Climate Change This Week: A Drying Southwest, Clean Cheap Power, and More!

Today, the Earth got a little hotter, and a little more crowded.


Tiny Forest Fairy Lanterns are rare and considered threatened in Tasmania, which also harbors truly ancient forests. Credit Rosalind Smallwood at Flickr

When we harm forests, we harm ourselves.


Last Ancient Forest Burning — the Tasmania UN World Heritage forest is thought to be the closest living example of what the ancient forests may have looked like many millions of years ago in Gondwanaland. Credit Rob Blakers at AAP

OO Scientists Worry as Tasmania Burns – with climate change, Tamania has warmed and dried. Wildfires have become more frequent and intense, and parts of the last stands of ancient pines are burning – with little hope that they will recover soon, if ever.

Related Headline:

OO Australia: Call For Urgent Inquiry Into Tasmania World Heritage Forest Fires which continue to devastate a unique ancient forest.

Forests: the cheapest way to store carbon


Darker Means Hotter – darker conifer trees absorb more heat than their lighter, leafy green neighbors. Source

OO Man’s Shift To Dark Green Forests Stokes Global Warming
– And Rethinking Forestry
as man replaced oaks and other leafy green trees with fast-growing conifers in Europe, used for construction and paper. Takeaways:

  • the warming effect is far less than fossil fuel burning: 0.2 F since 1750
  • the warming effect outweighs the carbon storage by the trees
  • similar effects are likely in other big forest planting programs – as in China, US, and Russia.

Another forest warming effect: forest losses increase temperatures (both actual and average), and temperature variation, especially in arid zones, followed by temperate, tropical, and boreal zones.




OO How Melting Arctic Ice May Have Set Off Era Of Vicious East Coast Snow Storms – The warming Arctic ingredients:

  • more open water
  • more air moisture,
  • a high pressure area and
  • a weakening vortex that sends frigid air into the US.

The apparent result: vicious US snow storms.

So far, the links between a melting Arctic and the snowstorms are not definite, requiring further study.

Related Headlines:

OO Is Global Warming Behind D.C.’S New Era Of Great Snowstorms?



Home Is Melting Away for many animals, including this Arctic wolf. Credit Jim Brandenberg at National Geographic

OO Unusually Warm Arctic Winter Stuns Scientists
With Record Low Ice Extent For January
– which means we’ll probably be headed for a record summer low ice cover as well, when it is needed most to act as a planetary solar shield from the sun’s heat — the last thing we need more of, at this point.


Caught on Camera, this gaunt polar bear is an unfortunately common arctic sight, as his icy feeding platforms, disappear. Credit Paul Nicklen at National Geographic Creative

OO Tracking Polar Bears Reveals
Their Struggle to Survive
– as less ice is forcing the animals to exert more energy to find food.


On The Watch For Hungry Bears – a ringed seal surfaces in icier Arctic times.
Credit Paul Nicklenat National Geographic Creative

@@ Dramatic Photos of Melting Arctic –
And You Can SPEAK UP
– from the good folks at EarthJustice.

OO Scientists Find a Toxic Threat Lurking Under the Melting Arctic – as permafrost thaws, it can release deadly mercury, a new study finds.

@@ Climate Change: As Life-Changing in Greenland As 911
Was for US
– life there is now divided into before, and after, climate change.




OO The Renewable Energy Revolution Is Already Upon Us a new report shows. Wind and solar generation are skyrocketing in the U.S. as greenhouse gas emissions drop.

OO Energy Storage Is Finally Poised For A Breakthrough – banks of batteries and other technologies could lower energy bills and help renewable power, says energy storage industry as it gears up for bumper year.

OO US Power Costs Falling With Low-Carbon Energy:
‘We’ve Entered a New Era’
– new data shows wholesale and retail rates are falling as dirty energy declines.


OO Cleantech Funding Train Keeps On Rolling a greatest-hits list of last month’s cleantech financial deals, fund-raising, mergers and venture capital investments.


OO US Electricity Industry’s Use Of Coal Fell
To Historic Low In 2015 As Plants Closed
– delivering a new blow to an industry already in painful decline.

OO Once Unstoppable, Tar Sands Now Battered From All Sides

OO Fall In Number Of Oil Rigs Drilling In US Speeds Up as companies adjusted to the latest slump in the price of crude.



OO Stop Telecommuting: It Contributes to Global Warming – more than going to work, since telecommuters at home increase average home emissions by 20% (as by raising the thermostat). Businesses save on rent and energy costs, but if everyone shares the same space it saves far more energy than energy saved from individual commuting.

OO Could Mechanical Trees Be The Next Big Green Technology? – small vibrations already happening in the hustle-bustle of the modern world could trigger electricity generation in tree-like structures. It’s a cool concept called piezoelectricity.


OO Microsoft Built A Super-Efficient Underwater Data Center the company plans to rapidly deploy efficient, low-cost data centers — by submerging them. The first pilot test was successful, working for 4 months 30 feet underwater off the California coast. The idea:

  • submarines have a safe history of transporting expensive electronic equipment.
  • ocean water serves as a natural refrigerator for the data center.
  • this could be a huge payoff in the form of drastically reduced energy bills.
  • the tech industry collectively spends billions of dollars yearly to cool on land
  • improves performance: it allows deployment much closer to users (50% of the global population lives within 120 miles of the coast), which speeds Downloading, browsing and gaming.
  • closer location to users also means shorter transport, lower costs.



OO A Climate Tax On Meat? despite its unpopularity, adding a tax on high emissions food such as meat could change behavior, decreasing emissions and increasing health.

OO The Waterless Toilet That Turns Your Poo Into Power researchers have created a self-sustaining nano-membrane toilet that could provide a safe alternative to open defecation and public lavatories.


Ljubljana, the Capital of Slovenia. Source

OO How Ljubljana Turned Itself Into Europe’s ‘Green Capital’ – a booming, car-free downtown, and underground waste disposal facilities helped.



“If we are as mindless about the future as bacteria are, the bacteria will win.”
– Mary Ellen Harte


Credit Andreas Prein at Climate Central

OO The US Southwest May Have Entered a ‘Drier Climate State’


  • the Southwest, already the most arid part of the U.S., is getting more so, says new research, as wet weather patterns dry up;
  • this increasesthe chances of 30-100 yr megadroughts, which occurred centuries ago, recurring;
  • bad news for California, the largest state economy;
  • bad news for the US supply of many fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

“The Southwest might already have drifted into a drier climate state,”Andreas Prein, a postdoctoral researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said.

OO In Parts of the West, Grazing Cattle Are Making the Drought Worse – federal land managers are considering moving cattle off public lands.


A Disappearing Repas? – as seas warm and acidify, lobsters will disappear.

OO Northeast U.S. Seafood Species Highly Vulnerable To Climate Changesuch as Maine lobster and New England clams, says a new study.


OO Drought-Stricken Zimbabwe Declares State Of Disaster – underscoring the severity of the drought linked to the El Niño weather pattern hitting much of southern Africa.


El Niño: a Global View shows the warm waters (red) sloshing back east, after being driven west. If they hit warming waters along the American coasts, the extra energy can create a super El Niño.

OO El Niño and Climate Change:
Wild Weather May Get Wilder
– Normal west winds literally pile water up in the west Pacific for several years, until the “pile” breaks, sloshing back across the ocean, bringing weather with it: El Nino. With enough extra energy, it becomes a super El Niño.

The present super El Niño has been wreaking global havoc: major flooding in South America, droughts in Indonesia and southern Africa, an unprecedented hurricane season in the North Pacific last fall, and much more – and climate change is helping fuel it.


Expect More floods and droughts more frequently, as super El Niños get fueled by ever more climate change.

In recent decades, super El Niños have doubled in frequency, from once every 20 years to once in 10. Returning El Niño waters get charged by extra energy coming from climate change, as east Pacific waters near the Americas warm faster than the west Pacific.

As the eastern Pacific continues to heat faster, expect ever more super El Niños, ever more frequently, research models indicate.


Going Up? Winds up to 105 miles per hour, caused by Scottish Storm Henry, caused this waterfall to overwhelm gravity.
@@ Gale winds in Scotland forced waterfall to flow up




A Common Oil Industry Ploy. Credit Michael Lukovich

OO 2015: Big Oil Spent $10 MillionTo Defeat California Climate Change Legislation – I guess they don’t have kids…

OO Oil Industry Group’s Own 1982 Report Shows Early Knowledge Of Climate Impacts – revealing its knowledge of global warming, predated its campaign to sow doubt.


The Leak Is Plugged, But Climate Change Effects Are Not and are permanent, due to the release of 87,000 metric tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.Credit AP

Aliso Canyon methane leak, one of the largest of its kind in U.S. history, will have a lasting environmental impact on local, state, and perhaps federal levels. Credit AP

OO California’s Great Methane Leak: Lasting Impacts, Portents of Future Problems

  • US leaks from natural gas systems account for 29% of all US methane emissions.
  • This major leak portends even further such catastrophes unless there are
  • expedient upgrades of aging gas supply infrastructures across the U.S.


OO Another Little Problem With Old Gas Lines – they sometimes blow up.Source

Related Headline:

OO California: LA Gas Leaks Sickening People For Years – but poor communities never got the coverage that the affluent Porter Ranch one did.


OO BP Axes 7,000 Jobs – after reporting an annual loss of $6.5 Billion, the worst in its history. No one reported the economic losses from the climate change and health problems resulting from its products, though: far more than $6.5 billion.



OO Flood Victim Confronts Cruz On Climate Change – Renee Boschert wanted an audience with Ted Cruz, and she traveled all the way from Texas to New Hampshire to get it.

Related Headline:

@@ The Texas Flood Survivor Who Confronted Ted Cruz About Climate Change



@@ Bill Maher Mocks Climate Change Skeptics With Groundhog Attack Adas Groundhog day coincided with the Iowa caucuses.

OO Two-Thirds of America’s Science Teachers Are Misinformed About Climate Science – says the first nationwide survey of middle and high school teachers; they spend one or two hours teaching the subject – a year.

OO Cornell Follows Other Ivy League Schools, Won’t Divest – so much for our “highest” centers of US learning.



Full of Hot Air, But Won’t Mention It – without addressing climate change, it will threaten civilization – and then ideas like economy, health, and jobs will become irrelevant. Source

OO Climate Censorship at Presidential Debates Continue

OO Australia: Climate Science To Be Gutted At Major Science Agency, CSIRO




OO Obama: Tax Cheap Oil To Fuel Clean Transport about $10 per barrel, he proposes, to pay for $300+ billions’ worth of investments over the next decade in mass transit, high-speed rail, self-driving cars, and other transportation approaches designed to reduce carbon emissions and congestion. The time is right — when oil is cheap!

OO Obama To Seek $8+ Billion For EPA,
$1+ Billion For Climate Fund

OO California Teachers’ Pension Fund To Divest U.S. Coal Assets


OO When TV Taught: 1958 Prediction of Climate Change was made in the “Meteora: The Unchained Goddess” segment in the Bell Telephone Series, starring Frank Baxter: an ex English lit professor who became a TV science educator. I actually remember seeing his shows when I was a kid — whooops, did I just date myself?



If we do not grow sustainably,
Our children will die inhumanely.

@@ How Parents Can Help Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Teen childbearing cost US taxpayers $9+ Billion in 2010
And the costs of raising a child usually ensures decades, if not a life, of poverty for its mother.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Help prevent unintended pregnancies in your community:
publicize where women can access affordable contraception.


They can go here to find locations:


And there are many more actions you can do, right here.




OO If You Thought Solar Was Going To Hurt Utilities,
Get A Load Of Solar+Storage
– Power utilities are pushing back against rooftop solar, but by doing so they are only accelerating the development of solar+storage, perhaps an even bigger threat.

OO California: Big Utility Launches Community Solar Program
Enabling Customers to Go 100% Renewable


Sucking Up the Hawaiian Sun in this solar Hawaiian neighborhood, an increasingly popular trend. Source NREL

OO Hawaii: Kauai Hits Renewable Energy Milestone – Four times in January, 90% of the island’s electrical needs were fulfilled with renewable resources.

OO Hawaiian Electric: Nearly One in Five Customers Have Solar Power – the company has 77,000 installed solar PV systems across Hawaii.

OO A Small New England College Goes 100% Solar – it’s Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. Way to go, HC!


Building a Solar Road, One Panel At a Time as France embarks on a truly historic pathway to the future. Credit Joachim-Bertrand at Courtesy Colas

OO France’s Road of the Future Is Paved With Solar Panels – the power-producing road will provide electricity to 8% of the French population.

OO Middle East Has Arrived as a Multi-Gigawatt Solar Market


Check it out here, right now!




Daily Climate Change: Global Map of Unusual Temperatures, Feb 16, 2016

How unusual has the weather been? No one event is “caused” by climate change, but global warming, which is predicted to increase unusual, extreme weather, is having a daily effect on weather, worldwide.

Looking above at recent temperature anomalies, much of the US and the waters surrounding it are experiencing warmer than normal temperatures, and new heat records are being made: despite El Nino driven rains, California continues in drought.

Much of the areas surrounding the North Pole are experiencing much warmer than normal temperatures – not good news for our Arctic thermal shield of ice. Hotter than usual temperatures continue to dominate human habitats.


There is, of course, much more news on the consequences and solutions to climate change. To get it, check out this annotated resource list I’ve compiled, “Climate Change News Resources,” at here. For more information on the science of climate change, its consequences and solutions you can view my annotated list of online information resources here.

To help you understand just what science does and does NOT do, check thisout!

Every day is Earth Day, folks, as I was reminded by this passionfruit flower I photographed one spring. Making the U.S. a global clean energy leader will ensure a heck of a lot more jobs, and a clean, safe future. If you’d like to join the increasing numbers of people who want to TELL Congress that they will vote for clean energy candidates you can do so here. It’s our way of letting Congress know there’s a strong clean energy voting bloc out there. For more detailed summaries of the above and other climate change items, audio podcasts and textsare freely available.


For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly columns at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week


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About melharte

Mel (Mary Ellen) Harte is a biologist (PhD) and climate change educator. She co-authored the free online book, COOL THE EARTH, SAVE THE ECONOMY, available at www.CoolTheEarth.US, and writes the CLIMATE CHANGE THIS WEEK column at the HuffingtonPost. Living summers in the alpine Rockies, she is on the frontlines of watching what climate change can do. Her diagnostic digital photographs of wildflowers have appeared in numerous publications.
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