Climate change causes glacial river in Yukon to change direction

from CBC News…

Glacier retreated so much that its meltwater switched course, in an event not documented in modern times.

Climate change has caused the massive Kaskawulsh Glacier in the Yukon to retreat so much that its meltwater abruptly switched direction, in the first documented case of “river piracy” in modern times.

Instead of flowing into the Slims River and then north to the Bering Sea, the water has changed course and now flows south toward the Kaskawulsh River, the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean, scientists have found.  Read more…

As global groundwater disappears, rice, wheat and other international crops may start to vanish

from PBS Newshour

We already know that humans are depleting vital groundwater resources across the globe. But a new study shows one of the biggest causes of disappearing groundwater is the international food trade. Read more…

Climate Change done right

It’s quite astonishing that one of the best climate change information sites comes out of a country well-known for its climate change denyers. NASA’s Global Climate Change – Vital Signs of the Planet is excellent. The first menu option is FACTS presenting the evidence, causes, effects and consensus exactly as one would expect from good and proper science. If only my own government could do the same – allow scientists to say what’s really going on. [Aside: For those who don’t know, I don’t live in an oppressive developing nation, but in Canada, where our democratically elected government has been muzzling federal scientists (and here) for years now. Yes, it’s the same Canada of UN peacekeeping fame and the country that once promoted openness, fairness and democracy, but has gone through a difficult time under its current right-wing leadership. Perhaps the Oct 19 election will change that.]

It’s also surprising that a whole government agency (NASA) can be saying something that someone who hopes to be president (Donald Trump) calls a complete hoax

Back to the NASA site: In particular, you will find the Infographics page and the EarthMinute animations helpful, especially in a classroom setting. There are also a number of Interactives to allow some independent exploration of the issue. It’s the kind of site you could spend hours exploring. And if you have contact with Mr. Trump, you may want to suggest he reads this!

Looking into the Greenland Ice sheet

GreenlandIceGreenland holds the second-largest volume of ice in the world. Complete melting would raise sea levels by over 6m! So having a look “under the hood” is valuable for understanding the dynamics of the ice sheet.

NASA has put together a valuable teaching video and article showing and describing how ice-penetrating radar, combined with ice core analysis allows climatologists to see the various layers and ages of Greenland’s ice sheet: Data peers into Greenland’s ice sheet. Pealing back the layers reveals ice as far back as the Eemian interglacial stage, previous to the most recent Ice Age.

For students, there is an additional spin-off from this teaching resource as it can be used to illustrate the variety of jobs linked to Geography and the pursuit of knowledge. After viewing the visualization and discussing the main points, try having students list all the jobs linked not just to the study itself, but to the logistics behind the study, the production of the video, the article and the website: climatologists, database engineers, flight crews, ground crews, animators, web engineers, authors. Geography isn’t just about the data gleaned, but more and more it’s about bringing the data to the people in way everyone can understand. In other words, one can be a “Geographer” involved directly in the study itself, but one can also be a Geographer involved in all the roles that support the study utilizing skills in a variety of other areas.

For more information, check out > Anthroposphere > Issues > Climate Change.

NASA “gets” Global Climate Change

IMG_3495Of all the US organizations and institutions, I think NASA is one of the few that gets Global Climate Change correct. Their website Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet is a wonderful, media-rich website.

First of all, the people at NASA call it Global Climate Change (like the rest of the world) and not Global Warming. Americans seem to have attached themselves to this simplistic notion that it’s all about warming. Yes, Earth is warming as a whole, but it’s the climate changes that occur as a result of that warming that we need also to focus on such as flooding, drought, the increase in storm frequency and severity, etc. Furthermore, if they were to look beyond the averages, they would realize that amongst the warming, some places experience slight cooling.

Secondly, NASA leads with the global perspective – difficult to find in U.S. media. On the Images of Change page, for example, the lead visual is flooding in Mozambique from January 2015, followed by urban growth in Egypt. Imagine, leading with Sub-Saharan Africa; quite atypical of western media in general. And, the fact that the floods are topical and were so poorly covered by western media, despite almost 100 deaths, only goes to strengthen the significance of the NASA site. Keep up the great work, NASA!

For more information on Global climate Change, visit > Anthroposphere > Issues > Climate Change.

7:16am – It’s a Snow Day here in southern Ontario – more time to get out for a ski and explore Geography online!

Climate change explained

climatOn, you will find a whole page of links to help you understand Climate Change. One of the sources listed there is from the Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom. It has an excellent section called The Ultimate Climate Change FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) which offers a different way of accessing information – one that may be easier to access rather than wading through paragraphs of information.

Berkeley Earth

WinterTchangeWant climate data? How about data going back to the 1700s and data for 40,000 locations around the world? If you need an example of “big data” this is it – and it’s free and openly accessible for students and educators (and anyone else interested!) and is called Berkeley Earth.

What I found particularly intriguing is that Berkeley Earth is an independent, not-for-profit organization and their data and methods are completely transparent and open to scientific scrutiny. They tell us exactly how they go about their climate analysis and, as mentioned above, provide all their data. Having the data available allows educators to design a plethora of activities for students to learn data mining, mapping and charting and analysis – all with real climate data.

To quote their “About our Data” page, “The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study has … combin[ed] 1.6 billion temperature reports from 16 preexisting data archives. Whenever possible, we have used raw data rather than previously homogenized or edited data. … [T]he current archive contains over 39,000 unique stations. This is roughly five times the 7,280 stations found in the Global Historical Climatology Network Monthly data set (GHCN-M) that has served as the focus of many climate studies. ”

TO-ClimateChangeFor interest sake, I navigated to the Results by Location page and looked up Toronto, shown here. Incredible! it states, rather matter-of-factly that, based on aggregate historical data, the mean rate of temperature change around Toronto is 5.38°C (±0.41) – higher than I expected, but that seems to fit the model for more northern areas seeing a higher-than-global rate of temperature change.

Interestingly, rather than reporting using specific data from individual stations, with all their inherent sources of error, Berkeley Earth have worked to reduce error by averaging with nearby stations, thus creating a series of averages based on latitude and longitude. For this reason, the data for Toronto are the same as the data for Guelph as they both represent the location: 44.20 N, 80.50 W.

I can envision having students who are new to the notion of climate change (Mmmm, my Gr 7s come to mind…), building a global picture of climate change themselves based on this data and some interesting mapping features in Google Sheets (which we, as a school, use). this sounds like fun!