Allergies, glaciers, and pikas: climate change in action

June 19, 2018 by Seth Borenstein
Allergies, glaciers, and pikas: climate change in action
In this Aug. 12, 2016 file photo, a group of tourists walk in front of the Tuco glacier in Huascaran National Park during a tour called the "Route of climate change" in Huaraz, Peru. The tropical glaciers of South America are dying from soot and rising temperatures, threatening water supplies to communities that have depended on them for centuries. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia, File)

You don't just feel the heat of global warming, you can see it in action all around.

Some examples of where 's effects have been measured:

—Glaciers across the globe are melting and retreating, with 279 billion tons of ice lost since 2002, according to NASA's GRACE satellite. Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland is flowing faster than any other glacier on Earth. In 2012, it hit a record pace of about 75 inches per hour (1.9 meters). In 2017, it slowed down to 40 inches per hour (1 meter). The Portage Glacier in Alaska has retreated so much it cannot be seen from the visitor center that opened in 1986.

—In the Rocky Mountains, the first robins of spring are arriving 10.5 days earlier than 30 years ago. The first larkspur wildflower is showing up eight days earlier and the marmots are coming out of hibernation five days earlier, according to data gathered by the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab.

—On average, during the past 30 years there have been more major hurricanes (those with winds of more than 110 mph), they have lasted longer and they produced more energy than the previous 30 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of storm data. Other studies have shown that the first named storm in the Atlantic forms nearly a month earlier than 30 years ago and storms are moving slower, allowing more rain to fall.

Allergies, glaciers, and pikas: climate change in action
This image made available by the NOAA-NASA GOES Project shows tropical weather systems Hurricane Norma, left, on the Pacific Ocean side of Mexico; Jose, center, east of Florida; Tropical Depression 15, second from right, north of South America, and Tropical Storm Lee, right, north of eastern Brazil, on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. During the past 30 years since 1988, there have been more major hurricanes—those with winds of more than 110 mph—on average, they've lasted longer and produced more energy than the previous 30 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of storm data. (NOAA-NASA GOES Project via AP, File)
—Across the globe, seas have risen about 3 inches since 1993. That doesn't sound like much, but it is enough to cover the entire United States in water about 9 feet deep. Places like Miami Beach, Florida, and Norfolk, Virginia, flood frequently with high tides.

—The number of acres burned in the U.S. by wildfire has doubled compared with 30 years ago. Last year, more than 10 million acres burned. Over the last five years, an average of 6.7 million acres burned a year. From 1984 to 1988, about 2.8 million years burned, on average.

—Allergies have gotten worse with longer growing seasons and more potent pollen. High ragweed pollen days have increased by between 15 and 29 days since 1990 in a swath of the country from Oklahoma City north to Winnipeg, Canada, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture study.

Allergies, glaciers, and pikas: climate change in action
In this Friday, March 30, 2018 file photo, people sit in a flooded St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy, as high tides inundated the city. Across the globe seas have risen about three inches in 2018 since 1993. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni, File)
—In the western United States the cute rodent called a pika needs weather around freezing for most of the year. But those habitats are shrinking, forcing them to higher altitudes. University of Colorado's Chris Ray, a pika expert, said she hasn't definitively linked climate change to dramatic reductions in pika populations, but she found that they have disappeared more from places that are warming and drying.

—Extreme one-day rainfall across the nation has increased 80 percent over the past 30 years. Ellicott City, Maryland, had so-called thousand-year floods in 2016 and this year. Flooding in Louisiana, West Virginia and Houston in 2016, South Carolina, Texas and Oklahoma in 2015, Michigan and parts of the Northeast in 2014 all caused more than $1 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

—The number of in parts of Alaska dropped 40 percent since the late 1990s. When scientists have weighed polar bears recently in certain locations they were losing 2.9 to 5.5 pounds per day at a time of year when they were supposed to be putting on weight.

—Warmer water is repeatedly causing mass global bleaching events to Earth's fragile coral reefs. Before 1998 there had been no global mass bleaching events—which turn the living coral white and often lead to death. But there have been three in the last two decades. U.S. government coral reef specialist Mark Eakin said for multiple reasons, including , "most of the reefs that were in great shape in the 1980s in Florida are just barely hanging on now."

Allergies, glaciers, and pikas: climate change in action
In this Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016 file photo, a truck burns on Main Street in the town of Lower Lake, Calif., as wildfires burn out of control in the area. The number of acres burned in the U.S. by wildfire has doubled in 2018 since 1988. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson, File)
Allergies, glaciers, and pikas: climate change in action
In this Aug. 14, 2001, file photo, Loretta McConegy points to the pollen on a ragweed plant in Newark, N.J. Allergies have gotten worse with longer season and more potent pollen. High ragweed pollen days have increased between 15 and 29 days in 2018 since 1990 in a swath of the country from Oklahoma City north to Winnipeg, Canada, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture study. (AP Photo/Daniel Hulshizer, File, File)
Allergies, glaciers, and pikas: climate change in action
This Aug. 17, 2005 file photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey and Princeton University shows an American pika. In the western United States the rodent needs weather around freezing for most of the year. But those habitats are shrinking forcing them to higher altitudes. (Shana S. Weber/USGS, Princeton University via AP,File)
Allergies, glaciers, and pikas: climate change in action
This Monday, May 28, 2018 file photo made from video provided by DroneBase shows vehicles swept by floodwaters near the intersection of Ellicott Mills Drive and Main Street in Ellicott City, Md. Howard County, the historic Maryland community, has been struck by severe flooding twice in less than two years. (DroneBase via AP, File)
Allergies, glaciers, and pikas: climate change in action
In this undated image taken by a remote camera and provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in May 2017, a polar bear and her young cub stand next to a causeway bridge leading to an artificial island oil production platform in the Beaufort Sea in Alaska. The numbers of polar bears in parts of Alaska dropped 40 percent since the late 1990s and when scientists have weighed polar bears recently in certain locations they were losing 2.9 to 5.5 pounds per day at a time of year when they were supposed to be putting on weight. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP, File)
Allergies, glaciers, and pikas: climate change in action
This May 2016 photo provided by NOAA shows bleaching and some dead coral around Jarvis Island, which is part of the U.S. Pacific Remote Marine National Monument. Scientists found 95 percent of the coral is dead in what had been one of the world's most lush and isolated tropical marine reserve. Warmer water is repeatedly causing mass global bleaching events to Earth's fragile coral reefs. Before 1998 there had been no global mass bleaching events—which turn the living coral white and often leads to death. But there have been three from 1998 on. (NOAA/Bernardo Vargas-Angel via AP, File)
Allergies, glaciers, and pikas: climate change in action
In this July 9, 2015 file photo, Cleo Whiting, of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colo., researches bees in wildflowers, outside the town north of Crested Butte, Colo. In the Rocky Mountains, the first robins of Spring are arriving 10.5 days earlier in 2018 compared with 30 years ago. The first larkspur wildflower is showing up 8 days earlier and the marmots are coming out of hibernation five days earlier, according to seven-year averages at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP, File)

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