1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. An international research team has compared the hot summers of 2003 and 2010 in detail for the first time and published their findings in Science. The heatwave of 2010 across Eastern Europe and Russia was unprecedented in every respect: Europe has never experienced so large summer temperature anomalies in the last 500 years. The summer of 2010 was extreme. Russia was especially hard hit by the extraordinary heat. Devastating fires caused by the dry conditions covered an area of 1 million hectares, causing crop failures of around 25%; the total damage ran to about USD 15 billion. The 2010 heatwave shattered all the records both in terms of the deviation from the average temperatures and its spatial extent. The temperatures -- depending on the time period considered -- were between 6.7°C and 13.3°C above the average. The heatwave covered around 2 million km2. On average, the summer of 2010 was 0.2°C warmer in the whole of Europe than in 2003. The reason for the heatwaves in both 2003 and 2010 was a large, persistent high-pressure system associated by areas of low pressure in the east and west.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Estonian environmental groups have asked the European Commission to take action against EU countries that have granted permission to construct the Nord Stream pipeline, accusing them of failing to comply with EU environmental laws. The Estonian Green Movement and the Estonian Fund for Nature sent an official complaint to the Commission on 7 January, arguing that the governments of Denmark, Finland, Germany and Sweden have violated EU directives on environmental impact assessment (EIA) and conservation of wild birds and habitats.

  8. Hoping to save the dried wetlands of Las Tablas de Damiel National Park from underground peat fire, the Spanish government has unleashed floodwaters onto an expanse of the marsh now under threat due to past water mismanagement. Over the weekend, waters diverted 150 kilometres from the Tagus River began pouring from an underground pipe onto the wildlife sanctuary.

  9. 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.

  10. On 12 January 2010 the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave the go-ahead for a controversial paper-mill on the shores of Lake Baikal to start production again, despite decades of complaints about pollution.

  11. The average specific CO2 emissions in the year 2008 were 153.5 gCO2/km. This is a decrease by 3.3% or 5.2 grams per kilometre from the previous year (158.7 gCO2/km in 2007) which is the largest relative drop in specific emissions since the beginning of the monitoring scheme. Both petrol and diesel vehicles improved by more than 5 grams per kilometre in comparison to the year 2007. Since the year 2000, petrol vehicles improved by 11% while diesel vehicles only by 6%. On the other hand, alternative fuel vehicles (AFV) improved by 34% since year 2000. In 2008 the share of AFV almost doubled since the previous year and AFV are now accounting for 1.3% of new passenger car registrations.

  12. Pollution of the climate owing to waste management activities was at a level of some 38 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents in Germany in 1990. Up until 2006 this burden had lightened to about 18 million tonnes. The overall decline in emissions of climate-damaging gases-- thanks in particular to ending disposal of untreated residential waste- amounts to about 56 million tonnes, which is a volume roughly that of the annual CO2 emissions of 7.7 million cars, or about 20 percent of registered vehicles in Germany. These are the results of a jointly commissioned study titled Klimaschutzpotenziale der Abfallwirtschaft [Climate protection potential of waste industry], which was introduced today by President Peter Kurth of the Bundesverband der Deutschen Entsorgungs-, Wasser- und Rohstoffwirtschaft e.V. (BDE), and President Jochen Flasbarth of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) in Berlin. The study took stock of climate protection efforts made by the waste management industry since 1990 and points out other potential for further measures in Germany and EU 27 until 2020. By the year 2020 almost ten million additional tonnes of CO2 equivalents can be saved over 1996 levels, particularly by means of increased materials recovery and improved recycling, as well as greater efficiency in the use of residential waste and used wood to produce energy. The study illustrates that the waste industry can contribute roughly 14 percent to the fulfilment of Germany’s CO2 reduction targets to be reached by 2020 if the detailed measures were implemented.

  13. WWF has sent the European Commission a formal complaint against Germany for its failure to fulfil a legal obligation introduced by the 2008 EU climate and energy legislative package. The complaint concerns the apparent faulty approval procedure for a new coal-fired power plant at Mannheim (Baden-Württemberg), which was given the go-ahead on 27 July last year. Under the EU's Large Combustion Plant Directive, as now amended, Member States are required to ensure that companies planning to build new large power plants, assess certain conditions for the capture, transport and storage of the carbon dioxide they create, prior to approving any new project.

  14. According to the present state of knowledge, the best variant of how to further deal with the radioactive waste emplaced in the Asse II mine is retrieving the waste. This is the result of the comparison of options for decommissioning Asse. "Not only do we confront a great scientific-technical challenge, but we will only be able to walk this road to permanent safety together with the people living in the area," Wolfram König, President of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), said on 15 January 2010 in Hanover when the result was presented. Apart from the retrieval of the waste, the complete backfilling of the mine and the relocation of the waste to deeper parts of Asse were examined, too. According to the present state of knowledge, proof of long-term safety can be furnished regarding the option of retrieving the waste. All three decommissioning options have been evaluated with the help of previously established evaluation parameters and criteria. The result of this comparison is that on the basis of today’s state of knowledge one must aim at completely retrieving the waste from the Asse mine. One argument against choosing the option of complete backfilling is the fact that it is currently not known whether it will be possible to furnish proof of long-term safety for this option. The relocation of the waste additionally involves the risk of not finding an appropriate emplacement area. Besides, this decommissioning option requires by far the most time. None of the three variants is optimal, all of them involve uncertainties as to their realisation.

  15. Within the European Union, liquid / transport biofuels may only be financially supported or be counted towards renewable energy targets if the biomass used is produced in a sustainable way. Germany is now the first EU member state to have developed a certification scheme for sustainable biomass production. The preliminary approval of this certification system, the “International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISSC)“, by the German Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (BLE) means Germnay is transposing European requirements into national law.

  16. In the field of consumer electronics it is now possible to label TV sets, DVD recorders, Blu-Ray and DVD players as well as compact hi-fi systems with the Blue Angel. The requirements of the Blue Angel for TV sets are aligned with those of the European Ecolabel, but are even more ambitious. The highest admissible power consumption, for example, is 160 watts. And for DVD recorders (with and without hard disk) and players as well as Blu-Ray disk players (DVD players with high memory capacity, improved picture quality, different sound formats) power consumption is likewise the key award criterion. The Blue Angel for compact hi-fi systems in addition demands a non-deactivatable automatic switch-off at the latest after 15 minutes of non-use, and it must be possible to take the device off the grid completely. In the kitchen the Blue Angel is establishing benchmarks for more and more appliances. Exhaust hoods with the Blue Angel must be low noise and easy to disassemble. Furthermore, spare parts have to be available long-term. Energy-saving electric ovens for use in the home may now be labelled with the Blue Angel as well.

  17. Tiger numbers have fallen by more than 70 percent in slightly more than a decade in the Greater Mekong, with the region’s five countries containing only 350 tigers, according to a new World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report released on 25 January 2010.

  18. Since 2000, one scientific discipline has chosen to be the topic of a Year of Science. The BMBF together with research organisations and industry has founded Science in Dialog to establish the process of "Public Understanding of Science and Humanities. The eleventh Science Year in 2010 is the Year of the Future of Energy.

  19. On 29 January the European Union formalised its support for the Copenhagen Accord on climate change and presented its commitments for emission reduction targets. In a joint letter with the Spanish Presidency of the Council, the European Commission has formally notified the EU's willingness to be associated with the Accord and submitted for information the EU's established greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for 2020. These consist of a unilateral commitment to reduce the EU's overall emissions by 20% of 1990 levels and a conditional offer to increase this cut to 30% provided that other major emitters agree to take on their fair share of a global reduction effort. Under the Accord, notifications are to be submitted by 31 January 2010.

  20. On 29 January 2010 Germany submitted the nomination of the outstanding German beech forests for inclusion into the UNESCO World Heritage List. For this ambitious endeavour a comprehensive nomination dossier was elaborated by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and the Länder Brandenburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Thuringia. Expert support came from Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN). Germany's "old beech forests" are to supplement the existing world heritage site "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathian in Slovakia and Ukraine". A decision from UNESCO is expected for the summer of 2011. Selected areas in five protected areas in Germany have been proposed for nomination: Jasmund National Park, Serrahn in the Müritz National Park, Grumsin in the Schorfheide-Chorin UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Hainich National Park and Kellerwald-Edersee National Park. They represent valuable relics of Germany's large-scale semi-natural beech forests and thus supplement in an ideal manner the UNESCO world heritage site Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathian listed in 2007.

  21. Marine species of February 2010 in the International Year of Biodiversity is the Sargassum muticum.

  22. Germany met its climate protection target under the Kyoto Protocol in 2008. In 2008 greenhouse gas emissions were 22.2 percent lower than in 1990. This corresponds to a reduction of almost 280 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. This detailed data for the year 2008 is included in the National Inventory Report 2010 compiled by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), which has just been published jointly by the Federal Environment Ministry and UBA. The greatest success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions was achieved in the energy sector. Here the expansion of renewables has had a positive impact. The amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere from energy production was just under 20 million tonnes lower in 2008 than in the previous year. Compared with 1990, the reduction even amounted to 66 million tonnes of CO2. The increase of emissions of private households, as shown in the Inventory, is a statistical effect and can be put down to a decline in fuel oil sales due to the VAT rise in 2007 (pull-forward effect into 2006). Emissions in the other sectors were very close to 2007 levels. The economic crisis, which began in 2008, only had a very limited impact on emissions, but its influence will be much more pronounced in the 2009 statistics.

  23. On 6 February 2010, while the Finnish-owned vessel Linda was travelling from Rotterdam (Netherlands) to St Petersburg (Russia), three freight containers were lost at sea south of the island of Gotland (Sweden). According to the ship's cargo declaration, one of the containers has dangerous chemicals, as classified by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)

  24. On 8 February 2010 scientists at the Centre of Scientific Diving of the Biological Institute Helgoland start a project that is unique thus far for the North Sea: “MarGate”, an innovative underwater experimental field. In future, scientists want to acquire marine biology data with a high resolution in terms of time and space there by means of state-of-the-art sensor technologies. These data will then be available online via the Internet. For instance, climatically and anthropogenically induced changes in the hydrography and ecology of the North Sea will be examined in order to gain a better understanding of and be able to model the mechanisms of changes in the ecosystem due to climate change.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. Ministers and high-level representatives responsible for the water management in the Danube River Basin from Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Montenegro, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine and the European Commission attended a Ministerial Meeting of States Parties to the Danube River Protection Convention, hosted by the ICPDR on 16 February 2010 in Vienna, Austria. The Ministerial Meeting adopted the Danube River Basin Management Plan, which outlines concrete measures to be implemented by the year 2015 to improve the environmental condition of the Danube and its tributaries. The measures include the reduction of organic and nutrient pollution, offsetting environmentally detrimental effects of man-made structural changes to the river, improvements to urban wastewater systems, the introduction of Phosphate-free detergents in all markets and effective risk management of accidental pollution. Further, measures to restore river continuity for fish migration as well as the reconnection of wetlands will be tackled. The plan takes a source-to-sea approach and addresses key requirements of the European Union Water Framework Directive.

  28. On 16 February 2010 US President Barack Obama announced loan guarantees through the Department of Energy to operate two new nuclear reactors at a plant in Burke, Georgia. It will be the first new nuclear power plant in nearly three decades.

  29. The Helsinki Commission (Helcom) has launched together with its partners a new project to curb eutrophication of the Baltic Sea through the promotion of advanced removal of phosphorus from the municipal sewage discharge. This project, named PURE (Project on Urban Reduction of Eutrophication), is part of the strategic HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan to radically reduce pollution to the sea and restore the good ecological status of the marine environment by 2021. The plan includes actions to curb eutrophication of the Baltic Sea, caused by excessive inputs of phosphorus and nitrogen loads originating from inadequately cleaned municipal wastewaters and agricultural run-off. PURE will prepare and implement investments that reduce phosphorus loads to the Baltic Sea. The Project targets selected municipalities and their wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and supports them in reaching a phosphorus content of 0,5 mg/liter in outgoing wastewaters. Altogether PURE aims at annual reduction of at least 300-500 tonnes of phosphorus from the Baltic Sea via investments in Riga, Jurmala and Brest water utilities. PURE is co-financed by the European Union. The Project has been approved for financing by the Baltic Sea Region Programme (BSRP) 2007-2013 and its total budget amounts to around EUR 3.2 million, with approximately EUR 2.0 million to be allocated as co-financing from the European Regional Development Fund and European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument. The Project will last for 42 months, including 36 months of implementation period (2010-2013).

  30. On 17 February 2010 Kenya launched a national largest carnivore conservation and management strategy. The Africa’s first ever such strategies provide a clear roadmap for the conservation of cheetahs, lions, leopards, stripped and spotted hyenas and the African wild dogs. The number of lions in the East African country has dropped to 2,000, from 20,000 about 50 years ago. The cheetah population has plunged to 1,160, compared with 10,000 a half-century ago.

  31. The European Commission has taken a number of decisions to implement the organisational consequences of the allocation of portfolios to Commissioners. Two new Directorates-General have been created: DG Energy (ENER) and DG Climate Action (CLIM). The Energy DG consists of the departments in the former Transport and Energy DG dealing with energy issues and of the Task Force Energy which will be transferred from the External Relations DG. The departments responsible for transport policy will remain in the renamed Mobility and Transport DG (MOVE). The Climate Action DG will be created from the relevant activities in DG Environment, the activities in the External Relations DG related to international negotiations on climate change and the activities in the Enterprise and Industry DG related to climate change.

  32. Mankind’s closest living relatives – the world’s apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates – are on the brink of extinction and in need of urgent conservation measures according to Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2008–2010. The list includes five primate species from Madagascar, six from Africa, 11 from Asia, and three from Central and South America, all of which are the most in need of urgent conservation action. Almost half (48 percent) of the world’s 634 primate species are classified as threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. The main threats are habitat destruction, particularly from the burning and clearing of tropical forests (which results in the release of around 16 percent of the global greenhouse gases causing climate change), the hunting of primates for food, and the illegal wildlife trade.

  33. 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.

  34. On 21 February 2010, the German premiere of the documentary film "Oceans" took place in Berlin. In the presence of German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen, director Jacques Perrin and co-author Francois Sarano numerous celebrity guests experienced the impressive film. "Oceans" was created by French director and actor Jacques Perrin and his colleague Jacques Cluzaud. The film allows viewers to get a perspective of the underwater world that had previously been inaccessible. Directors Perrin and Cluzaud spent four years with a team of divers, engineers, and scientists on a voyage of discovery.

  35. On 22 February the European Commission proposed that the European Union should press for a ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna to enter into force within the next year. The Commission is deeply concerned that overfishing of Atlantic bluefin tuna driven largely by international trade is seriously depleting stocks of the species. The proposal will be discussed with Member States in order to reach a common EU position for the next meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), taking place in Doha, Qatar, from 13 to 25 March 2010.

  36. Diesel fuel and heating oil spilled into the Lambro river near Milan from a storage facility owned by Lombarda Petroli SpA in Monza, Italy. Italian officials said the spill was caused by intentional sabotage at the oil depot.

  37. 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.

  38. On 25 February 2010 the largest solar-powered boat in the world was unveiled to the press and public in Kiel, Germany. The catamaran-style yacht is nearly 102 feet long, and almost 50 feet wide, has over 5,000 square feet of solar panels covering an arrow shaped deck perched atop two hulls. The goal of this worldwide unique project is to sail around the world in 2011 with a multi hull vessel powered solely by solar energy. The trip will take approximately 140 days at a average speed of 8 knots.

  39. The documentary film Planet Plastic was launched on 25 February 2010 in German cinemas. Werner Boote presents an up-close and personal view of the controversial and fascinating material that has found its way into every facet of our daily lives: plastic. He takes us on a journey around the globe, following plastic through its 100 years of “glorious triumph” and showing us what an unexpected impact plastic has on our world.

  40. The Helmholtz Association’s network of Regional Climate Offices has produced a regional climate atlas for Germany showing the possible effects of climate change at the regional level. The climate scenarios for Germany’s federal states are now available to the public for online reference. The Regional Climate Atlas is based on climate calculations resulting from dynamic regional climate calculation models. Climate models used so far include: COSMO-CLM, the regional climate model shared by over 30 international research institutes; REMO, the regional climate model of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology; and the RCAO regional climate model used by the Swedish weather service. The regional climate models are based on scenarios of varying concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions as calculated by the UN’s IPCC climate panel. In its present form, the Climate Atlas draws on a total of 12 different climate calculations. The spatial resolution of the individual climate calculations currently ranges between 50 and 10 km. Figures for Germany’s federal states are based on calculations for the geographical centre of each state. The Helmholtz Association’s network of four Regional Climate Offices pursues questions of climate change at the regional level. The new Climate Service Center will become the Helmholtz Association’s central service network for national climate issues.