Search This Blog

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Environmental groups slam report on bluefin tuna quotas

Environmental groups Friday criticised scientists' recommendations for fishing quotas of the lucrative but endangered bluefin tuna, which they warned are based on out-of-date and unreliable data. The scientists on the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) concluded a four-day meeting in Madrid on Friday.
They issued recommendations to be presented to ICCAT, the inter-governmental group responsible for managing its stocks, at a meeting in Paris in November.
At its last meeting, in Brazil last November, ICCAT agreed to cut its catch for bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean by 40 percent, from 22,000 tonnes in 2009 to 13,500 in 2010.
SCRS said maintaining the allowable catch at 13,500 tonnes for 2011-2013 "will likely allow the stock to increase" and allow it to recover by 2022 "with at least 60 percent probability."
But they warned of "unquantified uncertainties" in gathering reliable data.
"Most of the data limitations that have plagued previous assessments remain and will require new approaches in order to improve the scientific advice the Committee can offer," the report said.
The environmental group WWF slammed the recommendations and called for a quota of "below 6,000 tonnes per year."
"The very data on which the scientists have based their analyses are severely inadequate and show many gaps," it said in a statement.
"WWF is shocked at the lack of precaution perpetuated by ICCAT in bluefin tuna management, and we are urging for catches to be slashed by at least half," Dr Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries at WWF Mediterranean, was quoted as saying in the statement.
"Tuna stocks are struggling at a mere third of sustainable levels, yet rules are continuing to be flouted and reporting duties ignored -- meaning ICCAT's scientists can't even do their job properly."
The Pew Environment Group, a Washington DC-based non-governmental organisation, charged the SCRS had "failed to recommend solid, scientifically-based catch limits."
It called on ICCAT countries at the Paris meeting to suspend bluefin fishing and protect their spawning grounds as the "first two crucial steps."
"Bluefin tuna fishing nations are providing scientists with out-of-date, incomplete and often unreliable information," said Remi Parmentier, a Pew Environment Group observer at the meeting.
"Because of these glaring gaps in data, scientists are essentially being asked to gaze into a crystal ball and pick a number for bluefin tuna catch limits.
"It allows fishing countries to assign bluefin tuna catch limits based on unfounded optimism instead of objective science. No species should have to rely on a crystal ball for its survival."
Industrial-scale harvesting on the high seas has caused bluefin stocks to plummet in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic.
A meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Doha in March rejected a ban on trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, after aggressive lobbying by the Japanese.
A single 220-kilo (485-pound) fish can fetch 160,000 dollars (120,000 euros) at auction in Japan, which consumes three-quarters of all bluefin, mainly as sushi and sashimi.

Enhanced by Zemanta

San Andreas fault said 'ready to go'

San Andreas fault said 'ready to go'

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers Los Angeles (UPI) Oct 8, 2010 A section of the San Andreas Fault in California is overdue for a major earthquake that could reach 8.1 magnitude, researchers say. If or when it happens, seismologists say, the earthquake could run 340 miles from Monterey in central California south to the Salton Sea, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Experts previously believed a major section of the fault 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles would remain dormant for at least another century.
But new studies suggest even that section of the fault is overdue for the "Big One," seismologist Lucy Jones said.
"All of it has plenty enough stress for it to be ready to go," Jones said. "The biggest implication of [the report] is that it increases the likelihood that when we do have a big earthquake, it will grow into the 'wall-to-wall' rupture."
The "walls" are the boundaries of the southern San Andreas, which begin at the Salton Sea and end in the town of Parkfield in Monterey County.
Seismologists generally consider the southern San Andreas Fault as a single segment because it all behaves the same -- it rarely rumbles, but when awakened, the shaking can be devastating.
The San Andreas has long been considered one of the most dangerous faults in Southern California because of its length.
Not only do longer faults produce bigger quakes, they emit a type of shaking energy that can travel longer distances.
"So a much larger area is affected by a really large earthquake," Jones said.
Enhanced by Zemanta

China and US blame each other in climate stand-off

The United States and China clashed on the final day of climate change talks on Saturday, accusing each other of blocking progress ahead of a major summit next month on global warming. The world's two biggest greenhouse gas polluters sparred throughout the six days of United Nations talks in China, triggering anger from environmentalists who said countries were acting in self-interest and not to save the planet.

US climate envoy Jonathan Pershing warned progress at the UN's annual climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, was in jeopardy because of China's refusal to commit to curbing greenhouse gases.
"We have made some very modest progress. But unfortunately it's been quite limited," Pershing said of the talks in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin hours before they were to wrap up.

Delegates from more than 170 countries were in Tianjin for the latest round of long-running UN negotiations aimed at eventually securing a binding global treaty on how to limit and cope with climate change.
This would replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012 and aims to keep global warming below the threshold that scientists warn will trigger catastrophic damage to the world's climate system.
World leaders failed to broker such a treaty in Copenhagen last year as developed and developing nations battled over who should carry more of the burden in curbing greenhouse gases, which are blamed for global warming.

Pershing said the biggest problem remained the refusal by China and other developing nations to commit through the UN process to curbing their emissions, and to have those efforts monitored and verified.
"These elements are at the heart of the deal. And the lack of progress on these gives us concern about the prospects for Cancun," he said, insisting this was an element agreed to in Copenhagen.
China, on the other hand, insisted all week that the United States and other rich nations should do much more to curb their emissions, highlighting their historic responsibility for the problem.
China's chief climate negotiator, Su Wei, said the United States was throwing up smokescreens to hide its own inaction.
"It's not fair to criticise if you are not doing anything," he said.

The UN's climate change chief, Christiana Figueres, said the rift had not derailed the Tianjin talks and that important progress had been made on specific issues.
"I would dare say that this week has got us closer to a structured set of decisions that can be agreed in Cancun," said Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change.
"This week governments had to address together what was doable in Cancun.... They have actually done that." She said she was confident a plan by rich nations to give developing countries 30 billion dollars to help them cope with climate change would be finalised at Cancun, an important part in building trust between the two sides. "I have said and I will continue to say that fast-track finance is the golden key to Cancun. I am confident that the golden key will be dutifully unlocked," she said.

Greenpeace international climate policy director Wendel Trio on Saturday criticised the continuing hardline stance from the major players in the talks.  "Governments should look at what they can do for the climate, not what the process can do for them," Trio said.

The talks are expected to end on Saturday night, following a plenary session in which delegates can discuss the week's events.

Amid the UN gridlock, a grassroots movement headed by the and environment groups was gearing up for what they said would be the world's biggest day of climate change action on Sunday.
People in more than 180 countries will plant trees, install solar panels, plant organic vegetables and perform other acts to help the environment during the "Global Work Party".

US says disappointed in lack of progress at UN climate talksTianjin, China (AFP) Oct 9, 2010 - The US envoy to climate change talks said Saturday he was disappointed that little progress had been made, amid a high-profile rift with hosts China. "We have made some very modest progress. But unfortunately it's been quite limited," Jonathan Pershing told reporters on the final day of the week-long talks in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin. Pershing said he was most concerned about the refusal by China and other developing nations to allow the UN to monitor and verify their efforts to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that are blamed for global warming.

"In particular we are disappointed that we have made very little progress on the key issue that confronts us," he said, referring to the monitoring and verification dispute. He warned that the stand-off could block progress on achieving a balanced package of solutions to tackle climate change at a major UN summit that will be held in Cancun, Mexico, starting on November 29. "These elements are at the heart of the deal. And the lack of progress on these gives us concern about the prospects for Cancun," he said. "In fact the danger we face now is that the essential balance that allowed progress to be made is in jeopardy."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

China Says Higher GDP Needed Before GHG Emissions Peak

China Says Higher GDP Needed Before GHG Emissions Peak
Xie Zhenhua, China's top climate-change official and deputy chief of the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission, said at climate talks in Tianjin that China's GHG emissions would likely not peak before its per capita GDP reached $40,000, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. Xie added that China could not foresee what its peak GHG emissions would be. Noting that some countries with per capita GDPs of $40,000 or more had not yet reached their emissions peak, Xie was quoted as saying: "Under such circumstances, how can you ask China, with a per capital GDP just over 3,000 U.S. dollars, to foresee its peak?" Xinhua reported.

Xie called on developed nations to help out so China's GHG emissions would peak at an earlier date than they would otherwise. Xie was quoted as saying: "We will try to get passed [sic] the peak of emissions as early as possible, but this also hinges on how much money the developed nations will offer and what technology they will transfer as required by the international protocols. The more money they provide, or the earlier the money arrives, the sooner we should be able to pass the emissions peak."

Xie affirmed his country's position that the Kyoto Protocol, which does not set mandatory caps on developing nations' emissions, must form the basis of any climate deal forged in Cancún, Reuters reported. Xie was quoted as saying: "A rise in greenhouse gases is necessary and, it should be said, reasonable. The key is that we must adopt effective measures to control the rate of growth, so it won't be unfettered."

China has achieved a 15.6 percent reduction in energy consumption per unit of GDP, just short of its goal of reducing consumption by 20 percent in 2010 compared with 2005, China Daily reported. Xie was quoted as saying: "It's very challenging to further cut energy use and reach the set goal. It's a legally binding target. To meet it, we have to adopt active measures, including phasing out obsolete equipment and upgrading facilities." Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo said the country would put in place further measures to help fight climate change, including restructuring the economy, conserving energy and implementing energy-efficiency measures.
Enhanced by Zemanta

West Virginia Sues EPA Over Mountaintop Mining Policies

W.Va. Sues EPA in Effort to Continue Mountaintop Coal Mining
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has sued EPA in an attempt to block the agency's move against mountaintop coal mining, Dow Jones Newswires reported. West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, facing a difficult Senate race, sided with his state's coal industry, the newswire wrote. Manchin was quoted as saying: "We are asking the court to reverse EPA's actions before West Virginia's economy and our mining community face further hardship and uncertainty and weaken the strength of this country."
Enhanced by Zemanta

Obama reshapes administration for a fresh strategy

Obama reshapes administration for a fresh strategy

President Obama Said to Be Moving Toward Executive Action on Energy
New White House appointments were said to target enabling President Obama to achieve goals, including climate issues, by executive action, rather than through legislation, the Los Angeles Times reported. An administration official, who requested anonymity, was quoted as saying: "The ambition is to get a reasonable start" on regulatory changes.

The Times wrote: "One area of likely administration action is climate change. Legislation curbing emissions that cause global warming is stalled in Congress. Such efforts have a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels over the next decade. The Obama administration does not think it can achieve the same reductions through regulation alone." However, added the Times, EPA "is determined to use its regulatory power under the Clean Air Act to begin lowering emissions, in the absence of congressional action."
Enhanced by Zemanta

Library | National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

Library | National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

The Use of Surface and Subsea Dispersants During the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill from PEN by Pace Law Library

This draft Report from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling examines the issues raised by the use of dispersants in the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Dispersants change the distribution, not the amount, of oil within a marine environment. They are chemicals typically applied directly to oil on the water surface in order to break the oil into small droplets that can then mix with water below the surface. The dispersed oil is rapidly diluted, mixing both vertically and horizontally in the water column. While this alleviates high concentrations at the surface, it may expose organisms to lower, but more widespread, concentrations of oil.

The use of dispersants in the aftermath of the Macondo deepwater well explosion was controversial for three reasons. First, the total amount of dispersants used was unprecedented: 1.84 million gallons. Second, 771,000 of those gallons were applied at the wellhead, located 5,067 feet below the surface. Little or no prior testing had been done on the effectiveness and potential adverse environmental consequences of subsea dispersant use, let alone at those volumes. Third, the existing federal regulatory system pre-authorized dispersant use in the Gulf of Mexico without any limits or guidelines as to amounts or duration.

Faced with an emergency, the government had to make decisions about high-volume and subsea dispersant use within time frames that denied officials the opportunity to gather necessary information. The resulting uncertainty even fueled unfounded suspicions that BP was using dispersants without authorization from the government in an effort to mask the oil and to limit its ultimate liability.

This paper considers two issues. The first is how well the government handled the dispersant issues it faced in the absence of necessary scientific information and pursuant to a regulatory regime that had failed to anticipate this kind of problem. The second is how, in light of lessons learned from this recent experience, government procedures and existing laws might be improved to allow for sounder decisions regarding the use of dispersants in the future.

Related articles by Zemanta
Enhanced by Zemanta

The Challenges of Oil Spill Response in the Arctic

This draft report from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling describes some of the difficulties of spill response in the Arctic.

In the staff’s view, response challenges in the Arctic are important for the Commission to consider in its recommendations for the future of offshore drilling. This paper provides background information regarding the status of offshore drilling in Arctic waters, identifies problems with responding to oil spills in Arctic waters, and highlights areas for further Commission inquiry with respect to Arctic drilling. The two locations of offshore drilling in the Arctic, the Beaufort Sea and the Chukchi Sea, present different drilling conditions and response issues.

The Beaufort Sea drilling sites are situated on man-made gravel islands located two to fifteen miles offshore, in water depths up to approximately 100 feet.2 They are often linked to onshore facilities and are close to land and shoreline resources. The majority of the construction of the offshore gravel islands, however, needs to be completed during the winter ice season when an ice road exists between the site and the mainland.

The locations of drilling interest in the Chukchi Sea are much further offshore and, consequently, much less accessible. This area had until recently generated less interest from industry as a result of its lack of shoreline infrastructure and the consequent heightened cost of drilling. The current applications from the Shell Oil Company and StatOil are for seismic exploration and exploratory drilling at least sixty miles off the coast that would take place during the open water season from July to October.

These differences in environmental conditions and drilling proposals mean that spill response in the Beaufort Sea would potentially be more straightforward than spill response in the Chukchi. The Beaufort region has more developed and proximate infrastructure, so access to a spill area might be easier. However, the Beaufort drilling sites are closer to both the sensitive shoreline and the areas traversed by bowhead whales and whale hunters.

A spill or blowout in the Chukchi Sea area would be more difficult to access, let alone contain and clean up. Although Shell has pre-positioned assets dedicated to potential spill response in the Chukchi Sea, bringing any assets, both the pre-staged equipment and any additional resources brought from elsewhere, to bear on a spill in the Arctic would be more difficult than in the Gulf of Mexico. And once the winter freeze occurs, any spill would be impossible to access for purposes of response. On the other hand, any spill in the Chukchi Sea would be far from coastal resources, and oil trapped beneath sea ice would be unlikely to spread into marine ecosystems until the ice began to melt.

The Arctic areas also stand in contrast with the Gulf of Mexico in terms of the issues posed by deepwater drilling. The Deepwater Horizon containment efforts were complicated immensely by the depth of the wellhead and the high well pressures encountered at the Macondo well. Wells in both the Chukchi and the Beaufort Seas would be in far shallower water, which could make it easier to contain a blowout or riser leak. Shell asserts that well pressures in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas would be approximately one third to one half of the pressures faced by BP at the Macondo well.

Finally, although wells in the Chukchi would be similar to the Macondo well in terms of distance from shore, the human uses of the shoreline of the Gulf Coast are much more expansive than the human uses of the North Slope Coast.

The contrasts between these regions and between open water and ice conditions affect the nature of spill response and spill response planning. Many of the issues highlighted in this paper apply to both the Beaufort and the Chukchi Seas, but the different conditions should be kept in mind.

Crop failures set to increase under climate change

Crop failures set to increase under climate change

Large-scale crop failures like the one that caused the recent Russian wheat crisis are likely to become more common under climate change due to an increased frequency of extreme weather events, a new study shows.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Photo story: Death of the Colorado River As a river fades, a photographer captures the suffering on both sides of the US-Mexico border.

The Colorado River, which stretches from the northwest U.S. to the Sea of Cortez, is a dying waterway. The river is a shell of its former self a victim of overpopulation, pollution, damming, climate change and apathy. (Brian L. Frank/GlobalPost)

World's Rivers in Crisis: U.S. and Europe Face Highest Threat Levels A new report on the health of our rivers reveals that "the richer the country, the greater the threat to river systems."

Failure to protect and invest in nature has left the world’s rivers in crisis, threatening the water supply of more than five billion people according to a new study. Pollution, dam building, agricultural runoff, conversion of wetlands, and water-works engineering have severely impacting global river systems, the first- ever health assessment of the planet’s riverine ecosystems reported in Nature last week.
"What made our jaws drop is that some of the highest threat levels in the world are in the United States and Europe," says Peter McIntyre, a co-author of the report who is a zoologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the U.S.
"Our study reveals, that on average, the richer the country the greater the threat to river systems," McIntyre told IPS.
Expensive water-works engineering to control freshwater quality and quantity in rich countries decimate rivers’ natural abilities to control and clean water the Nature study found. River systems provide an estimated six to seven trillion dollars in services to humanity every year, but the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on engineering systems impairs those services for short-term gain, says co-author Charles Vörösmarty of the City University of New York, an expert on global water resources. More at:
Enhanced by Zemanta

In First Marine Census, a Plenitude of Wonders By JOHN COLLINS RUDOLF

Three subarctic sunflower stars in shallow waters in Prince William Sound in Alaska.Casey Debenham, University of Alaska Fairbanks Three subarctic sunflower stars in shallow waters in Prince William Sound in Alaska. (More Photos)
Green: Science
After a decade of research and more than 540 ocean expeditions, scientists presented the world with the first-ever census of marine life on Monday. The census involved the work of 670 institutions and 2,700 researchers and made direct observation of 120,000 marine species, including some 6,000 newly discovered species.
“We’re like the people in London and Paris 200 years ago, putting together the first dictionaries and encyclopedias,” Jesse H. Ausubel, co-founder of the census project and a professor of environmental studies at the Rockefeller University in New York, said in an interview. “Ten years ago, there was simply no list anywhere of the world’s marine species.”
The project has conclusively overturned a once-common belief that the open ocean and deep seafloor were relatively barren. “There are no ocean deserts,” Mr. Ausubel said. “Everywhere we looked we found life.”
The census also documented the wide travels of some species, which can migrate thousands of miles across the globe, and rise and descend thousands of feet of ocean in a single day. The world’s polar oceans, meanwhile, were found to be important “incubators” for new species.
The project brings the estimate of known marine species to nearly 250,000, a figure that still represents only a fraction of the species that inhabit the seas. The full number of species could be nearly one million, researchers said. If microscopic life like bacteria and viruses are included, that number could be in the hundreds of millions, or billions.
One of the most remarkable new species uncovered by researchers during the census is the so-called “yeti crab” from the Pacific Ocean south of Easter Island, which features long, extravagantly furry claws.
“It looks like it’s wearing big white mittens that look like they belong in Aspen during ski season,” Mr. Ausubel said.
With the human influence on the oceans only accelerating, the marine census helps establish a baseline to judge the impact of industrial fishing, pollution and the changes brought about by steadily warming ocean waters.
Already, the abundance of most large species — from sea turtles to tuna — has dropped by 90 percent or more, the survey found.
“We hope that the 21st century will be the era of the great restoration of sea life,” Mr. Ausubel said.
The census turned up a crab that has been named Kiwa hirsuta for its hairy appearance.Ifremer, A.Fifis, 2006 The census turned up a crab in the Pacific south of Easter Island that has been named Kiwa hirsuta for its hairy appearance. (More Photos)
Enhanced by Zemanta

Antarctic Sea Ice Increase Not Linked to Ozone Hole, New Research Shows

ScienceDaily (Oct. 6, 2010) — While sea ice extent has declined dramatically in the Arctic in recent years, it has increased slightly in the Antarctic. Some scientists have suggested that increased Antarctic sea ice extent can be explained by the ozone hole over Antarctica. Previous simulations have indicated that the ozone hole induces a large change in atmospheric circulation in austral summer and that this change in circulation could contribute to the changing Antarctic sea extent.

To learn more, M. Sigmond, of the Department of Physics at the University of Toronto, and J. C. Fyfe, of the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, Environment Canada, used a climate model, forced by monthly varying observed stratospheric ozone changes from 1979 to 2005, to simulate the effects of stratospheric ozone depletion on Antarctic sea ice extent.
Contrary to predictions of previous studies, their model finds that ozone depletion would lead to a year-round decrease in Antarctic sea ice extent rather than the increase that was observed. The results suggest that processes other than ozone depletion must be causing the observed increase in Antarctic sea ice extent.
It remains unclear why Southern Hemisphere sea ice trends differ so greatly from Northern Hemisphere trends.
The research appears in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Enhanced by Zemanta

WWF: Little hope for climate protection

Worldwide pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are falling far short of what's needed to avoid catastrophic climate change, environmental group WWF warned Wednesday, urging negotiators meeting in China to reverse that trend. Under current policy settings, emissions could be "up to nearly one-third more in 2020 than the trend needed to avoid" dangerous climate change, WWF said in a report compiled based on its forecasts and latest national reduction pledges.
WWF says the world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a yearly output of 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2020 to limit the warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. Instead, nations are on track to emit up to 53.6 billion tons of CO2 per year.
"It's clear that some countries are facing up to the necessary transformations of their economies but other countries have failed to endorse this new trend speedily and are risking the safety and prosperity of all," Gordon Shepherd, the head of WWF's Global Climate Initiative, said in a statement.
He added that negotiators from 177 nations meeting until Saturday for U.N.-mandated climate talks in Tianjin, China, should work to "see at least some indications of this trend changing."
Global climate negotiations have been deadlocked since the failed meeting in Copenhagen late last year, when leaders jetting to Denmark couldn't agree on concrete emissions reduction targets or a way to measure them.
The summit culminated in the publication of the so-called Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding declaration agreed between the United States, China, Brazil and South Africa after larger negotiations had broken down.
Developing nations have since resisted a legally binding treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012, because they claim rich nations that have benefited from emitting during the past decades should shoulder more of the burden. Industrialized countries argue the developing nations need to commit to concrete reduction targets to enable a global effort.
The European Commission this year backtracked on a plan to unilaterally boost the bloc's greenhouse gas emissions reduction target from 20 percent to 30 percent -- likely also because other nations, including China and the United States, the world's top two emitters, haven't committed to similarly ambitious targets.
The Tianjin talks, the final meeting before a major U.N. summit this December in Cancun, Mexico, have focused on financial pledges for climate mitigation schemes instead of concrete emissions reduction targets that remain too controversial to be agreed upon.
Officials from climate heavyweights, including the United States and the European Union, have in the past weeks suggested they might seek channels outside the U.N. process to tackle climate change.
Few observers expect a binding agreement to emerge from the Cancun meeting. Susanne Droege, climate expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, a Berlin think tank, revealed that not even a workable negotiation text has been drafted yet.
"Ninety percent of the time, negotiators are locked in procedural talks and that can be very frustrating," Droege told United Press International in a telephone interview Wednesday. "Cancun will be all about not promising too much."
Enhanced by Zemanta

Solar surprises raise questions for climate models

Solar surprises raise questions for climate models

Paris (AFP) Oct 6, 2010 Scientists found that a decline in the Sun's activity did not lead as expected to a cooling of the Earth, a surprise finding that could have repercussions for computer models on climate change. The Sun's activity is known to wax and wane over 11-year cycles, which means that in theory the amount of radiation reaching Earth declines during the "waning" phase.
The new study was carried out between 2004 and 2007 during a solar waning phase.
The amount of energy in the ultraviolet part of the energy spectrum fell, the researchers found.
But, contrary to expectation, radiation in the visible part of the energy spectrum increased, rather than declined, which caused a warming effect.
The investigation, based mainly on satellite data, is important because of a debate over how far global warming is attributable to Man or to natural causes.
Climatologists say that warming is overwhelmingly due to man-made greenhouse gases -- invisible carbon emissions from coal, gas and coal that linger in the atmosphere and trap solar heat.
But a vocal lobby of sceptics say that this is flawed or alarmist, and point out that Earth has known periods of cooling and warming that are due to variations in the Sun's output.
"These results are challenging what we thought we knew about the Sun's effect on our climate," said lead author Joanna Haigh, a professor at Imperial College London where she is also a member of the Grantham Institute for Climate change.
"However, they only show us a snapshot of the Sun's activity and its behaviour over the three years of our study could be an anomaly."
Insisting on caution, Haigh said that if the Sun turned out to have a warming effect during the "waning" part of the cycle, it might also turn out to have a cooling effect during the "waxing" part of the cycle.
In that case, greenhouse gases would be more to blame than thought for the perceptible rise in global temperatures over the past century.
"We cannot jump to any conclusions based on what we have found during this comparatively short period," Haigh said. "We need to carry out further studies to explore the Sun's activity, and the patterns that we have uncovered, on longer timescales."
The study is published in Nature, the weekly British science journal
Enhanced by Zemanta

NASA Study Sees Earth's Water Cycle Pulse Quickening

NASA Study Sees Earth's Water Cycle Pulse Quickening

Monsoonal rains triggered extensive flooding throughout Pakistan in the summer of 2010, as depicted in this Aug. 18 image from the ASTER instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft. Scientists predict a speedup in Earth's water cycle will lead to increased precipitation in Earth's tropics, with heavier, more punishing storms. Image credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

Dhanbad, India (SPX) Oct 07, 2010 Freshwater is flowing into Earth's ocean in greater amounts every year, thanks to more frequent and extreme storms related to global warming, according to a first-of-its-kind study by a team of NASA and university researchers. The team, led by Tajdarul Syed of the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, India, and formerly with the University of California, Irvine, used NASA and other world-scale satellite observations to track total water volume flowing from the continents into the ocean each month. They found 18 percent more water fed into the world's ocean from rivers and melting polar ice sheets in 2006 than in 1994.
The average annual rise was 1.5 percent.
"That might not sound like much - 1.5 percent a year - but after a few decades, it's huge," said Jay Famiglietti, UC Irvine Earth system science professor and principal investigator on the study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He noted that while freshwater is essential to humans and ecosystems, the rain is falling in all the wrong places, for all the wrong reasons.
"In general, more water is good," Famiglietti said.
"But here's the problem: Not everybody is getting more rainfall, and those who are may not need it. What we're seeing is exactly what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted - that precipitation is increasing in the tropics and the Arctic Circle with heavier, more punishing storms. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of people live in semiarid regions, and those are drying up."
Famiglietti said the evaporation and precipitation cycle taught in grade school is accelerating dangerously because of higher temperatures fueled by greenhouse gases.
Hotter weather above the ocean causes freshwater to evaporate faster, which leads to thicker clouds unleashing more powerful storms over land. The resulting rainfall then travels via rivers to the sea in ever-larger amounts, and the cycle begins again.
"Many scientists and models have suggested that if the water cycle is intensifying because of climate change, then we should be seeing increasing river flow. Unfortunately, there is no global discharge measurement network, so we have not been able to tell," wrote Famiglietti and Syed.
Satellite records of sea-level rise, precipitation and evaporation were used to create a unique 13-year record - the longest and first of its kind. The trends the researchers found were all the same: increased evaporation from the ocean that led to increased precipitation on land and more flow back into the ocean.
Among the NASA data used in the ongoing study are measurements from the NASA/European Topex/Poseidon and Jason-1 satellite altimeters and the NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites. The study is funded by NASA and Earth system science fellowships.
"As we turn up the thermostat on planet Earth, it's not just higher temperatures we have to think about," said co-author Josh Willis of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
"Long-term changes in rainfall will be a part of climate change too. What we've shown here is that we now have the tools to see global climate change as it occurs - not just the warming, but changes in the hydrological cycle as well."
The researchers cautioned that although they had analyzed more than a decade of data, it was still a relatively short time frame. Natural ups and downs that appear in climate data make detecting long-term trends challenging. Further study is needed, they said, and is underway.
Other authors of the study include Don Chambers of the University of South Florida, Tampa, Fla.; and Kyle Hilburn of Remote Sensing Systems, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Protecting biodiversity will 'help' ASEAN economies: experts

Manila (AFP) Oct 6, 2010 Southeast Asian nations should encourage businesses to protect the region's endangered plants and animals by showing profit can be made from biodiversity, experts said Wednesday. Between 30-40 percent of all animal and plant species in the region could soon be extinct without action to protect them, said Rodrigo Fuentes of the think tank Southest Asian Nations (ASEAN) Centre for Biodiversity.
"You've got to involve the private sector and you've got to create a market mechanism that will encourage business to go into that," Fuentes said at an ASEAN environment forum in Manila.
ASEAN groups the economies of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, a market of about half a billion people.
It covers only three percent of the world's surface but has 20 percent of all its plant and animal species.
Govindan Parayil, a director of the Tokyo-based United Nations University, said there was profit to be made in "bio-prospecting," where new drugs, foods or materials can be produced from local wildlife.
However he said special measures must be taken to ensure that local communities also profit from any scientific discoveries made.
Private sector inputs in "green growth" industries like non-conventional energy could also boost ASEAN's manufacturing sector, Parayil added.
"We usually think business will not listen because this not a very profitable area to get into (but) there are great opportunities here for business in green growth," Paraynil said.
Raman Letchumanan, head of the ASEAN secretariat's environment division, called for wider use of "eco-labelling," as this encourages consumers to buy such products.
Eco-labelling, where products get a special tag after meeting high environmental standards, is already being done in Singapore and parts of Indonesia and Thailand, Letchumanan added.
Businesses must also be convinced to adapt practices that can cut costs through more efficient use of energy and raw materials, the experts said.
The experts warned that ASEAN could not copy the high-consumption model of the United States without suffering serious environmental damage.
Enhanced by Zemanta