Thursday, July 26, 2012

US warns drought will push up food prices in 2013 - Food prices are likely to rise in the US next year due to a drought gripping large parts of the Midwest, the US department for agriculture has warned. It forecasted that the price of milk, eggs and meat would all rise above the normal rate of inflation as the dry weather increased animal feed costs. Prices are expected to increase by between 3% and 4% in 2013, with beef prices expected to jump by up to 5%. The drought, which is affecting much of the Midwest, is THE WORST SINCE 1956.
Corn and soybean prices soared recently as fields dried out and crops withered. The pressure on food prices will begin to build later this year. "It's already affecting corn and soybean prices, but then it has to work its way all the way through the system into feed prices and then animal prices, then wholesale prices and then, finally, retail prices." Normal inflation for groceries in the US is about 2.8% per year. The drought is not expected to affect US fruit and vegetable prices as most of these crops are irrigated.
Before the drought hit, this year was forecast to produce a record yield for the corn crop. But, after weeks of hot, dry weather and no rainfall, a total of 1,369 counties in 31 states across the country have now been designated for disaster aid. Two-thirds of the US is now in mild or extreme drought. There are fears that rising prices in the US will have an impact further afield as the country is the world's largest exporter of corn, soybeans and wheat.

**Instead of leading the world by how much we borrow,
it's time that we make sure we lead the world
in how much we build and create and invest.**
Mitt Romney

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Japan - Sakurajima volcano (Kyushu): stronger and more than usual frequent explosions. Sakurajima volcano continues to be particularly active. The volcano, known for its persistant svulcanian type eruptions, typically 1-2 per day, has been having more than usual frequent and stronger explosions during the past months.
A powerful eruption occurred Tuesday evening. The explosion occurred not from the normally active Showa-dake crater, but the less frequently active Minami-dake crater, and the explosion showered the flanks of the volcano with hundreds of blocks up to considerable distance. An ash column could be seen rising several kilometers. Wednesday, several explosions occurred as well with ash plumes reported up to 10,000 ft (ca. 3 km) altitude.

No current tropical storms.

Tropical Storm Khanun leaves 16,000 homeless in North Korea - Khanun became a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds near 40 miles (64 kilometers) per hour on July 16 as it was centered far east of the Ryukyu Islands. It then moved to the northwest, passing north of the Kadena Air Base on the islands.


Greenland Ice sheet melted in 4 days - "We got some reports that there was melt going on all around Greenland, literally like so much water running off that it was washing out bridges and things, that there were runways that were on the snow that were having problems. And so what we did was look at the satellite records, which are great because they cover the whole ice sheet. And what we found pretty quickly was that it had melted, and it had melted in places that we had never seen melt before." It's unusual, but this is not unprecedented.
The top parts of the Greenland ice sheet are 12,000 feet above sea level. "It's very, very cold there. It's never above freezing. And what happened was, we had temperatures go up to almost 42 degrees in places. When we look back, though, kind of in deep time, which we can get from ice cores around Greenland, we found out melting like this probably does happen maybe about on average every 150 years. So, this is REALLY UNUSUAL. Maybe the last time it happened was 1889."
"Well, the simplest explanation is this, we had some pockets of warm air really form around Greenland that literally washed up over the entire ice sheet. And a lot of that is related. If you look at -- there are some indices people use to describe the state of the atmosphere. One of them is the North Atlantic oscillation. And this year, that happened to have a really strong high-pressure system formed over Iceland that allowed this warm air sit around and move over Greenland."
Basically you're talking about the weather. " Yes, and that is one way to thing about it. Climate is sort of long-term weather. But short term, you can get extreme variations. And we're seeing an extreme variation in Greenland." So, you can't really attribute this to climate change. "And that's one of the things. We spent a long time trying to word the document that we put out describing it. And we said, look, there is evidence that this has happened before. Now, that doesn't mean -- WE REALLY DON'T KNOW THE EXPLANATION FOR THIS ONE. If it happens again, if it starts to happen repeatedly, then we have an indication that there might be a real shift going on in the Arctic system there...High on the Greenland ice sheet, the instruments that we have there are saying that things are cooling off already." So they're starting to refreeze. But at the lower elevations, it's still really warm.
"The Greenland ice sheet has been losing tremendous amounts of ice for decades, on average 150 gigatons a year. You're talking so much ice that this is contributing about 0.3 millimeters of sea level rise a year around the globe." It's about three millimeters a year sea level rise overall. "But the problem, too, with Greenland is that it looks like it's been accelerating in recent years. And so depending on what time range you look at it, now it could be contributing a half-a-millimeter, maybe even more."
This year in the Arctic, " we're losing sea ice overall. We're down close to another record year. And we're probably at a record year. The sea ice is thinner now than it's ever been. We're seeing warming going around all around in the Arctic. Permafrost is thawing and those kinds of things. So it really does look like the Arctic has shifted in state."
Time-lapse satellite images of Greenland ice melt

A rift in the Antarctic rock as deep as the Grand Canyon is increasing ice melt from the continent, researchers say. A team found the Ferrigno rift using ice-penetrating radar, and showed it to be about 1.5km (1 mile) deep. Antarctica is home to a geological rift system where new crust is being formed, meaning the eastern and western halves of the continent are slowly separating. The canyon is bringing more warm sea water to the ice sheet, hastening melt.
The Ferrigno rift lies close to the Pine Island Glacier where Nasa scientists found a giant crack last year; but the newly discovered feature is not thought to be influencing the "Pig", as it is known. The rift lies beneath the Ferrigno Ice Stream on a stretch of coast so remote that it has only been visited once previously. "What we found is that lying beneath the ice there is a large valley, parts of which are approximately a mile deeper than the surrounding landscape. If you stripped away all of the ice here today, you'd see a feature every bit as dramatic as the huge rift valleys you see in Africa and in size as significant as the [US] Grand Canyon. This is at odds with the flat ice surface that we were driving across - without these measurements we would never have known it was there."
The Ferrigno rift extends into a seabed trough, called Belgica. The scientists suggest that during Ice Ages, when sea levels were much lower than at present, the rift would have channelled a major ice stream through the trough. Now, they suggest, the roles are reversed, with the walls of the Belgica trough channelling relatively warm sea water back to the ice edge. The nearby Pine Island Glacier appears set to calve a 900 sq km iceberg Penetrating between the Antarctic bedrock and the ice that lies on it and lubricating the join, the water allows ice to flow faster into the sea.
"We know that the ice loss from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is governed by delivery of warm water, and that the warm water is coming along channels that were previously scoured by glaciers. So the geology and the present rate of ice loss are intricately linked, and they feed back - if you have fast-flowing ice, that delivers ice to the edge where it can be impacted by warm water, and warm water makes the ice flow faster." The team doubts there would be more such features around the West Antarctic coast, though in the remoter still regions of the east, it is a possibility.
Ice loss from West Antarctica is believed to contribute about 10% to global sea level rise. But how the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets respond to warmer temperatures is the biggest unknown by far in trying to predict how fast the waters will rise over the coming century and beyond. A total melt of either sheet would raise sea levels globally by several metres.
East Antarctica, by contrast, is so cold that the ice is projected to remain solid for centuries. "Since the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report [in 2007], which highlighted uncertainties connected with ice sheets, almost every significant piece of research we've produced has increased the significance of the ocean for West Antarctica and Greenland. There are changes in precipitation now and in future; but the really big, potentially fast, changes are connected to the oceans, and the goal for us is to model that system."