Earth ChangesS

Better Earth

Old Growth Forest Must No Longer Be Ignored In Carbon Balances

An international study involving a team from LSCE (CNRS-CEA-UVSQ) has revealed that ancient forests, which accumulate large quantities of carbon over the centuries, should be taken into account in global carbon balance assessments. However, such old growth forests were not included in the Kyoto protocol.

Ancient forests.
Ancient forests.

In the carbon cycle, forests help to slow down the build-up of atmospheric carbon dioxide by absorbing this gas, thereby mitigating climate change. Specifically, forests use CO2 to synthesise the organic molecules that are stored in trees, and thereafter in organic soil matter and dead leaves, which decompose slowly.

The ability of forests to fix carbon dioxide depends on the balance between the amounts removed from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and those released as a result of plant respiration.


Impact Of Beetle Kill On Rocky Mountain Weather, Air Quality

Mountain pine beetles appear to be doing more than killing large swaths of forests in the Rocky Mountains. Scientists suspect they are also altering local weather patterns and air quality.

©Carlye Calvin, UCAR
Mountain pine beetles have killed large numbers of trees in the Rockies.

A new international field project, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), is exploring how trees and other vegetation influence rainfall, temperatures, smog, and other aspects of the atmosphere. Plants take in and emit chemicals that affect the air, and they also absorb varying amounts of incoming heat from the Sun. When portions of a forest die, the local atmosphere can change in subtle ways.

"Forests help control the atmosphere, and there's a big difference between the impacts of a living forest and a dead forest," says NCAR scientist Alex Guenther, a principal investigator on the project. "With a dead forest, we may get different rainfall patterns, for example."


US: Severe Climate Change Costs Forecast For Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Tennessee, North Dakota, And Other U.S. States

The economic impact of climate change will cost a number of U.S. states billions of dollars, and delaying action will raise the price tag, concludes the latest series of reports produced by the University of Maryland's Center for Integrative Environmental Research (CIER).

The new reports project specific long-term direct and ripple economic effects on North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. In most cases, the price tag could run into billions of dollars.

million dollar houses in Corolla NC USA
©iStockphoto/Joelle Gould
A row of million dollar houses in Corolla on the outer banks of North Carolina. The most significant impact of climate change to North Carolina is likely to be felt along the coastline, but damage to agriculture, forestry and manufacturing could also occur with total costs running into billions of dollars.

The studies combine existing data with new analysis and have been conducted by CIER in conjunction with the National Conference of State Legislators. Last July they released similar studies on Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey and Ohio. (link to state-by-state reports below.)

"State and local communities would do well to prepare for a cascade of impacts on many of their most basic systems and services," says Matthias Ruth, principal investigator and director of the Center for Integrative Environmental Research at the University of Maryland. "From sewers to aquifers, highways and health systems, climate change will rewrite communities' infrastructure needs. Quick action will be expensive, but delayed action will cost even more."

Better Earth

Ocean Floor Geysers Warm Flowing Sea Water

An international team of earth scientists report movement of warmed sea water through the flat, Pacific Ocean floor off Costa Rica. The movement is greater than that off midocean volcanic ridges. The finding suggests possible marine life in a part of the ocean once considered barren.

With about 71 percent of the Earth's surface being ocean, much remains unknown about what is under the sea, its geology, and the life it supports. A new finding reported by American, Canadian and German earth scientists suggests a rather unremarkable area off the Costa Rican Pacific coast holds clues to better understand sea floor ecosystems.

Carol Stein, professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is a member of the research team that has studied the region, located between 50 and 150 miles offshore and covering an area the size of Connecticut. The sea floor, some two miles below, is marked by a collection of about 10 widely separated outcrops or mounts, rising from sediment covering crust made of extinct volcanic rock some 20-25 million years old.

Bizarro Earth

World's Largest Tsunami Debris Discovered

A line of massive boulders on the western shore of Tonga may be evidence of the most powerful volcano-triggered tsunami found to date. Up to 9 meters (30 feet) high and weighing up to 1.6 million kilograms (3.5 million pounds), the seven coral boulders are located 100 to 400 meters (300 to 1,300 feet) from the coast.

The house-sized boulders were likely flung ashore by a wave rivaling the 1883 Krakatau tsunami, which is estimated to have towered 35 meters (115 feet) high.

©M. Hornbach
Tongatapu boulder.

"These could be the largest boulders displaced by a tsunami, worldwide," says Matthew Hornbach of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics. "Krakatau's tsunami was probably not a one-off event." Hornbach and his colleagues will discuss these findings at the Joint Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA), Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies (GCAGS), in Houston, Texas, USA.*


Old Farmers Almanac: Global cooling may be underway

The Old Farmer's Almanac is going further out on a limb than usual this year, not only forecasting a cooler winter, but looking ahead decades to suggest we are in for global cooling, not warming.

Based on the same time-honored, complex calculations it uses to predict weather, the Almanac hits the newsstands on Tuesday saying a study of solar activity and corresponding records on ocean temperatures and climate point to a cooler, not warmer, climate, for perhaps the next half century.

"We at the Almanac are among those who believe that sunspot cycles and their effects on oceans correlate with climate changes," writes meteorologist and climatologist Joseph D'Aleo. "Studying these and other factor suggests that cold, not warm, climate may be our future."

Cloud Lightning

China Storms Leave 18 People Dead; 20,000 Stranded

A typhoon and torrential rains killed at least 18 people in southern and central China, leaving more than 20,000 stranded in Sichuan province, which was devastated by an earthquake earlier this year.

Heavy rain in Sichuan killed at least eight people and left 38 missing, the official Xinhua News Agency said. As much as 34 centimeters (13.4 inches) of rain fell in the last two days, the China Meteorological Administration said.

Officials are concerned about the safety of residents as roads and telephone lines were cut after the rains caused floods and mudslides, Xinhua said, citing the Jiangyou municipal government. Sichuan is still rebuilding cities devastated by a 7.9-magnitude earthquake in May that killed 69,226 people and left 15 million homeless.


Food riots in east India, flood waters lap Taj Mahal

Bhubaneswar - Officials in eastern India struggled to provide aid to tens of thousands of flood victims after riots broke out on Wednesday, as floodwaters lapped the Taj Mahal compound but posed no immediate threat to it.

Monsoon rains, burst dams and overflowing embankments have unleashed bouts of flooding in South Asia this year, killing about 1,500 people, mostly in India but also in Nepal.

In India's Orissa state, tens of thousands were still stranded on embankments and on highways after large areas were flooded when authorities opened sluice gates of a dam on the Mahanadi river after heavy rains last week.

Food riots broke out in many areas after villagers complained they were not getting relief supplies. Hungry victims beat up officials, blocked roads and looted relief materials.

"At least eight people sustained injuries after two groups of people clashed over distribution of relief," police officer Jitendra Kumar Dalai, who was injured, told Reuters by telephone from flood-hit Jagatsinghpur district.

Cloud Lightning

Thousands stranded as storms hit China quake area

Beijing - Continuous rain near the epicentre of China's May 12 earthquake has killed at least two people, left 30 missing and thousands stranded by mountain torrents, cave-ins and mudslides, state media said on Wednesday.

Downpours began to pound Beichuan county in Sichuan province, southwest China, on Monday night, collapsing more than 1,100 houses since then, Xinhua news agency said.

More than 300 people have been injured in the downpours.

At least 1,100 houses have collapsed and about 6,000 people were stranded or "in dire need of help", Xinhua said.

Beichuan was one of the hardest-hit counties in the Sichuan earthquake, which killed at least 80,000 people.

Bizarro Earth

Images of Texas Neighborhood Devastated by Hurricane Ike Now Accessible

Before-and-after Hurricane Ike photographs showing the near total destruction of a coastal neighborhood in Texas are now accessible online.

On Monday, Sept. 15, a team of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists flew the coast impacted by Hurricane Ike and acquired photographs and video. Images of Crystal Beach, Texas, on the Bolivar Peninsula are compared to aerial photographs of the same area taken Sept. 9, several days before Ike's landfall, and are now available.

"The Bolivar Peninsula was in or near the right eyewall of Hurricane Ike when the storm made landfall," said USGS scientist Abby Sallenger. "This was the location of the strongest winds and where we observed the greatest impacts to the coast."

Storm surges and waves crested Crystal Beach and swept sand inland, along with the remains of homes. The four sets of before-and-after photographs posted online show these extreme changes to the residential area.