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Greenhouse Emissions of Agriculture

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

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


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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Rates of projected climate change dramatically exceed past rates of climatic niche evolution among vertebrate species.Link

Abstract
A key question in predicting responses to anthropogenic climate change is: how quickly can species adapt to different climatic conditions? Here, we take a phylogenetic approach to this question. We use 17 time-calibrated phylogenies representing the major tetrapod clades (amphibians, birds, crocodilians, mammals, squamates, turtles) and climatic data from distributions of > 500 extant species. We estimate rates of change based on differences in climatic variables between sister species and estimated times of their splitting. We compare these rates to predicted rates of climate change from 2000 to 2100. Our results are striking: matching projected changes for 2100 would require rates of niche evolution that are > 10 000 times faster than rates typically observed among species, for most variables and clades. Despite many caveats, our results suggest that adaptation to projected changes in the next 100 years would require rates that are largely unprecedented based on observed rates among vertebrate species.
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A response to Methane Mischief: Misleading Commentary Published In Nature
by Peter Wadhams

"The mechanism which is causing the observed mass of rising methane plumes in the East Siberian Sea is itself unprecedented and the scientists who dismissed the idea of extensive methane release in earlier research were simply not aware of the new mechanism that is causing it.

What is happening is that the summer sea ice now retreats so far, and for so long each summer, that there is a substantial ice-free season over the Siberian shelf, sufficient for solar irradiance to warm the surface water by a significant amount - up to 7C according to satellite data. That warming extends the 50 m or so to the seabed because we are dealing with only a polar surface water layer here (over the shelves the Arctic Ocean structure is one-layer rather than three layers)  and the surface warming is mixed down by wave-induced mixing because the extensive open water permits large fetches.  So long as some ice persisted on the shelf, the water mass was held to about 0C in summer because any further heat content in the water column was used for melting the ice underside. But once the ice disappears, as it has done, the temperature of the water can rise significantly, and the heat content reaching the seabed can melt the frozen sediments at a rate that was never before possible."
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Mr. Perfect, I will listen to what ron giamboi has to say when he learns to spell. I may not believe it, but I will listen to it :)
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Quoting 3. MisterPerfect:
The Lake at the North Pole, How Bad Is It?

Published: July 26th, 2013 By Andrew Freedman

The pictures are dramatic — a camera at the North Pole Environmental Observatory, sitting in the middle of what appears to be either a lake or open ocean, at the height of the summer sea ice melt season. Set against the backdrop of the precipitous decline in sea ice cover in recent decades due in large part to global warming, this would seem to be yet another alarming sign of Arctic climate change.


Image from one of the North Pole Environmental Observatory webcams, taken on Thursday, July 25.
Credit: NSF's North Pole Environmental Observatory.

These images have attracted media attention, such as this AtlanticWire post and this Daily Mail story, both of which portray the images as potential signs of an intensifying Arctic meltdown.

But before concluding that Arctic climate change has entered an even more ominous phase, it’s important to examine the context behind these images.

Of course, as we already know, regardless of where those cameras are located, the Arctic is already enduring an intense meltdown. It has nothing to do with where webcams are located during different parts of the year.
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Pacific Equatorial Cold Water Region Explained

July 25, 2013 — A new study published this week in the journal Nature reveals for the first time how the mixing of cold, deep waters from below can change sea surface temperatures on seasonal and longer timescales.

Because this occurs in a huge region of the ocean that takes up heat from the atmosphere, these changes can influence global climate patterns, particularly global warming.
Using a new measurement of mixing, Jim Moum and Jonathan Nash of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University have obtained the first multi-year records of mixing that permit assessment of seasonal changes. This is a significant advance beyond traditional shipboard measurements that are limited to the time that a ship can be away from port. Small instruments fueled by lithium batteries were built to be easily deployed on deep-sea equatorial moorings.
Moum employs a simple demonstration to show how mixing works.
He pours cold, white cream into a clear glass mug full of hot, black coffee, very carefully, using a straw to inject the heavier cream at the bottom of the mug, where it remains.
"Now we can wait until the cream diffuses into the coffee, and we'll have a nice cuppa joe," Moum says. "Unfortunately, the coffee will be cold by then. Or, we can introduce some external energy into the system, and mix it."
A stirring spoon reveals motions in the mug outlined by the black/white contrasts of cream in coffee until the contrast completely disappears, and the color achieves that of café au lait.
"Mixing is obviously important in our normal lives, from the kitchen to the dispersal of pollutants in the atmosphere, reducing them to levels that are barely tolerable," he said.
The new study shows how mixing, at the same small scales that appear in your morning coffee, is critical to the ocean. It outlines the processes that create the equatorial Pacific cold tongue, a broad expanse of ocean near the equator that is roughly the size of the continental United States, with sea surface temperatures substantially cooler than surrounding areas.
Because this is a huge expanse that takes up heat from the atmosphere, understanding how it does so is critical to seasonal weather patterns, El Nino, and to global climate change.
In temperate latitudes, the atmosphere heats the ocean in summer and cools it in winter. This causes a clear seasonal cycle in sea surface temperature, at least in the middle of the ocean. At low latitudes near the equator, the atmosphere heats the sea surface throughout the year. Yet a strong seasonal cycle in sea surface temperature is present here, as well. This has puzzled oceanographers for decades who have suspected mixing may be the cause but have not been able to prove this.
Moum, Nash and their colleagues began their effort in 2005 to document mixing at various depths on an annual basis, which previously had been a near-impossible task.
"This is a very important area scientifically, but it's also quite remote," Moum said. "From a ship it's impossible to get the kinds of record lengths needed to resolve seasonal cycles, let alone processes with longer-term cycles like El Nino and La Nina. But for the first time in 2005, we were able to deploy instrumentation to measure mixing on a NOAA mooring and monitor the processes on a year-round basis."
The researchers found clear evidence that mixing alone cools the sea surface in the cold tongue, and that the magnitude of mixing is influenced by equatorial currents that flow from east to west at the surface, and from west to east in deeper waters 100 meters beneath the surface.
"There is a hint -- although it is too early to tell -- that increased mixing may lead, or have a correlation to the development of La Niña," Moum said. "Conversely, less mixing may be associated with El Niño. But we only have a six-year record -- we'll need 25 years or more to reach any conclusions on this question."
Nash said the biggest uncertainty in climate change models is understanding some of the basic processes for the mixing of deep-ocean and surface waters and the impacts on sea surface temperatures. This work should make climate models more accurate in the future.
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, and deployments have been supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Continued research will add instruments at the same equatorial mooring and an additional three locations in the equatorial Pacific cold tongue to gather further data.

Journal Reference:
James N. Moum, Alexander Perlin, Jonathan D. Nash, Michael J. McPhaden. Seasonal sea surface cooling in the equatorial Pacific cold tongue controlled by ocean mixing. Nature, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nature12363
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Quoting 2. MisterPerfect:
climatecentral.org comment of the week:
By ron giamboi (franklin square ny 11010)
on July 26th, 2013
...

Yeah, you're right, it was an epically bad comment chalk full of silliness.
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Quoting 2. MisterPerfect:
climatecentral.org comment of the week:

By ron giamboi (franklin square ny 11010)
on July 26th, 2013

you can’t accurately predict weather day to day, but you can without doubt, state, what will happen in the next 10, 20, 30…..yrs!!?? Amazing.!! Too hot, man
made global warming!! Too
cold, man made global warming!!! Too
extream, not extream enough, to dry, to wet….... man made global warming. The forcast for Fri, 7/26/13 was for heavy rains. It was a perfect day!! But you “know"what will happen in the next 10, 20, 30…... yrs???!! NO! I don’t think so!! Are you still following the statiststacts from the U of East
Anglea?? U know… “The Harvard of Climatology”. The U that fake the numbers. You can’t explain why temperatures have remained constant over the last 10 yrs! So you state that the deep oceans are absorbing more heat!! Then you state that the Aritic is
a ticking time bomb!! Ready to realease a gaziilion/ trillion/ billion tons of methane that will cost a gazillion / trillion / billion $S in economic damage to the economy!!??? STOP!! Your killing me!! Follow the money. Who gets the grants? Who gets the government funding?Man made global warming proponants, or man made global warming doubters??
July 26th. a singal tropical storm / hurricane. Must be man made global warming!! Now you A holes claim that M M G warming is on hold!! But don’t be fooled. It will return with a vengance. Stronger than ever. Just wait a few yrs. Or decades. Or centuries….......... What caused the end of the ice age 10,000 yrs ago? Too many camp fires??


Why should anyone pay any attention to someone who manages to make so many basic spelling mistakes in such a short time?

extream, to, anglea, aritic, realease, proponants, singal, vengance

But then, I suppose that's just the typical level of intellect of deniers.
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Global Warming to Cut Snow Water Storage 56 Percent in Oregon Watershed
July 26, 2013 — A new report projects that by the middle of this century there will be an average 56 percent drop in the amount of water stored in peak snowpack in the McKenzie River watershed of the Oregon Cascade Range -- and that similar impacts may be found on low-elevation maritime snow packs around the world.

The findings by scientists at Oregon State University, which are based on a projected 3.6 degree Fahrenheit temperature increase, highlight the special risks facing many low-elevation, mountainous regions where snow often falls near the freezing point. In such areas, changing from snow to rain only requires a very modest rise in temperature.
As in Oregon, which depends on Cascade Range winter snowpack for much of the water in the populous Willamette Valley, there may be significant impacts on ecosystems, agriculture, hydropower, industry, municipalities and recreation, especially in summer when water demands peak.
The latest study was one of the most precise of its type done on an entire watershed, and was just published in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, with support from the National Science Foundation. It makes it clear that new choices are coming for western Oregon and other regions like it.
"In Oregon we have a water-rich environment, but even here we will have to manage our water resources differently in the future," said Eric Sproles, who led this study as a doctoral student at OSU.
"In the Willamette River, for instance, between 60-80 percent of summer stream flow comes from seasonal snow above 4,000 feet," he said. "As more precipitation falls as rain, there will more chance of winter flooding as well as summer drought in the same season. More than 70 percent of Oregon's population lives in the Willamette Valley, with the economy and ecosystems depending heavily on this river."
Annual precipitation in the future may be either higher or lower, the OSU researchers said. They did calculations for precipitation changes that could range 10 percent in either direction, although change of that magnitude is not anticipated by most climate models.
The study made clear, so far as snowpack goes, that temperature is the driving force, far more than precipitation. Even the highest levels of anticipated precipitation had almost no impact on snow-water storage, they said.
"This is not an issue that will just affect Oregon," said Anne Nolin, a professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, and co-author of the study. "You may see similar impacts almost anywhere around the world that has low-elevation snow in mountains, such as in Japan, New Zealand, Northern California, the Andes Mountains, a lot of Eastern Europe and the lower-elevation Alps."
The focus of this study was the McKenzie River, a beautiful, clear mountain river that rises in the high Cascade Range near the Three Sisters volcanoes, and supplies about 25 percent of the late summer discharge of the Willamette River. Researchers said this is one of the most detailed studies of its type done on a large watershed.
Among the findings of the study:
The average date of peak snowpack in the spring on this watershed will be about 12 days earlier by the middle of this century.
The elevation zone from 1,000 to 1,500 meters will lose the greatest volume of stored water, and some locations at that elevation could lose more than 80 days of snow cover in an average year.
Changes in dam operations in the McKenzie River watershed will be needed, but will not be able to make up for the vast capability of water storage in snow.
Summer water flows will be going down even as Oregon's population surges by about 400,000 people from 2010 to 2020.
Globally, maritime snow comprises about 10 percent of Earth's seasonal snow cover.
Snowmelt is a source of water for more than one billion people.
Precipitation is highly sensitive to temperature and can fall as rain, snow, or a rain-snow mix.
The model developed for this research, scientists said, could be readily adapted to help other regions in similar situations determine their future loss of snow water in the future.

Journal Reference:
E. Sproles, A. Nolin, K. Rittger, T. Painter. Climate change impacts on maritime mountain snowpack in the Oregon Cascades. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions, 2012; 9 (11): 13037 DOI: 10.5194/hessd-9-13037-2012
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Seems like I was correct about the cyclone's impacts on the ice. Others were not correct.



We may take a run at the 2000s average on the way to the minimum. I don't think we'll reach it though.

I'm upping my prediction to 5.0 kilometers^2 for the minimum. Seems likely given the very favorable pattern continuing for a while. Climatology should also be having an effect by slowing the melt soon as well.
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The Lake at the North Pole, How Bad Is It?

Published: July 26th, 2013 By Andrew Freedman

The pictures are dramatic — a camera at the North Pole Environmental Observatory, sitting in the middle of what appears to be either a lake or open ocean, at the height of the summer sea ice melt season. Set against the backdrop of the precipitous decline in sea ice cover in recent decades due in large part to global warming, this would seem to be yet another alarming sign of Arctic climate change.


Image from one of the North Pole Environmental Observatory webcams, taken on Thursday, July 25.
Credit: NSF's North Pole Environmental Observatory.

These images have attracted media attention, such as this AtlanticWire post and this Daily Mail story, both of which portray the images as potential signs of an intensifying Arctic meltdown.

But before concluding that Arctic climate change has entered an even more ominous phase, it’s important to examine the context behind these images.

First, the cameras in question, which are attached to instruments that scientists have deposited on the sea ice at the start of each spring since 2002, may have “North Pole” in their name, but they are no longer located at the North Pole. In fact, as this map below shows, they have drifted well south of the North Pole, since they sit atop sea ice floes that move along with ocean currents. Currently, the waterlogged camera is near the prime meridian, at 85 degrees north latitude.


Annotated map showing the location of the North Pole and the location of the buoys with the webcams.
Credit: NSF's North Pole Environmental Observatory.

“It’s moved away from the North Pole region and it will eventually exit Fram Strait,” said Mark Serreze, the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colo., in an interview. Fram Strait lies between Greenland and Canada, and is one of the main routes for sea ice to get flushed out of the Arctic Ocean.

The second thing to keep in mind is that melting sea ice at or near the North Pole is actually not a rare event. Observations from the webcams dating back to 2002, and from satellite imagery and nuclear-powered submarines that have explored the ice cover since the Cold War era dating back several decades, show that sea ice around the North Pole has formed melt ponds, and even areas of open water, several times in the past.

The webcam depicting what seems like open water is most likely “just sitting in a big melt pond” that has formed on top of the sea ice cover, Serreze said. This melt pond started forming around July 10, and is likely close to its peak depth and extent. The occurrence of a melt pond at or near the North Pole is “just not that unusual,” Serreze said, and is even less rare at a more southern location such as where the camera is now.

“The whole Arctic sea ice cover does show melt during summer even at the North Pole,” he said, speaking of a typical melt season.

Serreze said it’s usually possible to walk through these melt ponds with hip boot waders on, as opposed to having to swim, since there is ice underneath the meltwater.

James Overland, a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told Climate Central in an email that the melt pond does seem unusually large compared to what is typically observed in a melt season, though. “We have extensive melt ponds every year, but I do not remember such an extensive lake in previous years. The lake is more a product of how the ice was configured earlier in the year,” he said.

Arctic sea ice cover has been rapidly shrinking and thinning since the start of satellite observations in 1979. Last year, sea ice extent and volume plunged to a record low. When the melt season finally ended in late September, the Arctic Ocean managed to hold onto less than half of the average sea ice extent seen during the 1979-to-2000 period.

The past six years have had the six smallest sea ice extents since 1979, indicating that the ice has not recovered from the previous record low in 2007. Researchers attribute this to the loss of thicker multiyear ice, which has been replaced by thinner ice that forms in the fall and melts in the spring and summer.

Serreze said the thinness of the ice cover has made it much more susceptible to weather patterns that promote ice transport and melting. So far this summer, sea ice extent has tracked above that of 2012, with a slow rate of ice melt in June followed by much more rapid melting during the first three weeks of July after weather patterns became more favorable for melting, Serreze said.

“I would be extremely surprised if we were not” well below average come September, Serreze said, but the prospect of setting another record low “depends on the vagaries of the weather, and we just can’t predict that.”

The Lake at the North Pole, How Bad Is It?
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climatecentral.org comment of the week:

By ron giamboi (franklin square ny 11010)
on July 26th, 2013

you can’t accurately predict weather day to day, but you can without doubt, state, what will happen in the next 10, 20, 30…..yrs!!?? Amazing.!! Too hot, man
made global warming!! Too
cold, man made global warming!!! Too
extream, not extream enough, to dry, to wet….... man made global warming. The forcast for Fri, 7/26/13 was for heavy rains. It was a perfect day!! But you “know"what will happen in the next 10, 20, 30…... yrs???!! NO! I don’t think so!! Are you still following the statiststacts from the U of East
Anglea?? U know… “The Harvard of Climatology”. The U that fake the numbers. You can’t explain why temperatures have remained constant over the last 10 yrs! So you state that the deep oceans are absorbing more heat!! Then you state that the Aritic is
a ticking time bomb!! Ready to realease a gaziilion/ trillion/ billion tons of methane that will cost a gazillion / trillion / billion $S in economic damage to the economy!!??? STOP!! Your killing me!! Follow the money. Who gets the grants? Who gets the government funding?Man made global warming proponants, or man made global warming doubters??
July 26th. a singal tropical storm / hurricane. Must be man made global warming!! Now you A holes claim that M M G warming is on hold!! But don’t be fooled. It will return with a vengance. Stronger than ever. Just wait a few yrs. Or decades. Or centuries….......... What caused the end of the ice age 10,000 yrs ago? Too many camp fires??
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Youtube DVD 1

If you ignore the other than technical issues, this could fix the entire CO2 emissions problem and most of the agricultural methane emissions. However, it is complicated, and takes hours to fully comprehend it. Best to watch the first view videos of DVD 1 and then switch to DVD 2 at Youtube DVD 2

I suspect that it is already too late, and that the emissions problem will be solved instead by economic collapse as the crude oil runs out, bankrupting most farmers and drastically curtailing fossil fuel use in general, or by other effects associated with peak oil or other large scale catastrophe.

Interesting, what goes on in the world sometimes...
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Dr. Ricky Rood's Climate Change Blog

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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