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03:53 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2013

Soil microbial respiration from observations and Earth System Models

Soil microbial respiration (Rh) is a large but uncertain component of the terrestrial carbon cycle. Carbon–climate feedbacks associated with changes to Rh are likely, but Rh parameterization in Earth System Models (ESMs) has not been rigorously evaluated largely due to a lack of appropriate measurements. Here we assess, for the first time, Rh estimates from eight ESMs and their environmental drivers across several biomes against a comprehensive soil respiration database (SRDB-V2). Climatic, vegetation, and edaphic factors exert strong controls on annual Rh in ESMs, but these simple controls are not as apparent in the observations. This raises questions regarding the robustness of ESM projections of Rh in response to future climate change. Since there are many more soil respiration (Rs) observations than Rh data, two 'reality checks' for ESMs are also created using the Rs data. Guidance is also provided on the Rh improvement in ESMs.
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:20 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2018

Climate effects of non-compliant Volkswagen diesel cars

On-road operations of Volkswagen light-duty diesel vehicles equipped with defeat devices cause emissions of NOx up to 40 times above emission standards. Higher on-road NOx emissions are a widespread problem not limited to Volkswagen vehicles, but the Volkswagen violations brought this issue under the spotlight. While several studies investigated the health impacts of high NOx emissions, the climatic impacts have not been quantified. Here we show that such diesel cars generate a larger warming on the time scale of several years but a smaller warming on the decadal time scale during actual on-road operations than in vehicle certification tests. The difference in longer-term warming levels, however, depends on underlying driving conditions. Furthermore, in the presence of defeat devices, the climatic advantage of 'clean diesel' cars over gasoline cars, in terms of global-mean temperature change, is in our view not necessarily the case.
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:05 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2014

Internal variability of Earth's energy budget simulated by CMIP5 climate models

We analyse a large number of multi-century pre-industrial control simulations from the fifth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) to investigate relationships between: net top-of-atmosphere radiation (TOA), globally averaged surface temperature (GST), and globally integrated ocean heat content (OHC) on decadal timescales. Consistent with previous studies, we find that large trends (~0.3 K dec−1) in GST can arise from internal climate variability and that these trends are generally an unreliable indicator of TOA over the same period. In contrast, trends in total OHC explain 95% or more of the variance in TOA for two-thirds of the models analysed; emphasizing the oceans' role as Earth's primary energy store. Correlation of trends in total system energy (TE ≡ time integrated TOA) against trends in OHC suggests that for most models the ocean becomes the dominant term in the planetary energy budget on a timescale of about 12 months. In the context of the recent pause in global surface temperature rise, we investigate the potential importance of internal climate variability in both TOA and ocean heat rearrangement. The model simulations suggest that both factors can account for O (0.1 W m−2) on decadal timescales and may play an important role in the recently observed trends in GST and 0–700 m (and 0–1800 m) ocean heat uptake.
  • Published: 2014
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:32 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2015

Energy for water and water for energy on Maui Island, Hawaii

Energy and water systems are interconnected. This work first characterizes 2010 primary energy demand for direct water services and local freshwater demand for energy on Maui Island, Hawaii, then investigates scenarios for future changes in these demands. The goal of this manuscript is to dissect the relationship and trends of energy–water connections to inform policymaking decisions related to water and energy planning. Analysis proceeds by inventorying water and energy flows and adjusting to a 2010 base year, then applying intensity factors for energy or water used at a given stage for a given sector to determine absolute energy and water demands for the isolated system of Maui Island. These bottom-up, intensity-based values are validated against published data where available. Maui consumes about 0.05% of its freshwater for energy (versus >6% for the US on average) and about 32% of its electricity (19% of its on-island primary energy) for direct water services (versus 8% of primary energy for the US on average). These values could change with policy choices like increased instream flows, higher wastewater treatment standards, electricity fuel mix changes, desalination, or increased biofuels production. This letter contributes a granular assessment of both energy for water and water for energy in a single isolated system, highlighting opportunities to address energy–water interdependencies in a context that could be relevant in other communities facing similar choices.
  • Published: 2015
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
02:24 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2018

Global predictability of temperature extremes

Extreme temperatures are one of the leading causes of death and disease in both developed and developing countries, and heat extremes are projected to rise in many regions. To reduce risk, heatwave plans and cold weather plans have been effectively implemented around the world. However, much of the world's population is not yet protected by such systems, including many data-scarce but also highly vulnerable regions. In this study, we assess at a global level where such systems have the potential to be effective at reducing risk from temperature extremes, characterizing (1) long-term average occurrence of heatwaves and coldwaves, (2) seasonality of these extremes, and (3) short-term predictability of these extreme events three to ten days in advance. Using both the NOAA and ECMWF weather forecast models, we develop global maps indicating a first approximation of the locations that are likely to benefit from the development of seasonal preparedness plans and/or short-term early warning systems for extreme temperature. The extratropics generally show both short-term skill as well as strong seasonality; in the tropics, most locations do also demonstrate one or both. In fact, almost 5 billion people live in regions that have seasonality and predictability of heatwaves and/or coldwaves. Climate adaptation investments in these regions can take advantage of seasonality and predictability to reduce risks to vulnerable populations.
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:48 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2018

A decade of remotely sensed observations highlight complex processes linked to coastal permafrost bluff erosion in the Arctic

Eroding permafrost coasts are likely indicators and integrators of changes in the Arctic System as they are susceptible to the combined effects of declining sea ice extent, increases in open water duration, more frequent and impactful storms, sea-level rise, and warming permafrost. However, few observation sites in the Arctic have yet to link decadal-scale erosion rates with changing environmental conditions due to temporal data gaps. This study increases the temporal fidelity of coastal permafrost bluff observations using near-annual high spatial resolution (<1 m) satellite imagery acquired between 2008–2017 for a 9 km segment of coastline at Drew Point, Beaufort Sea coast, Alaska. Our results show that mean annual erosion for the 2007–2016 decade was 17.2 m yr−1, which is 2.5 times faster than historic rates, indicating that bluff erosion at this site is likely responding to changes in the Arctic System. In spite of a sustained increase in decadal-scale mean annual erosion rates, mean open water season erosion varied from 6.7 m yr−1 in 2010 to more than 22.0 m yr−1 in 2007, 2012, and 2016. This variability provided a range of coastal responses through which we explored the different roles of potential environmental drivers. The lack of significant correlations between mean open water season erosion and the environmental variables compiled in this study indicates that we may not be adequately capturing the environmental forcing factors, that the system is conditioned by long-term transient effects or extreme weather events rather than annual variability, or that other not yet considered factors may be responsible for the increased erosion occurring at Drew Point. Our results highlight an increase in erosion at Drew Point in the 21st century as well as the complexities associated with unraveling the factors responsible for changing coastal permafrost bluffs in the Arctic.
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:21 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2015

Potential increasing dominance of heterotrophy in the global ocean

Autotrophy is largely resource-limited in the modern ocean. Paleo evidence indicates this was not necessarily the case in warmer climates, and modern observations as well as standard metabolic theory suggest continued ocean warming could shift global ecology towards heterotrophy, thereby reducing autotrophic nutrient limitation. Such a shift would entail strong nutrient recycling in the upper ocean and high rates of net primary production (NPP), yet low carbon export to the deep ocean and sediments. We demonstrate transition towards such a state in the early 22nd century as a response to business-as-usual representative concentration pathway forcing (RCP8.5) in an intermediate complexity Earth system model in three configurations; with and without an explicit calcifier phytoplankton class and calcite ballast model. In all models nutrient regeneration in the near-surface becomes an increasingly important driver of primary production. The near-linear relationship between changes in NPP and global sea surface temperature (SST) found over the 21st century becomes exponential above a 2–4 global mean SST change. This transition to a more heterotrophic ocean agrees roughly with metabolic theory.
  • Published: 2015
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:00 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2017

Irrigation offsets wheat yield reductions from warming temperatures

Temperature increases due to climate change are expected to cause substantial reductions in global wheat yields. However, uncertainty remains regarding the potential role for irrigation as an adaptation strategy to offset heat impacts. Here we utilize over 7000 observations spanning eleven Kansas field-trial locations, 180 varieties, and 29 years to show that irrigation significantly reduces the negative impact of warming temperatures on winter wheat yields. Dryland wheat yields are estimated to decrease about eight percent for every one-degree Celsius increase in temperature, yet irrigation completely offsets this negative impact in our sample. As in previous studies, we find that important interactions exist between heat stress and precipitation for dryland production. Here, uniquely, we observe both dryland and irrigated trials side-by-side at the same locations and find that precipitation does not provide the same reduction in heat stress as irrigation. This is likely to be because the timing, intensity, and volume of water applications influence wheat yields, so the ability to irrigate—rather than relying on rainfall alone—has a stronger influence on heat stress. We find evidence of extensive differences of water-deficit stress impacts across varieties. This provides some evidence of the potential for adapting to hotter and drier climate conditions using optimal variety selection. Overall, our results highlight the critical role of water management for future global food security. Water scarcity not only reduces crop yields through water-deficit stress, but also amplifies the negative effects of warming temperatures.
  • Published: 2017
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:15 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2018

Deconstructing climate misinformation to identify reasoning errors

Misinformation can have significant societal consequences. For example, misinformation about climate change has confused the public and stalled support for mitigation policies. When people lack the expertise and skill to evaluate the science behind a claim, they typically rely on heuristics such as substituting judgment about something complex (i.e. climate science) with judgment about something simple (i.e. the character of people who speak about climate science) and are therefore vulnerable to misleading information. Inoculation theory offers one approach to effectively neutralize the influence of misinformation. Typically, inoculations convey resistance by providing people with information that counters misinformation. In contrast, we propose inoculating against misinformation by explaining the fallacious reasoning within misleading denialist claims. We offer a strategy based on critical thinking methods to analyse and detect poor reasoning within denialist claims. This strategy includes detailing argument structure, determining the truth of the premises, and checking for validity, hidden premises, or ambiguous language. Focusing on argument structure also facilitates the identification of reasoning fallacies by locating them in the reasoning process. Because this reason-based form of inoculation is based on general critical thinking methods, it offers the distinct advantage of being accessible to those who lack expertise in climate science. We applied this approach to 42 common denialist claims and find that they all demonstrate fallacious reasoning and fail to refute the scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic global warming. This comprehensive deconstruction and refutation of the most common denialist claims about climate change is designed to act as a resource for communicators and educators who teach climate science and/or critical thinking.
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:02 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2012

Human impacts on terrestrial hydrology: climate change versus pumping and irrigation

Global climate change is altering terrestrial water and energy budgets, with subsequent impacts on surface and groundwater resources; recent studies have shown that local water management practices such as groundwater pumping and irrigation similarly alter terrestrial water and energy budgets over many agricultural regions, with potential feedbacks on weather and climate. Here we use a fully-integrated hydrologic model to directly compare effects of climate change and water management on terrestrial water and energy budgets of a representative agricultural watershed in the semi-arid Southern Great Plains, USA. At local scales, we find that the impacts of pumping and irrigation on latent heat flux, potential recharge and water table depth are similar in magnitude to the impacts of changing temperature and precipitation; however, the spatial distributions of climate and management impacts are substantially different. At the basin scale, the impacts on stream discharge and groundwater storage are remarkably similar. Notably, for the watershed and scenarios studied here, the changes in groundwater storage and stream discharge in response to a 2.5 °C temperature increase are nearly equivalent to those from groundwater-fed irrigation. Our results imply that many semi-arid basins worldwide that practice groundwater pumping and irrigation may already be experiencing similar impacts on surface water and groundwater resources to a warming climate. These results demonstrate that accurate assessment of climate change impacts and development of effective adaptation and mitigation strategies must account for local water management practices.
  • Published: 2012
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
02:02 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2017

Assessing ExxonMobil's climate change communications (1977–2014)

This paper assesses whether ExxonMobil Corporation has in the past misled the general public about climate change. We present an empirical document-by-document textual content analysis and comparison of 187 climate change communications from ExxonMobil, including peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed publications, internal company documents, and paid, editorial-style advertisements ('advertorials') in The New York Times. We examine whether these communications sent consistent messages about the state of climate science and its implications—specifically, we compare their positions on climate change as real, human-caused, serious, and solvable. In all four cases, we find that as documents become more publicly accessible, they increasingly communicate doubt. This discrepancy is most pronounced between advertorials and all other documents. For example, accounting for expressions of reasonable doubt, 83% of peer-reviewed papers and 80% of internal documents acknowledge that climate change is real and human-caused, yet only 12% of advertorials do so, with 81% instead expressing doubt. We conclude that ExxonMobil contributed to advancing climate science—by way of its scientists' academic publications—but promoted doubt about it in advertorials. Given this discrepancy, we conclude that ExxonMobil misled the public. Our content analysis also examines ExxonMobil's discussion of the risks of stranded fossil fuel assets. We find the topic discussed and sometimes quantified in 24 documents of various types, but absent from advertorials. Finally, based on the available documents, we outline ExxonMobil's strategic approach to climate change research and communication, which helps to contextualize our findings.
  • Published: 2017
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:02 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2018

How big is the energy efficiency resource?

Most economic theorists assume that energy efficiency—the biggest global provider of energy services—is a limited and dwindling resource whose price- and policy-driven adoption will inevitably deplete its potential and raise its cost. Influenced by that theoretical construct, most traditional analysts and deployers of energy efficiency see and exploit only a modest fraction of the worthwhile efficiency resource, saving less and paying more than they should. Yet empirically, modern energy efficiency is, and shows every sign of durably remaining, an expanding-quantity, declining-cost resource. Its adoption is constrained by major but correctable market failures and increasingly motivated by positive externalities. Most importantly, in both newbuild and retrofit applications, its quantity is severalfold larger and its cost lower than most in the energy and climate communities realize. The efficiency resource far exceeds the sum of savings by individual technologies because artfully choosing, combining, sequencing, and timing fewer and simpler technologies can save more energy at lower cost than deploying more and fancier but dis-integrated and randomly timed technologies. Such 'integrative design' is not yet widely known or applied, and can seem difficult because it is simple, but is well proven, rapidly evolving, and gradually spreading. Yet the same economic models that could not predict the renewable energy revolution also ignore integrative design and hence cannot recognize most of the efficiency resource or reserves. This analytic gap makes climate-change mitigation look harder and costlier than it really is, diverting attention and investment to inferior options. With energy efficiency as its cornerstone and needing its pace redoubled, climate protection depends critically on seeing and deploying the entire efficiency resource. This requires focusing less on individual technologies than on whole systems (buildings, factories, vehicles, and the larger systems embedding them), and replacing theoretical assumptions about efficiency's diminishing returns with practitioners' empirical evidence of expanding returns.
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:42 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2016

Regional climate change and national responsibilities

Global warming over the past several decades is now large enough that regional climate change is emerging above the noise of natural variability, especially in the summer at middle latitudes and year-round at low latitudes. Despite the small magnitude of warming relative to weather fluctuations, effects of the warming already have notable social and economic impacts. Global warming of 2 °C relative to preindustrial would shift the 'bell curve' defining temperature anomalies a factor of three larger than observed changes since the middle of the 20th century, with highly deleterious consequences. There is striking incongruity between the global distribution of nations principally responsible for fossil fuel CO2 emissions, known to be the main cause of climate change, and the regions suffering the greatest consequences from the warming, a fact with substantial implications for global energy and climate policies.
  • Published: 2016
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:20 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2017

Limiting climate change: what's most worth doing?

Wynes and Nicholas (2017 Environ. Res. Lett. 12 074024) claim that some of the most important actions individuals can take to mitigate climate change have been overlooked, particularly in educational messages for adolescents, and estimate the potential impact of some of these, including having fewer children and living car free. These estimates raise questions that deserve serious analysis, but they are based only on the technical potential of the actions and do not consider the plasticity of the behaviors and the feasibility of policies to support them. The actions identified as having the greatest potential are lifestyle changes that accrue benefits over a lifetime or longer, so are not realistic alternatives to actions that can be enacted immediately. But presenting lifestyle choices and the relative impacts of different actions as discussion starters for adolescents could be promising, especially if the discussions highlight issues of behavioral plasticity, policy plasticity, and time scale. Research has identified design principles for interventions to achieve the strongest emissions reductions at time scales up to the decadal. Design principles for achieving longer-lasting changes deserve careful analytic attention, as well as a stronger focus in adolescent textbooks and messages to the general population. Both adolescents and researchers would do well to think carefully about what could promote the generational changes needed to reach a climate change target such as 'well below 2 °C'.
  • Published: 2017
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:48 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2017

Deciphering the expression of climate change within the Lower Colorado River basin by stochastic simulation of convective rainfall

In drylands, convective rainstorms typically control runoff, streamflow, water supply and flood risk to human populations, and ecological water availability at multiple spatial scales. Since drainage basin water balance is sensitive to climate, it is important to improve characterization of convective rainstorms in a manner that enables statistical assessment of rainfall at high spatial and temporal resolution, and the prediction of plausible manifestations of climate change. Here we present a simple rainstorm generator, STORM, for convective storm simulation. It was created using data from a rain gauge network in one dryland drainage basin, but is applicable anywhere. We employ STORM to assess watershed rainfall under climate change simulations that reflect differences in wetness/storminess, and thus provide insight into observed or projected regional hydrologic trends. Our analysis documents historical, regional climate change manifesting as a multidecadal decline in rainfall intensity, which we suggest has negatively impacted ephemeral runoff in the Lower Colorado River basin, but has not contributed substantially to regional negative streamflow trends.
  • Published: 2017
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
02:18 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2016

Changes in meandering of the Northern Hemisphere circulation

Strong waves in the mid-latitude circulation have been linked to extreme surface weather and thus changes in waviness could have serious consequences for society. Several theories have been proposed which could alter waviness, including tropical sea surface temperature anomalies or rapid climate change in the Arctic. However, so far it remains unclear whether any changes in waviness have actually occurred. Here we propose a novel meandering index which captures the maximum waviness in geopotential height contours at any given day, using all information of the full spatial position of each contour. Data are analysed on different time scale (from daily to 11 day running means) and both on hemispheric and regional scales. Using quantile regressions, we analyse how seasonal distributions of this index have changed over 1979–2015. The most robust changes are detected for autumn which has seen a pronounced increase in strongly meandering patterns at the hemispheric level as well as over the Eurasian sector. In summer for both the hemisphere and the Eurasian sector, significant downward trends in meandering are detected on daily timescales which is consistent with the recently reported decrease in summer storm track activity. The American sector shows the strongest increase in meandering in the warm season: in particular for 11 day running mean data, indicating enhanced amplitudes of quasi-stationary waves. Our findings have implications for both the occurrence of recent cold spells and persistent heat waves in the mid-latitudes.
  • Published: 2016
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:15 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2017

Cost-effectiveness of reducing emissions from tropical deforestation, 2016–2050

Reducing tropical deforestation is potentially a large-scale and low-cost strategy for mitigating climate change. Yet previous efforts to project the cost-effectiveness of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from future deforestation across the tropics were hampered by crude available data on historical forest loss. Here we use recently available satellite-based maps of annual forest loss between 2001–2012, along with information on topography, accessibility, protected status, potential agricultural revenue, and an observed inverted-U-shaped relationship between forest cover loss and forest cover, to project tropical deforestation from 2016–2050 under alternative policy scenarios and to construct new marginal abatement cost curves for reducing emissions from tropical deforestation. We project that without new forest conservation policies 289 million hectares of tropical forest will be cleared from 2016–2050, releasing 169 GtCO2. A carbon price of US20/tCO2 (50/tCO2) across tropical countries would avoid 41 GtCO2 (77 GtCO2) from 2016–2050. By comparison, we estimate that Brazil's restrictive policies in the Amazon between 2004–2012 successfully decoupled potential agricultural revenue from deforestation and reduced deforestation by 47% below what would have otherwise occurred, preventing the emission of 5.2 GtCO2. All tropical countries enacting restrictive anti-deforestation policies as effective as those in the Brazilian Amazon between 2004–2012 would avoid 58 GtCO2 from 2016–2050.
  • Published: 2017
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
01:23 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2016

Transatlantic flight times and climate change

Aircraft do not fly through a vacuum, but through an atmosphere whose meteorological characteristics are changing because of global warming. The impacts of aviation on climate change have long been recognised, but the impacts of climate change on aviation have only recently begun to emerge. These impacts include intensified turbulence and increased take-off weight restrictions. Here we investigate the influence of climate change on flight routes and journey times. We feed synthetic atmospheric wind fields generated from climate model simulations into a routing algorithm of the type used operationally by flight planners. We focus on transatlantic flights between London and New York, and how they change when the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is doubled. We find that a strengthening of the prevailing jet-stream winds causes eastbound flights to significantly shorten and westbound flights to significantly lengthen in all seasons. Eastbound and westbound crossings in winter become approximately twice as likely to take under 5 h 20 min and over 7 h 00 min, respectively. For reasons that are explained using a conceptual model, the eastbound shortening and westbound lengthening do not cancel out, causing round-trip journey times to increase. Even assuming no future growth in aviation, the extrapolation of our results to all transatlantic traffic suggests that aircraft will collectively be airborne for an extra 2000 h each year, burning an extra 7.2 million gallons of jet fuel at a cost of US 22 million, and emitting an extra 70 million kg of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of 7100 average British homes. Our results provide further evidence of the two-way interaction between aviation and climate change.
  • Published: 2016
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
02:52 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2016

Biomass burning, land-cover change, and the hydrological cycle in Northern sub-Saharan Africa

The Northern Sub-Saharan African (NSSA) region, which accounts for 20%–25% of the global carbon emissions from biomass burning, also suffers from frequent drought episodes and other disruptions to the hydrological cycle whose adverse societal impacts have been widely reported during the last several decades. This paper presents a conceptual framework of the NSSA regional climate system components that may be linked to biomass burning, as well as detailed analyses of a variety of satellite data for 2001–2014 in conjunction with relevant model-assimilated variables. Satellite fire detections in NSSA show that the vast majority (>75%) occurs in the savanna and woody savanna land-cover types. Starting in the 2006–2007 burning season through the end of the analyzed data in 2014, peak burning activity showed a net decrease of 2–7%/yr in different parts of NSSA, especially in the savanna regions. However, fire distribution shows appreciable coincidence with land-cover change. Although there is variable mutual exchange of different land cover types, during 2003–2013, cropland increased at an estimated rate of 0.28%/yr of the total NSSA land area, with most of it (0.18%/yr) coming from savanna. During the last decade, conversion to croplands increased in some areas classified as forests and wetlands, posing a threat to these vital and vulnerable ecosystems. Seasonal peak burning is anti-correlated with annual water-cycle indicators such as precipitation, soil moisture, vegetation greenness, and evapotranspiration, except in humid West Africa (5°–10° latitude), where this anti-correlation occurs exclusively in the dry season and burning virtually stops when monthly mean precipitation reaches 4 mm d−1. These results provide observational evidence of changes in land-cover and hydrological variables that are consistent with feedbacks from biomass burning in NSSA, and encourage more synergistic modeling and observational studies that can elaborate this feedback mechanism.
  • Published: 2016
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:50 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2016

Health and climate benefits of offshore wind facilities in the Mid-Atlantic United States

Electricity from fossil fuels contributes substantially to both climate change and the health burden of air pollution. Renewable energy sources are capable of displacing electricity from fossil fuels, but the quantity of health and climate benefits depend on site-specific attributes that are not often included in quantitative models. Here, we link an electrical grid simulation model to an air pollution health impact assessment model and US regulatory estimates of the impacts of carbon to estimate the health and climate benefits of offshore wind facilities of different sizes in two different locations. We find that offshore wind in the Mid-Atlantic is capable of producing health and climate benefits of between 54 and 120 per MWh of generation, with the largest simulated facility (3000 MW off the coast of New Jersey) producing approximately 690 million in benefits in 2017. The variability in benefits per unit generation is a function of differences in locations (Maryland versus New Jersey), simulated years (2012 versus 2017), and facility generation capacity, given complexities of the electrical grid and differences in which power plants are offset. This work demonstrates health and climate benefits of offshore wind, provides further evidence of the utility of geographically-refined modeling frameworks, and yields quantitative insights that would allow for inclusion of both climate and public health in benefits assessments of renewable energy.
  • Published: 2016
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:58 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2013

Reliability of regional climate model trends

A necessary condition for a good probabilistic forecast is that the forecast system is shown to be reliable: forecast probabilities should equal observed probabilities verified over a large number of cases. As climate change trends are now emerging from the natural variability, we can apply this concept to climate predictions and compute the reliability of simulated local and regional temperature and precipitation trends (1950–2011) in a recent multi-model ensemble of climate model simulations prepared for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fifth assessment report (AR5). With only a single verification time, the verification is over the spatial dimension. The local temperature trends appear to be reliable. However, when the global mean climate response is factored out, the ensemble is overconfident: the observed trend is outside the range of modelled trends in many more regions than would be expected by the model estimate of natural variability and model spread. Precipitation trends are overconfident for all trend definitions. This implies that for near-term local climate forecasts the CMIP5 ensemble cannot simply be used as a reliable probabilistic forecast.
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:57 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2017

How does the SST variability over the western North Atlantic Ocean control Arctic warming over the Barents–Kara Seas?

Arctic warming over the Barents–Kara Seas and its impacts on the mid-latitude circulations have been widely discussed. However, the specific mechanism that brings the warming still remains unclear. In this study, a possible cause of the regional Arctic warming over the Barents–Kara Seas during early winter (October–December) is suggested. We found that warmer sea surface temperature anomalies over the western North Atlantic Ocean (WNAO) modulate the transient eddies overlying the oceanic frontal region. The altered transient eddy vorticity flux acts as a source for the Rossby wave straddling the western North Atlantic and the Barents–Kara Seas (Scandinavian pattern), and induces a significant warm advection, increasing surface and lower-level temperature over the Eurasian sector of the Arctic Ocean. The importance of the sea surface temperature anomalies over the WNAO and subsequent transient eddy forcing over the WNAO was also supported by both specially designed simple model experiments and general circulation model experiments.
  • Published: 2017
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:52 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2018

Estimates of present and future flood risk in the conterminous United States

Past attempts to estimate rainfall-driven flood risk across the US either have incomplete coverage, coarse resolution or use overly simplified models of the flooding process. In this paper, we use a new 30 m resolution model of the entire conterminous US with a 2D representation of flood physics to produce estimates of flood hazard, which match to within 90% accuracy the skill of local models built with detailed data. These flood depths are combined with exposure datasets of commensurate resolution to calculate current and future flood risk. Our data show that the total US population exposed to serious flooding is 2.6–3.1 times higher than previous estimates, and that nearly 41 million Americans live within the 1% annual exceedance probability floodplain (compared to only 13 million when calculated using FEMA flood maps). We find that population and GDP growth alone are expected to lead to significant future increases in exposure, and this change may be exacerbated in the future by climate change.
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:02 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2018

Are Scots pine forest edges particularly prone to drought-induced mortality?

Climate change is expected to exacerbate the frequency of drought-induced tree mortality world-wide. To better predict the associated change of species composition and forest dynamics on various scales and develop adequate adaptation strategies, more information on the mechanisms driving the often observed patchiness of tree die-back is needed. Although forest-edge effects may play an important role within the given context, only few corresponding studies exist. Here, we investigate the regional die-back of Scots pine in Franconia, Germany, after a hot and dry summer in 2015, thereby emphasizing possible differences in mortality between forest edge and interior. By means of dendroecological investigations and close-range remote sensing, we assess long-term growth performance and current tree vitality along five different forest-edge distance gradients. Our results clearly indicate a differing growth performance between edge and interior trees, associated with a higher vulnerability to drought, increased mortality rates, and lower tree vitality at the forest edge. Prior long-lasting growth decline of dead trees compared to live trees suggests depletion of carbon reserves in course of a long-term drought persisting since the 1990s to be the cause of regional Scots pine die-back. These findings highlight the forest edge as a potential focal point of forest management adaptation strategies in the context of drought-induced mortality.
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:32 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2013

On predicting climate under climate change

Can today's global climate model ensembles characterize the 21st century climate in their own 'model-worlds'? This question is at the heart of how we design and interpret climate model experiments for both science and policy support. Using a low-dimensional nonlinear system that exhibits behaviour similar to that of the atmosphere and ocean, we explore the implications of ensemble size and two methods of constructing climatic distributions, for the quantification of a model's climate. Small ensembles are shown to be misleading in non-stationary conditions analogous to externally forced climate change, and sometimes also in stationary conditions which reflect the case of an unforced climate. These results show that ensembles of several hundred members may be required to characterize a model's climate and inform robust statements about the relative roles of different sources of climate prediction uncertainty.
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
05:12 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2013

Climate change mitigation policies and poverty in developing countries

Mitigation of the potential impacts of climate change is one of the leading policy concerns of the 21st century. However, there continues to be heated debate about the nature, the content and, most importantly, the impact of the policy actions needed to limit greenhouse gas emissions. One contributing factor is the lack of systematic evidence on the impact of mitigation policy on the welfare of the poor in developing countries. In this letter we consider two alternative policy scenarios, one in which only the Annex I countries take action, and the second in which the first policy is accompanied by a forest carbon sequestration policy in the non-Annex regions. Using an economic climate policy analysis framework, we assess the poverty impacts of the above policy scenarios on seven socio-economic groups in 14 developing countries. We find that the Annex-I-only policy is poverty friendly, since it enhances the competitiveness of non-Annex countries—particularly in agricultural production. However, once forest carbon sequestration incentives in the non-Annex regions are added to the policy package, the overall effect is to raise poverty in the majority of our sample countries. The reason for this outcome is that the dominant impacts of this policy are to raise returns to land, reduce agricultural output and raise food prices. Since poor households rely primarily on their own labor for income, and generally own little land, and since they also spend a large share of their income on food, they are generally hurt on both the earning and the spending fronts. This result is troubling, since forest carbon sequestration—particularly through avoided deforestation—is a promising, low cost option for climate change mitigation.
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:08 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2013

The FAOSTAT database of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture, including crop and livestock production, forestry and associated land use changes, are responsible for a significant fraction of anthropogenic emissions, up to 30% according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Yet while emissions from fossil fuels are updated yearly and by multiple sources—including national-level statistics from the International Energy Agency (IEA)—no comparable efforts for reporting global statistics for agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) emissions exist: the latest complete assessment was the 2007 IPCC report, based on 2005 emission data. This gap is critical for several reasons. First, potentially large climate funding could be linked in coming decades to more precise estimates of emissions and mitigation potentials. For many developing countries, and especially the least developed ones, this requires improved assessments of AFOLU emissions. Second, growth in global emissions from fossil fuels has outpaced that from AFOLU during every decade of the period 1961–2010, so the relative contribution of the latter to total climate forcing has diminished over time, with a need for regular updates. We present results from a new GHG database developed at FAO, providing a complete and coherent time series of emission statistics over a reference period 1961–2010, at country level, based on FAOSTAT activity data and IPCC Tier 1 methodology. We discuss results at global and regional level, focusing on trends in the agriculture sector and net deforestation. Our results complement those available from the IPCC, extending trend analysis to a longer historical period and, critically, beyond 2005 to more recent years. In particular, from 2000 to 2010, we find that agricultural emissions increased by 1.1% annually, reaching 4.6 Gt CO2 yr−1 in 2010 (up to 5.4–5.8 Gt CO2 yr−1 with emissions from biomass burning and organic soils included). Over the same decade 2000–2010, the ratio of agriculture to fossil fuel emissions has decreased, from 17.2% to 13.7%, and the decrease is even greater for the ratio of net deforestation to fossil fuel emissions: from 19.1% to 10.1%. In fact, in the year 2000, emissions from agriculture have been consistently larger—about 1.2 Gt CO2 yr−1 in 2010—than those from net deforestation.
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:26 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2014

100 years of California's water rights system: patterns, trends and uncertainty

For 100 years, California's State Water Resources Control Board and its predecessors have been responsible for allocating available water supplies to beneficial uses, but inaccurate and incomplete accounting of water rights has made the state ill-equipped to satisfy growing societal demands for water supply reliability and healthy ecosystems. Here, we present the first comprehensive evaluation of appropriative water rights to identify where, and to what extent, water has been dedicated to human uses relative to natural supplies. The results show that water right allocations total 400 billion cubic meters, approximately five times the state's mean annual runoff. In the state's major river basins, water rights account for up to 1000% of natural surface water supplies, with the greatest degree of appropriation observed in tributaries to the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and in coastal streams in southern California. Comparisons with water supplies and estimates of actual use indicate substantial uncertainty in how water rights are exercised. In arid regions such as California, over-allocation of surface water coupled with trends of decreasing supply suggest that new water demands will be met by re-allocation from existing uses. Without improvements to the water rights system, growing human and environmental demands portend an intensification of regional water scarcity and social conflict. California's legal framework for managing its water resources is largely compatible with needed reforms, but additional public investment is required to enhance the capacity of the state's water management institutions to effectively track and regulate water rights.
  • Published: 2014
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:41 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2017

Are forest disturbances amplifying or canceling out climate change-induced productivity changes in European forests?

Recent studies projecting future climate change impacts on forests mainly consider either the effects of climate change on productivity or on disturbances. However, productivity and disturbances are intrinsically linked because 1) disturbances directly affect forest productivity (e.g. via a reduction in leaf area, growing stock or resource-use efficiency), and 2) disturbance susceptibility is often coupled to a certain development phase of the forest with productivity determining the time a forest is in this specific phase of susceptibility. The objective of this paper is to provide an overview of forest productivity changes in different forest regions in Europe under climate change, and partition these changes into effects induced by climate change alone and by climate change and disturbances. We present projections of climate change impacts on forest productivity from state-of-the-art forest models that dynamically simulate forest productivity and the effects of the main European disturbance agents (fire, storm, insects), driven by the same climate scenario in seven forest case studies along a large climatic gradient throughout Europe. Our study shows that, in most cases, including disturbances in the simulations exaggerate ongoing productivity declines or cancel out productivity gains in response to climate change. In fewer cases, disturbances also increase productivity or buffer climate-change induced productivity losses, e.g. because low severity fires can alleviate resource competition and increase fertilization. Even though our results cannot simply be extrapolated to other types of forests and disturbances, we argue that it is necessary to interpret climate change-induced productivity and disturbance changes jointly to capture the full range of climate change impacts on forests and to plan adaptation measures.
  • Published: 2017
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:01 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2014

Potential influence of the late Holocene climate on settled farming versus nomadic cattle herding in the Minusinsk Hollow, south-central Siberia

Prehistoric and early historic human cultures are known to be closely connected to and dependent on their natural environments. We test the hypothesis that climate change influenced the means of subsistence of ancient tribes and favored agricultural or cattle herding economic strategies. Our study area is the Khakass–Minusinsk Hollow, located in the foothills of the Sayan Mountains, south-central Siberia, which was, for a few millennia, a buffer zone for human migrations across the Great Eurasian Steppe. Three different methods (the Montane BioClimatic Model, MontBCliM; the biomization method; and the actualizm method) are employed to reconstruct vegetation taken from the fossil pollen of sediment cores in two mountain lakes at eleven time slices related to successive human cultures back to the mid-Holocene. MontBCliM model is used inversely to convert site paleo-vegetation into site paleo-climates. Climate-based regression models are developed and applied to reconstructed climates to evaluate possible pasture and grain crops for these time slices. Pollen-based reconstructions of the climate fluctuations uncovered several dry periods with steppe and forest-steppe and wetter periods with forests since 6000 BP. Grasslands increased by an order of magnitude during the dry periods and provided extensive open space suitable for pastoralism; however, both grain and pasture yields decreased during these dry periods. During wetter climates, both grain and pasture yields increased twofold and supported more fixed human settlements centered around farming and cattle herding. Thus, the dry periods favored pastoralist rather than farming activities. Conversely, tribes that practiced agriculture had some advantage in the wet periods.
  • Published: 2014
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:32 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2018

Phenological mismatch in coastal western Alaska may increase summer season greenhouse gas uptake

High latitude ecosystems are prone to phenological mismatches due to climate change- driven advances in the growing season and changing arrival times of migratory herbivores. These changes have the potential to alter biogeochemical cycling and contribute to feedbacks on climate change by altering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) through large regions of the Arctic. Yet the effects of phenological mismatches on gas fluxes are currently unexplored. We used a three-year field experiment that altered the start of the growing season and timing of grazing to investigate how phenological mismatch affects GHG exchange. We found early grazing increased mean GHG emission to the atmosphere despite lower CH4 emissions due to grazing-induced changes in vegetation structure that increased uptake of CO2. In contrast, late grazing reduced GHG emissions because greater plant productivity led to an increase in CO2 uptake that overcame the increase in CH4 emission. Timing of grazing was an important control on both CO2 and CH4 emissions, and net GHG exchange was the result of opposing fluxes of CO2 and CH4. N2O played a negligible role in GHG flux. Advancing the growing season had a smaller effect on GHG emissions than changes to timing of grazing in this study. Our results suggest that a phenological mismatch that delays timing of grazing relative to the growing season, a change which is already developing along in western coastal Alaska, will reduce GHG emissions to the atmosphere through increased CO2 uptake despite greater CH4 emissions.
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:01 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2015

Focus on biodiversity, health and wellbeing: Synthesis and Review

In 2012 Environmental Research Letters (ERL) launched a focus series of research papers on the theme of biodiversity, health and well-being. It was the year of the second Rio Summit on Sustainable Development, a huge number of species had been made extinct and conservationists were making increasingly urgent calls for the protection of biodiversity. The situation is ever more critical. Since we started the issue more species have become extinct, and hundreds more have now become critically endangered. The focus issue highlighted the complexity of the links of biodiversity and health, and provides more evidence for the importance to human health of biodiversity on our planet. Research papers contrasted anthropocentric western scientific views of biodiversity and its ecosystem service to humans, with the more horizontal conceptions of indigenous communities in the Amazon—and as many cultures have recognized throughout history, they recognize that we are part of nature: nature does not exist for us.
  • Published: 2015
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:47 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2017

Assessing inter-sectoral climate change risks: the role of Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISIMIP)

The aims of the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISIMIP) are to provide a framework for the intercomparison of global and regional-scale risk models within and across multiple sectors and to enable coordinated multi-sectoral assessments of different risks and their aggregated effects. The overarching goal is to use the knowledge gained to support adaptation and mitigation decisions that require regional or global perspectives within the context of facilitating transformations to enable sustainable development, despite inevitable climate shifts and disruptions. ISIMIP uses community-agreed sets of scenarios with standardized climate variables and socio-economic projections as inputs for projecting future risks and associated uncertainties, within and across sectors. The results are consistent multi-model assessments of sectoral risks and opportunities that enable studies that integrate across sectors, providing support for implementation of the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
  • Published: 2017
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
03:53 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2014

Recent ice cap snowmelt in Russian High Arctic and anti-correlation with late summer sea ice extent

Glacier surface melt dynamics throughout Novaya Zemlya (NovZ) and Severnaya Zemlya (SevZ) serve as a good indicator of ice mass ablation and regional climate change in the Russian High Arctic. Here we report trends of surface melt onset date (MOD) and total melt days (TMD) by combining multiple resolution-enhanced active and passive microwave satellite datasets and analyze the TMD correlations with local temperature and regional sea ice extent. The glacier surface snowpack on SevZ melted significantly earlier (−7.3 days/decade) from 1992 to 2012 and significantly longer (7.7 days/decade) from 1995 to 2011. NovZ experienced large interannual variability in MOD, but its annual mean TMD increased. The snowpack melt on NovZ is more sensitive to temperature fluctuations than SevZ in recent decades. After ruling out the regional temperature influence using partial correlation analysis, the TMD on both archipelagoes is statistically anti-correlated with regional late summer sea ice extent, linking land ice snowmelt dynamics to regional sea ice extent variations.
  • Published: 2014
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:03 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2017

Contamination of the Arctic reflected in microbial metagenomes from the Greenland ice sheet

Globally emitted contaminants accumulate in the Arctic and are stored in the frozen environments of the cryosphere. Climate change influences the release of these contaminants through elevated melt rates, resulting in increased contamination locally. Our understanding of how biological processes interact with contamination in the Arctic is limited. Through shotgun metagenomic data and binned genomes from metagenomes we show that microbial communities, sampled from multiple surface ice locations on the Greenland ice sheet, have the potential for resistance to and degradation of contaminants. The microbial potential to degrade anthropogenic contaminants, such as toxic and persistent polychlorinated biphenyls, was found to be spatially variable and not limited to regions close to human activities. Binned genomes showed close resemblance to microorganisms isolated from contaminated habitats. These results indicate that, from a microbiological perspective, the Greenland ice sheet cannot be seen as a pristine environment.
  • Published: 2017
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
04:03 Institute of Physics (IOP) English 2018

Greenhouse gas emissions and energy use associated with production of individual self-selected US diets

Human food systems are a key contributor to climate change and other environmental concerns. While the environmental impacts of diets have been evaluated at the aggregate level, few studies, and none for the US, have focused on individual self-selected diets. Such work is essential for estimating a distribution of impacts, which, in turn, is key to recommending policies for driving consumer demand towards lower environmental impacts. To estimate the impact of US dietary choices on greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) and energy demand, we built a food impacts database from an exhaustive review of food life cycle assessment (LCA) studies and linked it to over 6000 as-consumed foods and dishes from 1 day dietary recall data on adults (N = 16 800) in the nationally representative 2005–2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Food production impacts of US self-selected diets averaged 4.7 kg CO2 eq. person−1 day−1 (95% CI: 4.6–4.8) and 25.2 MJ non-renewable energy demand person−1 day−1 (95% CI: 24.6–25.8). As has been observed previously, meats and dairy contribute the most to GHGE and energy demand of US diets; however, beverages also emerge in this study as a notable contributor. Although linking impacts to diets required the use of many substitutions for foods with no available LCA studies, such proxy substitutions accounted for only 3% of diet-level GHGE. Variability across LCA studies introduced a ±19% range on the mean diet GHGE, but much of this variability is expected to be due to differences in food production locations and practices that can not currently be traced to individual dietary choices. When ranked by GHGE, diets from the top quintile accounted for 7.9 times the GHGE as those from the bottom quintile of diets. Our analyses highlight the importance of utilizing individual dietary behaviors rather than just population means when considering diet shift scenarios.
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Institute of Physics (IOP)
  • Language: English
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