Posts about climate change

Deadly Trio of Acidification, Warming and Deoxygenation Threaten Our Oceans

An international panel of marine scientists is demanding urgent remedies to halt ocean degradation based on findings that the rate, speed and impacts of change in the global ocean are greater, faster and more imminent
than previously thought.

Professor Dan Laffoley, International Union for Conservation of Nature, said: “What these latest reports make absolutely clear is that deferring action will increase costs in the future and lead to even greater, perhaps irreversible, losses. The UN climate report confirmed that the ocean is bearing the brunt of human-induced changes to our planet. These findings give us more cause for alarm – but also a roadmap for action. We must use it.“

Results from the latest International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO)/IUCN review of science on anthropogenic stressors on the ocean go beyond the conclusion reached last week by the UN climate change panel the IPCC that the ocean is absorbing much of the warming and unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide and warn that the cumulative impact of this with other ocean stressors is far graver than previous estimates.

Decreasing oxygen levels in the ocean caused by climate change and nitrogen runoff, combined with other chemical pollution and rampant overfishing are undermining the ability of the ocean to withstand these so-called ‘carbon perturbations’, meaning its role as Earth’s ‘buffer’ is seriously compromised.

Professor Alex Rogers of Somerville College, Oxford, and Scientific Director of IPSO said: “The health of the ocean is spiraling downwards far more rapidly than we had thought. We are seeing greater change, happening faster, and the effects are more imminent than previously anticipated. The situation should be of the gravest concern to everyone since everyone will be affected by changes in the ability of the ocean to support life on Earth.”

Among the latest assessments of factors affecting ocean health, the panel identified the following areas as of greatest cause for concern:
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Did a massive comet explode over Canada 12,900 years ago and start an ice age?

I think it is important to increase scientific literacy. One thing that is greatly misunderstood is the process for new scientific explanations being accepted by the scientific community. It is often quite a drawn out process over years (and for the explanation provided in this paper the debate is certainly still ongoing). And for issues that really shake up past explanations it can take decades and be quite contentious. I think posts tagged with “scientific inquiry” are a very interesting collection to explore.

It is important to understand the difficulty in providing evidence that satisfies the overwhelming majority of the scientific experts in any area. And it is important to understand the claims in one (or numerous papers) are not the accepted proven wisdom of the scientific community. Thankfully the process is rigorous. While mistakes can still be made, the evidence needed to substantiate a scientific hypothesis is significant. Their is still plenty of room for position to color accepted scientific wisdom. A respected professor is often able to make a claim that is more readily accepted and even more-so for to insist the new claims do not provide enough evidence in support of them to accept the new claims and have there position accepted (even when it really shouldn’t be looking just at the facts).

Topper site in middle of comet controversy

Firestone found concentrations of spherules (micro-sized balls) of metals and nano-sized diamonds in a layer of sediment dating 12,900 years ago at 10 of 12 archaeological sites that his team examined. The mix of particles is thought to be the result of an extraterrestrial object, such as a comet or meteorite, exploding in the earth’s atmosphere. Among the sites examined was USC’s Topper, one of the most pristine U.S. sites for research on Clovis, one of the earliest ancient peoples.
“This independent study is yet another example of how the Topper site with its various interdisciplinary studies has connected ancient human archaeology with significant studies of the Pleistocene,” said Goodyear, who began excavating Clovis artifacts in 1984 at the Topper site in Allendale, S.C. “It’s both exciting and gratifying.”
Younger-Dryas is what scientists refer to as the period of extreme cooling that began around 12,900 years ago and lasted 1,300 years. While that brief ice age has been well-documented – occurring during a period of progressive solar warming after the last ice age – the reasons for it have long remained unclear.

Related: Why Wasn’t the Earth Covered in Ice 4 Billion Years Ago – When the Sun was Dimmer?Unless We Take Decisive Action, Climate Change Will Ravage Our PlanetMore Evidence Supporting Einstein’s Theory of GravityAncient Whale Uncovered in Egyptian Desert

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Large Crabs Invading Antarctic as Waters Warm

photo of giant red king crab

Giant red king crabs

Large crabs are invading the Antarctic environment and due to their numbers and practices could cause havoc. They look yummy though. And eating them would be doing nature a favor unlike the overfishing of the oceans. Abstract of the open access article, A large population of king crabs in Palmer Deep on the west Antarctic Peninsula shelf and potential invasive impacts:

Lithodid crabs (and other skeleton-crushing predators) may have been excluded from cold Antarctic continental shelf waters for more than 14 Myr [million years]. The west Antarctic Peninsula shelf is warming rapidly and has been hypothesized to be soon invaded by lithodids. A remotely operated vehicle survey in Palmer Deep, a basin 120 km onto the Antarctic shelf, revealed a large, reproductive population of lithodids, providing the first evidence that king crabs have crossed the Antarctic shelf. DNA sequencing and morphology indicate the lithodid is Neolithodes yaldwyni Ahyong & Dawson, previously reported only from Ross Sea waters. We estimate a N. yaldwyni population density of 10 600 km−2 and a population size of 1.55 × 106 in Palmer Deep, a density similar to lithodid populations of commercial interest around Alaska and South Georgia. The lithodid occurred at depths of more than 850 m and temperatures of more than 1.4°C in Palmer Deep, and was not found in extensive surveys of the colder shelf at depths of 430–725 m. Where N. yaldwyni occurred, crab traces were abundant, megafaunal diversity reduced and echinoderms absent, suggesting that the crabs have major ecological impacts. Antarctic Peninsula shelf waters are warming at approximately 0.01°C yr−1; if N. yaldwyni is currently limited by cold temperatures, it could spread up onto the shelf (400–600 m depths) within 1–2 decades. The Palmer Deep N. yaldwyni population provides an important model for the potential invasive impacts of crushing predators on vulnerable Antarctic shelf ecosystems.

Related: Giant Star Fish and More in Antarctica2,000 Species New to Science (600 of them crabs) from One IslandAntarctic Fish “Hibernate” in Winter

The State of the Oceans

World’s oceans in ‘shocking’ decline

In a new report, [an expert panel of scientists] warn that ocean life is “at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history”. They conclude that issues such as over-fishing, pollution and climate change are acting together in ways that have not previously been recognised.

ocean acidification, warming, local pollution and overfishing are acting together to increase the threat to coral reefs – so much so that three-quarters of the world’s reefs are at risk of severe decline.

The report also notes that previous mass extinction events have been associated with trends being observed now – disturbances of the carbon cycle, and acidification and hypoxia (depletion of oxygen) of seawater.

Levels of CO2 being absorbed by the oceans are already far greater than during the great extinction of marine species 55 million years ago (during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum), it concludes.

The overfishing of our oceans has been a problem for over 100 years and a known problem, that we continue to give too little attention to. Adding to that impacts of climate change and the state of ocean life is in trouble. The decision of our population to not deal with the causes of climate change will have very bad consequences. It is a shame we have so little caring about the consequences of our decisions. And even sadder that our “leaders” do such an appalling job of leading – instead they pander to selfish immediate gratification.

Related: Altered Oceans: the Crisis at Sea (2006)Unless We Take Decisive Action, Climate Change Will Ravage Our PlanetArctic System on Trajectory to New, Seasonally Ice-Free State (2005)

Why Wasn’t the Earth Covered in Ice 4 Billion Years Ago – When the Sun was Dimmer

Climate scientists from all over the globe are now able to test their climate models under extreme conditions thanks to Professor Minik Rosing, University of Copenhagen. Rosing has solved one of the great mysteries and paradoxes of our geological past, namely, “Why the earth’s surface was not just one big lump of ice four billion years ago when the Sun’s radiation was much weaker than it is today.” Until now, scientists have presumed that the earth’s atmosphere back then consisted of 30% carbon dioxide (CO2) which ensconced the planet in a protective membrane, thereby trapping heat like a greenhouse.

The faint early sun paradox
In 1972, the late, world famous astronomer Carl Sagan and his colleague George Mullen formulated “The faint early sun paradox. ” The paradox consisted in that the earth’s climate has been fairly constant during almost four of the four and a half billion years that the planet has been in existence, and this despite the fact that radiation from the sun has increased by 25-30 percent.

The paradoxical question that arose for scientists in this connection was why the earth’s surface at its fragile beginning was not covered by ice, seeing that the sun’s rays were much fainter than they are today. Science found one probable answer in 1993, which was proffered by the American atmospheric scientist, Jim Kasting. He performed theoretical calculations that showed that 30% of the earth’s atmosphere four billion years ago consisted of CO2. This in turn entailed that the large amount of greenhouse gases layered themselves as a protective greenhouse around the planet, thereby preventing the oceans from freezing over.

Mystery solved
Now, however, Professor Minik Rosing, from the Natural History Museum of Denmark, and Christian Bjerrum, from the Department of Geography and Geology at University of Copenhagen, together with American colleagues from Stanford University in California have discovered the reason for “the missing ice age” back then, thereby solving the sun paradox, which has haunted scientific circles for more than forty years.

Professor Minik Rosing explains, “What prevented an ice age back then was not high CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, but the fact that the cloud layer was much thinner than it is today. In addition to this, the earth’s surface was covered by water. This meant that the sun’s rays could warm the oceans unobstructed, which in turn could layer the heat, thereby preventing the earth’s watery surface from freezing into ice. The reason for the lack of clouds back in earth’s childhood can be explained by the process by which clouds form. This process requires chemical substances that are produced by algae and plants, which did not exist at the time. These chemical processes would have been able to form a dense layer of clouds, which in turn would have reflected the sun’s rays, throwing them back into the cosmos and thereby preventing the warming of earth’s oceans. Scientists have formerly used the relationship between the radiation from the sun and earth’s surface temperature to calculate that earth ought to have been in a deep freeze during three billion of its four and a half billion years of existence. Sagan and Mullen brought attention to the paradox between these theoretical calculations and geological reality by the fact that the oceans had not frozen. This paradox of having a faint sun and ice-free oceans has now been solved.”

CO2 history iluminated
Minik Rosing and his team have by analyzing samples of 3.8-billion-year-old mountain rock from the world’s oldest bedrock, Isua, in western Greenland, solved the “paradox”.

But more importantly, the analyses also provided a finding for a highly important issue in today’s climate research – and climate debate, not least: whether the atmosphere’s CO2 concentration throughout earth’s history has fluctuated strongly or been fairly stable over the course of billions of years.

“The analyses of the CO2-content in the atmosphere, which can be deduced from the age-old Isua rock, show that the atmosphere at the time contained a maximum of one part per thousand of this greenhouse gas. This was three to four times more than the atmosphere’s CO2-content today. However, not anywhere in the range of the of the 30 percent share in early earth history, which has hitherto been the theoretical calculation. Hence we may conclude that the atmosphere’s CO2-content has not changed substantially through the billions of years of earth’s geological history. However, today the graph is turning upward. Not least due to the emissions from fossil fuels used by humans. Therefore it is vital to determine the geological and atmospheric premises for the prehistoric past in order to understand the present, not to mention the future, in what pertains to the design of climate models and calculations,” underscores Minik Rosing.

Full press release from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

Related: Sun Missing It’s SpotsSolar StormsWhy is it Colder at Higher Elevations?Magnetic Portals Connect Sun and Earth

Appetite for Destruction

photo of Mountain Pine Beetle

Appetite for Destruction (link broken, so I removed it) by Eric R. Olson:

“Once the beetles are at the level they’re at in British Columbia, there’s nothing you can do – it’s like a rapidly spreading fire,” says Barbara Bentz, research entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. If the beetle continues to devour trees at the current rate, 80 percent of British Columbia’s mature pines will be killed off by 2013, according to Natural Resources Canada, an arm of the Canadian government.

Global climate change, which is pushing temperatures higher, has altered the beetle’s natural life cycle. Now the insect threatens one of the world’s largest forest systems: Canada’s boreal forest, a 600-mile-wide band of pine woodlands that stretches from the Yukon in Alaska all the way to Newfoundland on the East Coast.

The source of all this destruction is an insect not much bigger than a grain of rice. A native of North America, the pine beetle does its damage by burrowing beneath the bark and feeding on the living tissue of the tree called the phloem. This tissue is composed of long tubes that transport nutrients from root to limb, and once it is destroyed, the tree can no longer survive.

In the past, cold snaps — quick drops in temperature in the spring and fall — have kept beetle populations in check. Although the insects can survive temperatures as low as minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, it takes time for their bodies to accumulate enough glycol, the same ingredient found in antifreeze, to survive such frigid temperatures.

Photo: Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus Ponderosae) under a scanning electron microscope. [Credit: Leslie Manning/Canadian Forest Service]

Related: Rain ForestsDeforestation and Global WarmingBed Bugs, Science and the Media

Global Wind Power Installed Capacity

The top five countries in terms of installed capacity are:

  • Germany (22.3 GW – gigawatts)
  • USA (16.8 GW)
  • Spain (15.1 GW)
  • India (8 GW)
  • China (6.1 GW)

Global capacity was increase by 27% in 2007. Record installations in US, China and Spain:

Wind energy has a considerable impact on avoiding greenhouse gases and combating climate change. The global capacity of 94 GW of wind capacity will save about 122 million tons of CO2 every year, which is equivalent to around 20 large coal fired power stations.

“We’re on track to meeting our target of saving 1.5 billion tons of CO2 per year by 2020”, said Steve Sawyer, “but we need a strong, global signal from governments that they are serious about moving away from fossil fuels and protecting the climate.”

Meeting energy needs using wind power is growing very rapidly, which is a great thing. It is still a small contributor to our overall energy needs but every bit helps.

Related: USA Wind power capacityCapture Wind Energy with a Tethered TurbineWind Power Technology Breakthrough

Dead Zones in the Ocean

Oceanic Dead Zones Off West Coast are the ‘New Normal’

Ever since it was first noticed by crab fishermen who hauled up hundreds of dead and dying crabs in 2002, the “dead zone” that popped up in the waters along the northwestern coastal shelf just off the coast of Oregon has claimed unknown millions of lives. This oxygen-depleted region has transformed formerly rich seafloor communities teeming with life into vast graveyards filled with the bodies of crabs, echinoderms, molluscs, sea worms and other creatures.

a low-oxygen zone appears each spring off the coast of Louisiana due to fertilizers in farm runoff and sewage present in the Mississippi River. When the Mississippi flows into the sea, it creates a nutrient-rich area that triggers huge but short-lived algal blooms that soon die, sink to the seafloor and are decomposed by bacteria that produce toxic sulfide gases.

the dead zone off the West Coast of North America has another cause: global warming. Here’s how it works: Winds cause the oceanic rivers of nutrients, such as the California Current in this case, to flow upwards from the deep, carrying nutrients and phyoplankton into the sunlight, which triggers the phytoplankton to reproduce, to “bloom”. This is the normal state of things, but since global warming has been causing land temperatures to increase, these winds have become stronger and more persistent. This is not normal because it prolongs the oceanic upwelling, producing a surplus of phytoplankton that isn’t consumed and subsequently dies, and sinks to the seafloor to decay. As the bacterial-mediated breakdown occurs, dissolved oxygen in the surrounding water is depleted to dangerously low levels

Related: Dead zones off Oregon and Washington likely tied to global warmingVast Garbage Float in the Pacific OceanAffect of Ocean Warming on Phytoplanktonthe Crisis at SeaFishy FutureSelFISHing

Bigger Impact: 15 to 18 mpg or 50 to 100 mpg?

This is a pretty counter-intuitive statement, I believe:

You save more fuel switching from a 15 to 18 mpg car than switching from a 50 to 100 mpg car.

But some simple math shows it is true. If you drive 10,000 miles you would use: 667 gallons, 556 gallons, 200 gallons and 100 gallons. Amazing. I must admit, when I first read the quote I thought that it must be an wrong. But there is the math. You save 111 gallons improving from 15 mpg to 18 mpg and just 100 improving from 50 to 100 mpg. Other than those of you who automatically guess that whatever seems wrong must be the answer when you see a title like this I can’t believe anyone thinks 15 to 18 mpg is the change that has the bigger impact. It is great how a little understanding of math can help you see the errors in your initial beliefs. Via: 18 Is Enough.

It also illustrates that the way the data is presented makes a difference. You can also view 100 mpg as 1/100 gallon per mile, 2/100 gallons per mile, 5.6/100 gpm and 6.7 gpm. That way most everyone sees that the 6.7 to 5.6 gpm saves more fuel than 2 to 1 gpm does. Mathematics and scientific thinking are great – if you are willing to think you can learn to better understand the world we live in every day.

Related: Statistics Don’t Lie, But People Can be FooledUnderstanding DataSeeing Patterns Where None ExistsOptical Illusions and Other Illusions1=2: A Proof

Deforestation and Global Warming

Deforestation: The hidden cause of global warming:

In the next 24 hours, deforestation will release as much CO2 into the atmosphere as 8 million people flying from London to New York. Stopping the loggers is the fastest and cheapest solution to climate change.

Tropical Deforestation, Climate Impacts (NASA by Rebecca Lindsey):

Undisturbed tropical forests may be nearly neutral with respect to carbon, but deforestation and degradation are currently a source of carbon to the atmosphere and have the potential to turn the tropics into an even greater source in coming decades.

Related: Deforestation (from the National Geographic)Deforestation (Greenpeace)Deforestation and the Greenhouse EffectWhat’s Up With the Weather?The Choice: Doomsday or Arbor Day

What’s Up With the Weather?

image of Time cover

No one can say exactly what it looks like when a planet takes ill, but it probably looks a lot like Earth. Never mind what you’ve heard about global warming as a slow-motion emergency that would take decades to play out. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us.

Time’s cover story – Be worried, be very worried – starts out with this provocative paragraph. Other recent stories on the effects of climate change, rising ocean levels etc.:

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