Wednesday, December 23, 2009

60 Amazing Satellite Images of Earth

Looking at nature from different perspectives can create stunning compositions for your photographs.

This couldn’t be more true than when we look at our planet from outer space and appreciate the reality of its beauty from such an incredible and rarely seen perspective.

The images in this compilation are from the Landsat 7 satellite and were created to introduce the general public to the Landsat Program.

Various combinations of the eight Landsat 7 spectral bands were selected to create the vivid RGB composites that we have featured.

Here are 60 absolutely stunning images of the Earth as seen from outer space. Click on the images for large resolution versions which you can use as wallpapers. (thanks to Gizmodo for the link).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Acid oceans, the "evil twin" of climate change

In this photo taken Oct. 30, 2009, Research Director for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Andrew DeVogelaere paddles his kayak at the sanctuary in Monterey, Calif. Far from Copenhagen's turbulent climate talks, the sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters reposing along the shoreline and kelp forests of this protected marine area stand to gain from any global deal to cut greenhouse gases. (AP Photo/John Helprin)

MONTEREY BAY NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY, Calif. — Far from Copenhagen's turbulent climate talks, the sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters reposing along the shoreline and kelp forests of this protected marine area stand to gain from any global deal to cut greenhouse gases.

These foragers of the sanctuary's frigid waters, flipping in and out of sight of California's coastal kayakers, may not seem like obvious beneficiaries of a climate treaty crafted in the Danish capital. But reducing carbon emissions worldwide also would help mend a lesser-known environmental problem: ocean acidification.

"We're having a change in water chemistry, so 20 years from now the system we're looking at could be affected dramatically but we're not really sure how. So we see a train wreck coming," said Andrew DeVogelaere, the sanctuary's research director, while out kayaking this fall with a reporter in the cold waters.

Nothing in the treaty negotiations specifically addresses the effects of carbon absorption in the oceans on marine life, which studies show is damaging key creatures' hard shells or skeletons.

Oceans absorb about 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere from human activities each year, says a new U.N. report released at the Copenhagen talks this week. That helps slow global warming in the atmosphere, the focus of the Copenhagen talks.

But carbon dissolving in oceans also forms carbonic acid, raising waters' acidity that damages all manner of hard-shelled creatures, and setting off a chain reaction that threatens the food chain supporting marine life, including the lumbering sea mammals along the 276-mile coast of the California sanctuary and the rest of the U.S. West Coast.

By 2100, the report said, some 70 percent of cold water corals — a key refuge and feeding ground for commercially popular fish that also are food for the seals and otters — will be exposed to the harmful effects.

Click here for the complete article.

Wind shear determines whether man-made pollution strengthens thunderstorms

ScienceDaily (Dec. 17, 2009) — New climate research reveals how wind shear -- the same atmospheric conditions that cause bumpy airplane rides -- affects how pollution contributes to isolated thunderstorm clouds. Under strong wind shear conditions, pollution hampers thunderhead formation. But with weak wind shear, pollution does the opposite and makes storms stronger.

The work improves climate scientists' understanding of how aerosols -- tiny unseen particles that make up pollution -- contribute to isolated thunderstorms and the climate cycle. How aerosols and clouds interact is one of the least understood aspects of climate, and this work allows researchers to better model clouds and precipitation.

"This finding may provide some guidelines on how man-made aerosols affect the local climate and precipitation, especially for the places where 'afternoon showers' happen frequently and affect the weather system and hydrological cycle," said atmospheric scientist Jiwen Fan of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "Aerosols in the air change the cloud properties, but the changes vary from case to case. With detailed cloud modeling, we found an important factor regulating how aerosols change storms and precipitation."

The rest of this fascinating article is here.

Many goals remain unmet in 5 nations's climate deal

President Obama with Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao, across from him, the prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, right, and other world leaders at the Copenhagen climate summit on Friday.

COPENHAGEN. President Obama announced here on Friday night that five major nations, including the United States, had together forged a climate deal. He called it “an unprecedented breakthrough” but acknowledged that it still fell short of what was required to combat global warming

The agreement addresses many of the issues that leaders came here to settle. But it has left many of the participants in the climate talks unhappy, from the Europeans, who now have the only binding carbon control regime in the world, to the delegates from the poorest nations, who objected to being left out of the critical negotiations.

By the early hours of Saturday, representatives of the 193 countries who have negotiated here for nearly two weeks had not yet approved the deal and there were signs they might not. But Mr. Obama, who left before the conference considered the accord because of a major storm descending on Washington, noted that the agreement was merely a political statement and not a legally binding treaty and might not need ratification by the entire conference.

The three-page accord that Mr. Obama negotiated with the leaders of China, India, Brazil and South Africa and then presented to the conference did not meet even the modest expectations that leaders set for this meeting, notably by failing to set a 2010 goal for reaching a binding international treaty to seal the provisions of the accord.

The complete New York Times article is here.

Click here for the full text of President Obama's statement, announcing a preliminary climate change agreement.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Weathering a storm of stupidity

Children try to catch fish at a partially dried-up pond in Yingtan, Jiangxi province August 13, 2009.

The spread of secondary and latterly tertiary education has created a large population of people, often with well-developed literary and scholarly tastes, who have been educated far beyond their capacity to undertake analytical thought. --P.B. Medawar

So what's next? A series of essays by Sarah Palin about the Large Hadron Collider and the mysteries of dark matter? An MIT lecture series by Rush Limbaugh regarding the thermodynamics of black holes? A Festschrift of Sean Hannity's scholarly articles on plate tectonics and volcano formation? Glenn Beck performing live heart-lung transplants on Fox News?

Everybody understands that these things couldn't happen. That when it comes to serious scientific endeavor, years of study and professional apprenticeship are required. In a word, expertise.

Ex-beauty contestants, drive-time DJs, TV sports announcers, hairstylists, newspaper columnists -- basically anybody whose math skills topped out in the 10th grade -- rarely have anything substantive to add to the sum of technical and scientific knowledge. That's what they most resent about it.

It's not impossible that such persons could educate themselves sufficiently to have an informed opinion, but it's rare. Most of us, most of the time, are like historian and blogger Josh Marshall: "The fact that the vast majority of people with specialized knowledge in the field think there's a problem is good enough for me," he wrote. "I can't be knowledgeable about everything. And I'm comfortable with the modern system in which the opinions of really knowledgeable people with expertise counts more in cases like this than people who know nothing at all."

Unless and until, that is, scientific endeavor impinges upon either A) religious belief, or B) the ability of tycoons to keep making money in precisely the way they or their ancestors have always made their money. Then it's every man and woman a climatologist, and every genuine expert an "elitist" enemy of God and the American way -- creationism with a thermometer.

(As a born-again Christian I see a need for religion and science. Each has it's place. What is troubling, terrifying to me, and many others who respect the scientific method, is the willingness of so many otherwise thoughtful, rational, logical people to "look away" and grasp at straws, rather than confronting what the evidence and science is telling us. Turning this into a political litmus test, a test of one's conservatism or liberalism, totally misses the point. The climate is changing, morphing. Some of this may be "natural", yes, but I don't find it far-fetched that a 38% increase in greenhouse gases correlates well with the 10 warmest years on record, all observed since 1998. The rest of the article is here).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dome homes could be hurricane-proof

By Adam Hooper

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) – It is not your typical looking home. But, according to builder David Smith, when it is all finished, your home could begin to save you money.

"This is energy efficient. It will save you any where from 50 percent or better on your electricity costs alone," said David Smith of Smith Family Dome Home Builders.

Besides looking different, a dome home is constructed quite different as well.

"We take a material and we inflate it like a balloon. Then we spray it with a polyurethane foam. We run rebar, and then we spray three and a half to five and a half inches of concrete on the inside," said David Smith.

According to David, dome homes are rated to withstand a category 5 hurricane, and an F5 tornado. For people living along the coast, this could be the answer.

"If you don't want to have to pack your things up and travel, if you want to protect your family and your belongings, you can stay in this house through anything," said David Smith.

And, for those who may be apprehensive about living in a concrete dome, when it is all done, it can look as normal as any other home.

"You can come out from the dome itself and make any kind of designs that you want. You can make the aesthetic appearance anything that you want," said David Smith.

(Call me crazy, but I don't think I want to live in a place where the only way to survive a category 4-5 hurricane is by living in a dome-home. Be sure to send this article to any friends/family in Florida.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The ongoing debate/firestorm over the recent hacking of climate-related e-mails has lead me to post a few thoughts and responses I've sifted through in recent days, for better or worse. Here goes...

"As a sociologist, I can't imagine what's so unusual about these emails. Science is messy. The brilliance of science as a system isn't its individual findings, but rather how their iterations function as a whole to produce general truths. This is because SCIENCE IS MESSY.

Before deciding to hop on the academic track, I used to be a carpenter. Guess what? Carpentry is messy too. Life is messy. At the end of the day, despite countless dismays, and conversations about how this house will never stand, none of the houses I ever built came crashing down. Why? Because there are a lot of nails and joints in there, and one piece cut too big or too small doesn't make a whole heck of a lot of difference in the end."

- anonymous

From Peter Watts, scientist and author:

"Science doesn’t work despite scientists being asses. Science works, to at least some extent, because scientists are asses. Bickering and backstabbing are essential elements of the process. Haven’t any of these guys ever heard of “peer review”?

"That’s how science works. It’s not a hippie love-in; it’s rugby.

"This is how it works: you put your model out there in the coliseum, and a bunch of guys in white coats kick the shit out of it. If it’s still alive when the dust clears, your brainchild receives conditional acceptance. It does not get rejected. This time."

"As for me, I’ll follow the blogs with interest and see how this all shakes out. But even if someone, somewhere, proves that a handful of climatologists deliberately fudged their findings — well, I’ll be there with everyone else calling to have the bastards run out of town, but it won’t matter much in terms of the overall weight of the data. I went running through Toronto the other day on a 17°C November afternoon. Canada’s west coast is currently underwater. Sea level continues its 3mm/yr creep up the coasts of the world, the western Siberian permafrost turns to slush. Swathes of California and Australia are pretty much permanent firestorm zones these days. The glaciers retreat, the Arctic ice cap shrinks, a myriad migratory species still show up at their northern destinations weeks before they’re supposed to. The pine beetle furthers its westward invasion, leaving dead forests in its wake— the winters, you see, are no longer cold enough to hit that lethal reset button that once kept their numbers in check.

I could go on, but you get my drift. And if the Climate-Change Hoax Machine is powerful enough to do all that, you know what?

They deserve to win."

- Peter Watts (his complete post regarding "email-gate" can be found here).

I received a couple of e-mails from climate change deniers positively giddy about the recent hacking of e-mails from scientists at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit. For people who consistently doubt the veracity of the science surrounding anthropogenic climate change this was the "smoking gun" many had been waiting for, seeming to PROVE that a handful of scientists were secretly plotting and scheming, "manipulating the numbers" to skew the science in favor of man-made climate change. But a closer inspection of the e-mails shows something much less dramatic: that science is inherently messy (because scientists are - surprise! - just as human as the rest of us). They bicker, complain, compete, gossip and vent occasional bursts of rage at professional deniers intent on interfering with their research. I find the timing of all this very curious: with a global climate change summit at Copenhagen just a few weeks away. My hope is that this [pr mess] will shine a bright light on the huge and growing body of science, the mountain of mounting evidence, that people will look at this topic with fresh eyes. My fear is that this will only increase the decibel level of the shouting underway, entrench the skeptics and further embolden the conspiracy theorists who see deception under every rock. The evidence is there, for people truly willing to look. It's easier to follow incendiary blogs and TV talking points than it is to truly sift through the science and assess the evidence objectively. All of us bring along our own biases, even scientists. But when scientists are wrong their peers, their competitors, take JOY in pointing out their mistakes and errors. As you'll see below, science is messy, but the PROCESS eventually comes up with truth, however impermanent. Isaac Newton was a complete jackass (from what I've read) but his theory of gravity still holds up pretty well. For those who see these leaked e-mails as evidence of a vast conspiracy all I can say is be patient. His theory has stood the test of time. Only time will tell if climate change science is the "hot air" skeptics believe it to be. To those who still doubt, all I can say is be prepared for more unpleasant symptoms, bizarre storms, floods, droughts, super-hurricanes and climate oddities in the years ahead. This is a slow-motion transformation, but the paradox remains: by the time the last piece of the (climate) puzzle falls into place it will be far too late to do anything about it. We'll have no choice but to adapt, take it on the chin. I hope we come to our senses before we reach that inevitable "tipping point", but I'm not longer optimistic we'll be able to save ourselves (from ourselves).

For more information on this hacked e-mail tempest in a teapot, including 60 mb worth of leaked e-mail text (most of it mind-numbingly dull) click here for a long, detailed post from's Maggie Koerth-Baker. If you're looking for more ammunition, a point-by-point refutation of all the claims and counterclaims dredged up by persistent deniers, click here to read "How to talk to a climate change skeptic" at

So much for the increasingly partisan, angst-ridden subject of climate change. It's easier to shift gears and focus on weather, which may or may not be safer ground, something almost all of us can agree on. BTW, our record-warm November is not necessarily evidence of climate change. One month doesn't prove anything (even though we're seeing temperatures more than 10 degrees above average, even though November is turning out to be warmer than all of October!) One month does-not-a-trend-make. This is weather, not climate. It's true that Novembers are trending warmer, with less snow, the past 10 consecutive Novembers warm enough to play golf. Ask your grandfather how often he got out to play golf in November when he was growing up. One storm, one week, one month, even an entire season or year doesn't prove anything. What's critical is not what's happening over Minnesota, but the global snapshot, over many years - decades. All of us are armchair experts on weather, the day to day fluctuations and variations. Few of us possess the tools to be able to monitor the entire planet over a long period of time, objectively, comprehensively. I rely on the thousands of PhD climate scientists worldwide who do this for a living. In this crowd, in spite of what you may have read, there is still widespread agreement that the changes are real, happening even faster than the latest 2007 IPCC report predicted across in northern latitudes and polar regions. Sorry, I'll throw my hat in with these guys and gals until a better theory comes along to explain what we're witnessing on a planetary scale.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hacked e-mail is new fodder for climate dispute

Published: November 20, 2009

Hundreds of private e-mail messages and documents hacked from a computer server at a British university are causing a stir among global warming skeptics, who say they show that climate scientists conspired to overstate the case for a human influence on climate change.

The e-mail messages, attributed to prominent American and British climate researchers, include discussions of scientific data and whether it should be released, exchanges about how best to combat the arguments of skeptics, and casual comments — in some cases derisive — about specific people known for their skeptical views. Drafts of scientific papers and a photo collage that portrays climate skeptics on an ice floe were also among the hacked data, some of which dates back 13 years.

In one e-mail exchange, a scientist writes of using a statistical “trick” in a chart illustrating a recent sharp warming trend. In another, a scientist refers to climate skeptics as “idiots.”

Some skeptics asserted Friday that the correspondence revealed an effort to withhold scientific information. “This is not a smoking gun; this is a mushroom cloud,” said Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist who has long faulted evidence pointing to human-driven warming and is criticized in the documents.

Some of the correspondence portrays the scientists as feeling under siege by the skeptics’ camp and worried that any stray comment or data glitch could be turned against them.

The evidence pointing to a growing human contribution to global warming is so widely accepted that the hacked material is unlikely to erode the overall argument. However, the documents will undoubtedly raise questions about the quality of research on some specific questions and the actions of some scientists.

In several e-mail exchanges, Kevin Trenberth, a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and other scientists discuss gaps in understanding of recent variations in temperature. Skeptic Web sites pointed out one line in particular: “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t,” Dr. Trenberth wrote.

(A smoking gun that disproves climate change, evidence of massive scientific cover-up? I doubt it - but I fear it's more ammunition to fuel conspiracy theories, leading to more delay, more confusion, more obfuscation and denial. The complete New York Times article is here).

Changes in the climate and a windier Great Lake

Published: November 16, 2009

Chalk up another effect of climate change: it’s getting windier over Lake Superior.

That is the conclusion of a study by scientists who have looked at the effects of increasing surface water temperatures in the lake and air temperatures over it. The water has warmed faster than the air, creating instability in the air mass that results in stronger winds.

Ankur R. Desai of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an author of the study in Nature Geoscience, said the effect was due to ice, or lack of it.

“Less ice in the winter means stronger winds in the summer,” Dr. Desai said.

Ice coverage of Lake Superior has declined in recent decades, which means that the lake starts to warm sooner, becoming stratified. The earlier this stratification occurs, Dr. Desai said, the warmer the top layer gets in the summer.

Data from buoys and satellites showed that this warming outpaced that of the air above it. That means the thermal gradient between the two was reduced.

The rest of the New York Times article is here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Climatologists baffled by global warming "time out"

A Sunny Mystery. Could the sun be responsible for the apparent "pause" in global warming? Perhaps. The lack of sunspots on the surface of the sun has been striking in recent years. A lack of sunspots often correlates with colder periods here on the Earth. Could there be factors beyond man-made greenhouse gases to explain what's happening on a global scale? Absolutely.

Global warming appears to have stalled. Climatologists are puzzled as to why average global temperatures have stopped rising over the last 10 years. Some attribute the trend to a lack of sunspots, while others explain it through ocean currents.

At least the weather in Copenhagen is likely to be cooperating. The Danish Meteorological Institute predicts that temperatures in December, when the city will host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, will be one degree above the long-term average.

Otherwise, however, not much is happening with global warming at the moment. The Earth's average temperatures have stopped climbing since the beginning of the millennium, and it even looks as though global warming could come to a standstill this year.

Ironically, climate change appears to have stalled in the run-up to the upcoming world summit in the Danish capital, where thousands of politicians, bureaucrats, scientists, business leaders and environmental activists plan to negotiate a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Billions of euros are at stake in the negotiations.

(It's true that - averaged over the entire planet - global temperatures appear to have plateaued for the first decade of the 21st century, although profound changes continue to be witnessed in far northern latitudes - from Greenland to Alaska and the depth/quality of arctic ice). To read the entire article in Germany's premier investigative news magazine, "Der Spiegel" click here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In nod to global warming, Navy prepares for an "ice-free" Arctic

The dwindling Arctic ice cap has launched an international race for control of northern waters: Russia, Canada, Denmark, and even China are hustling to expand their military presence, plant flags and eye those 90 billion barrels of natural gas under the cap. Now the U.S. Navy’s getting ready for the thaw, with a strategic plan to maximize the U.S. stake up north.

The Navy’s Arctic Roadmap (.pdf), written by the recently launched Navy Task Force Climate Change (TFCC), opens with an acknowledgment that worldwide temperatures are on the rise — especially up north. “The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe. While significant uncertainty exists in projections for Arctic ice extent, the current scientific consensus indicates the Arctic may experience nearly ice-free summers sometime in the 2030s,” the document notes.

Then the Arctic Roadmap sets out a three-phase plan to secure U.S. interests in the Arctic. Because there’s a lot at stake under that melting cap: energy reserves, transport lanes and potential territory disputes.

(With a son at the U.S. Naval Academy this article definitely caught my eye. I wonder how much oil might be lurking under the North Pole? I fear we may soon find out. The complete article can be found at by clicking here).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across USA

This graphic shows the ratio of record daily highs to record daily lows observed at about 1,800 weather stations in the 48 contiguous United States from January 1950 through September 2009. Each bar shows the proportion of record highs (red) to record lows (blue) for each decade. The 1960s and 1970s saw slightly more record daily lows than highs, but in the last 30 years record highs have increasingly predominated, with the ratio now about two-to-one for the 48 states as a whole. (Credit: Copyright UCAR, graphic by Mike Shibao)

ScienceDaily (Nov. 13, 2009) — Spurred by a warming climate, daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, new research shows. The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.

"Climate change is making itself felt in terms of day-to-day weather in the United States," says Gerald Meehl, the lead author and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). "The ways these records are being broken show how our climate is already shifting."

The study, by authors at NCAR, Climate Central, The Weather Channel, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters. It was funded by the National Science Foundation, NCAR's sponsor, the Department of Energy, and Climate Central.

If temperatures were not warming, the number of record daily highs and lows being set each year would be approximately even. Instead, for the period from January 1, 2000, to September 30, 2009, the continental United States set 291,237 record highs and 142,420 record lows, as the country experienced unusually mild winter weather and intense summer heat waves.

(Check out the ratio of record highs to record lows in the graphic above. It's pretty obvious that something is going on, with more than twice as many record highs as lows in the last decade. Climate "deniers" insist that global temperatures have leveled off or even fallen, but then why is the ratio of records so out of whack? Another important piece of the climate puzzle). The complete article is here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Paying the climate change premium

Ready to have your insurance rates go up? That’s what one industry group says will happen as climate change disrupts the world’s weather.

The Association of British Insurers said the cost of flood and windstorm damage would rise for insurers as global temperatures increased.

This would lead to higher premiums for consumers and a restriction of cover as insurers would need more reserves.

“These findings have serious implications for insurers, householders, businesses and governments,” said Nick Starling, the ABI’s director of general insurance and health.

“The continued widespread availability of property insurance in the future depends on taking action now to manage the threats of climate change.”

We normally think of the insurance industry as conservative, but when it comes to climate change, it’s been extremely aggressive. After all, that’s what the insurers do: analyze and seek to minimize risk–and global warming has made them increasingly worried about their bottom line. In fact, it’s the industry’s very conservativeness that made it one of the first to bang the drum about the perils of a warming world.

For example: Swiss Re, the world’s largest re-insurer, keeps three climatologist on staff. It has tracked rising damages from natural disasters for decades. Something like 20 years ago, it released its first report warning of the road that lay ahead. The graph up above is from a report they released on the future impacts of climate change.

The rest of the article is here.

Survey: Economists see threat in climate change

Researchers who deal in cold numbers rather than warming climates believe the "significant benefits from curbing greenhouse-gas emissions would justify the costs of action," a new survey finds.

In fact, the survey of economists finds 94% believe the U.S. should join climate agreements to limit global warming.

The survey results to be released today come as debate over the economics of global warming moves center stage in Washington, D.C. Republican senators boycotted a hearing Tuesday over an Environmental Protection Agency analysis about the costs of a clean-energy bill. In addition, the United States and European Union are preparing for a December meeting in Copenhagen to discuss a climate treaty.

"An economist tree hugger is an imaginary creature," says Michael Livermore of New York University's Institute for Policy Integrity, which conducted the survey. "But we found that economists really see climate change poses a lot of risk to the economy."

The survey approached the 289 economists who had published climate-related studies in the top 25 economics journals in the past 15 years. About half, 144, responded, and 75% agreed or strongly agreed on the "value" of greenhouse-gas controls.

The complete article in USA Today is here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Arctic sea ice reaches third lowest minimum extent in '09

On Sept 12, 2009, the extent of sea ice in the Arctic reached the third lowest level ever recorded since satellite records began in 1979. The National Snow and Ice Data Center estimates that the overall extent dropped to 5.1 million square kilometers, well below the average minimum extent of 6.71 million square kilometers (1979-2000). Only 2007 and 2008 have had lower ice extents. The small increase in 2009 was mostly due to ice spreading caused by strong polar winds. Ice concentration and thickness, however, have not increased, making predictions about a rebound in Arctic ice premature at this moment.

NOAA has the full story (complete with an animation showing this year's retreat of sea ice) here.

Global surface temperature was second warmest for September

The combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the second warmest September on record, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Based on records going back to 1880, the monthly National Climatic Data Center analysis is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides.

NCDC scientists also reported that the average land surface temperature for September was the second warmest on record, behind 2005. Additionally, the global ocean surface temperature was tied for the fifth warmest on record for September.

Global Temperature Highlights

  • The combined global land and ocean surface temperature was 1.12 degrees F above the 20th century average of 59.0 degrees F. Separately the global land surface temperature was 1.75 degrees F above the 20th century average of 53.6 degrees F.

  • Warmer-than-average temperatures engulfed most of the world’s land areas during the month. The greatest warmth occurred across Canada and the northern and western contiguous United States. Warmer-than-normal conditions also prevailed across Europe, most of Asia and Australia.

  • The worldwide ocean temperature tied with 2004 as the fifth warmest September on record, 0.90 degree F above the 20th century average of 61.1 degrees F. The near-Antarctic southern ocean and the Gulf of Alaska featured notable cooler-than-average temperatures.
The complete article from NOAA is here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Our Three Bombs

Published: October 6, 2009

I am a 56-year-old baby boomer, and looking around today it’s very clear that my generation had it easy: We grew up in the shadow of just one bomb — the nuclear bomb. That is, in our day, it seemed as if there was just one big threat that could trigger a nonlinear, 180-degree change in the trajectory of our lives: the Soviets hitting us with a nuke. My girls are not so lucky.

Today’s youth are growing up in the shadow of three bombs — any one of which could go off at any time and set in motion a truly nonlinear, radical change in the trajectory of their lives.

The first, of course, is still the nuclear threat, which, for my generation, basically came from just one seemingly rational enemy, the Soviet Union, with which we shared a doctrine of mutual assured destruction. Today, the nuclear threat can be delivered by all kinds of states or terrorists, including suicidal jihadists for whom mutual assured destruction is a delight, not a deterrent.

But there are now two other bombs our children have hanging over them: the debt bomb and the climate bomb.

As we continue to build up carbon in the atmosphere to unprecedented levels, we never know when the next emitted carbon molecule will tip over some ecosystem and trigger a nonlinear climate event — like melting the Siberian tundra and releasing all of its methane, or drying up the Amazon or melting all the sea ice in the North Pole in summer. And when one ecosystem collapses, it can trigger unpredictable changes in others that could alter our whole world.

To read the rest of the Op-Ed in the New York Times click here.

Climate change threaten's America's National Parks

Yellowstone is losing its white-bark pines (whose nuts are an important food source for the park's grizzlies). Rocky Mountain National Park is losing most, if not all, of its mature lodgepole pines. Mesa Verde has already lost most of its pinon pine trees. And more than trees are suffering from climate change: We might pack it in and pack it out, but human-generated greenhouse gas emissions have put our national parks in big trouble.

National Parks in Peril: The Threats of Climate Disruption, a report released by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization in collaboration with the National Resources Defense Council on October 1, identified the 25 national parks most adversely affected by climate change. Though the report stresses that all 391 parks are threatened, the report’s authors established 11 different types of risk to assess which parks were in the greatest danger. Whether it be due to loss of ice and snow, higher seas and coastal storms, intolerable heat or other factors, these parks are feeling the affects of a warming climate, now:

-Acadia National Park
-Assateague Island National Seashore
-Bandelier National Monument
-Biscayne National Park
-Cape Hatteras National Seashore
-Colonial National Historic Park
-Denali National Park
-Dry Tortugas National Park
-Ellis Island National Monument
-Everglades National Park
-Glacier National Park
-Great Smokey Mountains National Park
-Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
-Joshua Tree National Park
-Lake Mead National Recreation Area
-Mesa Verde National Park
-Mount Rainier National Park
-Padre Island National Seashore
-Rocky Mountain National Park
-Saguaro National Park
-Theodore Roosevelt National Park
-Virgin Islands National Park/Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument
-Yellowstone National Park
-Yosemite National Park
-Zion National Park

The report appealed to the Obama administration, Congress, and the National Park Services Department to accept that human disruption of the climate is the greatest threat ever to our national parks. It urges them to consider and implement 32 actions specific to national parks, including setting aside additional national park land, making a national commitment to becoming carbon neutral at all park sites, drastically lowering greenhouse gas emissions (20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050 based on current levels), and accelerating the implementation of clean energy technologies.

The report closes with a quote from Mike Finley, the former superintendent of Everglades, Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks:
The establishment and protection of the National Park System is one of the best ideas that America has institutionalized. Our parks provide inspiration, education, and enjoyment. Moreover, they represent some of our greatest resources of genetic and biological diversity and intact ecosystems. They are our seed banks for restoring the nation’s lands and waters already ravaged by our careless development and the early impacts of climate change. In one sense, they represent a life boat for our biological future. We need to take immediate action to reduce our use of fossil fuels and the resulting climate disruption before we sink our life boat and destroy the values and purposes of our national parks for future generations.
Looking for ways you can keep our parks from sinking under the weight of climate change? Check out:

Save Yellowstone and the Greater Rockies

The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization

National Resources Defense Council

And look for tips to green up your life in BACKPACKER's Green Scene.

-Jessie Lucier

National Parks in Peril

For the complete PDF click here.

Climate Disruption and Its Impacts


The World
The West

Climate Disruption
Climate Action



Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Apple quits the Chamber of Commerce over its "frustrating" global warming denialism

There has recently been a “business backlash” against the Chamber of Commerce over its refusal to accept the science of global warming and lobbying against climate change legislation. The New York Times reports today that the latest company to join this backlash is Apple, which wrote in a letter to the Chamber that it has been “frustrating” that the business federation has been fighting efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions:

We strongly object to the chamber’s recent comments opposing the E.P.A.’s effort to limit greenhouse gases,” wrote Catherine A. Novelli, the vice-president of worldwide government affairs at Apple, in a letter dated today and addressed to Thomas J. Donohue, president and chief executive of the chamber. Click here to read the letter.

“Apple supports regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and it is frustrating to find the chamber at odds with us in this effort,” Ms. Novelli continued.

Apple’s resignation was effective immediately, the letter said. The move comes a few weeks after Apple expanded the environmental disclosures on its products.

Apple joins Pacific Gas & Energy, Public Service Company of New Mexico, and Exelon in an ever-growing list of companies who are leaving the Chamber over its ideological opposition to any serious action over climate change.

Update Progressive Media has produced a video detailing how a parade of U.S. companies are leaving the Chamber because of its radical rejection of climate science. Watch it by clicking here.

Did global warming cause the Atlanta flood?

Stu Ostro, leader of the Weather Channel’s team of tornado, hurricane and climate experts just outside the Perimeter, describes himself as a reformed skeptic when it comes to the topic of man’s impact on climate.

But in a post over the weekend, Ostro raised the ultimate question: “Did global warming ‘cause’ the Atlanta flood?”

The post is long and complex, with charts and graphs as tough to wade through as Pumpkinvine Creek was 10 days ago. But here’s his summary toward the end:

…There’s a straightforward connection in the way the changing climate “set the table” for what happened this September in Atlanta and elsewhere. It behooves us to understand not only theoretical expected increases in heavy precipitation (via relatively slow/linear changes in temperatures, evaporation, and atmospheric moisture) but also how changing circulation patterns are already squeezing out that moisture in extreme doses and affecting weather in other ways.

In other words, the answer is yes.

Off the chain without a 'cane

Stu Ostro, The Weather Channel

That's what the weather was in the Atlanta metro area early last week, and things were wiggy in the U.S. for much of September. Usually during that month when there's wild weather, including precipitation extremes, it's as a result of a hurricane or tropical storm. Not in 2009.

This "ex-skeptic" hasn't blogged about climate change in a while. For that matter, I haven't blogged about anything for a while! Been a bit distracted, but it's time to jump in the water again. Or maybe I should say, time to dust off my Nomex suit and put it on!

Before you fire up the flamethrower, though, let me say what this long entry is NOT about.

It's not about H.R. 2454 (more commonly known as the Waxman-Markey bill).

And I'm not telling you that you can't drive your SUV.

This blog is about the effect of climate change upon day-to-day weather. About physics and thermodynamics not politics.

It was two years ago last week that I first thoroughly laid out the basic premise.

Nothing that's gone on in the atmosphere since then has convinced me otherwise, and I've continued to add gazillions of weather events to this PDF [56MB file, and now up to 529 slides]. My goal has been and continues to be to document and objectively analyze these cases.

There have been anomalies and extremes for as long as there has been weather on the planet; the key is to assess how they are now changing as the climate changes.

To review:

--The global climate is overall warmer than it was in the 1970s. (That shouldn't be too controversial a statement!)

--Technical talk: The atmospheric warming has resulted in an increase in 1000-500 millibar thicknesses. Those increased thicknesses are manifesting themselves primarily by an increase in 500 mb heights (particularly notable in mid-high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere), as there has not been a similar rise in 1000 mb heights. Although there is of course natural year-to-year variability, the overall trend at 500 mb has clearly been upward.

Analogy: It's like bread baking in the oven. As it warms, the dough expands in depth. Although the details of the science involved are different, the analogy works, which is that the depth (thickness) of a given layer of the atmosphere is increasing on average as that layer warms. Furthermore, in this case, the bottom of that atmospheric layer (1000 millibars) is not significantly changing, just as the bottom of the bread isn't (in that case, it's fixed by the bottom of the pan).

The rest of this fascinating post at is here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New analysis brings dire global forecast of 6.3 degree temperature increase

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 25, 2009

Climate researchers now predict the planet will warm by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century even if the world's leaders fulfill their most ambitious climate pledges, a much faster and broader scale of change than forecast just two years ago, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program.

The new overview of global warming research, aimed at marshaling political support for a new international climate pact by the end of the year, highlights the extent to which recent scientific assessments have outstripped the predictions issued by the Nobel Prize-winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.

Robert Corell, who chairs the Climate Action Initiative and reviewed the UNEP report's scientific findings, said the significant global temperature rise is likely to occur even if industrialized and developed countries enact every climate policy they have proposed at this point. The increase is nearly double what scientists and world policymakers have identified as the upper limit of warming the world can afford in order to avert catastrophic climate change.

"We don't want to go there," said Corell, who collaborated with climate researchers at the Vermont-based Sustainability Institute, Massachusetts-based Ventana Systems and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to do the analysis. The team has revised its estimates since the U.N. report went to press and has posted the most recent figures at

The rest of the Washington Post article is here.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A spiritual obligation to act on climate change

We leaders of Colorado faith communities urge Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet to work for the passage of strong clean energy legislation that addresses climate change. This is one of the dominant moral issues of our time.

Our religious faith deepens an awareness that should be clear to all people: The earth, our home, is a gift. We did not create it or earn it, and we do not own it. So we have a sacred responsibility to be good stewards of that gift.

Further, the earth's resources are finite, and with our technological prowess we have the ability to upset the ecological balance which supports our life on this earth. We must be attentive to the impacts of our activity on the environment, and not foolishly pretend that we are immune from those impacts.

We believe that our planet is in great peril from the threat of climate change. We believe it is real, and that it is to a significant extent human-induced. We accept the vast body of scientific evidence which forecasts severe consequences for the Earth and all its inhabitants if we fail to act.

Our thirst to consume the earth's natural resources, and our reliance on old energy sources which emit greenhouse gases, has led us to a crisis both spiritual and environmental. In view of this, for us as spiritual leaders to remain silent would be an abdication of our responsibilities.

Another consideration for us, and of primary concern, is that all of our religious traditions call us to serve and protect the poor and vulnerable, who contribute the least to this problem yet will suffer the most from the impacts of climate change.

We cannot expect to safeguard our own prosperity and security if we ignore or neglect the plight of the poor and vulnerable around the world, whose numbers will only increase as climate change disrupts lives and livelihoods.

A recent Pentagon report likewise concluded that increasing numbers of conflicts are sure to arise if people are displaced by climate change or forced to fight for dwindling resources such as water and arable land.

(I couldn't agree more, and I'm happy to see churches beginning to take a stand on this issue, which touches on morality, conservation and stewardship). The rest of the article in the Denver Post is here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Unusual arctic warmth, tropical wetness, likely cause of methane increase

Unusually high temperatures in the Arctic and heavy rains in the tropics likely drove a global increase in atmospheric methane in 2007 and 2008 after a decade of near-zero growth, according to a new study. Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, albeit a distant second.

NOAA scientists and their colleagues analyzed measurements from 1983 to 2008 from air samples collected weekly at 46 surface locations around the world. Their findings will appear in the September 28 print edition of the American Geophysical Union’s Geophysical Research Letters and are available online now.

“At least three factors likely contributed to the methane increase,” said Ed Dlugokencky, a methane expert at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. “It was very warm in the Arctic, there was some tropical forest burning, and there was increased rain in Indonesia and the Amazon.”

In the tropics, the scientists note, the increased rainfall resulted in longer periods of rainfall and larger wetland areas, allowing microbes to produce more methane. Starting in mid-2007, scientists noticed La Niña conditions beginning, waning and then intensifying in early 2008. This kind of climate condition typically brings wetter-than-normal conditions in some tropical regions and cooler sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. It can persist for as long as two years. In the United States, La Niña often signals drier-than-normal conditions in the Southwest and Central Plains regions, and wetter fall and winter seasons in the Pacific Northwest.

The rest of the NOAA article is here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Super typhoons rocking the Philippines intensified by global warming

Typhoon Parma on September 30, bearing down on the Philippines, still reeling from the worst flooding in decades from Tropical Storm Ketsana, which unloaded some 20"+ rainfall amounts on the Manila area. For more information click here for high resolution imagery at Earth Observatory.

Major news sources are all reporting on the recent natural disasters in the Northeast Pacific. Among the earthquakes and tsunamis, the area has also been subject to numerous typhoons.

The Associated Press released today that the people of nearby Manila provinces are evacuating, in the face of heavy rainfall and rising water. They are still recovering from Typhoon Ketsana, which hit the Philippines earlier this week and 386 people were killed. The new storm, called Typhoon Parma, is churning 600 miles of the coast of Manila and is expected to strike the island chain on Saturday, meteorologists say.

Typhoons are very common in the Northeast Pacific this time of year, however the destructive power and stronger than average winds of these super typhoons are interesting to weather scientists. A recent paper produced by Nagoya University in Japan affirmed the role of Global Warming in the appearance of super typhoons like Ketsana, Parma, and Morakot, which hit Taiwan in August.

A super typhoon is a category level for sea cyclones that produce winds over 120 mph. The Japanese study used computer simulations to predict that typhoons with winds as high as 180 mph, F3 out of five on the Fujita Scale, could rock the Pacific by 2074. Researcher Kazuhisa Tsuboki says in an interview with National Geographic, "The most important factor in the creation of the super typhoons is the warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific." Climate models in the study professed a rise of almost 4 degrees Fahrenheit in ocean temperatures. Ocean temperatures rise as a result of absorbing heat from the atmosphere. As the atmosphere gets warmer, the ocean gets warmer.

(Interesting story, but the jury is still out on global warming and hurricane intensity. True, the number of Category 4 & 5 hurricanes in the Atlantic and Gulf has DOUBLED since 1970, but climatologists are not convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that climate change is responsible. Remember, most of the warming is at northern latitudes, not in the tropics. I think we'll know within 3-5 years, but for now the possible link between global warming and super typhoons is still very much up in the air).

The rest of the article is here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pawlenty's current climate change stance differs from past

In this photo from July 30, 2009, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks at a luncheon during the Republican National Committee summer meeting in San Diego, Calif., where he used climate change as a punch line. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

St. Paul, Minn. — President Obama is promising new steps toward capping greenhouse gas emissions, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty is backing away from his earlier support for new regulations to slow global warming.

Since 2006, Tim Pawlenty has been touting clean energy initiatives as a way to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2007, he used his time as chair of the National Governor's Association to suggest ways to improve, develop and advance clean energy. The effort was meant to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil, but Pawlenty also didn't deny that it was an attempt to clean up the environment.

"The country needs to hear this wakeup call and move boldly and aggressively in this direction," Pawlenty said in 2006. "What people think now will be very different than what people think 10 or 15 or 20 years from now and whatever political stripe you are, you'll look back on these types of initiatives and say 'thank goodness we did that.'"

Pawlenty was a vocal advocate of creating a cap and trade system to curb greenhouse gas emissions. In 2008, he and Janet Napolitano, then Arizona's Democratic Governor, recorded a radio ad urging Congress to address climate change.

Pawlenty has changed. Now, he uses climate change as a punch line.

(I am so disappointed by this turn of events. I like Tim - I consider him a friend; I've always appreciated his moderate, forward-looking policies. He's been a bridge-builder and a visionary when it comes to alternative energy here in Minnesota. That's why I'm so saddened by his apparent shift in policy - to appease those on the far right - the professional deniers, as he looks to make his mark on the national stage. Maybe this is politics as usual, but if it is I want no part of it. Call me crazy, but I expected more.....)

The rest of the MPR article is here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Precision farming in northwestern Minnesota

From space, Noreen Thomas’ farm in northwest Minnesota looks like a patchwork quilt. Fields change hue with the season and with the alternating plots of organic wheat, soybeans, corn, alfalfa, flax, or hay. Thomas enjoys this view from hundreds of miles above Earth’s surface—not just for the beauty, but the utility. She is among a growing group of Midwest farmers who rely on satellite imagery from Landsat to maximize their harvest and minimize damage to their fields. It’s become another crucial tool like their tractors and sprinklers.

The top true-color image, taken by the Landsat satellite on September 10, 2009, shows Thomas’s organic farm along the banks of the Buffalo River near the center of the image. Lush green fields dominate the image, though some crops have already been harvested leaving squares of tan and brown. The lower image shows the same scene in false color. Made with infrared light, the false-color image provides a wealth of information about crop conditions.

Fascinating article from NASA's Earth Observatory, the rest of it is right here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Time to turn back? The most incredible tornado pictures

Wednesday, 16 September 2009 | 9:46 PM - Running towards a raging twister might seem insane to most people but for one artist, such perils are all in a day's work. Storm chaser Jim Reed has narrowly escaped death twice in his pursuit of the perfect stormy shot.

His experiences have been brought together in the revised and expanded version of his award-winning photo book, 'Storm Chaser: A Photographer's Journey.'

The awe-inspiring images chronicle Reed's travels through more than 2,000 U.S. counties documenting some of America's most deadly and spectacular weather.

'Storm Chaser includes the most memorable photos and experiences of 17 years of photographing wild weather,' said Reed.

'These experiences have shaped and changed my life.'

Re-released in June of this year, the book documents 17 hurricanes, including Hurricanes Charley in 2004, Katrina in 2005 and Ike in 2008.

Encountering hundreds of tornadoes, super-cell thunderstorms and hailstorms that have produced icy orbs twice the size of a softball, Jim's pictures are breathtaking.

(Yes, it's just a matter of time before one of these storm chasers, professional or otherwise, gets whacked by a tornado - or killed by lightning - or involved in a multi-car traffic accident with multiple fatalities. I've tagged along with NSSL scientists 3 times in Oklahoma since 1985, saw a tornado each time, but in every case I wasn't scared about getting sucked up into the tornado. I was TERRIFIED about being hit by a car or pickup traveling at 100 mph trying to intercept a twister and get the "money shot").

The rest of the article is here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Global warming threatens beer quality

IF THE sinking Maldives aren't enough to galvanise action on climate change, could losing a classic beer do it? Climatologist Martin Mozny of the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute and colleagues say that the quality of Saaz hops - the delicate variety used to make pilsner lager - has been decreasing in recent years. They say the culprit is climate change in the form of increased air temperature.

Mozny's team used a high-resolution dataset of weather patterns, crop yield and hop quality to estimate the impact of climate change on Saaz hops in the Czech Republic between 1954 and 2006. Best-quality Saaz hops contain about 5 per cent alpha acid, the compound that produces the delicate, bitter taste of pilsners.

(Oh no! For the love of God - and great beer - say it isn't so! For the rest of this profoundly troubling article at click here).

Canada's most deadly natural disasters

Canada's earliest-known most deadly natural disaster was a hurricane that killed 4,000 people off Newfoundland in 1775, many of them fishermen, when scores of ships were lost. "The Rock" was also hit with Canada's only-recorded earthquake-related deaths, when tsunami waves whipped up on Nov. 18, 1929, under the Grand Banks traveled 300 km across the Atlantic Ocean. They smashed 40 villages, right, killing 30 people.

In addition to the 11 tornadoes that ripped through central and southern Ontario last month, heavily damaging more than 600 homes in Vaughan -- 38 irreparably -- and killing an 11-year-old boy in the town of Durham, deadly disasters since the start of the last century have included:

- Five children and four adults died and 25 people were injured in the Inuit village of Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec -- now part of Nunavik -- when tonnes of snow cascaded down the sheer face of a 365-metre-high cliff at 1:30 a.m. on New Year's Day, 1999 and hit the Satuumavik School.

- A January 1998 ice storm blanketed the eastern seaboard, killing 26 people in Ontario and Quebec and knocking out electricity well into the month. Most victims died of carbon monoxide poisoning from heaters, or from hypothermia.

- The Red River in Manitoba overflowed in 1997, submerging parts of Winnipeg and nearby villages. But they're used to it, since the Cree -- who warned early settlers of the danger of the "Miscousipi," or Red Water River -- were first proved right in 1826. Even trains were submerged in the big one of 1950.

- Two major hurricanes caused extensive damage on opposite sides of the country. For five days starting on Sept. 24, 2003, Hurricane Juan blew north from Bermuda and hit Nova Scotia and P.E.I winds as high as 170 km/h, leaving eight people dead and causing $300 million damage. Winds up to 152 km/h swept Halifax's harbour area with wave surges up to 2 metres causing serious erosion, felled trees, knocked out power to 700,000 people in central part of the province, damaged buildings around the city's Bedford Basin, including a hospital, high rises and 36% of the homes. The capital's worst storm since 1893 sank a pleasure schooner and left treasured Point Pleasant Park plus the Public Gardens closed for months. On Dec. 15, 2006, three West Coast storms that reached 120 km/h uprooted or snapped the trunks of 10,000 of its half-million trees (including a 200-year-old hemlock) in 400-hectare Stanley Park, a rural-like oasis on Vancouver's harbour that attracts about 8 million visits a year. A couple in their mid-60s were found dead in Burnaby, believed to be victims of carbon-monoxide poisoning caused by a power outage that left up to 240,000 BC Hydro customers with no electricity.

The complete article in the Edmonton Sun is here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Arctic shortcut beckons shippers as arctic thaws

MOSCOW — For hundreds of years, mariners have dreamed of an Arctic shortcut that would allow them to speed trade between Asia and the West. Two German ships are poised to complete that transit for the first time, aided by the retreat of Arctic ice that scientists have linked to global warming.

The ships started their voyage in South Korea in late July and will begin the last leg of the trip this week, leaving a Siberian port for Rotterdam in the Netherlands carrying 3,500 tons of construction materials.

Russian ships have long moved goods along the country’s sprawling Arctic coastline. And two tankers, one Finnish and the other Latvian, hauled fuel between Russian ports using the route, which is variously called the Northern Sea Route or the Northeast Passage.

But the Russians hope that the transit of the German ships will inaugurate the passage as a reliable shipping route, and that the combination of the melting ice and the economic benefits of the shortcut — it is thousands of miles shorter than various southerly routes — will eventually make the Arctic passage a summer competitor with the Suez Canal.

“It is global warming that enables us to think about using that route,” Verena Beckhusen, a spokeswoman for the shipping company, the Beluga Group of Bremen, Germany, said in a telephone interview.

(I wonder how the deniers are going to explain this one. Click here for the rest of the article in the Science section of the New York Times).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Widespead arctic wildlife changes seen with global warming

Scientists carrying out studies of wildlife in the Arctic say global warming is causing dramatic changes in animal and plant life, threatening some species with extinction.

The report is a compilation of studies of Arctic eco-systems by an international team of scientists who have been collaborating during the fourth International Polar Year,which ended in 2008.

Eric Post, a professor of biology at Penn State University and leader of the study team, says previous research has focused on the non-living or abiotic effects of global warming on the Arctic, including the melting of sea ice and subsequent rises in seawater levels. But Post says this is the first comprehensive report investigating the sweeping impacts of climate change on eco-systems and living creatures in the north polar region, including:

"Fresh water systems, terrestrial systems, resident species, migratory species, birds, mammals, plants, pretty much everything. It seems like wherever you look in the Arctic right now, things are changing quite rapidly," he said.

The rest of the article from the Voice of America can be found here.

Station fire 71% contained as weather turns in firefighters favor

Aftermath. From NASA's low-orbiting "Terra" satellite you can easily see the thousands of acres of land blackened, scorched by the recent fires. Less wind and higher relative humidity from an onshore wind flow in recent days has helped firefighters get the conflagration under control.

The Station fire is now 71% contained, fire officials said today, as cooler weather allow firefighters to set back fires on the massive blaze's eastern flank.

Officials also said the number of dwellings destroyed in the fire was 81, up from 78.

The fire battle has been hampered in recent days by winds. As a result, firefighters were not able to conduct a scheduled burnout operation east of Mt. Wilson on Wednesday.

“Most of the work is really being done inch by inch,” said David Ortiz, a Station fire spokesman. “It’s really steep terrain.”

Despite the winds, officials increased containment Wednesday from 62% to 71%.

The fire killed two Los Angeles County firefighters. Officials have classified the fire as arson.

(Source: L.A. Times)

As Gulf hurricanes get larger, tornado threat increases

Tornadoes that occur from hurricanes moving inland from the Gulf Coast are increasing in frequency, according to researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology. This increase seems to reflect the increase in size and frequency among large hurricanes that make landfall from the Gulf of Mexico. The findings can be found in Geophysical Research Letters online and in print in the September 3, 2009 issue.

“As the size of landfalling hurricanes from the Gulf of Mexico increases, we’re seeing more tornadoes than we did in the past that can occur up to two days and several hundred miles inland from the landfall location,” said James Belanger, doctoral student in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech and lead author of the paper.

Currently, it’s well known that when hurricanes hit land, there’s a risk that tornadoes may form in the area. Until now, no one has quantified that risk because observations of tornadoes were too sporadic prior to the installation of the NEXRAD Doppler Radar Network in 1995. Belanger along with co-authors Judith Curry, professor and chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Tech and research scientist Carlos Hoyos, decided to see if they could create a model using the more reliable tornado record that’s existed since 1995.

Click here for the rest of the article.