Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Report Notes Potential for Abrupt Climate Change

The United States faces the potential for abrupt climate change in the 21st century that could pose clear risks to society in terms of our ability to adapt. "Abrupt" changes can occur over decades or less, persist for decades more, and cause substantial disruptions to human and natural systems.
A new report, based on an assessment of published science literature and led by the U.S. Geological Survey, makes the following conclusions about the potential for abrupt climate changes from global warming during this century.
• Climate model simulations and observations suggest that rapid and sustained September arctic sea ice loss is likely in the 21st century.
• The southwestern United States may be beginning an abrupt period of increased drought.
• It is very likely that the northward flow of warm water in the upper layers of the Atlantic Ocean, which has an important impact on the global climate system, will decrease by approximately 25-30 percent. However, it is very unlikely that this circulation will collapse or that the weakening will occur abruptly during the 21st century and beyond.
• An abrupt change in sea level is possible...

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Read the US Climate Change Science Program Report

German Insurance Giant Cites Role of Climate Change in Record Payouts

By James Kanter for The New York Times

Insurance is one of the business sectors that long has lobbied governments to take the lead in crafting global rules to tackle climate change.
This week one of the biggest companies, Munich Re, a reinsurance group, renewed that campaign with a warning that natural catastrophes — apparently driven by climate change — are increasing in frequency, and it called for an international plan to halve emissions by 2050.
This year, adjusted for inflation, was the third most expensive year on record, exceeded only by 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina, and by 1995, the year of the Kobe earthquake, according to Munich Re.
“Climate change has already started and is very probably contributing to increasingly frequent weather extremes and ensuing natural catastrophes,” said Torsten Jeworrek, a member of the board of management at Munich Re. “These, in turn, generate greater and greater losses because the concentration of values in exposed areas, like regions on the coast, is also increasing further throughout the world,” he said.

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Earthquakes Still Swarm Yellowstone Supervolcano Caldera

Earthquakes. Supervolcanoes. Calderas. The End of Civilization. Not the usual subject matter of this blog, but I go where the news takes me. I just checked the last data from the University of Utah's seismograph station in Yellowstone. The earthquake swarm seems to have reintenstified a bit over the past 24 hours. During Dec. 27 and 28, there was a swarm of earthquakes under Yellowstone in the 3.0-3.9 range. Activity then dropped off to quakes less than 2.0 on the Richter magnitude scale. But now we are again seeing quakes above 2.0 and even a 3.5 shaker earlier this morning. Again, the University of Utah puts this all in perspective:

The University of Utah Seismograph Stations reports that a notable swarm of earthquakes has been underway since December 26 beneath Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park, three to six miles south-southeast of Fishing Bridge, Wyoming. This energetic sequence of events was most intense on December 27, when the largest number of events of magnitude 3 and larger occurred. The largest of the earthquakes was a magnitude 3.9 (revised from magnitude 3.8) at 10:15 pm MST on Dec. 27. The sequence has included nine events of magnitude 3 to 3.9 and approximately 24 of magnitude 2 to 3 at the time of this release.
A total of more than 250 events large enough to be located have occurred in this swarm. Reliable depths of the larger events are up to a few miles. Visitors and National Park Service (NPS) employees in the Yellowstone Lake area reported feeling the largest of these earthquakes.

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