Greenhouse Emissions of Agriculture

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 6:25 AM GMT on July 27, 2013

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Greenhouse Emissions of Agriculture

In the last blog there was a comment by peregrinepickle on the emissions from agriculture. It started:

“It sounds like they may be putting the cart before the workhorse with this study. A 2010 survey of the literature found that too few studies on GHG emissions and the impact of various alternative farming practices have been done in US agricultural regions, including the Great plains Ironically, more research is being done in this vein in China. So it seems premature to appeal to US farmers re: willingness to adopt certain practices before knowing exactly where you are going with it.

Agriculture, compared to other sources, is not a huge contributor to GHGs, relative to the contributions by industry, transportation, and utilities. In the US farming is responsible for 6% of the overall emissions of the six major GHGs. However, farming does contribute about 25% of all CH4 emissions in the US, which is major, as this gas is 21-33 times more potent in warming potential than CO2.”

Back in April and May I wrote two entries on the emissions from agriculture (first entry, second entry). These two entries highlighted both the complexity of calculating the greenhouse emissions related to agriculture as well as suggested some of the controversy associated with the calculation. The controversy is especially high in the calculation associated with livestock.

The amount of direct fossil fuel emissions from use of fuels in machinery and pumps for agriculture is modest, as stated in peregrinepickle’s comment. Those numbers are based on a 2010 inventory by the Environmental Protection Agency. Here is a link to the chapter that details the agricultural inventory. The greenhouse gas emissions compiled in the chapter on agriculture are for greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide, especially methane and nitrous oxide. For the EPA inventory, the carbon dioxide associated with agriculture is accounted for in the energy inventory. Additional emissions and removal of greenhouse gasses are calculated with land use, land change and forestry. The national forests are part of the Department of Agriculture.

The accounting with soils and forests influences, greatly, the budget of emissions associated with agriculture. Based on soil management agriculture can remove and store substantial amounts of greenhouse gases. In the U.S. agriculture is a mature and extensive enterprise, and we are not aggressively converting forest to agricultural land. In fact, the amount of forest is increasing and, therefore, can be accounted as an agricultural removal of carbon dioxide. This fact of increasing forest land is not the case in much of the world. World-wide, deforestation as forest is converted to agricultural use, especially rangeland, accounts for much of the carbon footprint of agriculture. Phil Robertson in an article to appear in the Encyclopedia of Agriculture estimates the total greenhouse gas footprint of agriculture is between 26 and 36 percent (thank you Professor Robertson). This range seems soundly based in the synthesis of research, and the number I would quote based on the current state of knowledge.

As detailed in Livestock’s Long Shadow and stated in the entirety of peregrinepickle’s comment, the impact of agriculture reaches far beyond the relevance to climate change. Notably there are impacts on water quality and land quality, and, in my opinion, the impact of nitrogen (fertilizer) pollution is one of the most under appreciated sources of environmental degradation. Management of this whole portfolio of environmental impacts is one of the special challenges of the agricultural sector of human activities.

The mix of greenhouse gas emissions, the details of the practice of land use, the role of biological processes, and the potential to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and store them in soil and biomass characterize the climate impact of agriculture. Agriculture is also vulnerable to climate change. Since agriculture is a highly competitive, market-dependent undertaking, market response to weather and climate can amplify weather-related impacts. Agriculture becomes more entangled with the climate problem, when we consider the possibility of biofuels to replace some of our fossil fuels. This complexity complicates the accounting of climate impacts, but also offers some of our best opportunities to improve our management of the environment. Agriculture is no doubt an important player in our management of climate change, and notably absent in President Obama recent speech on climate change.

A primary source of agricultural information is Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. An often cited document is the 2006 documentLivestock’s Long Shadow. There has been much criticism of this report, especially in its calculation of the emissions of the transportation sector. The original authors did modify their specific statements about transportation. As noted in an earlier blog in this series, there is substantial controversy about the impact of agriculture. Therefore, I end here with a set of reference materials that I have used.

EPA National Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data

PDF of Agriculture Chapter of EPA Inventory of Emissions

Agriculture’s Role in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Chapter 8: Working Group 3: IPCC 2007

Energy Efficiency of Conventional, Organic and Alternative Cropping …

Livestock and Climate Change

and to appear

Soil Greenhouse Gas Emissions and their Mitigation, G. Philip Robertson, W.K. Kellogg Biological Station and the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, Michigan State University, Hickory Corners, MI 49060

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Quoting 156. yoboi:


there was 2 parts to my question...you answered the first one but not the second one concerning water vapor......I am trying to learn.....the way you had it worded seems false to me......maybe it could have been worded better.....


Yoboi, do better than just say that the way it is worded seems false to you. Explain as to how the information is false and then support what you say with the scientific evidence that will do so.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4948
Quoting 156. yoboi:


there was 2 parts to my question...you answered the first one but not the second one concerning water vapor......I am trying to learn.....the way you had it worded seems false to me......maybe it could have been worded better.....


We are talking in generalized terms here describing columns of air, it really doesn't matter where the water vapor came from. It is irrelevant in this discussion. The point being is a column of moist air weighs less and will exert a lower pressure than a column of dry air given equal temperatures.
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 5364
Quoting 152. yoboi:


I am going to discuss science......thats why I am asking questions... I think false statements are being made....I might be wrong.....but thats why I am asking to make sure.....feel free to jump in and support true statements......tia


Should you go back through the blogs you will be able to note that I have "+" comments that contain truth, even when they have not brought out the science to support their statement. Saying that the sun is the heat engine of our solar system is true and if this is the only comment being made, I may feel prone to "+" that comment. However, when someone makes a statement that our sun is responsible for the warming climate we have experienced over the past few decades, and does not present the science to back this statement, I will not "+" the comment. I will challenge it based on the scientific observations that shows us otherwise.

Now, unless you plan to show us the science that shows why no thunderstorms are the same then, your question is pointless. You may as well ask us if the sky is always blue. Where are you going with it this?
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4948
Quoting 154. yoboi:


What about Sublimation?????Do we not consider that also????


What is transitioning from solid to gas without going through the liquid phase here? We are talking about gaseous make up of a column of air.
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 5364
Quoting 144. yoboi:



This statement is not true....regular air????please define.....what type of water vapor?????


The composition of regular dry air by volume is 78% N2, 21% O2 1% Other gases, Argon, CO2, etc. Water Vapor is H2O. N2 has a molecular mass of 28g per mole, O2 has a molecular mass of 32g per mole, regular dry air has a molecular mass of 28g per mole. H20 has a molecular mass of 18g per mole. When water vapor is added to a column of dry air, it must displace some of the O2 and N2 resulting in a lower weight of the column of air, and thereby it exerts less pressure than a column of regular dry air. (Assuming constant temperature of course)

This is very basic stuff.
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 5364
I'm on my phone Pat, doesnt show. No money for internet right now. Complicates the gain of knowledge lol. Thankyou. I don't know exactly what you were alluding to in the comment yoboi quoted you on either, curious.
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Quoting 149. yoboi:


Is any 1 thunderstorm ever exactly the same?????


Yoboi. Why? Where do you plan to go with this?
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4948
Or at least certain layers of the atmosphere would expand or contract. I'd think that in turn would increase our pressure
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Would more heat, more evaporation lead to higher surface pressure (on a hemispheric scale)?
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This may help GatorWX


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Suppose pressure decreased between the tropopause and the surface due to an abundance of water vapor (surface evaporation). Would or does this cause or potentially cause movement of the jetstream? If something is on the the surface and we take it and put it on top of something else, pressure increases. I suppose more water vapor, whether liquid or frozen, more heat, so I may again be wrong. Warmer surface, more evaporation that's certain right?
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The off hand formula is, for every 1F we raise the Global avg temp, we increase the WV by 10%


10% more available WV to power that much more rain and Wind.

Note how globally folks are saying these T-storms today, are very much different from the ones a decade ago.
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Quoting 141. GatorWX:
It seems the more water that enters any part of the atmosphere, it would want to displace air and exert more surface pressure, no?


Except that water vapor weighs less than regular air. So a column of dry air will be heavier and denser than a column of moist air assuming equal temperature.
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 5364
It seems the more water that enters any part of the atmosphere, it would want to displace air and exert more surface pressure, no?
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Quoting 139. GatorWX:


Very much. Thanks!


I have discovered that Lee Grenci, one of WU's own, has a wealth of information on atmospheric properties. He always amazes me with his knowledge. He LOVES to teach anything that is weather related or impacts the weather. He explains it quite well and with great detail. ... Tell him I sent you. I am trying to get enough points for a free class. :)

Added - I do not short the great knowledge of others here. I have learned much here and Naga5000 is one of several here that I have been able to learn from. There is a LOT of talent here as well.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4948
Quoting 138. Naga5000:


Pressure in cyclones is lowered by the upward motion of air. Remember air pressure is the force exerted per unit of area against a surface by the weight of air molecules above the surface. Water Vapor is lighter than both O2 and N2. This is where it gets complicated because temperature plays a huge role in this equation. If temperature was to stay constant and we increased the water vapor content, the pressure would lower as O2 and N2, the heavier elements, would need to be displaced. Now when water vapor condenses and releases latent heat, that heat adds energy to the remaining gas particles causing density and pressure to decrease. A decrease in water vapor would cause an increase in atmospheric pressure as the heavier elements would replace the space once occupied by the water vapor. I hope this helps.


Very much. Thanks!
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Quoting 134. GatorWX:
Ok, yea I've been trying to think about this all day lol. I think understanding a tropical cyclone, or non tropical for that matter, is helpful in understanding the climate. If you look at a tropical cyclone and how it transfers heat and moisture, it think understanding the atmosphere is easier. I've been studying/watching the tropics for quite awhile. I've begun to really think about atmospheric pressure and it's relation to climate. To better help you equate my thinking. Imagine a cyclone in the deep tropics. It draws it's energy from the evaporation of warm water. The warmer the water, assuming everything else is in place, the greater the potential to drop the central surface pressure. Again, I assume this pressure is lowered by the centrifugal force of water in the atmosphere. It's then flung poleward being blocked by the atmosphere. My theory I guess is the more water you throw into the atmosphere, the higher the pressure ultimately gets overall in the arctic. I believe this also would ultimately lead to a more negative AO. Wild roller coaster like dips in the jetstream have many further reaching troughs than a flat jetstream, allowing a greater extent of coverage of ocean heat content. It seems this is a circular effect though and I think that's why I've become increasingly aware. We've seen some very interesting jet stream patterns lately. I understand heat is what is the general cause of pressure variation an if you think of a ball spinning, it will expand outwards. If this ball was inside another ball that was not spinning or spinning more slowly, the pressures at the poles of the area in between would increase(I know, bad example). Now if we increase the water vapor in that central chamber with air temperature staying the same, does that pressure rise further? To put it in simple terms, thats my question. The transfer of mass away from the earth and into the atmosphere. Is precipitation able to keep up at the rate moisture is evaporating? I know I've seen recently about global warming slowing down and perhaps it is, I really don't study it enough. If I'm wrong about the weight of water theory. I think atmospheric heating may be just as important as surface heating we focus so much on. If there's more evaporated moisture thrown at say the Icelandic low, wouldn't it strengthen in accordance with other conditions? Every high, low and oscillation has moisture flowing around it. The more evaporation, the more weight and heat. I think more heat means either more or stronger ones currently, right? I think I understand the basic physics involved quite well. It's trying to peace it all together. Kind of just thinking and coming up with this as I go, so my apologies for repetitiveness or lack of facts. Again, I guess it's mostly theory since I know so little. I don't know, so with that...


Pressure in cyclones is lowered by the upward motion of air. Remember air pressure is the force exerted per unit of area against a surface by the weight of air molecules above the surface. Water Vapor is lighter than both O2 and N2. This is where it gets complicated because temperature plays a huge role in this equation. If temperature was to stay constant and we increased the water vapor content, the pressure would lower as O2 and N2, the heavier elements, would need to be displaced. Now when water vapor condenses and releases latent heat, that heat adds energy to the remaining gas particles causing density and pressure to decrease. A decrease in water vapor would cause an increase in atmospheric pressure as the heavier elements would replace the space once occupied by the water vapor. I hope this helps.
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 5364
Climate study predicts a watery future for New York, Boston and Miami
Study shows that 1,700 places in the United States are at greater risk of rising sea levels than previously thought


More than 1,700 American cities and towns – including Boston, New York, and Miami – are at greater risk from rising sea levels than previously feared, a new study has found.

By 2100, the future of at least part of these 1,700 locations will be "locked in" by greenhouse gas emissions built up in the atmosphere, the analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday found.

The survey does not specify a date by which these cities, or parts of them, would actually fall under water. Instead, it specifies a "locked-in" date, by which time a future under water would be certain – a point of no return.

Because of the inertia built into the climate system, even if all carbon emissions stopped immediately, it would take some time for the related global temperature rises to ease off. That means the fate of some cities is already sealed, the study says.

Read more at The Guardian >>
Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 4316
The more I thought about it too, the more I realized this water was simply transferring heat as well, making my statement sound corny. Either way though, the same varying effect would be possible. I guess I think of space as a surface the same way you would think of the surface of the earth. A force exerted on another increases pressure. I theorize water and it's inertia help exert a force on space. I don't know if our atmosphere can expand or if it just gains pressure as heat builds up or does both either. Ugh, wish I had gone to school for this. Alright I'm really done.
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Can a carbon tax work without hurting the economy? Ask British Columbia

Five years in, BC's carbon tax has successfully reduced greenhouse gas emissions in a stable economy

Carbon emissions have an unavoidable cost. When we burn fossil fuels and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it increases the greenhouse effect. The resulting climate change has costs, for example by causing more extreme weather. More frequent and intense heat waves and droughts can damage crops, causing food prices to rise, more intense floods can cause more property damage, etc.

Lacking a price attached to carbon emissions in the marketplace, we're effectively putting those costs on a credit card. We may not immediately see the costs, but they keep building up. In fact they're building up with interest, because the costs of climate damage are higher than the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. When we put a price on carbon in the marketplace, consumers can see the costs associated with greenhouse gas emissions and adjust their consumption in an informed manner without continuing to build up that climate credit card debt.

There are several options for pricing carbon emissions, but the alternative with the most support among political conservatives is a revenue-neutral carbon tax. In this system, a fee is attached to fossil fuel products based on their associated carbon emissions, and 100 percent of the revenue is returned to the citizens. People thus have an incentive to reduce emissions such that the revenue they receive is larger than the taxes they pay, allowing them to make money on the system by reducing their impact on the climate.

In 2008, British Columbia implemented a carbon tax, with the revenue returned to citizens through lowered income taxes. A new peer-reviewed study examines the data through 2012 to see how British Columbia's emissions and economy have fared, and the results are impressive. Consumption of taxed fuels per capita has fallen 19 percent in British Columbia relative to the rest of Canada.

As a result, British Columbia's greenhouse gas emissions fell 10 percent between 2008 and 2011, as compared to a 1.1 percent decline for the rest of Canada.

The carbon tax was introduced right before the recession hit in 2008, so while Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell slightly between 2008 and 2011 in British Columbia, that change was on par with the small decline in Canada's GDP. Thus while it's inconclusive whether the carbon tax is helping or hurting British Columbia's economy, it's certainly not having the seriously damaging economic effect that alarmist opponents claim that carbon taxes will have.

Polls also show that public support for the British Columbia carbon tax has grown to 64 percent, and 59 percent of Canadians say they would support a similar carbon tax system in their provinces. The popularity may be in part a result of the fact that by offsetting the carbon taxes, British Columbia has the lowest income taxes in Canada.

Over its first five years, British Columbia's carbon tax has served as a great example of a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by cutting up the climate credit card. They implemented a carbon tax, the economy didn't collapse (or even take notice), and the citizens are happy with the system. The question now is whether other governments like in the USA will follow suit.


Related post on Skeptikal Science
Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 4316
Ok, yea I've been trying to think about this all day lol. I think understanding a tropical cyclone, or non tropical for that matter, is helpful in understanding the climate. If you look at a tropical cyclone and how it transfers heat and moisture, it think understanding the atmosphere is easier. I've been studying/watching the tropics for quite awhile. I've begun to really think about atmospheric pressure and it's relation to climate. To better help you equate my thinking. Imagine a cyclone in the deep tropics. It draws it's energy from the evaporation of warm water. The warmer the water, assuming everything else is in place, the greater the potential to drop the central surface pressure. Again, I assume this pressure is lowered by the centrifugal force of water in the atmosphere. It's then flung poleward being blocked by the atmosphere. My theory I guess is the more water you throw into the atmosphere, the higher the pressure ultimately gets overall in the arctic. I believe this also would ultimately lead to a more negative AO. Wild roller coaster like dips in the jetstream have many further reaching troughs than a flat jetstream, allowing a greater extent of coverage of ocean heat content. It seems this is a circular effect though and I think that's why I've become increasingly aware. We've seen some very interesting jet stream patterns lately. I understand heat is what is the general cause of pressure variation an if you think of a ball spinning, it will expand outwards. If this ball was inside another ball that was not spinning or spinning more slowly, the pressures at the poles of the area in between would increase(I know, bad example). Now if we increase the water vapor in that central chamber with air temperature staying the same, does that pressure rise further? To put it in simple terms, thats my question. The transfer of mass away from the earth and into the atmosphere. Is precipitation able to keep up at the rate moisture is evaporating? I know I've seen recently about global warming slowing down and perhaps it is, I really don't study it enough. If I'm wrong about the weight of water theory. I think atmospheric heating may be just as important as surface heating we focus so much on. If there's more evaporated moisture thrown at say the Icelandic low, wouldn't it strengthen in accordance with other conditions? Every high, low and oscillation has moisture flowing around it. The more evaporation, the more weight and heat. I think more heat means either more or stronger ones currently, right? I think I understand the basic physics involved quite well. It's trying to peace it all together. Kind of just thinking and coming up with this as I go, so my apologies for repetitiveness or lack of facts. Again, I guess it's mostly theory since I know so little. I don't know, so with that...
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Interesting article regarding the AO,

Link

About the author
Kate Ravilious is a contributing editor for environmentalresearchweb.
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Yesterday's melt was revised downward to -51 K on JAXA.

A bit of a moderate melt today.

-69 K.

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I want to continue a bit to better identify what I am asking. Again I'm assuming, I know I know, water in the upper atmosphere contributes to surface pressures, north or south. Less water, higher pressure. Water and heat travel along the jetstream, being redistributed southward by troughs. If water temperatures rise, more water and more heat are evaporated and trajectwd poleward with the movement of the jetstream. With the temperate regions heating up at much faster rate than the tropics, it seems the weight of water on the atmosphere would decrease over the tropics and increase near the arctic. It seems to me the monsoon trof would become less active as moisture is sent poleward. Knowing tw earth has the water it has, this water is simply distributed where it is evaporated from to where it is carried. Wouldn't the transfer of water from the tropics north into the temperate regions cause more of an increase in the chances of a negative AO? Ok I'm done fore now. Thank you to anyone who can help. I really appreciate anyone who takes the time.
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Quoting 128. SouthernIllinois:

No, but I'll have a Bloody Mary. :)


Fresca, lol. Took me awhile, ie years.
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I've been trying to study and process how the AO affects our climate. I think I understand essentially how atmospheric pressure works and I'd like to just find out a few things and see what you all have to say if possible. Being aware of rising ocean temps, on a hemispheric scale, wouldn't evaporation rate increase as well? With that said, is atmospheric pressure around the hemisphere controlled by the weight of water in the atmosphere circling the arctic. I suppose this moisture gets caught in different eddies thus creating variation in the different occilations positive or negative phases. If this were true, wouldn't this account for a mostly negatively phased AO? It would explain a lot to me if someone could answer my question. I know I should do more research on my own through reading books, I guess I just like to think a lot. Anyway I apologize for coming off as naive on this subject. I'm fascinated by it, and I think I comprehend climatology more so than meteorology. Anyway, thanks.
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Ken Cuccinelli Attacked By Climate Scientist As 'Anti-Science Zealot'

Renowned climate scientist Michael Mann has taken the unorthodox step of jumping into politics and campaigning with Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial candidate, worried that an "anti-science zealot" could win the election in November.

In an interview with radio host Ari Rabin-Havt on Sirius XM Progress on Monday, Mann sharply contrasted Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) with his gubernatorial opponent, Democrat Terry McAuliffe. The election is on Nov. 5.

Mann said Virginians "can either vote for an anti-science zealot like Ken Cuccinelli, who would use his authority to try to persecute scientists whose views he doesn't agree with ... versus Terry McAuliffe, a pro-science, pro-technology politician."

"In this case, I felt that the choice was so stark that it was my responsibility to do what I could to try to help the McAuliffe campaign, help them in drawing that contrast between the way they view science and technology and the way Mr. Cuccinelli does," Mann later added.

Mann has repeatedly been at odds with Cuccinelli. In April 2010, Cuccinelli launched a two-year investigation targeting the scientist, looking into whether he committed fraud by obtaining grants to research global temperature changes. Speaking to Rabin-Havt, Mann called it "clearly an attempt to go on an open-ended fishing expedition." The investigation was widely criticized, with the Washington Post calling it a "witch hunt" and writing that "Mr. Cuccinelli demonstrates a dangerous disregard for scientific method and academic freedom." The case was tossed out by Virginia's Supreme Court in 2012.

"[Cuccinelli] wasted at least hundreds of thousands of dollars, and he may not be coming clean with how much money he really spent on this witch hunt," Mann said Monday, arguing that the money could have been spent to help Virginians grapple with rising sea levels and its impact on the state's coast. He also said climate change is threatening the naval infrastructure in Norfolk, "a huge naval base that is right at sea level and stands to be displaced if we continue to warm the planet and the seas continue to rise."

Cuccinelli has developed a reputation as one of the most high-profile climate change deniers in the country. He previously sued to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from moderating fossil-fuel pollution and from regulating stormwater runoff as a pollutant. He also alleges that the agency will hinder the U.S. economy and has called it the "Employment Prevention Agency."

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MORE FOSSIL FUEL MAYHEM..

Multiple injuries reported in large explosions at Florida propane plant

By M. Alex Johnson, Staff Writer, NBC News

Several large explosions were reported late Monday at a propane plant in Tavares, Fla. Local media quoted authorities as saying there were multiple injuries and evacuations.

The explosions occurred about 11 p.m. ET at the Lake County plant of Blue Rhino, The Orlando Sentinel reported. NBC station WESH of Orlando reported that "multiple" people suffered unspecified injuries and that residents were being evacuated for a mile around the site in what authorities called a "mass casualty scene."

Watch live coverage on WESH-TV

Blue Rhino is a subsidiary of Ferrellgas Partners, the second-largest distributor of propane in the U.S.

Residents of the area told The Sentinel and WESH that flames from the explosions could be seen for several miles.

"It sounds like bombs are going off," Norma Haygood, a nearby resident, told WESH.

This is a breaking news story. Check back for more details.

Link
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 134 Comments: 20766
Quoting 123. Birthmark:

Yes. Yes, they are. But with the evidence they have and the models with which they're working, there's no other choice, imo.


Being to conservative will cause millions of deaths...
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 134 Comments: 20766
19th place now.

Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 134 Comments: 20766
Projected climate change moves much faster than land vertebrates have evolved

Species that survive future warming probably won’t do it by evolving.

The only constant is change. Over geologic time, it’s as true of Earth’s climate as it is of anything. You might assume this means a changing climate is nothing to get excited about. After all, it has changed before. Of course, not all changes are equal. That’s where things can get ugly.

It’s obviously not just humans that are affected by climate change—we’re taking all the other species on the planet along for the ride, as well. The impact it has on them will be determined by their ability to keep up with shifting climate zones, cope with conditions beyond their ideal range, and perhaps eventually evolve to live in a different climate. Most attempts to forecast the loss of biodiversity over the next century have considered evolution to be a negligible part of that equation. A new study in Ecology Letters explores whether species are really incapable of evolving fast enough to keep up with climate change.

Ignacio Quintero of Yale and John Wiens of the University of Arizona set out to estimate the rate at which terrestrial vertebrates have evolved into new climate niches (the conditions they’re best adapted to) in the recent past. To do this, they looked at closely related species and compared the climates they live in today. The difference between them shows how much they’ve diverged since their last common ancestor.

The researchers did this for 270 closely related pairs of species among mammals, birds, lizards, snakes, crocodiles, turtles, salamanders, and frogs. They compiled twentieth-century temperature and precipitation data from each species’ geographical range to characterize the climate zone they are adapted to living in. Then, they determined how long it has been since those species split from their common ancestor using the “molecular clock” of DNA mutations. Generally, the pairs split within the last several million years.

For temperature, the stories were pretty similar. The species had shifted climate niches by about one degree Celsius per million years. Precipitation was more varied, with rates between 11 and 335 millimeters per million years. That’s how quickly they have evolved to live in climates different from their ancestors.

Now, how does that compare with the current rate of climate change? The researchers repeated their analysis of climate data over geographic ranges using a climate model simulating the end of the twenty-first century. The simulation used an emissions scenario resulting in an additional four degrees Celsius of warming from now to the end of the century. For both temperature and precipitation, the projected rates of change were in the (staggering) ballpark of 10,000 to 100,000 times greater than their calculated rate of evolution.


more at ARSTechnica.com
Member Since: September 18, 2005 Posts: 30 Comments: 1085
Are scientists conservative about sea ice?

Guest post by Walt Meier, NSIDC Scientist

Arctic sea ice set a record minimum extent in September 2012, far below the previous record low in 2007. Summer extents have been far lower than average for the last decade, with several record or near-record years. Looking at the numbers, one is tempted to think that the Arctic Ocean may reach nearly sea ice-free conditions within just a few years. But most expert analyses indicate that we’re likely at least a couple decades away from seeing a blue Arctic Ocean during the summer.

So what is going on here? Readers have asked if scientists are being too conservative in their assessment of the recent ice loss. We asked Walt Meier, NSIDC scientist, to address this question. Following is his response.

Conservative science, or complex systems?
Scientists by their nature tend to be conservative when viewing new evidence. While the recent years have been surprising, most scientists are not willing to accept that ice-free conditions are imminent. But that is not because they’re being too conservative. The Arctic sea ice system is complex and there are many aspects that are not yet well understood.

A variety of feedbacks promote ice growth or ice loss. For example, sea ice has a high albedo, meaning it reflects the sun’s energy back into space. Darker ocean water has a low albedo, meaning it absorbs more of the sun’s energy, and thus more heat. As sea ice extent decreases, the change in albedo spurs a well-known feedback that enhances summer melt because the ocean absorbs more of the sun’s energy than the ice.

Likewise, there are also negative feedbacks that will slow the loss of ice. One of these results from the fact that ice grows more rapidly when there is no ice or thin ice than when thick ice is present under the same air temperatures. Thus in fall when the sun goes down and the atmosphere gets cold, open water areas grow ice quickly allowing such regions to “catch up” to thicker ice regions. These feedbacks and many other factors, such as ocean and air temperatures, wind, and weather patterns, prevent an easy assessment of a complex system.


Models, averages, and trends




This graph shows a time series of modeled and observed September sea ice extent from 1900 to 2100. The red line indicates the observations, and individual ensemble models from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC AR5) are included as dotted colored lines, with their individual model ensemble average in solid color lines. The black line is the model average. The inset image shows multi-model ensemble average from both the IPCC AR5 and IPCC AR4; shading indicates the range of model estimates. The IPCC AR5 will be published later this year. (Courtesy Stroeve, et al., 2012, Geophysical Research Letters)


Climate models indicate that sea ice will decline more slowly than recent observations. Some models suggest ice-free summers by around mid-century, while others are even more conservative and don’t indicate such conditions until late in the century. Scientists looking at the trend recognize that the models may underestimate the rate of ice decline.

Sea ice models, though far from perfect, are the best tools we have to understand and project the future changes in sea ice. While the models on average show a slower trend, a closer look provides a more subtle view. Looking at averages can mask important variations in the sea ice that occur in the real world. Individual model simulations do show periods of rapid ice loss lasting several years, but they also show periods of stasis, with little or no trend, over several years. When averaging over several model simulations (and several different models), the extremes tend to get averaged out and one sees only the slower, steady long-term trend. Even in the historical observations, it is clear that there are large variations in ice conditions from year to year.

Thus the observations that we are seeing may be a period of rapid ice decline that models indicate will happen from time to time. And we may be due to experience a period of slow down. There is no certainty of this and scientists have been surprised by the dramatic record lows in 2007 and 2012. Nonetheless, given the complexity of the sea ice system, the large year-to-year variations observed, and potential negative feedbacks that can act to slow the ice loss, most scientists feel a conservative estimate of the future ice changes is probably warranted.

One thing that all scientists who study sea ice agree upon is that under increasing temperatures, the overall long-term declining trend will continue and some summer in the future, we will look down on the North Pole and see a blue Arctic Ocean. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

References

Holland, M. M., C. M. Bitz, and B. Tremblay. 2006. Future abrupt reductions in the summer Arctic sea ice. Geophysical Research Letters 33, L23503, doi:10.1029/2006GL028024
Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 4316
If not for clouds and nitrogen, Earth could be an uninhabitable hell right now

New model suggests a Venus-like planet is closer than we think.

With the explosion of exoplanet discoveries, researchers have begun to seriously revisit what it takes to make a planet habitable, defined as being able to support liquid water. At a basic level, the amount of light a planet receives sets its temperature. But real worlds aren't actually basic%u2014they have atmospheres, reflect some of that light back into space, and experience various feedbacks that affect the temperature.

The new work focuses on a very simple model of an atmosphere: a linear column of nothing but water vapor. This clearly doesn't capture the complex dynamics of weather and the different amounts of light to reach the poles, but it does include things like the amount of light scattered back out into space and the greenhouse impact of the water vapor. These sorts of calculations are simple enough that they were first done decades ago, but the authors note that this particular problem hadn't been revisited in 25 years. Our knowledge of how water vapor absorbs both visible and infrared light has improved over that time.

Water vapor, like other greenhouse gasses, allows visible light to reach the surface of a planet, but it absorbs most of the infrared light that gets emitted back toward space. Only a narrow window, centered around 10 micrometer wavelengths, makes it back out to space. Once the incoming energy gets larger than the amount that can escape, the end result is a runaway greenhouse: heat evaporates more surface water, which absorbs more infrared, trapping even more heat. At some point, the atmosphere gets so filled with water vapor that light no longer even reaches the surface, instead getting absorbed by the atmosphere itself.

The model shows that, once temperatures reach 1,800K, a second window through the water vapor opens up at about four microns, which allows additional energy to escape into space. The authors suggest that this could be used when examining exoplanets, as high emissions in this region could be taken as an indication that the planet was undergoing a runaway greenhouse.

The authors also used the model to look at what Earth would be like if it had a cloud-free, water atmosphere. The surprise was that the updated model indicated that this alternate-Earth atmosphere would absorb 30 percent more energy than previous estimates suggested. That's enough to make a runaway greenhouse atmosphere stable at the Earth's distance from the Sun.


more at ARSTechnica.com
Member Since: September 18, 2005 Posts: 30 Comments: 1085
Bakken Shale Flaring Burns Nearly One-Third Of Natural Gas Drilled, New Study Finds

Oil drillers in North Dakota's Bakken shale fields are allowing nearly a third of the natural gas they drill to burn off into the air, with a value of more than $100 million per month, according to a study to be released on Monday.

Remote well locations, combined with historically low natural gas prices and the extensive time needed to develop pipeline networks, have fueled the controversial practice, commonly known as flaring. While oil can be stored in tanks indefinitely after drilling, natural gas must be immediately piped to a processing facility.

Flaring has tripled in the past three years, according to the report from Ceres, a nonprofit group that tracks environmental records of public companies.

"There's a lot of shareholder value going up in flames due to flaring," said Ryan Salmon, who wrote the report for Ceres. "Investors want companies to have a more aggressive reaction to flaring and disclose clear steps to fix the problem."

VISIBLE FROM SPACE

Roughly 29 percent of natural gas extracted in North Dakota was flared in May, down from an all-time high of 36 percent in September 2011. But the volume of natural gas produced has nearly tripled in that timeframe to about 900,000 million cubic feet per day, boosting flaring in the state to roughly 266,000 million cubic feet per day, according to North Dakota state and Ceres data.

North Dakota's flaring, which NASA astronauts can see from space, releases fewer greenhouse gases than direct emission of natural gas into the air, but it is essentially burning product that could be sold at a profit if there were pipelines.

more at HuffingtonPost.com
Member Since: September 18, 2005 Posts: 30 Comments: 1085
Quoting 101. Birthmark:

It's been pretty typically brutal here in central Florida. I finally got some decent rain today. Long, gentle rain is good stuff and fairly rare in these parts this time of the year.
It's always hot in central Florida this time of year,correct? I lived in Key West and Jacksonville back in the 70'S. I hope for some cooler weather for You! I was just sayin' for here we have had reasonable weather!
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Climate Denial Crock of the Week

with Peter Sinclair

Rolling Stone Dark Snow Piece on Line

July 29, 2013



The "banned in Boston" dead-tree version of Rolling Stone is hard to find in most places, due to a wrong-headed non-controversy about the cover. But now Jeff Goodell’s story is online, in a special, first-of-its-kind-for-rollingstone media enhanced version, with several embedded videos that the Dark Snow media team produced during its stay in Sisimiut in early July.

One video RS did not use was the one I shot from our Air Greenland chopper as we floated along the 400 foot calving wall of the world’s fastest moving ice-stream, the Ilulisat, or Jakobshavn glacier – see above, and Jeff’s description below.

Rolling Stone:

A few weeks ago, on a blue-sky day on the west coast of Greenland, our helicopter swooped along the calving front of the Jakobshavn glacier, flying dangerously close to a 400-foot-high wall of ancient melting ice that stretches for about six miles across Disko Bay. Jakobshavn is the fastest-moving glacier in the world, and it is sliding into the sea at a top speed of 170 feet a day. How quickly this giant slab of ice and snow – and hundreds like it across the North and South Poles – disappears is the biggest uncertainty in the world of climate science. The faster these glaciers melt, the faster seas will rise, inundating cities throughout the world, and the more unpredictable the world’s weather system is likely to become. Our future is written in ice.

The chopper cruised back and forth at the southern edge of the glacier, looking for a patch of open ground that Jason Box, a 40-year-old glaciologist who is leading the expedition, had identified in satellite photos. Box and the pilot exchanged words on the intercom, then Box gave a thumbs up. The chopper touched down on an unremarkable stretch of rocky tundra about the size of a Walmart parking lot, and Box jumped out, followed by a videographer. "Welcome to New Climate Land," he announced and then launched into a giddy, erudite stand-up monologue for the camera that would have made his high school science teacher proud. "For thousands of years," he explained, this spot had been covered by a tall building’s worth of ice and snow. But now, in the past few months, the final traces of that ancient ice had disappeared. "We are likely to be the first human beings to ever stand on this piece of ground," Box said excitedly.

It was all a tad melodramatic, perhaps. But Box doesn’t shy away from bold strokes. As he sees it, the general public has been betrayed by the reluctance of climate researchers to speak about the dangers of climate change with sufficient urgency. For Box, this has never been a problem. In 2009, he announced the Petermann glacier, one of the largest in Greenland, would break up that summer – a potent sign of how fast the Arctic was warming. Most glaciologists thought he was nuts – especially after the summer passed and nothing happened. In 2010, however, Petermann began to calve; two years later, it was shedding icebergs twice the size of Manhattan. Another example: In early 2012, Box predicted there would be surface melting across the entirety of Greenland within a decade. Again, many scientists dismissed this as alarmist claptrap. If anything, Box was too conservative – it happened a few months later. He also believes that the climate community is underestimating how much sea levels could rise in the coming ­decades. When I ask him if he thinks the high-end projections of six feet are too low, he doesn’t hesitate: "Shit, yeah."
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A lot of interest Globally in the WV added via AGW,as we're seeing record rains from T-storms that now have 10% more WV to work with.

And this will only continue to increase as the Temp slowly climbs with the Co2, now 400ppm.

Fresca ?
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About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

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