This planetary boundaries framework update finds that six of the nine boundaries are transgressed, suggesting that Earth is now well outside of the safe operating space for humanity. Ocean acidification is close to being breached, while aerosol loading regionally exceeds the boundary. Stratospheric ozone levels have slightly recovered. The transgression level has increased for all boundaries earlier identified as overstepped. As primary production drives Earth system biosphere functions, human appropriation of net primary production is proposed as a control variable for functional biosphere integrity. This boundary is also transgressed. Earth system modeling of different levels of the transgression of the climate and land system change boundaries illustrates that these anthropogenic impacts on Earth system must be considered in a systemic context.

By Kasha Patel

September 24, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. EDT

Hagglunds on the sea ice near Scott Base in Antarctica on Oct. 27, 2022. (Mike Scott/AP)

In March 2022, temperatures near the eastern coast of Antarctica spiked at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius) above normal — making it the most intense recorded heat wave to occur anywhere on Earth, according to a recent study. At the time, researchers on-site were wearing shorts and some even removed their shirts to bask in the (relative) warmth. Scientists elsewhere said such a high in that region of the world was unthinkable.

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“It was just very apparent that it was a remarkable event,” said Edward Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, author of the study. “We found that temperature anomaly, the 39-degree temperature anomaly, that’s the largest anywhere ever measured anywhere in the world.”

Temperatures in March, marking a change into autumn on the continent, are typically around minus-54 degrees Celsius on the east coast near Dome C. On March 18, 2022, daily mean temperatures rose to minus-15 degrees Celsius, while an hourly temperature recording even peaked at minus-10 degrees Celsius. That’s warmer than even the hottest temperature recorded during the summer months in that region — “that in itself is pretty unbelievable,” said Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington.

In the new research, Blanchard-Wrigglesworth and his colleagues investigated how and why such an unimaginable heat wave could have occurred, especially at a time of the year when there is less sunlight. They found the extreme heat is largely part of Antarctica’s natural variability, though the warming climate did have some effect.

The Post’s Jason Samenow explains what a heat advisory is and how to stay cool when temperatures soar. (Video: Hope Davison/The Washington Post)

The seeds for the heat wave, Blanchard-Wrigglesworth said, began with unusual winds. Typically, winds blow from west to east around Antarctica and help isolate the continent from warmer regions farther north, allowing it to stay cold. But just as occurs with heat waves in the United States, the winds meandered and allowed a warm mass of air from southern Australia to move to East Antarctica in just four days — “probably the first time that at least it’s happened that fast,” Blanchard-Wrigglesworth said.

The northerly winds also brought a lot of moisture, bringing significant snow, rain and melting on the eastern coast of the ice sheet.

At the same time, Antarctica was experiencing its lowest sea ice on record, though the team said their work suggests that did not appear to influence the heat wave.

Big swings in weather aren’t completely out of the ordinary in the polar regions, the study found. In an analysis of global weather station data and computer simulations, the team found the largest temperature changes from normal occur at high latitudes. Places like Europe or the United States’ Lower 48 never experience such anomalous heat waves.

There’s a basic reason the largest anomalies happen at these high latitudes, Blanchard-Wrigglesworth said — there’s more cold air to remove near the ground. Typically, air becomes colder higher in the atmosphere. But some places — like at high latitudes with a lot of snow and ice — have colder air near the ground and warmer air above it, called an inversion layer. In these spots, a warm air mass can swoop in to displace the cold air and create warm weather. These warm events often happen during or around winter, when the inversion layers are the strongest.

“That’s what we saw for the Antarctic heat wave,” Blanchard-Wrigglesworth said. “These events sort of erode that inversion, you get rid of it.”

Meteorologist Jonathan Wille, who was not involved in the study, said he’s not surprised that this Antarctic heat wave registered as the largest observed temperature anomaly anywhere. After all, the Antarctic Plateau has some of the highest temperature variability in the world.

The complete role of climate change is still under investigation, although the new study asserts that the warmer atmosphere didn’t play a large role boosting temperatures. The team ran a suite of computer models running scenarios that included increased greenhouse gas emissions vs. a world that did not. They found climate change only increased the heat wave by 2 degrees Celsius. By the end of the century, climate change could boost such a heat wave by an additional 5 to 6 degrees Celsius.

“A 2C boost for a heatwave that was 39C above average means that this heat wave would have been record shattering without the climate change signal,” Wille, a researcher at ETH Zurich, wrote in an email.

But climate change could have had another effect the models didn’t test, such as the effect on the anomalous winds that brought the warm air mass to the continent in the first place. Wille said unusual tropical downpours in the weeks beforehand created an atmospheric circulation pattern that was never observed before — leading to the extreme heat.

“It’s possible that climate change influenced the atmospheric dynamics like the tropical convection anomalies that led to the heat wave, but this is very difficult to quantify these things,” Wille said.

Blanchard-Wrigglesworth said more heat waves like this in Antarctica in a warmer world could have dire effects on the ice sheet.

“If you add another five or six degrees on top of that, you’re starting to get close to the melting point,” Blanchard-Wrigglesworth said. If these events were to become more common in 50 or even 100 years, “this kind of event might trigger some impacts that maybe we didn’t have on our radar.”

Tens of thousands of climate activists took to the streets of New York City on Sunday in a “march to end fossil fuels”, with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez telling the crowd that the movement must become “too big and too radical to ignore”.

To cheers from the crowd, the progressive Democrat criticized the US continuing to approve fossil fuel projects, something which the Biden administration did earlier this year with the controversial Willow project in Alaska.

By Laura Paddison, CNN

Published 2:00 PM EDT, Wed September 13, 2023

Cracked earth in an area once under the water of Lake Mead on January 27, 2023, near Boulder City, Nevada.

Cracked earth in an area once under the water of Lake Mead on January 27, 2023, near Boulder City, Nevada.John Locher/AP CNN  — 

Human actions have pushed the world into the danger zone on several key indicators of planetary health, threatening to trigger dramatic changes in conditions on Earth, according to a new analysis from 29 scientists in eight countries.

Executives privately sought to downplay link between fossil fuels and climate change despite public pronouncements, WSJ reports

ExxonMobil executives privately sought to undermine climate science even after the oil and gas giant publicly acknowledged the link between fossil fuel emissions and climate change, according to previously unreported documents revealed by the Wall Street Journal.

The new revelations are based on previously unreported documents subpoenaed by New York’s attorney general as part of an investigation into the company announced in 2015. They add to a slew of documents that record a decades-long misinformation campaign waged by Exxon, which are cited in a growing number of state and municipal lawsuits against big oil.

Hundreds have demonstrated demanding ‘urgent’ international investigations into the disaster that left thousands dead

Protests broke out in the Libyan city of Derna on Monday, with hundreds venting their anger against authorities and demanding accountability one week after a flood that killed thousands of residents and destroyed entire neighbourhoods.

A scientist on the ice in Antarctica
Image caption, A scientist on the ice in Antarctica

By Georgina Rannard, Becky Dale and Erwan Rivault

BBC News Climate & Science and Data Journalism Team

The sea-ice surrounding Antarctica is well below any previous recorded winter level, satellite data shows, a worrying new benchmark for a region that once seemed resistant to global warming.

Dangerous flooding in the city of Leominster, Massachusetts, has trapped residents, submerged vehicles and sent water gushing through the streets as storms bring the threat of flooding across portions of the Northeast, officials say.