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Discover Magazine: Earth Goes to Extremes


While doing the groceries yesterday, I did my usual detour by the magazine rack and noticed the latest edition of Discover, a science and tech magazine.  This latest edition includes the “Top 100 Stories of 2012”.  When I saw it on the rack, my first thought was “Oh please talk about climate change!”

Turns out that Discover‘s number 4 story of 2012 is “Earth Goes to Extremes” and it highlights ten extreme climactic events that made 2012 a year of “costly and destabilizing environmental disasters”.  The map below shows the locations of the events, which are described further down.

1. Canada and United States: Oyster Die-Off.  In commercial hatcheries of the Pacific Northwest, more than 80% of oyster larvae are not surviving.  The cause: ocean acidification, partly driven by increased carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere.

2. United States: Heat Wave.  Extreme heat helped trigger droughts (affecting 80% of the country), wildfires (that incinerated 9 million acres) and severe thunderstorms.

3. Arctic Ocean: Ice Melt.  Ice covering the Arctic Ocean reached a record low of 1.32 million square miles.  That is less than half of the area that was covered 30 years ago. (For more, see Arctic Sea Ice Extent Has Reached a Record Low.)

Arctic sea ice minimum in 2012. Image: National Geographic.

Arctic sea ice minimum in 2012. Image: National Geographic.

4. United States: Storm Surge. Warmer ocean temperatures, reduced Arctic ice and rising sea levels may have all played a part in the severity of Hurricane Sandy.  Sandy hit the American Northeastern coastline in late October, causing more than 50 billion dollars in damages. (For more, see Climate Change and the Frankenstorm.)

5. Greenland: Glacier Melt.  In July, NASA satellite images showed that more than 90% of the ice surface over Greenland was melting – the most melting since satellite tracking began in 1979.

97% of Greenland melting in 2012. Image: CBC.

Greenland melting in 2012. Image: CBC.

6. Nigeria: Flooding. “The worst floods in Nigeria in 40 years displaced 1.4 million people over the summer and fall, claimed at least 431 lives, and left 120,000 homeless in 30 of the country’s 36 states.”

Areal view of Lokoja.  Photo:

Areal view of Lokoja. Photo:

7. India: Drought.  Droughts throughout the country were caused by the absence of summer monsoons.  Water shortages at hydroelectric power plants caused the largest blackout in history, affecting 1,2 billion people.

8. China: Flooding.  Torrential rains from May through July triggered floods and landslides that affected at least 38 million people (!) and led to the evacuation of 1.3 million residents.  Economic losses topped 6 billion dollars, 1 million acres of farmland were destroyed and there were shortages of clean drinking water.

9. Australia: Flooding.  Heavy monsoons, due to an unusually intense La Nina, caused sever flooding in eastern Australia in the months of February and March.

10. Great Barrier Reef: Coral Loss.  “The Great Barrier Reef system has lost more than half its coral cover in the past 27 years.”  The causes are the rapid growth of coral eating starfish, intense storms and coral bleaching caused by the warming of oceans.

Coral on Australia's Great Barrier Reef suffering from bleaching.  Photo: Reuters.

Coral on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef suffering from bleaching. Photo: Reuters.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. 2012/12/29 11:06 pm

    Wow. Disturbing. This could end really badly….

    • 2012/12/30 5:18 am

      Indeed. I’m “curious” to see what the next El Nino year is going to look like.

  2. Aseel permalink
    2013/01/08 12:30 am

    My daughter have a science project about this she is in 8 th grade any adea
    Thank u

    • 2013/01/11 6:40 am

      Hello and thank you for stopping by. If your daughter is looking at doing a project about the impacts of climate change, I would recommend you look at how your particular area is affected. If you let me know where you are writing from, I’ll do my best to share any info with you I can find.

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