Sunday, April 07, 2013

Polar melt shakes up food chain

It does appear that the Arctic ice has in recent years been undergoing one of its periodic shrinkages.  That such shrinkages are periodic and normal the image above shows rather vividly.  It is a photograph showing U.S. nuclear submarine "Skate" surfaced at the North Pole on 17 March, 1959  -- a time when the ice-pack is at its seasonal thickest for the year. There was clearly very little ice-cap at all that year

When we note that the current shrinkage of Northern sea-ice has been accompanied by an EXPANSION of sea-ice at the SOUTH pole it becomes obvious that there is no global phenomenon involved  -- merely local changes.  That the article below claims a global effect is therefore a straight-out lie.  The scientists concerned can hardly be unaware of the Antarctic ice expansion so the lie is a deliberate one

National Snow and Ice Data Center graph

Another reason why it is a deliberate lie is that even Rajendra Pachauri and Jim Hansen now concede that there has been NO global warming for over 15 years.  And something that does not exist cannot cause ANYTHING, let alone "changes to the food chain".  Even a Humean account of causation makes that clear

Major changes to the food chain, weather and landscape of Antarctica have provided stark evidence of the impact of global warming, a report on a polar expedition has revealed.

The preliminary report on the research by scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute near Boston suggest significant changes at the lowest level of the food chain, a vital source of sustenance for seabirds, seals and whales.

The Climate Commission recently said there was evidence natural events were being influenced by climate change as greenhouse gases accumulated and trapped measurable amounts of extra energy in the atmosphere and oceans.

The expedition senior scientist of the Australian Antarctic Division, Steve Nicol, said in 25 years of surveying Antarctica, this was the first time he had experienced rain.

The findings from the report are the focus of a new exhibition at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Data from the expedition in 2010 is still being collated but a selection from the 20,000 images to be used for monitoring future change will go on show from Saturday in Elysium Antarctic Visual Epic.

"Warming is evident in the moistness of the air in this area of the world's driest continent. Rain is now not uncommon and whilst this may encourage plant life, it is probably detrimental to the health of many of the breeding birds," it found.

"This moistness also results in more snow falling and this too can affect the breeding habits of nesting birds when it falls during their incubation period, burying their eggs in the cold snow.

"The glaciers draining the ice caps of the islands and the mountains of the peninsula are shrinking, too. This has resulted in the formation of more icebergs and a greater run-off of freshwater."

Expedition leader Michael Aw said the team witnessed an increase in herbivores called salps, possibly at the expense of phytoplankton, which are consumed by fish and krill.

"The balance in the herbivore elements of the food chain determine the types of larger animals that can be supported," he said. "There are suggestions it is changing from one that supports krill and its predators [seabirds, seals, whales] to one that may result in more fish and possibly squid … The whales also feed on the krill so there is a chain reaction."


Cut fingers, cancer, bats and birds

Government bureaucrats delay life-saving road projects, but let wind turbines butcher bats

Paul Driessen and James H. Rust

Georgia residents recently learned that a rare bat has stalled state highway improvements. The May 2012 sighting of an endangered Indiana brown bat in a northern Georgia tree has triggered federal regulations requiring that state road projects not “harm, kill or harass” bats.

Even the possibility of disturbing bats or their habitats would violate the act, the feds say. Therefore, $460 million in Georgia road projects have been delayed for up to eighteen months, so that “appropriate studies” can be conducted. The studies will cost $80,000 to $120,000 per project, bringing the total for all 104 road project analyses to $8-12 million, with delays adding millions more.

Bats are vital to our ecology, agriculture and health. A single colony of 150 big brown  bats can consume up to 1.3 million flying insect pests per year, Dr. Justin Boyles and other scientists point out, preventing crop damage and eradicating countless mosquitoes. If Indiana bats are expanding their range from Tennessee into Georgia, that could be good news.

“White nose syndrome” is impacting populations of hibernating bats in caves all over the Eastern USA. The infectious disease is probably fungal in origin, these scientists say, and the loss of North America’s bats to WNS could cost farmers $4-53 billion per year – and let mosquitoes proliferate.

At first blush, then, the delay-and-study decision by the US and Georgia Departments of Transportation (DOT) and US Fish and Wildlife Service to protect these voracious furry flyers makes sense. (The FWS enforces the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act and similar laws.)

However, the Georgia bat study action is akin to obsessing about a cut finger, while ignoring cancer. The schizophrenic decision underscores how environmental concerns, DOT actions and federal threats to impose penalties or withhold highway funds too often seem to reflect ideologies, agendas and politics, rather than science or actual risks of harming a species.

It’s true that Peach State highway projects could conceivably affect bat colonies or daytime rest periods for these nocturnal creatures, to some small degree. But the road work will reduce accidents and crash-related deaths – and delays will likely result in more injuries and fatalities.

Meanwhile, other human activities are decimating bat populations all over America. But environmental groups remain silent, and state and federal wildlife “guardians” do little to stop the carnage. How is that possible?

The exempted activities involve heavily subsidized wind turbines that generate expensive, intermittent electricity and require “backup” hydrocarbon-fueled power plants for some 80% of their rated or “nameplate” capacity.

A US Geological Survey report investigated the causes and consequences of bat fatalities around the world. Other analyses have addressed the violent effects that wind turbines have on bats, which are vulnerable because turbines are especially busy at night, when bats are everywhere but electricity demand is at its lowest. Bats are struck by blades traveling 100-200 mph at their tips or felled by “barotrauma,” sudden air pressure changes that explode their lungs, as explained in a 2008 Scientific American article “On a wing and low air: The surprising way wind turbines kill bats.”

Supposedly “eco-friendly” wind turbines in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands kill tens of thousands of bats annually. The Fowler Ridge and Meadow Lake facilities in northwestern Indiana already have 475 gigantic turbines on 75,000 acres; an additional 150 wind turbines are planned; and all are in the middle of prime Indiana bat habitat.

Even worse, long after the slaughter began, the USFWS is evaluating whether to grant Fowler Ridge a 22-year “incidental take” permit, so that the turbines can continue decimating bats – and the operators can continue being exempted from laws and penalties that apply to everyone else.

Of course, bats aren’t the only victims. Numerous rare, vital and endangered bird species are also at risk from wind turbines – including whooping cranes, hawks, falcons, and bald and golden eagles.

To minimize public outrage over the eco-slaughter, Fish and Wildlife has changed its census methods for “whoopers” (to make it harder to calculate how many cranes have “gone missing” along their turbine-dotted Alberta-to-Texas migratory corridor); allows wind facility operators to use search methods that ensure that most dead and injured birds (and bats) will never be found; initiated a process to issue 30-year “incidental take” permits for killing bald and golden eagles; and refused to prosecute wind facility operators for annihilating birds and bats.

The proposed New Era Wind Farm in Minnesota will likely kill 8-14 bald eagles annually. It is yet another example of serious environmental impacts overlooked in the quest to “go green” and meet state “renewable” energy mandates – as though this wildlife destruction is “sustainable” or “acceptable.”

Projects like New Era or Shepherds Flat in Oregon also mean a person could be fined or jailed for possessing a feather from a bald eagle decapitated by a wind turbine – but the turbine operator would get off scot free.

A 2012 Spanish Ornithological Society study and 1993 studies in Germany and Sweden found that a typical wind turbine kills 333-1,000 birds and bats annually in Spain, up to 309 birds per year in Germany, and as many as 895 birds and bats in Sweden. World Council for Nature chairman Mark Duchamp estimates that turbines kill twice as many bats as birds.

That means the more than 40,000 turbines operating in the United States, often in or near important habitats, could easily be killing 13 million to 39 million birds and bats every year!

And yet, most environmentalist groups say nothing, and the Fish and Wildlife Service does nothing.

However, Georgia taxpayers must pay millions for bat studies – enriching researchers and reducing taxpayer wealth – to ensure that road projects do not disturb the flying mammals. Meanwhile, the state’s drivers and passengers must wait years for safety and other improvements to their highways.

Ironically, Indiana bats that are to be studied and protected in Georgia could get chopped in half en route by “Cuisinarts of the air” that Uncle Sam considers so holy the turbines must be safeguarded against endangered species laws, regardless of environmental costs.

Far too many other health, environmental and economic impacts are routinely ignored by developers and regulators alike, where wind turbines are concerned. That cannot continue.

As summer approaches, Americans should also consider what life will be like when windmills cause bat populations to crater. Freed of their natural predators, mosquitoes will thrive, and they have a much more unquenchable thirst for human blood than do bats of folklore and Dracula tales.

It’s high time that people’s safety – and truly devastating impacts on important bird and bat species – stopped taking a back seat to political agendas, crony corporatism and folklore environmentalism. It’s no longer acceptable to paraphrase Joseph Stalin’s obscene axiom, and say: A single bird or bat death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.

Via email

British shale gas 'could heat all homes for 100 years'

Britain is sitting on a "potentially massive" amount of shale gas that experts believe could heat every home for at least 100 years.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) is due to report on how much shale gas is under the country within weeks.

Sources close to the report say the current estimate of five trillion cubic feet is "almost certainly" due to be increased.

Dr Nick Riley, of the BGS, said: "We are sitting on potentially a massive resource, but whether we are able to extract it we do not know. We have to do the exploration and then we have to get the consent of the people."

In the Budget last week George Osborne, the Chancellor, signalled the go-ahead for shale gas by promising tax breaks and bribes for communities that allow drilling in their back yard.

Industry insiders say the BGS could report between 1,200 trillion and 1,800 trillion cubic feet of gas under the UK, mostly in northern England. The other main reserve is around the Hampshire basin in the Home Counties, including Berkshire, Sussex and Kent. There are also pockets in central Scotland, Wales and the Midlands. The top estimate would represent sufficient gas to heat UK homes for 1,200 years.

Usually it is only possible to extract about a third of shale gas deposits.

Even at conservative estimates, that presume just 10 per cent of 1,500 trillion cubic feet of gas is accessible, there would be enough gas to heat our homes for 100 years.

Hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – allows companies to extract previously inaccessible gas from shale by blasting water into the rocks underground.

Britain lifted an 18-month ban on fracking at the end of last year and already companies are gearing up to start drilling. Cuadrilla estimates there could be as much as 200 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in the Bowland shale alone

The exploration company is planning up to 10 wells around Lancashire over the next 18 months. Other companies ready to explore include IGas and Weir Group.

Past data about shale gas are based on basic geology and relatively shallow deposits. The new information from the BGS will be taken from much deeper wells.

Concerns remain around the possibility of triggering earthquakes, after initial fracking [allegedly] caused tremors and water contamination when gases leaked into the water table.

The BGS is also analysing the groundwater in shale gas areas so that when fracking begins it will be possible to tell if drinking water has been contaminated.

Promised Land, a film starring Matt Damon, to be released this month, presents the negative impact shale gas exploration can have, and is expected to add to safety concerns.

Balcombe in West Sussex has already set up a protest group and the campaign group Frack Off warns that other villages in the Home Counties could be in danger. Prof Richard Davies, of the Energy Institute at Durham University, said contamination of water was "extremely unlikely". Prof Davies said the well tops could be as small as a few feet high but there could be thousands.

"We will need hundreds to thousands of these wells to get enough production for this to make a difference." Shale gas is owned by the Crown, and firms would have to pay tax to the Government. But Prof Davies also sounded a note of caution:  "The BGS can say what they like about the rocks under the ground and the gas in it but no one has produced a molecule yet."


The great recycling con trick: How 12million tons of  carefully sorted British garbage is being dumped in foreign landfill sites

Millions of tons of household rubbish painstakingly sorted by families for recycling is being dumped abroad.

Whitehall has admitted that waste from recycling bins is being shipped to countries including China, India and Indonesia, where much of it ends up in landfill.

In papers published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, ministers concede that what happens to the 12million tons of 'green' waste shipped abroad every year is largely beyond their control.

The trade in sending rubbish abroad – mainly to Asia – has doubled over the past decade, as councils have increasingly turned to contractors to deal with mountains of waste generated by compulsory recycling schemes.

The law states that this rubbish should be recycled once it is sent abroad – but Defra now admits that in some countries it is simply dumped.

The department, headed by Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, said it plans to tighten inspections at ports to curb the illegal trade in green waste.

The Government has always insisted that household rubbish is carefully recycled – but the Daily Mail revealed earlier this year that large amounts are deemed unusable by recycling plants, and instead sent to landfill. Now the Environment Agency has confirmed that material sent to China, Indonesia and India is also buried, rather than recycled.

As well as household rubbish, Defra admitted that other waste dumped abroad includes used tyres, sent to China, and discarded televisions and computers, which end up in West Africa.

Doretta Cocks, of the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collections, said: 'People will be very shocked by this development.  'Most people believe their rubbish is recycled in this country. Now it turns out there are container ships coming here from China filled with televisions and computers ... and going home stacked with containers filled with our recycled rubbish. That is shameful.'

The revelation comes after Defra launched a consultation with the waste industry about new recycling rules. Consultation documents concede that waste is being dumped abroad, although 'the exact extent of illegal shipping is unknown'.

If stricter checks were introduced, the department says 'our expectations are that the amount of waste exported illegally and then dumped in developing countries would reduce'.

The Environment Agency has asked councils to improve the quality of the recycling they collect, and to check what their contractors are doing with it.

It has told local authorities: 'In the UK and the EU, increasing amounts of waste collected for recycling are sent overseas for reprocessing. Much of the waste collected from households … will ultimately be exported.

'The majority of illegal waste exports we have intercepted include waste originally collected by or on behalf of local authorities via household recycling collection services.

'We are particularly concerned about illegal exports of mixed household waste mis-described as paper or plastic. These typically derive from poorly-performing household collection and sorting systems.'

The news that household recycling is being dumped in developing countries follows the admission by Defra in February that recycling claims are exaggerated.

Official figures say 43 per cent of all the household rubbish collected is recycled – but the ministry said that, in reality, processors reject most recyclable material, which then often ends up in landfill sites.

Defra has also acknowledged that the main reason for compulsory recycling schemes is not lack of landfill space or the need to combat climate change, but instead the demands of the EU's Waste Framework Directive, the latest version of which came into force last year.

Household recycling became the norm after Tony Blair's Labour government encouraged councils to pick up non-recyclable refuse every two weeks.

Mrs Cocks said: 'There has always been a big question mark over the recycling movement of the past decade. I fear we are now going to come under greater pressure to produce purer materials for recycling.

'We have not had proper rubbish collections for a decade, but I think soon we will get monthly collections.'

A spokesman for the department said: 'Trade in recyclable materials is a global market and we want to see UK businesses make money from it to help boost our economy. We would like to see our own recycling industry grow so that we can grasp this opportunity with both hands.'


From hedgehogs and bees to bluebells and daffs, victims of the UK's big freeze: How longest winter had hit wildlife

Warmists are always shrilling about the threat to wildlife from their prophesied global warming.  In real life the threat to wildlife is from colder temperatures

We've shivered all through winter and put up with a freezing March. But just after one of the coldest April days for 20 years, there is a glimmer of hope of some warmth.

With the Easter holidays over, temperatures are expected to creep closer to the monthly average and even reach double-digits over the weekend.

However, it could be too late for many of our wildlife.

Conservationists fear hibernating species such as dormice, hedgehogs and bats will all struggle to find food as they wake up from the longest winter for 50 years … if many of them wake up at all.

There are concerns many will have died because they went to sleep without enough energy reserves to see them through the prolonged chill.

Those which come out of hibernation face frozen ground and a lack of insects caused by the late budding of plants.

Many early varieties of flowers are still to make an appearance. Almost a thousand wild bluebell flowerings were recorded at this point last year, but only four have so far been reported by conservationists.

Met Office forecaster Dan Williams said after March’s prolonged chill, milder conditions are expected for the next few days, although any truly warm weather may be a few weeks off.

He said: ‘You expect the winter months to be cold, but March has trumped all of them and was colder still. April really picked up where March ended. The weekend will be pretty decent, with dry conditions and good spells of sunshine, especially on Saturday. Temperatures could reach as high as 11C on Sunday, which is close to the seasonal average.’

The prolonged winter has resulted in a significant drop in early spring wildlife compared with last year, according to the Woodland Trust, which compiles public reports in its Nature’s Calendar recording scheme.

Ladybirds and cuckoos are lower both in terms of sightings and also more importantly their distribution across the country.

The number of common seven-spot ladybirds seen this year has fallen ten-fold, from 1,169 last year to 119, while hedgehog numbers are drastically down on previous years – half the number had woken from hibernation in March compared to the last two springs.

Wild creatures reliant on blooms and buds for food are particularly suffering, with the RSPCA expressing concern over the apparent loss of fledglings.

Last year, the charity was looking after 130 fledglings in March, but only has a handful in its centres this year, suggesting fewer births due to a lack of food.

In Swindon, hundreds of thousands of starlings were spotted over the town centre in what experts believe was an attempt to keep warm.

Britain’s rarest flower has also failed to bloom this year because of the washout winter. The majority of Britain’s population of snake’s head fritillaries grow in a 110-acre meadow near Cricklade in Wiltshire. But last year’s deluges have left the ground saturated and the plants are showing no signs of blooming, as they usually do in April.

Dr Kate Lewthwaite of the Woodland Trust: ‘The records we’ve received clearly highlight the prolonged delay to the arrival of spring with birds, insects and flowers all weeks behind compared to where we were last year. It is too early to say if there will be any long term impact this year but nature is remarkably resilient in the face of such extremes in weather.’



Three current reports below

Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Brisbane ahead of Great Barrier Reef campaign

The "threat" posed by coal mining is entirely imaginary.  Coal has been mined for decades with no link to the reef established.  Greenpeace just like mucking around in boats

THE new Rainbow Warrior docked in Brisbane's today, for the first time in 30 years, as Greenpeace prepares to launch its Queensland tour.

Berthed at Portside Wharf, the ship will be open to the public for tours later this week, as the environmental group readies for a new Great Barrier Reef campaign.

Greenpeace CEO David Ritter said its arrival has come at an important time as coal expansion threatens to destroy Queensland's reef and waterways.  "If we want to stop coal barons destroying the Great Barrier Reef and all the jobs associated with it, we need to act now," he said.

Mr Ritter invited Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke and Premier Campbell Newman to come aboard and discuss concerns for the sustainability of the reef.  "We are down here on the boat if Campbell Newman or Tony Burke would like to come down for a chat," he said.  "They need to know it is simply not okay to destroy and industrialise the Great Barrier Reef."

Greenpeace has expressed anger at the Queensland government's support of a revised expansion of the controversial New Acland coal mine in the state's southwest, after previously announcing the mine's third stage would not go ahead.

But despite renewed plans for coal expansion, Mr Ritter said it was never too late for action.  "I can't look my children in the eyes and say it's too late," he said.

"It's never too late. The decision is in the state and federal government's hands to say it's not too late to save the world, it's not too late to act."

Mr Ritter was tight lipped about plans to actively stop coal expansion in North Queensland but did not rule out any direct action as long as it was done so peacefully.

"Greenpeace always tries to directly prevent environmental harm. We don't shy away from that, but it is always done peacefully. It's hard wired into our team, peace is in our name," he said.

The Queensland campaign will kick off in Townsville on Friday when they rally support among local community members to put a stop to coal mining.


The reef that regenerated: Researchers find corals in Northern Australia healed themselves in just 12 years

Greenies are always talking about things that they think will "damage" reefs but reefs turn out to be pretty good at looking after themselves

A coral reef in Northern Australia severely damaged by warming seas has managed to completely heal itself in just 12 years, stunned researchers have found.

The team found that being left alone to breed on its own was key.

The discovery raises hope that other damaged reefs could 'regenerate'.

The new research shows that an isolated reef off the northwest coast of Australia that was severely damaged by a period of warming in 1998.

It was hit by coral bleaching, caused by higher water temperatures that break down the coral's symbiotic relationship with algae that provide food for coral growth.

However, the team found Scott reef has regenerated in a very short time to become nearly as healthy as it was before.

What surprises scientists, though, is that the reef regenerated by itself, found a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

James Gilmour and colleagues studied the Scott system of reefs on the edge of Western Australia’s continental shelf, which lost 70 to 90 percent of its corals to a climate-induced bleaching event back in 1998.

The researchers found that, although the corals’ reproductive abilities were reduced by the bleaching, coral cover still increased from 9 percent to 44 percent across the entire system in just 12 years.

The team say the finding is surprising because researchers have assumed that recovery from such bleaching events depends upon the delivery of larvae from other, nearby reef systems.

But, the Scott system of reefs is located 155 miles (250 kilometers) from the mainland or any other reefs.

So, Gilmour and his team suggest that herbivorous fish, which remained abundant in the undisturbed Scott system, even after the bleaching, kept microalgae in check and allowed coralline algae to thrive.

This set of conditions in turn provided a suitable substratum upon which young corals could establish and grow., they claim.

The study suggests that reef systems can recover using local sources of larvae, especially when fish are plentiful and human activities, which have been shown to slow coral recovery in the past, are limited.

At first, the reef grew slowly, mostly through the enlargement of existing coral colonies. But to really recover, the coral needs to sexually reproduce, creating sperm and egg that form embryos that then land on the ocean floor and grow into adult corals, if all goes well.

These larvae can survive for hundreds of miles, swept along by ocean currents, and colonize new areas under the right circumstances.

Larvae floating in from other reefs could have helped the reef, had it not been so isolated.

But amazingly, after about six years, the surviving corals matured and began to reproduce, creating even more new colonies than before the bleaching. 'They recovered, and the larvae they produced settled and survived, at much higher rates than is often reported,' Gilmour said.  By 2012, the reef was basically back to its old self.


Greens braced for tough fight in Senate poll

Greens leader Christine Milne admits the party faces a tough fight in the September federal election to hold the balance of power in the Senate, with the possibility that senators Sarah Hanson-Young and Scott Ludlam will lose their jobs.

Speaking before her first anniversary as Greens leader next Saturday, Senator Milne predicted the election would be an uphill battle for the party.

"There's no doubt this is going to be a tough election for us … The tide is rushing in for the conservatives" at both federal and state levels, she said.

Dismissing recent poll results that put the Greens' lower house vote at 10 per cent - down slightly from the record 11.8 per cent primary vote the party gained at the 2010 election - Senator Milne said the election would not be about "numbers".

"It's about us holding the balance of power and holding our sitting members," she said.

"Scott Ludlam and Sarah Hanson-Young will be fighting it out with a conservative for the last seats [in Western Australia and South Australia]."

Amid the complex balance of power calculations, Senator Milne said Opposition Leader Tony Abbott needed only two more seats to gain control of the Senate.

While the Greens did not want to see an Abbott government in Canberra, the "overwhelming odds" were that the Coalition would easily win the election, she said.

But she said that if her party maintained the balance of power in the Senate, there would be opportunities for the Greens under the Coalition, despite their differences on big-ticket policies such as climate change and asylum seekers.

There was more likelihood of influencing the Coalition on gay marriage than staunchly Catholic elements of the Labor Party, Senator Milne said.

She pointed to her time leading the Tasmanian Greens from 1996 to 1998 when they supported a Liberal minority government and secured gay and gun law reform.




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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