What bubbles in the Antarctic can tell us

This excerpt from the New York Times reports on CO2 emissions from historical perspective and societies efforts to curb emissions in our atmosphere the last few decades. Expect recent (a relative term) severe weather patterns of drought, flooding, fluctuations of water levels (large and small bodies of water) to persist and increase in intensity.

“From studying air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice, scientists know that going back 800,000 years, the carbon dioxide level oscillated in a tight band, from about 180 parts per million in the depths of ice ages to about 280 during the warm periods between. The evidence shows that global temperatures and CO2 levels are tightly linked.

For the entire period of human civilization, roughly 8,000 years, the carbon dioxide level was relatively stable near that upper bound. But the burning of fossil fuels has caused a 41 percent increase in the heat-trapping gas since the Industrial Revolution, a mere geological instant, and scientists say the climate is beginning to react, though they expect far larger changes in the future.”

Read on about CO2 emissions in the atmosphere exceeding 400 at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/11/science/earth/carbon-dioxide-level-passes-long-feared-milestone.html#http://json8.nytimes.com/pages/science/earth/index.jsonp

Amazing Adirondacks!

Ten things you might not know about the Adirondacks in upstate New York:

 

#1. Glacier, Yosemite, the Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon National Parks could all fit inside New York’s Adirondack State Park.

 

#2. The Adirondack Mountains are growing faster than the Himalayas, at a rate of one foot every 100 years.

 

#3. Lake Placid, located in the northern Adirondack Park, is one of three places in the world to host the Winter Olympic Games twice, once in 1932 and 1980.

 

#4. The term “vacation” is said to have originated in the Adirondacks. Wealthy New Yorkers would “vacate” the city during the sticky summer months and head for the cool northern woods.

 

#5. In 1901, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as President of the United States at North Creek Station. This was after learning that President William McKinley – who had been shot a few weeks earlier – had died.

 

#6. The Adirondack Park is the largest park in the continental United States.

 

#7. The park is the size of the state of Vermont.

 

#8. The Adirondack Park contains 85% of all wilderness in the eastern United States.

 

#9. 60 million people live within a days’ drive of the Adirondack region.

 

#10. The Adirondack mountains highest point is on Mt. Marcy at  5,344 ft (1,629 m).

Portage Diversion breaches, floods ice jams – Manitoba – CBC News

Diversions are fascinating. This breach of the Portage diversion in Manitoba is costing Yuill his farm land. The law says you can not obstruct a waterway. But the diversion is manmade waterway. The legal restrictions and insurance and provincial/local compensation for flooding is a conundrum of sorts. (There is a similar situation on the Binnekill in Margaretville, New York a few miles from me.) To read about the ice jams go to article link. Excerpt from CBC report:

“A Portage la Prairie, Man., farmer is vowing to defy a court order to stay away from the Portage Diversion after he received reports of water spilling from the diversion onto his land.

‘If we blockade a waterway, it’s a $10,000 fine. What’s the fine for flooding someone?’
—Kevin Yuill
Kevin Yuill told CBC News he is willing to break the law to see how much damage there is to his farmland on the west side of the diversion.

“I am prepared to do what we need to do to try and remedy the situation. This is totally ridiculous what this government is doing,” he said.

Yuill was among the protesters who blocked the operation of the diversion earlier this week.

He said he first had reports of the breach Wednesday night.

By Thursday morning, Yuill said he could see water flowing over the land. He said it was about a third of a metre deep and 200 metres wide.

The province got a court order to remove the protesters. It remains in effect until May 7.

But Yuill said he isn’t worried about getting arrested.

“This happens almost every year and it’s extremely, extremely frustrating,” he said.

“I got a message this morning [that] if we blockade a waterway, it’s a $10,000 fine. What’s the fine for flooding someone?”

Yuill blamed the province for flooding his land in 2011, causing him losses of $300,000.

Yuill’s threat to break the law comes on the heels of new legislation introduced Wednesday to crack down on Manitobans who ignore evacuation orders or impede the operation of flood control structures.”

Link:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2013/05/02/mb-portage-diversion-yuill-flood.html

Shipping discharge PIB most recent kills

This should never happen – a lubricant, polyisobutene (PIB) used to improve engine performance is still allowed to be discharged from ships and has record of killing thousands of birds. This is an excerpt from The Guardian UK report on this ongoing tragedy:

“It said PIB becomes strongly adhesive in the sea, coating the birds and restricting their movements and their ability to feed. Tony Whitehead, from the RSPB, said: “This is one of the worst marine pollution incidents in decades, bringing to mind other disasters going right back to the Torrey Canyon in 1967.” Adam Grogan, from the RSPCA, said: “The dumping at sea of this lethal chemical must be stopped. “It was heartbreaking enough after the first incident in February to see so many birds arrive at our centres in such a poor state. “The sticky substance coated their feathers and made it difficult for them to feed and move so staff had to work around the clock to wash it off and get them fit enough to survive in the wild again. “For it to happen twice in quick succession is inexcusable and unacceptable.” The charities have urged members of the public to sign petitions by Avaaz and 38 Degrees to support their call for a ban of dumping chemicals at sea. Post-mortem examinations have been carried out on hundreds of the dead birds by the British Trust for Ornithology and the results are due to be published within the next few weeks.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/may/03/birds-die-chemical-spill?INTCMP=SRCH

U.S. Lawmaker Proposes New Criteria for Choosing NSF Grants – ScienceInsider

Lamar Smith (R-TX) attacks NSF criteria for funding guidelines singling out political science research with caveat for economic or national security projects. This sets a disturbing precedent for agency guidelines in general. Why is Congressman Smith so threatened by social science research? Why single out one academic discipline’s possible research agenda? The following is an excerpt from an interview of one member of the science committee in Science Magazine:

Smith’s request to NSF didn’t sit well with the top Democrat on the science committee, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). On Friday, she sent a blistering missive to Smith questioning his judgment and his motives.

“In the history of this committee, no chairman has ever put themselves forward as an expert in the science that underlies specific grant proposals funded by NSF,” Johnson wrote in a letter obtained by ScienceInsider. “I have never seen a chairman decide to go after specific grants simply because the chairman does not believe them to be of high value.”

In her letter, Johnson warns Smith that “the moment you compromise both the merit review process and the basic research mission of NSF is the moment you undo everything that has enabled NSF to contribute so profoundly to our national health, prosperity, and welfare.” She asks him to “withdraw” his letter and offers to work with him “to identify a less destructive, but more effective, effort” to make sure NSF is meeting that mission.

Smith’s bill would require NSF’s oversight body, the National Science Board, to monitor the director’s actions and issue a report in a year. It also asks Holdren’s office to tell Congress how the principles laid down in the legislation “may be implemented in other Federal science agencies.”

For more on this topic go to:

http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2013/04/us-lawmaker-proposes-new-criteri-1.html

Shoal Lake water diverted 4 Profit – Thunder Bay – CBC News

Winnipeg has access to Lake Shoal water for its own consumption but diverting the water for sale to a nearby port violates Proposition 40 – according to the IJC’s investigation in the matter.
Read more from CBC News:

“The First Nation’s original land was expropriated about 100 years ago to build the intake that feeds water from Shoal Lake to Winnipeg. The community was moved to a peninsula sticking into the lake which was later cut off from the mainland when a diversion canal was built, leaving it on a man-made island.

The leadership of northwestern Ontario’s Shoal Lake 40 First Nation is welcoming a recent finding by the International Joint Commission.

The commission, which oversees lake and river issues in both the U.S. and Canada, says the City of Winnipeg would be violating an IJC order if it sent water from Shoal Lake to points outside the city limits.

The city is only allowed to draw from the lake for its own municipal water supply, according to the IJC.

The Shoal Lake community has repeatedly opposed Winnipeg’s plan to sell the water to nearby municipalities.

“Shoal Lake 40’s position is that they [the city] don’t have the legal authority, the mandate to carry out their plans of selling water beyond their boundaries, and this confirms it,” said Chief Erwin Redsky. “We want Canada, the City of Winnipeg, and the Province of Manitoba to sit down with us and work it out.

“They want to service the mega-project at CentrePort,” he added, referring to the $300 million inland shipping port which lies outside the city. “They need water, and our land was taken for a specific purpose, to service the city of Winnipeg, and not for profit.”

Winnipeg has not submitted an application to divert the lake’s water, and the IJC’s remarks are not an official ruling. The commission looked into the matter after Shoal Lake 40 raised concerns.”

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/story/2013/05/01/tby-shoal-lake-ijc.html

Experimental Lakes Lab near Kenora Ontario Reopened

In this era of tight budgets good to see Canada funding science again! This article is from Environmental News:

Established in 1968, the Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario attracts scientists from across Canada and around the world. The site encompasses 58 formerly pristine freshwater lakes 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Kenora, in the Lake of the Woods watershed.

Ontario Environment Minister Jim Bradley said, “The Experimental Lakes Area is an incredibly productive outdoor laboratory. It has an unmatched record of generating critical information about acid rain, mercury contamination, climate change effects, and the connection between phosphorus runoff and algae blooms in lakes. The ELA is a go-to place when we need information to make environmental progress.”

IISD President and CEO Scott Vaughan said, “Premier Wynne’s commitment to the ELA is encouraging and we look forward to working with the province and the federal government on a plan that enables IISD to take over the operations of this extraordinary facility.”

IISD is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization specializing in policy research, analysis and information exchange to advance sustainable development globally.

“What is special about the ELA is that it takes research out of the lab and right into the environment. The ELA presents a rare opportunity for research, perhaps unique in the world,” said Vaughan, who took over at IISD in early April, after five years as Environment and Sustainable Development commissioner for Canada.
lake research

Environment Canada hydrologist Laurent de Rham measures ice depth over a lake in the Experimental Lakes Area, February 2010 (Photo courtesy Environment Canada)

In its remote location, the ELA provides a real-world laboratory in which researchers can isolate the effects of specific pollutants on aquatic ecosystems.
Over the past four decades, research conducted there has provided scientific evidence on the environmental effects of acid rain, phosphorous and other pollutants that has informed policy within Canada and around the world.

With new pressures like climate change, and poorly understood emerging environmental contaminants such as chromite, nanoparticles and endocrine disrupters, Vaughn says the case for continuing to support the Experimental Lakes Area is very strong.