Friday, February 3, 2012

Using satellite imagery has changed the way we think about the Earth. Time series of observations from space help us understand changes in the way we use the Earth showing us changes in the amount of forest, urban areas, crops as well as showing how wildfires or storms alter the planet.

Sensors like MODIS and now VIIRS show us how the planet's vegetation greens up every year, helping us to understand the Earth's phenology.

This week - Science Friday have created an interesting and informative video which explains how satellites are used to create the powerful images that have changed how we think of our home.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Warming and wine

"The wine industry may be among the very few in which a leading figure will smile broadly when asked about climate change and declare, "I love it."

Egon Maller, owner of the famed Scharzhof estate in Germany's Saar Valley, made the comment at Riesling Rendezvous, a conference in Bellevue, Washington...."

Read more

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Forests in the Mountains

There's an interesting website which details where all the forests on the planet are in relation to the mountains on Earth.

I had a question for some research I'm working on - how much of the world's forest are located above 1000 m? Why did I want to know this? Well ... humans on the planet like to burn fossil fuels and we often look to the natural environment to clean up after ourselves... we create lots of CO2 ... plants take up CO2 and turn it into energy, leaves, stems and wood - in effect sequestering Carbon. So there's a lot of interest in how much CO2 plants are taking up and how much they will take up in future. If we can understand what the Earth is doing we can plan accordingly ... that's the logic anyway.

So lots of people study how much CO2 plants (particularly forests) take up. But they tend to measure the forests they can get to easily and measure most effectively ... usually this means studying forests at low elevations on simple flat terrain. So I wondered ... how much of the world's forests are located in other places? i.e. in mountain regions?

Happily Valerie Kapos of Cambridge University and some colleague of hers have compiled a lot of this information for us.

Kapos, V., Rhind, J., Edwards, M., Ravilious C. and Price, M.F. (2002) Developing a map of the world's mountain forests. In: Price, M.F., Butt, N. (Eds)Forests in Sustainable Mountain Development (IUFRO Research) (IUFRO Research) CAB International, Wallingford, UK. ISBN-10: 0851994466ld K M Bugmann, Mel A Reasoner - Science - 2005 - 650 pages

So I spent the morning listening to the radio and compiling a big table from their work so I could estimate what fraction of the worlds forest was above 1000 m in elevation.

It turns out that nearly 12% of all forests of Earth are above 1000 m. One quarter of all these are in Antartica, nearly 20% are in the Far East and about 10% are in the US and Canada.

What does this mean? Well pretty simply ... we are trying very hard to work out how much CO2 forests are taking up ... but we are focusing nearly all of our effort on the easy to reach forests and all but ignoring the tough ones.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Video content: Talks on Climate Change

"....The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - co-Laureates, with Al Gore, of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize - presented a public lecture series on its work entitled: "Inside the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Science, Policy, and Politics". UChannel is devoting the coming week to this important climate change lecture series, with the publication of one IPCC lecture each day from June 15-20...."

Coming up this week are talks from Isaac Held, V. "Ram" Ramaswamy, Ron Stouffer, Michael Oppenheimer, Jae Edmonds & Gary Yohe all speaking on IPCC activities from the evolution of the science to macroeconomics.

From TheCattleFish

China and US battle for top spot in carbon emissions

According to a study released by the The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency China has overtaken the US as the top emitter of CO2 into the atmosphere (the greenhouse gas most linked to rising global average temperatures). However, because there are so many more people in China than in the US ... the average citizen of the US wins the title of most CO2 emitted per person. Europeans are among the top five in both lists... so there's lots of work to do throughout the world.

"China tops the list of CO2 emitting countries, having about a quarter share in global CO2 emissions (24%), followed by the USA (21%), the EU-15 (12%), India (8%) and the Russian Federation (6%)"

"Top 5 CO2 emissions in metric tons of CO2 per person are: USA (19.4), Russia (11.8), EU-15 (8.6), China (5.1 ) and India (1.8)"


Pundits and politicians have been using the rising CO2 emissions from China and India as reasons prevent the US from spending money to curb emissions on the grounds that lowering US emissions will be meaningless if China and India do not also reduce their emissions.

I think the US should act and show some moral leadership - reducing the US Carbon footprint by 10 or 20% would significantly reduce the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere... BUT the punditry is correct on some points... the Chinese and Indian share of the global emissions pie IS growing... the world community must find a way to reduce CO2 emissions all over the world... it's not just science, fancy engineering and people recycling locally ... we need some geopolitical heavy hitters to resolve USA's and China's 'you first' attitude to reducing emissions.

From TheCattleFish

Friday, May 9, 2008

Off topic: Bees are blinded by pollution

This is pretty interesting - remember all those disappearing Bees!

Jose D. Fuentes, Quinn S. McFrederick and James C. Kathilankal at the University of Virginia have come up with a potential explanation.

Links to Virginia press release - from there you can find some audio of Jose Fuentes talking about his group's findings.

Air Pollution Impedes Bees' Ability to Find Flowers
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 5, 2008; Page A03

When the spread of flowers' scents are impeded, bees may be less likely to find and pollinate the flowers. A drop in pollination is reducing crops worldwide.
When the spread of flowers' scents are impeded, bees may be less likely to find and pollinate the flowers. A drop in pollination is reducing crops worldwide.

Air pollution interferes with the ability of bees and other insects to follow the scent of flowers to their source, undermining the essential process of pollination, a study by three University of Virginia researchers suggests.

Their findings may help unlock part of the mystery surrounding the current pollination crisis that is affecting a wide variety of crops. Scientists are seeking to determine why honeybees and bumblebees are dying off in the United States and in other countries, and the new study indicates that emissions from power plants and automobiles may play a part in the insects' demise.

Scientists already knew that scent-bearing hydrocarbon molecules released by flowers can be destroyed when they come into contact with ozone and other pollutants. Environmental sciences professor Jose D. Fuentes at the University of Virginia -- working with graduate students Quinn S. McFrederick and James C. Kathilankal -- used a mathematical model to determine how flowers' scents travel with the wind and how quickly they come into contact with pollutants that can destroy them. They described their results in the March issue of the journal Atmospheric Environment.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

EPA Ozone regulations

From the Washington Post....

It's Not a Backroom Deal If the Call Is Made in the Oval Office
By Cindy Skrzycki
Tuesday, April 8, 2008; Page D02

"The conflict between Stephen L. Johnson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Susan E. Dudley, head of regulatory review at the Office of Management and Budget, over how strong to make a standard on ozone, a component of smog, was unusual because President Bush was asked to break the impasse. He decided on a requirement weaker than what the EPA wanted."

The EPA standard for Ozone was announced a few weeks ago. After consultation with it's scientific advisers, the EPA suggested a secondary standard (for the natural environment not human health) which was calculated with an emphasis on plants and ecosystems. At the very last moment the White House after pressure from the Office of Management and Budget changed the EPA's initial recommendation. This decision was based not on science but on budgetary concerns... all the memos are on the web!