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Saturday, November 27, 2010

January-October 2010: The Warmest Period on Record by Andrew Glikson

According to a new report “State of the Climate – Global Analysis, October 2010″ published by National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the combined global land and ocean surface temperature for January–October 2010 was +0.63°C above the 20th century average of 14.1°C and tied with 1998 as the warmest January–October period on record.

Figure 1 -- click to enklarge

The data indicate mean temperature changes in the Arctic of up to +5oC relative to the 1961-1990 base period, leading to progressive loss …

(Full article …)
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Friday, November 26, 2010

# Johann Hari: There Won't Be a Bailout for the Earth

  • Why are the world's governments bothering? Why are they jetting to Cancun next week to discuss what to do now about global warming? The vogue has passed. The fad has faded. Global warming is yesterday's apocalypse. Didn't somebody leak an email that showed it was all made up? Doesn't it sometimes snow in the winter? Didn't Al Gore get fat, or something?Alas, the biosphere doesn't read Vogue. Nobody thought to tell it that global warming is so 2007. All it knows is three facts. 2010 is globally the hottest year since records began. 2010 is the year humanity's emissions of planet-warming gases reached its highest level ever. And exactly as the climate scientists predicted, we are seeing a rapid increase in catastrophic weather events, from the choking of Moscow by gigantic unprecedented forest fires to the drowning of one quarter of Pakistan.
    Before the Great Crash of 2008, the people who warned about the injection of huge destabilizing risk into our financial system seemed like arcane, anal bores. Now we all sit in the rubble and wish we had listened. The great ecological crash will be worse, because nature doesn't do bailouts.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dead zones in Gulf caused, in part, by farm drainage

( -- The tile drainage systems in upper Mississippi farmlands -- from southwest Minnesota to across Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio -- are the biggest contributors of nitrogen runoff into the Gulf of Mexico, reports a Cornell/University of Illinois-Urbana study.

Nitrogen runoff has been identified as a major contributor to dead zones in the Gulf, where fertilizes algae and causes it to bloom, which in turn, depletes oxygen from the water and suffocates other life forms over thousands of square miles each summer.
Tile drainage has greatly increased yields in fertile soils since the 1800s where there once were wetlands. The systems consist of burying perforated pipes under the soil and draining them into canals. When such fields are fertilized, more nitrogen runs off into the Mississippi River watershed, according to the study.
"A lot of tile drainage is being installed, but we don't know where and how much," said Laurie Drinkwater, associate professor of horticulture, a co-author of the paper recently published in the . Mark David, a biogeochemist at the University of Illinois, is the paper's lead author.
"Given the pivotal role of tile drainage in transporting from agricultural fields to streams and rivers, we need to consider some form of regulation if we expect to reverse hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico," Drinkwater added.
To estimate nitrogen inputs and outputs, the researchers constructed a database that included 1977-2006 data on corn, soybeans and other crops, livestock and manure, fertilizer inputs, atmospheric deposition of nitrogen and human populations for 1,768 counties within the entire Mississippi River basin. The database also included nitrate concentrations and their flow into streams and rivers from 153 watersheds where data was available over the same time period.
These data were then entered into a computer model designed to show nitrate yields for every county in the Mississippi River basin. The results revealed that the dominant source of nitrogen loss into the Mississippi came from fertilized cornfields on tile-drained watersheds in the upper Mississippi River basin, along with areas in southeastern Missouri and northeastern Arkansas.
Atmospheric nitrogen and animal manure were not found to have a significant effect on nitrogen yields into the Mississippi, though human sewage did add small additional nitrogen inputs.
To reduce such runoff, solutions include installing wetlands in areas where tiles drain to biofilter the water and fertilizing fields in the spring instead of the fall. Also, "we know that we are losing nitrogen in the period between cash crops when nothing is growing in the field," said Drinkwater. "If we plant winter cover crops and diversify crop rotations, nitrogen losses could be reduced quite a lot." A 2006 study by Drinkwater's research group found that, on average, cover crops reduced nitrogen leaching by 70 percent.
Drinkwater added that policymakers need to increase incentives that reward environmentally beneficial farming practices. Currently, direct payments to farmers focus on production outcomes and do not sufficiently emphasize environmental stewardship, she added.
The covers 40 percent of the continental United States and is the largest producer of corn and soybeans in the world.
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Tinned tuna not always as labelled: report Paris (AFP) Nov 24, 2010 Thirty percent of tinned tunas tested in a dozen countries were mislabelled or had other irregularities, according to a new report based on genetic analysis. Some of the 50 brands sampled contained different species of tuna across the same product, or two different species in the same tin, an illegal practice in Europe.
Some tins, for example, labelled as skipjack -- a plentiful tuna-like fish found in the Indian and Pacific oceans -- also had bigeye or yellowtail tuna, both species with declining populations.
The independent report, commissioned by Greenpeace, was timed to coincide with the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), running in Paris through Saturday.
ICCAT's 48 member states, including the European Union, are charged with ensuring the sustainability of fisheries in the Atlantic.
"Tuna companies are indiscriminately stuffing multiple species of tuna, including juveniles of species in decline, into tins that shoppers rightfully expect to contain a sustainable product," said Greenpeace International oceans campaigner Nina Thuellen.
The mixing of species and inclusion of under-sized tuna from over-fished stocks is due mainly to the use of so-called fish aggregation devices, or FADs, she said.
These man-made floating objects -- some makeshift collections of flotsam, others high-tech constructs -- attract the fish in open seas, where they are then caught in huge, curtain-like draw nets.
Endangered species of turtles and sharks also get trapped and die.
Once in the freezers, identification and sorting of juveniles is very difficult, resulting in multiple species in the same tin.
"Retailers must act now to immediately shift their business away from cheap tuna caught using FADs," Thuellen said, adding that the devices should be banned by ICCAT and other regional fisheries management organisations.
Carried out by Spanish laboratory AZTI Tecnalia, the tests analysed canned tuna products from Austria, Australia, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada, Spain, Italy, the United States, Britain, Switzerland and Germany.
At least five brands were tested in each country, totalling 165 different products.
Five main species of tuna make up the annual worldwide catch of 4.0 to 4.5 million tonnes.
Destined mainly for supermarket shelves, skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis) accounts for 60 percent of the total.
Yellowfin (Thunnus albacares) or bigeye (Thunnus obesus), both under pressure from industrial fishing, comprise 24 and 10 percent of the global tuna market respectively.
Thunnus alalunga, better known as albacore, follows with five percent, while Atlantic Bluefin (Thunnus thynnus), highly prized in Japan, is less than one percent.
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Putin warns tigers 'close to catastrophe'

Indian jungle wardens shoot dead killer tigerGuwahati, India (AFP) Nov 23, 2010 - Forest wardens shot dead an adult tiger Tuesday after it attacked and killed two villagers and injured two more in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, witnesses and officials said. The male Royal Bengal tiger was shot after it charged villagers in Morigaon district, 60 kilometres (38 miles) from Assam's largest city Guwahati, they said. It first killed a woman and a man in Habiborongabari village and then charged at others who had gathered at the site, witnesses in the village told AFP by telephone. "We tried our best to tranquillise the tiger, but it was getting out of control. We feared more casualties so we were left with no option but to shoot it," a forest ranger said, requesting not to be named.

India's tiger population has shrunk to about 1,400, from about 3,700 estimated to be alive in 2002 and the 40,000 estimated to be roaming across the country at the time of independence from Britain in 1947. Experts say encroachments into wildlife habitats are often the reason for tiger-human conflicts in India and authorities are attempting to move villages out of designated tiger sanctuaries. The deaths came during the world's first gathering of leaders from the 13 nations with wild tiger populations, who met in St. Petersburg in Russia on Sunday for a four-day summit. They are trying to come up with the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to save the tiger from extinction and double the big cat's numbers by 2022.

Tough-guy Putin calls DiCaprio 'a real man'Moscow (AFP) Nov 24, 2010 - Not everyone gets to be called a "real man" by Vladimir Putin himself. But Russia's tough-guy prime minister awarded that honour to Hollywood heart-throb Leonardo DiCaprio, whose plane caught fire on the way to a summit on tigers in Putin's native city Saint Petersburg. "I would like to thank you for coming despite all the obstacles," Putin told a smiling DiCaprio, who also pledged one million dollars to the tiger cause. "A person with less-stable nerves could have decided against coming, could have read it as a sign -- that it was not worth going," Putin said during an extended departure from his prepared remarks late Tuesday.

The Russian prime minister said the "Titanic" star had "literally tore his way through to Saint Petersburg," calling DiCaprio "a real man" (or "muzhik") for his persistence. He then asked DiCaprio if he spoke any Russian -- to which the Hollywood star replied no. But DiCaprio revealed that two of his late grandparents were Russian, and that he had always wanted to bring his grandmother to Saint Petersburg. DiCaprio then called himself half-Russian, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported. "Well, you will get to know Saint Petersburg tomorrow and grow proud of your Russian roots," Putin replied.

DiCaprio was among the passengers on a Delta Airline jet that was forced to make an emergency landing in New York on Monday after losing an engine. His second plane faced strong headwinds and was required to make an unscheduled refuelling stop in Helsinki, Putin told the audience. "This is not even funny," said Putin with a smile. "In our country, they have a saying -- a real man," he concluded. Putin has carefully cultivated a tough-guy image throughout his political career, using strong language in speeches and practicing judo and even co-piloting fighter jets in front of the television cameras. His latest stunt came earlier this month, when Putin burned rubber on a racing circuit in a Formula One car. Saint Petersburg (AFP) Nov 23, 2010 The world's last wild tigers are "close to catastrophe", Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned Tuesday at an unprecedented summit aiming to save the animal from extinction. The global tiger summit in Saint Petersburg, the first ever meeting of world leaders devoted to saving the fabled beast, agreed a plan aiming to double the numbers of wild tigers between now and 2022.
The Russian strongman said that the world's population of wild tigers had declined by a factor of 30 over the last century to 3,200 individuals while their habitat area was only seven percent of what it was before.
"The situation of the tiger is close to catastrophe," Putin told an audience of top officials and heads of government including Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
"It is a tragic and deplorable result," said the Russian strongman, who has personally championed protecting Russia's remaining population of wild tigers in its Far East.
Putin underlined the importance of the meeting, billed as the final political chance to work out a plan to save the tiger.
"We are not thinking about upcoming elections but about future generations, to whom we should leave what we have admired," he said.
"No-one can reproach us for talking rubbish, when the heads of government have met to speak about a big cat," he added. "We have put the tiger on the agenda of the international community."
Putin, known worldwide for his tough-guy antics, has made no secret of his love for tigers, famously fixing a radio collar to a wild tiger in the Far East of Russia in 2008.
"Nature has sent us calls of alarm in the hope of being heard," he added. Putin also proposed offering families of tigers to Iran and Kazakhstan, where the tiger became extinct in the last half century.
The summit received a high-profile boost earlier when it emerged that Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio pledged one million dollars to save the tiger, and was scheduled to attend the meeting.
"Leonardo DiCaprio today committed one million dollars to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for urgent tiger conservation efforts," the WWF said in a statement.
The WWF also confirmed reports that "DiCaprio will also attend this week's summit." It was not immediately clear whether he had already arrived in Saint Petersburg.
World Bank president Robert Zoellick said the institution hoped to provide about 100 million dollars to save the wild tiger by supporting wildlife habitat protection and stopping the illegal trade in tiger body parts.
"We have little margin for error. This summit is highlighting the last chance for this incredible animal," he said.
Sheikh Hasina said that after the summit the world now stood united in efforts to save "these magical creatures".
Poaching, often in pursuit of tiger parts destined for the lucrative Chinese medicinal market, and habitat destruction have caused the drastic weakening of the world's tiger population over the last years.
Russia is the only country to have seen its tiger population increase in the last years from 80-100 in the 1960s to around 500, a success seen by some as helped by Putin's support of the animal.
Some experts however cast doubt at the summit over the value of the radio-tagging project that Putin has spearheaded, raising concerns that it could end up harming the animal.
"They see people close up, have no fear of them, and then become easy targets for well-equipped poachers," said Yuri Zhuravlev, a zoologist who specialises in the Russian Far East.
Along with Russia, 12 other countries host fragile tiger populations -- Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam.
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Leaking Siberian ice raises a tricky climate issue By ARTHUR MAX

The Russian scientist shuffles across the frozen lake, scuffing aside ankle-deep snow until he finds a cluster of bubbles trapped under the ice. With a cigarette lighter in one hand and a knife in the other, he lances the ice like a blister. Methane whooshes out and bursts into a thin blue flame.
Gas locked inside Siberia's frozen soil and under its lakes has been seeping out since the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago. But in the past few decades, as the Earth has warmed, the icy ground has begun thawing more rapidly, accelerating the release of methane - a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide - at a perilous rate.
Some scientists believe the thawing of permafrost could become the epicenter of climate change. They say 1.5 trillion tons of carbon, locked inside icebound earth since the age of mammoths, is a climate time bomb waiting to explode if released into the atmosphere.
"Here, total carbon storage is like all the rain forests of our planet put together," says the scientist, Sergey Zimov - "here" being the endless sweep of snow and ice stretching toward Siberia's gray horizon, as seen from Zimov's research facility nearly 350 kilometers (220 miles) above the Arctic Circle.More at:
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The effect of cutting CO2 emissions to zero by 2050

The effect of cutting CO2 emissions to zero by 2050

Guest Post
by Dr Tom M. L. Wigley. Tom is a a senior scientist in the Climate and Global Dynamics Division of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research and former Director of the CRU. He is an adjunct Professor at the University of Adelaide. For his list of papers and citations, click here (his h-index is 70!). Tom is also a good friend of mine and a strong supporter of the IFR.
What would happen to CO2 concentrations, global-mean temperature and sea level if we could reduce total CO2 emissions (both fossil and net land-use change) to zero by 2050? Based on the literature that examines possible policy scenarios, this is a virtually impossible goal. The results presented here are given only as a sensitivity study.
To examine this idealized scenario one must make a number of assumptions. For CO2 emissions I assume that these follow the CCSP MiniCAM Level 1 stabilization scenario to 2020 and then drop linearly to zero by 2050. For the emissions of non-CO2 gases (including aerosols and aerosol precursors) I assume that these follow the extended MiniCAM Level 1 scenario (Wigley et al., 2009). The extended Level 1 scenario provides emissions data out to 2300. Note that the Level 1 scenario is the most stringent of the CCSP stabilization scenarios, one that would almost certainly be very costly to follow using traditional mitigation strategies. Dropping CO2 emissions to zero is a much more stringent assumption than the original Level 1 scenario, in which total CO2 emissions are 5.54GtC/yr in 2050 and 2.40GtC/yr in 2100.
For modeling the effects of this new scenario one must make assumptions about the climate sensitivity and various other model parameters. I assume that the sensitivity (equilibrium warming for 2xCO2) is 3.0C, the central estimate from the IPCC AR4. (Note that the 90% confidence interval for the sensitivity is about 1.5C to 6.0C – Wigley et al., 2009.)
For sea level rise I follow the AR4 and ignore the possible effects of accelerated melt of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, so the projections here are almost certainly optimistic. All calculations have been carried out using version 5.3 of the MAGICC coupled gas-cycle/climate model. Earlier versions of MAGICC have been used in all IPCC reports to date. Version 5.3 is consistent with information on gas cycles and radiative forcing given in the IPCC AR4.
The assumed CO2 emissions are shown in Figure 1.

The corresponding CO2 concentration projection is shown in Figure 2. Note that the MAGICC carbon cycle includes climate feedbacks on the carbon cycle, which lead to somewhat higher CO2 concentrations than would be obtained if these feedbacks were ignored.
Read more of this post

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NASA study finds Earth's lakes are warming

The NASA insignia.Image via Wikipedia ( -- In the first comprehensive global survey of temperature trends in major lakes, NASA researchers determined Earth's largest lakes have warmed during the past 25 years in response to climate change.
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Fox News fiddles with climate change polling

Next climate warming report will be dramatically worse: UN United Nations (AFP) Nov 22, 2010 United Nations leaders will demand "concrete results" from the looming Cancun climate summit as global warming is accelerating, a top UN organizer of the event said Monday. Robert Orr, UN under secretary general for planning, said the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on global warming will be much worse than the last one.
Representatives from 194 countries are to meet in the Mexican resort city of Cancun from November 29 to December 10 for a new attempt to strike a deal to curb greenhouse gases after 2012.
Orr told reporters that negotiators heading for the Cancun conference "need to remind themselves, the longer we delay, the more we will pay both in terms of lives and in terms of money."
He said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would make it clear to world leaders in Cancun "that we should not take any comfort in the climate deniers' siren call."
"The evidence shows us quite the opposite-- that we can't rest easy at all" as scientists agree that climate change "is happening in an accelerated way."
"As preparations are underway for the next IPCC report, just about everything that you will see in the next report will be more dramatic than the last report, because that is where all the data is pointing."
The fourth IPCC assessment released in 2007 said that global warming is "unequivocal" and mainly caused by human activity.
Its next report, involving contributions from thousands of scientists around the world, is due in 2014.
With many countries fearful of a repeat of last year's bitter Copenhagen summit failure, Orr said that progress is possible in Cancun.
If governments "understand the peril that their populations are in, it is much easier to get over the political hurdles to do what you have to do," he said.
The United Nations wants breakthroughs on verifying deforestation and financing to combat the lost of tropical forests.
Efforts to speed up technology transfers to combat global warming and financing projects to slow the phenomenon could also be advanced, Orr said.
Thirty billion dollars of emergency funding over three years was agreed at Copenhagen and a UN panel on how to raise 100 billion dollars a year from 2020 has already delivered its report.
The panel recommended taxes on carbon emissions and international transport, including air tickets.
Orr said no one should expect "the final deal" in Cancun.
But he said: "The time has come for some decisions on issues and therefore we do want some concrete results."
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Study Could Mean Greater Anticipated Global Warming

This is the type of marine stratus clouds off the South American coast that was studied in the model simulations. Credit: Image courtesy Cameron McNaughton Honolulu HI (SPX) Nov 23, 2010 Current state-of-the-art global climate models predict substantial warming in response to increases in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The models, though, disagree widely in the magnitude of the warming we can expect. The disagreement among models is mainly due to the different representation of clouds. Some models predict that global mean cloud cover will increase in a warmer climate and the increased reflection of solar radiation will limit the predicted global warming. Other models predict reduced cloudiness and magnified warming.
In a paper that has just appeared in the Journal of Climate, researchers from the University of Hawaii Manoa (UHM) have assessed the performance of current global models in simulating clouds and have presented a new approach to determining the expected cloud feedbacks in a warmer climate.
Lead author Axel Lauer at the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) at UHM notes, "All the global climate models we analyzed have serious deficiencies in simulating the properties of clouds in present-day climate. It is unfortunate that the global models' greatest weakness may be in the one aspect that is most critical for predicting the magnitude of global warming."
To study the clouds, the researchers applied a model representing only a limited region of the atmosphere over the eastern Pacific Ocean and adjacent land areas. The clouds in this region are known to greatly influence present climate, yet current global models do poorly in representing them.
The regional model, developed at the IPRC, successfully simulates key features of the region's present-day cloud fields, including the observed response of clouds to El Nino. Having evaluated the model's simulation of present-day conditions, the researchers examined the response of simulated clouds in a warmer climate such as it might be in 100 years from now.
The tendency for clouds to thin and cloud cover to reduce was more pronounced in this model than in any of the current global models.
Co-author Kevin Hamilton concludes, "If our model results prove to be representative of the real global climate, then climate is actually more sensitive to perturbations by greenhouse gases than current global models predict, and even the highest warming predictions would underestimate the real change we could see."
This research was supported by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), by NASA through Grant NNX07AG53G, and by NOAA through Grant NA09OAR4320075, which sponsor research at the International Pacific Research Center. This research was also supported by NOAA/CPPA Grant NA07OAR4310257 and DOE Regional and Global Climate Modeling (RCGM) Program Grant ER64840. Lauer, A., K. Hamilton, Y. Wang, V. T. Phillips, and R. Bennartz (2010), The Impact of Global Warming on Marine Boundary Layer Clouds over the Eastern Pacific - A Regional Model Study, Journal of Climate, Vol. 23, No. 21, 5844?.
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Fall Bonefish Census Sounds Warning Bell That Warrants Careful Future Monitoring

Since 2003, Dr. Jerry Ault of the University of Miami, in collaboration with Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, and the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Associations has conducted annual census counts to measure trends in bonefish populations. Bonefish are a good indicator of overall ecosystem health, and initial results this year show their numbers are trending downward. Credit: J. Luo - UM/RSMAS Miami FL (SPX) Nov 23, 2010 This October more than 60 guides and anglers in the Florida Keys poled across the flats from Biscayne Bay to the Marquesas, assisting in the annual bonefish census. This year's count, held in extremely difficult weather with lowered visibility, was down by 25-percent from an 8-year mean estimate of 316,805 bonefish to a new low of about 240,000 bonefish, according to Professor Jerry Ault, a fisheries scientist with the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
"Since 2003 we have conducted an annual bonefish census throughout the Keys," said Ault. "It provides researchers, like me, and fisheries managers with an early warning system to identify trends and population changes."
This year guides saw fewer bonefish in historically productive areas, a possible reflection of real population changes coupled with differences in the coastal environment. Future counts will be looking for evidence of this as an emerging population trend.
"Bonefish are a good indicator of overall ecological health. These highly mobile fish feed on small marine organisms at the base of the food chain like shrimps, crabs and baitfish; thus, the health of the bonefish population is greatly dependent on the status of the ecosystem as a whole.
"A change in the population is likely to signal greater issues throughout the coastal ecosystem and provide clues that we can study and address before the situation becomes critical," Ault added.
Ault suggests that if bonefish abundance did decline in 2010, it is still too early to pinpoint the reasons.
However, he points out that last winter's January extended cold wave was particularly lethal to tropical gamefish species including tarpon, snook and bonefish, and to their prey. Water temperatures dipped as low as 44oF for periods of more than 3.5 days, and killed mostly small (and young) bonefish in Biscayne and Florida Bays.
The census, conducted in collaboration with local fishermen and guides, as well as the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust (BTT), and the Florida Keys Fishing Guide Associations, is important because bonefish are a major component of Florida's $5.5 billion sport-fishing industry. Based on past results, Ault estimates each bonefish in Florida is worth about $3,500 per year to the industry or about $75,000 over its lifetime.
"We are especially grateful to the guides and anglers of the Keys who continue to work closely with us because one of the great challenges we face is the lack of long-term historical data on the Florida bonefish population," said Tom Davidson, chairman of the BTT.
"The datasets we are now developing are just the beginning. We are still learning about natural variations in these dynamic systems, so we can't really be sure yet about the significance of these ups and downs. However, these types of major population fluctuations will ensure that we remain vigilant."
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More than a million Atlantic sharks killed yearly: study

Paris (AFP) Nov 22, 2010 At least 1.3 million sharks, many listed as endangered, were harvested from the Atlantic in 2008 by industrial-scale fisheries unhampered by catch or size limits, according to a tally released Monday. The actual figure may be several fold higher due to under-reporting, said the study, released by advocacy group Oceana on the sidelines of a meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).
Convening in Paris through November 27, the 48-member ICCAT is charged with ensuring that commercial fisheries are sustainable. It has the authority to set catch quotas and restrictions.
While the global spotlight has been trained on the plight of Atlantic bluefin tuna, many species of high-value sharks are in even more dire straits, say marine biologists.
"Sharks are virtually unmanaged at the international level," said Elizabeth Griffin Wilson of Oceana. "ICCAT has a responsibility to protect our oceans' top predators."
Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, "highly migratory" sharks must be managed by international bodies.
Of the 21 species found in the Atlantic, three-quarters are classified as threatened with extinction.
North Atlantic populations of the oceanic white tip, for example, have declined by 70 percent, and hammerheads by more than 99 percent, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Other species -- including the porbeagle, common thresher and shortfin mako -- have also been overexploited, and may be teetering on the brink of viability.
Many are fished for their fins -- prized as a delicacy in Chinese cuisine -- and then tossed, dead or dying, back into the sea once the choice morsels have been sliced off.
The practice is prohibited, but loopholes in the regulation have allowed the ban to be widely ignored.
Oceana and several conservation groups, backed by some governments, have called upon ICCAT to set catch quotas and other protective measures for these and other vulnerable sharks.
The United States has proposed requiring that all sharks be brought back to shore whole, which would boost enforcement of the finning ban and help scientists measure population levels.
Japan -- which quashed a drive earlier this year to protect four threatened shark species under the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) -- is now urging ICCAT to prohibit fishing one of them, the oceanic white tip.
The initiative "is an example showing our commitment for conservation of shark resources," the head of the Japanese delegation said in an opening statement.
Sharks have reigned at the top of the ocean food chain for hundreds of millions of years.
But the consummate predators are especially vulnerable to industrial-scale overfishing because they mature slowly and produce few offspring.
"The classic fisheries management approach of 'fishing down' a given population to its so-called maximum sustainable yield, and then assuming it can recover, does not work for sharks," said Matt Rand, a shark expert at the Washington-based Pew Environment Group.
Tens of millions of the open-water hunters are extracted from global seas every year.
Regional studies have shown that when shark populations crash the impact cascades down through the food chain, often in unpredictable and deleterious ways.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Scientist Recognized For Work On Natural Resources Remote Sensing

Scientist Recognized For Work On Natural Resources Remote Sensing

Marvin E. Bauer of the University of Minnesota.
by Staff Writers Washington DC (SPX) Nov 18, 2010 NASA and the U.S. Department of the Interior presented the William T. Pecora Award to Marvin E. Bauer of the University of Minnesota for his pioneering work in remote sensing of natural resources. Bauer received the award at the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing meeting in Orlando, Fla. The two agencies present individual and group Pecora Awards to honor outstanding contributions in the field of remote sensing and its application to understanding Earth. The award was established in 1974 to honor the memory of William T. Pecora, former director of the U.S. Geological Survey and under secretary of the Department of the Interior.
Bauer received the award for his contributions to remote-sensing education, science and applications. Early in his career, he helped define the role of remote sensing for agriculture and forestry while a research agronomist at the Purdue University Laboratory for Applications of Remote Sensing.
He made significant contributions to NASA's Large Area Crop Inventory Experiment that used data from Landsat satellites to monitor croplands.
At the University of Minnesota in the 1980s, Bauer continued his research in agricultural remote sensing but also investigated forestry applications.
His recent work has concentrated on monitoring lake water quality, impervious surface mapping, land cover classification, and change detection. Bauer is director of the university's Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Laboratory.
Bauer has served for 30 years as editor-in-chief of the Remote Sensing of Environment journal. He is a recipient of the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal in recognition of his scientific contributions to NASA's terrestrial remote sensing programs.
The Pecora award was presented by Brad Doorn of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, and Thomas Loveland of the U.S. Geological Survey's Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in Sioux Falls, S.D.

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APS Releases Report On Renewable Energy And The Electricity Grid

File image.
by Staff Writers Washington DC (SPX) Nov 22, 2010 U.S. policymakers must focus more closely on developing new energy storage technologies as they consider a national renewable electricity standard, according to one of the principal recommendations in a newly released report, Integrating Renewable Electricity on the Grid, by the American Physical Society's Panel on Public Affairs (POPA). Establishing a national renewable electricity standard will help to unify the fragmented U.S. grid system-an important step in the wider adoption of using more wind and solar for energy generation.
But, without the focus on storage devices, it will be difficult to meet proposed renewable electricity standards, the report asserts. Wind and solar energy are variable by nature: The sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't always blow.
The amount of electricity a consumer has available to complete household chores could change in a matter of seconds, hours or days-placing great importance on the need for robust storage methods.
Another challenge facing the grid involves the long-distance transmission of renewable electricity from places that receive a lot of wind and sun to those that do not.
"We need to move faster to have storage ready to accommodate, for example, 20 percent of renewable electricity on the grid by 2020," said George Crabtree, co-chairman of the POPA study panel and a senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. "And, by devoting the necessary resources to the problem, I am confident that we can solve it."
The report addresses variability and transmission issues by urging the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to increase research on materials to develop energy storage devices and by encouraging the DOE to focus on long-distance superconducting direct current cables to bring renewable electricity to load centers, lessening the chance that power will be disrupted.
The report also calls for examining renewable electricity in light of a unified grid instead of one that is fragmented and improving the accuracy of weather forecasts to allow for better integration of renewable electricity on the grid.
The APS report is unique among grid studies: Its recommendations cover both scientific and business perspectives.
The specific recommendations follow:
Energy Storage The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) should:
+ Develop an overall strategy for energy storage in grid-level applications that provides guidance to regulators to recognize the value that energy storage brings to both transmission and generation services on the grid;
+ Conduct a review of the technological potential for a range of battery chemistries, including those it supported during the 1980s and 1990s, with a view toward possible applications to grid energy and storage; and
+ Increase its research and development in basic electrochemistry to identify materials and electrochemical mechanisms that have the highest potential use in grid-level energy storage devices.
Long-Distance Transmission
DOE should:
+ Extend the Office of Electricity program on High Temperature Superconductivity for 10 years, with a focus on direct current superconducting cables for long-distance transmission of renewable electricity from source to market;
+ Accelerate research and development on wide band gap power electronics for controlling power flow on the grid, including alternating to direct current conversion options and development of semiconductor based circuit breakers operating at 200 kilovolts and 50 kilo amperes.
Business Case The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation should:
+ Develop an integrated business case that captures the full value of renewable generation and electricity storage in the context of transmission and distribution; and
+ Adopt a uniform integrated business case as their official evaluation and regulatory structure, in concert with the state Public Utility Commissions.
Forecasting The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service, the National
Center for Atmospheric Research and private vendors should:
+ Improve the accuracy of weather and wind forecasts on time scales from hours to days.
Forecast providers, wind plant operators and regulatory agencies should:
+ Develop uniform standards for preparing and delivering wind and power generation forecasts.
Wind plant operators and regulatory agencies should:
+ Develop operating procedures to respond to power generation forecasts.
+ Develop criteria for contingencies, the response to up-and-down-ramps in generation and the response to large weather disturbances.
+ Develop response other than maintaining conventional reserve, including electricity storage and transmission to distant load centers.

CO2-Free Energy Can Meet Global Energy Needs In 2050

Danish wind and biomass resources in particular will make it possible to phase out fossil fuels in connection with power generation and heat production before 2040. It will take further 10 years to eliminate fossil fuels within the transport sector.
by Staff Writers Copenhagen, Denmark (SPX) Nov 22, 2010 Riso Energy Report 9 lists a wide range of energy technologies in the market with low or no emissions of greenhouse gases, describing how several of these will be made commercially available in the next decades. However, it is not possible to make the world's energy supply CO2-free as cheaply as possible, using only technology development in the current energy systems.
There must be room for technological leaps and there is a need for an integrated process to optimise the entire energy system, from energy production, through transformation into energy carriers, to energy transportation and distribution and efficient end use.
There is also a need for a smart grid, connecting production and end use at local level. End users should contribute to maintain balance in the future energy system and new technologies should be introduced to the end users, including houses with low and flexible consumption, smart electronic equipment, heat pumps, energy storage and local energy supplies such as solar cells and micro CHP.
Information and communication technology (ICT) will determine how successful the integration of renewables into the grid actually will be.
Considering the security of supply in the short and long term, there is still a need for access to fossil fuels, but they must be continuously replaced with renewable energy sources. If we do not make efforts to promote renewable energy sources, coal and gas might easily be prevailing in the global energy supply for the rest of this century.
For many countries, however, it could be advantageous to switch to renewable energy sources in order to reduce dependence on imported oil and gas. In addition, this transition can help the countries achieve their environmental policy goals.
Seen in isolation, Denmark has a great chance for achieving these goals and for phasing out fossil fuels at a rapid pace and thus reduce emissions of greenhouse gases at the required pace.
Danish wind and biomass resources in particular will make it possible to phase out fossil fuels in connection with power generation and heat production before 2040. It will take further 10 years to eliminate fossil fuels within the transport sector.
A future smart energy system requires that we start investments now. If we do not make these investments, future generations will look back on this period wondering how we could be satisfied with an outdated energy system, without taking advantage of the opportunities which we already were aware of.
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