Monday, April 30, 2012

Risat-1 catapults India into a select group of nations

Space Daily via Indo-Asia News Service: On an early on Thursday morning, an Indian rocket successfully launched into orbit a microwave Radar Imaging Satellite (Risat-1) from the spaceport here in Andhra Pradesh, some 80 km from Chennai. With the launch of Risat-1, India has now joined a select group of nations having such a technology.
The indigenously built Risat-1, with a life span of five years, will be used for disaster prediction and agriculture forestry. The high resolution pictures and microwave imaging from Risat-1 could also be used for defence purposes as it can look through the clouds and fog.
..."PSLV-C19 mission is a grand success. This is the 20th successive successful flight of PSLV. India's first radar imaging satellite was injected precisely into orbit," ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan said after the launch.
..."With Risat-1 we can now forecast Kharif season," Radhakrishnan said. According to satellite director N. Valarmathi, Risat-1 can take images in all weather conditions and during day and night. "The satellite has high storage device and other several unique features," she added.
...Remote sensing satellites send back pictures and other data for use. India has the largest constellation of remote sensing satellites in the world providing imagery in a variety of spatial resolutions, from more than a metre ranging up to 500 metres, and is a major player in vending such data in the global market....
I look forward to running an image from Risat-1, instead of this old shot from NASA of Southern India

Moscow swelters in record heat

Terra Daily via AFP: Moscow sweltered in unseasonable heat on Sunday, with temperatures of nearly 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 Fahrenheit), a record for April since data collection began 130 years ago, authorities said.

"At 4:00 p.m. (1200 GMT), the temperature reached 28.6 degrees Celsius, an absolute record for the month of April," an official from the Russian capital's weather service told the Interfax news agency. "The previous record for the month goes back to April 24, 1950, with 28 degrees," he added.

The mercury had already climbed to 26.3 degrees on Saturday.

Several central and eastern European countries recorded unseasonably high temperatures on Saturday, with a record 32 degrees recorded in northern Austria....

Burnt grass on Kuusinena Street, in a 2010 Moscow heat wave, shot by NVO, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Combating global disease with a cell phone, Google Maps and a lot of ingenuity

UCLA Newsroom: In the fight against emerging public health threats, early diagnosis of infectious diseases is crucial. And in poor and remote areas of the globe where conventional medical tools like microscopes and cytometers are unavailable, rapid diagnostic tests, or RDTs, are helping to make disease screening quicker and simpler.

RDTs are generally small strips on which blood or fluid samples are placed. Specific changes in the color of the strip, which usually occur within minutes, indicate the presence of infection. Different tests can be used to detect various diseases, including HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and syphilis.

While the advantages of RDTs are significant — better disease-management, more efficient surveillance of outbreaks in high-risk areas and the ability of minimally trained technicians to test large number of individuals — they can also present problems.

"Conventional RDTs are currently read manually, by eye, which is prone to error, especially if various different types of tests are being used by the health care worker," said Aydogan Ozcan, a UCLA professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering.

To address such challenges, Ozcan and his colleagues from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA have developed a compact and cost-effective RDT-reading device that works in tandem with standard cell phones.

"What we have created is a digital 'universal' reader for all RDTs, without any manual decision-making," he said....

Cell phone with RDT reader developed by researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and the California NanoSystems Institue at UCLA.

South Korea unveils seawater desalination R&D project Water professionals must radically change their attitudes to water sourcing if global water scarcity is to be tackled, according to the International Water Association (IWA).

Speaking at a press conference in Seoul, South Korea IWA executive director Paul Reiter said that water professionals across the world needed to "hasten" their uptake of new water management options in line with rapid population growth, which could see urban populations grow by at least 1m every week in the next 40 years - to reach about 2.3bn by 2050.

Mr Reiter added that future technologies and innovative approaches to providing sustainable water would also have a major role to play, with water reuse also needing to increase.

He said: "Water professionals need to change the way they think about sourcing water, and using it over and over again", adding that suppliers need to "break the orthodox approach delivering water to urban communities".

This warning comes as South Korea today (April 30) releases details of a pioneering research and development project on seawater desalination.

As part of the initiative, in 2013 the Korean city Busan is set to operate the world's largest seawater reverse osmosis plant to measure unit train and membrane size as it aims to raise global standards for water treatment technologies, including seawater engineering and desalination...

A view of Busan from Busan Tower, shot by lwy, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Climate change biggest threat to Zimbabwe farming

Jeffrey Gogo in via the Herald (Zimbabwe): Collecting memories from Zimbabwe's 32-year history, the reforms on land ownership stand prominent, apart from political freedom. The reforms represented a major shift in the balance of economic power within the agriculture sector, after Government transferred millions of hectares of fertile arable land to over 300 000 marginalised indigenous peasants from a few thousand white farmers.

For the new farmers -- both large-scale commercial and small-scale farmers not to mention their subsistence counterparts -- their biggest mandate is to provide food for the nation and for export.

But since the start of the fast track land reforms over 10 years ago, that goal is yet to be met.

During this period, Zimbabwe has been forced to import, on average, 50 percent of its annual grain requirements to cover local deficits. The reasons for poor food and agricultural production in a land-reformed Zimbabwe are numerous, key among them lack of funding, inputs shortage and lack of adequate agriculture skills as well as laziness.

However, the biggest challenge to farming and food security in the country today is not funding, it is not skills shortage but climate change and global warming. Changing climatic and weather systems pose a serious threat to agriculture, as they have disrupted rains, caused droughts and resulted in higher average temperatures.

They attack the very core of activities that make the farmers who they are, empowered individuals, whom without their overflowing agriculture produce, are just like every other individual -- disempowered and powerless needing aid....

Shona farms in Zimbabwe, shot by Ulamm, Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Global partners confront impacts of climate extremes on development On the heels of a sobering UN report on dramatic climate extremes expected to occur around the world, officials from donor and developing countries, along with international organizations have reaffirmed their commitments to making disaster resilience a priority in development planning. 
According to The World Bank , the officials, meeting during the World Bank /IMF Spring Meetings, also recognized that linking disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, and integrating them into the development agenda, is critical to building resilience in communities and countries. 
Mahmoud Mohieldin, World Bank Managing Director, said, "We have too often witnessed how disasters can roll back years of development progress. On top of that, we now need to prepare for a changing world—rapid urbanization and a changing climate are reshaping and exacerbating disaster risks. But geography need not be destiny, and the future—however uncertain and unpredictable when we factor in the impact of climate change—need not be feared if correct preventive policies are taken today.” 
Convened by the European Union, the Government of Japan, and the World Bank /GFDRR, the meeting was informed by last month’s report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change —Special Report on Managing the Risk of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. 
The report documents that current extreme weather events are projected to become more common in the future, and a changing climate is the cause....
An aerial view of mudslide damage after Hurricane Mitch in 1998, US Geological Survey photo

UK drought worsened in April despite record rains

Paul Cahalan in the Independent (UK): Despite flash floods and gale-force winds battering the country, with more expected this weekend, Britain's drought worsened last week – because rain is falling in the wrong months. 
The UK remains on course for one of the wettest Aprils on record, with most of the country, with the exception of northern Scotland, today due to see 70mph winds and huge downpours – up to 40mm of rain in places – causing yet more flooding, traffic chaos and power cuts. 
Yesterday, the Met Office issued an amber alert – its second-highest warning, meaning "be prepared" – for parts of the West Midlands. And last night, the Environment Agency (EA) warned of the possibility of localised flooding across parts of the South-west, South-east and Midlands, the east of England, and Wales. 
Conditions are expected to improve next week, but the deluge will make this month one of the wettest Aprils since reliable records began in 1910. Some 97mm of rain fell between 1 and 25 April, the Met Office said, the ninth wettest on record. The wettest April was in 2000, when 142.6mm fell. April's average is just 67mm. 
The irony that many of the areas at risk of floods – the South-east, East Anglia, the Midlands, the South-west, and South and East Yorkshire – are currently in a state of drought after two unusually dry winters has not been missed.
A squall, by James Gillray, 1810

Southern Africa is the region most affected by climate change

Clemencia Jacobs in via the Namibia Economist: Climate change is the greatest threat to humanity and the grand irony is that humans might be the architects of their own downfall, said Derek Hanekom, South Africa's Deputy Minister of Science and Technology at the signing of a declaration that will establish a regional science centre to support cross-border research into climate change.

Speaking at the signing ceremony on Wednesday last week, Hanekom said although sub-Saharan Africa is not the biggest culprit when it comes to pollution, it is the most affected by the impact of climate change.

Five southern African countries, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Angola and Botswana, with the assistance of the German government, will establish the Southern Africa Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL). The signing of the joint declaration effectively inaugurated the centre.

SASSCAL aims to strengthen trans-boundary science and technology development in the SADC region using regional and international expertise.

Also speaking at the ceremony, Zambia's Minister of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education, Dr John Phiri, said for too long Africa has relied on data and information on climate change from scientists outside the continent, therefore SASSCAL would come in handy.

"We have tended to look at climate change, food security and poverty challenges separately. We know that 60% of our people live in rural areas, we also know that 90% of our rural population depend on agriculture; most important of all, we do know the future climate predictions give a much more uncertain climatic condition for agriculture, with potentially devastating negative consequences.
Victorian Falls bridge, Zambian side, shot by Florence Devouard, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Insurers prepare for climate change...except in the US Insurance company executives are aware of the future risks posed by climate change. And yet they have been slow to prepare for the coming wave of weather-related accidents and litigation spawned by global warming changes. 
In a survey conducted by Ceres, a Boston-based coalition of investors and environmental groups, more than 75% of insurers acknowledged the existence of perils stemming from climate change. “Yet despite widespread recognition of the effects climate change will likely have on extreme events, few insurers were able to articulate a coherent plan to manage the risks and opportunities associated with climate change,” the Ceres report states. 
The Ceres study found that out of 88 U.S. insurance companies, only 11 had formal climate change risk policies and more than 60% had no dedicated management approach to assessing climate risks. Ben Schiller at Yale’s Environment 360 noted that while American insurance companies have been slow to prepare for global warming’s ramifications, their European counterparts have been getting ready for a potentially costly future. 
“It is frustrating to see that it’s so extremely difficult to include this huge risk of climate change into current business,” Andreas Spiegel, senior climate change adviser at Swiss Re, a large reinsurance company, told Schiller. “There is a bit of a short-term view on the benefits, risks, and costs.”...

Technical difficulties

Somewhere in the switch to Blogger's new look, Carbon Based has tripped up. I think I've found the problem, but it may take some doing to fix. Meanwhile, a number of older posts will be unavailable while I tweeze their innards and remove gobs of excelsior and toothpicks.

I've discovered that I like software changes even less than I like climate change.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Rio+20 must tackle leaders' economic concerns, says climate expert via AlertNet: The upcoming U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro could be more positive for the environment than recent international climate summits as long as it attracts enough world leaders and tackles economic concerns as well as environmental challenges, according to a top climate expert.
Saleemul Huq of the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) told AlertNet that Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff must convince other heads of government that a global agreement can be reached at the Rio+20 summit, and they should be part of the talks.
"The challenges are very political. (Rousseff) now has to reassure (world leaders), 'Don't worry, we'll get everything in place, there won't be arguments, I've talked to everybody about this'," Huq said on the sidelines of the sixth International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change in Hanoi last week. "If they're confident she can pull this off, then they'll (attend)."
As of last Friday, more than 130 heads of state, vice presidents, heads of government and deputy prime ministers were on the speakers list for the Rio+20 conference, from June 20-22. But some have grown weary of environmental meetings after the disappointing 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen where leaders failed to agree on a new, binding treaty on climate change, Huq said. "That's really something they're afraid of and want to avoid at all costs (in Rio)," he said....

Peru is latest developing nation to adopt climate change initiative

Caroline Stauffer in via Reuters: Peru became the latest developing country to enact a domestic climate change initiative in the absence of a binding global pact, adopting a resolution on Thursday to lower carbon emissions in its fast-growing economy.
As one of the world's most geographically diverse places, Peru said it is already feeling the effects of a changing climate, such as melting tropical glaciers in the Andes and high levels of solar radiation. Record rainfall in the Amazon basin this year has wrecked crops, spurring inflation and hurting specialty exports like coffee. Lima, on the Pacific coast, is often regarded as the world's driest capital next to Baghdad.
"If we don't do something we will have problems with water supplies along the coasts, we know there will be more droughts, more rains ... we are already seeing temperature changes," said Mariano Felipe Soldan, head of the government's strategic planning office.
Peru's long-term climate change plan aims to include more renewable fuels in Peru's energy matrix, switch to a low-carbon economy and curb illegal logging in the Amazon rain forest. Peru's model is based on one developed by South Africa. Similar plans are being implemented in Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Brazil....
Aerial view of the confluence of the Río Tambo (from bottom to top) and the Río Urubamba (in the background, from right to left) forming the Río Ucayali (left). The city at the confluence is Atalaya in the Peruvian Region of Ucayali. Shot by Altiplano, public domain

EU states close to agreeing on greater local say in managing fisheries

Fiona Harvey in the Guardian (UK): Proposals to give European Union member states a greater say over how their fisheries are managed moved a step closer to acceptance on Friday, as part of a wider package of reforms that represent the biggest shakeup of the fishing industry in decades.
The meeting of the EU Fisheries Council in Luxemburg concluded without major upset, giving ministers the chance to concentrate in future meetings on the more controversial components of the package, such as the proposal to ban the wasteful practice of discarding edible fish at sea.
Giving member states greater powers over how to manage their fisheries is broadly popular with national governments. It could help to defuse tension over how the total catch in the EU's fisheries should be divided into quotas for each country.
Richard Benyon, the UK fisheries minister, said the meeting had made "progress, but there's still a long way to go" on the full package of measures.
He said: "We are in favour of greater localisation because it will lead to better management of fisheries – the situation in the western Mediterranean, for instance, is very different to that in the North Sea, and the centralisation of powers in the hands of the European Commission does not always reflect that."...
A mackerel caught in the Belgian part of the North Sea, shot by Hans Hillewaert, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Tribal farming beats climate change

Manipadma Jena in IPS: Tribal farmer Harish Saraka has rediscovered the key to sustainable farming in this rain-dependent hinterland of eastern Odisha state – mixed cropping.
Saraka, 38, is careful not to take credit for helping to turn around farming in this area, in the news just a decade ago for starvation deaths. "All we are doing is returning to our grandfathers’ practices," says this member of the Kondh tribe. Saraka recalls that his forebears sowed three different seeds in the same field: millet, legume, oilseed and maybe a creeper bean.
...In 2010, amidst public outrage over a spate of farmers’ suicides over poor harvests and high interest on loans taken for farming inputs, the then agriculture minister Damodar Rout admitted that Odisha’s agriculture was in crisis, "impacted by climate change, erosion, dryness, soil acidity and falling ground water levels."
For Harish Saraka and other subsistence farmers in 70 Niyamgiri villages in Rayagada, adapting to changing conditions meant reverting to traditional farming methods such as mixed cropping, the use of organic fertilisers and trusted seed varieties.
So, while farming has been failing elsewhere in Odisha, Harish Saraka has been cultivating not three but 14 crops on his half-hectare land since the last two years - enough to see his family through the lean August-December season.
...‘Ailing Agricultural Productivity in Economically Fragile Region of India’ - a recent study published by the Bhopal-based Indian Institute of Soil Sciences found that the cultivation area for small millets in Odisha had declined by 500 percent over the last 40 years.
..."The movement in India to return to traditional seeds is growing stronger and at country inter-NGO level too we exchange seeds to supplement local communities’ seed needs," says Sarangi... 
Photo of millet by Offlineinternet, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

"Warming hole" delayed climate change over eastern United States

Harvard University: Climate scientists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have discovered that particulate pollution in the late 20th century created a "warming hole" over the eastern United States—that is, a cold patch where the effects of global warming were temporarily obscured.
While greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane warm the Earth's surface, tiny particles in the air can have the reverse effect on regional scales. "What we've shown is that particulate pollution over the eastern United States has delayed the warming that we would expect to see from increasing greenhouse gases," says lead author Eric Leibensperger (Ph.D. '11), who completed the work as a graduate student in applied physics at SEAS.
"For the sake of protecting human health and reducing acid rain, we've now cut the emissions that lead to particulate pollution," he adds, "but these cuts have caused the greenhouse warming in this region to ramp up to match the global trend." At this point, most of the "catch-up" warming has already occurred.
The findings, published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, present a more complete picture of the processes that affect regional climate change. The work also carries significant implications for the future climate of industrial nations, like China, that have not yet implemented air quality regulations to the same extent as the United States.
Until the United States passed the Clean Air Act in 1970 and strengthened it in 1990, particulate pollution hung thick over the central and eastern states. Most of these particles in the atmosphere were made of sulfate, originating as sulfur emissions from coal-fired power plants. Compared to greenhouse gases, particulate pollution has a very short lifetime (about 1 week), so its distribution over the Earth is uneven....

Observed change in surface air temperature between 1930 and 1990. Observations are from the NASA GISS Surface Temperature Analysis. Image courtesy of Eric Leibensperger, from the Harvard website

Friday, April 27, 2012

Historic drought highlights importance of statewide water planning

Hannah Holm in the Grand Junction Free Press (Colorado): In the Grand Valley, we rely on flows in the Colorado and Gunnison rivers to sustain our orchards and alfalfa fields, and the Grand Mesa for most of our drinking water. These sources also keep our lawns and shade trees lush, making life in our desert valley quite a bit more comfortable than they would be otherwise as temperatures rise in the summer — or, this year, in mid-spring!
Generally speaking, when we turn on the tap, water appears, and we use it as we like. The last time the Grand Valley residents faced water restrictions was in 1977. However, a historically low snowpack combined with an earlier-than-normal runoff promises to make the summer of 2012 a challenging year for water management in arid Mesa County.
As of April 24, the Colorado River Basin snowpack in Colorado held just 38% of the water content it would have on this date in an average year; the Gunnison River Basin held 34% of its average water content for this date. In 2002, the last extremely dry year, the Colorado River snowpack was doing about the same at this point; the Gunnison was a bit worse at 25%.
We're lucky that this historically dry water year is following a historically wet one last year, which provided exciting high river flows, filled local reservoirs, and raised levels in Lake Powell, the “bank account” used by Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico to help meet obligations to our downstream neighbors in Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico.
As for next year, who knows? Variability from year to year is the norm, and predictions from one year to the next are notoriously unreliable. There are reasons to believe we could face more challenging times ahead.
...Meanwhile, water consumption doesn't seem to be going anywhere but up.
Blue Mesa Reservoir in Colorado, shot by Nationalparks, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license

New international land deals database reveals rush to buy up Africa

Claire Provost in the globaldevelopment blog at the Guardian(UK): Almost 5% of Africa's agricultural land has been bought or leased by investors since 2000, according to an international coalition of researchers and NGOs that has released the world's largest public database of international land deals.
The database, launched on Thursday, lifts the lid on a decade of secretive deals struck by governments, investors and speculators seeking large tracts of fertile land in developing countries around the world.
The past five years have seen a flood of reports of investors snapping up land at rock-bottom prices in some of the world's poorest countries. But, despite growing concern about the local impacts of so-called "land grabs", the lack of reliable data has made it difficult to pin down the real extent and nature of the global rush for land.
Researchers estimate that more than 200m hectares (495m acres) of land – roughly eight times the size of the UK – were sold or leased between 2000 and 2010. Details of 1,006 deals covering 70.2m hectares mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America were published by the Land Matrix project, an international partnership involving five major European research centres and 40 civil society and research groups from around the world.
It is the first time a comprehensive list of international land deals has been collected and made public. The database relies on a wide variety of sources – including media reports, academic research and field-based investigations – to add detail to a global phenomenon notoriously shrouded in secrecy....
A postcard from the French Congo depicting a plantation, around 1905

Drought-resistant Argentine soy raises hopes, concerns

Liliana Samuel in PhysOrg: Researchers in Argentina have isolated a drought-resistant sunflower gene and spliced it into soy, bolstering hopes for improved yields as the South American agricultural powerhouse grapples with global warming.
Raquel Chan's team identified the HAHB4 gene that makes sunflowers resist dry conditions and implanted it in rockcress flowering plants known as arabidopsis, whose resistance to drought increased considerably.
Her team has signed an agreement with Argentine firm Bioceres, which is co-owned by over 230 agricultural producers, to use and exploit the gene. The firm has conducted tests on soy, wheat and corn crops.
Soy is the biggest cash crop in Argentina, a major exporter of byproducts like soybean oil and flour, but the prospect of creating a transgenic soy plant has some experts concerned about the potential for environmental harm.
Supporters of the technology say the boost in productivity could mean as much as $10 billion in added profits each year, particularly after a severe drought recently slashed Argentina's soy output by more than a third.
But the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace said the transgenic seeds would promote deforestation and the expansion of soy crops into new regions such as Patagonia, as well as cause a "significant loss" in biodiversity and force thousands of farmers and native people to relocate.
And because it is genetically modified, the new soy seed would have little to no prospects of being sold in markets where such crops are opposed or outlawed, as in Europe....
Harvesting soy in Argentina, shot by Arpatt, under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Earth's water cycle intensifying with atmospheric warming

CSIRO News (Australia): In a paper published today in the journal Science, Australian scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California, reported changing patterns of salinity in the global ocean during the past 50 years, marking a clear fingerprint of climate change.
Lead author, Dr Paul Durack, said that by looking at observed ocean salinity changes and the relationship between salinity, rainfall and evaporation in climate models, they determined the water cycle has strengthened by four per cent from 1950-2000. This is twice the response projected by current generation global climate models.
"Salinity shifts in the ocean confirm climate and the global water cycle have changed. These changes suggest that arid regions have become drier and high rainfall regions have become wetter in response to observed global warming," said Dr Durack, a post-doctoral fellow at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
With a projected temperature rise of 3ºC by the end of the century, the researchers estimate a 24 per cent acceleration of the water cycle is possible.
Scientists have struggled to determine coherent estimates of water cycle changes from land-based data because surface observations of rainfall and evaporation are sparse. However, according to the team, global oceans provide a much clearer picture. "Warming of the Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere is expected to strengthen the water cycle largely driven by the ability of warmer air to hold and redistribute more moisture."....
Cloud photo by Yamoto, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Low-cost adaptation measures needed

Patricia Grogg in Peace, Earth & Justice News via IPS: As a result of climate change-related extreme weather events like a rise in the sea level and increasingly intense storms alternating with drought, Caribbean island nations are facing the challenge of adopting adaptation measures that could be too costly for their budgets.
One important message from the report is that costly investments are not needed to mitigate the effects of extreme weather events; there are other ways of dealing with the impacts that do not involve major spending on infrastructure, he told IPS. That clarification is important because funds for climate change adaptation are scarce in this region, added the expert, who is co-chair of IPCC Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.
...Field was in Havana to participate in a workshop held to divulge the results of the IPCC "Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation", produced as a tool for climate adaptation policy-making.
...More than half of the population in the region lives less than 1.5 km from the coast. Ian King, an expert from Barbados with the United Nations Development Programme Caribbean Disaster Risk Reduction Initiative (UNDP CRMI), said the first challenge is to assess the threats, in order to decide on the most suitable adaptation policies.
...One of the ways is to model different scenarios of the risk of high-intensity storms and their impact on coastal areas, King said. Better adaptation policies can be established on this more scientific basis, he added, saying the decision of whether or not to pull out of at-risk areas largely depends on the communities themselves.
Although it is clear that adaptation to climate change is a pressing need, there is a problem of financing for programmes in countries with weak economies like the islands of the Caribbean....
Havana at night, shot by DominiqueMichel, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Antarctic ice melting from warm water below

Seth Borenstein in Dallas via the AP: Antarctica's massive ice shelves are shrinking because they are being eaten away from below by warm water, a new study finds. That suggests that future sea levels could rise faster than many scientists have been predicting.
The western chunk of Antarctica is losing 23 feet of its floating ice sheet each year. Until now, scientists weren't exactly sure how it was happening and whether or how man-made global warming might be a factor. The answer, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, is that climate change plays an indirect role - but one that has larger repercussions than if Antarctic ice were merely melting from warmer air.
Hamish Pritchard, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey, said research using an ice-gazing NASA satellite showed that warmer air alone couldn't explain what was happening to Antarctica. A more detailed examination found a chain of events that explained the shrinking ice shelves.
Twenty ice shelves showed signs that they were melting from warm water below. Changes in wind currents pushed that relatively warmer water closer to and beneath the floating ice shelves. The wind change is likely caused by a combination of factors, including natural weather variation, the ozone hole and man-made greenhouse gases, Pritchard said in a phone interview....
Photo of an Antarctic iceberg by Georges Nijs, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Climate science 'needs greater social science input'

Smriti Mallapaty in Climate researchers pay too little attention to social sciences, delegates at the International Conference of Mountain Countries on Climate Change have heard.
The meeting in Nepal (5–6 April) was attended by around 30 country representatives, and concluded with a 'Kathmandu Call for Action', with a view to highlighting the specific needs of mountain countries at international negotiations, including the forthcoming Rio+20 Summit in June.
"More interaction between the natural and social sciences is necessary," said Dirk Hoffmann, executive director of the Bolivian Mountain Institute, adding that the lack of effective dialogue between science and social policy is hampering the implementation of adaptation measures.
Hoffmann gave an example of agricultural engineers studying the effects of heat stress and reduced water supply on plant growth, who failed to incorporate the views of farmers' perceptions of climate change and their collective or individual attempts to adapt.
He also noted that "climate is almost absent [from discussions] in the social sciences", and urged sociologists, psychologists, political scientists, and historians to participate in climate change science discussions, and provide information on how past and present societies have reacted to climate variations, and how political decision-making processes can motivate people to act...
Waiting in line in Hong Kong, shot by Kul30amoil, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Sea-level rise: towards understanding local vulnerability

A rich post by Stefan Rahmstorf in Environmental ResearchWeb: The Delta Commission of the Dutch government projected up to 1.10 m as a 'high-end' scenario (Vellinga et al 2009). The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) projected up to 1.40 m (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research 2009), and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) gives a range of 0.90–1.60 m in its 2011 report (Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme 2011). And recently the US Army Corps of Engineers recommends using a 'low', an 'intermediate' and a 'high' scenario for global sea-level rise when planning civil works programmes, with the high one corresponding to a 1.50 m rise by 2100 (US Army Corps of Engineers 2011).
This more pessimistic view is based on a number of observations, most importantly perhaps the fact that sea level has been rising at least 50% faster in the past decades than projected by the IPCC (Rahmstorf et al 2007, IPCC 2007). Also, the rate of rise (averaged over two decades) has accelerated threefold, from around 1 mm yr−1 at the start of the 20th century to around 3 mm yr−1 over the past 20 years (Church and White 2006), and this rate increase closely correlates with global warming (Rahmstorf et al 2011). The IPCC projections, which assume almost no further acceleration in the 20th century, thus look less plausible. And finally the observed net mass loss of the two big continental ice sheets (Van den Broeke et al 2011) calls into question the assumption that ice accumulation in Antarctica would largely balance ice loss from Greenland in the course of further global warming (IPCC 2007).
With such a serious sea-level rise on the horizon, experts are increasingly looking at its potential impacts on coasts to facilitate local adaptation planning. This is a more complex issue than one might think, because different stretches of coast can be affected in very different ways. First of all, the sea-level response to global warming will not be globally uniform, since factors like changes in ocean currents (Levermann et al 2005) and the changing gravitational pull of continental ice (Mitrovica et al 2001) affect the local rise. Secondly, superimposed on the climatic trend is natural variability in sea level, which regionally can be as large as the climatic signal on multi-decadal timescales. Over the past decades, sea level has dropped in sizable parts of the world ocean, although it has of course risen in global mean (IPCC 2007). Thirdly, local land uplift or subsidence affects the local sea-level change relative to the coast, both for natural reasons (post-glacial isostatic adjustment centred on regions that were covered by ice sheets during the last ice age) and artificial ones (e.g., extraction of water or oil as in the Gulf of Mexico). Finally, local vulnerability to sea-level rise depends on many factors....
Waves at St. Monan's pier, shot by Derek Harper, Wikimedia Commons via Geograph UK, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license