NASA & US Geologic Survey: Arctic Warming Climate Changing the Landscape

Doubting climate change? Maybe you should read the NASA/USGS latest study findings…..
The earth is a dynamic planet, one with a dizzying array of climates and ecosystems. Our planet itself is always changing, but on a time scale (geologic time) that human civilizations cannot really grasp. In fact, human civilization itself is but a blip on a 4.6 billion year old continuum (see pie-chart). So, for some it is tempting to think that warming trends,  Geologic time scale - Wikipediaice ages, and the like are not really for us to consider or to study, and therefore it is easy, and tempting, to shrug off confronting or worrying about human involvement in climate change. This is a dangerous assumption for our collective human civilization, one that since the industrial revolution to today (in 200 years or less) has done more to change our atmosphere than any other, with potentially grave consequences. Sci-fi movies like Interstellar, for example, may not be that far off.

Even for the casual observer, there are signs all around us that the earth’s climate is changing; an increase in global drought, melting glaciers, rising sea level, more unpredictable weather (hurricanes, derechos, tornados, etc). While some doubt it all, either simply denying any change, or casting aspersions at the scientific data compiled, it is in fact and overwhelming global scientific conclusion that our planet is undergoing profound changes, and that this warming period has already dramatically change the climate of our planet. We at the Severn Current feel that it i critical for Severn School students to engage with climate change and confront it. To ignore or to discount scientific evidence is both dangerous and irresponsible; there’s a lot at stake, and our students own futures may well be impacted greatly.

This graph shows the increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere over the last 2,000 years. Increases in concentrations of these gases since 1750 are due to human activities in the industrial era.

The following study, only one among thousands, shows clearly that legitimate, reliable, government-based institutions acknowledge, and even shine a light on our planets climate change. Using satellites, a decades-long scientific study, shared together by the US Geologic Survey and NASA, concluded that the Arctic is forever changed. “The Arctic tundra is one of the coldest biomes on Earth, and it’s also one of the most rapidly warming,” said Logan Berner, a global change ecologist with Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, who led the recent research. “This Arctic greening we see is really a bellwether of global climatic change – it’s a biome-scale response to rising air temperatures.”




FROM THE NASA ARTICLE:   The study, published 22 SEPT 2020, in Nature Communications, is the first to measure vegetation changes spanning the entire Arctic tundra, from Alaska and Canada to Siberia, using satellite data from Landsat, a joint mission of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Other studies have used the satellite data to look at smaller regions, since Landsat data can be used to determine how much actively growing vegetation is on the ground. Greening can represent plants growing more, becoming denser, and/or shrubs encroaching on typical tundra grasses and moss.

When the tundra vegetation changes, it impacts not only the wildlife that depend on certain plants, but also the people who live in the region and depend on local ecosystems for food. While active plants will absorb more carbon from the atmosphere, the warming temperatures could also be thawing permafrost, thereby releasing greenhouse gasses. The research is part of NASA’s Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE), which aims to better understand how ecosystems are responding in these warming environments and the broader social implications.

Berner and his colleagues used the Landsat data and additional calculations to estimate the peak greenness for a given year for each of 50,000 randomly selected sites across the tundra. Between 1985 and 2016, about 38% of the tundra sites across Alaska, Canada, and western Eurasia showed greening. Only 3% showed the opposite browning effect, which would mean fewer actively growing plants. To include eastern Eurasian sites, they compared data starting in 2000, when Landsat satellites began regularly collecting images of that region. With this global view, 22% of sites greened between 2000 and 2016, while 4% browned.

To read more of this article, published on NASA’s website, please go HERE.

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