Best of our wild blogs: 21 Jan 16

Black water at Punggol Jetty
wild shores of singapore

Punggol mangroves being smothered by clay?
wild shores of singapore

Glorious comeback: NEW walks
BES Drongos

Which Duck is this?
Singapore Bird Group

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2 hawker centres to pilot food waste recycling systems on premise

If the pilot is successful, food waste recycling could reduce the total waste generated from both hawker centres by up to 80 per cent, says NEA.
Chan Luo Er Channel NewsAsia 21 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: A two-year on-site food waste recycling pilot at two hawker centres, Ang Mo Kio Blk 628 Market and Tiong Bahru Market, was launched on Thursday (Jan 21).

The National Environment Agency (NEA) estimated that each market generates two to three tonnes of food waste daily, with the majority from stalls in the wet market and table cleaning operations. If the pilot is successful, food waste recycling could reduce the total waste generated from both hawker centres by up to 80 per cent, the agency said.

For instance, the machine at Ang Mo Kio Blk 628 Market, operated by Eco-Wiz, is able to convert one tonne of food waste into water within 24 hours. The water is then used for cleaning the bin centre, said NEA.

The machine at Tiong Bahru Market, under VRM Operations, grinds up food waste and mixes it with micro-organisms. The resulting mixture is stored on the premise in 15 1,000-litre tanks. When the tanks are full, they are transported off-site to be converted into bio-fertiliser for agricultural purposes.

Vendors at both markets install and maintain the food waste recycling machines, as well as train cleaners and stall holders to segregate waste.

When the winning bids were announced in October last year, NEA had said that the markets were selected based on the number and mix of their stalls. There are a total of 218 stalls and 342 stalls at Ang Mo Kio Blk 628 Market and Tiong Bahru Market, respectively.

The pilot, which is expected to conclude in December 2017, is part of Singapore's efforts to become a zero-waste nation under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015.

Food waste accounts for 10 per cent of total waste generated in Singapore. In 2014, 788,600 tonnes of food waste was generated of which 101,400 tonnes was recycled. The remaining food waste was disposed of at incineration plants, according to NEA.

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Singapore 'extremely vulnerable' to Zika virus: Experts

938LIVE reports: Two infectious disease experts say any Zika virus outbreak in Singapore could potentially overshadow the number of dengue cases seen this year.

Monica Kotwani, 938LIVE Channel NewsAsia 20 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: The Republic is "extremely vulnerable" to the Zika virus, which is spreading throughout Central and South America, said two infectious disease experts.

Speaking to 938LIVE, they said any outbreak in Singapore could potentially overshadow the large number of dengue cases seen this year.

They further recommended that doctors should start documenting the travel history of patients with fever, and test them for the Zika virus should they test negative for dengue. Authorities have been stepping up the fight against a rising number of dengue cases.

Should it be introduced in Singapore, tackling the Zika virus could prove to be challenging, the experts said. The Zika virus is spread by the Aedes mosquito, which is also responsible for transmitting dengue.

According to authorities, the Aedes mosquitoes are breeding in growing numbers in Singapore, due to record high temperatures.

To date, no cases of Zika virus have been reported in Singapore, according to a journal published by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 2014. Zika is not a legally notifiable disease under the Infectious Diseases Act - this means that patients with the virus are not required to report their condition to the authorities within a prescribed time.


In South America, the rapid spread of the virus after eight years of laying low has taken many by surprise, and could be a warning closer to home. In Brazil, about 1.5 million people are thought to have contracted the virus, almost as many as those who have contracted dengue.

The virus has symptoms similar to dengue and chikungunya, such as fever with or without a rash, joint pains and headaches. Unlike dengue, the virus has not been associated with deaths in adults.

However, experts 938LIVE spoke with said they are still concerned. It may be associated with the Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological condition, and it could also affect pregnant women.

Professor Annelies Wilder-Smith, an Emerging Infectious Diseases expert at Nanyang Technological University's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, said the outbreak in Brazil has shown that there is probably a link between the virus and pregnancy-related infections.

She added: “Infection during pregnancy has affected the unborn. Unfortunately, it causes malformations including microcephaly, which is a very small head circumference.

“Several children have already died. This is the main concern and why we are so scared of the Zika virus."

There are already fears Zika could spread to the United States. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that pregnant women consider postponing their travel to areas where the transmission of Zika is ongoing.

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent the infection of Zika, said MOH in the journal. Patients would usually be given medication to manage symptoms such as fever and joint pain.

Travellers visiting places where human cases of Zika have been reported would be advised to protect themselves from mosquito bites, such as by using insect repellent and wearing long-sleeved garments, said MOH.

Zika virus can cause fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, with symptoms usually lasting under a week, but in pregnant women, the virus can spread to the fetus and cause brain shrinkage or death. (AFP/Nelson Almeida)


With globalisation, Prof Wilder-Smith said it is a matter of time before the first imported case of Zika virus is found in Singapore.

It could be spread in Singapore if a person infected overseas arrives in Singapore, and is bitten by an Aedes mosquito. That mosquito could go on to infect other people.

An outbreak could overshadow the current spread of dengue cases, and Prof Wilder-Smith said this is because the population here is “totally non-immune … to the Zika virus”.

However, there is also a chance it could already be here. Professor Duane Gubler, who is with the Duke-NUS Medical School's Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme, said the virus could have been previously misdiagnosed as dengue.

He said: "Zika virus is a close relative of dengue. They both belong to the same genus and same family. They both cause a similar illness and therefore they're misdiagnosed.

“Zika has been known in the region. It's very likely Zika has been circulating silently in places like Indonesia, Malaysia and most likely Singapore. I don't know, it's all speculation. But it's not unlikely that that was occuring.”

Prof Wilder-Smith also said awareness has to be stepped up. "We need to increase awareness among clinicians to also look for Zika in travellers who return with a febrile illness from countries that are currently having Zika virus circulation,” she said.

“Furthermore, all of us need to keep abreast of developments because it's evolving."

Prof Gubler, who also chairs the National Environment Agency’s Dengue Expert Advisory Panel, agrees that physicians must stay vigilant while considering Zika in their diagnoses.

He said authorities need to intensify mosquito control, but that researchers should also look at developing a vaccine for the virus, which could become an important public health problem if indeed microcephaly is linked to it.

- 938LIVE/xk

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Malaysia: Large weaverbird seizure in northern Peninsular Malaysia

TRAFFIC 20 Jan 16;

Gerik, Malaysia, 20th January 2016—Close to 1,500 Baya Weavers Ploecus phillipinus have been seized by the Perak Border Security Agency in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) in Perak near Gerik, northern Peninsular Malaysia.

Two men were arrested during the raid at the Perah Rest and Recreation area after authorities inspected their vehicle and found four large cages with 1,480 Baya Weavers inside them. The birds were allegedly en route to the State capital, Ipoh, for sale.

Baya Weaver, locally known as Ciak Tempua, is native to Malaysia and is protected under the country’s Wildlife Conservation Act 2010. The collection and keeping of the weaver’s unique nest, traded as an ornamental piece, is regulated through a licensing system in Peninsular Malaysia.

Those convicted of illegal possession of a protected species in Malaysia can be fined up to MYR50,000 (USD11,900) or imprisonment for a term not more than two years, or both.

Although this is the largest such incident involving Bays Weavers in recent times, from 2012 to 2015, at least 739 Baya Weavers were reported to have been seized by authorities in Peninsular Malaysia. According to PERHILITAN, the Baya Weaver was the second most numerous bird species involved in seizures in 2015, after the White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus. One trader caught illegally selling Baya Weavers last year claimed the species is thought to bring good fortune to its owner.

TRAFFIC congratulates the Perak Border Security Agency and PERHILITAN on their success in stopping the illegal trade of these birds.

Throughout Southeast Asia, wild-caught birds are in high demand as cage birds, with some species bought and released for merit purposes.

Members of the public in Malaysia are encouraged to report incidences of suspected illegal wildlife activities to the MYCAT Wildlife Crime Hotline at 019-354 4191, or directly to PERHILITAN’s Hotline 1800-88-5151.

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Malaysia: Sabah Wildlife department probing deaths of sun bear and turtles

RUBEN SARIO The Star 20 Jan 16;

KOTA KINABALU: A probe is underway to find those responsible for the killings of a Bornean sun bear and six turtles in separate incidents at Sabah’s east coast over the past week.

Sabah Wildlife Department director William Baya said they had begun their investigations immediately after the discovery of the carcasses of these protected animals.

“We have not identified any suspects for now,” he told The Star on Wednesday.

On Jan 18, two Swedish tourists made a gruesome discovery of the carcass of a sun bear cut in half in the Sungai Kinabatangan.

The tourists - Tommy Eriksson and his wife Teuta Hajra - took photos of the slaughtered animal with both its hind paws missing floating in the river near Kampung Sukau, adjacent to a plantation.

Earlier on Jan 16, visitors to Semporna spotted the decomposing carcasses of six turtles in waters off several islands in Semporna.

Wildlife conservationists believe that the turtles could have been killed by fishermen who discovered the marine creatures caught in their nets.

There was also a possibility that the turtles could have been slaughtered by those seaweed farmers after catching the animals feeding on their produce.

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Indonesia: President Joko Appoints Conservationist as New Peat Restoration Agency Head

Novy Lumanauw Jakarta Globe 20 Jan 16;

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla on Wednesday inaugurated Nazir Foead, conservation director at the World Wildlife Fund, as head of the newly established Peat Restoration Agency, known as BRG.

“To me, Nazir Foead has the competencies and experiences in restoring the forests and peat lands, especially the skills to coordinate with the [related] ministries, [local] agencies and international agency networks,” Joko said ahead of the inauguration last week.

The BRG is tasked with restoring peat lands in Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, Papua and across all of Kalimantan which have been affected by last year's disastrous forest and land fires. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests and peat lands were destroyed.

As a non-structural agency reporting directly to the president, the BRG will be responsbile for coordinating and reinforcing policies relating to peat restoration and cooperation among authorities to restore the areas. It has also been assigned to map and establish protection zones and provide training and the tools required to mitigate future fire seasons. Empowering local communities to end slash-and-burn practices is among the highest priority for the agency.

Nazir will be joined by a secretary-general and four deputies, alongside a technical team of senior officials from provincial government and related agencies and ministries. Nazir will also call on experts from universities and research groups.

BRG will work on the project until the end of 2020.

Indonesia lost over two million hectares of forest and peat lands last year between June and October during the crisis, National Space and Aviation Agency (Lapan) data has shown, causing massive economic losses, productivity issues and scores of health problems.

Joko has cracked down on the practice in an effort to stop the seasonal fires from recurring this year. On Tuesday he threatened fire, police and military officials with sanctions should the fail to prevent and mitigate similar problems in 2016.

Joko Vows Zero Tolerance for Police, Military Officials Who Fail to Prevent Forest Fires
Jakarta Globe 19 Jan 16;

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has threatened the jobs of police and military officials if they fail to prevent forest and land fires for recurring this year and calling for stricter enforcement of slash-and-burn laws and more effective prevention methods.

“I have coordinated with the National Police chief [Gen. Badrodin Haiti] and the Indonesian Military commander [Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo] to implement the reward and punishment system. If there are a lot of forest and land fire cases, dismiss and replace [officials]. Conversely, those with good performances will be promoted,” the President said on Monday, as quoted by

Joko advocated coordination and cooperation among police and military officials with the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Forestry to stop the fires from occurring this year.

“The BNPB does not have any troops but the National Police and the military do. The regional military commanders, regional police chiefs, military resort commands, district police chiefs, everyone has to be deployed," he said.

"You have to make actual visits to the fields, don't just sit behind your desks."

Regional leaders, such as governors, mayors and district heads, must also play a role in mitigating forest fires, mainly through financing and assisting in the logistical and technical support for volunteers and officials, the President said.

Hundreds of thousands of residents in Sumatra and Kalimantan — and neigboring Malaysia and Singapore — were blanketed in thick haze for months last year, caused by forest fires in the two Indonesian islands. Tens of thousands were treated for respiratory illnesses and eye infections.

Indonesia lost over two million hectares of forest area during last year's fire crisis, data published by the National Space and Aviation Agency (Lapan) showed, causing massive economic losses and decreased productivity.

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Indonesia: Dengue fever outbreaks reported in many regions

Syamsul Huda M. Suhari, The Jakarta Post 20 Jan 16;

Dengue fever cases have been reported in many regions across the country with hospitals reportedly overwhelmed by patients.

Management of the Aloei Saboe General Hospital, the only reference hospital in Gorontalo province, confirmed there had been a substantial rise in the number of dengue hemorrhagic fever patient cases.

Hospital director Dr. Andang Ilato confirmed the rise in the number of dengue fever cases since December last year, although it has not yet been categorized as an extraordinary occurrence (KLB).

“Patients from every regency have been referred here for various reasons, such as a lack of clinical and hospital capacity in the regencies, so we’ve been overwhelmed with patients,” said Andang.

Currently, he said, the hospital was only equipped with 350 in-patient beds, but the number of patients stood at 450, 20 percent above capacity. “We’re still treating them, but not in in-patient wards, but in the hospital corridors,” said Andang.

The hospital recorded 105 patients positively infected by dengue fever, seven of them suffering from Dengue Shock Syndrome (DSS) due to hemorrhaging who are currently undergoing intensive treatment.

Regarding the supply of medicine, despite depletion, he stressed the hospital had sufficient stock until the end of January.

Despite being treated in a hospital corridor, the relative of one patient praised the hospital’s services. “We are resigned to the fact that the wards are completely full,” said Husin Hadji whose granddaughter Pratiwi, 10, had been treated in a corridor reserved for children for the past three days.

Head of Gorontalo’s Indonesia Ombudsman representative office Alim S. Niode said that based on observation, there had been a number of findings of a lack of public services. “The Ombudsman has found Gorontalo City Health Office is still weak in coordinating efforts to prevent the spread of dengue fever, while community health clinics [puskesmas] are ineffective at running their functions,” Alim said on Tuesday.

Besides that, he said, the district and village administrations had not been optimal in providing information to the public on the importance of environmental hygiene.

In East Nusa Tenggara, the Kupang City Health Office is currently focusing on fumigating a number of locations in the provincial capital currently facing a dengue fever outbreak.

“Based on an epidemiology field survey, the health office has taken measures to focus on fumigation,” said Kupang City Health Office healthcare division head Sri Wahyuningsih as quoted by Antara on Monday.

Sri said nine dengue fever patients were currently in intensive care at the hospital. She added that the number had risen compared to earlier this month when five cases were recorded.

In Banten, the number of dengue fever patients getting treatment at hospitals and puskesmas in Lebak regency stood at 32 as of Sunday.

“We urge residents to be alert to the spread of dengue fever, keeping in mind the current rainy season during which the aedes aegypti mosquito can multiply,” said head of Lebak Health Office’s Contagious Disease Prevention and Environmental Health Affairs Firman Rahmatullah in Lebak on Sunday.

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Plastic to outweigh fish in oceans, says report

Sydney Morning Herald 20 Jan 16;

The world's oceans will contain more plastics than fish by 2050 as plastic – mostly packaging – enters the seas at the rate of one garbage truck-load a minute, a new report has warned.

Massive volumes of plastic packaging are being thrown away after one use, the report by the World Economic Forum has found. Only 14 per cent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling.

The report says eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year – the equivalent of one garbage truck-load of waste every minute.

"If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050. Estimates suggest that plastic packaging represents the major share of this leakage," the report says.

The report estimates that by 2025 there will be one tonne of plastics for every three tonnes of fish, and by 2050 the oceans will contain more plastics than fish by weight.

Plastics have become an essential part of the global economy and production has surged from 15 million tonnes a year in 1964 to 311 million tonnes in 2014. The report estimates that will double in the next 20 years.

The report, titled The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics, calls for a new approach to the production, use and life cycle of plastics.

The authors note that plastics deliver massive economic benefits through increased productivity, longer food shelf life, lighter products and less fuel consumption.

However, they have increasingly apparent drawbacks, including accounting for a growing proportion of global oil consumption because most plastics are sourced from virgin fossil fuel feedstocks.

Apart from the enormous environmental impact, plastic waste is a huge cost to the global economy, with the WEF finding 95 per cent of the value of plastic packaging is lost after one short use and materials worth $80 billion to $120 billion are lost to the economy each year.

"A staggering 32 per cent of plastic packaging escapes collection systems, generating significant economic costs by reducing the productivity of vital natural systems such as the ocean and clogging urban infrastructure," the report says.

The report warns the costs of these after-use impacts plus greenhouse gas emissions add up to $40 billion a year – more than the profit pool of the packaging industry.

"In future, these costs will have to be covered," it says.


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Vietnam's beloved sacred turtle died: State media

A sacred giant turtle venerated as a symbol of Vietnam's independence struggle has died, state media said.

Channel NewsAsia 20 Jan 16;

HANOI: A sacred giant turtle venerated as a symbol of Vietnam's independence struggle has died, state media said, prompting an outpouring of grief and fears the death bodes ill for an upcoming communist leadership handover.

The reptile, a critically endangered swinhoe softshell turtle, occupies a key mythological role in Vietnam -- in the past the turtle generally surfaced only rarely, with its sightings deemed auspicious.

Some scientists believe it was one of only four turtles -- better known as Yangtze giant softshells -- in existence. Two are in China and the other lives in a different lake in Hanoi.

It was found dead in Hoan Kiem lake in central Hanoi late Tuesday, the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper said.

The turtle, which weighed about 200 kilogrammes (440 pounds), was said to be between 80 and 100 years old.

Its demise was widely mourned on Vietnamese-language blogs and social media, with many warning it was a bad omen for upcoming changes in the ruling Communist Party, which begins its five-yearly congress on Thursday.

"This is bad news for many people in Hanoi," said the Thanh Nien newspaper.

Vietnam's authoritarian rulers will choose a new party leader, president and prime minister at the party congress.

In a story taught to all Vietnamese school children, the sacred turtle of Hoan Kiem is the custodian of the magic sword of Le Loi, a 15th century rebel leader who vanquished Chinese invaders.

Although officially an atheist country, many Vietnamese are deeply superstitious.

"I feel empty. My children, grandchildren will only know the turtle from legend," online commentator Duong Nguyen wrote on the popular VNExpress site.

Reports about the turtle's death first appeared in state media late Tuesday, but some were taken down apparently under pressure from communist authorities.

The turtle's body is being kept at a temple on a small island in the lake pending an official decision on how to proceed, state media said, adding that embalming was being considered.

- AFP/jb

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Climate change fuels bushfire risk as Australia heats up

Climate experts warn that with rising temperatures, as well as decreasing rainfall in the south, parts of Australia are so dry the risk of bushfires is rising.

Channel NewsAsia 20 Jan 16;

SYDNEY: "A sunburnt country... with a pitiless blue sky", so the famous poem goes, but where once Australia could rely on "steady, soaking rain", a trend of hotter and drier weather as the climate warms is making it more vulnerable to severe bushfires.

US government scientists are widely expected to announce Wednesday that 2015 was the planet's hottest year in modern times.

Climate experts warn that with rising temperatures, as well as decreasing rainfall in the south, parts of Australia are so dry the risk of bushfires is rising.

Since November huge swathes of the country have been scorched by ferocious blazes, leaving a total of nine dead and hundreds of homes destroyed. In South Australia, locals told of an "Armageddon-like" inferno sweeping through some areas, while in Western Australia bushfires raged out of control in a situation residents described as "like hell".

Already this year there have been scores more bushfires -- a recent incident at Yarloop, 110 kilometres (70 miles) south of Perth, left two dead.

Firefighters warn they are facing more intense, erratic blazes.

"From my experience, fires appear to be getting more intense, harder to fight, harder to plan for... and this is having an impact on firefighting strategies," Darin Sullivan, a 25-year veteran New South Wales state firefighter, told AFP.

Three of the five hottest years on record in Australia have occurred in the last three years, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). In 2013, Australia experienced its warmest year on record, 2014 was the third-hottest while last year was the fifth-warmest.

"Studies have shown an increase in the number of days with high levels of fire danger in southern and eastern Australia," BOM climatologist Blair Trewin told AFP.

"One of the things that is apparent is a lengthening of the fire season, so we're seeing more high fire danger days in spring and autumn, as well as in the core of summer."


Bushfires are common in Australia's arid summer, which usually begins in December. Former prime minister Tony Abbott, a long-time climate change sceptic, said during the sweltering 2013-14 summer season that the heat was "just part and parcel of life in Australia".

"Australia is, to use the famous phrase, a land of droughts and flooding rains," he added, recalling the well-known Dorothea Mackellar poem "My Country".

But firefighter Sullivan said he and his colleagues were witnessing deteriorating conditions, including an apparent increase in the number of the most severe fires in recent years.

The "catastrophic" category in fire ratings was introduced after Victoria state endured the devastating "Black Saturday" bushfires in 2009 that left 173 dead in Australia's worst natural disaster.

Another issue exacerbating the impact of bushfires is that more and bigger buildings are being built in disaster-prone areas, with Campbell Fuller of Insurance Council Australia adding that often the properties being constructed were not resilient to extreme weather events.

An increase in the number and intensity of blazes is predicted to have a serious economic impact. Bushfires were estimated to have cost Australia US$247 million in 2014, but this is forecast to soar to US$548 million by 2050, according to Deloitte Access Economics, which cited population growth and infrastructure density as factors.


Ken Mansbridge, whose family home was burnt down in the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires that killed more than 70 people in Victoria and adjacent South Australia, continues to live in the same region and has noticed a stark difference in weather patterns.

"There's definitely a noticeable change in the weather patterns and in the actual vegetation... I've never seen the local area look as dry as it does," the 70-year-old retiree, who has lived in the Macedon Ranges about 70 kilometres northwest of Melbourne for more than four decades, told AFP.

"The trees are all flowering at different times, the vegetables this year were all wind and sun burnt," he explained.

A November report by the independent Climate Council pointed to longer bushfire seasons across the globe.

"What climate change is doing is loading the dice towards having the sort of conditions that are conducive to fires spreading and being very hot and more uncontrollable," said lead author Lesley Hughes, a Macquarie University biologist and ecologist.

With the BOM and national science body CSIRO expecting Australia to "warm substantially" this century, having already seen temperatures rise approximately 1.0 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1950, Sullivan said strategies for fighting fires needed to be overhauled and climate change addressed.

"If this type of intensity and increase continues, then our resources are very close to being overrun at times," he said.

"This is our workplace. When we go to work to fight fires, our workplace is now more dangerous because of climate change as well."

- AFP/jb

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2015 smashes record for hottest year, final figures confirm

Experts warn that global warming is tipping climate into ‘uncharted territory’, as Met Office, Nasa and Noaa data all confirm record global temperatures for second year running
Damian Carrington The Guardian 20 Jan 16;

2015 smashed the record for the hottest year since reporting began in 1850, according to the first full-year figures from the world’s three principal temperature estimates.

Data released on Wednesday by the UK Met Office shows the average global temperature in 2015 was 0.75C higher than the long-term average between 1961 and 1990, much higher than the 0.57C in 2014, which itself was a record. The Met Office also expects 2016 to set a new record, meaning the global temperature records will have been broken for three years running.

Temperature data released in the US on Wednesday by Nasa and by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) also showed 2015 shattered previous records.

Experts warned that the record-breaking heat shows global warming is driving the world’s climate into “uncharted territory” and that it showed the urgency of implementing the carbon-cutting pledges made by the world’s governments in Paris in December.

Heatwaves have scorched China, Russia, Australia, the Middle East and parts of South America in the last two years, while climate change made the UK’s record December rainfall, which caused devastating floods, 50-75% more likely.

The Paris agreement commits the world’s nations to limit warming to below 2C compared to pre-industrial times, or 1.5C if possible, to avoid widespread and dangerous impacts. But the Met Office data, when compared to global temperatures before fossil fuel burning took off, shows that 2015 was already 1C higher.

A strong El Niño event is peaking at the moment, putting the “icing on the cake” of high global temperatures. El Niño is a natural cycle of warming in the Pacific Ocean which has a global impact on weather. But scientists are clear that the vast majority of the warming seen in 2015 was due to the emissions from human activity.

“Even without an El Niño, this would have been the warmest year on record,” said Prof Gavin Schmidt, director at Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He said he expected the long trend of rising global temperatures to continue because its principal cause – fossil fuel burning – was also continuing.

“It is clear that human influence is driving our climate into uncharted territory,” said Prof Phil Jones, from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, which produces the temperature record – called HadCRUT4 – with the Met Office. Peter Stott, at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, said 2015 was the first year global average temperature was more than 1C above pre-industrial levels.

Noaa’s global temperature records stretch back to 1880 and it also found 2015 was the hottest year yet, beating the previous high by a record margin. The agency also found December was warmer than any other month in the record, when compared to long-term averages. Ten of the 12 months in 2015 had record high temperatures for their respective months, according to Noaa.

Nasa’s new data for 2015 also shattered its previous record and showed 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001.

“Climate change is the challenge of our generation,” said Nasa head Charles Bolden. “Today’s announcement is a key data point that should make policymakers stand up and take notice - now is the time to act.”

The Nasa, Noaa and HadCRUT4 temperature records all use independent methods to calculate the global average. They use many thousands of temperature measurements taken across the globe, on land and at sea, each day.

There are uncertainties in the measurements, partly due to fewer measurements in the polar regions, and these are included in the calculations. Stott said: “Remaining uncertainties are clearly much smaller than the overall warming seen since pre-industrial times.” Another independent temperature record, from the Japan Meteorological Agency, indicates 2015 was by far the hottest year on record.

Bob Ward, at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics, said: “This [record heat] should put pressure on governments to urgently implement their commitments to act against climate change, and to increase their planned cuts of greenhouse gases. The warming is already affecting the climate around the world, including dangerous shifts in extreme weather events. Those who claim that climate change is either not happening, or is not dangerous, have been conclusively proven wrong by the meteorological evidence around the world.”

Despite constantly rising greenhouse gas emissions trapping ever more heat on Earth, the last decade has seen relatively slow warming of air temperatures, dubbed a “pause” in climate change by some. In fact, global warming had not paused at all.

Instead, natural climate cycles led to more of the trapped heat being stored in the oceans (which already absorbed most the heat), some of which El Niño is now releasing. Scientists usually assess changes in climate over decades, rather than years, and the each of the last four decades has been warmer than any decade on record before.

“It’s the long term warming trend we need to worry about rather than one hot year,” said Prof Piers Forster, at the University of Leeds in the UK. “So we shouldn’t get too excited - but it is certainly a sign of things to come.”

136 Years of Rising Temperatures on Earth in 30 Seconds
The Atlantic Yahoo News 21 Jan 16;

Last year was the hottest year in recorded history, scientists said Wednesday.

Earth’s surface temperatures in 2015 were the warmest since record keeping began in 1880, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

Scientists said that the planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1.0 degree Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change they largely attribute to the increased presence of carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions in the atmosphere.

Here’s what that looks like in 30 seconds:

Data on global temperatures comes from thousands of weather stations around the world. Most of the planet’s warming occurred in the last 35 years, according to NOAA and NASA. Fifteen of the 16 warmest years on record occurred since 2001.

Last year’s global temperatures broke the record set in 2014 by 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 Celsius)—only the second time in modern history—the first being in 1998—that a new record was this much greater than the previous one. In December of last year, the average surface temperatures of land and oceans around the globe was the highest on record for any month in 136 years of record keeping, according to NOAA.

The year 2015 was pushed into record-breaking territory thanks in part to one of the strongest El Niños on record, which lifted plenty of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere, contributing to overall higher global temperatures, and brought rains to usually wet regions and droughts to usually dry regions.

Last year was a historic one for climate change. In November, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time, higher than it’s been in at least 1 million years. And in December, 195 nations approved a landmark climate deal that for the first time committed nearly every country to lowering greenhouse-gas emissions.

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