The Environment Chronicle Notable environmental events between 2015 and 2015 Deselect
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- 1800 26 Events (Observation)
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- 1950 15 Events (Observation)
- 1960 25 Events (Observation)
- 1970 106 Events (Observation)
- 1980 138 Events (Observation)
- 1990 271 Events (Observation)
- 2000 30 Events (Observation)
- 2001 32 Events (Observation)
- 2002 39 Events (Observation)
- 2003 37 Events (Observation)
- 2004 44 Events (Observation)
- 2005 47 Events (Observation)
- 2006 46 Events (Observation)
- 2007 57 Events (Observation)
- 2008 119 Events (Observation)
- 2009 286 Events (Observation)
- 2010 315 Events (Observation)
- 2011 293 Events (Observation)
- 2012 231 Events (Observation)
- 2013 331 Events (Observation)
- 2014 366 Events (Observation)
- 2015 374 Events (Observation)
- 2016 341 Events (Observation)
- 2017 306 Events (Observation)
- 2018 25 Events (Observation)
- 2019 4 Events (Observation)
- 2020 0 Events (Observation)
- 2021 0 Events (Observation)
Climate change is rapidly warming lakes across the globe. This is the result of a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and presented on 16 December 2015 during the annual conference of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). In this first worldwide synthesis of in situ and satellite-derived lake data, the scientists find that lake summer surface water temperatures rose rapidly (global mean = 0.34°C decade−1) between 1985 and 2009. Their analyses show that surface water warming rates are dependent on combinations of climate and local characteristics, rather than just lake location, leading to the counterintuitive result that regional consistency in lake warming is the exception, rather than the rule. The most rapidly warming lakes are widely geographically distributed, and their warming is associated with interactions among different climatic factors—from seasonally ice-covered lakes in areas where temperature and solar radiation are increasing while cloud cover is diminishing (0.72°C decade−1) to ice-free lakes experiencing increases in air temperature and solar radiation (0.53°C decade−1). The pervasive and rapid warming observed here signals the urgent need to incorporate climate impacts into vulnerability assessments and adaptation efforts for lakes.
On 1 December 2015, Japan’s whaling fleet set sail for the Antarctic despite international pressure to end its annual hunts. A mother ship and three other vessels, along with 160 crew, plan to kill 333 minke whales in the Antarctic. The Japanese fisheries agency said the fleet would conduct research, despite the International Court of Justice in den Haag, ruling last year that the hunts were a cover for commercial whaling and have no proven scientific merit.
On 30 Novemver 2015, Beijing suffered its worst air pollution of the year. The city said the levels of hazardous tiny PM2.5 particles in the air exceeded 600 micrograms per cubic meter at several monitoring sites late Monday afternoon. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing reported 666 micrograms per cubic metre at 8 p.m.
A new report issued on 23 November 2015 by the UN, “The Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters” in Geneva, shows that over the last twenty years, 90% of major disasters have been caused by 6,457 recorded floods, storms, heatwaves, droughts and other weather-related events. The five countries hit by the highest number of disasters are the United States (472), China (441), India (288), Philippines (274), and Indonesia, (163). The report and analysis compiled by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the Belgian-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) demonstrates that since the first Climate Change Conference (COP1) in 1995, 606,000 lives have been lost and 4.1 billion people have been injured, left homeless or in need of emergency assistance as a result of weather-related disasters.
On 3 November 2015, the New York Times reported that,"China has been burning up to 17 percent more coal a year than the government previously disclosed, according to newly released data. Even for a country of China’s size, the scale of the correction is immense. The sharp upward revision in official figures means that China has released much more carbon dioxide — almost a billion more tons a year according to initial calculations — than previously estimated. The increase alone is greater than the whole German economy emits annually from fossil fuels. The new data, which appeared recently in an energy statistics yearbook published by China’s statistical agency, show that coal consumption has been underestimated since 2000, and particularly in recent years. The revisions were based on a census of the economy in 2013 that exposed gaps in data collection, especially from small companies and factories.
From Hawaii to Papua New Guinea to the Maldives, coral reefs are bleaching — in so many regions that the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officially declared a global bleaching event on 8 October 2015. The event, the third in recorded history, is expected to grow worse in coming months. By the end of the year, the bleaching could affect more than a third of the world’s coral reefs and kill more than 12,000 square kilometres of them, NOAA estimates.
Thirty-one percent of cactus species are threatened with extinction, according to the first comprehensive, global assessment of the species group by IUCN and partners, published on 5 October 2015 in the journal Nature Plants.
On 11 September 2015, sea ice extent dropped to 4.41 million square kilometers, the fourth lowest minimum in the satellite record. The minimum extent was reached four days earlier than the 1981 to 2010 average minimum date of September 15. The extent ranked behind 2012 (lowest), 2007 (second lowest), and 2011 (third lowest). Moreover, the nine lowest extents in the satellite era have all occurred in the last nine years.
Seas around the world have risen an average of nearly 8 centimeters since 1992, with some locations rising more than 25 centimeters due to natural variation, according to the latest satellite measurements from NASA and its partners.
Glaciers in Central Asia experience substantial losses in glacier mass and area. Along the Tien Shan, Central Asia’s largest mountain range, glaciers have lost 27% of their mass and 18% of their area during the last 50 years. An international research team led by the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences and including the institute of the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) at Rennes University in particular, estimated that almost 3000 square kilometres of glaciers and an average of 5.4 gigatons of ice per year have been lost since the 1960s. In the online issue of Nature Geoscience published online 17 August 2015 , the authors estimate that about half of Tien Shan’s glacier volume could be depleted by the 2050s.
In 2015, Earth Overshoot Day falled on 13 August. In less than eight months, humanity has used up nature’s budget for the entire year, with carbon sequestration making up more than half of the demand on nature, according to data from Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability think tank with offices in North America, Europe and Asia. Earth Overshoot Day has moved from early October in 2000 to August 13th this year.
Scientists from the University of Sydney’s School of Geosciences have led the creation of the world’s first digital map of the seafloor’s geology. It is the first time the composition of the seafloor, covering 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, has been mapped in 40 years; the most recent map was hand drawn in the 1970s. Published online in the journal Geology on 5 August 2015, the map will help scientists better understand how our oceans have responded, and will respond, to environmental change. It also reveals the deep ocean basins to be much more complex than previously thought. Dr Dutkiewicz and colleagues analysed and categorised around 15,000 seafloor samples – taken over half a century on research cruise ships to generate the data for the map. She teamed with the National ICT Australia (NICTA) big data experts to find the best way to use algorithms to turn this multitude of point observations into a continuous digital map.
On 25 July 2015, renewables accounted for 78 percent of Germany's power consumption surpassing the old record of 73 percent. The new generation record was enabled by a combination of strong winds in the north, where most of Germany's wind turbines are installed, and sunny conditions in the south, where Germany has installed most of its solar.
In the most comprehensive analysis of climate change impacts on critical pollinators, researchers have found that rapid declines in bumblebee species across North America and Europe have a strong link to climate change. The study was published in Science on 10 July 2015. It was conducted by scientists from University of Ottawa and other North American institutions. Scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), as one of the major partners from Europe, were responsible for coordinating basic data collection.
On 30 July 2015, the German weather service announced that a new all-time hot temperature record was confirmed for the country. At 3:40 p.m. local time, Kitzingen, Germany reached a scorching high temperature of 40.3 degrees Celsius, breaking the old national temperature record of 104.4 degrees (40.2 degrees Celsius) which was previously set in 1983 and twice in 2003.
The combined globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for July 2015 was the highest for any month since record keeping began in 1880. The July average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.46°F (0.81°C) above the 20th century average. As July is climatologically the warmest month for the year, this was also the all-time highest monthly temperature in the 1880–2015 record, at 61.86°F (16.61°C).
In a long-term study of more than 300,000 workers in France, the U.S. and the U.K., those with many years of exposure to low doses of radiation had an increased risk of dying from leukemia. Leukemia is known to be caused by exposure to high doses of radiation, like that released by the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. In the years following those bombings, leukemia cases increased among the survivors, the authors note in The Lancet Haematology, online 21 June 2015. But such high doses are rare today. For the new study, researchers considered 308,297 nuclear energy workers whose radiation exposures were monitored. All had worked for at least a year for the French Atomic Energy Commission or similar employers or for the Departments of Energy and Defense in the U.S., or were members of the National Registry for Radiation Workers in the U.K.The workers were followed for an average of 27 years, with data on exposure and health status through the early- to mid-2000s, depending on their country. Researchers looked for deaths from leukemia or lymphoma. About 22 percent of the workers had died by the end of follow-up. There were 531 deaths due to leukemia and 814 due to lymphoma. As cumulative dose of radiation exposure increased, so did the risk of dying from certain kinds of leukemia, the researchers found.
On 4 June 2015 a new study published online in the journal Science finds that the rate of global warming during the last 15 years has been as fast as or faster than that seen during the latter half of the 20th Century. The study refutes the notion that there has been a slowdown or "hiatus" in the rate of global warming in recent years. The study is the work of a team of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) using the latest global surface temperature data.
June 2015 was warmest June on record for the globe. Global land areas and oceans each record warm for June. During June, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 0.88°C above the 20th century average. This was the highest for June in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set last year in 2014 by 0.12°C. The June globally-averaged land surface temperature was 1.26°C above the 20th century average. This was the highest for June in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set in 2012 0.06°C. The June globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 0.74°C above the 20th century average. This was the highest for June in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set last year in 2014 by 0.06°C.
On 22 May 2015 Kazakhstan’s agriculture ministry said around one-third of the endangered saiga antelope population in this Central Asian nation has mysteriously died off in the last few days. The number of saiga that have died may have reached 85,000.
Regional studies have shown that climate change will affect climatic suitability for Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) within current regions of production. Increases in temperature and changes in precipitation patterns will decrease yield, reduce quality and increase pest and disease pressure. This is the first global study on the impact of climate change on suitability to grow Arabica coffee. Scientists modeled the global distribution of Arabica coffee under changes in climatic suitability by 2050s as projected by 21 global circulation models. The results suggest decreased areas suitable for Arabica coffee in Mesoamerica at lower altitudes. In South America close to the equator higher elevations could benefit, but higher latitudes lose suitability. Coffee regions in Ethiopia and Kenya are projected to become more suitable but those in India and Vietnam to become less suitable. Globally, they predict decreases in climatic suitability at lower altitudes and high latitudes, which may shift production among the major regions that produce Arabica coffee.
Permafrost in the Arctic and in subarctic regions will most likely continually release substantial quantities of greenhouse gases over the coming decades: that’s the verdict of an international research team, which recently compiled and analysed the latest permafrost studies. As such, they have determined that the recurring thesis that there will be a sudden and widespread release of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane is highly unlikely. The study was released on 9 April 2015, under the following title : “Climate Change and the Permafrost Carbon Feedback“ in Nature.
The city of Zurich has emerged as the winner of the ‘Sootfree Cities’ ranking which graded the efforts of 23 major European cities to improve air quality. The Swiss city finished first thanks to a policy mix which includes a strong commitment to reduce pollution from vehicles, the promotion of cleaner forms of transport and low levels of air pollution. Both in Zurich and in the runner-up city, Copenhagen, the number of cars has been substantially reduced and there are restrictions on highly-polluting vehicles such as diesel cars, trucks and construction machines. At the same time, cleaner forms of transport, such as public transport, cycling and walking have been greatly expanded. Vienna and Stockholm finish in third and fourth place, while the winner of the previous edition of the ranking, Berlin, comes in at number five. At the other end of the ranking, Lisbon and Luxembourg finish in the last bottom two places for tackling air pollution in only a half-hearted manner.
The adverse health effects caused by fine particles have been known for some time. In addition, ultrafine particles appear to play a significant role in cardiac function – even if an individual is exposed to these for only a few minutes, as scientists of Helmholtz Zentrum München have now been able to show. The results of the study have been published in the journal Particle & Fibre Toxicology.
For the first time since we began tracking carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere, the monthly global average concentration of this greenhouse gas surpassed 400 parts per million in March 2015, according to NOAA’s latest results. “It was only a matter of time that we would average 400 parts per million globally,” said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. “We first reported 400 ppm when all of our Arctic sites reached that value in the spring of 2012. In 2013 the record at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory first crossed the 400 ppm threshold. Reaching 400 parts per million as a global average is a significant milestone.
On February 25, 2015 Arctic sea ice likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.54 million square kilometers (5.61 million square miles). This year’s maximum ice extent was the lowest in the satellite record, with below-average ice conditions everywhere except in the Labrador Sea and Davis Strait. The maximum extent is 1.10 million square kilometers (425,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average of 15.64 million square kilometers (6.04 million square miles) and 130,000 square kilometers (50,200 square miles) below the previous lowest maximum that occurred in 2011. This year’s maximum occurred 15 days earlier than the 1981 to 2010 average date of March 12. The date of the maximum has varied considerably over the years, occurring as early as February 24 in 1996 and as late as April 2 in 2010.
In a recent study, scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), demonstrate for the first time that ocean acidification could have negative impacts on diatoms in the Southern Ocean. In laboratory tests they were able to observe that under changing light conditions, diatoms grow more slowly in acidic water. In so doing, Dr Clara Hoppe and her team have overturned the widely held assumption that sinking pH values would stimulate the growth of these unicellular algae. The original paper was published in nature geoscience under the following title : “Ocean Acidification decreases the light-use efficiency in an Antarctic diatom under dynamic but not constant light“ in the New Phytologist.
In the face of shifting global trade patterns, international freight transport volumes will grow more than fourfold (factor 4.3) by 2050. Average transport distance across all modes will increase 12%. As a result, CO2 emissions from freight transport will grow by 290% by 2050. Freight will replace passenger traffic as main source of CO2 emissions from surface transport. These are some of the key findings of the ITF Transport Outlook 2015, presented on 27 January 2015 at the OECD headquarters in Paris, France.
India’s tiger population has significantly increased according to the 2014-15 India tiger estimation report released on 20 January 2014. Recent years have seen a dramatic rise in numbers– from 1,411 in 2006 to 2,226 in 2014. The report, Status of Tigers in India, 2014, published by the National Tiger Conservation Authority of the Government of India, highlights that the future of tigers in India depends on maintaining undisturbed core habitats for breeding tiger populations, habitat connectivity and protection from poaching of tigers and their prey.
The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since 1880, according to two separate analyses by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists.
The Federal Environment Agency's (UBA) short-term forecast shows that higher exports of electricity, cooler weather conditions compared to the previous year and lower fuel prices led to a slight increase in greenhouse gas emissions. According to the report there was a rise in emissions of 6 million tonnes to 908 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents, which equates to 0.7 percent, but overall emissions have dropped by 27.2 percent compared to 1990. CO2 emissions have gone down in electricity generation. The share of renewable energies in power generation grew considerably to 30 percent. However, this did not lead to a corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions due to the rise in electricity exports which hit a record level of 50 terawatt hours in 2015. The primary cause for the rise in emissions were the cooler weather conditions compared to the previous year which meant there was a greater need for heating energy. Households and other small-scale consumers used natural gas in particular, which increased emissions by 4.5 million tonnes.
Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016, the 10th edition of UNEP's annual report, launched on 24 March 2016 by the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), says the annual global investment in new renewables capacity, at $266 billion, was more than double the estimated $130 billion invested in coal and gas power stations in 2015. All investments in renewables, including early-stage technology and R&D as well as spending on new capacity, totalled $286 billion in 2015, some 3% higher than the previous record in 2011. Just as significantly, developing world investments in renewables (up 19% in 2015) topped those of developed nations for the first time in 2015 (down 8%). Much of these record-breaking developing world investments took place in China (up 17% to $102.9 billion).
More than three people were killed a week in 2015 defending their land, forests and rivers against destructive industries, according to Global Witness. The organisation’s new report, On Dangerous Ground, documents 185 known deaths worldwide last year – by far the highest annual death toll on record and a 59% increase from 2014. Severe limits on information mean the true numbers are undoubtedly higher. The deadliest countries for land and environmental defenders in 2015 were Brazil (50 deaths) and the Philippines (33) - record numbers in both countries - followed by Colombia (26), Peru (12), Nicaragua (12) and Democratic Republic of Congo (11). Major drivers were mining (42 deaths), agribusiness (20), logging (15) and hydropower (15). On Dangerous Ground sheds light on the particular vulnerability of indigenous people, whose weak land rights and geographic isolation make them frequent targets of land and resource grabbing. In 2015, almost 40% of victims were from indigenous groups.