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Accelerating Global Climate Change III

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Sore Throat

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More global warming records PostSun Jul 18, 2010 5:57 pm  Reply with quote

More global warming records

Doug Craig

In my previous blog I mentioned a couple records that showed that our Earth is getting hotter. But if you check out the NCDC, you will see there are more, many more. For example,

• Besides the combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for June 2010 setting a record for the warmest ever, the June worldwide averaged land surface temperature was also above the 20th century average of 55.9°F by 1.93°F. This was the warmest on record and surpassed the previous June record set in 2005 by 0.22°F.

• It was the warmest April-June (three-month period) on record for the global land and ocean temperature and the land-only temperature. The worldwide land surface temperature during April-June 2010 was 2.02°F above the 20th century average--the warmest on record. This value surpassed the previous record of 1.84°F set in 2005.

• It was the warmest June and April-June on record for the Northern Hemisphere as a whole and all land areas of the Northern Hemisphere.

• The combined global average land and ocean surface temperature for January-June period was the warmest such period on record. This value is 1.22°F above the 20th century average.

Now as we continue to fill the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, and the temperature of the planet increases, it affects the parts of our planet that are ice-covered. Now if you are not George Will, you might correctly conclude that that would lead to less ice, not more. And of course you would be right. But what theories explain George Will? Perhaps Global Warming is having a negative effect on his ability to comprehend basis science?

• Anyway, last month the Arctic sea ice continued its annual decline as we would expect this time of year. However, as it did in the previous month of May, June of 2010 saw the Arctic sea ice decline at a record rapid rate--the fastest measured for June (more than 50 percent greater than average).

• The previous record for the fastest decline rate in June was set in 1999. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), June 2010 Arctic sea ice extent was 10.9 million square kilometers (10.6 percent or 1.29 million square kilometers below the 1979-2000 average), resulting in the lowest June sea ice extent since records began in 1979--the previous June record low was set in 2006.

• This was also the 19th consecutive June with below-average Arctic sea ice extent. June Arctic sea ice extent has decreased at an average rate of 3.5 percent per decade.

So again, let's review the take home message here. More greenhouse gases means hotter world means less ice. Just as June and most of 2010 so far are setting temperature records, the ice is responding as most of us would expect. It is setting records for decline and as we saw with temperature, the trend is unmistakable.

The ice is our friend. It helps keep the planet cool. For nearly 20 years in a row, we have watched it decline. When it goes for good as it surely will, we will see worldwide temperatures really climb. We will look back on this period as "the cool old days." But what will our kids think of us, when they realize we could have stopped this but chose not to? Let's ask George.
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Sore Throat

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Phytoplankton Population Drops 40 Percent Since 1950 PostFri Jul 30, 2010 3:23 pm  Reply with quote

A very omnious report, both for marine food supply, and more important, the Earth's ability to deal with the increasing amounts of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere.

Phytoplankton Population Drops 40 Percent Since 1950

Researchers find trouble among phytoplankton, the base of the food chain, which has implications for the marine food web and the world's carbon cycle.

By Lauren Morello and ClimateWire

The microscopic plants that form the foundation of the ocean's food web are declining, reports a study published July 29 in Nature.

The tiny organisms, known as phytoplankton, also gobble up carbon dioxide to produce half the world's oxygen output—equaling that of trees and plants on land.

But their numbers have dwindled since the dawn of the 20th century, with unknown consequences for ocean ecosystems and the planet's carbon cycle.

Researchers at Canada's Dalhousie University say the global population of phytoplankton has fallen about 40 percent since 1950. That translates to an annual drop of about 1 percent of the average plankton population between 1899 and 2008.

The scientists believe that rising sea surface temperatures are to blame.

"It's very disturbing to think about the potential implications of a century-long decline of the base of the food chain," said lead author Daniel Boyce, a marine ecologist.

They include disruption to the marine food web and effects on the world's carbon cycle. In addition to consuming CO2, phytoplankton can influence how much heat is absorbed by the world's oceans, and some species emit sulfate molecules that promote cloud formation.

A continuing mystery story

"In some respect, these findings are the beginning of the story, not the end," Boyce said. "The first question is what will happen in the future. We looked at these trends over the past century but don't know what will happen 10 years down the road."

The study "makes a sorely needed contribution to our knowledge of historical changes in the ocean biosphere," said David Siegel of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Bryan Franz of NASA in an essay, also published in Nature.

"Their identification of a connection between long-term global declines in phytoplankton biomass and increasing ocean temperatures does not portend well for [ocean] ecosystems in a world that is likely to be warmer," they wrote. "Phytoplankton productivity is the base of the food web, and all life in the sea depends on it."

Boyce said he and his co-authors began their study in an attempt to get a clearer picture of how phytoplankton were faring, given that earlier studies that relied on satellite measurements produced conflicting results.

Biggest declines at the poles

The scientists dug back into the historical record, well past 1997, the year continuous satellite measurements began. They examined a half-million data points collected using a tool called a Secchi disk, as well as measurements of chlorophyll—a pigment produced by the plankton.

The Secchi disk was developed in the 19th century by a Jesuit astronomer, Father Pietro Angelo Secchi, when the Papal navy asked him to map the transparency of the Mediterranean Sea.

What Secchi produced was a dinner plate-sized white disk that is lowered into ocean water until it cannot be seen anymore. The depth it reaches before disappearing gives a measure of water clarity.

That can be used as a proxy for phytoplankton population in a given area, since the tiny organisms live close to the ocean's surface, where they are exposed to sunlight they use to produce energy.

Data gathered with a Secchi disk are roughly as accurate as observations collected by satellites, Boyce said, although satellites have greater global reach.

The researchers found the most notable phytoplankton declines in waters near the poles and in the tropics, as well as the open ocean.

They believe that rising sea temperatures are driving the decline. As surface water warms, it tends to form a distinct layer that does not mix well with cooler, nutrient-rich water below, depriving phytoplankton of some of the materials they need to turn CO2 and sunlight into energy.
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Sore Throat

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NOAA State of the Climate Report: Get Ready for a Warming Wo PostFri Jul 30, 2010 3:29 pm  Reply with quote

NOAA State of the Climate Report: Get Ready for a Warming World

BY Ariel Schwartz

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's just-released 2009 State of the Climate report bears few surprises for those who follow climate science--the past decade was the warmest on record, and the Earth has slowly been heating up for the past 50 years.

The difference between this and every other climate report, however, is that NOAA gathered research from 300 scientists in 48 countries to produce a compelling document that covers every aspect of our planet's climate. The report is, according to NOAA, the first to bring together "multiple observational records from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the ocean."

NOAA's report uses 10 features to measure global temperature changes. Seven of the features (air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, air temperature over oceans, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and tropospheric temperature in the "active-weather" layer of the atmosphere) are rising significantly, while three (Arctic sea ice, glaciers, and spring snow cover in the Northern hemisphere) are declining.

It's a fairly discouraging situation, according to the NOAA:

The report emphasizes that human society has developed for thousands of years under one climatic state, and now a new set of climatic conditions are taking shape. These conditions are consistently warmer, and some areas are likely to see more extreme events like severe drought, torrential rain and violent storms.

Does this mean we should seriously start considering geoengineering? Maybe, but it's just as important to focus on mitigating the consequences of the coming set of climatic conditions. A combination of geoengineering and solid preparation for a warming world may be the best solution (if it can be called a solution) that we have available.
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Sore Throat

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We are tinkering with our planet’s basic life support system PostFri Jul 30, 2010 3:42 pm  Reply with quote

We are tinkering with our planet’s basic life support systems

Jay Bookman

I fully understand that by posting this, I will again provoke all of those who are emotionally and politically invested in denying global warming to assume the position.

We all know what the position is: Eyes squeezed shut, forefingers inserted firmly into ears, loudly chanting the slogans they’ve been taught to chant so that no portion of actual scientific knowledge is allowed to penetrate.

But let’s take a look anyway, because it’s our planet, and it’s important, and I have children, and I’m not going to give up hope that we may yet summon the decency, courage and wisdom to at least try to mitigate the worst impacts of what we are doing to ourselves.

The above chart comes from “The State of the Climate: 2009,” a report compiled by more than 300 scientists worldwide under the auspices of our own National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As the report notes, it is the product not of computer models but of observed data.As the chart demonstrates, global climate has been changing just as scientists have been predicting it would since back in the ’70s. As the report warns:

“Continued temperature increases will threaten many aspects of our society, including coastal cities and infrastructure, water supply and agriculture. People have spent thousands of years building society for one climate and now a new one is being created – one that’s warmer and more extreme.”

So far, “more than 90 percent of the warming that’s happened on earth during the past 50 years has gone into the oceans,” the report warns. The expected effects of such warming include rising sea levels, melting ice caps and stronger hurricanes.

But those may not be the most dire consequences, as another study published this week documents.

From the Montreal Gazette:

“A Dalhousie University-based study, published in the scientific journal Nature on Wednesday, suggested for the first time that microscopic marine algae known as “phytoplankton” have been declining globally – its population has decreased by roughly 40 percent since 1950 – because of rising sea surface temperatures and changing ocean conditions.

“This may well be one of the largest biological changes observed in recent times, simply because it affects most of the biosphere,” said study co-author Boris Worm.

Phytoplankton need both sunlight and nutrients to grow but warm oceans are limiting the amount of nutrients that are delivered from deeper waters to the ocean surface.

“Phytoplankton are a critical part of our planetary life-support system. They produce half of the oxygen we breathe . . . and ultimately support all of our fisheries,” he said.

He said the species is just as valuable to survival as “all plants on land combined.”

Isn’t that lovely? A single species of aquatic plant life — a fundamental building block of our ecosystem, as valuable to survival as all plants on land combined — has declined by more than 40 percent because of global warming.

As one more effort to break through the denial, I’ll leave you with this, also from “The State of the Climate in 2009.” Scientists identified 10 major metrics that would tell us how and whether the climate was changing. Every single one of those metrics is indicating significant and ongoing heating.

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Sore Throat

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Fires and Storms Kill at Least 28 in Russia PostFri Jul 30, 2010 10:06 pm  Reply with quote

Fires and Storms Kill at Least 28 in Russia


MOSCOW — Stoked by parched forests, dried-out swamps and the hottest summertime temperatures ever recorded in Russia, wildfires burned down several villages in the central part of the country, killing about two dozen people, government officials said on Friday.

In the hardest hit area, near the city of Nizhny Novgorod east of Moscow, Russian television showed residents ineffectually beating at the flames with hoes and switches of tree branches, as houses burned in the background.

“It took only a second and the whole village was on fire,” one man, sweaty and smeared with soot, told the television station Vesti.Farther north in St. Petersburg, a fierce thunderstorm after days of hot weather led to the deaths of seven people, including a 14-year-old girl, who were crushed to death by trees and a tractor-trailer rig toppled by high winds, officials said.

Russia, like much of the northern hemisphere, has been baking in a heat wave this summer. Thursday was the hottest day ever recorded in Moscow since record keeping began under the Czars, 130 years go, topping out at 100 degrees.

Hundreds of Russians trying to escape the blistering temperatures have drowned, many while swimming intoxicated, and thousands of acres of wheat and barley crops have dried up.

On Friday, Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin, flew to the Vyksa district outside Nizhny Novgorod to consol people whose homes had burned overnight. More than 2,000 people were left homeless by the fires, emergency officials said, and few Russians carry insurance.

Mr. Putin promised government aid to rebuild.

Authorities declared a state of emergency that will prohibit people from walking in the forests in several districts of the Moscow region.

Already, 27 agricultural regions have declared states of emergency because of crop failures. President Dmitri A. Medvedev said the military might be deployed to fight fires, and that the government will consider buying more firefighting airplanes.

Rescue workers found 21 bodies in central Russia, including nine in villages in the Vyksa district, the Interfax news agency reported, and

Mr. Medvedev said rescue work was continuing and the total number of victims was uncertain.

The Ministry of Emergency Situations reported on its Web site that 779 wildfires are burning in Russia, including 42 peat bog fires, which are insidiously hard to fight as the flames burrow into the ground.

More than 10,000 firefighters and 2,158 pieces of firefighting equipment, including 43 airplanes, have been deployed to fight the fires.
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Sore Throat

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Clock’s ticking: Carbon emissions must peak by 2015 PostTue Aug 03, 2010 6:35 pm  Reply with quote

Clock’s ticking: Carbon emissions must peak by 2015

By Greenbang

A new carbon cycle model developed by researchers in Europe indicates that global carbon emissions must start dropping by no later than 2015 to prevent the planet from tipping into dangerous climate instability.

The finding is likely to put new pressure on the world’s top two carbon emitters — China and the US — both of which were widely blamed for failure to reach a binding global accord on carbon reductions in Copenhagen last December. Furthermore, the non-binding outcome of Copenhagen has global carbon emissions peaking in 2020 — five years too late, according to the latest model.

The model, developed by researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, suggests the world’s annual carbon emissions can reach no more than 10 billion tonnes in five years’ time before they must be put on a steady downward path. After that, the researchers say, emissions must drop by 56 per cent by mid-century and need to approach zero by 2100.

Those targets are necessary to prevent average global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees C by 2100. Under that scenario, though, further warming can still be expected for years to come afterward.

“It will take centuries for the global climate system to stabilise,” says Erich Roeckner, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute.

The new model is the first to pinpoint the extent to which global carbon emissions must be cut to prevent dangerous climate change. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have risen by 35 per cent, to around 390 parts per million today. Stabilising the climate will require concentrations to climb to no higher than 450 parts per million.

“What’s new about this research is that we have integrated the carbon cycle into our model to obtain the emissions data,” Roeckner says.
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Sore Throat

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Fires and high temperatures have Russians talking about glob PostSun Aug 08, 2010 5:25 pm  Reply with quote

Fires and high temperatures have Russians talking about global warming

John Ryden

Russia is experiencing very high, abnormal temperatures this summer. Temperatures in Moscow have been getting up to 100 degrees F instead of the more usual 75 degrees F. Drought is causing Russia’s wheat harvest to decline significantly this year to the point where Russia has banned any more wheat exports for the rest of the year.

The high temperatures have dried out the countryside around Moscow. Dried peat bogs and forests have started burning, producing a dense cloud of smoke that is reducing visibility in Moscow to only a few hundred feet. Air travel is being disrupted because pilots don’t have enough visibility to land at the regional airports.

The dense smoke is causing smog in Moscow that is dangerous to breath. Eye and respiratory irritation are common complaints.

On Thursday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev spoke to a Russian Security Council meeting on the ongoing threat of wildfires associated with the country’s heatwave and drought:

“Everyone is talking about climate change now. Unfortunately, what is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past. This means that we need to change the way we work, change the methods that we used in the past.”

Last Friday, in remarks to the heads of international sports federations, Medvedev said:

“We are in the middle of an unprecedented heat wave…We have never had such record high temperatures before. At times I have the impression that I’m somewhere in Italy or in Egypt, but certainly not in Moscow…Frankly, what is going on with the world’s climate at the moment should incite us all (I mean world leaders and heads of public organizations) to make a more strenuous effort to fight global climate change.

The high temperatures in Russia could be the result of climate change. It is good that Russia is now acknowledging the problem. You have to get out of denial before you can start to deal with the problem.

While there are no quick and easy solutions to global warming caused by carbon dioxide emissions, there are solutions to the problem. Cap and tax was not politically acceptable in this country but there are better methods of solving the global warming problem.

China, for example, is becoming a leader in developing renewable energy. They are using an approach of displacement to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions. The Chinese are building as much renewable energy production as they can. Any renewable energy production will always displace energy produced by fossil fuels. This is because the investment to build renewable energy systems is high, but the cost of fuel is small or free. Renewable systems cost a lot to build but are inexpensive to operate.

Russia should focus on a multi-year plan for increasing their capacity to develop renewable energy system with the goal of eventually decreasing the amount of carbon they release into the atmosphere each year. Other countries including the United States should do the same thing.
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Sore Throat

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Vital ocean phytoplankton a casualty of global warming? PostSun Aug 08, 2010 5:35 pm  Reply with quote

Vital ocean phytoplankton a casualty of global warming?

A new study suggests that a global rise in ocean temperatures has cut the number of phytoplankton, which are the bedrock of the food chain, by 40 percent since 1950. Other scientists link the rise in ocean temperatures to global warming

By Pete Spotts, Staff writer

The foundation of the ocean food chain is eroding, and global warming is partly to blame.

That's the broad conclusion from a newly released study of a century's worth of measurements of the abundance of phytoplankton in the world's oceans.

Between 1899 and 2008, phytoplankton – microscopic, plant-like organisms in ocean surface waters – declined by roughly 1 percent of the global average per year, the study estimates. That works out to a 40 percent drop in amount of phytoplankton between 1950 and 2008, according to the study, which appears in tomorrow's issue of the journal Nature.

Beyond disruptions to the ocean food chain, such a decline would undercut the ocean's ability to take up the carbon dioxide humans have pumped into the atmosphere through increased burning of coal, oil, and gas, as well as through land-use changes, say scientists.

If the findings hold up to additional scrutiny, "that's quite remarkable," says Peter Franks, a phytoplankton ecologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. "If it's true, there's a lot of bad stuff going on."

Phytoplankton use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and into the sugars that keep the plankton alive long enough to become another creature's meal. By some estimates ocean phytoplankton are responsible for half of all the photosynthetic activity on the planet.

The trend noted in the study becomes most pronounced near the poles and in the tropics since 1950, the researchers say.

Of the factors the team considered to explain the decline, the most influential appeared to be rising sea-surface temperatures – a trend many other scientists have traced to global warming.

How 'staggering' study was done

The team of marine scientists from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, who conducted the study calls the long-term trend "unequivocal."

The size of the change "is staggering," says Daniel Boyce, the lead author of the Nature paper describing the results and how the team arrived at them.

Mr. Boyce, who is working toward a doctorate at Dalhousie, says he began the study three years ago as part of a larger effort to tease out the factors accounting for a significant decline globally in fish at the top of the food chain. Overfishing is one obvious suspect. But changes at the bottom of the food chain also could be playing a role.

Satellite-based estimates of trends in phytoplankton abundance date only to 1979. So Boyce and two Dalhousie colleagues explored the possibility of pushing the record back deeper in time.

The trio spent three years combing historical oceanographic data gathered with a low-tech device known as a Secchi disk – a white and black disk lowered into the water to a point where someone on the surface no longer can detect the pattern on the disk. In the open ocean, the nearly 150-year-old technique has proven remarkably accurate at estimating the concentration of phytoplankton at or near the surface. The Secchi disk results closely match those taken by more modern, high-tech methods, the researchers say.

The team discarded measurements that could have been influenced by factors such as silt from river run-off or by pollution-induced coastal algae blooms. The scientists also tossed out measurements that had been miscalcuated or were biologically impossible.

That process left them with slightly more than 445,000 measurements over the 100-year period that met their quality-control requirements.

As they analyzed the data, the scientists also placed less weight on the oldest data and those from the southern Atlantic Ocean and the southern ocean around Antarctica, because those data were gathered most sparsely and those regions were the least studied over the full period.

After carving up the marine map into 10 regions, the team found a lot of year-to-year variation in phytoplankton populations, as well as regional variations in abundance. But the century-long decline was evident in 8 of 10 ocean regions and was strong enough to offset gains in two others centered in the Indian Ocean.

In effect, warming surface waters have acted as a lid, preventing deeper, nutrient-rich waters from mixing upward to feed phytoplankton at the surface.

Too dramatic too be believed?

While Boyce says the process of gathering and analyzing the information was a challenge, colleague Marlon Lewis says that for him, the most difficult part of the study was was believing the results.

"The toughest hurdle I had was coming to grips with the results," Dr. Lewis says. "We sent Daniel back I can't tell you how many times to redo the calculations or look at it in different ways."

In the end, however, the results held.

For his part, Scripps' Dr. Franks says he remains "slightly skeptical" of the results. The Secchi-disk data allows the team to get pretty good coverage of the oceans over the period. But the less-than-complete data from some oceans gives him pause, he says.

Still, he adds, "given that this is about the only data set that would speak to this issue, I think they've done it as carefully as one can do it. I tend to believe the results."
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Sore Throat

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Vast Ice ‘Island’ Breaks Free of Greenland Glacier PostSun Aug 08, 2010 5:39 pm  Reply with quote

Vast Ice ‘Island’ Breaks Free of Greenland Glacier


Greenland has for years been shedding ice faster than the rate at which accumulating snow adds to the overall bulk of its ice sheet. The calving of an enormous ice “island” from the Petermann Glacier several days ago created a photogenic “moment” in a long-term process.

Jason E. Box, a glacier and climate researcher at Ohio State University who forwarded the image above (it was generated by the Canadian Ice Center), sent these reactions before heading into the field:

Petermann is a sleeping giant that is slowly awakening. Removing flow resistance leads to flow acceleration…. The coincidence of this area loss and a 30 square kilometer loss in 2008 with abnormal warmth this year, the setting of increasing sea surface temperatures and sea ice decline are all part of a climate warming pattern.


Ice Island Breaks off Greenland; Bigger Than Manhattan

A satellite image taken Thursday shows the huge ice island calved from Greenland's Petermann glacier.

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Climate change whips up floods, fire and ice PostSun Aug 08, 2010 5:45 pm  Reply with quote

Climate change whips up floods, fire and ice


CLIMATE change has been blamed for floods that have killed thousands and left millions homeless from Pakistan to North Korea, fires and a heatwave in Russia that have left 5000 dead and disrupted global food markets, and a severe tropical storm threatening Bermuda.

In Greenland, a giant ice island four times the size of Manhattan - about 225 square kilometres - has broken off the Petermann Glacier. It is the largest chunk of ice to calve in the Arctic since 1962.

Governments fear the devastation in Asia may stretch aid efforts as crops are destroyed amid soaring wheat prices, caused in part by Russia's decision to ban grain exports until December 31.

''Mother Nature is playing a very evil hand,'' Peter McGuire, managing director at CWA Global Markets, said in Sydney yesterday. ''It's always the poor that suffer.''

The weather drew comment from officials and activists at international climate change talks in Bonn.

One US delegate said Russia's heatwave and the recent floods that have devastated Pakistan are ''consistent with the kind of changes we would expect to see from climate change and they will only get worse unless we act quickly''.

But the environmental group Greenpeace said negotiators at the talks were not getting the message.

''Russia is burning and Pakistan is drowning, yet they seem happy to continue as if they have all the time in the world,'' said the group's climate policy director Wendel Trio.

The floods in north-western Pakistan that have killed 1400 and affected another 12 million since July 22 may spread south, said the United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator for Pakistan, Martin Mogwanja.

The deadliest floods in 80 years have damaged 5 per cent of Pakistan's rice crop. At least 1.8 million people urgently need food, the UN said.

In India, more than 110 have died and hundreds missing after flash floods struck the disputed region of Kashmir. In North Korea, whose 24 million people rely on food aid, rains triggered landslides that wrecked homes and buried crops.

The disaster is raising concerns of a repeat of the 2008 food crisis.

China's worst floods in a decade have left nearly 1700 people dead or missing and forced the evacuation of about 18,000 villagers in north-eastern Jilin province and more rain is forecast.

In Russia, 558 forest and peatbog fires east of Moscow have killed 52 people and shrouded the city in smoke. Defence authorities are moving nuclear missiles. Officials said Russia's summer heatwave has cost almost 5000 lives. As carbon monoxide in Moscow's air rose to 4.8 times the admissible maximum level, Russians were advised to stay indoors and wear masks outside.

Hurricane Gert is causing winds of up to 120km/h in Bermuda with the main force of the storm expected to pass to the east of the islands.
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Moscow deaths double amid smog to 700 people a day PostMon Aug 09, 2010 4:37 pm  Reply with quote

Moscow deaths double amid smog to 700 people a day


MOSCOW — Deaths in Moscow have doubled to an average of 700 people a day as the Russian capital is engulfed by poisonous smog from wildfires and a sweltering heat wave, a top health official said Monday.

Moscow health chief Andrei Seltsovky blamed weeks of unprecedented heat and suffocating smog for the rise in mortality compared to the same time last year, Russian news agencies reported. He said city morgues were nearly overflowing, filled with 1,300 bodies, close to their capacity.

Acrid smog blanketed Moscow for a six straight day Monday, with concentrations of carbon monoxide and other poisonous substances two to three times higher than what is considered safe. Those airborne pollutants reached a record over the weekend — exceeding the safe limit by nearly seven times.

About 550 separate blazes were burning nationwide Monday, mainly across western Russia, including about 40 around Moscow, according to the Emergencies Ministry. Forest and peat bog fires have been triggered by the most intense heat wave in 130 years of record keeping.

Alexander Frolov, head of Russia's weather service, said judging by historic documents, this heat wave could be the worst in up to 1,000 years.

"Our ancestors haven't observed or registered a heat like that within 1,000 years," Frolov said at a news conference. "This phenomenon is absolutely unique."

He said the heat in Moscow reflects the global climate's increased volatility.

Daily highs have reached up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius), compared to the usual summer average of 75 F (24 C). And, according to the forecast, there will be no respite this week.

Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, a climate change and health expert at the World Health Organization in Geneva, said deaths could certainly double with higher temperatures alone — a phenomenon seen during Europe's 2003 heat wave.

"The impacts tend to be more severe in places that are not used to these kinds of temperatures," he told The Associated Press. "These temperatures wouldn't be out of place in the southern U.S. or Australia, but in Russia, the infrastructure is not used to these temperatures and the risk of death will increase."

Few apartments in Moscow have air conditioning and the city's overcrowded subway is poorly ventilated.

Campbell-Lendrum said it would be difficult to pinpoint whether the majority of new Russian deaths were due to the heat or to the smog, but said there was no question the combined effect was dangerous.

He said elderly people and those with health conditions like heart or lung problems were most at risk, but with extreme conditions, there could also be a spike in deaths of otherwise healthy people. He said the increased deaths would likely continue for as long as the heat wave persists.

At least 52 people have died directly in the wildfires and over 2,000 homes have been destroyed. Flights to Moscow have been delayed and diverted.

Russian authorities have acknowledged that the 10,000 firefighters battling the blazes aren't enough, and sent thousands of soldiers to help fight the fires.

Wednesday's international soccer match between Russia and Bulgaria was moved from Moscow to St. Petersburg, 370 miles (600 kilometers) to the northwest, due to the smog.

The severe drought and wildfires have destroyed 20 percent of Russia's wheat crop, prompting the government last week to introduce a ban grain exports for the rest of the year. The news drove the price of wheat, which has already jumped 70 percent on world markets this summer, even higher.

On the Russian blogosphere, one of the country's last outposts of unfettered expression, the mood was bleak and angry that the situation had become so serious. One blogger on the popular LiveJournal site suggested that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Moscow's mayor and other top officials be fired for not stopping the fires. Another LiveJournal blogger said the polluting haze had prompted her to quit smoking.

Others focused on immediate issues — like getting a good night's sleep.

"Every night it's like we prepare for war," blogger Tsirtsis wrote on the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta's Web site. "With open windows, it's impossible to breathe because of the burning, and with closed windows we choke in the stifling heat."
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Food Supplies Affected by Climate Change PostTue Aug 10, 2010 3:59 am  Reply with quote

Rice yields falling under global warming

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News

Global warming is cutting rice yields in many parts of Asia, according to research, with more declines to come.

Yields have fallen by 10-20% over the last 25 years in some locations.

The group of mainly US-based scientists studied records from 227 farms in six important rice-producing countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, India and China.

This is the latest in a line of studies to suggest that climate change will make it harder to feed the world's growing population by cutting yields.

In 2004, other researchers found that rice yields in the Philippines were dropping by 10% for every 1C increase in night-time temperature.

That finding, like others, came from experiments on a research station.

The latest data, by contrast, comes from working, fully-irrigated farms that grow "green revolution" crops, and span the rice-growing lands of Asia from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu to the outskirts of Shanghai.

Describing the findings, which are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), lead researcher Jarrod Welch said:

"We found that as the daily minimum temperature increases, or as nights get hotter, rice yields drop."

The mechanism involved is not clear but may involve rice plants having to respire more during warm nights, so expending more energy, without being able to photosynthesise.

By contrast, higher temperatures during the day were related to higher yields; but the effect was less than the yield-reducing impact of warmer nights.

However, if temperatures continue to rise as computer models of climate project, Mr Welch says hotter days will eventually begin to bring yields down.

"We see a benefit of [higher] daytime temperatures principally because we haven't seen a scenario where daytime temperatures cross over a threshold where they'd stop benefiting yields and start reducing them," he told BBC News.

"There have been some recent studies on US crops, in particular corn, that showed the drop-off after that threshold is substantial," said the University of California at San Diego researcher.

The 2007 assessment of climate impacts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that although a modest temperature rise could increase crop yields in some regions, for "temperature increases more than 3C, average impacts are stressful to all crops assessed and to all regions".

A study published at the begining of last year concluded that half of the world's population could face a climate-induced food crisis by 2100, with the most extreme summers of the last century becoming routine towards the end of this century.
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Sore Throat

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Russia reduces grain harvest forecast PostTue Aug 10, 2010 4:03 am  Reply with quote

Russia reduces grain harvest forecast

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has warned this year's grain harvest - hit by fire and drought - will be worse than previously forecast.

The harvest is now expected to be 65 million tonnes, but could be as low as 60 million tonnes, Mr Putin said.

The previous forecast had been between 70 and 75 million tonnes.

Mr Putin also said that the ban on grain exports could be extended beyond the end of 2010 because of shortages for domestic markets.

The latest Russian announcements appear to have put further upward pressure on global wheat prices, with Chicago Board of Trade wheat for September delivery up one cent at $7.26 a bushel.

'No crisis'

Wheat prices rose 25% last week to hit two-year highs as drought and fires have devastated crops in parts of Russia, and led to the government banning the export of grain including wheat, barley, rye and maize.

Russia is the world's third largest wheat exporter. Its biggest customers include Egypt, Turkey and Syria.

Despite Russia's ban on grain exports, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization last week played down fears of a food crisis, saying it was "not justified at this point".

This is because, after record global crops in 2008 and 2009, worldwide wheat stocks have risen substantially in the past couple of years, peaking in June at just under 194 million tonnes, according to US government estimates.

The US - the world's largest wheat exporter - is also predicting that it will have a bumper current crop.

However, shares in global food producers have fallen over the past week, with consumers warned that they likely face higher prices, at least in the short term.

Some commodities analysts say speculators have been driving wheat prices artificially high because they are hoping to make a profit from the worries over Russian exports.

"Fundamentals [of supply and demand] don't necessarily support the strength of the rally to date," said Malcolm Bartholomaeus, a market analyst for Melbourne-based Callum Downs Commodity News.
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Sore Throat

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Huge rise in sea levels forecast if global warming ignored PostFri Aug 13, 2010 5:01 pm  Reply with quote

Huge rise in sea levels forecast if global warming ignored


Sea levels could rise by up to seven metres if greenhouse gas emissions were not scaled back, a panel of leading geoscientists has told the US Congress.

The warning came as a vast ice shelf, about 260 square kilometres in size, continued to fall away from Greenland's Petermann glacier, the largest iceberg shed by the island in half a century.

The geoscientists told Congress Greenland might cease to exist, with the island rapidly approaching a tipping point that would see much larger masses of ice melting, pushing up the average level of oceans around the world. Temperature rises of between two and seven degrees Celsius - which are considered likely by the end of the century due to human-induced carbon emissions - would force the change, they said.

A leading Australian sea level rise researcher, Dr John Church, broadly agreed with the US assessment. ''We are seeing something significant, and it's something our coastal cities have not experienced before,'' said Dr Church, a lead author of the most recent global assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. ''We're beginning to move outside the range of what we have become used to seeing as normal variability, and see an acceleration of both greenhouse gas levels and sea level rise.''

But there was still a great deal of uncertainty about the timing and extent of the disintegration of Greenland's ice sheets, Dr Church said.

''We are looking at a process that will be going on for centuries,'' he said. ''It may be that we do cross that threshold relatively soon, but there is a lot of uncertainty around it, in my view.''

Professor Richard Alley, a geoscientist at Pennsylvania State University, told the US House of Representatives committee on energy independence and global warming a sea level rise of seven metres was a realistic possibility.

''Some time in the next decade we may pass that tipping point, which would put us warmer than temperatures that Greenland can survive,'' Professor Alley said.

The current threshold at which Greenland would melt is a temperature rise of between two and four degrees, according to the UN's current estimate.

The Australian government is currently planning for a sea level rise of 90 centimetres by the end of the century.

Dr Ryan McAllister, a scientist from the CSIRO's climate adaptation division, said planning for sea level rises needed to become more flexible to take uncertainty into account.

''We also need to broaden our perspective on planning so we can adapt to different stages of climate change as they emerge,'' Dr McAllister said.
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Long, hot summer of fire, floods fits predictions PostFri Aug 13, 2010 5:12 pm  Reply with quote

Long, hot summer of fire, floods fits predictions

By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent

Floods, fires, melting ice and feverish heat: From smoke-choked Moscow to water-soaked Iowa and the High Arctic, the planet seems to be having a midsummer breakdown. It's not just a portent of things to come, scientists say, but a sign of troubling climate change already under way.

The weather-related cataclysms of July and August fit patterns predicted by climate scientists, the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization says — although those scientists always shy from tying individual disasters directly to global warming.

The experts now see an urgent need for better ways to forecast extreme events like Russia's heat wave and wildfires and the record deluge devastating Pakistan. They'll discuss such tools in meetings this month and next in Europe and America, under United Nations, U.S. and British government sponsorship.

"There is no time to waste," because societies must be equipped to deal with global warming, says British government climatologist Peter Stott.

He said modelers of climate systems are "very keen" to develop supercomputer modeling that would enable more detailed linking of cause and effect as a warming world shifts jet streams and other atmospheric currents. Those changes can wreak weather havoc.

The U.N.'s network of climate scientists — the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — has long predicted that rising global temperatures would produce more frequent and intense heat waves, and more intense rainfalls. In its latest assessment, in 2007, the Nobel Prize-winning panel went beyond that. It said these trends "have already been observed," in an increase in heat waves since 1950, for example.

Still, climatologists generally refrain from blaming warming for this drought or that flood, since so many other factors also affect the day's weather.

Stott and NASA's Gavin Schmidt, at the Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York, said it's better to think in terms of odds: Warming might double the chances for heat waves, for example. "That is exactly what's happening," Schmidt said, "a lot more warm extremes and less cold extremes."

The WMO pointed out that this summer's events fit the international scientists' projections of "more frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to global warming."

In fact, in key cases they're a perfect fit:


It's been the hottest summer ever recorded in Russia, with Moscow temperatures topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees C) for the first time. Russia's drought has sparked hundreds of wildfires in forests and dried peat bogs, blanketing Moscow with a toxic smog that finally lifted Thursday after six days. The Russian capital's death rate doubled to 700 people a day at one point. The drought reduced the wheat harvest by more than one-third.

The 2007 IPCC report predicted a doubling of disastrous droughts in Russia this century and cited studies foreseeing catastrophic fires during dry years. It also said Russia would suffer large crop losses.


The heaviest monsoon rains on record — 12 inches (300 millimeters) in one 36-hour period — have sent rivers rampaging over huge swaths of countryside, flooding thousands of villages. It has left 14 million Pakistanis homeless or otherwise affected, and killed 1,500. The government calls it the worst natural disaster in the nation's history.

A warmer atmosphere can hold — and discharge — more water. The 2007 IPCC report said rains have grown heavier for 40 years over north Pakistan and predicted greater flooding this century in south Asia's monsoon region.


China is witnessing its worst floods in decades, the WMO says, particularly in the northwest province of Gansu. There, floods and landslides last weekend killed at least 1,100 people and left more than 600 missing, feared swept away or buried beneath mud and debris.

The IPCC reported in 2007 that rains had increased in northwest China by up to 33 percent since 1961, and floods nationwide had increased sevenfold since the 1950s. It predicted still more frequent flooding this century.


In Iowa, soaked by its wettest 36-month period in 127 years of recordkeeping, floodwaters from three nights of rain this week forced hundreds from their homes and killed a 16-year-old girl.

The international climate panel projected increased U.S. precipitation this century — except for the Southwest — and more extreme rain events causing flooding.


Researchers last week spotted a 100-square-mile (260-square-kilometer) chunk of ice calved off from the great Petermann Glacier in Greenland's far northwest. It was the most massive ice island to break away in the Arctic in a half-century of observation.

The huge iceberg appeared just five months after an international scientific team published a report saying ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet is expanding up its northwest coast from the south.

Changes in the ice sheet "are happening fast, and we are definitely losing more ice mass than we had anticipated," said one of the scientists, NASA's Isabella Velicogna.

In the Arctic Ocean itself, the summer melt of the vast ice cap has reached unprecedented proportions in recent years. Satellite data show the ocean area covered by ice last month was the second-lowest ever recorded for July.

The melting of land ice into the oceans is causing about 60 percent of the accelerating rise in sea levels worldwide, with thermal expansion from warming waters causing the rest. The WMO'S World Climate Research Program says seas are rising by 1.34 inches (34 millimeters) per decade, about twice the 20th century's average.

Worldwide temperature readings, meanwhile, show that this January-June was the hottest first half of a year since recordkeeping began in the mid-19th century. Meteorologists say 17 nations have recorded all-time-high temperatures in 2010, more than in any other year.

Scientists blame the warming on carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases pouring into the atmosphere from power plants, cars and trucks, furnaces and other fossil fuel-burning industrial and residential sources.

Experts are growing ever more vocal in urging sharp cutbacks in emissions, to protect the climate that has nurtured modern civilization.

"Reducing emissions is something everyone is capable of," Nanjing-based climatologist Tao Li told an academic journal in China, now the world's No. 1 emitter, ahead of the U.S.

But not everyone is willing to act.

The U.S. remains the only major industrialized nation not to have legislated caps on carbon emissions
, after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last week withdrew climate legislation in the face of resistance from Republicans and some Democrats.

The U.S. inaction, dating back to the 1990s, is a key reason global talks have bogged down for a pact to succeed the expiring Kyoto Protocol. That is the relatively weak accord on emissions cuts adhered to by all other industrialized states.

Governments around the world, especially in poorer nations that will be hard-hit, are scrambling to find ways and money to adapt to shifts in climate and rising seas.

The meetings of climatologists in the coming weeks in Paris, Britain and Colorado will be one step toward adaptation, seeking ways to identify trends in extreme events and better means of forecasting them.

A U.N. specialist in natural disasters says much more needs to be done.

Salvano Briceno of the U.N.'s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction pointed to aggravating factors in the latest climate catastrophes: China's failure to stem deforestation, contributing to its deadly mudslides; Russia's poor forest management, feeding fires; and the settling of poor Pakistanis on flood plains and dry riverbeds in the densely populated country, squatters' turf that suddenly turned into torrents.

"The IPCC has already identified the influence of climate change in these disasters. That's clear," Briceno said. "But the main trend we need to look at is increasing vulnerability, the fact we have more people living in the wrong places, doing the wrong things."


AP Correspondents Michael J. Crumb in Des Moines, Iowa, and Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.

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