We’re not even halfway through the year but already you may have heard talk of 2016 being the hottest on record. But how can scientists be so sure we’re going to beat the previous record, set just last year?

In the wake of the damaging Alberta fires, there has been a lot of attention paid to what role climate change plays in wildfires. Yet 2016 is also a powerful El Niño year, which has created ideal conditions for the extraordinary fires in Alberta.

So what climate phenomena could have led to the persistent warm, dry conditions and the extreme fire events?

I have analyzed weather trend data and found that higher temperatures and lower precipitation created the conditions for the extensive fires. It is by looking at exactly when those warmer months occur that we can begin to sort out the role of El Niño versus climate change.

The Obama administration released new limits on methane emissions from oil and gas wells that are even tougher than the industry expected - $530 million more per year than the already high costs. 25 percent more. The government, meanwhile, claims their new regulations will make money because this will stop storms, floods and other consequences of climate change. Yes, a government regulation on methane will change the weather.

Longer, hotter, more regular heat waves could impact crop production in Africa, warn climate scientists in a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Located between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, Africa experiences high levels of solar radiation all year round and heat waves can occur in any season, not just during summer months. Running climate models through to 2075, the scientists found that heat waves could occur as frequently as four times per year towards the end of the century. In other words, one dangerously hot spell for every season of the year. 

More than 500 million people live in the Middle East and North Africa, which has always been hot in summer. And it's getting hotter, says Jos Lelieveld, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and Professor at the Cyprus Institute. The number of extremely hot days has doubled since 1970, he says, and "the very existence of its inhabitants is in jeopardy." 

In computer models, European scholars estimate substantially different climate change impacts for global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C by 2100, the two temperature limits policy makers agreed on in the Paris climate agreement.

The simulation concluded that an additional 0.5°C would mean a 10-cm-higher global sea-level rise by 2100, longer heat waves, and would result in virtually all tropical coral reefs being at risk. 

When we published a paper in 2013 finding 97% scientific consensus on human-caused global warming, what surprised me was how surprised everyone was.

Ours wasn’t the first study to find such a scientific consensus. Nor was it the second. Nor were we the last.

The signatory countries of the Kyoto Protocol and the newer Paris Agreement have committed to reduce global warming, but they can only use estimates and projections to verify whether they are actually achieving the necessary reduction in greenhouse gases.

The uncertainties are considerable and mistakes do happen.

Researchers funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) have developed a method to independently monitor these statistics by making direct measurements of the gases in the atmosphere.

Hardly any natural gas pipeline leaks

Planes flying between Europe and North America will be spending more time in the air due to the effects of climate change, a new study has shown.

By accelerating the jet stream -- a high-altitude wind blowing from west to east across the Atlantic -- climate change will speed up eastbound flights but slow down westbound flights, the study found. The findings could have implications for airlines, passengers, and airports.


This is a flight time infographic (c) University of Reading. Credit: University of Reading

Now that natural gas has signaled the end of the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, coal power plants, researchers are turning to other ways to optimize so that efforts to make energy too expensive for poor people won't come into effect.

One such effort is to add alum to chicken litter, which reduces ammonia and greenhouse gas concentrations and emissions, specifically carbon dioxide, in poultry houses. 

Acid-based chemical compounds, alum and PLT - another amendment - that are added to the bedding material in poultry houses prior to the birds entering have proven to be a very effective tool in controlling ammonia emissions.