US scientists launch world’s biggest solar geoengineering study.


Research programme will send aerosol injections into the earth’s upper atmosphere to study the risks and benefits of a future solar tech-fix for climate change

 The sun from space
Scientists say the planet could be covered with a solar shield for as little as $10bn a year. 

The $20m (£16m) Harvard University project will launch within weeks and aims to establish whether the technology can safely simulate the atmospheric cooling effects of a volcanic eruption, if a last ditch bid to halt climate change is one day needed.

Scientists hope to complete two small-scale dispersals of first water and then calcium carbonate particles by 2022. Future tests could involve seeding the sky with aluminium oxide – or even diamonds.

Janos Pasztor, Ban Ki-moon’s assistant climate chief at the UN who now leads ageoengineering governance initiative, said that the Harvard scientists would only disperse minimal amounts of compounds in their tests, under strict university controls.

“The real issue here is something much more challenging,” he said “What does moving experimentation from the lab into the atmosphere mean for the overall path towards eventual deployment?”

Geoengineering advocates stress that any attempt at a solar tech fix is years away and should be viewed as a compliment to – not a substitute for – aggressive emissions reductions action.

But the Harvard team, in a promotional video for the project, suggest a redirection of one percent of current climate mitigation funds to geoengineering research, and argue that the planet could be covered with a solar shield for as little as $10bn a year.

Kevin Trenberth, a lead author for the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change, said that despair at sluggish climate action, and the rise of Donald Trump were feeding the current tech trend.

“But solar geoengineering is not the answer,” he said. “Cutting incoming solar radiation affects the weather and hydrological cycle. It promotes drought. It destabilizes things and could cause wars. The side effects are many and our models are just not good enough to predict the outcomes”

Natural alterations to the earth’s radiation balance can be short-lasting, but terrifying. A 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption lowered global temperatures by 0.5C, while the Mount Tambora eruption in 1815 triggered Europe’s ‘year without a summer’, bringing crop failure, famine and disease.

A Met Office study in 2013 said that the dispersal of fine particles in the stratosphere could precipitate a calamitous drought across North Africa.

Frank Keutsch, the Harvard atmospheric sciences professor leading the experiment, said that the deployment of a solar geoengineering system was “a terrifying prospect” that he hoped would never have to be considered. “At the same time, we should never choose ignorance over knowledge in a situation like this,” he said.

“If you put heat into the stratosphere, it may change how much water gets transported from the troposphere to the stratosphere, and the question is how much are you [creating] a domino effect with all kinds of consequences? What we can do to quantify this is to start with lab studies and try to understand the relevant properties of these aerosols.”

Stratospheric controlled perturbation experiments (SCoPEX) are seen as “critical” to this process and the first is planned to spray water molecules into the stratosphere to create a 1km long and 100m wide icy plume, which can be studied by a manoeuvrable flight balloon.

If lab tests are positive, the experiment would then be replicated with a limestone compound which the researchers believe will neither absorb solar or terrestrial radiation, nor deplete the ozone layer.

Bill Gates and other foundations are substantially funding the project, and aerospace companies are thought to be taking a business interest in the technology’s potential.

The programmme’s launch will follow a major conference involving more than 100 scientists, which begins in Washington DC today.

Solar geoengineering’s journey from the fringes of climate science to its mainstream will be sealed at a prestigious Gordon research conference in July, featuring senior figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Oxford University.

Pasztor says that most scientific observers now see the window to a 1.5C warmed world as “practically gone” and notes that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will continue rising for many decades after the planet has reached a ‘net zero emissions’ point planned for mid-late century.

But critics of solar radiation management approach this as a call to redouble mitigation efforts and guard against the elevation of a questionable Plan B.

“It is appropriate that we spend money on solar geoengineering research,” said Kevin Anderson, the deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. “But we also have to aim for 2C with climate mitigation and act as though geoengineering doesn’t work, because it probably won’t.”

Source:https://www.theguardian.com

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Scientists say they’ve just discovered a new species of whale


Whales are hard to miss, even in the vast underwater wilderness of the oceans. So it’s surprising that we’re still discovering new species of whales.

 The first hints of a new species came from Japan in 1940s, when whalers reported catching an unknown beaked whale. Then, in 2004, a dead whale washed up on an Alaskan shore that looked vaguely familiar. The next hint came in 2013, when Japanese scientists used modern DNA analysis to test old samples and found evidence that indeed this mysterious mammal may be new to us. Then, finally, in 2014, another washed up dead on a shore in Alaska.

View image on Twitter

A new study used the 2014 sample and compared it with 178 other samples of whales across the Pacific Rim held by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The genetic analysis revealed that this species was very different from any known species of beaked whale, and it is likely to be a new species that will soon be given its own name.

 The reason it took so long to discover is because scientists didn’t have enough evidence to claim it was a new species. Some features resembled those of a known species, Baird’s beaked whale. But scientists now know that the 2014 dead whale was not an adult. A full-grown adult of the new species would be about two-thirds the size (25 feet) and darker in color than an adult Baird’s beaked whale, and the genetic analysis shows it belongs to the genus Bernadius.
“We don’t know how many there are, where they’re typically found, anything,” Phillip Morin, a molecular geneticist at NOAA, told National Geographic. “But we’re going to start looking.”
Discoveries like this one highlight just how little we still know about the ocean. If nothing else, that is reason enough to ensure we don’t damage it unnecessarily. “We’re doing increasing damage to our environment, and we can’t even begin to conserve the biodiversity we know is out there,” Morin said. “Yet there’s so much more about our world we don’t even understand.”

Global Warming Puts the Arctic on Thin Ice.


arctic

Answers to questions about the Arctic’s shrinking ice cap and its global significance.

1.    Why are global warming specialists watching the Arctic so closely?

2.    What kinds of changes are taking place in the Arctic now?

3.    How does this dramatic ice melt affect the Arctic?

4.    Will Arctic ice melt have any effects beyond the polar region?

5.    Can we do anything to stop global warming?

 

1. Why are global warming specialists watching the Arctic so closely?

The Arctic is global warming’s canary in the coal mine. It’s a highly sensitive region, and it’s being profoundly affected by the changing climate. Most scientists view what’s happening now in the Arctic as a harbinger of things to come.

Since 1979, the size of the summer polar ice cap has shrunk more than 20 percent.

2. What kinds of changes are taking place in the Arctic now?

Average temperatures in the Arctic region are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere in the world. Arctic ice is getting thinner, melting and rupturing. For example, the largest single block of ice in the Arctic, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, had been around for 3,000 years before it started cracking in 2000. Within two years it had split all the way through and is now breaking into pieces.

The polar ice cap as a whole is shrinking. Images from NASA satellites show that the area of permanent ice cover is contracting at a rate of 9 percent each decade. If this trend continues, summers in the Arctic could become ice-free by the end of the century.

3. How does this dramatic ice melt affect the Arctic?

The melting of once-permanent ice is already affecting native people, wildlife and plants. When the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf splintered, the rare freshwater lake it enclosed, along with its unique ecosystem, drained into the ocean. Polar bears, whales, walrus and seals are changing their feeding and migration patterns, making it harder for native people to hunt them. And along Arctic coastlines, entire villages will be uprooted because they’re in danger of being swamped. The native people of the Arctic view global warming as a threat to their cultural identity and their very survival.

4. Will Arctic ice melt have any effects beyond the polar region?

Yes — the contraction of the Arctic ice cap is accelerating global warming. Snow and ice usually form a protective, cooling layer over the Arctic. When that covering melts, the earth absorbs more sunlight and gets hotter. And the latest scientific data confirm the far-reaching effects of climbing global temperatures.

Rising temperatures are already affecting Alaska, where the spruce bark beetle is breeding faster in the warmer weather. These pests now sneak in an extra generation each year. From 1993 to 2003, they chewed up 3.4 million acres of Alaskan forest.

Melting glaciers and land-based ice sheets also contribute to rising sea levels, threatening low-lying areas around the globe with beach erosion, coastal flooding, and contamination of freshwater supplies. (Sea level is not affected when floating sea ice melts.) At particular risk are island nations like the Maldives; over half of that nation’s populated islands lie less than 6 feet above sea level. Even major cities like Shanghai and Lagos would face similar problems, as they also lie just six feet above present water levels.

Rising seas would severely impact the United States as well. Scientists project as much as a 3-foot sea-level rise by 2100. According to a 2001 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study, this increase would inundate some 22,400 square miles of land along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, primarily in Louisiana, Texas, Florida and North Carolina.

A warmer Arctic will also affect weather patterns and thus food production around the world. Wheat farming in Kansas, for example, would be profoundly affected by the loss of ice cover in the Arctic. According to a NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies computer model, Kansas would be 4 degrees warmer in the winter without Arctic ice, which normally creates cold air masses that frequently slide southward into the United States. Warmer winters are bad news for wheat farmers, who need freezing temperatures to grow winter wheat. And in summer, warmer days would rob Kansas soil of 10 percent of its moisture, drying out valuable cropland.

5. Can we do anything to stop global warming?

Polar Action Guide

Yes. When we burn fossil fuels — oil, coal and gas — to generate electricity and power our vehicles, we produce the heat-trapping gases that cause global warming. The more we burn, the faster churns the engine of global climate change. Thus the most important thing we can do is save energy.

And we can do it. Technologies exist today to make cars that run cleaner and burn less gas, generate electricity from wind and sun, modernize power plants, and build refrigerators, air conditioners and whole buildings that use less power. As individuals, each of us can take steps to save energy and fight global warming.

Source: NGC

 

 

Huge Solar Eruption November 20th.


On Nov. 20, 2012, at 7:09 a.m. EST, the sun erupted with a coronal mass ejection or CME. Not to be confused with a solar flare, a CME is a solar phenomenon that can send solar particles into space and can reach Earth one to three days later. When Earth-directed, CMEs can affect electronic systems in satellites and on Earth.

 

NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) captured this image of a coronal mass ejection on Nov. 20, 2012 at 8:54 a.m. EST, about two hours after it left the sun.

Experimental NASA research models, based on observations from the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO), show that the Nov. 20 CME left the sun at speeds of 450 miles per second, which is a slow to average speed for CMEs. CMEs can cause a space weather phenomenon called a geomagnetic storm, which occurs when CMEs successfully connect up with the outside of the Earth’s magnetic envelope, the magnetosphere, for an extended period of time. In the past, CMEs of this speed have not usually caused substantial geomagnetic storms. They have caused auroras near the poles but are unlikely to cause disruptions to electrical systems on Earth or interfere with GPS or satellite-based communications systems.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (http://swpc.noaa.gov) is the United States government’s official source for space weather forecasts.

 

On December 11 (tentative), SWPC will introduce two new forecast products titled the 3-Day Forecast and the Forecast Discussion.  These new products will: be available twice a day at 0030 and 1230 UTC; provide space weather information in two separate formats, abbreviated and detailed; and use NOAA Space Weather Scale information.  Examples of these new products are available to familiarize our users at http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/info/3-Day.pdf(the concise, 1-page summary) and http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/info/Discussion.pdf(the in-depth space weather analysis for the technical user).  These two products will supplement the existing product suite and no current products will be discontinued.

Source: http://beforeitsnews.com