February 18, 2006
Announcing Nature Nanotechnology –
first issue October 2006
Nature Nanotechnology announcement
Launching in October 2006, Nature
Nanotechnology will publish top-quality
research papers in all areas of
nanoscience and nanotechnology. The journal
will cover research into the design,
characterization and production of structures,
devices and systems that involve
the manipulation and control of materials
and phenomena at atomic, molecular and
Coverage will extend from basic research
in physics, chemistry and biology, including
computational work and simulations,
through to the development of new materials,
devices and technologies for
applications in a wide range
of industrial sectors
(including information technology,
and energy and environmental technologies).
Each issue will also contain review articles,
news and views, reports highlighting important
papers published in other journals, commentary
To find out more about Nature Nanotechnology including
the aims and scope click here.
Scope of Nature Nanotechnology
Register here today to receive the e-mail
newsletter and, upon publication, the e-mail
table of contents (e-TOC).
President Bush and Hurricane Katrina: A Presidential Leadership Study
For a non-governmental study on the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, see Sylves article in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Scinece. President Bush and Hurricane Katrina: A Presidential Leadership Study
Bird Flu reaches India and France
In a ever-shrinking world, the only hope is that this strain indeed does not mutate into an easily communicable variety. Reuters article on bird flu
February 16, 2006
Bird Flu moves into EU and Africa
Science reports on the movement of bird flu into the EU and Africa. Many worry that "Beset by disease, poverty, and a lack of infrastructure, Africa is ill-equipped to deal with H5N1." AVIAN INFLUENZA: H5N1 Moves Into Africa, European Union, Deepening Global Crisis. On the good news front, the virus does not appear to be evolving quickly, which may make it an unlikely candidate for a human pandemic.
For those of you interested in the topic, see CIDRAP facts on H5N1
Sea level changes associated with Greenland ice loss accelerating and likely higher than previous estimates
Science published a report today from Rignot and Kanagaratnam indicating that Greenland's mass loss has doubled during the last decade. Due to previously unaccounted for ice dynamics, Greenland's ice loss will cause more sea level change than previously expected. Greenland Ice The study concludes:
Greenland's mass loss therefore doubled in the last decade, well beyond error bounds. Its contribution to sea-level rise increased from 0.23 ± 0.08 mm/year in 1996 to 0.57 ± 0.1 mm/year in 2005. Two-thirds of the loss is caused by ice dynamics; the rest is due to enhanced runoff minus accumulation. Ice dynamics therefore dominates the contribution to sea-level rise from the Greenland Ice Sheet.
Glacier acceleration in the east probably resulted from climate warming. Temperature records at Angmassalik (65.6°N, 37.6°E) show a +3°C increase in yearly air temperature from 1981–1983 to 2003–2005. The processes that control the timing and magnitude of glacier changes are, however, not completely characterized and understood at present. Glacier accelerations have been related to enhanced surface meltwater production penetrating to the bed to lubricate its motion, and ice-shelf removal, ice-front retreat, and glacier ungrounding that reduce resistance to flow. The magnitude of the glacier response to changes in air temperature (surface melting) and ocean temperature (submarine melting at calving faces) also depends on the glacier-bed properties, geometry, and depth below sea level and the characteristics of the subglacial and englacial water-storage systems. Current models used to project the contribution to sea level from the Greenland Ice Sheet in a changing climate do not include such physical processes and hence do not account for the effect of glacier dynamics. As such, they only provide lower limits to the potential contribution of Greenland to sea-level rise. If more glaciers accelerate farther north, especially along the west coast, the mass loss from Greenland will continue to increase well above predictions.
Applicant's Project Purpose as a Limit on Available Alternatives
Many of us are familiar with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers coy approach to defining practicable alternatives, both for the purposes of NEPA and for purposes of the dredge and fill permitting regulations. The applicant's definition of the purpose is allowed to narrow the alternatives considered by the agency. Now, EPA is developing an analogous approach in doing BACT analysis for CAA major source permitting in PSD areas.
In a December 13, 2005 letter, the U.S. EPA announced that integrated gasification combined cycle ("IGCC") technology need not be considered under a Clean Air Act best available control technology ("BACT") analysis for proposed pulverized coal electricity generating facilities. EPA reasoned that IGCC technology would redefine the proposed project, which Congress did not intend to require in a BACT analysis.
ABA SEER notes that this interpretation diverges from determinations in some states that, either under federal or state clean air provisions, IGCC must be considered in a BACT analysis for proposed pulverized coal power plants. This has led ABA SEER to present a teleconference on this issue on February 21st. EPA's IGCC Decision: Redefining the Project or the Clean Air Act
Bush Budget Seeks to Win the Information War by Cutting EPA Library Funding
For those of us who make our living by research, writing, and teaching, this is a significant matter. For details, see Law Librarian Blog on War on Science - EPA Library Cuts
Drink Water for Life Challenge
As readers know, the royalties of this blog are now devoted to international NGOs providing safe, clean drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene education.
The 7th Millennium Development Goal seeks to cut in half the number of people without those essentials by 2015. Current estimates are that it will cost about $ 16 billion additional per year until 2015 to accomplish that goal. I find it unbelievable that we cannot globally achieve that goal, especially when unnecessary deaths from water-borne diseases exceed 2 million, mostly children, each year. That's one child every 15 seconds.
For those of you who are members of faith-based communities, I suggest that you sponsor a DRINK WATER FOR LIFE challenge associated with your congregation. Drink water instead of lattes (sodas, bottled water, coffee, alcohol). Do it for Lent (or your appropriate analogous spiritual break). Get your friends, your synagogue or church, school or workplace to do the same. Collect the money you save, gather it together on Easter (or whatever date makes sense in your faith tradition), put it in a Water Fund, and send it to one of the organizations that do this work. With just $ 5000, an entire village of 200 - 500 people can be supplied with safe, clean, sustainable drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene education.
If you need addresses of faith-based organization who do this work, or secular charitable organizations who do this work, let me know. If you need flyers explaining the problem, let me know. Together we can make a difference.
CO2 pollution reduces available freshwater
John Bohannon of Science reported yesterday that global warming is not the only effect of carbon dioxide pollution:
Over the past century, more and more fresh river water has been spilling off the continents into the oceans. But mysteriously, no change in overall precipitation can account for this increased flow. The net loss of water is worrying because it increases the risk of drought. Scientists have suspected that human-induced climate change is to blame, but it has proved difficult to finger just where the water budget has sprung a leak.....
Rising carbon dioxide levels alone appear to have caused the leak. A statistical analysis of the simulations revealed that increasing levels of the greenhouse gas are the main driver of river run-off, but not through global warming. Instead, CO2 is acting as a plant antiperspirant. Plants respond to increased levels of the gas by letting less water evaporate through their pores--known as stomata--and consequently taking up less water from the soil. This leaves extra water in the ground, which is eventually lost to river runoff rather than keeping the air moist--which would keep it circulating as fresh water.
The study is "clear and convincing," says Ian Woodward, a climate scientist at the University of Sheffield, U.K. The effect of CO2 on plant sweating is well known from greenhouse experiments, he says, but detecting the effect on a global scale is "a major result."
February 16, 2006 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Energy, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Physical Science, Sustainability, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Rocky Flats jury verdict - $554 million against Rockwell and Dow
The federal jury in the Rocky Flats class action awarded $ 554 million in compensatory and punitive damages against Rockwell and Dow for negligently contaminating the property of 12,000 plaintiffs with plutonium. I wonder if Rockwell and Dow have an indemnity agreement with the US.
Indians support India Limiting its Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Here's an interesting poll about Indian attitudes towards limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Link: World Public Opinion. The bottom lines: 85% consider climate change a significant threat; 69% disagree with India's position that developing nations should not be expected to limit their emissions; and 70% are willing to take steps that have economic costs, including 30% who are willing to take steps with significant economic costs.
SSRN provides a free water law symposium issue
February 15, 2006
Richard A. Kerr reports in Science that evolution in a post-extinction world could occur faster. So, as extinctions take place, we may be able to repopulate the planet with new species more quickly than 5 - 10 million years.
The history of life derived from the past half-billion years of marine fossils says it takes 5 million to 10 million years for new species to begin replacing those lost during extinctions. That's bad news for a modern biosphere battered by a human-induced mass extinction. But now researchers have taken a second look at the fossil record after trying to remove some of its imperfections and have concluded that there's no Darwinian traffic cop holding life back. [Taking account of known biases in the fossil record, such as the varying amount of exposed fossil-bearing rock found in different geologic time intervals.. there's no delay between extinction and recovery, although there may be exceptions, such as after the great Permian-Triassic mass extinction. The findings appear in the 21 February issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.>
ABA SEER teleconference on Solar Energy today
ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources
Multi-Site National Teleconference/Brown Bag
technical innovation, and legal and regulatory support is transforming
the solar sector from an R&D industry into a commercial industry.
The once dim prospects of uneconomic solar energy are now bright
with the promise of clean and inexhaustible power. This national
teleconference assembles leading experts in the fields of business,
economics and law to discuss what has changed to bring about this
remarkable turn around. This program is intended for those who want
to know why the industry is growing and how entrepreneurs are doing it.
Edna Sussman, Hoguet Newman & Regal LLP (live in NYC); Joseph A. Siegel, Office of Regional Counsel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Region 2 (live in NYC); Rhone Resch, President, Solar Energy Industries Association (live in DC)
To register for future programs, please go to http://www.renewableenergyinfo.com/
March 15, 2006
April 19, 2006
May 17, 2005
AMS Environmental Science Seminar: Arctic Permafrost Thawing
American Meteorological Society's Environmental Science Seminar Series is presenting
Thawing of Arctic Permafrost: Extent, Causation and Implications
Tuesday, February 21, 2006, 12:00 Noon - 2:00 pm
Location: Russell Senate Office Building, Room 385
What is causing the thawing of Arctic permafrost? Are human activities responsible for at least some of the observed and projected thawing? What is the current extent or estimate of thawing? What do models suggest the extent of thawing will be later in the 21st Century? What level of confidence exists, among experts, with respect to these model projections? Are the appearance and disappearance of small Arctic lakes a manifestation of a global warming and the thawing of the Arctic permafrost? What are the implications and real and potential impacts that the thawing of permafrost will have?
Dr. Anthony Socci, Senior Fellow, American Meteorological Society
Dr. Laurence C. Smith, Associate Professor, Departments of Geography and Earth & Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, CA
Dr. David M. Lawrence, Research Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA
For biographies, see below
A projection of severe degradation of near-surface permafrost:
Potential feedbacks on climate
In recent decades, the Arctic has witnessed significant climatic and other environmental changes ranging from decreases in sea ice extent, increases in shrub cover, to melting glaciers. Temperatures over Arctic land areas are rising at roughly twice the rate of the rest of the world. Permafrost, which is defined as soil or rock that remains below 0oC for two or more years, is an archetypal component of the Arctic climate system. In harmony with other aspects of change, permafrost temperatures are rising and there have been reports of significant permafrost degradation in some locations.
Results from the NCAR Community Climate System Model (CCSM3) indicate that degradation of permafrost will continue and may accelerate during the 21st century. The CCSM3 is a mathematical model of the global climate system that includes components representing the atmosphere, ocean, land, and sea-ice. The present-day global distribution of near-surface permafrost in the CCSM3 compares well with observed estimates of continuous permafrost distribution both in terms of geographical extent and total area (~10.5 million km2). Strict validation of the simulation of permafrost is difficult since temporal observations of permafrost at the large-scale are not available. However, the CCSM3 reasonably replicates Arctic annual mean surface air temperatures, a key determinant of permafrost and captures the recent trend in Arctic temperatures and sea-ice extent during the latter half of the 20th century. Projections of the fate of near-surface permafrost were assessed through simulations of 21st century climate under various greenhouse gas emission scenarios provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Under the "business as usual" emission scenario (A1B), the area containing permafrost in the near-surface layer declines by ~80% by 2100. The land model component is limited to simulating the top 3.5m of the ground, though this is the ecologically and hydrologically important portion; deeper permafrost is not as vulnerable to thawing at the century time scale.
Although there are considerable uncertainties in the CCSM3 projections for near-surface permafrost, both in terms of the magnitude and the timing, the model projection, in conjunction with the observed permafrost warming across the Arctic, suggests that large-scale changes in permafrost are likely. The potential climate feedbacks associated with a degradation of near-surface permafrost are diverse. Changes to Arctic vegetation, hydrology, and the carbon cycle are expected in the form of expanding shrub cover and northward forest migration, enhanced runoff to the Arctic Ocean as well as expanding and retreating lakes and wetlands, and the release of large quantities of soil carbon, currently frozen in permafrost soil, into the atmosphere. These feedbacks could contribute to an acceleration of global climate change.
Impacts of thawing permafrost on high-latitude hydrology and carbon
Scientific interest in the Arctic is at an all-time high, owing to a multitude of warming-induced changes now underway there and a growing appreciation for the region's importance to the global climate system. Recent studies using satellite and field data have revealed remarkable changes in the number and total area of Arctic lakes and wetlands in just the past few decades. A preliminary assessment is that they are growing in northern areas of continuous permafrost, but disappearing further south.
A proposed mechanism unifying these seemingly contradictory observations is thermokarst (slumped terrain and collapse features associated with melting ground ice) development and lake growth as permafrost begins to thaw, followed by enhanced infiltration and lake drainage as permafrost degrades still further - a wet phase followed by a dry phase. Throughout the Arctic, seasonal river and lake ice cover is breaking up earlier each year, increasing the open-water season and total exchanges or transfers of water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane from the land surface to the atmosphere.
Hydrology and terrestrial carbon cycles are particularly intertwined in Arctic environments. Moist, low-relief areas promote accumulation of peatlands, which withdraw large quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while releasing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Over millennial time scales, such accumulation has resulted in significant long-term storage of atmospheric carbon in Arctic soils. With continued climate warming, the ultimate fate of this carbon depends crucially on whether wetter or drier conditions prevail.
In West Siberia, new data from both permafrost and permafrost-free areas suggests that thawing of carbon-rich soils may trigger the release of substantial quantities of dissolved organic carbon to lakes, streams and rivers, which would subsequently be rapidly returned to the atmosphere. These and other Arctic physical, biogeochemical, and ecological processes are strongly influenced by permafrost, which is projected to experience widespread degradation in this century.
Dr. Laurence Smith joined the faculty of UCLA's Department of
Geography in 1996, upon completion of his Ph.D. in Earth &
Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University. In 2000, he also became
a member of the Department of Earth & Space Sciences at UCLA.
Dr. Smith's interests include Arctic hydrology, glaciology and carbon cycles, and their linkages to global climate change. His most recent projects include satellite sensing of changing permafrost lakes, river floods, ice breakup and glacial melt patterns, geomorphic impacts of Icelandic glacier outburst floods from field measurements, aircraft and satellites, and a major field-based study of carbon cycling in the vast peatlands of western Siberia.
Dr. Smith also serves in an advisory capacity on a variety of NASA science programs. He recently served as part of a Senior Review panel charged with reviewing all current NASA earth-orbiting satellite missions. To date in his relatively young career, Dr. Smith has published more than thirty-five scientific papers including two in the journal SCIENCE.
Dr. David Lawrence is a research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. His research interests are centered around land-atmosphere interactions and improving our understanding of the role of land surface processes in the Earth's climate system and their influence on climate change. He is involved in the assessment and development of NCAR's Community Climate System Model (CCSM) and is co-chair of the CCSM Land Model Working Group. Previously he worked with Professor Julia Slingo in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. He received his Ph.D. in 1999 from the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at the University of Colorado under the direction of Professor Peter Webster. He is author or co-author of over 20 peer-reviewed scientific articles on topics ranging from permafrost to land-atmosphere interactions to monsoon dynamics.
February 14, 2006
Kyoto targets can be achieved
According to the acting head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Richard Kinley, industrialized countries that have ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol can still reach their legally binding emissions targets.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, 34 industrialized countries and the EEC are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5% below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. A total of 160 Parties to the Protocol have now ratified the treaty, which entered into force on 16 February 2005.
Looking ahead to the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol this week, Richard Kinley said that as a whole, these countries were "on their way to lower their emission levels by at least 3.5% below 1990 levels during the first commitment period". "With the help of additional measures and the use of Kyoto market-based mechanisms, they will as a group be able to reach their agreed Kyoto reduction targets", he added.
See Kinley statement
Quick take on Montreal 2005
For a quick read on what happened at Montreal, see Benito Mueller's paperOxford Climate Policy paper
Too Soon to Claim Victory over Ozone Depletion?
Naila Moreira reported yesterday in ScienceNOW Daily News:
Following a worldwide ban in 1987 on chemicals that destroy ozone gas in Earth's upper atmosphere, scientists have waited expectantly for ozone concentrations to rebound. And although this seems to have begun, a new study suggests the recovery so far may be largely illusory, representing a temporary response to a natural, 11-year variation in solar intensity called the solar cycle. But the study's authors do expect that the ban will have a positive effect within the decade.
Earth is constantly pelted by ultraviolet light from the sun, but most of these harmful rays are absorbed by stratospheric ozone, a gas composed of three oxygen atoms. When scientists proved that manmade chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) destroy ozone, 189 nations banned CFC emissions under the Montreal Protocol.
Global loss of stratospheric ozone appeared to level off in the late 1990's and early 2000's, prompting some researchers to suggest that ozone recovery had begun. Other scientists disputed these claims, pointing out that climate change, the solar cycle, and gases emitted from volcanic eruptions also cause fluctuations in ozone concentrations that could temporarily mimic recovery.
To test the effect of such meteorological conditions, a team of scientists from the German Aerospace Center's Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre in Wessling, Germany, developed a computer model incorporating all factors that influence global ozone production. The model indicates that the apparent slowdown of ozone loss during the late 1990's most likely resulted from a maximum in solar intensity rather than from the ban on CFCs, the team reported 8 February in Geophysical Research Letters. Extra radiation from the sun boosts ozone production by splitting oxygen gas into individual oxygen atoms, which collide with other oxygen gas molecules to form ozone. Because ozone breaks down quickly, concentrations drop again when the sun dims.
The model further showed that global ozone concentrations won't permanently rebound until after the sun reaches minimum intensity in 2008. The sun will then cycle again toward a maximum, explains study co-author Martin Dameris, while chlorofluorocarbons continue to drop. "The sustainable beginning of ozone layer recovery should start then," he says.
"This is really one of the first [studies] to try to quantify the role of the solar cycle and how that might complicate detection of ozone recovery," says NASA meteorologist Drew Shindell. Such detection represents an important step in judging the effectiveness of the Montreal Protocol, he says.
Bush administration considers delaying safety rule regulating mine air quality
When I first went down in a mine (my uncle was a Union Carbide mine superintendant most of his life), underground mining was done using trains. Over time, mine operators have taken to using heavy-duty, large trucks instead of laying track -- which increases air quality problems in mines. The Clinton administration issued an MSHA rule to control exposure of miners to diesel fumes and particulates in underground mines, which would become effective this year. The Bush administration is now proposing to move back the effective date of that rule another five years to address technical feasibility issues raised by the mining industry. The battle is brewing over this long-term mine safety issue. Link: Fuming Over Mining Rule.