Mystery solved: ocean acidity in the last mass extinction | YaleNews

Heterohelix globulosa fossils
A species of foraminifera called Heterohelix globulosa that were picked and isolated from the K-Pg boundary clay at Geulhemmerberg in the Netherlands. Each fossil measures between 150 and 212 microns.

“A new study led by Yale University confirms a long-held theory about the last great mass extinction event in history and how it affected Earth’s oceans. The findings may also answer questions about how marine life eventually recovered.

The researchers say it is the first direct evidence that the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event 66 million years ago coincided with a sharp drop in the pH levels of the oceans — which indicates a rise in ocean acidity.

The study appears in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Cretaceous-Paleogene die-off, also known as the K-Pg mass extinction event, occurred when a meteor slammed into Earth at the end of the Cretaceous period. The impact and its aftereffects killed roughly 75% of the animal and plant species on the planet, including whole groups like the non-avian dinosaurs and ammonites.

For years, people suggested there would have been a decrease in ocean pH because the meteor impact hit sulphur-rich rocks and caused the raining-out of sulphuric acid, but until now no one had any direct evidence to show this happened,” said lead author Michael Henehan, a former Yale scientist who is now at GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam, Germany.

Turns out all they had to do was look at the foraminifera.

Pincelli Hull standing next to researcher Michael Henehan, who is looking into a microscope.
Pincelli Hull, assistant professor of geology and geophysics, standing next to researcher Michael Henehan, who is looking into a microscope.

Foraminifera are tiny plankton that grow a calcite shell and have an amazingly complete fossil record going back hundreds of millions of years. Analysis of the chemical composition of foraminifera fossils from before, during, and after the K-Pg event produced a wealth of data about changes in the marine environment over time. Specifically, measurements of boron isotopes in these shells allowed the Yale scientists to detect changes in the ocean’s acidity.”

Source: Mystery solved: ocean acidity in the last mass extinction | YaleNews

David Lindsay
Excess Carbon Dioxide is causing the oceans to acidify in the last 200 years or so, to the point that half of the Great Barrier Reef, is dead. Coral reefs are dying all over the world. This science shows that ocean acidity in the past led to a great die off of aquatic species during the 5th great extinction 66 million years ago.

Before Global Warming, Humans Caused Global Cooling- Study Finds – By Niraj Chokshi – The New York Times

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By Niraj Chokshi
Feb. 5, 2019,  195 c

Columbus lands in Bahamas.
“When they arrived in the Americas centuries ago, European colonists brought pestilence and death. Their arrival was so devastating, in fact, that it may have contributed to a period of global cooling, according to a new study.

The research, to be published in the March issue of the journal Quaternary Science Reviews, represents an ambitious attempt to show that, through a series of events, human activity was affecting the climate long before the industrial revolution and global warming.

The authors found that disease and war wiped out 90 percent of the indigenous population in the Americas, or about 55 million people. The earth, they argue, then reclaimed the land that these populations left behind. The new vegetation pulled heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into the land, contributing to what scientists refer to as the “Little Ice Age.”

“It was a drastic change in the earth’s system,” said Alexander Koch, the study’s lead author and a Ph.D. candidate at the University College London Department of Geography.”

via Before Global Warming, Humans Caused Global Cooling, Study Finds – The New York Times

Brace for the Polar Vortex; It May Be Visiting More Often – By Kendra Pierre-Louis – The New York Times

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David Lindsay: It was minus 5 Farenheight here in Connecticut Sunday night. It was 40 degrees on Friday. We are experiencing the polar vortex.

By Kendra Pierre-Louis
Jan. 18, 2019

“Find your long johns, break out the thick socks and raid the supermarket. After a month of relatively mild winter weather, the Midwest and the East Coast are bracing for what is becoming a seasonal rite of passage: the polar vortex.

The phrase has become synonymous with frigid temperatures that make snowstorms more likely. A blast of arctic air heralded the vortex’s arrival on Monday.

If it seems as if these polar freezes are happening more often, you’re right. “They are definitely becoming more common,” said Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center. “There have been a couple of studies that have documented that.”

The cold snap may feel especially shocking after an unusually warm few weeks. Colder temperatures have been arriving later in winter over the past few years, according to Judah Cohen, a climatologist at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, a weather risk assessment firm. But because of changes to the polar vortex, when wintry weather does arrive, it’s often more intense — witness the four back-to-back nor’easters last year.”

via Brace for the Polar Vortex; It May Be Visiting More Often – The New York Times

2018: The Year in Climate Change – The New York Times

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David Lindsay

What a lovely compendium. Looking through the list below, I found two important articles I had missed: one on how rising temperatures are extremely dangerous to anyone without airconditioning, and are rising faster at night time than daytime, and another on how the rocks of Oman sequester carbon dioxide naturally, making more carbonate rock. Scientists are excited.

 

About this website

 

NYTIMES.COM
From dire climate reports to ravenous urchins and vanishing heritage sites, here are the climate stories you shouldn’t miss from this year.

 

via 2018: The Year in Climate Change – The New York Times

Methane and Frozen Ground | National Snow and Ice Data Center – Kevin Schaefer

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Here Dr. Kevin Schaefer of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, or NSIDCprovides some answers to questions about methane and frozen ground.

What is methane?
Methane is a gas made up of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. It’s the same natural gas that some people use to heat their homes, and it also exists naturally in the atmosphere. Scientists worry that if methane increases in the atmosphere, it could cause even more warming than carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. Although there is much less methane in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, it traps heat about twenty times as efficiently as carbon dioxide.

What are the sources of methane in the Arctic?
There are two potential sources of methane in the Arctic. The first source of methane is called methyl clathrate. Methyl clathrates are molecules of methane that are frozen into ice crystals. They can form deep in the Earth or underwater, but it takes very special conditions, with high pressure and low temperature, to make them. If the temperature or pressure changes, the ice that imprisons the methane will break apart, and the methane will escape. We’re not sure how much methane is trapped in methyl clathrates, or how much is in danger of escaping.

The other major source of methane in the Arctic is the organic matter frozen in permafrost. This is the source of methane that I study. The organic matter in permafrost contains a lot of carbon. It is made of dead plants and animals that have been frozen deep in permafrost for thousands of years. As long as this organic matter remains frozen, it will stay in the permafrost. However, if it thaws, it will decay, releasing carbon dioxide or methane into the atmosphere. This is why permafrost carbon is important to climate study.

via Methane and Frozen Ground | National Snow and Ice Data Center

Wikipedia: The National Snow and Ice Data Center, or NSIDC, is a United States information and referral center in support of polar and cryospheric research. NSIDC archives and distributes digital and analog snow and ice data and also maintains information about snow cover, avalanches, glaciers, ice sheets, freshwater ice, sea ice, ground ice, permafrost, atmospheric ice, paleoglaciology, and ice cores.

NSIDC is part of the University of Colorado Boulder Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), and is affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Methane and Frozen Ground | National Snow and Ice Data Center – by Kevin Schaefer – Intro David Lindsay

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   David Lindsay

Draft two: Monday was a balmy, windy 50 degrees here, so Laine Harris invited me to go out for one last sail on his Pearson 30. As we drove out to the Branford River, Laine and I discussed my new concert with Kathleen on Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction. Harris enjoyed the concert, and he said, What scared me the most is the fact that the permafrost of places like Siberia are melting, and as that accelerates, will release more and more methane. It appears we are doomed.
We motored down the river, set sails, and wore life jackets and fowl weather tops, to keep warm from the 20 mile an hour wind, the large chop and the spray. It was a fabulous, though short sail, since 45 minutes later we had to turn back. We motored back up the river during a blistering beautiful sunset, watched by the dark windows of the huge McMansions on the river bank. I continued to take pictures with my new Canon Sure Shot.
Laine Harris slowed the engine and slowed the boat as he turned it into a finger pier at Dutch Wharf. I took up a docking line, and prepared to jump down onto the three foot wide finger of the peer. In my excitement, I misjudged too many variables, and jumped too hard, landed on the narrow pier, but couldn’t stop my momentum, and slowly and gracefully went forward across the pier and right into the freezing black water on the other side. I was so embarrassed, I was willing to drown, but first, I took the line still in my hand, and wound it round the cleat, that was now over my head, to keep the boat from banging on the pier.

Harris had to secure his sail boat alone, while I discovered I was so wet and heavy, I did not have the strength to pull myself up onto the dock. I had time to contemplate that you could live in such cold water for about 40 minutes before you died. Laine tried to pull me up, and he couldn’t. I swung a wet leg up and hooked my foot on the low pier, and then the skipper was able to pull my hand to raise my shoulders while my leg lifted, and I slowly emerged from the freezing water and rolled unceremoniously onto the floating dock. In spite of my acute embarrassment, I was going to live. The new camera was still in my pocket.

For the drive home, I forgot in my sogginess to worry about the existential threat of the methane of the Russian tundra.

 

Now for the post on Methane, by Kevin Schaefer, who is a permafrost scientist at NSIDC.

“What is methane?
Methane is a gas made up of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. It’s the same natural gas that some people use to heat their homes, and it also exists naturally in the atmosphere. Scientists worry that if methane increases in the atmosphere, it could cause even more warming than carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. Although there is much less methane in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, it traps heat about twenty times as efficiently as carbon dioxide.

What are the sources of methane in the Arctic?
There are two potential sources of methane in the Arctic. The first source of methane is called methyl clathrate. Methyl clathrates are molecules of methane that are frozen into ice crystals. They can form deep in the Earth or underwater, but it takes very special conditions, with high pressure and low temperature, to make them. If the temperature or pressure changes, the ice that imprisons the methane will break apart, and the methane will escape. We’re not sure how much methane is trapped in methyl clathrates, or how much is in danger of escaping.

The other major source of methane in the Arctic is the organic matter frozen in permafrost. This is the source of methane that I study. The organic matter in permafrost contains a lot of carbon. It is made of dead plants and animals that have been frozen deep in permafrost for thousands of years. As long as this organic matter remains frozen, it will stay in the permafrost. However, if it thaws, it will decay, releasing carbon dioxide or methane into the atmosphere. This is why permafrost carbon is important to climate study.

Figure 2. Carbon moves through the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land in a process called the carbon cycle.
—Credit: NSIDC, modified from NASA Earth Science Enterprise

How did this carbon get into permafrost in the first place?
Carbon was buried in permafrost by processes that took thousands of years. During the last ice age, great ice sheets covered most of the continents. As they spread out and then shrunk back, the heavy fields of ice ground up the rock underneath them into a very fine dust called loess or glacial flour. The ice sheets produced a huge amount of this powdered rock, and wind and rain deposited it onto the soil.”

via Methane and Frozen Ground | National Snow and Ice Data Center

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Accelerate Like a ‘Speeding Freight Train’ in 2018 – By Kendra Pierre-Louis – The New York Times

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By Kendra Pierre-Louis
Dec. 5, 2018,    770
Want climate news in your inbox? Sign up here for Climate Fwd:, our email newsletter.

Greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are growing at an accelerating pace this year, researchers said Wednesday, putting the world on track to face some of the most severe consequences of global warming sooner than expected.

Scientists described the quickening rate of carbon dioxide emissions in stark terms, comparing it to a “speeding freight train” and laying part of the blame on an unexpected surge in the appetite for oil as people around the world not only buy more cars but also drive them farther than in the past — more than offsetting any gains from the spread of electric vehicles.

“We’ve seen oil use go up five years in a row,” said Rob Jackson, a professor of earth system science at Stanford and an author of one of two studies published Wednesday. “That’s really surprising.”

Worldwide- carbon emissions are expected to increase by 2.7 percent in 2018
, according to the new research, which was published by the Global Carbon Project, a group of 100 scientists from more than 50 academic and research institutions and one of the few organizations to comprehensively examine global emissions numbers. Emissions rose 1.6 percent last year, the researchers said, ending a three-year plateau.

via Greenhouse Gas Emissions Accelerate Like a ‘Speeding Freight Train’ in 2018 – The New York Times

Yes. Ugly and depressing.  Here are the top three comments which I endorsed:

joel strayer
bonners ferry,ID

I believe no leader of any country wants to be the first to admit that this problem cannot be solved. No one I know is in any way prepared to make the changes required in their lifestyle which will actually reduce their carbon footprint. Considering that agriculture alone produces 25% of our GHGs, and that thawing permafrost is utterly unstoppable and will double the CO2 already in the atmosphere, there is actually nothing we can do. Permafrost thaw cannot be reversed…and in fact is accelerating with multiple positive feedback mechanisms in play. The infrastructure changes required in the transport sector alone will take decades to implement…even if the political will to do so existed, which it doesn’t. And all the while Trump keeps reiterating that he doubts the IPCC report and the government’s climate report, stealthily released the day after Thanksgiving so it would go un-noticed. The deep connection between food production and fossil fuels is also widely misunderstood. Our current population could never have achieved that number without the use of fossil fuels, so it seems highly unlikely those two will be uncoupled anytime soon. Add to this increasing life spans and the insane fact people still want to have kids, and the situation becomes absolutely unsolvable without catastrophic drops in population.

S. Nelson commented December 5

S. Nelson
Wyoming

Why isn’t this and all climate change news at the top of the feed constantly? (and I don’t mean just tertiary news such as wildfires). I remember jokes of pandas who can’t or won’t reproduce to save their species. Seems a bit hypocritical. The magnitude of the problem and the drastic nature of the long-term consequences – even best case scenarios – have me wondering why I must scroll or sign up for a special newsletter. It creates an environment where only those who already know are looking for what’s next. An echo chamber of sorts. The alarms should be sounding, loudly and continuously. A storm is coming, the wind is already rising. It’s strong enough that it’ll destroy our home. Shingles are already peeling up. But we’re busy picking out paint for the trim because the alarms aren’t sounding loudly enough. What good are storm sirens and emergency systems if the aren’t used? What good is media of any sort if, in the face of certain catastrophe, the lead is buried? Do better.

Socrates commented December 5

Socrates
Downtown Verona. NJ

Birth control Birth control Birth control Solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, tidal, biomass and alternative energy technologies. Education. And less religious ignorance. There are ways to defuse this ticking demographic environmental time-bomb. https://www.greenmatch.co.uk/blog/2017/07/top-eu-countries-in-clean-energy Europe is making progress….the US, China and India are the problem children. Perhaps if the Gas Oil Pollution party would take its head out of its rear end and it bank account, they might ‘conserve’ the planet instead of raping it. Nice GOPeople.

Global warming of 1.5°C – An IPCC Special Report

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“An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty

. Understanding Global Warming of 1.5°C4
A.1 Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming5
above
pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C
between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate. (high confidence) (Figure
SPM.1) {1.2}
A.1.1 Reflecting the long-term warming trend since pre-industrial times, observed global mean surface temperature (GMST) for
the decade 2006–2015 was 0.87°C (likely between 0.75°C and 0.99°C)6
higher than the average over the 1850–1900
period (very high confidence). Estimated anthropogenic global warming matches the level of observed warming to within
±20% (likely range). Estimated anthropogenic global warming is currently increasing at 0.2°C (likely between 0.1°C and
0.3°C) per decade due to past and ongoing emissions (high confidence). {1.2.1, Table 1.1, 1.2.4}
A.1.2 Warming greater than the global annual average is being experienced in many land regions and seasons, including two to
three times higher in the Arctic. Warming is generally higher over land than over the ocean. (high confidence) {1.2.1, 1.2.2,
Figure 1.1, Figure 1.3, 3.3.1, 3.3.2}
A.1.3 Trends in intensity and frequency of some climate and weather extremes have been detected over time spans during which
about 0.5°C of global warming occurred (medium confidence). This assessment is based on several lines of evidence,
including attribution studies for changes in extremes since 1950. {3.3.1, 3.3.2, 3.3.3}”

Picturing a ton of CO2 – By Bill Chameides / EDF Blogs / 2007

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By Bill Chameides / EDF Blogs / Published: February 20, 2007

Tons of CO2 pollution. We are always hearing about how many tons of CO2 pollution we emit. The average American car emits about seven tons of CO2 in a year; the average American family, about 24 tons; the United States as a whole, over seven billion tons; and worldwide, almost 30 billion tons. The Virgin Earth Challenge (see last week’s post) offers $25 million to whoever can economically remove one billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.

But what is a ton of CO2?

People keep saying to me, I thought CO2 is a gas. How can a gas have weight? I explain that CO2 is made up of atoms, and atoms have mass, and with gravity mass has weight. As often as not, my explanation is met with a blank stare. So let me try a different tack.

Picture a football field, and then imagine a round balloon with one end lined up on the goal line and the other on the 10 yards line – that is, a balloon with a diameter of 10 yards. If that balloon were filled with CO2, it would weigh about 1 ton; it would be a 1-ton CO2 balloon.

via Picturing a ton of CO2

Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change – By Nathaniel Rich Photographs and Videos by George Steinmetz – NYT

Amazing, heartbreaking. Caution: intelligent people should be warned that this story might cause depression and despair. The antidote, go see Al Gore’s second film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power. It is full of good news.

By Nathaniel Rich
Photographs and Videos by George Steinmetz

 

About this article

 

NYTIMES.COM
We knew everything we needed to know, and nothing stood in our way. Nothing, that is, except ourselves. A tragedy in two acts.
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x
x
David Lindsay:
Everyone please read the article above, Losing Earth. Here is my comment at the NYT.

David Lindsay Jr.

 

Everyone please look at the article above, Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change. By Nathaniel Rich. Here is my comment at the NYT.

Thank you Nathanial Rich and the NYT. There are real villains in this story. I was unaware that George H W Bush beat Michael Dukakis partly because Dukakis was pro Coal and a climate change denier, and George HW Bush was looking for a way to beat Dukakis in New Hamshire, where the former Governor, John Sununu recommended climate change was popular in his state. These two men are the villains. Sununu almost single handedly, according to this short history, derailed the climate change summit in 1988, that was headed to world action on carbon dioxide pollution. Sununu deserves our disgust and contempt, but he wasn’t the only villain. George HW Bush was an oil and gas man from Texas, and he put as his Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, another oil and gas executive. Both Bush presidents were intellectual light weights. According to this short history, HW Bush didn’t like or let scientist brief him. He preferred getting briefed by his political buddies. Billions of people will probably suffer, and many of them die, in the ugly centuries ahead, even if we get serious about climate change after the next election or two. There will be plenty of blood, on many hands, but there will be a specially hot place in the 9th ring of hell, for John Sununu, Dick Cheney, and the anti-science Bush presidents. Don’t quit, don’t despair. Get environmental patriots to the polls, and to run for office.

David Lindsay Jr. blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com