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Arctic background / MOSAiC project
« on: March 17, 2016, 06:34:51 PM »
Arctic research vessel to spend entire year studying sea ice decline

This looks interesting:
Year-round, detailed, and comprehensive measurements, extending from the atmosphere through the sea-ice and into the ocean of the central Arctic Basin are needed to improve our understanding and modeling of Arctic climate and weather, and enhance Arctic sea-ice predictive capabilities. These observations are needed to provide a process-level understanding of the central Arctic coupled climate system, consisting of dramatically less and thinner sea-ice than in the recent past, as well as a detailed understanding of the processes leading to these sea-ice changes.To obtain the needed measurements, a manned, transpolar drifting observatory is proposed, wherein an ice-hardened ship serves as a central hub for intensive observations of atmospheric, oceanic, sea-ice, biogeochemical, and ecosystem properties over a full annual cycle. This comprehensive information will be expanded to larger spatial scales using a coordinated network of distributed measurements made using buoys, unmanned aerial systems, autonomous underwater vehicles, additional ships, aircraft, and satellites. A broad consortium of nations and funding agencies is needed to facilitate, coordinate, and support such a constellation of central Arctic observations.

Found it via The Guardian Link

Policy and solutions / Airlander
« on: March 15, 2016, 05:55:33 PM »
There don't seem to be any previous posts about this, and I'm not sure whether it could ever be more than a niche vehicle. The BBC carried a story two years ago about its unveiling. Its UK debut flight is due next week.

It's lifted by helium, as steerable as a helicopter, can be remote-controlled, needs little infrastructure and is economical with fuel. But it's low, slow, and has a small payload (10 tonnes).
Part of the new-found attraction of craft like the Airlander is that they use roughly a third less fuel than a cargo jet and in the future could be fitted with vast arrays of solar panels. They are also affordable, with the Airlander coming it at around £30m compared with about £250m for a typical airliner.


The largest aircraft currently flying uses innovative technology to combine the best characteristics of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters with lighter-than-air technology to create a new breed of hyper-efficient aircraft. It can stay airborne for up to five days at a time if manned, and for over 2 weeks unmanned. It will fulfil a wide range of communication, cargo carrying and survey roles in both the military and commercial sectors all with a significantly lower carbon footprint than other forms of air transport.


AIRLANDER 50 will be the big brother for the AIRLANDER 10 and will carry over 50 tonnes of cargo with a cargo bay volume in excess of 500 cubic metres. Much of  the technology in the two aircraft is the same. The AIRLANDER 50 is designed specifically for the Cargo or Heavy Lift market and offers a lower haulage cost per tonne-km than other aircraft or bush or ice roads. It can also travel point to point without the need for any airport infrastructure so is ideal for remote access and logistics for sectors such as mining, oil & gas and humanitarian relief.

Much more on the BBC here
and IB Times here
The Independent here.

The rest / New Nicaragua canal
« on: December 05, 2014, 01:38:40 PM »

The rest / Cli Fi
« on: August 25, 2014, 07:17:23 PM »
Prompted by a post by Viddaloo mentioning The Road in relation to catastrophic methane release, this is a thread to discuss Cli Fi, or Climate Fiction.

There's quite a lot online about the subject. I'm no expert, but this article by Rodge Glass in the Guardian (and some of the subsequent discussion) seems worth a look.
Whereas 10 or 20 years ago it would have been difficult to identify even a handful of books that fell under this banner, there is now a growing corpus of novels setting out to warn readers of possible environmental nightmares to come. Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behaviour, the story of a forest valley filled with an apparent lake of fire, is shortlisted for the 2013 Women's prize for fiction. Meanwhile, there's Nathaniel Rich's Odds Against Tomorrow, set in a future New York, about a mathematician who deals in worst-case scenarios. In Liz Jensen's 2009 eco-thriller The Rapture, summer temperatures are asphyxiating and Armageddon is near; her most recent book, The Uninvited, features uncanny warnings from a desperate future. Perhaps the most high-profile cli-fi author is Margaret Atwood, whose 2009 The Year of the Flood features survivors of a biological catastrophe also central to her 2003 novel Oryx and Crake, a book Atwood sometimes preferred to call "speculative fiction".

Engaging with this subject in fiction increases debate about the issue; finely constructed, intricate narratives help us broaden our understanding and explore imagined futures, encouraging us to think about the kind of world we want to live in.

Consequences / Water wars
« on: May 23, 2014, 12:37:40 PM »
There doesn't seem to be a thread on this yet, so here's a horror story to start it off.  The battle has arisen because the city has spread rapidly to subsume a village with its own natural spring, the fresh water from which is needed by everyone.

Mexico City residents battle police over water

A confrontation between 1,500 police and residents of a village on Mexico City's western outskirts left more than 100 police injured in a battle over a water spring. Three police remained in intensive care Thursday, the city government said, and five people were under arrest.

It was the latest in a series of clashes over increasingly scarce water in the city of 9 million people, which must draw much of its supply from surrounding states.

The city grew so fast between the 1940s and the 1990s that once-independent villages like San Bartolo Ameyalco were swallowed up by the sprawl.

The centuries-old village has a natural water spring which it takes a great deal of pride in.

But Mexico City officials wanted to extend the municipal water system into the village, purportedly to supply underserved areas there.

But many residents suspect the city wants take their spring water to supply the explosive growth of apartment blocks, offices and shopping centers that have sprouted in the upscale developments nearby.

View galleryVillagers listen as community activists speak at a …
Villagers listen as community activists speak at a rally where residents were deciding how to respon …
Residents had managed to block the city's plan for a long time.

"This community has been deeply linked to water ever since it began," community activists wrote in a description of their town, whose name, Ameyalco, means "place where water springs forth" in the Nahuatl Indian language.
And of course commercial interests are implicated because truckers make a living from transporting spring water to other parts of the city.... Read the whole article at the link.

This is just one of thousands, many far more serious.

James Lovelock, George Monbiot and Joanna Haigh talk about Gaia, rewilding, AI and global warming on BBC Radio 4 talk show Start the Week.

Consequences / The HANDY study
« on: March 20, 2014, 10:04:48 PM »
The HANDY (Human and Nature Dynamics) report

There has been a lot of recent press coverage of the NASA-funded study warning of the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution. The Guardian carried a useful article about it, and deep in the comments was this link to the draft report.  When it's published it will disappear behind an Elsevier paywall.

Arctic background / Arctic Sunrise
« on: September 20, 2013, 04:24:55 AM »
Greenpeace boat Arctic Sunrise has been boarded by Russian coastguards. If you recall, Greenpeace repeatedly applied for permission to sail into Russian waters to monitor the exploratory drilling, and was repeatedly turned down, for a different reason each time. Clearly Russia was never going to permit it. They went ahead anyway, and predictably have been boarded. The twitter stream is here:

Consequences / Oceans
« on: September 14, 2013, 12:37:49 AM »
This is a good piece of journalism from The Seattle Times to share with non-scientists about the effects of ocean souring, which will have serious consequences for all of us.

Acidification wasn’t supposed to start doing its damage until much later this century.

Instead, changing sea chemistry already has killed billions of oysters along the Washington coast and at a hatchery that draws water from Hood Canal. It’s helping destroy mussels on some Northwest shores. It is a suspect in the softening of clam shells and in the death of baby scallops. It is dissolving a tiny plankton species eaten by many ocean creatures, from auklets and puffins to fish and whales — and that had not been expected for another 25 years.

And this is just the beginning.

Ocean acidification also can bedevil fish and the animals that eat them, including sharks, whales, seabirds and, of course, bigger fish. Shifting sea chemistry can cripple the reefs where fish live, rewire fish brains and attack what fish eat.

Those changes pose risks for our food, too, from the frozen fish sticks pulled from the grocer’s freezer to the fillets used in McDonald’s fish sandwiches, to the crab legs displayed at Pike Place Market, all brought to the world by a Northwest fishing industry that nets half the nation’s catch.

And this chemical change is not happening in a vacuum.

Globally, overfishing remains a scourge. But souring seas and ocean warming are expected to reduce even more of the plants and animals we depend on for food and income. The changes will increase ocean pests, such as jellyfish, and make the system more vulnerable to disasters and disease. The transformation will be well under way by the time today’s preschoolers reach middle age.

The article takes an overview of several scientific studies, including a couple that investigated the effect of increased CO2 on fish behaviour.

The story ties in with the excellent article in the NYRB about the increasingly global plague of jellyfish, which I posted about on the feedbacks thread.

Antarctica / BBC coverage re PIG
« on: September 09, 2013, 07:03:25 PM »
Good to have some popular press:
BBC's coverage of the iStar project investigating the Pine Island Glacier.

Consequences / Influence of climate change on human violence
« on: August 02, 2013, 06:44:18 AM »
I pray thee, good Mercutio, let’s retire.
The day is hot; the Capulets, abroad;
And if we meet we shall not ’scape a brawl,
For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.

Seems Shakespeare was onto something. Reporting in Science1, researchers from Princeton and Berkeley found
even slight spikes in temperature and precipitation have greatly increased the risk of personal violence and social upheaval throughout human history. Projected onto an Earth that is expected to warm by 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, the authors suggest that more human conflict is a likely outcome of climate change.
The researchers analyzed 60 studies from a number of disciplines -- including archaeology, criminology, economics and psychology -- that have explored the connection between weather and violence in various parts of the world from about 10,000 BCE to the present day. During an 18-month period, the Princeton-Berkeley researchers reviewed those studies' data -- and often re-crunched raw numbers -- to calculate the risk that violence would rise under hotter and wetter conditions.
They found that while climate is not the sole or primary cause of violence, it undeniably exacerbates existing social and interpersonal tension in all societies, regardless of wealth or stability. They found that 1 standard-deviation shift -- the amount of change from the local norm -- in heat or rainfall boosts the risk of a riot, civil war or ethnic conflict by an average of 14 percent. There is a 4 percent chance of a similarly sized upward creep in heat or rain sparking person-on-person violence such as rape, murder and assault. The researchers report that climate-change models predict an average of 2 to 4 standard-deviation shifts in global climate conditions by 2050.

It's tempting to quote the whole article, which confirms worst fears.
Much more in the Science Daily article here. The paper itself is behind a paywall - link below.

1Solomon M. Hsiang, Marshall Burke, and Edward Miguel. Quantifying the Influence of Climate on Human Conflict. Science, 1 August 2013 DOI: 10.1126/science.1235367

Greenland and Arctic Circle / new video re GIS
« on: July 30, 2013, 05:43:50 PM »
A handy primer aimed at the average citizen to keep them awake at night, a new video from Yale Climate Forum: Greenland Ice Sheet: "Starting to Slip"

Dynamic deglaciation of the GIS “faster than the models assume at present” – Dr Alun Hubbard  (also with Dr Richard Alley, Dr Jason Box).

Consequences / Global Warming to Cut Snow Water Storage
« on: July 28, 2013, 02:02:21 PM »
Snow is great for storing water at altitude, but if H2O falls instead as rain, some other means of storing it needs to be devised to avoid flooding and drought.

This paper1 deals specifically with the McKenzie River watershed of the Oregon Cascade Range but the principle applies elsewhere. 
The findings by scientists at Oregon State University, which are based on a projected 3.6 degree Fahrenheit temperature increase, highlight the special risks facing many low-elevation, mountainous regions where snow often falls near the freezing point. In such areas, changing from snow to rain only requires a very modest rise in temperature.
As in Oregon, which depends on Cascade Range winter snowpack for much of the water in the populous Willamette Valley, there may be significant impacts on ecosystems, agriculture, hydropower, industry, municipalities and recreation, especially in summer when water demands peak.
Among the findings of the study:
* The average date of peak snowpack in the spring on this watershed will be about 12 days earlier by the middle of this century.
* The elevation zone from 1,000 to 1,500 meters will lose the greatest volume of stored water, and some locations at that elevation could lose more than 80 days of snow cover in an average year.
* Changes in dam operations in the McKenzie River watershed will be needed, but will not be able to make up for the vast capability of water storage in snow.
* Summer water flows will be going down even as Oregon's population surges by about 400,000 people from 2010 to 2020.
* Globally, maritime snow comprises about 10 percent of Earth's seasonal snow cover.
* Snowmelt is a source of water for more than one billion people.
* Precipitation is highly sensitive to temperature and can fall as rain, snow, or a rain-snow mix.

From Science Daily
1E. Sproles, A. Nolin, K. Rittger, T. Painter. Climate change impacts on maritime mountain snowpack in the Oregon Cascades. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions, 2012; 9 (11): 13037 DOI: 10.5194/hessd-9-13037-2012

Consequences / Melting Arctic an "economic time bomb"
« on: July 24, 2013, 11:01:02 PM »
The melting Arctic is an "economic time bomb" likely to cost the world at least $60trillion, according to a study published today in Nature.

Gail Whiteman (professor of sustainability, management and climate change at Erasmus University Rotterdam), Chris Hope (reader in policy modelling at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge) and Peter Wadhams (professor of ocean physics at the University of Cambridge) argue that methane released by melting permafrost will have global impacts that must be better modelled.
We ran the PAGE09 model 10,000 times to calculate confidence intervals and to assess the range of risks arising from climate change until the year 2200, taking into account sea-level changes, economic and non-economic sectors and discontinuities such as the melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets (see Supplementary Information). We superposed a decade-long pulse of 50 Gt of methane, released into the atmosphere between 2015 and 2025, on two standard emissions scenarios. First was 'business as usual': increasing emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases with no mitigation action (the scenario used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Emissions Scenarios A1B). Second was a 'low-emissions' case, in which there is a 50% chance of keeping the rise in global mean temperatures below 2°C (the 2016r5low scenario from the UK Met Office). We also explored the impacts of later, longer-lasting or smaller pulses of methane.

In all of these cases there is a steep global price tag attached to physical changes in the Arctic, notwithstanding the short-term economic gains for Arctic nations and some industries.
The economic consequences will be distributed around the globe, but the modelling shows that about 80% of them will occur in the poorer economies of Africa, Asia and South America. The extra methane magnifies flooding of low-lying areas, extreme heat stress, droughts and storms.
They call for better models to
incorporate feedbacks that are not included in PAGE09, such as linking the extent of Arctic ice to increases in Arctic mean temperature, global sea-level rise and ocean acidification, as well as including estimates of the economic costs and benefits of shipping. Oil-and-gas development in the Arctic should also, for example, take into account the impacts of black carbon, which absorbs solar radiation and speeds up ice melt, from shipping and gas flaring.

Splitting global economic impact figures into countries and industry sectors would raise awareness of specific risks, including the flooding of small-island states or coastal cities such as New York by rising seas. Mid-latitude economies such as those in Europe and the United States could be threatened, for example, by a suggested link between sea-ice retreat and the strength and position of the jet stream, bringing extreme winter and spring weather. Unusual positioning of the jet stream over the Atlantic is thought to have caused this year's protracted cold spell in Europe.
More details of the PAGE09 model here (pdf at link).

The rest / Shell, Gazprom & co - drill, baby, drill
« on: July 24, 2013, 04:49:01 PM »
On a day when the Russian government has awarded Gazprom 17 offshore sites in the Barents and Kara Seas it seems a good idea to start an arguably (but not really) off-topic thread on the subject of oil and gas in the Arctic.
Both Gazprom and Rosneft will provide back-door opportunities for western companies to gain access to the Arctic shelf, as Russia has much more lax environmental standards and regulations. Gazprom has already teamed up with Total, and Rosneft has been in talks with Norway’s Statoil and Shell. The Russian government has urged the two energy giants to team up in joint ventures in order to efficiently develop and explore the uncharted waters in the Siberian Sea.
BP has a 19.75% stake in Rosneft, which has been awarded 12 licences. BP is looking forward to working with them, and we all know what a grand safety record BP has.

Meanwhile Shell, which has licences to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, announced in February that it was suspending drilling for the rest of the year to look at safety:
Shell first obtained licences from the US Department of the Interior in 2005 to explore the Arctic ocean off the northern and north-western coasts of Alaska.

It has since spent $4.5bn (£3bn), culminating in two exploratory wells completed during the short summer drilling season last year.

But Shell ran into multiple problems during the drilling programme:
* the company failed to have a spill-response barge on site before the drills reached oil-bearing zones, as it had promised, and a containment dome was damaged during testing drilling in the Chukchi Sea had to be called off less than 24 hours after it began on 9 September due to a major ice floe
* a fire broke out on the Noble Discoverer rig that Shell had hired for the Chukchi Sea drilling, and the US Coast Guard discovered 16 safety violations on board, which have now been passed to the justice department
* the Kulluk, a circular drilling barge, broke away from its towing vessel and ran aground on its way to a shipyard in Washington State in late December

The decision to abort drilling this year may in part be due to the fact that both drilling rigs are likely to be stuck in East Asia, undergoing repairs.

Shell has also faced widespread opposition to its activities from environmental activists.
Many people have commented on the irony of AGW creating the conditions (a melting Arctic) for further opportunities to exploit fossil fuel, a feedback loop if ever there was one.

Consequences / "Rivers of rain"
« on: July 24, 2013, 03:43:55 PM »
This meme has been all over the UK press in the past 24 hours. The story in The Independent is fairly typical:
<snip> A study has found that atmospheric rivers over Britain will become more frequent and intense as global temperatures rise this century in response to increasing concentrations of  man-made carbon dioxide in the  atmosphere, he said.

“Atmospheric rivers could become stronger in terms of their moisture transport. In a warming world, atmospheric water vapour content is  expected to rise … with air temperature. This is likely to result in increased water vapour transport,” Dr Lavers said.

“The link between atmospheric rivers and flooding is already well  established, so an increase in the frequency of atmospheric rivers  is likely to lead to an increased  number of heavy winter rainfall events and flood,” he said.

“More intense atmospheric rivers are likely to lead to higher rainfall totals, and thus larger flood events,” said Dr Lavers, the lead author of the study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, with his colleagues at the University of Reading.
More at the link above.

This seems to be the study in question, published back in March. (pdf, open access)

Permafrost / Page 21
« on: July 23, 2013, 10:58:51 PM »
Worth noting Page 21, an academic research consortium concerned with "Changing Permafrost in the Arctic and its Global Effects in the 21st Century". It aims
to understand and quantify the vulnerability of permafrost environments to a changing global climate, and to investigate the feedback mechanisms associated with increasing greenhouse gas emissions from permafrost zones. This research will make use of a unique set of Arctic permafrost investigations performed at stations that span the full range of Arctic bioclimatic zones. The project will bring together the best European permafrost researchers and eminent scientists from Canada, Russia, the USA, and Japan.

It brings together elite European permafrost researchers, together with eminent scientists from Canada, Russia, the USA, and Japan.

Well worth having a rummage around their site and the various associated blogs.

Science / Sea Level Rise: New Iceberg Theory
« on: July 23, 2013, 06:02:30 PM »
From Science Daily:
In events that could exacerbate sea level rise over the coming decades, stretches of ice on the coasts of Antarctica and Greenland are at risk of rapidly cracking apart and falling into the ocean, according to new iceberg calving simulations from the University of Michigan.
The researchers have found the physics at the heart of iceberg calving, and their model is the first that can simulate the different processes that occur on both ends of Earth. It can show why in northern latitudes -- where glaciers rest on solid ground -- icebergs tend to form in relatively small, vertical slivers that rotate onto their sides as they dislodge. It can also illustrate why in the southernmost places -- where vast ice shelves float in the Antarctic Ocean -- icebergs form in larger, more horizontal plank shapes.
The model treats ice sheets -- both floating shelves and grounded glaciers -- like loosely cemented collections of boulders. Such a description reflects how scientists in the field have described what iceberg calving actually looks like. The model allows those loose bonds to break when the boulders are pulled apart or rub against one another.
Areas that border deep, unobstructed ocean rather than fjords or other waterways are at greater risk of rapid ice loss. The researchers point to the Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers in Antarctica and the Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland, which is already retreating rapidly, as places vulnerable to "catastrophic disintegration".
"The ice in those places gets thicker as you go back. If our threshold is right, then if these places start to retreat as you expose the thicker calving font, they're susceptible to catastrophic breakup."

The paper is behind a paywall here.

Iceberg calving has been implicated in the retreat and acceleration of glaciers and ice shelves along the margins of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Accurate projections of sea-level rise therefore require an understanding of how and why calving occurs. Unfortunately, calving is a complex process and previous models of the phenomenon have not reproduced the diverse patterns of iceberg calving observed in nature. Here we present a numerical model that simulates the disparate calving regimes observed, including the detachment of large tabular bergs from floating ice tongues, the disintegration of ice shelves and the capsizing of smaller bergs from grounded glaciers that terminate in deep water. Our model treats glacier ice as a granular material made of interacting boulders of ice that are bonded together. Simulations suggest that different calving regimes are controlled by glacier geometry, which controls the stress state within the glacier. We also find that calving is a two-stage process that requires both ice fracture and transport of detached icebergs away from the calving front. We suggest that, as a result, rapid iceberg discharge is possible in regions where highly crevassed glaciers are grounded deep beneath sea level, indicating portions of Greenland and Antarctica that may be vulnerable to rapid ice loss through catastrophic disintegration.
J. N. Bassis, S. Jacobs. Diverse calving patterns linked to glacier geometry. Nature Geoscience, 2013, doi:10.1038/ngeo1887

Climate Central reviews a recent paper that shows the Arctic's boreal forests are burning at a rate unprecedented for the last 10,000 years. Global warming has led to increased burning, which itself produces feedback.

But the tree species that have moved into recently-burned parts of the boreal forest have tended to be less flammable deciduous species. This vegetation change, the study found, could eventually exert a negative feedback on future wildfire severity and frequency.

The paper itself, which was published in March, is behind a paywall here.
Wildfire activity in boreal forests is anticipated to increase dramatically, with far-reaching ecological and socioeconomic consequences. Paleorecords are indispensible for elucidating boreal fire regime dynamics under changing climate, because fire return intervals and successional cycles in these ecosystems occur over decadal to centennial timescales. We present charcoal records from 14 lakes in the Yukon Flats of interior Alaska, one of the most flammable ecoregions of the boreal forest biome, to infer causes and consequences of fire regime change over the past 10,000 y. Strong correspondence between charcoal-inferred and observational fire records shows the fidelity of sedimentary charcoal records as archives of past fire regimes. Fire frequency and area burned increased ∼6,000–3,000 y ago, probably as a result of elevated landscape flammability associated with increased Picea mariana in the regional vegetation. During the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA; ∼1,000–500 cal B.P.), the period most similar to recent decades, warm and dry climatic conditions resulted in peak biomass burning, but severe fires favored less-flammable deciduous vegetation, such that fire frequency remained relatively stationary. These results suggest that boreal forests can sustain high-severity fire regimes for centuries under warm and dry conditions, with vegetation feedbacks modulating climate–fire linkages. The apparent limit to MCA burning has been surpassed by the regional fire regime of recent decades, which is characterized by exceptionally high fire frequency and biomass burning. This extreme combination suggests a transition to a unique regime of unprecedented fire activity. However, vegetation dynamics similar to feedbacks that occurred during the MCA may stabilize the fire regime, despite additional warming.

Policy and solutions / CIA-funded Geoengineering Study
« on: July 22, 2013, 06:44:33 AM »
Mother Jones has an article about a National Academy of Sciences project to investigate geoengineering the weather, including techniques of solar management and CO2 removal. It's a short project, due to report in fall next year. Its funding is a mere $630K and one of the sponsors is the CIA. Others are NAS, NASA and NOAA.

Project Scope
An ad hoc committee will conduct a technical evaluation of a limited number of proposed geoengineering techniques, including examples of both solar radiation management (SRM) and carbon dioxide removal (CDR) techniques, and comment generally on the potential impacts of deploying these technologies, including possible environmental, economic, and national security concerns. The study will:
1.   Evaluate what is currently known about the science of several (3-4) selected example techniques, including potential risks and consequences (both intended and unintended), such as impacts, or lack thereof, on ocean acidification,
2.   Describe what is known about the viability for implementation of the proposed techniques including technological and cost considerations,
3.   Briefly explain other geoengineering technologies that have been proposed (beyond the selected examples), and
4.   Identify future research needed to provide a credible scientific underpinning for future discussions.
The study will also discuss historical examples of related technologies (e.g., cloud seeding and other weather modification) for lessons that might be learned about societal reactions, examine what international agreements exist which may be relevant to the experimental testing or deployment of geoengineering technologies, and briefly explore potential societal and ethical considerations related to geoengineering. This study is intended to provide a careful, clear scientific foundation that informs ethical, legal, and political discussions surrounding geoengineering.
MJ points out that the CIA, which has long had an interest in weather control,  closed its weather centre last year following GOP hostility.

MJ adds wryly that the CIA funding is bound to excite conspiracy theorists. Certainly some of  the BTL comments on the Independent's coverage of the story seem to bear this out.

The rest / Wildlife
« on: July 11, 2013, 01:54:56 PM »
The US government has decided for the second time not grant protection to Arctic ribbon seals.
These seals depend on sea ice in the Bering and Chukchi seas off Alaska and are mainly threatened by global warming and the consequent loss of its sea-ice habitat, as well as dangerous oil development. The decision comes just two weeks after President Obama’s speech on the importance of addressing the climate crisis.

“President Obama’s stirring words about the impending climate disaster don’t do much for ribbon seals,” said the Center for Biological Diversity’s Alaska director Rebecca Noblin. “Without concrete action to protect these seals and other ice-dependent animals, speeches like that are only sending more hot air into the atmosphere.”

While acknowledging that ribbon seals will be harmed by rapidly melting sea ice, the National Marine Fisheries Service decided the species did not qualify for protection because their ultimate disappearance from large portions of their range would somehow not be significant to the species. This is the second time the Service has declined to protect ribbon seals; today’s decision follows a challenge by the Center after the agency’s first denial in 2008.

Policy and solutions / Protest - scaling the Shard
« on: July 11, 2013, 11:14:20 AM »
Greenpeace activists are scaling the Shard (tallest building in London) today in protest against Arctic drilling. (The Independent)

Live link here (the only one I could find just now.)

Arctic background / Blogs and news sources
« on: June 25, 2013, 05:48:43 PM »
A couple of sites of interest.

Eye on the Arctic is a circumpolar co-production that seeks to answer some of the questions posed by climate change as it affects the Arctic. "Initiated and co-ordinated by Radio Canada International, Eye on the Arctic brings together print, broadcast and web journalists from circumpolar countries to better tell the stories of communities and people directly affected by climate change. We also welcome contributors living, working, or researching the Arctic to add their voice to the site through the Eye on the Arctic blog or by submitting a video or multimedia project."
Today it carries a story about the threat to Juneau from possible future Mendenhall Glacier meltwater surge.

Ice-Blog I have mentioned this one before.  Environment journalist Irene Quaile "started the Ice Blog on a visit to Arctic Alaska in 2008. Since then she has visited climate research projects and local communities experiencing changes first hand in Greenland and Spitsbergen. She regularly interviews experts for Deutsche Welle’s website and radio programmes." Her most recent entry is in fact a guest blog by climate activist Cara Augustenborg about her meeting with “Climate Reality Leaders” from around the globe in Istanbul.

Perhaps people will add others? Are you OK with this thread, Neven? Obviously Arctic Sea Ice is our first port of call. Other members of the forum have their own blogs too, some of which you'll find on Neven's blogroll.

Policy and solutions / The true cost of renewables?
« on: June 15, 2013, 11:48:53 PM »
I’m as keen as the next person on this forum on weaning human beings off fossil fuels soonest. Inevitably there are those who will hitch onto the bandwagon, which they can magic into a gravy train. I like to think this forum is honest and fearless, so here is some dirty linen. (That's enough mixed metaphors for now.)

This sort of story from the UK can bring the whole sustainable energy programme into disrepute. How do we face up to it, how do we tackle the damage it’s already done - if indeed there is damage -  and how do we prevent it in the future?
A new analysis of government and industry figures shows that wind turbine owners received £1.2billion in the form of a consumer subsidy, paid by a supplement on electricity bills last year. They employed 12,000 people, to produce an effective £100,000 subsidy on each job.
The disclosure is potentially embarrassing for the wind industry, which claims it is an economically dynamic sector that creates jobs. It was described by critics as proof the sector was not economically viable, with one calling it evidence of “soft jobs” that depended on the taxpayer.
The subsidy was disclosed in a new analysis of official figures, which showed that:
*The level of support from subsidies in some cases is so high that jobs are effectively supported to the extent of £1.3million each;
*In Scotland, which has 203 onshore wind farms — more than anywhere else in the UK — just 2,235 people are directly employed to work on them despite an annual subsidy of £344million. That works out at £154,000 per job;
*Even if the maximum number of jobs that have been forecast are created, by 2020 the effective subsidy on them would be £80,000 a year.

Is this evidence of people setting up and milking a system? Or is it simply that we need to be more honest about the cost of renewables? Or is it much more complicated?

Much more food for thought here

And risks being dismantled if the claim is upheld.

A complaint filed with the Charity Commission against The Global Warming Policy Foundation claims that it has “persistently disseminated inaccurate and misleading information about climate change as part of its campaign against climate policies in the UK and overseas.”

The use of factually inaccurate material without a legitimate basis in science is an abuse of the foundation’s charitable status, which is all the more reprehensible because the public is more trusting of pronouncements made by charities, according to the complaint, filed by Bob Ward, head of policy at the Lord Stern’s Grantham Institute and a former communications director at the Royal Society.

“The foundation arrogantly ignores any challenges to the accuracy of the information it spreads, and has not been held to account for misleading the public. As I have discovered on numerous occasions, when the foundation is notified of inaccuracies, it simply refuses to admit it is wrong or to apologise,” said Mr Ward, who is a reviewer for the forthcoming International Governmental Panel on Climate Change report that will shape the action the world agrees to combat global warming.

Regulator the Charity Commission said it is “assessing the concerns to determine whether there is any regulatory action for the Commission to take”.

Details of the allegations, which of course GWPF strenuously denies, are in the long story in today's Independent.

I wish I had confidence that the Charity Commissioners will have the expertise to be able to make a fair judgment on this.

Are other similar challenges being made against other think tanks around the world?

Arctic background / Arctic Biodiversity Assessment
« on: May 22, 2013, 04:36:28 PM »
The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council has released the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (free download).

From the press release:
"The assessment, which explores the potentially dramatic consequences of climate change and other factors that adversely affect species and their habitats in the Arctic, will provide critical information to policy makers on what is needed to secure the ecosystems and species that local communities rely on for their livelihoods. In essence, the report gives us a preview of what may happen in other parts of the world if we do not get serious about achieving the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets.”

Arctic biodiversity is being degraded, but decisive action taken now can help sustain the vast, relatively undisturbed ecosystems of tundra, mountains, fresh water and seas and the valuable services they provide, says the report. This globally unique opportunity for proactive action can minimize or prevent problems that would be costly or impossible to reverse in the future.

"As climate belts move north, large parts of the Arctic may lose their specific Arctic ecosystems and biodiversity," says Hans Meltofte, chief scientist for the ABA. "The Arctic is home to thousands of unique cold-adapted species, many of which are found only there. But with climate change and increased interest in the region, if we do not act now we may lose the incredible assets and fascination that Arctic biodiversity offers us all."

The key findings of the ABA deal with the:

*significance of climate change as the most serious underlying driver of overall change in biodiversity;
*necessity of taking an ecosystem-based approach to management; and
*importance of mainstreaming biodiversity by making it integral to other policy fields, for example, in development, plans and operations.

Services and values to people

The Arctic is home to over 21,000 species, including many globally significant populations of unique and highly cold-adapted mammals, birds, fish, invertebrates, plants, fungi and microorganisms, some found nowhere else on Earth. In addition to its intrinsic worth, Arctic biodiversity provides innumerable services and values to people. More than a tenth of the world’s fish catches by weight come from Arctic and sub-Arctic seas. The Arctic is the breeding ground for millions of migratory birds that fly to every continent, connecting the region with the rest of the world and contributing to global biodiversity.

H/t to the ever-interesting Ice-blog, who points out
Reports of this kind are usually very hard to read. I must commend the authors for the online presentation of this one. It’s divided into readable chapters and has some spectacular pictures.

Science / Global glacier contributions to sea level rise
« on: May 19, 2013, 06:51:46 PM »
While 99 percent of Earth's land ice is locked up in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, the remaining ice in the world's glaciers contributed just as much to sea rise as the two ice sheets combined from 2003 to 2009, according to a new study by a team led by Professor Alex Gardner of Clark University. The study compared traditional ground measurements to satellite data from ICESat and GRACE missions.  The processing and interpretation of the GRACE satellite observations was carried out by Dr Wouters of Bristol's School of Geographical Sciences with Professor John Wahr of the University of Colorado.

Professor Gardner says, "Traditional estimates of glacier mass loss, based solely on field measurements and localized observations, can sometimes overestimate ice loss when the findings are extrapolated over larger regions with few observations, like entire mountain ranges.

"Although ICESat and GRACE each have their own limitations, their estimates of mass change for large glacierised regions agree very well which gives us strong confidence in our results.''

An article about the paper is in Science Daily.

The paper itself is in Science, behind a paywall.

Glaciers distinct from the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets are losing large amounts of water to the world’s oceans. However, estimates of their contribution to sea level rise disagree. We provide a consensus estimate by standardizing existing, and creating new, mass-budget estimates from satellite gravimetry and altimetry and from local glaciological records. In many regions, local measurements are more negative than satellite-based estimates. All regions lost mass during 2003–2009, with the largest losses from Arctic Canada, Alaska, coastal Greenland, the southern Andes, and high-mountain Asia, but there was little loss from glaciers in Antarctica. Over this period, the global mass budget was –259 ± 28 gigatons per year, equivalent to the combined loss from both ice sheets and accounting for 29 ± 13% of the observed sea level rise.

Science 17 May 2013:
Vol. 340 no. 6134 pp. 852-857

(Not sure if this post should be here, or under Glaciers.)

UK's climate change adaptation team cut from 38 officials to just six

The UK is facing a multi-billion pound bill over the next few years for the costs of adapting to the effects of climate change – including flooding, much fiercer storms, droughts, heatwaves and more extreme weather. The government's advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, have warned that the measures needed to prepare the UK's infrastructure will include defences for power stations, transport and communication networks, changes to how buildings are constructed, and new ways of trying to prevent flooding, such as an upgrade to the Thames Barrier.

But the number of officials charged with dealing with the issue within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been dramatically reduced. A freedom of information response to a question by Friends of the Earth confirmed the reduction from 38 to six posts.

Because cutting the deficit is so much more important.

Glaciers / Tibet, the "third pole"
« on: May 17, 2013, 06:51:09 PM »
Interesting article in a recent Economist. In April, the Third Pole Environment (TPE) held its fourth workshop in Dehradun, India. Until recently, research into Tibet's glaciers has been piecemeal. Overall, the glaciers of "Asia's water tower" are in retreat but not uniformly: the region is complex.
<snip>The Chinese Academy of Sciences has therefore set up a fund of 400m yuan ($65m) for research on the Third Pole and, crucially, a quarter of this is earmarked for work outside China.

The TPE’s researchers will now monitor a set of bellwether glaciers every six months. They will set up observatories to measure solar radiation, snowfall, meltwater and changes in the soil, as well as air temperature, pressure, humidity and wind. And they plan to take cores from the ice on the Tibetan plateau. These will let them reconstruct the area’s climate over the past few hundred thousand years. Together, these data will give them a better grip on how much—and why—the Third Pole is changing.

Worth reading the whole thing.

This UNESCO-SCOPE-UNEP Policy brief on the Third Pole Environment (pdf) provides some background.

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