By Zach Urness
15 June 2018

(Salem Statesman Journal) – This is beginning to feel like a horror movie with a seemingly endless number of sequels.

Call it: “Return of the toxic algae at Detroit Lake.”

For the third time this season — and the second time in three days — the Oregon Health Authority issued a health advisory due to high levels of cyanotoxins at three different locations.

Samples taken 13 June 2018 show toxin levels above the safe recreation threshold at Blowout Arm, Heater Creek and at Detroit Dam’s log boom, according to data posted by the City of Salem. Toxin levels also were elevated in Big Cliff Reservoir.

The high test results continue the rollercoaster ride at a place that’s a popular recreation destination and the source of Salem’s drinking water. [more]

Detroit Lake hit with toxic algae advisory for third time; toxins present at Salem intake

A sign points to one of the water distribution points at the Oregon State Fairgrounds Friday morning, 1 June 2018, in Salem, Oregon. Residents were filling up jugs to the 5-gallon limit, shoring up their drinking water reserves. There are seven locations that will be open around the clock until the water advisory is lifted. Photo: Kelly Jordan / Statesman Journal

By Zach Urness
7 June 2018

SALEM, Oregon (AP) – One of the hottest and driest months of May on record may have contributed to the growth and spread of the toxic algae bloom wreaking havoc in Salem's drinking water.

The algae bloom was originally spotted in Detroit Lake on 8 May 2018 and reached highly toxic levels around 21 May 2018, according to officials.

The record heat and dry conditions apparently kept the bloom strong, allowing the toxins to spread from the reservoir, into the North Santiam River and finally into Salem's drinking water for the first time at dangerous levels.

Salem issued its second do-not-drink alert Wednesday for vulnerable populations following the discovery, for the second week in a row, of high levels of cyanotoxins in the drinking water.

"We have a toxic algae bloom at Detroit Lake just about every year at this time," said U.S. Forest Service Detroit district ranger Grady McMahan. "In most years, we get some rain that helps dissipate the bloom and kind of clear out the lake. But this year we just didn't get rain — it was sunny and dry for an entire month which probably helped it."

The month of May was parched by every standard. It was the fourth-driest and sixth- hottest May in records dating back to 1892, National Weather Service officials said.

In a normal May, the Willamette Valley and Cascade Foothills would get 2.5 to 3 inches of precipitation. This year, only a quarter inch of rain fell, NWS officials said.

Hot and dry conditions can fuel the growth and potency of toxic algae, said Rebecca Hillwig, natural resource specialist with the Oregon Health Authority.

Both Hillwig and McMahan said toxic algae blooms have been more common, perhaps suggesting a link to the string of abnormally hot and dry spring months Oregon has seen in the past four years.

"I think it's fair to say that factors associated with global warming — hotter and drier conditions and a rapid snowmelt — could definitely increase conditions that cause algae blooms," Hillwig said.

"There's a lot of factors to consider, but it's fair to say that we have the potential for more of these type of issues in the future." [more]

Did climate trigger toxic algae bloom hurting Salem's water?

13 June 2018 (University of Waterloo) – A new study from the University of Waterloo discovered that rising sea levels could be accelerated by vulnerable ice shelves in the Antarctic.

The study, by an international team of polar scientists led by Canada Research Chair Christine Dow of Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment, discovered that the process of warmer ocean water destabilizing ice shelves from below is also cracking them apart from above, increasing the chance they’ll break off.

“We are learning that ice shelves are more vulnerable to rising ocean and air temperatures than we thought,” said Dow. “There are dual processes going on here. One that is destabilizing from below, and another from above. This information could have an impact on our projected timelines for ice shelf collapse and resulting sea level rise due to climate change.”

The study, which was conducted over two years, applied methods similar to forensic science on ice shelves which had already calved. Using radar surveys and Landsat imagery, Dow reports direct evidence that a major 2016 calving event at Nansen Ice Shelf in the Ross Sea was the result of fracture driven by channels melted into the bottom of the ice shelf. The surveys also demonstrated that similar basal channel-driven transverse fractures occur elsewhere in Greenland and Antarctica.

Videos from the Korea Polar Research Institute, and photos from ENV researcher Christine Dow, show that as warmer salt water erodes channels into the ice that attaches the ice shelves to stable land, it also generates massive vertical fractures splitting glaciers from above and below. Surface water melting on top of the ice shelves then pours into these cracks, accelerating the problem further. Photo: Korea Polar Research Institute / University of Waterloo

As warmer salt water erodes channels into the ice that attaches glaciers to stable land, it also generates massive vertical fractures splitting glaciers from above and below. Surface water melting on top of the ice shelves then pours into these cracks, accelerating the problem further.

“This study is more evidence that the warming effects of climate change are impacting our planet in ways that are often more dangerous than we perhaps had thought,” said Dow. “There are many more vulnerable ice shelves in the Antarctic that, if they break up, will accelerate the processes of sea level rise.”

The study, titled “Basal channels drive active surface hydrology and transverse ice-shelf fracture”, was recently published in AAAS Science Advances.


Ryon Jones
University of Waterloo
519-888-4567 ext. 30031

Climate change accelerating rising sea levels

Transverse fractures related to ice shelf channels on Antarctic and Greenland ice shelves. In all images, transverse fractures are shown in black, basal channels are shown in blue, and black arrows indicate general ice-flow direction. Graphic: Dow, et al., 2018 / Science Advances

ABSTRACT: Ice shelves control sea-level rise through frictional resistance, which slows the seaward flow of grounded glacial ice. Evidence from around Antarctica indicates that ice shelves are thinning and weakening, primarily driven by warm ocean water entering into the shelf cavities. We have identified a mechanism for ice shelf destabilization where basal channels underneath the shelves cause ice thinning that drives fracture perpendicular to flow. These channels also result in ice surface deformation, which diverts supraglacial rivers into the transverse fractures. We report direct evidence that a major 2016 calving event at Nansen Ice Shelf in the Ross Sea was the result of fracture driven by such channelized thinning and demonstrate that similar basal channel–driven transverse fractures occur elsewhere in Greenland and Antarctica. In the event of increased basal and surface melt resulting from rising ocean and air temperatures, ice shelves will become increasingly vulnerable to these tandem effects of basal channel destabilization.

Basal channels drive active surface hydrology and transverse ice shelf fracture

Sea-level contribution attributed to the Antarctic ice sheet between 1992 and 2017. Graphic: IMBIE / Planetary Visions

By Chris Mooney
13 June 2018

(The Washington Post) – Antarctica’s ice sheet is melting at a rapidly increasing rate, now pouring more than 200 billion tons of ice into the ocean annually and raising sea levels a half-millimeter every year, a team of 80 scientists reported Wednesday.

The melt rate has tripled in the past decade, the study concluded. If the acceleration continues, some of scientists’ worst fears about rising oceans could be realized, leaving low-lying cities and communities with less time to prepare than they had hoped.

The result also reinforces that nations have a short window — perhaps no more than a decade — to cut greenhouse-gas emissions if they hope to avert some of the worst consequences of climate change.

Antarctica, the planet’s largest ice sheet, lost 219 billion tons of ice annually from 2012 through 2017 — approximately triple the 73 billion-ton melt rate of a decade ago, the scientists concluded. From 1992 through 1997, Antarctica lost 49 billion tons of ice annually.

The study is the product of a large group of Antarctic experts who collectively reviewed 24 recent measurements of Antarctic ice loss, reconciling their differences to produce the most definitive figures yet on changes in Antarctica. Their results — known formally as the “Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-Comparison Exercise” (IMBIE) — were published Wednesday in the journal Nature. [cf. Antarctica ice-sheet melt increased sharply in 2012 – “The continent is causing sea levels to rise faster today than at any time in the past 25 years” –Des]

“We took all the estimates across all the different techniques, and we got this consensus,” said Isabella Velicogna, an Antarctic expert at the University of California at Irvine and one of the many authors from institutions in 14 countries. The lead authors was Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds in England and Erik Ivins of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“The detailed record shows an acceleration, starting around 2002,” Beata Csatho, one of the study authors and a glaciologist at the University at Buffalo, said in an email.

Csatho noted that comparing the first and last five-year periods in the record reveals an even steeper acceleration. “Actually, if you compare 1997-2002 to 2012-2017, the increase is even larger, a factor of more than 5!!” she wrote. [more]

Antarctic ice loss has tripled in a decade. If that continues, we are in serious trouble.

Hourly rain rate averages for the 40 most extreme summertime mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) in the current (left) and future climate of the mid-Atlantic region. New research shows that MSCs will generate substantially higher maximum rain rates over larger areas by the end of the century if society continues a 'business as usual' approach of emitting greenhouse gases. Graphic: Andreas Prein / NCAR

By Pam Wright
9 June 2018

(The Weather Channel) – Heavy rainfall from storms has increased by up to 70 percent in some areas of the United States since the 1950s and will only get worse in the coming years, thanks to global warming, scientists say.

The 2014 National Climate Assessment reported that downpours from storms are dumping more water across the nation than ever before, with the Midwest, Pacific Northwest and the Upper Plains receiving the greatest increase in heavy rainfall. The Environmental Protection Agency notes that heavy rainfall events have increased by 70 percent in the Pacific Northwest over the past six decades or so, more than any other region in the United States.

Andreas Prein of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) says peak rain rates, which arrive when the core of a storm is overhead, have increased across the country by 30 percent over the past 60 years. And while some areas will continue to get wetter from heavy downpours, other regions will get drier.

Scientists say the increase in heavy precipitation events is directly linked to human-caused climate change.

"Precipitation responds to global warming by increasing," Angeline Pendergrass, a project scientist at UCAR, said at a conference last week, Business Insider reports.

As greenhouse gasses trap heat and warm up the planet, evaporation and subsequent precipitation increase.

This trend, known as an intensification of the hydrologic cycle, is only expected to get worse in the coming decades, which will inevitably cause more flooding.

In 2017, rainfall from storms amounted to $145 billion in damage, according to Mari Tye, who studies weather extremes at UCAR. Damage incurred from Hurricane Harvey during that same year totaled $125 billion. The storm dumped a record 61 inches of rain on parts of Texas.

"A future storm might cause a much, much bigger flood because it produces so much more water," Prein said. [more]

Heavy Rainfall Has Increased by Up to 70 Percent in Parts of the U.S. Since the 1950s, and It Will Only Get Worse, Experts Say

Surrounded by ice, commercial fishing boats are docked in their slips after more than a week's worth of frigid weather froze the harbor in Lake Montauk in Montauk, N.Y., on Sunday, 7 January 2018. Only a few commercial boats remain in Montauk harbor during the winter months fishing for species such as porgy, tilefish, monkfish and black sea bass. Photo: Julie Jacobson / AP Photo

By Robin Mcdowell, Margie Mason, Martha Mendoza, Julie Jacobson, and Niniek Karmini
14 June 2018

MONTAUK, New York (Associated Press) – Even after winter storms left East Coast harbors thick with ice, some of the country's top chefs and trendy restaurants were offering sushi-grade tuna supposedly pulled in fresh off the coast of New York.

But it was just an illusion. No tuna was landing there. The fish had long since migrated to warmer waters.

In a global industry plagued by fraud and deceit, conscientious consumers are increasingly paying top dollar for what they believe is local, sustainably caught seafood. But even in this fast-growing niche market, companies can hide behind murky supply chains that make it difficult to determine where any given fish comes from. That's where national distributor Sea To Table stepped in, guaranteeing its products were wild and directly traceable to a U.S. dock — and sometimes the very boat that brought it in.

However, an Associated Press investigation found the company was linked to some of the same practices it vowed to fight. Preliminary DNA tests suggested some of its yellowfin tuna likely came from the other side of the world, and reporters traced the company's supply chain to migrant fishermen in foreign waters who described labor abuses, poaching and the slaughter of sharks, whales and dolphins.

The New York-based distributor was also offering species in other parts of the country that were illegal to catch, out of season and farmed.

Over the years, Sea To Table has become a darling in the sustainable seafood movement, building an impressive list of clientele, including celebrity chef Rick Bayless, Chopt Creative Salad chain, top universities and the makers of home meal kits such as HelloFresh.

"It's sad to me that this is what's going on," said Bayless, an award-winning chef who runs eight popular restaurants and hosts a PBS cooking series. He said he loved the idea of being directly tied to fishermen — and the pictures and "wonderful stories" about their catch. "This throws quite a wrench in all of that."

As part of its reporting, the AP staked out America's largest fish market, followed trucks and interviewed fishermen who worked on three continents. During a bone-chilling week, they set up a camera that shot more than 36,000 time-lapse photos of a Montauk harbor, showing no tuna boats docking. At the same time, AP worked with a chef to order fish supposedly coming from the seaside town. The boat listed on the receipt hadn't been there in at least two years.

Reporters also tracked Sea To Table's supply chain to fishermen abroad who earn as little as $1.50 a day working 22-hour shifts without proper food and water.

"We were treated like slaves," said Sulistyo, an Indonesian fisherman forced to work on a foreign trawler that delivered fish to a Sea To Table supplier. He asked that only one name be used, fearing retaliation. "They treat us like robots without any conscience."

Sea To Table owner Sean Dimin emphasized his suppliers are strictly prohibited from sending imports to customers and added violators would be terminated.

"We take this extremely seriously," he said. […]

Eric Hodge, a small-scale fisherman from Santa Barbara, said he considered partnering with Sea To Table a few years ago. He quickly changed his mind after seeing canary rockfish on the distributor's chef lists when the fish was illegal to catch. He also learned Sea To Table was buying halibut from the fish market, which relies heavily on imports. He said he spoke to the company about his concerns.

"Honestly, they know. I just don't think they care," Hodge said. "They are making money on every shipment, and they are not going to ask questions. And in seafood, that's a bad way to go about it because there is so much fraud." [more]

AP Investigation: Sustainable seafood dealer sold fishy tale

Illegal Logging in PT MPK Concession, Ketapang, 2 March 2018. This photograph shows the pooling area for wood that is ready to be collected by illegal loggers inside PT MPK concession in Sungai Putri, Ketapang, West Kalimantan. Photo: Greenpeace

By Josh Gabbatiss Science Correspondent
5 June 2018

(The Independent) – The forest which is home to some of the last remaining Bornean orangutans is being logged despite the Indonesian government’s vow to protect it, Greenpeace has claimed.

The group said six illegal logging settlements had been identified in Sungai Putri, the peatland forest home to around 1,200 of the critically endangered apes.

Campaigners obtained photos and aerial drone footage showing an extensive drainage canal full of water, heavy earth-moving equipment and planting of pulp wood tree seedlings.

The Indonesian government has previously ordered a moratorium on drainage and logging in the country's peatland forests following extensive dry season fires in 2015.

They were blamed on the drainage of swampy peatlands to create industrial plantations, which had left the forests highly combustible.

The new evidence produced by Greenpeace comes after the Indonesian environment and forestry minister Siti Nurbaya called for the company responsible to cease operations in March.

“This is a major embarrassment for the Indonesian government, which has consistently promised to protect Sungai Putri,” said Ratri Kusumohartono, Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner.

“The government cannot let this stand – it must uphold the law and ensure the full and permanent protection of this beautiful and important forest.”

The ministry's director-general of law enforcement and its director of environmental disputes did not respond to calls or text messages. […]

A study published in February reported that Borneo had lost more than 100,000 orangutans in the space of just 16 years. [more]

Borneo's last remaining orangutans threatened by illegal logging, despite government protection

Illegal Logging in PT MPK Concession, Ketapang, 2 March 2018. This photograph shows a pooling area for processed woods which is also a camp for illegal loggers inside PT MPK concession in Sungai Putri, Ketapang, West Kalimantan. Photo: Greenpeace

By Kate Fried
5 June 2018

Washington, D.C. (Greenpeace) – A new Greenpeace International investigation reveals a major illegal logging operation in a critical orangutan landscape in West Kalimantan, in Indonesian Borneo – despite efforts by the Indonesian government to protect it [1].

Photos taken by Greenpeace Indonesia in March 2018 reveal at least six illegal logging settlements inside the PT Moharison Pawan Khatulistiwa (MPK) concession in Sungai Putri, a 57,000 hectare  peatland forest and one of the last orangutan strongholds in the world.

The logging takes place under cover of darkness, even in locations where orangutan nests are found. [2]  It ends just before dawn, when trucks emerge to transport the woodpiles to sawmills and furniture shops in Ketapang. It is unclear whether the logging is being carried out by MPK, or by third parties taking advantage of roads the company has built.

“This is a major embarrassment for the Indonesian government, which has consistently promised to protect Sungai Putri. More than a year ago, the government ordered MPK to stop trashing the forest and peatlands, yet its excavators are still in place and now chainsaws are finishing the job. The government cannot let this stand – it must uphold the law and ensure the full and permanent protection of this beautiful and important forest,” said Ratri Kusumohartono, Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner.

In 2015, the Indonesian government approved MPK’s plans to log in a 48,000 hectare concession, much of which is on very deep peatland that was in theory protected by legislation [3][4]. In the same year, satellite analysis recorded 7,965 fire hotspots across Sungai Putri landscape and surroundings. [5] The following year, the government strengthened its peatland protection laws, following a major outbreak of forest fires caused in part by deforestation and peatland development. [6]

Despite this, MPK continued to develop the concession, constructing several drainage canals through the peat. In 2017, Greenpeace Indonesia raised this with the Minister of Environment and Forestry. [7] The Minister instructed the company to stop its operations and fill in the canal. It has yet to do so, and heavy machinery remains in place.

Protecting Sungai Putri forest is essential if Bornean orangutans are to survive. Scientists estimate that the population of Bornean orangutans has halved in the last 16 years. [8] According to recent analysis by the Centre for Conservation of Natural Resources (BKSDA) [9] Sungai Putri is home to 950-1200 orangutans. Some 84 percent of this landscape is covered by peatland.

In the past 10 years, BKSDA and International Animal Rescue (IAR) have rescued over 30 orangutans in Sungai Putri and the surrounding area, where they continue to be threatened by hunting, logging and palm oil expansion.

“Habitat destruction forces orangutans to enter neighbouring plantations and farms looking for food, and this frequently leads to conflict with humans. That’s why last year we had to rescue a male orangutan in the south part of MPK’s concession. Sungai Putri is home to one of the largest populations in the world and we are at a critical point for the Bornean orangutan, without forests like this they can’t survive,”  said Karmele Llano Sanchez, Program Director of IAR in Indonesia.

“Sungai Putri is one of the last refuges of the orangutans and the survival of the species relies on creating wildlife havens and protecting the existing ones. It is time for the Indonesian government to ensure the full protection of Sungai Putri, its environment and  wildlife,” added Kusumohartono.


Illegal Operations in Indonesia Threaten More Than 1,000 Orangutans

Number of deaths per 100,000 population involving heroin without synthetic opioids, synthetic opioids without heroin, and use of both heroin and synthetic opioids, by census region in the United States, 2006–2015. Graphic: CDC

Quarterly rate of suspected opioid overdose, by U.S. region — 52 jurisdictions in 45 states, National Syndromic Surveillance Program, July 2016–September 2017. Graphic: CDC

29 March 2018 (CDC) – An in-depth analysis of 2016 U.S. drug overdose data shows that America’s overdose epidemic is spreading geographically and increasing across demographic groups. The report, from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), appears in today’s issue of MMWR.

Drug overdoses killed 63,632 Americans in 2016. Nearly two-thirds of these deaths (66%) involved a prescription or illicit opioid. Overdose deaths increased in all categories of drugs examined for men and women, people ages 15 and older, all races and ethnicities, and across all levels of urbanization.

CDC’s new analysis confirms that recent increases in drug overdose deaths are driven by continued sharp increases in deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, such as illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF).

“No area of the United States is exempt from this epidemic—we all know a friend, family member, or loved one devastated by opioids,” said CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, M.D. “All branches of the federal government are working together to reduce the availability of illicit drugs, prevent deaths from overdoses, treat people with substance-use disorders, and prevent people from starting using drugs in the first place.”

CDC’s analysis, based on 2015-2016 data from 31 states and Washington, D.C., showed:

  • Across demographic categories, the largest increase in opioid overdose death rates was in males between the ages of 25-44.
  • Overall drug overdose death rates increased by 21.5 percent.
    • The overdose death rate from synthetic opioids (other than methadone) more than doubled, likely driven by illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF).
    • The prescription opioid-related overdose death rate increased by 10.6 percent.
    • The heroin-related overdose death rate increased by 19.5 percent.
    • The cocaine-related overdose death rate increased by 52.4 percent.
    • The psychostimulant-related overdose death rate increased by 33.3 percent.

IMF is mixed into counterfeit opioid and benzodiazepine pills, heroin, and cocaine, likely contributing to increases in overdoses involving these other substances.

Overdose death rates differ by state

Opioid death rates differed across the states examined in this study:

  • Death rates from overdoses involving synthetic opioids increased in 21 states, with 10 states doubling their rates from 2015 to 2016.
    • New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Massachusetts had the highest death rates from synthetic opioids.
  • Fourteen states had significant increases in death rates involving heroin, with Washington D.C., West Virginia, and Ohio having the highest rates.
  • Eight states had significant increases in death rates involving prescription opioids. West Virginia, Maryland, Maine, and Utah had the highest rates.
  • Sixteen states had significant increases in death rates involving cocaine, with Washington D.C., Rhode Island, and Ohio having the highest rates.
  • Fourteen states had significant increases in death rates involving psychostimulants; the highest death rates occurred primarily in the Midwest and Western regions.

“Effective, synchronized programs to prevent drug overdoses will require coordination of law enforcement, first responders, mental health/substance-abuse providers, public health agencies, and community partners,” said the report’s lead author, Puja Seth, Ph.D.

How to coordinate the public-health and public-safety response to overdose deaths

Today’s report highlights the continued need for public health and law enforcement to work together in preventing overdose deaths and taking action to:

    • Protect people with opioid use disorder (OUD) by expanding treatment capacity and naloxone distribution.
    • Support programs that reduce the harms of injecting opioids, including programs offering screening for HIV and hepatitis B and C in combination with referral to treatment.
    • Improve coordination among law enforcement and public-health agencies to reduce and improve detection of the illicit opioid supply.
    • Improve opioid prescribing to reduce unnecessary exposure to opioids and prevent addiction by training providers and implementing CDC’s Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.
  • Improve access to and use of prescription drug monitoring programs.

CDC’s Overdose Prevention in States initiatives include funding for state-level public health efforts in 45 states and Washington, D.C., to implement key prescription and illicit opioid surveillance and prevention activities. CDC equips states with resources to prevent opioid misuse and overdose by tracking and monitoring the epidemic, helping scale up effective programs, and equipping health care providers with tools and guidance needed to make informed clinical decisions.

CDC is also working with High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) on the Heroin Response Strategy to increase uptake of community interventions that address the impact of illicit opioids. In March 2016, CDC released the Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain to provide recommendations to providers on the prescribing of opioid pain medication for patients 18 and older in primary care settings. Learn more at

CDC continues to work closely with other federal agencies to support the Department of Health and Human Services’ five-point strategy to fight the opioid overdose crisis by:

  • Improving access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services, including the full range of medication-assisted treatment.
  • Better targeting availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs.
  • Strengthening surveillance activities through timely public health data and reporting.
  • Supporting cutting-edge research on pain and addiction.

Advancing better practices for pain management.


Media Relations, (404) 639-3286

U.S. drug overdose deaths continue to rise; increase fueled by synthetic opioids

Cumulative Antarctic Ice Sheet mass change, 1992-2017. Graphic: IMBIE, 2018 / Nature

13 June 2018 (University of Leeds) – Ice losses from Antarctica have increased global sea levels by 7.6 mm since 1992, with two fifths of this rise (3 mm) coming in the last five years alone.

The findings are from a major climate assessment known as the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE), and are published today in Nature.

It is the most complete picture of Antarctic ice sheet change to date – 84 scientists from 44 international organisations combined 24 satellite surveys to produce the assessment.

The assessment, led by Professor Andrew Shepherd at the University of Leeds and Dr Erik Ivins at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, was supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Their findings show that prior to 2012, Antarctica lost ice at a steady rate of 76 billion tonnes per year – a 0.2 mm per year contribution to sea level rise. However, since then there has been a sharp, threefold increase. Between 2012 and 2017 the continent lost 219 billion tonnes of ice per year – a 0.6 mm per year sea level contribution.

Antarctica stores enough frozen water to raise global sea level by 58 metres, and knowing how much ice it is losing is key to understanding the impacts of climate change today and in the future.

Professor Shepherd said: “We have long suspected that changes in Earth’s climate will affect the polar ice sheets. Thanks to the satellites our space agencies have launched, we can now track their ice losses and global sea level contribution with confidence.

“According to our analysis, there has been a steep increase in ice losses from Antarctica during the past decade, and the continent is causing sea levels to rise faster today than at any time in the past 25 years. This has to be a concern for the governments we trust to protect our coastal cities and communities.”

Dr Ivins said: “The added duration of the observing period, the larger pool of participants, various refinements in our observing capability and an improved ability to assess both inherent and interpretive uncertainties, each contribute to making this the most robust study of ice mass balance of Antarctica to date.”

The threefold increase in ice loss from the continent as a whole is a combination of glacier speedup in West Antarctica and at the Antarctic Peninsula, and reduced growth of the ice sheet in East Antarctica.

West Antarctica experienced the largest change, with ice losses rising from 53 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s to 159 billion tonnes per year since 2012. Most of this came from the huge Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers, which are retreating rapidly due to ocean melting.

At the northern tip of the continent, ice shelf collapse at the Antarctic Peninsula has driven a 25 billion tonne per year increase in ice loss since the early 2000s.

The East Antarctic ice sheet has remained close to a state of balance over the past 25 years, gaining just 5 billion tonnes of ice per year on average.

Polar researchers had these comments:

Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, said: “CryoSat and Sentinel-1 are clearly making an essential contribution to understanding how ice sheets are responding to climate change and affecting sea level, which is a major concern.

“While these impressive results demonstrate our commitment to climate research through efforts such as our Climate Change Initiative and scientific data exploitation activities, they also show what can be achieved by working with our NASA colleagues. Looking to the future, however, it is important that we have satellites to continue measuring Earth’s ice to maintain the ice-sheet climate data record.”

Isabella Velicogna, professor of Earth system science, University of California, Irvine, and senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: “Gravity measurements from the joint NASA and German Aerospace Center (DLR) GRACE mission help us track the loss of ice mass in the polar regions and impacts on sea level at points around the planet. The data from these spacecraft show us not only that a problem exists but that it is growing in severity with each passing year.”

Eric Rignot, professor of Earth system science, University of California, Irvine, and senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: "Measurements collected by radar satellites and Landsat over the years have documented glacier changes around Antarctica at an amazing level of precision, so that we have now a very detailed and thorough understanding of the rapid changes in ice flow taking place in Antarctica and how they raise sea level worldwide."

Benjamin Smith, senior principal investigator, University of Washington Applied Physics Lab, said: "We're at a really exciting time in Antarctic glaciology, in that we have a lot of mature technologies for measuring ice-sheet changes that were not available when I started in the field in the early 2000s.

“The IMBIE-2 work shows that these have come together just in time to let us watch some really important changes in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and in the Peninsula. Over the next few years we're going to see some more types of data, from ICESat-2, GRACE-FO, and NISAR, that should let us keep watching Antarctica change in even finer detail."

Dr Pippa Whitehouse, NERC Independent Research Fellow at Durham University, said: “Satellites have given us an amazing, continent-wide picture of how Antarctica is changing. The length of the satellite record now makes it possible for us to identify regions that have been undergoing sustained ice loss for over a decade.

“The next piece of the puzzle is to understand the processes driving this change. To do this, we need to keep watching the ice sheet closely, but we also need to look back in time and try to understand how the ice sheet responded to past climate change.”

Michiel van den Broeke, professor of polar meteorology at Utrecht University, said: “To enhance the interpretation of ice sheet mass changes as observed by satellites requires accurate modelling of the amount of snowfall on the ice sheet, something that cannot be reliably measured from space yet.

“Our model results prove that mass loss from the Antarctic ice sheet is caused by acceleration of ice flow in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula, and that mass variations in East Antarctica are mainly driven by snowfall fluctuations.”


To request an interview with Professor Andrew Shepherd, contact the University of Leeds Media Relations office via +44 (0)113 343 4031 or

Antarctica ramps up sea level rise

ABSTRACT: The Antarctic Ice Sheet is an important indicator of climate change and driver of sea-level rise. Here we combine satellite observations of its changing volume, flow and gravitational attraction with modelling of its surface mass balance to show that it lost 2,720 ± 1,390 billion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2017, which corresponds to an increase in mean sea level of 7.6 ± 3.9 millimetres (errors are one standard deviation). Over this period, ocean-driven melting has caused rates of ice loss from West Antarctica to increase from 53 ± 29 billion to 159 ± 26 billion tonnes per year; ice-shelf collapse has increased the rate of ice loss from the Antarctic Peninsula from 7 ± 13 billion to 33 ± 16 billion tonnes per year. We find large variations in and among model estimates of surface mass balance and glacial isostatic adjustment for East Antarctica, with its average rate of mass gain over the period 1992–2017 (5 ± 46 billion tonnes per year) being the least certain.

Mass balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2017

Global Peace Index (GPI) overall score trend and year-on-year percentage change, 2008-2018. Peacefulness has declined year-on-year for eight of the ten last years. Graphic: IEP

LONDON, 6 June 2018 (IEP) –  The 12th edition of the annual Global Peace Index (GPI) report, produced by the international think-tank the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), revealed that the world is less peaceful today than at any time in the last decade.

The 2018 GPI reveals a world in which the tensions, conflicts, and crises that emerged in the last decade remain unresolved, resulting in a gradual, sustained fall in peacefulness. The largest contributors to the deterioration in the last year were the escalations in both interstate and internal armed conflicts, rise in political terror and reduced commitment to UN peacekeeping. Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq, and Somalia are the least peaceful countries whilst Iceland, New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, and Denmark are the most peaceful countries.

The GPI is the world's leading measure of global peacefulness. The report covers 99.7 per cent of the world's population and uses 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources to compile the index. These indicators are grouped into three key domains: 'ongoing conflict', 'safety and security', and 'militarisation'. All three domains deteriorated over the last year.

Despite retaining its position as the most peaceful region in the world, Europe deteriorated for the third successive year. For the first time in the history of the index, a Western European country experienced one of the five largest deteriorations with Spain falling 10 places in the rankings to 30th, owing to internal political tensions and an increase in the impact of terrorism. In the last decade, 61 per cent of the countries in Europe deteriorated, due to higher levels of political instability, increased impact from terrorism, and increased perceptions of criminality. No single Nordic country is more peaceful now than in 2008.

Steve Killelea, Founder and Executive Chairman of the IEP, said: "We have progressed on many fronts in the last decade but reaching greater peacefulness in the world has remained elusive. The challenge is borne out in our research which shows that it is much harder to build peace than it is to destroy it. This partly explains why countries at the bottom of the index remain trapped in prolonged conflict. Ongoing conflicts such as those in Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Afghanistan have, in the past decade, contributed towards a significant rise in battlefield deaths, a surging refugee population and an increase in terrorism.

"Europe, the most peaceful region, has also suffered with 23 of the 36 countries deteriorating in peace in the last year, which is predominately the result of increasing political tensions and deteriorating relations between countries."

Surprisingly, the indicator with the largest improvement last year was military expenditure as a portion of GDP, with 88 countries spending less and 44 spending more. Average country military expenditure as a percentage of GDP has continued its decade long decline, with 102 countries spending less. Three of the five Scandinavian countries are amongst the largest weapons exporters when measured as a percentage of GDP.

The economic impact of violence on the global economy in 2017 was $14.8 trillion in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. This figure is equivalent to 12.4 per cent of the world's economic activity (gross world product), or $1,988 for every person. The economic impact of violence increased by 2 per cent during 2017 due to increases in the cost of conflict and internal security expenditures, with the largest increases being in security spending occurring in China, Russia, and South Africa.

This year's report also finds that highly peaceful countries also have considerable economic advantages over the least peaceful countries: inflation rates are nearly three times higher in low peace economies, interest rates were found to be over twice as high and foreign direct investment was nearly half. 

Killelea, commented: "The long-term economic benefits that flow from peace are of particular interest in this year's report. Countries with the highest levels of peace averaged an additional two percentage points on their GDP growth rates over the last sixty years compared to the least peaceful countries. If we review the economic benefits of peace over the past decade, countries that improved in peace had GDP growth rates almost seven times higher than countries that decreased in peace. These are truly remarkable figures and underscore the economic benefits of peace."

The US score continued to decline, driven by increased political instability, despite reductions in the impact from terrorism and militarisation. The US is now one of the seven G20 members amongst the 50 least peaceful countries in the world, along with Mexico, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, India, Turkey, and Russia.

Six of the nine regions of the world deteriorated in peacefulness with the four most peaceful regions, Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific and South America, all deteriorating too.

Regions by overall peacefulness, 2018 and change in peacefulness, 2017-2018. Graphic: IEP

Regional overview

  • The Middle East and North Africa remained the world's least peaceful region in 2018, despite a slight improvement in its score - the result of improvements in Iraq and Syria due to the diminishing reach of ISIL. Qatar experienced the single largest deterioration in peacefulness, as the political and economic boycott placed on it by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Bahrain led to deteriorations in relations with neighbouring countries, and political instability.
  • The broad trend in Europe has been a convergence in peace with the most peaceful, predominately those in Western Europe, declining in peacefulness, while those with weaker scores, many of them in Eastern Europe, improving.
  • The Asia-Pacific region's peacefulness deteriorated, with 11 countries falling  while eight improved. Myanmar had the biggest deterioration, falling 15 places. Australia had the second largest deterioration due to higher levels of incarceration and higher levels of militarisation.
  • In North America, the level of peacefulness in the United States has declined for the second consecutive year and is now at the worst level of any time since 2012. Canada suffered a deterioration in its terrorism impact rating after the Quebec City and Edmonton attacks.
  • Russia and Eurasia remained in seventh place despite a slight deterioration in the overall score. The Ukraine, the Kyrgyz Republic and Moldova improved their scores while nine other countries deteriorated. Russia had the second largest deterioration after Armenia.
  • The biggest challenge to peace in Central America and the Caribbean is crime and corruption. For the last eight years, the region has had the worst scores in the index for homicide rate, violent crime, and perceptions of criminality.
  • South America continues its struggle with lawlessness. The most significant riser in the region was Argentina, followed by Brazil and Colombia.
  • The inequality of peace in South Asia continued to widen over the year, with the least peaceful nations - Afghanistan and Pakistan - continuing their decline, while the most peaceful - Bhutan and Sri Lanka - continued to improve.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa was home to four of the five largest improvements in peacefulness, the Gambia, Liberia, Burundi, Senegal. Peacefulness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continued to deteriorate, affecting the country's prospects for weathering crises like the ongoing Ebola epidemic.

For more information, go to

About the Global Peace Index (GPI)

This is the 12th edition of the GPI: the world's leading measure of global peacefulness produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). It gauges on-going domestic and international conflict, safety and security in society, and the degree of militarisation in 163 countries and territories by taking into account 23 indicators.

About the Institute for Economics and Peace

IEP is an international and independent think tank dedicated to shifting the world's focus to peace as a positive, achievable and tangible measure of human well-being and progress. It has offices in Sydney, New York, The Hague and Mexico City.


Global Peace Index: World is Less Peaceful Today Than at Any Time in the Last Decade

Map showing the Global Peace Index (GPI) for 2018. Graphic: IEP

6 June 2018 (IEP) – This is the twelfth edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI), which ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness. Produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), the GPI is the world’s leading measure of global peacefulness. This report presents the most comprehensive data-driven analysis to-date on trends in peace, its economic value, and how to develop peaceful societies.

The GPI covers 99.7% of the world’s population, using 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources, and measures the state of peace using three thematic domains: the level of Societal Safety and Security; the extent of Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict; and the degree of Militarisation.

The results of the 2018 GPI find that the global level of peace has deteriorated by 0.27% in the last year, marking the fourth successive year of deteriorations. Ninety-two countries deteriorated, while 71 countries improved. The 2018 GPI reveals a world in which the tensions, conflicts, and crises that emerged in the past decade remain unresolved, especially in the Middle East, resulting in a gradual, sustained fall in peacefulness.

Underlying the fall in peacefulness, six of the nine regions in the world deteriorated in the last year. The four most peaceful regions – Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific, and South America – all recorded deteriorations, with the largest overall deterioration occurring in South America, owing to falls in the Safety and Security domain, mainly due to increases in the incarceration rate and impact of terrorism.

Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008. New Zealand, Austria, Portugal and Denmark also sit in the top five most peaceful rankings. Syria remains the least peaceful country in the world, a position it has held for the past five years. Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq, and Somalia comprise the remaining least peaceful countries.

Europe, the world’s most peaceful region, recorded a deterioration for the third straight year. It deteriorated across all three GPI domains and eleven indicators, most notably on the intensity of internal conflict and relations with neighbouring countries. For the first time in the history of the index, a Western European country experienced one of the five largest deteriorations, with Spain falling 10 places in the rankings to 30th, owing to internal political tensions and an increase in the impact of terrorism.

The ten-year trend in peacefulness finds that global peacefulness has deteriorated by 2.38% since 2008, with 85 GPI countries recording a deterioration, while 75 improved. The index has deteriorated for eight of the last eleven years, with the last improvement in peacefulness occurring in 2014. In Europe, the world’s most peaceful region, 61% of countries have deteriorated since 2008.

The economic impact of violence on the global economy in 2017 was $14.76 trillion in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. This figure is equivalent to 12.4% of the world’s economic activity (gross world product) or $1,988 for every person. The economic impact of violence increased by 2% during 2017 due to a rise in the economic impact of conflict and increases in internal security spending, with the largest increases being in China, Russia, and South Africa. Since 2012, the economic impact of violence has increased by 16%, corresponding with the start of the Syrian war and rising violence in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

The 2018 Global Peace Index uniquely reveals that peacefulness has a considerable impact on macroeconomic performance. In the last 70 years, per capita growth has been three times higher in highly peaceful countries when compared to countries with low levels of peace. The difference is even stronger when looking at changes in peacefulness, with the report finding that per capita GDP growth has been seven times higher over the last decade in countries that improved in peacefulness versus those that deteriorated.

Average GDP growth per capita by level of peacefulness, 1960-2016. Graphic: IEP

Peacefulness is also correlated with strong performance on a number of macroeconomic variables. Interest rates are lower and more stable in highly peaceful countries, as is the rate of inflation. Foreign direct investment is more than twice as high in highly peaceful countries. In total, if the least peaceful countries had grown at the same rate as highly peaceful countries, the global economy would be almost 14 trillion dollars larger.

Positive Peace improved 1.85% on average between 2005 and 2013, but has stagnated in the last three years.  Despite improvements in most other Pillars, Acceptance of the Rights of Others has been deteriorating in Europe and North America since 2005. The region that experienced the most significant deteriorations across the highest number of Pillars was the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), followed by South America. Low Levels of Corruption, Acceptance of the Rights of Others, and Well-Functioning Government are the key Pillars that deteriorate prior to the largest deteriorations in internal peace. As a further testament to the relationship of macroeconomics and peace, improvements in Positive Peace are linked to strong domestic currencies. A 1% increase in Positive Peace is associated with a 0.9% appreciation of the domestic currency among non-OECD countries.

Global Peace Index 2018


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