Findings

Take a deep breath

Kevin Lewis

December 10, 2014

On the Attribution of a Single Event to Climate Change

Gerrit Hansen, Maximilian Auffhammer & Andrew Solow
Journal of Climate, November 2014, Pages 8297–8301

Abstract:
There is growing interest in assessing the role of climate change in observed extreme weather events. Recent work in this area has focused on estimating a measure called attributable risk. A statistical formulation of this problem is described and used to construct a confidence interval for attributable risk. The resulting confidence is shown to be surprisingly wide even in the case where the event of interest is unprecedented in the historical record.

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Projected increase in lightning strikes in the United States due to global warming

David Romps et al.
Science, 14 November 2014, Pages 851-854

Abstract:
Lightning plays an important role in atmospheric chemistry and in the initiation of wildfires, but the impact of global warming on lightning rates is poorly constrained. Here we propose that the lightning flash rate is proportional to the convective available potential energy (CAPE) times the precipitation rate. Using observations, the product of CAPE and precipitation explains 77% of the variance in the time series of total cloud-to-ground lightning flashes over the contiguous United States (CONUS). Storms convert CAPE times precipitated water mass to discharged lightning energy with an efficiency of 1%. When this proxy is applied to 11 climate models, CONUS lightning strikes are predicted to increase 12 ± 5% per degree Celsius of global warming and about 50% over this century.

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Rising air and stream-water temperatures in Chesapeake Bay region, USA

Karen Rice & John Jastram
Climatic Change, forthcoming

Abstract:
Monthly mean air temperature (AT) at 85 sites and instantaneous stream-water temperature (WT) at 129 sites for 1960–2010 are examined for the mid-Atlantic region, USA. Temperature anomalies for two periods, 1961–1985 and 1985–2010, relative to the climate normal period of 1971–2000, indicate that the latter period was statistically significantly warmer than the former for both mean AT and WT. Statistically significant temporal trends across the region of 0.023 °C per year for AT and 0.028 °C per year for WT are detected using simple linear regression. Sensitivity analyses show that the irregularly sampled WT data are appropriate for trend analyses, resulting in conservative estimates of trend magnitude. Relations between 190 landscape factors and significant trends in AT-WT relations are examined using principal components analysis. Measures of major dams and deciduous forest are correlated with WT increasing slower than AT, whereas agriculture in the absence of major dams is correlated with WT increasing faster than AT. Increasing WT trends are detected despite increasing trends in streamflow in the northern part of the study area. Continued warming of contributing streams to Chesapeake Bay likely will result in shifts in distributions of aquatic biota and contribute to worsened eutrophic conditions in the bay and its estuaries.

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A sustainable “building block”?: The paradoxical effects of thermal efficiency on U.S. power plants’ CO2 emissions

Don Grant et al.
Energy Policy, December 2014, Pages 398–402

Abstract:
Under its recently proposed Clean Power Plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives states several “building blocks” to choose from to reduce their power plants’ CO2 emissions, including improving plants’ heat rate efficiency. However, skeptics suggest that precisely because efficiency enhances electrical output, it may reduce power plants’ emission rates but increase their emission levels. Using the EPA’s new Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) data, this paper conducts the first analysis of the effect of thermal efficiency on the rate and level at which individual power plants emit carbon dioxide. Consistent with the arguments of skeptics, we find that while efficiency lowers CO2 emission rates, it actually increases CO2 emission levels. In suggesting to states that improving efficiency is one of the best systems of emission reductions, therefore, the EPA needs to consider whether more efficient plants are subject to such “rebound effects.”

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Rapid increase in the risk of extreme summer heat in Eastern China

Ying Sun et al.
Nature Climate Change, December 2014, Pages 1082–1085

Abstract:
The summer of 2013 was the hottest on record in Eastern China. Severe extended heatwaves affected the most populous and economically developed part of China and caused substantial economic and societal impacts. The estimated direct economic losses from the accompanying drought alone total 59 billion RMB. Summer (June–August) mean temperature in the region has increased by 0.82 °C since reliable observations were established in the 1950s, with the five hottest summers all occurring in the twenty-first century. It is challenging to attribute extreme events to causes. Nevertheless, quantifying the causes of such extreme summer heat and projecting its future likelihood is necessary to develop climate adaptation strategies. We estimate that anthropogenic influence has caused a more than 60-fold increase in the likelihood of the extreme warm 2013 summer since the early 1950s, and project that similarly hot summers will become even more frequent in the future, with fully 50% of summers being hotter than the 2013 summer in two decades even under the moderate RCP4.5 emissions scenario. Without adaptation to reduce vulnerability to the effects of extreme heat, this would imply a rapid increase in risks from extreme summer heat to Eastern China.

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How unusual is the 2012-2014 California drought?

Daniel Griffin & Kevin Anchukaitis
Geophysical Research Letters, forthcoming

Abstract:
For the past three years (2012-2014), California has experienced the most severe drought conditions in its last century. But how unusual is this event? Here we use two paleoclimate reconstructions of drought and precipitation for Central and Southern California to place this current event in the context of the last millennium. We demonstrate that while 3-year periods of persistent below-average soil moisture are not uncommon, the current event is the most severe drought in the last 1200 years, with single year (2014) and accumulated moisture deficits worse than any previous continuous span of dry years. Tree-ring chronologies extended through the 2014 growing season reveal that precipitation during the drought has been anomalously low but not outside the range of natural variability. The current California drought is exceptionally severe in the context of at least the last millennium and is driven by reduced though not unprecedented precipitation and record high temperatures.

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Towards climate justice: How do the most vulnerable weigh environment-economy trade-offs?

Katrina Running
Social Science Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
The world’s poor are especially vulnerable to environmental disasters, including the adverse consequences of climate change. This creates a challenge for climate justice advocates who seek to ensure that those least responsible for causing climate change do not bear unwanted burdens of mitigation. One way to promote climate justice could be to pay particular attention to the environmental policy preferences of citizens from poorer, lower-emitting countries. This paper examines opinions on environment-economy trade-offs and willingness to make personal financial contributions to protect the environment among residents of 42 developed and developing countries using data from the 2005-2008 World Values Survey, the 2010 Climate Risk Index, and World Bank development indicators. Results reveal that individuals in developing countries are less likely to support policies to prioritize environmental protection over economic growth but are more willing to donate personal income for pro-environmental efforts compared to citizens of more developed nations.

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Time of emergence for regional sea-level change

Kewei Lyu et al.
Nature Climate Change, November 2014, Pages 1006–1010

Abstract:
Determining the time when the climate change signal from increasing greenhouse gases exceeds and thus emerges from natural climate variability (referred to as the time of emergence, ToE) is an important climate change issue. Previous ToE studies were mainly focused on atmospheric variables. Here, based on three regional sea-level projection products available to 2100, which have increasing complexity in terms of included processes, we estimate the ToE for sea-level changes relative to the reference period 1986–2005. The dynamic sea level derived from ocean density and circulation changes alone leads to emergence over only limited regions. By adding the global-ocean thermal expansion effect, 50% of the ocean area will show emergence with rising sea level by the early-to-middle 2040s. Including additional contributions from land ice mass loss, land water storage change and glacial isostatic adjustment generally enhances the signal of regional sea-level rise (except in some regions with decreasing total sea levels), which leads to emergence over more than 50% of the ocean area by 2020. The ToE for total sea level is substantially earlier than that for surface air temperature and exhibits little dependence on the emission scenarios, which means that our society will face detectable sea-level change and its potential impacts earlier than surface air warming.

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Tropical and extratropical cyclone damages under climate change

Matthew Ranson et al.
Climatic Change, November 2014, Pages 227-241

Abstract:
This paper provides the first quantitative synthesis of the rapidly growing literature on future tropical and extratropical cyclone damages under climate change. We estimate a probability distribution for the predicted impact of changes in global surface air temperatures on future storm damages, using an ensemble of 478 estimates of the temperature-damage relationship from nineteen studies. Our analysis produces three main empirical results. First, we find strong but not conclusive support for the hypothesis that climate change will cause damages from tropical cyclones and wind storms to increase, with most models predicting higher future storm damages due to climate change. Second, there is substantial variation in projected changes in losses across regions. Potential changes in damages are greatest in the North Atlantic basin, where the multi-model average predicts that a 2.5 °C increase in global surface air temperature would cause hurricane damages to increase by 63 %. The ensemble predictions for Western North Pacific tropical cyclones and European wind storms (extratropical cyclones) are +28 % and +23 %, respectively. Finally, our analysis shows that existing models of storm damages under climate change generate a wide range of predictions, ranging from moderate decreases to very large increases in losses.

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Maximum warming occurs about one decade after a carbon dioxide emission

Katharine Ricke & Ken Caldeira
Environmental Research Letters, December 2014

Abstract:
It is known that carbon dioxide emissions cause the Earth to warm, but no previous study has focused on examining how long it takes to reach maximum warming following a particular CO2 emission. Using conjoined results of carbon-cycle and physical-climate model intercomparison projects (Taylor et al 2012, Joos et al 2013), we find the median time between an emission and maximum warming is 10.1 years, with a 90% probability range of 6.6–30.7 years. We evaluate uncertainties in timing and amount of warming, partitioning them into three contributing factors: carbon cycle, climate sensitivity and ocean thermal inertia. If uncertainty in any one factor is reduced to zero without reducing uncertainty in the other factors, the majority of overall uncertainty remains. Thus, narrowing uncertainty in century-scale warming depends on narrowing uncertainty in all contributing factors. Our results indicate that benefit from avoided climate damage from avoided CO2 emissions will be manifested within the lifetimes of people who acted to avoid that emission. While such avoidance could be expected to benefit future generations, there is potential for emissions avoidance to provide substantial benefit to current generations.

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Inaction and climate stabilization uncertainties lead to severe economic risks

Martha Butler et al.
Climatic Change, December 2014, Pages 463-474

Abstract:
Climate stabilization efforts must integrate the actions of many socio-economic sectors to be successful in meeting climate stabilization goals, such as limiting atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration to be less than double the pre-industrial levels. Estimates of the costs and benefits of stabilization policies are often informed by Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) of the climate and the economy. These IAMs are highly non-linear with many parameters that abstract globally integrated characteristics of environmental and socio-economic systems. Diagnostic analyses of IAMs can aid in identifying the interdependencies and parametric controls of modeled stabilization policies. Here we report a comprehensive variance-based sensitivity analysis of a doubled-CO2 stabilization policy scenario generated by the globally-aggregated Dynamic Integrated model of Climate and the Economy (DICE). We find that neglecting uncertainties considerably underestimates damage and mitigation costs associated with a doubled-CO2 stabilization goal. More than ninety percent of the states-of-the-world (SOWs) sampled in our analysis exceed the damages and abatement costs calculated for the reference case neglecting uncertainties (1.2 trillion 2005 USD, with worst case costs exceeding $60 trillion). We attribute the variance in these costs to uncertainties in the model parameters relating to climate sensitivity, global participation in abatement, and the cost of lower emission energy sources.

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The jobs impact of GHG reduction strategies in the USA

Roger Bezdek & Robert Wendling
International Journal of Global Warming, Fall 2014, Pages 380-401

Abstract:
This paper estimates the economic and jobs impact of the USA displacing 1.2 billion tons of carbon emissions annually by 2030 using energy efficiency and renewable energy. We assess the technologies deployed, their costs, and the necessary time frames. We then estimate the job impacts of the policy and find that it will generate more than 4.5 million net jobs. We disaggregate the jobs created by industry, occupation, skill, and salary, and discuss the policy implications of these findings. Our major conclusion is that climate mitigation initiatives can be a major net job creator for the USA.

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Counteracting the climate effects of volcanic eruptions using short-lived greenhouse gases

Jan Fuglestvedt, Bjørn Samset & Keith Shine
Geophysical Research Letters, forthcoming

Abstract:
A large volcanic eruption might constitute a climate emergency, significantly altering global temperature and precipitation for several years. Major future eruptions will occur, but their size or timing cannot be predicted. We show, for the first time, that it may be possible to counteract these climate effects through deliberate emissions of short-lived greenhouse gases, dampening the abrupt impact of an eruption. We estimate an emission pathway countering a hypothetical eruption 3 times the size of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. We use a global climate model to evaluate global and regional responses to the eruption, with and without counteremissions. We then raise practical, financial, and ethical questions related to such a strategy. Unlike the more commonly discussed geoengineering to mitigate warming from long-lived greenhouse gases, designed emissions to counter temporary cooling would not have the disadvantage of needing to be sustained over long periods. Nevertheless, implementation would still face significant challenges.

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Sensitivity of climate to cumulative carbon emissions due to compensation of ocean heat and carbon uptake

Philip Goodwin, Richard Williams & Andy Ridgwell
Nature Geoscience, forthcoming

Abstract:
Climate model experiments reveal that transient global warming is nearly proportional to cumulative carbon emissions on multi-decadal to centennial timescales. However, it is not quantitatively understood how this near-linear dependence between warming and cumulative carbon emissions arises in transient climate simulations. Here, we present a theoretically derived equation of the dependence of global warming on cumulative carbon emissions over time. For an atmosphere–ocean system, our analysis identifies a surface warming response to cumulative carbon emissions of 1.5 ± 0.7 K for every 1,000 Pg of carbon emitted. This surface warming response is reduced by typically 10–20% by the end of the century and beyond. The climate response remains nearly constant on multi-decadal to centennial timescales as a result of partially opposing effects of oceanic uptake of heat and carbon. The resulting warming then becomes proportional to cumulative carbon emissions after many centuries, as noted earlier. When we incorporate estimates of terrestrial carbon uptake, the surface warming response is reduced to 1.1 ± 0.5 K for every 1,000 Pg of carbon emitted, but this modification is unlikely to significantly affect how the climate response changes over time. We suggest that our theoretical framework may be used to diagnose the global warming response in climate models and mechanistically understand the differences between their projections.

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Changing climate extremes in the Northeast United States: Observations and projections from CMIP5

Jeanne Thibeault & Anji Seth
Climatic Change, November 2014, Pages 273-287

Abstract:
Climate extremes indices are evaluated for the northeast United States and adjacent Canada (Northeast) using gridded observations and twenty-three CMIP5 coupled models. Previous results have demonstrated observed increases in warm and wet extremes and decreases in cold extremes, consistent with changes expected in a warming world. Here, a significant shift is found in the distribution of observed total annual precipitation over 1981-2010. In addition, significant positive trends are seen in all observed wet precipitation indices over 1951-2010. For the Northeast region, CMIP5 models project significant shifts in the distributions of most temperature and precipitation indices by 2041-2070. By the late century, the coldest (driest) future extremes are projected to be warmer (wetter) than the warmest (wettest) extremes at present. The multimodel interquartile range compares well with observations, providing a measure of confidence in the projections in this region. Spatial analysis suggests that the largest increases in heavy precipitation extremes are projected for northern, coastal, and mountainous areas. Results suggest that the projected increase in total annual precipitation is strongly influenced by increases in winter wet extremes. The largest decreases in cold extremes are projected for northern and interior portions of the Northeast, while the largest increases in summer warm extremes are projected for densely populated southern, central, and coastal areas. This study provides a regional analysis and verification of the latest generation of CMIP global models specifically for the Northeast, useful to stakeholders focused on understanding and adapting to climate change and its impacts in the region.

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Delays in reducing waterborne and water-related infectious diseases in China under climate change

Maggie Hodges et al.
Nature Climate Change, December 2014, Pages 1109–1115

Abstract:
Despite China’s rapid progress in improving water, sanitation and hygiene (WSH) access, in 2011, 471 million people lacked access to improved sanitation and 401 million to household piped water. As certain infectious diseases are sensitive to changes in both climate and WSH conditions, we projected impacts of climate change on WSH-attributable diseases in China in 2020 and 2030 by coupling estimates of the temperature sensitivity of diarrhoeal diseases and three vector-borne diseases, temperature projections from global climate models, WSH-infrastructure development scenarios, and projected demographic changes. By 2030, climate change is projected to delay China’s rapid progress towards reducing WSH-attributable infectious disease burden by 8–85 months. This development delay summarizes the adverse impact of climate change on WSH-attributable infectious diseases in China, and can be used in other settings where a significant health burden may accompany future changes in climate even as the total burden of disease falls owing to non-climate reasons.

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Tropical Cyclone Simulation and Response to CO2 Doubling in the GFDL CM2.5 High-Resolution Coupled Climate Model

Hyeong-Seog Kim et al.
Journal of Climate, November 2014, Pages 8034–8054

Abstract:
Global tropical cyclone (TC) activity is simulated by the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) Climate Model, version 2.5 (CM2.5), which is a fully coupled global climate model with a horizontal resolution of about 50 km for the atmosphere and 25 km for the ocean. The present climate simulation shows a fairly realistic global TC frequency, seasonal cycle, and geographical distribution. The model has some notable biases in regional TC activity, including simulating too few TCs in the North Atlantic. The regional biases in TC activity are associated with simulation biases in the large-scale environment such as sea surface temperature, vertical wind shear, and vertical velocity. Despite these biases, the model simulates the large-scale variations of TC activity induced by El Niño–Southern Oscillation fairly realistically. The response of TC activity in the model to global warming is investigated by comparing the present climate with a CO2 doubling experiment. Globally, TC frequency decreases (−19%) while the intensity increases (+2.7%) in response to CO2 doubling, consistent with previous studies. The average TC lifetime decreases by −4.6%, while the TC size and rainfall increase by about 3% and 12%, respectively. These changes are generally reproduced across the different basins in terms of the sign of the change, although the percent changes vary from basin to basin and within individual basins. For the Atlantic basin, although there is an overall reduction in frequency from CO2 doubling, the warmed climate exhibits increased interannual hurricane frequency variability so that the simulated Atlantic TC activity is enhanced more during unusually warm years in the CO2-warmed climate relative to that in unusually warm years in the control climate.

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Dynamical Simulations of North Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Activity Using Observed Low-Frequency SST Oscillation Imposed on CMIP5 Model RCP4.5 SST Projections

Timothy LaRow, Lydia Stefanova & Chana Seitz
Journal of Climate, November 2014, Pages 8055–8069

Abstract:
The effects on early and late twenty-first-century North Atlantic tropical cyclone statistics resulting from imposing the patterns of maximum/minimum phases of the observed Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) onto projected sea surface temperatures (SSTs) from two climate models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) are examined using a 100-km resolution global atmospheric model. By imposing the observed maximum positive and negative phases of the AMO onto two CMIP5 SST projections from the representative concentration pathway (RCP) 4.5 scenario, this study places bounds on future North Atlantic tropical cyclone activity during the early (2020–39) and late (2080–99) twenty-first century. Averaging over both time periods and both AMO phases, the mean named tropical cyclones (NTCs) count increases by 35% when compared to simulations using observed SSTs from 1982 to 2009. The positive AMO simulations produce approximately a 68% increase in mean NTC count, while the negative AMO simulations are statistically indistinguishable from the mean NTC count determined from the 1995–2009 simulations — a period of observed positive AMO phase. Examination of the tropical cyclone track densities shows a statistically significant increase in the tracks along the East Coast of the United States in the future simulations compared to the models’ 1982–2009 climate simulations. The increase occurs regardless of AMO phase, although the negative phase produces higher track densities. The maximum wind speeds increase by 6%, in agreement with other climate change studies. Finally, the NTC-related precipitation is found to increase (approximately by 13%) compared to the 1982–2009 simulations.

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The impacts of temperature anomalies and political orientation on perceived winter warming

Aaron McCright, Riley Dunlap & Chenyang Xiao
Nature Climate Change, December 2014, Pages 1077–1081

Abstract:
Although perceptions of common weather phenomena moderately align with instrumental measurements of such phenomena, the evidence that weather or climatic conditions influence beliefs about anthropogenic climate change is mixed. This study addresses both foci, which are important to scholars who investigate human–environment interactions and observers who expect greater exposure to weather or climate extremes to translate into stronger support for climate change adaptive measures and mitigative policies. We analyse the extent to which state-level winter temperature anomalies influence the likelihood of perceiving local winter temperatures to be warmer than usual and attributing these warmer temperatures mainly to global warming. We show that actual temperature anomalies influence perceived warming but not attribution of such warmer-than-usual winter temperatures to global warming. Rather, the latter is influenced more by perceived scientific agreement; beliefs about the current onset, human cause, threat and seriousness of global warming; and political orientation. This is not surprising given the politicization of climate science and political polarization on climate change beliefs in recent years. These results suggest that personal experience with weather or climate variability may help cultivate support for adaptive measures, but it may not increase support for mitigation policies.

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Land-use protection for climate change mitigation

Alexander Popp et al.
Nature Climate Change, December 2014, Pages 1095–1098

Abstract:
Land-use change, mainly the conversion of tropical forests to agricultural land, is a massive source of carbon emissions and contributes substantially to global warming. Therefore, mechanisms that aim to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation are widely discussed. A central challenge is the avoidance of international carbon leakage if forest conservation is not implemented globally. Here, we show that forest conservation schemes, even if implemented globally, could lead to another type of carbon leakage by driving cropland expansion in non-forested areas that are not subject to forest conservation schemes (non-forest leakage). These areas have a smaller, but still considerable potential to store carbon. We show that a global forest policy could reduce carbon emissions by 77 Gt CO2, but would still allow for decreases in carbon stocks of non-forest land by 96 Gt CO2 until 2100 due to non-forest leakage effects. Furthermore, abandonment of agricultural land and associated carbon uptake through vegetation regrowth is hampered. Effective mitigation measures thus require financing structures and conservation investments that cover the full range of carbon-rich ecosystems. However, our analysis indicates that greater agricultural productivity increases would be needed to compensate for such restrictions on agricultural expansion.

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An Evaluation of the Treatment of Risk and Uncertainties in the IPCC Reports on Climate Change

Terje Aven & Ortwin Renn
Risk Analysis, forthcoming

Abstract:
Few global threats rival global climate change in scale and potential consequence. The principal international authority assessing climate risk is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Through repeated assessments the IPCC has devoted considerable effort and interdisciplinary competence to articulating a common characterization of climate risk and uncertainties. We have reviewed the assessment and its foundation for the Fifth Assessment Reports published in 2013 and 2014, in particular the guidance note for lead authors of the fifth IPCC assessment report on consistent treatment of uncertainties. Our analysis shows that the work carried out by the ICPP is short of providing a theoretically and conceptually convincing foundation on the treatment of risk and uncertainties. The main reasons for our assessment are: (i) the concept of risk is given a too narrow definition (a function of consequences and probability/likelihood); and (ii) the reports lack precision in delineating their concepts and methods. The goal of this article is to contribute to improving the handling of uncertainty and risk in future IPCC studies, thereby obtaining a more theoretically substantiated characterization as well as enhanced scientific quality for risk analysis in this area. Several suggestions for how to improve the risk and uncertainty treatment are provided.

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Direct measurements of methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania

Mary Kang et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
Abandoned oil and gas wells provide a potential pathway for subsurface migration and emissions of methane and other fluids to the atmosphere. Little is known about methane fluxes from the millions of abandoned wells that exist in the United States. Here, we report direct measurements of methane fluxes from abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, using static flux chambers. A total of 42 and 52 direct measurements were made at wells and at locations near the wells (“controls”) in forested, wetland, grassland, and river areas in July, August, October 2013 and January 2014, respectively. The mean methane flow rates at these well locations were 0.27 kg/d/well, and the mean methane flow rate at the control locations was 4.5 × 10−6 kg/d/location. Three out of the 19 measured wells were high emitters that had methane flow rates that were three orders of magnitude larger than the median flow rate of 1.3 × 10−3 kg/d/well. Assuming the mean flow rate found here is representative of all abandoned wells in Pennsylvania, we scaled the methane emissions to be 4–7% of estimated total anthropogenic methane emissions in Pennsylvania. The presence of ethane, propane, and n-butane, along with the methane isotopic composition, indicate that the emitted methane is predominantly of thermogenic origin. These measurements show that methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells can be significant. The research required to quantify these emissions nationally should be undertaken so they can be accurately described and included in greenhouse gas emissions inventories.

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A complete Holocene record of trematode–bivalve infection and implications for the response of parasitism to climate change

John Warren Huntley et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
Increasing global temperature and sea-level rise have led to concern about expansions in the distribution and prevalence of complex-lifecycle parasites (CLPs). Indeed, numerous environmental variables can influence the infectivity and reproductive output of many pathogens. Digenean trematodes are CLPs with intermediate invertebrate and definitive vertebrate hosts. Global warming and sea level rise may affect these hosts to varying degrees, and the effect of increasing temperature on parasite prevalence has proven to be nonlinear and difficult to predict. Projecting the response of parasites to anthropogenic climate change is vital for human health, and a longer term perspective (104 y) offered by the subfossil record is necessary to complement the experimental and historical approaches of shorter temporal duration (10−1 to 103 y). We demonstrate, using a high-resolution 9,600-y record of trematode parasite traces in bivalve hosts from the Holocene Pearl River Delta, that prevalence was significantly higher during the earliest stages of sea level rise, significantly lower during the maximum transgression, and statistically indistinguishable in the other stages of sea-level rise and delta progradation. This stratigraphic paleobiological pattern represents the only long-term high-resolution record of pathogen response to global change, is consistent with fossil and recent data from other marine basins, and is instructive regarding the future of disease. We predict an increase in trematode prevalence concurrent with anthropogenic warming and marine transgression, with negative implications for estuarine macrobenthos, marine fisheries, and human health.

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Disentangling the effects of CO2 and short-lived climate forcer mitigation

Joeri Rogelj et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 18 November 2014, Pages 16325–16330

Abstract:
Anthropogenic global warming is driven by emissions of a wide variety of radiative forcers ranging from very short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs), like black carbon, to very long-lived, like CO2. These species are often released from common sources and are therefore intricately linked. However, for reasons of simplification, this CO2–SLCF linkage was often disregarded in long-term projections of earlier studies. Here we explicitly account for CO2–SLCF linkages and show that the short- and long-term climate effects of many SLCF measures consistently become smaller in scenarios that keep warming to below 2 °C relative to preindustrial levels. Although long-term mitigation of methane and hydrofluorocarbons are integral parts of 2 °C scenarios, early action on these species mainly influences near-term temperatures and brings small benefits for limiting maximum warming relative to comparable reductions taking place later. Furthermore, we find that maximum 21st-century warming in 2 °C-consistent scenarios is largely unaffected by additional black-carbon-related measures because key emission sources are already phased-out through CO2 mitigation. Our study demonstrates the importance of coherently considering CO2–SLCF coevolutions. Failing to do so leads to strongly and consistently overestimating the effect of SLCF measures in climate stabilization scenarios. Our results reinforce that SLCF measures are to be considered complementary rather than a substitute for early and stringent CO2 mitigation. Near-term SLCF measures do not allow for more time for CO2 mitigation. We disentangle and resolve the distinct benefits across different species and therewith facilitate an integrated strategy for mitigating both short and long-term climate change.

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Quantifying underestimates of long-term upper-ocean warming

Paul Durack et al.
Nature Climate Change, November 2014, Pages 999–1005

Abstract:
The global ocean stores more than 90% of the heat associated with observed greenhouse-gas-attributed global warming. Using satellite altimetry observations and a large suite of climate models, we conclude that observed estimates of 0–700 dbar global ocean warming since 1970 are likely biased low. This underestimation is attributed to poor sampling of the Southern Hemisphere, and limitations of the analysis methods that conservatively estimate temperature changes in data-sparse regions. We find that the partitioning of northern and southern hemispheric simulated sea surface height changes are consistent with precise altimeter observations, whereas the hemispheric partitioning of simulated upper-ocean warming is inconsistent with observed in-situ-based ocean heat content estimates. Relying on the close correspondence between hemispheric-scale ocean heat content and steric changes, we adjust the poorly constrained Southern Hemisphere observed warming estimates so that hemispheric ratios are consistent with the broad range of modelled results. These adjustments yield large increases (2.2–7.1 × 10^22 J 35 yr−1) to current global upper-ocean heat content change estimates, and have important implications for sea level, the planetary energy budget and climate sensitivity assessments.


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