Greenhouse gases that have been trapped in frozen permafrost are being released from the melting soil much faster than was previously thought. The most notable one of these gases is methane, which is being released into the atmosphere at a rate 5 times greater than was previously thought.
Methane is an effective heat trapping agent, it is 23 times more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. It is practically harmless when it is frozen in permafrost.
Permafrost is ground that has consistently been at a temperature of zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) for two or more years. Permafrost occurs in regions of Arctic climates, such as the tundra of Alaska, northern Canada, and Siberia. Unfortunately, when these frozen climates get too warm, the trapped atmospheric gases are released. Unfortunately, this is now happening too frequently due to global warming.
The release of methane from melting permafrost speeds up the global warming process. The current warming of the earth causes the permafrost to melt, which causes methane and carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere, which causes more warming. It’s a horrible cycle and scientists are worried that it will eventually go out of control, setting off a “climate time bomb.”
Scientists are unsure whether or not methane or carbon dioxide is the worst greenhouse gas. While methane traps more heat, it only lingers in the atmosphere for around 10 years. Carbon dioxide traps less heat, but it typically remains in the atmosphere for a century. Neither of these gases is good.
Sounds like quite the problem. What do you think we can do about it?
Did you know that you can insist that the amount of electricity you use be produced without generating carbon dioxide emissions or other forms of pollution (mercury, sulfer). Windsource electricity is produced without air emissions, such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide, both considered to contribute to greenhouse gases. Wind-generated electricity also uses no water and therefore requires no water treatment during production. I am doing this by joining the Windsource program.
Xcel Energy will be held accountable for using Windsource funds appropriately: it must file annual reports with the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, accounting for program revenues and expenses and wind generation and sales. In addition, all wind facilities supplying the Windsource program will be certified by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Sierraclub
I have agreed to pay $2 per 100 kWh extra on my electric bill. This month I used 304 kWh so I was billed an extra $6.08. Since my electricity is pollution free I was rebated the Fuel Cost Adjustment that I otherwise would have paid ($2.76). So I paid an extra $3.32 last month know that I am helping rather than hurting our future environment. When fuel cost rise enough the rebate can become greater than what you pay for Windsource. You can sign up for Windsource here or call 1-800-895-4999 anytime.
And that could speed up global warming with 'incalculable consequences', says alarming new research. Studies by the blue-chip Woods Hole Research Centre, carried out in Amazonia, have concluded that the forest cannot withstand more than two consecutive years of drought without breaking down. And that process, which would be irreversible, could begin as early as next year.
For those who'd like some perspective, the Amazon rainforest represents half the rainforests in the world. It encompasses 1.2 billion acres, or 1.875 million square miles. That's 3.25% of the planets land mass. That’s a huge chunk of land. So if this report is accurate, it’s far from being insignificant.
The Amazon now appears to be entering its second successive year of drought, raising the possibility that it could start dying next year. The immense forest contains 90 billion tons of carbon, enough in itself to increase the rate of global warming by 50 per cent.
Read more from The Independent (U.K.), July 23, 2006
First noticed in 2002, the dead zone is larger this year than in previous years.
What is a dead zone? It's an large area of water that's very low in oxygen and can't support life. (Scientists call this "hypoxia.") Dead zones are caused by the explosive growth of tiny aquatic plants called phytoplankton. When the phytoplankton die, they are decomposed by bacteria. Massive numbers of bacteria use up the oxygen in the water. Any animals that can swim out of the low-oxygen water--like many fish--do so. Others--some fish, many crabs, and others--suffocate because they can't get enough oxygen to live.
In this case, the phytoplankton blooms are caused when north winds cause upwelling in the water column. The cooler water is rich in nutrients, providing a feast for the phytoplankton. When the wind dies down, the upwelling stops, and many phytoplankton die a natural death. Their decomposition results in water that is deadly because it lacks oxygen needed for life.
This year, the upwelling started in April, stopped in May, and started up again in June. The off-and-on upwelling creates a thick mat of organic material that rots and uses up the oxygen in the water. Then, when a new upwelling occurs, the oxygen-depleted water moves toward shore, killing the plants and animals that can't get out of its way.
So, why the upwelling? Jane Lubchenco, professor of marine ecology at Oregon State University and a member of the Pew Oceans Commission, told the Associated Press:
"We are seeing wild swings from year to year in the timing and duration of the winds that are favorable for upwelling. ... This increased variability in the winds is consistent with what we would expect under climate change."
Global warming is also the suspect in dead zones off Namibia, South Africa, and Peru.
(The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River is caused by agricultural runoff containing fertilizers. The river carries all those nutrients into the Gulf, creating algal blooms that use up all the oxygen.)
Have you been following the comments in Cari's Buzz Blog post about Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth. I find it interesting that very intelligent people can look at the same data ("truths") and yet totally disagree as to what to accept as reality?
George Musser on the Scientific American Blog has been moderating a discussion about global warming titled Are You a Global Warming Skeptic? Part IV He started the discussion March 6, 2006 with this statement:
In the comments field, explain which aspects of climate change you don't accept (e.g. you might not think Earth is warming at all, you might not think the warming is due to greenhouse gases, you might not think that the gases are produced by humans, or you might not think warming will cause trouble in the future), what exactly has led you to this conclusion, and -- most important -- what it would take to convince you otherwise. Let's get everything out into the open, so that we can have a real discussion.
The discussion is presented in four parts with hundreds of comments. I am recommending this thread because Musser first listens to, then presents a summary of the skeptics' arguments. I find the fairest way to make up my mind on an issue is to thoroughly understand both sides of the argument. Musser explains how scientists crunch the various data to answer difficult questions. He uses the analogy of examining fingerprints during a crime scene investigation.
Climatologists have maps and time series showing how a boatload of climate variables -- mean temperature, temperature ranges, air pressure, precipitation, and so on -- vary in time and in space, horizontally across the surface and vertically through the atmosphere. These data sets are a gold mine for resolving ambiguity, because the different forcings leave distinct fingerprints. Such patterns make it possible to tease out their relative contributions. Over the years, researchers have considered ever more variables besides temperature and ever more forcings besides greenhouse gases. They have merged spatial and temporal patterns, looked at regional as well as global scales, and developed more sophisticated mathematical tools.
"Fingerprints" included solar variability, volcanic eruptions, greenhouse gasses, ozone, aeosols, and various generic effects. When climatologists run the fingerprinting analysis for different historical epochs, they find that temperature fluctuations prior to the Industrial Revolution were driven primarily by solar and volcanic forcings. In the early 20th century, natural and anthropogenic forcings seem to contribute equally. From midcentury onwards, greenhouse gases rule(temporal pattern). Since 1979, when continuous satellites observations began, the surface and troposphere have warmed and the stratosphere has cooled(vertical pattern). Pretty much the entire surface has gotten warmer, high latitudes more than lower ones(horizontal pattern). All the oceans have warmed; there isn't the zero-sum game of warming and cooling you'd expect from natural variability(energy variability).
"unless I'm missing something, it seems to me that the case for anthropogenic warming is pretty strong...Based on the knowledge we have so far, however, I have to call 'em as I see 'em."
To appreciate the use of critical thinking and scientific method I recommend wading through the four installments of "Are you a global warming skeptic?" Part I (673 words); Part II (2219 words); Part III (2617 words); Part IV (3516 words); and an Appendix
Hey do you like to fish, canoe, or swim in Minnesota lakes? I can't imagine our hot humid summers without the relief of a dip in cool Lake Nokomis. But how are those wonderful lakes that make our state so unique doing? Well, our pals across the river at the Bell Museum of Natural History are hosting a cool event next week about just that:
Tuesday, June 13, from 6 to 8 p.m., Varsity Theater, Dinkytown, Free
Deborah Swackhamer and Roland Sigurdson of the U's Water Resources Center will discuss the state of our lakes, including how chemicals can affect water quality, fisheries, and human health. The Café Scientifique event, hosted by the U's Bell Museum of Natural History, precedes a Thursday evening fishing trip with Sigurdson on the shores of Lake Como in St. Paul. To learn more about both events, call 612-624-7083.
Should be a cool event with some good discussion and a chance to get your questions answered. See you there.
The number of butterflies migrating through California has dropped to a forty year low, according to researchers at the University of California, Davis. One-half of the usual species of butterflies have not appeared this season, and other species have been observed in very low numbers. Climate change related to global warming and habitat destruction may be the cause.
Global warming is the increase in the Earth’s average temperature over recent decades primarily attributable to human activities.
Habitat destruction is a change in land use in which one habitat is replaced with another. The plants and animals which previously used the site are destroyed or displaced in the process.
A mild winter in Northern California has caused many species to not end their winter dormancy at the right time. This means that many butterflies emerged too late in the season. The proper climate for breeding was disrupted by a wet spring.
In Southern California, an unusually dry desert left little food for caterpillars of some species to feed on. A late snow in the Sierra Nevada may have killed many insects used for food.
Some species of butterflies that breed several times a year may rebound from these events, but for other species the effects may be devastating for up to a decade.
Read the original press release here.
Think you could swim 2,484 nautical miles
(1 nautical mile = 1.15 miles) across the Atlantic Ocean? This month, Spray, will embark on its mission to swim from the southern tip of Greenland to the coast of Spain. Spray is an autonomous underwater vehicle, AUV for short, created by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.
Spray will act as an “aquatic sentinel” collecting data on temperature, currents and salinity. This information will assist scientists in furthering their knowledge base pertaining the role oceans have on global climate. Dr. Russ Davis, from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego stated "The key is that Spray can stay at sea for months at relatively low cost, allowing us to observe large-scale changes under the ocean surface that might otherwise go unobserved." If Spray completes this mission, the robot will break its personal record of 1,864 nautical miles for the longest distance ever traveled by an AUV. GO SPRAY!!!
Check out this graphical representation of Spray in action.
Tornado season is here for those of us living in the Midwest. Tornadoes fascinate me – they’re so incredibly powerful and stunning and scary all at once. I used to have all sorts of elaborate emergency escape plans to the basement when I was a kid, and even had a pecking order for what prized possessions I would save and how. I also remember as a kid being told that if there was the threat of a tornado to open up a window a crack before heading to the basement so that the pressure inside the house would normalize with the pressure outside generated by the tornado thus preventing the roof from being blown off. I did this all the way up until last summer – but no more.
It turns out that a majority of damage to homes is the result of wind blowing into open (or broken) windows pushing up on the roof at the same time as winds are blowing over and under them, generating a lifting force, which increases the chances of the roof being blown off. So, all this time I’ve been making my house less safe, rather than safer. Doh.
Although it is likely wishful thinking on my part to hope that a single pane of glass is going to remain intact during a tornado, especially with all the debris that will be flying around. It makes more sense to close them to keep the rain out than to save the house from tornado damage, but it feels good to do something during those times when you have no real control. Better still to just forget the windows and get to the basement. With my most prized possessions.