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Climate science - July 20

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Huge Dust Plumes From China Cause Changes in Climate

Robert Lee Hotz, Wall Street Journal
One tainted export from China can't be avoided in North America -- air.

An outpouring of dust layered with man-made sulfates, smog, industrial fumes, carbon grit and nitrates is crossing the Pacific Ocean on prevailing winds from booming Asian economies in plumes so vast they alter the climate. These rivers of polluted air can be wider than the Amazon and deeper than the Grand Canyon.

"There are times when it covers the entire Pacific Ocean basin like a ribbon bent back and forth," said atmospheric physicist V. Ramanathan at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

On some days, almost a third of the air over Los Angeles and San Francisco can be traced directly to Asia. With it comes up to three-quarters of the black carbon particulate pollution that reaches the West Coast, Dr. Ramanathan and his colleagues recently reported in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

This transcontinental pollution is part of a growing global traffic in dust and aerosol particles made worse by drought and deforestation, said Steven Cliff, who studies the problem at the University of California at Davis.
(20 July 2007)


Sea levels may rise by 9 inches this century, scientists warn

Steve Connor, The Independent
The melting of mountain glaciers and ice caps as a result of global warming over the next century is likely to cause bigger than expected increases in sea levels.

An assessment of the volume of water running into the oceans from melting ice caps suggests that sea levels could rise by two to three times the amount previously expected from this source. The study used satellite monitoring to assess the contribution to sea levels made by all land-based ice, except for the two continental-sized ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica.

It found that the volume of water melting into the sea each year from glaciers and ice caps was 100 cubic miles (417 cubic km), which is almost equal in size to the amount of water in Lake Erie. However, this volume of meltwater is increasing by a further three cubic miles each year because of an acceleration in the rate at which ice caps and glaciers are melting, said Professor Mark Meier, of the University of Colorado. "One reason for doing this study is the widely held view that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will be the principal cause of sea-level rise," Professor Meier said. "But we show that it is the glaciers and ice caps, not the two large ice sheets, that will be the big players in the sea rise for at least the next few generations."
(20 July 2007)


Drought in Western Africa Launches Migration Wave
(Audio)
Jon Hamilton, All Things Considered (NPR)
Our series, "Climate Connections," continues with a visit to a community of refugees from Cape Verde. The drought in western Africa has unleashed a wave of human migration.
(16 July 2007)

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