A dramatic greening of the Arctic over the past 30 years

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:30 PM GMT on March 18, 2013

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A remarkable transformation in the vegetation of the Arctic has occurred over the past 30 years, according to a study of satellite data published on March 10, 2013, in Nature Climate Change. The authors found that Arctic vegetation growth and temperatures in 2011 resembled what occurred 250 - 430 miles farther to the south back in 1982. That's the approximate distance in latitude between San Francisco and San Diego, or Washington D.C. and Atlanta. More greening occurred in Eurasia than North America, and the Arctic's new greenness is visible on the ground as an increasing abundance of tall shrubs and trees. Large patches of vigorously productive vegetation now span a third of the northern landscape, an area about equal to the contiguous United States. "Higher northern latitudes are getting warmer, Arctic sea ice and the duration of snow cover are diminishing, the growing season is getting longer and plants are growing more," said co-author Dr. Ranga Myneni of Boston University's Department of Earth and Environment, in a NASA press release. "In the north's Arctic and boreal areas, the characteristics of the seasons are changing, leading to great disruptions for plants and related ecosystems." The changes in the Arctic's vegetation are being driven by human-caused global warming, which is occurring in the Arctic at more than double the rate of the rest of the planet. This so-called "Arctic amplification" is due, in part, to the increased melting of ice and snow near the pole. When ice and snow melt, they uncover darker surfaces underneath, which absorb more sunlight and increase Arctic temperatures in a vicious cycle which melts even more ice and snow. Using 17 climate models, the researchers predicted that a continuation of warming in the Arctic in coming decades could lead to over a 1300 mile latitudinal shift in Arctic vegetation zones by the year 2100, compared to the period 1951 - 1980. That's a distance greater than the north-south extent of the contiguous United States. However, more frequent forest fires, increased pest outbreaks, and summertime droughts due to a warming climate might slow down Arctic plant growth.


Figure 1. Of the 10 million square miles (26 million square kilometers) of northern vegetated lands, 34 to 41 percent showed increases in plant growth (green and blue), 3 to 5 percent showed decreases in plant growth (orange and red), and 51 to 62 percent showed no changes (yellow) over the past 30 years. Satellite data in this visualization are from AVHRR and MODIS. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio.


Figure 2. Trees take hold as permafrost thaws near the Altai Mountains in Russia. Credit: Terry Callaghan, EU-Interact/Sergey Kirpotin, Tomsk State University.

Commentary
One often hears complaints that global warming may be greatly overestimated, due to many temperature sensors being located in increasingly urbanized areas where local "urban heat island" effects are not being properly considered. If this were true (and it isn't), then we would not expect to see "nature's thermometers"--plants and animals--change their behavior and ranges much. But plants and animals are responding in major ways to the warming climate, and the greening of the Arctic is merely one more example of "nature's thermometers" telling us that the planet is warming significantly. Some other examples:

Fall is falling back: During 1982 to 1999, the end of the growing season was delayed by 4.3 days in the Northern Hemisphere. During 2000 to 2008, the end of the growing season was further delayed by an additional 2.3 days. In the U.S., fall now occurs ten days later than it did 30 years ago.

Spring is springing forward: Spring events, like bird and butterfly migrations, flower blooming times, and frog mating, have been advancing by about three days per decade over the past 30 years.

Animals are changing migration patterns: New species have colonized previously ‘cool’ regions, including sea anemones in Monterey Bay, and lichens and butterflies in Europe. Over the past 50 years, maximum range shifts vary from 200 km (butterflies) to 1,000 km (marine copepods).

Related blog post: New USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map for gardeners shows a warming climate

Dr. Myneni's petition to protect Earth from climate change
Professor Myneni of Boston University's Department of Earth & Environment, co-author of the greening Arctic study, has developed a simple one-sentence petition that he hopes one billion people will sign by Earth Day, 2014:

Dear Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon,

We, the People of the Earth, request You to act judiciously and expeditiously to protect the Earth from anthropogenic climate change.

Respectfully,
People of the Earth


The petition, which I have signed, is at: https://yourclimatechange.org/, and was recently featured by Discovery News.

Jeff Masters

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BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MEMPHIS TN
1110 AM CDT MON MAR 18 2013

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MEMPHIS HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR...
SOUTH CENTRAL CRITTENDEN COUNTY IN EASTERN ARKANSAS...
EXTREME NORTHEASTERN LEE COUNTY IN EASTERN ARKANSAS...
DESOTO COUNTY IN NORTHWEST MISSISSIPPI...
NORTHWESTERN TATE COUNTY IN NORTHWEST MISSISSIPPI...
NORTHEASTERN TUNICA COUNTY IN NORTHWEST MISSISSIPPI...

* UNTIL NOON CDT

* AT 1111 AM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM PRODUCING QUARTER SIZE HAIL. THIS STORM WAS
LOCATED NEAR ROBINSONVILLE...OR 12 MILES SOUTHEAST OF HUGHES...AND
MOVING EAST AT 40 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO HERNANDO...
HORN LAKE AND SOUTHAVEN.

THIS WARNING ALSO INCLUDES AREAS NEAR HORN LAKE...HORSESHOE LAKE...
LAKE MCKELLAR AND ROBCO LAKE.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

.STAY TUNED TO THIS BROADCAST FOR THE LATEST UPDATES AND INFORMATION.
TO REPORT SEVERE WEATHER ONLY...CALL 1 800 4 3 2 0 8 7 5.

&&

LAT...LON 3490 9045 3500 9006 3499 8989 3477 8982
3466 9039
TIME...MOT...LOC 1611Z 258DEG 34KT 3481 9032

$$
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Quoting txjac:


Maybe/hopefully that was because of so many people trying to sign it?


That's my guess and it may not be able to handle it. OR, someone doesn't
want it to stay up. Very sinister but possible.
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6221
Quoting LargoFl:
WOW LOOK AT SATURDAY.....THIS LOOKS BAD HUH....


Now why cant that be setting over Texas? You have no idea how much I would like an ALL day soaker instead of the hour storms we have been getting
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Quoting ncstorm:
why do I have to provide my email address for this petition? Would I receive unsolicited offers from advertising agencies?


Probably so they can notify you that your request was processed. Also that is a way to verify thay you only signed it once.
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6221
Quoting PedleyCA:
That site is shaky for that petition. It crashed twice on me.


Maybe/hopefully that was because of so many people trying to sign it?
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Nice Blog Dr. Masters,
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6221
WOW LOOK AT SATURDAY.....THIS LOOKS BAD HUH....
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42045
That site is shaky for that petition. It crashed twice on me.
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6221
Thanks, Dr. Masters. The "nature's thermometers" section of your post was a great way to present unassailable evidence of AGW/CC that corroborates the scientific consensus.

Perhaps it is a myth that Nero fiddled while Rome burned, but the deniers here are certainly playing their weather fiddles while the biosphere heats up on a path to dire consequences.

I find it amazing - and sad - that they seem to think your words are unfounded B.S., and won't even acknowledge the content of your above blog entry.

David van Harn
Boquete, Chiriqui, Panama
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GS..pay Real good attention to warnings this sunday...
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42045
why do I have to provide my email address for this petition? Would I receive unsolicited offers from advertising agencies?
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How much snow are the various computer models showing for tonight? Some predict 8"+ in the northern Connecticut hills:
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THIS HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK IS FOR WEST CENTRAL AND SOUTHWEST
FLORIDA.

.DAY ONE...TODAY AND TONIGHT.

...THUNDERSTORM IMPACT...
SUFFICIENT MOISTURE COMBINED WITH DAYTIME HEATING AND AN UPPER LEVEL
DISTURBANCE MOVING ACROSS THE REGION WILL HELP TO PRODUCE SOME
SHOWERS AND ISOLATED THUNDERSTORMS OVER WEST CENTRAL AND SOUTHWEST
FLORIDA TODAY. AT THE CURRENT TIME THE BEST CHANCES FOR THUNDERSTORMS
WILL BE OVER INTERIOR AND EASTERN MOST SECTIONS OF THE PENINSULA
DURING THE AFTERNOON WHERE ADDITIONAL LOW LEVEL CONVERGENCE ALONG
THE EAST COAST SEA BREEZE BOUNDARY IS EXPECTED. THUNDERSTORMS THAT
DEVELOP TODAY WILL BE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING LOCALLY HEAVY DOWNPOURS
AND OCCASIONAL LIGHTNING STRIKES AS THEY MOVE TO THE EAST AT 15 TO
20 MILES AND HOUR.

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...TUESDAY THROUGH SUNDAY.

...THUNDERSTORM IMPACT...
A COLD FRONT MOVING INTO THE REGION ON TUESDAY WILL SUPPORT ADDITIONAL
SHOWERS AND ISOLATED THUNDERSTORMS OVER THE REGION WITH THE FRONT
STALLING OUT ACROSS THE SOUTH CENTRAL PENINSULA ON WEDNESDAY. RAIN
AND THUNDERSTORM CHANCES WILL INCREASE LATE IN THE WEEK AND INTO
THE UPCOMING WEEKEND AS AN AREA OF LOW PRESSURE MOVES EAST ACROSS
THE NORTHERN GULF. SOME LOCALLY HEAVY DOWNPOURS...GUSTY WINDS...
OCCASIONAL LIGHTNING...AND SMALL HAIL WILL BE POSSIBLE WITH THE
STORMS.
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42045
FM....I tried to do an average of what is expected, also putting some weight into what thew NWS says... see post 10

not 100% exact obviously
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42045
How much snow are the various computer models showing for tonight? Some predict 8"+ in the northern Connecticut hills:
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Thanks, Dr. Masters.

It's currently 48F in Maniitsoq on the northwestern coast of Greenland.

That huge subtropical bubble of air associated with the Greenland Omega Block is responsible for that absurdly anomalous temp.



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BULLETIN - IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HUNTSVILLE AL
1051 AM CDT MON MAR 18 2013

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN HUNTSVILLE HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR...
SOUTHEASTERN COLBERT COUNTY IN NORTHWEST ALABAMA...
NORTHWESTERN FRANKLIN COUNTY IN NORTHWEST ALABAMA...

* UNTIL 1115 AM CDT

* AT 1051 AM CDT...DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM
CAPABLE OF PRODUCING QUARTER SIZE HAIL. THIS STORM WAS LOCATED
NEAR RED BAY...AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
SHEFFIELD...TUSCUMBIA...RED BAY AND LITTLEVILLE.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS CAN PRODUCE DAMAGING WINDS IN EXCESS OF 60
MPH...DEADLY LIGHTNING...AND VERY HEAVY RAIN. FOR YOUR
PROTECTION...MOVE TO AN INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF YOUR
HOME OR BUSINESS. HEAVY RAINS FLOOD ROADS QUICKLY SO DO NOT DRIVE
INTO AREAS WHERE WATER COVERS THE ROAD.

&&

LAT...LON 3452 8815 3453 8814 3473 8778 3474 8774
3477 8771 3460 8752 3440 8815 3442 8816
TIME...MOT...LOC 1548Z 240DEG 49KT 3448 8810

$$

KTW

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cold air aloft....that little cell is producing dime sized hail

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9756
i have posted the short letter and link for the petition on my blog page as well under message from mother earth
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**1033. Grothar 3:00 PM GMT on March 18, 2013 +7

Quoting goosegirl1:


Please see if you can arrange to send her all of ours- I am really getting tired of snow. We had 3 inches of heavy wet slop this am, and freezing rain coming this afternoon. Can someone in Florida get a guest room ready for me? And an invite???? :) Just kidding, I think spring will catch up in April. Probably with a literal bang, too, when the spring storms start up.



Ah, Florida is not that great. After a while you get tired of the soft balmy breezes blowing through palms, sandy beaches with warm ocean water washing over you, the warm sun on your skin and everything green all the time. The balmy nights and the fragrance of magnolia and orange blossoms whisping through the air.**


You make me feel like Willie Wonka and his father... "maybe it won't hurt if I try just one..." with that wistful look :) It's OK- come July, you'll be visiting up the coast to escape the humidity.
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Thanks Jeff. I'll be interested to see the reaction to the petition...
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BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MEMPHIS TN
1042 AM CDT MON MAR 18 2013

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MEMPHIS HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR...
SOUTH CENTRAL CRITTENDEN COUNTY IN EASTERN ARKANSAS...
EASTERN LEE COUNTY IN EASTERN ARKANSAS...
NORTHERN TUNICA COUNTY IN NORTHWEST MISSISSIPPI...

* UNTIL 1130 AM CDT

* AT 1042 AM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM PRODUCING QUARTER SIZE HAIL. THIS STORM WAS
LOCATED NEAR MARIANNA...AND MOVING EAST AT 45 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO MARIANNA.

THIS WARNING ALSO INCLUDES AREAS NEAR HORSESHOE LAKE.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

.STAY TUNED TO THIS BROADCAST FOR THE LATEST UPDATES AND INFORMATION.
TO REPORT SEVERE WEATHER ONLY...CALL 1 800 4 3 2 0 8 7 5.

&&

LAT...LON 3480 9084 3493 9031 3469 9027 3464 9072
3465 9080
TIME...MOT...LOC 1542Z 256DEG 40KT 3474 9070

$$






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Quoting pcola57:
Thanks Dr. Masters for the blog update..
I signed the petition..
These are important times here on our planet..
So much is at stake..
Thanks again


yes..so did I. Over 6200 have done so..
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17. Skyepony (Mod)
Many times the start of bills or ordinances come from petitions with large numbers. Though civil disobedience can be more fun.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 223 Comments: 39358
Quoting Raptor112305:
From previous blog if anyone missed it.


Thunderstorms rolling in off the gulf, Headed for my area (West Central FL).
radar indicated hail with a few of these.



The NWS in Tampa is expecting these to weaken after leaving whe warm loop current and moving closer to to land where the shelf waters are cooler according to their facebook page. We will see how they hold up if at all. I hear thunder in the distance in Bradenton, FL
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Thanks Dr. Masters for the blog update..
I signed the petition..
These are important times here on our planet..
So much is at stake..
Thanks again
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9756
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9756
12. Skyepony (Mod)
Signed the petition & will spread it around... Would be something if it got 1 billion signatures.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 223 Comments: 39358
Nice article.. Petition is a waste of bandwidth, imho. we need realistic solutions not feel-good, meaningless activities for the online enabled masses.

~AGW response Debate Acivated~
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Latest snowfall from Ukko...and coastal rain.

Snowfall not included on map...
SE Mass/Coastal RI/Eastern Long Island and SE Conn:1-2"
Coastal SW Conn: 2-4"
NYC area: A coating to 0.5"
Southern NJ, DelMarVa into DC/Baltimore: Up to 0.5"
*Ice accumulation is possible along the CT coast

Heavy rain for Coastal CT, all NYC Boroughs, LI, NJ, RI and Nantucket area: Over 1"



click for larger size.
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thanks doc

i just sign it as well
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Quoting Grothar:


Hurry back. Florida hasn't been the same since you left.
Every time I go back it looks completely different. Will never be the place it was when I was growing up. There are certain spots that have been spared Florida,s rapid growth. The population was around 6 million when I was born, around 19 million as of 2010..
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Thanks Doc.
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Thanks, Dr. Masters.

It's currently 48F in Maniitsoq on the northwestern coast of Greenland.
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Thanks Doc
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From previous blog if anyone missed it.


Thunderstorms rolling in off the gulf, Headed for my area (West Central FL).
radar indicated hail with a few of these.

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Thanks Doc!

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
FLASH FLOOD WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE JACKSON KY
1127 AM EDT MON MAR 18 2013

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN JACKSON KY HAS ISSUED A

* FLASH FLOOD WARNING FOR...
BATH COUNTY IN EAST CENTRAL KENTUCKY...
MONTGOMERY COUNTY IN EAST CENTRAL KENTUCKY...
NORTHERN MENIFEE COUNTY IN EAST CENTRAL KENTUCKY...
ROWAN COUNTY IN EAST CENTRAL KENTUCKY...
SOUTHERN FLEMING COUNTY IN EAST CENTRAL KENTUCKY...

* UNTIL 330 PM EDT

* AT 1124 AM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED
SLOW MOVING THUNDERSTORMS WITH VERY HEAVY RAINFALL ACROSS THE
AREA. RADAR ESTIMATES AND LOCAL RAIN GAGES HAVE SHOWN THAT UP
TO AN INCH AND A HALF OF RAIN HAD FALLEN SINCE 8:30 AM. UP TO
AN ADDITIONAL INCH OF RAIN WILL FALL ACROSS THE AREA BETWEEN
11:30 AM AND 2:30 PM.

* RUNOFF FROM THIS EXCESSIVE RAINFALL WILL CAUSE FLASH FLOODING TO
OCCUR. SOME LOCATIONS THAT WILL EXPERIENCE FLOODING INCLUDE...
FRENCHBURG...MOREHEAD...MOUNT STERLING...OWINGSVILLE...BANGOR...
BEAN...BETHEL...BIG WOODS...BLUESTONE...BOURBON FURNACE...BRANDY...
CAMARGO...CEDAR GROVES...CHRISTY...CLAY LICK...CLEARFIELD...
COGSWELL...COONS STATION...CORNWELL...CRAIGS...CRANEY...CRANSTON...
CRIX...CROOKS...DAN...ELLIOTTVILLE...EWINGTON...FA NNIN VALLEY...
FARLEY AND FARMERS.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

DO NOT DRIVE YOUR VEHICLE INTO AREAS WHERE THE WATER COVERS THE
ROADWAY. THE WATER DEPTH MAY BE TOO GREAT TO ALLOW YOUR CAR TO CROSS
SAFELY.

A FLASH FLOOD WARNING MEANS THAT FLOODING IS IMMINENT OR OCCURRING.
IF YOU ARE IN THE WARNING AREA MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND IMMEDIATELY.
RESIDENTS LIVING ALONG STREAMS AND CREEKS SHOULD TAKE IMMEDIATE
PRECAUTIONS TO PROTECT LIFE AND PROPERTY. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CROSS
SWIFTLY FLOWING WATERS OR WATERS OF UNKNOWN DEPTH BY FOOT OR BY
AUTOMOBILE.

&&

LAT...LON 3839 8345 3838 8340 3832 8333 3823 8330
3819 8324 3819 8325 3818 8326 3817 8320
3813 8322 3809 8334 3804 8340 3804 8344
3796 8344 3790 8381 3793 8397 3811 8408
3832 8384 3841 8348

$$

GEOGERIAN







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Thanks for the blog. Great pictures.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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