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The effects of global warming are frequently projected decades into the future, but two recent reports -- one from theU.S. Global Change Research Program
and the otherfrom the U.N.
-- put into sharp focus visible consequences of our warming planet. An increase in temperature, extreme weather, loss of ice and rising sea level are just a few of changes we can measure right now. Let's take a look at some of the most concerning trends.BLOG: War Of The Words: Climate Change Or Global Warming?
Glaciers are shrinking worldwide and permafrost is thawing in high-latitude and high-elevation areas, reports this year's Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.BLOG: Dire Outlook For Climate Impacts, New Report Says
Only a few extinctions are attributed to climate change, reports the IPCC, but climate change that occurred much more slowly, over millions of years, caused major ecosystem shifts and species extinctions. Land and sea animals are changing their geographic ranges and migratory patterns due to climate change.NEWS: Climate Change: Why Haven't We Done More?
Sea level around the world has increased by about 8 inches since 1880, reports the 2014 National Climate Assessment, which projects a 1 to 4 foot rise by the end of the century.PHOTOS: Craziest Environmental Ideas (That Could Work)
Massimo Brega/The Lighthouse//Vi/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis
Excess CO2 is dissolving in the ocean and decreasing the pH of seawater. The ocean is about 30 percent more acidic than it was in pre-industrial times. More acidity in the oceans makes it harder for animals to form calcium carbonate shells and skeletons and erodes coral reefs.11 Health Threats from Climate Change
The probability of a Sandy-like storm deluging New York, New Jersey and other parts of the East Coast has nearly doubled compared to 1950, according to the American Meteorological Society. Even weaker storms will be more damaging now than they were 10 years ago because of rising sea levels. Superstorm Sandy cost the nation $65 billion, according to the 2014 National Climate Assessment, and 2012's Hurricane Isaac cost $2.3 billion.
The global sea level rises along with the temperature for two major reasons. For one, heat causes water to expand, which causes the existing water to take up more space and encroach on the coast. At the same time, ice at the poles and in glaciers melts and increases the amount of water in the oceans.PHOTOS: Melting Glaciers
Across the United States, heavy downpours are on the rise, especially in the Northeast and Midwest. Increases in extreme precipitation are expected for all U.S. regions, reports the 2014 National Climate Assessment.NEWS: Shrinking Greenland Glacier Smashes Speed Record
Ted Soqui/Ted Soqui Photography/Corbis
The most recent IPCC report states with "very high confidence" that current climate-related extremes like heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones and wildfires are showing that countries around the world, at all development levels, are significantly unprepared. The American Meteorological Society estimates that approximately 35 percent of the extreme heat in the eastern United States between March and May 2012 resulted from human activities' effects on climate. The AMS warned that deadly heat waves will become four times more likely in the north-central and northeastern United States as the planet continues to warm.NASA: Global Warming Goes On
Those of us who aren’t in the Arctic often think of ice as rigid, but glaciers actually move and break off pieces of themselves — now, even more so, thanks to climate change. One of the world’s most dynamic glaciers is Greenland’s Jakobshavn Isbrae, which in recent years has been speeding up to a record pace and adding more and more ice to the ocean, contributing about a millimeter to global sea-level rise by itself from 2000 to 2011.
These images taken in May (above) and June by NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite show Jakobshavn in the process of cracking and “calving” a huge piece of ice, somewhere between 3.1 and 6.2 square miles in size, according to the Arctic Sea Ice Blog.
In the June image, below, a big area of the glacier’s southern branch and a smaller section of its northern branch have been altered, and ice has crumbled from the glacier’s front into the mélange, an accumulation of pieces that are floating downstream from it.
Jakobshavn has moved 25 miles since 1850. The glacier’s tongue-shaped edge sits in a deep valley about 4,260 feet above sea level, which doesn’t provide much resistance to slow the glacier’s slide into the ocean.
Since 2000, Greenland has lost some 739 gigatons of ice, and approximately 30 percent of that loss came from Jakobshavn and four other glaciers, according to NASA.
The glacier has another disturbing historical distinction. According to Richard Brown’s book Voyage of the Iceberg, an iceberg calved by Jakobsavn in 1910 — one of 10,000 that broke away from the glacier that summer — eventually drifted into the path of the Titanic on April 14, 1912. That iceberg may be depicted in this photo taken by the captain of another ship, the Etonian, two days earlier.
Photo: Credit: NASA