Climate Change Weekly Roundup: 08/06/12

Publication – Science Daily
Date: 07/31/12

Air Pollution Worsening Worldwide: Cut Emissions Further, Experts Urge

Most of the world’s population will be subject to degraded air quality in 2050 if human-made emissions continue as usual, according to Science Daily.

If continuation does occur, the average world citizen will experience similar air pollution to that of today’s average East Asian citizen. These conclusions are those of a study published August 1 in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, an Open Access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

“Strong actions and further effective legislation are essential to avoid the drastic deterioration of air quality, which can have severe effects on human health,” concludes the team of scientists, led by Andrea Pozzer of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy (now at the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry in Germany), in the new paper.

According to the article, “The researchers studied the impact of human-made emissions on air quality, assuming past emission trends continue and no additional climate change and air pollution reduction measures (beyond what is in place since 2005) are implemented. They noted, while pessimistic, the global emissions trends indicate such continuation.”

At present, urban outdoor air pollution causes 1.3 million estimated deaths per year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Publication – Environmental News Network
Date: 08/01/12

Dead Zone Down: Thank You Drought For Something!

The drought that is parching the Midwest this year has led to the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, a patch of oxygen-starved water at the mouth of the Mississippi River, to be the fourth smallest ever recorded by NOAA. It is still larger than the state of Delaware at 2,889 square miles (7482 square km), according to ENN.

“The smaller area was expected because of drought conditions and the fact that nutrient output into the Gulf this spring approached near the 80-year record low,” Nancy Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium who led the survey cruise, said.

Dry conditions on land lead to a smaller dead-zone because less nutrient-rich river water is washed out to sea during a drought.

“The Mississippi and its tributaries pick up tons of eroded soil, fertilizers, animal and human wastes and other substances as it flows through the American heartland. Algae in the Gulf of Mexico feast upon that flow of foodstuffs and become massive blooms. But the lifespan of the phytoplankton is pretty short and soon the dead plantlife is quickly consumed by bacteria that suck the oxygen out of the water, leaving none for fish and other aquatic life,” according to the article.

The lack of rains and flooding this year have resulted in the Mississippi river giving the algae less food, which leaves more air for the fish, according to ENN. Hence, as the drought withers this year’s corn crop, the low-flow of the river may help the fish harvest.

Publication – Science Daily
Date: 08/01/12

Earth’s Oceans and Other Ecosystems Still Absorbing About Half the Greenhouse Gases Emitted by People

Earth’s oceans, forests and other ecosystems continue to soak up about half the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by human activities — even as those emissions have increased — according to a study by University of Colorado and NOAA scientists published August 1 in Nature.

The scientists analyzed 50 years of global carbon dioxide (CO2) measurements and found that the processes by which the planet’s oceans and ecosystems absorb the greenhouse gas are not yet at capacity, according to the article.

“Globally, these carbon dioxide ‘sinks’ have roughly kept pace with emissions from human activities, continuing to draw about half of the emitted CO2 back out of the atmosphere. However, we do not expect this to continue indefinitely,” Pieter Tans, a climate researcher with NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., and co-author of the study, told Science Daily.

According to the article, “Carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere mainly by fossil fuel combustion but also by forest fires and some natural processes. The gas can also be pulled out of the atmosphere into the tissues of growing plants or absorbed by the waters of Earth’s oceans. A series of recent studies suggested that natural sinks of carbon dioxide might no longer be keeping up with the increasing rate of emissions. If that were to happen, it would cause a faster-than-expected rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide and projected climate change impacts.”

Publication – Science Daily
Date: 08/02/12

Climate Warming Refuted as Reason for Plant Shifts in High-Profile 2008 Study

The mechanisms explaining species-specific responses to changes in temperature and water availability are most likely much more complex than many simple models of plant response to warming climates, according to researchers at Texas Tech University and the United States Geological Survey.

After reexamining an upslope vegetation shift reported in a high-profile 2008 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers refuted the findings that plants are moving upslope in California due to climate warming.

In a study published in PLoS ONE, Texas Tech ecologist Dylan Schwilk and USGS fire ecologist Jon Keeley reexamined a climate-driven vegetation shift at the Golden State’s Santa Rosa Mountains by studying one particular desert shrub. Schwilk told Science Daily that he was initially suspicious of the 2008 findings after they suggested that a shrub called desert ceanothus was one of nine that were moving upslope because of global climate change.

“I want to be clear that I’m not saying climate change isn’t happening or having effects,” Schwilk told Science Daily. “I study it all the time. But we’re trying to have people be more explicit about describing the mechanisms and causes of plant shifts, because I suspect there may be a bias toward automatically assuming climate change as the reason.”

Publication – EurekaAlert!
Date: 08/02/12

Mapping the future of climate change in Africa

The planet’s changing climate is devastating communities in Africa through droughts, floods and myriad other disasters, according to the article.

Researchers from the Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) program developed an online mapping tool that analyzes how climate and other forces interact to threaten the security of African communities using detailed regional climate models and geographic information systems

“The first goal was to look at whether we could more effectively identify what were the causes and locations of vulnerability in Africa, not just climate, but other kinds of vulnerability,” Francis J. Gavin, professor of international affairs and director of the Strauss Center, told EurekaAlert!.

“In the beginning these all began as related, but not intimately connected, topics” G
avin said, “and one of the really impressive things about the project is how all these different streams have come together.”

Africa is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to its reliance on rain-fed agriculture and the inability of many of its governments to help communities in times of need, according to the article.

Have you seen breaking climate change news or discussion that should be included in our next “Roundup?”  Let us know!