Global warming hasn’t stopped, the heat’s just HIDING deep within the Pacific …

February 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Global Warming

  • IPCC report last year said temperatures have barely risen in past 15 years
  • This is despite more greenhouse gases being pumped into atmosphere
  • New study claims winds in Pacific have driven heat deep underwater
  • This has had a net effect of cooling surface temperatures by 0.1°C and 0.2°C

By
Ellie Zolfagharifard

12:48 EST, 10 February 2014
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14:50 EST, 10 February 2014

Powerful winds in the Pacific Ocean, which have driven surface heat deep underwater, could be the reason behind the current ‘pause’ in global warming.

This is according to a joint Australian and U.S. study which has looked at why there has been a slowdown in the planet’s global average surface temperature over the past decade.

Their research shows that trade winds in central and eastern parts of the Pacific have caused warm surface water to sink to the ocean’s depths, reducing the amount of heat in the atmosphere.

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Shown here are the global monthly mean sea-surface temperature (SST) anomalies from 1961-90. Sea surface temperature is the temperature of the top millimeter of the ocean's surface. An anomaly is a departure from average conditions. Scientists believe winds in central and eastern parts of the Pacific have caused warm surface water to sink to the ocean's depths

Shown here are the global monthly mean sea-surface temperature (SST) anomalies from 1961-90. Sea surface temperature is the temperature of the top millimeter of the ocean’s surface. An anomaly is a departure from average conditions. Scientists believe winds in central and eastern parts of the Pacific have caused warm surface water to sink to the ocean’s depths

Last year, scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the pace of temperature rise at the Earth’s surface had slowed over the past 15 years.

This is despite the fact concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased to levels that are unprecedented in at least 800,000 years

The latest study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, said stronger Pacific trade winds- had made ocean circulation at the Equator speed up.

This schematic shows the trends in temperature and ocean atmosphere circulation in the Pacific over the past two decades. Colour shading shows observed temperature trends (°C per decade) during 1992-2011 at the sea surface. The bold and thin arrows show an overall acceleration of the Pacific Ocean moving warm, surface waters (indicated by the blue arrow) to below 700 metres beneath the surface

This schematic shows the trends in temperature and ocean atmosphere circulation in the Pacific over the past two decades. Colour shading shows observed temperature trends (°C per decade) during 1992-2011 at the sea surface. The bold and thin arrows show an overall acceleration of the Pacific Ocean moving warm, surface waters (indicated by the blue arrow) to below 700 metres beneath the surface

Scientists claim one of the causes of the pause in sea-surface temperature is a change in the exchange of ocean water. They believe this exchange is occurring between warm, surface waters and cold, deep waters below 700 metres

Scientists claim one of the causes of the pause in sea-surface temperature is a change in the exchange of ocean water. They believe this exchange is occurring between warm, surface waters and cold, deep waters below 700 metres

 

HOW TRADE WINDS CAN BURY HEAT AND MASK GLOBAL WARMING

Scientists claim one of the causes of the‘plateau’ in sea-surface temperature is a change in the exchange of ocean water.

They believe this exchange is occurring between warm, surface waters and cold, deep waters below 700 metres – as if the warming is ‘hiding’ underwater.

Easterly trade winds of the Pacific Ocean have increased significantly over the past two decades and as a result are blowing higher volumes of warm surface sea water to deeper depths.

Stronger trade winds blowing from South America to Australia have had the net effect of cooling surface temperatures by a global average of between 0.1°C and 0.2°C,

This would be enough to account for the apparent hiatus in global average temperatures over the past 15 years.

The warm water won’t hide below the surface forever: scientists believe that it may re-emerge later or affect other climate indicators, such as sea level or ocean circulation.

This pattern of easterly winds, which spans the tropics, has moved heat deeper into the ocean and brought cooler water to the surface.

The winds have also helped drive cooling in other ocean regions.

‘We show that a pronounced strengthening in Pacific trade winds over the past two decades is sufficient to account for the cooling of the tropical Pacific and a substantial slowdown in surface warming,’ said the study, led by scientists from the University of New South Wales in Australia.

‘The net effect of these anomalous winds is a cooling in the 2012 global average surface air temperature of 0.1-0.2 °C, which can account for much of the hiatus in surface warming since 2001.’

The study’s authors, including scientists from other research centres and universities in the U.S., Hawaii and Australia, used weather forecasting and satellite data and climate models to make their conclusions.

‘This hiatus could persist for much of the present decade if the trade winds trends continue, however, rapid warming is expected to resume once the anomalous wind trends abate,’ the study said.

‘If the anomalously strong trade winds begin to abate in the next few years, the model suggests the present hiatus will be short-lived, with rapid warming set to resume soon after the wind trends reverse,’ it added.

 

Commenting on the study, Richard Allan, professor of climate science at Britain’s University of Reading, said: ‘These changes are temporarily masking the effects of man-made global warming.’

The fact that temperatures have risen more slowly in the past 15 years despite rising greenhouse gas emissions has emboldened sceptics who challenge the evidence for man-made climate change and question the need for urgent action.

The IPCC does not expect the hiatus to last and has said temperatures from 2016-35 were likely to be 0.3-0.7°C warmer than in 1986-2005.

‘More than 93 per cent of the warming of the planet since 1970 is found in the ocean,’ said Steve Rintoul at Australia’s CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research and lead author of the chapter on oceans in the IPCC’s latest climate report.

‘If we want to understand and track the evolution of climate change we need to look in the oceans. The oceans have continued to warm unabated, even during the recent ‘hiatus’ in warming of surface temperature.’

Climate scientists say such pauses in warming occur regularly throughout history and can last for up to 20 years – but cannot be predicted.

They add that the warm water won’t hide below the surface forever. Scientists believe that it may re-emerge later or affect other climate indicators, such as sea level or ocean circulation.

 

Fracking is draining water from US areas suffering major shortages – report

February 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Water Quality

Weld County, Colorado (Reiuters / Rick Wilking)

Some of the most drought-ravaged areas of the US are also heavily targeted for oil and gas development using hydraulic fracturing – a practice that exacerbates water shortages – according to a new report.

Three-quarters of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled in the US since 2011 were located in areas of the country facing water scarcity, according to research by the Ceres investor network. Over half of those new wells were in areas experiencing drought conditions.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in those wells required the use of 97 billion gallons of water, Ceres found.

“Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country’s most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,” said Mindy Lubber, president of the Ceres green investors’ network.

Lubber warned that the fracking boom across the US puts the industry on a “collision course” with other water users.

Fracking is the highly controversial process of injecting water, sand, and various chemicals into layers of rock, in hopes of releasing oil and gas deep underground. Fracking in a single well can take millions of gallons of freshwater. Much of the drilling has occurred in areas mired in multi-year droughts.

Half of the 97 billion gallons of water used since 2011 for fracking have gone to wells in Texas, a state in the midst of a severe, years-long drought. Meanwhile, oil and gas production through fracking is on track to double in the state over the next five years, the Guardian reported.

The report also found that rural communities in the Lone Star State are being hit hard by the fracking bonanza occurring especially in the Eagle Ford Shale in south Texas.

“Shale producers are having significant impacts at the county level, especially in smaller rural counties with limited water infrastructure capacity,” the report said. “With water use requirements for shale producers in the Eagle Ford already high and expected to double in the coming 10 years, these rural counties can expect severe water stress challenges in the years ahead.”

Levels of vital aquifers that serve local communities near Eagle Ford have dropped by up to 300 feet in the last few years.

Many small communities in areas of heavy fracking in Texas are in dire need of water, as supplies have run out in some places or will dry up soon in others. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality says 29 communities across the state could run out of water in 90 days, and that many reservoirs in west Texas are at around 25 percent capacity.

In December, the San Antonio Express-News found that fracking was using more water than previously thought. The newspaper reported that in 2012, the industry used around 43,770 acre-feet of water in 3,522 Eagle Ford fracking wells – about the same usage of 153,000 San Antonio households.

“The oil and gas boom is requiring more water than we have,” Hugh Fitzsimons, a Dimmit County rancher and a director of the Wintergarden Groundwater Conservation District, told the Express-News. “Period.”

A separate study published this week found that the industry does a very poor job recycling fracking water in Texas. Researchers at
the University of Texas’ Bureau of Economic Geology found that 92 percent of water used in 2011 to frack Barnett Shale in north central Texas was “consumed,” and not recycled. Only about five percent of all water used for fracking in that area has been reused or recycled in the “past few years.”

Other states do not fare well in the Ceres report, either. In Colorado, 97 percent of wells were in areas strapped for water, as demand for fracking water in the state is expected to double to six billion gallons – twice the annual use of the city of Boulder – by 2015.

In California, 96 percent of new wells were located in areas where competition for water is high. A drought emergency for the entire state – which has traditionally dealt with water-sharing and access problems – was declared last month.

The report found similar high percentages of wells built in other states – such as New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming – where water shortages exist.

“It’s a wake-up call,” said Prof. James Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the University of California, Irvine, according to the Guardian. “We understand as a country that we need more energy but it is time to have a conversation about what impacts there are, and do our best to try to minimize any damage.”