Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Real Name of the storm called Katarina

THE HURRICANE that struck Louisiana yesterday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming.

When the year began with a two-foot snowfall in Los Angeles, the cause was global warming.

When 124-mile-an-hour winds shut down nuclear plants in Scandinavia and cut power to hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland and the United Kingdom, the driver was global warming.

When a severe drought in the Midwest dropped water levels in the Missouri River to their lowest on record earlier this summer, the reason was global warming.

In July, when the worst drought on record triggered wildfires in Spain and Portugal and left water levels in France at their lowest in 30 years, the explanation was global warming.

When a lethal heat wave in Arizona kept temperatures above 110 degrees and killed more than 20 people in one week, the culprit was global warming.

And when the Indian city of Bombay (Mumbai) received 37 inches of rain in one day -- killing 1,000 people and disrupting the lives of 20 million others -- the villain was global warming.

As the atmosphere warms, it generates longer droughts, more-intense downpours, more-frequent heat waves, and more-severe storms.

Although Katrina began as a relatively small hurricane that glanced off south Florida, it was supercharged with extraordinary intensity by the relatively blistering sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.

The consequences are as heartbreaking as they are terrifying.

Unfortunately, very few people in America know the real name of Hurricane Katrina because the coal and oil industries have spent millions of dollars to keep the public in doubt about the issue.

The reason is simple: To allow the climate to stabilize requires humanity to cut its use of coal and oil by 70 percent. That, of course, threatens the survival of one of the largest commercial enterprises in history.

In 1995, public utility hearings in Minnesota found that the coal industry had paid more than $1 million to four scientists who were public dissenters on global warming. And ExxonMobil has spent more than $13 million since 1998 on an anti-global warming public relations and lobbying campaign.

In 2000, big oil and big coal scored their biggest electoral victory yet when President George W. Bush was elected president -- and subsequently took suggestions from the industry for his climate and energy policies.

As the pace of climate change accelerates, many researchers fear we have already entered a period of irreversible runaway climate change.

Against this background, the ignorance of the American public about global warming stands out as an indictment of the US media.

When the US press has bothered to cover the subject of global warming, it has focused almost exclusively on its political and diplomatic aspects and not on what the warming is doing to our agriculture, water supplies, plant and animal life, public health, and weather.

For years, the fossil fuel industry has lobbied the media to accord the same weight to a handful of global warming skeptics that it accords the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries reporting to the United Nations.

Today, with the science having become even more robust -- and the impacts as visible as the megastorm that covered much of the Gulf of Mexico -- the press bears a share of the guilt for our self-induced destruction with the oil and coal industries.

As a Bostonian, I am afraid that the coming winter will -- like last winter -- be unusually short and devastatingly severe. At the beginning of 2005, a deadly ice storm knocked out power to thousands of people in New England and dropped a record-setting 42.2 inches of snow on Boston.

The conventional name of the month was January. Its real name is global warming.

Ross Gelbspan is author of ''The Heat Is On" and ''Boiling Point."

Originally posted at: http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2005/08/30/katrinas_real_name/

A facinating story andin agreement with my thoughts on the situation, but why do i believe that human caused climate change is responsible? Have a look at:
1. the "climate sceince" part of "climate change resources" for the answer.
2. or these detailed summaries and beautiful animations of what has happened so-far and what is expected for the future.

Alternatively chekc out some past articles:

How about my articles on the loss of sea ice, the fate of australia.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Stop Climate Chaos

This event is on the 1st Sep, Come along, but phone Alex first for more details, it only takes a few hours of your time and is a very worthwhile cause.

Dear Friends,

Launch of Stop Climate Chaos!

Friends of the Earth has joined together with a huge coalition of organisations - including RSPB, WWF, Greenpeace, Oxfam, People and Planet, Christian Aid, Tearfund and the Women's Institute to form a massive public movement on climate change. The working title of this grouping was the climate movement, but the name chosen is now Stop Climate Chaos!

We are planning a big media stunt in central London on the morning of Thursday September 1st to mark the launch of Stop Climate Chaos. We really need you to help make this event a success!

All the details of what is happening, and where to be, are copied below. If you are able to be in London for that morning, and can take the time out from your usual schedule that would be fantastic!

We need to know in advance how many people will be coming, so please let me know if you are planning to come.
Email me alexp@foe.co.uk or ring 020 7566 1673.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Connecting the dots.

Late at night BBC news 24 has a large amount of coverage from ABC in the USA presumably because they have minimal staff at 2AM. So I was watching ABC yesterday evening.

Very stupid reporting:

If there where reports on an area with:
1. A high rate of muggings.
2. A high number of burglaries.
3. A large number of HIV positive people.

The stories would not be told in isolation! The dots 1,2 and 3 would be analyzed: this situation is clearly a result of a large number of intra-venous drug users i.e heroin addicts trying to feed there habit.

In reality the three headline that where being reported where:
1. Droughts and Severe storms in Portugal and Germany respectively.
2. High oil prices and the need for biofuels/electric cars.
3. The story of a paralyzed soldier and how his community are helping him financially as the state has inadequate provisions.

What do these dots mean? They all shout distributed energy system!
If we had a system of small scale power generation, utilizing solar cells, wind power, micro-CHP, hydro power etc. Then we would: 1. Reduce carbon emissions and reduce the severity of climate change which is occurring 2. Not be reliant of foreign oil economically, being able to produce as much hydrogen as we need from our own generation capacity at home or in the community and 3. Not need to get involved in violent conflicts where our soldiers can be paralyzed to secure oil supply.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Nine US states break with Bush on greenhouse gase

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nine northeastern U.S. states are working on a plan to cap and then reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the first U.S. deal of its kind and one which would see the region breaking with President George W. Bush who refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol

The move comes as California, Washington and Oregon are considering a similar pact -- a dynamic environmentalists say could pressure the federal government to adopt a national law. Bush refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, the greenhouse gas reduction plan already adopted by over 150 countries.

Under the plan being worked on, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont would cap carbon dioxide emissions at 150 million tons a year -- roughly equal to the average emissions in the highest three years between 2000 and 2004.

Starting in 2015, the cap would be lowered, and emissions would be cut by 10 percent in 2020.

Each state legislature would have to approve the caps, said Dennis Schain, a spokesman for Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection.

"This is a process that would be an agreement among states and to really implement it and have a firm commitment, the states will each have to approve legislation and regulations to meet these conditions," he told Reuters.

The draft is being circulated among industries, power companies and environmental groups for feedback, he said. The group hopes to reach a final agreement in September.

Phil Cherry, policy director at Delaware's Department of Natural Resources, also confirmed details of the pact.

Scientists believe carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases cause global warming that is affecting coastal areas, icebergs and wildlife. Around 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions come from fossil fuel power plants.

The United States is the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide. The Bush administration wants cuts to be voluntary and resists mandatory measures it says would hurt economic growth.

Many international leaders have criticized Bush's refusal to sign Kyoto, which is meant as a first step toward braking a rise in global temperatures from a build-up of gases from fossil fuels emitted by power plants, factories and cars.

In the absence of national control on emissions, Schain said: "This seems to be the appropriate course of action."

The so-called Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative would explore a market-driven cap-and-trade system where businesses must trim emissions under set limits or buy credits from companies that have complied with the limits.

Environmentalists praised the proposed plan.

"It moves the United States further toward doing something about the problem," said Kert Davies of Greenpeace in Washington, D.C. "That eventually allows us back into the global solving of this problem."

The deal was brokered by New York Republican Gov. George Pataki, who is weighing a White House run in 2008.

Pataki spokesman Andrew Rush said no final deal had been reached but, "We've made a lot of progress and we look forward to reaching a final agreement."

Political experts note such a plan brings Pataki national attention. "This is another clear signal that George Pataki is positioning himself on the national stage to run for president," said political strategist Hank Sheinkopf.

A regional emissions control program would likely cause higher energy prices for power company customers in the Northeast, but Delaware's Cherry said the states had not yet decided on a method to combat rising costs.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Distributed power: the hydrogen economy.

UK Times newspaper

GIANT wind turbines will be used to power a new breed of environmentally friendly cars that run on hydrogen gas under a pioneering scheme by Scots scientists.

ScottishPower plans to harness surplus electricity generated by turbines during high winds and convert it to hydrogen gas, which can be stored and used as fuel.

It envisages that urban refuelling stations — selling compressed hydrogen generated by rooftop turbines instead of petrol — could become commonplace across Britain, with the first appearing as early as 2010.

The move is considered important in the battle against climate change, and environmentalists believe it could improve air quality dramatically. Unlike traditional fuels, which release carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere, hydrogen cars have zero emissions, except for water vapour.

Prototype hydrogen cars have already been developed by Honda and Ford. The engines, which are almost silent when the engine is running, can manage 62 miles per gallon of hydrogen and have a range of 190 miles.

In America a similar scheme is being spearheaded by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor-turned-governor of California. He has set a target of 2010 for every large highway in the state to be served by a network of hydrogen filling stations.

So far, 16 stations have opened up and a further 15 are planned to encourage more people to buy hydrogen cars.

On the Isle of Unst in the Shetland Islands, possibly the world’s first hydrogen economy, plans are well advanced to produce hydrogen to power cars and trucks on the island and for export. The fuel will be on sale to islanders for about 15p per gallon.

An excess of wind and rain means that the island is ideally placed to take advantage of a future move from an oil to a hydrogen economy.

The plan by ScottishPower scientists to harness renewable energy to make hydrogen gas is believed to be a world first. A pilot project will start next year using a half megawatt turbine on one of its wind farms, possibly at Black Law or Hagshaw Hill in south Lanarkshire. It hopes to be awarded £1m to fund the project.

Electricity generated by the turbine will be used to run a device called an “electrolyser”, which can split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The fuel cell in the cars works by reversing the process to create water, which in turn generates voltage to power the car.

Alan Mortimer, head of renewables policy for ScottishPower, said the technology was already being demonstrated in America and hydrogen-powered cars could be on Britain’s roads by 2010.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Federal action on climate change? Maybe in 2008.

A very positive story on possible US action on climate change. Two potential presidential candidates for the elections of 2008 have visited Alaska. You can be as cynical as you like about the comments made by this pair, but after visiting Alaska and talking to both locals and scientists I don't think many people could remain unconvinced about the reality of the situation.

A climate change in US attitudes
By Andrew Buncombe
Two of the leading contenders in the next United States presidential election have delivered a wake-up call to the US over global warming - saying the evidence of climate change has become too stark to ignore and that human activity is a major cause of the problem.

On a high-profile bipartisan fact-finding tour of Alaska and Canada's Yukon territory, Senators John McCain, a Republican, and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic senator for New York, were confronted by melting permafrost, shrinking glaciers and heard first-hand from Inuit how rising sea levels were irrevocably altering their lives.

"The question is how much damage will be done before we start taking concrete action.

"Go up to places like we just came from. It's a little scary," McCain said in Anchorage.

Said Clinton: "I don't think there's any doubt left for anybody who actually looks at the science. There are still some holdouts, but they're fighting a losing battle. The science is overwhelming."

Their comments challenge President George W. Bush's reluctance to legislate to reduce the level of America's carbon emissions.

Although both senators have talked of the need to tackle global warming, this week's clarion call was perhaps the clearest and most urgent.

It also raises the prospect that climate change and other environmental issues could be a factor in the 2008 presidential contest if Clinton and McCain contest the race. Both are widely expected to do so.

Clinton and McCain, who represents Arizona, are among the leading - and certainly the most popular - likely contenders.

It was not by chance that they chose Alaska as the stage from which to force global warming on to the American political agenda.

In many ways this separated US state is the frontline in the global warming debate. Environmentalists say the signs of climate change are more obvious there than perhaps anywhere else in the US.

Dan Lashof, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defence Council, a respected Washington-based group, said: "People in Alaska are starting to freak out. The retreat of the sea ice allows the oceans to pound the coast more and villages there are suffering from the effects of that erosion.

"Permafrost is melting, roads are buckling, forests have been infested with beetles because of a rise in temperatures.

"I think residents there feel it's visible more and more - more than any other place in the country."

Campaigners say the position adopted by McCain and Clinton stands in stark contrast to that adopted by Bush, whose Administration has repeatedly questioned the evidence of global warming and the contribution of human activity to any shift.

Bush, who in 2001 refused to ratify the Kyoto Treaty on global warming just weeks after he took office, has repeatedly been accused of doing nothing to enforce tighter controls on emissions of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases".

Meanwhile, the US National Academy of Sciences - and the scientific academies of the other G8 nations as well as Brazil, China and India - issued a statement this summer saying there was strong evidence that significant global warming was under way and that "it is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities".

It called on world leaders to recognise "that delayed action will increase the risk of adverse environmental effects and will likely incur a greater cost".

Lashof said: "[The comments] are not new for McCain and Clinton but for them to use a week of the August recess to go up there and see the implications first-hand is important and significant."

Clinton, who must first win her re-election bid for the US Senate next year if she is to contest the 2008 White House race, said she had spoken to a number of scientists as well as native Alaskans during the trip.

She said that flying over the Yukon she saw forests decimated by spruce bark beetles - believed to be growing at an unprecedented rate because of warmer weather.

She was also struck by what she heard from a 93-year-old woman she met at a fish camp at Whitehorse, Yukon.

The woman told her she had been fishing there all her life but that lately the fish had strange bumps on them.

"It's just heartbreaking to see the devastation," said Clinton.

She and McCain, with Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine, also travelled to Barrow, the northernmost city in the US. There, they spoke to scientists and Inupiaq Eskimos who are troubled by rising sea levels.

They also travelled to Seward to see shrinking glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park.

McCain - with Senator Joe Lieberman - is behind proposed legislation that would require power-generating companies to reduce carbon emissions to their 2000 levels.

Graham, a Republican, said he was on the fence in regard to the new legislation but had been moved by what he had seen on the trip.

"Climate change is different when you come here, because you see the faces of people experiencing it in Alaska," he said.

"If you can go to the native people and listen to their stories and walk away with any doubt that something's going on, I just think you're not listening."

Collins, a Democrat, was even more convinced. She said the evidence in Alaska represented the "canary in the mine shaft of global warming crying out to us to pay attention to the impact".

Alaska's own congressional delegation of two senators and a representative did not take part in the tour and has opposed any mandatory limits on carbon emissions.

A spokesman for Senator Lisa Murkowski said she had been misrepresented in reports that said she doubted the evidence of global warming.

Elliot Bundy said: "Where there is a difference of opinion is regarding the extent of global warming and of the methods that need to be taken to deal with it."


Friday, August 19, 2005

Energy p...o...l...i...c...y (that's right George, policy!)

We are running out of oil, oil runs my campaign, all my friends have oil companies...what do I do?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Arctic Meltdown

Click on this image to see in more detail how dramatic ice sea ice reduction is expected to be.

A fascinating program by the BBC (Radio 4), entitled Arctic Meltdown. This program is largely concerned with the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. The program also covers the impact of climate change on the Inuit, and the local wildlife such as the badly affected polar bears.

If you find the program interesting, which I`m sure you will then you may like to read this report about just how fast the arctic is changing.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Dont panic! Dont panic!

Warming hits 'tipping point'

Siberia feels the heat It's a frozen peat bog the size of France and Germany combined, contains billions of tonnes of greenhouse gas and, for the first time since the ice age, it is melting

Ian Sample, science correspondent
Thursday August 11, 2005


A vast expanse of western Sibera is undergoing an unprecedented thaw that could dramatically increase the rate of global warming, climate scientists warn today.

Researchers who have recently returned from the region found that an area of permafrost spanning a million square kilometres - the size of France and Germany combined - has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.

The area, which covers the entire sub-Arctic region of western Siberia, is the world's largest frozen peat bog and scientists fear that as it thaws, it will release billions of tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.

It is a scenario climate scientists have feared since first identifying "tipping points" - delicate thresholds where a slight rise in the Earth's temperature can cause a dramatic change in the environment that itself triggers a far greater increase in global temperatures.

The discovery was made by Sergei Kirpotin at Tomsk State University in western Siberia and Judith Marquand at Oxford University and is reported in New Scientist today.

The researchers found that what was until recently a barren expanse of frozen peat is turning into a broken landscape of mud and lakes, some more than a kilometre across.

Dr Kirpotin told the magazine the situation was an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming". He added that the thaw had probably begun in the past three or four years.

Climate scientists yesterday reacted with alarm to the finding, and warned that predictions of future global temperatures would have to be revised upwards.

"When you start messing around with these natural systems, you can end up in situations where it's unstoppable. There are no brakes you can apply," said David Viner, a senior scientist at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

"This is a big deal because you can't put the permafrost back once it's gone. The causal effect is human activity and it will ramp up temperatures even more than our emissions are doing."

In its last major report in 2001, the intergovernmental panel on climate change predicted a rise in global temperatures of 1.4C-5.8C between 1990 and 2100, but the estimate only takes account of global warming driven by known greenhouse gas emissions.

"These positive feedbacks with landmasses weren't known about then. They had no idea how much they would add to global warming," said Dr Viner.

Western Siberia is heating up faster than anywhere else in the world, having experienced a rise of some 3C in the past 40 years. Scientists are particularly concerned about the permafrost, because as it thaws, it reveals bare ground which warms up more quickly than ice and snow, and so accelerates the rate at which the permafrost thaws.

Siberia's peat bogs have been producing methane since they formed at the end of the last ice age, but most of the gas had been trapped in the permafrost. According to Larry Smith, a hydrologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, the west Siberian peat bog could hold some 70bn tonnes of methane, a quarter of all of the methane stored in the ground around the world.

The permafrost is likely to take many decades at least to thaw, so the methane locked within it will not be released into the atmosphere in one burst, said Stephen Sitch, a climate scientist at the Met Office's Hadley Centre in Exeter.

But calculations by Dr Sitch and his colleagues show that even if methane seeped from the permafrost over the next 100 years, it would add around 700m tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere each year, roughly the same amount that is released annually from the world's wetlands and agriculture.

It would effectively double atmospheric levels of the gas, leading to a 10% to 25% increase in global warming, he said.

Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said the finding was a stark message to politicians to take concerted action on climate change. "We knew at some point we'd get these feedbacks happening that exacerbate global warming, but this could lead to a massive injection of greenhouse gases.

"If we don't take action very soon, we could unleash runaway global warming that will be beyond our control and it will lead to social, economic and environmental devastation worldwide," he said. "There's still time to take action, but not much.

"The assumption has been that we wouldn't see these kinds of changes until the world is a little warmer, but this suggests we're running out of time."

In May this year, another group of researchers reported signs that global warming was damaging the permafrost. Katey Walter of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, told a meeting of the Arctic Research Consortium of the US that her team had found methane hotspots in eastern Siberia. At the hotspots, methane was bubbling to the surface of the permafrost so quickly that it was preventing the surface from freezing over.

Last month, some of the world's worst air polluters, including the US and Australia, announced a partnership to cut greenhouse gas emissions through the use of new technologies.

The deal came after Tony Blair struggled at the G8 summit to get the US president, George Bush, to commit to any concerted action on climate change and has been heavily criticised for setting no targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Some good news :-) Wind starts to pay off.

German power groups cash in on alternative energy

Berlin, Aug 10 (DPA) Rocketing oil prices and the push towards reductions in carbon dioxide emissions have triggered a wave of investment in renewable energy in Germany, helping to underpin a boom in alternative power in Europe's biggest economy.

Until recently, the alternative energy business was largely dominated by small and medium sized companies.

But with energy emerging as a key issue in the German elections slated for next month, a round of major investments in recent months has signalled a move by big power groups to broaden their energy mix by shifting to renewable power supplies.

With vast wind parks now spreading out from the land into the sea, Germany's third biggest electricity group Swedish-owned Vattenfall Europe has announced plans to launch a 200-million euro ($247 million) study into the building of an offshore wind park in either the North or Baltic Sea.

"We believe that offshore parks can make a contribution that will transform wind energy from a subsidy receiver into a market-mature technology," said Vattenfall Europe chief Klaus Rauscher.

Underscoring the boom that has been under way in renewable energy in Germany, alternative power sources now represent about 10 percent of electricity generated in the country.

Germany is also starting to export its new wind technology with windpower engineering group RE Power Systems announcing earlier this year that it had won its first project order in China.

While giant German insurer Allianz said it was raising its stockholdings in renewable energy groups from 300 million euros to 500 million euros, US conglomerate General Electric chief Jeff Immelt set out plans in Munich for GE to double its revenue from sun and wind energy to 15 billion euros over the next five years.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's ruling Social Democrat-Green Party coalition has already begun phasing out nuclear power in the country and launching a push to build up renewable energy sources in Germany.

However, as a sign of the confidence in the renewable energy sector, investors do not appear to be particularly unsettled by the threat posed by a change of government in Berlin.

But with the energy sector expecting ambitious carbon dioxide emission reduction targets in the future and a steep rise in the price for carbon dioxide trading certificates, Vattenfall also announced plans to build a 40-million euro coal-fired power station that does not give off any carbon dioxide.

Underpinned by support from Germany's ruling SPD-Greens coalition, wind energy has already overtaken hydroelectric power as the nation's main source of renewable energy.

A government report has predicted that by 2025 the windparks rapidly appearing along Germany's coastline will generate the same amount of energy as 20 nuclear reactors.

Schroeder's coalition has also introduced a law compelling energy companies to buy power generated by renewable sources at a generous price. This has led to an explosion of wind turbines across the wind-swept countryside and a boom in the sales of wind generators.

Similarly, government support for renewable energy has helped to foster a boom in solar power with the country's sun power industry having ambitions to become the world leader. Last year the world's largest solar plant opened near Leipzig in eastern Germany.

Last month global oil company Shell announced it was to build the world's largest single-connected solar power station at a former military base in Bavaria in southern Germany.

After it is completed in March 2006, Shell's 40-million euro solar plant would cover the electricity needs of about 3,300 households each year.

Monday, August 08, 2005

All World's Glaciers Could Melt, Latest Scientific Data Indicates

(A Story taken from ENS website)

ZURICH, Switzerland, August 5, 2005 (ENS) - Global warming caused by human activities may result in the complete disappearance of glaciers from entire mountain ranges, according to the latest update of a United Nations supported report issued once every five years. The World Glacier Monitoring Service warns that the greenhouse effect is leading to processes "without precedent in the history of the Earth."

"The last five-year period of the 20th century has been characterized by an overall tendency of continuous if not accelerated glacier melting," says the World Glacier Monitoring Service 1995-2000 edition of the Fluctuations of Glaciers report, complied with the support of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

"The two decades [from] 1980-2000 show a trend of increasingly negative balances with average annual ice thickness losses of a few decimetres," the report adds. "The observed trend of increasingly negative mass balances is consistent with accelerated global warming."

Analysis of repeated inventories shows that glaciers in the European Alps have lost more than 50 percent of their volume since the middle of the 19th century, and that a further loss of roughly one fourth the remaining volume is estimated to have occurred since the 1970s, the report states.

"With a realistic scenario of future atmospheric warming, almost complete deglaciation of many mountain ranges could occur within decades, leaving only some ice on the very highest peaks," it says.


The fractured and rapidly calving terminus of the surging Bering Glacier, Chugach Mountains, Alaska. October 1993 (Photo courtesy USGS)
The series "Fluctuations of Glaciers," prepared by the Service, continously publishes internationally collected, standardized data on changes in glaciers throughout the world once every five years. The Service is based at the Department of Geography University of Zurich.

The objective of the publication is to reproduce a global set of data which affords a general view of the changes, encourages more extensive measurements, invites further processing of the results, facilitates consultation of the further sources, and serves as a basis for research.

This standardized data set is presented as a working tool for the scientific community, especially concerning the fields of glaciology, climatology, hydrology, and quarternary geology.

Since the initiation in 1894 of a worldwide program for collecting standardized information on glacier changes, various aspects involved have changed "in a most remarkable way," the report says.

Concern increases that the ongoing trend of worldwide and fast if not accelerating glacier shrinkage at the century time scale is of non-cyclic nature.


Vulnerable to global warming, a glacier flows into the sea in North East Greenland. May 2002. (Photo courtesy European Space Agency)
While earlier reports anticipated a periodic variation in glaciers, "there is definitely no more question of the originally envisaged "variations périodiques des glaciers" as a natural cyclical phenomenon, the latest report states.

"Due to the human impacts on the climate system (enhanced greenhouse effect), dramatic scenarios of future developments – including complete deglaciation of entire mountain ranges – must be taken into consideration," it emphasizes.

The report says, "Such scenarios may lead far beyond the range of historical/holocene variability and most likely introduce processes without precedence in the history of the Earth."

The scientific opinion on climate change, as expressed by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and endorsed by the national science academies of the G8 nations, is that the average global temperature has risen 0.6 ± 0.2°C since the late 19th century, and that "most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities."

Greenhouse gases emitted by the combustion of coal, oil and gas form a atmospheric blanket, trapping the Sun's heat close to the planet and raising the surface temperature.

(for my take on the most important climate change issues have a look at climate change action
at http://climatechangeaction.blogspot.com)

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Extent of Climate Change So Far

Oh well, there goes the permafrost, and the sea ice for polar bears, and the frozen ground for artic trees to survive on, mark lynas has some interesting photos of the effects of this climate change, perticularly in alaska.

The whole arctic ecosystem is under threat, Polar Bears in perticular seem likely to be hit hard.

"We have seen with our own eyes that climatic warming is causing the ice to break up earlier, and that is affecting the survival of the bears," said Ian Stirling, a research scientist for the Canadian Wildlife Service


(for my take on the most important climate change issues have a look at climate change action
at http://climatechangeaction.blogspot.com)

Larsen B ice shelf, gone after 10 thousand years!

(Above: The shattred and fragmented Larsen B ice shelf shortly after its collapse)

THE Larsen B iceshelf, which collapsed three years ago, had remained intact for at least the last ten thousand years. Eugene Domack and colleagues of Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, studied six sediment cores taken from the antartic peninsula near Larsen B just before it collapsed. The cores are a record of conditions from the last 11,500 years. They show Larsen B was intact for the entire period. "The recent climate warming seen in the Antartic peninsula is larger than any natural episode for the last ten thousand years," says Domack, who blames it for the collapse. "other ice shelves could go if the warming persists and passes theire stability limit", adds Eric Wolff at the British Antartic Survey in Cambridge.

New Scientist, 6 August 2005

(for my take on the most important climate change issues have a look at climate change action
at http://climatechangeaction.blogspot.com)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The world carbon cycle is delicate.

Fossil Fuel Emissions Can Overwhelm Planet's Ability To Absorb Carbon

BERKELEY -- One in a new generation of computer climate models that include the effects of Earth's carbon cycle indicates there are limits to the planet's ability to absorb increased emissions of carbon dioxide.

If current production of carbon from fossil fuels continues unabated, by the end of the century the land and oceans will be less able to take up carbon than they are today, the model indicates.

"If we maintain our current course of fossil fuel emissions or accelerate our emissions, the land and oceans will not be able to slow the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the way they're doing now," said Inez Y. Fung at the University of California, Berkeley, who is director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center, co-director of the new Berkeley Institute of the Environment, and professor of earth and planetary science and of environmental science, policy and management. "It's all about rates. If the rate of fossil fuel emissions is too high, the carbon storage capacity of the land and oceans decreases and climate warming accelerates."

Fung is lead author of a paper describing the climate model results that appears this week in the Early Online Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Fung was a member of the National Academy of Sciences panel on global climate change that issued a major report for President Bush in 2001 claiming, for the first time, that global warming exists and that humans are contributing to it.

Currently, the land and oceans absorb about half of the carbon dioxide produced by human activity, most of it resulting from the burning of fossil fuels, Fung said. Some scientists have suggested that the land and oceans will continue to absorb more and more CO2 as fossil fuel emissions increase, making plants flourish and the oceans bloom.

Fung's computer model, however, indicates that the "breathing biosphere" can absorb carbon only so fast. Beyond a certain point, the planet will not be able to keep up with carbon dioxide emissions.

"The reason is very simple," Fung said. "Plants are happy growing at a certain rate, and though they can accelerate to a certain extent with more CO2, the rate is limited by metabolic reactions in the plant, by water and nutrient availability, et cetera."

In addition, increasing temperatures and drought frequencies lower plant uptake of CO2 as plants breathe in less to conserve water. A second study she and colleagues published last week in PNAS report evidence for this temperature and drought effect. Since 1982, a greening of the Northern Hemisphere has occurred each spring and summer (except for 1992 and 1993, after Mt. Pinatubo erupted) as the climate has steadily warmed. As a result, there is a small but steady decline in atmospheric CO2 each growing season due to increasing photosynthesis at temperate latitudes in the northern hemisphere. When Fung and a team of her former and current post-doctoral fellows took a detailed look at this phenomenon, however, they discovered that since 1994, enhanced uptake of CO2 as photosynthesis revved up in the warm wet springs was offset by decreasing CO2 uptake during summers, which became increasingly hot and dry - an unsuspected browning in the past 10 years.

"This negative effect of hot, dry summers completely wiped out the benefits of warm, wet springs," Fung said. "A warming climate does not necessarily lead to higher CO2 growing-season uptake, even in temperate areas such as North America."

In the climate modeling study published this week in PNAS, she and colleagues found that similar water stress could slow the uptake of CO2 by terrestrial vegetation, and at some point, the rate of fossil fuel CO2 emissions will outstrip the ability of the vegetation to keep up, leading to a rise in atmospheric CO2, increased greenhouse temperatures and increased frequency of droughts. An amplifying loop leads to ever higher temperatures, more droughts and higher CO2 levels.

The oceans exhibit a similar trend, Fung said, though less pronounced. There, mixing by turbulence in the ocean is essential for moving CO2 down into the deep ocean, away from the top 100 meters of the ocean, where carbon absorption from the atmosphere takes place. With increased temperatures, the ocean stratifies more, mixing becomes harder, and CO2 accumulates in the surface ocean instead of in the deep ocean. This accumulation creates a back pressure, lowering CO2 absorption.

In all, business as usual would lead to a 1.4 degree Celsius, or 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit, rise in global temperatures by the year 2050. This estimate is at the low range of projected increases for the 21st century, Fung said, though overall, the model is in line with others predicting large ecosystem changes, especially in the tropics.

With voluntary controls that flatten fossil fuel CO2 emission rates by the end of the century, the land and oceans could keep up with CO2 levels and continue to absorb at their current rate, the model indicates.

"This is not a prediction, but a guideline or indication of what could happen," Fung said. "Climate prediction is a work in progress, but this model tells us that, given the increases in greenhouse gases, the Earth will warm up; and given warming, hot places are likely to be drier, and the land and oceans are going to take in carbon at a slower rate; and therefore, we will see an amplification or acceleration of global warming."

"The Earth is entering a climate space we've never seen before, so we can't predict exactly what will happen," she added. "We don't know where the threshold is. A two degree increase in global temperatures may not sound like much, but if we're on the threshold, it could make a big difference."

Fung and colleagues have worked for several decades to produce a model of the Earth's carbon cycle that includes not only details of how vegetation takes up and releases carbon, but also details of decomposition by microbes in the soil, the carbon chemistry of oceans and lakes, the influence of rain and clouds, and many other sources and sinks for carbon. The model takes into account thousands of details, ranging from carbon uptake by leaves, stems and roots to the different ways that forest litter decomposes, day-night shifts in plant respiration, the salinity of oceans and seas, and effects of temperature, rainfall, cloud cover and wind speed on all these interactions.

"This is a very rough schematic of the life cycle of the ecosystem," she said.

Five years ago, she set out with colleagues Scott C. Doney of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, Keith Lindsay of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., and Jasmin John of UC Berkeley to integrate the carbon cycle model into one of the standard climate models in use today - NCAR's Community Climate System Model (CCSM). All of today's climate models are able to incorporate the climate effects of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but only with concentrations of CO2 specified by the modelers. Fung's model does not specify atmospheric CO2 levels, but rather predicts the levels, given fossil fuel emissions. The researchers used observations of the past two centuries to make sure that their model is "reasonable," and then used the model to project what will happen in the next 100 years, with the help of supercomputers at NCAR and the National Energy Research Scientific Computer Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).

The climate model coupled with the carbon cycle has been her goal for decades, as she tried to convince climate modelers that "whether plants are happy or not happy has an influence on climate projections. To include interactive biogeochemistry in climate models, which up to now embrace primarily physics and dynamics, is new."

She admits, however, that much work remains to be done to improve modeling. Methane and sulfate cycles must be included, plus effects like changes in plant distribution with rising temperatures, the possible increase in fires, disease or insect pests, and even the effects of dust in the oceans.

"We have created a blueprint, in terms of a climate modeling framework, that will allow us to go beyond the physical climate models to more sophisticated models," she said. "Then, hopefully, we can understand what is going on now and what could happen. This understanding could guide our choices for the future."

The studies were supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, LBNL and the Ocean and Climate Change Institute of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Her colleagues on the paper looking at spring and summer CO2 uptake in northern climes were A. Angert, S. Biraud, C. Bonfils, C. C. Henning and W. Buermann of the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center; and J. Pinzon and C. J. Tucker of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

(for my take on the most important climate change issues have a look at climate change action
at http://climatechangeaction.blogspot.com)

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