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Conservation Science News October 5, 2012

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Highlight of the Week– Epic “Dust Bowl of 2012” Expands Again









Highlight of the WeekEpic “Dust Bowl of 2012” Expands Again


Epic ‘Dust Bowl Of 2012′ Expands Again

By Joe Romm on Sep 30, 2012 at 11:30 am


The latest weekly Drought Monitor update set another grim record. The brutal U.S. drought expanded to 65.45% of the contiguous U.S. — the highest ever in the Monitor’s 12-year history. The previous record was 64.8% — set just last week.
In the third quarter alone, crop production dropped $12 billion “due to this summer’s severe heat and drought.”  The drop in farm inventories was so sharp in the last quarter that it wiped 0.2% off of U.S. GDP in the latest revision. In Texas, the drought has killed more than 300 million trees. Nearly 98% of Nebraska is in extreme to exceptional drought — 3 months ago, none of it was!

Climate Central explains:

The drought is the worst to strike the U.S. since the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s and lengthy droughts of the 1950s. It came on suddenly and largely without warning, and although the main trigger was most likely the pattern of water temperatures in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the drought was exacerbated by extremely hot temperatures during the spring and summer. Climate studies have shown that the odds of severe heat waves are increasing due to manmade climate change.


As I wrote in July, “We’re Already Topping Dust Bowl Temperatures — Imagine What’ll Happen If We Fail To Stop 10°F Warming.”


The WashPost
reported in August:
The United States will suffer a series of severe droughts in the next two decades, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.


Moreover, global warming will play an increasingly important role in their abundance and severity, claims Aiguo Dai, the study’s author. His findings bolster conclusions from climate models used by researchers around the globe that have predicted severe and widespread droughts in coming decades over many land areas…“We can now be more confident that the models are correct,” Dai said, “but unfortunately, their predictions are dire.”


For more on what the models have been saying, see “James Hansen Is Correct About Catastrophic Projections For U.S. Drought If We Don’t Act Now.”

Related Posts:



Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models

Aiguo Dai Nature Climate Change (2012) doi:10.1038/nclimate1633 published Aug 5 2012

ABSTRACT: Historical records of precipitation, streamflow and drought indices all show increased aridity since 1950 over many land areas1, 2. Analyses of model-simulated soil moisture3, 4, drought indices1, 5, 6 and precipitation-minus-evaporation7 suggest increased risk of drought in the twenty-first century. There are, however, large differences in the observed and model-simulated drying patterns1, 2, 6. Reconciling these differences is necessary before the model predictions can be trusted. Previous studies8, 9, 10, 11, 12 show that changes in sea surface temperatures have large influences on land precipitation and the inability of the coupled models to reproduce many observed regional precipitation changes is linked to the lack of the observed, largely natural change patterns in sea surface temperatures in coupled model simulations13. Here I show that the models reproduce not only the influence of El Niño-Southern Oscillation on drought over land, but also the observed global mean aridity trend from 1923 to 2010. Regional differences in observed and model-simulated aridity changes result mainly from natural variations in tropical sea surface temperatures that are often not captured by the coupled models. The unforced natural variations vary among model runs owing to different initial conditions and thus are irreproducible. I conclude that the observed global aridity changes up to 2010 are consistent with model predictions, which suggest severe and widespread droughts in the next 30–90 years over many land areas resulting from either decreased precipitation and/or increased evaporation.



Climate models that predict more droughts win further scientific support

By Hristio Boytchev, Published: August 13 2012 Washington Post

The United States will suffer a series of severe droughts in the next two decades, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Moreover, global warming will play an increasingly important role in their abundance and severity, claims Aiguo Dai, the study’s author. His findings bolster conclusions from climate models used by researchers around the globe that have predicted severe and widespread droughts in coming decades over many land areas. Those models had been questioned because they did not fully reflect actual drought patterns when they were applied to conditions in the past. However, using a statistical method with data about sea surface temperatures, Dai, a climate researcher at the federally funded National Center for Atmospheric Research, found that the model accurately portrayed historic climate events.


“We can now be more confident that the models are correct,” Dai said, “but unfortunately, their predictions are dire.” In the United States, the main culprit currently is a cold cycle in the surface temperature of the eastern Pacific Ocean. It decreases precipitation, especially over the western part of the country. “We had a similar situation in the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s,” said Dai, who works at the research center’s headquarters in Boulder, Colo.

While current models cannot predict the severity of a drought in a given year, they can assess its probability. “Considering the current trend, I was not surprised by the 2012 drought,” Dai said.

The Pacific cycle is expected to last for the next one or two decades, bringing more aridity. On top of that comes climate change. “Global warming has a subtle effect on drought at the moment,” Dai said, “but by the end of the cold cycle, global warming might take over and continue to cause dryness.”

While the variations in sea temperatures primarily influence precipitation, global warming is expected to bring droughts by increasing evaporation over land. Additionally, Dai predicts more dryness in South America, Southern Europe and Africa.”The similarity between the observed droughts and the projections from climate models here is striking,” said Peter Cox, a professor of climate system dynamics at Britain’s University of Exeter, who was not involved in Dai’s research. He said he also agrees that the latest models suggest increasing drought to be consistent with man-made climate change.


An ear of corn from Wayne Boschert’s farm from 2011, left, compared to one from this year, amid a widespread drought. Dilip Vishwanat for The New York Times

Drought Leaves Cracks in Way of Life—impacts on farming families

By JOHN ELIGON NY Times Published: October 4, 2012

BUTLER, Mo. — They have canceled vacations. Their children are forgoing out-of-state colleges for cheaper ones close to home. They are delaying doctor’s visits, selling off land handed down through generations and resisting luxuries like new smartphones. And then there is the stress — sleepless nights, grumpiness and, in one extreme case, seizures. Lost amid the withered crops, dehydrated cattle and depleted ponds that have come to symbolize the country’s most widespread drought in decades has been the toll on families whose livelihoods depend on farming. Although most are not in danger of losing their homes or going hungry, the drought is threatening the way of life in rural America. ….A year of drought here and there is sustainable, most farmers said. But multiple years in a row could be devastating, something that Jim Selman, a cattle rancher in south-central Texas, has learned. Last October, Mr. Selman, 80, sold all 300 of his cattle because of a drought that had been going for about five years. He is now living off the money he made, but if that runs out, he will have to sell some of his land. “Ranching’s not just an income, it is a way of life,” Mr. Selman said. “It’s what gives me pleasure, and all of a sudden I don’t have that pleasure anymore.”




Science Friday Sep. 28, 2012

Fires and Invasive Grass Threaten American West

Cheatgrass, an invasive weed, is choking out native sagebrush in the Great Basin — and setting the stage for hotter, more catastrophic fires there. Jen Pierce, an expert on ancient fires, and Mike Pellant of the Great Basin Restoration Initiative, talk about how fires are reshaping landscapes in the American West.



Only healthy groundwater ecosystems provide clean groundwater
(October 1, 2012) — Two thirds of drinking water in Germany is obtained from groundwater. At the same time groundwater is in no way a lifeless resource with at least 2,000 known species and numerous microorganisms mainly helping to clean the groundwater and improve the quality of drinking water. However, the protection of this habitat has not yet been established in law. Researchers have now presented a draft for the geographical classification of groundwater fauna, which could be used as an important step for the evaluation of the environmental status of groundwater. Its aim is the long-overdue establishment of suitable measures for the sustainable, ecologically-oriented management of groundwater. … > full story


California: Restoring the Balona Wetlands (VIDEO)
The Ballona Wetlands stretch from Playa del Rey to Venice. The site is owned by the state and managed by the California Department of Fish and Game as an ecological reserve. The California Coastal Conservancy and the California State Lands Commission are partners in the planning and restoration of the wetlands.


Deforestation in snowy regions causes more floods
(October 3, 2012) — New research suggests that cutting down swaths of forest in snowy regions at least doubles — and potentially quadruples — the number of large floods that occur along the rivers and streams passing through those forests. … > full story

IMAGE: This is the cover of the new UN report: “Science-Policy Bridges over Troubled Waters. ”

Click here for more information.


UN & Experts Warn of ‘Water Bankruptcy’ After Reviewing 200 Major Global Water Projects
Bangkok, 24 September 2012
A study of almost 200 major international water-related projects over the past 20 years has identified a suite of existing and emerging challenges and how science can offer remedies. Insufficient and disjointed management of human demands on water and aquatic systems has led to situations where both social and ecological systems are in jeopardy and have even collapsed, says the report.

…..Insufficient and disjointed management of human demands on water and aquatic systems has led to situations where both social and ecological systems are in jeopardy and have even collapsed, says the report. River basins in particular are set to experience growing pressures due to urbanization, rising water scarcity and poor water quality. Investing in science, in order to identify emerging issues and track trends relating to the use of water resources, can help to reduce such risks, according to the study. Links between science and policymaking also need to be strengthened.
Several success stories of research investments that paid rich dividends are also highlighted in the report.
The new report, Science-Policy Bridges over Troubled Waters, synthesizes findings of over 90 scientists worldwide assigned to five GEF International Water Science (IW:Science) working groups focusing on groundwater, lakes, rivers, land-based pollution sources, and large marine ecosystems and the open ocean…..


New ‘Green List’ shows species on path to conservation success
(September 29, 2012) — The IUCN World Conservation Congress has adopted a motion to create a Green List to assess conservation success. The Green List for Species would include species identified as ‘fully conserved,’ which are those that exist in ecologically significant numbers, interacting fully with other species in their ecosystems. … > full story

Marine plants can flee to avoid predators: First observation of predator avoidance behavior by phytoplankton
(September 29, 2012) — Scientists have made the first observation of a predator avoidance behavior by a species of phytoplankton, a microscopic marine plant. The scientists made the unexpected observation while studying the interactions between phytoplankton and zooplankton. … > full story

White shark diets show surprising variability, vary with age and among individuals
(September 29, 2012) — White sharks, the largest predatory sharks in the ocean, are thought of as apex predators that feed primarily on seals and sea lions. But a new study shows surprising variability in the dietary preferences of individual sharks. … > full story

Trapping weevils and saving monarchs
(October 1, 2012) — Ensuring the monarch butterfly’s survival by saving its milkweed habitat could result from U.S. Department of Agriculture studies initially intended to improve detection of boll weevils with pheromone traps. … > full story


Ecologists start new Antarctic season comparing animals’ handling of adversity
(October 3, 2012) — Ecologists who are about to return to Antarctica have found that Weddell seals were better than Emperor penguins at handling adverse conditions from icebergs. … > full story

Impact of cattle grazing on the occupancy of a cryptic, threatened rail.
Richmond, Orien M. W., Jerry Tecklin, and Steven R. Beissinger. 2012. Ecological Applications 22:1655–1664

Impacts of livestock grazing in arid and semiarid environments are often concentrated in and around wetlands where animals congregate for water, cooler temperatures, and green forage. We assessed the impacts of winter–spring (November–May) cattle grazing on marsh vegetation cover and occupancy of a highly secretive marsh bird that relies on dense vegetation cover, the California Black Rail (Laterallus jamaicensis coturniculus), in the northern Sierra Nevada foothills of California, USA. Using detection–nondetection data collected during repeated call playback surveys at grazed vs. ungrazed marshes and a “random changes in occupancy” parameterization of a multi-season occupancy model, we examined relationships between occupancy and habitat covariates, while accounting for imperfect detection. Marsh vegetation cover was significantly lower at grazed marshes than at ungrazed marshes during the grazing season in 2007 but not in 2008. Winter–spring grazing had little effect on Black Rail occupancy at irrigated marshes. However, at nonirrigated marshes fed by natural springs and streams, grazed sites had lower occupancy than ungrazed sites. Black Rail occupancy was positively associated with marsh area, irrigation as a water source, and summer vegetation cover, and negatively associated with marsh isolation. Residual dry matter (RDM), a commonly used metric of grazing intensity, was significantly associated with summer marsh vegetation cover at grazed sites but not spring cover. Direct monitoring of marsh vegetation cover, particularly at natural spring- or stream-fed marshes, is recommended to prevent negative impacts to rails from overgrazing.


Study Explains Estuaries Role In Carbon Containment

Although it’s long been known that marshes and wetlands are key to the growth and survival of many marine species, a new study released earlier this month by Duke University and Oregon State University shines light on a lesser-known fact: destroying them releases copious amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. According to a Duke News press release, “The analysis in the study provides the most comprehensive estimate of global carbon emissions from the loss of these coastal habitats to date – 0.15 to 1.2 billion tons – and suggests there is a high value associated with keeping these coastal-marine ecosystems intact, as the release of their stored carbon costs roughly $6-$42 billion annually.


Homolog of mammalian neocortex found in bird brain
(October 1, 2012) — Most higher-order processing by the human and mammalian brain is thought to occur in the neocortex, a structure on the surface of the brain. Now researchers have found cells similar to those of the mammalian neocortex in a vastly different anatomical structure in bird brains. This confirms a 50-year-old hypothesis that provoked decades of debate, sheds light on the evolution of the brain, and suggests new animal models for the neocortex. … > full story


Great Barrier Reef has lost half its corals since 1985, new study says

By Juliet Eilperin, Published: October 1 Washington Post

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half its coral cover since 1985, according to a new study published Monday. The loss has been spurred by a combination of factors including hurricanes, coral-eating starfish and coral bleaching. The paper, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the most comprehensive survey of a reef system over such a long period. The researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science found that reef cover fell from 28 percent to 13.8 percent over the past 27 years, with two-thirds of the decline occurring since 1998. The sobering findings highlighted how even the world’s most protected marine areas are under assault from natural forces and causes linked to the human activity that is resulting in climate change. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem, featuring nearly 3,000 individual reefs within 133,205 square miles. A third of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is off-limits to fishing and collecting. “We are basically losing an ecosystem that is so iconic for Australia and the rest of the world,” said institute scientist Katharina E. Fabricius, one of the paper’s authors. Storm damage accounted for 48 percent of the decline, scientists said, while crown-of-horns starfish contributed 42 percent. Coral bleaching, caused by warmer water, accounted for 10 percent of coral loss…..


‘Superweeds’ linked to rising herbicide use in GM crops, study finds
(October 2, 2012) — The use of herbicides in the production of three genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops — cotton, soybeans and corn — has actually increased, according to a new study. This counterintuitive finding is based on an exhaustive analysis of publicly available data. … > full story

Researchers Propose New Way to Save Africa’s Beleaguered Soils
A Washington State University researcher and colleagues make a case in the journal Nature for a new type of agriculture that could restore the beleaguered soils of Africa and help the continent feed itself in the coming decades. Their system, which they call “perenniation,” mixes food crops with trees and perennial plants, which live for two years or more. Thousands of farmers are already trying variations of perenniation, which reduces the need for artificial inputs while improving soil and in some cases dramatically increasing yields.


California: Study Examines Defensible Space and Erosion Control
A three-year study of defensible space and erosion control conducted by a group of local organizations found that tilling aged wood chips into the soil is most effective at minimizing fire risk and preventing erosion. According to a press release from Integrated Environmental Restoration Services Inc., the study aimed to find common ground between landscape treatments effective at preventing erosion and minimizing fire risk


US: Turkey Federation Joins Efforts to Bring Back Bobwhites
The NWTF has agreed to lend its organizational muscle and habitat restoration experience to efforts to bring back the Northern bobwhite, commonly referred to as quail. Both organizations know the restoration of bobwhites will be a multi-year, and perhaps multi-generational project. Brent Lawrence, director of communications for the NWTF, said the number of wild turkeys nationwide dwindled to about 30,000 in the early 1900s. Today, that number has grown to 7 million.


Helping captive birds make babies (blog) – ‎October 4, 2012‎

Academics analysed the reproduction of five critically endangered species of birds in the wild and in breeding programmes and found the wilds birds suffered exceptionally high rates of embryo death because of inbreeding, while in the captive birds


Science Friday Sep. 28, 2012

Ice Age Co-Stars: Horses, Camels, and Cheetahs

Move over mammoths — many lesser-known beasts roamed North America during the Ice Age too.





Arctic sea ice extent for September 2012 was 3.61 million square kilometers (1.39 million square miles). The magenta line shows the 1979 to 2000 median extent for that month. The black cross indicates the geographic North Pole. (Credit: NSIDC)

Arctic Sea Ice Shatters Previous Low Records; Antarctic Sea Ice Edges to Record High

ScienceDaily (Oct. 3, 2012) — This September, sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean fell to the lowest extent in the satellite record, which began in 1979. Satellite data analyzed by NSIDC scientists showed that the sea ice cover reached its lowest extent on September 16. Sea ice extent averaged for the month of September was also the lowest in the satellite record. The near-record ice melt occurred without the unusual weather conditions that contributed to the extreme melt of 2007. In 2007, winds and weather patterns helped melt large expanses of ice. “Atmospheric and oceanic conditions were not as conducive to ice loss this year, but the melt still reached a new record low,” said NSIDC scientist Walt Meier. “This probably reflects loss of multi-year ice in the Arctic, as well as other factors that are making the ice more vulnerable.” Multi-year ice is ice that has survived more than one melt season and is thicker than first-year ice. NSIDC Director Mark Serreze said, “It looks like the spring ice cover is so thin now that large areas melt out in summer, even without persistent extreme weather patterns.” A storm that tracked through the Arctic in August helped break up the weakened ice pack….NSIDC scientist Julienne Stroeve recently spent three weeks in the Arctic Ocean on an icebreaker ship, and was surprised by how thin the ice was and how much open water existed between the individual ice floes. “According to the satellite data, I expected to be in nearly 90% ice cover, but instead the ice concentrations were typically below 50%,” she said.

As the Arctic was experiencing a record low minimum extent, the Antarctic sea ice was reaching record high levels, culminating in a Southern Hemisphere winter maximum extent of 19.44 million square kilometers (7.51 million square miles) on September 26. The September 2012 monthly average was also a record high, at 19.39 million square kilometers (7.49 million square miles) slightly higher than the previous record in 2006. Temperatures over Antarctica were near average this austral winter. Scientists largely attribute the increase in Antarctic sea ice extent to stronger circumpolar winds, which blow the sea ice outward, increasing extent. NSIDC scientist Ted Scambos said, “Antarctica’s changes — in winter, in the sea ice — are due more to wind than to warmth, because the warming does not take much of the sea ice area above the freezing point during winter. Instead, the winds that blow around the continent, the “westerlies,” have gotten stronger in response to a stubbornly cold continent, and the warming ocean and land to the north.” Further information:


[New York Times]–Climate contrarians tend to point to the Antarctic almost every time Arctic sea ice sets a record or near-record low. In reality, the trends in Antarctic sea ice are pretty small compared to what’s happening in the Arctic.


An Illustrated Guide To 2012 Record Arctic Sea Ice Melt

Posted: 04 Oct 2012 09:30 AM PDT

The Arctic sea ice minimum volume dropped sharply this year. Data from PIOMAS, Graph by L. Hamilton

By Nevin Acropolis via the Arctic Sea Ice Blog We already knew a few weeks ago that the PIOMAS sea ice volume record had been broken, but with the latest data release by the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington we now know the minimum sea ice volume for 2012, as calculated by the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS).


Climate change may force evacuation of vulnerable island states within a decade

The Guardian (blog) – ‎October 4, 2012‎

Suggesting evacuations would accelerate a change in public consciousness around the issue of climate change, he said: “Thousands of years of culture is at risk of disappearing as the populations of vulnerable island states have no place to go.


Climate change could cripple southwestern U.S. forests: Trees face rising drought stress and mortality as climate warms
(September 30, 2012) — Combine the tree-ring growth record with historical information, climate records, and computer-model projections of future climate trends, and you get a grim picture for the future of trees in the southwestern United States, according to a new study. … > full story

Irreversible warming will cause sea levels to rise for thousands of years to come, new research shows
(October 1, 2012) — Greenhouse gas emissions up to now have triggered an irreversible warming of Earth that will cause sea levels to rise for thousands of years to come, new research has shown. … > full story

Experts See Signs of El Niño, but a Weak One

By JOHN H. CUSHMAN Jr. NY Times Published: October 2, 2012 WASHINGTON — A season of warmer ocean waters that has been expected to produce a Niño episode and perhaps bring relief from the continuing drought may turn out to be a bit weaker than advertised, according to climate experts.


Ocean acidification threatens U.S. fisheries: Human-generated carbon emissions are making the ocean more acidic, which has become a cause for concern to the fishing industry and scientists.


Fish getting smaller as the oceans warm
(September 30, 2012) — Changes in ocean and climate systems could lead to smaller fish, according to a new study. … > full story

Fish to shrink as global warming leaves them gasping for oxygen

* Human fish supplies from oceans at risk towards 2050-study

* Average maximum weights for fish to fall by 14-24 percent

By Alister Doyle OSLO, Sept 30 (Reuters) – Fish are likely to get smaller on average by 2050 because global warming will cut the amount of oxygen in the oceans in a shift that may also mean dwindling catches, according to a study on Sunday. Average maximum body weights for 600 types of marine fish, such as cod, plaice, halibut and flounder, would contract by 14-24 percent by 2050 from 2000 under a scenario of a quick rise in greenhouse gas emissions, it said. “The reductions in body size will affect whole ecosystems,” lead author William Cheung of the University of British Columbia in Canada, told Reuters of the findings in the journal Nature Climate Change. His team of scientists said a trend towards smaller sizes was “expected to have large implications” for ocean food webs and for human “fisheries and global protein supply.” “The consequences of failing to curtail greenhouse gas emissions on marine ecosystems are likely to be larger than previously indicated,” the U.S. and Canada-based scientists wrote. They said global warming, blamed on human burning of fossil fuels, will make life harder for fish in the oceans largely because warmer water can hold less dissolved oxygen, vital for respiration and growth….



Climate Change And Seafood Supply: Developing Countries Most Vulnerable To Ocean Acidification

By Climate Guest Blogger on Oct 4, 2012 at 9:30 am

by Tom Wittig

Developing countries that rely on nourishment from the oceans will soon find their sources of food and way of life threatened, according to an Oceana study released last week. The report, Ocean-Based Food Security Threatened in a High CO2 World, ranks the top 50 nations most vulnerable to climate change and ocean acidification in the context of their seafood and fish consumption.

Not surprisingly, those nations topping the list are among the least responsible for historic emissions of carbon dioxide. The Comoros claimed the dubious distinction of most threatened, followed by Togo, the Cook Islands, Kiribati, and Eritrea. Other notable countries in the top fifty include Pakistan (8), North Korea (25), China (35), and South Africa (46). The United States did not make the list.

Just how big is this threat? Over a billion people rely on seafood as their main source of protein. Before mid-century, global population is expected to reach nine billion, creating further demand for ocean-based food. Many nations struggling with nutrition will be further challenged, and citizens of some developing nations will likely turn to inferior foods. The authors elaborate:


Lakes React Differently to Warmer Climate



October 4, 2012 — A future warmer climate will produce different effects in different lakes. Researchers have now been able to explain that the effects of climate change depend on what organisms are dominant in the … > full story


Clam shells yield clues to Atlantic’s climate history
(October 1, 2012) — Researchers are studying the growth increments in clam shells to learn about past ocean conditions. A better understanding of the ocean’s past can help researchers understand today’s climate trends and changes. … > full story


Scientists team with U.S. Coast Guard to explore ice-free Arctic Ocean
(October 2, 2012) — With the melting ice in the Arctic, U.S. Coast Guard crews based in Alaska have taken on a new challenge: carefully deploying scientific equipment through cracks in the ice from an airplane hundreds of feet in the air. It’s all part of a new partnership that has evolved since disappearing Arctic ice has opened vast new frontiers — for the Coast Guard and for University of Washington scientists. This year, the lowest ebb of Arctic sea ice covered less area than at any time since scientists began recording it. From 1979 to 2000, the average low point for the year was 7 million square kilometers, or 2.7 million square miles. This year, it’s less than half as much — 3.4 million square kilometers. … > full story


Southern hemisphere becoming drier: Decline in April-May rainfall over south-east Australia
(October 3, 2012) – The
decline in April-May rainfall over south-east Australia is associated wit
h a southward expansion of the subtropical dry-zone according to research published October 3 in Scientific Reports, a primary research journal from the publishers of Nature. CSIRO scientists Wenju Cai, Tim Cowan and Marcus Thatcher explored why autumn rainfall has been in decline across south-eastern Australia since the 1970s, a period that included the devastating Millennium drought from 1997-2009. Using high-quality observations and an atmospheric model the CSIRO team found that for south-eastern Australia, up to 85 per cent of recent rainfall reduction can be accounted for by replacing south-eastern Australia rainfall with rainfall 400km to the north.
Previous research into what has been driving the decline in autumn rainfall across regions like southern Australia has pointed the finger at a southward shift in the storm tracks and weather systems during the late 20th century. However, the extent to which these regional rainfall reductions are attributable to the poleward expansion of the subtropical dry-zone has not been clarified before now. Mr Cowan said rainfall patterns in the subtropics are known to be influenced by the Hadley cell, the large-scale atmospheric circulation that transports heat from the tropics to the sub-tropics. “There has been a southward expansion of the edge of the Hadley cell — also called subtropical dry-zone — over the past 30 years, with the strongest expansion occurring in mid-late autumn, or April to May, ranging from 200 to 400 kilometres,” Mr Cowan said. The CSIRO researchers found that the autumn southward expansion of the subtropical dry-zone is greatest over south-eastern Australia, and to a lesser extent, over the Southern Ocean to the south of Africa. “The Hadley cell is comprised of a number of individual branches, so the impact of a southward shift of the subtropical dry-zone on rainfall is not the same across the different semi-arid regions of the Southern Hemisphere,” says CSIRO’s Dr Wenju Cai.… > full story


Methane emissions can be traced back to Roman times
(October 3, 2012) — Emissions of the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere can be traced back thousands of years in the Greenland ice sheet. Using special analytical methods, researchers have determined how much methane originates from natural sources and how much is due to human activity. The results go back to Roman times and up to the present, where more than half of the emissions are now human-made.
Methane is an important greenhouse gas, which today is partly emitted from natural sources and partly from human activities. The emissions from natural sources
vary due to the climate variations. For example, bacteria in wetlands release methane and less is emitted in dry periods as the wetlands shrink. Emissions of methane into the atmosphere also come from human actions. For example, methane is emitted from rice fields, which are of course wetlands, and methane is emitted from biomass burning, either from burning of forest areas for cultivation or the use of wood in furnaces. Energy production through coal combustion also produces methane gases. But how can you determine where the methane gas comes from?….

“We have analysed the methane composition more than 2,000 years back in time. We can see that already 2,100 years ago during Roman times, some cultures were spreading out and burning large amounts of wood for fuel in furnaces to work with metals that required intense heat to process. But the level was still low. The next significant increase was during the Middle Ages around 1,000 years ago. It was a warm period and it was dry so there were presumably many forest fires that emitted methane while the wetlands dwindled and reduced methane emissions from that source. We also find emissions from natural forest fires and deforestation during the so-called ‘Little Ice Age’ (between 1350 and 1850), which was a very cold and dry period, Emissions of methane increased dramatically from around 1800, when the industrial revolution took off and where there occurred a large increase in population,” explains Thomas Blunier.

The analyses show that from around the year 1800 there are large increases that are human-made. Approximately half originates from the production of food — especially rice fields and cattle. Then a lot is emitted from the decomposition of organic materials that are deposited and methane is emitted from burning coal for energy.

“The extent to which our ancestors were able to influence the emissions of methane with their activities is surprising. The general trend from 100 BCE to the year 1600 shows a correlation between the increase in the appropriation of land for cultivation and the emission of the biogenic methane. Today, half of the methane emissions stem from human activities,” says Thomas Blunier.… > full story

—Centuries before the Industrial Revolution or the recognition of global warming, the ancient Roman and Chinese empires were already producing powerful greenhouse gases through their daily toil, according to a new study. [Los Angeles Times]



Yearlong MAGIC climate study launches: Climate instruments mounted aboard the Horizon Spirit container ship begin taking data
(October 1, 2012) — A Horizon Lines container ship outfitted with meteorological and atmospheric instruments installed by US Department of Energy scientists from Argonne National Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory will begin taking data today for a yearlong mission aimed at improving the representation of clouds in climate models. … > full story


Changes in Atlantic Ocean temperature affects western Amazonia climate
(October 1, 2012) — A new paper reveals that changes in the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean quickly translate into climate change in western Amazonia. … > full story


Atmospheric aerosol climate caution
(October 1, 2012) — Carbon dioxide is not the only problem we must address if we are to understand and solve the problem of climate change. We as yet do not understand adequately the role played by aerosols, clouds and their interaction, experts say, and we must take related processes into account before considering any large-scale geo-engineering. … > full story


Death by Climate Change? Huffington Post September 29, 2012 The recent headline that 100 million people will die by 2030 if climate change is not addressed doubtlessly had people around the world imagining doomsday catastrophes

Venice Lagoon research indicates rapid climate change in coastal regions
(September 28, 2012) — New research has revealed that the sea surface temperature in coastal regions is rising as much as ten times faster than the global average of 0.13 degrees per decade. … > full story



Climate-change denial getting harder to defend

But the skeptics keep shifting their arguments, so it is crucial to continue pursuing scientific data on the issue

Drought-damaged corn plants stand in a field during harvest in Le Roy, Ill. (Daniel Acker / Bloomberg / September 11, 2012)

By Glen M. MacDonald LA TIMES October 4, 2012

It was a long hot summer. The United States experienced the warmest July in its history, with more than 3,000 heat records broken across the country. Overall, the summer was the nation’s third warmest on record and comes in a year that is turning out to be the hottest ever. High temperatures along with low precipitation generated drought conditions across 60% of the Lower 48 states, which affected 70% of the corn and soybean crop and rendered part of the Mississippi River nonnavigable. Arctic Sea ice declined to a record low, and a surface thaw swept across 97% of the Greenland ice cap. Though it’s not possible to definitively link any of these individual events to human-caused climate change, the summer’s extreme weather follows clear longer-term trends and is consistent with climate model projections. This was the 36th consecutive July and 329th consecutive month in which global temperatures have been above the 20th century average. In addition, seven of the 10 hottest summers recorded in the United States have occurred since 2000. Such rising temperatures and climate anomalies have been documented around the world…..





Following California’s Lead: We Need To Fire On All Cylinders To Address The Climate Crisis



By Climate Guest Blogger on Oct 4, 2012 at 10:30 am

by Kate Gordon, via Center for the Next Generation

Lately I’ve been thinking about climate and energy work as a kind of two-cylinder engine.  One cylinder is firing away on energy, working to bring down the cost of alternative energy and fuels and bring them to scale.  The other is working on the bigger problem of what, exactly, we’re going to do to stop the climate crisis that’s set to crash down on us in just 16 years (according to Bill McKibben) or as little as 50 months (according to last week’s letter in the Guardian).

This past week, it seems like both cylinders were in operation.  Some news from the energy side: nationwide, the 1 millionth home was retrofitted under the Weatherization Assistance Program, which received a huge boost from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  In California alone, state energy efficiency programs administered by the California Public Utilities Commission saved enough energy to power over 600,000 homes – enough, as my friends at NRDC write, to save the state from building two new power plants.  And last Thursday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed 19 bills into law that will help the state stay at the forefront of the advanced energy economy.   These range from a measure to help streamline the permitting process for installing rooftop solar systems – a huge potential market for our sunny state – to one opening the door to a new biogas market in the state.

The two AB32-related bills we’ve been tracking in past weeks, AB1532 and SB535, were also signed by the Governor.  I won’t go into detail on these again (see this past Digest if you’re hungry for more), but the upshot is that we now have a basic framework for how revenues from the state’s cap and trade program will be spent after the Nov. 14 auction – and we know a big chunk of them will be spent on moving renewable and efficient energy programs forward throughout the state, and especially in disadvantaged communities.

And on the climate side, the world seems to be waking up to the reality of the crisis facing us. Earlier this month, Australia joined the European Union’s carbon trading market.  Just today, China and the E.U. announced their own climate deal, which includes China’s commitment to designing a carbon market.  According to my back-of-the-envelope calculations, these three regions – the E.U., China, and Australia – account for a staggering 41 percent of global carbon emissions. That’s one big carbon market – and it’s one California is exploring entering as well, as we begin discussions with Australia about potentially linking up those two markets as well, which would of course lead to a link with the E.U. and China too.

Seems like both cylinders of that climate/energy engine are finally firing, at least in California and across the ocean.  Isn’t it about time this country jumped on board?

Kate Gordon is Director of the Advanced Energy and Sustainability Program at the Center for the Next Generation. This piece was cross-posted from the AB32 Digest, the Center for the Next Generation’s weekly roundup of news on California’s landmark climate change law.  To read or subscribe to the AB32 Digest here.


California: Desalination Clears Hurdle

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: September 27, 2012

The San Diego County Water Authority announced a tentative agreement Thursday to buy all of the output of what will be the Western Hemisphere’s largest seawater desalination plant, clearing a major hurdle for construction. The plant in Carlsbad will produce 50 million gallons a day, enough to supply about 7 percent of the San Diego region in 2020. If the deal is approved by the water authority board, the developer, Poseidon Resources, would sell bonds to finance 82 percent of the project, estimated at $900 million. San Diego would pay $2,042 to $2,290 for an acre-foot of water, more than twice what it pays to buy water from outside the region …


Calif. sporting groups leery of dept. name change– CDFG changes name to CA Dept of Fish and Wildlife effective Jan 1 2013

Associated Press Published Tuesday, Oct. 02, 2012 SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After six decades as the California Department of Fish and Game, the agency in charge of the state’s wild animals has a new name – one that has many hunting and fishing organizations leery.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation recently replacing “Game” with “Wildlife,” in a nod to environmentalists and animal-rights activists. Sporting groups fear the legislation signals a change in the department’s traditional focus. “Generally, that means a shift toward butterflies, endangered species and other stuff like that,” said Mike Faw, spokesman for the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, an Ohio-based advocacy group that has seen similar efforts in other states.

Once the name change takes effect Jan. 1, only 12 other states will use the word “game” in the names of their wildlife agencies…..



At High Level Meetings, New Commitments Made For Clean Energy Deployment And Climate Mitigation

By Climate Guest Blogger on Oct 2, 2012 at 9:10 am

Climate and energy initiatives were major topics of discussion at UN headquarters in New York last week, with countries pledging new clean energy commitments and calling for increased global cooperation in developing climate change mitigation goals at the UN General Assembly High Level Debate.

Several new commitments and initiatives were announced September 24 during a high Level Sustainable Energy for All event. Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) is a UN program that aims to bring clean energy to people in developing countries without access to modern electricity and cooking services.

According to the UN, nearly one in five of the world’s population doesn’t have access to modern energy sources, and almost 40 percent relies on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste to cook their food. The SE4ALL program operates on three platforms that aim to address this problem of energy inequality: 1) ensuring universal access to modern energy services; 2) doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and 3) doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. The recent announcements build on SE4ALL’s commitments, and include:



Pentagon Study Cites Climate Change as National Security Threat

Huffington Post – ‎October 4, 2012‎

Even after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released its ICA on Global Water Security in February, 2012 and the ICA and the CNA released its National Security and the Threat of Climate Change in 2007, the current incarnation


California: Court Sides With Forest Service on Disputed Angora Fire Restoration Plan

Backing up an earlier ruling by a Sacramento judge, a federal appellate court has rejected a challenge to the U.S. Forest Service’s effort to reduce the risk of the disastrous 2007 Angora fire near South Lake Tahoe from reoccurring. U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. last year tossed out a lawsuit in which Earth Island Institute and the Center for Biological Diversity claimed the Forest Service ignored the law when it “failed to take a hard look” at the impact of the Angora Fire Restoration Project on a bird species, on future fire behavior and on climate change.


Is Climate Change the Sleeper Issue of the 2012 Election?
Surprising new polling data shows swing voters are going green.

By Climate Desk Oct 3 2012, 12:12 PM The Atlantic

It was quite the messaging turnaround. In his September 6 acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, President Obama — whose reticence about so much as mentioning global warming has flummoxed environmental activists — used the subject to launch an unexpected attack on his opponent. “Climate change is not a hoax,” the president declared. “More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They are a threat to our children’s future.” In the after-speech gabfest, Politico
cited the moment as one of Obama’s top applause lines.

Obama’s shift comes as pollsters and strategists are increasingly saying that Democrats — and even perhaps some Republicans — could be using the climate issue to their political advantage, especially after a summer of drought, wildfires, and record heat. Ever since the collapse of cap and trade, it’s been “strong conventional wisdom, even within major environmental organizations, that it can hurt us to talk about climate change,” explains climate strategist Betsy Taylor, whose consulting firm Breakthrough Strategies and Solutions just released a new report on the subject. “And I think that was a mistake.” Recent polling data make clear, however, that extreme weather is leaving Americans increasingly worried about climate change……


The Climate Silence Continues: Lehrer, Obama, And Romney Ignore Climate Change In First Debate

By Stephen Lacey on Oct 3, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Big Bird might have been one the most popular trends on Twitter during the first presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. But as tonight’s wide ranging discussion on domestic issues unfolded, #climatesilence got some decent play as well. Sadly, not because the candidates broke their silence on the issue.

Here are two tweets that sum up the lack of attention on climate issues:

If you watched the real-time reaction to the debates, the disappointment among folks within the energy and environment community over the lack of attention to climate was palpable. Even with 160,000 signatures delivered to PBS’ Jim Lehrer calling on him to ask the candidates about climate change, the issue was completely ignored during the 90 minute conversation — continuing a long streak of silence throughout the campaign. Apparently, neither of the candidates — particularly Obama — has been watching the polls showing that climate could be a major factor in how undecided and Independent voters cast their ballots….


Romney’s False Claim About Clean Energy Bankruptcies

Posted: 04 Oct 2012 09:36 AM PDT


Near silence on global warming SF Chronicle October 3, 2012

Unlike 2008, when Obama and McCain spoke about greenhouse gases, neither the president nor Romney acknowledge the issue.


Three Climate And Energy Debate Questions For Mitt Romney And Barack Obama
Posted: 01 Oct 2012 05:44 AM PDT by Daniel J. Weiss




American Geophysical Union:

Vote for Science: Upcoming U.S. Presidential Debates Highlight Importance of 2012 Elections

From forecasting extreme weather events, to managing energy resources, to keeping water supplies safe, Americans rely on geoscientists for accurate information and timely innovation. In order to harness science for the country’s benefit, researchers and officials in turn depend on strong presidential and congressional leadership to support basic and applied science research and the inclusion of sound science in the policymaking process. With election season in full swing, how do candidates’ positions on these important science policy issues compare?

For a closer look at the presidential race, tune in this Wednesday, 3 October at 9 p.m. ET, when President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney face off in the first of three presidential debates. The candidates will discuss a range of domestic policy issues, offering voters an opportunity to compare their support for funding scientific research and giving science a voice in policy decisions. Of particular interest to geoscientists are Romney and Obama’s plans for how to avoid the “fiscal cliff” of sequestration this January, which the Office of Management and Budget estimates would cut scientific research funding by 8.2% unless Congress and the President take action.

President Obama and Governor Romney will continue their conversation and provide further insight on their stances in the next two presidential debates on 16 and 22 October, and Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan will meet for the vice presidential debate on 11 October.

Want to learn more about how geoscientists can make informed decisions when voting and get involved to support science this election season? Visit the AGU U.S. Elections website for resources such as the candidates’ positions on key science policy questions, important regional issues to consider during the U.S. election, and how to take action to support scientific research.



How Fox News Smeared A Scientist Over Supposed ‘Polar Bear Fraud’

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 09:30 AM PDT by Shauna Theel, via Media Matters

A scientist that Fox News and the right-wing media charged with “Polar Bear Fraud” has been cleared of scientific misconduct. Will Fox News and other outlets follow up on their smears?

Last July, the Interior Department suspended one of its employees, Arctic biologist Charles Monnett, pending an investigation into allegations of scientific misconduct by an anonymous Interior Department employee. Monnett was best known for co-authoring a peer-reviewed paper on drowned polar bears that was cited in the 2008 decision to list the polar bear as a threatened species, along with many other papers establishing the threat that climate change poses for polar bears. The right-wing media used the investigation not only to reject Monnett’s findings, but also to dismiss all the science on polar bears and global warming. Fox Nation promoted an Investor’s Business Daily editorial claiming the Monnett investigation was exposing “the global warming fraud” with the headline “Global Warming Industry Rocked by Polar Bear Fraud.” Fox Nation also promoted a New York Post op-ed on the Monnett investigation with the headline “Global Warming Theory Faces Sudden Collapse.” But the Interior Department cleared Monnett of all scientific wrongdoing. Monnett was officially reprimanded for an unrelated issue: forwarding government emails to local government and university officials that “ended up being used in litigation against the government.” Jeff Ruch of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which provided Monnett legal representation, said that Monnett leaked the emails under the Bush administration to expose suppression of scientists’ concerns about the environmental risks of offshore drilling in the Arctic….




Legislative Victory for Community Choice Energy
October 4, 2012 Climate Protection Campaign

…..With the defeat of- Proposition 16 in 2010, passage of SB790 in 2011, and defeat of AB976 in 2012, the coast is getting clearer and clearer for emerging community choice energy programs throughout California to launch. Many thanks to all of you who joined the fight, signed on to opposition letters, and sent your own letters.

To the Members of the California State Assembly:

I am returning Assembly Bill 976 without my signature.

This bill prohibits any company from doing business with a Community Choice Aggregation program if that company advised a local government on establishing the program.

This goes too far —local governments already have plenty of laws on conflicts of interests and transparent decision making. Adding the restriction in this bill would serve only to impede efforts to establish community choice energy programs.


Edmund G. Brown Jr.





Climate Solutions for a Stronger America: A guide for engaging and winning on climate change and clean energy

From Betsy Taylor/Breakthrough Strategies and Solutions, LLC

EXAMPLES of key words to communicate on climate change from the report:


Americans don’t run away from problems. We tackle them. We deliver solutions.

…protect our kids and grandkids from climate disruption.

Denial is not a strategy.

Increasingly Extreme/ Violent/ Severe/ Dangerous/ Destructive Weather–Floods, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, “derechos,” tornadoes

Just turn on the TV/ Watch the news/ Look Around/ Go Outside

Billions of dollars in damage

Drought turned 1300 US counties into official disaster areas – the largest natural disaster in U.S. history

Climate disruption

2012 on track as the Hottest Year in Recorded History

9 of the 10 Hottest Years on record occurred since 2000.

Confront risk. Face facts. Stand up for solutions.

Building a healthy future for our kids – It’s our job.


Patriotic pride

We already have the technology

Create new jobs, new industries

Our military is moving quickly to renewable energy sources because they know that our reliance on oil makes us vulnerable.

Practical, cost-effective clean energy technologies: Solar mirrors, advanced wind turbines, algae-based biofuels to run jet engines

Americans step up to a challenge and deliver solutions.

Practical, local clean energy solutions keep more money and jobs in our communities.

Take our energy dollars back and invest in our communities, invest in American solutions.



What’s best for the oil companies is not what’s best for the American people.

Stranglehold on Washington / our energy policy/ our political system.

Clean energy needs a level playing field

The same people who told you cigarettes don’t cause cancer are telling you that climate change is not a problem. Who are you going to believe?

Holding us hostage; Holding back American innovation.




The goal of this Chapman Conference is to bring together scholars, social scientists, and journalists to discuss both the history and recent advances in the understanding of climate science and how to communicate that science to policymakers, the media, and society. A research agenda of the conference will focus on the efficacy of scientific communication, with ideas on improved practices arising as an outcome from collaborations spawned at the conference. This exploration will take place through: 1) discussions covering the history of climate science and successes and failures in communicating scientific ideas to the policy makers and public; 2) an assessment of where we are with respect to current knowledge of climate science and its communication and acceptance by society; 3) a comparison with experiences in other areas producing similar difficulties between scientific knowledge dissemination, societal acceptance of that knowledge, and governance…..


Politicizing the Classroom: Challenges to Climate Change Education in America’s Public Schools

Join us for a panel discussion with leaders in the field of climate change education: Oct 17 Berkeley


California: 7th Biennial Bay-Delta Science Conference– Oct 16-18


California: Applied Watershed Restoration Course Nov 27-Dec 1


SER2013: 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration– October 6-11, 2013
SER will hold its 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, on October 6-11, 2013. This event marks the 25th Anniversary of SER and will celebrate the conference theme of “Reflections on the Past, Directions for the Future.”


2012 California’s Water Resources and Climate Change: Pacific Coast Institute

Join us as we explore the water resources along the Marin Headlands on October 26-28 and November 9-11. We will focus on the Pacific Ocean and the affect climate change has on the ocean’s ecosystems.


The Adapting to Rising Tides (ART) project – SF Bay

The Adapting to Rising Tides (ART) project is pleased to announce the completion of a sea level rise Vulnerability and Risk Assessment Report that
identifies the underlying causes and components of vulnerability and risk of shoreline and community assets in a portion of the San Francisco Bay Area. Included in the report are methods, data and key findings of the assessment, including the issues of social equity, economy, environment and governance. The assessment chapters can be at found at:
The ART project is a collaborative adaptation planning effort led by the San Francisco Bay Conservati
on and Development Commission (BCDC) in partnership NOAA Coastal Services Center (NOAA CSC) to increase the San Francisco Bay Area’s preparedness and resilience to sea level rise and storm events while protecting critical ecosystem and community services. Working with local jurisdictions from Alameda County, project staff and partners are:

Make sure to check the ART website in the upcoming months for additional resources, including chapters on cross-cutting vulnerabilities and issue prioritization, and a briefing book on the vulnerability and risk assessment.


A New Blueprint for a Green Economy

Published in 1989, Blueprint for a Green Economy presented, for the first time, practical policy measures for ‘greening’ modern economies and putting them on a path to sustainable development. This new book, written by two of the Blueprint for a Green Economy authors, revisits and updates its main messages by asking, first, what has been achieved in the past twenty years, and second, what more needs to be done to generate a truly ‘green economy’ in the twenty-first century? Over twenty years later, A New Blueprint for a Green Economy once again emphasizes practical policies for greening modern economies, and explains why such an economic roadmap to a greener future is essential, if modern economies are to develop successfully and sustainably…



Seeking Innovative Conservation Ideas in Western North America
A private foundation is looking to support projects in western North America that break new ground, foster innovative conservation thinking, or work in areas that have received little attention. Successful projects would have significant potential impact, either directly by demonstrating important ecological benefits, or indirectly by pioneering new strategies that could be widely applicable in the conservation realm. Projects should be ambitious in scope and vision ($2-8 million), produce tangible, measurable, on-the-ground results within 3-5 years, and focus on key conservation issues. If research or planning is a significant component of the project, these must be supported by other funds. Sell them your idea today by submitting a brief description – (no more than 1 page) to:


NOAA: Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant- Closes November 1, 2012
In cooperation with the NOAA Restoration Center, the NOAA Marine Debris Program offers funding that supports locally driven, community-based marine debris prevention and removal projects. These projects benefit coastal habitat, waterways, and wildlife including migratory fish. Projects awarded through this grant competition have strong on-the-ground habitat components involving the removal of marine debris and derelict fishing gear, as well as activities that provide social benefits for people and their communities in addition to long-term ecological habitat improvements for NOAA trust resources.





iCIVICS WEBSITE, with games—how US Government works—for school children





Fourth Largest Publicly Traded Oil Company Calls Arctic Offshore Oil Drilling A Potential ‘Disaster’

By Climate Guest Blogger on Sep 26, 2012 at 12:30 pm by Kiley Kroh

Total SA, the fourth largest publicly traded oil and gas company in the world, has become the first major oil producer to admit that offshore drilling in Arctic waters is a risky idea, telling the Financial Times yesterday that such operations could be a “disaster,” and warning other companies against drilling in the region.



A complete solution for oil-spill cleanup
(October 3, 2012) — Scientists are describing what may be a “complete solution” to cleaning up oil spills — a super-absorbent material that sops up 40 times its own weight in oil and then can be shipped to an oil refinery and processed to recover the oil. … > full story



Poll: 72 Percent Of Swing Voters Say The Federal Government Should Do More To Promote Solar

By Stephen Lacey on Oct 2, 2012 at 10:30 am Americans like solar. They like it a lot. A new poll shows that 92 percent of registered voters feel it is either “very important” or “somewhat important” for the U.S. to develop more solar. Even more striking, the poll shows that 70 percent of voters believe the government should be doing more to help promote the technology through financial incentives — with 72 percent of swing voters saying they support increasing incentives.



Paper or Plastic? Some Communities Say Neither

By MATT RICHTEL 3:56 PM ET September 28, 2012 NY Times

Governments around the country are approving restrictions and fees on paper and plastic shopping bags in an effort to encourage consumers to bring their own.


Eric Hanson

To Encourage Biking, Cities Lose the Helmets



By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL NY Times Published: September 29, 2012

ONE spectacular Sunday in Paris last month, I decided to skip museums and shopping to partake of something even more captivating for an environment reporter: Vélib, arguably the most successful bike-sharing program in the world. In their short lives, Europe’s bike-sharing systems have delivered myriad benefits, notably reducing traffic and its carbon emissions. A number of American cities — including New York, where a bike-sharing program is to open next year — want to replicate that success. So I bought a day pass online for about $2, entered my login information at one of the hundreds of docking stations that are scattered every few blocks around the city and selected one of Vélib’s nearly 20,000 stodgy gray bikes, with their basic gears, upright handlebars and practical baskets. Then I did something extraordinary, something I’ve not done in a quarter-century of regular bike riding in the United States: I rode off without a helmet…..


Restricting nuclear power has little effect on the cost of climate policies
(October 1, 2012) — By applying a global energy-economy computer simulation that fully captures the competition between alternative power supply technologies, a team of scientists analyzed trade-offs between nuclear and climate policies. Strong greenhouse-gas emissions reduction to mitigate global warming shows to have much larger impact on economics than nuclear policy, according to the study. … > full story


More from

New York regulators expect to reopen their rulemaking process for natural gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing, casting doubt on whether a 4-year-old moratorium on development will be lifted before next year. [Associated Press]

Chinese solar companies are being forced to speed up plans to move a big chunk of their manufacturing offshore as Europe looks increasingly likely to join the United States in implementing duties on imports of Chinese-made solar equipment. [Reuters]






Bioengineers have created a biological mechanism to send genetic messages from cell to cell — something they’ve nicknamed the biological Internet, or “Bi-Fi.” (Credit: iStockphoto/VOLODYMYR GRINKO)

Bioengineers Introduce ‘Bi-Fi’ — The Biological ‘Internet’

ScienceDaily (Sep. 27, 2012) — If you were a bacterium, the virus M13 might seem innocuous enough. It insinuates more than it invades, setting up shop like a freeloading houseguest, not a killer. Once inside it makes itself at home, eating your food, texting indiscriminately. Recently, however, bioengineers at Stanford University have given M13 a bit of a makeover. The researchers, Monica Ortiz, a doctoral candidate in bioengineering, and Drew Endy, PhD, an assistant professor of bioengineering, have parasitized the parasite and harnessed M13’s key attributes — its non-lethality and its ability to package and broadcast arbitrary DNA strands — to create what might be termed the biological Internet, or “Bi-Fi.” Their findings were published online Sept. 7 in the Journal of Biological Engineering.


Why climate change doesn’t spark moral outrage, and how it could



By David Roberts

Perhaps the single biggest barrier to action on climate change is the fact that it doesn’t hit us in the gut. We can identify it as a great moral wrong, through a chain of evidence and reasoning, but we do not instinctively feel it as one. It does not trigger our primal moral intuitions or generate spontaneous outrage, anger, and passion. It’s got no emotional heat. (Ironic!) I (and countless others) have tried to explain, address, and overcome this aspect of climate change many times, in many different ways. But the single best thing I’ve read on it is a new paper in Nature Climate Change called “Climate change and moral judgment,” by Ezra Markowitz and Azim Shariff, of the University of Oregon Psychology and Environmental Studies departments respectively. In it, they “review six reasons why climate change poses significant challenges to our moral judgment system and describe six strategies that communicators might use to confront these challenges.”



Our survival depends on fighting climate change



High Country News Op-Ed – September 28, 2012 by Tom Bell

I am 88 and have seen a lot of change over the decades, but I do not think anyone living now has ever faced a more serious threat to life than the threat of global climate change. As President Obama said recently, “More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future.”

I come from a far different time. Born in a coal-mining town, I was raised on a ranch five miles out of Lander, Wyo., just two miles from where my mother was born, in 1901. I went to one-room schools and graduated from Lander High School at 18, just in time to become gun fodder for World War II.

…..Yet Rob Watson, an environmentalist, likes to say:  “Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is. You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. … Do not mess with Mother Nature.  But that is   just what we are doing.” You only need a lick of sense to see that something is terribly wrong. Devastating events, attributable to climate change, are destroying people’s livelihoods and taking lives all around the world. Climate scientists tell us it is only going to get worse unless and until we do something about carbon. To do something about carbon means reducing our dependence on coal and oil, and here in Wyoming, even talking about it is heresy. But we must begin to talk about it before it is too late, and then we must act. What can we do? Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy-Progress Energy, the largest electric utility in the United States, said this September: “I believe eventually there will be regulation of carbon in this country.” James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, agrees. In fact, everyone concerned about climate change believes a carbon tax has advantages over every other approach. Still, every single carbon-tax bill introduced in Congress has failed. I believe it is past time for all of us — and especially those of us who live in Wyoming, where so much carbon is produced — to face the hard truth. We don’t have a choice: We have to face this crisis as if we were at war, because, unfortunately, that is the bitter truth. We are in a fight for our very survival – and for the survival of the whole planet.






Irony Alert: Postal Service’s New ‘Forever’ Stamp Is Shrinking Alaskan Glacier!
By Joe Romm on Oct 1, 2012 at 5:08 pm
An eagle-eyed reader directs us to this new ‘Forever’ stamp  from the U.S. Postal Service.
On Sunday, National Parks Traveler online explained:

Come Monday, you can send Kenai Fjords National Park around the country. At least figuratively, thanks to a new stamp from the U.S. Postal Service. On Monday the Postal Service releases its Earthscapes stamp series featuring a new perspective on one of Kenai Fjords’ most photographed locations, Bear Glacier…..



This image compares the sea ice extent minimum on Sept. 16 (in white) to the average minimum during the past 30 years (yellow line). Credit: NASA.

It’s Official: Arctic Sea Ice Shatters Record Low
Last Updated: September 19th, 2012 By Michael D. Lemonick Now it’s official: as of September 16, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean reached a record low minimum extent.

What makes this year unique is that the 2012 minimum is lower than any since modern satellite observations first began in the late 1970’s — and by a wide margin. The 2012 minimum of 1.32 million square miles (3.41 million square kilometers) shatters the previous mark of 1.61 million square miles (4.17 million square kilometers), which was set in 2007, by 18 percent. The difference between the new and old record is about equal to the entire state of Texas, the NSIDC reported. The amount of Arctic sea ice that vanished since March is equivalent to the combined areas of Canada and Texas.






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