Archive for September, 2008

Financial Crisis

September 30, 2008

I cannot cry anything but “crocodile Tears” for Wallstreet, but the consequances of not acting will impact many good people, including my children. I am very concerned. I thought the fight on “the hill” would escelste out of control.

The public is staring the greedy, dumb fools on Wallstreet in the eyes and not blinking. The public cannot stand Wallstreet and I do not blame them; I am one of the public for sure…but we have a bunch of “do-nuthins” in congress, kind of like the old saying, “the blind leading the blind”. The blind are heros compared to the US Congress.

 Lets put this fiasco behind us, thats my ten cents, second guessing on a potentially bad financial fiasco out there. Global Warming mitigations and the need for the US to ween itself of oil still must happen.

Matt

On Newman, My Ten Cents

September 28, 2008

I for one, was very entertained by several of Paul Newmans films. I would say that was his best marketing for “Newman’s Own”.

Today I like anything that Russel Crowe, Leonardo Dicaprio, Denzel Washington or Meryl Streep does. Are these actors close to Paul Newman…time will tell…but the favorites, from my perspective, are Di Caprio and Streep… at least they are the ones who do good work and act.

Goodbye Paul, for many reasons.

Matt

More On Leadership In Hard Times

September 28, 2008

I would call the Great Depression and WW ll hard times. In fact during my lifetime, even with the Viet Nam war, nothing came close to those. We had a political Leader in Franklin Roosevelt. I remember my dad saying he was a Franklin Roosevelt Democrat. Later he voted for Reagan. He really viewed Carter as a sellout. My dad was a very nice guy, but he was a hawk also from the “get go” I do not see hawkishness as a solution to our Global Warming mitigations.

I do not see a leader coming out of any sector now, but I see the human condition about to face problems on more than the scale of the Great Depression and WW ll.

I see people like Gore as smart persons who will be helpful, if we let them, for sure.

I see the problems we face as more than economic problems, but I see that as part of the solution. I do not see anyone in the financial sector as a leader. Believe it or not, I see Boone Pickens as way ahead of anybody in that sector. I do have opinions about the very political US presidential candidates. Who will start our country down the right path? I see that as an important question now. I see Germany’s Chancler as the politician who says the right things on Global Warming. I do not see that leader in the US right now.

 I view India as a weak participant in the much needed mitigations for Global Warming. I view China as a potentially muscular participant in the Global Warming mitigations. If China comes along on this on time, so will India.

I am of the opinion that a part of the solution will come from an ecologist on the E.O Wilson level, but I see this person as less cerebral and quite an effective communicator. Who that is I have no ideas.

Global Warming will be a huge problem that will have to be mitigated on many levels. I am a huge advocate of wildlife conservation and we need a person there. but that person will not help us face what has the potential to be a huge problem; implementing Global Warming mitigations.

Lest I forget, and I should not, Thomas Friedman, an award winning journalist, did write an excellent book called, Hot, Flat and Crowded. This is the best book yet I have seen on Global Warming.

I do not no who our leader will be on Global Warming Mitigations. It may be a combination of all of the above, and more. Franklin, someone, like yourself with a true handicap, will stand up and help. This blog will treat that person kindly…

Matt

Back To The Big Belts

September 27, 2008

From the top of that range of mountains I saw dead trees from 5,000 feet to about 9,000 feet. Now for a friend of mine I am going to check out a potential hawk migratory site for its potential.

I have this moribund urge to see hawk flights while I can and I want to see if another mountain range is vulnerable, or has as many dying trees, as the Big Belts do.

I do not see pine bark beetle infestations happening as quickly as a hurricane, but it is definitely happening. The drying of the west will be seen within this decade in the Big Belt Mountains. I am not saying pine bark beetles from a forestry perspective; the other day I was kidding with someone about how over the past 25 years I have been called a “treehugger” more than once.

I was so pleased to see some Northeastern States come out with a Cap and Trade System. This is a huge step, and I have to admit I first saw California coming out and doing this step. I was pleasantly surprised to see this come out in the Northeast US.

Matt

Crude Awakening Is Sad

September 25, 2008

Yesterday evening I watched the documentary from 2007 called, Crude Awakening. I got the documentary from the library. The documentary is about the use of crude oil as a finite resource. We were at one time “awash” in this form of energy and we took this energy  form for granted and now we import this dangerous form of energy from countries that we have a very unstable relationship with. We use this form of energy as if the choices for alternative energy forms were not real and we will never run out of fossil fuels like oil; very much like an addict.

 As a documentary it is one of the saddest films I have ever seen, but it is very timely and  it is a good start to the discussion on alternative forms of energy and the film, though sad, is so true. Everyone should watch this documentary and it should be put  on a cable channel that is widely watched.

We all know that there needs to be some form of plan that gets us to using alternative forms of energy. Well you got my vote.

I rented this film on a whim and it was one of those good finds. Sometimes the truth hurts. But if ever there was a time to move on energy, now is the time.

Matt

Cherrapunjee, The Worlds Wettest Area, Is Drying Out

September 24, 2008

The world’s wettest area is in Northern India and it is drying out. It is called Cherrapunjee. Rains were at normal in 2007 but rains were later in 2005 through 2008. We are talking June and July, as opposed to March and April. The last record year for a lot of rain was 1995.

Dennis Ryan, who studies this area, thinks Global Warming is drying the area out.

Temperatures in this area have risen from 2005 to 2008. We are talking about temperatures that went up from 32 degrees celcius to 37 degrees celsius. More news on Global Warming that can be viewed on Yahoo global warming. There are many articles on global Warming on the cite…

Matt

The Rockies Will Dry And Burn

September 23, 2008

I saw stands of dead trees behind a ranch, on the valley floor. If trees die to over 10,000 feet, and they will- a fire will burn the forest down-the question is what happens next, once  all adult pines and adult spruces burn down, and eventually they will.

In the short -term woodpeckers and some predators will prosper. In the long term we will have huge, huge fires and the west will eventually dry out. The west is already more dry than I ever remember. I have two eyes and I can see what is happening and no matter what is happening to our financial institutions or our mortgages these forests will be gone for sure, and they are already dying over entire mountain ranges. I have seen young and old trees dying, not all species, and the next step doesnt seem good to me in our forests no matter what we do, and will cost us more no matter what is done. How will wildlife react to entire dead forests…I do not know. I do not have a sense of what is next…I know I see change coming on the level that is disasterous and it will affect our next move no matter what we do today. Thank god impotents who have charge today will be gone…but will we survive their  do nothing approach to the world?

Matt

Climb In The Big Belt Mountains

September 21, 2008

I did climb to the top of the Big Belt Mountains. I was above Canyon Ferry Lake and it was gorgeous up there. I was with one other man, a trained ecologist. It was 106 miles to the area by driving up roads that very few people would take their car on. On the way we saw 4 Golden eagles and many other neat birds. We drove in an area I worked in over 27 years ago so it was a trip down memory lane for me. I remember a cold, snowy early December day sharing schnops on horseback, singing holiday songs and trailing horses back to a barn before my older children were born.

 I hiked with poles, and because of my disorder it took me about an hour to cover what I would have covered in 15 minutes, but I slowly got there. It was the kind of place where if I got rolling I would keep on rolling. Several times I lost my balance and almost started rolling but I caught myself, luckily. There were a lot of large rocks and the very least I did not want to fall on one of them. Up top my friend told me I should sit down. I did, and soon got chilly from the stiff winds that were blowing. I took out a fall pile jacket and put it on.

My friend and I were watching for hawks, there were not many once I sat down so we talked about a number of things and kept scanning for hawks. I marveled to myself how the scenery was and I did not think I was going to climb many more peaks after that one, so I enjoyed the view while I still could. On the way up I saw bowhunters, mostly hunting for elk. Their were some bird hunters and a husband and wife who were a little turned around and 2 backpackers who were from Great Falls and were out to enjoy a great “Indian Summer.” I shook my head at pockets of Spruce Budworm that seemed to be everywhere and probably greater than 50% of the pines that were succumbing to pine-bark beetle that would ultimately die. Up top entire mountainsides of pines were biting the dust from beetles and budworms and I couldnt help but think in about 5 years entire dead forests would change the focus around here. I kept going back to Gore and he said “how hard do we want to fall”. There was no question in my mind that we were already falling and we could land with a parachute or a thud that may kill us. I kept saying to myself…”how hard”.

 The Big Belts are a cold range so beetles and budworms were killing most forests in Montana, probably the entire West.

While we had a poor hawk day we did talk to our counterparts in the Swan Range about 250 miles Northwest from us and they were having a good hawk day, real good.

They hiked a little farther than we hiked, but I know days where nothing flys and days where everything seems to fly and there is no doubt in my mind that my partner new both of these conditions we were closer to a no hawks are flying day. I felt like we should be up in the Swans and it was not my car nor was I a great hiker anymore.

I new no matter what we did we would lose those forests at our level and below us, but I couldnt help but think now was the time to convert to alternative forms of energy and to have a Cap and Trade Carbon system just to arrest what is a slow death and a condition that will put any condition in Wall Street on the side.

We have a real troubled future and my wish is for everyone to wake up to it.

An aside: Michael Bloomberg and Thomas Friedman are two of the smartest people in the world. When they catch their breath from the “Dummies and greedy persons” in Wallstreet they can help the Good old USA get ahead again, I think it can happen, but parts of a good plan need to happen soon, and the coversation and plan needs input from smart ecologists like E.O. Wilson as well as the financial types and journalistic types.

Matt

Climate Change in Eastern-Central Wyoming

September 19, 2008

Read this interesting article.

by:

Eryn Gable, special to Land Letter

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Researchers here are studying how climate change will affect semiarid grassland ecosystems in the West over the next 50 years, information they say is critical for developing management options to address the effects on Western rangelands.

The Prairie Heating and CO2 Enrichment (PHACE) experiment includes research on how elevated carbon dioxide and global warming will affect nutrient and water dynamics, plant production, species change, weed invasion and forage quality. Armed with this information, the researchers hope their work will help ranchers and land managers deal with the anticipated increased variation in weather and develop management practices to account for altered productivity and declining forage quality due to global change.

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Jack Morgan explains the treatments. Photo by Eryn Gable.

“This is research I think that society is telling us is important — that has potentially large impacts on policy as well as on management,” said Jack Morgan, a plant physiologist with the Agricultural Research Service who is heading up the project.

Steve Gray, Wyoming’s state climatologist, noted that Wyoming and the West are extremely vulnerable to climate change because it is expected to make an already dry climate even drier. For example, 71 percent of Wyoming receives less than 16 inches of precipitation annually, making it the fifth-driest state in the country.

“We’re so dry to begin with that any change in the amount of moisture that we have, up or down, is going to have dramatic impacts on ecosystems in this part of the world,” Gray said.

One of the big questions in climate change science right now is what will happen with elevated CO2, with some scientists predicting that the increase in carbon dioxide levels will swell plant production, allowing more carbon to be sequestered in the system.

“The hope would be that eventually these systems will help assimilate and remove more carbon from the atmosphere,” Morgan said. “It turns out that things aren’t nearly that simple, and it’s an open question right know what the long-term response to carbon in the system will be with elevated CO2.”

The experimental site

The PHACE experiment is at a 6-acre site on the Agricultural Research Service’s High Plains Grasslands Research Station, located about 10 miles west of Cheyenne. It is currently scheduled to run five years, ending in 2010, when the first results are expected.

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One of 30 circular plots, with a variety of CO2, irrigation and temperature treatments, that are part of the Prairie Heating and CO2 Enrichment (PHACE) experiment at the Agricultural Research Service’s High Plains Grasslands Research Station. Photo by Eryn Gable.

It is composed of 30 circular plots, with a variety of CO2, irrigation and temperature treatments. “In the end, CO2, temperature and precipitation all affect water, and we think that’s going to be the main driver of how the rangelands respond to climate change,” Morgan said.

The temperature changes are controled by six 1,000-watt heaters attached to a heater array, making the sites 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer during the daytime and 3 degrees Celsius warmer at night. The heaters use as much power as about five to six residential homes.

The project uses liquid CO2, stored in a 100,000-gallon refrigerated tank, which is then delivered through a ring around the plots and is maintained at a level of about 600 parts per million. Carbon dioxide levels presently stand at 385 ppm, about 38 percent higher than pre-industrial levels, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could reach 450 to 550 ppm by 2050.

The project uses about 1 ton of CO2 daily, at a price of $80 a ton. A total of about 6 miles of tubing, wire and cable is used in the project. Morgan estimated that the project costs at least $300,000 a year.

The scientists are also looking at irrigation, because elevated CO2 levels are expected to lead to the closure of plants’ stomata, causing them to withdraw water from the soil more slowly and letting water content build up in the soil over time. The researchers have designed “shallow” irrigation treatments, in which water is applied six to seven times during the March-October growing season under ambient CO2 conditions, to match the water content of the soil occurring in plots with elevated CO2 levels. This should allow them to determine whether water replacement gives the same response as elevated CO2. The researchers are also using “deep” irrigation treatments, which apply the same amount of water in two irrigation events, rather than six to seven, under ambient CO2 conditions.

“We’re trying to characterize a number of different ecosystem attributes that we think are important that will tell us how this ecosystem is going to respond in the future and also will tell us what role this ecosystem plays in the carbon and trace gas cycle,” Morgan said. “Is it a sink for these gases? Is it a source? Can it be part of the solution by changing management practices?”

Morgan acknowledges that there are limits to this type of research, however. “They are not considered simulations of the future, because we don’t know exactly what combinations of temperature and CO2 we’re facing, so we have to take this information, put it into models and sort of come up with our final guesses as to how the future is going to unfold for rangelands,” he said.

For example, Morgan noted that the research plots receive an instantaneous doubling of CO2 levels, whereas CO2 is actually increasing gradually over time in the atmosphere, as is temperature. The sudden influx of CO2 represents a shock to the system, and scientists have to try to take that into account when interpreting their data, he said.

The PHACE experiment builds on previous research that has examined some of the effects of climate change on grassland ecosystems, often looking at individual variables such as elevated carbon dioxide levels or changes in the size and timing of rainfall. For example, in an experiment at the Central Plains Experimental Range near Nunn, Colo., scientists found that doubling the CO2 levels consistently increased plant production, but that cool-season grasses performed better than warm-season grasses and forage quality lessened. In a rainfall manipulation experiment, scientists found that a shift from 12 to four rain events resulted in an increase in productivity in semiarid grasslands in Colorado, even though the overall amount of precipitation remained steady.

Impact to grasses

The PHACE experiment is unique because it looks at the interaction between CO2 and temperature. So far, the preliminary results of the study, based on one year’s worth of data, show increases in plant production as high as 20 percent, with blue gramma, a warm-season grass, seeming to respond best to elevated CO2 and warmer temperatures.

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Previous experiments have shown the dalmatian toadflax, an invasive species, responds positively to elevated CO2 levels, but not warming temperatures. So far, though, the plants appear to be doing almost as well with high CO2 levels and warming as in the plots with high CO2 alone. Photo by Eryn Gable.

If that trend continues, Morgan said, the significance will depend on how much of a competitive advantage it provides and what species are the losers. “If some plants increase, it may be at the expense of other species. It’s a little early to tell what those other species are gonna be,” Morgan said. “I think it’s an indication that grasslands will respond and are responding to climate change.”

If a grassland consists of mostly warm-season grasses, then there will be certain times of year when more of that forage will be available, Morgan said. Grazing itself tends to reduce the amount of cool-season grasses on a landscape.

“We’re interested in finding management practices that can keep cool-season grasses in,” he said. “It extends the grazing season. … If climate change is going to push us toward more warm-season grasses, I think we’re going to have to understand that and just keep it in mind, so that when we manage these grasslands, we can find a way to encourage cool-season grasses.”

Researchers are also keeping a close eye on invasive species, since many of these plants seem to thrive in conditions with elevated CO2.

“The big question is, what’s going to come in next, and one concern is that what’s going to come in next is an invasive species of some kind,” said Dana Blumenthal, an ecologist with the Agricultural Research Service.

So far, those concerns appear to be justified, since the dalmatian toadflax, a yellow-flowered plant native to Europe and Asia, is doing almost as well in the test plots with higher temperatures and elevated CO2 as those with elevated CO2 alone. “It’s the worst invader we have in this part of the mixed-grass prairie,” Blumenthal said.

Another concern is that under higher CO2 concentrations, plants appear to building less protein, potentially lowering their forage quality, said David Williams, an associate professor at the University of Wyoming. While the plants are increasing their productivity, resulting in 20 percent increases in biomass, the nitrogen levels in the plants are decreasing by 30 percent, he said.

Gable is an independent energy and environmental writer in Woodland Park, Colo.

This Will Be Enough On Where I Lived For Most Of My Adult Life.

September 18, 2008

Bozeman, Montana is a vacation destination (National Park, fishing and skiing), now bikeriding on all of the trails near town. It is also  a college town full of young people. There are a lot of bikes here and I am glad. Yellowstone National Park is nearby and I am glad. Areas around here, for an average day are about like going to  Shenandoah National Park, VA near where I was born and raised. There are a lot of rivers around here. The town (Bozeman) is about 4 miles long (E and W) and two miles wide at its widest (N and S).

It has a vibrant downtown, a sprawl and it is it has a Walmart and 2 Staples, an Office Depot, a Home Depot and a Lowes, (part of the sprawl)

Nearby you can watch Golden Eagles in the Fall migration. Black bears (Fall) and mountain lions (mostly Summer) come into town so do moose and elk (Spring).  The Subaru Outback and Excel now Forester is still the car king. Toyota is trying to catch Subaru. People stubbornly drive “gas hogs”. There are now coffee bars all over town and you can get bird friendly-shade grown coffees or fair trade coffees. Oldsters hang on to their trout drift boats but more and more you see kayaks and rafts for fun or fishing fun.

By far the largest change is the number of cell phones you see latched on to every other ear. People still drive polietly here , but as in Rockville, MD, where they definitely drive faster or Florida where they drive faster and tend to be aggressive drivers, persons are not paying attention as they talk and drive. This is a cruel, and potentially accident prone world for the non-driver.

People believe in a warming planet here, but as in the rest of the state there seems to be a dissassociation in Global Warming and here. As an ecologist by training I see that as a week knee and see signs of Global Warming all over this area!!!!

Matt