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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Between denial and the deep blue (rising) sea

T IS called the Bruun rule, and it works like this. For every centimetre the sea level increases, it says there is a decent chance of the shoreline retreating between 50 centimetres and a metre. If the sea should rise by a metre - which some scientists say is possible this century if ice sheets melt with global warming - that would mean 50 to 100 metres of coast swallowed by the ocean.

In NASA Image, a Submerged Pakistan By JOHN COLLINS RUDOLF

A satellite image captured last week shows floodwaters lingering in Sindh Province and Manchhar Lake at twice its normal size.NASA A satellite image captured last week shows floodwaters lingering in Sindh Province and Manchhar Lake at twice its normal size.
Green: Science
New satellite images from NASA show the extraordinary scope of the continuing disaster in Pakistan, where thousands of square miles of land remain submerged two months after the country was hit by catastrophic flooding.
An image from October 2009 (below) shows the Indus River during typical conditions, a thin ribbon of blue winding through irrigated land in Pakistan’s Sindh Province. This August, torrential rains caused the river to overflow its banks, wreaking havoc on towns and cities and destroying vast swaths of wheat and other crops.
An image from mid-October shows the river flowing normally. But in western Sindh Province, a vast floodwater lake lingers and Manchhar Lake remains twice its normal size.
According to a recent United Nations report, nearly 17,000 square miles of land in the province remains underwater, with more than one million people displaced in temporary camps, unable to return home. Health organizations fear the stagnating water will breed malaria-bearing mosquitoes.
“Seeing the devastation firsthand and speaking with flood-affected families confirmed the astonishing reality of a continuing emergency for millions of people,” Rauf Engin Soysal, United Nations special envoy for assistance to Pakistan, said during a visit to Sindh on Wednesday.
The United Nations is seeking to raise $2 billion for Pakistan’s flood victims, its largest-ever natural disaster appeal. The United States has so far contributed nearly $400 million to relief and recovery efforts, in addition to aid in the form of air support and other assistance.
A satellite image from October 2009 shows the Indus River as it looks typically.NASA A satellite image from October 2009 shows the Indus River as it looks typically.
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Showdown on Bluefin Tuna By JOHN COLLINS RUDOLF AND DAVID JOLLY

A bluefin tuna is harvested from a tuna farm off the Calabrian coast in ItalyReuters A bluefin tuna is harvested from a tuna farm off the Calabrian coast in Italy
Green: Politics
In advance of an annual meeting of bluefin tuna fishing nations next month in Paris, scientists and environmental groups are sharply questioning the validity of scientific data being used to set catch levels for the fish, which remains highly coveted as sushi but is increasingly threatened by commercial overfishing.
A scientific panel convened in March by the international commission that regulates the Atlantic bluefin catch suggested that this year’s quota not exceed last year’s limit of 13,500 tons. Such a catch would give bluefin stocks a 60 percent chance of recovering by 2019, the panel said.
But many national fisheries continue to ignore their obligation to provide accurate data on how many bluefin they land each year, making accurate quotas virtually impossible to produce, outside observers assert.
“Some years, some countries don’t report,” Brad Smith, a marine ecologist with the Pew Environment Group, said in an interview. “Or they report too late. Or they underreport. When there’s so much non-compliance, nobody complains.”
According to Pew, more than 85 percent of countries failed to meet reporting deadlines or to accurately report data on their bluefin tuna activities in 2009. Some countries in the Mediterranean, where most bluefin is caught, may be underestimating the size of their catch by as much as two-thirds in some years, Mr. Smith said.
Meanwhile, the large illegal bluefin catch is also being widely overlooked from year to year, he added.
“We need to get illegal fishing under control, at the very least,” he said.
There is little dispute that bluefin stocks have declined sharply in recent years, with wide agreement that the population of these large ocean-crossing fish are down to no more than 15 percent of their historical levels. But there is growing concern that the bluefin is poised for an even more dramatic crash, one that could push the species over the brink into commercial extinction.
At a United Nations conference earlier this year, an attempt was made to list the bluefin tuna as a threatened species, which would prevent it from being traded internationally. Strong opposition from Japan and other bluefin fishing nations sank the measure.
Some important political players at the upcoming meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or Iccat, in Paris have vowed to take a tough stance on problems facing the bluefin, however.
In an interview last month, Jane Lubchenco, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator, said the United States would press for scientifically sound management of the bluefin at the meeting.
“It’s time for all members to step up to their responsibilities,” Dr. Lubchenco said. “At the last Iccat meeting there was good progress, but not enough.”
She added, “If the agreements are insufficiently strong, we would consider a moratorium.”
Several European Union countries, including France, have also said that they are open to a moratorium to allow tuna stocks to recover.
“The bluefin is a special case — there’s a danger of the collapse of the stock,” Maria Damanaki, the European commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, said in a recent interview.
“What I can say for sure is that we’re going to follow the scientific advice” at Iccat, Ms. Damanaki said. “We’re not going to back down.”
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Groundbreaking research shows that rainforests and coral reefs create rainfall #BAD10 Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com October 15, 2010

Coral reefs and rainforests seem to have little in common beyond the fact that they are both hotspots of diversity, yet groundbreaking research is showing how these different ecosystems—when intact—may actually seed clouds and produce rainfall.  Much more at:
http://news.mongabay.com/2010/1015-hance_water_bad10.html
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Obama Admin Shows Willingness to Relax Fisheries Regulations By ALLISON WINTER of Greenwire

The Obama administration will consider easing fisheries regulations in a bid to help Northeastern fishermen facing reductions in their catch, the head of the Commerce Department said yesterday.

In letters to New England lawmakers yesterday, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke indicated he would be willing to make concessions to help the embattled fishermen. The changes could include special exemptions to the 2006 fisheries conservation act intended to end overfishing and restore depleted stocks.

The development is a reversal of Locke's previous stance on changes to the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act -- the 2006 law that sets strict requirements to end overfishing and base catch limits on recommendations from scientific advisory boards.

Locke had originally expressed uncertainty about whether the law gave him authority to raise catch limits set on various species. But Locke yesterday said in a letter to Rep. Barney Frank ...

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Report warns of drastic glacier shrinkage in China


Xinhua (October 10, 2010)
Recent reports have suggested that the average area of glacial regions in Western China might shrink by about 30% by 2050 due to climate change. With most glaciers located in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, glacier recession patterns would reduce ocean glaciers by over 52% and Asian continental glaciers by over 24%. In addition to global glacial reductions, the area is also predicted to see a drastic decrease in accumulated snowfall over the next few years.
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Friday, October 15, 2010

EPA Recommends Protecting Clean Water by Rejecting Giant WV Coal Mine from AlterNet.org

Hot off the presses: EPA just announced it is recommending rejecting the massive Spruce Mine in Logan County, West Virginia, for the simple reason that it can’t comply with long-standing clean water protections. EPA Region 3 and Administrator Shawn Garvin recommended that the permit for Spruce be withdrawn (read the recommendation in our press [...]
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Ocean asteroid impact could deplete ozone

Ocean asteroid impact could deplete ozone

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers Tucson (UPI) Oct 13, 2010 If a medium-sized asteroid were to hit in Earth's oceans a tsunami wouldn't be the only worry, U.S. scientists say -- the ozone layer could be at risk too. A computer simulation by researchers at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson suggests water vapor and sea salt thrown into the atmosphere could damage the protective layer and create record levels of ultraviolet radiation that could threaten life on the planet, NewScientist.com reported Wednesday.
Elisabetta Pierazzo and her colleagues used global climate models to study the effect of an asteroid collision happening at sea. They focused on medium-sized asteroids, about a half-mile wide.
To date, 818 asteroids that are at least that wide have been found orbiting in paths that could bring them close to Earth.
The computer simulations showed such an asteroid would throw 46 billion tons of water and vapor across an area more than 600 miles wide and as much as, or more than, 100 miles above Earth's surface.
Once in the atmosphere, the water and compounds containing chlorine and bromine from vaporized sea salts could destroy ozone above the atmosphere at a much faster rate than it is naturally created, the researchers say.
"It will produce an ozone hole that will engulf the entire Earth," Pierazzo says.
The resulting ultraviolet-radiation levels would be higher than anywhere on Earth today, the researchers say.
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Carbon Dioxide Controls Earth Temperature




Various atmospheric components differ in their contributions to the greenhouse effect, some through feedbacks and some through forcings. Without carbon dioxide and other non-condensing greenhouse gases, water vapor and clouds would be unable to provide the feedback mechanisms that amplify the greenhouse effect. Credit: NASA GISS

Greenbelt MD (SPX) Oct 15, 2010 Water vapor and clouds are the major contributors to Earth's greenhouse effect, but a new atmosphere-ocean climate modeling study shows that the planet's temperature ultimately depends on the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide. The study, conducted by Andrew Lacis and colleagues at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, examined the nature of Earth's greenhouse effect and clarified the role that greenhouse gases and clouds play in absorbing outgoing infrared radiation.
Notably, the team identified non-condensing greenhouse gases - such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and chlorofluorocarbons - as providing the core support for the terrestrial greenhouse effect.
Without non-condensing greenhouse gases, water vapor and clouds would be unable to provide the feedback mechanisms that amplify the greenhouse effect. The study's results will be published Friday, Oct. 15 in Science.
A companion study led by GISS co-author Gavin Schmidt that has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research shows that carbon dioxide accounts for about 20 percent of the greenhouse effect, water vapor and clouds together account for 75 percent, and minor gases and aerosols make up the remaining five percent.
However, it is the 25 percent non-condensing greenhouse gas component, which includes carbon dioxide, that is the key factor in sustaining Earth's greenhouse effect. By this accounting, carbon dioxide is responsible for 80 percent of the radiative forcing that sustains the Earth's greenhouse effect.
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Agencies Urged to Plan for `Inevitable Effects' of Warming in U.S. Report

White House Task Force Urges Agencies to Plan for Climate Change
A new report from the President Obama's interagency task force on adapting to climate change has urged federal agencies to plan for a future of rising sea levels and temperatures, Bloomberg reported. White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley was quoted as saying: "While taking action to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and avoid the effects of climate change is a priority, we must also prepare for the inevitable effects of climate change."

The report recommended ensuring that information on climate change was available to officials and coordinating federal efforts to respond to impacts, such as damage to water resources, public health, oceans and coastlines. In addition to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the task force includes Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Coral Records Show Ocean Thermocline Rise With Global Warming

REDORBIT: Researchers looking at corals in the western tropical Pacific Ocean have found records linking a profound shift in the depth of the division between warm surface water and colder, deeper water traceable to recent global warming. The finding is the first real evidence supporting what climate modelers have been predicting as the effects of global climate change on the subsurface ocean circulation.
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WWF Living Planet map of ecological footprints worldwide


A global map of the relative ecological footprint per person in 2007. The darker the colour, the higher the footprint

Western lifestyles plundering Earth's tropics at record rate, WWF report shows
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Living Planet: The world is not enough A new report reveals just how fast we are consuming the Earth's resources – and the dire consequences By Michael McCarthy

Wildlife in the tropics, especially in poorer countries, is rapidly disappearing as human demands on natural resources soar beyond what the Earth can sustain, a new report reveals.
In an authoritative and ominous warning, the 2010 Living Planet Report of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the definitive survey on the state of the planet's health, signals that that tropical ecosystems are being degraded and tropical species are declining at an increasingly rapid rate, with the world's population now consuming the output of one-and-a-half sustainable Earths.
The report's Living Planet Index, which measures changes in nearly 8,000 distinct local populations of more than 2,500 animal species, shows a remarkable aggregate wildlife decline in the tropics – Central and South America, Central Africa, Asia and the Indo-Pacific region – of 60 per cent in 40 years. 
More at link.

Wanted: A new planet by 2030


Flagship WWF Living Planet report warns that within two decades the global economy will be consuming the resources of two Earths each year
Will Nichols, BusinessGreen
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EU ocean conference targets climate change

BRUSSELS, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- An ocean conference of the European Union opened Tuesday in the southern Belgian city of Ostend to outline the research and policy needs for the next decade.
Experts from the European marine science community gathered for the EurOCEAN 2010, a two-day forum organized by Belgium, which is holding the rotating EU presidency, in collaboration with the European Commission and the Marine Board.
They are expected to adopt the Ostend Declaration, which will provide a significant opportunity to show the importance of oceans and marine research in different fields, such as climate change, employment, maritime transport, renewable energy, job creation, economic recovery and growth.
"Building a maritime policy without a strong maritime research is like building a sand castle when the tide is coming in," said Maria Damanaki, EU commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries.
Since 2007, the EU's Seventh Framework Program for Research has funded some 345 marine-related projects amounting to 733 million euros (about 1.01 billion U.S. dollars). The European Commission also adopted a "Marine Knowledge 2020" to reduce costs for the marine sector, increase innovation and reduce uncertainty in future ocean behavior.
The European Commission would also welcome future research on "bioprospecting," on non-energy mineral resources, on renewable energy and on safe technology for offshore gas and oil drilling in extreme climates.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Asia facing worsening water crisis: ADB

Asia is facing a worsening water crisis that threatens to curtail food production while taking an increasingly heavy toll on the region's economies, the Asian Development Bank said Tuesday. Governments, industries and people around the region urgently need to stop wasting so much of the precious resource if they are to limit the shortage, ADB infrastructure advisor Arjun Thapan said.
"The water footprint in our towns and cities, in our irrigation systems, our energy production systems and in industry in general, is extravagant," Thapan said at a water crisis conference hosted by the Manila-based lender.
"It needs to shrink and Asia needs to become acutely conscious of the scarcity value of its accessible fresh water, and the imperative of efficiency in managing it."
In a report, the ADB faulted weak enforcement of laws for the degradation of Asian water quality, with between 80 and 89 percent of all untreated wastewater leaching into fresh water in east and south Asia, respectively.
"In short, Asia is witnessing a despoliation of its freshwater resources with disastrous consequences for ecological balance and environmental sustainability," the bank said.
It also highlighted that while irrigated agriculture uses up 80 percent of the region's fresh water, there have been only very minimal moves to boost irrigation efficiency over the past two decades. More at Link:http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Asia_facing_worsening_water_crisis_ADB_999.html
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Study Sheds New Light On How The Sun Affects The Earth Climate

Study Sheds New Light On How The Sun Affects The Earth Climate

File image.

London UK (SPX) Oct 13, 2010 The Sun's activity has recently affected the Earth's atmosphere and climate in unexpected ways, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. The study, by researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Colorado, shows that a decline in the Sun's activity does not always mean that the Earth becomes cooler. It is well established that the Sun's activity waxes and wanes over an 11-year cycle and that as its activity wanes, the overall amount of radiation reaching the Earth decreases. This study looked at the Sun's activity over the period 2004-2007, when it was in a declining part of its 11-year activity cycle.
Although the Sun's activity declined over this period, the new research shows that it may have actually caused the Earth to become warmer. Contrary to expectations, the amount of energy reaching the Earth at visible wavelengths increased rather than decreased as the Sun's activity declined, causing this warming effect.
Following this surprising finding, the researchers behind the study believe it is possible that the inverse is also true and that in periods when the Sun's activity increases, it tends to cool, rather than warm, the Earth. This is based on what is already known about the relationship between the Sun's activity and its total energy output.
More at Link: 
http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Study_Sheds_New_Light_On_How_The_Sun_Affects_The_Earth_Climate_999.html
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Alarming Increase In Flow Of Water Into Oceans

Alarming Increase In Flow Of Water Into Oceans

The evaporation and precipitation cycle taught in grade school is accelerating dangerously because of greenhouse gas-fueled higher temperatures, triggering monsoons and hurricanes.

Irvine CA (SPX) Oct 13, 2010 Freshwater is flowing into Earth's oceans in greater amounts every year, a team of researchers has found, thanks to more frequent and extreme storms linked to global warming. All told, 18 percent more water fed into the world's oceans from rivers and melting polar ice sheets in 2006 than in 1994, with an average annual rise of 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, which will be published this week in 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."
In essence, he said, the evaporation and precipitation cycle taught in grade school is accelerating dangerously because of greenhouse gas-fueled higher temperatures, triggering monsoons and hurricanes. Hotter weather above the oceans causes freshwater to evaporate faster, which leads to thicker clouds unleashing more powerful storms over land. The rainfall then travels via rivers to the sea in ever-larger amounts, and the cycle begins again.
The pioneering study, which is ongoing, employs NASA and other world-scale satellite observations rather than computer models to track total water volume each month flowing from the continents into the oceans.
"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 lead author Tajdarul Syed of the Indian School of Mines, formerly of UCI.
"This paper uses satellite records of sea level rise, precipitation and evaporation to put together a unique 13-year record - the longest and first of its kind. The trends were all the same: increased evaporation from the ocean that led to increased precipitation on land and more flow back into the ocean." More at link:

http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Alarming_Increase_In_Flow_Of_Water_Into_Oceans_999.html
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Monday, October 11, 2010

How Did an Entire Political Party Decide to Reject Climate Change Science?

This post first appeared in the Washington Monthly.
Ron Brownstein notes in a terrific new National Journal column just how striking it is to see a major American political party decide, all at once, to reject climate science in its entirety. (via Jay Rosen)
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, a prominent conservative leader in the U.K., was in the U.S. last week, and described climate change as perhaps the 21st century’s biggest foreign-policy challenge,” He added, “An effective response to climate change underpins our security and prosperity.”

His strong words make it easier to recognize that Republicans in this country are coalescing around a uniquely dismissive position on climate change. The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe, even conservative ones. [...]
Just for the record, when the nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences last reviewed the data this spring, it concluded: “A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems.” Not only William Hague but such other prominent European conservatives as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have embraced that widespread scientific conviction and supported vigorous action.
Indeed, it is difficult to identify another major political party in any democracy as thoroughly dismissive of climate science as is the GOP here. Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, says that although other parties may contain pockets of climate skepticism, there is “no party-wide view like this anywhere in the world that I am aware of.”
And in case this isn’t clear, unanimous Republican opposition to any meaningful efforts to combat global warming makes any kind of coordinated international effort impossible.
What’s more, as the climate crisis intensifies, and the need for swift action becomes even more painfully obvious, the GOP line is getting worse, not better. How many Republican U.S. Senate candidates on the ballot this year support efforts to address global warming? None.
I realize that part of the problem here is that Republicans reject the science because they oppose the solutions. If they acknowledged reality, GOP officials would no doubt have a harder time explaining why they don’t want to deal with a climate crisis that has the potential to wreak havoc on the planet in dramatically dangerous ways.
But the result is the same. The combination of deliberate Republican ignorance and the Republican scheme to break the United States Senate makes the crisis even more serious, with little hope on the horizon. It also speaks to a larger truth — because there’s no commonly shared reality among Democratic and Republican policymakers, the prospects for compromise are effectively non-existent.
Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine this morning noted, “I don’t know who first described politics as the ‘art of compromise,’ but that maxim, to which I have always subscribed, seems woefully unfashionable today.”
Yeah, I wonder why that is.
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NASA Partnership Sends Earth Science Data To Africa

NASA Partnership Sends Earth Science Data To Africa

Downward-looking camera view of the area around Kruger National Park in northeastern South Africa, acquired Aug. 18, 2010, by the MISR instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft. The bright white feature is the Palabora Copper Mine, and the water body is Lake Massingir in Mozambique. Kruger National Park lies between these landmarks and stretches from north to south for some 350 kilometers (217 miles). Image credit: NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL, MISR Team
by Staff Writers Pasadena CA (JPL) Oct 08, 2010 A unique partnership between NASA and agencies in Africa and Europe has sent more than 30 terabytes of free Earth science satellite data to South African researchers to support sustainable development and environmental applications in Africa. The data from one of the instruments on NASA's Terra satellite provide observations of Africa's surface and atmosphere, including vegetation structure, airborne pollution particles, cloud heights and winds.
Transfer of these data to a distribution center in Africa will make it broadly accessible to African users who have not been able to remotely download the large data files because of limitations in the continent's Internet infrastructure.
The data are from the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) on Terra. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., built and manages the instrument, and NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., processes, archives and distributes the data.
MISR has been making continuous measurements of Earth's surface and atmosphere for more than a decade. MISR observes the sunlit portion of Earth continuously, viewing the entire globe between 82 degrees north and 82 degrees south latitude every nine days. Instead of viewing Earth from a single perspective, the instrument collects images from nine widely spaced view angles.
"NASA is committed to helping governments, organizations and researchers around the world make effective use of Earth observation data to aid in environmental decision making," said Hal Maring, a program manager in the Earth Science Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
"These efforts support the goals of the Group on Earth Observations, a partnership of international agencies that promotes collaborative use of Earth science data."
South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria will distribute the data at no charge to the research community in the region. CSIR will facilitate access to the large volume of MISR data as part of its broad strategy of educating, training and transferring knowledge to the southern African research community.
"The data transfer can be seen as a birthday present from NASA to the newly-formed South African National Space Agency," said Bob Scholes, CSIR research group leader for ecosystem processes and dynamics.
"It will kick-start a new generation of high-quality land surface products, with applications in climate change and avoiding desertification." Desertification is the gradual transformation of habitable land into desert due to climate change or destructive land use practices.
The partnership began in spring 2008, when MISR science team member Michel Verstraete of the European Commission Joint Research Centre Institute for Environment and Sustainability (JRC-IES) in Ispra, Italy, participated in an intensive CSIR field campaign to study the environment around Kruger National Park, a major wildlife reserve in South Africa. The researchers studied the area using direct, airborne and space-based measurements.
During the campaign, Verstraete learned of the widespread interest by the South African research community in remote-sensing techniques and applications.
In response, JRC-IES and CSIR signed an agreement in July 2008 to facilitate the interaction and exchange of people, knowledge, data and software.
NASA became involved in the collaboration in 2009 after a training workshop for MISR users in Cape Town, South Africa, organized by JPL and Langley Research Center.
Although the workshop sparked interest in the potential use of MISR data, it soon became apparent that accessing a large volume of data was a major hurdle for research and applications in developing countries in general and Africa in particular.
While Internet connectivity in Africa has improved greatly in recent years, access and bandwidth remain too limited to support downloading vast data files. This led CSIR to host the data directly.
NASA shipped most of the data on high-density tapes this summer. The agencies will ensure the database stays updated with current MISR observations by upgrading connectivity and facilitating sharing of data among participating academic and research institutions.
"This multi-party collaboration will significantly strengthen academic and research institutions in southern Africa and support sustainable development of the entire subcontinent," said Verstraete, who will spend six months in southern Africa next year to help the regional remote-sensing community use the data.
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New Fish Feeds Made From Fish Byproducts

New Fish Feeds Made From Fish Byproducts

Pacific white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei).
by Staff Writers Waimanalo HI (SPX) Oct 11, 2010 Fish byproducts may be a new source of fish feed, thanks to research by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded scientists in Hawaii. Research scientist Dong-Fang Deng and her colleagues with the Oceanic Institute in Waimanalo, Hawaii, are collaborating with USDA food technologist Peter Bechtel to develop the new fish feeds. Bechtel is with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Subarctic Agricultural Research Unit in Kodiak, Alaska. ARS is the USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
The scientists are taking fish parts that would normally be discarded-head, tail, bone, skin and internal organs-and fashioning them into feeds for shrimp and fish. They are currently testing the feeds on Pacific threadfin (Polydactylus sexfilis)-or "moi" as Hawaiians call it-and Pacific white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei).
The researchers then characterize the nutrient composition of the feeds, evaluate their ability to attract the shrimp and moi, estimate the food's digestibility and assess the growth of the animals.
Recent tests have shown that many of the Alaska fish parts work well as feeding stimulants, which entice the shrimp to eat the plant-protein-based feed to which fish byproducts had been added.
In an earlier ARS-funded study with moi, former Oceanic Institute scientist Ian Forster found that the nutritional quality of feeds made with discarded portions of Alaskan pollock and cod was equivalent to that of feed made from Norwegian fishmeal, generally regarded as the highest standard in the aquaculture feed industry.
Forster and his colleagues found the same result when feeds were tested on shrimp.
According to Deng, the scientists are currently examining how to best use fish byproducts to develop practical feeds that are nutritionally balanced, cost effective and safe for the environment.
Details about these feed studies have been published in the Journal of the World Aquaculture Society and the Journal of Aquatic Food Product Technology.
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Crop Failures Set To Increase Under Climate Change

Crop Failures Set To Increase Under Climate Change

While the study only looked at crops in China, the authors say this methodology can be applied to many of the other major crop-growing regions around the globe.
http://www.seeddaily.com/reports/Crop_Failures_Set_To_Increase_Under_Climate_Change_999.html Leeds UK (SPX) Oct 11, 2010 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. However, the worst effects of these events on agriculture could be mitigated by improved farming and the development of new crops, according to the research by the University of Leeds, the Met Office Hadley Centre and University of Exeter.
The unpredictability of the weather is one of the biggest challenges faced by farmers struggling to adapt to a changing climate. Some areas of the world are becoming hotter and drier, and more intense monsoon rains carry a risk of flooding and crop damage.
A summer of drought and wildfires has dramatically hit harvests across Russia this year, leading the government to place a ban on wheat exports. This led to a dramatic rise prices on the international commodity markets which is likely to have a knock-on effect in higher prices of consumer goods.
But the authors of the new study, which appears in Environmental Research Letters, argue that adaptation to climate change be possible through a combination of new crops that are more tolerant to heat and water stress, and socio-economic measures such as greater investment.
Lead author Dr Andy Challinor, from the University of Leeds School of Earth and Environment, said: "Due to the importance of international trade crop failure is an issue that affects everyone on the planet, not just those in crop-growing regions.
"More extreme weather events are expected to occur in the coming years due to climate change and we have shown that these events are likely to lead to more crop failures. What we need to do now is think about the solutions.
"It is highly unlikely that we will find a single intervention that is a 'silver bullet' for protecting crops from failure. What we need is an approach that combines building up crop tolerance to heath and water stress with socio-economic interventions."
The team studied spring wheat crops in North East China. They used a climate model to make weather projections up to the year 2099 and then looked at the effect on crop yields. In parallel they looked at socioeconomic factors to determine how well farmers were able to adapt to drought.
While the study only looked at crops in China, the authors say this methodology can be applied to many of the other major crop-growing regions around the globe.
Study co-author Dr Evan Fraser, also of the University of Leeds, said: "It appears that more developed countries with a higher GDP tend to evolve more advanced coping mechanisms for extreme events. In China this is happening organically as the economy is growing quickly, but poorer regions such as Africa are likely to require more in the way of aid for such development.
"What is becoming clear is that we need to adopt a holistic approach: new crops for a changing climate and better farming practices that can only come about under more favourable socio-economic conditions."
The team will now expand their research to look at other crops in different regions and they will look more closely at the reasons why increased GDP appears to protect against drought.
A copy of the paper, 'Increased crop failure due to climate change: assessing adaptation options using models and socio-economic data for wheat in China,' is available to download here.
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Human Activities Overload Ecosystems With Nitrogen


Washington DC (SPX) Oct 11, 2010 Humans are overloading ecosystems with nitrogen through the burning of fossil fuels and an increase in nitrogen-producing industrial and agricultural activities, according to a new study. While nitrogen is an element that is essential to life, it is an environmental scourge at high levels. According to the study, excess nitrogen that is contributed by human activities pollutes fresh waters and coastal zones, and may contribute to climate change. Nevertheless, such ecological damage could be reduced by the adoption of time-honored sustainable practices.
Appearing in the October 8, 2010 edition of Science and conducted by an international team of researchers, the study was partially funded by the National Science Foundation.
The Nitrogen Cycle The nitrogen cycle - which has existed for billions of years - transforms non-biologically useful forms of nitrogen found in the atmosphere into various biologically useful forms of nitrogen that are needed by living things to create proteins, DNA and RNA, and by plants to grow and photosynthesize. The transformation of biologically useful forms of nitrogen to useful forms of nitrogen is known as nitrogen fixation.
Mostly mediated by bacteria that live in legume plant roots and soils, nitrogen fixation and other components of the nitrogen cycle weave and wind through the atmosphere, plants, subsurface plant roots, and soils; the nitrogen cycle involves many natural feedback relationships between plants and microorganisms.
According to the Science paper, since pre-biotic times, the nitrogen cycle has gone through several major phases. The cycle was initially controlled by slow volcanic processes and lightning and then by anaerobic organisms as biological activity started. By about 2.5 billion years ago, as molecular oxygen appeared on Earth, a linked suite of microbial processes evolved to form the modern nitrogen cycle.
Human Impacts On The Nitrogen Cycle But the start of the 20th century, human contributions to the nitrogen cycle began skyrocketing. "In fact, no phenomenon has probably impacted the nitrogen cycle more than human inputs of nitrogen into the cycle in the last 2.5 billion years," says Paul Falkowski of Rutgers University, a member of the research team.
"Altogether, human activities currently contribute twice as much terrestrial nitrogen fixation as natural sources, and provide around 45 percent of the total biological useful nitrogen produced annually on Earth," says Falkowski. Much of the human contributions of nitrogen into ecosystems come from an 800 percent increase in the use of nitrogen fertilizers from 1960 to 2000.
Another problem: Much of nitrogen fertilizer that is used worldwide is applied inefficiently. As a result, about 60 percent of the nitrogen contained in applied fertilizer is never incorporated into plants and so is free to wash out of root zones, and then pollute rivers, lakes, aquifers and coastal areas through eutrophication. (Eutrophication is a process caused by excess nutrients that depletes oxygen in water bodies and ultimately leads to the death of animal life.)
In addition, some reactions involving nitrogen release nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere. Nitrogen oxide is a greenhouse gas that has 300 times (per molecule) the warming potential of carbon dioxide. In addition, nitrogen oxide destroys stratospheric ozone, which protects the earth from harmful ultraviolet (UV-B) radiation.
Methods To Reduce Nitrogen Overloading "Natural feedbacks driven by microorganisms will likely produce a new steady-state over time scales of many decades," says Falkowski. "Through this steady state, excess nitrogen added from human sources will be removed at rates equivalent to rates of addition, without accumulating."
But meanwhile, the Earth's population is approaching 7 billion people, and so ongoing pressures for food production are continuing to increase. "There is no way to feed people without fixing huge amounts of nitrogen from the atmosphere, and that nitrogen is presently applied to crop plants very ineffectively." says Falkowski.
So unless promising interventions are taken, the damage done by humans to the Earth's nitrogen cycle will persist for decades or centuries. These promising interventions, which would be designed to reduce the need to use fertilizers that add nitrogen to ecological systems, could include:
+ Using systematic crop rotations that would supply nitrogen that would otherwise be provided by fertilizers;
+ Optimizing the timing and amounts of fertilizer applications, adopting selected breeding techniques or developing genetically engineered varieties of plants that would increase the efficiency of nitrogen use;
+ Using traditional breeding techniques to boost the ability of economically important varieties of wheat, barley and rye to interact favorably with the microbial communities associated with plant root systems and do so in ways that enhance the efficiency of nitrogen use.
"While the processes of eutrophication have been recognized for many years, only recently have scientists been able to begin placing the anthropogenic processes in the context of an understanding of the broader biogeochemical cycles of the planet," says Robert Burnap, an NSF program director. This is an important article because it concisely develops this understanding and also provides reasonable predictions regarding the economic and policy dimensions of the problem."
http://www.seeddaily.com/reports/Human_Activities_Overload_Ecosystems_With_Nitrogen_999.html
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