Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Oceans Absorb Less Carbon Dioxide as Marine Systems Change

From: Ben Block, Worldwatch Institute, More from this Affiliate

The oceans are by far the largest carbon sink in the world. Some 93 percent of carbon dioxide is stored in algae, vegetation, and coral under the sea. But oceans are not able to absorb all of the carbon dioxide

released from the burning of fossil fuels. In fact, a recent study suggests that the oceans have absorbed a smaller proportion of fossil-fuel emissions, nearly 10 percent less, since 2000.

The study, published in the current issue of Nature, is the first to quantify the perceived trend that oceans are becoming less efficient carbon sinks. The study team, led by Columbia University oceanographer Samar Khatiwala, measured the amount of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions pumped into the oceans since 1765.

Industrial carbon dioxide emissions have increased dramatically since the 1950s, and oceans have until recently been able to absorb the greater amounts of emissions. Sometime after 2000, however, the rise in emissions and the oceans' carbon uptake decoupled. Oceans continue to absorb more carbon, but the pace appears to have slowed.

The reason is based in part on simple chemistry. Increased concentrations of carbon dioxide have turned waters more acidic, especially nearer to the poles. While carbon dioxide dissolves more readily in cold, dense seawater, these waters are less capable of sequestering the gas as the ocean becomes more acidic. The study revealed that the Southern Ocean, near Antarctica, absorbs about 40 percent of the carbon in oceans.

Article continues: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6323

Global Salmon Study Shows 'Sustainable' Food May Not Be So Sustainable

From: Science Daily

Popular thinking about how to improve food systems for the better often misses the point, according to the results of a three-year global study of salmon production systems. Rather than pushing for organic or land-based production, or worrying about simple metrics such as "food miles," the study finds that the world can achieve greater environmental

benefits by focusing on improvements to key aspects of production and distribution.

For example, what farmed salmon are fed, how wild salmon are caught and the choice to buy frozen over fresh matters more than organic vs. conventional or wild vs. farmed when considering global scale environmental impacts such as climate change, ozone depletion, loss of critical habitat, and ocean acidification.

he study is the world's first comprehensive global-scale look at a major food commodity from a full life cycle perspective, and the researchers examined everything -- how salmon are caught in the wild, what they're fed when farmed, how they're transported, how they're consumed, and how all of this contributes to both environmental degradation and socioeconomic benefits.

Article continues: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091124152803.htm

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ribbon Seal Protection Sought by Activists

From: Dan Joling, AP via Discovery News

Ribbon seals should be listed as threatened or endangered because global warming is quickly melting sea ice, which the seals depend on for several months each year, two environmental groups said in a lawsuit filed against the federal government in San Francisco Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in December denied a listing under the Endangered Species Act for the seals found off the coasts of Alaska and Russia.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace sued in U.S. District Court, claiming the agency ignored the best science available on global warming.

Article continues

Climate-change technology risks 'catastrophic' outcome

Risky and unproven climate-changing technologies could have "catastrophic consequences" for the earth and humankind if used irresponsibly, according to a new report.

Yet without drastic further cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, a geoengineering solution may offer the only hope of saving the world from disastrous run-away global warming, experts warned.

A report by the Royal Society, Britain's leading academic institution, looks at the feasibility and potential dangers of technologies designed to cool the earth.

They include artificial "trees" that suck carbon dioxide out of the air, and spraying sulphate particles high in the atmosphere to scatter the sun's rays into space. The scientists concluded that, although some approaches were possible, they had not yet been properly researched and posed serious potential dangers for the planet.

Professor John Shepherd, who chaired the Royal Society geoengineering working group, said: "It is an unpalatable truth that unless we can succeed in greatly reducing carbon dioxide emissions we are heading for a very uncomfortable and challenging climate future, and geoengineering will be the only option left to limit further temperature increases."

"Our research found that some geoengineering techniques could have serious unintended and detrimental effects on many people and ecosystems — yet we are still failing to take the only action that will prevent us from having to rely on them."

Article continues: http://www.birminghampost.net/birmingham-business/birmingham-business-news/other-uk-business/2009/09/01/climate-change-technology-risks-catastrophic-outcome-report-65233-24585797/

Schwarzenegger to Obama cabinet: Water... please!

From: Peter Henderson, Reuters

Schwarzenegger to Obama cabinet: Water... please!

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has demanded that President Barack Obama's cabinet rethink federal policy that would divert water from parched farms and cities to threatened fish, his administration said on Wednesday.

California's rivers used to brim with salmon and sturgeon, but a massive system of canals diverted water that fed farms and cities, now suffering through a third year of drought.

Schwarzenegger has gained credibility as an environmentalist for his push to curb greenhouse gases but he argued that federal plans to save fish will worsen a water crisis that has cost farmers more than $700 million and caused mandatory rationing in cities of the most populous state.

Article continues

Abrupt reversal detected in Arctic cooling trend

David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor

The Arctic climate has been warmer over the past decade than during any 10-year period in 2,000 years, according to a study by an international research team that adds powerful new evidence that human-generated greenhouse gases have speeded the pace of the planet's recent warming.

The report from an international team of climate scientists concludes that climate change in the Arctic has accelerated since the Industrial Revolution, abruptly reversing a long-term worldwide cooling trend.

"The study provides a clear example of how increased greenhouse gases are now changing our climate," said Caspar Ammann of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., a co-author of the report published Thursday in the journal Science.

To deduce the Arctic's decade-by-decade climate trend over the centuries, the leading scientists in the international study analyzed sediment cores in 14 Arctic lakes that revealed the varied growth rates of long-buried plants. They also studied Arctic tree rings to determine their growth rates and ages as well as ice cores from glaciers across the Arctic that showed patterns of relative warm and cold.

Researchers at other institutions, seeking to look for patterns of climate change even further back in time, used astronomical records to study the well-known wobble of the globe as it spins on its axis. They found that the Northern Hemisphere has long been moving away from the sun's warmth. During the summer solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is now a million kilometers - about 621,000 miles - farther away from the sun than it was 2,000 years ago, according to the scientist's computer models.

The result was a global period of relative cold that would have continued, the scientists found. But about 1850, at the beginning of the Industrial Age, the planet's climate began overcoming the cooling trend, and the Arctic climate has warmed decade by decade ever since as greenhouse gas emissions have increased, the scientists say.

Stephen Schneider, a Stanford climate expert and biologist who did not participate in the study, called the seven-year study, involving seven major research institutions in three nations, "a heroic effort."

The study, he said, "shows that nature has been, unfortunately, cooperating with theory and showing us on a long-time scale of millennia that the mainstream view is once again bolstered."

It is clear again, Schneider said, that anthropogenic influences - the increasing emission of greenhouse gases into the Earth's atmosphere - are the prime cause of global warming.

For the rest of the article go to:


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vast expanses of Arctic ice melt in summer heat

From Japan Today

TUKTOYAKTUK, Northwest Territories —

The Arctic Ocean has given up tens of thousands more square kilometers of ice on Sunday in a relentless summer of melt, with scientists watching through satellite eyes for a possible record low polar ice cap.

From the barren Arctic shore of this village in Canada’s far northwest, 2,414 kilometers north of Seattle, veteran observer Eddie Gruben has seen the summer ice retreating more each decade as the world has warmed. By this weekend the ice edge lay some 128 kilometers at sea.

“Forty years ago, it was 40 miles (64 kilometers) out,” said Gruben, 89, patriarch of a local contracting business.

Global average temperatures rose 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.6 degree Celsius) in the past century, but Arctic temperatures rose twice as much or even faster, almost certainly in good part because of manmade greenhouse gases, researchers say.

In late July the mercury soared to almost 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) in this settlement of 900 Inuvialuit, the name for western Arctic Eskimos.

“The water was really warm,” Gruben said. “The kids were swimming in the ocean.”

As of Thursday, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center reported, the polar ice cap extended over 6.75 million square kilometers after having shrunk an average 106,000 square kilometers a day in July—equivalent to one Indiana or three Belgiums daily.

The rate of melt was similar to that of July 2007, the year when the ice cap dwindled to a record low minimum extent of 4.3 million square kilometers in September.

In its latest analysis, the Colorado-based NSIDC said Arctic atmospheric conditions this summer have been similar to those of the summer of 2007, including a high-pressure ridge that produced clear skies and strong melt in the Beaufort Sea, the arm of the Arctic Ocean off northern Alaska and northwestern Canada.

In July, “we saw acceleration in loss of ice,” the U.S. center’s Walt Meier told The Associated Press. In recent days the pace has slowed, making a record-breaking final minimum “less likely but still possible,” he said.

Scientists say the makeup of the frozen polar sea has shifted significantly the past few years, as thick multiyear ice has given way as the Arctic’s dominant form to thin ice that comes and goes with each winter and summer.

The past few years have “signaled a fundamental change in the character of the ice and the Arctic climate,” Meier said.

Ironically, the summer melts since 2007 appear to have allowed disintegrating but still thick multiyear ice to drift this year into the relatively narrow channels of the Northwest Passage, the east-west water route through Canada’s Arctic islands. Usually impassable channels had been relatively ice-free the past two summers.

“We need some warm temperatures with easterly or southeasterly winds to break up and move this ice to the north,” Mark Schrader, skipper of the sailboat Ocean Watch, e-mailed The Associated Press from the west entrance to the passage.

The steel-hulled sailboat, with scientists joining it at stops along the way, is on a 40,232-kilometer, foundation-financed circumnavigation of the Americas, to view and demonstrate the impact of climate change on the continents’ environments.

Environmentalists worry, for example, that the ice-dependent polar bear will struggle to survive as the Arctic cap melts. Schrader reported seeing only one bear, an animal chased from the Arctic shore of Barrow, Alaska, that “swam close to Ocean Watch on its way out to sea.”

(The rest of the article is available at: http://www.japantoday.com/category/world/view/vast-expanses-of-arctic-ice-melt-in-summer-heat)

Arctic Ocean may be polluted soup by 2070

From: Kate Ravilious, NewScientist

WITHIN 60 years the Arctic Ocean could be a stagnant, polluted soup. Without drastic cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions, the Transpolar Drift, one of the Arctic's most powerful currents and a key disperser of pollutants, is likely to disappear because of global warming.

The Transpolar Drift is a cold surface current that travels right across the Arctic Ocean from central Siberia to Greenland, and eventually out into the Atlantic. It was first discovered in 1893 by the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who tried unsuccessfully to use the current to sail to the North Pole. Together with the Beaufort Gyre, the Transpolar Drift keeps Arctic waters well mixed and ensures that pollution never lingers there for long.

To better understand the dispersal of pollution in the Arctic Ocean, Ola Johannessen, director of the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center in Bergen, Norway, and his colleagues studied the spread of radioactive substances such as strontium-90 and caesium-137 from nuclear testing, bomb factories and nuclear power-plant accidents. Measurements taken between 1948 and 1999 were plugged into a high-resolution ocean circulation model and combined with a climate model to predict Arctic Ocean circulation until 2080.

Article continues

Flying frogs and the world's oldest mushroom: a decade of Himalayan discovery

From: Felicity Carus, The Guardian UK

A pretty ultramarine blue flower which changes colour in response to temperature, a flying frog and the world's oldest mushroom preserved in amber are among the 350 new species discovered in the Eastern Himalayas over the past 10 years. But experts warn the new discoveries are under pressure from demand for land and climate change.

A report published today by the WWF, The Eastern Himalayas — Where Worlds Collide, lists 242 new types of plants, 16 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 14 fish, two birds and two mammals and 61 new invertebrates. The cache, quality and diversity of species newly discovered between 1998 and 2008 make the mountainous region one of the world's most important biological hotspots.

The WWF is asking the governments of Bhutan, India and Nepal to commit to cooperate on conservation efforts in the geographic region that transcends the borders of the three countries to protect the landscape and the livelihoods of people living in the Eastern Himalayas.

Population growth, deforestation, overgrazing, poaching, the wildlife trade, mining, pollution, and hydropower development have all contributed to the pressures on the fragile ecosystems in the region, the report says. Only 25% of the original habitats in the region remain intact and 163 species that live in the Eastern Himalayas are considered globally threatened.

Article continues

Saturday, August 8, 2009

More wildfire, more bad air

From: Bettina Boxall, LA Times

Harvard University scientists are predicting some forms of air pollution could increase significantly across the West as more of the region's wildlands burn as a result of rising temperatures.

Smoke from wildfires contains two main kinds of carbon particles: black soot, or elemental carbon, and lighter-colored particles, called organic carbon aerosols, which are a mix of chemicals.

"In large quantities, downwind of fires, organic carbon aerosols are hazardous," said senior research fellow Jennifer Logan, who led a study examining rising wildfire rates and the impact on air quality. "The particles irritate lung tissue and the chemicals they carry are toxic. But even at low concentrations, these aerosols may be dangerous. We don't know. There is no known threshold where damage begins."

Article continues

Can national parks be saved from global warming?

From: Margot Roosevelt, LA Times

The federal government must take decisive action to avoid "a potentially catastrophic loss of animal and plant life," in the national parks, according to a new report that details the effect of global warming on the country's most treasured public lands.

The 53-page report from the National Parks Conservation Assn., a Washington-based advocacy group, contains a litany of concerns related to climate change in the parks, from the bleaching of coral reefs in Florida to the disappearance of high-altitude ponds that nurture yellow-legged frogs in California.

The group, which has offices in California and 10 other states, called on the National Park Service to come up with a detailed plan and funding to adapt to temperature-related ecosystem changes.

"Right now, no national plan exists to manage wildlife throughout their habitat, which often is a patchwork of lands managed by multiple federal agencies, states, tribes, municipalities and private landholders," wrote Tom C. Kiernan, president of the group.

Article continues

How to Get Cancer: Move to the United States

From: Live Science

he risk of cancer for Hispanics living in Florida is 40 percent higher than for those who live in their native countries, a puzzling new study finds.

The finding holds even after researchers corrected for the increase detection rates in the United States. And access to health care

did not make things better.

"This suggests that changes in their environment and lifestyles make them more prone to develop cancer," said Dr. Paulo S. Pinheiro, a researcher in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Cancers of the colon and rectum among Cubans and Mexicans who moved to the United States was more than double that in Cuba and Mexico. Lung cancer among Mexican and Puerto Rican women living in Florida was also double the rates in their countries of origin.

Article continues


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