May Climate Science News Roundup

With climate change now our daily reality, climate scientists are working hard to understand its effects. And as climate denial and misinformation seems to crop up everywhere these days, it’s more important than ever that we keep tabs of current climate science so we can be effective, informed activists.

With that in mind, each month we be bring you a curated roundup of the some of the most important current studies on climate-related science, from studies on our changing ocean to news about climate’s effects on key industries.

Alaska tundra source of early-winter carbon emissions

Warmer temperatures and thawing soils may be driving an increase in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from Alaskan tundra to the atmosphere, particularly during the early winter, according to a new study supported by NASA and NOAA. Tundra soils hold vast amounts of carbon in the form of frozen, undecayed organic matter. The upper layers of this soil thaw each summer and decompose, producing carbon dioxide; warmer temperatures in recent years are increasing the timespan during which the soil can decompose.

Glacier volume is shrinking worldwide, with wide-ranging implications for society

An overview of studies surrounding melting glaciers explains that sea level rise is not the only problem associated with melting glaciers. Glaciers are also crucial water sources, integral parts of Earth’s air and water circulation systems, nutrient and shelter suppliers for flora and fauna, and unique landscapes for contemplation or exploration.

Possible outcomes of carbon dioxide removal

An article in Science discusses possible outcomes of carbon dioxide removal. As humanity moves toward decarbonized societies, carbon dioxide removal could counterbalance difficult-to-control sources such as carbon dioxide from aircraft and methane from cattle. (It could also, in theory, justify delaying near-term action.) However, there are a number of possible issues with carbon dioxide removal.

Above-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely this year

Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center say the Atlantic could see another above-normal hurricane season this year. This expectation is based on a likely weak or non-existent El Nino, near- or above-average sea surface temperatures, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

Globe had second warmest April and year to date on record

According to data from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, for the third consecutive month, the monthly temperature and year to date ranked second warmest in the 138-year record. At the poles, sea ice extents were at or near record low levels.

Spike in Southwest dust storms driven by ocean changes

People living in the American Southwest have experienced a dramatic increase in windblown dust storms in the last two decades, according to new NOAA-led research. The increase in storms is likely driven by large-scale changes in sea surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean drying the region’s soil.

Nitrous oxide poses fresh threat to the Arctic

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that nitrous oxide, or N2O, is more of a threat to the Arctic and global warming than previously believed. Currently, the compound is not typically considered in models of future warming. However, as permafrost thaws, N2O emissions increase — which is significant because N2O is a potent greenhouse gas.

Planting trees cannot replace cutting CO2 emissions

A study in Earth’s Future shows that planting trees is not a viable way to counteract fossil fuel emissions. So much biomass would have to be grown that it would eliminate most natural ecosystems or reduce food production. However, growing plants could help support climate policies of rapid and strong emission cuts. [Editor’s note: Converting all agricultural and natural lands to carbon-sequestration forests isn’t viable, but not mentioned in this article is the importance of the current forests that are especially carbon-dense.]

Mapping ocean acidification along the West Coast

A study in Scientific Reports evaluates the level of ocean acidification in different habitats and locations along the California Current. Areas along the West Coast have been shown to have particularly high impacts from ocean acidification, as seasonal upwelling brings carbon-rich deep water to the surface. This carbon content alters the chemistry of the water, making it difficult for calcifying organisms like shellfish to form shells and skeletons. The study found severe exposure hotspots, but also located persistent refuge areas that will likely continue to be less affected and can serve as safe havens for organisms.

Edited by Elizabeth Weinberg. Have a climate science tip? Send it to