Thursday, January 2, 2014

The climate and environment in 2013

I began 2013 in biodiversity by describing the pressure I felt.
I have only 32 hours until 2013 disappears from the face of the planet at 11:59 PM in UTC-12, which includes Baker and Howland islands.  Consequently, it's time to resume what I started with 2013 in space and What did 2013 say on YouTube? and post the year in biodiversity stories I orginally included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Science in 2013).
I finished with "Stay tuned for more of science, environment, and health in the year that was."  As it turned out, I decided not to buckle to the pressure I felt to finish my recap of 2013 in 32 hours.  Instead, I responded to an external deadline to retain my positions with by posting Top Washtenaw County election stories of 2013 look ahead to 2014, which I excerpted in article on popular elections articles for 2013.  I decided that keeping myself in the journalism game and getting paid for it was more important.  Ah, priorities.

Enough meta.  Time to go through the articles listing the top environment stories of the past year, beginning with Smithsonian Magazine: Six Things We Learned About Our Changing Climate in 2013.
December 27, 2013
2013 was a great year for science. We discovered hundreds of exoplanets, found yet more evidence of ancient water on Mars and learned all about our species’ own evolution.

But it’s important to remember that, in terms of the long-term survival of both our species and all others on the planet, 2013 is remarkable for a much darker reason. It’s a year in which we’ve pushed the climate further than ever away from its natural state, learned more than ever about the dire the consequences of doing so, and done as little as ever to stop it.

As greenhouse gas emissions soar unabated and the ramifications become rapidly apparent, here’s a rundown of what we learned about climate change in 2013:
Grist's The top 13 green stories of 2013: The good, the bad, and the muddled by John Upton had an even briefer lede.
The environmental news this year was full of ups and downs, twists and turns, and deeply conflicted protagonists.
Follow over the jump for more retrospectives of the year in climate and environment.

LiveScience: 2013's Wild, Unforgettable Weather: A Roundup
by Becky Oskin, Staff Writer
December 26, 2013 03:43pm ET
Floods, fires and typhoons -- weather fueled by heat led the news in 2013. In Colorado and central Europe, tropical moisture fed heavy rains and floods. Australia was ravaged by heat waves and wildfires for much of the year. Warm Pacific Ocean temperatures fueled major tropical storms that devastated the Philippines and Asia.

The unusually warm temperatures are on pace to set a heat record, making 2013 one of the warmest years in more than a century, according to a report released in December by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The first 11 months of 2013 are the fourth warmest (averaged around the globe) since record-keeping started 134 years ago.

While it's too soon to say whether the extreme heat played a role in the wild weather of 2013, or how big that role was, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration did release a report this September blaming human-caused climate change for some of 2012's worst weather extremes.
LiveScience: Countdown: 2013's Wildest Weather
The Year of Extremes
By Becky Oskin, Staff Writer
December 26, 2013 02:53pm ET
This year was one of the warmest on record. The extra heat helped fuel devastating weather worldwide, such as raging wildfires and widespread droughts. Typhoons and tornadoes took a terrible toll in 2013, despite a dearth of tropical storms and twisters in many parts of the world. Here, LiveScience counts down seven extremes from 2013's wildest weather, in roughly chronological order.
The Weather Channel:'s Top 13 Weather Stories of 2013
Another Year of Extremes
Weather paradoxes characterized 2013.

The preliminary U.S. tornado count for 2013 from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center and severe weather expert, Dr. Greg Forbes, is running about two-thirds of average, one of the lowest counts in at least eight years. However, we still had numerous, destructive tornado outbreaks.

The Atlantic hurricane season was one of the least active in decades, but Mexico and the Philippines took hard hits.

The massive drought of 2012 relented, and was outright erased in some places. Yet, some large, destructive wildfires destroyed homes and changed lives.

Did we also mention a parade of notable winter storms?
Now one that includes biodiversity.

Smithsonian Magazine: The Top Five Ocean Stories of 2013
December 24, 2013
Although we landlubbers may not realize it, it’s been a big year for the ocean and the people who study it.

Researchers reported on how animals can live on wood that falls into the deep sea, what we can learn about pollution from blue whale earwax, and how remoras–fish that sport a suction cup on their head–evolved these strange headpieces that allow them to attach to larger animals such as sharks and whales. More than three percent of the ocean is now specifically protected, and 71 ships carved new shipping routes into the melting Arctic ice. And, sadly, Typhoon Haiyan, a likely beacon of climate change, killed thousands of people in the Phillippines in November.

But there were five big themes that kept coming up throughout the year.
Speaking of biodiversity, here's a story that I should have included in the previous installment.

Red Orbit: Conservationists Reflect On Four Decades Of Endangered Species Act
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
December 28, 2014
Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, the landmark piece of legislation designed to protect critically imperiled creatures from extinction in the US due to economic growth and development.

According to National Geographic, the law has helped recover more than 30 species and prevented the extinction of 99 percent of all species it was designed to protect since it was originally signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973.

The first species to be declared fully recovered under the Endangered Species Act was the brown pelican in 2009. Since then, the Act has been credited with saving hundreds of US species from extinction, including the bald eagle, the American alligator, sea otters and pumas.
I conclude with two stories I'm likely to reuse.  After all, I'm an environmentalist; I recycle.

The Weather Channel: Mother Nature and Your Health: The Top Stories of 2013
By Jeffrey Kopman
Published: Dec 23, 2013, 10:05 AM EST
Many of the most notable events of the past year stem from the issue that matters most to our daily life: our health. The past year featured numerous groundbreaking discoveries and history-making events that further solidified the link between humans, our planet and, of course, the weather.

Discoveries that were made this year about climate change and public health could shape the way humans all over the world live their lives beyond 2013.

The animal kingdom gave humans a new rash of deadly diseases.

Meanwhile, the struggle to avoid chemicals and antibiotics in an effort to live an organic, healthy life continued — as our food production practices were put into question.
Huffington Post: 5 Big Energy Stories of 2013
Manish Bapna
Posted: 12/26/2013 5:02 pm
The U.S. is awash in oil and natural gas. China's air pollution is so bad some cities were nearly shut down. A massive typhoon wreaked havoc in the Philippines. These are some of the top stories of the past 12 months.

Amid these developments, however, there are signs that some businesses, consumers, and governments are moving toward a growing understanding of the risks of climate change. The question is whether we will shift course quickly enough to reduce the incoming threats of more extreme weather events and other climate impacts.

As we prepare to turn the corner to a new year, here's our take at five of the standout climate and energy stories of 2013.
And that's it for climate and general environment stories.  Stay tuned for more science, health, and sustainability stories from 2013.

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