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NASA Finds ‘Amazing’ Levels Of Arctic Methane And CO2, Asks ‘Is a Sleeping Climate Giant Stirring in the Arctic?’

A NASA science team has observed “amazing and potentially troubling” levels of methane and CO2 from the rapidly warming Arctic. Given the staggering amount of carbon trapped in the permafrost — and the fact that methane is a very potent heat-trapping gas — the space agency is now asking: “Is a Sleeping Climate Giant Stirring in the Arctic?

“Permafrost zones occupy nearly a quarter of the exposed land area of the Northern Hemisphere. NASA’s Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE) is probing deep into the frozen lands above the Arctic Circle in Alaska to measure emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane from thawing permafrost — signals that may hold a key to Earth’s climate future.” Credit: UNEP

We’ve known for a while that “permafrost” was a misnomer (see “Thawing permafrost feedback will turn Arctic from carbon sink to source in the 2020s“). The defrosting permamelt will likely add up to 1.5°F to total global warming by 2100.

Two studies from February provide more evidence the process may happen even faster than we thought:

Now we are getting some of the first detailed observations of carbon emissions from the thawing permafrost thanks to the Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE), “a five-year NASA-led field campaign studying how climate change is affecting the Arctic’s carbon cycle.”

Flying in a specially instrumented C-23 Sherpa aircraft only 500 feet above the ground, CARVE scientists “measure interesting exchanges of carbon taking place between Earth’s surface and atmosphere,” something most other airborne permafrost measurement missions can’t do. The goal:

Ultimately, the scientists hope their observations will indicate whether an irreversible permafrost tipping point may be near at hand. While scientists don’t yet believe the Arctic has reached that tipping point, no one knows for sure.

NASA’s news release is one of the best I’ve ever seen from any source. I’ll quote it at length since its factoids and findings are so citable.

Let’s start with just how fast the permafrost has been heating up. CARVE principal investigator Charles Miller of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory explains:

Permafrost soils are warming even faster than Arctic air temperatures — as much as 2.7 to 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius) in just the past 30 years,” Miller said. “As heat from Earth’s surface penetrates into permafrost, it threatens to mobilize these organic carbon reservoirs and release them into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane, upsetting the Arctic’s carbon balance and greatly exacerbating global warming.”

Recall that NOAA has reported, “In 2012, new record high temperatures at 20 [meters, 65 feet] depth were measured at most permafrost observatories on the North Slope of Alaska and in the Brooks Range, where measurements began in the late 1970s.”

This warming is troubling for two reasons. First, the permafrost contains a staggering amount of carbon:

Permafrost (perennially frozen) soils underlie much of the Arctic. Each summer, the top layers of these soils thaw. The thawed layer varies in depth from about 4 inches (10 centimeters) in the coldest tundra regions to several yards, or meters, in the southern boreal forests. This active soil layer at the surface provides the precarious foothold on which Arctic vegetation survives. The Arctic’s extremely cold, wet conditions prevent dead plants and animals from decomposing, so each year another layer gets added to the reservoirs of organic carbon sequestered just beneath the topsoil.

Over hundreds of millennia, Arctic permafrost soils have accumulated vast stores of organic carbon – an estimated 1,400 to 1,850 petagrams of it (a petagram is 2.2 trillion pounds, or 1 billion metric tons). That’s about half of all the estimated organic carbon stored in Earth’s soils. In comparison, about 350 petagrams of carbon have been emitted from all fossil-fuel combustion and human activities since 1850. Most of this carbon is located in thaw-vulnerable topsoils within 10 feet (3 meters) of the surface.

Second, methane is a very, very potent heat-trapping gas. Whether the permamelt releases CO2 or CH4 depends critically on the soils and state of the land surfaces, which CARVE aims to characterize:

There’s a strong correlation between soil characteristics and release of carbon dioxide and methane. Historically, the cold, wet soils of Arctic ecosystems have stored more carbon than they have released. If climate change causes the Arctic to get warmer and drier, scientists expect most of the carbon to be released as carbon dioxide. If it gets warmer and wetter, most will be in the form of methane.

The distinction is critical. Molecule per molecule, methane is 22 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide on a 100-year timescale, and 105 times more potent on a 20-year timescale. If just one percent of the permafrost carbon released over a short time period is methane, it will have the same greenhouse impact as the 99 percent that is released as carbon dioxide. Characterizing this methane to carbon dioxide ratio is a major CARVE objective

After its first full year of science flights, CARVE is analyzing data. Here’s what is “both amazing and potentially troubling.”

“Some of the methane and carbon dioxide concentrations we’ve measured have been large, and we’re seeing very different patterns from what models suggest,” Miller said. “We saw large, regional-scale episodic bursts of higher-than-normal carbon dioxide and methane in interior Alaska and across the North Slope during the spring thaw, and they lasted until after the fall refreeze. To cite another example, in July 2012 we saw methane levels over swamps in the Innoko Wilderness that were 650 parts per billion higher than normal background levels. That’s similar to what you might find in a large city.

The time to slash carbon pollution was a long time ago, but now is still incalculably better than later.

Scientists say united on global warming, at odds with public view

Image source: phys.org

(Reuters) – Ninety-seven percent of scientists say global warming is mainly man-made but a wide public belief that experts are divided is making it harder to gain support for policies to curb climate change, an international study showed on Thursday.

The report found an overwhelming view among scientists that human activity, led by the use of fossil fuels, was the main cause of rising temperatures in recent decades.

“There is a strong scientific agreement about the cause of climate change, despite public perceptions to the contrary,” said John Cook of the University of Queensland in Australia, who led the study in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

“There is a gaping chasm between the actual consensus and the public perception,” he said in a statement. “When people understand that scientists agree on global warming, they’re more likely to support policies that take action on it.”

Global average surface temperatures have risen by 0.8 degree Celsius (1.4F) since the Industrial Revolution.

Experts in Australia, the United States, Britain and Canada studied 4,000 summaries of peer-reviewed papers in journals giving a view about climate change since the early 1990s and found that 97 percent said it was mainly caused by humans.

They also asked authors for their views and found a 97 percent conviction from replies covering 2,000 papers. The data will be released at (www.skepticalscience.com).

The report said it was the biggest review so far of scientific opinion on climate change.

“If people disagree with what we’ve found we want to know,” said Mark Richardson of the University of Reading in England, one of the authors of the study that looked at English-language studies by authors in more than 90 nations.

Another co-author, Dana Nuccitelli of Skeptical Science, said she was encouraging scientists to stress the consensus “at every opportunity, particularly in media interviews”.

Opinion polls in some countries show widespread belief that scientists disagree about whether climate change is caused by human activities or is part of natural swings such as in the sun’s output.

A survey by the U.S. Pew Research Center published in October last year found 45 percent of Americans said “Yes” when asked: “Do scientists agree Earth is getting warmer because of human activity?” Forty-three percent said “No”.

Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, hit 400 parts per million in the atmosphere last week, the highest in perhaps 3 million years.

Governments have agreed to work out, by the end of 2015, a deal to slow climate change that a U.N. panel of experts says will cause more floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Gas or Electric Chainsaw? Who Takes the Lead?

If you’re sitting on the fence and don’t know which type of chainsaw fits your needs the best, maybe this article is going to help you get down with it already. After all, you don’t want to end up with something that is impossible to use or, even worse, fails on you after a while.

Which one is pricier?

When you go shopping, the price tag may be the first thing to strike you, but a chainsaw means a lot more than the initial purchase. Let’s see the details:

  • Initial purchase

Gas chainsaws come with several accessories and do stand out with a more sophisticated structure. This also is seen in the price, as the gas chainsaw are typically more expensive than the average electric chainsaw. You may find lighter gas models which are cheaper and the stronger ones aren’t for the tight budget.

 

The electric chainsaws may be corded or cordless and they’re cheaper than the gas powered models. Cordless models are more expensive than the corded electric types so it’s better that you know why you need it in the first place.

  • Servicing

Electric chainsaws are cheap to service as opposed to the gas powered ones. You should service the gas powered models on a regular basis as the motor is a lot more complicated.

  • Fuel/oil to use for the engine

You’re going to need fuel for the gas powered chainsaw. The more you use it, the more fuel and oil you’re going to need as well. It’s fundamental to know what and when to oil the gas chainsaw as you don’t want to damage it. You want to oil it for best performance, any now and then.

You’re not going to need to add-on oil on an electrical chainsaw for it to run. You still need to use oil for lubrication, nevertheless. You don’t have to mix it with gas like in the case of gas chainsaw. You need to use it as a lubricant for the chain and bar.

  • Chain lubrication

You’re going to need to use chain oil for both electric and gas powered chainsaws as you need to minimize risk for overheating. Many modern models come with easy access to the chain oil tank and you should fill it every time you’re using the chainsaw.

Long story short, both gas and electric saws need chain bar oil. And you can read more on how to sharpen a chainsaw.

Don’t forget to check this amazing top of the best gas chainsaw for the money.

Which one is more powerful?

The gas chainsaw definitely takes the lead as it stands out with the power. The electric chainsaw isn’t going to handle a big cutting job, and you should only rely on the gas chainsaw in that case. You get more horsepower and cutting torque when using a gas chainsaw. In addition, you don’t even need a plug-in power source in order to use the chainsaw. You get freedom of movement when using a gas chainsaw. This doesn’t mean you cannot find corded electric saw that may give good power, but you shouldn’t rely on it for the heavy-duty jobs.

What about size and weight?

Lightweight and compact, the electric chainsaws are really easy to carry around. Gas chainsaws are a bit bigger than the electric models and they’re far from being lightweight. If you don’t have the body strength, they’re quite cumbersome to use. They’re not the best choice for a minor job, for sure.

Gas powered chainsaws are heavier and bigger, whereas the electric models are lightweight. As the electric models don’t come with a gas tank, it only makes sense that they’re lighter. They’re the best choice for the inexperienced ones and the senior persons.

Easy to use or highly portable?

In terms of ease of use, both types are fairly easy to handle by most. As long as you choose the right model for the job and for your strength, you shouldn’t have any difficulties using the chainsaw per se.

When it comes to portability, it’s the gas powered chainsaw that wins the competition. The more powerful electric chainsaw is going to need an electrical extension cord so you’re definitely not going to be able to use one in the middle of nowhere. One may say that you can still take a battery-powered chainsaw. No cords, no fuel fumes to handle, right? Let’s not forget that the battery life is going to end at some point so you’re definitely going to be able to use it for as long as you need.

…and the winner is?

Both models come with ups and downs so the best way to decide is to take a good look at your needs, skills and body strength. If you’re not going to go every day in the woods for some wood and only use a chainsaw any now and then, the electric type is the natural option. When you’re in for the heavy-duty jobs, you can put your money at stake with the gas models.

OWS Movement

This puts the climate change movement in something of a quandary. Should we largely ignore the OWS Movement and continue with climate change activism as before? Simply abandon the climate issue for the time being in the hope that OWS will lead to changes that make dealing with climate politically easier? Try to do both?

Pursuing our own agenda will almost certainly mean we are marginalized and ignored by the mainstream and the bulk of the progressive movement. Throwing our lot in with the OWS Movement means the climate issue gets framed within the terms of that struggle, which is limiting to the point of being almost useless.

Granted Klein discusses the need for a far more fundamental agenda than is currently being articulated, one that would indeed put us on the right course to deal with climate change meaningfully. However, the bulk of her speech is about comparing OWS to the anti-globalization protests of a decade ago with observations about what mistakes were made then and how they might be avoided now. Perfectly legitimate and needed, but hardly a speech about climate change action.

Klein’s title is quite correct in that it isdown to us – the 99%.” The powers that be have demonstrated all too clearly that they will not take any meaningful action on climate change until it is far too late, if then. However, absent from the article is any discussion of what it is that we 99% are going to do. Not that it would be possible to articulate that in one short Guardian piece, but the fact is that it is left totally in the air.

Is it the premise that the occupations will lead to meaningful change, and if so, how exactly? Insomuch as the occupations do not seem to be connected to critiquing the amount of wealth we get by destroying the Earth (or the Developing World),exactly what change are we expecting? Realistically, at best the occupations may lead to some reforms in some mechanisms of wealth distribution within parts of the Industrialised North, but that’s probably about it. As such simply throwing our lot in with the OWS Movement does not seem a viable option.

So what are we, the 99% who must take up the task of actually solving the climate change crisis, to do?

Occupy Madrid: By JoeInSouthernCA

It seems to me that notwithstanding my apparent critique, the Occupy movement offers an opportunity as well as a challenge. As ever, the important task of educating the broader public, including our fellow progressives, about the realities of the climate crisis remains paramount.

The Occupy Movement is an opportunity to educate our fellow activists about those realities, as well as make ourselves available to be educated. To form meaningful alliances and coalitions we have to truly understand the concerns and needs of the various social justice movements. We cannot hope for meaningful cooperation and coordination if we do not deeply appreciate what those communities need and want.

At all costs we must not attempt to simply use the Occupy Movement to try to co-opt other peoples issues. Our desire to integrate our causes into a realistic and meaningful strategic plan for social change must be a sincere one. To do that we must listen at least as much as we speak, if not more so.

We must also educate by example. We will earn their respect and attention when how we live moment to moment demonstrates how seriously we understand the immediacy of the climate crisis to be. Equally we must live our lives in accordance with what they have to teach us about their issues and concerns. That is the only thing that will convince them of our commitment to justice and equity, and that the issue of climate change is fundamentally about climate justice.