Sunday, September 12, 2010

New study slashes estimate of icecap loss - Estimates of the rate of ice loss from Greenland and West Antarctica, one of the most worrying questions in the global warming debate, should be halved, according to Dutch and US scientists. In the last two years, several teams have estimated Greenland is shedding roughly 230 gigatonnes of ice, or 230 billion tonnes, per year and West Antarctica around 132 gigatonnes annually. Together, that would account for more than half of the annual three-millimetre (0.2 inch) yearly rise in sea levels, a pace that compares dramatically with 1.8mm (0.07 inches) annually in the early 1960s.
But, according to the new study, the ice estimates fail to correct for a phenomenon known as glacial isostatic adjustment. This is the term for the rebounding of Earth's crust following the last Ice Age. Glaciers that were kilometers (miles) thick smothered Antarctica and most of the northern hemisphere for tens of thousands of years, compressing the elastic crust beneath it with their titanic weight. When the glaciers started to retreat around 20,000 years ago, the crust started to rebound, and is still doing so. This movement, though, is not just a single vertical motion. "A good analogy is that it's like a mattress after someone has been sleeping on it all night." The weight of the sleeper creates a hollow as the material compress downwards and outwards. When the person gets up, the mattress starts to recover. This movement, seen in close-up, is both upwards and downwards and also sideways, too, as the decompressed material expands outwards and pulls on adjacent stuffing. Often ignored or considered a minor factor in previous research, post-glacial rebound turns out to be important. Southern Greenland is in fact subsiding, as the crust beneath it is pulled by the post-glacial rebound from northern America.
With glacial isostatic adjustment modelled in, the loss from Greenland is put at 104 gigatonnes, plus or minus 23 gigatonnes, and 64 gigatonnes from West Antarctica, plus or minus 32 gigatonnes. These variations show a large degree of uncertainy, but even so a clearer picture is emerging on icesheet loss. "The corrections for deformations of the Earth's crust have a considerable effect on the amount of ice that is estimated to be melting each year. We have concluded that the Greenland and West Antarctica ice caps are melting at approximately half the speed originally predicted."
If the figures for overall sea level rise are accurate, icesheet loss would be contribute about 30 percent, rather than roughly half, to the total. The rest would come mainly from thermal expansion, meaning that as the sea warms it rises. The debate is important because of fears that Earth's biggest reservoirs of ice, capable of driving up ocean levels by many metres (feet) if lost, are melting much faster than global-warming scenarios had predicted.

**Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win.**
Jonathan Kozel

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
9/11/11 -

9/10/10/ -
None 5.0 or higher.

BRITAIN - Police given earthquake training for 'extremely unlikely crisis'. Hundreds of police officers undertook a three-day course on how to deal with powerful earthquakes even though Britain has never experienced any such event. Britain endures its fair share of elemental hardships: floods, storms, and even the occasional tornado. It is not, however, known for its high risk of catastrophic earthquakes. But that did not stop police officers undertaking a three-day course training them to deal with a devastating magnitude 8 tremor. An eight-magnitude quake is classed as a “great earthquake”, which causes “serious damage in areas several hundred miles across”. There is only one recorded every year throughout the world.
The teams were called in to work with European and Middle Eastern officials for the “extremely unlikely” crisis. Hundreds of actors were also employed to recreate the mock disaster scenes across the country. Critics suggested the three day exercise, one of the largest ever undertaken, was a waste of valuable resources as it would almost never occur in Britain. Senior officials, however, felt it “necessary” to be prepared for such an “unthinkable” event despite just 11 people dying from earthquakes in Britain over the past 1000 years. "It's all very well and good preparing for a giant earthquake, but in the end you might as well plan for a meteor strike or a volcano. ”


INDONESIA - Thousands of villagers living near Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung volcano in Sumatra, celebrated the end of Ramadan on Friday in their temporary shelters. About 30,000 villagers fled their homes within 4 miles from the peak when the volcano erupted on August 29. Many have found refuge in around 20 temporary shelters. Government officials have asked everyone to stay in the shelters until the alert status on the volcano has been lowered.
The alert status for the 8100 foot volcano has been raised to the highest level as its activity increased after the first eruption. On Tuesday, it had its biggest eruption since it became active last week, and experts warn there are more blasts to come. Indonesia has the highest number of active volcanoes of any country, sitting on the belt of intense seismic activity known as the "Pacific Ring of Fire".

Tropical storm IGOR was 1191 nmi ENE of Bridgetown, Barbados. [very close to being classified a hurricane]
[Two other areas, one in front and one behind Igor could become tropical depressions in the next 48 hours - 60% and 70% chance respectively.]

Tropical Storm Igor is strengthening some as it swirls across the open Atlantic Ocean. The storm could become a hurricane by today. Igor remains far from land and was about 620 miles (995 kilometers) west of the Cape Verde Islands. The storm's maximum sustained winds Friday were near 45 mph (75 kph). It was moving to the west at 21 mph (33 kph). [All of the global modes show the expected development of a large and powerful hurricane.]


PHILIPPINES - A landslide triggered by heavy rains has killed four people and destroyed 20 homes in a southern Philippine village. The downpour loosened soil and boulders and uprooted trees that tumbled down onto nearby houses. Bodies were carried several hundred metres away by a flash flood. Meteorologists say converging trade winds generated rain clouds which drenched the area.

TAIWAN - About 700 aborigines were trapped in a remote Taiwan village after heavy rains brought by tropical storm Meranti triggered landslides, as weathermen issued a warning against the storm. Meranti dumped over 350 millimetres (14 inches) of rain over 24 hours in Chinfeng, Taima and Tajen township in southeast Taiwan's Taitung county, an area still reeling from last year's devastating Typhoon Morakot. "Since Wednesday, rain has kept falling in the area." The downpour caused landslides, cutting off a key road and isolating 700 villagers mostly belonging to an aboriginal tribe, although they did not face any immediate risks. The county government has evacuated more than 500 villagers from the area and ordered some schools and offices in the county to be closed. "Although the storm is not expected to move straight towards Taiwan, it may bring strong winds and heavy rains, and residents must not let down their guard,. Heavy rains could spark flash floods and landslides."

[same link as above] PAKISTAN flood emergency far from over - "Everything I saw and heard today confirmed that this disaster - already one of the largest the world has seen - is STILL GETTING BIGGER," a U.N. spokeman said Wednesday. In of the province of Sindh, more than 16,750 square miles are under water and nearly half a million homes have been destroyed. The death toll in Pakistan from the floods, which began at the end of July, stands at more than 1,750 and more than 1.8 million houses are categorized as either damaged or destroyed. "With 21 million people affected across Pakistan this cannot be treated as just another crisis -- it is an immense and still unfolding catastrophe." Just during the last few days, 40 villages in Sindh were flooded. Also severely affected are the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Balochistan.
"The concerns people expressed to me were mostly about problems we can address such as malaria, their children not getting enough to eat, skin diseases and insufficient shelter. People are also worried about their futures. For many of them, even when the waters recede, they will have nothing to go back to." There are still scores of marooned villages across Pakistan where NO ASSISTANCE HAS BEEN RECEIVED IN MORE THAN A MONTH.Relief agencies attribute the void to a combination of geography, the tremendous scale of the disaster and the play of local politics.


Earth's last ice age not worldwide - U.S. scientists say Earth's last ice age, about 13,000 years ago, saw Europe freezing while the antarctic was warming up, an anomaly that has long puzzled them. New evidence from New Zealand suggests the deep freeze up north bypassed much of the Southern Hemisphere. "Glaciers in New Zealand receded dramatically at this time, suggesting that much of the Southern Hemisphere was warming with Antarctica. Knowing that the...cooling in the Northern Hemisphere was not a global event brings us closer to understanding how Earth finally came out of the ice age."
Ice core data show warming of the Southern Hemisphere starting 13,000 years ago coincided with rising levels of the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide. The new study links this spike in CO2 to the impressive shrinking of glaciers in New Zealand. Scientists estimate the glaciers shrank by half over 1,000 years in response to the local climate warming as much as 2 degrees F. Researchers theorize that a weakening Gulf Stream at the start of the last ice age drove the north into freezing temperatures while simultaneously affecting the planet's wind patterns and ocean currents, pushing warm air and seawater south.


Six dead in Kazakh forest fires close to Russia - Emergency workers on Thursday battled raging forest fires that have killed six people in northeastern Kazakhstan and destroyed an entire village in a neighbouring Russian region. Russian officials said fires that had originated in Kazakhstan destroyed more than 400 houses in the Siberian region of Altai with one village, Nikolayevka, entirely destroyed by the flames. The fires, covering an area of 3,300 hectares (8,100 acres) have been raging in the Pavlodar region of Kazakhstan which lies just south of Russia's Altai region. Russia was sending three more fire-fighting trains equipped with huge cisterns of water to the Altai region as well as two aircraft to douse the blazes. High winds were also impeding the firefighting efforts.
The fresh fire outbreak comes after Russia battled hundreds of blazes earlier this year, in a major national crisis that saw some fires come dangerously close to some of its top nuclear centres. Even after most of the fires in central Russia were quelled in August, new fires killed eight people and burned down more than 400 homes in southern Russia last week. The reappearance of the fires as summer draws to an end is a major embarrassment for the Russian authorities, who have been accused by environmentalists of intentionally under-reporting the scale of the disaster. The governor of Russia's Altai region has declared a state of emergency on 13 districts of his region after the fires. The Russian emergencies ministry said that as a result of the latest fires, the area of blazes active nationwide in Russia had increased 40 times over the last 24 hours to 6,640 hectares with 24 fires still raging. Forest fires ravaged about a million hectares in Russia in recent months, destroying whole villages and leaving more than 50 people dead. Fires also threatened several nuclear plants and engulfed Moscow in a thick cloud of smog causing death rates in the capital to double during the heatwave.


CALIFORNIA - 9/10/10 - a large meteor sighting over the Southland dazzled commuters. Residents from Mexico to Los Angeles reported the sighting. There are no photos of the event at the current time, however there are probably thousands of eyewitnesses. Early morning rush hour traffic traveling across the area would likely have seen the event since it was viewed from Mexico, San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that the crew of the USS Sterett saw a fireball streak across the sky at around 5 a.m. Friday morning. Ironically this sighting happened during a time where the marine layer was not present. [A marine layer is an air mass (fog) which develops over the surface of a large body of water - I am assuming that this means that the skies were unusually clear.]

On Thursday, group of professional and amateur astronomers announced that Jupiter is getting hit surprisingly often by small asteroids, lighting up the giant planet's atmosphere with frequent fireballs. "Jupiter is a big gravitational vacuum cleaner. It is clear now that relatively small objects left over from the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago still hit Jupiter frequently." The impacts are bright enough to see through backyard telescopes on Earth. Indeed, amateur astronomers were the first to detect them, recording two fireballs in 2010 alone - one on June 3rd and another on August 20th.
The June 3rd fireball was caused by an object some 10 meters in diameter. When it hit Jupiter, the impact released about 10^15 Joules of energy. For comparison, that's five to ten times less energy than the Tunguska event of 1908, when a meteoroid exploded in Earth's atmosphere and leveled millions of trees in a remote area of Russia. Scientists continue to analyze the Aug. 20th fireball, but think it was comparable in scale to the June 3rd event.
Before amateurs spotted these fireballs, scientists were unaware collisions so small could be observed. The first hint of their easy visibility came in July 2009 when an amateur astronomer from Australia discovered a dark spot on Jupiter. It was clearly the swirling debris of an impact event that he had only just missed. Next time, however, his luck would improve. On June 3, 2010, he caught a fireball in action. Scientists saw no thermal disruptions or typical chemical signatures of debris, which allowed them to put a limit on the size of the object.
"It is interesting to note that while Earth gets smacked by a 10-meter-sized object about every 10 years on average, it looks as though Jupiter gets hit with the same-sized object [as much as] a few times each month." On Sept. 8th, a 10-meter class asteroid named 2010 RF12 flew past Earth without hitting. A somewhat smaller space rock, 2008 TC3, actually burned up in the atmosphere above Sudan two years ago.


Fox rips off sleeping woman's ear in Britain - A fox crept into a sleeping woman's bedroom and ripped off part of her ear - the latest in A STRING OF SUCH ATTACKS in Britain. She woke to feel something pulling her hair, seconds before the adult fox lunged, leaving her terrified and bleeding. Doctors had to glue her ear together as they could not stitch the cartilage. She believes the fox entered through an open window. Britain's 30,000-odd urban foxes are increasingly being seen as a menace. In the most famous incident, baby twins were savaged by a fox that crept into their East London house in June.

Female marine snails living off the Perth coast in Australia are growing male sex organs on their heads after exposure to the chemical TBT. The snails are suffering from imposex, a condition that involves the development of a second sex organ after being exposed to the chemical.
Studies on the marine snail Thais orbita over the past 10 years showed that although TBT contamination had declined at sites visited by recreational boats, a 100% rate of imposex still exists at sites where commercial vessels are present. "These high levels are believed to be related to the continuous input of TBT into the area over a period of years, resulting in the presence of significant quantities in the sediment on the sea floor. Fremantle port and the Garden Island naval facility were the main sites where TBT contamination was present in the Perth region. Studies have shown that imposex could stop the females from procreating, potentially reducing the number of snails in the shoreline environment.