Environmental News

Discussion in 'Environmental Discussion' started by tochatihu, Oct 22, 2015.

  1. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    Bringing you an erratically updated list of 'what's new' based entirely on my own interests. OMG another vanity thread!

    Ocean heat content, previously used to understand hurricane dynamics better, can also reveal where to go deep-sea fishing
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151021170825.htm

    Apparently we don't understand ocean-surface evaporation very well
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151022103535.htm
    (Just from the title it's clearly deep sledding. However, the process is key to water-vapor amplification of CO2 warming so somebody needs to sled)

    Fish farms remove phosphorus from water
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151022094502.htm
    (Phosphorus is quite important to the human enterprise)

    Beaver impoundments keep nitrogen from leaking downstream
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151021144706.htm
    (Good then, but additional nitrous oxide in the atmosphere may be bad news)
     
  2. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    Mass gains of the Antarctic ice sheet exceed losses
    H. Jay Zwally, et al.
    Journal of Glaciology, Vol. 61, No. 230, 2015 doi: 10.3189/2015JoG15J071
    (an open-access publication)

    They find satellite data to agree that snow in Antarctica exceeds loss at the edges. Good news in the sea-level sense. But as IPCC summarized that Antarctica was (slightly) net melting, some other change must be underestimated. One would presume that thermal expansion is being figured correctly. That leaves Greenland and other continental icemelt being underestimated.

    Hope that the ice guys can sort all this out. Meanwhile, do we need to say again that 'contrarian' research is not blocked from journal publication?
     
  3. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web i3 and Prime

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    It reminds me of a similar titled paper published in 2012. My initial scan did not find the added value since 2012. There are at least two other papers with different Antarctic ice inventories. GRACE comes to mind.

    Bob Wilson
     
  4. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    Pain to download this:

    Collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet after local destabilization of the Amundsen Basin
    Johannes Feldmann and Anders Levermann
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.1512482112

    It says that if the Amundsen sector ‘lets go’, the entire WAIS may follow. Three meters of SLR there. Actually it says more than that, but if interested, you are supposed to read the article and draw your own conclusions.

    For me, this and the previous Antarctic study I mentioned encapsulate the climate change issue. Things are not going badly now, at least not in ways that can be unambiguously attributed to CO2 loading. We may go on like this for a few decades. After that, much more problems may present themselves, depending on the accuracy of looking forwards.

    If things go very badly later on, decision makers of the current decade will be looked back upon as having squandered the best chance to control temperatures and acidification.

    If things do not go very badly later on, decision makers of the current decade will be looked back upon as clever for not ‘falling for alarmists’. For keeping the profits and other benefits flowing from fossil-C burning.

    I don’t see that either decision is certain to be correct. So, basically just hoping to get lucky.

    As I suggested before, a serious ice dump would do much to clarify matters. That makes global marine commerce, agriculture and other activities conducted right at current sea level the fall guys (under the bad scenario). Taking one for the team, so that everybody else can do what needs to be done to get CO2 back down to levels suitable for the long-term human enterprise.

    Whatever level that might be :). We know 280 ppm probably works, but it would be extremely costly to get back there. Some folks like 350. Maybe even 400? So much depends on dynamics of the global ocean, and it does not give up its secrets lightly.

    It is not 900 or above, in my view. There you get happy plants and humans with impaired decision making. I wonder if somebody could measure CO2 in the room during presidential candidate debates? Or in many other settings, where apparently odd things seem reasonable.
     
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  5. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    Greenland update

    Massive northeast Greenland glacier is rapidly melting, UCI-led team finds

    A summary of the research in last Friday's print issue of Science, and the work itself in the Science Express page of their website. Means it will appear in a later print issue.

    My summary is that Zachariæ Isstrøm (a glacial field) is now adding 1.4 mm/year to global sea level. All of its ice (should it depart) is about 1/4 of a meter. Unless I have my conversion wrong (gigaton ice -> global SL depth), this one (large) part of Greenland represents a large fraction of global SLR.

    The next one south (Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden) is also melting but not escaping (according to the UCI press release) because of a hill. For some reason I found that an odd concept. 1/4 of a meter of SL held back by a hill.
     
  6. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web i3 and Prime

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    Clue: Antarctica is fixin' to surprise us this year.

    Bob Wilson
     
  7. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    “Estimating the global conservation status of more than 15,000 Amazonian tree species” with a zillion authors was recently published in Scientific Advances. This has been media-metasticized into “we are all doomed” so I’ll take a shot at explaining.

    Previous research (by some of the same zillion) showed that most Amazonian trees are of a small number of species. The other side is that most tree species are rare. They grow in narrow ranges, and under a narrow range of conditions. Makes sense eh?

    The newer study projects forest clearance in the future, and a couple of climate scenarios. From that, they anticipate that a large number of rare species will disappear. Some even before getting names. This also makes sense, contingent on the accuracy of futures examined. One can certainly feel regret about accelerated species loss. However, it does not mean (as you may have heard) that the lungs of the planet are shot.

    These rare trees are also very minor players in carbon cycling (as has been previously published). Tropical forest clearing, and climate excursions so far have not dimmed the terrestrial biotic carbon sink. You will recall that in total it converts a quarter of fossil CO2 into plant carbon.

    The current authors mention neither ‘carbon’ not ‘climate’ in their article. It is about potential loss of rare species. This is enough vaccination against media, but of course you’d do well to read the full in Scientific Advances (open access by the way).

    A similar study has yet to be done in Indonesia. I imagine it would show similar things and be subject to similar misinterpretations. Tropical African forests are in the best shape of all by the way. Maybe they will stay so for a few decades.
     
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  8. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web i3 and Prime

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    Just got hold of something that helps explain what we're talking about:
    This chart shows the error range, the Y-values, and intervals, X-values for Antarctic Ice inventories:
    [​IMG]
    "Figure 1. Comparison of various estimates of Antarctic mass balance trends. Vertical dimension of boxes gives the published uncertainty; horizontal gives the time period covered. Figure courtesy of Luke Trusel, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution."

    Source: http://realclimate-backup.org/index.php/archives/2015/11/so-what-is-really-happening-in-antarctica/

    As I tried to mention earlier, I got the impression that Zwally, et. al, 2015 was trying to make a case for another satellite mission in 2017. This 'pleading' was missing in the 2012 paper BUT that isn't science. Measuring Antarctic ice mass is a hard problem. So I'm less inclined to dismiss Zwally as much as say we need to understand the technical problem and how it might be resolved.

    Personally, I'm more inclined towards GRACE metrics because it is based upon gravitational measurements. In effect, GRACE tosses out vertical metrics that are density dependent for measuring the gravity of ice (and also ground water.) It is entirely possible that combining GRACE metrics with surface metrics, we might get better density data that might be ground tested with ice cores.

    Bob Wilson
     
  9. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    We have considered competing water requirements for agriculture, power generation, and direct human use before. There is a new Greenpeace report addressing part of the subject; water use by coal extraction, transport, and burning. Simple enough to find it.

    Some will simply say "Ewww, Greenpeace" and that's that. But the report contains references to primary literature. If this topic is of interest, it is a place to start.

    I expect that adequate water to support these main aspects of the human enterprise will be more important issues than direct and indirect effects of +CO2 for decades to come. So it should be topic is of interest.

    In that light it seems a shame that Peter Gleick rather burned himself on the matter of Heartland. He (at least) was a leading authority on water issues. Since then, it has become all to easy to say "Ewww, Gleick".

    Yet water issues confront us still. Defunding or dismissing environmental research because some practitioners are thought to be getting too rich or too political does not lead to (any obvious) solutions.
     
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  10. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    I expect this new publication to be widely discussed:

    Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist, Paul J. Krusic, Hanna S. Sundqvist, Eduardo Zorita, Gudrun Brattström & David Frank (2016). Northern Hemisphere hydroclimate variability over the past twelve centuries. Nature 532: 94-98. doi:10.1038/nature17418

    As from the title, 12 centuries examined for all measures and proxies of hydrology. How has spatial variability of hydrology varied over that period? Major finding is that the most recent century has not been more spatially variable. While this was not a direct test of climate models, we have a broad conclusion that recent +1 oC has not detectably altered N. hemisphere hydrology.

    If comparisons between paleotemperature proxies and recent thermometers bother you, then this also will. But science is done with the data we have, not what we wish we had. If climate models indeed show that +1 oC should have ‘pushed the water around’, then they got it wrong. This does not lend confidence for climate models predicting hydrology under future +T, so my forecast is for increased noise and fury.

    This comes at a good time, just as current surface and satellite T observations finished off the notion of “no +T since 1998”. Let that busted hypothesis go, redirect to this idea, and wave hands ever more energetically. As long as there is something to wave hands about, +CO2 can be allowed to continue apace, eh? Just please remember that your food comes from areas much smaller than the N. hemisphere. It’s complicated and scales matter. So,

    1) Take a leap and decide in favor of energy transition. Or,
    2) Close your eyes and keep your foot ‘on the gas’

    Uncertainty remains, but how does that guarantee 2) is the better approach?
     
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  11. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    Considering ways that will allow agricultural sufficiency by 2050:

    Exploring the biophysical option space for feeding the world without deforestation
    Karl-Heinz Erb, Christian Lauk, Thomas Kastner, Andreas Mayer, Michaela C. Theurl & Helmut Haberl
    Nature Communications doi: 10.1038/ncomms11382

    Open access publication. Their broad conclusion is that several approaches can achieve the goal. A broader range would, with less meat in the global diet.
     
  12. hill

    hill High Fiber Member

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    Ice melting - that's one thing, but depressingly - warm water El Niño effects aren't restricted to just more rain in California;
    The Largest Coral Atoll In The World Lost 80 Percent Of Its Coral To Bleaching | ThinkProgress
    .
     
  13. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    Greening of the Earth and its drivers
    Zaichun Zhu, many other authors, Nature Climate Change doi: 10.1038/NCLIMATE3004

    It's +CO2, mostly. This will get a lot of play in places that hold CO2 as a pure benefit. If they wonder 'how could scientists have been so dumb to not have noticed?' it will only mean they have not been reading much. Sad, actually.

    Seriously, we ought to be able to make a go of it at 400 or even 450 ppm (coming soon). Use water and N and P fertilizers sensibly. We are ever-so-slowly making transition to sustainable energy, which is better than not even trying. On the 'hope' side, marine protein needs to keep flowing in and sea level needs to not make a troubling rise.

    I continue to expect that we will face hard compromises in water/energy/food/population, long before +CO2 much hotter climates arrive. Perhaps, CO2 is a stand-in for sustainable energy, just as charismatic animals are a stand-in for habitat conservation.
     
  14. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    From Oxford (not the one in Alabama), from the globalprioritesproject, one can read 160 dreary pages about calamities that might promptly kill 10% or more of humans. That is what decimate means.

    globalprioritiesproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Global-Catastrophic-Risk-Annual-Report-2016-FINAL.pdf

    A few takeaways. Pandemic disease and nuclear-weapons misadventure ranked higher than climate change. Below that, asteroid bumps and super volcanoes. There are also "unknown risks" which are inherently difficult to say anything about.

    Excluded by definition are things with less than 10% kill potential. For me this represents the first hope of making such a study more than a tiny bit useful. Because prompt deaths of many fewer than 700 million humans ought to be a matter of concern. If they can be quantified, if their effects can realistically be reduced, and if the cost of doing so can be estimated.

    I include their 'keystone' graphic below, only to suggest how it might be made more conceptually useful. There should be three axes instead of two: Risk through time, Effect size, mitigation cost.Those axes should be quantitative.

    Each 'event' should enclose a volume of graphical space, not just words typed somewhere. I fully recognize that defining those volumes would be both difficult and contentious, but several of them have already been individually addressed. They could be combined into a consistent framework.

    I personally consider risk of climate change to be overestimated (by some) on the 5-year timescale considered above. Over a 100 to 300 year timescale, that risk may have more than a linear rise. Just one example of why drawing a quantitative 'risk through time' axis is challenging. There are other risks that grow through time. I would include bioengineered pandemics because DNA tinkering is rapidly becoming trivial. In contrast, nuclear misadventures will become less likely through time, because we are now on a good trend of reducing and securing stockpiles (and I expect that to continue). Asteroids, and all things geological should be dead linear, and would be easier to express.

    Effect size needs a lower limit than 700 million, but obviously cannot run all the way to one (luckless chap). I suggest a lower limit of 10 million. Any event with smaller kill potential is simply ignored. Open for discussion...

    Such an exercise would require pulling together a lot of disparate (and sometimes shaky) scientific studies. It could draw heavily on risk mapping that CIESIN (Columbia Univ) has already done. Indeed I might send them a 'cold call' email. I do stuff like that. It might also require one or more international egghead meetings to discuss details. Nobody with a tight purse likes those.

    All that focuses on the 'gloom aspect'. There is also a completely different 'boom aspect'. Using similar axes, it would consider events (activities) that would increase human welfare. By how much, and how likely, and at what cost. Somebody else would have to run with that idea. I admit to being a doom guy, explaining why I was drawn to this report in the first place. But I would spin this differently. here we have a fabulous planet, with amazing biological processes, and hosting our species whose accomplishments are now increasing at a breakneck pace. Let us not toss all that under the bus out of 'failure to anticipate' as we have these big damn brains.

    There is your unbidden essay, and here is the graphic:
    Earths risks.jpg
     
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  15. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    Reporting again from the gloom side, the most biotoxic small molecule I know is (I ain't gonna say but the bad guys already know) contains 24 atoms. 24 effing atoms! By Grace of God, biochemical pathways leading to its synthesis are not yet known. But they could be.They will be known, sometime. Why does that matter? When you have the pathway, you are close to having DNA sequences that 'code' it. Inserting DNA sequences into bacteria has become a trivial thing.

    Second-tier biotoxins are proteins of few hundred to few thousand amino acids in just the right order. This is the domain of spiders and snakes, who make your muscle contractions as nothing (relates to prey escape) and all your cells as soluble food (relates to dinner!). This is a whole different world than first paragraph. These protein sequences are already known (sorry to say) and thus the 'upstream' DNA coding is also already known.

    Why might this matter? In your intestines there are bacteria that help you will digestion including some broadly called Escherichia coli. Turns out that species' names in bacteria are poor descriptors of what they do, but that is a lateral issue.What matter is that your immune system does not attack E. coli. That is the damn problem. There are already bad E. coli versions that cause sickness. But they don't kill 100 millions.

    Bad guys could insert DNA into E. coli that transcribe any of those small killer proteins above. This (I believe) qualifies 'engineered pandemic' for its high risk stated in image in my previous post. It is not trivial to achieve, requires timely de-repression by quorum sensing, but open microbiology literature presents (sadly) a rather complete toolbox.

    It is a fair question whether my gloom here resembles HAARP or other tin-foil hattery. Readers who understand a lot of biology will see the difference; can say no more.

    Among people now alive, there are some who want those not like them simply to die. Not only ISIS. I am sad to report that tools to kill many by way of microbes hosted in your gut are - well perhaps enough to say that 'engineered pandemic' might not really be below 'natural pandemic' in the image I posted above.

    +++

    You receive a letter by mail that contains 'white powder' and you freak out and clear the room and call the feds. Here we are talking about Bacillus anthrax which is ubiquitous in soils, has some bad effects, but which also your immune system is primed against because your ancestors have done this since whenever.. 'Weaponization' of this 'wrong' bacteria by US and Soviets since 1950s has been to make individual cells (spores) float better though the air and cause you harm.

    Your evolved body already knows to exclude B. anthrax and accept E. coli. Our immune systems response to surface-protein 'displays', not the bad news that might be concealed within. Again I stress that I am not telling secrets here. It is a matter of whether bad guys are clever enough to use 'common knowledge' to achieve their inappropriate goals.

    Let nuclear-proliferation folks handle their problems. There are hot microbiological problems right now. If humans can't rise to those and other near-term challenges, things might get messy.

    +++

    If I have not yet been clear, managing the human/disease interface is a better money hole than 1 or 2 degrees +T or 0.5 or 1 meter sea-level rise.
     
  16. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    Seasonal hurricane forecaster and skeptic of global warming Dr. William Gray passed away on April 16.
     
  17. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    Respirable ultrafine particles and cancer link

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160429095025.htm

    Sorry about the buzzkill, but If you are ever called upon for Congressional testimony on positives and negatives of fossil-fuel combustion... Well you might account yourself better than John Christy. I want to think of him in terms of accomplishments, but his "no health effects" testimony gets in the dang way.
     
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  18. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    Dr. William Gray @16. Here was an important leader in understanding the why and where of hurricanes, and I wish there were some interest in exploring that area.

    He also spoke out against overstating global warming and evidence therefore. That at least I'd hope some here would think about. Simplest way is to download your own copy of

    "On The Hijacking of the American Meteorological Society" (2011)

    Which can readily be found. What are the strongest points presented? Has balance of evidence shifted in more recent years?

    Among the large number of scientists, there are few who actually improve our understanding of large areas. Fewer still among those, who are a joy to collaborate with. By all accounts, Dr. Gray was both.

    It is uncomfortable for me to think his major life's work is 'shaded' by going against the grain on climate change.This is petulant, petty, and should not stand. OK, I get it that PriusChat may not care. But if American Meteorological Society cannot rise to the occasion, they will feel the (tiny) sting of my email.
     
  19. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web i3 and Prime

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    Here was an important leader in understanding the why and where of hurricanes, and I wish there were some interest in exploring that area.

    He also spoke out against overstating global warming and evidence therefore. That at least I'd hope some here would think about. Simplest way is to download your own copy of

    "On The Hijacking of the American Meteorological Society" (2011)

    Which can readily be found. What are the strongest points presented? Has balance of evidence shifted in more recent years?

    So I asked Mr. Google and found this: On The Hijacking of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) by Bill Gray, AMS Fellow, Charney Award recipient, and over 50-year member | Climate Realists

    The late Dr. Gray unfortunately used language I've heard before from blood relatives who no longer discussed math, science, and physics but attributed actions to secret conspiracies. As @wxman has pointed out, weather is a chaotic system so specific events can not be laid to global warming: Raging fire threatens to reduce Fort McMurray to ashes, engulf airport| Reuters

    A massive wildfire that has forced all 88,000 people to flee the western Canadian oil city of Fort McMurray and burned down 1,600 structures is now threatening its airport and communities well south of the town, authorities said on Wednesday.

    With a few neighborhoods already in ruins, worsening fire conditions Wednesday pushed walls of flames toward thousands of more homes in the northeastern Alberta town, in the heart of Canada's oil sands region.

    The winds also pushed flames toward the local airport, with webcam images showing black smoke engulfing the airport late on Wednesday evening. Officials confirmed that a hotel north of main terminal had caught fire.

    Global warming is not a single roll of the dice like a town burned down in Canada. But if you get a large enough sample set, it is possible to determine if the dice are 'honest' or 'loaded.' Sometimes, there are narrow slivers that are leading indicators … like polar ice. The models told me were to look.

    Bob Wilson
     
  20. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    Panama canal upgrade will open soon:



    Mostly because of larger locks, neo-Panamax ships will be able to transit. They are very large.
     
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