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NASA/Kathryn Hansen via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY 2.0
NASA/Kathryn Hansen via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY 2.0

Experts Predict Widespread Ocean Warming by 2050

NASA/Kathryn Hansen via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY 2.0
NASA/Kathryn Hansen via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY 2.0

A study published this week in the journal Nature Communications finds that climate change will affect up to 86 percent of the world’s oceans within the next few decades—and that it’s not too late to do something about it.

The Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) is a large-scale collaboration by atmospheric and climate scientists around the world. The fifth phase of the project, which ended in 2014, yielded 20 different models, or simulations, of our planet’s climate in the past, present, and future.

For the latest study, researchers combined data from 12 of the 20 CMIP models, focusing on how climate change could affect the oceans.

The results were grim. If humans proceed with business as usual and continue to degrade the environment, the researchers say, we can expect to see significant warming and acidification in more than four-fifths of the ocean.

On a global scale, that will mean melting ice caps and rising sea levels. It’ll also affect millions of marine species, including those central to human diet and industry. Changing waters will force species from plankton to polar bears to adapt, migrate, or die.

Migration will not be an option for coldwater species, lead author Stephanie Henson of the British National Oceanography Centre told Reuters. “Arctic fish don’t have anywhere to go.”

“How individual species will fare, or how the ecosystem as the sum of its parts will fare, is poorly understood,” the authors write. “What is clear however is that there are likely to be winners and losers in the future ocean.”

But it wasn’t all bad news. These predictions are based on a future in which humans have failed to protect the planet. It’s not too late, the researchers say, for us to do better.

“The exposure of marine ecosystems to climate change-induced stress can be drastically reduced via climate mitigation measures,” they write. The more steps we take to mitigate climate change, the more time we’ll be able to give marine species to adapt and survive.

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Afternoon Map
A New NASA Map Shows Spring Is Coming Earlier Each Year
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iStock

Climate change is shifting Earth’s seasons. Winters are getting shorter, and the warmth of spring has started to arrive earlier and earlier, messing with the timing of processes like animal migrations and the budding of new plant growth. In a series of graphics spotted by Flowing Data, the NASA Earth Observatory shows how much earlier new leaves are arriving in some parts of the U.S., and how much earlier they reach full bloom.

The data comes from a 2016 study of U.S. national parks, so the maps only cover seasonal changes within the park system. But since there are so many parks spread across the U.S., it’s a pretty good snapshot of how climate change is affecting the timing of spring across the country. The map in green shows the difference in “first leaf” arrival, or when the first leaves emerge from tree buds, and the map in purple shows the arrival of the first blooms.

A map of the U.S. with a colored grid showing where leaves are coming earlier
Joshua Stevens, NASA Earth Observatory

Around 75 percent of the 276 parks analyzed in the study have been experiencing earlier springs, and half had recently seen the earliest springs recorded in 112 years. In Olympic National Park in Washington, the first leaves are now appearing 23 days earlier than they did a century ago, while the Grand Canyon is seeing leaves appear about 11 days earlier. National parks in the Sierras and in Utah are seeing leaves appear five to 10 days earlier, as are areas along the Appalachian Trail. Some parks, however, particularly in the South, are actually seeing a later arrival of spring leaves, shown in dark gray in the graphic.

A map of the U.S. with a colored grid showing where blooms are coming earlier
Joshua Stevens, NASA Earth Observatory

The places that are witnessing earlier first blooms aren't always the ones with extra-early first leaves. The Appalachian Trail is blooming earlier, even though the first leaves aren't arriving any earlier. But in other places, like Olympic National Park, both the first leaves and the first blooms are arriving far earlier than they used to.

“Changes in leaf and flowering dates have broad ramifications for nature,” National Park Service ecologist John Gross explained in the Earth Observatory’s blog. “Pollinators, migratory birds, hibernating species, elk, and caribou all rely on food sources that need to be available at the right time.” When temperatures get out of sync with usual seasonal changes, those species suffer.

[h/t Flowing Data]

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Design
The Self-Deploying Flood Barrier That Could Keep Cities Dry Without Sandbags
MegaSecur, YouTube
MegaSecur, YouTube

For many places in the world, the future is going to be wet. Climate change is already intensifying heavy rains and flooding in parts of the U.S., and it’s only expected to get worse. A recent study estimated that by 2050, more than 60 million people in the U.S. would be vulnerable to 100-year floods.

Some cities plan to meet rising waters with protective parkland, while some architects are developing floating houses. And one company has figured out how to replace piles of sandbags as emergency flood control, as Business Insider reports. Water-Gate, a line of flood protection products made by a Canadian company called MegaSecur, is a self-deploying water barrier that can be used to stop overflowing water in its tracks.

The emergency dam is made of folded canvas that, when water rushes into it, inflates up to become a kind of pocket for the water to get trapped in. You can roll it out across a street, a canal, or a creek like a giant hose, then wait for the water to arrive. In the event of a flash flood, you can even deploy it while the flood is already in progress. It can stop waters that rise up to five feet.

According to MegaSecur, one Water-Gate dam can replace thousands of sandbags, and once the floodwaters have receded, you can fold it back up and use it again. Sadly, based on the flood projections of climate change scientists, heavy flooding will soon become more and more common, and that will make reusable flood barriers necessary, saving time and money that would otherwise be spent buying, stacking, and getting rid of sandbags. The auto-deployment also means that it can be used by a single person, rather than a team of laborers. It could just as easily be set up outside a house by a homeowner as it could be set up on a city street by an emergency worker.

As climate change-related proposals go, it sounds a little more feasible than a floating house.

[h/t Business Insider]

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