Archive for August, 2009

The Northeast Coast of South Carolina; A Nice Place For Birds

August 30, 2009

For many years I never gave the Northeast Coast of South Carolina another thought for birds. Now I have an older sister who lives there and I went there for a visit. This is a good coast for shorebirds, Swallow-tailed Kites and Mississippi Kites all during the breeding season and my guess is that the migrations are good for these birds as well. The lesson is that good birding can still be found just about anywhere.

This is a new birding area for me; from Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge to the Waccoma National Wildlife Refuge. The area is a sea turtle nesting area and a house for red wolves near Cape Romain on an island off of the coast.

Matt

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The Great Warming and Drought

August 29, 2009

I have been reading an ethnography on warming trends that have occurred over the last few thousand years. Bottom line…warming trends, on earth have led to failed cultures and a lot of death from droughts and the warming that is occuring now may lead to a lot of drought and a lot of death and we as a species should not deny this potential malady (this latter point is my point and it is not in the book.).

Matt

Methane Gas and the Arctic Sea Bed

August 24, 2009
This is scary!!!!!!!!
Matt
By Judith Burns
Science and environment reporter, BBC News

methane plumes

Methane bubbles observed by sonar, escape from sea-bed as temperatures rise

Scientists say they have evidence that the powerful greenhouse gas methane is escaping from the Arctic sea-bed.

Researchers say this could be evidence of a predicted positive feedback effect of climate change.

As temperatures rise, the sea-bed grows warmer and frozen water crystals in the sediment break down, allowing methane trapped inside them to escape.

The research team found that more than 250 plumes of methane bubbles are rising from the sea-bed off Norway.

The joint British and German research team detected the bubbles using a type of sonar normally used to search for shoals of fish. Once detected, the bubbles were sampled and tested for methane at a range of depths.

Writing in Geophysical Research Letters, the team says the methane was rising from an area of sea-bed off West Spitsbergen, from depths between 150m and 400m.

The gas is normally trapped as “methane hydrate” in sediment under the ocean floor.

METHANE HYDRATES
Methane gas is trapped inside a crystal structure of water-ice
The gas is released when the ice melts, normally at 0C
At higher pressure, ie under the ocean, hydrates are stable at higher temperatures

“Methane hydrate” is an ice-like substance composed of water and methane which is stable under conditions of high pressure and low temperature.

As temperatures rise, the hydrate breaks down. So this new evidence shows that methane is stable at water depths greater than 400m off Spitsbergen.

However, data collected over 30 years shows it was then stable at water depths as shallow as 360m.

Ocean has warmed

Temperature records show that this area of the ocean has warmed by 1C during the same period.

The research was carried out as part of the International Polar Year Initiative, funded by Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc).

The team says this is the first time that this loss of stability associated with temperature rise has been observed during the current geological period.

Professor Tim Minshull of the National Oceanography Centre at Southampton told BBC News: “We already knew there was some methane hydrate in the ocean off Spitsbergen and that’s an area where climate change is happening rather faster than just about anywhere else in the world.”

Infographic (BBC)
1. Methane hydrate is stable below 400m
2. Nearer the surface the hydrate breaks down as temperatures rise and the methane is released
3. Gas rises from the sea-bed in plumes of bubbles – most of it dissolves before it reaches the surface
4. So far scientists haven’t detected methane breaking the ocean surface – but they don’t rule out the possibility

“There’s been an idea for a long time that if the oceans warm, methane might be released from hydrate beneath the sea floor and generate a positive greenhouse effect.

“What we’re trying to do is to use lots of different techniques to assess whether this was something that was likely to happen in a relatively short time scale off Spitsbergen.”

However, methane is already released from ocean floor hydrates at higher temperatures and lower pressures – so the team also suggests that some methane release may have been going on in this area since the last ice age.

Significant discovery

Their most significant finding is that climate change means the gas is being released from more and deeper areas of the Arctic Ocean.

Professor Minshull said: “Our survey was designed to work out how much methane might be released by future ocean warming; we did not expect to discover such strong evidence that this process has already started.”

“We were slightly surprised that if there was so much methane rising why no one had seen it before. But I think the reason is that you have to be rather dedicated to spot it because these plumes are only perhaps 50m to 100m across.

“The device we were using is only switched on during biological cruises. It’s not normally used on geophysical or oceanographic cruises like ours. And of course you’ve got to monitor it 24 hours a day. In fact, we only spotted the phenomenon half way through our cruise. We decided to go back and take a closer look.”

The team found that most of the methane is being dissolved into the seawater and did not detect evidence of the gas breaking the surface of the ocean and getting into the atmosphere.

The researchers stress that this does not mean that the gas does not enter the atmosphere. They point out that the methane seeps are unpredictable and erratic in quantity, size and duration.

It is possible that larger seeps at different times and locations might in fact be vigorous enough to break through the ocean surface.

Most of the methane reacts with the oxygen in the water to form carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas. In sea water, this forms carbonic acid which adds to ocean acidification, with consequent problems for biodiversity.

Graham Westbrook, lead author and professor of geophysics at the University of Birmingham, said: “If this process becomes widespread along Arctic continental margins, tens of megatonnes of methane a year – equivalent to 5-10% of the total amount released globally by natural sources, could be released into the ocean.”

The team is planning another expedition next year to observe the behaviour of the methane plumes over time. They are also engaged in ongoing research into the amount of methane hydrate under this area of the ocean floor.

Ultimately, they want to be able to predict how much might be vulnerable to temperature change and in what timescale.

Completely Off Topic

August 22, 2009

I post regularly about global climate change and some about birds and bears. All are interesting, and as in birds and bears favorites of mine, but I am at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and some of the names here have really reached my funny bone and I have to share them.The name of this county is Waccoma (sounded Wa as in lesser case). The Pee Dee River flows through here. There is a restaurant here called El Patios, a corny name, though the food is quite good. There is a Maggymoos ice cream shop and a Whores ice cream shop in Myrtle Beach also.

Need I write more!!! I forgot how weird we, as a species, can be.

Matt

Climate Change Fraud is Happening if You Can Believe It

August 18, 2009

This  seems so silly but it is really happening. I am trying to be an erratic poster but that is not natural for me….

Matt

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Eben Burnham-Snyder, Select Committee, 202-225-4012

Waxman-Markey Forged Letter Investigation Update: 5 More Letters Revealed, Dozens Still Must be Verified

Faked Letters From Elderly Services and Senior Centers; Chairman Markey Demands Full Review of Remaining Letters

WASHINGTON (August 18, 2009) A Congressional investigation has discovered five new letters fraudulently sent without consent to Congress on a key energy and climate vote. These new letters purport to represent elderly services organizations and senior centers.

Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) released the letters today as part of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming’s ongoing investigation into the extent of fraudulent letters sent by Bonner & Associates — a so-called “astroturf” group subcontracted by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity — to influence members of Congress on the recently-passed Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill.

The dozen letters revealed today brings the total number of fraudulent letters to 13, now representing 9 different community groups. The letters released today were staged to appear as if they were sent by groups representing senior citizen services like the non-profit Erie Center on Health & Aging. Previous letters already made public were from the Charlottesville NAACP chapter, Creciendo Juntos, a hispanic advocacy organization, the Jefferson Area Board on Aging, and the American Association of University Women.

The letters released today are also the first set to show that letters were sent to Pennsylvania members Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.) and Christopher Carney (D-Pa.), along with Tom Perriello (D-Va.). A full list of all the letters, with links to copies of the documents, is included below.

“Weve seen fear-mongering with our nations senior citizens with health care, and now were seeing fraud-mongering with senior citizens on clean energy,” said Chairman Markey. “Lately, democratic debate has been deceptively debased by fake facts and harsh rhetoric. We must return to an honest discussion of the issues, and ensure that this sort of campaign does not further poison the well of trustworthy debate.”

The letters were sent to the Select Committee in response to investigatory letters to Bonner & Associates and ACCCE. Dozens of letters still remain that must be verified as genuine or false–all told, 58 letters were sent to the three members of Congress. Chairman Markey has called on ACCCE and Bonner & Associates to fully verify whether the remaining several dozen letters were sent under false pretenses, or if they represent the views of the signers.

Below is a list of all fraudulent letters now received by the Select Committee:

Perriello:
Senior Center Inc., Charlottesville, VA
Creciendo Juntos, Charlottesville, VA [previously made public]
Jefferson Area Board on Aging, Charlottesville, VA [previously made public]
American Association of University Women, Charlottesville, VA [previously made public]
NAACP-Charlottesville, Charlottesville, VA [5 letters] [previously made public]
NAACP-1, NAACP-2, NAACP-3, NAACP-4, NAACP-5

Erratic

August 18, 2009

I will be travelling from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast so I have decided to post erratically, or not at all, for now so I do not feel the self pressure to post. I will write a post on Friday for sure unless something amazing happens to me.

Matt

Astroturfing Waxman and Markey, Now in the US Senate, Also Known As the Climate or Energy Bill

August 17, 2009
 
More shenanigans in Washington. A lot to get straight, but who ever heard of straight in D.C.
Matt
8/17/09 The most compelling summer theater isn’t on Broadway or at the Delacorte Theater. It’s been in Town Hall meetings as angry harangues on health-care reform are aimed at sitting senators.

Consider this a prelude to this fall’s theater season when the plot will revolve around the climate change bill.

Our colleague in Washington D.C. Ian Talley reports that “faux grassroots citizen groups” are gearing up to “help sway the fate” of the landmark Waxman-Markey bill. The bill, which creates a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions, has passed through the House of Representatives. The Senate is expected to take it up after Labor Day.

Often through complex networks of lobbying firms, industry associations and non-profit groups, dozens of companies such as PG&E Corp., Google Inc., Consol Energy Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and General Electric Co. are funding so-called astroturf organizations. Companies stand to gain or lose revenue and market share on the bill.

Following on the heels of the so-far successful anti-health-care backlash, advocates and opponents on the climate bill are “funneling cash into groups designed to rally at town halls and to ‘educate’ voters,” he notes. There is Americans for Prosperity who are giving balloon rides in places such as Monroe, Louisiana and El Dorado, Arkansas. Next stop is tomorrow in Indianapolis. It’s all part of the “Hot Air Tour.”

The giant red balloon has a lofty message: “Cap-and-Trade means: lost jobs, higher taxes, less freedom.” Phil Kerpen, policy director of Americans for Prosperity, says the tour is targeting states with senators who might be convinced to vote against the bill.

This isn’t a spontaneous grassroots uprising. Indeed, a recent Zogby poll showed significant support for Waxman-Markey. Here’s how the group gets its money to keep the lights on – and the helium paid for.

The not-for-profit Americans For Prosperity receives much of its funding from “ideological donors, foundations and corporations,” said Mr. Kerpen. The chairman of its affiliate organization, Americans For Prosperity Foundation (which unlike AFP can lobby politicians) is David Koch, co-owner of one of the largest private companies in the U.S., Koch Industries Inc. Among the conglomerate’s revenue earners are its refining, oil pipelines and chemical units – including Koch Carbon, which trades and transports greenhouse-gas intense products such as cement, coal, paper and petroleum coke.

So far, we’ve seen forged letters. Here comes the Astroturf. These are groups which are meant to look, act and smell like community groups, but are primarily funded by corporations, trade associations, political interests or public-relations firms.

Mr. Talley also writes about an internal note the American Petroleum Institute sent to its members (big oil companies), warning them to “move aggressively in preparation for the post-Labor Day debate on energy, climate and taxes.” It added: “The objective…is to put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy and to aim a loud message at those states’ U.S. Senators.”

Nor is this a one-sided phenomenon. The deep pockets who are for Waxman-Markey are also funding advocacy groups. There’s Repower America, which is funded by the Alliance for Climate Protection and its lobbying arm, Climate Protection Action Fund. It’s chaired by former Vice President Al Gore and much of the funding comes from the renewable and clean-energy holdings Mr. Gore has as a partner in venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, or KPCB.

There’s also the Apollo Alliance – a coalition working to “catalyze a clean energy revolution.” Among its biggest donors: Gamesa Technology Corp., a Spanish wind-turbine manufacturer, and BrightSource Energy, a private solar-power firm.

Fall Migration and Rut and Global Climate Change

August 17, 2009

I am at a definite lull in all things global warming and it could not have come at a better time for me. I am doing a lot of things that can only be described as family things; something I can easily get caught up in.

For wildlife watchers this is the begining of a great season. For birdwatchers, like me, shorebirds have just begun moving and soon birds of prey will be on the move migrating to the south.  Watching them from highpoints, like mountain peaks or ridgetops is one of my favorite activities.

Elk are now bugling and I love watching that frenzy. I am sure near here this fall wolves will be watching that same frenzy for opportunities to feed, more so than the grizzlies of this area.

Antelope and bison have been at it rutting most of August, rutting in more heat then I like, but I find comfort in the late August bugling elk. They bugle in tolerable weather that is not as warm as the bison and antelope peak ruts or as cold as mule and whitetail deer peak ruts.

I have seen wild sheep, moose and wild goats rut in isolated and definitely non-Indian Summer times, but I love the migration times of all birds and the fall is one of those times.

I feel very much like the upper-midwesterner does when they hear a common loon calling as it looks for a mate when it returns in the spring.

I believe global climate change will change all of these activities I hold near and dear in the near future for the worse from my perspective so I say watch the skies and habitat while it is feaseable.

Matt

See the Arctic and It’s Fauna While You Can

August 16, 2009

This is a morbid view, but it is how I feel.

Matt

Closer than the Antarctic, the Arctic region is the up and coming destination for adventure travelers. Cruise North Expeditions runs regular cruises into the Arctic starting at locations just a few hours flight from very cosmopolitan Montreal.

Enjoy an experience of a lifetime, as recent fellow cruise members described it, to the land of Inuit, polar bears, musk ox, walrus, and, well only a few, mosquitoes. Inuit people prefer this name to Eskimo which means “eaters of raw flesh.” They are the only hunting culture left on the North American continent.

Recently we sailed aboard a Russian ice class ship, the Lyubov Orlova, which is named after a famous Soviet actress. The ship is leased by the Inuit owned company, Cruise North Expeditions. Indeed we spent some days cracking through ice covered seas while viewing walrus and seals on ice floes and polar bear and musk ox on small rocky islands. We even got to see rare white beluga whales.

 

Arctic Polar Bear, Montgomery photo

Different than the traditional cruise, an expedition cruise offers more opportunities for outdoor activities and attracts adventuresome people, age range from 10 to 85 years. Activities can range from easy walks and investigation of local Arctic flora to vigorous climbs in search of musk ox and the interesting thick billed Muure, a sort of small penguin that nests by the 1000’s on rocky ledges. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/murre.html.

Each day on board experts give interesting lectures on everything from wild life to Inuit games.
Zodiac expeditions take you to mostly uninhabited, except by Arctic wildlife and vegetation, rocky isles. An occasional tiny Inuit village welcomes you where you can meet local folks and often enjoy a performance of Inuit throat singing and even get a lesson in this unusual musical technique.

The food and service aboard the Lyubov Orlova are excellent and the cabins well appointed and comfortable.

 

 

Walrus on Ice Floe, Montgomery photo

One of the many admirable aspects of this Inuit owned and run cruise line is that they have an excellentapprenticeship program that recruits young Inuits from their villages to join the cruises. They work in various capacities as tour guides, expedition leaders, zodiac captains, and navigator trainees in preparation for future employment. As Dugald Wells, the President of the company, said to me: “These kids come to realize the outside world is interested in their culture and that opens up loads of possibilities for them they hadn’t dreamed of before

Antarctic glacier ‘thinning fast’

August 14, 2009
It is painful to read about. This aspect of global climate change seems to be happening in slow motion. Its happening at light speed.
Matt
BBC

Antarctic glacier ‘thinning fast’
By David Shukman
Science and environment correspondent, BBC News
Thursday, 13 August 2009 22:19 UK

One of the largest glaciers in Antarctica is thinning four times faster than it was 10 years ago, according to research seen by the BBC.

A study of satellite measurements of Pine Island glacier in west Antarctica reveals the surface of the ice is now dropping at a rate of up to 16m a year.
Since 1994, the glacier has lowered by as much as 90m, which has serious implications for sea-level rise.

The work by British scientists appears in Geophysical Research Letters.
The team was led by Professor Duncan Wingham of University College London (UCL).

We’ve known that it’s been out of balance for some time, but nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier
Andrew Shepherd, Leeds University

Calculations based on the rate of melting 15 years ago had suggested the glacier would last for 600 years. But the new data points to a lifespan for the vast ice stream of only another 100 years.

The rate of loss is fastest in the centre of the glacier and the concern is that if the process continues, the glacier may break up and start to affect the ice sheet further inland.

One of the authors, Professor Andrew Shepherd of Leeds University, said that the melting from the centre of the glacier would add about 3cm to global sea level.

“But the ice trapped behind it is about 20-30cm of sea level rise and as soon as we destabilise or remove the middle of the glacier we don’t know really know what’s going to happen to the ice behind it,” he told BBC News.

“This is unprecedented in this area of Antarctica. We’ve known that it’s been out of balance for some time, but nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier.”

Five years ago, I joined a flight by the Chilean Navy and Nasa to survey Pine Island glacier with radar and laser equipment.

The 11-hour round-trip from Punta Arenas included a series of low-level passes over the massive ice stream which is 20 miles wide and in places more than one mile thick.

Back then, the researchers on board were concerned at the speed of change they were detecting. This latest study of the satellite data will add to the alarm among polar specialists.

This comes as scientists in the Arctic are finding evidence of dramatic change. Researchers on board a Greenpeace vessel have been studying the northwestern part of Greenland.

One of those taking part, Professor Jason Box of Ohio State University, has been surprised by how little sea ice they encountered in the Nares Strait between Greenland and Canada.

He has also set up time lapse cameras to monitor the massive Petermann glacier. Huge new cracks have been observed and it’s expected that a major part of it could break off imminently.

Professor Box told BBC News: “The science community has been surprised by how sensitive these large glaciers are to climate warming. First it was the glaciers in south Greenland and now as we move further north in Greenland we find retreat at major glaciers. It’s like removing a cork from a bottle.”



Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/science/nature/8200680.stm

Pine Island glacier has been the subject of an intense research effort in recent years amid fears that its collapse could lead to a rapid disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet.