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Water vapour builds the heat in Europe

Richard Black, BBC
Water vapour rather than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the main reason why Europe’s climate is warming, according to a new study.

The scientists say that rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gases are increasing humidity, which in turn amplifies the temperature rise. This is potentially a positive feedback mechanism which could increase the impact of greenhouse gases such as CO2. The research is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“We observed that between 1995 and 2002, the amount of longwave radiation coming downwards to the Earth in Europe increased significantly, whereas solar radiation did not,” said study leader Rolf Philipona, from the World Radiation Center in Davos, Switzerland. Longwave radiation comes from molecules of gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapour which have absorbed solar radiation after it has hit the Earth’s surface and been reflected back up through the atmosphere. …
(12 November 2005)

Fish numbers plummet in warming Pacific

Geoffrey Lean, Independent/UK via Common Dreams
Disappearance of plankton causes unprecedented collapse in sea and bird life off western US coast
A catastrophic collapse in sea and bird life numbers along America’s Northwest Pacific seaboard is raising fears that global warming is beginning to irreparably damage the health of the oceans.

Scientists say a dramatic rise in the ocean temperature led to unprecedented deaths of birds and fish this summer all along the coast from central California to British Columbia in Canada.

The population of seabirds, such as cormorants, auklets and murres, and fish, including salmon and rockfish, fell to record lows.

This ecological meltdown mirrors a similar development taking place thousands of miles away in the North Sea, which The Independent on Sunday first reported two years ago. Also caused by warming of the water, the increase in temperatures there has driven the plankton that form the base of the marine food chain hundreds of miles north, triggering a collapse in the number of sand eels on which many birds and large fish feed and causing a rapid decline in puffins, razorbills, kittiwakes and other birds.
(13 November 2005)

We need to stop eating seafood: Sylvia Earle

Alison Caldwell, ABC (Au)
One of the world’s leading marine biologists has warned that we should stop eating seafood, not just for the sake of the ocean’s health but our own as well. Speaking at an international conference in Melbourne today, Sylvia Earle, who was named Time magazine’s first “Hero for the Planet” in 1998, says we should be avoiding shark, tuna and swordfish in particular.

The former chief scientist with America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is a seafood lover herself, but Dr Earle no longer eats fish and recommends we refrain as well. Sylvia Earle spoke to our reporter Alison Caldwell in Melbourne.

SYLVIA EARLE: I began diving more than 50 years ago. In that time the ocean has really declined more perhaps than during all preceding human history as our capacity to enter the sea, to do things to the ocean that are unprecedented in terms of finding, capturing and marketing wildlife from the ocean.

Back in the fifties and sixties, there was a hope that we could extract as much as 100 million tonnes of wild creatures from the sea every year and the idea was that this would be the solution to the problem of world hunger. In fact we have discovered in this time, that the ocean has limits. …
(25 October 2005)

All decked out
US decking and the clearing of the Amazon rainforest

biodiversivist, Gristmill
An article in last Sunday’s Seattle Times gives us some bleak news. The Amazon is being illegally cleared at unprecedented rates. Why? There is a demand for the wood. Where?

Brazil’s main markets are the United States, which accounts for one-third of all timber shipments abroad, followed by China, at 14 percent and growing rapidly, and European countries, which collectively account for 40 percent.

The price of lumber here in the U.S. has never been higher. The construction boom fueled by the combination of low interest rates and “affordable” immigrant labor has been outstripping supply for the past several years. People used to build decks out of cedar. Now, with the cost of cedar being so high, many decks are being built out of tropical hardwoods. Attractive, isn’t it? Many decks are unnecessary baubles used primarily to entertain and impress visitors. They are also ablative. Because they are exposed to the weather, they will decay into oblivion in a dozen or so years.
(12 November 2005)

Overpopulation: Partying as the iceberg looms

Jim Lydecker, Napa Valley Register
America’s a lot like the Titanic making her way through an ocean of danger. Any number of icebergs threaten to do damage and several are large enough to sink us. The captain warns us of the smaller ones, yet assures us our voyage is safe.

Most passengers believe the captain. Others figure there is nothing they can do, so why worry? Some, however, notice concerned looks on the crew’s faces. Rumors are heard about one berg so big that there is no getting by regardless of the course plotted. It is connected to others making the situation more problematic. We’re on a direct collision course unless the damn thing melts and gets much smaller.

The giant iceberg’s given a name: Overpopulation. Some of the ones connected to it are known as resource depletion, climate change, disease, hunger and economic collapse. With no warning from the captain, the icebergs are closer than ever. The passengers party on. Like this allegory, politicians and leaders focus our attention on issues easier addressed than those that really matter. Terrorism is an example. …
(11 November 2005)