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Friday, March 18, 2011

Viscous Cycle: Quartz Is Key To Plate Tectonics

Viscous Cycle: Quartz Is Key To Plate Tectonics
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 18, 2011 - More than 40 years ago, pioneering tectonic geophysicist J. Tuzo Wilson published a paper in the journal Nature describing how ocean basins opened and closed along North America's eastern seaboard. His observations, dubbed "The Wilson Tectonic Cycle," suggested the process occurred many times during Earth's long history, most recently causing the giant supercontinent Pangaea to split into ... more

Tsunami alert system to be tested in Caribbean

Tsunami alert system to be tested in Caribbean
Washington (AFP) March 17, 2011 - The Caribbean's readiness for the type of natural disaster that recently struck Japan will be tested when its tsunami warning system undergoes a simulated emergency. Thirty-three countries are preparing to participate in the March 23 exercise, organized by a branch of the United Nations in response to the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that has devastated Japan. UNESCO Director-General Irina ... more
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Cuts could cripple US tsunami warning: Official

Cuts could cripple US tsunami warning: Official
Washington (AFP) March 17, 2011 - US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke warned Thursday that deep spending cuts sought by the White House's Republican foes could cripple the country's abilities to monitor tsunamis or severe weather. "Just from a math level, there's no way that we can avoid compromising the programs that safeguard our country - we're going to have to make some very, very tough choices," Locke told a key House of ... more
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New Findings On The Developments Of The Earthquake Disaster

New Findings On The Developments Of The Earthquake Disaster
Potsdam, Germany (SPX) Mar 18, 2011 -
The earthquake disaster on 11 March 2011 was an event of the century not only for Japan. With a magnitude of Mw = 8.9, it was one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded worldwide. Particularly interesting is that here, two days before, a strong foreshock with a magnitude Mw = 7.2 took place almost exactly at the breaking point of the tsunami-earthquake. The geophysicist Joachim Saul fr ... more

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Japan Quake May Have Shortened Earth Days And Moved Axis

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Pasadena CA (JPL) Mar 16, 2011 The March 11, magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan may have shortened the length of each Earth day and shifted its axis. But don't worry-you won't notice the difference. Using a United States Geological Survey estimate for how the fault responsible for the earthquake slipped, research scientist Richard Gross of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., applied a complex model to perform a preliminary theoretical calculation of how the Japan earthquake-the fifth largest since 1900-affected Earth's rotation.
His calculations indicate that by changing the distribution of Earth's mass, the Japanese earthquake should have caused Earth to rotate a bit faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 microseconds (a microsecond is one millionth of a second).
The calculations also show the Japan quake should have shifted the position of Earth's figure axis (the axis about which Earth's mass is balanced) by about 17 centimeters (6.5 inches), towards 133 degrees east longitude. Earth's figure axis should not be confused with its north-south axis; they are offset by about 10 meters (about 33 feet).
This shift in Earth's figure axis will cause Earth to wobble a bit differently as it rotates, but it will not cause a shift of Earth's axis in space-only external forces such as the gravitational attraction of the sun, moon and planets can do that.
Both calculations will likely change as data on the quake are further refined
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Could the Arctic be coming out of hibernation?

Could the Arctic be coming out of hibernation?

Where the winds blow: Experts ponder fallout risks

by Staff Writers Paris (AFP) March 15, 2011 Experts monitoring weather patterns for any fallout from Japan's stricken nuclear plant said Tuesday the winds had so far been favourable but they were less confident about the outlook later this week. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said winds on Saturday and Monday -- when two blasts occurred at Fukushima -- were blowing to the northeast and east, in other words out over the Pacific.
"All the meteorological conditions are offshore, there are no implications inshore for Japan or other countries near Japan," said Maryam Golnaraghi, who heads the WMO's disaster risk reduction programme.
But on Tuesday, the winds temporarily shifted, coming instead from the northeast, the Geneva-based WMO said, quoting the Japanese Meteorological Agency.
For Wednesday, "the forecast is for northerly winds and later westerly, (for winds that are) near-surface and at 1,000 metres (3,250 feet)," it said. Thereafter, conditions "will fluctuate as weather systems develop and progress."
In Tokyo, 250 kilometres (155 miles) southwest of Fukushima, the authorities said higher-than-normal radiation levels had been detected in the capital on Tuesday but not at harmful levels.
The WMO activated a so-called environmental emergency response mechanism on Saturday, with three regional centres in Beijing, Tokyo and Obninsk, Russia, monitoring weather patterns.
The benchmark for fallout from a nuclear disaster is the April 26, 1986, explosion at Chernobyl, which spewed radioactive dust across parts of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus and even reached as far as Ireland, more than 1,600 kilometres away.
In the Russian Far East, the meteorological service at Vladivostok, less than 1,000 kilometres west of Fukushima, said radiation levels were within normal limits.
The service's spokeswoman, Varvara Koridze, said that air samples "contained the usual background components. Radionuclides that would have been the result of an explosion were not found."
Boris Lamash, head of the climate department at Far Eastern Federal University, said prevailing winds at this time of year in the region were westerlies and northwesterlies, which helped push harmful material away.
In the United States, meteorologist Jeff Masters used a modelling program from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to determine where radioactivity would spread.
"The great majority of these runs have taken plumes of radioactivity emitted from Japan's east coast eastwards over the Pacific, with the plumes staying over water for at least five days," he said.
"It is highly unlikely that any radiation capable of causing harm to people will be left in the atmosphere after seven days and 2,000 miles-plus of travel," said Masters, founder of the Weather Underground online weather forecasting service.
Cyril Honore, deputy head of forecasting at the French state weather service, Meteo France, was cautious.
"Japan lies in temperate latitudes, so winds are generally west-to-east, but this prevailing direction does not rule out the possibility of very strong variations," he told AFP.
He also noted that contaminated dust from Fukushima could disperse in wide patterns.
"A cloud, or air mass, is not an enclosed bloc. It is exposed to horizontal and vertical turbulence, so matter is dispersed or diluted according to atmospheric directions," Honore said.
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Water For An Integrative Climate Paradigm

by Staff Writers Sydney, Australia (SPX) Mar 15, 2011 International climate negotiations are deadlocked between the affluent global North and "developing" South, between political Left and Right, and between believers and deniers. Now, authors writing in the latest issue of the International Journal of Water argue that a more integrative analysis of climate should help resolve these conflicts. Land use changes and water management are highly relevant to climate change. To quote hydrologists Juraj Kohutiar and Michal Kravcik of the Slovak People and Water NGO: "Water evaporation is the most important agent of energy transformation on Earth."
Unfortunately, some parts of the media simply play the crisis as a highly antagonistic two-headed controversy between Position 1 - human impacts on climate are negligible, and Position 2 - human impacts are significant and a result of carbon dioxide emissions. This has done little for public understanding and has been exploited by others with political and economic agendas.
The Editor of the IJW special issue, "Water and the Complexities of Climate", Ariel Salleh, environmental sociologist from the University of Sydney, says that public eco-literacy is critical to good climate policy formulation.
"Overly simplified climate models are one thing, but governments are proffering economic solutions (like taxes or trading) for ecological problems! This can achieve little on the ground - since economics and ecology deal with two different orders of reality."
Given the political uproar of international climate summits including Copenhagen and Cancun, attention has been deflected from a third variety of scientific opinion - Position 3 - the integrative climate paradigm.
This recognizes a range of first-order climate forcings and human-induced causes as significant as carbon dioxide emissions, such as deforestation, agro-industry, and urbanization.
United Nations climate negotiations promote programs such as the Clean Development Mechanism, where forests in the global South are treated as passive carbon sinks for pollution from industrialized countries in the global North.
However, what is commonly overlooked is the fact that intact vegetation actively manages the small water cycle, and cools the earth by converting sensible heat to the latent heat of evaporation.
This thesis is amplified by authors in the IJW special issue. Wilhelm Ripl from the Technical University of Berlin connects mismanagement of water with the running down of ecosystems and thus global warming.
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Wheels Up for Extensive Survey of Arctic Ice

illustration only Greenbelt MD (SPX) Mar 16, 2011 Researchers and flight crew arrived in Thule, Greenland, on Monday, March 14, for the start of NASA's 2011 Operation IceBridge, an airborne mission to study changes in Arctic polar ice. This year's plans include surveys of Canadian ice caps and expanded international collaboration. The state of Earth's polar ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice is an important indicator of climate change and plays a key role in regulating global climate. With IceBridge, NASA is pushing ahead with its commitment to keep an eye on changes to polar ice to better understand the effects of climate change.
Since 2009, Operation IceBridge has flown annual campaigns over the Arctic starting in March and over Antarctica starting in October.
The mission extends the multi-year record of ice elevation measurements made by NASA's Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), which stopped collecting data in 2009, and the upcoming ICESat-2, scheduled for launch in 2016.
"Each successive IceBridge campaign has broadened in scope," said IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger of Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
"This year, we have more flight hours and flight plans than ever before. We are looking forward to a busy, fruitful campaign."
The first science flight is scheduled for this week, pending favorable weather. For almost 10 weeks, researchers will operate an array of airborne instruments collecting data over Arctic land and sea ice.
Among the highest priority flights is an overnight transit to Fairbanks, Alaska, to collect sea ice thickness data across a slice of the Arctic Ocean. Sea ice is thought to be thinning in recent years in addition to shrinking in the area covered.
Another high-priority flight plan is to fly over the Barnes and Devon ice caps of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
"The Canadian ice caps are notably smaller than the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, but are still significant potential contributors to sea-level change in the next few decades," said Charles Webb, deputy cryosphere program manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
"They also serve as potential early-warning indicators, responding more sensitively to temperature changes than the more massive ice sheets."
The IceBridge campaign also plans to fly for the first time over the European Space Agency's ground-based calibration sites for their ice-observing satellite, CryoSat-2. Flights over calibration sites ultimately are expected to provide data to evaluate and improve remote-sensing measurements.
Still other IceBridge missions will retrace paths flown in previous years, such as flights over Petermann, Jacobshavn, Kangerlussuak and Helheim glaciers. With this multi-year data, scientists can begin to see how such glaciers - the outlets through which Greenland loses mass from its ice sheet - are changing, where ice loss is slowing or accelerating, and why.
The P-3B aircraft from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., will fly from Thule and Kagerlussuaq, Greenland, carrying a suite of instruments.
The Airborne Topographic Mapper measures changes in the surface elevation of the ice by reflecting lasers from the ground back to the aircraft and converting the readings into elevation maps.
Radar instruments onboard the P-3B from the University of Kansas' Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets in Lawrence, Kan., allow scientists to see snow and ice characteristics at the surface and down to the bedrock.
A gravity instrument from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., is used to peer below floating ice to determine the shape of water-filled cavities below.
Another laser altimeter, the Land, Vegetation, and Ice Sensor, operates at higher altitudes to survey large areas. This altimeter will fly solo out of Kangerlussuaq on the King Air B-200, an aircraft based at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
The IceBridge campaign is led by Goddard. The Earth Science Project Office at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., is responsible for integration of science experiments on the aircraft and mission logistics.
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

US overdue for huge Pacific quake: experts

US overdue for huge Pacific quake: experts

Think climate when judging nuclear power

Think climate when judging nuclear power

Guest Post by Ben Heard. Ben is Director of Adelaide-based advisory firm ThinkClimate Consulting, a Masters graduate of Monash University in Corporate Environmental Sustainability, and a member of the TIA Environmental and Sustainability Action Committee. After several years with major consulting firms, Ben founded ThinkClimate and has since assisted a range of government, private and not-for profit organisations to measure, manage and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and move towards more sustainable operations. Ben publishes regular articles aimed at challenging thinking and perceptions related to climate change at
(Editorial Note: [Barry Brook]: Ben is a relatively recent, but very welcome friend of mine, who is as passionate as I am about mitigating climate change. I really appreciate publishing his thoughts in this most difficult of times. Now, more than ever, we must stand up for what we believe is right]
On 8th March, I delivered a presentation to around 45 people, describing my journey from a position of nuclear power opponent to that of nuclear power proponent. The presentation was very well received and has generated much interest.
Just four days later, I saw those first appalling images of the tsunami hitting Japan, and realised that for the first time since 1986, a nuclear emergency situation was unfolding.
In all cases, I find it most distasteful when individuals or groups push agendas in the face of unfolding tragedy. Let me say at the outset that this is not my intention.
Sadly, many people and groups don’t share this sentiment, including a great many who have wasted no time in making grave and unfounded pronouncements regarding the safety of nuclear power, and how this event should impact Australia’s decision making in energy. This has been aided no end by a media bloc that has reflected the general state of ignorance that exists regarding nuclear power, as well as a preference for headlines ahead of sound information at this critical time. The whole situation has been all too predictable, but still most disappointing. It has reinforced one of the great truisms in understanding how we humans deal with risk: We are outraged and hyper-fearful of that which we do not understand, rather than that which is likely to do us harm. Rarely if ever are they the same thing.
Those who attended my presentation on the 8th March will have seen that I place a high value on two things in forming an opinion and making a decision: Facts and context. Facts without context can be dangerously misleading. In this newsletter therefore, I would like to present some of the basic facts and context of this event, as well as providing links to reliable and up-to-date sources of information to gain a more detailed understanding of the crisis. From there, I only ask that you maintain a critical frame of mind in considering the true implications of this event.
Firstly, the context. Japan is a densely populated chain of islands. It is the fourth largest economy in the world, and derives around 30% of its electricity from y nuclear reactors at z locations around the country. Japan has been using nuclear power for some time. As such some of the reactors are approaching 40 years of age, and are older designs by comparison with what would be built today.
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Japan nuclear crisis mixed message for climate change

European ministers call for bolder climate emissions cutAthens March 14, 2011 - Seven European environment ministers on Monday called for a 30 percent cut to CO2 emissions by 2020 instead of the currently targeted 20 percent reduction, Greek officials said. The ministers of Britain, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Sweden issued an open letter prompting EU states to join an "urgent debate" to find a more cost-effective route to the bloc's 2050 emission targets. "We call on all member states to enter into this urgent debate on Europe's future and agree how the roadmap is put into action," the letter said.

"Now is the right time to discuss the most cost-effective route to achieving our 2050 goals, maximising growth, jobs and prosperity throughout Europe. We are not starting from scratch; the EU has already cut emissions by 17 percent from 1990 levels by 2009," it added. "We believe it's vital such a plan starts now rather than in 40 years' time, and is a plan that can stimulate the right investment in low-carbon infrastructure and technology, putting Europe on track for a low-carbon future," the ministers said. The European Commission on Tuesday set out recommendations for EU states to radically slash CO2 emissions by 2050 but avoided upsetting governments or industry with precise targets. The European Union is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by between 80 and 95 percent from 1999 levels by the middle of the century, aiming to maintain global warming within a two degrees Celsius threshold deemed attainable and safe by governments.

Three targets have already been agreed for 2020: cutting emissions by 20 percent; having 20 percent of energy consumption coming from renewable sources by that date; and implementing energy efficiency savings of 20 percent as well. But the third objective is not binding -- and is in any case far from being achieved. Governments are reluctant to make such commitments at a time when the worldwide race for economic recovery means every competitive inch is guarded jealously. The debate is being held amid crippling EU dependency on oil and gas imports, deep social instability in north Africa and potentially the Middle East as well amid public suspicion of leaders' number one "clean energy" preference, nuclear power.

Paris (AFP) March 14, 2011 Japan's nuclear crisis will boost interest in clean renewables such as solar and wind power but may also sharpen demand for coal, oil and gas, whose carbon pollution drives climate change, experts said Monday. Nuclear energy provides around 14 percent of the world's electricity mix, although this is overwhelmingly concentrated in six countries, and is not going to disappear off the map any time soon, they said.
"The accident in Japan is not a death sentence for nuclear power," stressed Jean-Marie Chevalier, an economist and energy expert at the Universite Paris Dauphine, pointing to the hundreds of billions of dollars invested in existing reactors and plants under construction.
But the scare surrounding the crippled reactors at the earthquake-struck Fukushima plant means nuclear's renaissance after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster will be crimped, at least in the short term.
Governments in India, the United States and Europe are under pressure to review safety standards or slap a moratorium on new projects, and Germany and Switzerland have already said they will be on hold plans to extend the operational life of existing plants, pending safety reviews.
"At the very least, we would expect significant investments in nuclear to be delayed, or deferred, for a period of one to two years," said Rupesh Madlani, renewables analysts at Barclays Capital in London.
In the short run, any energy shortfall in Japan, and elsewhere, will be filled by fossil fuels, said other experts.
"Disruption to the Japanese nuclear industry means that they are going to be relying increasingly on oil and gas for power generation," said Julian Lee, an analyst at the Centre for Global Energy Studies, a London think tank backed by the oil industry.
Jacques Percebois, head of the Centre for Research on Energy Economy and Law at Monpellier University, agreed the fossil fuel industry would be early beneficiaries as it could provide gigawatts of quick power.
"Those who declare a moratorium on new nuclear energy should understand that the available solution for meeting large-scale energy demands today is not solar panels, it's gas," he told AFP.
Burning natural gas contributes to global warming, but less so than oil, and far less than coal.
"The major risk is that, facing an energy shortage, coal-fired reactors with coal imported from Australia are built," said Cedric Philibert, an analyst in the renewable energy division of the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris.
"Japan's greenhouse gas emissions would skyrocket."
At the same time, though, a slowdown in nuclear investment would also steer money into renewable energies, which since the 2008 financial crisis have been struggling to expand their share of the world's power market, several experts said.
"This should lead to an incremental upside in terms of demand for wind and solar projects," said Madlani of Barclays.
"It could mean 10 percent more wind and solar being demanded each year for the next couple of years," he told AFP.
Madlani also pointed to current high oil prices and the increasing cost of oil extraction, especially after the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
For Christiana Figueres, the United Nations' top climate change official, the meltdown will probably push up the costs of nuclear energy, making renewables more competitive.
"Japan will change mid-term world energy scenarios," she said in a Twitter message on Sunday from a meeting of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Berlin.
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Untapped Crop Data From Africa Predicts Corn Peril If Temperatures Rise

Untapped Crop Data From Africa Predicts Corn Peril If Temperatures Rise
A hidden trove of historical crop yield data from Africa shows that corn - long believed to tolerate hot temperatures - is a likely victim of global warming. Stanford agricultural scientist David Lobell and researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) report in the inaugural issue of Nature Climate Change next week that a clear negative effect of warming on maize - or corn - production was evident in experimental crop trial data conducted in Africa by the organization and its partners from 1999 to 2007.
Led by Lobell, the researchers combined data from 20,000 trials in sub-Saharan Africa with weather data recorded at stations scattered across the region. They found that a temperature rise of a single degree Celsius would cause yield losses for 65 percent of the present maize-growing region in Africa - provided the crops received the optimal amount of rainfall. Under drought conditions, the entire maize-growing region would suffer yield losses, with more than 75 percent of areas predicted to decline by at least 20 percent for 1 degree Celsius of warming.
"The pronounced effect of heat on maize was surprising because we assumed maize to be among the more heat-tolerant crops," said Marianne Banziger, co-author of the study and deputy director general for research at CIMMYT.
"Essentially, the longer a maize crop is exposed to temperatures above 30 C, or 86 F, the more the yield declines," she said. "The effect is even larger if drought and heat come together, which is expected to happen more frequently with climate change in Africa, Asia or Central America, and will pose an added challenge to meeting the increasing demand for staple crops on our planet."
Similar sources of information elsewhere in the developing world could improve crop forecasting for other vast regions where data has been lacking, according to Lobell, who is lead author of the paper describing the study.
"Projections of climate change impacts on food production have been hampered by not knowing exactly how crops fair when it gets hot," Lobell said. "This study helps to clear that issue up, at least for one important crop."

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Arctic-Wide Measurements Verify Rapid Ozone Depletion In Recent Days

For several years now scientists have pointed to a connection between ozone loss and climate change, and particularly to the fact that in the Arctic stratosphere at about 20km altitude, where the ozone layer is, the coldest winters seem to have been getting colder and leading to larger ozone losses.

Potsdam, Germany (SPX) Mar 15, 2011 Unusually low temperatures in the Arctic ozone layer have recently initiated massive ozone depletion. The Arctic appears to be heading for a record loss of this trace gas that protects the Earth's surface against ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This result has been found by measurements carried out by an international network of over 30 ozone sounding stations spread all over the Arctic and Subarctic and coordinated by the Potsdam Research Unit of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association (AWI) in Germany.
"Our measurements show that at the relevant altitudes about half of the ozone that was present above the Arctic has been destroyed over the past weeks," says AWI researcher Markus Rex, describing the current situation.
"Since the conditions leading to this unusually rapid ozone depletion continue to prevail, we expect further depletion to occur." The changes observed at present may also have an impact outside the thinly populated Arctic.
Air masses exposed to ozone loss above the Arctic tend to drift southwards later. Hence, due to reduced UV protection by the severely thinned ozone layer, episodes of high UV intensity may also occur in middle latitudes. "Special attention should thus be devoted to sufficient UV protection in spring this year," recommends Rex.
Ozone is lost when breakdown products of anthropogenic chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are turned into aggressive, ozone destroying substances during exposure to extremely cold conditions.
For several years now scientists have pointed to a connection between ozone loss and climate change, and particularly to the fact that in the Arctic stratosphere at about 20km altitude, where the ozone layer is, the coldest winters seem to have been getting colder and leading to larger ozone losses.
"The current winter is a continuation of this development, which may indeed be connected to global warming," atmosphere researcher Rex explains the connection that appears paradoxical only at first glance.
"To put it in a simplified manner, increasing greenhouse gas concentrations retain the Earth's thermal radiation at lower layers of the atmosphere, thus heating up these layers. Less of the heat radiation reaches the stratosphere, intensifying the cooling effect there."
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Monday, March 14, 2011

New Commission Confronts Threats To Food Security From Climate Change

Today, scientists are increasingly concerned that more extreme weather events, especially drought and floods will impede the growth in food production required to avert hunger and political instability as the global population increases to nine billion people by 2050.

Copenhagen, Denamrk (SPX) Mar 14, 2011 Recent droughts and floods have contributed to increases in food prices. These are pushing millions more people into poverty and hunger, and are contributing to political instability and civil unrest. Climate change is predicted to increase these threats to food security and stability. Responding to this, the world's largest agriculture research consortium has announced the creation of a new Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change.
Chaired by the United Kingdom's Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir John Beddington, the Commission will in the next ten months seek to build international consensus on a clear set of policy actions to help global agriculture adapt to climate change, achieve food security and reduce poverty and greenhouse gas emissions.
There is a rich body of scientific evidence for sustainable agriculture approaches that can increase production of food, fibre and fuel, help decrease poverty and benefit the environment, but agreement is needed on how best to put these approaches into action at scale.
Evidence also shows that climate change, with population growth and pressures on natural resources, is set to produce food shortages and biodiversity loss worldwide unless action is taken now.
"Extreme weather like the droughts in Russia, China and Brazil and the flooding in Pakistan and Australia have contributed to a level of food price volatility we haven't seen since the oil crisis of 40 years ago," Beddington said.
"Unfortunately, this could be just a taste of things to come because in the next few decades the build-up of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere could greatly increase risk of droughts, flooding, pest infestation and water scarcity for agriculture systems already under tremendous stress."
The Commission brings together senior natural and social scientists working in agriculture, climate, food and nutrition, economics, and natural resources from Australia, Brazil, Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, France, Kenya, India, Mexico, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.
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USDA And Russian Scientists Develop High-Tech Crop Map

USDA And Russian Scientists Develop High-Tech Crop Map

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by Jan Suszkiw Washington DC (SPX) Mar 14, 2011 AgroAtlas is a new interactive website that shows the geographic distributions of 100 crops; 640 species of crop diseases, pests, and weeds; and 560 wild crop relatives growing in Russia and neighboring countries. Downloadable maps and geographic information system (GIS) software are also available, allowing layering of data, such as that relating major wheat production areas to concentrations of Russian wheat aphids.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant geneticist Stephanie Greene, the impetus behind developing AgroAtlas was to promote world food security, particularly in Newly Independent States-countries of the former Soviet Union striving to broaden their agricultural base.
Greene works in the National Temperate Forage Legume Genetic Resources Unit operated at Prosser, Wash., by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
Greene leads the AgroAtlas project with Alexandr N. Afonin, a senior scientist with St. Petersburg State University in Russia. The Internet-based map is the successful result of a proposal they submitted in 2003 for funding under a program coordinated by the ARS Office of International Research Programs (OIRP) in Beltsville, Md., and supported by the U.S. Department of State.

Earth's Biodiversity: What Do We Know And Where Are We Headed

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Washington DC (SPX) Mar 14, 2011 Earth's biodiversity-the number of microorganisms, plants, and animals, their genes, and their ecosystems (such as rainforests and grasslands)-is declining at an alarming rate, even faster than the last mass extinction 65 million years ago. In fact, two thirds of the terrestrial species that exist today are estimated to be extinct by the end of this century. Humans are an integral part of this extensive network of life. We depend on biodiversity for goods and services; we impact biodiversity via rapidly expanding human population growth, consumption of resources, and spread of disease; and we study biodiversity in order to understand, conserve, and protect it.
To celebrate, analyze, and suggest future avenues of biodiversity research, three world-renowned scientists-Dr. Peter Raven, President Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden, Dr. Jonathan Chase, from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, and Dr. J. Chris Pires, from the University of Missouri Columbia-have co-edited a Special Issue on Biodiversity, published in March by the American Journal of Botany.
Raven, Chase, and Pires overlap in their interest in biodiversity, yet their specialties complemented each other when it came to inviting "some of the best and brightest biodiversity scientists from each of [their] fields" to provide contributing papers to this issue.
Peter Raven is a long-time champion of biodiversity, drawing attention to the importance of conserving rare and endangered plant species all over the world. Jon Chase is interested in what drives patterns of species diversity in aquatic and terrestrial systems, and uses experiments as well as models and computer simulations to analyze ecological questions pertaining to biodiversity.
Chris Pires's research focuses on plant evolutionary biology, from phylogenetic studies in plant diversity to genome-wide analyses of gene expression, from the molecular and gene level to the evolution and ecology of polyploidy in plants.
The interests and talents of these three researchers led them to ask questions such as, "What is the Earth's current status regarding biodiversity?" and "What are our future prospects?" This unique collaboration resulted in 20 papers submitted by an international suite of biodiversity experts.
As Raven et al. are quick to point out in the Introduction to the Special Issue, a wide range of topics is presented, spanning from 150 million years ago to present (and future) day. For example, modern-day ecosystems are put into perspective by Alan Graham of the Missouri Botanical Garden, who demonstrates that today's ecosystems are a product of past events and, as such, their history can tell us something about present environmental conditions and where we might be heading.
Several articles describe how many of the plant groups that we know of today arose, and their authors use modern molecular, genetic, and phylogenetic approaches to gain insights into evolutionary and developmental trends and suggest advancements in methodologies and data acquisition for future research. Other papers address the previous lack of knowledge on groups such as microorganisms and fungi and use modern molecular techniques to demonstrate the discovery of their incredible levels of biodiversity.
The challenge of species identification using modern DNA techniques is also addressed-Pamela Steele and J. Chris Pires, both from the University of Missouri, propose a combination of genomes as a tool for species identification.
Other articles in the special issue focus on ecological, evolutionary, conservation, and restoration issues. Do some of the key fundamental evolutionary and ecological theories proposed a few decades ago to explain ecological relationships among species, such as Island Biogeography or the Species Area Curve, hold up now that we have acquired more data with which to test them?
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Sunday, March 13, 2011

DLR Releases Satellite Images Of Japanese Disaster Area

DLR Releases Satellite Images Of Japanese Disaster Area

After the severe earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the International Charter 'Space and Major Disasters' was activated on the morning of the 11 March 2011. All participating institutions were asked to provide satellite imagery of the affected area. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is responding through its Center for Satellite Based Crisis Information (Zentrum fur Satellitengestutzte Kriseninformation; ZKI), based at its site in Oberpfaffenhofen. Click here for detailed image of damage at a local level along Japan's coast.
by Staff Writers Berlin, Germany (SPX) Mar 14, 2011 After the severe earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the International Charter 'Space and Major Disasters' was activated on the morning of the 11 March 2011. All participating institutions were asked to provide satellite imagery of the affected area. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is responding through its Center for Satellite Based Crisis Information (Zentrum fur Satellitengestutzte Kriseninformation; ZKI), based at its site in Oberpfaffenhofen. "The information acquired by the German TerraSAR-X radar satellite and the RapidEye imaging satellites, together with data from the American WorldView-2 satellite, show the extent of the disaster," explains Stefan Voigt, a researcher at DLR.
"The advantage of satellite data is the extensive coverage of the disaster area that it provides. At the same time, we can map details with a spatial resolution of down to 50 centimetres.
In the maps we have compiled, it can be seen that the tsunami penetrated 4-5 kilometres inland. The severe damage to roads, bridges, buildings and other infrastructure can be clearly seen.
This is important information for rescue workers on the ground. We are working closely with the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (Bundesanstalt Technisches Hilfswerk; THW)."
The scientists and engineers at ZKI began working to provide the necessary assistance immediately after the charter was activated. In close coordination with the control centre and commercial satellite operators, the available satellites were tasked for data acquisition over the disaster area.
Since the activation of the charter, an enormous amount of data has been received, processed, analysed, and used to generate the first mapping products; meanwhile, archived data serve as a reference. The damage analysis and situation report are based on the newly acquired satellite images.