Dawn Woodard led a paper in PNAS describing how the economic carbon-climate feedback may be as large (but opposite in sign) to the natural carbon climate feedback caused by permafrost melt, ocean stratification, and the response of other processes to climate warming. This is because economic damages (think of the recent Camp fire in Paradise or Hurricane Harvey in Houston) will limit economic growth and thus our ability to emit carbon. The negative economic carbon-climate feedback is not something that will help us fight climate change, though, because it is likely to increase wealth inequality and reduce the amount of resources available for climate adaptation. Scott Johnson from ARS Technica reported on this paper and Ken Caldeira and Patrick Brown wrote a review of our analysis in PNAS. This article was widely discussed on Twitter.
Liz Wiggins used radiocarbon observations to measure the age of smoke particles from Singapore during the 2015 El Nino. She found the smoke had a carbon age of about 800 years – confirming in a novel way that millennia-aged peat is the dominate source of fire emissions in the region. This article was widely discussed on Twitter and UCI issued a press release on the article.
Gabriel Kooperman’s paper in Nature Climate Change shows that in response to rising atmospheric CO2 levels, tropical forests close their leaf stomata and dissipate more of the sun’s energy in the form of sensible heat. In the Amazon, this change in the Earth’s energy budget causes rainfall to decrease over lowland forests, further contributing to stress from climate warming. Surprisingly, however, in tropical forests of Maritime Continent, the increase in sensible heating causes rainfall to increase. This work suggests the tropical forests on different continents induce different atmospheric circulation responses in response to climate warming. Claire Asher from Mongabay wrote a news article describing this work.
3/2018 Ocean warming around Antarctica may trigger nutrient trapping in the deep and loss of global fisheries
In a study published in Science, Keith Moore and colleagues describe a new biological tipping point that may significantly reduce global marine fisheries. The authors show that warming around Antarctica triggers sea ice losses and stimulates plankton growth. The massive bloom causes more detritus to sink back into the deep ocean, carrying nutrients with it. As a result, currents that move northward out of the Southern Ocean become depleted in nutrients, and can sustain less life in Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. In the north Atlantic, which also suffers from a loss of deep water formation, fisheries decline by nearly 60% by the year 2300. This study nicely illustrates the value of exploring earth system changes in deep future time and in describing future pathways that humanity should to its utmost to avoid. News articles on this work were published by the Washington Post and Reuters.
6/2017 Increases in lightning with climate change may pull fires into tundra ecosystems
Sander Veraverbeke’s study in Nature Climate Change provides evidence that unusually high levels of lightning ignitions were response for recent fire extremes in boreal forests of Canada and Alaska. Coverage on the study included news reports in Scientific American and National Geographic.
6/2017 Earth is losing its firepower
Niels Andela’s research article in Science documenting a 24% decline in global burned area over the past two decades was covered by several news media organizations, including the Washington Post and Popular Science. NASA and UCI released additional information about the study,
9/2016 Radiocarbon constraints imply reduced rates of carbon uptake during the 21st century
Yujie He’s paper on the use of soil radiocarbon measurements to constrain earth system model projections of the soil carbon sink was published in the journal Science in September. Media coverage on it included articles in the Washington Post, Science Daily, and the Guardian. Other coverage included a blog post by a writer for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
8/2016 Climate change has less of an impact on drought than previously expected
In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Swann, Hoffman, Koven, and Randerson show that plant responses to increasing CO2 have a large influence on future changes in relative humidity over land. The authors also show that traditional drought metrics overestimate future stress because they assume that surface conductance remains invariant. This leads to a disconnect between estimates of future changes in soil moisture, which may increase in many parts of the world, with drought metrics that suggest widespread increasing stress. The study provides evidence that direct use of soil moisture and other water balance variables from ESMs is likely to yield more accurate estimates of future change than derived metrics constructed from atmospheric variables. The paper was covered by Futurity and The Australian.
7/2016 Amazon fire risk very high at the onset of the 2016 dry season from El Nino
Chen, Morton, and Randerson released the 2016 Amazon fire forecast on June 30th with press releases from UCI and NASA. News coverage of the forecast included articles published by CNBC, UPI, and several new agencies in Brazil. A new article about the forecast also was published in the journal Nature. The UCI/NASA forecast was also described, along with a forecast for the Amazon from Columbia University, by Chris Mooney at the Washington Post in an article with the title “Why we should all worry about the Amazon catching fire this year.” This work also was covered by Samantha Lee at Grist in an article with the title “The world’s biggest forest might be on fire soon.”
6/2016 Can the ocean predict fire?
Yang Chen was recently interviewed about his paper “How much global burned area can be predicted using sea surface temperatures?” The news article was published on Environmental Research Web and includes a description of Yang’s paper and discussion by Yang about the physical and biological mechanisms enabling the development of seasonal fire forecasts.
Jim Randerson was interviewed by John Upton for a news article on Climate Central about the influence of climate change on western wildfires.
5/2016 KPCC public radio news report on the influence of El Nino on fire risk in Southern California
Brian Toten from KPCC interviewed Jim Randerson about fire risk in Southern California for the upcoming summer and fall fire season.
2/2016 Francesca Hopkins’ paper on methane discussed on KPCC public radio
Francesca Hopkins’ new paper in Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres describes the discovery of over 200 unidentified methane hotspots in the Los Angeles basin. Many of these are of fossil origin. Francesca was interviewed today on KPCC by Larry Mantle on AirTalk. A link to a transcript of her interview can be found here. Francesca was a postdoctoral scholar at UCI when she conducted this work and is now working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Francesca will start at UC Riverside in January of 2017.
12/2015 NASA Visualization of burned area from the Global Fire Emissions Database version 4.
Cindy Starr from NASA’s GSFC Visualization Laboratory created an animation of global burned area from 2000-2015. A press release from NASA describing the influence of the current El Nino on atmospheric rivers, the California drought, ozone, and tropical wildfires can be found here.
Mary Beth Griggs from Popular Science describes how analysis of burned area from the Global Fire Emissions Database indicates that fire risk will be elevated in Central and South America during the spring and summer of 2016.
9/2015 Conditions ripe for explosive wildfire season in Southern California
Rosanna Xia from the Los Angeles Times describes how the current drought may increase fire risk during the upcoming fall Santa Ana fire season. The story draws upon many of the findings from Yufang Jin’s recent Environmental Research Letters paper, including Yufang’s analysis of economic impacts of Santa Ana fires and the impacts of climate change on future fires.
8/2015 Amazon fires and North Atlantic hurricanes linked
Several articles in the popular press covered Yang Chen’s paper on the role of atmosphere-ocean interactions in the tropical North Atlantic in synchronizing carbon losses from hurricanes and forest fires in South America. This is arguably a different mode of carbon cycle forcing from El Nino, centered on the North Atlantic instead of the Pacific Ocean and mediated by disturbance-driven fluxes.
8/2015 Amazon fire forecast for 2015 indicates El Nino increasing fire risk in the eastern part of the basin
Ellen Gray from NASA wrote a news article describing our 2015 seasonal outlook for fire risk in the Amazon basin. As a consequence of the strong developing El Nino, we also plan to release a fire risk forecast in the fall for Amazon regions north of the equator. This is the first time since we started issuing the forecasts in 2012 that the north may have significant risk.
6/2015 Global Warming: Growing Feedback from Ocean Carbon to Climate
Fortunate Joos wrote a Nature News and Views on our paper “Multicentury changes in ocean and land contributions to the climate-carbon feedback” published in June 2015 in Global Biogeochemical Cycles.
The paper was also covered by Niina Heikkinen at ClimateWire with the article “How fast will rising temperatures shrink CO2 storage.”
11/2011 New Model Predicts Fire Season Severity in the Amazon
By analyzing nearly a decade of satellite data, a team of scientists led by researchers from the University of California, Irvine and funded by NASA has created a model that can successfully predict the severity and geographic distribution of fires in the Amazon rain forest and the rest of South America months in advance. Though previous research has shown that human settlement patterns are the primary factor that drives the distribution of fires in the Amazon, the new research demonstrates that environmental factors–specifically small variations in ocean temperatures–amplify human impacts and underpin much of the variability in the number of fires the region experiences from one year to the next. In the video UC Irvine scientist Jim Randerson provides an overview of the findings, which appeared in the journal Science.