Nature and Biodiversity

Climate crisis: February likely the warmest ever recorded, and other nature and climate stories you need to read this week

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A view shows cherry blossom trees over a pond at Ueno park in Tokyo, Japan.

Top nature and climate news: Climate crisis February likely the warmest ever recorded, and more Image: REUTERS/Androniki Christodoulou

Johnny Wood
Writer, Forum Agenda
  • This weekly round-up contains key nature and climate news from the past week.
  • Top nature and climate stories: February likely the warmest ever recorded; Ice bumps anchoring Antarctic glaciers are disappearing; Sixth UN Environment Assembly calls for greater global cooperation on the environment.

1. Climate crisis: February likely the warmest ever recorded

You have likely just lived through the hottest February ever recorded.

With temperature data still to be finalized, February is expected to produce record-breaking global average temperatures for this month, scientists told Reuters.

This is a result of the climate crisis and El Niño warming the Eastern Pacific Ocean, they said.

Spring has come early in the Northern Hemisphere, according to atmospheric scientist Karen Gleason of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Cherry blossoms in Japan are already in bloom and daffodils are flowering in Europe.

If expectations are realized when the NOAA publishes temperatures for February on or around 14 March, it would mark the ninth consecutive monthly record temperature high.

The NOAA estimates there is a 22% chance 2024 will replace 2023 as the hottest year ever recorded, and a 99% chance it will be in the top five, Gleason told Reuters.


2. Ice bumps anchoring Antarctic glaciers are disappearing

Surface ice bumps that mark anchorage points holding Antarctica's glaciers in place and slowing the movement of ice from the continent, can reveal insights about the impact of climate change, a new study shows.

Research published in the journal Nature, looked at the changing shape of ice bumps over time to help reveal the history of melting on the margin of Antarctica.

Glacial anchorage points cause a bump at the ice shelf's surface, forcing ice to flow across. This makes a distinctive formation that can be easily identified using satellite imagery.

Scientists from the School of GeoSciences at Edinburgh University studied the ice shelves that fringe three-quarters of Antarctica's coastline. Using satellite data, the condition of the surface bumps was compared over time.

The results showed little change before the turn of the century. However, since 2000, 37% of the ice bumps studied were found to have reduced in size, indicating an accelerated melting rate.

"The thing to remember is that once an ice shelf loses contact with a pinning point, it's very difficult to regain contact because you get a dynamical response in the ice: it starts to speed up and the grounding line – the line where the glacier is still touching the seabed – starts to retreat," study co-author Bertie W. J. Miles told BBC News.

Antarctic Mass Variation since 2002
Antarctic Mass Variation since 2002 Image: NASA

Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets have been losing mass since 2022, exacerbating sea level rise. Satellite data from NASA shows that Antarctica has been melting at an average rate of 150 billion tonnes annually, while Greenland is losing about 270 billion tonnes annually.

Together, these two ice sheets store two-thirds of all fresh water on the planet.

3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week

Heads of state and other world leaders attending the sixth session of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, have called for greater cooperation on the environment, expressing determination to accelerate multilateral action on climate change, nature loss and pollution.

Meanwhile, UN delegates in Nairobi have called for more research into sun-blocking climate change technologies, delaying a motion to examine solar geo-engineering originally tabled by Switzerland and Monaco.

Pakistan's mangrove forests saw a three-fold expansion between 1986 and 2020 following a widespread planting and conservation programme, which counters a decades-long pattern of global decline, according to an analysis of satellite data in 2022.

Tiny 12mm-long Danionella fish can produce sounds reaching 140 decibels in the surrounding waters, which is as loud as a gunshot. Researchers studying the transparent species believe it is the loudest fish for its size yet discovered.


What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Volcanic ash clouds have caused 22 domestic and international flights from Mexico to be cancelled, Mexico City International Airport has announced. A yellow alert has been issued warning of activity from a nearby Popocatepetl (which means "smoky mountain" in Aztec) volcano.

The Australian state of New South Wales could face an annual climate crisis bill of $9 billion by 2060 unless action is taken to mitigate the impact, according to new analysis from the NSW Reconstruction Authority.

4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

Citizen science projects can collect important data to help protect the environment and address the impact of the climate crisis. Here, explorer and conservationist Gregg Treinish shares his experiences training citizen scientists to help save the planet.

Our oceans are under threat from climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss, but several innovative solutions are being developed to help protect and conserve these vital planetary support systems.

The new Global Ocean Gene Catalogue in Saudi Arabia is the world's largest open-source marine microbe database. Researchers hope it will lead to breakthroughs in medicine, energy and agriculture. Here's how.

Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversityClimate Action
1. Climate crisis: February likely the warmest ever recorded2. Ice bumps anchoring Antarctic glaciers are disappearing3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

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