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General Sherman, a giant sequoia tree. Credit: Wikipedia, Kimon Berlin

Trees that are several thousand years old in California's Sequoia National Park are in danger of being destroyed in this month's wildfires. Things are currently so bad that the base of some of the world's largest trees are being wrapped in aluminum fire-resistant blankets.

The trees being wrapped are giant sequoias, and the largest tree of all is called General Sherman. This tree is about 2200 to 2700 years old, 275 feet tall, over 36 feet in diameter at the base, and with a circumference of 102.6 at the base. (Almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty!).

Giant sequoia trees are adapted to fire, but both drought conditions and fires are getting more intense (climate change!) and can overwhelm them. Last year's Castle Fire destroyed an estimated 7500 to 10,600 mature giant sequoia trees that ranged in age from hundreds to 3000 years old. This is about 10 to 14% of these trees on Earth!

Giant sequoia base wrapped in fire-proof blanket. Credit: National Park Service, Sept. 16, 2021

From The Guardian: World’s largest tree wrapped in fire-resistant blanket as California blaze creeps closer

As flames crept closer to California’s cherished sequoia trees firefighters took an unusual step to protect them, wrapping the giant bases in fire-resistant blankets.

The shiny material that helps quell flames, commonly used to protect structures, is rarely applied to natural features, but crews fighting the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia national park said they are doing everything possible to protect the iconic trees. ...continue reading "Giant Sequoia Trees Wrapped In Fire Resistant Blankets"

Congratulations America! The contiguous (lower 48 states) United States just had its hottest summer ever! This is not something to brag about, but a taste of coming attractions due to climate change. This year we've had heat wave after heat wave, drought in the west, humid tropical-type heat in the east, hurricanes, tornadoes, tropical storms, and so on. Whew...

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report on Thursday pointing out that for the 2021 meteorological summer (June, July, August) the average temperature in the lower 48 states of the U.S. was 74.0 degrees F (2.6 degrees above average). This exceeds even the record heat of the 1936 Dust Bowl Summer.

Bottom line: We need to deal with climate change. Because otherwise the heat and extreme weather will just get worse and worse and worse.

Excerpts from Weather Underground: Summer 2021 Was Hottest on Record in the Contiguous U.S., NOAA Says

Four of the five hottest contiguous U.S. summers have now happened in the past 11 years.

Regardless of where it ends up on the list, summer 2021 will continue the long-term trend from climate change.

Eight of the nation's top 10 warmest summers have occurred in this century, according to NOAA. Only two summers in the 21st century were cooler than average – 2004 and 2009.

Since 1970, much of the U.S. has seen a warmer trend in summer, according to an analysis from Climate Central. This is particularly the case from Texas to the West and also in much of the East from Florida to Michigan to New England.

Excerpt from NOAA: Summer 2021 neck and neck with Dust Bowl summer for hottest on record

Last month brought Hurricane Ida, numerous wildfires and devastating floods, capping off a summer of record heat and rainfall for many states throughout the country.

More bad news regarding climate change. Scientists have been warning for years that it appears that the Gulf Stream is weakening or slowing down. But now, a report has been released saying that the ocean current (and the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) is in danger of collapsing. Which would mean catastrophic climate changes. Uh-oh.

The Gulf Stream and Florida Current are part of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) which transports warm, salty water from the tropics to northern Europe and then south along the ocean floor towards Antarctica.. This is why the UK, Ireland, Iceland, and other European countries have relatively mild temperatures, even though they are so far north.

What would a collapse mean? It could result in extremely cold temperatures in Europe (as well as parts of North America), sea level rise in feet (not inches) among the North American coast, change in rain and monsoons, and on and on. In other words, a catastrophic effect.

What to do? Greenhouse gases (e.g. carbon dioxide) need to be reduced. Pronto. Some articles to read:

Washington Post: A critical ocean system may be heading for collapse due to climate change, study finds

Human-caused warming has led to an “almost complete loss of stability” in the system that drives Atlantic Ocean currents, a new study has found — raising the worrying prospect that this critical aquatic “conveyor belt” could be close to collapse.  ...continue reading "Gulf Stream Is Slowing Down And May Be On Verge Of Collapse"

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached a new high in May 2021 - 419 parts  per million (ppm). This monthly average is the highest level in more than 4 million years! Yikes! (By the way, last year the highest level ever recorded occurred in May 2020.) Well...  we topped that number this year.

The carbon dioxide levels slightly fluctuate daily (they are measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory). But over the years they have been rising (an average of 2.37 ppm per year in the last decade), and each year the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air are enough to set a new record. Each year more carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) piles up in the atmosphere and oceans, where it remains for thousands of years.

This is of concern not just because the earth is warming (resulting in more extreme weather, wildfires, drought, flooding), but also what higher and higher carbon dioxide levels might do to our thinking processes (thinking gets worse at high levels - think of a stuffy room where it's harder to think). Yes, this is climate change.

Pieter Tans, a senior scientist with NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory said:

“We are adding roughly 40 billion metric tons of CO2 pollution to the atmosphere per year,” said Tans. “That is a mountain of carbon that we dig up out of the Earth, burn, and release into the atmosphere as CO2 - year after year. If we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, the highest priority must be to reduce CO2  pollution to zero at the earliest possible date.”

The US has rejoined the Paris Treaty (good), but much, much more needs to be done to stop emitting carbon dioxide. Solar energy, wind energy, and other alternative fuels. We can do it if we really want to.

See latest reading of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels - watch it rise month by month. (Check out all the links, and be horrified.)

Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Credit: NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory

Excerpts from NPR: Carbon Dioxide, Which Drives Climate Change, Reaches Highest Level In 4 Million Years

The amount of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere reached 419 parts per million in May, its highest level in more than four million years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on Monday.  ...continue reading "Carbon Dioxide Levels Highest In 4 Million Years"

If you want to be truly depressed about Earth's future, reading a recent article by an international group of scientists will produce feelings of horror, anxiety, and helplessness. Even the title was bleak: "Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding A Ghastly Future".

They laid out in depressing detail how life on Earth and its future is far, far worse than we realize. It's all due to our inability to come to terms with and take action on biodiversity loss (massive species extinctions!), increasing population and consumption, and climate change. Which is accelerating and getting worse year by year.

The 17 scientists reviewed more than 150 studies to produce a summary of the state of our natural world. They stress that environmental conditions in the future on Earth will be far worse than we generally realize. The loss of biodiversity, the accelerating climate change in the coming decades, along with ignorance and inaction, is threatening the survival of all species, including humans.

The bottom line: We  (governments, individuals, corporations, industries) must all take action now to avoid the worst case scenarios, including extinction of our species. As the researchers said: "The science underlying these issues is strong, but awareness is weak."

A good discussion of the article results, including what must be done. Some excerpts from The Conversation: Worried about Earth's future? Well, the outlook is worse than even scientists can grasp

Anyone with even a passing interest in the global environment knows all is not well. But just how bad is the situation? Our new paper shows the outlook for life on Earth is more dire than is generally understood.  ...continue reading "The Future Of Life On Earth Does Not Look Good"

It's getting hotter! NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) just released a short dramatic video stating that 2020 tied 2016 for the warmest year on record. They also released an article pointing out that while the last few decades have shown a "dramatic warming trend", the last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record.

The NASA video (under 1 minute):

It is expected that Earth's temperature will continue increasing (climate change!), and that records will continue to be broken. Rising temperatures are resulting in a loss of sea ice, sea level rise, longer and more intense heat waves, shifts in plant and animal habitats, etc. Temperatures are increasing due to human activities, specifically emissions of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane.

Are humans up to the challenge of climate change? We have no choice.

It's hard to believe in this month of cold and snow, but climate scientists are saying that 2020 is almost tied with 2016 to be the hottest year on record. This past decade has been the hottest ever recorded, and the last five years were the hottest since 1880.

Note that with each new broken heat record, the baseline is now set higher. The heat increases have no end in sight, and so the future will be hotter. This is climate change change.

One example: This summer Phoenix, Arizona experienced a record-breaking 145 days above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The city also had 15 days above 115 degrees F (double the previous record).

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From National Weather Service, October 14, 2020

At what point will it be too hot for humans? It's up to us - governments, corporations, individuals - to make decisions to control what happens in the future and to stop the runaway heat increases.

Yale Climate Connections (YCC) has all sorts of climate related articles.  (Example:November 2020 among warmest Novembers on record, NOAA and NASA report)

Graph of global (land and ocean) temperature increases over time from 1880 to 2020 at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

Excerpts from NPR: 2020 May Be The Hottest Year On Record. Here's The Damage It Did

With just a few weeks left, 2020 is in a dead-heat tie for the hottest year on record. But whether it claims the top spot misses the point, climate scientists say. There is no shortage of disquieting statistics about what is happening to the Earth. ...continue reading "This Was A Really Hot Year"