Amazon rainforest may be heading towards a tipping point as a carbon sink
June 13, 2011 06:38 AM - Tom Levitt, The Ecologist

The world's largest rainforest is ravaged by deforestation and two recent droughts. If they continue, says one expert, the Amazon risks entering a period where it can no longer be relied upon to absorb more greenhouse gas emissions than it produces The Amazon rainforest is facing the combined threat of increasingly severe droughts and continuing deforestation that could wipe out large areas of the forest, warned a respected forest scientist this week. In a groundbreaking study published in the journal Science earlier this year, Dr Simon Lewis, of Leeds University, found the 2010 drought in the Amazon was more widespread than the 2005 one, previously thought of as a once-in-a-century event.

Natural Gas Green Role
June 10, 2011 01:34 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Some people believe that all energy related problems can be resolved with renewable sources such as solar power or wind power. Maybe in the long term future this will be so. However, in the short term what is the best option for those fuels (energy sources) that we have? MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has issued a report that states that natural gas will play a leading role in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions over the next several decades, largely by replacing older, inefficient coal plants with highly efficient combined-cycle gas generation. That’s the conclusion reached by a comprehensive study of the future of natural gas conducted by an MIT study group comprised of 30 MIT faculty members, researchers, and graduate students. The findings, summarized in an 83-page report, were presented to lawmakers and senior administration officials this week in Washington. The two-year study, managed by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), examined the scale of U.S. natural gas reserves and the potential of this fuel to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Based on the work of the multidisciplinary team, with advice from a board of 16 leaders from industry, government and environmental groups, the report examines the future of natural gas through 2050 from the perspectives of technology, economics, politics, national security and the environment.

Extreme Heat the New Norm
June 9, 2011 08:55 AM - Tim Wall, Discovery News

The hottest summer day you remember from childhood could be the norm in a few decades; in fact it looks like the heat has already been cranked up. "When scientists talk about global warming causing more heat waves, people often ask if that means that the hottest temperatures will become 'the new normal,'" said Noah Diffenbaugh, an assistant professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford, in a press release. "That got us thinking –- at what point can we expect the coolest seasonal temperatures to always be hotter than the historically highest temperatures for that season?"

China's CO2 emissions rise sharply
June 9, 2011 06:33 AM - Nina Chestney, Reuters, LONDON

China's carbon dioxide emissions rose 10.4 percent in 2010 compared with the previous year, as global emissions rose at their fastest rate for more than four decades, data released by BP on Wednesday showed. "All forms of energy grew strongly (last year), with growth in fossil fuels suggesting that global CO2 emissions from energy use grew at the fastest rate since 1969," energy major BP's annual Statistical Review of World Energy said. The rapid growth is happening as U.N. talks look unlikely to agree on a legally binding deal to curb emissions and fight climate change before the existing Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Global carbon dioxide emissions are widely seen as a major factor responsible for an increase in world temperatures. They grew 5.8 percent last year to 33.16 billion tonnes, as countries rebounded from economic recession, BP said. China's emissions accounted for 8.33 billion tonnes.

A Medium Solar Flare
June 8, 2011 04:25 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Sun unleashed an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare, an S1-class (minor) radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection on June 7, 2011. The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the solar surface. A solar flare is a sudden brightening observed over the Sun surface or the solar limb, which is interpreted as a large energy release of up a sixth of the total energy output of the Sun each second. Solar flares strongly influence the local space weather in the vicinity of the Earth. They can produce streams of highly energetic particles in the solar wind, known as a solar proton event, or coronal mass ejection. These particles can impact the Earth's magnetosphere and cause a geomagnetic storm. A geomagnetic storm is a temporary disturbance of the Earth's magnetosphere caused by a disturbance in the interplanetary medium. A geomagnetic storm is a major component of space weather and provides the input for many other components of space weather, and present radiation hazards to spacecraft, astronauts and cosmonauts. The current flare event is moving at 1400 km/s according to NASA models. The flare event should deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field during the late hours of June 8th or June 9th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the it arrives.

Air Quality Worsened by Paved Surfaces: Widespread Urban Development Alters Weather Patterns
June 8, 2011 08:46 AM - Editor, Science Daily

ScienceDaily (June 7, 2011) — New research focusing on the Houston area suggests that widespread urban development alters weather patterns in a way that can make it easier for pollutants to accumulate during warm summer weather instead of being blown out to sea.

MIT Study calculates cost of lax air pollution regulations in China
June 6, 2011 03:58 PM - Roger Greenway, ENN, based on materials provided by MIT

A new study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change looks at the cost to the Chinese economy of lax air quality regulations between 1975 and 2005. The MIT researchers found that air pollutants produced a substantial socio-economic cost to China over the past three decades. China has experienced unprecedented development over the past three decades, but this growth has come at a substantial cost to the country's environment and public health. China is notorious for extremely high levels of air pollution. As the country faces continuous environmental challenges that mirror its continuing development, there is a need to measure the health impacts of air pollution. What makes this study unique is that researchers looked at long-term economic impacts that arise from health damages, and how pollution-induced morbidity and mortality cases may have had ripple effects on the Chinese economy beyond the time period when those cases actually occurred. This method creates a comprehensive picture of the cumulative impacts of air pollution on a dynamic, fast-developing country.

Carbon Release to Atmosphere 10 Times Faster Than in the Past
June 6, 2011 08:50 AM - ScienceDaily

The rate of release of carbon into the atmosphere today is nearly 10 times as fast as during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), 55.9 million years ago, the best analog we have for current global warming, according to an international team of geologists. Rate matters and this current rapid change may not allow sufficient time for the biological environment to adjust. "We looked at the PETM because it is thought to be the best ancient analog for future climate change caused by fossil fuel burning," said Lee R. Kump, professor of geosciences, Penn State. However, the researchers note in the current issue of Nature Geoscience, that the source of the carbon, the rate of emission and the total amount of carbon involved in this event during the PETM are poorly characterized.

Rising forest density offsets climate change
June 6, 2011 07:12 AM - Alister Doyle, Reuters Environment Correspondent, OSLO

Rising forest density in many countries is helping to offset climate change caused by deforestation from the Amazon basin to Indonesia, a study showed on Sunday. The report indicated that the size of trees in a forest -- rather than just the area covered -- needed to be taken into account more in U.N.-led efforts to put a price on forests as part of a nascent market to slow global warming. "Higher density means world forests are capturing more carbon," experts in Finland and the United States said of the study in the online journal PLoS One, issued on June 5 which is World Environment Day in the U.N. calendar. Trees soak up carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, as they grow and release it when they burn or rot. Deforestation in places from the Congo basin to Papua New Guinea is blamed for perhaps 12 to 20 percent of all emissions by human activities. The report, based on a survey of 68 nations, found that the amount of carbon stored in forests increased in Europe and North America from 2000-10 despite little change in forest area.

Rains come to China drought stricken provinces
June 4, 2011 08:25 AM - Reuters

China warned several central and southern provinces hit by a months-long dry spell on Saturday to prepare for heavy rain and even floods, though Premier Wen Jiabao said it was too early to call an end to the critical water shortage. Officials have said parts of China are enduring their worst drought in 50 years, with rainfall 40 to 60 percent less than normal, damaging crops and cutting power from hydroelectric dams. State television and the official Xinhua news agency said that the provinces of Guizhou, Hunan, Hubei, Anhui, Jiangxi and Zhejiang would experience rain, thunderstorms and strong winds. "Rain in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River will be beneficial to replenishing water in reservoirs and lakes and to ameliorating the drought," Xinhua citied the China Meteorological Administration as saying. Provinces must be on alert for heavy rains and for possible landslides and other disasters, it said.

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