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Sunday, 31 August 2008

Climatic Shock Roundup

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While we watch with trepidation the advance of Hurricane Gustav toward New Orleans, 1 million people are thought to have fled the city and unwilling to ignore the second monster storm in three years.  But other climatic events and trends are making themselves known, and they all speak one common refrain.

The Arctic ice pack is on pace to challenge last years record retreat, threatening to become an island of ice unconnected to any land, while nine polar bears have been seen foundering in the Arctic ocean, certain to face doom scores of miles offshore searching for elusive pack ice.

Methane has been bubbling out of Arctic lakes and out of the sea floor for sometime now, but thawing arctic permafrost is threatening to unleash vast amounts of the greenhouse gas.  Previously a carbon sink, the now melting permafrost is poised to become an enormous carbon source.  Though Japan is seeking to exploit what are thought to be large hyrdocarbon reserves in the form of undersea methane hydrate solids, the hydrates appear to be on the verge of explosive release as the arctic floor softens and melt.
In the permafrost bottom of the 200-meter-deep sea, enormous stores of gas hydrates lie dormant in mighty frozen layers of sediment. The carbon content of the ice-and-methane mixture here is estimated at 540 billion tons. "This submarine hydrate was considered stable until now," says the Russian biogeochemist Natalia Shakhova, …
The permafrost has grown porous, says Shakhova, and already the shelf sea has become "a source of methane passing into the atmosphere." The Russian scientists have estimated what might happen when this Siberian permafrost-seal thaws completely and all the stored gas escapes. They believe the methane content of the planet's atmosphere would increase twelvefold. "The result would be catastrophic global warming," say the scientists. The greenhouse-gas potential of methane is 20 times that of carbon dioxide, as measured by the effects of a single molecule.
Beyond the Arctic circle, India has been experiencing horrendous deluges and flooding, with some 2 million people left homeless in what is described as "the worst flooding in India in 50 years."

Scotland has just experienced a "record breaking washout" in the month of August.

Drought in eastern and southern Africa has been recently linked to a warmer Indian Ocean.

Elsewhere and in what must be seen as a potential threat to world food supplies everywhere, Brazil's soya exports face a significant drop under climate change.
Brazil’s soya exports could slump by more than a quarter over the next 12 years as a result of climate change, according to a study to be presented at an agribusiness conference opening in São Paulo on Monday.

The study will add to concern over worsening food shortages around the world. It shows that even moderate rises in temperatures would cause significant damage to a range of agricultural produce in Brazil, which has emerged over the past decade as one of the world’s biggest suppliers of food crops.

By 2020, the study says, the value of six of Brazil’s food crops – rice, coffee, beans, manioc, maize and soya – could fall by between 6.5bn reals ($4bn, €2.7bn, £2bn) and 7.1bn reals if average temperatures rose by between 1ºC and 2ºC.

“The result will be a significant drop in Brazil’s farm exports,” Hilton Silveira Pinto, one of the report’s authors, told the Financial Times.
Posted in Real News by Anderson at 5:44 PMPermalink

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