Lakes expanding ‘dangerously’ in Everest glacier

It’s perhaps no surprise, once you read it.  The sad surprise is that so many, even though all the leaves are falling, still proclaim “there is no autumn!  It’s nothing but a hoax.”

“A decade or so ago, there were individual ponds on the Khumbu glacier but in the past five years or so they have begun to get larger and join up,” said Ann Rowan, who led the field study team from the universities of Sheffield and Leeds.

Climate Glacier Melt

Dr Rowan’s team has been studying the behaviour of debris-covered glaciers, focusing on Khumbu.

“Particularly, on the left hand side of the lower reaches of the glacier, there is a series of about seven or eight large ponds that are now starting to link and form a big chain,” she told the BBC.

“There is water flowing from the upper part of the glacier through the series of these ponds and that is going to encourage them to join up.

“At present, the glacier appears to be disintegrating, and may form a few large and potentially hazardous lakes on the glacier surface.”

Not only are the lakes dangerous because of what they signal, but because of what they are becoming — soon large enough to blow through natural and artificial water controls and cause catastrophe to the human communities in the way.

BBC Science and Environment

Why? Because:

 Average levels of carbon dioxide exceeded 400 parts per million in the early months of 2015, a rise of 43 percent over pre-industrial levels. according to The World Meteorological Organization, in an annual accounting of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere… WaPo

And besides the glaciers, what is going on?

The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for September 2015 was the highest for September in the 136-year period of record, at 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average of 15.0°C (59.0°F), surpassing the previous record set last year in 2014 by 0.12°C (0.19°F). This marks the fifth consecutive month a monthly high temperature record has been set and is the highest departure from average for any month among all 1629 months in the record that began in January 1880. NOAA

Earth: Crossing Into Danger

From the always worrisome Earthweek: January 23

An international team of 18 researchers warns that a potent combination of human activities has pushed four of the planet’s nine ecological boundaries into “danger zones,” threatening life on Earth.

The four boundaries that have been crossed are climate change, loss of biodiversity, improvident land use and an altered nitrogen cycle due in part to fertilizer use.

“For the first time in human history, we need to relate to the risk of destabilizing the entire planet,” study author Johan Rockström of Stockholm University told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Water Woes Not Only Drought Related: Try Toledo

Update: So the emergency is declared over. Until the next time.

“The City of Toledo issued an urgent water advisory early Saturday morning. The advisory is still in effect as of Sunday.

“City of Toledo residents and regional residents (including portions of Lucas, Wood, Fulton and Monroe counties) who receive water from the city are asked to not drink city water until further notice, including water that has been boiled. Water should also not be given to pets.

Water for these areas originates in Lake Erie and that lake has been the sump for all manner of human created waste-run offs for years — which, it turns out, are a fine fertilizer for blue-green algae, which produced the micro-toxins now threatening the populace.

Toledo Free Press

lake erie algae

What goes around, as is said, comes around.

Says Collin O’Mara of the National Wildlife Federation.

there’s a systemic challenge that we face here in the Great Lakes that’s actually much bigger than this one crisis. And unfortunately this crisis could just be the tip of the iceberg unless we begin to address it.”

It’s more than just run-off from industry and farmers’ fields, but run-off from fertilizer individual people use on their lawns, the overuse of manure and more, as well as affected by natural causes. The consequences affect not only residents but wildlife, fisheries, businesses such as charter boats, tourism and more.

Of course, a crisis like this is also an opportunity to ask questions, primarily what have US Congressional Representatives and US Senators from Ohio done about the first line of defense for a) testing the water and b) having muscle to b.1) get it cleaned up and b.2) getting at the cause?

I’m always curious because the EPA — Federal and Ohio– are always such whipping boys for the ‘leave-me-alone crowd’  What is to be done, and who should do it?  Who should pay?  Curious observers want to know.

As does at least one columnist at the Toledo Blade

I spoke Saturday with Frank Szollosi, who is the point man for the Great Lakes with the National Wildlife Federation but is from and still lives in Toledo. He told me that there has been a 37 percent increase in rainfall in this region since 1958 and “farming practices and waste water infrastructure have not kept up.” Fertilizer runoff and factory farms, he said, are not problems of Toledo’s making. His conclusion: “We are enduring the result of system failure.” He said the system has not changed as the climate has. And that, until agribusiness must comply with the same rules the rest of us must comply with, our water will be compromised. We need our farmers in order to eat. But we need a system that protects the water supply. He told me, “This happened last night, but it didn’t happen overnight.”

Blade: Burris

And, I know it’s not pleasant, but the phosphorous in the water is coming from somewhere.  If campers were shitting up stream in our river they’d be told to stop — not just given a suggestion. No negotiation: stop!

Researchers largely blame the algae’s resurgence on manure and chemical fertilizer from farms that wash into the lake along with sewage treatment plants. Leaky septic tanks and stormwater drains have contributed, too. Combined, they flush huge amounts of phosphorus into the lake.

Environmental groups and water researchers have been calling on Ohio and other states in the Great Lakes region to drastically reduce the amount of phosphorus flowing into the lake. Ohio lawmakers this past spring took a step toward tackling the algae problem when they enacted a law requiring most farmers to undergo training before they use commercial fertilizers on their fields.But they stopped short of mandating restrictions on farmers.

The International Joint Commission, an advisory agency made up of Canadian and U.S. officials, said last year urgent steps are needed to reduce phosphorus applied to fields, suggesting among other things that states ban the spread of manure on frozen or snow-covered ground.


Invasives to Kill Invasives?

Anyone who has had a wild ride down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon knows the story.  Even while taking advantage of their shade, and taking photos of the lovely blooms,  boaters cuss the tamarisk (aka salt cedar).

It’s an invader from the Middle East — well actually, it was invited– which puts down deep roots, sucks up scarce water, brings salt up with the water and redistributes it on the surface; it crowds out native vegetation and thereby changes the local ecology: some bugs go, others come; some birds disappear, others appear, and thrive.  On the whole, the river-rap goes, they’d be better gone.  From time to time ruined roots can be seen, the results of acids, fire, shovel and hoe.  Come back again in a few years, like as not, new shoots will be rising out of the river-bank sand to begin again.

Spring flowers on a salt cedar. Photo courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Spring flowers on a salt cedar.
Photo courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Now more money is being poured in, and a potentially risky gamble made: bring in the tamarisk beetle, its natural enemy.

In this corner of America known for its vast landscapes, rugged mountains and deep river canyons, signs of the havoc created by the minuscule tamarisk beetle are everywhere.

For miles along the banks of the Colorado River, hundreds of once hardy tamarisk trees — also known as salt cedars — are gray and withered. Their parched branches look like victims of fire or drought.

But this is not the story of beloved trees being ravaged by an invasive pest — quite the opposite. Farmers, ranchers and the water authorities here are eager to get rid of the tamarisk trees, which are not native to Arizona and which they say suck too much water.  NY Times: Belson

Problem is that the project could be chasing the wrong solution, and bringing on new problems along the way.

Advocates of removing the tamarisk claim that a mature tree can consume more than 200 gallons of water a day. That has tantalized farmers and utilities in search of cheap, plentiful water.

… There is little proof, though, that removing the tamarisk will increase the amount of available water. And if thirstier trees replace it, there could be even less water.

And of course, introducing species to help out with a wee problem here has time and again created another big one over there.

What will the tamarisk beetle feed on once their preferred food dips below population sustainability?

Well, “they are likely to feed on other trees.”

Some of the cleared areas have been replanted with native growths of cottonwood and willow, apparently very beautiful, and beckoning.  But, as far as I can read, no measure of water saved or water lost has been done.  It’s not like cottonwood are little-sippers, for example.

I hope the eradication is going forward slowly and thoughtfully, measuring and watching for the might-have-been-predicted unpredictable consequences.

As Melissa Sevigny has said,  “The tough thing is to turn it around and look at ourselves as the ones who have taken too much from these landscapes. It’s so much easier to point fingers.”

Napa Fire: September in July

The big brush fire in northern Napa country, CA has been burning for over 24 hours and despite 1,000 firefighters is not under control as of Wednesday afternoon.

Fire Napa July

“With rainfall at near-historic lows over the past 12 months – on the heels of two previous years with little precipitation – the forests and grassland of Northern California are exceptionally parched.

“No one can really remember it being drier than this,” said Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC Berkeley. “We’re like two months drier than usual. This is like September, when everything is nearly bone-dry.”

“…Already this year, more wildfires have hit the state than usual. State firefighters, who battle the bulk of California’s blazes, have counted 2,700 incidents between January and July – a 50 percent jump from the 1,800 wildland fires they respond to on average during the same period, according to state fire data.

Last month, an unusually early 2,600-acre blaze raged west of Kern County’s Lake Isabella in the southern Sierra. In May, a series of conflagrations in San Diego County tore through some 14,000 acres, forcing more than 20,000 people to evacuate.”

SF Gate

CO2 Instrumentation into Space

Nasa has launched a mission dedicated to measuring carbon dioxide (CO2) from space.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) will help pinpoint the key locations on the Earth’s surface where the gas is being emitted and absorbed.

Its key objective is to trace the global geographic distribution of CO2 in the atmosphere – measuring its presence down through the column of air to the planet’s surface.

This should give scientists a better understanding of how the greenhouse gas cycles through the Earth system, influencing the climate.

Uncertain ‘sinks’

Humans are currently adding nearly 40 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year, principally from the burning of fossil fuels.

Only about half of this sum stays in the atmosphere, where it drives warming.

About half of the other half is absorbed into the ocean, with the remainder pulled down into land “sinks”.

Exactly where, though, is highly uncertain.


I’d bet a few dollars that the vast kudzu jungles across the American south will be one of the great sinks…

One Small Victory at the Supreme Court

In a week when ideology trumped law at the Supreme Court not once but thrice with the Burwell v Hobby Lobby decision opening the door to endless disputes about ‘sincerely held’ and ‘closely held,’ the McCullen v Coakley decision allowing abortion protesters to intimidate right in the face, and  the Harris v Quinn decision enabling free-riders in union negotiated wages and benefits one small ruling, if only a ‘decline to hear,’ can be applauded.

An attempt to block one of California’s key climate change regulations, designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from fuel, failed Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

The regulation, known as the low-carbon fuel standard, requires oil companies to reduce the emissions associated with the fuels they sell in California, lowering emissions 10 percent by 2020. It has provoked fierce opposition from an unlikely alliance – the oil industry and Midwestern ethanol producers.

SF Gate: Baker

Goldman Environmental Prize Winners 2014

What a great bunch of people!  Doing what needs to be done.

Goldman Prize 2104


President Carter Adds His No

In an open letter to President Obama, former president Jimmy Carter put it plainly”

“You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced — climate change,” reads the letter from Carter and nine other Nobel Peace Prize recipients. “As you deliberate the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, you are poised to make a decision that will signal either a dangerous commitment to the status quo, or bold leadership that will inspire millions counting on you to do the right thing for our shared climate.”

Talking Points Memo  and Bloomberg can help you out on the celebrity No list, if you like.

Death by Pollution Soaring

This ain't dusk folks, it's pollution in Guangdong Province, China (Credit Alex Lee/Reuters )

This ain’t dusk folks, it’s pollution in Guangdong Province, China (Credit Alex Lee/Reuters )

“From taxi tailpipes in Paris to dung-fired stoves in New Delhi, air pollution claimed seven million lives around the world in 2012, according to figures released Tuesday by the World Health Organization. More than one-third of those deaths, the organization said, occurred in fast-developing nations of Asia, where rates of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease have been soaring.

Around the world, one out of every eight deaths was tied to dirty air, the agency determined — twice as many as previously estimated. Its report identified air pollution as the world’s single biggest environmental health risk.

… The report found that those who are most vulnerable live in a wide arc of Asia stretching from Japan and China in the northeast to India in the south.

Exposure to smoke from cooking fires means that poor women are especially at risk, the agency said

Indoor air pollutants loomed as the largest threat, involved in 4.3 million deaths in 2012, while toxic air outdoors figured in 3.7 million deaths, the agency said. Many deaths were attributed to both.

See New York Times: Jacobs and Johnson