The Environment Chronicle Notable environmental events between 2010 and 2010 Deselect
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Energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history, according to the latest estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA). After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions are estimated to have climbed to a record 30.6 Gigatonnes (Gt), a 5% jump from the previous record year in 2008, when levels reached 29.3 Gt.
A first assessment of the air quality in 2010 done by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) indicates that at 56 percent of the measuring stations in urban areas near traffic, the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentration levels exceeded the annual mean value of 40 microgammes/cubic metre of air (µg/m3) which has been set as the statutory cap since 1.1.2010. The assessment is based on preliminary data from the federal states’ and UBA’s measuring networks. Concentrations of particulates (PM10) in 2010 again exceeded the caps which already became effective in 2005. 13% of all measuring stations registered PM10 concentrations of over 50 µg/m3 on more than 35 days.
New research, published on 21 January 2011 in Environmental Research Letters, shows that 2010 set new records for the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The past melt season was exceptional, with melting in some areas stretching up to 50 days longer than average. Melting in 2010 started exceptionally early at the end of April and ended quite late in mid- September. The study, with different aspects sponsored by WWF, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA, examined surface temperature anomalies over the Greenland ice sheet surface, as well as estimates of surface melting from satellite data, ground observations and models.
In 2010, about 2,15 mio ha or nearly 18 percent of Germany`s arable lands were used for growing renewable resources.
Altogether, a total of 950 natural catastrophes were recorded last year, nine-tenths of which were weather-related events like storms and floods. This total makes 2010 the year with the second-highest number of natural catastrophes since 1980, markedly exceeding the annual average for the last ten years (785 events per year). In all, there were five catastrophes last year assignable to the top category of "great natural catastrophes" based on the definition criteria of the United Nations: the earthquakes in Haiti (12 January), Chile (27 February) and central China (13 April), the heatwave in Russia (July to September), and the floods in Pakistan (also July to September). These accounted for the major share of fatalities in 2010 (around 295,000) and just under half the overall losses caused by natural catastrophes.
A paper by Simon Lewis, Paulo Brando and three co-authors, published on 4 February 2011 in Science Magazine, reports on the 2010 drought in the Amazon Basin. This drought occurred only a few years after the exceptional drought of 2005, which was supposed to have been a one-in-a-hundred-year event. The paper presents evidence that last year's drought was both more severe and more extensive than the earlier one.
The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new high in 2010 since pre-industrial time and the rate of increase has accelerated, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. The analysis of observations from the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Programme shows that the globally averaged mixing ratios of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) reached new highs in 2010, with CO2 at 389.0 ppm, CH4 at 1808 ppb and N2O at 323.2 ppb.
Floods in central Europe, wildfires in Russia, widespread flooding in Pakistan. The number and scale of weather-related natural catastrophe losses in the first nine months of 2010 was exceptionally high. Munich Re recorded a total of 725 weather-related natural hazard events with significant losses from January to September 2010, the second-highest figure recorded for the first nine months of the year since 1980. Some 21,000 people lost their lives, 1,760 in Pakistan alone, up to one-fifth of which was flooded for several weeks. Overall losses due to weather-related natural catastrophes from January to September came to more than US$ 65bn and insured losses to US$ 18bn. Despite producing 13 named storms, the hurricane season has been relatively benign to date, the hurricanes having pursued favourable courses. Munich Re’s natural catastrophe database, the most comprehensive of its kind in the world, shows a marked increase in the number of weather-related events. For instance, globally there has been a more than threefold increase in loss-related floods since 1980 and more than double the number of windstorm natural catastrophes, with particularly heavy losses as a result of Atlantic hurricanes.
The 2010 meteorological year, which ended on 30 November, was the warmest in NASA's 130-year record, data posted by the agency on 10 January 2011 shows. Over the oceans as well as on land, the average global temperature for the 12-month period that began last December was 14.65˚C. That's 0.65˚C warmer than the average global temperature between 1951 and 1980, a period scientists use as a basis for comparison.
A new scientific study has found that seaweeds have claimed large areas of the coastal shelf of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR). The study has found that more than 40 per cent of inshore reefs on the GBR are dominated by seaweeds (macroalgae) – but that the mid-shelf and outer reefs are virtually free of weed. Worldwide, many scientists consider that a shift from coral-dominated reefs to weed-dominated reefs signals a decline in the health of coral ecosystems – and is exceptionally difficult to reverse.
A new and previously unknown species of spider has been discovered in the dune of the Sands of Samar in the southern Arava region by a team of scientists from the Department of Biology in the University of Haifa-Oranim. Since it has been found in the Arava, it has been given the name Cerbalus aravensis. The researchers say that this spider’s leg-span can reach up to 14 cm, which makes it the largest spider of its type in the Middle East.
The iceberg B15-K (fragment of the Ross Ice Shelf) collided with the Ekstrom Ice Shelf in Atka Bay on the 11th February 2010, at 16:42 Universal Time. The iceberg, which is 54 kilometres long, five kilometres wide and 200 metres thick hit the ice shelf in the vicinity of Neumayer Station III of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association. The event has called both logistic experts and scientist on the scene. High-resolution images of the German TerraSAR-X satellite depict the moment of collision between the approximately 400 million-ton B15-K iceberg and the Ekström Ice Shelf. Together with the on site observations by scientists and technicians, they enable the precise analyses of the newly created fissures in the ice shelf. The loud underwater sounds created by the impact and the response of seals and whales was recorded by the acoustic observatory PALAOA. Additional records were obtained from the seismometers of the geophysical observatory at Neumayer Station III. Together, the data are used to reconstruct an overall picture of the processes: The impact of multiple collisions, within 9 hours, dislodged a 300-meter wide and 700-meter long chunk of ice from ice shelf. The energy of each impact was equivalent to that released by between about five to ten tons of explosives. A unique interdisciplinary compilation of data obtained from remote sensing, geophysics, meteorology, oceanography and ocean acoustics now provides new insights into the mechanics of the ice and crack propagation in the ice shelf.
A massive iceberg has just calved from the Mertz Glacier Tongue in East Antarctica. This calving event was detected by a joint French-Australian team working on a project called “CRACICE” (Cooperative Research into Antarctic Calving and Iceberg Evolution). The iceberg has an area of about 2550 square kilometers, an overall length of 78 kilometers, width of 33 to 39 km, and represents about half the length of the glacier tongue. Satellite imagery shows the iceberg separation occurred on 12 / 13 of February 2010.
There is new evidence that dust storms in the arctic, possibly caused by receding glaciers, may be making deposits in northern Europe and North America, according to Joseph M. Prospero, professor of marine and atmospheric chemistry at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, in a February 19 presentation to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His recent work in Iceland has shown that most of the dust events there are associated with dust emitted from glacial outwash deposits, which may be carried into the northern latitudes and into Europe by synoptic weather events. Satellite data have shown large dust plumes in the arctic, but persistent cloud cover has made finding the origins difficult. The glaciers have been retreating in Iceland for decades, and the trend is expected to continue with the changing climate. Prospero predicts that dust activity from the newly exposed glacial deposits will most likely increase in the future in Iceland and possibly from other glacial terrains in the Arctic.
Scientists have discovered an area of the North Atlantic Ocean where plastic debris accumulates. The region is said to compare with the well-documented "great Pacific garbage patch". Kara Lavender Law of the Sea Education Association announced the findings of a two-decade-long study at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, US on 24 February 2010. The work is the conclusion of the longest and most extensive record of plastic marine debris in any ocean basin. Scientists and students from the SEA collected plastic and marine debris in fine mesh nets that were towed behind a research vessel. The researchers carried out 6,100 tows in areas of the Caribbean and the North Atlantic - off the coast of the US. They found a region fairly far north in the Atlantic Ocean where this debris appears to be concentrated and remains over long periods of time. More than 80% of the plastic pieces were found between 22 and 38 degrees north. The maximum "plastic density" was 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometre.
Tons of death fish washed up on the shores of a lagoon of an urban area (Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas) of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The official state news service Agencia Brasil said about 100 city employees working full-time cleared nearly 80 tons of fish as of Sunday. There was no immediate estimate of how many died, but several species were involved. Rio's environmental secretary speculates that increased levels of a harmful algae may be the immediate cause of the sudden die-off Friday.
A census of the world’s largest mountain gorilla population has counted 480 animals, an increase of 100 - more than a quarter - since the last count in 2003. The gorillas surveyed live in Central Africa’s Virunga Massif region, a volcanic mountain ecosystem consisting of three adjacent national parks spanning parts of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda and Rwanda. A fourth park, southwestern Uganda’s Bwindi, is home to an additional 302 mountain gorillas, the only other remaining wild population, which together with four orphaned mountain gorillas in a sanctuary in the DRC brings the wild population to 786. The Virunga census was conducted in March and April 2010 by local authorities with the support of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), a coalition of several conservation organizations, including WWF.
The world’s combined global land and ocean surface temperature made last month the warmest March on record, according to NOAA. Taken separately, average ocean temperatures were the warmest for any March and the global land surface was the fourth warmest for any March on record. Additionally, the planet has seen the fourth warmest January – March period on record.
Above average sea temperatures throughout the early part of 2010 have led to the first recorded major coral bleaching event at Lord Howe Island, the world’s southern-most coral reef. Water temperatures have exceeded 26-27 degrees over the last few months, which is a couple of degrees warmer than the usual summer sea temperature, leading to mild to moderate bleaching in some parts of the reef system and almost total coral bleaching in other areas. The reef lies within the Lord Howe Island Marine Park and is part of the Lord Howe Island World Heritage site.
On 19 April 2010 Germany's Federal Environmental Agency announced, that its high-altitude observatories had registered a drastic rise in fine dust in the air. On Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze, in the Alps, the reading was eight times the long-term average.
In early May 2010, the body of one of the last Javan rhinos in Vietnam was found in Cat Tien National Park . The animal had been shot and its horn removed by poachers. It is now uncertain how many, if any, Javan rhinos are left in Vietnam. Vietnam’s Javan rhinos are one of only two populations of the species left on Earth. Official estimates say there are fewer than 60 Javan rhinos left. The largest population of approximately 40-60 is found in Ujung Kulon National Park, Java, Indonesia. There are no Javan rhinos in captivity in the world.
Geologists led by Brown University have determined the east African rift lake has experienced unprecedented warming during the last century, and its surface waters are the warmest on record. That finding is important, the scientists write in the journal Nature Geoscience, because the warm surface waters likely will affect fish stocks upon which millions of people in the region depend. The team took core samples from the lakebed that laid out a 1,500-year history of the lake’s surface temperature. The data showed the lake’s surface temperature, 26 degrees Celsius is the warmest the lake has been for a millennium and a half.
Verified emissions of greenhouse gases from EU businesses participating in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) fell 11.6 % in 2009 compared with a 2008, according to the information provided by Member State registries. The drop in emissions is in line with widely held expectations and analyst forecasts provided months ahead of the data release. It is attributed to several factors. Firstly, the reduced economic activity as a result of the recession and secondly, the low level of gas prices throughout 2009 which has made it much more attractive to produce power from gas rather than more emitting coal.
Average June ice extent was the lowest in the satellite data record, from 1979 to 2010. In June, ice extent declined by 88,000 square kilometers (34,000 square miles) per day, more than 50% greater than the average rate of 53,000 square kilometers (20,000 square miles) per day. This rate of decline is the fastest measured for June.
On 30 June 2010 the first floating nuclear power station (PATES), the Akademik Lomonosov, set sail from the Baltiysky Zavod shipyard in St. Petersburg. Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the state atomic agency Rosatom, said that floating nuclear power stations “open a new era and create new prospects for modernizing the power energy infrastructure of some of the more distant and isolated regions of Russia.” The vessel carrying the plant is scheduled to start operating in late 2012, according to officials.
The prolonged heat and lack of wind or storms has given the cyanobacteria the chance to form the largest carpet since 2005, covering about 377,000 square kilometres of the sea’s surface – roughly Germany’s entire land area. The carpet stretches from Finland down to the Curonian spit on the coast of Lithuania, over to the Bay of Pomerania on the coasts of Germany and Poland and across to Rügen, the German island off the coast of Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania.
TerraSAR-X mapped the oil-polluted area in the Gulf of Mexico in a series of images acquired on 9 July 2010. The oil slick appears black on the satellite imagery – the oil glazes the surface of the water, so the radar signals are reflected away and not returned to the satellite. Beyond the island group just off the Mississippi coastline, the oil that is approaching the coast is shown as a black patch. The frayed offshoots reaching out from the individual oil slicks reveal that the oil was driven forward by the wind. Ships and drilling rigs are visible clearly as points on the water’s surface.
One of the rarest and most threatened primates in the world, so mysterious it was once thought to be extinct, has been caught on camera for the first time. The pictures of the Horton Plains slender loris (Loris tardigradus nycticeboides) were taken in the montane forests of central Sri Lanka by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Sri Lankan researchers. Until now this subspecies of slender loris has only been seen four times since 1937 and disappeared from 1939 to 2002, leading experts to believe it had become extinct. Conservation biologists from ZSL’s Edge of Existence Programme surveyed 2km transects for more than 200 hours, looking for signs of this elusive wide-eyed primate.
Hundreds of dead penguins and other sea animals have washed up on Sao Paulo state's shores and scientists are investigating the causes, environment officials told Folha Online news agency. The Institute of Environment and Natural Resources said 530 penguins, numerous other sea birds, five dolphins and three giant sea turtles have been found in the coastal towns of Peruibe, Praia Grande and Itanhaem, with more likely on other nearby beaches.
On 30 August 2010 the German Weather Service (DWD) announced, that Germany has experienced its wettest August on record. About 157 litres per square metre had fallen on average across the nation. That compares with the average over many years of just 77 litres per square metre. August 2010 had the highest rainfall for that month since records started being kept in 1881.
On Aug. 5, 2010, an enormous chunk of ice, about 251 square kilometers (97 square miles) in size, or roughly four times the size of Manhattan, broke off the Petermann Glacier along the northwestern coast of Greenland. The Petermann Glacier lost about one-quarter of its 70-kilometer-long (40-miles) floating ice shelf, according to researchers at the University of Delaware, Newark, Dela. The recently calved iceberg is the largest to form in the Arctic in 50 years.
Scientists made the discovery while analyzing the most detailed global surface temperature maps to date, developed with data from remote sensing satellites including the new Landsat 8, a joint project of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Researchers analyzed 32 years' worth of data from several satellite instruments. They found temperatures plummeted to record lows dozens of times in clusters of pockets near a high ridge between Dome Argus and Dome Fuji, two summits on the ice sheet known as the East Antarctic Plateau. The new record of minus 136 F (minus 93.2 C) was set Aug. 10, 2010.
A scientific expedition to the Colombian Amazon has revealed a new species of titi monkey (Callicebus caquetensis), Conservation International announced on 12 August 2010. However, the exciting news is tinged with concern as researchers from the National University of Colombia who discovered the new primate consider it to be critically endangered due to rapid loss of the forest where it lives and its small population.
Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have detected a plume of hydrocarbons that is at least 22 miles long and more than 3,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, a residue of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The study, published in the 19 August 2010 issue of the Science, is the first major peer-reviewed analysis of the underwater oil plume.
In 2010, World Ecological Debt Day or Earth Overshoot Day falled on 21 August. Earth Overshoot Day, a concept devised by U.K.-based new economics foundation, marks the day when demand on ecological services begins to exceed the renewable supply.
Climate change: Average temperatures on the rise, more hot days. Germany's National Meteorological Service, the Deutscher Wetterdienst, and the Federal Environment Agency believe the trend in weather records confirm the forecasts made by climate researchers. Extreme weather events with heavy precipitation or heat waves have increased tangibly in the past few decades, and it is likely that their occurrence and intensity will continue to rise. The annual mean temperature in Germany increased by 1.1°C from 1881 to 2009. It could climb another 2 to 4°C by the end of the century. The rising temperatures are expected to trigger ever more and intense heat waves. Measurements taken at some of the Meteorological Service’s stations have proven that the number of summer days (days with maximum temperatures of 25°C and above) has more than doubled since 1950.
Officials with Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish are investigating why hundreds of thousands of dead fish were found in the Bayou Chaland area of the state, which is west of the Mississippi River. Workers with the Plaquemines Parish Inland Waterways Strike Force discovered the massive fish kill Sept. 10, 2010, and reported it to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries.
In 2010, the summer sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean will reach one of its lowest levels in the past 20 years. This is shown in analyses of satellite pictures carried out by Prof. Dr. Lars Kaleschke at the University of Hamburg's KlimaCampus. The average expected for this September is one of the four lowest figures shown since satellite analyses were first carried out early in the 1970s. Scientist registered the lowest expansion of sea ice at 4.2 million square kilometers in 2007. The minimum expanse of sea ice fluctuates considerably from one year to the next; on a statistical average, the area has been reduced by around eight per cent every ten years since 1970.
Scientists from the German Primate Center (DPZ) in Göttingen have identified a new species: the northern buffed-cheeked gibbon, Nomascus annamensis. Researchers were able to identify it through its characteristic vocalizations. An analysis of the frequency and tempo of their calls, along with genetic research, show that this is, in fact, a new species. Crested gibbons, a monogamous species that live in the tree tops of tropical jungles, are among the most endangered primate species in the world. Knowledge of their biology and distribution is of great importance for their conservation (Vietnamese Journal of Primatology 1(4), 2010). Crested gibbons are only found in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and southern China. Until now, it has been assumed that there are six different species, their territories separated by rivers. The German-American-Vietnamese research team led by Christian Roos has now been able to identify a seventh species.
A new species of small carnivore, known as Durrell’s vontsira (Salanoia durrelli) has been identified by researchers from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Natural History Museum, London, Nature Heritage, Jersey, and Conservation International (CI). The small, cat-sized, speckled brown carnivore from the marshes of the Lac Alaotra wetlands in central eastern Madagascar weighs just over half a kilogramme and belongs to a family of carnivores only known from Madagascar.