Earth ChangesS


Do Agribusiness Giants Fear Organics?

organic farm
Last month, Michael Mack, the chief executive of Syngenta, said organic farming takes up 30 percent more land than non-organic farming for the same yield. Syngenta is a Swiss agribusiness company that makes pesticides and seeds. "If the whole planet were to suddenly switch to organic farming tomorrow, it would be an ecological disaster," he said.

In terms of yields, he continued, organic food is the "productive equivalent of driving an S.U.V." Mack mentioned what he believes is the "mistaken belief that natural is always better." Pesticides, he added, "have been proven safe and effective and absolutely not harmful to the environment or to humans" by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


Global What? Over 50% of the USA is now covered in snow

© NASA Earth ObservatorySnow blanketed over half of the US in December
The Mid-Atlantic states were completely white on Sunday, December 20, 2009, in the wake of a record-breaking snow storm. The storm deposited between 12 and 30 inches of snow in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. on December 19, according to the National Weather Service. For many locations, the snowfall totals broke records for the most snow to fall in a single December day.

The storm shut down the federal government in Washington DC, stranded travelers, left hundreds of thousands without power and sharply cut holiday sales the weekend before Christmas.

Arrow Down

Earth's Upper Atmosphere Cooling Dramatically

© Unknown
When the sun is relatively inactive - as it has been in recent years - the outermost layer of Earth's atmosphere cools dramatically, new observations find.

The results could help scientists better understand the swelling and shrinking of our planet's atmosphere, a phenomenon that affects the orbits of satellites and space junk.

The data, from NASA's TIMED mission, show that Earth's thermosphere (the layer above 62 miles or 100 km above the Earth's surface) "responds quite dramatically to the effects of the 11-year solar cycle," Stan Solomon of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., said here this week at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Knowing just how the energy flowing out from the sun naturally impacts the state of the thermosphere also will help scientists test predictions that man's emissions of carbon dioxide should cool this layer. (While that may seem to contradict the idea of global warming, it has long been known that carbon dioxide causes warming in the lowest part of the atmosphere and cooling in the upper layers of the atmosphere.)

Better Earth

Goose photographed flying upside down

Brian MacFarlane was amazed when he looked at the photo he had captured of the bird in flight.

The incredible display of mid-flight acrobatics is also a remarkable feat of wildlife photography.

Mr MacFarlane was simply photographing geese buffeted by strong winds at Strumpshaw in Norfolk and did not expect to capture a moment of contortionism.


Trouble over tree rings - Climate Question Part 2

Ross McKitrick
© Keith Morison/Canwest News Service Ross McKitrick questioned the data behind the infamous 'hockey stick' temperature chart.
In the thousands of emails released last month in what is now known as Climategate, the greatest battles took place over scientists' attempts to reconstruct a credible temperature record for the last couple of thousand years. Have they failed? What the Climategate emails provide is at least one incontrovertible answer: They certainly have not succeeded.

In a post-Copenhagen world, climate history is not merely a matter of getting the record straight, or a trivial part of the global warming science. In a Climategate email in April of this year, Steve Colman, professor of Geological Science at the University of Minnesota Duluth, told scores of climate scientists "most people seem to accept that past history is the only way to assess what the climate can actually do (e. g., how fast it can change). However, I think that the fact that reconstructed history provides the only calibration or test of models (beyond verification of modern simulations) is under-appreciated."

If temperature history is the "only" way to test climate models, the tests we have on hand --mainly the shaky temperature history of the last 1,000 or 2,000 years -- suggest current climate models are not getting a proper scientific workout.

Two scientists, one British and the other American, straddle the initial Climategate battle over recent global temperature history. Later, the same two scientists appear to abandon their internal disagreements and join forces to present a united front to fight off critics and put down skeptics.

Comment: So long as scientists must beg for funding for their research, we would say, "Good luck with that."


Climategate: A 2,000-Page Epic of Science and Skepticism - Part 1

© UnknownArctic ice
The scientists seem to have become captive of the IPCC's objectives

Now that the Copenhagen political games are out of the way, marked as a failure by any realistic standard, it may be time to move on to the science games. To get the post-Copenhagen science review underway, the world has a fine document at hand: The Climategate Papers.

On Nov. 17, three weeks before the Copenhagen talks began, a massive cache of climate science emails landed on a Russian server, reportedly after having been laundered through Saudi Arabia. Where they came from, nobody yet knows.

Described as having been hacked or leaked from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, the emails have been the focus of thousands of media and blog reports. Since their release, all the attention has been dedicated to a few choice bits of what seem like incriminating evidence of trickery and scientific repression. Some call it fraud.

Email fragments instantly began flying through the blogosphere. Perhaps the most sensational came from a Nov. 16, 1999, email from Phil Jones, head of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU), in which he referred to having "completed Mike's Nature trick" to "hide the decline" in temperature.

These words, now famous around the world as the core of Climategate, are in fact the grossest possible oversimplification of what the emails contain. The Phil Jones email and other choice email fragments are really just microscopic particles taken from a massive collection of material that will, in time, come to be seen as the greatest and most dramatic science policy epic in history.


Philippine volcano gets louder, could erupt soon

© AP Photo/Bullit MarquezLava continues to cascade down the slopes of Mayon volcano as viewed from Legazpi city in Albay province, 500 kilometers southeast of Manila, Philippines, Sunday evening Dec. 20, 2009. Government volcanollogists raised the five-level alert of Mayon volcano to 4 following increased activity of the country's most active volcano. Tens of thousands residents living around the slopes of Mayon are now housed in evacuation centers and most likely will spend Christmas away from their homes since the country's most active volcano became restive a week ago.
Legazpi, Philippines - Philippine troops on Monday pressed the last 3,000 villagers who have refused to heed government warnings to leave the danger zone around a volcano that experts say is ready to erupt.

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from the foothills of Mayon, which on Monday emitted lava fountains, powerful booming noises and other signs of an approaching eruption. But authorities are having trouble keeping villagers away from their homes and farms, said Gov. Joey Salceda.

"There are people who have been evacuated three times, and we sigh: 'You again?' " said Salceda of central Albay province. "We've been playing cat and mouse with them."

After a week of puffing out ash and sending bursts of lava trickling down its steep slopes, the 8,070-foot (2,460-meter) mountain overlooking the Gulf of Albay and Legazpi city shook with nearly 2,000 volcanic earthquakes and tremors between Sunday and Monday, state volcanologists said.

Bad Guys

Wikipedia History of climate gets 'erased' online

A new report reveals a British scientist and Wikipedia administrator rewrote climate history, editing more than 5,000 unique articles in the online encyclopedia to cover traces of a medieval warming period - something Climategate scientists saw as a major roadblock in the effort to spread the global warming message.
This photo of climate scientist and Wikipedia editor William Connolley was displayed on

Recently hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit expose a plot to eliminate the Medieval Warm Period, a 400-year era that began around A.D. 1000, the Financial Post's Lawrence Solomon reports.

The warming period is said to have improved agriculture and increased life spans, but scientists at the center of the Climategate e-mail scandal believed the era undermined their goal of spreading concern about global warming as it pertains to today's climate.


France Was Once Home to the Atlantic Sturgeon, Previously Unknown on Its Territory

Until now, only one species of sturgeon was known in France: the European sturgeon. Nathalie Desse-Berset, an archeozoologist at CNRS (1), has just shown, for the first time, that another species previously unknown in France used to be present in French waters: the Atlantic sturgeon. This species already existed in the French Atlantic region at the end of the Neolithic 5 000 years ago, and was still thriving 3 000 years later. Moreover, at that time European and Atlantic sturgeons co-existed at some sites.

This discovery is of major importance for programs for the reintroduction of sturgeons into European rivers.

These results, published in Comptes-rendus de l'Académie des sciences in mid-December, are a starting point for new research not only in archeozoology but also in paleoecology and paleogenetics, aimed at obtaining more information about these populations, which are in danger of extinction throughout the whole of Europe.

Bizarro Earth

Throwing Our Energy at Impossible Dreams

Mexico City
© Unknown"as mankind proceeded to get bigger and bigger we silently crossed a threshold"
Signs of cognition, maybe? In the haystack of contentious arguments at Copenhagen it seems only the occasional unofficial commentary pointed to the real solvable source of our monumental collision with the limits of the earth. Somehow in the process of growing ever bigger, mankind got "big", and continuing to grow still bigger is optional. Yes, it sort of "happened naturally", and is also natural for us to be a bit confused about the whole turn of events it precipitates, but it is still also definitely our own choice to be doing it too, and we're simply hiding from the problem it creates on the whole.

It may be easy to question the morality of how the Chinese chose to limit t their population growth by limiting personal freedoms, but did face the challenge. You really can't argue with the fact that virtually everyone else is just ignoring that same profound moral dilemma, that affluence naturally multiplies people. Instead we have a world desperately trying to mitigate climate change with an unqualified commitment to of sustaining the accelerating growth affluence forever.