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Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING January was Australia’s hottest month since records began
January was Australia’s hottest month since records began


January was Australia's hottest month since records began

This January was Australia’s hottest month on record, with the country’s average temperature topping 30C for the first time since records began, the Guardian reports. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (Bom) has released its climate summary for January today and called the widespread heatwave “unprecedented”. “There’s been so many records it’s really hard to count,” Andrew Watkins, a senior climatologist at the Bom, told the Guardian. January was Australia’s hottest ever month for mean, maximum and minimum temperatures, the Guardian reports. Reuters adds that the heatwave conditions are likely to last through to April. CNN also reports on Australia’s heatwave: “Across the country, roads have melted, infrastructure has failed and both animals and fish have died en masse…scientists are warning it could only be the beginning of the country’s problems with extreme weather if no action is taken to prevent climate change.” Elsewhere, the West Australian reports how former foreign minister Julie Bishop has called for the country’s government to have “courage on climate change”.

The Guardian Read Article
Teenagers emerge as a force in climate protests across Europe

Tens of thousands of children in Belgium missed school yesterday to join protests for action against climate change, the New York Times reports. This is “part of a broader environmental protest movement across Europe that has gathered force over the past several weeks”, the NYT says. “In Germany, France, Sweden, Switzerland and elsewhere, activists have come together on social media to gather in large numbers and without much apparent preparation, the protests taking a different shape in each country.” Though the protests have no obvious leader, it is thought that the children are taking inspiration from 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate activist who reprimanded world leaders for their inaction over climate change at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos. the NYT reports. BBC News reports this is the fourth week of children-led climate protests in Belgium and that “new impetus came in an open letter from 3,450 Belgian scientists saying ‘the activists are absolutely right’” to call for climate action. Associated Press and The Hill also cover the protests.

The New York Times Read Article
EPA puts climate change sceptic, conservative think tank scholar on science board

Several publications report on the news that acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Andrew Wheeler has put eight new members on the agency’s main board of external science advisers, including an outspoken sceptic of climate change science, a scholar at a conservative group funded in part by billionaire Charles Koch and researchers who have received industry funding. The science advisory board is the main body that advises the EPA on scientific matters, such as scrutinising regulations, the Hill says. Among the new appointees is John Christy, an atmospheric science professor at the University of Alabama, CNBC reports. “Christy has downplayed the threat of climate change in congressional hearings and media appearances, arguing that scientific models overestimate warming, and that major steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions are not warranted.” The Guardian has a live blog detailing the appointments “as they happened”.

The Hill Read Article
Chile names first woman in eight years to lead UN climate talks

Chile has nominated environment minister Carolina Schmidt to lead the next UN climate talks, Climate Home News reports. It has been eight years since a woman took up the post, it says. “Previously head of the National Office for Women, Schmidt has a record of seeking to incorporate gender issues into the climate debate, as women continue to disproportionately bear the brunt of global warming,” Climate Home News says. The next COP is currently expected to take place in early 2020.

Climate Home News Read Article


How climate change is behind this week's extreme cold snap

Many publications continue to offer analysis of the role that climate change is playing in the extreme cold snap affecting the US and Canada. CBC explains how the cold is linked to the “polar vortex”. It says: “The polar vortex is nothing new. It’s just that it typically encircles the north pole. However, in recent years, it seems to be meandering southward every so often. This week…the jet stream managed to split the descending polar vortex into three. Though it’s a relatively new area of study, there’s increasing evidence that suggests this phenomenon will happen more often and become more extreme.” BBC News also reports on what’s driving the cold: “The frigid air from the polar vortex warps the jet stream – another powerful air current, but much lower in the atmosphere – making it bulge down southwards. It is this bulging of the jet stream that brought the merciless cold to the US this week.” Carbon Brief’s science editor Robert McSweeney yesterday published a detailed explanation on how the US cold snap could be linked to climate change. Meanwhile, Vox reports how the cold snap is “is showing people just how poorly insulated their homes are”. BuzzFeed also covers the links between climate change and the polar vortex.

Nicole Mortillaro, CBC News Read Article
Australia has long had its freakishly hot days, but this summer feels different

“Australia in summer is morphing from what currently exists in our popular imagination of long days at the beach, to long days indoors,” Brigid Delaney writes in the Guardian. “When will we acknowledge that our summer selves are more akin to those of Dubai’s residents than our former all-day-at-the-beach selves? That we seek cool, dark places now? That Australia has become too hot? Because things are only going to get worse.” Elsewhere in the Guardian, a picture gallery shows the extent of wildfire destruction in Tasmania, while a podcastexplores the unfolding “disaster” in the Australian outback. Meanwhile, an editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald tells the government to “drop the pretence about the Murray-Darling plan

Brigid Delaney, The Guardian Read Article


Changes in intense rainfall events and dry periods across Africa in the twenty-first century

Climate change is expected to drive changes in intense rainfall and droughts across Africa over the 21st century. This study examines the results from 20 different variants of a regional climate model. They find that intensification of rainfall is projected for the Sahel rainy season, including large increases in wet spell frequency, wet spell duration, and wet spell intensity. A weaker intensified rainfall trend is also projected over East Africa, for northern Ethiopia in boreal summer, Tanzania in boreal winter, and southern Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Lake Victoria region in boreal fall. In contrast, increased dry periods is projected for parts of southern Africa (Angola, Zambia, Malawi).

Climate Dynamics Read Article
A sea change in our view of overturning in the subpolar North Atlantic

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) has a strong influence on climate, so it is important to understand how global warming may affect it. This study reports initial results from measurements by the Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program (OSNAP). The measurements reveal the strong variability of transport in the region and show that deep water formation in the Labrador Sea may not, as previously believed, be the major determinant of AMOC variability. Rather, they suggest that the conversion of warm, salty, shallow Atlantic waters into colder, fresher, deep waters that move southward in the Irminger and Iceland basins is largely responsible for overturning and its variability.

Science Read Article


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