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Humanity Will Continue to Live an Inferior Life Than What is Possible Until the Two Halves: All Individuals in Them: That Make It are Absolutely Fundamentally and Jubilantly Equal at Liberty
 

 

Year Gamma: London: Wednesday: October 18: 2017
The Arkive

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Ecology Arkive Year Alpha 2016

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Ecology COP21 Paris 2015 Climate Change Action Now

2015 is the Hottest Year on Record:UN WMO: Cooling off on a waterfall. UN Photo:Victoria Hazou

 

On Ozone Day, Ban Ki-moon Cites Progress So Far Urging for Recommitment to Environmental Protection

The ozone layer: protecting our atmosphere for generations to come: Image: UNEP

|| September 16: 2016 || ά. Marking the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on countries to strengthen climate protection by reducing the use of hydrofluorocarbons. “The world has changed since we last marked International Ozone Day,” said Mr. Ban in his message on the International Day, recalling that adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“Now, we must turn ambition into action, and strengthen climate protection by harnessing the power of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer to make progress in slowing the near-term warming caused by hydrofluorocarbons:HFCs, the fastest growing of the greenhouse gases,” he added. He noted that, though HFCs were widely adopted as an effective alternative to products that were damaging the ozone layer, particularly, those used in refrigeration and air conditioning, it is now scientifically proven that, while HFCs have greatly reduced the threat to the ozone layer, they are an extremely potent greenhouse gas.

Highlighting that the reduction of the use of HFCs would bring considerable benefits as well as support the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the Secretary General called on the countries to take advantage of the next month's meeting in Rwanda where discussions will be aimed at reaching a global consensus on phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.

He added that the use of the Montreal Protocol regime to phase down HFCs would complement efforts to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions under the UNFCCC process. “On this International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, let us remember how much has already been accomplished, and commit to do more to protect our atmosphere,” he said.

“By working together, we can build a safer, healthier, more prosperous and resilient world for all people while protecting our planet, our only home,” he concluded. In 1994, the UN General Assembly proclaimed September 16, the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, commemorating the date of the signing, in 1987, of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
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Stricter Environmental Regulations Do Bring Results: Plunge in Vessel Sulphur Emissions in the Baltic Sea

Image: Luomus


|| September 06: 2016 || ά. The introduction of stricter regulations on the sulphur content of fuel used on the Baltic Sea since January 01, 2015 has yielded results. A report drawn up for Trafi by the Finnish Meteorological Institute reveals a marked fall in sulphur emissions in the Baltic Sea area. Since the beginning of 2015, the maximum permissible sulphur content of marine fuels has been 0.1%, whereas the previous limit was 1.0%.

"We are delighted that the reduction in the sulphur content of marine fuel has yielded results. In 2015, emissions of sulphur oxide, or SOx from ships amounted to 10,300 tonnes and fine particle emissions to 10,400 tonnes. Compared to 2014, these have fallen by 88% in the case of sulphur oxide emissions and 36% in fine particle emissions, which is due to a reduction in the sulphur content of fuel. On the other hand, ship emissions of NOx and CO2 increased by 06.3% and 05.6% in 2015 compared to the previous year," says Jorma Kämäräinen, a Chief Adviser from Trafi.

Trafi has been funding annual reports by the Finnish Meteorological Institute on harmful maritime exhaust emissions in the Baltic Sea:SOx, NOx, CO, CO2 and PM emissions since 2007, reporting its findings to the HELCOM Maritime Conference. Such information has been used for purposes such as drawing up the Baltic Sea states' joint proposal to the IMO for the designation of the Baltic Sea as  nitrogen oxide:NOx Emission Control Area:NECA.

Reduction in fine particle emissions as well as sulphur

Supervision of the sulphur content of marine fuel, based on port state control by Trafi, has also played a part in reducing sulphur emissions since Trafi began the practice in 2015. Remote supervision, which has enabled the coverage of many more times the number of vessels than otherwise, has enhanced control of the situation since July 2016.

Much remains to be done to reach maritime emission reduction targets

Changes in the environmental regulation of shipping have ensured a drop in the quantities of harmful fine particles emitted in this sector. However, much work remains to be done in improving the energy efficiency of, and minimising greenhouse gas emissions from, maritime transport, given the challenging nature of the emission reduction targets planned for the sector.

"The long lifespan, 25–30 years, of ships means that the lifespan of technical solutions for reducing emissions is also long. With respect to the change in the sulphur limit, in the other hand, the effects on emissions are immediate, because they are directly targeted at the fuel used by ships regardless of their year of construction," says Jukka-Pekka Jalkanen, Senior Researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Additional information is available from: The report 'Emissions from Baltic Sea shipping in 2015' to be published on Tuesday, September 06 2016 at the HELCOM Maritime Conference, after which it can be read in its entirety on the organisation's website.

Trafi
Jorma Kämäräinen, Chief Adviser, tel. +358 29 5346 440,
jorma.kamarainen at trafi.fi
The Finnish Meteorological Institute
Jukka-Pekka Jalkanen, Senior Researcher, tel. +358 50 919 5455,
jukka-pekka.jalkanen at fmi.fi:
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A Lot of Rain But Lot Less Lightning Strikes in Finland

Image: Salla, Lapland, Finland


|| September 03: 2016 || ά. August and the whole summer saw very high levels of precipitation in many areas of Finlan and fairly normal temperatures. According to the FMI statistics, August was exceptionally rainy in some areas in the Ostrobothnian provinces and in Lapland, i.e. similar levels of precipitation are experienced in these areas on average once every 30 years. The monthly rainfall in areas with the most precipitation was mainly 100–150mm, which is 01.5–02 times the usual amount.

Riimala in Mustasaari received the highest amount of precipitation, which was 206.3mm. Mid-August was especially rainy, with 74.7mm of precipitation received within a period of 24 hours in Kauppilankylä, Teuva, on August 14. The levels of precipitation in other parts of the country, i.e. mainly in the southern and central parts of the country, varied between 60mm and 120mm. The driest area was Päijät-Häme.

The average temperature in August was close to the long-term average in a large part of the country. Compared with the usual temperatures, the area near the eastern border was the warmest and Western Lapland was the coolest. The highest temperature for the month, 26.1°C, was measured in Lappeenranta on August 22 and the lowest temperature, -02.6°C, in Naruska, Salla, on August 30. The long-lasting gusts of wind during the Rauli storm, unusually strong for summer, caused power cuts in large areas especially in the central part of Finland on August 27.

Summer record rainy in Ostrobothnia and Lapland

Precipitation levels for the summer, Jun–Aug, were record high in Ostrobothnia, Central Ostrobothnia and Lapland. In these areas, the amount of rainfall rose to more than 300mm in many areas and was even twice as much as usual in some areas. The highest rainfall this summer, 449mm, was received at the Kenttärova station in Kittilä. The summer was slightly drier than usual mainly in the southeastern part of the country.

The average temperature for the summer was slightly higher than usual in a large part of the country. The greatest deviation from the long-term average, about 01°C, was experienced in Eastern Lapland. Hot summer days were distributed unevenly. May saw six days with temperatures exceeding 25°C, June 11 days and July 16. There were only two hot days in August. As a result, the total number of days with temperatures above 25°C during the summer months was 35, which is normal.

Temperatures did not exceed 30°C anywhere in the country this summer and 29.1°C in Kevo, Utsjoki, on July 23 remained the warmest temperature recorded. The last times highest temperatures remained below 30°C were in 2008 and 2009.

Number of lightnings in the summer remained below average

About 113,000 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes were observed in Finland during the summer months, which is slightly below the average of 135,000 lightning strikes. In August as well as in June, the number of lightning strikes remained at about half of normal.
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Photo-Speak: We Humans Do This to Our Environment and Then Simply Decide to Ignore to Look at or Think About the Aftermath of What We Do

||August 29: 2016 || ά. This is a grotesque and revolting picture and we, the humans have inflicted this grotesque and revolting scenes along our shore lines around the world, in our fresh and marine waters and this very infliction has been devastating both the fresh water and marine water and the life they both sustain.

We simply cannot go on living like this. We simply cannot go on living like this. We must learn to unlearn the unsustainable, unhealthy and unwise way of thinking, living and going on as if our actions simply do not have any impact. They do. And These impacts devastate the very resource that supports us so that what we 'poison' comes back to our plates and makes us unwell. And we suffer and a lot of us, across the globe are, dying because of the poor environment and, particularly, for poor water and air quality. This cannot go on. It must change. We must change.

Marine litter affects communities and seas in every region of the world, and negatively impacts biodiversity, fisheries and coastal economies. Image: UNEP GRID Arendal:Lawrence Hislop. ω.  

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P-Three, Where are You off to: Well, Oracle, Somebody Must Study the Effects of Smoke on Clouds in Africa

Image: NASA

||August 28: 2016 || ά. NASA scientists and two research aircraft are on their way to a unique natural laboratory off the Atlantic coast of southwest Africa to study a major unknown in future climate prediction. The coast of Namibia is one of three places on Earth with persistent low-level clouds, and the only such location with a steady supply of tiny aerosol particles in the form of smoke from inland fires that mix with the clouds.

NASA's Observations of Aerosols Above Clouds and their Interactions:ORACLES mission will observe and measure how these particles interact with clouds and change their ability to warm or cool the planet. "This is the perfect natural laboratory to study aerosol-cloud interactions, which are some of the largest uncertainties in the prediction of future climate," said Jens Redemann, ORACLES principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Centre in Moffett Field, California.

Some aerosols, such as dust and sea salt, have a natural origin. But others, such as soot and smoke released by fires and industry, are the result of human activities. Once aerosols enter the atmosphere, they can cause either a warming or cooling effect. "Human activities currently are estimated to be responsible for perhaps half of all the aerosol particles in the atmosphere," said Robert Wood, a cloud scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle and ORACLES deputy principal investigator.

"Smoke particles both reflect sunlight back to space, thus cooling the Earth, and absorb sunlight, which has the opposite effect of warming the Earth. When aerosols encounter clouds, they also change the properties of the clouds they are ingested into." Understanding which effect is dominant, and under what conditions, is essential for improving the regional and global computer models that predict what may occur with future climate change. Changes in the properties of the cloud layer caused by aerosols could also have an effect on regional coastal fisheries by altering the amount of sunlight reaching the ocean surface that drives currents and ocean upwelling.

The initially separate cloud and aerosol layers off the Namibian coast are relatively stable. As the cloud layers thicken away from shore like a wedge, it gradually mixes with the aerosol layer. The result is a range of steadily changing conditions that allow the ORACLES science team to probe several different types of cloud-aerosol interactions.

The ORACLES field campaign is based out of Walvis Bay in Namibia, where faculty and students from Namibian universities will be working alongside the ORACLES team. The project team has built new relationships with African colleagues, in particular, the Namibia University of Science and Technology in Windhoek. University personnel support logistics for ORACLES field work and will collaborate in data analysis and modelling. The Gobabeb Research and Training Centre in the Namib Desert, which previously has worked with NASA using the desert as an analogue for the surface of other planets, is providing ground-based remote sensing of the atmosphere.

"Science is a great unifier," said Bernadette Squire Luna, ORACLES project manager at Ames. "We are building relationships with Namibian scientists that will outlast this project and will lead to yet more science and more interactions. We're connecting our countries in a very grassroots way."

NASA's P-3 aircraft, managed by the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, carries five remote sensing instruments and flies through the cloud and aerosol layers at up to 20,000 feet to gather direct measurements from more than a dozen cloud and aerosol probes attached to the wings and inlets on the windows. NASA's ER-2 aircraft, managed by the agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Centre in Edwards, California, will fly at 65,000 feet with instruments that make measurements similar to those acquired from satellites.

ORACLES flights will complement and validate current satellite observations of aerosols and clouds, and test instruments that may fly on future satellites, by making detailed observations that are impossible to make from space with current capabilities.

Unlike a satellite, which generally gets one pass per day over a certain location, both aircraft will be able to sample clouds and aerosols throughout the day over the entire study area to see how they evolve. Together, data from the two aircraft will provide a comprehensive picture of how aerosols behave in the presence of clouds, and how aerosols directly or indirectly change how clouds behave.

ORACLES is a collaborative research effort that involves more than a hundred scientists from five NASA centers, two national laboratories, 10 U.S. universities, and five African research institutions. It’s a multi-year NASA Earth Venture suborbital investigation to probe Earth system processes that are not completely understood. These flights from Namibia are the first of several planned field seasons for the mission. Earth Venture investigations are part of NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder program managed at the agency’s Langley Research Centre in Hampton, Virginia.

For more information about ORACLES.

NASA collects data from space, air, land and sea to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

Steve Cole: Headquarters, Washington: 202-358-0918: stephen.e.cole at nasa.gov

Darryl Waller: Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. 650-604-2675: darryl.e.waller at nasa.gov

:Editor: Karen Northon:NASA: ω.  

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Can You, Will You Choose to Imagine a World Without Wildlife?

Image: ZSL


||August 15: 2016 || ά. The Zoological Society of London:ZSL, has today, Monday, August 15, launched Imagine a World without Wildlife, a campaign to inspire conservation action, by encouraging people to truly consider what a planet without wildlife would mean for them. An elephant is killed by poachers every fifteen minutes. Amphibians across the globe are facing an unparalleled disease epidemic. Fish numbers risk being matched by toxic plastic pollutants within a decade.

The world’s wildlife population has halved in just 40 years. These terrifying statistics, investigated and revealed during years of research and analysis by scientists and conservationists at ZSL, paint a scary picture of the world wildlife is forced to live in. But they can be changed and the time for action is now. Recognising that these alarming facts, while eye-opening and hard-hitting, can be difficult for many to comprehend in a relatable way, Imagine a World without Wildlife shares beautiful images of scenery and landscapes with iconic species boldly cut out, enabling audiences to visualise the prophetic message.

An elephant in Ghana: Image: World Bank:Arne Hoel

With elephants missing from the savannah, seahorses omitted from ocean reed beds and rhinos cut from their grassland dwellings, the campaign aims to raise vital awareness of these devastating possibilities, and the work that can be done to prevent them from becoming a reality. Ralph Armond, Director General at the Zoological Society of London said: “We’re asking the public to imagine a world without wildlife, to really drive home the need for urgent action.

“A deliberately hard hitting message, we need the public to realise that without the worldwide work of ZSL, iconic species such as elephants, rhinos, seahorses and tigers could genuinely become a thing of the past. There are many ways to support ZSL, from volunteering as a citizen scientist and assisting with wildlife population surveys to becoming a ZSL Wildlife Champion to help provide the vital funds to support our global efforts – every action makes a difference.”

Almost 200 years old, and with a mission to protect animals and their habitats, ZSL’s global networks of expert staff are working for wildlife every day.  In 2016 alone, ZSL has revealed that Bengal tiger numbers have nearly doubled thanks to its conservation efforts, published ground-breaking research about the impact of chemical pollutants on killer whales to inform their future protection, reintroduced native oysters to Essex and contributed to global breeding programmes for endangered species among many more.

Join ZSL Campaign: Can You, Will You Choose to Imagine a World Without Wildlife?: ω.  

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Lapland Experiences 80,100 Lightning Strikes in an Unusually Warm July

Image: Salla, Lapland, Finland


||August 11: 2016: Lapland: Finland || ά.  The average temperature in July ranged between approximately 14 and 18 degrees Celsius. July was exceptionally warm in a large part of Lapland. Statistically, July is this warm only once in ten years. The last time July was warmer than this in Lapland was in 2014. The monthly average temperature was very even throughout the country. July was warmer than normal on the west coast and in the north, as well as in the Northern Savo and North Karelia regions.

Elsewhere, average temperatures were close to the long-term average or slightly below it. Relatively, it was warmest in Eastern Lapland and Koillismaa, where the monthly average temperature in some places was more than 02 degrees higher than normal. The highest temperature of the month, 29, 1°C, was reported in Kevo, Utsjoki on July 23. The month's lowest temperature of 0.8 degrees was reported on July 20 in Möksy, Alajärvi. There were a total of 16 days when temperatures rose above 25 degrees in the country as a whole, which is exactly the same as the July long-term average.

Great variations in precipitation levels

July saw great variations in local rainfall. Kenttärova, Kittilä, where it rained the most, reported a total of 197 mm precipitation, while Jomalaby, Jomala, where it rained the least reported only 16 mm of precipitation. Many locations in the western Finland and its southwest archipelago reported less than 80 per cent of normal precipitation levels and in some places rainfall was even were exceptionally low.

On the other hand, precipitation levels were exceptionally high up to double the normal in the east of the country and Western Lapland, where it rained the most. Rainfall of this intensity is reported in the regions in question only once in 30 years. Some of the country's eastern and northern observation stations reported station-specific record breaking precipitation levels for July. However, the country's precipitation record was a far way off, as during the rainiest July in history in 1934 a total of 302 mm precipitation fell in Laukaa. The largest amount of rain in the course of one day was reported in Yläluosta, Rautavaara where it rained 74.3 mm on July 03.

In July, thunderstorms were a nearly daily occurrence, and the month's lightening total was 80,100. This is approximately one third more than the long-term average for July, 60,000. By far, the highest number of lightning strikes in Finland, a total of 21,600, was recorded on July 05. There have been only six days in the 2000s when over 20,000 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes have been recorded. ω.  

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Temperature in Kuwait Hits 54 Celsius, Sets Possible Record Amid Middle East Heatwave

Dohuk, Iraq, Sharia camp: Image: OCHA:Gwen McClure

|| July 26: 2016: Paris || ά. The World Meteorological Organisation:WMO a United Nations specialised agency, will set up a committee to examine whether a 54 degrees Celsius temperature recently recorded in Kuwait, has set the new highest temperature for Asia, as well as for the entire Eastern hemisphere. The region saw unusually high temperatures with Mitrabah, Kuwait, reporting a temperature of 54 degrees Celsius:129.2 degrees Fahrenheit on July 21, and the city of Basra in Iraq reporting 53.9 degrees Celcius:128 Fahrenheit on Friday, July 22. Southern Morocco also saw temperatures of between 43 degrees and 47 degrees Celsius.

“The Kuwait investigation, as with all WMO official investigations, will consist of meteorologists and climatologists,” the agency said in a news release today. “They will examine the instrumentation used, the quality of observations, the microclimate of the location, the representativeness of the weather monitoring station to its surroundings and to its own record,” it added.

Large parts of the Middle East and North Africa have been affected by heatwaves since last week, with temperatures exceeding the seasonal averages by a large margin, and over a sustained period. The conditions have prompted to issue health warnings. The refugee population in the Middle East has been hard hit by the spiking temperatures. Their fragile situation has been further exacerbating by the high temperatures, said WMO.

According to the World Weather and Climate Extremes official archives, that WMO is responsible for, the hottest temperature ever recorded on the planet was in Furnace Creek, Death Valley, California at 56.7 Celsius on July 10, 1913. “However, these records are subject to regular review,” noted the agency.

Record widespread warmth

Meanwhile, central and eastern United States have also been affected by widespread heatwave. Temperatures have been recorded in the range of 95-100 degrees, 35-38 Celsius, and heat index values reached 110 degrees, 43 Celsius, with some areas reaching 115 degrees, 46 Celsius, WMO noted referring to figures from the US National Weather Service.

At the heatwave's peak on July 22, almost 124 million people were under heat-related warnings or advisories. Additionally, high overnight low temperatures, a unique feature of these heatwaves, meant little relief from the oppressive heat and above average temperatures are forecast to continue along much of the eastern US through the middle of the week.

The agency highlighted that the latest heatwaves come as Earth has just witnessed the hottest six month period on record with temperatures shattering even the record levels seen in 2015. From January to June 2016 was characterized by warmer- to much-warmer-than-average conditions engulfing most of the world's land and ocean surfaces.

Record warmth was widespread across Alaska, western Canada, southern Mexico, northern South America, central Africa, Indonesia, northern and eastern Australia, North Indian Ocean, and across parts of north-central Russia, western Asia, central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, the southwestern Pacific Ocean, and the north-western Atlantic Ocean. A number of countries saw new national temperature records, for instance, India saw a new national temperature record of 51°C in its state of Rajasthan in May.

Climate change attribution

“The length, frequency and intensity of heatwaves will likely increase further during this century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” said the agency. “The science of attribution is making it possible to analyse individual events and assess the role of climate change played, rather than natural variability,” it added

It explained that scientific assessments have found that many extreme events in the 2011 to 2015 period, especially those relating to extreme high temperatures, have had their probabilities substantially increased as a result of anthropogenic climate change, by a factor of 10 or more in some cases.
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Savo-Solarian Efficiency Achieved in Denmark

Image: Savo-Solar

 

|| July 25: 2016: Paris || ά. Savo-Solar delivered a solar collector field to Jelling Varmeværk in Denmark in spring 2016. The field was taken into use in mid-June and according to the customer’s measurement and analytics the field shows an excellent, record-breaking performance. In early June, the first portion of the collector field with 461 collectors, out of a total of 1,031, started its energy production and already during its first weekend produced 34 MWh in one day. The measured efficiency is a record breaking 4.97 kWh/m2, which, according to the information available to the company, is a new Danish record, out-producing the next best field with almost 6%.

"We are very pleased to have received a collector field which has become record-breaking already in its first weeks of operation. It will be exciting to follow the collectors' performance during the summer and the rest of the year," says Bjarne Nielsen, Plant Manager of Jelling Varmeværk. "We are happy to see that our collectors are delivering according to promise, to the full satisfaction of our customers. Our unique technology means minimized heat loss and maximised energy yield, and the results are best seen in practice. The more data we receive from actual use of our collectors, the better we can encourage our potential new customers to rely on our thermal systems," Jari Varjotie, Managing Director of Savo-Solar.

Savo-Solar: Savosolar is a Finnish company manufacturing the world's most efficient solar thermal collectors. The company's unique products are based on a vacuum coating process where the complete absorber structure is coated after assembly. This means that the direct flow design, with highly improved heat transfer, can be utilised. The Savosolar team has extensive know-how and experience in vacuum coating techniques as well as in international sales and business management. The company uses the latest manufacturing technologies in its processes and is ISO 9000 certified. Our company is expanding rapidly and supports our customers in reaching their environmental and business targets by significantly reducing their energy costs. Savosolar invests in constant product development to always offer the best solutions to the needs of the growing environmental energy market.

Our customers face
Constantly rising energy prices
Business models without the possibility to forecast energy costs
Public pressure and legal obligations to lower greenhouse gas emissions
Fuel costs and fuel availability which is depending on politics

Savosolar solar thermal solutions offer

The highest efficiency in the market, and thereby the lowest possible energy cost over 25 years
Energy price stability over 25 years
Independent energy production without fuel costs and less political dependency
Emission free energy and an environmentally responsible image

Mission

Accelerating the solar economy through the leading technology for competitive energy

Vision

Be the first-choice supplier to high performance solar installations on a global scale: ω.

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2016 on Pace to Be Hottest Year Ever as Climate Change Trends Reach ‘New Climax’: UN

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in discussion with Petteri Talaas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organisation:WMO, at the WMO Headquarters
in Geneva, Switzerland. Image:UN Photo:Rick Bajornas.
 

|| July 21: 2016: Paris || ά. Global temperatures for the first six months of this year reached new highs, setting 2016 on track to be the hottest-ever on record, the United Nations weather agency said today. ''Another month, another record. And another. And another. Decades-long trends of climate change are reaching new climaxes, fuelled by the strong 2015/2016 El Niño,” said World Meteorological Organisation:WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a press release.

The El Niño event, which turned up the Earth’s thermostat, has now disappeared, but “climate change, caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases, will not,” he stressed. This means more heatwaves, more extreme rainfall and potential for higher impact tropical cyclones. Arctic sea ice melted early and fast, another indicator of climate change. Carbon dioxide levels, which are driving global warming, have reached new highs.

To calculate global temperature statistics for its annual state of the climate report, WMO uses datasets from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:NOAA, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies:NASA GISS, and the UK’s Met Office and reanalysis data from the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting:ECMWF.

Two separate reports from NOAA and NASA GISS both highlighted the dramatic and sweeping changes in the state of the climate. June 2016 marked the 14th consecutive month of record heat for land and oceans. It marked the 378th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th century average. The last month with temperatures below the 20th century average was December 1984.

Carbon dioxide concentrations have passed the symbolic milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere so far this year. CO2 levels vary according to the season, but the underlying trend is upwards. They showed a surprising increase for the first half of 2016, rising in June 2016 to nearly 407 ppm, 4 ppm greater than June 2015.

“This underlines more starkly than ever the need to approve and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change, and to speed up the shift to low carbon economies and renewable energy,” said Mr. Taalas. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited leaders to a special event on 21 September to deposit their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the Paris Agreement on climate change, which was adopted by last December. The event will also provide an opportunity to other countries to publicly commit to the agreement before the end of 2016.

It’s getting hotter

The average temperature in the first six months of 2016 was 1.3 degrees Celsius, 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the pre-industrial era in the late 19th century, according to NASA. NOAA said the global land and ocean average temperature for January–June was 1.05 degrees Celsius, 1.89 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, beating the previous record set in 2015 by 0.20 degree Celsius, 0.36 degree Fahrenheit.

Each month in 2016 was record warm. Most of the world’s land and ocean surfaces had warmer to much-warmer-than-average conditions. The El Niño event which developed in 2015 and was one of the most powerful on record contributed to the record temperatures in the first half of 2016. It dissipated in May.
Arctic Sea ice is melting faster

The extent of Arctic sea ice at the peak of the summer melt season now typically covers 40 per cent less area than it did in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Arctic sea ice extent in September, the seasonal low point in the annual cycle, has been declining at a rate of 13.4 per cent per decade.

Depending on where you are, it’s either too wet or too dry

Rainfall in June 2016 varied significantly around the world. It was notably drier than normal across the western and central contiguous US, Spain, northern Colombia, northeastern Brazil, Chile, southern Argentina, and across parts of central Russia. Wetter-than-normal precipitation was observed across northern Argentina, northern and central Europe, much of Australia, and across central and southern Asia.

From January to July 04, China saw 21.2 per cent above average precipitation. South China entered the flood season on March 21, 16 days earlier than normal and more than 150 counties were record wet, according to the China Meteorological Administration. More than 300 rivers crossed the water level warning mark.

Coral reefs are under increasing threat

Temperatures in the Coral Sea including the Great Barrier Reef, and the Tasman Sea were highest on record for extended periods since late summer 2016, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. These warm waters have also contributed to surface temperature warmth over Australia and unprecedented bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, according to Australia’s independent Climate Council. There has been widespread bleaching of reefs in many other parts of the world. ω.

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France is Determined to Be at the Forefront of Green Growth

Image: France Government Readmore

|| July 21: 2016: Paris || ά. A recent OECD report shows that the French Government’s environmental policy is both determined and ambitious in its green growth strategy. France is resolute in continuing its action in this respect, especially as regards carbon pricing. In its latest report on France’s showing in its Environmental Performance Reviews, the OECD highlights the Republic’s progress, including in the areas of: decoupling, in particular by reducing its greenhouse gas and other atmospheric pollutant emissions, reducing freshwater abstraction and stabilising municipal waste production:GDP 2013 = 116, GHG 2013 = 89; base 100 in 2000 and
eco-innovation and promotion of investment in green growth: added value and job creation have increased more rapidly in this area than in the rest of the economy.

The OECD emphasises France’s role as a driving force behind the adoption of the international agreement on the climate, the law on energy transition, the bill on biodiversity, and progress made on ecotaxation, introduction of the carbon component in taxation of fossil energies. The Government will continue to act with determination to improve France’s environmental performances, with the conviction that they have become a key lever for economic and social performance. Among other things, it will continue to promote agroecology, a field highlighted and recommended by the OECD, and its action on carbon prices.

Action on carbon pricing

The conclusions of the mission entrusted to Engie SA Chairman Gérard Mestrallet, WWF France director Pascal Canfin and economist Alain Grandjean in early April with a view to setting up effective, predictable and co-ordinated carbon pricing in the context of the Paris Agreement on the Climate, have just been presented to the Government. The report makes ten operational proposals including introduction of a carbon price corridor at European level in the form of a minimum and maximum auction price for carbon quotas in order to orientate investment towards low-carbon solutions.

Ségolène Royal was pleased to see that several members of the European Parliament had submitted an amendment to this end in the context of the revision of the European carbon market directive currently underway. France will be supporting the proposal, which should enable the European Union to achieve its goals for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement on the Climate. With a European carbon price of at least 20 euros per tonne, auctioning revenue received by France could come to almost a billion euros a year as against 315 million euros in 2015 due to prices being set too low. Such revenue would contribute to combating fuel poverty and might also be used to augment the national fund for financing the energy transition.

A carbon price floor:CPF will also be introduced in the French electricity sector on January 01, 2017: the mission suggests that the price floor should be concentrated on coal-fired power plants, so that there would be significant environmental gains while continuing to ensure the safety of the electricity system. Such a measure should be included in the next finance bill.

Finally, France will approach the President of the World Bank to suggest setup of a high-level initiative to set desirable carbon pricing at international level, which would enable all countries party to the Paris Agreement on the Climate, depending on their respective capacities, to achieve the goal of limiting the rise in temperature to 2°C or even 1.5°C in comparison to the preindustrial era.

France will also continue to promote the subject of carbon pricing at international level through the “Carbon pricing leadership coalition” set up during the launch of COP21 and bringing together Heads of State committed to carbon pricing. The President of the COP invites all States and economic actors to join the coalition.
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Climate Trends Continue to Break Records in 2016

|| July 20: 2016 || ά.  Two key climate change indicators, the global surface temperatures and Arctic sea ice extent, have broken numerous records through the first half of 2016, according to NASA analyses of ground-based observations and satellite data. Each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest respective month globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880, according to scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies:GISS in New York. The six-month period from January to June was also the planet's warmest half-year on record, with an average temperature 1.3 degrees Celsius:2.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the late nineteenth century.

Five of the first six months of 2016 also set records for the smallest respective monthly Arctic sea ice extent since consistent satellite records began in 1979, according to analyses developed by scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Maryland. The one exception, March, recorded the second smallest extent for that month. While these two key climate indicators have broken records in 2016, NASA scientists said it is more significant that global temperature and Arctic sea ice are continuing their decades-long trends of change. Both trends are ultimately driven by rising concentrations of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The extent of Arctic sea ice at the peak of the summer melt season now typically covers 40 percent less area than it did in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Arctic sea ice extent in September, the seasonal low point in the annual cycle, has been declining at a rate of 13.4 percent per decade. "While the El Niño event in the tropical Pacific this winter gave a boost to global temperatures from October onwards, it is the underlying trend which is producing these record numbers," GISS Director Gavin Schmidt said.

Previous El Niño events have driven temperatures to what were then record levels, such as in 1998. But in 2016, even as the effects of the recent El Niño taper off, global temperatures have risen well beyond those of 18 years ago because of the overall warming that has taken place in that time. The global trend in rising temperatures is outpaced by the regional warming in the Arctic, said Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA Goddard.

"It has been a record year so far for global temperatures, but the record high temperatures in the Arctic over the past six months have been even more extreme," Meier said. "This warmth as well as unusual weather patterns have led to the record low sea ice extents so far this year."

NASA tracks temperature and sea ice as part of its effort to understand the Earth as a system and to understand how Earth is changing. In addition to maintaining 19 Earth-observing space missions, NASA also sends researchers around the globe to investigate different facets of the planet at closer range. Right now, NASA researchers are working across the Arctic to better understand both the processes driving increased sea ice melt and the impacts of rising temperatures on Arctic ecosystems.

NASA's long-running Operation IceBridge campaign last week began a series of airborne measurements of melt ponds on the surface of the Arctic sea ice cap. Melt ponds are shallow pools of water that form as ice melts. Their darker surface can absorb more sunlight and accelerate the melting process. IceBridge is flying out of Barrow, Alaska, during sea ice melt season to capture melt pond observations at a scale never before achieved. Recent studies have found that the formation of melt ponds early in the summer is a good predictor of the yearly minimum sea ice extent in September.

"No one has ever, from a remote sensing standpoint, mapped the large-scale depth of melt ponds on sea ice," said Nathan Kurtz, IceBridge’s project scientist and a sea ice researcher at NASA Goddard. "The information we’ll collect is going to show how much water is retained in melt ponds and what kind of topography is needed on the sea ice to constrain them, which will help improve melt pond models."

Operation IceBridge is a NASA airborne mission that has been flying multiple campaigns at both poles each year since 2009, with a goal of maintaining critical continuity of observations of sea ice and the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. At the same time, NASA researchers began in earnest this year a nearly decade-long, multi-faceted field study of Arctic ecosystems in Alaska and Canada. The Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment:ABoVE will study how forests, permafrost and other ecosystems are responding to rising temperatures in the Arctic, where climate change is unfolding faster than anywhere else on the planet.

ABoVE consists of dozens individual experiments that over years will study the region's changing forests, the cycle of carbon movement between the atmosphere and land, thawing permafrost, the relationship between fire and climate change, and more.

By Patrick Lynch: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

:Editor: Karl Hille:NASA: ω.

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Better Air Quality for Europeans: Stricter Emission Limits for Non-road Combustion Engines Become EU Law

Image: The House of Commons

|| July 18: 2016 || ά. The European Council approved new requirements to reduce pollutant emissions, such as dust particles and nitrogen oxides, from engines of non-road mobile machinery. These requirements address air pollution at source to protect the health of EU citizens and the environment. They will help member states in their efforts to achieve the national ceilings for emissions agreed at the end of June 2016.

A large variety of machines ranging from small handheld equipment such as chainsaws, trimmers and lawn mowers, construction machinery such as crawler excavators and cranes and generating sets, to railcars, locomotives and inland waterway vessels, are covered by the new regulation. The formal adoption of this regulation follows a vote in the European Parliament on July 05, 2016, which confirmed the provisional agreement reached by both institutions on April 06, 2016.

The regulation seeks to ensure the good functioning of the internal market and to strengthen market surveillance while protecting human health and the environment. It also addresses competitiveness and compliance aspects, with the aim of removing obstacles to external trade by reducing the regulatory barriers that result from different emission requirements.

Emission limits

The objective is to reduce pollutant emissions progressively from new engines of non-road machinery placed on the European market. This is expected to result in a very significant reduction in emissions. The emissions limits for these engines are currently set out in directive 97:68:EC, but several technical reviews have shown that the legislation in its current form has to be updated as it no longer reflects the latest technology.

Following technical reviews, public consultations and impact assessments, the Commission presented the original proposal to update the existing legislation on September 25, 2014.

New EU Type-approval Procedures

Only engines which are in compliance with the requirements on emission limits and the type-approval procedures will be allowed on the market. The new rules will simplify the implementation stages for the introduction of new emission levels and type-approval procedures to reduce the burden for engine and non-road mobile machinery manufacturers.

A few exemptions will be permitted to address specific needs related to the armed forces, logistic supply constraints, field testing of prototypes and the use of non-road mobile machinery in explosive atmospheres.

Next steps

The regulation will be published in the EU's Official Journal in September. The new harmonised type-approval conditions for new engines installed in non-road machinery will start to apply gradually from 2018 up to 2020 depending on the category of the engine.
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Biodiversity Falls Below ‘Safe Levels’ Globally: New UCL Research

Hotspot biodiversity safe limits: Image: Tim Newbold, UCL


|| July 17: 2016: UCL News || ά. Levels of global biodiversity loss may negatively impact on ecosystem function and the sustainability of human societies, according to UCL-led research. “This is the first time we’ve quantified the effect of habitat loss on biodiversity globally in such detail and we’ve found that across most of the world biodiversity loss is no longer within the safe limit suggested by ecologists” explained lead researcher, Dr Tim Newbold from UCL and previously at UNEP-WCMC.

“We know biodiversity loss affects ecosystem function but how it does this is not entirely clear. What we do know is that in many parts of the world, we are approaching a situation where human intervention might be needed to sustain ecosystem function.” The team found that grasslands, savannas and shrublands were most affected by biodiversity loss, followed closely by many of the world’s forests and woodlands. They say the ability of biodiversity in these areas to support key ecosystem functions such as growth of living organisms and nutrient cycling has become increasingly uncertain.

The study, published in Science, led by researchers from UCL, the Natural History Museum and UNEP-WCMC, found that levels of biodiversity loss are so high that if left unchecked, they could undermine efforts towards long-term sustainable development.

For 58.1% of the world’s land surface, which is home to 71.4% of the global population, the level of biodiversity loss is substantial enough to question the ability of ecosystems to support human societies. The loss is due to changes in land use and puts levels of biodiversity beyond the ‘safe limit’ recently proposed by the planetary boundaries, an international framework that defines a safe operating space for humanity.

“It’s worrying that land use has already pushed biodiversity below the level proposed as a safe limit,” said Professor Andy Purvis of the Natural History Museum, London, who also worked on the study. “Decision-makers worry a lot about economic recessions, but an ecological recession could have even worse consequences – and the biodiversity damage we’ve had means we’re at risk of that happening. Until and unless we can bring biodiversity back up, we’re playing ecological roulette.”

The team used data from hundreds of scientists across the globe to analyse 2.38 million records for 39,123 species at 18,659 sites where are captured in the database of the PREDICTS project. The analyses were then applied to estimate how biodiversity in every square kilometre land has changed since before humans modified the habitat.

They found that biodiversity hotspots – those that have seen habitat loss in the past but have a lot of species only found in that area – are threatened, showing high levels of biodiversity decline. Other high biodiversity areas, such as Amazonia, which have seen no land use change have higher levels of biodiversity and more scope for proactive conservation.

“The greatest changes have happened in those places where most people live, which might affect physical and psychological wellbeing. To address this, we would have to preserve the remaining areas of natural vegetation and restore human-used lands,” added Dr Newbold.

The team hope the results will be used to inform conservation policy, nationally and internationally, and to facilitate this, have made the maps from this paper and all of the underlying data publicly available.
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Research paper in Science

Dr Tim Newbold's academic profile

UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment

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2011-2014: Greenland Lost One Trillion Tonnes of Ice Contributing to Sea-level Rise as Much as Twice the Average of Preceding Two Decades

ESA's ice mission: ESA’s Earth Explorer CryoSat mission is dedicated to precise monitoring of changes in the thickness of marine ice floating in the polar oceans and variations in the thickness of the vast ice sheets that blanket Greenland and Antarctica. Released 26.01.2010: Copyright ESA/AOES Medialab

|| July 14: 2016 || ά. In the most detailed picture to date, information from ESA’s CryoSat satellite reveals how melting ice in Greenland has recently contributed twice as much to sea-level rise as the prior two decades. Between 2011 and 2014, Greenland lost around one trillion tonnes of ice. This corresponds to a 0.75 mm contribution to global sea-level rise each year, about twice the average of the preceding two decades.

The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters this week, combines data from the CryoSat mission with a regional climate model to map changes in Greenland ice-sheet mass. It is the most detailed recent picture of ice loss from Greenland. CryoSat carries a radar altimeter that can measure the surface height variation of ice in fine detail, allowing scientists to record changes in its volume with unprecedented accuracy.

The study demonstrates how the satellite has allowed researchers to map the complex regional pattern of imbalance.  “CryoSat’s radar really brings into focus our view of the ice sheet, revealing which glaciers are exhibiting the greatest signs of change,” explained lead author Dr Mal McMillan from the UK Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at the University of Leeds.

“This helps us to study Greenland’s individual outlet glaciers, which in turn allows us to better understand the contribution they have made to global sea-level rise.”

The study also shows large variations in the amount of ice loss from year to year, with the highest losses occurring in 2012 when summer temperatures hit record highs. This demonstrates Greenland’s sensitivity to sudden changes in the surrounding environment.

“These significant results clearly demonstrate CryoSat’s unique capability of recording cryospheric changes, and it is essential that it is maintained in future,” said CryoSat Mission Manager Tommaso Parrinello.

CryoSat’s measurement of Greenland ice losses are in close agreement with those computed from NASA’s GRACE mission, which carries sensors that are specially designed to weigh changes at the scale of the entire ice sheet.
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Climate Change Issues Can Only Be Solved Globally: Angela Merkel

Image: Bundesregierung:Kugler


|| July 09: 2016 || ά.  Germany plans to ratify the UN’s Paris Climate Agreement by November at the latest Chancellor Merkel told those attending the seventh Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin. She hailed the Paris Agreement as a “historic milestone”. Now the commitments countries have made need to be effectively implemented. ''Here at this seventh Petersberg Climate Dialogue we have entered into a new era, because now we have a globally binding climate agreement,” Chancellor Merkel said in Berlin.

“The world’s nations have set themselves the goal of limiting global warming to two degrees, ideally to 1.5 degrees,” the Chancellor said. This would be reviewed every two years and the relevant adjustments made, she added. The Petersberg Climate Dialogue is an informal conference at which participants discuss what they need to do to fully, effectively and rapidly implement the Paris Agreement. These climate dialogues also serve to prepare the UN climate change conferences held at the end of each year. The 22nd UN Climate Change Conference:COP 22 will be hosted by Morocco and is scheduled to take place in Marrakesh from November 07-18, 2016.

Climate action is a survival issue

Climate protection is a global task that can only be tackled globally, Angela Merkel said. “Of course we are fully aware that we are responsible to varying degrees for climate change, that its consequences affect us to varying degrees and that we have different possibilities for meeting the challenges it poses,” the Chancellor said.

“It is no exaggeration to say that climate action is no more and no less than a survival issue.”

The Paris Agreement, signed in December 2015, is the first internationally binding framework for a global turnaround in energy policy. The Agreement lays down a process that is binding under international law for limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees. In fact, the target is to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial times. In addition, greenhouse gas neutrality is to be achieved by the second half of this century. Rich industrialised nations are also required to draw up a concrete funding road map by 2020 on how they plan to support those regions of the world that are most adversely affected by climate change.

Continually expanding climate action plans

Progress not only needs to be made in the energy sector, said Merkel, but also in regard to the economy, transportation and in private households. It was important, the Chancellor said, for the world’s leading economies to take on a leadership role. That was why Germany would be putting the topic high on the agenda of its G20 Presidency in 2017.

Tying aid to climate action

Richer countries have to support poorer countries in implementing their planned climate action projects and achieving the goals they have set themselves, Angela Merkel said.

Industrialised nations provide financial support to those poor regions of the world that are most adversely affected by climate change. At the start of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue Federal Development Minister Gerd Müller and Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks presented their plans for a new partnership.

“We want to make it easier for the Paris Agreement to enter into force quickly and to ensure it comes to legal life too,” said Hendricks. The Paris Agreement carries forward a pledge industrialised nations made in 2009. Back then they had declared their willingness to mobilise climate funding to the tune of 100 billion US dollars each year until 2020. The pledge has now been extended to 2025. A new, higher target is to be agreed for the period after 2025.

Rapid ratification sought

The Paris Climate Agreement will enter into force as soon as it has been ratified by at least 55 countries accounting in total for at least 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. “Let us therefore breathe life into the climate agreement,” the Chancellor appealed to those taking part in the Climate Dialogue.

On Wednesday the German government will be putting forward draft legislation for Germany to ratify the Paris Agreement. If the Bundestag approves the bill, Germany will be able to conclude the ratification process before the next international climate change conference in Marrakesh.
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Scientists Identify Ways to Prevent Heat-related Deaths from Climate Change

Cherry Lane Theatre, New York: Image: GK tramrunner229: Published Under GNU Free Documentation License: The Photographer has no connection
with The Humanion
 

||July 03: 2016: LSHTM News || ά. New model shows that reducing fossil fuel emissions and improving adaptation efforts may reduce heat-related deaths in New York City. By the 2080s, as many as 3,331 people could die every year from exposure to heat during the summer months in New York City, according to research published in Environmental Health Perspectives. The high estimate is based on a new model, the first to account for variability in future population size, greenhouse gas trajectories, and the extent to which residents adapt to heat through interventions like air conditioning and public cooling centres.

The research was led by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and co-authored by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s Dr Antonio Gasparrini. Researchers project that as many as 1,779 annual heat-related deaths could be avoided if the climate follows the more moderate of two greenhouse gas trajectories, known as representative concentration pathways 4.5 and 8.5. High levels of adaptation could save an additional 1,198 lives.

Projections are based on more than a century of temperature, population, and mortality data for New York City in conjunction with climate projections for the 2020s, 2050s, and 2080s. The risk of dying from heat-related causes was relatively constant during the first part of the 20th Century, then decreased dramatically from the 1970s to the 2000s, during which time the portion of households with air conditioning more than doubled, from 39% in 1979 to 84% in 2003.

Since air conditioning is already so commonplace in New York City, adaptation efforts may be at or near their maximum effectiveness, the researchers caution. On the other hand, they say the city could grow even more resilient due to the ongoing efforts to reduce the urban heat island effect—for instance through programs to install reflective roofs and plant trees, as well as to protect vulnerable populations through heat warning systems and the availability of cooling centres. Societal factors like gains in overall population health and economic security also promote adaptation.

Dr Antonio Gasparrini, a Senior Lecturer in Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the School, co-authored the paper. Dr Gasparrini, who is also leading an international collaborative network to investigate the health effect associated to non-optimal temperature and climate change said: “This study shows that climate change is putting more people at risk of death as a result of extreme heat. These deaths could be avoided by limiting greenhouse gas emissions and by pursuing high-temperature adaptation methods.”

The researchers say follow-up studies could explore questions such as what extent demographic changes—especially a larger population of older adults—will have on heat-related mortality, and the effect of specific interventions related to adaptation and greenhouse gas reductions.

The research was supported by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Earth Institute and the UK Medical Research Council.
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Publication

Elisaveta Petkova, Jan Vink, Radley Horton, Antonio Gasparrini, Daniel Bader, Joe Francis, Patrick Kinney. Towards More Comprehensive Projections of Urban Heat-Related Mortality: Estimates for New York City under Multiple Population, Adaptation, and Climate Scenarios. Environmental Health Perspectives. DOI:10.1289/EHP166

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EFSA Microplastics and Nanoplastics in Food: An Emerging Issue



 

||June 23: 2016 || ά.  There is global interest in the impact of plastic waste in seas and waterways on natural habitats and wildlife. EFSA has taken a first step towards a future assessment of the potential risks to consumers from microplastics and nanoplastics in food, especially seafood. Dr Peter Hollman was a member of the working group that helped EFSA’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain:CONTAM: to draft its Statement on microplastic and nanoplastic particles in food. Dr Hollman is senior researcher at RIKILT research institute and associate professor for Nutrition and Health, both at Wageningen University in The Netherlands. His research includes work on the occurrence, analysis and toxicity of micro and nanoplastics.

What does EFSA say in its Statement?

Peter Hollman: EFSA has comprehensively reviewed existing literature on this topic and found there are insufficient data on the occurrence, toxicity and fate, what happens after digestion, of these materials for a full risk assessment. It also revealed that nanoplastics require particular attention. So the review has allowed EFSA to take stock of scientific developments in this area, identify data and knowledge gaps and recommend future research priorities to address them.

What are micro:nanoplastics?

How big are they? EFSA defines microplastics as ranging in size from 0.1 to 5000 micrometres:µm: or 5 millimetres to give an idea. Nanoplastics measure from 0.001 to 0.1 µm, i.e. 1 to 100 nanometres. PH: The world’s ever increasing use of plastics has created large areas of floating plastic waste in the oceans, so-called plastic soup. Areas as big as France have been observed. This floating plastic debris is gradually fragmenting into smaller particles which eventually become microplastics and even nanoplastics. There are pellets, flakes, spheroids and beads engineered to these sizes too.

Which foods contain these materials?

PH: There are no data at all on nanoplastics in food but there is some information on microplastics, particularly for the marine environment. Fish show high concentrations but since microplastics are mostly present in the stomach and intestines they are usually removed and consumers are not exposed to them. But in crustaceans and bivalve molluscs like oysters and mussels, you eat the digestive tract so there is some exposure there. They have also been reported in honey, beer and table salt.

Are they harmful to consumers?

PH: It’s too early to say but it seems unlikely, at least for microplastics. One potential concern is over high concentrations of pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls:PCBs: and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons:PAHs: that can accumulate in microplastics. There might also be residues of compounds used in packaging such as bisphenol A (BPA). Some studies suggest that after consuming microplastics in food these substances may transfer into tissues. So, it is important to estimate the average intake.

We know that engineered nanoparticles, from different types of nanomaterials, can enter human cells so this may have consequences for human health. But more research and data are needed.

Did EFSA estimate the average intake?

PH: Not for nanoplastics but with the limited data available, EFSA estimated that a portion of mussels:225g: could contain 7 micrograms of microplastic. Even if this amount of material contained the highest ever measured concentrations of PCBs or BPA, for example, it would make a small contribution to overall exposure to these substances: it would increase PCB exposure by less than 0.01 per cent or BPA exposure by less than two per cent. But this is a worst case scenario.

What future scientific work is needed?

PH: The Panel’s recommendations can help the scientific community build up a clearer picture. Research should generate data on the occurrence of microplastics and especially nanoplastics in food, their fate in the gastrointestinal tract, and their toxicity. Knowledge on the toxicity of nanoplastics is particularly needed because these particles may penetrate all kinds of tissues and eventually end up in cells. The Statement also proposes standardised analytical methods to help with monitoring.

Has EFSA looked at the risks to wildlife:the environment?

PH: EFSA looked at this from the food safety perspective only. Other organisations are looking at bio-habitats and wildlife. We reviewed the key reports by the UN Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection and included a new study on measures to combat marine litter, commissioned by the European Commission’s DG Environment. Those were critical sources for establishing a framework for approaching this issue from the food safety angle. The European Environment Agency took a broader view in its report on the State of Europe’s Seas. EFSA’s Statement and future work can complement those efforts.

Has your participation benefitted your own scientific work?

PH: For me, discussing these issues with experts from other scientific disciplines was rewarding. Bringing diverse expertise to the table allowed us to look at the problem from different perspectives. This gave a more balanced view of the problems, and really helped to find the right focus for the Panel’s Statement. Dr Jose Tarazona is Head of Pesticides at EFSA. An environmental toxicologist with decades of experience at national and European level assessing pesticides and other chemicals, Dr Tarazona sheds some light on his team’s initiative.

Background

Microplastic and nanoplastic particles in food were first flagged as a potential future food safety issue by EFSA’s Emerging Risks Exchange Network, which is composed of national food safety experts. Based on this work, Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment:BfR: requested the current review by EFSA.

In 2011, EFSA’s Scientific Committee published guidance on nanoscience and nanotechnologies in the food chain, which applies across all EFSA’s scientific areas of competence. An update of the guidance is scheduled in 2018.
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Desertification is Real and It is Eating Away the Earth Fast: The Earth That is to Sustain Humanity

Image: UN

||June 13: 2016 || ά. Nearly 800 million people are chronically undernourished as a direct consequence of land degradation, declining soil, fertility, unsustainable water use, drought and biodiversity loss, requiring long-term solutions to help communities increase resilience to climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared today.

“The livelihoods and well-being of hundreds of millions of people are at stake,” the Secretary-General said in his message to mark the World Day to Combat Desertification, whose theme this year is 'Protect Earth. Restore land. Engage people.' “Over the next 25 years, land degradation could reduce global food productivity by as much as 12 per cent, leading to a 30 per cent increase in world food prices,” he added.

Ranking among the greatest environmental challenges of our time, desertification is a phenomenon that refers to the persistent degradation of dryland ecosystems by human activities, including unsustainable farming, mining, overgazing and clear-cutting of land and by climate change. The Day, which is observed annually on June 17, is intended to promote public awareness of the issues of desertification and drought, and the implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification:UNCCD: in those countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification.

 In his message, the Secretary-General emphasized that more than 50 per cent of agricultural land is moderately or severely degraded, with 12 million hectares lost to production each year. “Desertification, land degradation, drought and climate change are interconnected. As a result of land degradation and climate change, the severity and frequency of droughts have been increasing, along with floods and extreme temperatures,” he said.

The Secretary-General emphasized that without a long-term solution, desertification and land degradation will not only affect food supply but lead to increased migration and threaten the stability of many nations and regions. “This is why world leaders made land degradation neutrality one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals:SDGs:. That means rehabilitating at least 12 million hectares of degraded land a year,” he said.

One important approach towards achieving that goal is sustainable, climate-smart agriculture, Mr. Ban said. That will help communities build resilience to climate change, while also supporting mitigation by taking carbon from the atmosphere and putting it back in the soil. “The transition to sustainable agriculture will also alleviate poverty and generate employment, especially among the world's poorest. By 2050, it could create some 200 million jobs across the entire food production system,” the UN chief said.

“On this Day, I urge cooperation among all actors to help achieve land degradation neutrality as part of a broader effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and build a future of dignity and opportunity for all,” he added. In another message to mark the Day, Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation:UNESCO, underscored that desertification is a threat to both arid and non-arid regions, where land over-exploitation, including intensive farming, forest exploitation for fuel and timber and overgrazing have turned fertile soils into sterile land.

“Extreme weather events, like droughts, winds, floods and climate disruptions – are amplifying the effects and adding new causes to the degradation cycle,” said Ms. Bokova. “The stakes are high – this is why the goal of achieving land degradation neutrality is so important. This is set out in Target 15.3 of the new Sustainable Development Goals, to maintain and even improve the amount of healthy and productive land resources,” she added.

The Director-General highlighted that the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme, International Hydrological Programme and Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development are working to engage people in sustainable land management practices and agro-forestry, in developing green economies, in consuming responsibly, and in restoring ecosystems.

“Desertification is not always irreversible. Land restoration is the ultimate tool, and UNESCO is determined to do everything to restore our ecosystems, as was featured during the World Congress of Biosphere Reserves, held in Lima, in March 2016,” Ms. Bokova said. “Desertification is a global threat that requires global action – this must start with each of us, with our deeper engagement to protecting our planet for all to share,” she added.

 For her part, UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut emphasized that land degradation neutrality should be a top policy goal for every nation that values freedom and choice. “Conserving land and restoring that which is degraded back to health is not a benefit that only flows to the billions of people who eke out a living directly from the land,” Ms. Barbut said.

“It is a vote to safeguard our own freedoms of choice, and those of our children. It is also a moral standard against which we may well be judged by history,” she added. The Executive Secretary also noted that the inclination to degrade new land instead of fixing and re-using the land that is already degraded means that future generations cannot benefit from the same resources.

“The rights we claim to enjoy these land resources come with a heavy moral obligation to manage them well. More so, as we may be, literally, the last generation that can significantly slow down the accelerated loss of the land resources left,” Ms. Barbut said. “This generation – our generation – has the time, human, knowledge and financial means to reverse these trends, and restore a vast amount of the degraded lands. But we must work together,” she stressed. ω.

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Environmental Impacts on Species Numbers

Globigerinella siphonifera. Image: Credit: GLOW research cruise


||June 13: 2016: University of Southampton News || ά. The number of species that can exist on Earth depends on how the environment changes, according to new research led by the University of Southampton. By analysing the fossil record of microscopic aquatic creatures called planktonic foraminifera, whose fossil remains now resemble miniaturised popcorn and date back millions of years, the research provided the first statistical evidence that environmental changes put a cap on species richness.

Lead author of the study, published in the journal Ecology Letters, Dr Thomas Ezard, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Southampton, said: “While the idea of infinite species on a finite Earth is clearly fanciful, the relevance of upper limits to diversity is still a fractious debate amongst evolutionary biologists, ecologists and palaeontologists.

“We are the first to show statistically that this upper limit is environmentally dependent. It’s intuitive that a changing environment alters how many species we see - the spatial gradient of more species in the tropics than at the poles is pervasive evidence for its large-scale impact. “However, analyses of how species numbers have changed over time have assumed that any limit has always been the same, even through periods of massive climate upheaval. Our data reject this idea of fixed rules for competition among species and instead show that the limit to the number of species that can co-exist on Earth is much more dynamic. Climate and geology are always changing, and the limit changes with them.”

While previous research typically focused individually on either biological, climate change or geological explanations, this new research examined the co-dependence of these factors on how species interact. Looking at the fossil history of 210 evolutionary species of macroperforate planktonic foraminifera in the Cenozoic Era from 65 million years ago to the present, the study found that the number of species was almost certainly controlled by competition among themselves and probably kept within a finite upper limit.

Dr Ezard added: “We used mathematical models to reveal how environmental changes influence both the rate of diversification among species and how many species can co-exist at once. Our results suggest that the world is full of species, but that the precise fullness varies through time as environmental changes alter the outcome of competition among species.”

The study also involved Professor Andy Purvis from the Natural History Museum. He said: “Scientists have long argued that environmental changes are likely to impact the number of species that can co-exist on Earth, but the fossil record is usually too incomplete for powerful statistical testing. Microfossils – especially planktonic foraminifera – give us a record with almost no gaps. It’s this complete evolutionary history that lets us decide between these different hypotheses of how species interacted millions of years ago.” ω.

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Hundreds of Cities Commit to Combating Emissions

||June 07: 2016: Washington D.C || ά. Over 200 cities have set greenhouse gas reduction goals or targets. Action in these cities, which represent a combined population of 439 million people, could propel countries to meet their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions:INDCs the national greenhouse gas reduction pledges embodied in the Paris Agreement. According to Can a City Be Sustainable?, the latest edition of the annual State of the World series from the Worldwatch Institute, cities and their inhabitants are playing a lead role in achieving global climate action goals.

"The challenge over the next several decades is an enormous one," write Michael Renner and Tom Prugh, contributing authors and co-directors of the report. "This requires not change around the edges, but a fundamental restructuring of how cities operate, how much they consume in resources and how much waste they produce, what they look like, and how they are structured."

Growing numbers of cities have pledged themselves to climate commitments and sustainability goals. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group has expanded to over 80 cities. The Compact of Mayors, launched at the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit, is the largest coalition of city leaders addressing climate change. ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability works with more than 1,000 cities around the world.

Cities today host more than half of the earth's human beings and represent about 70 percent of global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. If trends continue, urban populations are expected to increase to 6 billion by 2045, at which point two-thirds of all people will live in urban environments. "If current trends in urbanization continue unabated, urban energy use will more than triple, compared to 2005 levels, by 2050," write Renner and Prugh.

It is no surprise that cities collectively account for a large share of greenhouse gas emissions, because they concentrate economic activity. But cities vary widely in their per capita emissions. Rotterdam in the Netherlands, for example, emitted 29.8 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per capita in 2005, whereas Paris emitted just 5.2 tons per capita. Many variables, such as climate, urban form, and primary energy source, affect a city's level of emissions. Economic factors, such as the wealth and income of residents and the level and structure of economic activity, also play a major role.

"Only demand-side policies that succeed in sharply reducing energy consumption in transport, buildings, waste handling, and agriculture can address the urgent need to decarbonize energy," write Renner and Prugh. "It is cities that must step up to the front lines of that battle."

In conjunction with policy changes, cities' success will depend on having both comprehensive data and financial support. Current protocols, such as one developed by the World Resources Institute, C40 Cities, and ICLEI, can be used to measure or estimate greenhouse gas emissions in cities worldwide. Financing sustainability in cities may be easier in some cities than in others. Among the C40 cities, only three-quarters have budgetary control over property or municipal taxes. In poorer cities, multilateral development banks and a variety of donors may play an important role.

Worldwatch Institute's Can a City Be Sustainable? State of the World examines the core principles of sustainable urbanism and profiles cities that are putting them into practice.

About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute's State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages.
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Interactive Visualisation Shows Increase in Methane and Carbon Dioxide Concentrations at the Pallas Measurement Station


||June 01: 2016 || ά. Carbon dioxide and methane are both powerful greenhouse gases, and their concentration in the atmosphere affects the progression of climate change. "The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere also tells us about the Earth's condition on a wider scale, which is why it's so important that we monitor them," notes Head of Group Tuula Aalto from the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The background measurements also help monitor emissions, as observing the atmosphere is the only way of confirming governmental reports on emission reductions.

Visualisations Displays a Rising Trend

The change in the amount of carbon dioxide and methane in Pallas can be studied with the new interactive visualisation on climateguide.fi. The visualisation displays the daily average values for carbon dioxide and methane as well as three different trends. One of the trends shows seasonal changes and the two others the long-term trend that, for both gases, is on an upward trend.

The visualisations shows the concentrations of carbon dioxide since 1998 and the concentrations of methane since 2004 until 2015, and these concentrations can also be compared for shorter periods as well. The visualisation provides an overall picture on the development of the concentrations and makes the research more understandable for a large audience.


Seasonal Changes are Characteristic for Pallas

Seasonal changes are typical for the measured concentrations of greenhouse gases at Pallas, where the seasonal change in the concentration of carbon dioxide is clearly more regular than for the concentration of methane. The concentration of carbon dioxide is at its highest during the winter and decreases as the season changes towards growth and the vegetation begins absorbing the carbon dioxide in the air. While the concentration of methane also increases during the winter, it also rises momentarily at the end of summer, when the swamps around Pallas release methane into the air.

Even though the concentrations vary according to the seasons, both carbon dioxide and methane are on an upward trend. The concentration of carbon dioxide has risen continuously at the measurement station in Sammaltunturi since the measurements began. "Even the concentration of methane began growing again in 2007 after a ten-year stable period," says Head of Group Tuomas Laurila.

In Pallas, the concentration of carbon dioxide has risen by 2.0 ppm per year and the symbolic threshold of 400 ppm was already surpassed in 2012. This means that there is now more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than ever during the industrial age.

Observations at Sammaltunturi Part of International Measurements

The visualisation is based on the measurements that are being made at the Finnish Meteorological Institute measurement station located at the summit of Sammaltunturi in the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. "The location is ideally far from any large emission sources such as cities, so the measurements provide a representative picture of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," says Tuula Aalto.

The Sammaltunturi measurements are part of the international GAW measurement network that monitors the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases worldwide. The measurements made by the GAW station network and at Sammaltunturi also help study emission sources and sinks.
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Microbeads and Microplastics in Cosmetic and Personal Care Products

|| May 29: 2016 || ά. This House of Commons Parliamentary Briefing Paper is concerned with the use of microplastics and microbeads, which are small plastic pieces, in a variety of cosmetic and personal care products. It discusses their possible impacts on the environment and human health. It outlines the steps being taken to phase-out microplastics in cosmetic and personal care products, and provides information on legislative bans.

Microplastic debris in marine environments is growing in volume. It is likely to have a range of environmental impacts. There is evidence to suggest that microplastics are entering the human food chain. On the basis of current evidence microplastics in seafood are not currently thought to represent a human health risk, although uncertainties remain.

Microplastics come from a number of sources, such as the breakdown of larger pieces of plastic over time and industrial scrubbers used to blast-clean surfaces. A small percentage of marine microplastics come from microbeads and other microplastics used in a variety of cosmetic and personal care products such as scrubs and toothpastes. These particles of plastic can enter the environment when consumers rinse them down the drain.

A number of companies are voluntarily phasing out microplastics in some cosmetic products in the EU. The voluntary measures taken by industry could significantly reduce cosmetic microplastic use in ‘rinse-off’ products by 2020.

Some environmental organisations have been calling for a legislative ban on the use of microplastics in some cosmetic products. They believe that this would be a simple way to speed up industry efforts and to tackle an unnecessary source of microplastic pollution. Some in the industry question the proportionality of a ban given the success of voluntary efforts and the relatively small contribution that cosmetic products make to the problem.

A recent research report commissioned by the European Union recommended that more information be collected to help determine whether a ban is required or whether the industry is responding adequately to the issue.

The European Commission is currently considering whether additional measures are needed to address the problem. The UK Government is supporting the voluntary phase-out of microplastics, is monitoring the situation and supports action at an EU level. It has not ruled out taking additional unilateral measures.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7510: Author: Oliver Bennett: Published: May 25, 2016. ω.

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World Heritage Sites at Risk from Climate Change: New Report

A new report shows World Heritage icons such as the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas of South Africa are at risk from climate change. Image: UNESCO:Leila Maziz

|| May 27: 2016 || ά. Some 31 natural and cultural World Heritage sites in 29 countries across the world are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, a new report released by the United Nations has found. The World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate report documents climate impacts including increasing temperatures, melting glaciers, rising seas, intensifying weather events, worsening droughts and longer wildfire seasons, at iconic tourism sites such as Venice, Stonehenge and the Galapagos Islands.

It also covers other World Heritage sites such as South Africa’s Cape Floral Kingdom; the port city of Cartagena, Colombia; and Shiretoko National Park in Japan, the UN Environment Programme:UNEP said in a press release. “World governments, the private sector and tourists all need to coordinate their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and to protect the world’s most treasured cultural and natural resources from the impact of tourism activities,” said Elisa Tonda, head of UNEP’s Responsible Industry and Value Chains Unit.

“Policies to decouple tourism from natural resource impacts, carbon emissions and environmental harm will engage a responsible private sector and promote change in tourists’ behaviour to realize the sectors’ potential in some of the world’s most visited places,” she added. In addition to UNEP, the report was prepared by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation:UNESCO and the Union of Concerned Scientists:UCS.

Because World Heritage sites must have ‘Outstanding Universal Value,’ the report recommends that the World Heritage Committee consider the risk of prospective sites becoming degraded by climate change before they add them to the list. In particular, the report highlights the urgent need to identify the World Heritage sites that are most vulnerable to climate change, and to implement policies and provide resources to increase resilience at those sites.

In addition, the report urges increased global efforts to meet the Paris Agreement climate change pledges in order to preserve World Heritage sites for future generations. “Globally, we need to better understand, monitor and address climate change threats to World Heritage sites,” said Mechtild Rössler, Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre. “As the report’s findings underscore, achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to a level well below 2 degrees Celsius is vitally important to protecting our World Heritage for current and future generations.”

The report also recommends engaging the tourism sector in efforts to manage and protect vulnerable sites in the face of climate change, and to educate visitors about climate threats. “Climate change is affecting World Heritage sites across the globe,” said Adam Markham, lead author of the report and Deputy Director of the Climate and Energy Program at UCS.

“Some Easter Island statues are at risk of being lost to the sea because of coastal erosion. Many of the world’s most important coral reefs, including in the islands of New Caledonia in the western Pacific, have suffered unprecedented coral bleaching linked to climate change this year. Climate change could eventually even cause some World Heritage sites to lose their status,” he added.

The report includes a complete list of World Heritage sites that are at risk.
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Cleanest Air Laps in the Wilderness of Lapland: Says WHO?


|| May 25: 2016 || ά. According to the information published by the WHO, air quality in Finland is the third best in the world. One of the cleanest corners of the world is located in the Finnish Lapland. This was revealed by the extensive database published by the WHO, which includes measurement data on particulate matter from 3 000 localities in a total of one hundred countries between 2008 and 2014.

 In addition to Finland, the air in Sweden, Iceland and Estonia is clean, i.e. particle concentrations remain under 10 µg/m3 in comparisons with other European countries. Countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand are in the same top class in global comparisons. The highest particle concentrations, in other words, the countries with the worst air quality are located in the Middle East and Far East as well as in Africa.

The levels of particle concentrations in these countries are more than tenfold in comparison with the best levels in the report. Annual concentrations of more than one hundred micrograms, more than 100 µg/m3, are measured in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, Delhi in India, Bamenda in Cameroon, Baoding in China and Peshawar in Pakistan.

The measurement station in Pallas measures the cleanest air in the world The Finnish Meteorological Institute FMI's measurement station in Sammaltunturi in Pallas is one of the places that measures the cleanest air in the world. Places as clean as Sammaltunturi or places in which particle concentrations remain under 4 µg/m3 also include locations such as Hafnarfjordur in Iceland and Te Anau in New Zealand.

"When it comes to the results, we must take into account that there is a lot of uncertainty about the measurement data from developing countries, as their measurement quality is not necessarily very reliable and the number of measurements is small, so the regional representation remains low," Senior Research Scientist Pia Anttila from the FMI points out.

Considerable air quality problems in developing countries, however, the report highlights the big air quality problems in developing countries. The reference level for particulate matter recommended by the WHO is 10 µg/m3.

"This level was exceeded in more than two thousand cities. The number of people who are exposed to air pollution in the metropolises in Asia and Africa is indeed huge." says Pia Anttila.

Altogether 22 cities from Finland: Raahe, Kuopio, Lohja, Jyväskylä, Valkeakoski, Kajaani, Vaasa, Imatra, Pori, Mikkeli, Virolahti, Kouvola, Harjavalta, Turku, Kotka, Oulu, Lahti, Pietarsaari, Hyvinkää, Lappeenranta, Vantaa, Helsinki, Tampere as well as FMI's measurement stations in Pallas:Muonio and Virolahti participated in the report. The measurement data from Finland is from 2014.

Ambient Air Pollution Database, WHO, May 2016

Pia Antilla: Senior Research Scientist at the Finnish Meteorological Institute: tel. +358 50 368 6420: pia.anttila@fmi.fi.
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Where Slovenia Goes the World Follows Buzzing: Bee a Day

|| May 25: 2016 || ά.  As bellwethers for ecosystem health and biodiversity, bees play a crucial role in agriculture and ending hunger, and “pollinator-friendly” approaches are therefore highly encouraged, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization:FAO.

"A world without pollinators would be a world without food diversity – and in the long run, without food security," José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General, said late last week during a visit to Slovenia’s national beekeepers' festival. FAO, as well as some 53 countries, has supported Slovenia in the promotion of declaring May 20 as the World Bee Day at the last regional Conference of Europe.

The technical committees of FAO and the FAO Conference in 2017 would be one of the first concrete actions in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to Mr. Graziano da Silva.

Honeybees, he noted, are the world’s most famous pollinators, a group of species whose members fly, hop and crawl over flowers to allow plants – including those that account for over a third of global food crop production – to reproduce. Their absence, however, would remove a host of nutritious foods from our diets, including potatoes, strawberries, carrots, apples, almonds, tomatoes and cocoa.

Moreover, ecosystem health and biodiversity also depend on more than 20,000 species of wild bees which have links to specific flowering plants and are more vulnerable to climate change. "Bees are a sign of well-functioning ecosystems," said Mr. Graziano da Silva, adding that "to a great extent the decline of pollinators is also a sign of the disruptions that global changes are causing to ecosystems the world over."

Land-use change, pesticide use, monoculture agriculture and climate change are some facts that have threatened bee populations. Fostering robust pollinator communities ensures a diversity of environmental homes for them and supports traditional agricultural practices that benefit them, he noted.

"Pollination is one of the most visible ecosystem services that make food production even possible," said the FAO Director-General. Improving pollinator density and diversity have direct and positive impact on crop yields. In this regard, the FAO-backed International Pollinators Initiative – knowledge, guidelines and protocols – has been supporting countries in monitoring pollinators and better understand threats, information needs and data gaps since 2000.

Welcoming Slovenia's leadership in apiculture, Mr. Graziano da Silva also urged all countries to take up "pollinator friendly" approaches towards farming and appreciate the important role of bees and other pollinators, and make their pollinator-friendly choices, he added.

"Without bees, it would be impossible to achieve FAO's main goal, a world without hunger," he said. ω.

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How Cheap We Value Human Lives: 7 Million People Die Every Year Because of Air Pollution: UN Report Paints Mixed Picture of Global Responses to Declining Air Quality

In many parts of rural Nepal, women spend on average of five hours a day in smoke-filled kitchens such as these, undermining their health. Image: IRIN:Naresh Newar

|| May 24: 2016 || ά. Noting that from 2008 to 2013, air pollution levels in urban areas increased by eight per cent, a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme:UNEP spotlights the need to support introduction of more renewable energies and clean cook stoves, some of the vital actions aimed at combating this public health emergency.

Air pollution kills seven million people each year, according to the World Health Organisation:WHO, with more than 80 per cent of people living in urban areas exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits. Actions on Air Quality, released today at the second United Nations Environment Assembly:UNEA-2 under way in Nairobi, Kenya, found that there is a growing momentum for change, such as improved access to cleaner cooking fuels and stoves, renewables, fuel sulphur content and public transport.

However, action in other areas is less impressive and will not halt the increase in air pollution that is threatening to claim many more lives, the report warned.

“The current global response to pervasive poor air quality is inadequate,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “Despite this lack of a holistic response, numerous countries and regions are coming up with effective – and cost-effective – measures to improve air quality. The Sustainable Development Goals provide an opportunity to replicate those best practices globally, and bring about cleaner air, and social and economic benefits worldwide.”

While policies and standards on clean fuels and vehicles could reduce emissions by 90 per cent, only 29 per cent of countries worldwide have adopted ‘Euro 4’ vehicles emissions standards or above. Meanwhile, less than 20 per cent of countries regulate open waste burning, which is a leading cause of air pollution.

On the positive side, 97 countries have increased the percentage of households that have access to cleaner burning fuels to more than 85 per cent – a key move to tackle indoor air pollution, which claims over half of the seven million lives.

At least 82 countries out of 193 analysed have incentives that promote investment in renewable energy production, cleaner production, energy efficiency and/or pollution control equipment. Last year, for the first time, renewables accounted for a majority of the new electricity-generating capacity added around the world, at an investment of $286 billion, according to research by UNEP, Bloomberg and the Frankfurt School.

A Review of Air Pollution Control in Beijing: 1998-2013, which was also released today, analyzed measures implemented since Beijing began launching air pollution control programmes, which saw a steady downward trend in the concentrations of many harmful pollutants.

“Even though the air pollution control programmes in Beijing have made substantial progress, the environment quality is far from satisfactory,” said Chen Tian, Director General of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. “We will continue to explore approaches that could work effectively for improving the environment in this region.” ω.

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UN Environment Assembly Opens in Nairobi: A Healthy Planet, with Healthy People

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner on monitor addresses the second United Nations Environment Assembly. Image: UNEP

|| May 23: 2016 || ά. Hundreds of key global decision-makers are gathering in Kenya today for the second United Nations Environment Assembly:UNEA-2, aiming to tackle some of the most critical issues facing our planet, from the air pollution that kills millions of people every year to an illegal trade in wildlife that is pushing species to the brink of extinction.

Held at the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme:UNEP in Nairobi, UNEA is the world’s most powerful decision-making body on the environment. This year, leaders will seek to pass a raft of resolutions, including those on food waste, the fading health of oceans, the world’s natural capital, and sustainable consumption and production.

Addressing the opening session, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner noted that since the first UNEA held in 2014, “the environment has shifted from the margins of attention to the centre of global decision making.”

“It now runs through the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, establishing UNEA as the ‘World Parliament for the Environment,’ he said, stressing that UNEA is the only platform outside of the UN General Assembly to have universal representation.

UNEA also works with stakeholders and experts from the financial, legislative and scientific communities, non-governmental organizations:NGOs and the private sector and provides an interface between science, policy and action.

Mr. Steiner urged participants to focus on action and use this first global decision-making platform since the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement to review and accelerate progress.

He said UNEA-2, which will continue through 27 May, will feature a three-day Sustainable Innovation Symposium to garner private sector engagement, the launch of a new global campaign to end the illegal trade in wildlife, and the mid-term review of the Montevideo Programme on Environmental Law.

He urged UNEA to show “we can move fast enough and hard enough to create a healthy planet, with healthy people, which leaves no one behind – which means less talk, more action.”

 A series of ground-breaking UNEP reports will also be released during UNEA-2. Published today, Healthy Environment, Healthy People warns that environmental impacts are responsible for the deaths of more than one quarter of all children under the age of five, the report states.

The report – compiled by UNEP, the World Health Organization:WHO, the Convention on Biological Diversity:CBD, the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer, and the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions – estimates that environmental degradation and pollution cause up to 234 times as many premature deaths as occur in conflicts annually, highlighting the importance of a healthy environment to achieving the 2030 Agenda.

The report finds that in 2012, an estimated 12.6 million deaths were attributable to deteriorating environment conditions, or 23 per cent of the total.

Climate change is exacerbating the scale and intensity of environment-related health risks. Estimates from the WHO indicate that 250,000 additional deaths could occur each year between 2030 and 2050, mostly from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress, as a result of climate change.

Mr. Steiner said, “By depleting the ecological infrastructure of our planet and increasing our pollution footprint, we incur an ever-growing cost in terms of human health and well-being. From air pollution and chemical exposure to the mining of our natural resource base, we have compromised our life support systems.

Other reports include Marine Plastic Debris and Microplastics: Global Lessons and Research to Inspire Action and Guide Policy Change, which found that between 4.8-12.7 million tonnes of global plastic production ended up in the ocean as a result of inadequate solid waste management in 2014.

Gender and Plastic Management looked at the differing roles of men and women in plastic use and consumption, identifying women in wealthy regions as important stakeholders in reducing plastics in basic consumer goods.

2016 Global Report on the Status of Legal Limits on Lead in Paint found that efforts to tackle lead in paint are advancing. As of early 2016, 70 of 196 countries worldwide, or 36 per cent, had established legally binding limits on lead in paint.

UNEP Frontiers found that there has been a worldwide increase in emerging zoonotic diseases, outbreaks of epidemic zoonoses, a rise in foodborne zoonoses and a troubling persistence of neglected zoonotic diseases in poor countries. ω.

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On International Day, UN Highlights Biodiversity's Role in Underpinning Development


Fishing boats, Mexico. Image: World Bank:Curt Carnemark

|| May 22: 2016 || ά.  Biodiversity and the ecosystem services it supports are the foundations for life on Earth and the livelihoods and well-being of people everywhere, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today on the International Day for Biological Diversity, as he urged the international community to preserve and sustainably manage the variety of life on the planet.

“Protecting biodiversity and preventing further losses is an essential investment in our collective future,” Mr. Ban said in his message marking the Day. “On this International Day for Biodiversity, I urge all Governments and stakeholders to preserve and sustainably manage the variety of life on Earth for the benefit of current and future generations,” he added.

The Day is marked around the world every year on May 22. This year's theme is 'Mainstreaming Biodiversity; Sustaining People and their Livelihoods.' In his message, the Secretary-General highlighted that biodiversity is an important cross-cutting issue in the message marking the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In addition, he noted that Sustainable Development Goal:SDG 15 explicitly recognizes the importance of halting biodiversity loss, and other SDGs recognize the importance of biological diversity for eradicating poverty, providing food and fresh water, and improving life in cities.

“It is critical that we make progress in mainstreaming biodiversity and transforming how societies value and manage it,” the UN chief said. Mr. Ban noted that despite numerous commitments, biodiversity loss continues to accelerate in all regions. Only 15 per cent of countries are on track to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets by the agreed-upon date of 2020.

In addition, he said that the anticipated expansion of sectors that both depend on and affect biodiversity – including agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture – will pose a significant challenge to halting biodiversity loss in the coming decades. Reversing these trends will require action by all sectors and stakeholders, from UN Member States and agencies to civil society, academia and business, the Secretary-General said.

“We need better research, and we need to act on the evidence that biodiversity is integral to achieving social and economic goals,” he stressed. Mr. Ban also emphasized that the responsible use of natural resources is essential to sustainable development, as mainstreaming biodiversity will ensure that addressing development needs and protecting the environment are mutually supportive.

“Preserving biological diversity is a vital part of our compact with each other and the planet that nurtures us,” the Secretary-General concluded. In his message on the Day, Achim Steiner, Executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said that while marvel at iconic species in other parts of the world and on our digital screens, such as elephants, tigers and pandas, many of us are much less familiar with the sheer magnitude of diversity of plants and animals on this planet or the habitats that support them.

“Awareness about our current global challenge of biodiversity loss is also low – a challenge that will expand along with the sectors affecting biodiversity, such as agriculture or forestry,” he said, stressing at the same time, that biodiversity provides us with the ecosystem services that are our foundations for life, everywhere on this planet, from fishermen depending on coastal waters, to farmers depending on crops, to tropical communities depending on forests.

“We need to better integrate biodiversity into how we think and into everything that we do. And we all need to do more to prevent its loss,” the UNEP chief said, echoing the theme of this year's Day. In another message on the Day, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Braulio F. de Souza Dias, stressed that addressing the indirect and direct drivers of biodiversity loss requires a focus on primary sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture.

“These sectors both impact biodiversity and are dependent on biodiversity,” he said. “The demand for the goods and services produced by these sectors is projected to increase over the coming decades as a result of population growth, increasing average wealth, and other demographic changes.”

He noted, for example, that demand for food, wood, water and energy is projected to increase 1.5 to two times by 2050 due to increasing population and average wealth, with a concomitant and negative effect on biodiversity.

Therefore, mainstreaming biodiversity considerations across these sectors is essential in ensuring not only the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity but also the continued vitality of these sectors, he said.
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Whole-Atmospheric Monthly Mean CO2 Concentrations Exceeded 400 PPM in December 2015

|| May 20: 2016 || ά. The Ministry of the Environment, Japan:MOEJ, National Institute for Environmental Studies:NIES, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency:JAXA have been monitoring carbon dioxide:CO2 and methane:CH4 by the Greenhouse gases Observing SATellite "IBUKI":GOSAT. A recent provisional analysis of GOSAT observational data shows that the global atmospheric monthly mean CO2 concentration observed vertically through the whole atmosphere exceeded 400 ppm in December 2015 for the first time since GOSAT was launched in 2009.

The three parties: Ministry of the Environment, Japan:MOEJ, National Institute for Environmental Studies:NIES, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency:JAXA- have published the whole-atmospheric monthly mean CO2 concentrations, observations made vertically through the whole atmosphere analysed and estimated from GOSAT observations from May 2009 to January 2016, and the trend line of the global CO2 mean, average seasonal cycle removed can be seen on the website.

According to a provisional analysis until January 2016, the monthly mean concentration exceeded 400 ppm for the first time and it recorded 400.2 ppm in December 2015. It also recorded 401.1 ppm in January 2016, and it is observed that the concentration has increased in winter towards spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

Several meteorological agencies such as the World Meteorological Organisation:WMO have already reported that the global monthly mean CO2 concentration based on data obtained at surface-level monitoring sites has exceeded 400 ppm. However, it is the first time that the whole-atmospheric CO2 mean exceeded 400 ppm monitored by GOSAT, which can observe CO2 concentrations from the surface to the top of the atmosphere, about 70km. It means that CO2 concentrations are increasing not only at the global surface but also in the global atmosphere.

The trend line of the global CO2 mean reached 399.6 ppm in January 2016, and if this increasing trend continues, it will probably be found upon more careful analysis that the trend line has exceeded 400 ppm around March 2016. It means that current global atmospheric CO2 concentrations substantially exceed 400 ppm.

These results are based on a preliminary analysis of the systematic bias of GOSAT.

The three parties will continue the public dissemination of new findings from GOSAT observations. Also, the parties plan to continue the ongoing space-based greenhouse gas observation with the GOSAT successor GOSAT-2, which is planned to be launched in the Japanese fiscal year 2017. The results of the continued observation will be utilized for the elaboration and refinement of global warming predictions.
Acknowledgement

For the analysis of GOSAT observational data, two weather analysis datasets were used: GPV:Grid Point Value data provided by the Japan Meteorological Agency and JCDAS data generated in the JRA-25 long-term reanalysis project by the Japan Meteorological Agency and the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry.
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Earth’s Health Declining ‘Faster Than Thought’ But Action by Governments Can Reverse Trend: UN Report

Burnt and degraded forest within Tesso Nilo National Park, Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. Image: World Bank:Flore de Preneuf

|| May 19: 2016 || ά. The environment is deteriorating faster than previously thought, making it imperative that governments act now to reverse the worst trends, says the most authoritative study the United Nations has ever published on the state of the planet’s health.

The Global Environmental Outlook:GEO-6: Regional Assessments is a compilation of six separate reports, which provide highly detailed examinations of the environmental issues affecting each of the world’s six regions: the Pan-European region, North America, Asia and the Pacific, West Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa, the UN Environment Programme:UNEP said in a press release.

Published ahead of the UN Environment Assembly, taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, from May 23-27, the regional assessments, which involved 1,203 scientists, hundreds of scientific institutions and more than 160 governments, find that the world shares a host of common environmental threats that are rapidly intensifying in many parts of the world.

Across the planet, climate change, the loss of biodiversity, land degradation and water scarcity are growing problems that need to be urgently addressed if the world is to achieve the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the studies find.

“Today, thanks to this report, we now know more about the state of the world’s environment than ever before,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “It is essential that we understand the pace of environmental change that is upon us.”

The assessments find that there is still time to tackle many of the worst impacts of environmental change, such as the damage to marine ecosystems and the rising level of air pollution, which has become one of the world's most widespread environmental health risks.

As one of the first areas of the world to experience the impacts of climate change, the Arctic region serves as a barometer for change in the rest of the world. Warming in the Arctic has increased at twice the global average since 1980.

The largest contributions to global glacier ice loss during the early 21st century were from glaciers in Alaska, the Canadian Arctic, and the periphery of the Greenland ice sheet, as well as in the Southern Andes and Asian mountains. Together these areas account for more than 80 per cent of the total ice loss.

The 30 centimetres of sea level rise off New York City since 1900 likely expanded Hurricane Sandy’s flood area by approximately 65 square kilometres, flooding the homes of more than 80,000 additional people in New York and New Jersey alone.

The prospect for impacts such as these to worsen in both the near and long term constitutes a priority issue for North America. Last year, the Asia-Pacific continued to be the world's most disaster prone region. About 41 per cent of all natural disasters reported over the last two decades occurred in the Asia-Pacific region, which also accounted for 91 per cent of the world’s deaths attributable to natural disasters in the last century.

The main driver for accelerating domestic material consumption is the expanding middle class. The size of the global middle class is projected to increase from 1.8 billion in 2009 to 4.9 billion in 2030 with most of this growth coming from Asia.

In the Latin American and Caribbean region, most of the cities in the region for which data are available have concentrations of particulate matter (PM) above World Health Organisation:WHO guidelines.

The region’s urban population increased by more than 35 million people between 2010 and 2015, and is expected to climb to a total of 567 million persons by 2025. More than 100 million people already live in areas where they are at risk from air pollution.

In West Asia, continuous conflict and the mass displacement of people throughout the region are also triggering severe environmental impacts that are endangering the health of people. Heavy metals from explosive munitions and radiation from missiles have leached into the environment.

The 2.97 million refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen and Iraq are placing an immense environmental burden on the region, producing about 1,440 tonnes of waste per day in 2015, overwhelming governments and increasing the risk of disease outbreaks.

In Africa, the second largest continent in the world, land is the most prized asset for food production, nutritional health and economic development. Worryingly, about 500,000 square meters of land in Africa is being degraded due to soil erosion, salinization, pollution and deforestation. This land degradation can damage agricultural productivity, nutrition and human health.

The recommendations made in the reports include: to improve gathering, processing and sharing of data and information to inform decision-making; enhance sustainable consumption and production to reduce environmental pressures by addressing drivers associated with manufacturing processes and consumer demand; invest in urban planning, such as through the better use of environmentally sound infrastructure and clean transport; reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and diversify energy sources.

Low-carbon, climate-resilient choices in infrastructure, energy and food production coupled with effective and sustainable natural resource governance are key to protecting the ecological assets that underpin a healthy society. ω.

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Methane and Carbon Dioxide on the Rise

Image: IUP, Univ. Bremen/SRON/Univ. Leicester/ESA/DLR/JAXA/NIES

Wake up Humanity: Act Not Tomorrow, Not Later: NOW!

Stop anyone on the planet and ask: What happens if you poison a pregnant mother? And the answer you would get is: that she shall die. And what would happen to the baby? It shall perish with the mother. This does not require any other deeper 'thinking'. This is as rudimentary as this. And yet, this is what is happening to the Earth and to all her 'babies' and we have not yet fully woken up to the fact that if we kill the Earth we kill ourselves despite the Paris Climate Change Agreement going through the stages of becoming binding. It is taking too long because countries are taking too long in ratifying the agreement so that it could become binding.

Wake up humanity, wake up the world and wake up all single individuals that form humanity. Climate Change is not a myth; it is happening and it  is being caused by our mindless, selfish and flawed system of politics, economics and culture of 'consuming' without thinking of whether this consumption is harmful or sustainable.

It is not just the companies, not just the organisations, not just the research, university and science communities, not just the governments and states not just the banks, investment houses and businesses that need to change and commit to changing the way we live, the way we manage ourselves and our human affairs, the way we develop, manage, organise and enhance our political economics and the way we live and the culture in which we live but it has to involve every single human being on this planet to wake up and to think before they do: What am I buying? Why am I buying this? Do I need to buy this? How much do I need? Why have they packaged this tiny little 'chocolate sticks' with twenty million layers of 'razzmatazz?' Why am I using useless devices? Apps? Why am I not using the jacket that I have got that is absolutely fine all year round? Who are these 'fashion' people spending billions in promoting their 'brands' selling seasonal clothings? Why do we need seasonal clothings? Why do we have to buy because something has been made fashionable without thinking how it impacts on the environment? Why do we not use the same shirts/skirts/shoes etc all year round? Why do we not walk more and use less of transport other than where absolutely necessary? Why not we demand that governments and businesses do more and do it faster to bring about green transport, green energy and energy efficiency faster because the science, the technology is there? Why do we buy cheese in London that came form New Zealand? Why do we have to send cheese from Canada to India? What is this culture? We only send from Canada what it has got much and what India does not and cannot get. When we little people buy shares and invest our little money why not we think and ask the financial people to invest that in green finance? Why do we buy shares of companies that are killing the earth? Every little droplet of water combines to become the Pacific Ocean.

Unless we change, and do it fast and instantaneously we are going to kill off the earth and along the way not only shall we perish but also perish in the most horrible death for what we have been doing to the earth and which is seen directly by the way desperately polluted air being breathed by us causing a plethora of diseases and absolutely impossible degree of suffering to millions and causing so much death. Wake up humanity, wake up the world. Not tomorrow, not later: NOW! The Humanion: May 14: 2016

|| May 13: 2016 || Satellite readings show that atmospheric methane and carbon dioxide are continuing to increase despite global efforts to reduce emissions.

Methane concentrations were somewhat constant until 2007, but since then have increased at about 0.3% per year, whereas global carbon dioxide levels continue to rise at about 0.5% per year.

The results, presented this week at the Living Planet Symposium in Prague, combine data from ESA’s veteran Envisat satellite and Japan’s GoSat mission.

The reason for this recent methane increase is not fully understood, but scientists attribute it to several sources such as agriculture and fossil fuels.

The data also show seasonal fluctuations, such as higher concentrations of methane in India and China during August and September. This is because wetlands and rice paddies are a major source of methane and emissions are largest if it is warm and humid.

Other regions such as the Tropics, the USA and parts of Russia experience similar seasonal changes.

 Carbon dioxide shows similar seasonal fluctuations, albeit with a maximum concentration earlier in the season at northern latitudes. This is due to the regular uptake and release of carbon dioxide by the growing and decay of terrestrial vegetation: photosynthesis, respiration and decay of organic matter.

Overall, carbon dioxide has shown a steady increase over the past decade despite global efforts to reduce emissions.

“Currently, plants take up about 25% of the carbon dioxide we are emitting and, without this, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and related consequences would be much larger,” said Michael Buchwitz from the Institute of Environmental Physics of the University of Bremen in Germany.

Image: IUP, Univ. Bremen/SRON/JPL/ESA/DLR


“However, we do not know how plants will respond to a changing climate. Our understanding of the ‘land carbon sink’ is limited. A goal of the satellite carbon dioxide observations is to close related knowledge gaps, which will lead to improved climate prediction.”

 The upcoming Sentinel-5P mission for Europe’s Copernicus programme is set to continue data collection on methane and other components of atmospheric chemistry by scanning the whole globe every day.

“For the future, Sentinel-5P will be very important, in particular because of its very dense, high-resolution observations of atmospheric methane, which have the potential to detect and quantify the emissions of important methane emission hot spots such as oil and gas fields,” noted Michael Buchwitz, who also leads the Greenhouse Gases project under ESA’s Climate Change Initiative.

The goal of the project is to generate global atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane products from satellite data, which are used in combination with computer modelling to obtain information on regional carbon dioxide and methane sources and sinks.

The atmospheric data products cover 2003–14 and are available here.

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Burn You May; Yet Do No Harm: The HyFIVE Green

Image: HyFIVE
 

|| May 12: 2016 || Hydrogen For Innovative Vehicles: HyFIVE is an ambitious European project including 15 Partners who will deploy 185 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles: FCEVs manufactured by the 5 Global Automotive Companies leading the sectors commercialisation.

To service these vehicles, the project will create clusters of refuelling station networks in three parts of Europe, where there will be sufficient density of hydrogen stations to provide refuelling choice and convenience to early users of FCEVs.

Several of the world’s leading car manufacturers, including all of those in the HyFIVE project, have been developing hydrogen fuel cell concept vehicles during the past 20 years and have matured the technology to the point where the first production models will be coming to market within the next few years. Their priority will be to introduce vehicles in markets where a strategy is in place to support their use with an appropriate infrastructure for hydrogen fuel supply, distribution and sale.

Each vehicle manufacturer involved in the project will bring forward advanced FCEVs designed for or just starting commercial production. Hyundai will bring a large fleet of their ix35 vehicles. Daimler, Honda, and Toyota will all bring their next generation fuel cell vehicles and will use the project to validate the performance on European roads. BMW will demonstrate their new luxury E/F segment FCEV prototype and test advanced vehicle operation and maintenance strategies.

The FCEVs currently being prepared for commercialisation have a driving range comparable to petrol and diesel vehicles. What’s more, every mile of every journey, whether in town or on the open road, will produce no harmful tailpipe emissions. As with all electric vehicles maximum torque is delivered from zero rpm, which makes for very refined, responsive performance when pulling away from standstill.

Hydrogen and Fuel Cells

Many consider that hydrogen coupled with a device called a fuel cell will increasingly provide us all with clean energy in the future.

If pure hydrogen fuel is used, the only by-product of the process at the point of use is water. And, excitingly, if the hydrogen itself is produced from a carbon-neutral source such as solar or wind power, we have the potential for carbon-neutral and emission-free energy. Our cars, buses, mobile phones, laptops, home generators, powerstations and so on could be clean ... and quiet!

The system they use is durable and compact and provides a consistent driving character regardless of the environment or climate, so consumers experience no major compromises in terms of practicality and performance compared to conventional petrol and diesel-powered vehicles.

Safety

There is no evidence to suggest that hydrogen is more dangerous than conventional fuels in general, and some evidence shows that it is safer.

Hydrogen gas is a common industrial gas that is colourless and odourless. Some 35 million tonnes are produced globally every year, about one per cent of the amount of oil produced globally in 2001. Consequently, extensive safety protocols already exist and work is also under way to produce internationally standardised handling procedures for everyday situations. All fuels, including those suitable for use in fuel cells such as hydrogen, require careful management to control the risks.

As a fuel, hydrogen gas is energy dense. This means that, as with many commonly used fuels, such as petrol and natural gas, there is a danger to health and property in the event of uncontrolled combustion or explosion. All fuels require the application of fuel-specific safety controls, and hydrogen is no exception. The main difference between hydrogen gas and petrol is in its behaviour when released to the air. Hydrogen gas disperses rapidly and fires burn out quickly, dissipating heat only very locally.

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The Frankfurt Declaration: We Intend to Double Climate Financing by 2020: Angela Merkel

Image: Bundesregierung/Lohnes

|| May 10: 2016 ||  Germany is forging ahead with climate change mitigation worldwide. Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged to support the Asian states in their fight against climate change and poverty. "We, the Federal Republic of Germany, intend to double climate financing by 2020," said the Chancellor at the 49th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank in Frankfurt am Main.

Experience demonstrates that climate change mitigation and economic growth are not mutually exclusive, she said. In the 21st century, growth must be environmentally and socially acceptable, pointed out the Chancellor. "If economic development is dynamic, this is of course a sign that the points we address in development co-operation must also change."

Not only do the Asian states today generate one third of global GDP, they are also responsible for one third of CO2 emissions, noted the Chancellor. "Today, we have launched the Asia Climate Financing Facility together. With it we aim to forge ahead with the development of climate change mitigation and adaptation projects, climate risk insurance schemes, which we believe to be very important, and, above all, with private-sector climate financing."

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a regional development bank based in Manila, the Philippines. The ADB was founded in 1966. It is today the largest multilateral development financing institution in Asia. It plays a key role in financing sustainable development in developing countries and emerging economies in the Asian and Pacific region.

Asia – for Greener Development

Last year in New York the United Nations adopted the sustainable development goals, while in Paris a new Climate Agreement was adopted. Now the agreements must be translated into action. At the 49th ADB Annual Meeting in Frankfurt am Main, development financing instruments are to be optimised, so as to meet the vast needs of the region and comply with the ever more urgent imperatives of ensuring sustainability.

The industrialised states have pledged to provide 100 billion US dollars every year as of 2020 to finance climate change mitigation and adaptation activities in poorer countries. The Asian Development Bank has announced that it will double climate financing by 2020. "That indicates that our goals are largely the same in this field," stressed the Chancellor.

Asian growth centres are facing the challenges of making their meteoric development environmentally sound and as climate-neutral as possible, while also ensuring that more people benefit. The German government, in its capacity as host of the Annual Meeting is providing impetus for sustainable policy on the part of the ADB, and advocating a socially and environmentally sustainable path to development in Asia. "We believe that structural reforms to protect the climate will pay off in the long term, and indeed in the medium term," declared the Chancellor.

Regional development banks like ADB work together to promote the regional member states’ economic development by providing financial aid, advice and technical support. But what essentially sets these institutions apart from the World Bank – the global development bank – is the fact that most of the capital shares are held in the regional member states. This guarantees that these countries’ interests are represented in an ideal way.

Focus on Innovative Fields

The aim is to mobilise the economy and the private financial sector, and to engage in discussion about new financial formats for the implementation of the global sustainability goals and climate targets in Asia. The combination of state and private efforts is the way forward, stressed the Chancellor.

Under the banner "Cooperating for Sustainability" the Annual Meeting is to provide a platform especially to involve stakeholders from the private sector, the academic and research community and civil society in the debates.

The innovative fields of renewables, energy efficiency and climate change, sustainable production and supply chains, vocational education and training and urban development are the focus of the event.

"Frankfurt Declaration"

In the "Frankfurt Declaration" the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the German government have agreed to co-operate more closely on climate action and vocational education and training.

The Asian Development Bank and Germany have initiated the Asia Climate Financing Facility (ACliFF). As of 2017, the Fund will provide financial support to Asian countries to help them reduce their CO2 emissions and insure against climate risks.

The ADB and the German government also intend to extend and intensify their co-operation to promote vocational education and training in Asia. This more intensive co-operation is to align vocational training better with the needs of employers and to strengthen in-company training.

This is to foster growth that ought to benefit as many people as possible, while women are to be encouraged to play an active part in economic life. The Declaration thus picks up on the initiative of Germany’s G7 Presidency regarding the economic empowerment of women.
Presentation and dialogue with other stakeholders

In the "City of Sustainability" private companies and research facilities are presenting their innovations, discussing examples of best practices, and networking with other actors. The ADB is providing information about its competitive bidding practices, and ministries, organisations, private companies, local authorities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are offering regional expertise and presenting their promotion programmes.

The Asian Development Bank ADB has 67 member states in total, 48 of which are located in Asia and 19 of which are in Europe and North America. Germany is one of ADB’s founding members and is its largest European shareholder with 4.33%. In addition to its headquarters in Manila, ADB has 31 country offices.

Participants at the Annual Meeting

The ADB Annual Meeting is a platform for stakeholders from the realms of politics, business, science and research, and civil society, including:

- German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
- German Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF)
- German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)
- German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS)
- German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi)
- KfW Group
- Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG)
- Agency for Business and Economic Development
- Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI)
- GOVET (the German government’s central office for international cooperation in vocational education and training)
- German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)
- Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
- Scientific and educational facilities including the Fraunhofer Institute, Frankfurt Main Finance, the University of Witten, and the Max Planck Institute
- Association of German Cities and local authorities from Europe and Asia

Sustainability as Overarching Principle

Within the various official bodies of the Asian Development Bank, Germany is working to make sustainability the overarching principle in lending policy. Hans-Joachim Fuchtel, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, has represented Germany for the last two years as a Governor of the Asian Development Bank. Last year he was appointed Chair of the 67-strong Board of Governors, the Bank’s most important body.

Poverty reduction, stability, peace, sustainable development and climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Asian region are the shared goals of the Asian Development Bank and German development cooperation. Germany is not only active at bilateral level in development but also at multilateral level as a member of various international organisations and as a shareholder in a number of international financing institutions, including the Asian Development Bank.

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The Skies May Fall Silent: UN Calls for an End to Illegal Poaching and Trade of Migratory Birds

Lesser Flamingo: Phoeniconaias minor: Image Credit: Mark Anderson

|| May 10: 2016 || Millions of migratory birds are being lost each year as a result of illegal killing, taking and trade, United Nations officials warned on World Migratory Bird Day, calling for concerted action to end the threats to migratory birds and urging everyone to step outside and “listen to the birds chirping,” to appreciate how important they are to our planet.

The motives behind these illicit activities are various and the toll that they are taking is incredible – millions of birds are being killed each year – numbers that are totally unsustainable and which alongside other pressures such as habitat loss and climate change are leading to many once common species being at risk of extinction.

The theme of this year's World Day is “…and when the skies fall silent? Stop the Illegal Killing, Taking and Trade!”

Ahead of the Day, the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) announced the creation of the Intergovernmental Task Force on Illegal Killing, Taking and Trade of Migratory Birds in the Mediterranean composed of Governments and the European Commission.

UN organizations such as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), international environmental treaties, INTERPOL, law enforcement and judiciary organizations, hunting communities and nongovernmental organizations will also be part of the coalition.

World Migratory Bird Day is co-organized by CMS and the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), international treaties administered by UNEP.

“I fully support the global campaign to raise awareness about the threats to migratory birds from habitat destruction, overexploitation, pollution and climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “I call for greater international efforts to restore and preserve migratory birds and the network of sites they need to survive as an important part of the environment on which we all depend.”

 UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: “During their long journeys, migratory birds run afoul of any number of natural obstacles, from predators to weather. They shouldn't also have to duck the grasping claws of the illegal wildlife trade. Illegal taking and killing of birds threaten not only the survival of bird species, but ecosystems, communities and livelihoods as well. So World Migratory Bird Day is not strictly for the birds; it's to remind us of the part they play for planet and people alike.”

Bird hunting has been traditionally practiced in the Mediterranean for centuries, but the recent surge in illegal activities, such as poaching and trapping, is endangering many threatened species that are already subject to other pressures, such as climate change and habitat loss.

 Jacques Trouvilliez, Executive Secretary of AEWA, said: “Migrating birds are facing increasing pressures along their journeys and habitat losses and degradation are the most difficult to tackle. But the birds are also exposed to illegal killing, taking and trade. We can no longer say that these practices are traditional as the equipment to capture birds has become more efficient. The nylon mist nets are now almost invisible to birds. As a result more birds are taken from declining populations. We must stop the illegal killing now, if we don't want our skies to fall silent.”

Each year, up to 6.2 million exhausted birds, migrating between their breeding and wintering grounds, are caught in illegally set nets stretching for hundreds of kilometres along the North African coastline. The less lucky ones suffer an agonizing death on lime stick traps – twigs covered with extremely sticky glue. It is estimated that up to 2 million Blackcaps die in such traps each year.

The Intergovernmental Task Force will add new momentum to international efforts to tackle the illegal killing, taking and trade in birds by agreeing on new guidelines, recommendations and action plans to address the causes of poaching.

The Task Force will work towards changing the hunting practices in the region to make them compliant with national and international laws. It will also aim to enhance the enforcement of these laws through training of local police and judiciary, information exchange, promoting deterrence and prevention policies to end the large-scale killings of migratory birds taking place today.

The Task Force, which will hold its first meeting in Cairo from 12 to 15 July 2016, is expected to be replicated in other major flyways across the world. The socio-economic study on Hunting and Illegal Killing of Birds along the Mediterranean Coast of Egypt, which will be released by BirdLife International on World Migratory Bird Day, will give important input to this meeting.

Tackling illegal killing and trade in wildlife, including birds, and mobilizing global action around the issue will also be the focus of the 2016 World Environment Day, which takes place on 5 June and is hosted by Angola, under the slogan 'Go Wild for Life.' A global UN campaign to garner support for stopping the trade in many species and their products will also be launched.

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Greenland's Zachariae Glacier is Losing Five Billion Tonnes of Ice Every Year

Zachariae glacier: Released 06/05/2016 10:00 am: Copyright Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2016), processed by ESA


|| May 06: 2016 || This image taken over part of northeast Greenland’s coast combines three images from Sentinel-1A’s radar on 15 February, 10 March and 3 April 2016. The shades of grey on the left side of the image depict the static landmass, while the colours on the right show changes in sea-ice type and cover between the three radar scans. Near the centre-left we can see the Zachariae Isstrom glacier, which is losing about five billion tonnes of ice a year to the ocean.

Zachariae’s dynamics have been changing over the last few years, calving high volumes of icebergs, which will inevitably affect sea levels. It is estimated that the entire Zachariae Isstrom glacier in northeast Greenland holds enough water to raise global sea levels by more than 46 cm.

Scientists have determined that the bottom of Zachariae Isstrom is being rapidly eroded by warmer ocean water mixed with growing amounts of meltwater from the ice sheet surface.

Zachariae and the nearby Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden to its north are two of six glaciers being monitored in near-real time by Sentinel-1 through a new web portal by the UK’s Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling. The portal provides frequent maps of ice velocity of key glaciers in both Greenland and Antarctica.

The polar regions are some of the first to experience and visibly demonstrate the effects of climate change, serving as barometers for change in the rest of the world. It is therefore critical that polar ice is monitored comprehensively and in a sustained manner.

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NASA Study: Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels Will Help and Hurt Crops

 Samson Reiny Writing

A wheat field in Eastern India near Murshidabad. Credits: Photo copyright Nupur Das Gupta:Creative Commons License

 

|| May 05: 2016 || Elevated carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere may increase water-use efficiency in crops and considerably mitigate yield losses due to climate change, according to a new NASA study.

The results, published in the journal Nature Climate Change on April 18, show some compensation for the adverse impacts of temperature extremes and water scarcity caused by increasing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Studies have shown that higher concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide affect crops in two important ways: they boost crop yields by increasing the rate of photosynthesis, which spurs growth, and they reduce the amount of water crops lose through transpiration. Plants transpire through their leaves, which contain tiny pores called stomata that open and collect carbon dioxide molecules for photosynthesis. During that process they release water vapor. As carbon dioxide concentrations increase, the pores don’t open as wide, resulting in lower levels of transpiration by plants and thus increased water-use efficiency.

Global climate impact assessments for crops have focused primarily on the impacts of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide on yields, said Delphine Deryng, lead author and a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City. “There has been very little impact assessment analysis that looked at the dual effect on yield and water use and how they play out in different regions of the world, which is critical to anticipating future agricultural water demands,” she said.

To study those effects, for wheat, maize, soybean and rice crops, Deryng and her co-authors simulated changes in crop yield and evapotranspiration (the combined transfer of water vapor to the atmosphere due to evaporation and transpiration) to estimate crop water productivity. Specifically, they looked at the amount of yield produced per unit of water, which is a common measurement for assessing crop water-use efficiency.

The results were synthesized from an ensemble of 30 simulations produced by six global crop models driven by climate data from five different global climate models under a "business-as-usual" greenhouse gases emissions scenario, whereby concentrations of carbon dioxide double by the year 2080 compared with 2000. Two sets of crop experiments were conducted: one which considered the effects of both atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and their associated climatic changes, and one in which only the associated climatic conditions were taken into account, which meant keeping carbon dioxide concentrations at 2000 levels.

Results show that yields for all four crops grown at levels of carbon dioxide remaining at 2000 levels would experience severe declines in yield due to higher temperatures and drier conditions. But when grown at doubled carbon dioxide levels, all four crops fare better due to increased photosynthesis and crop water productivity, partially offsetting the impacts from those adverse climate changes. For wheat and soybean crops, in terms of yield the median negative impacts are fully compensated, and rice crops recoup up to 90 percent and maize up to 60 percent of their losses.

According to the study, the impact of doubled carbon dioxide concentrations on crop water productivity and yield varies regionally. Results show that maize suffers yield losses with doubled carbon dioxide levels, due in large part to the plant’s already greater efficiency at using carbon dioxide for photosynthesis compared with the other crops. Maize yields fall by 15 percent in areas that use irrigation and by 8 percent in areas that rely on rain. Even so, losses would be more severe without the carbon dioxide increase: yields would decrease 21 percent for irrigated maize and 26 percent for rainfed maize.

The larger spread for gains and losses in rainfed maize is attributed mainly to the drier growing conditions. “The impact on crop water productivity and yield is strongest in regions like southern Africa where water is a limiting factor,” Deryng said. “Maize in these regions experience the most relief from better water-use efficiency.”

As for wheat, doubled carbon dioxide levels bring about yield increases across the board.

Rainfed wheat grown at higher latitudes such as those of the United States, Canada and Europe, which have more moderate temperatures and longer growing seasons, experience an overall increase in yield of almost 10 percent, while their consumption of water goes down by a corresponding amount.

For rainfed wheat grown in more arid climates, such as southern Africa and India, results show that doubled carbon dioxide levels, and their associated climate change impacts, increase yield by 8 percent, an increase that’s driven by improved crop water productivity of up to 50 percent. As with rainred maize crops in arid climates, without the carbon dioxide boost these rainfed wheat crops do not cope as well because of the greater water stress imposed on them, resulting in a 29 percent reduction in yield.

While these rainfed crops comprise only a small amount of the total wheat grown worldwide, as with rainfed maize they are often grown in developing countries that are more vulnerable to swings in production, Deryng said. “People in these regions depend more on local crop production for sustenance, so yield fluctuations tend to be more critical for food security.”

The study offers some hope for crops grown in arid, often economically challenged areas, said Cynthia Rosenzweig, a climatologist at GISS. “For example, farmers may switch to crops where their improved photosynthesis and more efficient water use more than offsets losses due to the high temperatures that climate change will bring.”

But Rosenzweig said that more field experiments are needed. “The uncertainty of carbon dioxide effects are greater in arid regions because experiments have been carried out mostly in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere,” she said. “We need field observations in these drier regions in order to validate and further improve our models.”

There is also a need for research that explores the impact of elevated carbon dioxide levels on crop nutrition, which wasn’t investigated in this study. “Crops also need nitrogen to grow, for example, and in many parts of Africa there’s not enough fertilizer,” Deryng said. “Imbalances between nitrogen and carbon in the crop tissues could lead to fewer nutrients like iron, zinc, along with a reduction in the protein content.”

The researchers say their findings cast a light on agriculture globally and highlight the importance of studying arid and semi-arid cropping systems. “For farmers, water is essential,” Deryng said. “Building on this research will help them and other stakeholders prepare for production in a hotter, drier planet.”

To read the study, visit Nature Climate Change.

For more information on Earth science research at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, visit

By Samson Reiny: NASA's Earth Science News Team

For further information, contact Delphine Deryng.


( Editor: Karl Hille: NASA)

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€229 Million Project to Build the Next Earth Explorer to Better Understand How the Earth's Forests Store Carbon from Carbon Dioxide Released off Burning Fossil Fuels

To improve our understanding of the Earth system and the impact human activity is having on natural processes ESA harnesses the relationship between science and technology. This way, innovative missions are forged that address the most urgent scientific questions of our time. Understanding Earth: Released 11/06/2012 1:24 pm: Copyright ESA

|| May 03: 2016 || ESA and Airbus Defence and Space UK signed a €229 million contract on 29 April to build the next Earth Explorer: the Biomass satellite, due to begin its mission in 2021.

The satellite will provide global maps of how much carbon is stored in the world’s forests and how this stock is changing over time, mainly through the absorption of carbon dioxide, which is released from burning fossil fuels.

The Earth Explorer Biomass mission addresses one of the most fundamental questions in our understanding of the land component in the Earth system: what is the status of our forests, as represented by the distribution of biomass and how is forest biomass changing? Biomass: Released 21/01/2013 12:00 pm: Copyright ESA/AOES Medialab

Biomass will also provide essential support to UN treaties on the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Earth Explorer missions focus on the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and Earth’s interior. Learning more about the interactions between these components and the impact that human activity is having on natural Earth processes is emphasised.

 Forest type and forest cover worldwide can be detected by today’s satellites but Biomass will take the information to a different level. Due for launch in 2021, the satellite will carry the first P-band synthetic aperture radar, able to deliver accurate maps of tropical, temperate and boreal forest biomass – the global mass of trees is not obtainable by ground measurement techniques. The five-year mission will witness at least eight growth cycles in the world’s forests.

Flying in a near-polar, Sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 660 km, it will measure biomass at a resolution of 200 m and deforestation at 50 m. In addition, the mission will have an experimental ‘tomographic’ phase to provide 3D views of forests.

Signature of contract on April 29, 2016 to develop the Biomass satellite. Front row (from right): ESA Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Volker Liebig; Rt Hon. Jo Johnson MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science; Andrew Stroomer, UK National Director of Airbus Defence and Space's Earth Observation, Navigation and Science (ENS) division. Back row (from left): Michael Menking, Director ENS, Katherine Courtney, UK Space Agency Chief Executive, and Colin Paynter, Managing Director Airbus Defence and Space Ltd. 03/05/2016 1:02 pm: Copyright ESA

The radar will provide all-weather imaging from space, providing measurements to determine the amount of carbon stored in forests, thereby improving our understanding of the carbon cycle.

The data will support REDD+, a UN climate change initiative aimed at reducing emissions from deforestation, by systematically monitoring forests in vulnerable areas with no need for ground intervention.

 “Biomass is another one of those missions reaching the frontiers, technically speaking,” noted Volker Liebig, Director of ESA’s Earth Observation Programmes at the contract signing in Stevenage, UK. “Just like our other Earth Explorers, it is a first. It will be the first P-band radar instrument in space delivering information on the actual carbon mass in Earth’s forests, information that is fundamental for a better understanding of the carbon cycle and global biomass.”

Observations from this new mission will also lead to better insight into rates of habitat loss and, therefore, the effect this may have on biodiversity in the forest environment.

The mission will offer the opportunity to map subsurface geology in deserts, movements of ice sheets and the topography of forest floors.

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Neste: NEXBTL: The Greener Alternative

NEXBTL technology allows flexible use of different vegetable oils and waste animal fat as raw material: Petri Lehmus: Vice President: R&D. Image: Neste


|| April 30: 2016 || With the NEXBTL technology, we can make top-quality renewable diesel and other renewable products out of nearly any waste fat or vegetable oil. Largely due to our technology, we have become the leading producer of renewable diesel in the world, with an annual production volume of more than 2 million tons.

NEXBTL technology is based on the hydrogen treatment of vegetable oils and waste animal fat. The renewable diesel we refine is hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), while the conventional biodiesel (FAME) has been made using the esterification method. The quality of our Neste Renewable Diesel is superior compared to traditional biodiesels. Unlike conventional biodiesel, the quality of Neste Renewable Diesel remains excellent even when the raw materials change. As a byproduct, NEXBTL technology can be utilized to make, for instance, renewable gasoline, and biobropane.

Neste Renewable Diesel can be used as such to replace fossil diesel, since their chemical consistency is similar. It can also be mixed with fossil diesel without any restrictions, or used in even at 100% concentration.

Due to its chemical consistency, it can also replace fossil raw material in uses other than traffic fuel. Neste's renewable fuels have been used and tested in airplanes, as a blending component for aviation fuel, in turbines, generators, ships, yachts, and the working machines used at mines and construction sites. Additionally, Neste Renewable Diesel can be used in the chemical industry, for instance as raw material for renewable plastics or as a renewable solvent in paints.

Neste's Renewable Diesel is Powering San Francisco's City Fleet

Neste's NEXBTL renewable diesel is now being used by the City and County of San Francisco, California. San Francisco announced December 11, 2015 that the City and County of San Francisco has completely ended its use of petroleum diesel in the City's fleet and replaced it with renewable diesel. This switch from petroleum diesel to renewable diesel will achieve a significant 50 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction to the city's diesel fleet.

City of San Francisco is now the largest city in North America to use renewable diesel. Earlier this year, the City of San Francisco tested Neste's renewable diesel followed by an announcement that they will switch all of their diesel fleet to renewable diesel by the end of this year. City of San Francisco operates 1,966 diesel powered vehicles, which are all now using renewable diesel. The annual consumption is about 5.8 million gallons of diesel fuel. This change will completely end the use of petroleum diesel at the 53 City-run fueling facilities immediately.

"As the global climate negotiations conclude, San Francisco and cities worldwide must continue to lead by taking bold actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions immediately," said Mayor Edwin M. Lee. "These actions cannot wait. San Francisco has ended its use of petroleum diesel to fill up the City's fleet of vehicles and will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality for our residents immediately today."

Neste's renewable diesel has been widely available in California since 2012 and is a significant contributor to the continuing success of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard and Governor Jerry Brown's executive order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by state agencies.

"Neste's renewable diesel is a solution to reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and tailpipe emissions, which municipalities can greatly benefit from. Switching to it doesn't require any additional investments on infrastructure or engine modifications. Thus, fleets can switch to renewable diesel overnight", says Kaisa Hietala, Executive Vice President, Renewable Products, Neste Corporation. "Neste is proud and happy to support San Francisco through the supply of renewable diesel. We feel privileged to help the City and County of San Francisco become more sustainable. It is our vision to give public and private fleets, as well as consumers, options to make such responsible choices", continues Hietala.

Neste's renewable diesel is supplied to the City of San Francisco by Golden Gate Petroleum which is one of the first distributors of Neste's renewable diesel in the USA. Golden Gate Petroleum sells Neste product through NeXgen Fuel, a company dedicated to bringing next generation fuels to the market.

"As an industry leader in fuel distribution, Golden Gate Petroleum is pleased to offer Neste's superior quality renewable fuel to our existing and new customers. To date, we have had no customer complaints and only positive feedback about this 100% sustainable fuel." Pat O'Keefe Vice President of Golden Gate Petroleum and CEO of Nexgen Fuel.

Increasing number of cities and private fleets switching to Neste renewable diesel

Many cities and corporations worldwide are now looking into ways to reduce emissions and carbon footprint. Neste renewable diesel is increasingly being used to improve sustainability and air quality. In the United States California leads and shows example to others.

Neste renewable diesel plays significant role in the implementation of California's climate plan. Earlier this fall Californian cities Walnut Creek and Oakland switched their diesel powered municipal fleet to Neste renewable diesel. On December 9th, the California Department of General Services (DGS) issued a memo stating that "State agencies shall purchase state-contracted renewable diesel fuel, in lieu of conventional diesel and biodiesel fuels, when making bulk purchases of fuel for diesel powered vehicles and/or equipment." Neste renewable diesel will be supplied to the California DGS. Neste renewable diesel is also being used by many private fleets including Google's gBuses and UPS' delivery trucks.

Contact at Neste Corporation

Kaisa Lipponen: Director, Corporate Communications

Further information:

Neste US: Tuija Kalpala, Marketing Manager, Neste US, Inc., tel. +1 (832) 840-4707, tuija.kalpala@neste.com

About Neste: Neste is a forerunner in oil refining and renewable solutions. We offer our customers cleaner traffic solutions and industrial products based on cutting-edge research. We are the leading producer of renewable diesel in the world, with an annual production volume of more than 2 million tons. We are also the world's largest producer of renewable fuels from waste and residues. Our sustainable practices have received recognition in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index and the Global 100 list of the world's most sustainable companies. In 2014, our revenue amounted to EUR 15 billion. Neste shares are listed on NASDAQ Helsinki. Cleaner traffic, energy and life are moved forward by 5,000 professionals. Learn more at    or

About Golden Gate Petroleum: Family owned Golden Gate Petroleum was founded in 1946 and is one of the largest petroleum and biofuel distributors in the Western United States. Golden Gate first started distributing alternative fuels in 1996 and became one of the first US distributors for Neste renewable diesel in 2013. For more information please visit

About NeXgen Fuel is a sister company to Golden Gate Petroleum, distributing Renewable Fuels to fleets and consumers. NeXgen'sfirst fuel is NeXDiesel, which is based on Neste's Neste renewable diesel is  available to fleet customers and for distribution. NeXgen Fuel plans to rapidly expand across the country with both renewable diesel and gasoline substitute next generation fuels.

Neste Research into Other Raw Materials for Fuel

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Pacific Alliance Acts on Climate Change: Business Supports Green Growth Platform in the Region

|| April 30: 2016 || 26 companies with operations across Pacific Alliance countries (Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru) have added their voice in support of climate action by pledging their commitment to work with government to create a supportive environment for green growth.

The letter is in response to the declaration, ‘Plataforma de Crecimiento Verde’ made by Pacific Alliance Ministers of the Environment last month, which signalled that the region has entered a new phase in which governments seek common opportunities to promote green growth.

The letter demonstrates the desire for a deeper form of collaboration in the region – both within countries and between public and private sectors. It marks an opportunity for government and the private sector to collaborate together from the beginning to help achieve real and lasting change in the region.

Read the letter in English

Read the letter in Spanish

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Climate Action Summit 2016: Catalysing a Sustainable Future: May 05-06: Washington DC

Image: Climate Action

|| April 28: 2016 || Climate Action 2016 Summit for Catalysing a Sustainable Future which is being jointly co-hosted by seven organisations bringing together 700 Participants including leaders from government, business, finance, academia, philanthropy and civil society. This is the future of work, this the future of achieving greater good: working together with one unequivocal goal: to achieve a sustainable path of life on earth.

Why?

Climate change is the defining issue of our age. The landmark Paris Agreement reached last December commits all countries to holding global temperature rise to “well below 2 degrees Celsius”. This feat will require economy-wide global and national transformations. A robust, multi-sector response will be a key component of this solution to pivot societies toward a more sustainable future for all – the future we want.

Our understanding of climate change is rapidly evolving—from the world’s biggest problem, to the world’s biggest opportunity. Technological change, citizen mobilization, economic and political competition, and the formation of massive public-private coalitions have all helped turn the climate action risk-reward equation on its head.

But that’s not the end of the story; it’s the beginning. The Paris Agreement recognizes that the new climate regime will create climate solutions markets that are “bottom up” as well as “top down.” The Agreement calls for the active support of business and finance, mayors and governors, academia and civil society, as well as national governments. The new climate regime will create a floor for progress, not a ceiling, and look to coalitions of all these actors to determine how we can accelerate ambition and achieve the kind of progress necessary to secure our future.

What?

The Climate Action 2016 multi-stakeholder summit will take place two weeks after the signing ceremony of the Paris Agreement, and eight months after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals by all the governments of the world. In this context, the summit will serve to strengthen the multi-stakeholder approach to climate implementation. In particular, it will deepen and expand the action coalitions of government, business, finance, philanthropy, civil society and academic leaders launched at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit 2014 in New York, and since then developed through the Lima to Paris Action Agenda.

Climate Action 2016 will seek to make this broad-scale organization of climate action both more effective and sustainable, and provide a launching pad for climate implementation in the pre-2020 period.

Over the course of two days, the summit will drive high-level engagement with global luminaries addressing plenary sessions on how to deliver on climate commitments and embed the transformation agenda across the globe in government, key sectors and among the general population. At the same time, the summit will focus on convening working groups for sessions on near-term implementation actions and long-term implementation needs. These will focus on City and Sub-national implementation; Transport; Land-use; Energy; Resilience/Adaptation; and Analysis and Tools to Support Decision Making.

Who

Effective climate implementation will require collaboration from a variety of actors. The Climate Action 2016 summit will engage approximately 700 participants, by invitation, representing leaders from government, business, finance, academia, philanthropy and civil society. Seven organizations have come together to jointly co-host the summit, providing this diverse group with the information, connections and tools they need to lead effective implementation in a new climate regime. The co-hosts are:

H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations
Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group
Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change; Founding Partner, Compact of Mayors
Dr. Naoko Ishii, Chief Executive Officer, Global Environment Facility
Dr. Judith Rodin, President, Rockefeller Foundation
Mr. Peter Bakker, Chief Executive Officer, World Business Council on Sustainable Development
Mr. Nigel Topping, Chief Executive Officer, We Mean Business
Dr. Wallace Loh, President, University of Maryland

The co-hosts will be joined by partners from multiple sectors to advance climate action coalitions.

European Investment Bank
Inter-American Development Bank
Sustainable Energy for All
United Nations Foundation
World Resources Institute
The Smithsonian Institution
International Bar Association
People+Planet Project
The Global Brain

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Star RAW Join Forces and Invite the Green Visionaries to Join the Battle Against the Microfiber Polluting Our Oceans

Photo credit: C-Jason Childs – Jimbaran Bay
 

|| April 27: 2016: Amsterdam || In 2025, there would be one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish in the oceans, and in 2050 the weight of plastic would overtake that of fish. The cause of this future scenario partly lies in our clothing. G-Star and the Plastic Soup Foundation are now joining forces to stop this process in its tracks with a battle against the microfiber.

Machine washing of clothes is a big source of plastic pollution in the oceans. Every time we do the laundry, synthetic garments shed small plastic fibers that end up in the water and pollute rivers and oceans.

Leading European research recently showed that a fleece releases an incredible 1 million microfibers every time it is washed,” says Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation. “If you imagine that every day a couple of billion people around the world wash their clothing and that almost every item of clothing contains plastic nowadays, you can easily see why it is imperative to deal with this cause of the plastic soup immediately. ”Westerbos continues. “G-Star is the first fashion brand that recognises and supports the need for innovation.”

The Plastic Soup Foundation and G-Star are calling on other fashion companies, washing machine manufacturers and the textile industry to support the international Ocean Clean Wash. The signatories of this initiative will contribute to the development of one or more innovative solutions to prevent the release of plastic fibres from garments in the future, such as fabrics that do not release microfibers or washing machine filters that capture the released fibers. Technological center LEITAT collaborates in the initiative to research the technical feasibility of the solutions proposed.

Frouke Bruinsma, CR Director of G-Star says: “With RAW for the Oceans we were the first to make denim from recycled ocean plastic and we are now starting to completely replace the 10% conventional polyester in our collection with recycled plastic. We want to continue to create progress through sustainable innovation and join forces with the Plastic Soup Foundation to battle the microfiber problem. Only a strong alliance of dedicated stakeholders around the world can turn the tide. Everyone is welcome to join us.”

Plastic Soup Foundation: Maria Westerbos – Director: T: +31 (0)6 – 510 90 691: E: maria@plasticsoupfoundation.org:

LEITAT: Lola Rodríguez - International Project Manager for Marine, Maritime and Coastal affairs: T: +34 93 788 23 00: E: lrodriguez@leitat.org

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Carbon Dioxide Fertilization Greening Earth, Study Finds

Samson Reiny Writing

This image shows the change in leaf area across the globe from 1982-2015. Credits: Boston University/R. Myneni


|| April 26: 2016 || From a quarter to half of Earth’s vegetated lands has shown significant greening over the last 35 years largely due to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change on April 25.

An international team of 32 authors from 24 institutions in eight countries led the effort, which involved using satellite data from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer instruments to help determine the leaf area index, or amount of leaf cover, over the planet’s vegetated regions. The greening represents an increase in leaves on plants and trees equivalent in area to two times the continental United States.

Green leaves use energy from sunlight through photosynthesis to chemically combine carbon dioxide drawn in from the air with water and nutrients tapped from the ground to produce sugars, which are the main source of food, fiber and fuel for life on Earth. Studies have shown that increased concentrations of carbon dioxide increase photosynthesis, spurring plant growth.

However, carbon dioxide fertilization isn’t the only cause of increased plant growth—nitrogen, land cover change and climate change by way of global temperature, precipitation and sunlight changes all contribute to the greening effect. To determine the extent of carbon dioxide’s contribution, researchers ran the data for carbon dioxide and each of the other variables in isolation through several computer models that mimic the plant growth observed in the satellite data.

Results showed that carbon dioxide fertilization explains 70 percent of the greening effect, said co-author Ranga Myneni, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Boston University. “The second most important driver is nitrogen, at 9 percent. So we see what an outsized role CO2 plays in this process.”

About 85 percent of Earth’s ice-free lands is covered by vegetation. The area covered by all the green leaves on Earth is equal to, on average, 32 percent of Earth’s total surface area - oceans, lands and permanent ice sheets combined. The extent of the greening over the past 35 years “has the ability to fundamentally change the cycling of water and carbon in the climate system,” said lead author Zaichun Zhu, a researcher from Peking University, China, who did the first half of this study with Myneni as a visiting scholar at Boston University.

Every year, about half of the 10 billion tons of carbon emitted into the atmosphere from human activities remains temporarily stored, in about equal parts, in the oceans and plants. “While our study did not address the connection between greening and carbon storage in plants, other studies have reported an increasing carbon sink on land since the 1980s, which is entirely consistent with the idea of a greening Earth,” said co-author Shilong Piao of the College of Urban and Environmental Sciences at Peking University.

While rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the air can be beneficial for plants, it is also the chief culprit of climate change. The gas, which traps heat in Earth’s atmosphere, has been increasing since the industrial age due to the burning of oil, gas, coal and wood for energy and is continuing to reach concentrations not seen in at least 500,000 years. The impacts of climate change include global warming, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and sea ice as well as more severe weather events.

The beneficial impacts of carbon dioxide on plants may also be limited, said co-author Dr. Philippe Ciais, associate director of the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences, Gif-suv-Yvette, France. “Studies have shown that plants acclimatize, or adjust, to rising carbon dioxide concentration and the fertilization effect diminishes over time.”

“While the detection of greening is based on data, the attribution to various drivers is based on models,” said co-author Josep Canadell of the Oceans and Atmosphere Division in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Canberra, Australia. Canadell added that while the models represent the best possible simulation of Earth system components, they are continually being improved.

Read the paper at Nature Climate Change

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities, visit

By Samson Reiny

NASA's Earth Science News Team: For further information, contact Ranga Myneni at Boston University
( Editor: Karl Hille: NASA)

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What Exactly is NaturVention and What is a Naava Wall?

Image: NaturVention

|| April 26: 2016 ||  After years of great efforts and thorough research and development work NaturVention launched its new product Naava® Smart, the world’s smartest green wall. Naava Smart combines nature, patented technology, Finnish handcraft and Scandinavian design.

Smart optimizes indoor air quality and humidity by measuring 14 variables from the surroundings. It adjusts the working environment to be the as healthy as possible. NaturboOS artificial intelligence controls automatically the Smart’s functions such as irrigation, air circulation and lights. The green wall is connected to a cloud serviced remote control system that provides information about current weather conditions. This way Smart can even forecast how outdoors will affect indoor climate.

Naava Smart has been designed with ease of use and the pure lines of Scandinavian design in mind. The demanding design was done by Finnish Buorre Creations.

"Our goal was to create a timeless product with clear lines, and at the same time use brand new and interesting design. The project involved many technical special requirements as the product needs to be airtight and waterproof, to name a few details. We are pleased how boldly the NaturVention team responded to our unconventional solutions," says Tuomas Paananen, design manager of Buorre.

Image: CleanTech Finland

Great Place to Work winner Vincit chose Naava Smart

Finnish high-growth software company Vincit wants to promote and maintain wellbeing of their employees in every way possible, and the company has been chosen already twice to be the best place to work in Finland in the Great Place to Work competition. Providing its personnel the best indoor air at the workplace supports Vincit’s wellbeing ambitions perfectly.

"We researched different options when we planned our new office. Naava Smarts are forward-looking and represent the Finnish entrepreneurial spirit," says Jarkko Järvenpää, Sales Director of Vincit.

Image: NaturVention

"We listen to people and want to answer their wishes. The physical spaces and working equipment are crucial for this. The investment in wellbeing has also paid of. Our growth and profitability are top class in our line of business," Järvenpää continues.

From this day forward everyone can choose healthier indoor air with the price of EUR 179 per month. The investment pays itself back quickly since healthier indoor air makes us feel better, get sick less often and work more efficiently.

Discover how NaturVention green walls boost your business.

NaturVention

NaturVention says: Fresh air should be a human right. At the moment, indoor air is unhealthy in every major city in the world. We believe that fresh air should be available everyone. We created Naava to build a healthier environment, by combining nature with high technology. NaturVention

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New Maps Chart Greenland Glaciers' Melting Risk

The new maps show that the seafloor under Store Glacier, shown here, is almost 2,000 feet (600 meters) deeper than previously thought. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ian Fenty

|| April 23: 2016 || Many large glaciers in Greenland are at greater risk of melting from below than previously thought, according to new maps of the seafloor around Greenland created by an international research team. Like other recent research findings, the maps highlight the critical importance of studying the seascape under Greenland's coastal waters to better understand and predict global sea level rise.

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine; NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California; and other research institutions combined all observations their various groups had made during shipboard surveys of the seafloors in the Uummannaq and Vaigat fjords in west Greenland between 2007 and 2014 with related data from NASA's Operation Icebridge and the NASA/U.S. Geological Survey Landsat satellites. They used the combined data to generate comprehensive maps of the ocean floor around 14 Greenland glaciers. Their findings show that previous estimates of ocean depth in this area were as much as several thousand feet too shallow.

Why does this matter? Because glaciers that flow into the ocean melt not only from above, as they are warmed by sun and air, but from below, as they are warmed by water.

In most of the world, a deeper seafloor would not make much difference in the rate of melting, because typically ocean water is warmer near the surface and colder below. But Greenland is exactly the opposite. Surface water down to a depth of almost a thousand feet (300 meters) comes mostly from Arctic river runoff. This thick layer of frigid, fresher water is only 33 to 34 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius). Below it is a saltier layer of warmer ocean water. This layer is currently more than more than 5 degrees F (3 degrees C) warmer than the surface layer, and climate models predict its temperature could increase another 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C) by the end of this century.

About 90 percent of Greenland's glaciers flow into the ocean, including the newly mapped ones. In generating estimates of how fast these glaciers are likely to melt, researchers have relied on older maps of seafloor depth that show the glaciers flowing into shallow, cold seas. The new study shows that the older maps were wrong.

"While we expected to find deeper fjords than previous maps showed, the differences are huge," said Eric Rignot of UCI and JPL, lead author of a paper on the research. "They are measured in hundreds of meters, even one kilometer [3,300 feet] in one place." The difference means that the glaciers actually reach deeper, warmer waters, making them more vulnerable to faster melting as the oceans warm.

Coauthor Ian Fenty of JPL noted that earlier maps were based on sparse measurements mostly collected several miles offshore. Mapmakers assumed that the ocean floor sloped upward as it got nearer the coast. That's a reasonable supposition, but it's proving to be incorrect around Greenland.

A comparison of the newly compiled map of the Uummannaq fjord area (left) and an older map (right). Red areas indicate shallower depths, blues and purples deeper. Credits: UCI/NASA/JPL-Caltech

Rignot and Fenty are co-investigators in NASA's five-year Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) field campaign, which is creating similar charts of the seafloor for the entire Greenland coastline. Fenty said that OMG's first mapping cruise last summer found similar results. "Almost every glacier that we visited was in waters that were far, far deeper than the maps showed."

The researchers also found that besides being deeper overall, the seafloor depth is highly variable. For example, the new map revealed one pair of side-by-side glaciers whose bottom depths vary by about 1,500 feet (500 meters). "These data help us better interpret why some glaciers have reacted to ocean warming while others have not," Rignot said.

The lack of detailed maps has hampered climate modelers like Fenty who are attempting to predict the melting of the glaciers and their contribution to global sea level rise. "The first time I looked at this area and saw how few data were available, I just threw my hands up," Fenty said. "If you don't know the seafloor depth, you can’t do a meaningful simulation of the ocean circulation."

The maps are published in a paper titled "Bathymetry data reveal glaciers vulnerable to ice-ocean interaction in Uummannaq and Vaigat glacial fjords, west Greenland," in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The other collaborating institutions are Durham University and the University of Cambridge, both in the U.K.; GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research, Kiel, Germany; and the University of Texas at Austin.

For more information on OMG, visit: https://omg.jpl.nasa.gov/portal

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/earth

Alan Buis: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California: 818-354-0474: Alan.buis@jpl.nasa.gov

Brian Bell: University of California, Irvine: 949-824-8249: bpbell@uci.edu

Written by Carol Rasmussen: NASA Earth Science News Team: 2016-110

( Editor: Tony Greicius:  NASA)

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An Accurate Inventory of Ship Traffic Emissions for the European Sea Areas


 
|| April 21: 2016 || Novel inventory of shipping emissions has been made for whole Europe. The inventory has been compiled using a model that uses the Automatic Identification Signals of ships in determining their location and movements. The inventory is therefore versatile, detailed and accurate, compared with the previously available inventories.
 
Emissions originating from ship traffic in European sea areas were modelled using the Ship Traffic Emission Assessment Model (STEAM), which uses Automatic Identification System data to describe ship traffic activity. We report the emission totals, the seasonal variation, the geographical distribution of emissions, and their disaggregation between various ship types and flag states.
 
The total ship emissions of CO2, NOx, SOx, CO, and PM2.5 in Europe for year 2011 were estimated to be 121, 3.0, 1.2, 0.2, and 0.2 million tonness, respectively. The emissions of CO2 from the Baltic Sea were evaluated to be more than a half (55 %) of the emissions of the North Sea shipping; the combined contribution of these two sea regions was almost as high (88 %) as the total emissions from ships in the Mediterranean.
 
As expected, the shipping emissions of SOx were significantly lower in the SOx Emission Control Areas, compared with the corresponding values in the Mediterranean. Shipping in the Mediterranean Sea is responsible for 40 and 49% of the European ship emitted CO2 and SOx emissions, respectively. 

The study reported significantly smaller emissions of NOx, SOx, and CO for shipping in the Mediterranean than the EMEP inventory; however, the reported PM2:5 emissions were in a fairly good agreement with the corresponding values reported by EMEP. The vessels registered to all EU member states are responsible for 55% of the total CO2 emitted by ships in the study area. The vessels under the flags of convenience were responsible for 25% of the total CO2 emissions.


More information: Dr. Jukka-Pekka Jalkanen, jukka-pekka.jalkanen@fmi.fi, tel. +358 50 919 5455 Prof. Jaakko Kukkonen, Jaakko.Kukkonen@fmi.fi, tel. +358 50 520 2684

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March 2016 is the Hottest on Record

Bob Silberg Writing

Image: NASA


|| April 21: 2016 || March 2016 set a new record temperature for that time of year, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The global temperature was 2.30 °F (1.28 °C) warmer than the average for March from 1951 to 1980, which is used as a baseline.

Every month this year has broken the record for that month. January was 2.03 °F (1.13 °C) hotter than the baseline for previous Januaries and February was 2.41 °F (1.34 °C) hotter than the baseline for previous Februaries.

So far, the last six months in a row have had record-setting heat.

By Bob Silberg: NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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World Leaders Must Remember, April 22 IS the Mother Earth Day as They Gather at the Climate Change Agreement Signing Ceremony

 

Mother Earth Rise: Posted: December 19, 2015 NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Only Way Is Mother Earth's Way

||April 20, 2016 || To keep the global spotlight focused on climate change and build on the strong political momentum from Paris, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited representatives of all countries to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change at a special Ceremony at the United Nations Headquarters on April 22. The Signing Ceremony takes place on the first day that the Agreement will be open for signatures, and marks the first step toward ensuring that the Agreement enters into legal force as quickly as possible.

The Paris Agreement was adopted by all 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at COP21 in Paris on December 12.  2015. In the agreement, all countries agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and given the grave risks, to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. Implementation of the Paris Agreement is essential for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and provides a roadmap for climate actions that will reduce emissions and build climate resilience.

Out of 196 Parties to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change 162 countries of the world  so far have indicated to joining the signing ceremony and sign the agreement.

The Paris Agreement will be open for signature by the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on April 22 and will remain open for signature for one year.

Ecology COP21 Paris 2015 Climate Change Action Now

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How Climate Change Dries up Mountain Streams

Image: The University of Utah

||April 19, 2016: The University of Utah News || The western United States relies on mountain snow for its water supply. Water stored as snow in the mountains during winter replenishes groundwater and drives river runoff in spring, filling reservoirs for use later in summer. But how could a warming globe and a changing climate interrupt this process?

In a new study published today in Environmental Research Letters, a team of hydrologists that includes University of Utah professor Paul Brooks answers that question by simulating isolated climate change effects on Rocky Mountain stream systems, varying the type of precipitation (rain vs. snow) and the amount of energy (temperature) in the system. The answer, they found, depends less on how water enters the stream watershed, and more on how it leaves.

Balancing the water budget

Hydrologists often construct water budgets to account for all the ways water enters and leaves a system. In the case of a mountain stream, water enters as precipitation but only a portion of this water leaves as streamflow. Much of this melt water enters soils. Here it can be used by plants or evaporate directly, with water loss from both processes combined called evapotranspiration. The water can also recharge groundwater and enter the stream later in the year. And it matters whether the precipitation falls as snow or as rain.

Climate change can affect mountain streams in two major ways: By raising the overall temperature, increasing evapotranspiration, and by shifting the precipitation from snow to rain. Both impacts could significantly alter the amount of water in a stream watershed and the amount that reaches cities downstream.

So why try to separate the influence of the two factors? “As the climate becomes increasingly more variable, we need to provide water resource managers with specific guidance on how individual warm or wet years, which may not coincide, will influence water supply,” said Brooks.

Simulated streams

The team, led by doctoral student Lauren Foster at Colorado School of Mines, constructed models of two Colorado stream watersheds on both sides of the continental divide. The researchers simulated the atmospheric conditions of a typical water year, but then applied 11 simulations of various temperature alterations to see how the watersheds responded.

In baseline scenarios, without any temperature alteration, the streams behaved as expected, with a swell in streamflow during snowmelt. During snowmelt and into summer, meltwater recharged the underlying aquifer, which then sustained streamflow through the fall and winter.

When precipitation was changed from snow to rain, the stream system became “flashier,” the team writes, with the water that would have been stored as snow running off into the stream faster. Overall streamflow in this scenario decreased by 11 percent in the watershed east of the continental divide and by 18 percent west of the divide.

But warming the systems by 4 degrees Celsius resulted in more evapotranspiration, enough that groundwater had to support streamflow an entire season earlier, beginning in summer rather than in fall. Streamflow reduced by 19 percent in the east watershed and 23 percent in the west, suggesting that warmer temperatures may have more impact on streams than a transition from snow to rain.

“Changes in energy, which result in changes in evapotranspiration, outweighed the changes in the form of precipitation,” said Reed Maxwell of Colorado School of Mines.

The effects of these two climate change effects may vary with location, the team writes, and the results need to be checked against real-life environments. But the researchers’ work helps to make sense of the noisiness in climate data and helps scientists gain a clearer picture of the future of water, especially in the mountainous west.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation. The full study can be found here

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Message from Fiji: What We Want to See at the Summit is a Renewed Call to Make the Implementation of the Paris Agreement as Number One Priority in the World

||April 19, 2016 || As Fiji and Governments of more than 100 other United Nations Member States are preparing this week for the historic signing of the Paris Agreement, back in Fiji, residents of the South Pacific country are clearing debris and trying to recover from one of the region’s fiercest storms.

Fiji was hit by Cyclone Winston, a Category 5 storm, on 20 February, less than a week after the country became the first to ratify the Paris Agreement, which establishes a long term, worldwide framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

Small island developing nations, like Fiji, have led the charge on climate change, sounding the alarm because their communities are on the front lines of rising sea levels and increasing natural disasters linked to rising greenhouse gas emissions.

“We don’t realize it would be big like this because this is the first time a big cyclone, the first time a tsunami came in our village,” Vilisa Naivalubasaga from Mudu Village, on one of Fiji’s 300 islands, told the Pacific branch of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as she was preparing food with other women in a temporary shelter.

The Cyclone thrust Fiji to the centre of a narrative around climate change, sustainable development and disaster risk reduction, and the vital role for humanitarian work when these three intersect.

In the village of Nabukadra, residents are working with OCHA and partners to procure chainsaws, so they can cut fallen wood and construct new homes. This is the immediate priority, but Winston has shown the need to think longer-term about reducing the risks facing their community.

“We will discuss how we will manage to rebuild because the sea level became high,” Raivolita Tabusoro, the village’s headman said ahead of a community meeting. The group had been discussing a range of measures, including moving seafront homes further back from the water’s edge and building a seawall from boulders displaced by the cyclone.

Diplomacy and natural disasters

When Winston hit Fiji, Peter Thomson, the Pacific island nation’s Ambassador to the United Nations, was in New York and instantly aware of the key role he would have in rallying political support for assistance to his home country.

In the storm’s wake, Mr. Thomson convened a briefing to the wider UN membership on his country’s need for international assistance. He asked Member States not to issue travel advisories against visiting Fiji.

He also strongly urged Governments to follow in his country’s footsteps and promptly ratify the Paris Agreement, which will enter into force after 55 countries that account for at least 55 per cent of global emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification.

On 22 April, the Paris Agreement will be signed at the UN Headquarters in New York, with participation from more than 120 Member States. Each Government that signs the Agreement will also have to ratify it, as Fiji did, when its Parliament unanimously agreed to approve the Agreement. Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama is expected to formally sign the document on behalf of the country on Friday.

But for Mr. Thomson, the timing could not be soon enough.

“This is the worst storm I have ever seen in my lifetime,” he noted, referring to Winston.

The destruction brought back memories of Hurricane Bebe, which hit Fiji more than four decades ago when Mr. Thomson was working at a local district, and which cemented his interest in disaster preparedness and response.

“We’ve got to think about what is causing these storms,” Mr. Thomson said, stressing that climate change “puts the whole development agenda at risk.”

Mudu Village, Koro, Fiji, 2016: Vilisa Naivalubasaga, left, preparing donated food with a group of other women whose families have been left homeless by the cyclone on Koro. Photo: Danielle Parry/OCHA

Koro, Fiji, 2016: In coastal villages on Koro Island even concrete and brick buildings collapsed under the force of Category 5 Cyclone Winston. Even high on the top of this escarpment locals reported being hit with salt water whipped up into the air by the cyclone. Photo: Danielle Parry/OCHA

Disaster preparedness and resilience

A Category 5 hurricane, as measured in intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, is the strongest hurricane that can form on planet Earth. Only 11 cyclones in the Category 5 have been registered south of the equator since 1970.

Two of them hit in the past 13 months. Pam, which ripped through Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu in March 2015; and Winston, which took more than 40 lives and affected 350,000 people, about 40 per cent of Fiji’s total population.

Generally speaking, humanitarian assistance lasts at least six months,” Mr. Thomson said.

This timing comes from the fact that the provision of food is one of the most crucial, in addition to potable water, shelter and sanitation, for example, and that the fastest growing staple in the Pacific Islands – the sweet potato – takes at least six months to grow.

The recovery phase takes much longer. One year on, Vanuatu is still recovering from the devastation by Cyclone Pam. The Philippines is still rehabilitating from the wreck brought by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Five years on, Japan’s northeast coast is still healing from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

For its recovery, Fiji will follow the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, a voluntary non-binding agreement which recognizes that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk, but that responsibility should also be shared by the local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.

For example, Fiji’s disaster management system at the national level is complemented by local offices. Ahead of Winston’s landfall, the Fijian authorities, under the leadership of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), activated evacuation centres and moved people to those facilities, saving many lives. Military, police and other personnel on leave had been ordered back to active duty and worked with local officials.

But a key question, not only for Fiji but other countries, is how to make communities more resilient to such natural disaster.

In Fiji, vital disaster preparedness measures include the introduction of stringent building codes to ensure that all structures, whether in urban or rural areas, are disaster-proof.

“If your house is built on sand, you must expect to lose it when a cyclone hits,” Mr. Thomson said. “There is no point of putting a house back up again on sand.”

There are also considerations on how to build. Nails are no longer the main choice for roofing, for example. But even development projects need to be rethought. Solar panels, which are increasingly utilized in Fiji for clean energy are often placed on rooftops. Unfortunately, they are often one of the first objects to be blown away in heavy winds.

“The inevitable question is who’s next in our region,” Mr. Thomson said, stressing that Pacific island nations share an understanding that climate-caused disasters are a common challenge.

Relocating above the waves

Some village leaders on the Island of Koro have started discussing complete relocation of villages to higher ground, far away from future storm surge and rising sea levels, and have already identified suitable land if this goes ahead.

“That’s a good message coming from the villagers themselves,” said Amena Yauvoli, Fiji’s Ambassador for Climate Change and Oceans, following a visit to his home community of Nasou on the island of Koro, where Winston made landfall.

“What we have to look at is the reality of the situation on the ground,” he noted, pointing to some of the key challenges in moving affected communities to another area or potentially another country.

“Relocation comes with lots of costs and even the emotional traditions and attachment to the current village site is always there,” he said, stressing that ample time for discussions should be given before any definitive step forward by the village and the government.

More than 40 at risk communities in Fiji have been identified for relocation in the near term and two have already been moved to higher ground. There is also talk of Fiji hosting migrants from other Pacific countries where people have been displaced by climate change, if the need arises.

‘New normal’ requires higher level of planning, preparedness

Karen Allen, Pacific Representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that an increasing number of more destructive storms throughout the Pacific is “the new normal,” requiring another level of planning, preparedness and emotional strength.

The implications are immense for everything from the way that buildings are constructed – including schools and health facilities – to other critical infrastructure, such as water and power supply, to the way that families prepare themselves, their crops and their livelihoods.

“Buildings traditionally designated as evacuation centres may now be insufficient,” she added. “Community centres built to serve large numbers as evacuation centres are needed.”

One of the concerns is that many people do not understand what a “Category 5” storm means or how to protect themselves should one be forecast.

UN agencies, such as UNICEF, and partners, are investing in school-based preparedness efforts so that children will be prepared for emergencies from their youngest years. The aim of such programs is to instil in young children what needs to be done in case of natural emergencies, making it habitual, such as brushing their teeth and washing their hands.

The programs are new, but Ms. Allen says they could have wide reaching impacts: “Just as the Pacific looks to others for expertise and guidance, the rest of the world has much to learn from the Pacific region. We are, after all, experts by circumstance.”

Taking the message on to the World Humanitarian Summit

Today, about 43 per cent of the world’s population live in fragile situations, and that number is estimated to climb to 62 per cent by 2030.

“Building back better and safer is very much on people’s minds, and the World Humanitarian Summit next month is an opportunity to discuss the lessons learned from this emergency about community resilience,” said Osnat Lubrani, Humanitarian Coordinator for Fiji, referring to the international event to be held 23-24 May in Istanbul, Turkey.

The World Humanitarian Summit will be the first event of its kind in history, bringing together more than 5,000 people from governments, international organizations, civil society, Diaspora, business and academia to tackle a number of humanitarian challenges. These include how the vulnerability of people and communities can be reduced so that there is less need to deliver humanitarian aid. Read more about the World Humanitarian Summit and the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Humanity on our special webpage.

“It will be a chance for the Pacific to speak out on the need to adequately finance and invest in disaster preparedness and risk reduction to alleviate humanitarian crises. It also makes good social and economic sense for governments striving to achieve sustainable development,” said Ms. Lubrani.

Mr. Thomson is also looking ahead to the Summit with a clear message from Fiji: “What we want to see at the Summit is a renewed call to make the implementation of the Paris Agreement as number one priority in the world.”

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The Antarctic: The Tearing Apart of Iceberg

Nansen fracture: Melt waterfall into Nansen ice shelf fracture.  Released 14/04/2016 11:41 am: Copyright C. Yakiwchuck
 

||April 15, 2016|| Multiple satellites, including Europe’s Sentinels, have captured images of two large icebergs that broke away from Antarctica’s Nansen ice shelf on 7 April.

The icebergs are drifting to the northeast, propelled by wind, tides and currents. Experts say they do not pose any immediate threat of blocking supply routes to research stations such as the Italian Mario Zucchelli and South Korean Jang Bogo Stations in Terra Nova Bay.

Nonetheless, the icebergs may pose a threat to sea-floor moorings in the region that have been used by Italy’s National Antarctic Programme since the 1990s, and more recently by New Zealand ocean scientists.

The Nansen ice shelf, around 50 km long and 25 km wide, developed a fracture over recent years. Ice shelves are particularly sensitive to climate change because they can melt from warm air at the surface and warming ocean waters below.

 “The crack was first observed during fieldwork in 1999 and was progressively growing, and then accelerating during 2014,” said Massimo Frezzotti from Italy’s ENEA research organisation.

“The events following were typical for a cycle of ice-shelf calving. Last century, a first calving event is known to have occurred between 1913 and the 1950s, with a second between 1963 and 1972.”

As winter weather began to set in during early March this year, optical images from Europe’s Sentinel-2A satellite and radar images from Sentinel-1A, together with images from the Italian Cosmo-Skymed mission, indicated that the ice front was only tenuously attached to the shelf.

 By 6 April, the fracture had reached about 40 km long before it severed the portion of the ice front between Inexpressible Island to the north and the Drygalski Ice Tongue – the floating end of the David Glacier – to the south.

Verified by NASA’s Terra satellite, the calving took place on 7 April during persistent strong offshore winds. Two days later, Sentinel-1A’s radar confirmed the separation.

East Antarctica: Map showing Victoria Land coast, East Antarctica and Terra Nova Bay. The red box indicates the general location of satellite imagery over the Nansen Ice Shelf. Released 14/04/2016 10:42 am: Copyright ESA – M. Drinkwater

 

“The area of the fracture was still negligible at the beginning of 2014, but between April 2015 and March 2016 it expanded from 11.68 sq km to 25.87 sq km, signalling a coming calving,” said Flavio Parmiggiani of Italy’s ISAC-CNR research organisation.

 The fracture split the ice shelf along its length, resulting in two large icebergs measuring about 10 km and 20 km in length and 5 km across. Published research indicates that the bergs are likely to be around 250–270 m thick.

Massimo Frezzotti explained, “History has shown that major calving typically occurs about every 30 years. The crack opened because of a difference in the velocity of ice between the northern Priestley Glacier and southern Reeves Glacier fed portions of the ice shelf, caused by the southern part being hooked and pulled along by the faster moving Drygalski Tongue.”

The Sentinels are a fleet of satellites for Europe’s Copernicus environment monitoring programme. The second in the Sentinel-1 constellation, Sentinel-1B, is set for launch on 22 April.

“This event illustrates the complexity of the constantly evolving Antarctic icescape,” said ESA’s Mark Drinkwater and Chair of the Polar Space Task Group.

“Copernicus data already provide a critical source of sustained data for studying the impact of the climate on the polar cryosphere over the next decades.”

This unique combination of Sentinel high-resolution optical and radar images, together with information from other missions, demonstrates how satellites are invaluable sources of data to the study of ice shelf calving. This allows researchers to monitor the future response of the glaciers to the removal of the ice shelves, improving ice sheet modelling and predictions.

Enrico Brugnoli, Director of Italy’s CNR National Research Council Earth and Environment Department, commented, “This event has happened so close to our Mario Zucchelli coastal station and it is the first time satellites have captured an event of this size since Italy has been operating in the area in 1985.”

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Seeking Green Innovation: NASA Supercomputer Simulations Help Improve Aircraft Propulsion Design

Kimberly Williams Writing

Image credit: NASA Ames / Tim Sandstrom


||April 14, 2016||NASA and aviation industry partners are collaborating on the development of green aviation technologies. One concept studied at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in California’s Silicon Valley, is the contra-rotating open rotor propulsion system, which has two ultra-thin blades spinning in opposite directions on the same shaft, similar to the blades on a giant kitchen blender. These contra-rotating blades rotate around the outside of a turbofan jet engine, like that commonly used in modern airliners. This unique design allows air to flow more efficiently through the turbofan blades to improve flight performance, reduce carbon emissions and decrease blade rotation noise.

For the past year, researchers at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) facility at Ames have produced first-of-a kind simulations of sound produced by air – aeroacoustics – to reliably predict noise sources for contra-rotating open rotors. This image was generated from a computer simulation of a contra-rotating, open-rotor design in which red particles are “released” on the upstream blades, blue on the aft blades. Solid colors are released on the blade tips, while faded colors are on the blade trailing edges. The basket-weave pattern shows where particles interact with each other — one of the sources of blade noise.

Using computational fluid dynamics methods and the Pleiades supercomputer, the NAS team verified the simulation accuracy and compared sound pressure level ranges with extensive wind tunnel test data from NASA’s Glenn Research Center and General Electric. Their simulations and results matched closely with the wind tunnel test results for sounds produced by the rotating blades.

The analysis requires a massive amount of computing power and time. Currently, the NAS team is researching ways to speed up the simulation and analysis process and cut down on computing resources needed to design planes that are more Earth-friendly.

More information and simulation video on the NAS website


​Visualizer/Animator: Tim Sandstrom (CSC Government Solutions LLC), Ames Research Center
Scientists: Michael F. Barad, Christoph Brehm (USRA), Jeffrey Housman, Cetin Kiris, Ames Research Center
Writer: Jill Dunbar (CSC Government Solutions LLC), Ames Research Center

Media contact: Kimberly Williams, Ames Research Center
 

( Editor: Kimberly Williams: NASA)

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Soils Could Play Key Role in Locking Away Greenhouse Gases: New Research

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 07, 2016: The world's soils could potentially store an extra 8 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases, helping to limit the impacts of climate change, says a new study from a team including Professor Pete Smith from the University of Aberdeen,

The study, published in the journal Nature, was led by Professor Keith Paustian from Colorado State University, in collaboration with Cornell University, Michigan State University and the Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

The study states that adopting the latest technologies and sustainable land use practices on a global scale could allow more emissions to be stored in farmland and natural wild spaces.

Growing crops with deeper root systems, using charcoal-based composts, applying sustainable agriculture practices and restoring drained peatlands could help soils retain an amount of carbon equivalent to a significant proportion of annual emissions released by the burning of fossils fuels.

The role that soils could play in efforts to combat climate change has until now been largely overlooked, owing to a lack of effective monitoring tools however advances in technology have enabled researchers to work out their full potential.

The study states that coordinated efforts involving scientists, policymakers and land users are key to achieving any meaningful increase in soil storage of greenhouse gases and resources should be provided to help reduce the environmental impact of farms.

Community-based initiatives could be used to help to overcome cultural barriers, funding issues and monitoring challenges to achieve a global increase in soil uptake. For example the Cool Farm Tool, a free online greenhouse gas calculator for crop growers, help farmers measure, manage and reduce emissions from their land.

Previous research shows that soils currently store around 2.4 trillion tonnes of greenhouse gases, which are stored underground as stable organic matter.

Professor Pete Smith, of the Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Aberdeen, said: “Soils have probably been overlooked as you cannot see the large carbon stocks they contain, whereas you can see trees growing and getting bigger. It is also difficult to easily measure changes in soil carbon, as changes are slow and we are trying to measure a small change against a large background. But after International Year of Soils in 2015, and the French Government's initiative to increase soil carbon stocks to tackle climate change agreed at the Paris climate summit last December, soils are now firmly on the climate change agenda.”

Professor Dave Reay, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, added: “In the fight to avoid dangerous climate change in the 21st Century we need heavyweight allies. One of the most powerful is right beneath our feet. Soils are already huge stores of carbon and improved management can make them even bigger. Too long have they been overlooked as a means to tackle climate change. Too often have problems of accurate measurement and reporting stymied progress towards climate-smart soil management. With the surge in availability of 'big data' on soils around the world, alongside rapid improvements in understanding and modelling, the time has come for this big-hitter to enter the ring.”
 

Issued by the Communications Team: Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen: Laura Graham: Issued on: 06 April 2016

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The White House Scientific Assessment on Impact of Climate Change to Human Health in the United States

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: The White House

April 06, 2016: Fact Sheet: This week, the Obama Administration released a new report on the impacts of climate change on our health. It's called "The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment," and it was developed over three years by approximately one hundred experts in climate-change science on public health. The report significantly advances what we know about climate change's impact on public health – not just in the future, but right now.

In reading it, one fact is clear: Every person is vulnerable to the health impacts associated with climate change. We’ll see worsening allergy and asthma conditions, an increase in the number of premature deaths caused by extreme heat, an increase in water-related illnesses, and more.

While the President’s Clean Power Plan takes strides to address these challenges, there are also a number of steps you can take – for both yourself and your family – in order to be prepared. Here is a summary of some key risks from the reports findings, as well as some helpful resources to help you stay both informed and healthy.

Obama Administration Releases Scientific Assessment on Impact of Climate Change to Human Health in the United States

Today, delivering on another commitment in the President’s Climate Action Plan, the Obama Administration released a new final report called The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, which significantly advances what we know about the impacts of climate change on public health, and the confidence with which we know it.

Developed over three years by approximately one hundred experts in climate-change science and public health – including representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) – the Climate and Health Assessment reinforces that climate change is a significant threat to the health of the American people not just in the future but right now. As the climate continues to change, the risks to human health will grow, exacerbating existing health threats and creating new public health challenges, and impacting more people in more places. From children to the elderly, every American is vulnerable to the health impacts associated with climate change, now and in the future. A few examples of the increased health risks found in the assessment include:

Air pollution and airborne allergens will likely increase, worsening allergy and asthma conditions. Future ozone-related human health impacts attributable to climate change are projected to lead to hundreds to thousands of premature deaths, hospital admissions, and cases of acute respiratory illnesses each year in the United States by 2030, including increases in asthma episodes and other adverse respiratory effects in children. Ragweed pollen season is longer now in central North America, having increased by as much as 11 to 27 days between 1995 and 2011, which impacts some of the nearly 6.8 million children in the United States affected by asthma and susceptible to allergens due to their immature respiratory and immune systems.

Extreme heat can be expected to cause an increase in the number of premature deaths, from thousands to tens of thousands, each summer, which will outpace projected decreases in deaths from extreme cold. One model projected an increase, from a 1990 baseline for more than 200 American cities, of more than an additional 11,000 deaths during the summer in 2030 and more than an additional 27,000 deaths during the summer in 2100.

Warmer winter and spring temperatures are projected to lead to earlier annual onset of Lyme disease cases in the eastern United States and a generally northward expansion of ticks capable of carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Between 2001 and 2014, both the distribution and the number of reported cases of Lyme disease increased in the Northeast and Upper Midwest.

Increase the risks of water-related illnesses. Runoff from more frequent and intense extreme precipitation events, and increased water temperatures, will increasingly compromise recreational waters, shellfish harvesting waters, and sources of drinking water, increasing risks of waterborne illness.

Climate change, including rising temperatures and changes in weather extremes, is expected to increase the exposure of food to certain pathogens and toxins. Rising temperature and increases in flooding, runoff events, and drought will likely lead to increases in the occurrence and transport of pathogens in agricultural environments, which will increase the risk of food contamination and human exposure to pathogens and toxins. This will increase health risks and require greater vigilance in food safety practices and regulation.

Climate change will have the largest health impact on vulnerable populations including those with low incomes, some communities of color, limited English proficiency and immigrant groups, Indigenous peoples, children, pregnant women, older adults, vulnerable occupational groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with preexisting or chronic medical conditions.

Extreme weather and other events related to climate change will impact health by exacerbating underlying medical conditions, increasing exposure to foodborne and waterborne illness risks, and disrupting infrastructure, including power, water, transportation, and communication systems, that are essential to maintaining access to health care and emergency response services and safeguarding human health.

In addition, today, the Administration is announcing a number of actions to respond to the critical challenges and vulnerabilities outlined in the Climate and Health Assessment. These include:

Expanding the scope of the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children to focus on the impacts of climate change on children’s health.

Developing K-12 educational materials on climate change and health.

A Climate-Ready Tribes and Territories Initiative, which will provide awards for tribal and territorial health departments to investigate, prepare for, and adapt to the health effects of climate change.

An update to the Sustainable and Climate Resilient Health Care Facilities Toolkit, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Designating May 23-27, 2016, as Extreme Heat Week, during which Federal agencies will take a number of actions to work with community planners and public-health officials to enhance community preparedness for extreme heat events.

The findings of the Climate and Health Assessment strengthen and broaden the scientific foundation for future decision making, allowing individuals, communities, organizations, and governments to proactively manage the health risks of climate change. A better understanding of how climate change affects our health, and the health of our children and grandchildren, underscores the need for urgent action to combat the threats climate change poses on American citizens and communities.

Already, under President Obama’s leadership, the United States has done more to combat climate change and protect the health of communities than ever before. For example, the Clean Power Plan will deliver better air quality, improved public health, clean energy investment and jobs across the country. Since the historic global climate agreement was reached at COP21 in Paris last year, the United States has announced plans to not only implement the agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but has also committed to adopting an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that would phase down HFCs, a potent greenhouse gas. The Administration has forged a global agreement to cut aviation emissions, and most recently taken a series of actions to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, while also helping to spur a historic increase in wind and solar energy while doubling the fuel efficiency in our cars.

HOW CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECTS HEALTH: KEY FINDINGS AND MESSAGES FROM THE ASSESSMENT

Changes in Extreme Heat and Extreme Cold. A warmer future is projected to lead to “on the order of thousands to tens of thousands of additional premature deaths per year across the United States by the end of this century” from heat. Any reduction in cold-related deaths is projected to be smaller than the increase in heat-related deaths in most regions. High temperatures can also lead to a wide range of illnesses. Examples of illnesses associated with extreme heat include cardiovascular, respiratory, and renal illnesses; diabetes; hyperthermia; mental health issues; and preterm births. Even small differences from seasonal average temperatures result in illness and death. An increased risk for respiratory and cardiovascular death is observed in older adults during temperature extremes.

Impacts on Air Quality. Changes in the climate affect the levels and location of outdoor air pollutants such as ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter. These changes in ozone are projected to lead to hundreds to thousands of premature deaths, hospital admissions, and cases of acute respiratory illnesses per year in the United States in 2030. In addition, the area burned by wildfires in North America is expected to increase dramatically over the 21st century due to climate change. Air pollution from wildfires can affect people far downwind from the fire location, increasing the risk of premature death and hospital and emergency department visits. Higher temperatures and increasing carbon dioxide levels also promote the growth of plants that release airborne allergens.

More Frequent and Intense Extreme Events. Climate change will expose more people to increases in the frequency and/or intensity of drought, wildfires, and flooding related to extreme precipitation and hurricanes. Many types of extreme events related to climate change cause disruption of critical infrastructure, including power, water, transportation, and communication systems, that are essential to maintaining access to health care and emergency response services and safeguarding human health. Health risks may also arise long after the event, or in places outside the area where the event took place, particularly if multiple events occur simultaneously or in succession in a given location – this could be the result of damage to property, destruction of assets, loss of infrastructure and public services, social and economic disruption, and environmental degradation. Poverty also is a key risk factor, and the poor are disproportionately affected by extreme events.

Altered Timing and Location of Vector-Borne Disease. Climate change is expected to alter the geographic and seasonal distributions of existing vectors and vector-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, West Nile virus infections, and other diseases spread by vectors like mosquitoes. Rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and a higher frequency of some extreme weather events associated with climate change will influence the distribution, abundance, and prevalence of infection in the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus, the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the United States. Outdoor workers are at a greater risk for contracting Lyme disease and, if working in areas where there are infected mosquitoes, occupational exposures can also occur for West Nile virus.

Increased Risks of Water-Related Illnesses. Runoff from more frequent and intense extreme precipitation events will increasingly compromise recreational waters, shellfish harvesting waters, and sources of drinking water, increasing the risk that infrastructure for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater will fail due to either damage or exceeding system capacity. Although the United States has one of the safest municipal drinking water supplies in the world, water-related outbreaks still occur—between 1948 and 1994, 68 percent of waterborne disease outbreaks in the United States were preceded by extreme precipitation events. Inequities in exposure to contaminated water disproportionately affects tribes and Alaska Natives, residents of low-income rural subdivisions along the U.S.–Mexico border, migrant farm workers, the homeless, and low-income communities not served by public water utilities—some of which are predominately Hispanic or Latino and African-American communities.

Increased Threats to Food Safety and Nutrition. As climate change drives changes in environmental variables, such as ambient temperature, precipitation, and weather extremes (particularly flooding and drought), increases in foodborne illnesses are expected. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that there are 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses per year, with approximately 3,000 deaths. Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can actually lower the nutritional value of most food crops. Climate-change impacts on food production, food processing and utilization, food prices, and agricultural trade were recently addressed in a separate assessment report on Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System.

Adverse Impacts on Mental Health. The cumulative and interactive effects of climate change, as well as the threat and perception of climate change, adversely impact individual and societal physical and mental health and well-being. Mental health consequences of climate change range from minimal stress and distress symptoms to clinical disorders, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The mental health impacts of extreme events, such as hurricanes, floods, and drought, can be expected to increase as more people experience the stress—and often trauma—of these disasters. People with mental illness and those using medications to treat a variety of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events and extreme heat.

Disproportionate Effects on Vulnerable Populations. Every American is vulnerable to the health impacts associated with climate change. People at every life stage have varying sensitivity to climate change impacts. The most vulnerable populations include individuals with low income, some communities of color, individuals with limited English proficiency and immigrant groups, Indigenous peoples, children, pregnant women, older adults, vulnerable occupational groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with preexisting or chronic medical conditions.

Communities of Color, Low Income, Immigrants, and Limited-English-Proficiency Groups. Vulnerable populations are at increased risk of exposure given their higher likelihood of living in risk-prone areas (such as urban heat islands, isolated rural areas, or coastal and other flood-prone areas), areas with older or poorly maintained infrastructure, or areas with an increased burden of air pollution. Communities of color, low income, immigrant and limited-English-proficiency groups also experience relatively greater incidence of chronic medical conditions, such as cardiovascular and kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which can be exacerbated by climate-related health impacts.
Indigenous Peoples in the United States. Because of existing vulnerabilities, Indigenous people, especially those who are dependent on the environment for sustenance or who live in geographically isolated or impoverished communities, are likely to experience greater exposure and lower resilience to climate-related health effects.

Pregnant Women. Climate-related exposures may lead to adverse pregnancy and newborn health outcomes, including low birth weight, preterm birth, dehydration and associated renal failure, diarrhea, and respiratory disease. Estimates indicated that there were more than 56,000 pregnant women and nearly 75,000 infants directly affected by Hurricane Katrina and that pregnant women with high hurricane exposure and severe hurricane experiences were at a significantly increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.

Children. Climate change—interacting with factors such as economic status, diet, living situation, and stage of development—will increase children’s exposure to health threats. Children are vulnerable to adverse health effects associated with environmental exposures due to factors related to their immature physiology and metabolism, their unique exposure pathways, their biological sensitivities, and limits to their adaptive capacity. Children have a proportionately higher intake of air, food, and water relative to their body weight compared to adults. They also share unique behaviors and interactions with their environment that may increase their exposure to environmental contaminants.

Older Adults. The nation’s older adult population (ages 65 and older) will nearly double in size from 2015 through 2050. Between 1979 and 2004, deaths from heat exposure were reported most commonly among adults aged 65 and older. The need to evacuate an area during or after extreme events can pose increased health and safety risks for older adults, especially those who are poor or reside in nursing or assisted-living facilities. Air pollution can also exacerbate asthma and COPD and can increase the risk of heart attack in older adults, especially those who are also diabetic or obese.

Occupational Groups. Outdoor workers are often among the first to be exposed to the effects of climate change. Climate change is expected to affect the health of outdoor workers through increases in ambient temperature, degraded air quality, extreme weather, vector-borne diseases, industrial exposures, and changes in the built environment. An increased need for complex emergency responses will expose rescue and recovery workers to physical and psychological hazards. The incidence of heat illness among active duty U.S. military personnel is several-fold higher than the summertime incidence in the general U.S. population (147 per 100,000 among the military versus 21.5 per 100,000 in the general population per year).

Persons with Disabilities. An increase in extreme weather can be expected to disproportionately affect populations with disabilities, who experience higher rates of social risk factors—such as poverty and lower educational attainment—that contribute to poorer health outcomes during extreme events or climate-related emergencies. Persons with disabilities often rely on medical equipment (such as portable oxygen) that requires an uninterrupted source of electricity.

Persons with Chronic Medical Conditions. Preexisting medical conditions present risk factors for increased illness and death associated with climate-related stressors, especially exposure to extreme heat. Hospital admissions and emergency room visits increase during heat waves for people with diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, and psychiatric illnesses. Medical conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or mental illnesses can impair judgment and behavioral responses in crisis situations, which can place people with those conditions at greater risk.

NEW ADMINISTRATION ACTIONS RESPONDING TO THE CLIMATE AND HEATH ASSESSMENT

President Obama has already taken action to combat the health impacts of climate change and protect the health of future generations. Just last year, the Administration:

Brought together health and medical professionals, academics, and other interested stakeholders to discuss the challenges of climate change for public health through a series of convenings, workshops, and a formal White House Climate Change and Health Summit;

Expanded access to climate and health data, involving more than 100 health-relevant datasets, to spur innovation so that communities and businesses could act to reduce the health impacts of climate change;

Started integrating climate considerations into agency health and safety policies; and

Created initiatives at EPA, USGS, CDC, and the Department of Defense to improve, consolidate, and better visualize data connecting climate change effects to human health.

Today, the Administration is announcing a series of additional actions to keep us on track to better understand, communicate, and reduce the health impacts of climate change on our communities, including:

President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children Addresses Climate Change. The President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children, has expanded its scope to include climate change. The Task Force includes representatives of 17 federal departments and White House offices and focuses on environmental threats to the health and wellbeing of children that are best addressed through interagency efforts. Its priorities are asthma disparities, healthy settings, chemical exposures, and climate change and children’s health. Today, the Task Force is making available examples of actions being taken around the country to protect children from the impacts of climate change on HHS’s new climate and health website at http://www.hhs.gov/climate/childrenshealth/index.html.


Developing a Climate-Ready Tribes and Territories Initiative. This year, CDC’s Climate and Health Program will launch the Climate-Ready Tribes and Territories Initiative, which will provide awards for up to five tribal and territorial health departments in the U.S to support public health preparedness and resilience activities that address the health challenges of climate change in these areas. Although some state and city health departments receive guidance and funding for climate and health research and adaptation planning, no similar program has been available to assist tribal and territorial governments. CDC will work with stakeholders to develop guidance relevant to the unique challenges faced in these jurisdictions. CDC will use its disease prevention expertise to assist tribal and territorial governments in investigating, preparing for, and adapting to the health effects of climate change.

Updating the Sustainable and Climate Resilient Health Care Facilities Toolkit. The Toolkit is undergoing pilot testing and evaluation and will be revised and expanded by the end of the year. In addition, lectures and trainings on the toolkit are being planned for a series of major conferences this year, including the NACCHO Preparedness Summit, the meeting of the American Society for Healthcare Engineering, and the CleanMed Conference. Also planned is a series of training webinars for the private sector on how to use of the toolkit by Practice Greenhealth.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to Develop K-12 Educational Materials on Climate Change and Health. NIEHS is developing educational materials on climate change and health at the K-12 level based on the new Climate and Health Assessment. They will partner with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the American Meteorological Society to help disseminate the materials and offer training. The audience for training is teachers and "train the trainer" teacher experts. The training is expected to be piloted this fall.

Reducing the Health Impacts of Extreme Heat. The Administration is announcing that May 23 - 27 is Extreme Heat Week during which agencies will take a number of activities to prepare the nation for extreme heat. This week is a key part of America's PrepareAthon!, the Administration's seasonal campaign to build community-level preparedness action. The White House is planning a webinar during Extreme Heat Week focused on education and outreach to populations more vulnerable to extreme heat as well as to community planners and public health officials to enhance community preparedness to extreme heat events.

All About Climate Change

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OMG: Is the Ocean Melting the Ice?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: Josh Willis. NASA Earth Science Communications.

April 05, 2016: At 1.7 million square kilometers (660,000 square miles), the Greenland ice sheet is three times the size of Texas. On average, the ice is about 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) deep and contains enough water to raise global sea levels about 6 meters (20 feet) if it were all to melt.

Global sea level rise is one of the major environmental challenges of the 21st Century, and Greenland is central to the problem. That massive ice sheet touches the sea along more than 44,000 kilometers (27,000 miles) of jagged coastline. Hundreds of fjords, inlets, and bays bring ocean water right to the edge of the ice and, in some places, under it. This means the ice sheet is not just melting from warm air temperatures above; it is also likely being melted from water below.

For this reason, a team of scientists led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Josh Willis have launched the Oceans Melting Greenland, or OMG, field campaign. Started in the summer of 2015, OMG is a five-year airborne and ship-based mission to study the role of the oceans in melting Greenland’s ice. Researchers will examine the temperatures and other properties of North Atlantic waters along the coast, while also making measurements of the glaciers that reach the ocean. The OMG team is also building a profile of the seafloor around the island in order to better model how warm, deep ocean water might flow into those fjords and reach the glacier edges.

The map above shows some early results from OMG. In the late summer of 2015, the OMG team outfitted a fishing boat with sonar equipment to map the shape of the seafloor (the bathymetry) along the west coast of Greenland. The depth of the water is shown in shades of blue, with the deepest shades representing the deepest parts. Note the deep trench offshore from the Cornell and Ussing Braeer glaciers. Many of these canyons were cut into the seafloor during the advance and retreat of ice during the last Ice Age.

In this part of the North Atlantic, the warmest water is actually in the deepest parts of the sea, below waters that are cooled by cold Arctic air temperatures and winds. The OMG mapping effort will help the team figure out where deep Atlantic warm water might be able to reach the ice through the complicated currents and circulation around these canyons.

In March and April 2016, the OMG team began another phase of the campaign. Flying out of Iceland and Greenland, the team has been using a NASA G-III aircraft to survey coastal glaciers. The plane is equipped with the Glacier and Ice Surface Topography Interferometer (GLISTIN-A), a type of radar that can generate high-resolution, high-precision measurements of the height of coastal glaciers. The team will make such survey flights each spring through 2020 to track changes in glacier extent as evidence of growth or thinning in each melt season.

In the summer or fall of 2016, the third part of the research campaign will begin. The team will fly along both coasts and release 250 expendable sensors that can measure the temperature and salinity of coastal waters from the surface to 1000 meters (about 3,000 feet) in depth. The measurements of temperature properties will help complete the puzzle of how the ocean and ice are interacting, leading researchers to build better models of ice sheet changes and sea level rise.

NASA Earth Observatory map by Joshua Stevens, using Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) data courtesy of Josh Willis/JPL. Photograph by Josh Willis. Caption compiled by Mike Carlowicz from reporting by Patrick Lynch and Carol Rasmussen, NASA Earth Science Communications.

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And How Do They Grow: Fungi: NASA Satellite Images Uncover Underground Forest Fungi

Carol Rasmussen Writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nearly all forest trees live in symbiosis with underground fungi, and the type of fungus in a forest location can now be identified in satellite images.Credits: Malene Thyssen/CC BY-SA 3.0

April 03, 2016: A NASA-led team of scientists has developed the first-ever method for detecting the presence of different types of underground forest fungi from space, information that may help researchers predict how climate change will alter forest habitats.

Hidden beneath every forest is a network of fungi living in mutually beneficial relationships with the trees. Called mycorrhizal fungi, these organisms spread underground for miles, scavenging for nutrients that they trade with trees for sugars the trees make during photosynthesis. “Nearly all tree species associate with only one of two types of mycorrhizal fungi,” explained coauthor Richard Phillips of Indiana University, Bloomington.

Because the two types of fungi are expected to respond differently to a changing climate, knowing where each type predominates may help scientists predict where forests will thrive in the future and where they will falter.

Creating maps of forests and their fungi has traditionally relied on various methods of counting individual tree species, an approach that cannot be done at large scales. In a new study published in the journal Global Change Biology, a team led by Joshua Fisher of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and UCLA found a way to detect this hidden network using satellite images.

Every tree species has its own spectral signature -- it absorbs or reflects light in a specific pattern across all the wavelengths in the spectrum of light. Using satellite images of forest canopies, Fisher's group probed whether they could identify any patterns in the spectral signatures of tree species associated with one type of fungus that did not appear in species associated with the other type.

Fisher explained, "Individual tree species have unique spectral fingerprints, but we thought the underlying fungi could be controlling them as groups.”

The team studied images of four U.S. forest research plots that are part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Forest Global Earth Observatory. In these forests, which include 130,000 trees across 77 species, the tree species associated with each type of fungus had already been mapped from the ground. The researchers analyzed images of the forest canopies taken by the NASA/U.S. Geological Survey Landsat-5 satellite from 2008 to 2011 in many different ways, searching for similarities that lined up with areas of fungus dominance. They found what they were looking for when they examined various milestones throughout the growing season, such as when the trees leafed out in spring and when they reached peak greenness. There were significant differences in the timing of these milestones between regions dominated by the two types of fungi.

Having identified the timing sequences related to each type of fungus, the researchers developed and tested a statistical model to predict the areas of fungus domination in any particular Landsat image from canopy changes alone. They found they could predict the fungus association correctly in 77 percent of the images. They went on to produce landscape-wide maps of fungi associations, uncovering intriguing patterns in forests that will be studied in greater depth in the future.

Fisher said, "That these below-ground agents manifest themselves in changes in the forest canopies is significant. This allows, for the first time, some light to be shed on their hidden processes."

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing. The work was also funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/earth

Alan Buis: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California: 818-354-0474: Alan.Buis@jpl.nasa.gov

Written by Carol Rasmussen: NASA Earth Science News Team

( Editor: Tony Greicius: NASA)

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The Future of Monitoring Air Quality from Space

Denise Lineberry Writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TEMPO’s measurements from geostationary orbit (GEO) will create a revolutionary dataset that provides understanding and improves prediction of air quality (AQ) and climate forcing. Credits: NASA

April 02, 2016: The KORUS-AQ airborne science experiment taking to the field in South Korea this spring is part of a long-term, international project to take air quality observations from space to the next level and better inform decisions on how to protect the air we breathe. Before a new generation of satellite sensors settle into orbit, field missions like KORUS-AQ provide opportunities to test and improve the instruments using simulators that measure above and below aircraft, while helping to infer what people breathe at the surface.

“We want to move beyond forecasting air pollution, we want to influence strategies to improve it,” said Jim Crawford, a lead scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. “This is where satellite observations can play an important role.”

Existing low Earth orbit (LEO) instruments have established the benefit of space-based views of air pollution. From space, large areas can be viewed consistently, whereas from the ground only discrete (often single) points can be measured. As Dave Flittner, TEMPO project scientist, explains, a geostationary (GEO) air-quality constellation can accurately track the import and export of air pollution as it is transported by large-scale weather patterns.

TEMPO, or Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution, is one instrument on the road to improving air quality from space. According to Flittner, hardware has recently begun development and TEMPO is on track to be finished no later than fall of 2017, and available for launch on a to be selected commercial communications satellite.

For the first time, TEMPO will make accurate hourly daytime measurements of tropospheric pollutants (specifically ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, formaldehyde, and aerosols) with high resolution over the U.S., Canada and Mexico. With help from related international missions, these observations provide a complete picture of pollution sources in the northern hemisphere and how they influence air quality from local to global scales.

About 22,000 miles above the equator, the Korean Aerospace Research Institute’s GEMS (The Geostationary Environmental Monitoring Spectrometer), the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-4/UVN, and NASA’s TEMPO, will maintain their positions in orbit as the Earth rotates, covering a majority of the area from East Asia through greater North America and Europe. Together, these instruments will make up a northern hemisphere air quality constellation.. All three of these instruments analyze the same pollutant concentrations in their respective region, from the morning to evening.

Another critical part of the global air quality constellation are the LEO instruments, such as TROPOMI (a.k.a. Sentinel-5P), which will launch in late 2016 and provide a common reference for the three GEO sensors, allowing for a more accurate assessment of air quality within each region.

Denise Lineberry: NASA Langley Research Center

( Editor: Joe Atkinson: NASA)

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2016 Arctic Sea Ice Wintertime Extent Hits Another Record Low

Maria-Jose Viñas Writing

Arctic sea ice was at a record low wintertime maximum extent for the second straight year. At 5.607 million square miles, it is the lowest maximum extent in the satellite record, and 431,000 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average maximum extent. Credits: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio/C. Starr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 28, 2016: Arctic sea ice appears to have reached a record low wintertime maximum extent for the second year in a row, according to scientists at the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and NASA.

Every year, the cap of frozen seawater floating on top of the Arctic Ocean and its neighboring seas melts during the spring and summer and grows back in the fall and winter months, reaching its maximum yearly extent between February and April. On March 24, Arctic sea ice extent peaked at 5.607 million square miles (14.52 million square kilometers), a new record low winter maximum extent in the satellite record that started in 1979. It is slightly smaller than the previous record low maximum extent of 5.612 million square miles (14.54 million square kilometers) that occurred last year. The 13 smallest maximum extents on the satellite record have happened in the last 13 years.

The new record low follows record high temperatures in December, January and February around the globe and in the Arctic. The atmospheric warmth probably contributed to this lowest maximum extent, with air temperatures up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit above average at the edges of the ice pack where sea ice is thin, said Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The wind patterns in the Arctic during January and February were also unfavorable to ice growth because they brought warm air from the south and prevented expansion of the ice cover. But ultimately, what will likely play a bigger role in the future trend of Arctic maximum extents is warming ocean waters, Meier said.

“It is likely that we're going to keep seeing smaller wintertime maximums in the future because in addition to a warmer atmosphere, the ocean has also warmed up. That warmer ocean will not let the ice edge expand as far south as it used to,” Meier said. “Although the maximum reach of the sea ice can vary a lot each year depending on winter weather conditions, we’re seeing a significant downward trend, and that’s ultimately related to the warming atmosphere and oceans.” Since 1979, that trend has led to a loss of 620,000 square miles of winter sea ice cover, an area more than twice the size of Texas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NASA Image

This year’s record low sea ice maximum extent will not necessarily result in a subsequent record low summertime minimum extent, Meier said. Summer weather conditions have a larger impact than the extent of the winter maximum in the outcome of each year’s melt season; warm temperatures and summer storms make the ice melt fast, while if a summer is cool, the melt slows down.

Arctic sea ice plays an important role in maintaining Earth’s temperature—its bright white surface reflects solar energy that the ocean would otherwise absorb. But this effect is more relevant in the summer, when the sun is high in the sky in the Arctic, than in the winter, when the sun doesn’t rise for months within the Arctic Circle. In the winter, the impact of missing sea ice is mostly felt in the atmosphere, said Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

“In places where sea ice has been lost, those areas of open water will put more heat into the atmosphere because the air is much colder than unfrozen sea water,” Francis said. “As winter sea ice disappears, areas of unusually warm air temperatures in the Arctic will expand. These are also areas of increased evaporation, and the resulting water vapor will contribute to increased cloudiness, which in winter, further warms the surface.”

Related Links

NSIDC's sea ice maximum announcement

Maria-Jose Viñas: NASA's Earth Science News Team

( Editor: Ashley Morrow:NASA)

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NASA Study Finds Climate Change Shifting Wine Grape Harvests in France and Switzerland

The best years for wine grape quality typically have warm summers with above-average rainfall early in the growing season and late-season drought. Those factors are shifting as the area's climate changes. Credits: Elizabeth Wolkovich/Harvard University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 27, 2016: A new study from NASA and Harvard University finds that climate change is diminishing an important link between droughts and the timing of wine grape harvests in France and Switzerland.

During a study of wine grape harvest dates from 1600 to 2007, researchers discovered harvests began shifting dramatically earlier during the latter half of the 20th century. These shifts were caused by changes in the connection between climate and harvest timing. While earlier harvests from 1600 to 1980 occurred in years with warmer and drier conditions during spring and summer, from 1981 to 2007 warming attributed to climate change resulted in earlier harvests even in years without drought.

The finding is important because higher-quality wines are typically associated with earlier harvest dates in cooler wine-growing regions, such as France and Switzerland.

“Wine grapes are one of the world’s most valuable horticultural crops and there is increasing evidence that climate change has caused earlier harvest days in this region in recent decades,” said Ben Cook, lead author and climate scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York. “Our research suggests that the climate drivers of these early harvests have changed.”

French vineyards like the one in the photograph are experiencing earlier harvests in recent years as the region's climate has warmed. Credits: Elizabeth Wolkovich/Harvard University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indicators of wine quality, such as wine ratings, show the best years for grape harvest typically include warm summers with above-average rainfall early in the growing season and late-season drought.

“This gives vines plenty of heat and moisture to grow early in the season, while drier conditions later in the season shift them away from vegetative growth and toward greater fruit production,” said the study’s co-author, ecologist Elizabeth Wolkovich of Arnold Arboretum and the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Researchers conducted an analysis using 400 years of harvest data from Western Europe. The study considered variability and trends in harvest dates, climate data from instruments during the 20th century, and reconstructions from historical documents and tree rings of temperature, precipitation and soil moisture dating back to 1600.

That analysis was compared with shifts in wine quality in the Bordeaux and Burgundy regions of France based on the ratings of vintages during the past 100 years. Detailed quality information was available for those two regions in addition to the broader harvest data available throughout France and Switzerland.

The results indicate a fundamental shift in the role of drought and moisture as large-scale drivers of harvest time and wine quality. While warm temperatures have consistently led to earlier harvests and higher-quality wines, in recent decades the impact of drought has largely disappeared as a result of large-scale shifts in climate.

“Wine quality also depends on a number of factors beyond climate, including grape varieties, soils, vineyard management and winemaker practices,” Cook said. “However, our research suggests the large-scale climate drivers these local factors operate under has shifted. And that information may prove critical to wine producers as climate change intensifies during the coming decades in France, Switzerland and other wine-growing regions."

The paper was published March 21 in the journal Nature Climate Change.

For more information about NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, visit

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities, visit

Michael Cabbage / Leslie McCarthy: Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York

( Editor: Karl Hille: NASA)
 

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World Meteorological Day: Ban Ki-moon Stresses the Need to Take Decisive Actions on Climate Change Against the Backdrop of Extreme Weather Becoming 'the New Normal'

Image: UN

March 23, 2016:  Observing the World Meteorological Day, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today that extreme weather events are becoming “the new normal” and bold climate action is needed to “face the future now.”

“Only by responding decisively to the climate challenge can we avoid the worst impacts of climate change and lay the foundations of a world of peace, prosperity and opportunity for all,” the UN chief said in a message on the Day.

The window of opportunity for limiting global temperature rise to well below two degrees Celsius – the threshold set under the Paris Agreement adopted last December – is narrow and rapidly shrinking, Mr. Ban warned, noting that the effects of a warming planet will be felt by all, including rising sea levels, and extreme weather events, which are becoming “the new normal.”

Next month, on April 22, world leaders will gather in New York to sign the Paris Agreement. “But, even before the Agreement comes into force, every country, every business and every citizen has a role to play in combating climate change and building a sustainable future for this and future generations,” he said.

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The Future is Happening Now: UN's Calling for Urgent Measures to Cut Carbon Emissions

March 21, 2016:  The Earth is already one degree Celsius hotter than at the start of the 20th century, halfway to the critical two-degree threshold, and national climate change plans adopted so far may not be enough to avoid a three-degree temperature rise, the UN weather agency warned today upon the release of its 2015 annual report on the status of the climate.

“Many people now think that the problem is solved since we reached a nice agreement in Paris last year… but the negative side is that we haven't changed our behaviors,” Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), told reporters in Geneva.

He argued that carbon dioxide concentrations in the air would be five times the current level in 500 years if no limits are placed on fossil fuel, meaning that the planet would be seven to eight degrees Celsius warmer at that time. It would then take up to 100,000 years to restore the normal level, he added, stressing the urgency of substantially cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the coming few decades.

According to the WMO Statement on the Status of the Climate in 2015, the year made history, with shattered temperature records, intense heatwaves, exceptional rainfall, devastating drought and unusual tropical cyclone activity.

“Our planet is sending a powerful message to world leaders to sign and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change and cut greenhouse gases now before we pass the point of no return,” Mr. Taalas said in a press release, emphasizing that the worst-case scenarios can be averted by taking urgent and far-reaching measures to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

The statement shows that the global average surface temperature in 2015 broke all previous records by a wide margin, at about 0.76 degree Celsius above the 1961-1990 average, because of a powerful El Niño and human-caused global warming. With 93 per cent of excess heat stored in the oceans, ocean heat content down to 2,000 meters also hit a new record.

Record-breaking trend continuing in 2016

The record-breaking trend has continued in 2016. January and February 2016 set yet more new monthly temperature records, with the heat especially pronounced in the high northern latitudes. Arctic sea ice extent was at a satellite-record low for both months, according to NASA and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Greenhouse gas concentrations crossed the symbolic and significant 400 parts per million threshold.

“The startlingly high temperatures so far in 2016 have sent shockwaves around the climate science community,” said David Carlson, Director of the World Climate Research Programme, which is co-sponsored by WMO. He added that it is premature to determine that 2016 would extend a record-breaking streak.

The WMO Statement was released ahead of World Meteorological Day, on 23 March.

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Investing in Forests is an Insurance Policy for the Planet: Ban Ki-moon

In many rural economies, the forest enterprises of families and communities are major contributors to local livelihoods. Photo: FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri

March 21, 2016:  On the International Day of Forests, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on governments, businesses, civil society and other partners to adopt holistic policies and practices to protect, restore and sustain healthy forests.

“Investing in forests is an insurance policy for the planet,” said Mr. Ban Ki-moon a message on the day, marked annually on 21 March.

Despite their critical importance, forests continue to be razed and damaged. The UN estimates that every year seven million hectares of natural forests are lost and 50 million hectares of forest land are burned.

“The world’s forests are essential to realizing our shared vision for people and the planet. They are central to our future prosperity and the stability of the global climate. That is why the Sustainable Development Goals call for transformative action to safeguard them,” the UN chief noted.

2016 theme: supporting water systems

This year, the theme focuses on forests’ role in supporting water systems. Forested catchments reportedly provide three-quarters of all the freshwater used for farms, industry and homes.

“City dwellers in Bogota, Durban, Jakarta, Madrid, New York, Rio de Janeiro and many other major cities rely on forested areas for a significant portion of their drinking water,” Mr. Ban highlighted. “When we protect and restore forested watersheds, we can save on the cost of building new infrastructure for water purification.”

As the global population grows and demands for water escalate, the UN is warning that safeguarding the water-providing capacity of forests is becoming more urgent. By 2025, nearly 1.8 billion people will live in areas with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could face water-stressed conditions.

Improving water quality and water supplies

Responding to this threat, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today launched a new programme aiming to enhance the critical role of forests in improving water quality and water supplies.

The programme, focused specifically on the close relationship between forests and water, will start off by looking at ways to improve water security in eight West African countries: Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Sierra-Leone.

The agency will work with local communities to raise their awareness of the interactions between forests and water and help them to integrate forest management in their agricultural practices to improve water supplies.

"The challenges are many, but the goal is very clear: to ensure the sustainable management of forest and water resources on the planet," said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva at a ceremony marking the international day in Rome.

"Promoting forest restoration and avoiding forest loss will require a significantly increased level of funding and innovative financing, including from private funds and traditional investors, in the coming years,” he added, noting that FAO is committed to providing a neutral platform for negotiations and dialogue.

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February 2016: The Warmest in 136 Years of Modern Temperature Records

Image: NASA


March 19, 2016: February 2016 was the warmest February in 136 years of modern temperature records. That month deviated more from normal than any month on record.

According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature in February was about 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.8 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the previous record (February 1998). February 2016 was 1.35 degrees Celsius above the 1951–80 average; February 1998 was 0.88°C above it. Both records were set during strong El Niño events.

The map above depicts global temperature anomalies for February 2016. It does not show absolute temperatures; instead it shows how much warmer or cooler the Earth was compared to a baseline average from 1951 to 1980.

Almost all land surfaces on Earth experienced unusually warm temperatures in February 2016. The warmest temperatures occurred in Asia, North America, and the Arctic. Two of the exceptions were the Kamchatka Peninsula and a small portion of southeast Asia, which saw unusually cool temperatures. Note the clear fingerprint of El Niño in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

The chart above plots the global temperature anomaly for each month of the year since 1980. Each February is highlighted with a red dot. All dots, red or gray, show how much global temperatures rose above or below the 1951–1980 average. Despite monthly variability, the long-term trend due to global warming is clear and now punctuated by the unusually warm data point for February 2016.

The GISS team assembles its temperature analysis from publicly available data acquired by roughly 6,300 meteorological stations around the world; by ship- and buoy-based instruments measuring sea surface temperature; and by Antarctic research stations. This raw data is analyzed using methods that account for the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and for urban heating effects that could skew the calculations. The modern global temperature record begins around 1880 because observations did not cover enough of the planet prior to that time.

For more explanation of how the analysis works, visit the GISS Surface Temperature F.A.Q. page.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using data from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Caption by Adam Voiland.

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See, the Sea Rises and Falls: But How? But Why? But Where and When?

Higher Pacific sea levels increase coastal flooding risks.
Credits: Flickr user Alan Grinberg, "Coming Ashore!", CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


March 15, 2016: The tropical Pacific Ocean isn't flat like a pond. Instead, it regularly has a high side and a low side. Natural cycles such as El Niño and La Niña events cause this sea level seesaw to tip back and forth, with the ocean near Asia on one end and the ocean near the Americas on the other. But over the last 30 years, the seesaw’s wobbles have been more extreme, causing variations in sea levels up to three times higher than those observed in the previous 30 years. Why might this be?

A new NASA/university study has found the differing alignments of two separate climate cycles could be causing these intensifying swings, which occur on top of a global rise in sea level due to melting ice sheets and warming oceans. The findings may help improve forecasts of sea level variations, allowing vulnerable coastal communities to prepare for their increased risk of flooding, erosion and other damage due to higher sea levels.

Tony Song of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and colleagues looked at the correlations of tropical Pacific sea level with different phases of two important climatic cycles: the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and El Niño/Southern Oscillation.

Song and his team found that the phases of these cycles can either reinforce or dampen each other, directly affecting the variability of sea level across the Pacific.

From 1990 to 2000, the magnitude of these sea level swings averaged about 6 inches (16 centimeters) -- five times the height of global sea level rise during the same period. Asia is currently on the high side of the sea level seesaw, while coastlines in the Americas as far north as Southern California are benefiting from a lower sea level. For communities threatened by rising seas, predicting when the seesaw will swing the other way is critical.

The two phases of the PDO and the two phases of ENSO can combine in four different ways, just as when you flip a dime and a nickel together you can get four different combinations of heads and tails. Song and his colleagues made a 60-year record of when each of the four combinations prevailed in the tropical Pacific and compared that record with the observed east-west swings in sea level over the same period.

Correlations jumped out between two of the four combinations and sea levels: El Niño plus positive PDO correlated with high sea levels in the Americas, and La Niña plus negative PDO correlated with high Asian sea levels.

"These things matched so nicely that we were very surprised," said Jae-Hong Moon, lead author of a paper on the research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research -- Oceans. Moon did most of the research while working at JPL but is now an assistant professor at Jeju National University, Jeju City, South Korea.

These newfound correlations provide a plausible answer to the question of why sea level swings appear to have intensified in recent decades. For the entire period of 1950 to 1980, the Pacific was in a negative PDO phase while El Niño and La Niña events occurred. This means that only two of the four possible combinations of phases could occur. Study authors argue that when one of these two combinations -- negative PDO and El Niño -- is in place, the cycles counteract each other, dampening the effect on sea level that each would have had individually.

From 1980 to 2010, there were both negative and positive PDO phases in addition to El Niño and La Niña events. In fact, all four combinations of the two cycles could be observed at some point during this period. El Niño-positive PDO phase and La Niña-negative PDO phase alignments occurred in this time period, but were not seen in the previous 30 years. This increased the variability in sea level.

Whether this increased variability will continue is unclear, Song explained, because scientists do not yet understand exactly what triggers a change of phase in either cycle. "We are glad to have uncovered one more puzzle piece in the ongoing study of Pacific ocean variability," he said.

( Editor: Tony Greicius:NASA)

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Scientific Evidence for Warming of the Climate System is Unequivocal

 This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.)

 

Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The Earth's climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

 The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.1


Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.

The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century.2 Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA. There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. They also show that in the past, large changes in climate have happened very quickly, geologically-speaking: in tens of years, not in millions or even thousands.3

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Study: Atmospheric River Storms Can Reduce Sierra Snow

Rain falling on snow: Image: Flickr user Malcolm Peacey, CC BY-NC 2.0

A new study by NASA and several partners has found that in California's Sierra Nevada, atmospheric river storms are two-and-a-half times more likely than other types of winter storms to result in destructive “rain-on-snow” events, where rain falls on existing snowpack, causing it to melt. Those events increase flood risks in winter and reduce water availability the following summer.

The study, based on NASA satellite and ground-based data from 1998 through 2014, is the first to establish a climatological connection between atmospheric river storms and rain-on-snow events. Partnering with NASA on the study were UCLA; Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego; and the Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado.

Atmospheric rivers are narrow jets of very humid air that normally originate thousands of miles off the West Coast, in the warm subtropical Pacific Ocean. When the warm, moist air hits the Sierra Nevada and other high mountains, it drops much of its moisture as precipitation. Only 17 percent of West Coast storms are caused by atmospheric rivers, but those storms provide 30 to 50 percent of California's precipitation and 40 percent of Sierra snowpack, on average. They have also been blamed for more than 80 percent of the state's major floods.

“In California, atmospheric rivers tend to be the warmest winter storms we get. We wanted to understand what the connection was between these storms and rain-on-snow events," said Bin Guan, lead author of the study, which is accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Guan is affiliated with the Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering, a collaboration between NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and UCLA.

“The research extends our understanding of how important atmospheric rivers are to extreme events in California, including their key roles in both water supply and flooding,” said study co-author Marty Ralph of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “It adds a new dimension of awareness when trying to anticipate the potential impact of a landfalling atmospheric river that could prove useful to water managers.”

The researchers also quantified the difference between atmospheric river storms that cause rain-on-snow and those that do not, using data from NASA's Atmospheric infrared Sounder, or AIRS, instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite. The rain-on-snow-producing atmospheric river storms were, on average, 4 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) warmer than the others.

"That small difference in temperature often determines whether we gain snow or lose snow from a storm," said Guan.

The researchers found that the warmer storms typically originate in the Pacific south of 25 degrees north latitude. The cases without rain-on-snow events came from farther north, outside the tropics.

The amount of snow that melts in these events depends on how warm the rain and air are and how much rain falls. But the researchers found that, on average, warmer storms generate about a quarter-inch (0.7 centimeter) of snowmelt (i.e. liquid water) for each day of rain, providing 20 percent of the water available for runoff in these events. In other words, as Guan explained, "The primary contribution to any flooding still comes from the rainfall, but the melting snow makes things 20 percent worse.”

"These results highlight the value of observing these events to better understand and, we hope, predict rain, snow and floods in our region," said study co-author Duane Waliser, chief scientist of the Earth Science and Technology Directorate at JPL.

NASA’s AIRS instrument measures atmospheric temperature and moisture, providing insight into the physical processes of atmospheric rivers and also providing sorely needed data over Earth’s ocean, where conventional observations are limited. These contributions can improve weather forecasts of atmospheric rivers making landfall on the U.S. West Coast.

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

For more on how NASA studies Earth

Alan Buis
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-0474
alan.buis@jpl.nasa.gov

Robert Monroe: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego
858-822-4487rmonroe@ucsd.edu
( Editor: Tony Greicius: NASA)

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NASA Finds Drought in Eastern Mediterranean Worst of Past 900 Years

For January 2012, brown shades show the decrease in water storage from the 2002-2015 average in the Mediterranean region. Units in centimeters. The data is from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, satellites, a joint mission of NASA and the German space agency. Credits: NASA/ Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio


A new NASA study finds that the recent drought that began in 1998 in the eastern Mediterranean Levant region, which comprises Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey, is likely the worst drought of the past nine centuries.

Scientists reconstructed the Mediterranean’s drought history by studying tree rings as part of an effort to understand the region’s climate and what shifts water to or from the area. Thin rings indicate dry years while thick rings show years when water was plentiful.

In addition to identifying the driest years, the science team discovered patterns in the geographic distribution of droughts that provides a "fingerprint" for identifying the underlying causes. Together, these data show the range of natural variation in Mediterranean drought occurrence, which will allow scientists to differentiate droughts made worse by human-induced global warming. The research is part of NASA's ongoing work to improve the computer models that simulate climate now and in the future.

"The magnitude and significance of human climate change requires us to really understand the full range of natural climate variability," said Ben Cook, lead author and climate scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York City.

"If we look at recent events and we start to see anomalies that are outside this range of natural variability, then we can say with some confidence that it looks like this particular event or this series of events had some kind of human caused climate change contribution," he said.

Cook and his colleagues used the tree-ring record called the Old World Drought Atlas to better understand how frequently and how severe Mediterranean droughts have been in the past. Rings of trees both living and dead were sampled all over the region, from northern Africa, Greece, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Turkey. Combined with existing tree-ring records from Spain, southern France, and Italy, these data were used to reconstruct patterns of drought geographically and through time over the past millennium. The results were accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

Between the years 1100 and 2012, the team found droughts in the tree-ring record that corresponded to those described in historical documents written at the time. According to Cook, the range of how extreme wet or dry periods were is quite broad, but the recent drought in the Levant region, from 1998 to 2012, stands out as about 50 percent drier than the driest period in the past 500 years, and 10 to 20 percent drier than the worst drought of the past 900 years.

Having such a large area covered allowed the science team not only to see variations in time, but also geographic changes across the region.

In other words, when the eastern Mediterranean is in drought, is there also drought in the west? The answer is yes, in most cases, said Kevin Anchukaitis, co-author and climate scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "Both for modern society and certainly ancient civilizations, it means that if one region was suffering the consequences of the drought, those conditions are likely to exist throughout the Mediterranean basin," he said. "It's not necessarily possible to rely on finding better climate conditions in one region than another, so you have the potential for large-scale disruption of food systems as well as potential conflict over water resources."

In addition, the science team found that when the northern part of the Mediterranean—Greece, Italy, and the coasts of France and Spain—tended to be dry when eastern North Africa was wet, and vice versa. These east-west and north-south relationships helped the team understand what ocean and atmospheric conditions lead to dry or wet periods in the first place.

The two major circulation patterns that influence when droughts occur in the Mediterranean are the North Atlantic Oscillation and the East Atlantic Pattern. These airflow patterns describe how winds and weather tend to behave depending on ocean conditions. They have periodic phases that tend to steer rainstorms away from the Mediterranean and bring in dryer, warmer air. The resulting lack of rain and higher temperatures, which increase evaporation from soils, lead to droughts.

"The Mediterranean is one of the areas that is unanimously projected [in climate models] as going to dry in the future [due to man-made climate change]," said Yochanan Kushnir, a climate scientist at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, who was not involved in the research. "This paper shows that the behavior during this recent drought period is different than what we see in the rest of the record," he said, which means that the Levant region may already be feeling the affects of human-induced warming of the planet.

The 900-year record of drought variability across the Mediterranean is an important contribution that will be used to refine computer models that are used to project drought risk for the coming century, Kushnir said.

The paper is available at the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.

Related Links

U.S. Risk of Megadroughts in Changing Climate

934 Had Worst Drought of Last 1000 Years in U.S.

Ellen Gray: NASA's Earth Science News Team

( Editor: Karl Hille:NASA)

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The Work That Cannot Be Done Alone
NASA Partners on Air Quality Study in East Asia

A new field study this May and June seeks to advance NASA’s ability to monitor air quality from space. This 2007 NASA satellite image shows a swath of air pollution sweeping east across the Korean peninsula to Japan: Image: NASA


NASA and the Republic of Korea are developing plans for a cooperative field study of air quality in May and June to advance the ability to monitor air pollution accurately from space.

The Korea U.S.-Air Quality study (KORUS-AQ) will assess air quality across urban, rural and coastal areas of South Korea using the combined observations of aircraft, ground sites, ships and satellites. Findings will play a critical role in the development of observing systems of ground and space-based sensors and computer models to provide improved air quality assessments for decision makers.

“KORUS-AQ is a step forward in an international effort to develop a global air quality observing system,” said James Crawford, a lead U.S. scientist on the project from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. “Both of our countries will be launching geostationary satellites that will join other satellites in a system that includes surface networks, air quality models, and targeted airborne sampling.”

Air quality is a significant environmental concern in the United States and around the world. Scientists are trying to untangle the different contributors to air quality, including local emissions from human activities, pollution from far away, and natural sources such as seasonal fires and wind-blown dust.

South Korea’s capital, Seoul, is one of the globe’s five most-populated metropolitan areas. Because of the country’s varied topography and its location close to both rapidly industrializing mainland China and the ocean, the impacts associated with the many factors controlling air quality are larger and often easier to measure over the Korean peninsula than elsewhere.

“Working with our South Korean colleagues on KORUS-AQ, we will improve our understanding of the detailed factors controlling air quality, how the processes interact, and how they are changing over time,” Crawford said.

In accordance with an agreement NASA recently completed with South Korea’s National Institute of Environmental Research, Korean scientists will collect KORUS-AQ observations on the ground and in the air with a King Air aircraft from Hanseo University in Seosan. To take data during the experiment, NASA will contribute a DC-8 flying laboratory from the agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, and a Beechcraft UC-12B King Air from Langley.

Five South Korean instruments will be part of the DC-8 payload and one NASA instrument will be onboard the Hanseo aircraft. NASA’s DC-8 will conduct eight-hour flights to make direct measurements of the atmosphere from altitudes up to 25,000 feet. The NASA King Air will fly overhead with remote-sensing instruments that simulate satellite observations. The Hanseo King Air will make direct atmospheric measurements focusing on areas less accessible to the larger DC-8. Scientists and air quality modelers from both countries will work together to plan the aircraft flights and analyze the measurements.

South Korea maintains an extensive ground-based, continuous air-quality monitoring network of more than 300 sites. Almost half of the sites are in the Seoul area and just over 80 percent are in urban areas. South Korea will host NASA instruments at some of the monitoring sites that are being enhanced for KORUS-AQ.

KORUS-AQ will benefit the development of a new a constellation of spaceborne science satellites and instruments expected to launch in the years 2018-2022 that will make air quality measurements over Asia, North America, Europe, and North Africa. South Korea’s Geostationary Environment Monitoring Spectrometer instrument will monitor long-term climate change and improve early warnings for major pollution events for the Korean peninsula and Asia-Pacific region.

NASA’s Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution mission, an instrument that will fly as a hosted payload on a commercial communications satellite in geostationary orbit, will collect air pollution measurements over North America from Mexico City to Canada. ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) Sentinel-4 mission will take air quality measurements and monitor stratospheric ozone, solar radiation and climate variables over Europe and Northern Africa.

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives, and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

For more information about NASA Earth science research, visit

Steve Cole: Headquarters, Washington: 202-358-0918
stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov

Chris Rink: Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va: 757-864-6786
chris.rink@nasa.gov
(Editor: Karen Northon: NASA)

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How Do You Resolve the Question of Ocean Carbon Conundrum?

New Research, published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, reveals that the seas around Europe absorb an astonishing 24 million tonnes of carbon each year. This is equivalent in weight to two million double decker buses or 72 000 Boeing 747s.

Seas around Europe: European shelf seas where red and orange are the regions of the water used to calculate atmosphere–ocean gas fluxes. Grey lines are the coastlines. A study, published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, reveals that the seas around Europe absorb an astonishing 24 million tonnes of carbon each year. This is equivalent in weight to two million double decker buses or 72 000 Boeing 747s. Released 25/02/2016 1:31 pm: Copyright University of Exeter
 

February 25, 2016: Each year, about a quarter of the carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere ends up in the ocean, but how it happens is still not fully understood. The Sentinel-3A satellite is poised to play an important role in shedding new light on this exchange.

Initially, the fact that the oceans are absorbing a significant amount of the carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere by burning biomass and fossil fuels would appear to be a good thing. However, as more carbon dioxide dissolves into the oceans, it leads to ocean acidification, making it difficult for some marine life to survive.

Monitoring and understanding the carbon cycle is important because carbon is the fundamental building block of all living organisms. Also, the process of carbon moving between the oceans, atmosphere, land and ecosystems helps to control our climate.

Over the last four years an international team of scientists and engineers have been using satellites along with measurements from ships and pioneering cloud computing techniques to study how carbon dioxide is transferred from the atmosphere into the oceans.

Their new work, published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, reveals that the seas around Europe absorb an astonishing 24 million tonnes of carbon each year. This is equivalent in weight to two million double decker buses or 72 000 Boeing 747s.

The team are making their data and cloud computing tools, the ‘FluxEngine’, available to the international scientific community so that other groups can analyse the data for themselves.

They hope that making tools like this available to everyone will improve the transparency and traceability of climate studies. It should also help to accelerate scientific advancement in this important area.

Jamie Shutler from the University of Exeter said, “The information we are gathering using satellites is essential for monitoring our climate, but these observations are not always easily available for other scientists to use.

“This new development means that anyone can use our cloud tools and data to support their own research.”

They are also now looking to Europe’s Copernicus Sentinel satellites to provide vital information for this area of research.

Sentinel-3A was launched on 16 February and once commissioned for service it will measure the temperature of the sea surface, currents, winds, waves and other biochemical factors.

 The unique aspect of Sentinel-3A is that its instruments make simultaneous measurements, providing overlapping data products that carry vital information to estimate carbon dioxide ‘fluxes’.

To calculate the flux of gases between the ocean and the atmosphere, it is necessary to know the solubility of carbon dioxide in the seawater, together with the speed of gas transfer.

Importantly, the solubility is determined by a combination of sea-surface temperature and salinity, while the ocean surface wind and wave environment govern the speed at which carbon dioxide is transferred.

All this information from just one satellite makes the Sentinel-3 mission a near-perfect tool to estimate the exchange of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and the global ocean, as well as seasonal, year-to-year and regional patterns in the exchange.

ESA’s Sentinel-3 mission scientist, Craig Donlon, said, “The use of satellite data to provide a more informed and complete set of baseline data is helping to improve our understanding of carbon cycling.

“The ability for individual scientists to run and rerun their own flux calculations is a new and powerful way of working together in an open science world.”

While satellites enable us to monitor the global oceans easily, shipboard measurements remain essential because we can’t monitor everything from space.

Andy Watson, also from the University of Exeter, commented, “Good knowledge of the ocean uptake and release of carbon dioxide is essential for predicting climate change. Eventually, most of the carbon dioxide we release will find its way into the oceans.

“This project will provide the most accurate estimates that we have and is accessible to anyone.”

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World's Coral Reefs Under Threat Due to El Niño Impacts

Fatu Huku:Fatu Huku island and its surrounding reef, captured by the Sentinel-2A satellite on 11 February 2016.  Released 24/02/2016 2:58 pm: Copyright Copernicus Sentinel data (2016)/ESA
 

February 24, 2016: The current El Niño weather phenomenon is taking its toll on coral reefs, prompting a field campaign to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to explore how Europe’s Sentinel-2 satellite might be able to quantify the damage on a large scale.

El Niño is an irregular oscillation in tropical Pacific currents, with wide-ranging consequences.

It begins when a mass of warmer water from the tropical western Pacific moves east, eventually displacing cooler nutrient-rich waters off the west coast of Central and South America. This warmer water adds extra moisture to the air masses moving over the ocean and increases rainfall in the adjacent land areas.

It also disrupts atmospheric circulation, leading to large-scale weather anomalies across the globe.

The impact can include severe drought in Africa, increased rainfall in South America, fires across southeast Asia, severe winter storms in California, a heatwave in Canada and intense hurricanes raging along the Pacific Ocean.

 The warmer water also takes its toll on underwater corals in the form of coral bleaching.

Coral bleaching happens when algae living in the corals’ tissues, which capture the Sun’s energy and are essential to coral survival, are expelled owing to the higher temperature.

The whitening coral may die, with subsequent effects on the reef ecosystem, and thus fisheries, regional tourism and coastal protection.

The current El Niño began in 2014 and has already affected corals in the Hawaiian Islands. Estimates by the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration show that this year’s bleaching could spread to most of the world’s corals, including those in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific.

To study the effects of El Niño events and climate change on corals on a larger scale, ESA has launched a field campaign to the Pacific island of Fatu Huku, part of French Polynesia, to explore how images of corals from Sentinel-2 can be exploited.

The satellite regularly collects data over land, inland water bodies and coastal areas, and is switched off over the open ocean. But a special request to collect data when the satellite passes over Fatu Huku has been made in an experiment to see how well it can monitor coral status, including an eventual coral bleaching event.

 How will we know if it works? French scientist Antoine Collin is en route to Fatu Huku to check the data. Over the course of two weeks, Antoine will use special underwater cameras to assess the health of the coral reefs and how they change over time. This information will be analysed alongside Sentinel-2 data from the same time to see if the satellite and underwater observations are consistent.

Follow Antoine’s journey through our Campaign Earth Blog

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What is Possible: Recycling Technology Converts Plastic Waste to Energy

What Does Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative Do?

It is White House's Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative That Supported Businesses like Vadxx Energy


President Barack Obama learns about technology that recycles plastic into light crude oil from Cleveland, Ohio-based Vadxx Energy LLC., President Jim Garrett during a March 18, 2015, at the Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET) facilities in Cleveland, Ohio. NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, assisted in the development of the process through the Adopt a City program, part of the White House's Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative.

To learn more about this spinoff, visit
Image Credit: Vadxx Energy LLC.
( Editor: William Bryan: NASA)

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NASA Technology : Glenn Research Center has always been in the business of perfecting engines. During World War II, the center, then called the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory, developed a cooling system for the B-29 Super Fortress—a four-engine, propeller-driven heavy bomber that saw action in East Asia—and also investigated carburetor icing issues in preparation for aircraft flying over the Himalayas into China. In 1945, well before the dawn of the Space Age, trailblazing rocket scientists there began investigating the use of liquid hydrogen as a fuel source, culminating in the development of the Centaur rocket, which would become the Nation’s first upper-stage launch vehicle. Since the mid-1960s, Centaur has propelled into space numerous weather probes, communications satellites, and planetary explorers, such as Surveyor, Pioneer, Viking, and Voyager.

While Glenn has continued to flex its rocket-science muscles by improving ion propulsion technology for deep space missions and helping to mature additive manufacturing for rocket engines, the center has also shown its versatility by helping one Cleveland company improve, of all things, an innovative plastics recycling technology.

Technology Transfer

As good as it feels to throw plastic items into the recycling bin, the fact is most of that plastic goes unrecycled, according to Jim Garrett, a veteran of the oil and gas industry. “Of all the stuff my wife makes me sort on a weekly basis, most of it ends up in a landfill,” he says. “It’s a dirty little secret in America that 90 percent of our plastic ends up there, if not in our oceans.”

The reason for the low rate of recycling is that many plastics contain additives and fillers that make them incompatible with current recycling technologies, while others are contaminated with paper or ink. “Recycling companies take in the clear water bottles, but most of the other stuff is not recycled,” Garrett says. But as the old adage goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. In 2009 Garrett met petroleum geologist and geochemist Bill Ullom, who had in mind a technology that could make use of all this unwanted plastic in order to strike oil, or at least manufacture it.

In 2005 Ullom happened on an expired patent for a thermal depolymerization process that could convert plastic back into its original form: light crude oil. The technology works by sending plastic feedstocks, as well as tires and car interiors, through a shredder, where rotating cutters shred the material before sending it through an extruder/kiln combination, where the feedstock is incrementally heated, producing vapor. At the exit of the process path, the vapor is released and condensed into liquid form and distilled into derivatives of light crude oil, namely fuel gas and diesel additive. The last and only solid byproduct of the process is inert char, which can serve as a strengthening agent in rubber products, among other uses.

Ullom began making improvements to the process that allowed the technology both to run nonstop and to accept contamination from materials such as wood and cardboard. After meeting Garrett, who had the business acumen to get the idea off the ground with investors, he founded Cleveland-based Vadxx Energy LLC and became its chief technology officer, with Garrett filling the role of CEO.

Things moved quickly from there, as the fledgling company initiated public-private partnerships with city and state agencies to receive technical guidance and acquire low-interest loans. Fortune 500 company Rockwell Automation also lent both its technical and plant construction expertise to Vadxx, and the nonprofit Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, or MAGNET, also provided logistical and technical support.

Even so, by 2012 the company still needed help optimizing the kiln’s design, which, according to Stan Prybyla, Vadxx’s vice president of technology, would be a complex task. “A proper solution to the problem would have to involve the kiln’s geometry, tilt angle, and rotation speed, along with the polymer’s thermodynamic and physical properties, during standard processing timescales,” he says. “The problem was quite challenging, to say the least.” Yet that’s the type of work that falls right in Glenn’s wheelhouse.

While one wouldn’t necessarily think NASA has much in common with a trash-recycling technology, Paul Bartolotta, a senior technologist at Glenn, says the Agency’s work on rocket propulsion makes it especially adept at analyzing such a process. “We have scientists who for decades have been studying the kinematics of oil decomposition for turbine engines and kerosene rocket engines,” he says. “It’s still looking at oil—it’s just that, in this case, we’re extracting it out of waste plastics.”

Glenn’s collaboration with Vadxx was made possible through Cleveland and the greater Cuyahoga County’s Adopt a City Program, itself a product of the Obama Administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative, whereby Federal agencies are asked to team up with local governments to provide technical assistance and other expertise to area businesses. Bartolotta, who wears many hats at Glenn, managed the program on NASA’s end.

In May 2012, Vadxx was one of eight companies that qualified for the program (another being Pile Dynamics Inc., featured on page 80), which came with 40 hours of pro bono consultation. As a result, within the span of a few weeks, a team of four scientists from Glenn’s chemistry kinematics group “created a kinematic model where Vadxx could put in the diameter of the kiln, the feed rates, and the viscosity of the polymers, and it’ll optimize the process,” Bartolotta says. “They’d be able to maximize the output of the oil byproduct.”

The model proved to be a success, says Prybyla. “We were able to incorporate what we learned into the making of our first full-scale commercial kiln.”

Benefits

With a cash infusion from Liberation Capital, Vadxx is building that kiln in nearby Akron, with Rockwell Automation leading construction and engineering efforts. When fully operational, it will be able to process some 20,000 tons of waste per year to produce 100,000 barrels of petroleum product that will be sold to distributors and marketers. While Vadxx will operate that facility, its expansion plans center around licensing the technology to other entities. The company estimates there’s enough feedstock in the United States to build 1,500 Vadxx units, which would decrease the Nation’s oil imports by 7 percent.

And all those units would be environmentally friendly, according to Garrett. No hazardous byproducts are created, and, unlike most companies that flare off excess fuel gas, which contributes to global warming, Vadxx recycles that gas to provide 80 percent of a unit’s heating needs. “From both an economic and environmental standpoint, it’s a winner,” he says. “The EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] classifies our unit as only a minor emitter, equivalent to a hospital boiler. And the key there is we’re not burning feedstock but melting it in a vessel. It’s not like we’re building a new refinery where it takes 10 years to get the approval.”

The future looks auspicious for the company, as the technology has generated enormous interest from waste disposal companies and large manufacturing facilities, which stand to gain by paying less money to truck material to a Vadxx unit than to the landfill. What’s more, each unit is projected to make $8 to $12 million per year in revenue for its operator and provide 18 full-time jobs.

Besides the technical leg-up NASA gave the company, Garrett says there was another, more indirect benefit of having partnered with the Agency: credibility. “We’d kind of brag to people that we worked with NASA, and they say, ‘Really? I may be interested in investing.’ The NASA name has that kind of impact.”

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Bees Can Help Boost Food Security of Two Billion Small Farmers at No Cost: New Study

A new study suggest that poorly performing farms could significantly increase their crop yields by attracting more pollinators to their land. Photo: FAO/James Cane

February 19, 2016: The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today highlighted the publication of a new study that quantifies, for the first time, how much crop yields depend on the work of bees that unknowingly fertilize plants as they move from flower to flower.

In doing so, the agency says bees may have a key role to play in improving the production of some two billion smallholder farmers worldwide and ensuring the food security and nutrition of the world’s growing population.

“What do cucumbers, mustard, almonds and alfalfa have in common?” asked FAO in a press release. “On the surface, very little; but there is one thing they share: they all owe their existence to the service of bees.”

The agency notes that for centuries, this tiny striped helper has labored the world’s fields without winning much recognition for its many contributions to food production. Wild bees, in particular, seemed doomed to slog in the shadow of their more popular cousin – the honeybee – whose day job of producing golden nectar has been far more visible and celebrated.

But FAO says bees of all stripes are finally getting their moment in the sun. The paper, published in the magazine Science, makes the case that ecological intensification – or boosting farm outputs by tapping the power of natural processes – is one of the sustainable pathways toward greater food supplies.

Food security strategies worldwide could therefore benefit from including pollination as integral component, experts say.

“Our research shows that improving pollinator density and diversity – in other words, making sure that more and more different types of bees and insects are coming to your plants – has direct impact on crop yields,” said Barbara Gemmill-Herren, one of the FAO authors of the report.

“And that’s good for the environment and for food security,” she stressed, adding that it is beneficial to actively preserve and build habitats in and around farms for bees, birds and insects to live year-round.

Focus on developing countries

In the field study coordinated by FAO, scientists compared 344 plots across Africa, Asia and Latin America and concluded that crop yields were significantly lower in farming plots that attracted fewer bees during the main flowering season than in those plots that received more visits.

When comparing high-performing and low-performing farms of less than two hectares, the outcomes suggest that poorly performing farms could increase their yields by a median of 24 per cent by attracting more pollinators to their land.

The research also looked at larger plots and concluded that, while those fields also benefited from more pollinator visits, the impact on yields was less significant than in the smaller plots – probably because many bees have a harder time servicing large fields, far from their nesting habitat. But a diversity of bees, each with different flight capacities, can make the difference.

This suggests that bee diversity offers benefits both for small-holder farmers in developing countries, and for larger farms.

Why it matters

The research comes at a time when wild bees are threatened by a multitude of factors and managed bee populations can’t keep up with the increasing number of plots that grow pollination-dependent crops.

Climate change poses yet another problem: “Bees will struggle with the higher temperatures," explained Nadine Azzu, Global Project Coordinator in FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division, who also worked on the report. "Plus, flowers in some parts of the world are now opening at different times than they used to, and the bees are not there to pollinate," she said.

This means finding ways to keep pollinators buzzing around the farm year-round is becoming even more important.

Previously unstudied

Pollinators – such as bees, birds and various types of insects that fly, hop or crawl from one flower to another – have for centuries been the invisible helpers of farmers worldwide.

Different types of bees have distinct tastes and roles to play in the food system. Bumble bees, for example, are one of the few types of bees that can successfully pollinate tomatoes, which heavily rely on buzz pollination to bear fruit.

Honey bees, in turn, are important because they are the least picky in their choice of flowers- and there are many of them, in each hive, even though their more discerning wild bee cousins are more effective in fertilizing the plants they’re attracted to.

The study shows that for smallholdings, crop yield increased linearly with increased visits to the flowers that were being tracked. Pollination was the agricultural input that contributed the greatest to yields, beyond other management practices.

This holds promise for one of the major agricultural challenges of our time: How to help smallholders produce more without hurting the environment.

How to attract bees

The report also found that attracting pollinators to farms is not as easy as planting for the season and waiting for them to arrive.

Maintaining habitat and forage resources all year long is key to wooing pollinators and keeping them on the land for longer periods of time. This can be done by planting different trees and plants that flower at different times in the year, for example.

Maintaining flowering hedge rows around the farm, and mulch on the ground that bees can hide under, are additional recommended tactics to attract them, as is reducing the use of pesticides.

The key to getting the best yields probably lies in a mix of managed pollination services – that is, installing bee hives in plots at flowering time – and wild pollination, experts say.

And the latter will require farmers and policy makers to take a closer look at the ecosystems that surround farms.

“The take away from our study is that bees provide a real service and should be taken into account when we plan food security interventions,” said Ms. Azzu. “And the best part is: their service is free.”

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Climate Change: Our Task is Not Over: Ban Ki-moon

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second left), UNFCCC's Christiana Figueres (left), French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and President of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21), and President François Hollande of France (right), celebrate historic adoption of Paris Agreement. UN Photo/Mark Garten

17 February 2016 – While the international community has provided a solid foundation for the world’s response to climate change by adopting the Paris Agreement this past December, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that it is now necessary to build on that momentum in order to secure a safer and healthier future for all.

At a briefing at UN Headquarters in New York on the high-level signature ceremony for the Paris Agreement, which he will host on 22 April, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the ceremony will provide the first opportunity for Governments to advance the process that will lead to the Agreement’s implementation and ratification.

“Now we must move from aspirations to action,” Mr. Ban said. “By implementing the Paris Agreement, we will be building the future we want – a future of shared opportunity that leaves no-one behind on a planet that is protected and nurtured for the benefit of all,” he added.

Urging the participation of all Governments at the signing ceremony, the UN chief emphasized the importance of the Agreement entering into force as soon as possible.

“The world now has a universal, fair, flexible and durable climate agreement,” Mr. Ban said.

“For the first time, every country in the world pledged to curb their emissions, strengthen resilience and join in common cause for the common good,” he added.

In particular, the Agreement will enable the international community to “increase ambition on a regular basis,” the Secretary-General said, which is essential in order to keep global temperature rise to well below two degrees Celsius, and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees.

“Our task is not over. In fact, it has just begun,” Mr. Ban said. “In 2016, we must go from words to deeds. The 22 April signature ceremony is an essential step,” he noted.

Emphasizing that “the cost of inaction becomes clearer every day,” Mr. Ban stressed that more extreme weather events, torrential rains and flooding, severe droughts and rising sea levels were leading to lost lives, homes, productivity and hope.

“We have no time to delay,” the Secretary-General underscored. “I urge you to ensure that the legal requirements for your leaders to have full powers to sign are in place by that date,” he said.

Mr. Ban noted that leaders from Peru, France and Morocco – the Presidents of recent UN climate change meetings, known as COP20, COP21 and the upcoming COP22 – have agreed to attend the signature ceremony, and that many other world leaders have promised their attendance as well.

“The participation of Heads of State and Government will show the world they are determined to move forward as quickly as possible,” Mr. Ban said. “It will keep the global spotlight firmly focused on climate change and build on the strong political momentum created in Paris.”

Mr. Ban added that all leaders will have the opportunity to make a national statement on the day of the ceremony. As such, he asked that leaders come ready to provide an update on how their Government will implement national climate plans and integrate them into their overall sustainable development plans, as well as provide a roadmap for increasing ambition over time to achieve the overall aim of limiting global temperature rise to well below two degrees Celsius.

He also asked leaders to be ready to indicate their Government’s timetable for ratifying the Paris Agreement, and to share how they are accelerating climate action before 2020 by drawing on the ingenuity, resources and efforts of all sectors of society.

“We need all hands on deck to meet the climate challenge,” Mr. Ban stressed. “Cities, schools, the business and investment communities, faith groups – all have a role to play.”

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Proposal for the First Time to Binding Limits on Airlines' Carbon Emissions

Aircraft on runway. Photo: World Bank/Arne Hoel (file)

Welcoming a proposal by the United Nation's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on the first binding limits on carbon dioxide emissions from the aviation industry, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called today for further strengthening of emissions standards as quickly as possible.

A statement attributable to the UN chief's spokesperson said the proposed rules, which would limit carbon emissions and strengthen the efficiency of all new commercial and business airliners after 2028, build on the strong momentum coming from the Paris Agreement and represent the latest in a series of successful multilateral efforts to reduce the risks of dangerous climate change.

“Carbon emissions from aviation are growing rapidly, with the number of flights worldwide expected to double in the next 15 years. The ICAO's new rules come after years of negotiations and are the first time that governments have set emissions standards for the aviation industry,” the statement said.

For its part, ICAO said in a press release yesterday that the “eagerly awaited” aircraft carbon dioxide emissions standard was unanimously recommended by the 170 international experts on its Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection, paving the way for its ultimate adoption by the UN agency's 36-State Governing Council.

Under the recommendation, the new standard would be applicable to new aircraft type designs as of 2020, as well as to new deliveries of current in-production aircraft types from 2023. A cut-off date of 2028 for production of aircraft that do not comply with the standard was also recommended.

In its current form, the standard acknowledges carbon dioxide reductions arising from a range of possible technology innovations, whether structural, aerodynamic or propulsion-based.

ICAO said the proposed global standard is particularly stringent for larger aircraft, since operations of aircraft weighing more than 60 tons account for more than 90 per cent of international aviation emissions. The proposed standard, however, covers the full range of sizes and types of aircraft used in international aviation today.

“The goal of this process is ultimately to ensure that when the next generation of aircraft types enter service, there will be guaranteed reductions in international CO2 emissions,” said Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, President of the ICAO Council.

The Montreal-based agency works with 191 Member States and industry groups to reach consensus on international standards, practices and policies for the civil aviation sector.

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New Satellite-Based Maps to Aid in Climate Forecasts

Global map of the average amount of time that live biomass carbon and dead organic carbon spend in carbon reservoirs around the world, in years. Credits: A. Anthony Bloom

 

New, detailed maps of the world’s natural landscapes created using NASA satellite data could help scientists better predict the impacts of future climate change.

The maps of forests, grasslands and other productive ecosystems provide the most complete picture yet of how carbon from the atmosphere is reused and recycled by Earth’s natural ecosystems.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom; NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California; and Wageningen University, Netherlands, used a computer model to analyze a decade of satellite and field study data from 2000 to 2010. The existing global maps of vegetation and fire activity they studied were produced from data from NASA’s Terra, Aqua and ICESat spacecraft. The researchers then constructed maps that show where -- and for how long -- carbon is stored in plants, trees and soils.

The maps reveal how the biological properties of leaves, roots and wood in different natural habitats affect their ability to store carbon across the globe, and show that some ecosystems retain carbon longer than others. For example, large swaths of the dry tropics store carbon for a relatively short time due to frequent fires, while in warm, wet climates, carbon is stored longer in vegetation than in soils.

Although it is well known that Earth’s natural ecosystems absorb and process large amounts of carbon dioxide, much less is known about where the carbon is stored or how long it remains there. Improved understanding about how carbon is stored will allow researchers to more accurately predict the impacts of climate change.

Study first author Anthony Bloom, a JPL postdoctoral scientist, said: “Our findings are a major step toward using satellite imagery to decipher how carbon flows through Earth’s natural ecosystems from satellite images. These results will help us understand how Earth’s natural carbon balance will respond to human disturbances and climate change.”

Professor Mathew Williams of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said, “Recent studies have highlighted the disagreement among Earth system models in the way they represent the current global carbon cycle. “Our results constitute a useful, modern benchmark to help improve these models and the robustness of global climate projections.”

To generate values for each of the 13,000 cells on each map, a supercomputer at the Edinburgh Compute and Data Facility ran the model approximately 1.6 trillion times.

New data can be added to the maps as it becomes available. The impact of major events such as forest fires on the ability of ecosystems to store carbon can be determined within three months of their occurrence, the researchers say.

The study, published Feb. 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities, visit
Alan Buis: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-0474 Alan.buis@jpl.nasa.gov

Corin CampbellZ University of Edinburgh 011-44-0131-650-6382
Corin.campbell@ed.ac.uk

(Editor: Tony Greicius:NASA)

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The Antarctic Ice Facing Point of No Return?

Astrolabe Glacier: Calving front of the Astrolabe Glacier, East Antarctica, 2007. Released 08/02/2016 4:19 pm: Copyright B. Jourdain (Courtesy ESA)

8 February 2016: Antarctica is surrounded by huge ice shelves. New research, which includes using data from satellites such as ESA’s heritage Envisat, has revealed that there is a critical point where these shelves act as a safety band, holding back the ice that flows towards the sea. If lost, it could be the point of no return.

These floating ice shelves can be enormous. For example, the largest, the Ross Ice Shelf, is about the size of Spain and towers hundreds of metres above the waterline.

Over the past 20 years, many of Antarctica’s ice shelves have thinned and in some cases even disappeared as giant icebergs calve from the fronts.

For example, in 1995 the Larsen A Ice Shelf collapsed discarding ice the size of Berlin, seven years later the larger Larsen B Ice Shelf broke apart, and in 2008 the Wilkins Ice Shelf started disintegrating.

Since they are connected to the glaciers and ice streams on the mainland, they play an important role in ‘buttressing’ the ice as it creeps seaward, effectively slowing down the flow.

Ferrigno Ice Stream: Highly crevassed ice front of Ferrigno Ice Stream in the Bellingshausen Sea. The photo was taken on 16 November 2011 during NASA’s airborne IceBridge campaign. Released 08/02/2016 5:01 pm: Copyright University of Erlangen-Nuremberg–M. Braun
 

If an ice shelf is lost, the flow of glaciers behind can speed up, contributing to sea-level rise.

Almost immediately after Larsen B broke up in 2002, tributary glaciers flowed up to eight times faster. As a result of the loss of this one ice shelf, the subsequent ice discharged to the sea reached about 5% of Greenland’s total ice loss at the time.

Larsen B was a fairly typically-sized Antarctic ice shelf. There are at least 50 other shelves fringing the continent – many of which are much bigger than Larsen B.

Scientists from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg Institute of Geography and from the Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l'Environnement in Grenoble, France, used radar data from satellites such as ESA’s Envisat and observations of ice thickness from airborne surveys in a complex model to demonstrate, for the first time, how the buttressing role of the ice shelves is being compromised as the shelves decline.

Their findings were published today in Nature Climate Change.

It transpires that about 13% of the total ice-shelf area contains what is called ‘passive shelf ice’. This is the part of the floating ice body that provides no additional buttressing – so if lost there wouldn’t be an instant increase in glacial velocity.

However, behind this – there is an area of ice called the ‘safety band’, which is very important because this portion of ice effectively restrains the ice flow.

Dr Johannes Fürst, from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg’s Institute of Geography explained, “For some decades now satellite remote-sensing has allowed us to track changes and movement of Antarctic ice fronts. In some regions we have seen continuous ice-shelf recession.

“Once ice loss through the calving of icebergs goes beyond the passive shelf ice and cuts into the safety band, ice flow towards the ocean will accelerate, which might well entail an elevated contribution to sea-level rise for decades and centuries to come.”

However, there are some contrasting results across the continent as not all ice shelves have this passive ice.

Dr Fürst added, “The Amundsen and Bellingshausen seas have limited or almost no passive ice shelf, which implies that further retreat of current ice-shelf fronts will have serious dynamic consequences.

“This region is particularly vulnerable as ice shelves have already been thinning at high rates for two decades. In contrast to these ice shelves, the Larsen C ice shelf in the Weddell Sea exhibits a large passive frontal area, suggesting that the imminent calving of a vast tabular iceberg will be unlikely to instantly produce much dynamic change.”

This discovery will help improve the prediction of future ice outflow from Antarctica – the future fate of the ice sheet under a warming climate is clearly tied dynamically to changes of the floating ice shelves.

While ESA’s CryoSat continues to provide information about ice-thickness change, these new findings also highlight the lasting value of archived satellite data.

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New Study Underscores That Large, Sustained Changes in Global Temperature Like Those Observed Over the Last Century Require Drivers Such as Increased Greenhouse Gas Concentrations

 

Long-Term Global Warming Needs External Drivers

Earth's atmosphere viewed from the International Space Station. A NASA/Duke University study provides new evidence that natural cycles alone aren't sufficient to explain the global atmospheric warming observed over the last century. Credits: NASA



A study by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, shows, in detail, the reason why global temperatures remain stable in the long run unless they are pushed by outside forces, such as increased greenhouse gases due to human impacts.

Lead author Patrick Brown, a doctoral student at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, and his JPL colleagues combined global climate models with satellite measurements of changes in the energy approaching and leaving Earth at the top of the atmosphere over the past 15 years. The satellite data were from the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) instruments on NASA’s Aqua and Terra spacecraft. Their work reveals in new detail how Earth cools itself back down after a period of natural warming.

Scientists have long known that as Earth warms, it is able to restore its temperature equilibrium through a phenomenon known as the Planck Response. The phenomenon is an overall increase in infrared energy that Earth emits as it warms. The response acts as a safety valve of sorts, allowing more of the accumulating heat to be released through the top of Earth's atmosphere into space.

The new research, however, shows it’s not quite as simple as that.

“Our analysis confirmed that the Planck Response plays the dominant role in restoring global temperature stability, but to our surprise, we found that it tends to be overwhelmed locally by heat-trapping changes in clouds, water vapor, and snow and ice,” Brown said. “This initially suggested that the climate system might be able to create large, sustained changes in temperature all by itself.”

A more detailed investigation of the satellite observations and climate models helped the researchers finally reconcile what was happening globally versus locally.

“While global temperature tends to be stable due to the Planck Response, there are other important, previously less appreciated, mechanisms at work, too,” said Wenhong Li, assistant professor of climate at Duke. These mechanisms include the net release of energy over anomalously cool regions and the transport of energy to continental and polar regions. In those regions, the Planck Response overwhelms positive, heat-trapping local energy feedbacks.

“This emphasizes the importance of large-scale energy transport and atmospheric circulation changes in reconciling local versus global energy feedbacks and, in the absence of external drivers, restoring Earth’s global temperature equilibrium,” Li said.

The researchers say the findings may finally help put the chill on skeptics’ belief that long-term global warming occurs in an unpredictable manner, independently of external drivers such as human impacts.

“This study underscores that large, sustained changes in global temperature like those observed over the last century require drivers such as increased greenhouse gas concentrations,” said Brown.

“Scientists have long believed that increasing greenhouse gases played a major role in determining the warming trend of our planet,” added JPL co-author Jonathan Jiang. “This study provides further evidence that natural climate cycles alone are insufficient to explain the global warming observed over the last century.”

The research is published this month in the Journal of Climate. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA.

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities, visit
Alan Buis
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-0474
Alan.buis@jpl.nasa.gov

Tim Lucas
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
919-613-8084
tdlucas@duke.edu

(Editor: Tony Greicius: NASA)

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The University Of Sussex Launches New Podcast Series on The Meaning of Climate Change
 

David Attenborough Speaks in the First Podcast

UK: Monday 8th February 2016 – Today, The School of Global Studies at the University Of Sussex, is proud to announce the launch of an exciting new audio narrative podcast series, THE GLASS BEAD GAME with the first episode in the series featuring David Attenborough and Naomi Klein. Oriented towards those that are curious of mind, this twelve part series aims to creatively engage listeners on complex geopolitical issues in a monthly podcast. Unlike many of the static, debate based UK podcasts, this entertaining audio experience is more dynamic in its format, with an approach more similar to those currently being produced in the US.

Naomi Klein also speaks in the podcast about the meaning of climate change


In the initial two-part episode, The Meaning of Climate Change, broadcaster David Attenborough and author and social activist Naomi Klein, along with numerous notable professors, discuss the ethical, cultural and economic impact of climate change and what it means to those most affected. The series is directed and presented by award winning filmmaker Will Hood, a research associate at the University of Sussex, and the series is produced by Rob Alexander of perfectmotion.

About The Glass Bead Game

The podcast series creates a unique platform by which academic research can engage with an audience through people led narrative. Collecting the academic testimony of different disciplines from the international network of higher education, The Glass Bead Game aspires to appeal to a wide audience, challenge mainstream narratives and represent previously unheard voices.

The series title the ‘glass bead game’ is a nod to the classic book of the same name (Hesse 1943) in which the 'game' itself is played by creating new and subtle inferences between different academic disciplines. By weaving together multiple conversations from academics and popular authorities the GBG podcast attempts to reconcile the disparate narratives that are inevitably produced by difficult subjects.

‘Nothing is harder, yet nothing is more necessary, than to speak of certain things whose existence is neither demonstrable nor probable. The very fact that serious and conscientious men treat them as existing things brings them a step closer to existence and to the possibility of being born.’

(Herman Hesse – The Glass Bead Game, 1943)

‘The huge difference between humanity and the natural world is that we have a way of externalising knowledge ... that simply makes an enormous difference ... humanity is able to store knowledge across time and across space and that gives us huge power - we haven't yet got the wisdom to handle it properly but that's what makes us different from the rest of the world'

(David Attenborough)

Episode One: The Glass Bead Game

Part One: Indigenous Oil (Featuring David Attenborough)

In the first episode of The Glass Bead Game, presenter Will Hood explores the relationship between energy, ecology and economics, combining academic research with the anecdotal experience of indigenous groups on the front line of Canada’s environmental conflict.

· Chief Billy Joe Laboucan Massimo - Chief of the Lubicon Cree Band, Little Buffalo, Alberta, Canada
· David Attenborough – Broadcaster
· Ernie Gambler - Indigenous Musician from Calling Lake, Alberta, Canada
· Isabel Altamirano-Jimenez - Indigenous Scholar at the University of Alberta, Canada
· J.B. Williams, Tsawout First Nation - Flood Story Narration (with music from Elder May Sam)
· Makere Stewart-Harawira - Indigenous Scholar at the University of Alberta, Canada
· Peter Newell - Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex

Part Two: Direct Action (Featuring David Attenborough & Naomi Klein)

With live coverage of the Cop21 climate summit (Paris Dec 2015) this episode explores the ethics of direct action as a way to make sense of climate change. An issue that divides the public and excites the media to what extents can it achieve meaningful political and social change?

· Rex Weyler - founding member of Greenpeace
· David Attenborough - Broadcaster
· Naomi Klein - Author (No logo, This Changes Everything)
· Peter Newell - Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex
· Richard Tol - Climate Economist at the University of Sussex
· Mike Hudema - Climate and energy activist with Green peace Canada
· Peter Newell - Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex.

To download the podcast

About the School Of Global Studies, University of Sussex

World University Rankings 2014/15 - #1 for development studies

The School of Global Studies is a global hub at the heart of Sussex University. Our engaged research and critical pedagogy addresses the most pressing global issues of our times – global inequalities and global justice, climate and environmental change, war and peace, global health and finance crises, intolerance and discrimination. Our mission is to generate knowledge and understanding that can make a difference, for a fairer, safer, more sustainable and more inclusive world.

Will Hood - Presenter / Producer of GBG

Is a research associate with the University of Sussex, a documentarian and audio anthropologist whose previous work includes: the double Grierson award winning ‘Here’s Johnny’. He is also the founder of Animal Monday an independent film and TV production company, whose selected credits include: ‘Wojtek – the bear that went to war’ a BBC feature Doc, ‘A Vida Politica’, an exploration of female activism in Brazil and ‘Save us from Saviours’ about Indian sex work organisation Vamp. Such works have been supported by the BBC, Britdoc, Screen South, DIFD, Sangram and the UK Aids foundation.

Rob Alexander - Series Producer

Has worked extensively in both radio and television format, producing numerous broadcasts for BBC radio 4, BBC world service and the Open University. Including ‘Black CNN’ – An exploration of political hip hop for BBC Radio 4, ‘William Quilliam’ - Britain’s First Islamist for BBC World Service and ‘A Reluctant Beat’ - a celebration of the life and work of City Lights Bookstore Owner, Beat Poet and Publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

He is also the founder of perfectmotion ltd, which works across the globe on productions ranging from audio & visual broadcast documentaries, drama shorts and features to corporate and academic projects with a long and diverse track record of multi-media production, co-production and development.

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Is This an Irennogram of Woodland?

Treemetrics woodland laser scan: Released 03/02/2016 8:10 am: Copyright Treemetrics


A commercial forest seen through the ‘eyes’ of a 3D laser scanning system developed by the ESA-supported Treemetrics company.

The trees of planet Earth – recently estimated to number three trillion in total – are both environmental and economic resources, and require careful stewardship.

“We estimate 20% of global forest resources are currently going to waste as they are harvested,” explains Enda Keane, CEO of Irish company Treemetrics.

“What Treemetrics aims to deliver is more wood from fewer trees, through a complete end-to-end forest management system. It combines forest mapping, assessment and valuing with decision-making tools for harvest planning as well as real-time monitoring of the cutting and collecting process.”

Treemetrics developed a project in collaboration with ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) programme’s Integrated Applications Promotion to integrate satellite communications into its system, enabling managers to monitor their equipment and track harvesting as it happens, even from remote forest locations.

The company can perform forest mapping through aerial and drone photography and ‘laser radar’ lidar, as well as satellite Earth observation – using missions including ESA’s Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2.

These maps are given a third dimension through ‘ground truthing’. Laser scanners perform a 360-degree survey at regular intervals to measure the straightness and health of trees – accurately estimating their quality as logs in advance of them being logged.

Mr Keane adds: “We are very grateful for the great technical, financial and business planning support we received through ESA’s IAP, which enabled the creation of a world class product for the global forest industry.”

The company’s customers to date include state forest agencies in 26 countries, as well as private forest owners and government agencies.

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Panasonic Green Energy Promise

Panasonic wants to become by its 100th birthday in 2018 the world's leading company for green innovations in the electronics industry.

Image: Panasonic

There are many problems that need to be resolved for the future of mankind, including the depletion of fossil fuels (i.e., petroleum, coal), energy issues, and global warming. To fulfill our duty as an electronic manufacturer using electricity, one of the R&D projects that Panasonic is working on is hydrogen energy technology.

Hydrogen produces energy by a chemical reaction involving oxygen, and the only process byproduct is water. Hydrogen is clean and highly efficient and is a carbon-free energy with very low environmental impact. This is why Panasonic has continued with its R&D on hydrogen for over two decades.

10 Years of Panasonic eneloop

Panasonic Celebrated its eneloop's 10the Anniversary recently

Zellik, 28 January 2016. – Panasonic recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of its eneloop brand. This unique eco-friendly rechargeable battery offers a new lifestyle choice to customers. Today, it ships to over 80 countries and is appreciated by consumers all over the world.

Launched in November 2005, eneloop has revolutionised the consumer-use rechargeable battery segment thanks to its unique features:

eneloop batteries can be recharged up to 2,100 times
One of the most important characteristics of a rechargeable battery is its cycle life; the number of charge/discharge cycles it can withstand without losing capacity. eneloop can be recharged up to 2,100 times, not only making it more economical, but helping reduce the world’s waste pile of batteries.

Ready-to-use & low self-discharge
eneloop batteries are delivered pre-charged using solar power, making them immediately useable after purchase, like primary batteries. They also have a low self-discharge rate. While other non-ready-to-use rechargeable batteries lose their charge over time, Panasonic’s proprietary eneloop technology means its batteries maintain 70% capacity even after 10 years of storage.

Longer lasting than primary batteries
Many applications switch off or indicate low battery when voltage is lower than 1.1 volts. A traditional primary battery continuously loses voltage and reaches this critical level very quickly. eneloop batteries keep the voltage level over 1.1 volts for a long time, only falling below just before they are empty.

High performance even at low temperatures
Contrary to primary batteries, eneloop batteries keep a high voltage at low temperatures and can even maintain a low self-discharge rate in temperatures as low as -20ºC.

Combining the pluses
eneloop is a revolutionary rechargeable battery that can be used as easily as a primary battery, and reused simply by recharging it. It brings together the advantages of both types of batteries, while also saving resources. It’s part of the reason that Panasonic was ranked in the top five of Best Global Green Brands in 2014.

Product range
Alongside standard eneloop batteries, Panasonic also offers eneloop pro and lite: eneloop pro have a higher capacity and are therefore the perfect choice for high energy-consuming devices such as photo strobe flash lights, wireless keyboards, mice, game controllers and household devices. eneloop lite can be recharged up to 3,000 times, making these batteries ideal for low to medium power consumption devices, such as DECT phones and remote controls.

10th Anniversary of eneloop
To celebrate eneloop’s 10th anniversary, Panasonic has launched a special campaign with activities happening across Europe, including a revamped website in 13 languages, a  drawing competition and several spectacular events. Also currently running is an International photo challenge around the theme of sustainability and the environment. Visit https://photochallenge.panasonic-eneloop.eu for more details.

Sustainable Most abundant element in the universe, Clean After combustion water is produced with no CO2 emissions, High-power High combustion energy, Easy storage and transportation* * Compared with electricity, Saves energy and prevents global warming Converts to electricity with high efficiency

We are already producing energy with hydrogen. Panasonic made household fuel cell commercially available in the Japanese market in 2009. This product uses hydrogen extracted from utility gas to make electricity and hot water in homes. The household fuel cell, currently being used in many houses and facilities, is contributing to the increasing popularity of this application.

There are now several initiatives in Panasonic to realize a hydrogen society where we can produce, store, and utilize hydrogen easily in our homes.

Utilisation of hydrogen

Assuming that a society where hydrogen is supplied to each home will be realized in the near future, Panasonic is working to develop a pure hydrogen-type fuel cell that allows us to produce electricity directly from hydrogen with high efficiency and low cost. We have installed prototype devices inside "Yume Solar-kan Yamanashi", Komekurayama in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, a field test site for renewable energy and next generation energy, and conducted electricity production performance tests from 2012. We are planning to continue with this field test.

As part of developing future technologies, we are currently studying a solar hydrogen generation technology (photocatalyst) that produces hydrogen from water, by using our proprietary photocatalyst technology and renewable energy, namely sunlight. We are exploring every possibility of hydrogen production technology, including using the Energy and Environment New Technology Pioneer Program, a program funded by Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), and aim to realize the technology by around 2030. Research is also underway to develop a high-density storage technology.

Hydrogen energy is not just clean energy, it can also provide a stable power supply even during an emergency. It is expected to become a power source for homes and societies in the future. Panasonic continues the development to realize this potential from people's homes.

About Panasonic
 
The Panasonic Corporation is a leading company worldwide in the development and manufacture of electronic goods for a wide range of private, trade and industrial uses. The Group, based in Osaka, Japan, in financial year ended 31 March 2015 posted consolidated net sales of around 57.28 billion EUR. Panasonic Corporation's shares are listed on the Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and New York stock exchanges (NYSE symbol: PC). Panasonic wants to become by its 100th birthday in 2018 the world's leading company for green innovations in the electronics industry.

( This feature is from the Panasonic website)

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2015 is the Hottest Year on Record – UN WMO

Cooling off on a waterfall. UN Photo/Victoria Hazou

25 January 2016 – The global average surface temperature in 2015 broke all previous records by a strikingly wide margin, according to the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which announced today that for the first time on record, temperatures were about 1 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial era.

“An exceptionally strong El Niño and global warming caused by greenhouse gases joined forces with dramatic effect on the climate system in 2015,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a press release.

“The power of El Niño will fade in the coming months but the impacts of human-induced climate change will be with us for many decades. We have reached for the first time the threshold of 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. It is a sobering moment in the history of our planet,” he added.

WMO combines three internationally-renowned observational datasets with those from sophisticated reanalysis systems, allowing it to provide “the most authoritative international reference source.”

According to its data, 15 of the 16 hottest years on record have all been this century, with 2015 being significantly warmer than the record-level temperatures seen in 2014. Underlining the long-term trend, 2011-15 is the warmest five-year period on record.

Meanwhile, the record temperatures over both land and the ocean surface in 2015 were accompanied by many extreme weather events such as heatwaves, flooding and severe drought.

“If the commitments made during the climate change negotiations in Paris and furthermore a higher emission reduction ambition level is reached, we still have chance to stay within the maximum 2 degree Celsius limit,” Mr. Taalas highlighted, referring to the temperature rise the international community has set itself not to surpass.

“Climate change will have increasingly negative impacts for at least the next five decades,” he continued. “This emphasizes the need to invest in adaptation besides mitigation. It is important to strengthen the capability of countries to provide better disaster early warnings to minimize human and economic losses. Climate change increases the risk of weather related disasters which are an obstacle to sustainable development,” he added.

WMO will issue its full report on the status of the global climate in 2015 next March, with comprehensive details of regional trends, extreme events, sea ice, sea level rise and tropical cyclones.

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Sustainable Energy Can Save Millions of Lives: Ban Ki-moon Tells Summit in Abu Dhabi

The Itaipu hydroelectric power plant is a source of renewable clean energy, providing around 17 per cent of the energy consumed in Brazil and 75 per cent of the energy used in Paraguay. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

18 January 2016 – Millions of lives can be saved by ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed at the World Future Energy Summit taking place in the United Arab Emirates.

“Sustainable energy is the thread that connects economic growth, social equity, and our efforts to combat climate change,” Mr. Ban told industry leaders from around the world attending the week-long conference in Abu Dhabi.

Highlighting last year’s “landmark” global agreements on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and on climate change at COP21 in December, the UN chief noted that for the first time, every country in the world pledged to act internationally and domestically to address climate change.

“The universality of these agreements, and their inclusive nature, mean that we have a clear way forward,” he said. “Now is the time for action. Governments, the private sector, regional and international organizations, must start working to implement the 17 ambitious Global Goals,” he said.

One of these Goals – SDG7 – aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. He explained that clean, sustainable energy will not only help safeguard the future of the planet – keeping temperature rise below the two degree Celsius goal – it will also directly save an estimated 4.3 million lives every year. That is the estimated number of people who die prematurely from pollution resulting from indoor cookstoves that use fire, coal, charcoal or animal waste.

“Most of these people are women and children, who spend their time near wood-burning stoves and open flames. It is women and girls who bear the brunt of collecting firewood and fuels – time-consuming activities which limit their work and education opportunities,” the UN chief warned.

He added that SDG7 is also at the heart of development, since more than one billion people in the world have no access to electricity.

“Achieving SDG7 well before 2030 will vastly improve our chances of achieving the Global Goals on food security, health care, education, employment, sustainable cities and more,” he declared. “We have made a good start. There has been remarkable progress on many fronts.”

The Secretary-General noted that a new generation of energy-efficient appliances is giving people access to the lighting, heating, communication and other tools that they need, while reminding all leaders and decision-makers at the Summit that emissions must be cut drastically and counterproductive subsidies must end.

“Governments and the private sector will need to align their decisions,” he insisted. “Every dollar of the trillions that will be spent on new infrastructure in the next 15 years must be invested in climate-friendly projects that will drive the growth of low-carbon goods and services.”

Ending his remarks, he underlined the important role women play in seeking sustainable solutions. “Women are often the primary managers of energy in their households and communities and so can be powerful agents of change in the transition to sustainable, clean, green energy.”

Later in the day, the Secretary-General spoke at the launch of “Abu Dhabi Action Day,” saying how inspired he was by presentations showcased at the Summit, especially those created by young people.

“I am so honoured and excited to see that all of you are part of a global push to do something even bigger than adopt a global agreement on climate change – namely to make it a reality.”

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The Seas Rise in Varying Rhythm: Glacial Rebound: The Not So Solid Earth

NASA Image


When you fill a sink, the water rises at the same rate to the same height in every corner. That's not the way it works with our rising seas.

According to the 23-year record of satellite data from NASA and its partners, the sea level is rising a few millimeters a year -- a fraction of an inch. If you live on the U.S. East Coast, though, your sea level is rising two or three times faster than average. If you live in Scandinavia, it's falling. Residents of China's Yellow River delta are swamped by sea level rise of more than nine inches (25 centimeters) a year.

These regional differences in sea level change will become even more apparent in the future, as ice sheets melt. For instance, when the Amundsen Sea sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is totally gone, the average global sea level will rise four feet. But the East Coast of the United States will see an additional 14 to 15 inches above that average.

Tides, winds and ocean currents play a role in these regional differences, but an increasingly important mover and shaker is the solid Earth itself. Global warming is not just affecting the surface of our world; it's making the Earth move under our feet.

NASA Discusses rising sea levels

Unless a volcano or earthquake are in the news, we tend to think of our home planet as solid rock. But 50 miles below our feet, there's a layer thousands of miles thick that can flow like a liquid over thousands of years. The tectonic plates of Earth's crust float on this viscous layer, called the mantle, like a vanilla wafer on a very thick pudding.

If you were to put a strawberry on top of that vanilla wafer, the added weight would make the cookie sink into the pudding. In the same way, heavy weights on Earth's crust push it down into the mantle, which flows away and bulges out elsewhere. The miles-thick ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica have been depressing the crust beneath them for millennia. That weight has a second effect that you won't see in your dessert: its gravitational pull on the surrounding ocean makes seawater pile up around the coastlines.

These weight-filled dents in the mantle don't make a permanent scar. When the extra weight lifts, the mantle rebounds. This doesn't just happen at the majestic pace of mountain ranges crumbling. It happens every day.

"The solid earth can respond very quickly -- nearly instantaneously," said Mark Tamisiea, a scientist at the National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool, England, who studies the connection between sea levels and Earth processes. Tamisiea cited the example of solid-Earth tides, which pull the crust outward as much as a foot (30 centimeters) toward the moon as it passes overhead. Similarly, Earth has an instant initial response to glaciers and ice sheets melting, called the elastic response.

Since NASA launched the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment twin satellites in 2002, scientists have had an extremely precise measurement of the contribution that ice sheets' loss of mass contributes to changes in gravity and what it is adding to sea level rise. "Because of GRACE, we've had a pretty good idea of what's happening since 2002," said Steve Nerem of the University of Colorado, head of NASA's Sea Level Change Team. "We know how much [of sea level rise] is from Greenland, how much is from Antarctica, how much is from glaciers."

Because every ice sheet and glacier has a unique location and size, each one creates a pattern of response in the ocean as individual as a fingerprint. "The physics behind understanding these fingerprints is very well understood," Tamisiea said. "It's like the tides." He and Jerry Mitrovica of Harvard University have calculated the fingerprints of East and West Antarctica and Greenland around the globe. "We do each ice sheet individually so we can use the latest GRACE analysis," Tamisiea explained. "You can sort of add the effects up and see what the result is for any given location."

As any ice sheet melts, sea levels along coastlines as much as 1,500 miles (2,000 kilometers) away will fall as seawater escapes from the reduced gravitational pull and the crust lifts. The escaping seawater flows clear across the equator: the melting of Antarctica affects the U.S. East and West coasts, and Greenland's disappearance impacts the coastline of Brazil. These regional differences are significant – such as in the case of the East Coast of the United States.

The East Coast is also on the losing end of another important solid-Earth process that affects regional sea levels: post-glacial rebound. After the elastic response to a crustal weight loss, uplift continues more slowly for many millennia. North America is still responding to the massive melt-off at the end of the last ice age 6,000 years ago. The North American tectonic plate wasn't evenly loaded during that ice age: ice sheets were sitting on what is now Canada and Greenland, while most of today's United States remained ice free. This ice load pushed the mantle out from under Canada and buoyed up the United States. Today, the U.S. side of the North American plate is sinking like the downhill end of a seesaw as the northern side continues to lift.

Greenland's uplift from postglacial rebound means the island is gaining mass from below and its bedrock is continuously rising. At the same time, it is losing mass from above as its ice melts. GRACE measures the net result of these opposing processes, not just the result of melting ice alone. A National Science Foundation- and NASA-funded program called the Greenland GPS Network is working to overcome this problem. Led by Michael Bevis of Ohio State University, the program is using more than 50 GPS stations in Greenland to measure Greenland's rise and fall. The network is dense enough, and the instruments record elevation precisely enough, to distinguish the steady, long-term rise caused by postglacial rebound from shorter-term changes in elevation caused by the weight of the winter snows and loss of weight in summer. The goal of the project is to provide a "correction factor" for postglacial rebound that can be applied to measurements by GRACE and succeeding missions so that the remainder is an accurate measurement of the loss of mass from melting.

Scientists currently believe that ice sheet fingerprints will be the major driver of future regional variations in sea levels. They are working on questions of how these solid-Earth processes interact with other global and local drivers of sea level rise. "We have to understand global and larger-scale regional changes to do localized impact studies," Tamisiea explained. "In some places, it may very well be that regional processes will be the most important signal. There has to be a continuum of understanding of the global average, regional changes, and more localized processes. We'll need all of those layers to make viable predictions."

Carol Rasmussen
NASA’s Earth Science News Team
( Editor: Rob Garner: NASA)

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Nature, Chinese Pollution Offset U.S. West Ozone Gains

In this photo of sunset from the International Space Station, three atmospheric layers are distinctly visible. The troposphere glows orange, the stratosphere appears pale pink, and upper layers of the atmosphere are lighter blue. Credits: NASA

 

A new study finds that the western United States reduced its production of ozone-forming pollutants by a whopping 21 percent between 2005 and 2010, but ozone in the atmosphere above the region did not drop as expected in response. The reason: a combination of naturally occurring atmospheric processes and pollutants crossing the Pacific Ocean from China.

Scientists from the Netherlands and from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, looked at ozone in the mid-troposphere, about 10,000 to 30,000 feet (3 to 9 kilometers) above ground level. Ozone is formed throughout the atmosphere by chemical reactions, and it travels through the atmosphere upward, downward and sideways -- from ground level to many miles up into the stratosphere. In the mid-troposphere, ozone has a measurable greenhouse effect.

The researchers focused on ozone above eastern China and the western United States, using measurements of ozone and key ozone-forming pollutants from instruments on NASA's Aura satellite, and a computer model of global atmospheric chemistry and weather. Their study covered 2005 through 2010.

Over China, ozone increased about seven percent in the mid-troposphere. The researchers found two causes. First, Chinese emissions of ozone-forming pollutants increased 21 percent during these years. Second, an unusually large amount of ozone drifted down from the stratosphere as the result of several periodic, natural cycles, including an El Niño event in 2009-10.

At the same time, western U.S. emissions of ozone-forming pollutants decreased by 21 percent. The benefits of this large decrease will continue to accumulate for many years, like compound interest. By 2010, however, the decrease should have created a drop of more than two percent in mid-tropospheric ozone. Instead, there was no drop at all.

To quantify the impact of each cause, the scientists tested several scenarios with the atmospheric chemistry model. They used the NASA satellite measurements to set up accurate model simulations and to provide a reality check on the results.

In one model simulation, they held emissions from China constant at 2005 levels while allowing everything else (weather conditions, U.S. emissions, etc.) to evolve as in real life. The difference between West Coast ozone levels in this simulation and in the real world allowed them to quantify China's contribution to offsetting western U.S. ozone progress at 43 percent. The remainder of the offset -- 57 percent -- was the result of a temporary uptick in the amount of stratospheric ozone descending to the mid-troposphere.

JPL scientist Jessica Neu, a coauthor of the paper, explained, "The large contribution from the stratosphere is part of a natural up-and-down cycle of upper-atmosphere winds. We know pretty well what will happen to the stratospheric contribution in the next few decades; it will continue to go up and down every two years or so. On the other hand, the contribution from China increased steadily throughout the study, and we don't know what will happen to it in the future because it depends on human rather than natural factors."

Neu noted that this is by no means the only case of emissions from one nation crossing borders to another, and in fact, China itself is on the receiving end of pollutants blowing in from India. "We focused on China because its emissions grew very rapidly during a period when there were good satellite observations of ozone available, making it much easier to see the tropospheric ozone response to changing emissions," she said.

The lead author of the study is Willem Verstraeten, an atmospheric chemist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, who is also affiliated with the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute in DeBilt.

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and shorter-term process-oriented studies. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities, visit

Alan Buis
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
818-354-0474
Alan.Buis@jpl.nasa.gov


Written by Carol Rasmussen : NASA Earth Science News Team

( Editor: Tony Greicius:NASA)

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NASA Research Could Save Commercial Airlines Billions in New Era of Aviation and Reduce Pollution by 75%

Researchers with NASA's Environmentally Responsible Aviation project coordinated wind-tunnel tests of an Active Flow Control system -- tiny jets installed on a full-size aircraft vertical tail that blow air -- to prove they would provide enough side force and stability that it might someday be possible to design smaller vertical tails that would reduce drag and save fuel. Credits: NASA/Dominic Hart

 

The nation’s airlines could realize more than $250 billion dollars in savings in the near future thanks to green-related technologies developed and refined by NASA’s aeronautics researchers during the past six years.

These new technologies, developed under the purview of NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) project, could cut airline fuel use in half, pollution by 75 percent and noise to nearly one-eighth of today’s levels.

“If these technologies start finding their way into the airline fleet, our computer models show the economic impact could amount to $255 billion in operational savings between 2025 and 2050,” said Jaiwon Shin, NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics research.

Created in 2009 and completed in 2015, ERA’s mission was to explore and document the feasibility, benefits and technical risk of inventive vehicle concepts and enabling technologies that would reduce aviation’s impact on the environment. Project researchers focused on eight major integrated technology demonstrations falling into three categories – airframe technology, propulsion technology and vehicle systems integration.

By the time ERA officially concluded its six-year run, NASA had invested more than $400 million, with another $250 million in-kind resources invested by industry partners who were involved in ERA from the start.

“It was challenging because we had a fixed window, a fixed budget, and all eight demonstrations needed to finish at the same time,” said Fayette Collier, ERA project manager. “We then had to synthesize all the results and complete our analysis so we could tell the world what the impact would be. We really did quite well.”

Here is a brief summary of each of the eight integrated technology demonstrations completed by the ERA researchers:

Tiny embedded nozzles blowing air over the surface of an airplane’s vertical tail fin showed that future aircraft could safely be designed with smaller tails, reducing weight and drag. This technology was tested using Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator 757 flying laboratory. Also flown was a test of surface coatings designed to minimize drag caused by bug residue building up on the wing’s leading edge.

NASA developed a new process for stitching together large sections of lightweight composite materials to create damage-tolerant structures that could be used in building uniquely shaped future aircraft that weighed as much as 20 percent less than a similar all-metal aircraft.

Teaming with the Air Force Research Laboratory and FlexSys Inc. of Ann Arbor, Michigan, NASA successfully tested a radical new morphing wing technology that allows an aircraft to seamlessly extend its flaps, leaving no drag-inducing, noise-enhancing gaps for air to flow through. FlexSys and Aviation Partners of Seattle already have announced plans to commercialize this technology.


NASA worked with General Electric to refine the design of the compressor stage of a turbine engine to improve its aerodynamic efficiency and, after testing, realized that future engines employing this technology could save 2.5 percent in fuel burn.

The agency worked with Pratt & Whitney on the company’s geared turbofan jet engine to mature an advanced fan design to improve propulsion efficiency and reduce noise. If introduced on the next-generation engine, the technology could reduce fuel burn by 15 percent and significantly reduce noise.

NASA also worked with Pratt & Whitney on an improved design for a jet engine combustor, the chamber in which fuel is burned, in an attempt to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides produced. While the goal was to reduce generated pollution by 75 percent, tests of the new design showed reductions closer to 80 percent.

New design tools were developed to aid engineers in reducing noise from deployed wing flaps and landing gear during takeoffs and landings. Information from a successful wind-tunnel campaign, combined with baseline flight tests, were joined together for the first time to create computer-based simulations that could help mature future designs.

Significant studies were performed on a hybrid wing body concept in which the wings join the fuselage in a continuous, seamless line and the jet engines are mounted on top of the airplane in the rear. Research included wind-tunnel runs to test how well the aircraft would operate at low speeds and to find the optimal engine placement, while also minimizing fuel burn and reducing noise.

As part of the closeout work for the ERA project, information and results regarding each of these technology demonstrations were categorized and stored for future access and use by the aerospace industry, and will be discussed at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Sci-Tech Conference in San Diego this week.

For more information about NASA aeronautics research, go to:

http://www.nasa.gov/aeronautics

J.D. Harrington
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-5241
j.d.harrington@nasa.gov
 

( Editor: Karen Northon: NASA)

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Posted: January 5, 2015

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The
Earth

 

  The
Moon

 

The Lake Eden Eye

 

 

 

 

The Window of the Heavens Always Open and Calling: All We Have to Do Is: To Choose to Be Open, Listen and Respond

 

 

 

Imagine a Rose-Boat

Imagine a rose floating like a tiny little boat on this ocean of infinity
And raise your soul-sail on this wee-little boat and go seeking out
All along feed on nothing but the light that you gather only light
Fear shall never fathom you nor greed can tempt nor illusion divert
For Love you are by name by deeds you are love's working-map

 

 

Only in the transparent pool of knowledge, chiselled out by the sharp incision of wisdom, is seen the true face of what truth is: That what  beauty paints, that what music sings, that what love makes into a magic. And it is life: a momentary magnificence, a-bloom like a bubble's miniscule exposition, against the spread of this awe-inspiring composition of the the Universe. Only through the path of seeking, learning, asking and developing, only through the vehicles and vesicles of knowledge, only through listening to the endless springs flowing beneath, outside, around and beyond our reach, of wisdom, we find the infinite ocean of love which is boundless, eternal, and being infinite, it makes us, shapes us and frees us onto the miracle of infinite liberty: without border, limitation or end. There is nothing better, larger or deeper that humanity can ever be than to simply be and do love. The Humanion

 

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The Humanion Online Daily from the United Kingdom for the World: To Inspire Souls to Seek

At Home in the Universe : One Without Frontier. Editor: Munayem Mayenin

All copyrights @ The Humanion: London: England: United Kingdom: Contact Address: editor at thehumanion dot com

First Published: September 24: 2015