Earth ChangesS


Oil Boom Threatens The Last Orang-utans

© Kathy MarksRazed lowland forest on Sumatra island awaits a palm oil plantation
A famous British company, Jardines, is profiting as the lowland forest - which shelters the few remaining orang-utans - is razed to make way for massive palm oil plantations, reports Kathy Marks in Tripa, Indonesia

Bizarro Earth

Andres weakens to tropical storm

© Associated Press/NOAAThis satellite image released by NOAA shows Andres, center, in the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday June 23, 2009. Andres has been downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm and could drop 6 inches of rain on Mexico
Forecasters say Tropical Storm Andres has weakened from a hurricane off the southwestern coast of Mexico and that it could dump 3 to 6 inches of rain on parts of the country.

The National Hurricane Center says the storm's maximum winds have decreased to 70 mph from near 75 mph earlier Tuesday.

Andres is forecast to weaken even more in the next day.

The center of the storm as of 11 p.m. EDT was about 110 miles (180 kilometers) west-southwest of Manzanillo.

Andres is moving near 10 mph (17 kph) toward the northwest. It is forecast to track toward the west-northwest and pass very close to or over the southwestern coast of Mexico.

Evil Rays

Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong doesn't have the answers

Steve Fielding recently attended a climate change conference in Washington, DC. Listening to the papers presented, the Family First senator became puzzled that the scientific analyses they provided directly contradicted the reasons the Australian government had been giving as the justification for its emissions trading legislation.

Fielding heard leading atmospheric physicist Dick Lindzen, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, describe evidence that the warming effect of carbon dioxide was much overestimated by computer climate models and remark: "What we see, then, is that the very foundation of the issue of global warming is wrong.

"In a normal field, these results would pretty much wrap things up, but global warming-climate change has developed so much momentum that it has a life of its own quite removed from science."

Another scientist, astrophysicist Willie Soon, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, commented: "A magical CO2 knob for controlling weather and climate simply does not exist." Think about that for a moment with respect to our government's climate policy.

On his return to Canberra Fielding asked Climate Change Minister Penny Wong to answer three simple questions about the relationship between human carbon dioxide emissions and alleged dangerous global warming.

Fielding was seeking evidence, as opposed to unvalidated computer model projections, that human carbon dioxide emissions are driving dangerous global warming, to help him, and the public, assess whether cutting emissions would be a cost-effective environmental measure.

After all, the cost to Australian taxpayers of the planned emissions trading bill is about $4000 a family a year for a carbon dioxide tax of $30 a tonne. The estimated benefit of such a large tax increase is that it may perhaps prevent an unmeasurable one-ten-thousandth of a degree of global warming from occurring. Next year? No, by 2100.


US Global Warming: New York senators want disaster declaration for May freeze

Grape harvests hampered by unseasonably low temperatures have become a concern not only for area farmers, but United States Senators who are now calling for an emergency response from state officials.

Following a late seasonal frost in May, area grape growers suffered overall crop losses in the neighborhood of 15-20 percent - or upwards of $3-4 million in Chautauqua County alone, which farms around 17,000-20,000 acres - according to Jay Hardenburg, regional manager of member relations for National Grape Cooperative Inc., at the time. In the face of such devastating crop losses, area grape growers were left with doubts about future harvests in addition to the dead fruit hanging on their vines this year.

"The damage from the frost ... was fairly extensive, not just in Chautauqua County, but throughout the Lake Erie Grape Belt, stretching all the way from Hamburg-North Collins area to all the way out west towards Cleveland, Ohio," Hardenburg said in May.

On Wednesday, however, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand - the first New York Senator in nearly 40 years to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committe - urged New York state officials to request a disaster declaration for areas of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Erie counties in order to provide urgently needed disaster assistance to the many farmers affected.


Iowa, US: Harsh winter leaves mark on flowers, trees, crops

The thermometer says another Iowa summer has arrived. But winter continues to hang around in the form of dead trees, flowers, plants and shrubs that were unable to rebound from one the snowiest and coldest seasons on record.

The state's summer palette might be a bit heavy on brown as a result.

"We've had some real damage here," Bob Atha of Appleberry Farm in Marshalltown said. "I don't know about other places, but we're expecting about half the apples we had last year, maybe a little less than half."

Experts call it "winterkill," and it's been reported from the alfalfa fields of Ontario to the wheat stands of Kansas to golf courses in Massachusetts.

In Iowa, the bitter cold and early snow was hard on even the hardiest evergreens. An early spring didn't help, either.

"We've had literally hundreds of people calling and complaining about" winter-ravaged bushes and shrubs, said Jeff Westphal, a salesman at Miller Nursery in Johnston. "Some of them were already weak going into the winter. But that doesn't explain what happened to the boxwoods and yews. I think it was just too cold for some of them."


Arizona, US: June record consecutive days of coolest high temps

Meteorologists are reluctant to call a month "nice." They have their data and their science and typically do not describe the weather in such subjective terms.

Except now, because the data prove it.

"It's probably the best June since I've been here, and I've been here most of my life," said the National Weather Service's Valerie Meyers, who is in her late 40s. "It's been really nice."

Possibly the nicest June ever.

It's that type of thing that is fun to say but hard to quantify.

Thursday, however, was the 14th consecutive day to stay below 100 degrees. That's the longest stretch of its kind in any June since 1913.

Bizarro Earth

Strong 5.4 magnitude earthquake jolts Anchorage, Alaska, US

A strong earthquake jolted Anchorage, Alaska, on Monday, sending people diving under desks and huddling in doorways but apparently causing no damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey said an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.4 struck about 24 miles from the town of Willow at 11:28 a.m. The epicenter was 58 miles from the state's largest city, Anchorage, where the rumbling continued for several moments.

"Things were swinging pretty good and shaking, like pictures on the wall, bottles rattling - and my blood pressure went up at least 20 points," said Pam Rannals, a bartender in Talkeetna, about 30 miles from the epicenter. "We had bears in the parking lot last night and now the earthquake. Those are the talk of the town."

Bizarro Earth

Locusts Swarm Ethiopia

© AFP/File/Tengku Bahar
Crops in large swathes of Ethiopia risk being destroyed by swarms of locusts coming from northern Somalia, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Tuesday.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) "reports that locust swarms have been confirmed in seven regions in the country, including in areas where there is no previous record of infestation," a statement said.

"The government is expected to present a response plan specifying immediate and medium-term actions to be taken during the week," OCHA said.


US: So far, June sunlight in Boston is lowest in past century

Since the sun virtually disappeared on June 5, hidden behind an impenetrable pall of cement-colored clouds, Robert Skilling has tracked each overcast moment, anticipation building with each gray afternoon.

Peering out at the gloom from his perch at the Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory and Science Center, Skilling does not dwell on the canceled Little League games or postponed beach days.

Rather, he focused yesterday on the primitive, softball-sized glass sphere on the observatory's roof, a device that has burned lines on paper since 1885 to record nearly every burst of sunshine strong enough to cast a faint shadow. This month, the sun has been obscured by clouds more than in any other June in Skilling's 50-plus years of meteorology. With a little more than a week remaining, it is flirting with the all-time local record set in June 1903, when only 25 percent of the sun's rays penetrated the clouds to reach the Blue Hills.


The Ap Index says: "There will be no sunspots"

SOHO sun specks 06222009
© SOHOSun today - a speck group has appeared, specks 1022 & 1023 are cycle 24 specks.

Frank Hill's summoning up of sunspots from the vasty deep of the Sun's convection zone reminds me of some Shakespeare (Henry the Fourth):

I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?

Frank Hill says that his sunspots will be with us in three to six months. The Ap Index suggests otherwise. There is a correlation between the geomagnetic indices (aa Index and Ap Index) at minimum and the amplitude of the following solar cycle. Earlier this year I produced this graph of the Ap Index plotted against solar cycle maxima when I thought that the Ap Index would bottom out at three, giving a maximum amplitude of 25: