We present a statistical analysis of deep-water buoy measurements of large waves generated during two major storms of the Eastern Mediterranean in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The largest waves observed do display similar characteristics to those of the Draupner, Andrea, and El Faro rogue waves in that second order bound nonlinearities enhance the linear dispersive focusing of extreme waves. We also present a novel analysis of waves in space-time to predict potential risks posed by such large waves to navigation. In particular, we consider the scenario of two types of vessels of the Israeli Navy fleet navigating during the most intense stages of the two storms considered here and provide predictions for the largest waves likely to be encountered.
Most expensive storm cost $100bn while deadliest floods killed 1,700 and displaced 7 million, report finds
The 10 most expensive storms, floods and droughts in 2022 each cost at least $3bn (£2.5bn) in a “devastating” year on the frontline of the climate crisis, a report shows.
Hurricane Ian caused the biggest financial impact – $100bn – when it hit the US and Cuba in September.
The toll included 130 deaths and the displacement of more than 40,000 people, a report from the aid agency said.
The biggest impact in terms of human costs were the Pakistan floods in June to September, which scientists found were significantly more likely because of the climate crisis, causing 1,739 deaths and displacing 7 million people.
They include floods in Malaysia, Brazil and west Africa, long-running drought in the Horn of Africa, heatwaves in India and Pakistan, the Arctic and Antarctica, wildfire in Chile, storms in south-east Africa and the Philippines, and a tropical cyclone in Bangladesh.
The events also include February’s Storm Eunice, which hit the UK, Ireland and other parts of Europe, causing 16 deaths and costing $4.3bn.
The financial costs were $5.6bn – though that was only insured losses, and the true cost of the floods was estimated to be more than $30bn, Christian Aid said.
Europe’s drought this summer – made several times more likely because of climate change – racked up costs of $20bn, hitting crop yields, driving up prices, affecting energy plants and disrupting shipping.
Droughts in China cost $8.4bn and in Brazil $4bn).
Floods in Australia in February to March led to 27 deaths. In South Africa in April, 459 people died in flooding. Both events displaced tens of thousands of people and cost billions.
Hugely expensive floods also hit China this year.
Christian Aid’s chief executive, Patrick Watt, said: “Having 10 separate climate disasters in the last year that each cost more than $3bn points to the financial cost of inaction on the climate crisis.
“But behind the dollar figures lie millions of stories of human loss and suffering. Without major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, this human and financial toll will only increase.
“The human cost of climate change is seen in the homes washed away by floods, loved ones killed by storms and livelihoods destroyed by drought.
“This year was a devastating one if you happened to live on the frontline of the climate crisis.”
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Past sea-level changes in the Mediterranean Sea are highly non-uniform and can deviate significantly from both the global average sea-level rise and changes in the nearby Atlantic. Understanding the causes of this spatial non-uniformity is crucial to the success of coastal adaptation strategies. This, however, remains a challenge owing to the lack of long sea-level records in the Mediterranean. Previous studies have addressed this challenge by reconstructing past sea levels through objective analysis of sea-level observations. Such reconstructions have enabled significant progress toward quantifying sea-level changes, however, they have difficulty capturing long-term changes and provide little insight into the causes of the changes. Here, we combine data from tide gauges and altimetry with sea-level fingerprints of contemporary land-mass changes using spatial Bayesian methods to estimate the sources of sea-level changes in the Mediterranean Sea since 1960. We find that, between 1960 and 1989, sea level in the Mediterranean fell at an average rate of −0.3 ± 0.5 mm yr−1, due to an increase in atmospheric pressure over the basin and opposing sterodynamic and land-mass contributions. After 1989, Mediterranean sea level started accelerating rapidly, driven by both sterodynamic changes and land-ice loss, reaching an average rate of 3.6 ± 0.3 mm yr−1 in the period 2000–2018. The rate of sea-level rise shows considerable spatial variation in the Mediterranean Sea, primarily reflecting changes in the large-scale circulation of the basin. Since 2000, sea level has been rising faster in the Adriatic, Aegean, and Levantine Seas than anywhere else in the Mediterranean Sea.
Two events in 2022 symbolised the climate breakdown that humanity is careering towards and the real, though fast-fading, hope that the world can still be steered away from calamity.
The first was the apocalyptic floods that submerged a third of Pakistan, the world’s fifth most populous nation, affecting 33 million people. Scientists found that the climate crisis had made the deluge up to 50% more intense.
The second was the re-election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as the president of Brazil. Experts had said the fate of the Amazon rested on the vote. Another term of the rampant destruction seen under Jair Bolsonaro could have pushed the world’s biggest rainforest past its tipping point, with global consequences.
Overall, however, the climate crisis is bleaker than it has ever been. In October, a slew of major reports laid bare how close the planet is to irreversible climate breakdown, with one UN study stating there was “no credible pathway in place to 1.5C”, the internationally agreed limit for global heating, and that progress on cutting carbon emissions was “woefully inadequate”.
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The effects of the climate crisis were clearer than ever in 2022. The Pakistan floods were preceded by a searing heatwave that also hit India and was made 30 times more likely by global heating.
Dangerous heatwaves also engulfed parts of China, Europe, and the US, with scientists saying a northern hemisphere summer as hot as 2022 would have been “virtually impossible” without global heating, and led to a record drought. In the UK, temperatures rose above 40C for the first time, obliterating records and shocking scientists.
In the US, Hurricane Ian became the most deadly hurricane since Katrina in 2005, while the American west continued to struggle with the most extreme megadrought in at least 1,200 years. In Australia, hot seas led to the Great Barrier Reef suffering its fourth mass bleaching in just seven years. Flooding also struck around the world, including Nigeria, Australia, Thailand and Vietnam, and Venezuela.
‘Turbocharged’ renewables growth
The Cop27 UN climate summit in Egypt in November was the key event intended to ramp up global action, but two weeks of increasingly fractious and messy talks ended “disappointment” for those hoping for progress on the global goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5C. The target itself came under attack from countries including Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, Russia, Brazil and China.
However, there were at least signs of a much-needed pact between the developed and developing world in an agreement to set up a fund for loss and damage. Its purpose is to help rebuild countries and communities laid waste by the unavoidable ravages of climate breakdown. Rich countries will be expected to pay into the fund and it will pay out to the poorest countries which are suffering most. Deals to phase out coal use in South Africa, Indonesia and Vietnam were also a plus in 2022.
In the US, President Joe Biden passed the biggest climate bill in the country’s history, channelling $369bn in support to renewable energy, electric cars and heating, and energy efficiency. The US is the world’s second biggest polluter and the bill could lead to emissions being slashed by 40% by 2030, compared with 2005.
In Australia, after nearly a decade of destruction and delay under conservative administrations, a new Labor government quickly increased the nation’s climate target from a 26% reduction in emissions by 2030 to 43%. It also passed the country’s first climate change legislation since 2011. The new climate change minister, Chris Bowen, was nonetheless cautious, saying: “Today doesn’t mark the end of the work; today the work just gets started.”
Russia’s war in Ukraine pushed up energy prices. But it also sparked an efficiency drive in Europe and “turbocharged” renewable energy growth, according to the IEA. However, political turmoil in the UK delayed action on efficiency and its government also approved its first new coal mine for 30 years and opposed solar farms, undermining its international reputation on climate.
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Europe’s water crisis is much worse than we thought
This year’s historic drought was just one part of the story: New findings reveal an alarming decline of freshwater in the continent’s aquifers.
As climate change accelerates, there is increasing interest in the ability of whales to trap carbon (i.e., whale carbon), yet it is currently undetermined if and how whale carbon should be used in climate-change mitigation strategies.
Restoring whale populations will enhance carbon storage in whale biomass and sequestration in the deep sea via whale falls, though the global impact will be relatively small.
Whale-stimulated primary productivity via nutrient provisioning may sequester substantially more carbon, though there is uncertainty regarding the carbon fate in these food webs.
Recovery of whale populations via reduction of anthropogenic impacts can aid in carbon dioxide removal but its inclusion in climate policy needs to be grounded in the best available science and considered in tandem with other strategies known to directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The great whales (baleen and sperm whales), through their massive size and wide distribution, influence ecosystem and carbon dynamics. Whales directly store carbon in their biomass and contribute to carbon export through sinking carcasses. Whale excreta may stimulate phytoplankton growth and capture atmospheric CO2; such indirect pathways represent the greatest potential for whale-carbon sequestration but are poorly understood. We quantify the carbon values of whales while recognizing the numerous ecosystem, cultural, and moral motivations to protect them. We also propose a framework to quantify the economic value of whale carbon as populations change over time. Finally, we suggest research to address key unknowns (e.g., bioavailability of whale-derived nutrients to phytoplankton, species- and region-specific variability in whale carbon contributions).
It’s lost 73% of its water and is unable to sustain some wildlife – and could soon negatively affect human health
Emergency measures are required to avert a catastrophe in Utah’s Great Salt Lake, which has been drying up due to excessive water use, a new report warns. Within years, the lake’s ecosystems could collapse and millions will be exposed to toxic dust contained within the drying lakebed, unless drastic steps are taken to cut water use.
A team of 32 scientists and conservationists caution that the lake could decline beyond recognition in just five years. Their warning is especially urgent amid a historic western megadrought fueled by global heating. To save the lake, the report suggests 30-50% reductions in water use may be required, to allow 2.5m acre-feet of water to flow from streams and rivers directly into the lake over the next two years.
“We really need to increase the speed of our response, and also increase our ambition for how much water we restore to the lake,” said Ben Abbott, an ecologist at Brigham Young University and one of the report’s lead authors.
Despite growing political momentum, Abbott said that existing policies and action plans will not be enough to save the lake from collapse. Already, the lake has lost 73% of its water and 60% of its surface area, as trillions of litres of water are diverted away from it to supply farms and homes. As a result, the lake is becoming saltier and uninhabitable to native flies and brine shrimp. Eventually, the lake will be unable to sustain the more than 10 million migratory birds and wildlife that frequent the lake.
Declining lake levels could also make magnesium, lithium and other critical minerals extraction infeasible within the next two years. Dust from the exposed lakebed could further damage crops, degrade soil and cause snow to melt more quickly – triggering widespread economic losses for Utah’s agriculture and tourism industries. Toxic sediment, laced with arsenic, from the lakebed can exacerbate respiratory conditions and heart and lung disease, and could increase residents’ risk for cancer.
“The last nail in the coffin is where we’re at,” said Kevin Perry, a University of Utah atmospheric scientist researching the Great Salt Lake dust. In parts of Utah that already suffer dangerous air quality in the summer and winter due to wildfire smoke and vehicle emissions, dusk from the lake threatens to bring year-round pollution, Perry said.
The climate crisis, which has increased average temperatures in northern Utah by 4F since the early 1900s, is further imperilling the lake, fueling more severe droughts and heatwaves. But studies suggest that only about 9% of the lake’s decline due to evaporation and reduced runoff can be blamed on climate change.
The oil giant Exxon privately “predicted global warming correctly and skilfully” only to then spend decades publicly rubbishing such science in order to protect its core business, new research has found.
A trove of internal documents and research papers has previously established that Exxon knew of the dangers of global heating from at least the 1970s, with other oil industry bodies knowing of the risk even earlier, from around the 1950s. They forcefully and successfully mobilized against the science to stymie any action to reduce fossil fuel use.
A new study, however, has made clear that Exxon’s scientists were uncannily accurate in their projections from the 1970s onwards, predicting an upward curve of global temperatures and carbon dioxide emissions that is close to matching what actually occurred as the world heated up at a pace not seen in millions of years.
Exxon scientists predicted there would be global heating of about 0.2C a decade due to the emissions of planet-heating gases from the burning of oil, coal and other fossil fuels. The new analysis, published in Science, finds that Exxon’s science was highly adept and the “projections were also consistent with, and at least as skillful as, those of independent academic and government models”.
Geoffrey Supran, whose previous research of historical industry documents helped shed light on what Exxon and other oil firms knew, said it was “breathtaking” to see Exxon’s projections line up so closely with what subsequently happened.
“This really does sum up what Exxon knew, years before many of us were born,” said Supran, who led the analysis conducted by researchers from Harvard University and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “We now have the smoking gun showing that they accurately predicted warming years before they started attacking the science. These graphs confirm the complicity of what Exxon knew and how they misled.”
The research analyzed more than 100 internal documents and peer-reviewed scientific publications either produced in-house by Exxon scientists and managers, or co-authored by Exxon scientists in independent publications between 1977 and 2014.
The analysis found that Exxon correctly rejected the idea the world was headed for an imminent ice age, which was a possibility mooted in the 1970s, instead predicting that the planet was facing a “carbon dioxide induced ‘super-interglacial’”. Company scientists also found that global heating was human-influenced and would be detected around the year 2000, and they predicted the “carbon budget” for holding the warming below 2C above pre-industrial times.
Armed with this knowledge, Exxon embarked upon a lengthy campaign to downplay or discredit what its own scientists had confirmed. As recently as 2013, Rex Tillerson, then chief executive of the oil company, said that the climate models were “not competent” and that “there are uncertainties” over the impact of burning fossil fuels.
“What they did was essentially remain silent while doing this work and only when it became strategically necessary to manage the existential threat to their business did they stand up and speak out against the science,” said Supran.
“They could have endorsed their science rather than deny it. It would have been a much harder case to deny it if the king of big oil was actually backing the science rather than attacking it.”
Climate scientists said the new study highlighted an important chapter in the struggle to address the climate crisis. “It is very unfortunate that the company not only did not heed the implied risks from this information, but rather chose to endorse non-scientific ideas instead to delay action, likely in an effort to make more money,” said Natalie Mahowald, a climate scientist at Cornell University.
Mahowald said the delays in action aided by Exxon had “profound implications” because earlier investments in wind and solar could have averted current and future climate disasters. “If we include impacts from air pollution and climate change, their actions likely impacted thousands to millions of people adversely,” she added.
Drew Shindell, a climate scientist at Duke University, said the new study was a “detailed, robust analysis” and that Exxon’s misleading public comments about the climate crisis were “especially brazen” given their scientists’ involvement in work with outside researchers in assessing global heating. Shindell said it was hard to conclude that Exxon’s scientists were any better at this than outside scientists, however.
The new work provided “further amplification” of Exxon’s misinformation, said Robert Brulle, an environment policy expert at Brown University who has researched climate disinformation spread by the fossil fuel industry.
“I’m sure that the ongoing efforts to hold Exxon accountable will take note of this study,” Brulle said, a reference to the various lawsuits aimed at getting oil companies to pay for climate damages.
Every 40 days a language dies. This “catastrophic” loss is being amplified by the climate crisis, according to linguists. If nothing is done, conservative estimates suggest that half of all the 7,000 languages currently spoken will be extinct by the end of the century.
Speakers of minority languages have experienced a long history of persecution, with the result that by the 1920s half of all Indigenous languages in Australia, the US, South Africa and Argentina were extinct. The climate crisis is now considered the “final nail in the coffin” for many Indigenous languages and with them, the knowledge they represent.
“Languages are already vulnerable and endangered,” says Anastasia Riehl, the director of the Strathy language unit at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Huge factors are globalisation and migration, as communities move to regions where their language is not spoken or valued, according to Riehl.
“It seems particularly cruel,” she says, that most of the world’s languages are in parts of the world that are growing inhospitable to people.
Vanuatu, a South Pacific island nation measuring 12,189 sq km (4,706 sq miles), has 110 languages, one for each 111 sq km, the highest density of languages on the planet. It is also one of the countries most at risk of sea level rise, she says.
“Many small linguistic communities are on islands and coastlines vulnerable to hurricanes and sea level rise.” Others live on lands where rising temperature threaten traditional farming and fishing practices, prompting migration.
“When climate change comes in, it disrupts communities even more,” says Riehl. “It has a multiplier effect, the final nail in the coffin.”
A map of the world’s 577 critically [>link<] endangered languages reveals clusters around equatorial Africa and in the Pacific and the Indian ocean region.
In response to the crisis, the UN launched the International Decade of Indigenous Languages in December. Preserving languages of Indigenous communities is “not only important for them, but for all humanity,” the UN general assembly president, Csaba Kőrösi, said, urging countries to allow access to education in Indigenous languages.
“With each Indigenous language that goes extinct, so too goes the thought, the culture, tradition and knowledge it bears,” said Kőrösi, echoing the sentiments of Ken Hale, the late US linguist and activist, who compared losing any language to “dropping a bomb on the Louvre”.
Dr Gregory Anderson is director of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, an organisation at the University of South Africa that documents and records endangered languages.
“We are heading for a catastrophic language and cultural loss into the next century,” he says.
The world is on the brink of breaching a critical climate threshold, according to a new study published on Monday, signifying time is running exceedingly short to spare the world the most catastrophic effects of global heating.
Using artificial intelligence to predict warming timelines, researchers at Stanford University and Colorado State University found that 1.5C of warming over industrial levels will probably be crossed in the next decade. The study also shows the Earth is on track to exceed 2C warming,which international scientists identified as a tipping point, with a 50% chance the grave benchmark would be met by mid-century.
“We have very clear evidence of the impact on different ecosystems from the 1C of global warming that’s already happened,” said Stanford University climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh, who co-authored the study with atmospheric scientist Elizabeth Barnes. “This new study, using a new method, adds to the evidence that we certainly will face continuing changes in climate that intensify the impacts we are already feeling.”
Utilizing a neural network, or a type of AI that recognizes relationships in vast sets of data, the scientists trained the system to analyze a wide array of global climate model simulations and then asked it to determine timelines for given temperature thresholds.
The model found a nearly 70% chance that the two-degree threshold would be crossed between 2044 and 2065, even if emissions rapidly decline. To check the AI’s prediction prowess, they also entered historical measurements and asked the system to evaluate current levels of heating already noted. Using data from 1980 to 2021, the AI passed the test, correctly homing in on both the 1.1C warming reached by 2022 and the patterns and pace observed in recent decades.
The two temperature benchmarks, outlined as crisis points by the United Nations Paris agreement, produce vastly different outcomes across the world. The landmark pact, signed by nearly 200 countries, pledged to keep heating well below two degrees and recognized that aiming for 1.5C “would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”.
Half a degree of heating may not seem like a lot, but the increased impacts are exponential, intensifying a broad scale of consequences for ecosystems around the world, and the people, plants and animals that depend on them. Just a fraction of a degree of warming would increase the number of summers the Arctic would be ice-free tenfold, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a global consortium of scientists founded to assess climate change science for the UN. The difference between 1.5C and 2C also results in twice the amount of lost habitat for plants and three times the amount for insects.
The change will also fuel a dangerous rise in disasters. A warmer world will deliver droughts and deluges and produce more firestorms and floods. Scorching heatwaves will become more severe and more common, occurring 5.6 times more often at the 2C benchmark, according to the IPCC, with roughly 1bn people facing a greater potential of fatal fusions of humidity and heat. Communities around the world will have to come to grips with more weather whiplash that flips furiously between extremes.
For many developing countries – including small island nations on the frontlines of the climate crisis – the difference between the two is existential. Some regions warm faster than others and the effects from global heating won’t unfold equally. The highest toll is already being felt by those who are more vulnerable and less affluent and the devastating divisions are only expected to sharpen.
Climate scientists have long been warning of the near-inevitability of crossing 1.5C, but by offering a new way of predicting key windows, this study has made an even more urgent case for curbing emissions and adapting to the effects that are already beginning to unfold.
“Our AI model is quite convinced that there has already been enough warming that 2C is likely to be exceeded if reaching net-zero emissions takes another half-century,” said Diffenbaugh. “Net-zero pledges are often framed around achieving the Paris Agreement 1.5C goal,” he added. “Our results suggest that those ambitious pledges might be needed to avoid 2C.”
The findings shouldn’t be seen as an indication that the world has failed to meet the moment, Diffenbaugh emphasized. Instead, he hopes the work serves to motivate rather than dismay. There’s still time to stave off an even higher escalation in the effects and prepare for the ones already brewing – but not much.
“Managing these risks effectively will require both greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation,” he said. “We are not adapted to the global warming that’s already happened and we certainly are not adapted to what is certain to be more global warming in the future.”
And, while progress is being made on shifting toward a more sustainable future, there’s a long way to go. “Stabilizing the climate system will require reaching net zero, he said. “There are a lot of emissions globally – and it’s a big ship to turn around.”