Thursday, August 11, 2011

Scientists say that there has been a mysterious decline in the growth of methane in the atmosphere in the last decades of the 20th century. Researchers have come up with two widely differing theories as to the cause. One suggests the decline was caused by greater commercial use of natural gas, the other that increased use in Asia of artificial fertiliser was responsible. Both studies agree that human activities are the key element. And there are suggestions that methane levels are now on the rise again.
Methane is regarded as one of the most potent greenhouse gases, trapping over 20 times more atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide. Since the start of the industrial revolution, levels of methane in the atmosphere have more than doubled from a wide variety of sources, including energy production, the burning of forests, and increased numbers of cattle and sheep. But between 1980 and the turn of the millennium, the growth rate reduced substantially, leaving scientists puzzled as to the cause.
One team said, "Methane became economically valuable only during the second half of the 20th Century. We think this had a role in it. We're not suggesting we used less fossil fuel, but because we were more careful about capturing the natural gas and using it as an energy resource, emissions of these gases into the atmosphere declined at the end of the 20th Century."
However another team of researchers from the same department in the same university came to different conclusions using a different method of measuring methane. The second team looked at different chemical signals of methane from both fossil fuels and from microbes active in wetlands and rice paddies. Traditionally rice farmers have used organic manure which contains high levels of methane. By using artificial fertilisers, the farmers have considerably reduced this amount. "Approximately half of the decrease in methane can be explained by reduced emissions from rice agriculture in Asia associated with increases in fertiliser application and reductions in water use." Fertilisers are believed to enhance the ability of some bacteria to consume methane that originates in the soils. The second team found no evidence that the decline was caused by more efficient use of fossil fuels. "The authors may be correct but from the data shown it is not unequivocal that thIn the long term both explanations may be significant in explaining the decline. Climate sceptics who think that natural factors and not human activities play a more important role in temperature rise might take comfort from the lack of certainty in these papers. "I think both studies are actually suggesting that human activities are playing a very important role in determining the methane levels in the atmosphere. As we use more and more fossil fuels, you can be sure it will start creeping up again slowly."

**Compassion is a call,
a demand of nature to relieve the unhappy,
as hunger is a natural call for food.**
Joseph Butler

This morning -

Yesterday -
8/10/11 -


Aftermath of Japan shows Australia at greater risk of tsunamis - Scientific modelling reworked in the aftermath of Japan shows that Australia is at greater risk of tsunamis than previously assumed, according to several international experts on tsunamis and earthquakes. The Pacific Ring of Fire, an area renowned for earthquakes and volcanoes, is the biggest concern for tsunamis along the east coast of Australia. The Japan earthquake in March also proved to be deeper and more damaging than any prior scientific modelling predicted, resulting in wide ramifications for the study of seismology.
Many scientific modelling and predictions — including examining how an earthquake, volcano or underwater landslide in the South Pacific could cause a tsunami in Australia — are now viewed as VAST UNDERESTIMATES in light of the Japan quake and tsunami. “The events of the last year show us the earth is still full of surprises." Despite years of research, scientists are still unable to pinpoint exactly when and where an earthquake will occur. “It’s a very vexing problem, one of the great unsolved problems in our science." . Instead, the best scientists can do is make predictions of where the earthquake is likely to occur and how big it is likely to be, based on historical data. However, Australia and the South Pacific are particularly limiting in the historical records available, with only about 200 years of written records examining earthquakes in the region even though much of it lies in the notorious Pacific Ring of Fire region. Not that those predictions are always accurate anyway. The city of Wellington on the north island of New Zealand was seen as a more likely spot for a large earthquake in an urban centre in NZ than Christchurch, which was only rated as low-risk. Yet it was Christchurch that was destroyed in February by the aftershocks from a quake last December and it will suffer further aftershocks from that quake for years.
Early warning systems have proved to be highly affective for tsunamis, as the waves take a while to form and there is time for public warning systems to be deployed. It’s more difficult with earthquakes due to the small amount of time. With the right equipment, nearby regions could get around a minute of warning time before a significant quake hit, which although only a small amount of time is enough to stop bullet trains (which Japan has done in the past), get out of a lift in a tall building and stop a surgeon during surgery. Another issue with warnings is how quickly the public flout them or don’t take them seriously. Thousands of people went to Bondi Beach when tsunami warnings were issued last year in the hope of ‘watching’ the tsunami. “The warning system is not the problem, the people are the problem."
Earthquakes are not the only tsunami trigger in the South Pacific. Other factors which don’t get as much attention but could be even more damaging include volcanoes — since most South Pacific islands are either active or dormant volcanoes, which are slowly falling away – underwater landslides and sediment slumping.
Although there are only 200 years of written records, examinations of the Futuna island in the South Pacific found a volcano and resulting tsunami that destroyed an entire community on the island just 500 odd years ago. This is just one example of many that scientists are beginning to discover, which are helping to plan for the likelihood and regularity of future disasters in the region.

Tropical depression 13w was located approximately 475 nm south of Kyoto, Japan.


U.S. MIDWEST - After a rough weather start to 2011 hopes are high for a quiet end to the year. Don't get your hopes up just yet. The climate phenomenon known as La Niña may be back as soon as this winter according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific." This is basically the opposite of El Niño, which is characterized by warmer than normal ocean temperatures in that same region. The La Nina weather pattern dominated the eastern Equatorial Pacific at the end of last year and for much of the first half of 2011. The result was abnormal weather patterns across the United states, including the infamous February blizzard and numerous severe weather outbreaks during the spring and early summer.
La Niña basically sends the jet stream over the Midwest, keeping the storm track nearby. More storms will lead to more frequent cold spells and more snow. Despite the fact La Niña weakened this summer, we are still feeling the effects of the now gone weather phenomenon as extreme heat ruled for much of July and the start of August across the Midwest. Droughts in Texas, a record wildfire season in parts of the Southwest, and cooler than normal weather along the west coast this year have also been the result of La Niña.
Though NOAA states that the eastern Pacific is currently in neutral conditions, between El Niño and La Niña, there are climate computer models that indicate that La Niña may redevelop this winter. Conditions are favorable for the development of La Niña over the next six months. Though a La Niña that may redevelop this winter would likely be weaker than the previous episode, we should still expect wild swings in our weather. This could lead to a another stormy winter and spring.