The 30DayMapChallenge is a social media based mapmaking challenge open to everyone.  Each November, participants from all over the world create a new and original map for 30 days, where each day has a unique theme.  In 2022, Woodwell Climate Research Center participated as an organization, including as much of our work as possible while still adhering to the map categories.

Soil moisture impacts the tundra carbon balance in a changing climate

There is growing recognition that soil moisture plays a crucial role in regulating the response of tundra carbon cycling to climate warming.

Arctic tundra is Earth’s coldest terrestrial biome after glaciers, yet this far northern biome is warming three to four times faster than the global average (Rantanen et al., 2022). Importantly, the Arctic tundra biome stores ~160 Pg C in the top 1 m of permafrost soils (Loranty et al., 2016), which is equivalent to ~17 years of humanity’s fossil fuel emissions at current levels. Continued warming could cause a significant portion of this carbon to be released into the atmosphere over the coming century (Schuur et al., 2022), therefore it is crucial to better understand the carbon balance of tundra ecosystems including climate change impacts.

Read more in Global Change Biology.

Belching lakes, mystery craters, ‘zombie fires’: How the climate crisis is transforming the Arctic permafrost

Four years ago, Morris J. Alexie had to move out of the house his father built in Alaska in 1969 because it was sinking into the ground and water was beginning to seep into his home.

“The bogs are showing up in between houses, all over our community. There are currently seven houses that are occupied but very slanted and sinking into the ground as we speak,” Alexie said by phone from Nunapitchuk, a village of around 600 people. “Everywhere is bogging up.”

What was once grassy tundra is now riddled with water, he said. Their land is crisscrossed by 8-foot-wide boardwalks the community uses to get from place to place. And even some of the boardwalks have begun to sink.

Continue reading on CNN.

A climate change report card for the world

Two researchers walk near burning vegetation in the Amazon

Last year’s United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, had the same optimistic energy as the first day of a new school year. The United States — a truant since the nation withdrew from the Paris agreement under President Donald Trump — was back at the table. The cool kids (Leonardo DiCaprio, Prince William, Greta Thunberg) brushed shoulders with the nerds (everyone else). A parade of presidents and prime ministers pledged renewed climate efforts with all the fervor of students promising their parents that this semester would be different.

Read more on The Washington Post.

A warming Siberia, wracked by wildfires, nears a crucial threshold

Nearly 23 million acres burned from 1982 to 2020. But almost half of that occurred in 2019 and 2020, and the region may be near a threshold beyond which extreme fires become more common.

Burned evergreen trees now askance in Siberia

Rapid warming of the Arctic has led to the extreme wildfire seasons experienced in Siberia in recent years, scientists said Thursday, and such severe fires are likely to continue.

The researchers said that the Siberian Arctic, with its vast expanses of forest, tundra, peatlands and permafrost, was approaching a threshold beyond which even small temperature increases could result in sharp increases in the extent of fires.

Continue reading on The New York Times.

The US capitol building

On October 27, Woodwell Climate Research Center scientists Dr. Jennifer Watts and Dr. Rich Birdsey presented their research on natural climate solutions to the congressional staff of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Established in 2019, the Select Committee is charged with developing innovative policies and strategies to address climate change. 

Since January, Woodwell’s External Affairs Department and Carbon Program have been working to incorporate more effective provisions for natural climate solutions into the upcoming Farm Bill—U.S. federal omnibus legislation that includes a wide array of agricultural and forestry programs and is due for renewal in 2023. Woodwell has identified priority issues for the 2023 Farm Bill, and the External Affairs team has been conducting outreach to congressional offices in addition to Drs. Watts and Birdsey’s presentation to the Select Committee.  

A specialist in quantitative methods for large-scale forest inventories, Dr. Birdsey has pioneered the estimation of national carbon budgets for forest lands. His portion of the presentation highlighted the declining carbon storage potential of U.S. forests due to factors such as deforestation and increasing natural disturbances, underscoring the need for more effective forest management to mitigate climate change.

“There are significant opportunities to reduce emissions from forest disturbances and increase carbon stocks on the land, but policies need to include safeguards to avoid unintended consequences, such as degrading unprotected lands that have disproportionately high carbon stocks and high biodiversity values,” Dr. Birdsey said.

Dr. Watts currently co-leads the Carbon Monitoring in Rangelands project, which is focused on creating the Rangeland Carbon Tracking and Management Tool (RCTM) to assess the true greenhouse gas consequences of rangeland management.

“Most U.S. agricultural lands are extremely vulnerable to climate change. We need a comprehensive risk assessment and mitigation plan in place to safeguard our nation’s food systems, while also restoring lands to protect and improve key ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and biodiversity,” Dr. Watts said.

Her portion of the presentation detailed how climate change and land mismanagement are undermining the significant carbon storage potential of rangelands. The development of a widespread monitoring platform, like RCTM, would provide a robust process for monitoring, reporting, and verifying carbon credits and would inform more effective management practices.

Our nation’s policies must be informed by robust science to best harness the natural carbon storage potential of these ecosystems. Policymakers can help enable the successful implementation of natural climate solutions by incentivizing climate-smart land use, supporting the development of data-based carbon crediting systems, and investing in climate mitigation activities that leverage the potential carbon storage capacity of natural ecosystems. 

According to Woodwell External Affairs Analyst Natalie Baillargeon, the 2023 Farm Bill represents a unique opportunity to implement some of these solutions, and reaching out to policymakers is an important step.

“The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis effectively serves as a congressional think tank on climate solutions,” Baillargeon said. “It is incredibly important to make sure they have all the science and research necessary to develop strong policy approaches to addressing the climate crisis.”

Lula vowed to safeguard the Amazon. After Bolsonaro, it won’t be easy.

Manoela Machado stands among burned vegetation in a smoky sunset

BRASILIA — When Luis Inácio Lula da Silva was elected president of Brazil on Sunday, Gustavo Conde felt a sense of relief — for himself and everyone.

“It feels like we can breathe again,” the 23-year-old cook said in downtown Brasilia. “And so will the planet.”

If Lula keeps his campaign promises to safeguard the Amazon rainforest, analysts say, Brazil could have a major impact on the worldwide fight against climate change, after years of accelerating deforestation under President Jair Bolsonaro. Scientists warn that the lungs of the planet, vital to slowing global warming, are approaching a tipping point.

Continue reading on The Washington Post.