Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New paper finds Siberian temperatures 5,000 years ago were up to 1.5C higher than today

A paper published today in Quaternary International reconstructs temperatures over the past 10,000 years and finds that July temperatures in Siberia were "equal or up to 1.5 °C higher than today between 6,000  and 5000 years [ago]" during the Holocene Climate Optimum.
Holocene climate conditions in central Yakutia (Eastern Siberia) inferred from sediment composition and fossil chironomids of Lake Temje

Larisa Nazarovaa et al.


A 380 cm long sediment core from Lake Temje (central Yakutia, Eastern Siberia) was studied to infer Holocene palaeoenvironmental change in the extreme periglacial setting of eastern Siberia during the last 10,000 years. Data on sediment composition were used to characterize changes in the depositional environment during the ontogenetic development of the Lake Temje. The analysis of fossil chironomid remains and statistical treatment of chironomid data by the application of a newly developed regional Russian transfer functions provided inferences of mean July air temperatures (TJuly) and water depths (WD). Reconstructed WDs show minor changes throughout the core and range between 80 and 120 cm. All the fluctuations in reconstructed water depth lie within the mean error of prediction of the inference model (RMSEP = 0.35) so it is not possible to draw conclusions from the reconstructions. A qualitative and quantitative reconstruction of Holocene climate in central Yakutia recognized three stages of palaeoenvironmental changes. The early Holocene between 10 and 8 ka BP was characterized by colder-than-today and moist summer conditions. Cryotextures in the lake sediments document full freezing of the lake water during the winter time. A general warming trend started around 8.0 ka BP in concert with enhanced biological productivity. Reconstructed mean TJuly were equal or up to 1.5 °C higher than today between 6.0 ka and 5.0 ka BP. During the entire late Holocene after 4.8 ka BP, reconstructed mean TJuly remained below modern value. Limnological conditions did not change significantly. The inference of a mid-Holocene climate optimum supports scenarios of Holocene climatic changes in the subpolar part of eastern Siberia and indicates climate teleconnections to the North Atlantic realm

Russian Arctic Scientist: Permafrost Changes Due To Natural Factors…”It’s Going To Be Colder”!

Sebastian Lüning’s and Fritz Vahrenholt’s "Die kalte Sonne" presents an interesting view on permafrost from Russia. I’ve added some extra quotes from the video for non-German readers.

After widespread sea ice melt in the Arctic in the 1930s and 40s, the ice re-established itself. In the 1970s the temperature dropped and sea ice increased. In the 1970s and 90s at the Hudson Bay and Beaufort Sea, seals suffered under the extensive ice and the population fell dramatically.

In Siberia today the permafrost is supposed to be gradually melting, so we are told. But if you ask local Russian scientists, this cannot be confirmed

In the video a German journalist travels to Siberia and speaks with Russian permafrost expert Michali Grigoryev on the state of the permafrost (2007). Grigoryev shows the journalist a rare baby mammoth uncovered from the ice, and adds that such finds are becoming more and more frequent today. “Because of climate change”, the journalist asks at the 0:48 mark? Grigoryev answers:

"No, you are wrong. The permafrost is not melting. There is no man-made climate change.”

The journalist then quotes the Russian scientist:

"Indeed above at the surface it has gotten warmer, but that’s just part of a normal cycle. The permafrost is rock hard, And that is how it is going to stay. There’s no talk of thawing.”

At the 1:24 mark, the scientist says:

"The cyclic warming is coming to an end. It is going to get colder soon. The climate depends on the sun and the oceans. Three factors have coincided and have warmed the climate, but in 8 to 15 years, it’s going to be colder again.”

As the clip was made in 2007, that means we have just 3 to 10 years left before the cooling sets in in earnest. We note that there’s been no warming in 15 years and that the signs for cooling are mounting.

In another another study from Siberia, multiple super warm periods were found over the last 2.8 million years. Those were certainly caused by purely natural processes, and not anthropogenic influences.

But let’s look at the more recent 10,000 years, i.e. the current interglacial. A German-Norwegian team led by Juliane Müller of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bermerhaven, Germany, recently discovered that the sea ice cover west of Spitzbergen gradually increased from 8500 to 1000 years before present. Off Eastern Greenland sea ice pretty much remained constant during this period. The study appeared in July 2012 in the Quaternary Science Reviews.

In yet another study by a team led by Funder shows that the Arctic sea ice 8000 years ago was less than half of the minimum we saw in 2007. In the meantime most of the climate models are able to reproduce this lack of ice during the middle of the interglacial (Berger et al 2012, Climate of the Past Discussions). The cause of this warming and the ice melt in this case was the Milankovitch cycles.

Finally, we have the Medieval Warm Period back. Canadian scientists have just discovered that the Northwest Passage had been completely ice-free during the summer, which today is still not the case.


Britain’s Green Agenda Disintegrating

Plans to limit the carbon emissions of future power stations are on the brink of being delayed until next parliament, in what would be a blow to the climate and energy secretary, green campaigners and business chiefs.

Ministers have been wrangling over whether to include a 2030 “decarbonisation target” for the power sector in the energy bill, which is expected to be published in parliament within the next fortnight.

The Guardian understands a decision on such a target now risks being delayed until after the next general election. A senior source close to the talks said: “It’s been a very difficult negotiation, there has been talk of postponing the setting of a target until next parliament.

But if we are to address investor concerns, it has to be addressed this parliament.”
However, the source added that the talks were still ongoing and “it is still possible that there could be agreement on a target to be set this parliament, and that will come down to how hard they want to negotiate on the Liberal Democrat side.”

A spokeswoman for the climate and energy secretary, Ed Davey, denied the target had been dropped or delayed. “We’ve not actually reached an agreement in government on the various energy negotiations we’ve been having,” she told the Guardian.

The splits between the coalition on energy are reportedly so unresolved they were left off the agenda at the "quad" meeting on Thursday of the four most senior figures - David Cameron, George Osborne, Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander.

Dropping or delaying the target would clear the way for the "dash for gas" backed by the chancellor, and mark a defeat for Davey and the Liberal Democrats, who backed a motion in favour of a decarbonisation target at their conference.


Solar storm as desert plan to power Europe falters

The physics of it made some sense but nothing else did

An ambitious plan to provide 15% of Europe's power needs from solar plants in North Africa has run into trouble.

The Desertec initiative hoped to deliver electricity from a network of renewable energy sources to Europe via cables under the sea.  But in recent weeks, two big industrial backers have pulled out.

And the Spanish government has baulked at signing an agreement to build solar power plants in Morocco.

Desertec was set up in 2009 with a projected budget of 400bn euros to tap the enormous potential of solar and other renewables in North Africa.

The hope was that by 2050, around 125 gigawatts of electric power could be generated. This would meet all the local needs and also allow huge amounts of power to be exported to Europe via high-voltage direct current cables under the Mediterranean sea.

But three years later, the project has little to show for its efforts. Two large industrial partners, Siemens and Bosch, have decided they will no longer be part of the initiative.

According to Dr Daniel Ayuk Mbi Egbe, a professor at the University of Linz in Austria and an expert on African solar resources, this is not good news.  "Siemens and Bosch are very big companies," he told BBC News, "if they don't want to support this initiative it is going to be difficult for Desertec."

It seems some governments share this reluctance to go forward.

One of the first concrete steps that Desertec announced was a plan to build three solar power plants in Morocco. A declaration of intent was due to be signed recently by a group of countries including Spain and Italy. But the Spanish government demurred, citing difficulties in finding the subsidies the project would need.

Hans-Josef Fell is a Green party MP in the German parliament who has sponsored renewable energy legislation. He's sometimes referred to as the father of the feed-in tariff that has helped wind and solar power succeed in Germany. He thinks the Desertec initiative is too reliant on public subsidies.

"The governments get cold feet for one reason, Desertec needs too much support in tax money - all the public budgets are over borrowed - and tax money is not easily available," Mr Fell said.

Desertec says that these are small problems and will not detract from the overall success of the project. Spokesman Klaus Schmidtke told BBC News the initiative is in good shape.

In reference to the problems with Spain he said: "We are talking about a declaration of intent between some government so the Desertec initiative is not involved in these negotiations - these are done by the governments. There is no reason for us to fear any problems."

But others are not so sure. Prof Peter Droege is the head of Eurosolar, the European association for renewable energy. "I think it is struggling to find a reason to continue - It is clear it's lost its original purpose, it is looking for a new direction," he commented.

"One of the main attractions of renewable is to become energy independent," he said.  "If you have tied yourself to another external source you have to pay for, you are missing the entire point of the renewable energy transition we are in."

There have been worries that the unstable political situation in North Africa is also causing concerns for investors and for governments.

One positive element for the project is that there have been suggestions that China might be willing to invest so that it can get access to technology. It is interested in learning how to use high-voltage direct current cables such as those proposed for bringing power across the Mediterranean.


Rooting Out the Motive of “Plant Rights” Advocates

Almost forty years after animal rights advocates began asking us to put down our steak knives, plant advocates may start asking us to relinquish our salad forks as well.

Plants have rights too, they say, and we ought to “reconsider our ethical approach to eating them.” Michael Marder, a philosopher writing recently for the New York Times, bases a call for “plant liberation” on the idea that plants possess a primitive form of “awareness,” in that they have a capacity to react to certain stimuli, and that they engage in a simple form of biochemical communication, through the release of chemical hormones that can send signals to other nearby plants.

Now, most readers of this argument will think that the idea of plant rights is silly—indeed, many responders to his article said so. But while Marder’s argument is ridiculous, his goal is serious, dangerous, and not to be ignored. Here we should take the advice of Ellsworth Toohey, villain of The Fountainhead: “Don’t bother to examine a folly—ask yourself only what it accomplishes.”

So what does Marder seek to accomplish through his call for “plant liberation”?

Marder reveals part of his motive when he explains that, contrary to the implication of his article’s title, “If Peas Can Talk, Should We Eat Them?,” he does not proscribe all consumption of plants:

How do these new [scientific] findings [about plants] bear upon dietary ethics? First, they do not mean that we should stop eating plants. Rather, the idea is not to reduce plants to storehouses of carbohydrates and vitamins or to that other source of energy so widely applauded today, biofuel. . . . It is especially pernicious to grow plants from sterile seeds, already robbed of their reproductive potential, patented and appropriated by profit-driven enterprises. Not only do these agricultural “innovations” harm farmers, who are forced to buy seeds from multinational corporations, but they also violate the capacity for reproduction at the core of the Aristotelian vegetal soul. [emphasis added]

Adding to the clarity of his goal, Marder goes on to say that “[v]iolence against plants backfires, as it leads to violence against humans and against the environment as a whole, for instance when plants are genetically modified and made resistant to insects, pests, or disease.”

Marder is not advancing the idea of plant rights because he cares about the interests of plants; he has no problem with our growing and eating them. Nor is he overtly anti-farmer; he expresses concern for them. Rather, as a careful reading of Marder’s article reveals, his real animus is against profit-seeking, multinational agricultural biotechnology companies that patent and sell a variety of genetically-modified plant seeds. In short, Marder is not pro-plant, he is anti-Monsanto.

Though agricultural biotechnology companies such as Monsanto have enabled the vital production of greater yields of high-quality crops, allowing for cheaper and more widely available food, Marder seeks to curtail these life-promoting values through a sophistical argument for “plant rights.” In so doing, he reveals himself to be no different from scores of other environmentalists who, though they hide behind a veneer of concern for “the environment,” are actually anti-industry and, therefore, are anti-man.


EPA won’t waive ethanol mandate for gasoline

The Environmental Protection Agency has decided to move forward with a mandate for corn ethanol in gasoline, denying requests to suspend the requirement following a drought that drove up corn prices.

The EPA said Friday its renewable-fuel standard was not causing economic harm. The agency said it had determined that suspending the standard would reduce corn prices by only 1%.

In the midst of a drought this year, livestock producers complained that the mandate for corn ethanol was driving up demand for dwindling supplies of corn.

In August, the governors and Arkansas and North Carolina formally asked the EPA to waive the standard, triggering a 90-day review by the agency.

"We recognize that this year's drought has created hardship in some sectors of the economy, particularly for livestock producers," said Gina McCarthy, EPA's air chief said in a statement. "But our extensive analysis makes clear that congressional requirements for a waiver have not been met and that waiving the RFS will have little, if any, impact."




Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here and here


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