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Volume 10 Issue 6, June 2020

Warming threat to deep-ocean biodiversity

A soft coral sits at a depth of 2,200m on a small ridge (“Te Kawhiti o Maui Potiki”) near the Cook Islands. Marine biodiversity is at risk as the ocean warms, but currently the focus has been on the surface ocean, as the deep ocean warms less. In this issue, Brito-Morales et al. show that climate velocities (the speed and direction of isotherm displacement) are faster in the deep ocean than at the surface. Projections show this will continue, with implications for the ability of deeper marine life to adapt.

See Brito-Morales et al.

Image: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Cover Design: Valentina Monaco


  • The world has changed this year under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns around the world have reduced energy demand, resulting in emissions declines, but what could the post-COVID-19 world look like — a return to normal, or will this start a transition?



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  • Climate change will increase the intensity and frequency of a range of natural hazards, from floods to wildfires, which impact the built environment. More research is needed on buildings and infrastructure performance under different climate-driven events to support recovery predictions and effective mitigation policies.

    • Hussam Mahmoud
  • Traditional coastal protection methods that rely on built, hard structures like seawalls may not be effective to keep pace with a changing climate. Nature-based coastal defences based on habitat restoration can be an adaptive coastal protection alternative.

    • Rebecca L. Morris
    • Anthony Boxshall
    • Stephen E. Swearer
  • Characterizing infrastructure vulnerability to climate change is essential given the long asset lives, criticality of services delivered and high costs of upgrading and maintaining these systems. Reconciling uncertainty from past infrastructure design decisions with future uncertainty of climate change will help prioritize limited resources to high risk assets.

    • Mikhail V. Chester
    • B. Shane Underwood
    • Constantine Samaras
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  • An Oxford atmospheric physicist and experimenter on early NASA weather satellites who revolutionized the field through leadership of the Appleton Laboratory, the Meteorological Office and the Science Board of the IPCC.

    • Fred Taylor
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Research Highlights

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News & Views

  • Climate migration involves complex interactions of environmental, social, political and economic factors. New research suggests that although wealthy global citizens try to prevent climate migration, they are willing to shoulder a greater share of the climate mitigation burden when extreme climate events hit poor countries.

    • Reuben Kline
    News & Views
  • The influence of the changing climate on individual snowstorms has been uncertain, in part due to the use of coarse model simulations. Now, research employing more detailed simulations finds fewer and smaller snowstorms as a result of warming, with a reduction in the amount and extent of extreme snowfall.

    • Martin A. Baxter
    News & Views
  • International efforts to expand access to safely managed sanitation provide an opportunity to introduce new models for sanitation infrastructure with lower environmental impacts than existing systems. Now, measurements in Haiti show that composting of human waste reduces GHG emissions compared to existing methods.

    • Matthew Reid
    News & Views
  • Ocean acidification is changing the productivity and composition of phytoplankton communities at the base of the aquatic food web. Now a study shows that acidification impairs the swimming ability of flagellated microalgae, suggesting that their capacity to survive is threatened in a high CO2 world.

    • Jolanda M. H. Verspagen
    News & Views
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Matters Arising

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  • The United States experienced two of its hottest recorded summers in 1934 and 1936, amplified by drier soils associated with the Dust Bowl drought. A large regional climate model ensemble estimates present-day GHGs would cause similarly extreme, 1-in-100-year heatwaves to occur about every 40 years.

    • Tim Cowan
    • Sabine Undorf
    • Friederike E. L. Otto
  • Arctic lake methane emissions, which occur primarily by ebullition, are difficult to quantify from extrapolating in situ data due to spatial and temporal variability. Remote sensing can detect ebullition, through changes in frozen lake surface properties, reducing uncertainty in emission fluxes.

    • M. Engram
    • K. M. Walter Anthony
    • F. J. Meyer
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  • Poverty increases vulnerability to climate-related shocks and both drive migration decisions. In a laboratory-based economic game, Marotzke et al. find that the rich are unable to prevent migration by the poor, and increase their effort to avert climate change when the poor are hit by a climate event.

    • Jochem Marotzke
    • Dirk Semmann
    • Manfred Milinski
  • The carbon footprint of oil refining differs depending on crude oil quality and refinery configuration. Analysis of global oil refining in 2015 shows refining carbon intensity at crude, refinery and country levels and highlights potential for emissions reductions.

    • Liang Jing
    • Hassan M. El-Houjeiri
    • Joule A. Bergerson
  • Shorefast sea ice, which forms along the Arctic shore in winter and spring, is important for local communities and ecosystems. Satellite and climate model data are used to estimate a decrease in shorefast ice season length of 5–44 days by 2100, with the coldest areas experiencing the largest reductions.

    • Sarah W. Cooley
    • Jonathan C. Ryan
    • Amanda H. Lynch
  • Predicting the impact of climate change on snowstorms is key for future water resource estimates. North American snowstorms are tracked in high-resolution warming simulations and exhibit robust decreases in storm count, snow water equivalent and areal footprint, particularly in shoulder seasons.

    • Walker S. Ashley
    • Alex M. Haberlie
    • Vittorio A. Gensini
  • Plant pathogens threaten food security and ecosystem health. Projections of potential fungal plant pathogens under different warming and land-use scenarios indicate that warming temperatures under climate change will lead to increases in the relative abundance of such pathogens in most soils worldwide.

    • Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo
    • Carlos A. Guerra
    • Fernando T. Maestre
  • Climate warming increases evapotranspiration (ET) more in boreal peatlands than in forests. Observations show that peatland ET can exceed forest ET by up to 30%, indicating a stronger warming response in peatlands. Earth system models do not fully account for peatlands and hence may underestimate future boreal ET.

    • Manuel Helbig
    • James Michael Waddington
    • Vyacheslav Zyrianov
  • The impact of climate change on the circumpolar distribution of the key Antarctic food-web species, krill, is unknown. Combining a krill growth model with projected climate scenarios shows the growth habitat is likely to experience only moderate change, with the northern edges most at risk.

    • Devi Veytia
    • Stuart Corney
    • Sophie Bestley
  • Marine biodiversity is at risk as the ocean warms, but currently the focus has been at the surface as the deep ocean has warmed less. Climate velocity—the speed and direction of isotherm displacement—is calculated to be faster in the deep ocean, and projections show this difference will grow.

    • Isaac Brito-Morales
    • David S. Schoeman
    • Anthony J. Richardson
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Amendments & Corrections

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