Thursday, December 6, 2012

Climate news from commerical sources for 12/6/12

Time for some climate news in honor of the U.N. Climate Change conference in Doha, Qatar.  All stories originally used in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Obamafish edition) on Daily Kos.  I'll begin with some scolding of U.S. policy makers.

Reuters via Scientific American: Pledges to Fight Global Warming Inadequate, U.S. Off Track: Study
By Alister Doyle and Marton Kruppa
DOHA (Reuters) - Major nations' policies are inadequate to limit global warming and the United States is off track even in carrying out its weak pledge to limit greenhouse gas emissions, a scientific scorecard showed on Friday.

The Climate Action Tracker report, issued on the sidelines of talks among almost 200 countries in Doha about climate change, said a toughening of policies was still possible to avert damaging floods, heat waves and rising seas.

Major emitters China, the United States, the European Union and Russia all got "inadequate" ratings for their plans to help limit global warming to an agreed U.N. ceiling of below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) above pre-industrial times, it said.

Adding up all national pledges and taking account of rising emissions, the world was headed for a warming of about 3.3 degrees Celsius (6F), it said.

"We are off track and the United States is not likely to meet its pledge," said Niklas Hoehne of research group Ecofys, which compiles the tracker with Climate Analytics and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
This reminds me of the depressing conclusion to Last night's sustainability-related news from Reuters.
A couple of years ago, Reuters had three environmental sections, environment, environmental blogs, and green business.  Now, I can't seem to find any of the sections.  What a loss of a good resource!
I still can't find the sections, but I've managed to find the stories.  I just have to go through Scientific American.  Now to figure how to to tell my students to find them that way.

Follow over the jump for more climate-related stories.

DUST BOWL 2.0: A persistent drought has raised fears of another Dust Bowl in the future (Text from Scientific American).

Scientific American: Climate Change Threatens Long-Term Sustainability of Great Plains
Rising temperatures, persistent drought and depleted aquifers on the southern Great Plains could set the stage for a disaster similar to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, scientists say
By Melissa Gaskill
A cool October broke a 16-month streak of above average temperatures across the Lower 48, but temperatures are projected to remain above normal across most of the western half of the country in the coming months. In addition, the latest climate change projections put future temperature gains on the high side of various models.

As of November 6, 59.5 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing persistent drought conditions that are most severe in the Great Plains—North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado—where drought is expected to persist or intensify in the foreseeable future. On October 17–18 those drought conditions combined with high winds to create a large dust storm across Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming, closing major highways.

To Katharine Hayhoe, professor and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, this heralds big changes for agriculture on the Great Plains. "In a nutshell," Hayhoe says, "we're seeing major shifts in places and times we can plant, the types of crops we can grow and the pests and diseases we're dealing with. If you talk to seed companies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and even farmers, they tell you we can modify our way out of this, that we can overcome all these problems with technology. There's no question we can adapt to some of the change, but whether we can adapt to all of it is a very open question."
Reuters via Scientific American: Drought Drops Lake Michigan Water to Near Record Low
By Sam Nelson
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The worst drought in the United States in over a half century slashed crop output, snarled river transportation and is now drawing down water in the U.S. Great Lakes, particularly Lake Michigan.

The low water was exposing broad expanses of shoreline to owners of lakeside property, but so far no significant impact has been reported by commercial shipping interests, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said this week.

The water level in Lake Michigan is within two inches of its December record low set 48 years ago. The lake is one of the five lakes that make up the Great Lakes, which cover 94,000 square miles and straddle the United States and Canadian border.

The water level on Lake Michigan may fall to record lows over the winter unless heavy rains fall soon or large snowstorms blanket the area surrounding the Lakes.
Scientific American: Dryland Farmers Work Wonders without Water in U.S. West
A generation of extremely efficient farmers increasingly sees irrigation as a non-viable alternative while mulling over a switch from water-intense cotton and wheat to rain-fed sorghum and grains
By Bruce Dorminey and
SEATTLE – In the long rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains, where dryland wheat farmers have eked out livings for more than a century, climate change is very much an issue of the present.

The rain gauge is always in the back of the mind for Mike Nichols, a wheat farmer cultivating 20,0000 acres across two counties in south-central Washington state.

It has to be:  Nichols doesn't irrigate, and with less than six inches of precipitation a year, his wheat crop is already on the edge of what's considered possible for dryland farming. When drought hits or if, as expected, the West gets drier, his operation will be in trouble.

"The last eight years have been pretty good," said Nichols. "But we are putting some [cash] aside, because down the line we know we're going to go through another drought."
Enough drought stories.  Time for some news about prediction, on I might recycle for space news.

Nature: Microsatellites aim to fill weather-data gap
Commercial network would use radio-sounding system.
Eric Hand
28 November 2012
Some orbiting satellites look up at the stars. Most point down towards Earth. But the satellites of the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate (COSMIC) look sideways, across the curving horizon. There, dozens of satellites that are part of the Global Positioning System (GPS) pop in and out of view at the edge of the planet. By tracking their radio signals, COSMIC can provide atmospheric data that enhance weather forecasts and climate models.

But the fleet, launched six years ago at a cost of US$100 million, is nearing the end of its life, with one satellite of the original six already defunct. At a three-day workshop last month at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, researchers hailed the US–Taiwanese COSMIC as a pioneer and discussed plans for a commercial successor: a network of 24 micro­satellites dubbed the Community Initiative for Cellular Earth Remote Observation (CICERO). Researchers say that the programme could help to address a gap in atmospheric data as the United States struggles to meet a 2016 launch date for the first spacecraft in its expensive Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). The radio-sounding technique that both COSMIC and CICERO use is a “disruptive technology”, says Rick Anthes, a COSMIC scientist and former president of UCAR. “The impact is huge — especially the impact for the cost.”

GPS radio signals, picked up by Earth-bound receivers in everything from mobile phones to missiles, yield precise position information. But COSMIC puts them to a different use. The signals travel at a known rate, but skimming through the planet’s atmosphere and back out to space bends the signals and delays them; COSMIC uses the length of the delay to measure the atmospheric density, which can provide information on changing characteristics such as temperature and moisture levels (see ‘Bending for data’). It makes many hundreds of these radio-occultation measurements each day.
And that's it for last week's climate news.

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