September 18, 2012
The sea ice in the Arctic Ocean dropped below the previous all-time record set in 2007 by an area larger than the state of Texas.
This year also marks the first time that there has been less than 4 million square kilometers (1.54 million square miles) of sea ice since satellite observations began in 1979.
This animation shows the 2012 time-series of ice extent using sea ice concentration data from the DMSP SSMI/S satellite sensor. The black area represents the daily average (median) sea ice extent over the 1979-2000 time period. Layered over top of that are the daily satellite measurements from January 1 -- September 14, 2012. A rapid melt begins in July, whereby the 2012 ice extents fall far below the historical average. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (www.nsidc.org) will confirm the final minimum ice extent data and area once the melt stabilizes, usually in mid-September.
September 15, 2012
The "astounding" loss of sea ice this year is adding a huge amount of heat to the Arctic Ocean and the atmosphere, said Jennifer Francis, an atmospheric scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey. "It's like having a new energy source for the atmosphere."
… Peter Wadhams, the head of the polar ocean physics group at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., told BBC News on September 6 that the added heat from sea ice loss is equivalent to the warming from 20 years of carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas that is causing manmade global warming.
For more detail, see Arctic Warming Favors Extreme, Prolonged Weather Events "Such As Drought, Flooding, Cold Spells And Heat Waves."
"What is a conservative after all but one who conserves, one who is committed to protecting and holding close the things by which we live... And we want to protect and conserve the land on which we live — our countryside, our rivers and mountains, our plains and meadows and forests. This is our patrimony. This is what we leave to our children. And our great moral responsibility is to leave it to them either as we found it or better than we found it."
President Ronald ReaganRemarks at dedication of National Geographic Society new headquarters building
June 19, 1984
The United States and Canada have amended a 40-year-old environmental accord on the Great Lakes, expanding its goals to tackle problems like invasive species, pollution and climate change.
"The challenges are even bigger today than they were then," said Dereth Glance, one of three Americans on the International Joint Commission, a bilateral group that monitors environmental agreements between the United States and Canada. "It's a matter of ongoing stewardship and collaboration with as many people as possible."
In addition to tightening goals for phosphorus reductions in Lake Erie, the amendments call for action on ships' ballast water, which introduces invasive species into the lake system, and climate change, which is expected to make heavy precipitation like that of 2011 more common.
U.S. solar installations jumped 116 percent in the second quarter from a year ago thanks to the completion of more than 20 big projects for utilities, according to an industry report released on Monday.
The U.S. market, though robust, still represents just 10 percent of the global market.
Temperature in the Arctic is going up 6.3 degrees Centigrade per century (11 degrees Fahrenheit per century).
This chart shows arctic temperatures for the last 2000 years. Note we have been on a cooling trend until around 1960.
Arctic sea ice extent over the past 1,450 years. Note that data in this figure extend through 2008, and thus it doesn't show this year's current record low.
The state is closing a 12-mile section of Gulf coastline from Caminada Pass to Pass Fourchon after Hurricane Isaac washed up large areas of oil and tar balls at the location of one of the worst inundations of BP oil during the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010. Robert Barham, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said agency crews surveying damage from Isaac discovered large sections of viscous oil and tar balls floating along the coast from the beach to one mile offshore between Elmer's Island Wildlife Refuge, just west of Grand Isle, to Pass Fourchon.
"It's a very large mass that is viscous but hasn't coalesced into tar mats yet," Barham said. "But the Elmer's Island beaches are littered with tar balls of every size, from eraser size to the size of baseballs."
According to the US Coast Guard, oiled pelicans and other wildlife have been found in Louisiana marshes as well.
Protesters locked themselves on Wednesday to logging equipment being used to clear trees in the northeast Texas path of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.
TransCanada broke ground on Keystone XL's southern leg last month, beginning work a stretch of pipeline that will connect the oil hub of Cushing, Okla., with the Texas Gulf Coast.
Environmentalists say the pipeline would expand the marketplace for oil sands crude that produces more greenhouse gas emissions from production to combustion than alternatives because of the energy-intensive techniques used to harvest it. Companies typically extract the tar-like hydrocarbon bitumen from Canada's oil sands by open-pit mining and in-situ techniques involving underground injections of steam that liquefy the otherwise hard fossil fuel.
The protests in Texas this morning are only the latest move by activists who have tethered themselves to bulldozers in recent weeks to halt work on the project.
According to Tar Sands Blockade, work was prevented at the Saltillo site this morning after about 20 contractors found three protesters locked to feller buncher machines used to clear trees.
One of the three, Houstonian Sarah Reid, said she was fighting on behalf of East Texas landowners "who have been taken advantage of by TransCanada."
A new race for water is rippling through the drought-scorched heartland, pitting farmers against oil and gas interests, driven by new drilling techniques that use powerful streams of water, sand and chemicals to crack the ground and release stores of oil and gas.
A single such well can require five million gallons of water, and energy companies are flocking to water auctions, farm ponds, irrigation ditches and municipal fire hydrants to get what they need.
That thirst is helping to drive an explosion of oil production here, but it is also complicating the long and emotional struggle over who drinks and who does not in the arid and fast-growing West. Farmers and environmental activists say they are worried that deep-pocketed energy companies will have purchase on increasingly scarce water supplies as they drill deep new wells that use the technique of hydraulic fracturing.
"It's not a level playing field," said Peter V. Anderson, who grows corn and alfalfa on the parched plains of eastern Colorado. "I don't think in reality that the farmer can compete with the oil and gas companies for that water. Their return is a hell of a lot better than ours."
In average years, farmers and ranchers like Mr. Anderson say they pay about $30 for an acre foot of water — equal to about 326,000 gallons — a price that can rise to $100 when water is scarce. In the spring, during an annual auction of surplus water in northern Colorado, Mr. Anderson and a handful of other farmers were outbid by water haulers who supply hydraulic fracturing wells.
Perhaps the biggest single question about climate change is whether people will have enough to eat in coming decades.
We have had two huge spikes in global food prices in five years that were driven largely by chaotic weather. And this year we may be in the early stages of a third big jump. Droughts and heat waves have damaged crops in many producing countries this year, including the United States and India.
If any of that sounds alarmist, recall what has already happened because of the price spikes of recent years. In 2008, food riots broke out in more than 20 countries, and the government of Haiti fell as a result of the unrest. The second price spike, in 2011, apparently played a role in the social discontent that led to the revolutions in the Arab world.