Earth ChangesS

Bizarro Earth

What if global-warming fears are overblown?

With Congress about to take up sweeping climate-change legislation, expect to hear more in coming weeks from John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at University of Alabama-Huntsville.

A veteran climatologist who refuses to accept any research funding from the oil or auto industries, Christy was a lead author of the 2001 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report as well as one of the three authors of the American Geophysical Union's landmark 2003 statement on climate change.

Yet despite those green-sounding credentials, Christy is not calling for draconian cuts in carbon emissions. Quite the contrary. Christy is actually the environmental lobby's worst nightmare - an accomplished climate scientist with no ties to Big Oil who has produced reams and reams of data that undermine arguments that the earth's atmosphere is warming at an unusual rate and question whether the remedies being talked about in Congress will actually do any good.

Better Earth

Day After Tomorrow Postponed: Cold water ocean circulation doesn't work as expected

The familiar model of Atlantic ocean currents that shows a discrete "conveyor belt" of deep, cold water flowing southward from the Labrador Sea is probably all wet.

New research led by Duke University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution relied on an armada of sophisticated floats to show that much of this water, originating in the sea between Newfoundland and Greenland, is diverted generally eastward by the time it flows as far south as Massachusetts. From there it disburses to the depths in complex ways that are difficult to follow.

A 50-year-old model of ocean currents had shown this southbound subsurface flow of cold water forming a continuous loop with the familiar northbound flow of warm water on the surface, called the Gulf Stream.

"Everybody always thought this deep flow operated like a conveyor belt, but what we are saying is that concept doesn't hold anymore," said Duke oceanographer Susan Lozier. "So it's going to be more difficult to measure these climate change signals in the deep ocean."

And since cold Labrador seawater is thought to influence and perhaps moderate human-caused climate change, this finding may affect the work of global warming forecasters.

Bad Guys

Green movement 'hijacked' by politics

Peers accuse organisations such as Greenpeace of being multinational corporations that peddle fear

© The GuardianGreenpeace protesters at London's Heathrow airport
Parts of the green movement have become hijacked by a political agenda and now operate like multinational corporations, according to two senior scientists and members of the House of Lords.

The peers, who were speaking at an event in parliament on science policy, said they felt that in some areas green campaign groups were a hindrance to environmental causes.

"Much of the green movement isn't a green movement at all, it's a political movement," said Lord May, who is a former government chief scientific adviser and president of the Royal Society. He singled out Greenpeace as an environmental campaign group that had "transmogrified" into one with primarily an anti-globalisation stance.


The secret life of penguins revealed

King penguins
© AFP/AAD/File/James DoubeKing penguins swim off the coast of the Australian subantarctic territory of Macquarie Island, 2007
Famous for its cuteness and comic gait on land, the penguin also has an enigmatic life at sea, sometimes spending months foraging in the ocean before returning to its breeding grounds.

Zoologists have long wondered where the flightless seabird goes during these long spells away from land -- and now French scientists, in a study published in Wednesday, believe they can supply the answer.

A team from National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) attached monitoring devices to a dozen male and female macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus) at the onset of winter on the French Indian Ocean territory of the Kerguelen Islands.


Predators Ignore Peculiar Prey, Bird And Salamander Study Finds

© Fitzpatrick et al., BMC EcologyHere are two salamanders
Rare traits persist in a population because predators detect common forms of prey more easily. Researchers have now found that birds will target salamanders that look like the majority - even reversing their behavior in response to alterations in the ratio of a distinguishing trait.

Benjamin Fitzpatrick, from the University of Tennessee, worked with Kim Shook and Reuben Izally to study the effects of the prevalence of a dorsal stripe among a group of model salamanders on the foraging behavior of a flock of Blue Jays. He said, "Maintenance of variation is a classic paradox in evolution because both selection and drift tend to remove variation from populations. If one form has an advantage, such as being harder to spot, it should replace all others. Likewise, random drift alone will eventually result in loss of all but one form when there are no fitness differences. There must therefore be some advantage that allows unusual traits to persist".


Prairie dogs issue warnings in glorious technicolour

prairie dogs
© Rick and Nora Bowers/AlamyNot only do the rodents' alarm calls tell others about the type and size of approaching predators, but they also seem to warn of the colour of an imminent threat
Prairie dogs talk some pretty colourful talk. Not only do their alarm calls tell others about the type and size of approaching predators, but it seems they can also warn of the hue of an imminent threat.

Gunnison's prairie dogs are burrowing rodents that live in the grasslands of North America. Con Slobodchikoff of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and his colleagues had previously shown that they produce different alarm calls in response to humans, coyotes, domestic dogs and red-tailed hawks. For humans, the calls even vary according to the person's size. They react differently towards each call, all hiding if approached by humans, whereas only nearby animals hide if it is a hawk.


Volcanic Fish Out of Water

Thin and runny lava
© Tobias Fischer/University of New Mexico Façade. Thin and runny lava called carbonatite tops the Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano in Tanzania.
Ol Doinyo Lengai is a maverick. Of Earth's hundreds of active volcanoes, it's the only one currently producing a black, runny lava instead of the familiar goopy, glowing red stuff. Now, an international team of researchers thinks it has found the explanation for the unusual behavior of the Tanzanian volcano, which has to do with its location and the future of the African continent.

Africa is fracturing. Everything east of the Great Rift Valley--a 6000-kilometer gash that runs from Syria to Mozambique--is imperceptibly moving into the Indian Ocean. The valley itself is slowly sinking, and millions of years from now it will rest on the sea floor. Smack-dab in the middle of the valley sits Ol Doinyo Lengai, a classic volcanic cone rising nearly 3000 meters. But the mountain's eruptions are anything but classic. Its lava, called carbonatite, is nearly free of silicon oxide, which in sufficient quantity produces the blazing-hot, flame-red flows people typically associate with volcanoes. Instead, Ol Doinyo Lengai's carbonatite lava is much cooler--only about 500°C, compared with 1000°C or more for conventional eruptions. It also flows easily and rapidly, more like water than lava. Initially, the carbonatite is black but turns white quickly after exposure to rain and surface water.


Obama upholds controversial polar bear rule

polar bear
© unknown
President blots his copybook with green groups for the first time

The Obama administration has shocked environmental groups by retaining a controversial Bush-era ruling that limited protection for polar bears under the Endangered Species Act.

Secretary of the interior Ken Salazar announced late last week that the Department of the Interior will retain a special rule issued by the Bush administration last year when it placed the polar bear on the endangered species list.


Snow in Saudi Arabia in May?

Saudi snow May 2009
© unknown

From the Saudi Gazette
In one of the rare occasions, Saudis enjoy the snowfall in Al-Baha city south-west of Riyadh, Tuesday. Torrential rains pouring down on Al-Baha accompanied by gusty winds were accompanied by snow capping the mountains and covering the valley areas and the forests of Al-Zaraeb and Khayrah.
The last report we had like this in mid January said that the snow and cold was the "worst in 30 years". In January, snow isn't unexpected in Saudi Arabia, it has happened before. But in May?

Comment: Also from Watts Up With That -

Caption This Photo
© unknown
Roo in snow

WUWT reader David Summers sends this photo along taken a few days ago in Australia from a colleague that "returned there for the summer". I thought it might make a fun photo caption exercise.


Flashback Snow, cold, in Saudi Arabia: "worst in 30 years"

According to wire reports, temperatures reached their lowest point in 30 years, reaching to -2°C in the capital, Riyadh, and to -6°C in mountainous regions blanketed by snow. At least 10 people have died in the country as a weather system driven South from Siberia sent temperatures plummeting. Below are some pictures of snow from that region.
Saudi snow January 2008
© unknown