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  • richardmitnick 12:10 pm on January 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change, , East African Rift zone,   

    From Eos: “Scientists Discover a New Source of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide” 

    Eos news bloc

    Eos

    1.26.16
    JoAnna Wendel

    Rift zone faults cut across the East African rift
    Faults cut across the East African Rift zone, where the slow motion of the Nubian and Somalian plates of Earth’s crust pulls the continent apart. Scientists have found that faults in this zone contribute significant amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. To give a sense of scale, the vegetated (green) valley floor at the lower right is 17 kilometers long. Credit: ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center

    Researchers have discovered a previously unknown source of carbon dioxide leaking into the atmosphere. The gas emerges from faults where the slow separation of plates of the planet’s continental crust is cracking and deforming the Earth.

    Techtonic plates
    The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century.

    Faults in the East African Rift zone release about 71 megatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere every year—a value comparable to CO2 leaking from volcanic chains that stitch across the sea beds of many of Earth’s oceans and mark where new oceanic crust is forming—according to a new study published last week in Nature Geoscience.

    Although researchers have long investigated the East African Rift, none of them have explored if “the Rift could release CO2 along the faults,” said Hyunwoo Lee, lead author on the paper and a doctoral student at the University of New Mexico.

    The discovery of a new significant source of CO2 gives scientists a more complete picture of natural sources of atmosphere-warming CO2, said James Muirhead, a doctoral student at the University of Idaho, Moscow, and a coauthor on the study. In addition to the East African Rift zone, a handful of other continental rift zones dot the planet, such as the Basin and Range in the southwestern United States and the Eger Rift in central Europe.

    “This relevant result highlights how diffuse degassing along continental rifts is a main source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, not considered until now, which in the past, such as in the Cretaceous during widespread continental rifting, could have dramatically modified the climate of the Earth,” said Giovanni Chiodini, a researcher at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Naples, Italy, who was not involved in the research. “Despite [CO2’s] major role in modulating Earth’s climate, we remain largely unaware of the processes governing the natural fluxes of carbon between Earth reservoirs and the atmosphere.”

    However, the new source doesn’t play as major a role in influencing climate as human-driven emissions of greenhouse gases, Muirhead noted. “Even though this is a large amount, it’s still on the order of 500 times smaller than human outputs” of CO2, which exceeded 36 gigatons in 2013.

    Deep Magma Bodies

    Previous research found CO2 seeping from faults in Italy, which inspired Lee and his colleagues to look at the East African Rift zone (EAR). Because the EAR is so large—stretching thousands of kilometers across northeastern Africa—it offers many more faults to study.

    A lot of magma can build up beneath such an extensive rift zone, “so you have the potential to produce a lot more CO2 coming into the atmosphere,” said Muirhead.

    The researchers collected CO2 samples from fault zones around the Natron-Magadi region of the rift valley, at the border between Kenya and Tanzania, to assess “diffuse degassing”—seepage of small amounts of CO2 over a large area. They then analyzed the samples to determine their origins. Carbon dioxide from magma sources generally contains a higher ratio of the heavier carbon isotope, carbon-13 (13C), compared to the lighter isotope, carbon-12 (12C). Conversely, more 12C compared to 13C indicates biogenic origins. In this case, the researchers found more of the heavier isotope, which means the CO2 was originating from magma deep below the Earth’s surface.

    Simultaneously, the researchers tracked seismic activity in the region, Lee said. Using an already established network of seismic instruments, the researchers observed constant earthquakes occurring deep below the crust—sometimes as deep as 30 kilometers, Muirhead said, indicating that CO2 seepage from the rift valley comes from deeper within the Earth than the CO2 spewed by active volcanoes, which are powered by magma closer to the surface. The researchers suspect that the magma bodies supplying the CO2 lie in the lower portion of the Earth’s crust or even in the upper mantle.

    The researchers found that the Natron-Magadi region of the EAR releases about 4 megatons of CO2 every year. If that’s typical of the entire rift valley, then the system is releasing 71 megatons per year, the team calculated.

    Mid-ocean ridges across the globe pump out about 53–97 megatons of carbon dioxide per year, but most of it dissolves into the ocean or recycles back into the Earth’s crust through subduction, Muirhead said. On land, CO2 degassing from continental rifting has no such buffer and enters the atmosphere directly.

    According to Lee and his colleagues, that the EAR rivals the output of all mid-ocean ridges means that continental rifting could be a significant player in long-term shifts of Earth’s climate and that active volcanoes aren’t the only places where CO2 emerges naturally.

    Citation: Wendel, J. (2016), Scientists discover a new source of atmospheric carbon dioxide, Eos, 97, doi:10.1029/2016EO044671. Published on 26 January 2016.

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    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:18 am on January 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change, Deep Ocean Waters Trapping Vast Stores of Heat, ,   

    From SA: “Deep Ocean Waters Trapping Vast Stores of Heat” 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    January 19, 2016
    John Upton

    Temp 1
    ©iStock.com

    A new generation of scientific instruments has begun scouring ocean depths for temperature data, and the evidence being pinged back via satellite warns that the consequences of fossil fuel burning and deforestation are accumulating far below the planet’s surface.

    More than 90 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gas pollution since the 1970s has wound up in the oceans, and research published Monday revealed that a little more than a third of that seafaring heat has worked its way down to depths greater than 2,300 feet (700 meters).

    Plunged to ocean depths by winds and currents, that trapped heat has eluded surface temperature measurements, fueling claims of a “hiatus” or “pause” in global warming from 1998 to 2013. But by expanding cool water, the deep-sea heat’s impacts have been indirectly visible in coastal regions by pushing up sea levels, contributing to worsening high-tide flooding.

    “The heat’s going in at the surface, so it’s getting down pretty deep,” said Glen Gawarkiewicz, a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientist who was not involved with the study. “With 35 percent of the heat uptake going below 700 meters, it really points out the importance of continued deep ocean sampling. It was a surprise to me that it was that large of a fraction.”

    The research, published in Nature Climate Change, was led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It compared modeling results with data from a mishmash of sources, most notably from a nascent fleet of monitoring devices called deep Argo floats.

    The researchers concluded that half of overall ocean warming has occurred since 1997—a date that they noted in their paper was “nearly coincident with the beginning of the observed surface warming hiatus.”

    Temp 2
    Credit: Lawrence Livermore/Nature Climate Change

    A combination of climate pollution, a recent change in a long-running cycle of the Pacific Ocean and the current El Niño has led to a spike in warming rates recorded at the surface of the planet. That followed a surface warming slowdown; 2014 and 2015 were the warmest years on record globally.

    Research groups from around the world have deployed thousands of Argo floats to measure since around the year 2000 to take temperature, salinity and other measurements. Technological advances have allowed a small fleet of deeper-diving floats to be deployed more recently. Some of those have been built to dive as deep as 20,000 feet.

    “Knowing how much the ocean is warming and how fast and where are all important for knowing how much the atmosphere is going to warm and how much seas are going to rise,” said Gregory C. Johnson, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist who works on that agency’s Argo float program.

    Monday’s paper used the new deep-sea Argo data to expand on a paper published in 2014 by Lawrence Livermore and other researchers, which revealed high levels of warming in the ocean’s surface layer.

    “The oceans as an energy store are really doing a lot of the work,” said Lawrence Livermore researcher Paul Durack, who helped produce the studies that were published Monday and in 2014. “The actual temperature change is relatively small, but due to the huge heat capacity of the oceans this equates to a very, very large heat content change.”

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  • richardmitnick 9:22 am on January 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change, ,   

    From livescience: ” 727 People on Chesapeake Bay Island Could Become America’s First ‘Climate Refugees’ “ 

    Livescience

    December 11, 2015
    Stephanie Pappas

    Temp 1
    An aerial view of the town of Tangier on Tangier Island in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay. Homes sit on yards bordered by estuarine marshes and tidal creeks. Most of the 700 or so inhabitants of Tangier get around on foot or by bicycle or golf cart. Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers & David Schulte

    Rising seas will likely render the last inhabited island in Virginia uninhabitable in 50 years, a new study finds.

    The Chesapeake Bay’s Tangier Island, the site of the town of Tangier (population 727), will become uninhabitable under a midrange estimate of sea level rise due to climate change by 2063, researchers report in the Dec. 10 issue of the journal Scientific Reports.

    Already, more than 500 lower-level islands in the Chesapeake Bay have vanished since Europeans first arrived in the area in the 1600s, said study leader David Schulte, an oceanographer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District. Engineering efforts could shore up Tangier, Schulte told Live Science, but saving the island and its neighbors will ultimately require action on climate.

    “There are actions that we can take,” he said. “But obviously the best action we could take would be to do something about the bigger issue.”

    Tangier is one of the Tangier Islands, a series of grassy spits of land about 14 miles (22 kilometers) east of mainland Virginia, within the Chesapeake Bay. Tangier is the southernmost of the islands, which also include Goose Island, Uppards Island and Port Isobel.

    Temp 2
    A seawall protects the small airport at the town of Tangier on Tangier Island. Erected in 1989, this seawall keeps erosion from storms and sea level rise at bay on the western end of the island. New research, however, suggests that the island will be uninhabitable by 2063.
    Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers & David Schulte

    Thirty-nine islands in the Chesapeake Bay were once habitable, Schulte said. Today, Tangier and Smith Island in Maryland are the only two that remain so. Erosion and sea level rise (and, to some extent, other factors like land subsidence due to groundwater pumping) have eaten away at the rest.

    Reliable maps of the Tangier Islands date back to the 1850s. Schulte and his colleagues compared these maps to the modern geography of the islands and then using projected rates of local sea level rise to estimate land loss in the future. Sea level has been rising globally between 0.04 and 0.1 inches (0.1 and 0.25 centimeters) per year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and that rate is accelerating. In addition, because of local geology, wind and ocean patterns, some regions will see relatively larger sea level increases. One such hotspot is along the U.S. East Coast from Boston, Massachusetts to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, a stretch that includes the Chesapeake Bay.

    Already, 66.75 percent of the Tangier Islands’ 1850 land mass has been lost, Schulte and his colleagues found. On the west side of Tangier Island, erosion from large storms plays a big role in the loss, Schulte said. On the east side, gradual sea level rise is mostly to blame.

    A conservative, midrange estimate of sea level rise gives Tangier Island a mere 50 years to live, Schulte said. “If you take the more extreme high sea level rise, they’ve got about half the time, maybe 25 years,” he said.

    To the north, Goose Island is likely to be inundated by 2038 in the midrange sea level rise scenario, and Uppards will be mostly inundated by 2063 and gone by 2113. As firm land converts to sea marsh, the town of Tangiers will likely be uninhabitable by 2063.

    Climate displacement?

    That could make the 700 or so townspeople of Tangier the first climate refugees in the United States, Schulte said. And the loss of the islands has ecological and economic consequences, too. By 2063, an estimated $1.75 million per of “ecological services,” such as water filtration, bird nesting habitat and blue crab habitat, will be lost, Schulte said.

    A rock wall on Tangier Island, built in 1989, already protects a small airport from erosion. Other engineering solutions, like breakwaters and man-made dunes, could extend the life of the island by a few decades, Schulte said. The changes in the island, however, are already visible to the naked eye. A settlement on the island’s north end called Canaan was abandoned in the 1920s because of frequent flooding, but 10 years ago, visitors could still see old foundations and a graveyard, Schulte said. Today, it’s all gone.

    “What was land is now underwater,” Schulte said.

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  • richardmitnick 1:05 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change,   

    From phys.org: “New research improves global climate models” 

    physdotorg
    phys.org

    December 15, 2015
    Leah Burrows

    1
    Clouds move over the Amazon rainforest. No image credit.

    When it comes to understanding climate change, there is the easy part and the hard part. The easy part is understanding how greenhouses gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane trap solar radiation and warm the planet. The hard part is figuring out how atmospheric particles impact cloud formation, which scatters solar radiation and cools the planet.

    Clouds, as you probably learned in grade school, are created as evaporated water forms droplets around airborne particles. Prior to the industrial revolution, these particles came from organic sources, like plants, or naturally occurring wildfires, dust storms, and sea spray. But beginning around 1750, humans have poured carbon, sulfate and other aerosols into the atmosphere, increasing atmospheric particulates up to 100-fold in many locations.

    How this increase is affecting global climate change is unclear, in part because little is known about the behavior of these particles.

    Now, research led by the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) provides a new twist to a recently proposed theory about atmospheric particulates and paints a clearer picture of how these particles behave. The research, published in Nature Geoscience, found that atmospheric particles tied to plant life can be either solid or liquid depending on the environment in which they form. The findings expand on a previous study that posited such particles favor a solid state.

    2

    “These findings swing the scientific pendulum,” said Scot Martin, the Gordon McKay Professor of Environmental Chemistry, who led the research. “Clouds behave differently depending on whether they form on populations of solid or liquid particles. The state of the particles will determine which processes to include in models predicting climate change, enhancing the accuracy of these models.”

    The research was conducted in collaboration with Amazonas State University, University of São Paulo, and the National Institute of Amazonian Research as part of the GoAmazon2014/5 project supported by the Department of Energy.

    The previous research, which found that atmospheric particles over forests are in a solid or semisolid state, was conducted in a boreal (pine) forest in Finland. There, pine trees release alpha-pinene, an organic building block that reacts with other substances such as ozone to produce atmospheric organic particulate matter. (Alpha-pinene is also what we smell when we smell pine.)

    Martin and his team decided to test that theory in the Amazon rainforest, which has about 80 percent humidity, compared to the pine forest’s 30 percent. In the Amazon, the reaction products of the compound isoprene provides the basic building block for atmospheric organic particulate matter.

    The team found that 80 percent of the time, the atmospheric organic particles that formed in the Amazon were in a liquid state. Liquid particles absorb molecules from the gas phase and grow. Semi-solid particles, on the other hand, grow layer by layer and remain smaller, which affects the types of clouds that form and their propensity to rain.

    “Our study found that regionality plays an important role in the state of liquid and dry particles,” said Adam Bateman, a postdoctoral fellow at SEAS and first author of the study. “The state of the particles depends on where you are, the kind of biome you have, and what the trees are emitting. Pine trees emit different compounds and do so in drier conditions, with the net result of particles that are semi-solid, and climate modeling will be different as a result.”

    The research in the Amazon also provides a window back in time, to a pre-industrial world. Because the Amazon is so remote, it is protected from an influx of particles caused by industrial pollution.

    “The Amazon represents a natural laboratory to explore what the world was like in 1750,” Martin said. “Here, we can ask questions about how these particles occur naturally, how big they get and what kind of clouds they form—and then compare that to the modern world. This research touches on all the topics of climate change that we need to think about, whether particulates are organic or not.”

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  • richardmitnick 11:26 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change, , Water in the Andes   

    From Ohio State: “Innovation in the Andes” 

    OSU

    Ohio State University

    December 14, 2015
    No writer credit

    Ohio State is known around the world for its climate change research. Now, scientists are using new ideas to study melting glaciers in the Peruvian Andes.


    download mp4 video here.

    In Huaraz, Peru, it’s easy to see the potentially devastating effects of climate change.

    About 150,000 people in the town live and work alongside glaciers; the melting ice provides much of Huaraz’s water during the dry season. But as the melting continues, flooding and water shortages will be disastrous to a region economically dependent on farming.

    The Peruvian glaciers and wetlands tell the story of climate change, which is threatening the water supply for millions of people in Latin America and crops eaten around the world. But gathering data is difficult: Thin air and high altitudes pose problems for researchers.

    ”It’s really hard to get into these locations and requires a lot of hiking and investment of time,Off the cuff, I was thinking it would be cool to send something up to do the work while we could hang out in the valley.”–Oliver Wigmore, a doctoral student in geography at Ohio State.

    2

    Wigmore needed an innovative solution. So he designed aerial drones specifically to collect data at elevations above 4,000 meters.

    The drones — more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — have become critical tools in the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center’s quest to create 3-D maps of glacier changes and water resources in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range.

    Before Wigmore’s idea, UAVs were not widely used. Off-the-shelf models were expensive, and researchers in the field would lose precious time waiting for repairs when UAVs crashed.

    Wigmore builds his own drones, tricking them out with high-speed motors and oversized propellers. He buys components on the cheap and builds them based on instructions he finds on the Internet.

    Using the data, Wigmore and his colleagues create highly detailed maps of glaciers and wetlands in Peru.

    The maps bridge the gap between high-level satellite views of the region and point measurements providing valuable knowledge for water resource planning for communities.

    “UAVs offer some of the only technology available today for gathering data on a scale to inform local water management decisions,” he said.

    Wigmore’s research has discovered dramatic changes in glaciers near Huaraz, including a 50-foot ice loss and collapse of the ice cliff. The maps also have uncovered a local groundwater system that is capturing and storing some of the meltwater in springs, where people will be able to access it even after the glaciers are gone.

    2

    3

    4

    5

    “There will still be a significant drop in water supply eventually, but there may be some potential for the groundwater to buffer it,” Wigmore says.

    The research is good news for billions of people living in China and India, who rely on Himalayan glaciers for water. Following Wigmore’s example, scientists there can use UAVs to plan water for conservation in the face of climate change. Food, drinking water and energy resources depend on it.

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  • richardmitnick 9:29 am on December 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change, Dykes dunes and barrages, The Netherlands   

    From phys.org: “Going Dutch to help conquer the rising seas” 

    physdotorg
    phys.org

    December 13, 2015
    Nicolas Delaunay

    1
    After struggling against the seas for hundreds of years, the Netherlands prides itself on being the “safest delta” on the planet and now exports its expertise around the world. No image credit.

    Had nature been left to take its course much of the Netherlands would be a muddy swamp and the tiny coastal nation would never have risen to be the eurozone’s fifth largest economy.

    More than half of the country’s 17 million people live in low-lying at risk areas, but thanks to hard work, perseverance and a lot of technical savvy they snuggle safely behind an ingenious network of 17,500 kilometres (10,800 miles) of dykes, dunes and barrages.

    After struggling against the seas for hundreds of years, the Netherlands prides itself on being the “safest delta” on the planet and now exports its expertise around the world.

    As water levels rise thanks to climate change and turbulent weather patterns unleash fierce storms, Dutch know-how in protecting low-lying areas has turned the country into the leader in its field.

    “It’s thanks to our history,” Infrastructure Minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen told AFP. “We have been battling for centuries to hold back the seas.”

    Just like the legend of the boy who stuck his finger in crumbling dyke, necessity has been the mother of invention.

    Dutch companies now account for some 40 percent of the global dredging business open to international competition.

    “Water is not so much a threat, but an asset. It can bridge economy and ecology,” said Henk Ovink, the country’s special representative on water issues.

    More than 70 percent of the country’s gross domestic product is produced on land at risk of flooding. Amsterdam’s sprawling Schiphol airport—the fifth busiest in Europe—should by rights be a playground for fish.

    Floods trauma

    The turning point for the Netherlands came in 1953 when devastating floods swept in from the North Sea killing 1,835 people and leaving 72,000 homeless in the southwest.

    Traumatised and shocked, the Dutch decided the only way forward was to improve their sea defenses.

    2
    The giant Maeslant surge barrier that guards the entrance to the largest port in Europe, Rotterdam

    “Now Holland’s level of protection is 100 to a 1,000 times better than most other countries,” said Bart Schultz, a researcher at the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education based in Delft.

    The Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier is a gargantuan construction stretching an impressive nine kilometres (five miles) between the southern islands of Schouwen-Duiveland and Noord-Beveland.

    Thanks to a series of massive sluice gates it can completely close off the mouth of the estuary, preventing the unpredictable North Sea from surging through.

    But simpler solutions also work. A huge man-made sand bank, bigger than 200 football fields, was inaugurated in December 2011 just south of The Hague.

    Like a pregnant belly it juts out into the sea from the beach, and swept by the winds and tides protects the beautiful dunes behind from erosion.

    According to the UN’s Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change, the oceans rose some 19 centimetres (seven inches) from 1901 to 2010.

    They predict sea levels will now rise from 26 to 82 centimetres by 2100 compared with the end of the 20th century.

    Deltas at risk

    And the world’s burgeoning and resource-rich delta zones where some 10 percent of the world’s population lives are at the greatest risk, according to the Delta Alliance organisation.

    It’s here that Dutch technology has proved so valuable. Some 2,500 Dutch firms work in the water industry, doing some 17 billion euros of business every year, said Lennart Silvis, director of the Netherlands Water Partnership.

    4
    The Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier is a gargantuan construction stretching an impressive nine kilometres (five miles) between the southern islands of Schouwen-Duiveland and Noord-Beveland

    After Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans in August 2005, the Netherlands played a huge role in reconstructing the city’s sea defenses.

    That led to an increased cooperation with the United States, and when Hurricane Sandy hit New York and Jersey in 2012, Dutch help was again called upon.

    “There is often huge interest after a disaster. But we would like to see greater preventative work which will help protect people in the long term,” said Schultz van Haegen.

    In Southeast Asia, Dutch experts have worked to shore up defences from Jakarta to the Mekong delta.

    “Obviously we need to protect against the water, but there are other aspects of urban planning such as purification and access to drinking water, or even how to build roads,” said Silvis.

    Learning to live with the water has also spurred creative thinking—Dutch experts are researching how to farm with salt-water, or how to produce energy by mixing salt and fresh water.

    From building floating platforms off the Philippines to restoring wetlands areas in Kenya and Uganda, it seems there are no limits.

    And there’s even a little room for some luxury, when it comes to mastering the seas.

    Sand islands shaped into a palm-tree and a network of islands formed like a map of the world off Dubai are the work of the Dutch international dredging company Van Oord.

    The Netherlands: the safest delta in the world

    Anti-storm barriers, 17,500 kilometres (10,800 miles) of dykes and dunes and a spirit of constant innovation to hold back the seas.

    These are some of the key ingredients which allow the Netherlands to boast that it is the “world’s safest delta”.

    GEOGRAPHY

    The Netherlands is essentially a large delta traversed by three major rivers—the Rhine, the Schelde and the Maas—which all flow out into the North Sea.

    Some 26 percent of country lies below sea-level, including Schipol airport—Europe’s fifth busiest air hub. And about 60 percent of the territory is classified as at risk from flooding.

    More than half of the nation’s 17 million people live in these at-risk low-lying areas, where 70 percent of the country’s gross domestic product is produced.

    POLDERS AND TERPS

    In the battle to keep the tides at bay, Holland is dotted with hundreds of artificial earth mounds, called terps, on which the Dutch have built homes, farms and even whole villages.

    Some of these terps date back as far as 500 BC, and are the among the first traces of man’s attempt to conquer the seas.

    About 18 percent of the country’s territory also stretches across polders—swathes of reclaimed land encased and protected from the waves by a series of dykes.

    STORM BARRIERS AND THE DELTA PLAN

    After a catastrophic flood in 1953 left almost 2,000 people dead, the Netherlands put in place the so-called “Delta Plan” to secure those areas most at risk.

    Back then, sea defenses were overwhelmed and dykes crumbled in the face of heavy storms, deluging large swathes of the southern province of Zeeland.

    Several storm surge barriers were built and are used to seal off estuary mouths during heavy weather.

    The most impressive of these is the famous Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier, opened in 1986 and which this year served as the finish line for the Tour de France’s first stage.

    Almost nine kilometres (five miles) in length, this barrier has 64 metal “doors”—each around 42 metres wide—which can be closed when the land is threatened by rising tides or storm surges.

    GIANT LAKES

    Completed in 1932 and still regarded as a remarkable feat of civil engineering, the Afsluitdijk (literally the “close-off” dyke) spans 32 kilometres of water over a gulf.

    This dyke secures hundreds of kilometres (miles) of inland coastline inside its boundaries, creating the vast but shallow IJsselmeer which quickly turned to fresh water.

    Across the dyke stretches a multi-lane highway providing a shortcut between North Holland and Friesland, allowing travellers to cut almost 300 kilometres from their journey.

    MASSIVE WAVE MACHINE

    As in many areas, the Dutch are front-runners in the field of wave research and finding ways to protect against rising waters.

    The latest weapon in the anti-water arsenal is a giant machine able to create a five-metre high wave—the world’s largest. The wave is used to test real-scale dykes and sand dunes.

    Four powerful pistons behind a seven-metre high metal plaque push water down a channel. Next to the channel is a reservoir with nine million litres of water—equivalent of four Olympic swimming pools—which can be pumped into the channel at 1,000 litres a second.

    The aim of the 26-million euro ($29-million) project is to simulate the power of the oceans, and recreate tsunami conditions to help build better, stronger flood defenses.

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    • Marie-Jacqueline 8:07 pm on December 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I’m Dutch, so I have read this article with great interest. Most of it is common knowledge for most Dutch, but for many outside the Netherlands it explains a lot. A lot of the attention goes to the Deltawerken, and rightly so.
      However the flooding of the major rivers has come more to the centre of attention. I live in the south-east of the country, in Province Limburg. I live in a town where the river Roer (Rur), not to mix up with the river Ruhr, flows into the river Maas (Meuse). Flooding of the rivers here did happen throughout history but in the nineties, after two severe flooding (1993 and 1995) in the region but also in the regions where the major rivers flow on their way to the sea, it was time to take a serious look at the rivers, condition of the riverdykes. The conclusion was that the maintaining was neglected and thecondition of these dykes had to improve. The plan devised for the rivers was named: Room for the river.

      Like

  • richardmitnick 10:25 am on December 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change,   

    From DOE: “How We Solve Climate Change” 

    DOE Main

    Department of Energy

    December 5, 2015

    1
    Dr. Ernest Moniz

    World leaders are gathering in Paris this week for the 21st United Nations climate conference, known as COP21. Our mission: Secure an ambitious global agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and minimize climate change.

    As negotiators hammer out the details of an agreement, I will be meeting with energy ministers, mayors, executives and other leaders to champion the clean energy solutions that are vital to reducing carbon emissions worldwide. Read on to learn more about how we can beat climate change.

    It starts with innovation.

    The global momentum to tackle climate change has never been stronger. At the same time, the costs of today’s clean energy technologies have never been lower. That is no coincidence.

    The dramatic cost reduction shown in this graph is a direct result of technological innovations made possible by investments in research and development (R&D) 10, 20, even 30 years ago. This is significant progress, but it is not enough to meet our long-term climate goals. Put simply, we can’t beat climate change with only the technology we have today.

    I believe that clean energy innovation is the solution to climate change. It is the key to unlocking new technologies and low-cost clean energy breakthroughs we need to rapidly bend the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions. As we have seen, innovation also drives the cost reduction necessary to transform global energy markets.

    But we don’t have the luxury of waiting for new technologies to emerge. We need to rapidly accelerate the pace of innovation to meet the challenge of limiting global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius.

    Investment is critical.

    That is why President Obama announced last week that the U.S. and 19 other nations are seeking to double our investment in clean energy R&D by 2020. This initiative, called Mission Innovation, seeks to ensure continued improvements in energy technology decades down the road. And it’s not just governments. Bill Gates and dozens of the world’s most prominent investors committed to do the same through a parallel initiative called the Breakthrough Energy Coalition. These commitments — in the billions of dollars — are a major step to ensure we have continued breakthroughs and cost reduction in the future.

    Together, these two initiatives establish clean energy innovation as a foundation for environmental stewardship, prosperity, security and social responsibility. They also recognize the tremendous economic benefits that await investors in the transformative energy technologies of tomorrow. But even this unprecedented international effort by the public and private sectors is just one step on the long road ahead.

    What comes next?

    What comes after a deal in Paris is just as important as the deal itself. Not only will we need to make good on our commitments in Paris, we must work with international partners to accelerate the global transition to clean energy.

    To that end, next year, the United States will host the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) in June. This group is dedicated to advancing clean energy around the world. This important meeting will serve as a key milestone in our work after Paris to help countries reach their climate goals. I will announce the host city and state on Tuesday, December 8.

    Additionally, we will be making announcements around several CEM initiatives including the Global Lighting Challenge. This high-impact effort will launch a race to reach cumulative global sales of 10 billion high-efficiency, high-quality and affordable lighting products (such as LEDs) as quickly as possible. Light bulbs may sound small, but they have a big impact; an overnight global transition to highly efficient LED lamps could avoid carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to displacing nearly 250 coal-fired power plants.

    Solving climate change is about more than physics and chemistry.

    Solving climate change is about the human spirit and our ability to tackle shared challenges together. It’s about ensuring energy security, expanding access to reliable and affordable energy, and spurring economic growth that creates jobs and protects the planet.

    For all of that, we need innovation. We need more of it, and we need it faster. The climate challenge is more than any one government can solve alone. It’s clear the world is ready to act on climate in Paris. Let’s make sure we’re committed to what lies beyond Paris.

    Let’s get to work.

    See the full article here .

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    The mission of the Energy Department is to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:16 am on November 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change,   

    From SA: “Climate Change Will Not Be Dangerous for a Long Time” 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    November 27, 2015
    Matt Ridley

    Slower warming than predicted gives the world time to develop better energy technologies

    1
    ©iStock.com

    The climate change debate has been polarized into a simple dichotomy. Either global warming is “real, man-made and dangerous,” as Pres. Barack Obama thinks, or it’s a “hoax,” as Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe thinks. But there is a third possibility: that it is real, man-made and not dangerous, at least not for a long time.

    This “lukewarm” option has been boosted by recent climate research, and if it is right, current policies may do more harm than good. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and other bodies agree that the rush to grow biofuels, justified as a decarbonization measure, has raised food prices and contributed to rainforest destruction. Since 2013 aid agencies such as the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank have restricted funding for building fossil-fuel plants in Asia and Africa; that has slowed progress in bringing electricity to the one billion people who live without it and the four million who die each year from the effects of cooking over wood fires.

    In 1990 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was predicting that if emissions rose in a “business as usual” way, which they have done, then global average temperature would rise at the rate of about 0.3 degree Celsius per decade (with an uncertainty range of 0.2 to 0.5 degree C per decade). In the 25 years since, temperature has risen at about 0.1 to 0.2 degree C per decade, depending on whether surface or satellite data is used. The IPCC, in its most recent assessment report, lowered its near-term forecast for the global mean surface temperature over the period 2016 to 2035 to just 0.3 to 0.7 degree C above the 1986–2005 level. That is a warming of 0.1 to 0.2 degree C per decade, in all scenarios, including the high-emissions ones.

    At the same time, new studies of climate sensitivity—the amount of warming expected for a doubling of carbon dioxide levels from 0.03 to 0.06 percent in the atmosphere—have suggested that most models are too sensitive. The average sensitivity of the 108 model runs considered by the IPCC is 3.2 degrees C. As Pat Michaels, a climatologist and self-described global warming skeptic at the Cato Institute testified to Congress in July, certain studies of sensitivity published since 2011 find an average sensitivity of 2 degrees C.

    Such lower sensitivity does not contradict greenhouse-effect physics. The theory of dangerous climate change is based not just on carbon dioxide warming but on positive and negative feedback effects from water vapor and phenomena such as clouds and airborne aerosols from coal burning. Doubling carbon dioxide levels, alone, should produce just over 1 degree C of warming. These feedback effects have been poorly estimated, and almost certainly overestimated, in the models.

    See the full article here .

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    Scientific American, the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S., has been bringing its readers unique insights about developments in science and technology for more than 160 years.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:13 am on November 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Climate Change,   

    From AAAS: “Climate change can tear down mountains” 

    AAAS

    AAAS

    23 November 2015
    Eric Hand

    1
    The Bering Glacier is one reason why the St. Elias Mountains in Alaska are eroding faster than they are being built. Robert Simmon/NASA; data source: Landsat 7 Science Team

    The St. Elias Mountains in Alaska are more than 5000 meters tall, testament to a tectonic plate wedged underneath the region that is driving them up like a snowplow. But the St. Elias range also contains some of the world’s largest glaciers, which inexhaustibly scour the mountains and dump sediment in the sea. Now, a new study finds that the glaciers are winning, eroding the mountains faster than they are being built. Moreover, a jump in the region’s erosion rates about a million years ago coincides with a transition to more powerful ice ages—a sign that climate change can have a larger than expected effect in tearing down mountains.

    For many years, geoscientists treated the erosive power of rain and ice as an afterthought to Earth’s mountain-building forces, or tectonics.

    1
    World plate tectonics

    The new study suggests that, in special places, they can dominate. “We have more material leaving than coming in, because of this change in climate,” says Sean Gulick, a marine geophysicist at the University of Texas (UT), Austin, who led the study. “This is the first time that we’ve been able to prove that that can happen at the scale of a whole mountain range.”

    The work also helps confirm an idea that has been hypothesized for 30 years but never conclusively documented in the field: Not only can mountain-building affect climate (by changing weather patterns, for instance), but, surprisingly, climate can also affect mountain-building. Mountain slopes seek a critical resting angle that is a function of the collisional forces driving them up and the material properties of the rock—not unlike the pile of snow that gathers at a certain angle in front of a snowplow. However, if erosion takes too much weight off the top, the mountain will try to rebuild and return to that critical angle through internal deformation and changes to faults inside the mountain. The new study of the St. Elias Mountains shows that erosion has indeed upset the balance, and other studies have shown that the faults involved in building the mountain range are readjusting to the new regime.

    “The whole system is out of whack,” Gulick says. The mountain-building is “already starting to try to catch up” to the erosion, he says.

    Erosion, a notoriously difficult process to study, is extreme in the St. Elias range. Since the region is at a high latitude, moisture from the nearby Pacific Ocean can accumulate into some of the world’s most powerful glaciers. That was one reason why Gulick and his team decided to study it. Another reason: The region is relatively small, and bounded. There is one way for material to go into the mountains, and one way for it to leave. Using knowledge about the geometry of the tectonic plates, the researchers estimated that, for the past 6 million years, the rate of material going into building the mountains has been pretty constant.

    A bigger challenge was tallying up all the sediments eroded off the mountains and dumped in the ocean by the glaciers. For 2 months in 2013, the JOIDES Resolution, the ship for the International Ocean Discovery Program, drilled into the ocean floor sediments, retrieving cores of mud and rock that were then dated. This allowed the scientists to understand how sedimentation rates changed over time. Between 2.8 million and 1.2 million years ago, the rate of material going into the mountains exceeded the sedimentation rate. About 1.2 million years ago, the sedimentation rate accelerated—the same time that Earth’s ice ages began to occur more intensely at 100,000-year intervals rather than in 40,000-year cycles. Since 700 million years ago, the transport of material out of the region has exceeded the material going in by 50% to 80%, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Gulick says the sedimentation rates are staggeringly high, as much as 80 centimeters per 1000 years. That’s roughly four times the rate of material currently coming off the Himalayas, he says.

    James Spotila, a geologist at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg who was not a part of the study, says the research team needs to be careful not to overstate the precision of its results. In an earlier onshore experiment, Spotila tried to estimate the material going into and out of the St. Elias Mountains, and found it difficult to precisely bound the region. Rivers and glaciers could also be depositing material eroded from outside the mountain range, he says, adding that it’s very hard to say exactly how much material the tectonic plates are bringing in.

    “How well do you really know those two numbers?” he asks. “I’m not sure that I’m personally convinced that the volumetric comparison truly captures all that complexity.” The real news, Spotila says, is the precision of the rates of offshore sedimentation. “Here they nail it quite well,” he says. “It’s ramping up, and the timing of those accelerations match changes in climate.”

    The new study will also help confirm the idea that the mountains themselves can adjust to extreme changes in erosion. There is already evidence that the St. Elias Mountains are reacting to the abnormally high erosion rates, says Terry Pavlis, a structural geologist at UT El Paso and the leader of an earlier onshore study. He discovered many geologically recent faults at shallow angles—which all point to the mountain making adjustments in the past million years to the way its rocks pile up. “It’s going to try to adjust and produce uplift where erosion has stripped out a hole,” Pavlis says. But it may be a lost cause, he says. “Basically erosion won the battle,” he says. “The mountains are trying to rebuild but they can’t keep up.”

    See the full article here .

    The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of all people.

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  • richardmitnick 7:42 pm on October 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change,   

    From climateprediction.net: “New Climatology Results for Western US Drought Experiment” 

    climateprediction

    climateprediction.net

    October 2015

    We now have the first results for our Climatological simulations, investigating the influence of removing the ‘blob’ of warm sea surface temperatures off the western US coast.

    The ‘blob’ has a strong influence on the temperature, for example the climatological simulations without the ‘blob’ are colder than the actual or natural simulations.

    In the climatological simulations, it is interesting to see a different response in the precipitation between the different states. This is something our scientists will be investigating in more detail in the upcoming weeks.

    There are 3 plots for each state, here’s one of them showing temperature in California. The experiment is looking at two possible influences on the drought in the Western US – climate change and the “blob”. In the plot below, there are 3 sets of data:

    “Actual” – these are models that use observed data to simulate the climate
    “Natural” – these are models that show a “world that might have been without climate change”
    “Climatology” – these are models that include climate change, as observed, but have removed the “blob”

    There are still a few thousand models left to run, so please do sign up if you haven’t already, and help us answer this fascinating and important question!

    Read more about the experiment setup.

    See all the results so far for individual states here:

    California
    Oregon
    Washington

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    climateprediction.net runs on software by BOINC from UC Berkeley

    BOINCLarge

    BOINC WallPaper

     
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