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Western Progress / Experts look at forest ‘reality’

Perry Backus, Missoulian
Since 2002, six of 11 Western states have set records for the amount of acreage burned in a single season.

California has done it twice.

And that’s despite the fact that California fields one of the largest fire departments in the world. Every year, the state spends $3.1 billion to fight wildfire.

Welcome to what Jerry Williams likes to call the West’s “new reality.”

The retired U.S. Forest Service director of fire and aviation management said today’s wildfires burn with such intensity that it often takes some help from nature to put them out. In an age with record temperatures and drought, firefighters are sometimes simply overmatched, he said.

And that’s despite their impressive record of stomping out close to 99 percent of all fire starts.

The 1 percent or 2 percent that escape initial attack burn about 95 percent of the acreage and account for 85 percent of all firefighting expenditures, Williams told a packed room at Missoula’s Holiday Inn Parkside on Thursday.

“The last decade, we’ve seen wildfires that can’t be controlled until there is a break in the weather,” Williams said.
(No date. ? October 5 2007 ?)

Ocean pipes could help the Earth to cure itself

James E. Lovelock & Chris G. Rapley, Nature 449, 403 (Correspondenc)
We propose a way to stimulate the Earth’s capacity to cure itself, as an emergency treatment for the pathology of global warming.
Measurements of the climate system show that the Earth is fast becoming a hotter planet than anything yet experienced by humans. Processes that would normally regulate climate are being driven to amplify warming. Such feedbacks, as well as the inertia of the Earth system – and that of our response – make it doubtful that any of the well-intentioned technical or social schemes for carbon dieting will restore the status quo. What is needed is a fundamental cure.

The oceans, which cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, are a promising place to seek a regulating influence. One approach would be to use free-floating or tethered vertical pipes to increase the mixing of nutrient-rich waters below the thermocline with the relatively barren waters at the ocean surface. (We acknowledge advice from Armand Neukermans on engineering aspects of the pipes.) Water pumped up pipes – say, 100 to 200 metres long, 10 metres in diameter and with a one-way flap valve at the lower end for pumping by wave movement – would fertilize algae in the surface waters and encourage them to bloom. This would pump down carbon dioxide and produce dimethyl sulphide, the precursor of nuclei that form sunlight-reflecting clouds.

Such an approach may fail, perhaps on engineering or economic grounds. And the impact on ocean acidification will need to be taken into account.

But the stakes are so high that we put forward the general concept of using the Earth system’s own energy for amelioration. The removal of 500 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide from the air by human endeavour is beyond our current technological capability. If we can’t ‘heal the planet’ directly, we may be able to help the planet heal itself.
(26 September 2007)
Related from BBC: Lovelock urges ocean climate fix

Contributor Shane Perryman writes:
As with all “ocean fertilisation” schemes the trick is how much of the generated algal bloom ends up buried on the ocean floor…

I’m sure there are others who suggest that a large proportion of the sinking algal biomass is consumed by hetertrophic bacteria in the water column and released as CO2 before the material reaches the bottom.
I think any such suggestion would need careful modelling to determine the optimum depth (it might turn out to be “shallow”).

The proposed mechanism of pumping the water using wave action and a foot valve is nice.

Maybe Lovelock has proposed this after the (I think) cold reception of his nuclear proposals….

Dragonflies, open water reveal rapid Arctic change

Dawn Walton, Globe and Mail
Pierre Tautu doesn’t know whether it’s global warming or something else, but over the summer he noticed strange things happening around his Nunavut home in Chesterfield Inlet, at the top of Hudson Bay.

“We still have ice year-round, but there’s been a little bit of changes,” he said. “Different kinds of insects and different kind of birds that come around our area now.”

His hamlet (population 330) is a prime nesting ground for a variety of birds, but last summer the 44-year-old hunter and guide spotted a type of owl he had never seen that far north. For the first time, he also saw a dragonfly in his Inuit community.

“We don’t have dragonflies around, but I’ve seen one,” Mr. Tautu said. “This was just out in our backyard and I was pretty surprised to see one.”

Changes to the environment and climate are usually imperceptible and are visible only when the increments build up over time and result in a trend. But in the summer of 2007, both anecdotal and quantifiable evidence emerged that showed dramatic changes are taking place in the Far North at a faster pace than anyone imagined.
(4 October 2007)

6 die from brain-eating amoeba in lakes

Chris Kahn, Associated Press
PHOENIX – It sounds like science fiction but it’s true: A killer amoeba living in lakes enters the body through the nose and attacks the brain where it feeds until you die.

Even though encounters with the microscopic bug are extraordinarily rare, it’s killed six boys and young men this year. The spike in cases has health officials concerned, and they are predicting more cases in the future.

“This is definitely something we need to track,” said Michael Beach, a specialist in recreational waterborne illnesses for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better,” Beach said. “In future decades, as temperatures rise, we’d expect to see more cases.”
(29 September 2007)
Contributor Rick Dworsky writes:
Unanticipated consequences emerge as human climate pressure alters the known world. The death toll is rising.