Monday, 18 June 2012

Climate stuff from the week 11-17/6/12

Just to remind you that there really are people out there who are trying to do something about the world's problems: The Rio+20 summit is under way
Rio Summit: The world in figures

'FOI reveals threats and abuse against climate scientist, but who are those sending the hate?'
Death threats are a real element in the lives of some climate scientists; and if you don't believe me, there's a link in this article to a whole pdf of e-mails sent to researchers at the University of East Anglia, who were the subjects of the entirely fabricated Climategate propaganda story.
"What is now clear is that climate scientists around the world are being subjected to a vicious and hate-filled campaign of intimidation. These are individuals who have chosen to devote their lives to enabling the world to understand how the planet works and the risks of artificially changing the composition of its atmosphere and oceans."

'Global warming threat seen in fertile soil of northeastern US forests'
Soil itself is actually a large carbon store. That is why the construction industry has such a large 'carbon footprint' - putting foundatinos in always involves disturbing earth, which means moving carbon from the ground to the atmosphere.
With rising temperatures, the respirative activity of the microbes that live in the soil increases, causing a shift in equilibrium of uptake and release of carbon, which means an overall release of CO2 from the soil, into the atmosphere.

'Research shows humans are primary cause of global ocean warming'
On top of all the evidence for atmospheric warming, we have another study detailing oceanic warming.
"because of the ocean's enormous heat capacity, the oceans likely account for more than 90 percent of the heat accumulated over the past 50 years as the Earth has warmed"
"we found no evidence that simultaneous warming of the upper layers of all seven seas can be explained by natural climate variability alone. Humans have played a dominant role."
In a way, these kinds of studies are redundant, because the evidence of anthopogenic global warming was concrete several decades ago; but in another way, it is reassuring that the studies are improving as regards precision. This means improved predictive power for countries/provinces/counties so that they can really know how tough their challenges are going to be.

'Measuring the 'other' greenhouse gases: New method for evaluating short-lived pollutants'
You might have noticed, on my blog, where i refer to "CO2eq", and not just "CO2". The reason for this is that, although CO2 has the greatest effect (due to its quantity), it is not the only gas to contribute to the greenhouse effect. CO2eq is a normalised value, inclusive of the contributions made by molecules that aren't actually CO2 (it means CO2 equivalent).
"Methane is a relatively potent but short-lived greenhouse gas (with a 10-year atmospheric lifetime), which traps about 70 times more heat than carbon dioxide per unit mass when averaged over a 20-year timescale. In contrast, carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas, stays in the atmosphere for about 100 years."
"Together, the short-lived climate pollutants account for about one-third of current global warming, with methane accounting for about 13 percent. Attention has increasingly turned to these short-lived pollutants recently since actions to reduce their emissions will yield a faster climate response than reducing carbon dioxide emissions."
'Methane game upgrade' from

Another story, following last week's, about Arctic greening.
Plants in the Arctic are growing taller, and the proportion of bare ground has decreased. This has happened in synchrony with measurements of local temperature increase.
The reason this is cause for concern, as mentioned last week, is because snowy tundra has a higher albedo than planty groundcover, which means less energy is reflected back into space, thereby exacerbating the warming process.

The extinction of the woolly mammoth: a lesson for us, facing climatic change
Mammoths went extinct, it is now known, as the result of a combination of factors, all of which changed the mammoths' environment in a way that they did not manage to adapt to.
Temperatures warmed, making it difficult for the furry mammals to regulate their body temperature; abundance of their favoured foods waned, increasing malnutrition; terrain turned to marshy peatland, forcing them to expend valuable energy travelling through difficult terrain; forests spread, squeezing them out of their former territories; and humans moved in, increasing predation pressure.
In the case of modern homo sapiens, warming temperatures are increasing deaths to heat stress, agriculture is increasingly being stressed by rising temperatures, desertification is reducing overall land are available to agriculture, palm oil plantations and logging are displacing forests and transferring tonnes of carbon-containing biomass to the atmosphere, and falling biodiversity is increasing our susceptibility to diseases.

'Climate change linked to unexpected 'blooms' under Arctic ice'
The thinning of Arctic ice, caused by atmospheric and marine warming, and exacerbated by decrease in albedo, has caused spring algal blooms - prompted by the receding ice, and thereby greater access to sunlight/warmth - to occur in different places, and earlier on in the year.
"The combination of thinning ice and favourable winds means that phytoplankton blooms are now occurring three weeks or a month earlier than before. However, Moore points out, the entire food chain in the region is based on these blooms happening in mid-July, not in June."
I'm not convinced that this trend will cause massive problems for the Arctic food web, however - if they can deal with year-to-year fluctuations in location and timing, surely they have the ability to adapt to the long-term trend?
It all depends on how habit is developed in populations, and how it is conferred to subsequent generations.
9% land species in North America are expected to g extinct because thy won't be able to migrate fast enough:

The world's oldest clams have been used in a way equivalent to dendrochronology, to assess changing gulf stream strength over the last 500 years.
The evidence shows that the gulf stream played a part in the Medieval Warm period and the Little Ice Age - climatic fluctuations that were isolated to europe and the east atlantic.

The world's oceans are acidifying faster than previously thought. This is bad news for any animal that depends on alkaline crystals for their skeletons

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