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Effects of Global Warming Posing Threats from the Arctic to Australia

Arctic sea ice - 2011It seems climate change deniers will try every trick in the book and go to almost any lengths to spread their message and gain supporters. You can’t deny what people and all forms of life around the world are experiencing, however, or the growing mountain of evidence supporting climate change theory being amassed by good, honest climate science.

The following are excerpts from noteworthy climate science and climate-related developments around the world in the past week.

* Rising average temperatures are threatening Australia’s water supply. A report commissioned by Australia’s Federal Dept. of Climate Change predicts that average temperatures will rise 0.6 and 2.9 degrees Celsius by 2050, and that overall precipitation will drop by as much as 24% by 2050.

Runoff from snow melt and precipitation in the “Australian Alps,” which stretch from Victoria to New South Wales, produces an estimated average 9600 gigatons of water a year. Reduced to dollars and cents terms, that’s as much as US$9.8 billion annually. The mountain runoff also supplies nearly 30% of the Murray-Darling River system, which in turn is the source of water for Australia’s primary agricultural lands and farms. Alps’ water helps support some 2.1 million of Australia’s total 21.9 million population.

* Younger, thinner sea ice once again dominated the Arctic in September, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Young, thin ice is much more prone to melt than older, thicker ice. The decreasing ice cover is also a positive global warming feedback cycle as it reduces the amount of sunlight reflected back into the atmosphere, termed the albedo effect.

The amount of sea ice four years old or older has been declining steadily, while sea ice one to two-years old has been increasing in the Arctic basin. Four year-old or older ice made up 45% of total Arctic sea ice in 1984. That compares to around 9% as of this September.

* Danger zones are emerging across the Himalayas as rising temperatures cause glaciers to melt. The melting Imja glacier in the Nepalese Himalayas “is a high-altitude disaster in the making – one of dozens of danger zones emerging across the Himalayas,” according to a report from The Guardian. Mountain regions from the Andes to the Himalayas are warming and melting faster than average. The melting Himalayan glaciers undoubtedly pose numerous and varied short- and long-term threats across one the world’s most heavily populated regions, which includes the entire Indian subcontinent.

* Samoa’s electric power company has asked all residents to cut their water consumption as drought has brought the island nation’s water reservoirs to lows and has caused rivers and creeks to completely dry up.

“At the moment we are mainly encouraging communities to minimize all the adverse impacts into the water shed areas because that’s not helping the situation at the moment, especially for surface water,” Suluimalo Penaia, assistance chief executive of the Water Resource Division, was quoted as saying in a news report. “There’s not much we can do. All we are doing at the moment is just monitoring the impacts, which one is actually flowing at the moment for the surface water and which are the main streams that are totally dried up at the moment.”

* More often heard than seen, American pikas living in the US Rocky Mountains are moving up to higher elevations as a result of the changing, warming climate. The American pika is second species that conservationists have petitioned for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) because of climate change-associated threats. The polar bear was the first.

Low-elevation pika populations around the region are at high risk from climate change. In Yosemite National Park, they have migrated more than 500 feet up-slope over the last 100 years. That’s coincided with a temperature increase of 5.4 °F in Yosemite, according to a Talking Science report.

Between 1999 and 2008, pikas in the Great Basin on the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada have undergone an almost five-fold increase in extinction rate and an 11-fold increase in the rate of up-slope retreat.

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