Category Archives: Impacts of Climate Change

A degree of difference: Living with the consequences of climate change

FILE – This July 4, 2012, file photo provided by Ian Joughin shows surface melt water rushing along the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet through a supra-glacial stream channel, south-west of Ilulissat, Greenland. Polar ice sheets are now melting three times faster than in the 1990s and the acceleration of the melting, especially in Greenland, has ice scientists worried. Michel Jarraud, the secretary-general for the World Meteorological Organization, says the most troubling climate development in 2012 was the melting at the top of the world. (AP Photo/Ian Joughin)

Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner.

Effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occurring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves.

Watch how climate change wreaks havoc on the lives of people living in the Pacific Ocean:

The consequences of Climate Change

High tide regularly floods roads on Kiribati — a common occurrence that may be further exacerbated by sea-level rise caused by the expansion of warmer water and the addition of new water from melting ice. (© Ciril Jazbec)

Sea-level rise

  •  Warmer temperatures cause glaciers to melt faster than they can accumulate new snow. As glaciers and the giant ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica melt, they add more water into the ocean, which causes sea level to rise.
  • Global sea level has risen by about 8 inches since reliable record keeping began in 1880. It is projected to rise another 1 to 4 feet by 2100.
  • Rising sea level is a threat to people who live near the ocean. Some low-lying areas will have more frequent flooding. Very low-lying land and small islands could be submerged completely.
  • Rising sea level can also harm important coastal ecosystems like mangrove forests and coral reefs.
  • It increases the risk of damage to homes and buildings from storm surges that accompany tropical cyclones. In the next several decades, storm surges and high tides could combine with sea level rise and land subsidence to further increase flooding in many of these regions.
The Storm surge from Hurricane Sandy caused widespread coastal flooding on the New Jersey Coast. US Coast Guard
Hurricane Catarina, a rare South Atlantic tropical cyclone viewed from the International Space Station on March 26, 2004

More frequent extreme weather events

  • e.g. heat waves, flood, drought and tropical cyclones.

    Hurricanes and other tropical storms get their energy from warm ocean water.

    As the top layer of the ocean gets warmer, hurricanes and other tropical storms grow stronger, with faster winds and heavier rain.

    Hurricanes and other storms can cause flooding; damage buildings, roads, and other structures; harm crops; and put people’s lives in danger.

A dzud is an extreme weather phenomenon unique to Mongolia that occurs when large numbers of livestock, mostly cows, sheep and goats, die from starvation or cold.
It usually occurs after a dry summer combines with heavy snowstorms creating an ice crust that makes it difficult for animals to dig through to reach the grass.
Over one million livestock died in 2016’s Dzud. The increasing frequency of such extreme low-temperature events creates mass suffering among the livestock herders of Mongolia.
Severe drought affecting hundreds and thousands in Somalia.
Heavy rainfall events will be more common in a much warmer world.
Drought-Fueled Wildfires Burn 7 Million Acres in U.S. including this one in California, USA
For six million years, the Colorado River has carved some of the wildest geological wonders in North America. Today, its waters nourish over 36 million people. But a steady surge of settlers and drastic climate change are threatening the mighty river.
Some 24,000 hectares of farmland have been affected by severe frost in the Mexican state of Sonora.

Lengthened growing season in the higher latitudes

  • With longer growing seasons, fruit production in Eastern Canada, vine production in Europe has increased. More types of crops such as blackberries and maize can be grown in the UK as the growing season lengthens.
  • However, in China, production of fruits such as apples and cherries or nuts such as almonds and walnuts is reduced as these fruits and nuts require cool weather temperature. Similarly, in Canada, the production of wheat is reduced as temperatures increased.
A man in a tractor prepares a field before sowing winter wheat near the village of Moskovskoye, north of Stavropol in southern Russia,. REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko. Every degree of rising in local temperature could result in around 40 million tonnes of global yield reduction in wheat, amounting to a loss of a quarter of current global wheat production.
England’s growing season is a month longer than it was a generation ago

Spread of some insect-borne diseases

  • Heavy rainfall allows mosquitoes to breed and grow rapidly. This results in the spread of malaria and dengue fever. Infected people may lose their lives and the government has to spend a lot of money on healthcare for the sick.
  • The researchers found that both unusually high air temperatures and periods of excessive rainfall create environmental conditions that favour bacterial growth. In dry conditions, river levels decrease, and bacteria accumulate in dangerously high concentrations. During excessive rainfall, flooding can spread bacteria to regions that haven’t previously been infected, resulting in fast-spreading epidemics. Even in the past decade, regions of Africa have seen a re-emergence of the disease due to extreme weather, the team reported.
  • For a more detailed article on the spread of diseases, read this:
A child suffering from malaria lies on a bed at the hospital of Nyarugusu, in the north-west of Tanzania, on June 11, 2015.
Mosquito larvae: Increased rainfall can create stagnant pools of water where mosquitoes breed
Copyright: Flickr/NOAA Photo Library
Officials with the Pan American Health Organization warned about a possible surge in cholera cases because of the widespread flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew. Haiti’s cholera outbreak has killed roughly 10,000 people and sickened more than 800,000 since 2010

Did you know?

Read the full article here:

The Dzud- Mongolia’s increasingly frequent harsh winters after a summer drought decimates livestock and animals:

Leave a reply!

  1. After watching the video above, what are three challenges the Kirabati citizens face because of sea-level rise?
  2. What implications does the lengthening growing season have for countries in the higher latitudes?
  3. What is the link between rising global temperatures and the rise in insect-borne diseases? Explain.

Cholera, Other Illnesses May Spread with Climate Change

L’ARCAHAIE, HAITI – OCTOBER 28: A man suffering from cholera rests in bed at a rural hospital October 28, 2010, in L’Arcahaie, Haiti. Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, has been further unsettled by an outbreak of cholera which has killed at least 300 people so far. The epidemic has affected the central Artibonite and Central Plateau regions with 3,612 cases so far on record. While authorities believe the outbreak is contained, they believe it has not yet peaked. There is also fear that the deadly diarrheal disease could migrate to the sprawling camps for the hundreds of thousands of Haitians displaced by the earthquake. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Infectious-disease specialists are concerned that climate change is contributing to the spread of certain diseases, including the germs that cause cholera and other diarrheal illnesses.

Data now suggest that the locations where certain pathogens are found have changed, said Dr Glenn Morris, the director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida. Morris gave a talk here today (Feb. 16) at the Climate & Health Meeting, a gathering of experts from public health organisations, universities and advocacy groups that addressed the health impacts of climate change.

Officials with the Pan American Health Organization warned about a possible surge in cholera cases because of the widespread flooding caused by Matthew. Haiti’s cholera outbreak has killed roughly 10,000 people and sickened more than 800,000 since 2010

Pathogens tend to live in places that have ideal sets of conditions, Morris said. For example, these bugs may have evolved to function best within certain temperature ranges, he said. And as climate change occurs and global average temperatures rise, researchers are beginning to see some indications that the areas where certain pathogens can live are shifting, he said.

“We are seeing the spread of pathogens to new ecological niches,” Morris said.

And the pathogens that live in water are among scientists’ top concerns, Morris told Live Science.

Temperature anomalies (in degrees Celsius) of various regions around the world in August 2014.
Credit: NASA

Vibrio and algal blooms

One group of bacteria, called Vibrio species, are particularly well-studied, Morris said. Vibro bacteria are responsible for cholera and other diarrheal diseases. Although cholera can be treated by rehydration according to the World Health Organization, the disease can still be fatal if not treated quickly enough.

Vibrio bacteria live in seawater, and with sea temperatures rising, scientists have recently observed a northward shift in the bacteria’s range, he said. In addition, diseases such as cholera often spread following events like flooding, which may become more common with climate change, Morris said.

Boats going through an algal bloom on Lake Erie near Toledo, Ohio.

Other waterborne diseases can come from harmful algal blooms, which are caused by toxic forms of algae, Morris said. Algal blooms have been linked to illnesses such as ciguatera, which people get from eating fish that contain toxins produced by the algae Gambierdiscus Toxicus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another illness linked to harmful algal blooms is amnesic shellfish poisoning, which is caused by eating contaminated shellfish.

Warming seas are breeding cholera-causing bacteria in the north Atlantic, poisoning shellfish and other seafood.

These harmful algal blooms are showing up in places where they previously didn’t occur, including the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Maine, Morris said.

This dead fish suffocated during the massive algae bloom in Lake Erie in 2011.
Toxic algal bloom in California’s Klamath River
An Aedes aegypti mosquito, the chief vector of Zika virus.

But what about mosquitos?

Morris noted that there have also been some concerns about mosquito-borne diseases, because of evidence suggesting that certain species of the insect are moving farther north than they used to. But it’s unclear what impact this will have in the long term, Morris told Live Science. He noted that in developed countries, including U.S., many aspects of homes help protect people against mosquito bites, such as the use of window screens and air conditioning.

While the illnesses Morris noted in his talk are all known diseases, they can still pose public health challenges when they move into parts of the world where they haven’t occurred before, he said.

Mosquito larvae: Increased rainfall can create stagnant pools of water where mosquitoes breed
Copyright: Flickr/NOAA Photo Library

“We’ve always thought about tropical areas as having particularly significant problems with infectious diseases,” but “we’re starting to see some greater indications that those diseases may be creeping up here” in the U.S., he said.

Morris said that the U.S. can handle those diseases, but the bigger concern is that pathogens are always evolving. Microorganisms may be able to change over time, “and increasingly take advantage of conditions that may not have been present before,” he said.

Read the full article here:

Did you know?

Read how extreme weather contributes to the spread of diseases:

A fisherman cups algae-choked water from China’s Chaohu Lake in 2009.
Two people row their way across algae-infested Chaohu Lake, China, in a 2009 picture.
Fingers of sediment and green swirls of algae are visible in Lake Erie on March 21, 2012.

Learn more about Algal blooms:

Leave a reply!

  1. What does the rise in sea temperatures (an effect of climate change) directly affect the health of humans?
  2. Why are temperate countries like the USA starting to be more concerned about mosquito-borne diseases?
  3. Why is eating shellfish becoming riskier with rising sea temperatures?

Investigating the world through the Humanities

%d bloggers like this: