Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Destroying the Living Planet - 04/20/2015

Making the Mainstream? Even CNN is asking the question

Although most of us worry about other things, climate scientists have become increasingly worried about the survival of civilization. For example, Lonnie Thompson, who received the U.S. National Medal of Science in 2010, said that virtually all climatologists "are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization."

Near California’s Success Lake, more than 1,000 water wells have failed. Farmers are spending $750,000 to drill 1,800 feet down to keep fields from going fallow. Makeshift showers have sprouted near the church parking lot.

The conditions are like a third-world country,” said Andrew Lockman, a manager at the Office of Emergency Services in Tulare County, in the heart of the state’s agricultural Central Valley about 175 miles (282 kilometers) north of Los Angeles.

As California enters the fourth year of a record drought, its residents and $43 billion agriculture industry have drawn groundwater so low that it’s beyond the reach of existing wells. That’s left thousands with dry taps and pushed farmers to dig deeper as Governor Jerry Brown, a 77-year-old Democrat, orders the first mandatory water rationing in state history.

Fukushima's Harsh Warning by Chris Busy 2015

Vol. 118, No. 16A Newspaper of General CirculationApril 20, 2015
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Drought takes toll on winter wheat in Kansas
Rains that swept through parts of arid Kansas recently missed vast stretches of parched winter wheat crops in the western part of the state.
MDA Weather Services, a Maryland-based commodity risk firm, is forecasting the 2015 winter wheat crop will come in at 292 million bushels in Kansas and 1.5 billion bushels in the United States. If that prediction holds, Kansas would be on track for “a little better” wheat harvest than last year’s drought-plagued crop – but not by much, said Don Keeney, agricultural meteorologist for MDA Weather Services.
A year ago, Kansas farmers hauled in 246.4 million bushels, far short of the 328 million bushels the state has averaged in the past decade.
Already the tell-tale blue hue of the winter wheat across the parched field signals a crop in distress across much of western Kansas. A closer look reveals rolled up leaves on stunted plants, another sign the plants are struggling.
“We just need rain so bad it is not even funny,” said Vance Ehmke, who grows mostly wheat on some 4,700 acres near Healy in west-central Kansas.
On April 13, the National Agricultural Statistic Service rated 28 percent of the wheat in Kansas in poor to very poor condition. About 44 percent was reported as fair, followed by 26 percent in good and 2 percent in excellent condition.
In northwest Kansas, farmers are dealing not only with drought, but also with freeze damage. Unseasonably warm weather early in the growing season did not give the wheat crop a chance to gradually harden off for winter before an arctic blast hit that area in mid-November.
“Almost every field experienced some level of winter injury. I wouldn’t call it winterkill,” said Lucas Haag, northwest area agronomist for Kansas State University.
The extent of the freeze damage is sporadic, but the top end potential yields of wheat in northwest Kansas has been knocked out, he said.
“We’ve got fields that are gone – dead, dead gone – and next to it (a field) might look decent,” Haag said. “It is very patchy.” –AP  
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Since the Cambrian Explosion, ecosystems have suffered repeated mass extinctions, with the 'Big 5' crises being the most prominent. Twenty years ago, a sixth major extinction was recognized in the Middle Permian (262 million years ago) of China, when paleontologists teased apart losses from the 'Great Dying' at the end of the period. Until now, this Capitanian extinction was known only from equatorial settings, and its status as a global crisis was controversial.

Jet Stream over Australia - forecast for April 24, 2015.

Record Warmth in Antarctica as South East Coast Shivers. Have a look at this wavy jetstream down south! Antarctic Incursion of Airmass combined with East Coast Low!‪#‎extremeweather‬ ‪#‎climatechange‬

on Totten Glacier in Antarctica

The Chevron Tapes - Covering Up Amazon Contamination

Ordered to pay $9.5 billion to clean up their contamination, Chevron instead fled the country and sued the communities in the U.S. for extortion.

In 2011, Amazon Watch received a mysterious package from a Chevron whistleblower. No return address, just dozens of DVDs and a note: “I hope this is useful for you in the trial against Texaco/Chevron! Signed, a friend from Chevron.”

The tapes are internal company videos documenting Chevron’s efforts to hide contamination during the trial.

After legal efforts by Chevron to keep these from seeing the light of day, here they are for the first time.


Natural Gas

A team of experts from four leading scientific organizations are preparing to study the skies over New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah this month to find out more about a mysterious methane bloom that appeared in the area.

Researchers from the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), University of Colorado, and University of Michigan presented their plans to survey the recently discovered methane spot, considered the largest of its kind in U.S. history, and its effects on local climate. The presentation was held at the San Juan College in Farmington, New Mexico.
The methane bloom centers on the Colorado-New Mexico border between the La Plata and San Juan counties. The area affected by the methane spot is collectively known as the Four Corners.

The City Without Water

Holy shit! Just when I think I've completed this. I find yet more stories to include in this compilation.

Well out of the Mainstream


Millions of fish are suddenly dying all over the planet.  In fact, there have been dozens of mass fish death eventsreported in the past month alone.  So why is this happening?  Why are fish dying in unprecedented numbers all over the world?  

When more than six tons of fish died in Marina Del Rayover the weekend, it made headlines all over the United States.  But the truth is that what just happened off the southern California coast is just the tip of the iceberg.  In 2014, mass fish die-offs have pretty much become a daily event globally.  Individually, each event could perhaps be dismissed as an anomaly, but as you will see below when they are all put together into one list it truly is rather stunning.  So is there a reason why so many fish are dying?  Is there something that connects these mass fish death events?  Has something about our environment changed?  The following are just a few examples of the mass fish death reports that have been coming in day after day from all over the globe…

Amazon rainforest
Humans are ‘eating away at our own life support systems’ at a rate unseen in the past 10,000 years, two new research papers say

The parks agency is caught in the middle and is attempting to devise a plan that will balance public resources with the needs of 24 dairy and beef commercial operations, numbering close to 6,000 animals, that occupy nearly a quarter of the seashore lands...... “We’re committed to the wildlife, but we’re also committed to agriculture,” said Press. “These aren’t show farms. They’re functioning businesses. Every blade of grass counts, especially for the six organic dairies, which have to purchase expensive feed when the grazing runs short.”

Mangroves are still be cleared for aquaculture expansion. Since 1989, 6600 hectares of Tanjung Panjang Nature Reserve’s original 13,300 ha of mangroves have been converted.

More postiive feedbacks
Tiny marine plants could amplify Arctic warming by 20%, new study finds

20 April, 2015

Temperatures in the Arctic are rising faster than the rest of the world. Now, new research suggests microscopic algae could speed up warming even further.

These miniscule floating plants, which do everything from storing carbon to supporting the ocean food web, could drive faster sea ice melt as the Earth heats up, the lead author tells Carbon Brie.

Microalgae are already showing signs of adapting to warmer oceans, says a second study. But this is no guarantee they'll be able to cope with future temperature increases, the researchers say.

Foundation for life

Microalgae, or phytoplankton, are tiny plants that float in the upper part of the ocean. Just like plants on land, they photosynthesise - using sunlight and carbon dioxide to generate energy for growth. In this way they take carbon dioxide out of atmosphere and help to buffer the impact of emissions from human activities.

The by-product of photosynthesis is oxygen, and microalgae are responsible for producing around half of the oxygen in the atmosphere. Microalgae are also the foundation of the food web, meaning they're ultimately the reason there's any life in the oceans at all.

As algae serve such an important purpose, scientists are trying to work out how their abundance and distribution could change in the future as the Earth warms.

Positive feedback

Temperatures in the Arctic are increasing around twice as fast as the global average. The intense warming, known as  Arctic amplification, is largely caused by diminishing sea ice. Energy from the sun that would have been reflected away by sea ice is instead absorbed by the ocean.

Previous research has shown that shrinking sea ice has given a boost to algae abundance. But there's a downside to this accelerated growth. A new study, published in  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests the increase in algae could intensify Arctic warming, and sea ice melt, in the future.

So how could algal blooms intensify sea ice decline? As the Arctic warms up and the sea ice melts, more sunlight can penetrate into the ocean surface, triggering more growth in the algae.

With more microalgae floating around in the surface waters of the ocean, they absorb an increasing amount of the sun's energy, which causes the water to warm up. A warmer ocean means more sea ice melts, boosting algal growth even further, and creating a positive feedback loop.

Ecosystem model

The researchers looked at how this feedback loop could play out in a changing climate. They linked their marine ecosystem model to a climate model and ran simulations where carbon dioxide levels increase by 1% per year until the total amount in the atmosphere is twice what it was in 1990.

You can see the results in the maps below. These show the difference in Arctic temperature and sea ice between model runs with and without the added impacts of microalgae.

Park Et Al (2015) Fig2
Projections of Arctic changes under a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide: A) annual average temperature, B) sea ice concentration, C) number of ice-free days, and D) concentration of chlorophyll. Source: Park et al. (2015).

The top-left map shows the Arctic could be an average of about 0.7C warmer at the point of carbon dioxide doubling because of the additional microalgae - that's about 20% more than without it. The biggest warming changes are projected for the Kara Sea and Chukchi Seas in the Arctic, which is consistent with what scientists have seen happening recently, the paper says.

The models don't project the amount of microalgae directly, but instead estimate changes in chlorophyll, the pigment that gives algae its green colour. The biggest boost to algal growth is in spring (shown in the bottom-right map), when sea ice begins its seasonal melting cycle.

The extra warming has implications for Arctic sea ice extent, with further reductions of up to 10% (top-right map), and as many as 50 extra days ice-free each year for parts of the Arctic (bottom-left map).

Dr Jong-Yeon Park, lead author and researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, tells Carbon Brie:

"Based on our model experiments, the geophysical impact of Arctic phytoplankton may accelerate decline of future Arctic sea ice."

While microalgae could amplify warming in the Arctic, a separate study, published in the same journal, suggests they may already be adapting to climate change elsewhere.

Researchers used 15-years of microalgae data from the Carbon Retention In A Colored Ocean (CARIACO ) project, which has been collecting samples of algae off the coast of Venezuela since 1995.

Prof Andrew Irwin, lead author and associate professor at Mount Allison University in Canada, explains to Carbon Brief why algae can evolve this quickly:
"Phytoplankton are likely to adapt because of two factors: their short generation times - a few days - and their large population sizes which sustain a large amount of genetic diversity."

Ecosystem models tend to assume that algae won't change or adapt to warming conditions, says Irwin. But their research suggests scientists need to re-think how they make projections of how algae will respond to climate change over the next 50 to 100 years, he says.

But that's not to say microalgae will definitely be fine as the oceans continue to warm, the paper concludes. Scientists still don't how much algae will be able to adapt, so it's not possible to say just yet how microalgae will be able to cope with the changes projected for the rest of this century.

Park, J-Y et al. (2015) Amplified Arctic warming by phytoplankton under greenhouse warming, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi:10.1073/pnas.1414752112

Irwin, A.J. et al (2015) Phytoplankton adapt to changing ocean environments, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi:10.1073/pnas.1421475112

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