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:: Lower natural catastrophe losses in the first half of 2012

Natural catastrophe losses were relatively moderate in the first six months of 2012. Overall global losses up to the end of June were in the order of US$ 26bn, of which approximately US$ 12bn was insured. The loss statistics were dominated by natural hazard events in the USA where, due to tornado outbreaks and wildfires, nearly 85% of total insured losses worldwide were incurred.

:: Rapid acidification of the Eastern Pacific Ocean

The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is causing the acidity of the oceans to increase. Scientists at ETH Zurich have investigated how the acidity along the west coast of the USA will develop until the year 2050. They expect considerable changes in the ecosystem.

:: Significant sea-level rise in a 2-degree warming world

Sea levels around the world can be expected to rise by several metres in coming centuries, if global warming carries on. Even if global warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius, global-mean sea level could continue to rise, reaching between 1.5 and 4 metres above present-day levels by the year 2300, with the best estimate being at 2.7 metres, according to a study just published in Nature Climate Change. However, emissions reductions that allow warming to drop below 1.5 degrees Celsius could limit the rise strongly.

:: Geological record shows air up there came from below

The influence of the ground beneath us on the air around us could be greater than scientists had previously thought, according to new research that links the long-ago proliferation of oxygen in Earth's atmosphere to a sudden change in the inner workings of our planet.

:: Mechanisms of damage to corals exposed to sedimentation

We investigated the mechanisms leading to rapid death of corals when exposed to runoff and resuspended sediments, postulating that the killing was microbially mediated.

:: New insights in biodiversity and sustainability awareness around the world

The 2012 biodiversity barometer finds that 76% of all respondents from around the globe were aware of sustainable development, 64% of biodiversity. Of the top 100 beauty companies in the world, 54 mentioned sustainability in their reporting and website, while 31 referred to biodiversity.

:: Stanford scientists document fragile land-sea ecological chain

Intricate, often invisible chains of life are threatened with extinction around the world. A new study quantifies one of the longest such chains ever documented. By Rob Jordan

:: Climate scientists discover new weak point of the Antarctic ice sheet

The Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf fringing the Weddell Sea, Antarctica, may start to melt rapidly in this century and no longer act as a barrier for  ice streams draining the Antarctic Ice Sheet. These predictions are made by climate researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association in the coming issue of the British science magazine “Nature“. They refute the widespread assumption that ice shelves in the Weddell Sea would not be affected by the direct influences of global warming due to the peripheral location of the Sea.

:: State of Himalayan glaciers less alarming than feared

Several hundreds of millions of people in Southeast Asia depend, to varying degrees, on the freshwater reservoirs of the Himalayan glaciers. Consequently, it is important to detect the potential impact of climate changes on the Himalayan glaciers at an early stage. Together with international researchers, glaciologists from the University of Zurich now reveal that the glaciers in the Himalayas are declining less rapidly than was previously thought. However, the scientists see major hazard potential from outbursts of glacial lakes.

:: Greenland ice sheet may melt completely with 1.6 degrees global warming

The Greenland ice sheet is likely to be more vulnerable to global warming than previously thought. The temperature threshold for melting the ice sheet completely is in the range of 0.8 to 3.2 degrees Celsius global warming, with a best estimate of 1.6 degrees above pre-industrial levels, shows a new study by scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Today, already 0.8 degrees global warming has been observed. Substantial melting of land ice could contribute to long-term sea-level rise of several meters and therefore it potentially affects the lives of many millions of people.

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