Saturday, August 18, 2012

Climate Crisis


Lots of news about extreme weather conditions that are eventually going to affect all of us.

Governor Quinn of Illinois: We are All Tom Joad
Who can forget the profound desperation in Tom Joad’s heart as he and his family leave Oklahoma’s drought-stricken farms in John Steinbeck’s classic "The Grapes of Wrath?"


That dusty image — of flattened fields and beaten-down farmers — can be seen today in most counties in my state and others due to the persistent, unprecedented drought now suffocating America’s breadbasket.
The facts are stark.
In Illinois, we’ve experienced the sixth-driest growing season on record. Of 102 counties, 100 are disaster areas. The latest corn conditions show 74 percent of this year’s crop is “poor” or “very poor”, so the cost of corn products ranging from ethanol to tortillas will soar. Barren grazing pastures are forcing livestock farmers to purchase hay at inflated prices. The drought also affects fisheries, wildlife, water levels in navigable waterways and the entire food chain.

Reuters: UN Warns Extreme Weather Affects Food Supply
"It has not been properly recognised yet that we are dealing with a food system here. There is a whole chain that is also going to be affected by climate change," Professor Dr John Porter of the University of Copenhagen said.

"It is more than just the fact that there are droughts in the United States that will reduce yields," he said. Like the other experts, he said was giving personal opinions, not those of the U.N. panel.

After harvest, floods could wash away roads or bridges, for instance, between fields and factories processing the crop. Or warehouses storing food could be damaged by more powerful storms. Such factors were likely to hit poor nations hardest.

"There are reasons to expect more frequent (price) spikes, given that it will be more common to see conditions that are considered extreme," said David Lobell, an assistant professor at Stanford University in California.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Western Wildfires Threaten Homes
Not only are more wildfires flaring up in the West this year than last, but the nation's fires have gotten bigger, said Jennifer Smith, of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. As of Thursday, more than 43,000 wildfires had been reported in the U.S. this season, burning a total of nearly 6.4 million acres, or 10,000 square miles, the center said. The 10-year average for the period is 52,535 fires, but covering only 5 million acres, Smith said.
Guardian UK: Arctic Sea Ice Disappearing
Using instruments on earlier satellites, scientists could see that the area covered by summer sea ice in the Arctic has been dwindling rapidly. But the new measurements indicate that this ice has been thinning dramatically at the same time. For example, in regions north of Canada and Greenland, where ice thickness regularly stayed at around five to six metres in summer a decade ago, levels have dropped to one to three metres. "Preliminary analysis of our data indicates that the rate of loss of sea ice volume in summer in the Arctic may be far larger than we had previously suspected," said Dr Seymour Laxon, of the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at University College London (UCL), where CryoSat-2 data is being analysed.

"Very soon we may experience the iconic moment when, one day in the summer, we look at satellite images and see no sea ice coverage in the Arctic, just open water." The consequences of losing the Arctic's ice coverage, even for only part of the year, could be profound. Without the cap's white brilliance to reflect sunlight back into space, the region will heat up even more than at present. As a result, ocean temperatures will rise and methane deposits on the ocean floor could melt, evaporate and bubble into the atmosphere. Scientists have recently reported evidence that methane plumes are now appearing in many areas. Methane is a particularly powerful greenhouse gas and rising levels of it in the atmosphere are only likely to accelerate global warming.

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