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Climate & environment - Sept 23

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The methane time bomb

Steve Connor, The Independent
The first evidence that millions of tons of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed has been discovered by scientists.

The Independent has been passed details of preliminary findings suggesting that massive deposits of sub-sea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats.

Underground stores of methane are important because scientists believe their sudden release
has in the past been responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species. Scientists aboard a research ship that has sailed the entire length of Russia's northern coast have discovered intense concentrations of methane – sometimes at up to 100 times background levels – over several areas covering thousands of square miles of the Siberian continental shelf.
(23 September 2008)




Permafrost may survive global climate change, new evidence suggests

Henry Fountain, New York Times
One of the potential consequences of a warmer world, according to scientists who study such things, is the deep thawing of the permafrost. Thawing could release huge quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, as vegetation, bones and other organic material, long locked up in the deep freezer that is the permafrost, decompose.

But a study published in Science suggests that the impact of warming on the permafrost may not be as bad as forecast. The evidence comes in the form of a wedge of ancient ice found at an old mining site in the Yukon in Canada.

Ice wedges form in permafrost when the ground cracks because of cold, and spring meltwater seeps in and freezes. Over hundreds of years, the wedge builds up, like an in-ground icicle...

...“But I don’t want people to think we don’t have to worry about global climate change,” Dr. Froese said. The top couple of yards of permafrost are still quite likely to melt as temperatures warm, and there is plenty of carbon stored in them. “But the deeper part of the permafrost is probably relatively stable.”
(22 September 2008)


Catastrophic fall in numbers reveals bird populations in crisis throughout the world

Michael McCarthy, The Independent
The birds of the world are in serious trouble, and common species are in now decline all over the globe, a comprehensive new review suggests today.

From the turtle doves of Europe to the vultures of India, from the bobwhite quails of the US to the yellow cardinals of Argentina, from the eagles of Africa to the albatrosses of the Southern Ocean, the numbers of once-familiar birds are tumbling everywhere, according to the study from the conservation partnership BirdLife International.

Their falling populations are compelling evidence of a rapid deterioration in the global environment that is affecting all life on earth – including human life, BirdLife says in its report, State of The World's Birds.

The report, released today with an accompanying website at the BirdLife World Conservation Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, identifies many key global threats, including the intensification of industrial-scale agriculture and fishing, the spread of invasive species, logging, and the replacement of natural forest with monocultural plantations.
(22 September 2008)

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