31 August 2012

30 August 2012

CEED earns platinum energy certification

The center gets highest marks in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


The Center for Energy Efficient Design (CEED) for Franklin County schools has been awarded a platinum energy certification.

The certification was for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council.
"This is the early endorsement we were going for," said Dr. Kevin Bezy, principal of the Gereau Center. "This is the highest LEED certification available."
Adam Cohen, a certified Passivhaus consultant, is the architect who designed and built the CEED project. Cohen received notification on Aug. 17 from the council that his project had achieved platinum LEED certification.
"Adam Cohen designed the building and submitted the reports. About three months ago, I knew we had gold, but we were just waiting on the confirmation," Bezy said.
LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, locations and linkages, awareness and education, innovation in design and regional priority.
"We are pretty pleased and excited," said Bezy. "I know of no other LEED certified building in Franklin County. And I am sure there is only one building in the county (CEED) that is platinum certified."
Participation in LEED gives building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings' performance.
There are environmental and financial benefits to earning LEED certification, according to the U.S. Green Building Council's website. LEED-certified buildings are designed to lower operating costs and increase asset value, reduce waste sent to landfills, conserve energy and water, be healthier and safer for occupants, reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and qualify for tax rebates, zoning allowances and other incentives.
An organization which participates in the voluntary and technically rigorous LEED process demonstrates leadership, innovation, environmental stewardship and social responsibility.
For more information on LEED and what it measures, visit the U.S. Green Building Council's website at www.usgbc.org.


29 August 2012

28 August 2012

Where;s the Jobs?

27 August 2012


26 August 2012

No Comment

25 August 2012


24 August 2012

23 August 2012


22 August 2012


21 August 2012


20 August 2012

No Comment

19 August 2012

Do we really need to repeat history?

"It also gives us a very special, secret pleasure to see how unaware the people around us are of what is really happening to them."

-Adolf Hitler

18 August 2012

No Comment

17 August 2012

Rising Temperature Raising Food Prices

Lester R. Brown

Over the last two months, the price of corn has been climbing. On July 19th, it exceeded $8 per bushel for the first time, taking the world into a new food price terrain. With heat and drought still smothering the Corn Belt, we may well see more all-time highs in coming weeks as the extent of crop damage becomes clearer.

This is not the way it was supposed to be. This spring farmers planted a record 96 million acres of corn. An early spring got the crop off to a great start, leading the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to project the largest corn harvest in history.

On June 12th, the USDA projected the U.S. harvest would hit a record 376 million tons. But the drought conditions that had initially been confined to the country’s southwest began to spread and intensify. In its next monthly report on July 11th, the USDA reduced its projection to 329 million tons of corn, down by 12 percent or 47 million tons. This was a huge drop in only one month. Yet in the end the actual decline may be closer to 30 percent, or roughly 100 million tons—double the USDA estimated drop. (See data.)

Because the USDA is overestimating the harvest, it is underestimating the food price rise in the months ahead. Even as corn prices are setting all-time highs, so too are soybean prices, putting still more upward pressure on food prices.

There are several reasons for the large reduction in the harvest estimate. One is record high temperatures. Nationwide, the first half of this year was the hottest on record. Thousands of record daily temperature highs were set locally. In St. Louis, Missouri, which is in the southern part of the U.S. Corn Belt, in late June and early July there were 10 consecutive days with temperatures of 100–108 degrees.

Timing and distribution of rainfall also helped determine the corn crop’s destiny. The summer of 2012 was one of below normal rainfall in the Corn Belt, especially the central and eastern parts. The combination of high temperature and low rainfall led to the rapid spread of drought. During May and early June, the drought was concentrated in the southwestern United States. But the dryness in the Southwest kept expanding into the Midwest and the Upper Great Plains until, by the end of July, drought covered 63 percent of the country—the most extensive in half a century. (See map.)

When the thermometer rises above the norm, plants suffer. As a rule, as the temperature rises to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, photosynthesis increases. From 68 to 95 degrees it remains steady. Beyond this it declines fast. At 104 degrees, photosynthesis ceases entirely. At such elevated temperatures, plants go into thermal shock.

Intense heat also disrupts pollination. Corn is particularly vulnerable because of its complex pollination system. The tassel at the top of a corn plant releases pollen, which must fall on each strand of silk coming out of the ear of corn and travel to the kernel site, where fertilization occurs. If it is too hot, the silk will turn brown and dry out, leaving the pollen with no chance of reaching its destination.

This year’s drought has taken a crop that started out nearly as good as it gets to one where the USDA rates only 23 percent of the crop to be in “good” to “excellent” condition. The last time the crop deteriorated so badly was in 1988, when heat and drought combined to shrink the harvest by 39 percent.

What happens to the U.S. corn crop, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of the global harvest, concerns the entire world. Of the big three grains—corn, wheat, and rice—the corn harvest is now by far the largest, totaling near 900 million tons compared with less than 700 million tons for wheat and 460 million tons for rice. Wheat and rice are the world’s food staples, while corn is the feedgrain for livestock and poultry.

Although people do not eat much corn directly, a huge amount is consumed indirectly. Much of the food in the refrigerator—milk, cheese, hamburger, eggs, yogurt, and ice cream—is produced with corn. The rise in corn prices this summer will boost food prices as high-priced corn works its way through the beef, pork, poultry, and dairy production cycles.

One consequence of fast-climbing corn prices is that people will find themselves moving down the food chain. Many of the 3 billion people in the world who are currently moving up the food chain, a big chunk of them in China, may suddenly find the price of livestock and poultry products rising much faster than their incomes, forcing them to cut their meat consumption. In the months ahead, we are likely to see more people moving down the food chain than at any time in history.

When the price of one of the big three grains goes up, the prices of the other two typically follow. With wheat and rice prices now also rising, hunger will spread among the world’s poor, reducing many more people to one meal per day.

The current rise in corn prices comes at a time when grain prices are already elevated. Even before this summer, grain and soybean prices were double those of six years ago. So we are now going from high prices to even higher prices—and these will almost certainly translate into spreading food unrest.

This year’s record crop shortfall is part of an overall loss of momentum in the effort to expand food production fast enough to keep up with the record growth in demand of recent years. As a result, world carryover stocks of grain will likely fall from over 100 days of consumption 15 years ago to a precariously low 65 days of consumption for this year.

In the face of tightening world grain supplies, some exporting countries may well restrict exports, as Russia and Argentina have done in the past. This could create panic among importing countries, heightening the pressure to acquire even more land abroad on which to produce food for themselves. It is now every country for itself.

We are looking at a future of rising food prices driven by rising temperatures. Heat waves and droughts like that of 2012 in the United States are projected to become more frequent as the planet heats up. Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), a heat-trapping gas, have increased 20 percent since 1970 and are continuing to rise.

A report published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences concluded that if atmospheric CO2 climbs from the current level of 391 parts per million (ppm) to above 450 ppm, the world will face irreversible rainfall reductions in several regions. The study likened the conditions that will develop to those of the U.S. Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Already the world’s drought-afflicted area has expanded from below 20 percent of total land area a half century ago to closer to 25 percent in recent years.

In generations past, when there was an extreme weather event such as a monsoon failure in India, a severe drought in Russia, or an intense heat wave in the U.S. Corn Belt, we knew that things would shortly return to normal. But today there is no “normal” to return to. The earth’s climate is now in a constant state of flux.

With temperatures rising and with droughts expanding and intensifying, it is becoming ever more difficult to ensure future food security. Climate change is now reducing crop prospects. Restoring an acceptable balance between food supply and demand now goes beyond agriculture. Future food security may depend more on new energy and population policies than on any agricultural policy we can conceive.

16 August 2012

Just Sayin'

15 August 2012


14 August 2012

Chik Feelin Gay

13 August 2012

No Comment

12 August 2012

This makes sense to the Right Wing?

11 August 2012


10 August 2012

Truth in Politics

09 August 2012

No Comment

08 August 2012

Top Ten Things Climate Change Is Making Worse Right Now

Reposted from Think Progress

By Rebecca Leber and Ellie Sandmeyer
The onslaught of extreme weather and record temperatures this year have had an impact on people globally, directly through drought and temperature, and more indirectly impacting food prices and public transportation.
Here are 10 impacts we’re seeing right now that climate change is very likely worsening, in some cases playing a major role:
Rising Food Prices
Over half of the Continental U.S. is now facing severe drought–the worst in fifty years. As a result of extreme temperatures and little rain, corn production suffers although analysts predicted record production at the start of the year. In coming months, record-high food prices will continue to rise, affecting thousands of supermarket products. See also “Story of the Year: Warming-Driven Drought and Extreme Weather Emerge as Key Threat to Global Food Security.”
Goodbye Glaciers, Sea Ice
This week, an iceberg twice the size of Manhattan tore itself off of one of the largest glaciers in North Greenland, following another break of comparable size in 2010. Scientists say that such dramatic change is unprecedented, and report that “the Arctic had the largest sea ice loss on record for June.” [ClimateProgress]
A recent landslide on an Alaskan glacier was massive enough to register as a 3.4-magnitude earthquake, even recorded in Canada. “We are seeing an increase in rock slides in mountain areas throughout the world because of permafrost degradation,” a scientist said. [Huffington Post]
Massive Dust Storms
In addition to dangerous wildfires and drought, the current heat wave is helping to create massive dust storms in Arizona. These walls of dust and strong wind can be thousands of feet high, destroying property, setting of a chain of further environmental damage and killing an average of five people per year. [New York Times]
Toxic Algae Pollute Drinking Supply, Lakes: Spurred by warmer winters that prevent seasonal a die-off, Lake Zurich in Switzerland is seeing an increase in a toxic species of algae known as Burgandy blood algae. “Research on Lake Zurich in Switzerland reveals that Burgundy blood algae, a toxic cyanobacteria species, has become more dense in the last 40 years as warm winters prevent seasonal die-off.” [CBS News]
$1.5 Billion Hail Damage: In a striking example of current dramatically unpredictable weather patterns, some cities now experiencing record-breaking temperature highs are also dealing with the after-effects of extreme hail damage. Estimates suggest that total damage in places like Dallas, St. Louis and Norfolk, Nebraska could exceed $1.5 billion. [Inside Climate News]
Wildfire Causes $450 Million Damage In Colorado
States like Colorado and New Mexico have experienced their worst wildfire season on record, and the damage totaled an estimated $450 million in Colorado alone. However, there are additional costs of the fire. “Water quality, for example, is being compromised up to 100 miles from burn sites,” and air quality has been damaged, even indoors. [Washington Post]
Greater Terrors For Mountain Climbers: “Sharper seasonal variations of ice and snow and temperature are being repeated all across the world from the Himalayas to the Andes, which scientists say are driven by a higher level of energy in the atmosphere from global warming.” Veteran climbers “say today’s conditions are combining to create a volatile highball of risk.” [NY Times]
More Drilling In The Arctic, Taxpayers Pay For Risks: Ironically, oil companies are capitalizing on ice melt in the Arctic caused by global warming. “Royal Dutch Shell has spent $4.5 billion since 2005 preparing to explore for oil off Alaska’s north coast in the Arctic. U.S. taxpayers may end up paying almost as much to supervise future operations in the region.” [Bloomberg]
Extreme temperatures stress the power grid, and Con Edison recently took action to lower power voltage, known as a “brown out” in NYC, to prevent mass black outs. Of course, millions suffered from blackouts during brutal heat after a rare, heat-fueled derecho impacted the Washington area. [Reuters]

07 August 2012

The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic

Reposted from NYT By RICHARD A. MULLER CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause. My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases. These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming. In its 2007 report, the I.P.C.C. concluded only that most of the warming of the prior 50 years could be attributed to humans. It was possible, according to the I.P.C.C. consensus statement, that the warming before 1956 could be because of changes in solar activity, and that even a substantial part of the more recent warming could be natural. Our Berkeley Earth approach used sophisticated statistical methods developed largely by our lead scientist, Robert Rohde, which allowed us to determine earth land temperature much further back in time. We carefully studied issues raised by skeptics: biases from urban heating (we duplicated our results using rural data alone), from data selection (prior groups selected fewer than 20 percent of the available temperature stations; we used virtually 100 percent), from poor station quality (we separately analyzed good stations and poor ones) and from human intervention and data adjustment (our work is completely automated and hands-off). In our papers we demonstrate that none of these potentially troublesome effects unduly biased our conclusions. The historic temperature pattern we observed has abrupt dips that match the emissions of known explosive volcanic eruptions; the particulates from such events reflect sunlight, make for beautiful sunsets and cool the earth’s surface for a few years. There are small, rapid variations attributable to El NiƱo and other ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream; because of such oscillations, the “flattening” of the recent temperature rise that some people claim is not, in our view, statistically significant. What has caused the gradual but systematic rise of two and a half degrees? We tried fitting the shape to simple math functions (exponentials, polynomials), to solar activity and even to rising functions like world population. By far the best match was to the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide, measured from atmospheric samples and air trapped in polar ice. Just as important, our record is long enough that we could search for the fingerprint of solar variability, based on the historical record of sunspots. That fingerprint is absent. Although the I.P.C.C. allowed for the possibility that variations in sunlight could have ended the “Little Ice Age,” a period of cooling from the 14th century to about 1850, our data argues strongly that the temperature rise of the past 250 years cannot be attributed to solar changes. This conclusion is, in retrospect, not too surprising; we’ve learned from satellite measurements that solar activity changes the brightness of the sun very little. How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does. Adding methane, a second greenhouse gas, to our analysis doesn’t change the results. Moreover, our analysis does not depend on large, complex global climate models, the huge computer programs that are notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters. Our result is based simply on the close agreement between the shape of the observed temperature rise and the known greenhouse gas increase. It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed. Hurricane Katrina cannot be attributed to global warming. The number of hurricanes hitting the United States has been going down, not up; likewise for intense tornadoes. Polar bears aren’t dying from receding ice, and the Himalayan glaciers aren’t going to melt by 2035. And it’s possible that we are currently no warmer than we were a thousand years ago, during the “Medieval Warm Period” or “Medieval Optimum,” an interval of warm conditions known from historical records and indirect evidence like tree rings. And the recent warm spell in the United States happens to be more than offset by cooling elsewhere in the world, so its link to “global” warming is weaker than tenuous. The careful analysis by our team is laid out in five scientific papers now online at BerkeleyEarth.org. That site also shows our chart of temperature from 1753 to the present, with its clear fingerprint of volcanoes and carbon dioxide, but containing no component that matches solar activity. Four of our papers have undergone extensive scrutiny by the scientific community, and the newest, a paper with the analysis of the human component, is now posted, along with the data and computer programs used. Such transparency is the heart of the scientific method; if you find our conclusions implausible, tell us of any errors of data or analysis. What about the future? As carbon dioxide emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise. I expect the rate of warming to proceed at a steady pace, about one and a half degrees over land in the next 50 years, less if the oceans are included. But if China continues its rapid economic growth (it has averaged 10 percent per year over the last 20 years) and its vast use of coal (it typically adds one new gigawatt per month), then that same warming could take place in less than 20 years. Science is that narrow realm of knowledge that, in principle, is universally accepted. I embarked on this analysis to answer questions that, to my mind, had not been answered. I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes. Then comes the difficult part: agreeing across the political and diplomatic spectrum about what can and should be done.

06 August 2012

Shocking Forecast: A Century-Long Megadrought

by Cathryn Wellner

Last weekend we were sitting on our balcony, enjoying appetizers with friends, when the sky darkened and a wind fiercer than any we have experienced in the interior of British Columbia sent us inside. We dashed back out to rescue the flying chairs and table before they could crash through the glass doors.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada’s (IBC) new study warns Canadians “the frequency and severity of severe weather is on the rise,” and we had better prepare for it. “Telling the Weather Story” confirms the recent landslides, fires and drought are becoming the new norm.

Another study, this one published by Nature Geoscience, confirms the prediction. A team of Canadian and American scientists studied the drought of 2000 to 2004 and found it was the worst since the one that lasted from 1146 to 1151. They warn a “megadrought” could parch the planet through the entire 21st century.

Insurers have been hit hard by the impacts of catastrophic events. IBC reports insured losses internationally reached $10 billion to $50 billion a year over the past decade and exceeding $100 billion in 2011. In Canada alone insurers were on the hook for roughly $1.6 billion in 2011 and close to $1 billion annually in the previous two years. Aging infrastructure contributed to the losses, as older sewer systems are unable to handle the increased precipitation.

In our region alone, landslides, fires, floods, storms and small tornadoes have changed from rare to frequent occurrences. According to CBC News the West Kootenay area has already shelled out $2 million in emergency repairs in 2012, five times the usual tally.

IBC advises governments, communities and individual home and business owners to “make targeted decisions about how to adapt existing public and private impacts to manage the risks associated with these events.” The City of Vancouver is one municipality taking the warnings seriously. Their “Climate Change Adaptation Strategy” includes plans for such things as green transportation, green buildings, sustainable energy, and urban agriculture.

Those trying to implement adaptation plans face roadblocks and challenges. Columnist Jon Ferry of Vancouver’s Province newspaper sniped at the Vancouver plan with a dismissive, “Climate change is so yesterday’s news.”

It is indeed yesterday’s news – and tomorrow’s and next year’s. Fortunately, the ostriches are gradually getting their tails burned and are bringing their heads up long enough to feel the heat. Unfortunately, a lot of them still hold powerful positions where they continue to erect barriers to thoughtful action.

05 August 2012

Storms Threaten Ozone Layer Over U.S., Study Says

From the NYT

Strong summer thunderstorms that pump water high into the upper atmosphere pose a threat to the protective ozone layer over the United States, researchers said on Thursday, drawing one of the first links between climate change and ozone loss over populated areas.

In a study published online by the journal Science, Harvard University scientists reported that some storms send water vapor miles into the stratosphere — which is normally drier than a desert — and showed how such events could rapidly set off ozone-destroying reactions with chemicals that remain in the atmosphere from CFCs, refrigerant gases that are now banned.

The risk of ozone damage, scientists said, could increase if global warming leads to more such storms.

“It’s the union between ozone loss and climate change that is really at the heart of this,” said James G. Anderson, an atmospheric scientist and the lead author of the study.

For years, Dr. Anderson said, he and other atmospheric scientists were careful to keep the two concepts separate. “Now, they’re intimately connected,” he said.

Ozone helps shield people, animals and crops from damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun. Much of the concern about the ozone layer has focused on Antarctica, where a seasonal hole, or thinning, has been seen for two decades, and the Arctic, where a hole was observed last year. But those regions have almost no population.

A thinning of the ozone layer over the United States during summers could mean an increase in ultraviolet exposure for millions of people and a rise in the incidence of skin cancer, the researchers said.

The findings were based on sound science, Dr. Anderson and other experts said, but much more research is needed, including direct measurements in the stratosphere in areas where water vapor was present after storms.

“This problem now is of deep concern to me,” Dr. Anderson said. “I never would have suspected this.”

While there is conclusive evidence that strong warm-weather storms have sent water vapor as high as 12 miles — through a process called convective injection — and while climate scientists say one effect of global warming is an increase in the intensity and frequency of storms, it is not yet clear whether the number of such injection events will rise.

“Nobody understands why this convection can penetrate as deeply as it does,” said Dr. Anderson, who has studied the atmosphere for four decades.

Mario J. Molina, a co-recipient of a Nobel Prize for research in the 1970s that uncovered the link between CFCs and damage to the ozone layer, said the study added “one more worry to the changes that society’s making to the chemical composition of the atmosphere.” Dr. Molina, who was not involved in the work, said the concern was “significant ozone depletion at latitudes where there is a lot of population, in contrast to over the poles.”

The study, which was financed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, focused on the United States because that is where the data was collected. But the researchers pointed out that similar conditions could exist at other midlatitude regions.

Ralph J. Cicerone, an atmospheric scientist and the president of the National Academy of Sciences, who reviewed the study for Science, also called for more research. “One of the really solid parts of this paper is that they’ve taken the chemistry that we know from other atmospheric experiments and lab experiments and put that in the picture,” he said. “The thing to do is do field work now — measure moisture amounts and whether there is any impact around it.”

“The connection with future climate is the most important issue,” Dr. Cicerone said.

Large thunderstorms of the type that occur from the Rockies to the East Coast and over the Atlantic Ocean produce updrafts, as warm moist air accelerates upward and condenses, releasing more heat. In most cases, the updrafts stop at a boundary layer between the lower atmosphere and the stratosphere called the tropopause, often producing flat-topped clouds that resemble anvils. But if there is enough energy in a storm, the updraft can continue on its own momentum, punching through the tropopause and entering the stratosphere, said Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
When Dr. Anderson produced data about five years ago clearly showing these strong injections of water vapor, “I didn’t believe it at first,” Dr. Emanuel said. “But we’ve come to see that the evidence is pretty strong that we do get them.”

At the same time, he added, “we don’t really understand what determines the potential for convection in the atmosphere,” so it is difficult to say what the effect of climate change will be.

“We’re much further along on understanding how hurricanes respond to climate change than normal storms,” Dr. Emanuel said.

The use of CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, was phased out beginning in the late 1980s with the signing of an international treaty called the Montreal Protocol, but it will take decades for them to be cleansed fully from the atmosphere. It is chlorine from the CFCs that ultimately destroys ozone, upsetting what is normally a balanced system of ozone creation and decay. The chlorine has to undergo a chemical shift in the presence of sunlight that makes it more reactive, and this shift is sensitive to temperature.

Dr. Anderson and his colleagues found that a significant concentration of water vapor raises the air temperature enough in the immediate vicinity to allow the chemical shift, and the ozone-destroying process, to proceed rapidly.

“The rate of these reactions was shocking to us,” Dr. Anderson said. “It’s chemistry that was sitting there, waiting to be revealed.”

Dr. Anderson said that if climate change related to emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane led to more events in which water was injected well into the stratosphere, the effect on ozone could not be halted because the chemistry would continue. “It’s irreversible,” he said.

If CFCs had not been banned, the ozone layer would be in far worse shape than it is. But by showing that CFC-related ozone destruction can occur in conditions other than the cold ones at the poles, the study suggests that the full recovery of the ozone layer may be further off than previously considered.

“The world said, ‘Oh, we’ve controlled the source of CFCs; we can move on to something else,’ ” Dr. Anderson said. “But the destruction of ozone is far more sensitive to water vapor and temperature.”

04 August 2012

ALERT!! Greenland ice sheet melted an unprecedented area during July

'Not a Mistake': NASA in Disbelief over Area of Melting Ice

Reposted from Common Dreams
The Greenland ice sheet on July 8, left, and four days later on the right. An estimated 97% of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12.

Scientists say there has been a freak event in Greenland this month: Nearly every part of the massive ice sheet that blankets the island suddenly started melting.

The ice melted so fast that scientists at NASA first thought it was a computer error or some other malfunction.

For several days this month, Greenland's surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations, according to a statement released along with satellite images on Tuesday.

"This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?" Son Nghiem of NASA's jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena said in the release.

But after conferring with colleagues, Nghiem's disbelief turned to shock.

"I think it's fair to say that this is unprecedented," Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, told The Guardian.

On average in the summer, about half of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet naturally melts. At high elevations, most of that melt water quickly refreezes in place. Near the coast, some of the melt water is retained by the ice sheet and the rest is lost to the ocean. But this year the extent of ice melting at or near the surface jumped dramatically. According to satellite data, an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface thawed at some point in mid-July.

Researchers have not yet determined whether this extensive melt event will affect the overall volume of ice loss this summer and contribute to sea level rise.

"The Greenland ice sheet is a vast area with a varied history of change. This event, combined with other natural but uncommon phenomena, such as the large calving event last week on Petermann Glacier, are part of a complex story," said Tom Wagner, NASA's cryosphere program manager in Washington. "Satellite observations are helping us understand how events like these may relate to one another as well as to the broader climate system."

Even the area around Summit Station in central Greenland, which at 2 miles above sea level is near the highest point of the ice sheet, showed signs of melting. Such pronounced melting at Summit and across the ice sheet has not occurred since 1889, according to ice cores analyzed by Kaitlin Keegan at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather station at Summit confirmed air temperatures hovered above or within a degree of freezing for several hours July 11-12.

"Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time," says Lora Koenig, a Goddard glaciologist and a member of the research team analyzing the satellite data. "But if we continue to observe melting events like this in upcoming years, it will be worrisome."

03 August 2012

World in Serious Trouble on Food Front

Lester R. Brown

In the early spring of 2012, U.S. farmers were on their way to planting some 96 million acres in corn, the most in 75 years. A warm early spring got the crop off to a great start. Analysts were predicting the largest corn harvest on record.

The United States is the leading producer and exporter of corn, the world's feedgrain. At home, corn accounts for four-fifths of the U.S. grain harvest. Internationally, the U.S. corn crop exceeds China's rice and wheat harvests combined. Among the big three grains – corn, wheat, and rice – corn is now the leader, with production well above that of wheat and nearly double that of rice.

The corn plant is as sensitive as it is productive. Thirsty and fast-growing, it is vulnerable to both extreme heat and drought. At elevated temperatures, the corn plant, which is normally so productive, goes into thermal shock.

As spring turned into summer, the thermometer began to rise across the Corn Belt. In St. Louis, Missouri, in the southern Corn Belt, the temperature in late June and early July climbed to 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher 10 days in a row. For the past several weeks, the Corn Belt has been blanketed with dehydrating heat.

Weekly drought maps published by the University of Nebraska show the drought-stricken area spreading across more and more of the country until, by mid-July, it engulfed virtually the entire Corn Belt. Soil moisture readings in the Corn Belt are now among the lowest ever recorded.

While temperature, rainfall, and drought serve as indirect indicators of crop growing conditions, each week the U.S. Department of Agriculture releases a report on the actual state of the corn crop. This year the early reports were promising. On May 21st, 77 percent of the U.S. corn crop was rated as good to excellent. The following week the share of the crop in this category dropped to 72 percent. Over the next eight weeks, it dropped to 26 percent, one of the lowest ratings on record. The other 74 percent is rated very poor to fair. And the crop is still deteriorating.

Over a span of weeks, we have seen how the more extreme weather events that come with climate change can affect food security. Since the beginning of June, corn prices have increased by nearly one half, reaching an all-time high on July 19th.

Although the world was hoping for a good U.S. harvest to replenish dangerously low grain stocks, this is no longer in the cards. World carryover stocks of grain will fall further at the end of this crop year, making the food situation even more precarious. Food prices, already elevated, will follow the price of corn upward, quite possibly to record highs.

Not only is the current food situation deteriorating, but so is the global food system itself. We saw early signs of the unraveling in 2008 following an abrupt doubling of world grain prices. As world food prices climbed, exporting countries began restricting grain exports to keep their domestic food prices down. In response, governments of importing countries panicked. Some of them turned to buying or leasing land in other countries on which to produce food for themselves.

Welcome to the new geopolitics of food scarcity. As food supplies tighten, we are moving into a new food era, one in which it is every country for itself.

The world is in serious trouble on the food front. But there is little evidence that political leaders have yet grasped the magnitude of what is happening. The progress in reducing hunger in recent decades has been reversed. Unless we move quickly to adopt new population, energy, and water policies, the goal of eradicating hunger will remain just that.

Time is running out. The world may be much closer to an unmanageable food shortage – replete with soaring food prices, spreading food unrest, and ultimately political instability– than most people realize.

Lester R. Brown is President of Earth Policy Institute and author of Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity, due to be published in October 2012.

Copyright © 2012 Earth Policy Institute

02 August 2012

Global Warming Theory from David Roper

The highest form of science is measuring data to the highest accuracy possible. The lowest form of 
science is hypothesizing a model to explain the data. In between is “theory”. (“Laws” are subsets of
theories.) A theory is a hypothesis that has been shown to agree with the measured data to a high
degree of accuracy. No theory is perfect, in that it may only agree with most of the relevant data, but
not all relevant data. Often there are two competing theories over some period of time to explain a data
set; later data then can show that one theory is better than the other. Then the lesser one loses its
status as the theory for that particular set of data, but it still can be an adequate theory for a reduced
set of data. For example, Newton’s theory of motion works very well for human-scale motion, but has
been supplanted by Einstein’s theory of relativity for high speeds which has been supplanted by
relativistic quantum theory for very small objects such as atoms.
One often sees the phrase “It is just a theory.”, which is meant to denigrate a theory. Contrary to the
intention, that is high praise! If one wants to denigrate what is claimed to be a theory, one should state
“It is just a hypothesis.”.
The hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming began in 1896. (For a history of the discovery of global
warming see http://aip.org/history/climate/index.htm .) As with any scientific theory, one cannot give a
specific date when anthropogenic global warming became a theory; it was many years ago.
It is a well-established law of the theory of global warming that carbon dioxide is a major cause of global
warming. It is true that other gases contribute to anthropogenic global warming, but carbon dioxide is
the main cause. Some other gases cause more short-term global warming than does carbon dioxide, but
the longevity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere gives it the prize. For example, water vapor is a huge
cause of global warming, but rapid precipitation removes it from the atmosphere.  And it gets there in
the first place because of the global warming caused by carbon dioxide. Methane is a powerful cause of
global warming, but its concentration is much smaller than carbon dioxide and it reacts to become
carbon dioxide and water vapor with a half-life of about a decade. (So, not putting methane into the
atmosphere would help reduce global warming, both because of it being there and because it becomes
short-lived water vapor and long-lived carbon dioxide.)
The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is small, but it is very powerful. For example, the
Earth would be frozen if there were no carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So, the current nearly 400
parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does an astonishing job of keeping us warm.
Given that the current amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere keeps the Earth from freezing, it is
easy to realize that increasing its concentration makes the Earth warmer; it is increasing at about two
parts per million per year mostly due to humans burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees; hence,
anthropogenic global warming.

The theory of global warming is quite complex. To determine how global warming affects humans
requires complicated models incorporating the physics, chemistry and biology of the Earth. There are
many such competing models seeking to become theories. Over the last decade the many models have
converged into wide agreement on many phenomena of interest to human civilization. For example,
much sea-level rise in the future is already certain even if no more carbon dioxide were put into the
atmosphere. Also, severe storms will become the norm and increase if the amount of carbon dioxide in
the atmosphere keeps rising. Higher temperatures will put more water into the atmosphere, causing
floods in areas prone to precipitation and droughts in areas not prone to precipitation. Rapid release of
carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere will occur if certain triggers happen in the arctic
region, such as melting the permafrost.
All of the competing models predict that civilization is headed into a dire global-warming emergency
mainly due to burning fossil fuels and deforesting the land. The best way to mitigate the coming
emergency is to quit burning fossil fuels. Since the amount of fossil-fuels burning is directly related to
the Earth’s population, birth control becomes a moral action that humans could take.
L. David Roper, roperld@vt.edu

01 August 2012

From the Brilliant David Roper

About two years ago I created a web page about temperatures in Blacksburg, Roanoke and Richmond: http://www.roperld.com/science/subtropicalva.htm

The conclusions were:
·         Roanoke, Virginia in the Roanoke Valley is well on the way to being a subtropical region.

·         Blacksburg, Virginia is NOT on the verge of being a subtropical region.

·         Richmond, Virginia has been a subtropical region since about 1990.

Today I added the data for 2010 & 2011 and got the following interesting graphs:

The data plotted start at ~1960 as that is when clean-air acts started removing sulfates from the atmosphere, which had been masking (global dimming) global warming. The black lines are linear fits.

The global warming affect on Virginia temperatures is quite evident!