Climate

Drought crisis in France
May 17, 2011 06:46 AM - Reuters

France has imposed limits on water consumption in 28 of its 96 administrative departments, the environment ministry said Monday, amid signs that a prolonged dry spell that has hit grain crops would continue. "We are already in a situation of crisis. The situation is like what we would expect in July for groundwater levels, river flows and snow melting," Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told a press conference. The government had previously put 27 departments under water consumption limits, and Kosciusko-Morizet said Monday that similar measures could be extended to three more -- effectively affecting a third of the country. One of the hottest and driest Aprils on record in France has parched farmland and cut water reserves, stoking worries of a drought similar to that experienced in 1976 and fuelling concern harvests will suffer in the European Union's top grain producer.

The Great Lousiana Flood
May 16, 2011 01:34 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Mississippi River floods in April and May 2011 are among the largest and most damaging along the U.S. waterway in the past century, rivaling major floods in 1927 and 1993. In April 2011, two major storm systems dumped record rainfall on the Mississippi River watershed. Rising from springtime snowmelt, the river and many of its tributaries began to swell to record levels by the beginning of May. Following the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, much effort has been invested in building defenses to withstand a flood of three million cubic feet per second just upstream from the Old River Control Structure. The US Army Corps of Engineers refers to this design goal as the "project flood". As of 11 May 2011 the expected flow will be on the high side, but still within that maximum capacity, assuming everything works as expected. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Saturday opened two of the 125 floodgates at the Morganza Spillway 45 miles northwest of Baton Rouge, and opened two more on Sunday. Opening the floodgates - a move last taken in 1973 - will channel water away from the Mississippi River and into the Atchafalaya River basin. That will take the floodwaters toward homes, farms, a wildlife refuge and a small oil refinery but avoid inundating New Orleans and Louisiana's capital, Baton Rouge.

Put up your data and step away from the car
May 11, 2011 03:31 PM - Kathleen Neil, Contributiing Editor,ENN

Your driving and charging habits mean a great deal to companies selling Electric Vehicles (EV), to government when developing policy, to firms developing wireless communications or charging stations and to utility companies that will be required to supply the electricity. All of them want to know when/where and how much electricity is needed and how it is obtained as more and more people buy EV. Most likely your decision to buy an EV might depend on how far you will be driving regularly. BEV gives more range, but HPEV save you from range anxiety. Either way, you are only going to spend the extra money to own an EV if you know you can drive/charge the way you want. Whether we like it or not, that means it is as important to us as it is to utilities, car companies or the government that good vehicle charging data become available. Americans have always been leery of intrusions into their privacy. Use data from personal electric vehicles, be they BEV or PHEV, will become only more important to the development of policy and marketing for greener driving goals. Think about your EV. You leave home one morning after having charged it up overnight. You go to work, where your employer provides a parking bay with an EV charger and charge it again. This charge will be what you need to get home, but what happens when your daughter calls and asks you to pick up your grandchild from daycare for her? Well, that's across town and you need extra battery range for that. But, you check your iPhone app and see that Walgreens has installed chargers at the store near daycare, so you figure you'll pick up your granddaughter and the two of you can get her the stuffed animal you promised her while the car charges again. Any other day maybe you’d only charge at home and work.

Mongol Invasion in 1200 Altered Carbon Dioxide Levels
May 10, 2011 04:11 PM - Stephanie Pappas, Live Science

The Mongol invasion of Asia in the 1200s took enough carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to offset a year's worth of the world's gasoline demand today, according to a new study. But even Genghis Khan couldn't create more than a blip in atmospheric carbon compared to the overwhelming effect of agriculture.

Vatican Science Panel Calls Attention to the Threat of Glacial Melt
May 10, 2011 07:51 AM - Editor, Science Daily

ScienceDaily (May 7, 2011) — A panel of some of the world's leading climate and glacier scientists co-chaired by a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego researcher issued a report commissioned by the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences citing the moral imperative before society to properly address climate change.

El Nino Tree Ring Story
May 10, 2011 07:27 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

El Niño and its partner La Niña, the warm and cold phases in the eastern half of the tropical Pacific, play havoc with climate worldwide. Predicting El Niño events more than several months ahead is now routine, but predicting how it will change in a warming world has been hampered by the short historical record. El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation is a quasiperiodic climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean roughly every five years. It is characterized by variations in the temperature of the surface of the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean—warming or cooling known as El Niño and La Niña respectively—and air surface pressure in the tropical western Pacific—the Southern Oscillation. record. An international team of climate scientists from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa recently found that annually resolved tree-ring records from North America, particularly from the U.S. Southwest, give a continuous representation of the intensity of El Niño events over the past 1,100 years and can be used to improve El Niño predictions.

What makes humans special? The Power of communication. New from BBC Earth
May 6, 2011 10:10 AM - Editor, BBC Earth

A human's need to communicate, can be observed from the first moments of life. The intuitive reaction of a newborn to cry, lays the stepping-stone for a process which at its heart, will enable every human to successfully communicate their experience of being alive. It has been said that words are man's greatest achievement. With the first utterances of symbolic language emerging 2.5 million years ago, slowly evolved by the first Homo sapiens – the solid foundations of modern articulation have decidedly been set. Yet many would argue that speech and language was developed not out of want, but out of need. Therefore in what ways do humans communicate…without using words? Music has long been a way of communicating for necessity as well as pleasure. Such as the use of a lullaby to sooth, a folk song to warn and a chant to call to arms! But in what ways do we use rhythm and melody to communicate with nature itself?

Climate change has spurred food prices
May 6, 2011 07:08 AM - Gerard Wynn, Reuters, LONDON

Climate change cut global wheat and corn output by more than 3 percent over the past three decades compared to growth projections without a rise in temperatures, a study found on Friday. The impacts translated into up to 20 percent higher average commodity prices, before accounting for other factors, according to the paper published in the journal Science. Crop yields rose over the period for example as a result of improvements in practices and plant breeding, and the isolated, negative impact of climate change was equivalent to about one tenth of those advances. But that varied widely between countries with Russia, Turkey and Mexico more affected for wheat, for example. The isolated impact of climate change on wheat and corn was a warning of the future food supply and price impact from an expected acceleration in warming, the paper said.

Study Finds Sea-Level Rise Likely on West Coast
May 5, 2011 09:20 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

For the last few decades, sea levels of the eastern North Pacific Ocean along the west coast of North America have remained remarkably steady as other sea levels rise around the world. That is due to the dominance of cold surface waters along the coast. According to a new study from the University of California (UC) San Diego, the cold waters on the coast will give way to warmer waters beginning this decade, which will lead to accelerated sea-level rise. The change in water temperature is related to the climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO).

Araucarias gauge ancient levels of carbon dioxide
May 5, 2011 08:40 AM - Sara Coelho, Planet Earth Online

Knowing the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere today is easy – you just go outside and measure it – but gauging levels of CO2 from millions of years ago is not so simple. Now scientists have found how araucarias can help to solve the problem.

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