Air pollution causing stronger cyclones, study finds
November 8, 2011 02:55 PM - Syful Islam, SciDevNet

Air pollution from soot and aerosol emissions is making cyclones over the Middle East and South Asia more destructive, according to a study. Natural differences in wind speed and direction over different heights in the atmosphere, known as 'wind shear', normally keep cyclones in check — effectively tearing the storms apart before they reach a certain size.

Australia passes $23.78 a ton carbon tax, trading, and permits
November 8, 2011 06:41 AM - James Grubel, Reuters, CANBERRA

Australia passed landmark laws on Tuesday to impose a price on carbon emissions in one of the biggest economic reforms in a decade and injecting new impetus into December's global climate talks in South Africa. Tuesday's vote in the upper house Senate made Australia the second major economy behind the European Union to pass carbon-limiting legislation. Tiny New Zealand has a similar scheme. Its impact will be felt right across the economy, from miners and liquefied natural gas (LNG) producers to airlines and steel makers, and is aimed at making firms more energy efficient and push power generation toward gas and renewables. The vote is a major victory for embattled Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who staked her political future on what will be the most comprehensive carbon price scheme outside of Europe, despite deep hostility from voters and the political opposition. "Today Australia has a price on carbon as the law of our land. This comes after a quarter of a century of scientific warnings, 37 parliamentary inquiries, and years of bitter debate and division," Gillard told reporters in Canberra.

Roman Era Drought in Southwest USA
November 7, 2011 04:19 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

There have been periodic droughts in the American southwest for millenia. A new study at the UA's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research has revealed a previously unknown multi-decade drought period in the second century A.D which was in the middle of the Roman era. The findings give further evidence that extended periods of aridity have occurred at intervals throughout our past. Almost nine hundred years ago, in the mid-12th century, there was a better known multi-decade drought in the southwestern US made locally famous by the Anasazi. This was the most recent extended period of severe drought known for this region.

Permafrost Microbial Action
November 7, 2011 11:06 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

There are an estimated 1,7 billion metric tons of carbon in the frozen soils at the north pole. This sequestered carbon is more than 250 times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions attributed to the United States in the year 2009. As global temperatures slowly rise, however, so too do concerns regarding the potential impacts upon the carbon cycle when the permafrost thaws and releases the carbon that has been trapped for eons. In this case the concern focus on the microbes in the permafrost that will ultimately release, contain, or somewhere in between limit the carbon release.

Last year's greenhouse gas emissions topple worst-case scenario
November 7, 2011 09:24 AM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM

Global carbon emissions last year exceeded worst-case scenario predictions from just four years before, according to the US Department of Energy (DOE). A rise of 6 percent (564 million additional tons) over 2009 levels was largely driven by three nations: the US, India, and China. Emissions from burning coal jumped 8 percent overall. The new data, supported by a similar report from International Energy Agency (IEA), makes it even more difficult for nations to make good on a previous pledge to hold back the world from warming over 2 degrees Celsius.

Climate change imperils global prosperity, UN warns
November 6, 2011 10:10 AM - Population Matters

A new report from the United Nations Development Program warns that if drastic measures are not taken to prepare nations for the impacts of climate change, the economic progress of the world's developing countries could stall or even be reversed by 2050. This year's annual report, approaches the issue of climate change and environmental degradation from the standpoint of economic development and the eradication of poverty. "Even if someone's a climate skeptic, this report says, 'Put that aside for a second,' " said William Orme, a spokesman for the United Nations agency. "If you believe in something like a moral commitment to the global community and in getting people out of poverty, we must address these environmental problems." Each region of the world faces unique challenges between now and 2050, the report warns, but most are linked to environmental complications arising from climate change.

Tree Change in North America
November 4, 2011 05:22 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Over the last three to four decades, forests throughout much of western North America have been subjected to disturbance at a scale well beyond that previously recorded over the last century. Although some disturbances may be attributed to fire suppression policies, which have resulted in fuel accumulation and denser stands prone to insect attack, climate change is more likely the cause, based on recent surveys and analyses of natural mortality by a new study by Oregon State. In the new report, scientists outline the impact that a changing climate will have on which tree species can survive, and where. The study suggests that many species that were once able to survive and thrive are losing their competitive footholds, and opportunistic newcomers will eventually push them out.

Life on Mars
November 4, 2011 04:51 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

It has been speculated for centuries that life existed or once existed on Mars. A new NASA study suggests if life ever existed on Mars, the longest lasting habitats were most likely below the Red Planet's surface. A new interpretation of years of mineral-mapping data, from more than 350 sites on Mars examined by European and NASA orbiters, suggests Martian environments with abundant liquid water on the surface existed only during short episodes. These episodes occurred toward the end of a period of hundreds of millions of years during which warm water interacted with subsurface rocks. This has implications about whether life existed on Mars and how the Martian atmosphere has changed.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Future
November 4, 2011 03:37 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

USGS scientists and academic colleagues have investigated how California's interconnected San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (the Bay-Delta system) is expected to change from 2010 to 2099 in response to both fast and moderate climate warming scenarios. Results indicate that this area will feel impacts of global climate change in the next century with shifts in its biological communities, rising sea level, and modified water supplies. "The protection of California's Bay-Delta system will continue to be a top priority for maintaining the state's agricultural economy, water security to tens of millions of users, and essential habitat to a valuable ecosystem," said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. "This new USGS research complements ongoing initiatives to conserve the Bay-Delta by providing sound scientific understanding for managing this valuable system such that it continues to provide the services we need in the face of climate uncertainty."

Parched Texas town seeks emergency relief from drought
November 1, 2011 09:32 AM - Kiah Collier, Reuters, ROBERT LEE, Texas

No one drinks the tap water, which is unbearably briny as the lake dries up. After one of the hottest summers on record, the lake that is the lone water supply and main recreational draw in this tiny West Texas town is more than 99 percent empty. Robert Lee, which is a two-hour drive east of Midland, has received only about six inches of rainfall this year, half the normal amount. It is the worst water stitch the town has been in at least since the lake, E.V. Spence Reservoir, was created in the 1960s by damming a portion of the Colorado River. More water is on the way, but it will only be enough to meet the basic needs of the town of 1,049 and will come at the expense of yet another sizable water rate increase. Residents are looking forward to improved palatability and a more stable supply because Spence -- which is usually 21 times the size of the entire area of Robert Lee, but now not much bigger than a pond -- withers away. "It tastes ugly and it stinks," said Delfino Navarro, a mechanic and handyman at a local car dealership, who stood on his browning front lawn on a recent afternoon with a bottle of water in hand. "You can't drink that water or you'll get sick."

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