Coral bleaching occurs when coral becomes unhealthy and white due to environmental conditions that are not suited for algae (zooxanthellae) to remain in the tissues of coral. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), coral and algae depend on each other to live. Algae leave coral when coral becomes stressed, causing the coral to become even more stressed and vulnerable to disease. When all the algae are gone, the corals become “bleached”. Coral bleaching is caused by warming temperatures of the ocean, pollution, overexposure to sunlight, low tides, and sometimes even water temperatures that are too cold.
When coral turns completely white, this does not mean it is dead. Corals get their color from the algae that live in their tissues. The Nature Conservancy states that algae provide food to the corals through the carbohydrates they produce during photosynthesis. After the algae are gone, there is no longer a food source for the coral. This is when the corals change their color to white. Corals can survive after being “bleached” if algae are reabsorbed before they die.
The Great Barrier Reef Foundation stated that the worst bleaching event was in 2016 in the Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea, on Australia’s northeastern coast. It was triggered by record breaking ocean temperatures which reflect evidence of global warming caused by climate change. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is now back in the water surveying the survivorship and recovery rates of coral after the recent bleaching event. Some are afraid that the Great Barrier Reef is damaged beyond full recovery. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority believe this event reinforces the need for an international effort to remediate climate change. Also, as a nation, Australia should try to reduce pressures on the Great Barrier Reef.
Other reefs have been “bleached” due to temperature changes. NOAA found that the Caribbean lost half of its coral reefs from a bleaching event in 2005. This event was caused by the expansion of the warm waters southward from near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Cold water temperatures can also cause bleaching events. As any variation in temperature change is susceptible to bleaching. Cold water temperatures in the Florida Keys caused a coral bleaching event in January of 2010.
There are also negative effects coral bleaching events could have on humans. Nature International Journal of Science stated that Terry Hughes, who is a director of the coral-reef center at James Cook University in Australia, said: “if we fail to curb climate change, and global temperatures rise far above 2 degrees Celsius, we will lose the benefits they provide to hundreds of millions of people.” The Nature Conservancy said: “that although coral reefs make up less than 1% of the ocean’s ecosystems, they shelter 25% of marine species, protect shorelines, support fishing industries, provide tourist dollars, and could be home to the next big medical breakthrough.” The best thing we can do to prevent more coral bleaching is to live sustainably to reduce the high temperatures from climate change and to reduce ocean water pollution.
(Credit: NOAA, The Great Barrier Reef Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Nature International Journal of Science)
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©2018 Weather Forecaster Brittany Connelly
What is Albedo and How Does it Affect Climate? (Credit: NOAA Climate, National Snow and Ice Data Center)
Factors that inflict climatic changes Part 2:
Part 1 here
DISCUSSION: Ever wonder why it is difficult to see when a fresh coat of snow blankets the ground as opposed to a dark colored highway? The reflectiveness of snow is much higher than the absorptive properties that dark colored surfaces possess. A name for this reflective behavior is albedo. Albedo plays a crucial role in the climate system for it explains why certain surfaces either absorb sunlight or reflect sunlight.
Albedo is more scientifically defined as the amount of solar radiation reflected from an object or surface. The reflection is usually presented as a percentage. Some hear about albedo happening in lower latitudes, but the majority of albedo news happens in higher latitudes where snow and ice coverage outweigh everywhere else. Albedo directly affects the climate of higher latitudes by the amount of solar radiation being absorbed or reflected. If more solar radiation is absorbed, then the overall climate will start to warm due to the heat being absorbed.
Albedo participates in something called a feedback loop. This feedback loop is the act of less ice reflecting less sunlight, resulting in continuous warming. This cyclical loop is a continual warming trend that results in the melting of ice and snow which will inevitably lower the albedo, thus warming the region. The melting of land ice due to lower albedo will result in darker ocean being exposed, further exploiting solar radiation by absorbing its heating capabilities. Of course, the heating of the ocean will result in the melting of land and sea ice. As noted above, this produces a cyclical loop of warming and melting.
The average global albedo is roughly around 30%. Meaning, 30% of incoming solar radiation is being reflected back out to the atmosphere. However, in the Arctic, with more prevalent areas of snow and ice, the albedo percentage increases to about 70%. In other words, 70% of incoming solar radiation being reflected back out due to the reflective behaviors of white snow and ice. This high albedo percentage helps keep the Arctic cool and reduces the melt period of glaciers, sea and land ice. In recent years, there has been a decrease in land and sea ice in the Arctic resulting in less reflective surfaces. This gives way for less reflective ocean water to take its place. The albedo percentage of ocean water is roughly around 6%. Roughly 94% of incoming solar radiation is absorbed by the oceans which then contributes to its warming.
Albedo plays a role on climate by directly contributing to either cooling or warming a given area depending on the percentage of albedo. In an age with a continual warming trend in the Arctic, much greater than anywhere else, it will be interesting to study and research further albedo statistical data and learn about its continual effect on climate.
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©2018 Weather Forecaster Alec Kownacki
DISCUSSION: A major climate boundary in the central U.S. has shifted 140 miles eastward, according to several new studies show.
The boundary, located at the 100th meridian or 100 degrees west, was first distinguished by American geologist and explorer John Wesley Powell in 1878. Powell found that the boundary was the separation between the dry western U.S. and the humid East.
The 100th meridian runs through the modern-day states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. It is known as the start of the Great Plains, an arid, open-aired region of the country that has a population less than the whole state of Georgia but covers one-fifth of the country’s land area. The boundary previously classified many large, populous cities in the central U.S. in the moist sector of the country. However, cities like Oklahoma City, OK, Wichita, KS, and Lincoln, NE will now lie west of the line in the dry sector. The major cities of Dallas, TX, and Corpus Christi, TX, the third and eighth largest cities respectively, lie right on the new boundary which runs roughly along the 98th meridian.
Areas west of the boundary are drier for a variety of reasons. The Great Plains are in the leeward side of the Rocky Mountains which amplifies the rain shadow effect, shielding the region from any moisture that would make it there from the Pacific Ocean. In the winter, the region doesn’t benefit from the moisture-laden Nor’Easters that travel up the East coast. In the summer, moisture from the Gulf of Mexico makes it into the eastern section of the Plains but normally curves eastward before reaching western sections of the region.
The less developed region west of the boundary boasts a smaller population and larger farms, many of which rely on wheat which requires less precipitation than most crops. To the east of the boundary lies a more developed region with a larger population and smaller farms. These farms are dependent upon moisture-heavy crops like corn. The recent study from Columbia University’s Earth Institute suggests that as the climate boundary continues to move east, farms will become smaller and crops like corn will become less viable. It is likely that the boundary will shift into the Midwest, probably eventually reaching the farm-rich states of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.
The scientists who conducted the study predict that farms in the East will fail should they keep depending on crops like corn, which is 70% of the crop in the eastern Great Plains. Unless they switch to irrigation, these farms will have to consolidate or begin using western-style grazing range farming. As the boundary continues to shift east, it will signal the creation of a drier eastern US, which will wreak havoc not only on agriculture, but water sources for both rural and urban areas alike.
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©2018 Weather Forecaster Jacob Dolinger
Climate Change to Impact Incomplete Rail Transit for O'ahu (Credit: HART & Meteorologist Jessica Olsen)
DISCUSSION: The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) is a 20-mile rail. The line beginning in the West end of Oahu’s Kapolei and ending in Ala Moana, the bustling area of shopping in the heart of Waikiki. It has been a large project designed to provide an additional transportation solution for the nearly difficulties with its daily commute for those from the west side coming into town (Honolulu), with delays extending nearly 120 minutes at 5:00am daily, only to be met with the same traffic traveling westbound at 5:00pm. In addition the rail is expected to bring commuters to 70-80% of jobs located along the route.
It is expected that the 20-mile rail system will open its first phase in late 2020, offering transportation from Kapolei to the Aloha Stadium with the entire system becoming fully operational by 2025. With a fleet of 80 rail cars and an estimated ridership of 120,000 passengers during the week by 2030, it is a project that has come with much contention among locals and government officials due to the $1.55 billion price tag on construction ,”being paid for with funds from the Federal Transit Administration,” with a large portion being paid by tourist purchases through the GET (General Excise and Use Tax) surcharge, and residents and businesses of Oahu. The GET surcharge is expected to bring $4.8 billion for the project over the finality of the 2027 surcharge.
While the rail transit system will provide nearly 10,000 jobs to the economy, eliminate 40,000 car trips on already congested roads, provide a goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2045, there are some concerns that plague the rail even will in its current construction. According to the Hawaii Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission established in 2014, research indicated global sea levels could rise more than 3 feet by the year 2100. The commission estimates that the support columns aiding the guideways could be underwater making some stations entryways inaccessible. The impact would not just affect the guideway but the ground level rail stations, possibly putting 8 stations at risk due to current sea level rise, in particular within the Honolulu corridor. HART has indicated by providing an elevated rail system it is avoiding problems that may be brought on by flooding, as Hawaii is expected to see major impacts of climate change throughout the years.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
“HART.” Honolulu Rail Transit, honolulutransit.org/.
“Honolulu Rail Transit.” Executive Summary For Honolulu Rail Transit Draft Environmental Impact Statement To Be Online, www.honolulu.gov/csd-news-2008/3945-executive-summary-for-honolulu-rail-transit-draft-environmental-impact-statement-to-be-online.html.
Photo by: Alexandria Maynard
With increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere due to human-caused carbon emissions, our global atmosphere is warming. Climates around the world are already seeing changes and are expected to keep changing with a continued release of carbon emissions. Due to this warming, scientists are predicting that global climate systems will be affected in different ways. According to the National Climate Assessment, average global temperatures are expected to rise about four degrees Celsius by the year 2100. This will alter weather patterns such as precipitation, which will increase in intensity and frequency in some areas while decreasing in others. This causes most areas to be more susceptible to severe floods and droughts. In addition, human-caused climate change will have impacts on our planet that will alter the environments of millions of animal species.
Some animal species thrive in a fixed area, relying on resources and shelter ideal for survival. Migratory species take advantage of the changing seasons and travel large distances to reach places that will provide better resources. Types of migratory species like birds, amphibians, and mammals can travel distances from a few hundred yards to miles, sometimes even crossing continents. As the climate changes, fixed species may move to another habitat that fits their needs as migratory species will have to alter their migration patterns to adapt. Large changes in temperature and precipitation manipulate the phenology and resources of a habitat as well as increase the risk of natural disasters like fires, droughts, and floods. This causes habitat destruction which threatens survival during migration.
Phenology is the recurrence of biological events such as the onset of budding in the spring and changing of leaves in autumn. With increasing temperatures, certain environments are seeing seasonal changes such as earlier springs, longer summers, and shorter, milder winters. This can cause the phenology of an area to act erratically. For example, trees will start to bud and flowers will bloom before their natural time. In-turn, this confuses migratory species, causing them to start migration earlier or later than usual and shorten the distances in which they travel. A study done by Marcel E. Visser, Perdeck, Balen and Both observed that birds in Europe decreased distances of migration during winters where temperatures were above average. With a warmer winter, birds would not have to travel very far to find sufficient resources.
An abundance of resources in an area can help migratory species thrive and could become an area where they choose to make their stay before moving on. Energy, like an abundance of rainfall, sunlight, and soil nutrients can cause a habitat to be exceptionally resourceful. Increased growth of vegetation can provide shelter and food, but lack thereof does not provide a suitable rest-stop for migratory species. This will cause them to have to continue their travel elsewhere to rest, lengthening the time and distance of their route. With climate change, some areas will thrive in growth as others will find it difficult. This can either help migratory species rest and restore energy before moving on or make travel harder.
Under projected scenarios for future climate change, some areas will see more rain than others and warmer temperatures. This increases the risk of natural disasters such as floods, droughts, and fires that can drastically change a habitat in a matter of days. This significantly decreases resources of food and shelter, leaving certain areas uninhabitable. Any species of animal is unlikely to travel through an area desolated by a fire that had incinerated all shelter and available food. They especially will avoid an area that is in the process of burning. Migratory birds may find it easier to take rest in an area that has been flooded than those that travel by land because of taller trees that stand higher than the flood level. These natural disasters also contribute to extending distance and increasing the difficulty of migration.
Migratory animal species are dependent on habitats for their travel and survival. A rapidly changing climate can affect a habitat by changing its resources and phenology as well as increasing the risk of floods, fires, and droughts. This threatens the life of migratory species as well as changes their migration patterns as they try to adapt. Ultimately, climate change may be severely detrimental to their existence.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Alexandria Maynard
Building a Relationship Between American Diets and Carbon Footprint Impacts (credit: Michigan Radio)
DISCUSSION: Since the beginning of mankind's existence, there has been an undeniable increase in the consumption of various types of meat around the world. However, by the same token, there is also a growing percentage of Earth's global population which has transitioned from following a primarily meat-eating culture to being more of a vegan and/or vegetarian-based diet routine. Based on this transition to less meat-eating among part of Earth's global population, this has lessened the demand for routine resources (e.g., utilized during the process of generating many types of meat which include more animal feed and grass-based products). Moreover, many meats are generated via animals which produce large amounts of methane gas during the course of their lifetime.
With methane being one of more potent Greenhouse gases which exist, this creates a substantial degree of stress on the global climate system in terms of the impacts of the increasing amounts of methane gas which is added to Earth's atmosphere via the demands of meat-eating people. More specifically, due to the fact that methane (as a Greenhouse gas) contributes to the trapping of heat within Earth's atmosphere, methane acts as an additional catalyst towards the amplification of the warming effect of Earth's Greenhouse effect. Hence, giving further support for why the continued increase in the global demand for meat consumption is a concerning precedent in the presence of a global average temperature which has already been experiencing a net warming trends over the past couple of decades.
Thus, there is no debate that humans are (at least to some degree) having an influence on the continued amplification of factors which are contributing to global climatic variability. Having said that, it is imperative to consider the fact that even by making marginal food dieting modifications on a day-to-day basis many people could limit mitigate further man-based impacts to the global climate change threat by further reducing the concentrations of methane which are released into the environment all over the world. It just goes to show that even minor changes to one's lifestyle can have global impacts beyond simply the scope of a given individual person or family.
To learn more about the full story as produced by Michigan Radio, click on the following link: http://michiganradio.org/post/20-american-diets-have-highest-carbon-footprint.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz