Ice Sheet for different amounts of global warming. Here we show that the Antarctic Ice Sheet exhibits a multitude of temperature thresholds beyond which ice loss is irreversible.   NATURE
China Says It Will Stop Releasing CO2 within 40 Years The surprise announcement vaults the country ahead of U.S. climate ambitions and could encourage developing countries to follow suit. China pledged yesterday to stop releasing carbon emissions before 2060 in a surprise move that catapults it ahead of U.S. ambitions on climate change and instantly raised questions about whether it can radically alter its status as the world’s top emitter within 40 years.   Scientific American
Evaluating scenarios toward zero plastic pollution It is not clear what strategies will be most effective in mitigating harm from the global problem of plastic pollution. Borrelle et al. and Lau et al. discuss possible solutions and their impacts. Both groups found that substantial reductions in plastic-waste generation can be made in the coming decades with immediate, concerted, and vigorous action, but even in the best case scenario, huge quantities of plastic will still accumulate in the environment.   SCIENCE
The Age of Megafires: The World Hits a Climate Tipping Point From Siberia to Australia to the western U.S., massive fires have consumed millions of acres this year and spawned fire-generated tornados and other phenomena rarely seen before. Scientists say the world has entered a perilous new era that will demand better ways of fighting wildfires.   Yale Environment 360
Global Biodiversity Is in Free Fall A U.N. report reveals that countries worldwide have failed to meet key conservation targets set for 2020. The 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets were established under the U.N.’s Convention on Biological Diversity at a conference in Japan in 2010. Their aim was to protect the world’s imperiled flora and fauna by 2020. Many human activities can shrink biodiversity, including deforestation, pollution and the introduction of invasive species. The Aichi goals to counter losses were equally diverse. But experts say the participating countries have failed, in large part, because they have struggled to address conservation while focusing on their economies and rising populations.   Scientific American
An astronomically dated record of Earth’s climate and its predictability over the last 66 million years Deep-sea benthic foraminifera preserve an essential record of Earth’s past climate in their oxygen- and carbon-isotope compositions. However, this record lacks sufficient temporal resolution and/or age control in some places to determine which climate forcing and feedback mechanisms were most important. Westerhold et al. present a highly resolved and well-dated record of benthic carbon and oxygen isotopes for the past 66 million years. Their reconstruction and analysis show that Earth’s climate can be grouped into discrete states separated by transitions related to changing greenhouse gas levels and the growth of polar ice sheets. Each climate state is paced by orbital cycles but responds to variations in radiative forcing in a state-dependent manner.   SCIENCE