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New Research Shows Aerosol Emissions May Have Masked Global Warming’s Supercharging of Tropical Storms



Ample research shows how surging greenhouse gas concentrations intensify deadly storms, droughts and heat waves, but cutting them, along with other industrial pollution emissions, will also affect global weather.

The effects of emissions reductions are less studied than increases, but understanding how the climate responds to such declines is also critical to protecting people from climate extremes like flooding, heat waves, dry spells and cyclones.

New research by NOAA published today in Science Advances shows that the rise and fall of industrial soot—aerosols—plays a critical role in tropical storm activity all over the world. The research identified some twists that should be of interest to policy makers, said study author Hiroyuki Murakami, a tropical storm researcher at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. 

Aerosols often form a reflective shield in the atmosphere that can trap warmth higher up, but reduces the amount of heat reaching the planet’s surface. Murakami’s modeling study suggests that an estimated 50 percent drop in atmospheric aerosol pollution in Europe and North America between 1980 and 2020 led to surface warming of the tropical Atlantic Ocean, where cyclones have increased 33 percent during the same 40-year period, he said.

“Reducing air pollution is not always decreasing the risk of hazards from tropical cyclones,” he said, adding that climate policy needs to consider the pros and cons of different impacts from reducing industrial pollution. If policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions rapidly succeed, it could further reduce aerosol pollution, leading to more heating and more tropical storm activity. 

Princeton University climate researcher and tropical storm expert Gabriel Vecchi, who was not involved in the study, said the research helps provide a more coherent global picture of how changes in aerosol levels affect tropical storms. 

“Given the role that has been identified for aerosols in global and regional temperature, hydroclimate and Atlantic tropical cyclones, it makes sense that they could have had a detectable impact on global tropical cyclone activity,” he said. “The study nicely shows…that aerosols have contributed to a redistribution of tropical cyclone activity—increasing it in some places and reducing it in others.”

The study shows that the impact of aerosols is not isolated to the Atlantic, he said, but involves a global shift. Aerosols, he noted, are some of the most volatile elements of the climate system, so he anticipates more studies to explore the uncertainties associated with their impacts.

Research on aerosols and tropical storms helps explain when and where to expect these storms to cause significant damage, allowing citizens and governments to prepare accordingly, he said.

Murakami said he found the aerosol fingerprint by changing the levels and patterns of human emissions in his model while leaving the other climate factors unchanged. The study did not calculate exactly how much the reduction of aerosols increased ocean warming and tropical storms, he said.

The decline of pollution in the Northern Hemisphere also contributed to the increase in Atlantic tropical storm activity by shifting key wind patterns, he said.

As aerosols decline, overall surface warming in mid- and high latitudes pushes the jet stream, a band of strong winds blowing west to east, about 5 to 9 miles up in the atmosphere, poleward. When those westerly winds weaken above the tropical Atlantic, where many major hurricanes form, he said, conditions at the surface are more conducive for tropical cyclones to develop and strengthen.

Aerosols have other effects on hurricanes. A 2020 paper in Geophysical Research Letters found that they increased precipitation and lightning by a factor of two  in the urban area around Houston during Hurricane Harvey, which flooded the area with record rains.

And a 2021 study in Nature Communications looked into the past and found that the drop in hurricane activity from the 1960s to 1980s was probably linked with the increase in aerosols during a time when industrial pollution of the atmosphere peaked.

Vecchi said that, in the future, he expects the warming effect of greenhouse gases to become more dominant relative to aerosols.

“Given the relatively short lifetime of aerosols in the atmosphere, as aerosol emissions are reduced the impact of greenhouse gases should become more and more evident,” he said.

Regionally Nuanced Impacts

At the same time, the decrease of pollution in Europe and North America had the opposite effect on the Southern Hemisphere, where it dampened tropical storm activity. The Northern Hemisphere is warming faster than the Southern Hemisphere, and, since warm air rises, that growing contrast is causing more air to rise north of the Equator, Murakami said that causes a downward flow of air in the Southern Hemisphere, which inhibits tropical cyclone formation.

The rapid growth of industrial pollution in Asia, particularly China and India, has likely also played a significant role in reducing tropical storm activity in the Western North Pacific, where typhoons threaten vulnerable island nations, as well as Okinawa, Japan and China. 

“One Important thing is, that as aerosols were increasing in China and India, people didn’t pay much attention to the effect,” Murakami said. “We found clearly that aerosols reduce tropical cyclones in the Western North Pacific.” The effect is the “flip side” of what’s happening in the Atlantic, he said, with air pollution as the “key ingredient” for the 14 percent decrease of tropical cyclones in the North Pacific from 1980 to 2020.

“This study indicates that decreasing air pollution leads to an increased risk of tropical cyclones, which is happening in the North Atlantic,” he said. “It could also happen, if air pollution is rapidly reduced, in Asia.” 

Deep dives into the connection between aerosols and hurricanes are useful, said Jim Kossin, a hurricane expert and senior scientist with The Climate Service, which provides financial climate risk analyses for governments and businesses. 

“At this point, any change we make is going to have some kind of effect on the climate and local tropical cyclones,” he said. “We know reducing aerosols in the Atlantic has contributed to increased frequency and maximum intensity. It’s increased a lot of things that are not good to increase.” 

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Climate extremes fueled by global warming are increasing globally, and in the United States, hurricanes and tropical storms were by far the deadliest and most damaging between 1980 and 2021, killing 6,697 people and causing more than $1.1 trillion in damages, more than half the $2.1 trillion in total damages from all weather and climate disasters in that span, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Kossin said that, for decades, the cooling aerosols masked the warming effect of greenhouse gases, which intensifies tropical storms. 

“But there is no offset anymore,” he said. “Now we’re paying the piper. It’s coming back on us now.”

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South Tahoe Environmental Education conducts spring programming | South Lake Tahoe



This week, volunteer educators from the South Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition (STEEC) engaged third and fourth graders from four different elementary schools in place-based environmental education. Students were brought to the Tallac Historic site and led around various stations across the site, participating in lessons on local history, watersheds, fire resilience, and trees while interacting with their environment at each station.

Kelsey Carapia from the U.S. Forest Service greeted excited groups of students as they unboarded their buses each morning at the Tallac Historic Site. Early on in the season, the students were fortunate to have the site essentially to themselves and were eager to explore and learn as they moved through multiple stations in small groups.

Sitting on a sunny patch of grass overlooking the lake, Lauren Benefield from the South Tahoe Public Utility District (STPUD) spoke to students about watersheds and pollutants at her station. Then, students participated in an activity where they designed a hypothetical lakefront property. The students were given items to represent the potential pollutants from their property and passed them down the line and into a bucket representing the lake. Students reflected on how the pollution of the watershed and of the lake is accumulated from the actions of everyone and brainstormed how they can do their part to conserve their environment.

When students rotated to the Washoe Tending and Gathering Garden station, they were given the opportunity to learn about Washoe history, while also learning how to identify a number of native plants. After discussing the importance of plant identification, students spread out across the garden to practice observing, identifying, and creating botanical drawings of native plants.

“I want to learn to identify more plants!” one third-grader reflected, clutching in his hand a detailed drawing of the Sierra Currant, where he had correctly labeled the type of leaf margins and noted down the ways in which the Washoe used this plant.

Other stations included lessons on fire resilience, tree biology and systems, historical and modern transit, and the aquatic food web. At each station, representatives from local conservation organizations engaged students and brought unique perspectives from their own work. Volunteers for this week’s events came from STPUD, the City, the Sierra Nevada Alliance, TRPA, TERC, the League, Tahoe RCD, and UC Master Gardeners.

The South Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition is a collaborative network of more than 25 local agencies who work together toward the mission of bringing environmental education resources to the Lake Tahoe Basin. STEEC has partnered with the Lake Tahoe Unified School District since 2008 to provide place-based and experiential learning in various outdoor settings.

“This week’s STEEC event was a great way for the youth of Tahoe to learn not only about the history of the land but to also learn how they will impact its history as well,” said STPUD’s CivicSpark Fellow, Jocelyn Valencia.

The Coalition runs educational programs for students of various ages throughout all seasons. The lessons taught to utilize the environment they are taught in give the students tangible experiences to connect to what they learn. In the winter, students are given the opportunity to venture atop Heavenly Mountain Resort. Throughout June, STEEC will continue to bring students around the lake to allow them to learn about their natural environment while being immersed in it.

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The African Development Bank appoints Dr. Daniel Alexander Schroth as Director Of the Renewable Energy And Energy Efficiency Department



The African Development Bank is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Daniel Alexander Schroth as Director of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Department, effective 16 May 2022.

Prior to his appointment, Schroth, a German citizen, served as Acting Director.

Schroth joined the Bank in 2012 following several senior appointments with various international organizations, including as Political and Economic Adviser to the EU Special Representative for Bosnia & Herzegovina; Economic Adviser in the EU Delegation to North Macedonia; Energy Sector Coordinator for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, and for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s natural resources team in London.

Since joining the Bank as Principal Energy Specialist in the Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department, Schroth has led various projects across the continent and coordinated several partnerships, including the Sustainable Energy for All Africa Hub, the Africa Climate Technology and Finance Center, the Green Mini-Grid Market Development Program and the Bank’s involvement in the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund.

In July 2017, he was appointed Advisor to the vice president of the energy complex. Under his leadership, various partnership agreements were concluded, such as the Regional Development Objectives Agreement with USAID/Power Africa and the $600 million Korea-Africa Energy Investment Framework. Schroth  served as Acting Director from January 2019 up to the time of this appointment.

As Acting Director, he presented various renewable energy projects to the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank, including projects under the flagship Desert to Power initiative and projects in new business areas such as decentralized energy access, energy efficiency and clean cooking. He oversaw the conversion of the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa, into a Special Fund, making it the first in-house blended finance facility, and led the mobilization of over $300 million in new grant contributions from donors, an achievement that contributed to the Bank being named multilateral development finance institution of the year in 2021, by Global Finance.

He has also been responsible for the mobilization of large-scale climate finance, including over $320 million from the Green Climate Fund for the Leveraging Energy Access Finance Framework, and the Sahel G5 Desert to Power Financing Facility.

With 20 years of experience in international relations, energy policy and renewable energy, Schroth has built a strong network of partners in the areas of energy and climate change. He is a recognized expert on Africa’s renewable energy sector and has represented the Bank in many high-level international fora and conferences. He serves on several steering and oversight committees and is a member of the SDG 7 Technical Advisory Group.

Commenting on his appointment, Schroth said: “I am grateful for the confidence placed in me by President Adesina to scale up theAfrican Development Bank’s support for the deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects across the continent, with a view to ensuring that the Bank is at the forefront of driving Africa’s just energy transition.”

Schroth holds a Ph.D. and an M.Phil in International Relations, with a focus on international energy policy, from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, and degrees in international business administration from Reims Management School, France, and the European School of Business, Reutlingen, Germany.

President of the African Development Bank Group, Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, said: “I am delighted to appoint Dr. Daniel Schroth as Director of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Department. Daniel, a respected professional, will lead the team to support the Bank’s Regional Member Countries to develop renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean cooking solutions as part of their energy systems, through a combination of public and private sector operations, and he will also spearhead the delivery of the Bank’s relevant flagship programs.”

African Development Bank Group

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According To Study, Monarch Butterflies Might Become Disoriented as a Result of Light Pollution



Biologists say nighttime light pollution can interfere with the remarkable navigational abilities of monarchs, which travel as far as Canada to Mexico and back during their multi-generational migration.

Researchers found that butterflies roosting at night near artificial illumination such as a porch or streetlight can become disoriented the next day because the light interferes with their circadian rhythms.

Artificial light can impede the molecular processes responsible for the butterfly’s remarkable navigational ability and trigger the butterfly to take wing when it should be resting.

Light pollution affects monarch butterflies

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According to biologists, evening light pollution can interfere with monarchs’ extraordinary navigational abilities, which allow them to travel as far as Canada to Mexico and back throughout their multigenerational trips.

Researchers discovered that butterflies roosting at night near artificial lightings, such as a porch or streetlight, can get disoriented the next day because the light disrupts their circadian cycles.

Artificial light can disrupt the chemical mechanisms that allow the butterfly to navigate so well and cause it to take flight when it should be resting.

With their unpredictable, meandering motions sweeping them over your lawn, it’s difficult to envision monarch butterflies adhering to a strict flight plan. However, some monarch populations migrate thousands of kilometers to the same woods in Mexico where they spend the winter.

Researchers are now investigating if light pollution is hampering this incredible cross-country journey.

“It’s an essential subject since many migrants travel through cities,” said co-author and UC master’s graduate Samuel Stratton, as per ScienceDaily.

“Getting some ecological data would be extremely beneficial in determining the effects of light pollution on orientation and migratory outcomes.”

Monarch butterflies rely on the darkness of night to digest proteins that are essential to their internal compass.

Millions of monarch butterflies migrate east across the Rocky Mountains from their summer breeding areas in southern Canada and the northern United States, covering distances of up to 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) to overwintering grounds in Mexico.

Monarch butterflies may carry up to five generations across the continent and return. They utilize an internal clock to inform them where to orient themselves concerning the shifting position of the sun in the sky as they travel.

However, monarchs subjected to nocturnal light pollution, such as a street lamp above their preferred roost in a cedar tree, may undergo a phase shift, causing their body to believe it is either sooner or later than it is. According to UC researchers, this can throw off their perception of time.

Read more: Artificial Light Pollution: What is It and How Does it Affect our Environment?

Light pollution

Humans and their creations are responsible for the majority of environmental damage on Earth. Consider the vehicle or that marvelous man-made substance, plastic, as per National Geographic.

Automobile emissions are now a major source of air pollution that contributes to climate change, and plastics pollute our oceans, posing a substantial health risk to marine wildlife.

Electric light may be a lovely thing, leading us home as the sun sets, keeping us secure, and making our houses comfortable and cheerful.

However, like with carbon dioxide emissions and plastic, too much of a good thing has begun to harm the ecosystem.

Light pollution, or the excessive or inappropriate use of artificial light in the outdoors, has an impact on human health, wildlife behavior, and our ability to see stars and other celestial objects.

Light pollution is a worldwide problem. The World Atlas of Night Sky Brightness, a computer-generated atlas based on hundreds of satellite photographs, made this very clear in 2016.

The atlas, which is viewable online, depicts how and where our planet is illuminated at night.

Large portions of North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia are illuminated, with only the most distant sections of the planet (Siberia, the Sahara, and the Amazon) completely dark.

Singapore, Qatar, and Kuwait are among the most light-polluted countries on the planet.

Related article: Light Pollution: LED Streetlights Contribute to Moth Decline in England

© 2022 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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