Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Dying Earth - 07/12/2015

The Wettest Place in North America Is Burning

9 July, 2015

Vancouver Island is home to the wettest place in North America—and right now it's on fire.

Drought has plunged the the Port Alberni-Clayoquot Region, part of Canada’s only rainforest, into one of the worst dry seasons on record. Forest fires are spreading quickly through sun-scorched woods that, in the past, have received almost seven metres—or 22 feet—of precipitation per year.

The fire, which has been burning since last Saturday on Dog Mountain near Sproat Lake, has reached over 245 hectares and is still spreading. The region is also home to Henderson Lake; just 50 kilometres south of the blaze, it is, on average, North America's wettest place.

So far 35 firefighters and four helicopters have been deployed to help stop the fire, which British Columbia Wildfire Service suspect was human caused.

What we're experiencing now is the kind of future that will become the norm here within a few decades"

The region around Port Alberni receives most of its precipitation in the winter and typically goes through a dry spell in July and August. But this year, the dry season started two months early, leaving the area in the middle of a drought with half the summer left to go.

Those conditions are perfect for large forest fires.

We have a lot of fuel to burn because these forests are big and old. Some places haven’t seen fire in in over 150 years,” said Richard Hebda, curator of botany and geology at the Royal British Columbia Museum. He added that the drought-stricken forests of Vancouver Island are extra susceptible to fire due to a lack of controlled burns in recent years which usually help remove extra brush from the forest floor.

In a not-so-surprising turn of events, climate change is likely to blame. As Arctic temperatures continue to rise in the North, the Pacific coast can bank on hotter, longer, and more dangerous dry seasons becoming the new normal.

Dog Mountain near Sproat Lake, which is currently on fire. Image: British Columbia Wildfire Service

It’s got a good deal to do with the jet streams changing their behaviour,” Hebda said. He explained that, traditionally, the temperature difference between the warmer mid-latitude jet stream moving up from California and colder northern jet stream moving down from the Arctic causes the jet streams to move from West to East across the country. This pattern is the key to the normal cycles of wet and dry seasons typically enjoyed by Vancouver Island’s rainforest.

But as the Arctic warms, the temperature difference between these two jet streams is decreasing, causing them to slow down and exaggerate seasonal weather cycles, making the wet season wetter and the dry season drier.

Over the last twenty years scientists have been talking about British Columbia becoming like California, and here we are. We’re California,” Hebda sighed. In the long term, longer, drier summers could mean losing the rainforest, the heart and soul of Pacific ecotourism, forever.

What we're experiencing now is the kind of future that will become the norm here within a few decades,” said climate scientist Trevor Murdock at the University of Victoria, adding that we should “still expect extreme years on top of the new normal, and [that] those extremes will be new extremes that we haven't yet seen in recorded history.”

I certainly envisioned this to be the condition with climate change; I didn’t envision it to happen so quickly"

Over the next century, climate scientists predict that Vancouver Island’s iconic trees—such as the cedar redwoods, western hemlocks and Douglas Firs—could die off in large numbers, completely transforming the island from a rainforest ecosystem to something else entirely.

Dry zones will shift Westward and become dry rainforest. [...] The east side will probably lose its tree cover. Progressively, by the end of the century, we'll be more like the Bay area of California,” Hebda said, adding that “parts of the rainforest will no longer be rainforest.”

And while the government is sending out extra firefighters to contain fires on the island during this unprecedented dry season, little can be done to stave off the long-term effects of drought.

By analyzing 3,700 year old cedar tree rings, Hebda’s team discovered that the health of cedar populations has in the past declined quickly within a short time of being exposed to a warmer climate—and he worries we have reached this point again. Because some trees require constant groundwater to survive, long dry seasons can kill susceptible coniferous species with short roots.

I certainly envisioned this to be the condition with climate change; I didn’t envision it to happen so quickly,” Hebda said, adding that the consequences of these conditions will not only change the ecosystem on Vancouver Island, but will ultimately change the distribution of ecosystems and climate all across the country within the next century.

Its coming everywhere, no place will remain unaffected. [...] The overall temperature is changing—period,” Hebda added. “Fundamentally this is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced and we need to read the signs, as people who spend a lot of time in the bush would say.”

Expert says even if fires are contained they may not be out until it snows

The Egg fire sears a peninsula jutting out onto Lac La Ronge.

The fires burning in northern Saskatchewan could burn until the first snowfall, according to researchers.

Kerry Anderson, a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service, said the weather pattern known as El Nino, which is caused by the warming of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America, is responsible.

He expects weather conditions will settle down in Saskatchewan in the coming weeks, but warmer than normal temperatures will likely persist in B.C. and Alberta

Farmers in Thailand's rice-growing Suphan Buri province are becoming increasingly desperate for water to irrigate their parched fields as the nation, a leading producer of the staple food, suffers its worst drought in more than a decade.

The wet season is under way, but Thailand is contending with drought conditions in seven out of 67 provinces, according to the National Disaster Warning Center, and water rationing is taking place in almost a third of the country.

Farmers have been asked to delay planting their main rice crop until August.

As a result of the drought, the Thai government lowered its forecast for this year's main-crop rice output by more than 2 million tonnes, according to a report this month by the Office of Agricultural Economics.

Out of desperation, farmers in the central province of Suphan Buri, 103 km (64 miles) from Bangkok, are fighting over the Tharakam canal, a small waterway that has not previously been used for irrigation.

More whales found dead in southern Alaska waters

Scientists investigating the mysterious deaths of nine endangered fin whales spotted in late May and early June in the Gulf of Alaska report that the death toll has increased.

Decomposing carcasses of five additional whales -- one fin whale and four humpbacks -- have been reported by fishermen, pilots and survey crews, said Kate Wynne, a marine mammal specialist with the Sea Grant program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Those reports came in over the past several weeks, and all the whales appear to have died at about the same time, said Wynne, who is working with her colleagues to investigate the deaths.

Researchers at the University of B.C. say the world’s monitored seabird populations have dropped 70 per cent since the 1950s.

Michelle Paleczny, a UBC master’s student and researcher with the Sea Around Us project, says the drop indicates that marine ecosystems are not doing well.

Paleczny and co-authors of the study, published in PLOS ONE, a journal published by the Public Library of Science, compiled information on more than 500 seabird populations from around the world, representing 19 per cent of the global seabird population.

They found overall populations had declined by 69.6 per cent, equivalent to a loss of about 230 million birds in 60 years, according to a UBC news release.

Yahoo! News reports:

They require enormous amounts of water,” said Anthony Ambrose [2], a tree biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who has been studying redwoods and giant sequoias for nearly two decades. “For the big, old trees, they can use more than 2,000 liters of water per day during the summer.”

Water, however, is in increasingly short supply in the Golden State [3]. All around drought-stricken California, coast redwoods appear to be suffering. They’re shedding leaves, turning brown, and dropping undersized cones. Some of the state’s younger trees, situated in parks and residential areas hundreds of miles away from their native forests, are even dying

UC Santa Cruz team reports first direct measurement of heat flow from deep within the Earth to the bottom of the West Antarctic ice sheet

The amount of heat flowing toward the base of the West Antarctic ice sheet from geothermal sources deep within the Earth is surprisingly high, according to a new study led by UC Santa Cruz researchers. The results, published July 10 in Science Advances, provide important data for researchers trying to predict the fate of the ice sheet, which has experienced rapid melting over the past decade.

This is the rhetoric

But this is the reality

China, faced with ever-worsening pollution in its major cities—a recent report deemed Beijing "barely suitable for living"—is doing what so many industrializing nations have done before it: banishing its titanic smog spewers to poor or rural areas so everyone else can breathe easier. But China isn't just relegating its dirty coal-fired power plants to the outskirts of society; for years, it's been building 16 unprecedentedly massive, brand new "coal bases" in rural parts of the country. There, they won't stifle China's megacities; they'll churn out enough pollution to help smother the entire world.

The biggest of those bases, the Ningdong Energy and Chemical Industry Base, spans nearly 400 square miles, about the size of LA. It's already operational, and seemingly always expanding. It's operated by Shenhua, one of the biggest coal companies in the world. China hopes to uses these coal bases not just to host some of the world's largest coal-fired power plants, but to use super-energy intensive technology to convert the coal into a fuel called syngas and use it to make plastics and other materials.

University of Michigan researchers, in collaboration with NOAA, are predicting the Lake Erie algae bloom season of 2015 will be the most severe in recent years, and could set the record as the second-worst season behind the record 2011 algae bloom.

It was reported last week that Monsanto will be replacing their controversial herbicide RoundUp with another dangerous substance known as Dicamba.

In a statement released last month, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide “RoundUp”, is “probably carcinogenic.”

The report indicated studies that “sufficiently demonstrated” that this substance caused cancer in animals. According to multiple reports, Monsanto was well aware that this chemical caused cancer for decades yet still continued to sell it.

TRANSLATION: "Cimate change fight" will spur more warming

"Fighting climate change creates jobs" (and fills his pockets

Fighting climate change will provide a massive stimulus to the global economy, lift the world out of poverty and erase the lingering troubles of the Great Recession.

Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore laid out this sweeping fiscal case for battling global warming at the Climate Summit of the Americas, in an effort to refute the most common argument against driving down greenhouse

A wind turbine and electricity pylon

With the Lib Dems gone, the brake is off. New roads are to be built, fuel duty frozen and green taxes scrapped


A major new analysis on the impact melting polar ice sheets could have on sea level rise has given rise to some worrisome conclusions.

Researchers found that sea levels increased some 20 feet during three warming periods of 1.8 to 3.6°F (1 to 2°C) that took place at different interglacial periods over the past three million years. The study’s findings mean that the planet could be in for major sea level rise even if warming is kept to 2°C — a limit that the world is set to exceed without major action on climate change.

Published in the journal Science, the review compiled more than 30 years of research from scientists around the world to show that changes in the planet’s climate and sea levels are closely linked. It found that even a small amount of warming can lead to significant sea level rise.

Then why can't the mention the elephant in the room, then?

The world is suffering a surge in record-breaking rainfall because of climate change, scientists say.

Extreme rains, like those that led to flooding and a cholera outbreak that killed hundreds in Pakistan in 2010, are happening 12 percent more often globally and 56 percent more frequently in Southeast Asia than if the world wasn’t warming, according a study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

One out of 10 record-breaking rainfall events observed globally in the past 30 years can only be explained if the long-term warming is taken into account,” Dim Coumou, co-author of the report released Wednesday, said in a statement. “For the last year studied, 2010, it is even one event out of four.”

Fires burn out of control across Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Alberta, sending thick smoke across the region and into the US

Fames rise from a wildfire near La Ronge, Saskatchewan.

Wildfires were burning out of control across large swathes of western Canada on Friday, forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes.

In Saskatchewan one out-of-control blaze was more than five times the size of the province’s largest city, Saskatoon, officials said. Fires also raged in British Columbia and Alberta.

Air advisories have been issued across central and western Canada, as well as parts of the western US, due to the thick smoke over the region.

About 200 fires burned in British Columbia, fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said. About 2,300 people were fighting the blazes and a crew of about 50 people from Australia were expected to join them next week.

Data posted by the Canadian interagency forest fire centre said wildfires have burned almost 2.4m acres (1m hectares) in Saskatchewan alone so far this year.

It’s too late to stop the seas rising at least 5 metres and only fast, drastic action will avert a 20-metre rise, New Scientist calculates based on recent studies

WHATEVER we do now, the seas will rise at least 5 metres. Most of Florida and many other low-lying areas and cities around the world are doomed to go under. If that weren't bad enough, without drastic cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions – more drastic than any being discussed ahead of the critical climate meeting in Paris later this year – a rise of over 20 metres will soon be unavoidable.

" Recent studies have shown that both the Greenland ice sheet and West Antarctic Ice Sheet have seen massive increases in ice loss in just the past five years. The rates of losses far exceed even those imagined a few years ago. Furthermore, there is evidence that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has begun an irreversible process of collapse, in part because it is melting from underneath."

Reports from earlier this year

Lake Baikal contains 20% of the planets fresh water and daming it is very dangerous. I posted recently on algae blooms on the lake, this would make it worse. To turn this into a hydro damn would generate huge amounts of methane, like all dams. The extinction wish continues unabated
---Kevin Hester

Vladimir Putin has stepped into the row over Mongolia's plans to construct controversial hydroelectric power plants that could threaten Lake Baikal.

The Russian President has joined the growing consternation over potential environmental problems from the giant facilities being built on tributary rivers leading to the lake.

Campaigners, including Greenpeace, have already pleaded with the World Bank to block funding for the plants, which will see rivers dammed and water diverted.

Levels at the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake are 40cm lower than in 2013, with water shortages in many communities already and fishermen reporting a lack of fish. The crisis was blamed by many on 'excessive drainage' for an existing hydroelectric station in Irkutsk.

Lake Baikal as seen from the Kamen Chersky cliff (RIA Novosti/Ekaterina Chesnokova)

The world’s oldest and deepest body of freshwater, Lake Baikal, is turning into a swamp, Russian ecologists warn. They say that tons of liquid waste from tourist camps and water transport vehicles is being dumped into the UNESCO-protected lake.

One of the natural wonders and the pearl of Russia’s Siberia, Lake Baikal has recently been a source of alarming news, due to an increased number of alien water plants which have formed in the lake waterlogging it, ecologists said at a roundtable discussion recently held in the city of Irkutsk.

Typhoons line up across the Pacific

Wildfires are burning in several Spanish provinces, forcing evacuations, and EU authorities say there is an extreme risk of further blazes breaking out in the country as a heatwave shows no signs of abating.

In the southern region of Andalusia, emergency services said they deployed aircraft on Thursday to water-bomb a fire near the village of Lujar in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

They said flames estimated to have engulfed around 1,800 hectares led to more than 600 people being moved from their homes overnight.

Authorities in the region, where temperatures were forecast to peak at 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit) on Thursday, said other fires were burning in the provinces of Huelva and Jaen.

No deaths have been reported in the current spate of still relatively small fires, which late on Wednesday also affected five other Spanish provinces, the Agriculture Ministry said.

But a run of hot, dry days has created an extreme risk of others breaking out across swathes of southern Europe, particularly in central and southern Spain, according to the European Commission's Forest Fire Information System.

"There are many woodland areas in Andalusia and the region remains in a state of high alert," said a spokeswoman for regional authorities in Granada.

A heatwave affecting large parts of Europe has settled on most of Spain.

State meteorological office Aemet said on Wednesday it expected extreme temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius in central provinces for at least another week.

Madrid has broken temperature records for both June and July this year, peaking at 39.9 degrees Celsius on July 6.

We'll probably be gone from the planet by then

Kansas City, Missouri

Snow covers a golf course in Orange

Blizzards, gale-force winds, heavy rain continue to descend across continental Australia, while Tasmania 'escapes' the cold.

Passengers wait for news on flights out of Bali.

Virgin Australia and Jetstar have cancelled all flights in and out of Denpasar Airport, Bali, on Sunday morning after a volcanic ash cloud changed direction and their meteorologists deemed it unsafe to fly.

Jetstar said it would make a second assessment around 5pm on Sunday to decide whether evening flights would go ahead.

Mt Raung in East Java continues to erupt and winds are now blowing in an unfavourable direction. These conditions are forecast for the rest of Sunday.

Indonesia raises alert as Mt Raung volcano erupts

At least 50 homes are still without power in remote parts of Gisborne after snow and ice knocked out parts of the region's power network last week.

Yesterday five additional line crews were brought in from Bay of Plenty, Napier and Wellington to help get the power back on.

Lines company Eastland Networks said ice, snow drifts and fallen trees had slowed progress.

Network general manager Brent Stewart expects power to be restored to all properties over the next few days.

Lisa Argilla and veterinary nurse Sam Hector tending to the turtle at Wellington Zoo.

An endangered turtle, normally found in tropical climes, has washed up at Wellington's Lyall Bay beach.

The turtle is now undergoing treatment at Wellington Zoo.

Veterinarian scientist Lisa Argilla said the turtle had a 50 percent chance of survival.

"I don't think he could have picked a worse week actually to get off track because it's been freezing, especially around Wellington last week and that cold temperature and that cold water he would not be used to that and that's what's caused a lot of his issues."

Dr Argilla said the turtle was found hypothermic and barely responsive.

She said the turtle's species was generally found in the tropical belts of the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

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