Drawing inspiration from popular stories on our social media channels, as well as unique and quirky research news, this monthly column aims to bring you the best of the Earth and planetary sciences from around the web.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has confirmed that 2017 is among the three warmest years on record.
The three years with the highest temperature on record are now 2015, 2016 and 2017. While 2016 holds the record, 2017 is not far behind and is the warmest year without an El Niño (which can lead to an increase in annual temperatures).
“The long-term temperature trend is far more important than the ranking of individual years, and that trend is an upward one.” WMO Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas. Taalas continued by stating, “Seventeen of the 18 warmest years on record have all been during this century, and the degree of warming during the past three years has been exceptional.”
2017 also saw extreme weather events around the world, from forest fires in Portugal, hurricanes in the USA, heatwaves in Australia and floods in Asia. Many of these extreme weather events have been shown to be exacerbated by the heat resulting from global warming.
2015–2017 have all been years with an average temperature of 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. This indicates that we are rapidly reaching the 2.0°C level of warming that was set as a limit (and a 1.5°C that was set as a target) during the International Paris Climate Change Treaty. 2017 has shown us that there is increasing urgency to address our greenhouse gas emissions and to take climate change seriously.
Another major story this month is that the Philippines’ most active volcano, Mount Mayon, has been spewing superheated gas and volcanic debris since January 13. Located in Albay Province, 300km southeast of Manila, the stratovolcano has erupted approximately 50 times in the last 500 years.
As of 30 January, an alert level-4 (hazardous eruption imminent) was in effect in Albay Province with lava fountains and ash explosions occurring several times per day. More than 84,000 people have been evacuated from the area. The province is also a large agricultural area and as a result many farmers have had to leave their rice, vegetable and poultry farms within the danger zone (with an estimated total loss of over 2 million USD).
What you might have missed
In other news, The first-ever European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy was adopted on January 16. This strategy aims to change the way plastic products are designed, used and produced within the EU.
Developing this policy was seen as a priority during 2016 /17 with the production of plastics increasing twenty-fold globally since the 1960s and reaching 322 million tonnes in 2015. Without change, plastic production is expected to double again within the next 20 years. These findings, along with many others (such as the one displayed graphically below), were uncovered during the extensive research period undertaken before the strategy was finalised.
The European plastic strategy discusses the problems found to be associated with plastics, including: the carbon emitted from the creation and incineration of plastic, the issue of plastic as marine and terrestrial litter (both in terms of microplastics and larger objects) and the impacts that plastic can have on both our environment and health.
The strategy then outlines the methods that will be used to reduce the amounts of plastics produced, such as: extending and modernising the EU’s recycling capacity, further integrating the value chain of plastics (finding new uses for old plastic), and investing in innovative materials that can be used as alternatives to plastic.
Five links we liked
- World’s longest underwater cave system discovered in Mexico by divers
- Volcanic crystals as time capsules of eruption history
- Researchers Find a Chunk of North America Stuck to Australia
- World’s first electric container barges to sail from European ports this summer
- Why the climate of Game of Thrones is about more than the arrival of winter
The EGU story
There’s been a lot happening in the EGU office this month with the EGU General Assembly just around the corner! We have received over 17,000 abstracts and look forward to productive and fun science discussions in Vienna on 8–13 April.
The imaggeo photo competition is now underway, and all those pre-registered to the meeting before February 15 are welcome to enter! You can upload your photos on the imaggeo website until February 15 for your chance to win a free registration to the 2019 EGU General Assembly.
The EGU mentoring programme will also be running for the second time in 2018. This programme aims to facilitate new connections between early career researchers and senior scientists at the General Assembly, potentially leading to long-term professional relationships. The deadline to register for the mentoring programme is today (31.01.2018), but for mentors only, we are extending the deadline until 7 February.
And don’t forget! To stay abreast of all the EGU’s events and activities, from highlighting papers published in our open access journals to providing news relating to EGU’s scientific divisions and meetings, including the General Assembly, subscribe to receive our monthly newsletter. You can also follow the EGU on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.