Saturday, March 5, 2011

How Science Became Obsolete...and Scientists Irrelevant

This week, a fellow blogger asked me for my impressions of our rapid spiral towards destruction...which led to a thought-provoking exercise.  It surprised me that even he was surprised by the breadth of my assessment, and that served to remind me that everything I lately take for granted - such as the impending collapse of civilization and mass extinctions - isn't reflected by the tiniest inkling in most people.  Not everyone is obsessively consumed immersed in following the myriad unfolding disasters as a Diva of Doom!
Pictures are from a nearby arboretum, where a scented early witchhazel is in bloom behind this tree.
I wage a constant and seemingly futile campaign to alert those professionals who blame dying trees on insects or disease or fungus or wind or drought that air pollution is the underlying agent.  I spend much effort trying to explain to heedless foresters and climate scientists that their logic is comparable to blaming a death on lung cancer whilst ignoring a 40-year smoking habit.  This focus on trees and ozone keeps me occupied so, I usually leave the broader dimensions of catastrophe to other blogs who cover it quite well - DesdemonaDespair, Apocadocs, The DailyImpact and TheComingCrisis.
The bark is falling off the trees in raw painful patterns.  Go ahead and click for enlargements!
But just for today, what follows is the official, although by no means definitive, Wit's End list of the most conspicuous converging scourges to confront our planet.  Feel free to add to it in the comments!  There are so many, I'm sure I missed quite a few.  I won't put a link for every single one, since they are all easily googled.  Here goes:
1.  There are a hell of a lot of bad things happening all at once.  The economic crisis, which has by no means yet run its course, is still the least of our worries even though it garners the most concern from politicians and the media.  Let's not forget that the media, and government, and now the courts are owned by rapacious multinational banks and corporations, whose sole raison d'etre is short-term profit and preferred method is legislating a reversal in market and environmental regulations while gutting social programs.

Thus, deliberate lies of omission, fraud, corruption, and propaganda rule most media and government agency communications.  My favorite blog on the economic aspect is Decline of the Empire, where I found that chart.
Brranches, often smothered with lichen, are falling and litter the ground.
2.  Denial is enthusiastically enabled by people who prefer to ignore the inescapable conclusion that life as they have expected it to be is soon to be finished.  Nonetheless, an underlying sense that doom is on the horizon is pervasive (check out this thread from last summer of people from Vancouver to the UK, from Texas to NY, wondering why their trees are dying), but most people find ways to avoid taking responsibility via a number of convenient mechanisms - completely ignoring that anything is amiss, otherwise blaming it on the Gulf oil spill, Corexit, UFO's, chemtrails, HAARP, or creeping socialism.  Is there some sort of cabal masterminding the downfall of humanity?  We hardly require anything of the sort to explain it, since each of us, particularly those in developed nations, is openly contributing to lethal pollution and resource depletion of all sorts.  There are, of course, the especially evil, like the despicable Koch brothers and vile Dick Cheney - those who know and blatantly operate to redistribute the wealth - all of it - to a tiny elite.
3.  Extreme climate change impacts are far worse and happening faster than the IPCC predicted.

Why are predictions so far from reality?  Because, if the scientists can't state with certainty what the rate of, say, ice sheet melting or methane release will be, or confidently model complex amplifying positive feedbacks like the melting permafrost or the albedo effect - they just LEAVE IT OUT of their calculations for warming and extreme weather...even though those very feedbacks are the most critically important components driving accelerating climate change and sea level rise.
This bamboo is brown and crushed.
4.  If what is happening to the trees is any indication, collapse on all fronts will appear to occur, in hindsight, almost instantaneously as synergistic effects prevail.  It's exponential.  Virtually no one is or can be prepared for the unknowable but certainly dangerous times ahead.
5.  After years studying the temperature record in miles of ice cores, Richard Alley has said (about 5:38 into this riveting video) that there is evidence that as often as not the paleoclimate has "flipped" - changed dramatically and abruptly - within a decade, as opposed to a gradual change.  THAT is incredibly fast, and a result which left him "flabbergasted".
6.  Warming has been masked by the particulate matter and aerosols in the atmosphere from pollution.  If we deliberately clean up our act (unlikely) or, stop emitting so much because civilization falls apart and industries and transport grind to a halt (likely) - it's going to get wickedly hot, fast (see the film, "Insidious Soup").
7.  It's going to get wickedly hot fairly soon, anyway, because the amplifying positive feedbacks - melting glaciers, polar ice, permafrost and methane release - have already kicked in.  There's no stopping them, and the ocean has so far been masking much of the warming.
This is a massive old yew, with peeling bark.
8.  The trees are dying, as is all long-lived vegetation.  It might be reversible if we stopped producing the precursors to ozone right now, although a wildly changing climate is going to kill much of it eventually anyway, since adaptation will be impossible.  This inevitable loss of CO2 sinks represents another huge amplifying feedback that most climate scientists refuse to take seriously, certainly not in the near future.
It is springing off in strips, exposing raw red sapwood.  Ouch it hurts to look at it.
9.  The seas are terminally overfished.  Because of the removal of top predators and industrial fishing practices such as dynamiting, trawling and dredging, the food chain has been so disrupted that it is imploding.  It's going to collapse anyway because of acidification, which will destroy fish, shellfish and coral reefs alike.  (See the movie, "You Can't Fish and Not Have Hope.")  Oh, and much of the oxygen we breathe comes from life in the sea - the rest comes from trees!
One of the most startling changes that goes unremarked is the spread of  cankers.
10.  The nitrogen cycle has been savaged.  This is possibly the reason fish in fresh water are dying - no oxygen in the water due to fertilizer runoff and atmospheric deposition (more on that later).
Cankers are afflictions that eventually kill the host tree.
11.  The sixth great extinction is well underway.  Listen to Elizabeth Kolbert discuss her article, "Welcome to the Anthropocene."
12.  It could be just pesticides, or it could be a mix of that and air pollution followed by disease - either way, major pollinators are leading the extinction - bees and bats and butterflies and birds.
This ivy is a perfect example of chlorosis - the lack of pigment from  an impaired ability to photosynthesize.
13.  Most places in the world face acute water shortages (just one example among many).  Not only will this destroy local agriculture, it will lead to outbreaks of disease as hygiene becomes impossible.  Animals and people will die of thirst.  Droughts will lead to wildfires of immense proportions, followed by complete desertification in many regions.
14.  Peak Oil IS real...sorry!
It's not normal for last year's leaves to remain. 
15.  In addition to epic extremely violent weather, the food shortages from all of the above are going to cause floods of refugees, riots, mass famine, wars, and the rise of fascist dystopia scenarios in some places while in others, total lawlessness and vigilantism will prevail.
Trees are bleeding sap.
16.  If history and current events are any precedent, humanity's response will be Mad Max and then The Road.
If there is no break in the bark for fluid to gush out, it seeps out all over, leaving the trunks and branches crusted.
17.  And then, further down that road - or maybe already - seismic activity will reach levels never before witnessed by humans as the miles-thick ice sheets disintegrate, the bedrock rises and disrupts the plates.

Is this bleak?  Yes! - all the splendid things will be lost.  All the jazz and opera, literature and poetry, sculpture and paintings and architecture, drama and passion and love.  Or even IF anything is preserved, deep in a cave, there will be almost no one to find it.  Isn't it funny how all this has been anticipated since the beginning of time, from myths like Icarus and Pandora and Cassandra.  It is going to be so annoying when the Fundies take this all to be validation for the Rapture!
The snowdrops are up - but they are a fraction of the size they should be.  That's a little acorn cap in front.
The practice of science is agonizingly slow and meticulous.  It requires a careful process that cannot be replicated quickly or easily to establish any degree of certainty.  That was an essential approach when the world was normal.  It was actually effective and productive. But now the real world events are overwhelming the vaunted scientific method.  Just take a look at the epic record-breaking catastrophes in 2010 (and hold onto your hats for 2011).

There is no time left to study and evaluate before we take drastic action.  Even though it's arguably too late, we have to act anyway - it is a moral imperative.
If we have pushed the Earth to a runaway Venus fate, the only thing that will remain will be science - the laws of math and physics and chemistry.  The dynamics of plate tectonics and gravity are just THERE.  The immutable guardians of mass and energy never needed humans to discover them in the first place.  This is how science has become obsolete...and scientists irrelevant.

Okay...indubitably, some scientists must know we're already screwed...and just what are these scientists doing?  A few - very few, and they are often vilified for it - are taking a public stand on policy.  Bravo!  The rest are prevaricating.  What do they do in private?  Are they building arks? Or, as one commenter at ClimateProgress suggested, building really really large stone head statues?

I like to call our current situation the Trifucta - the parallel and inter-related financial and environmental collapses, and Peak Oil.  For the most part, economists ignore peak oil and peak resources, peak oil devotees ignore climate change, and they all ignore pollution - whether it be ozone, nitrogen, heavy metal, pesticides, or plastics.

Why?  Evidently, many scientists, foresters (and climate activists) are reluctant to integrate the threats posed by climate change and pollution.

By way of example, here is a comment followed by the reaction of Jim Bouldin at Real Climate to the UNEP report which states that, were ozone to be controlled, warming in the coming decades would be substantially reduced:

Interesting scientific research (not blog science) on O3 and vegetation:
If it turns out that Zawacki is right, some of you may have little more than your words to eat.

[Response: How interesting that you post exactly the very same link, on the same afternoon, that another individual included in a (deleted) general diatribe of exactly the same kind that climate change deniers typically bring. I know what's going on OK. Gail Zawacki has a cadre of people that she calls on to submit comments here in support of her beliefs about surface ozone pollution, which she continues to disrupt threads with. Well, here's the story on that. RealClimate is a climate change science related blog. Not an air pollution blog, not an ozone blog, not a plant physiology blog, not a forest ecology blog, not a timber harvesting blog. The open thread is not an open sewer to throw anything in you feel like throwing out there. Gail Zawacki has already ruined one post with aggressive fixation on ozone, with repeated accusations of scientific cover-ups of the issue, and when called on these things, has responded by cursing out, several times, members of RealClimate, comments which I will post here if necessary. RealClimate is not a dumping ground for pet theories, much less for expressions of open hostility and slander when these ideas are challenged. You are wasting our time and energy here. NO MORE ON THIS TOPIC.Jim]

Clearly, ozone IS an issue in climate science, both directly and because it reduces photosynthesis, which is a major CO2 sink.  So, why does Jim Bouldin lie about it?
Because, reducing ozone to healthy levels (i.e. zero percent of the tropospheric atmosphere) by switching to clean sources of energy (and emergency conservation measures) would simultaneously and automatically eliminate the CO2 problem, since they both result from the same process - burning fuel.  So the lurking unspoken questions underlying the scorn for ozone in the meanwhile have been, who gets the funding for research if climate science gets linked to pollution?  Who gets the attention and the glory?  Who gets to publish, and where?  Who will get their very own ghetto on the New York Times?  Who will be the media darling?  The resistance to EPA regulating CO2 as a pollutant by climate scientists and activists was widespread until it became manifest that legislation would go exactly nowhere.  Then they scrambled to support it.

Sometime a long time ago the choice was made to emphasize CO2 driven climate research over pollution.  I know this competition is a divisive factor because, back in '70's, the mathematics community became worried that their quadrennial Field's Medals - the mathematicians' equivalent of a Nobel Prize - would be usurped by cutting edge computer scientists.  To avert that horror, they instituted the Nevanlinna Prize, sponsored by Finland, to be awarded to a computer scientist at their conventions - the first recipient of which was my ex-husband.  He got a gold medal and we had a great trip to Helsinki, courtesy of the Finnish government.
I decided to write about this frustrating and counter-productive failed strategy, more as a lament than an indictment, because of a ClimateProgess post about rising food costs and shortages.  Here was my comment:

Wit's End says:
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
Love that pamphlet about acid rain! Industry propaganda denying the damage from pollution has apparently been so successful, even more so than climate change denial, that even our esteemed Dr. Romm doesn’t bother to list ozone as having an impact on crops on his last post, “Global food prices hit a new record high.” He asks the question:
“What is driving up food prices to record levels?”
The answer doesn’t even mention crop yield and quality losses from the ozone that results from fuel emissions – even though the most conservative scientific evidence places the losses at 10% annually, in the billions of dollars worth.
Well, I guess this old email explains the disdain that climate science physicists feel for the role of trees:
That contemptuous misspelling of bioligist (sic) kind of says it all!
Pine trees range from thin to bare.
And the omission of any reference to ozone's influence in food costs was despite the fact that I had earlier left the following information in comments, which are excerpts from an unimpeachable source, the same UNEP report refudiated by Jim Bouldin:

"In addition to impacts from climate change, the Gates Foundation might want to consider these conclusions from last week’s report from the United Nations Environment Programme, which looks at crop yield reductions from low-level air pollution.


“Tropospheric ozone including near-surface ozone is a major greenhouse gas, harms human health and is linked to significant damage to crops and ecosystems.
At left, pines with no needles save a few at the top.  Lower center, a small tree blanketed by lichen.
A regional assessment report by the UNEP Project Atmospheric Brown Cloud cited annual losses from the wheat, rice, corn and soya bean crop in China, Japan and the Republic of Korea alone-linked with ground level ozone-may be $5 billion a year.
Another study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that five per cent of cereal production in the United States is lost to ground level ozone and that by 2100 crop yields globally could be cut by 40 per cent.


It is estimated that in 2000 in the European Union, well over Euro 6 billion-worth of crops were lost due to ozone.
Ghostly lichen branches, and a fallen tree.
The Sida funded programme on Regional Air Pollution in Developing Countries (RAPIDC) includes studies in e.g. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as in southern Africa, which indicate that the crop yield of wheat may be reduced by some 30% due to air pollution (based on European dose response functions). Investigations in these countries and in Sri Lanka suggest a potential yield loss of 50-80% for mung beans, spinach and potatoes. It has been indicated that rice yield in Japan has been reduced due to the influence of long- range transport of air pollution.


The impact of air pollution on agricultural crops and quality of produce and ensuing food security has hitherto been largely ignored by policy makers. The ubiquitously rising ambient ozone levels are a matter of serious concern in a world with growing food shortages and increasing food prices. Some 75% of the world’s cereal is grown in areas which are exposed to damaging ozone concentrations.
In the ongoing debate on the effects of climate change matters such as floods and soil erosion, drought and desertification are seen as detrimental to sustainable livelihoods, including falling agricultural production. It should be kept in mind though, that air pollution, and above all ground level ozone, may also lead to the impairment of such production where the conditions for agriculture and food production are otherwise excellent.


The analysis also quantifies the significant greenhouse effect of ozone on rising temperatures. Climate modelers should take into account the loss of CO2 sinks as vegetation dies back and ceases to photosynthesize."

Is is any wonder crop yields are lower in Bangladesh?  Look at this satelite photo from NASA:
Lingering haze continued over south central Asia shrouding the lowlands south of the Himalayas. North-east India and Bangladesh are often plagued by pollution in the winter, when cold, heavy air slides down the southern face of the Himalayas into the lower lands, holding pollution close to the ground. While winter pollution is a common phenomenon, the Centre for Science and the Environment has noted that not only are this winter's particulate levels extremely high, but so are levels of several toxic chemicals, including nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. In December 2010, the Department of Environment (DoE) reported that airborne particulates in the city of Dhaka, Bangladesh, reached nearly five times the acceptable level set by the National Air Quality Standard of Bangladesh

Well, presuming the main premise here at Wit's End is true - that air pollution is killing trees - then we should certainly expect to see trees dying in Bangladesh...oh, wait...
Experts clueless about reasons
The dead trees near Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University in the capital. 
The green canopy is shrinking in parts of the capital. More than 550 trees have died while many have fallen into decay in several areas in the last four years.
Another lichen-laden tree.
Nearly 500 trees died in the Bashundhara residential area, 20 around the Baridhara Lake, 25 near the Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University and ten more at the Farmgate Park.
Botanists and soil experts still remain clueless about the reasons behind the death or decay of the trees.
Md Jasim Uddin, associate professor of botany department, Dhaka University, said an extensive study should be conducted to find out the reasons behind the decay of the plants and also the solutions.
Raintrees in some city areas might be decaying due to lack of proper environment or soil problems, he said.
Close-ups of corroded bark on a flowering fruit tree.
The DU teacher said prior to planting trees in any place experts' opinions should be sought about the appropriate variety of trees.
Prof Shah Mohammad Ullah of soil science department of the university said soil problems or air pollution might be responsible for the deaths of the trees.
All bark is corroded, coarsened, blistered, and peeling - but in this example,  remnants of the original are visible.
Trees could die, if the level of metals such as copper, nickel, lead, cadmium and zinc goes up in the soil, he said. Besides, a rise in sulphuric, nitric, hydrochloric and other types of acid in the air could also cause the leaves of trees to decay.
Trees grow under constraint in industrial areas where air remains highly polluted, he said.
The soil used for filling up lowlands for the Bashundhara Housing Project needs to be analysed to find the reasons behind the death of the trees there, he said.
Prof Mihir Lal Saha of botany department said vascular disease might have caused the deaths of the trees.
Prof Imdadul Hoque of the same department said he along with some other teachers might form a team to conduct a study on it.
The bark originally was, and still should be, that smooth reddish portion. 
Abdul Aziz, a welder working in under-construction buildings in Bashundhara residential area, said around 500 trees including raintrees, eucalyptus, akashmoni and krisnachura died there in the last four years.
Plenty of trees were there on the North South Road in Bashundhara but most of them died in the last six months, said Rafiq, a chauffeur, who used to drive on the road almost every day.
About 25 raintrees died in the last nine months on both sides of the road to the Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University from the Second Gate in Agargaon. Nine more trees (four raintrees, four ekashia and one mango tree) died on the university campus.
Kartik Chandra Bhoumik, a security guard of the university, said some trees on the campus started to decay early this year.
Md Lutfor Rahman, assistant superintendent of the university's farm division, said it is alarming that a significant number of trees have died on the campus.
Promananda Baroi, an employee of the Planning Commission, said a lot of trees were in the area when he settled there 30 years ago. Many of them began to decay in the beginning of this year.
Superintending Engineer of the Dhaka City Corporation Abdur Razzak said roots of some trees do not go deep into the soil. These trees might not get adequate water during the lean period and decay slowly.
The DCC is yet to conduct any study on it, he said.
The Eastern Cougar is declared extinct.
As trees and shrubs die, can wildlife be far behind?  After all, vegetation is the source of food and habitat for animals...let's see, there have been how many stories like this one from India, of animals dying for no apparent reason?
The wildlife conservator in the sanctuary, Ajit Bhowmik, said the first deaths occurred on February 28 and continued till this morning. “Till yesterday, one eagle, two owls, two kites, one small crane and two leopard cats died, but this morning, two night herons, one pond heron, one white-necked stork and one wildcat were found dead,” said Bhowmik, adding that attempts at diagnosis of the disease responsible for the fatalities have failed.


Here's a comprehensive list of unexplained animal die-offs for the morbid.

Let's get back to trees, though - recent stories about mass tree deaths either blame preposterous causes, or else can find no reason at all:
Large Old Oaks Prone to Falling in Storms

...But when heavy rains come, the trees can also be a hazard. As water is brought up from the saturated ground to the tree’s canopy, the weight becomes too much for some trees’ roots to handle and they can fall or have limbs break off. According to two certified arborists, Meiners Oaks is an especially vulnerable area.  [Can it get any more ludicrous than that??]
“It’s a tree community that has a lot of failure,” said Paul Rogers, a certified consulting arborist from Ojai who has worked in the area for 45 years. “This is one area that has the most problem trees.”
David Berry, tree trimmer for the Ventura County, picks up the cutting limbs of trees on Loma Drive in Ojai. Residents have been complaining that the old-growth trees are a hazard. With recent rains, some of oaks have fallen. 
On Jan. 2, an oak fell onto a car and power lines off Lomita Avenue. No one was injured, but there was property damage in each case and live wires that had to be repaired by Southern California Edison. In August, a tree fell on a home and power lines, prompting evacuations.

Certified arborist Mark Crane, who runs a tree maintenance and arborist business in Ojai, agreed Meiners Oaks is a problem area. He believes one reason is a lack of tree maintenance.
The oak tree in the front yard of Jon Dieges’ Meiner’s Oaks home, alive before he was born on the property 66 years ago, is too big for him to put his arms around. Some locals in the Ojai/Meiner´s Oaks area have safety concerns for some of the area’s older growth oaks´ extensive branches, but Dieges treasures his tree that shades the family home.
Rogers said oaks generally fall only if they load up on water and have some structural fault in a branch or roots.
“Usually the thing that takes them down is basal trunk disease. It infects them around the roots,” Rogers said.
Some people in Meiner´s Oaks have safety concerns for some of the area’s older growth oaks’ extensive branches, but Jon Dieges treasures the tree that shades the family home. “You have to live in a state of ignorant bliss,” he said.
Don't you just love that!  IGNORANT BLISS.

The Folks in Atlanta are not quite so blissful, because their trees are dying too - but they are just as clueless as to why.
Atlanta is losing trees at an unprecedented rate
Most major cities have nicknames but few refer to flora and fauna. Atlanta, sometimes known as the City in the Forest, is a notable exception. But the city's lush tree cover is increasingly under assault from man and nature.

Walking through Grant Park with Greg Levine of the group Trees Atlanta, it's easy to find dead and dying trees.

Looking at the red and white oaks, he can identify symptoms of decline.
On one tree, he spots large growths.

"These giant, like, mushrooms are growing on the root systems," Levine said. "They are bigger than a frisbee. It's some kind of root rot."

Stopping at another tree, Levine, the group's program director, ticks off reasons why it's not long for this world.

"On this tree, first of all, you see big branches that have very few smaller branches on them so even in the winter you can see this tree is dead or dying."

Atlanta's trees face threats from all sides, experts say.
[but they never mention ozone]

"Heavy rains, drought, an aged forest, new pests and an urban situation that is forever changing," according to Levine. "You can't dig in the soil and not damage a tree nearby."







Holly leaves with injured stomaes.
When heavy rains fell last year, Atlanta's drought came to an end after nearly five years, and it seemed like the plague had been lifted.

But the damage isn't over for the city's trees. Experts say Atlanta is losing trees at an unprecedented rate.
[exactly - trees are dying at an accelerating pace]

Piedmont Park, for example, lost about a dozen large, historic trees last year. Typically, the park may lose two or three trees a year, said Chris Nelson of the Piedmont Park Conservancy.

"I think we will continue to see the impact of the damage from the drought for a fairly long period of time," Nelson said. "Typically trees that are put under a lot of stress don't die right away."





Many of Atlanta's trees are between 80 and 100 years old, and are reaching the end of their normal lifespan, experts say.
[the usual nonsense - many trees should live for centuries.]
The drought, however, has accelerated their demise by shrinking the tree roots. Here's Mark Livingston with the tree service Arborguard.

"Your trees' root systems during the drought cut back considerably to a very small circumference, and then you have an enormous amount of rain, which loosens up the soil and you don't have sufficient root systems to hold them in place," he said.

The heavy precipitation has nourished the soil and helped the trees recover, but Nelson with the Conservancy worries about the spring rains.
I took this photo for my contrail friends
"Our concern, once the trees start leafing out in the spring and we start having more of those Spring thunderstorm events, which are often accompanied by high winds, that some of these trees that have been damaged by many, many years of drought could topple over," Nelson said.
And this, even better, on the way home.
Some help is at hand. Levine's group, Trees Atlanta, is a non-profit organization that plants trees around the city most weekends.
[I wrote to them to tell them ozone is killing trees - not one of them responded]
And Atlanta's city government will soon award $130,000 in grants to neighborhood groups to plant trees.

But it's not easy to replace the overhead tree canopy, which filters out pollutants and cools sidewalks and buildings.
[they note that the trees filter pollution - but never question what effect that has on the trees!]
Back at Grant Park, Levine knows the spots where some of the city's large, historic trees once stood.

"There are large gaps where large trees were," Levine said. "This whole driveway used to be lined with trees and now look at it -- 100 yards and no large trees. You still have a lot of trees, but there's just not as much shade as we had 15 years ago. We just didn't plant fast enough to continue to have these large shaded areas."

Levine and others encourage residents to plant large shade trees, rather than small flowering samples, in the hopes of shoring up one of Atlanta's signature treasures - its precious tree canopy.


Good luck with that!
Willowwood was established by a landscape architect who lived in this house, behind a dying boxwood hedge.
From Miami, a cryptic story informs us that the Department of Agriculture has discovered fungal laurel wilt disease in that state.  Spread by the incongruously romantically named redbay ambrosia beetle, it is fatal to avocados and other trees in the laurel family.
Leaves exhibit the characteristic stippling of stomates damaged by exposure to ozone.
As usual, more articles stream out of the western states and Canada about the ongoing decimation of the forests. This one from Science Daily is about a study projecting the demise of the lodge pole pine over much of the Pacific Northwest,

"...warming temperatures, less winter precipitation, earlier loss of snowpack and more summer drought already appear to be affecting the range of lodgepole pine, at the same time increasing the infestations of bark beetles that attack this tree species."
The greenhouse was locked but I peaked through the window for some colorful warmth.

I sent this note over to Dr. Waring, who was one of the authors of the study:

Dear Dr. Waring,

I am writing with a question about this article in Science Daily, which quotes you as saying:

"For skeptics of climate change, it's worth noting that the increase in vulnerability of lodgepole pine we've seen in recent decades is made from comparisons with real climatic data, and is backed up with satellite-observations showing major changes on the ground," said Richard Waring, an OSU distinguished professor emeritus of forest science.

"This is already happening in some places," Waring said. "Bark beetles in lodgepole pine used to be more selective, leaving the younger and healthier trees alone.
Another lichen-smothered tree.
"Now their populations and pheromone levels are getting so high they can more easily reach epidemic levels and kill almost all adult trees," he said. "Less frost, combined with less snow favors heavier levels of bark beetle infestation. We're already seeing more insect attack, and we project that it will get worse."
The bark is peeling off.
My question is, when you listed "less frost, less snow, leading to heavier levels of bark beetle infestation", is there any reason you did not include rising levels of background tropospheric ozone as predisposing the trees to insect attacks?

From all I have read, trees are more likely to succumb to disease, insects and fungus because they are damaged by air pollution, and yet whenever I read about the bark beetle, there is never any mention of that - and it is usually blamed only on higher temperatures from climate change.  I am certainly no skeptic of climate change, but it seems obvious that as trees are dying all over the world - even trees in pots getting plenty of water without any evidence of disease or insects - there must be something affecting them in the atmosphere.  It has also been demonstrated that even remote areas are plagued with air pollution, which travels globally.

I appreciate any thoughts you have on this topic.

Also, do you work with Dr. Muir?  I have tried to contact her but had not luck.  She delineates in her course syllabus that ozone is causal in tree decline, as I excerpted from it here.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Gail Zawacki
Oldwick, NJ

and quickly got this "it can't happen here!" response:

Hi Gail,
Lodgepole pine is not likely to go extinct in the next 50-80 years, but without heavy snowpack, lots of spring frost, and plenty of water in the soil at the end of summer, its native pests will be more active and trees less likely to live as long. Other species in the Pacific NW, particularly those  that are less adapted to the harsh environment where lodgepole thrives, can move in following disturbances, if the trends in climate continue.  Pollution is an important in southern California, but its main effect is on ponderosa pine.  Further north in OR, WA, and BC, air pollution is not a significant limitation on lodgepole pine, at least not yet.

Cheers,

Richard

I love the way doom deniers tend to sign off with...Cheers!  It's so chipper and...dismissive.  Compare his analysis to this and this, both sources from Oregon discussing the pollution there.  Uhhh...they are on the receiving end of emissions from China!  And that Ponderosa Pine being the primary trouble in California is so 1980's textbook!

One of the expectations that follows trees dying off would be increasing numbers and intensity of wildfires.  There was recently a spectacular and tragic example in China, in an experimental forest that was destroyed by 30 meter high flames, seen in this photo.
Last December, a wildfire raged in Israel.
"The fire was the worst in Israel's history, consuming about 10,000 acres of forest and about four million trees.  Israeli responders were helped by an international fleet of more than 30 firefighting aircraft and ground personnel from more than 16 countries.   At least 42 people were killed and more than 17,000 residents evacuated."
 The crowns of the trees look thin...perhaps because they have been burned.
 These in the foreground are brown...perhaps because it was winter.
However, there's no question the tree on the right, above, is in dieback.  The tips of the branches are bare....and those pines in the foreground below are thin, with the overproduction of cones associated with decline.  They put all their energy into reproduction when they are dying.
The photo below is so sad, I had to include it.  We will all have much to mourn, soon enough.
An Israeli man covers his face as he mourns during the funeral of Haifa police chief Ahuva Tomer, in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, Monday, Dec. 6, 2010. Tomer, Israel's top policewoman, who had clung to life for four days after her patrol car was trapped in a burning Israel forest, died Monday of her wounds.
This article is about agricultural nutrient runoff into an Ohio lake, leading to an algae bloom, which uses up all the oxygen, which kills the fish.
"...Winter killed the algae mats (as winter always does), they sank from view (to lie on the bottom where their decomposition sucks all the oxygen out of the water), the water cleared and in the spring of 2010 the Ohio EPA took down the warning signs. If they had any idea that the crisis was over — and it’s highly unlikely that they did — they had only a few weeks before they had to put up even sterner signs. Because this year, not only did the algae come back as before, it was joined by a new, toxic strain that laced the water with liver- and neuro-toxins that killed fish and threatened people. The new signs advised people not to touch the water. The lake’s tourist industry crashed and burned. For the region’s agriculture industry, it’s business as usual."
Maybe it's due to a massive disruption of the nitrogen cycle, because I have seen SO MANY stories lately about fish gasping for air, usually blamed on cold weather, which makes no sense in places where it wasn't colder than normal.
A world in decay is full of surprises.  The latest is trees turning blue.
I have no idea if this is another lichen, or fungus.  But it's distinctly odd!
Youngest daughter sent me a link to a marvelously snarky article, "Six Terrifying Ways Crows are Smarter Than You Think," which describes some fascinating experiments demonstrating that crows can use tools, communicate with each other, and bear grudges against people which they transmit to other generations...and are really really good at getting food.  They will eat just about anything.  I had already noticed that, in pronounced contrast to songbirds and water birds which are disappearing at a frightening clip, crows are proliferating in great numbers.
I suppose they are anticipating a feast following the great die-off of people.  I recommend reading the article, it's funny enough that it took me momentarily out of what one reader of Wit's End privately and rather cruelly described as my "... sad existence...living in a black box without hope."

You know who you are.

29 comments:

  1. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110303111624.htm

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  2. Gail, Oh Diva of Doom, Duchess of WitsEndia, thanks so much. This is a superb summary.

    I agree that we are beyond hope, and beyond fear. This can be a blissful state that enables adaptation - of course the disruptive change is inevitable - but now we can have purposeful, smart change - because it is pure survival.

    I can only add Peak Phosphorous to your list.
    http://www.dailyimpact.net/2011/02/15/peak-phosphorous-worse-than-peak-oil/

    And lets remember that your photography is great -- you have THREE great photos of the Cedar Apple Rust Fungus - AKA Flying Spagetti Monster fungus. It is a harbinger of the bizarre to show one of the more complex, huge and weird fungii life forms out there. (#1, #14, and just below your mention of Jim Bouldin [was that a photo commentary? ]

    Thanks for all that you do.

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  3. Jim Bouldin is a dick with ears. I'm still waiting for an explanation of how you can be off topic on the thread that was, ostensibly, set up for off topic discussion. I suspect the explanation likely has something to do with salting the roads, or imperceptibly small perturbations in the orbit of the planets.

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  4. The major problem is that the US media has consolidated into the hands of a few. Additionally, even "public" media is control by advertising in the form of "underwriting". The only alternative media to be found is here on the internet.

    Using that source requires the ability to think critically and not just accept that since something is plastered all over the internet, it must be true.

    I hope there is an underground of people who are just so pissed off at how things are going meaning that Wisconsin becomes the start of a new popular revolution in the US.

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  5. There are so many negative effects, both long term and short term, that we are going to experience. Here's one that we are experiencing right now in the short-term that is often overlooked. Ridiculously absurd pollen counts that overwhelm immune systems and trigger asthma. Atlanta is experiencing a ridiculously early Spring this year....like a month early, and the pollen counts are through the roof. I have not had allergies in Atlanta the eight years I have resided here, but this year, I am plagued. It's crazy......and this is just the beginning of so many things to come.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=climate-change-extends-allergy-season

    The new research, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds the longer pollen seasons correlate with the disproportionate warming happening around the planet and attributed to greenhouse gas emissions.

    Upper latitudes are warming faster than mid-latitudes, and the pollen season is lengthening in proportion. Scientists and health officials found no appreciable warming in Texas, Arkansas or Oklahoma.

    "It's not just theoretical," said Lewis Ziska, the study's lead author and a plant physiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's crop system and global change laboratory. "We are seeing a signal based on what in fact the [U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] is predicting."

    The impact goes far beyond mere sniffles and inconvenience. Some 50 million Americans have allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Of those, 35 million suffer nasal allergies, known broadly as hay fever, said Mike Tringale, the association's vice president.

    For 75 percent of those 35 million, ragweed is the primary allergen, he added.

    And in many cases, allergies can trigger a bout of asthma, or make it worse.

    Dr. Nancy Ott, a physician with Southdale Pediatrics in Edina, Minn., has seen "a lot more desperate calls" over the past four to six years. "These longer seasons can be a problem" particularly for those with asthma, she said. "I try to get patients in early, make sure they have a red 'X' on Feb. 28 or whenever the pollen season starts."

    The findings correlate with analysis last year by the National Wildlife Federation that found ragweed growth rates and pollen counts increased with global warming. In one study, accelerating spring's arrival by 30 days prompted a 54 percent increase in ragweed pollen production.

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  6. Gail, I too have noticed the proliferation of crows here in Atlanta. It is pronounced in the last couple of years, especially this year, and they are quite aggressive and territorial, especially in regards to other birds of prey. Also, the Hawks have been amazingly prolific in the last couple of years, in addition to Vultures, which we have never seen until this year, and now we see them quite frequently.

    My wife and I were hiking at a nearby park a couple months prior and we heard what sounded like a flock of geese coming in for a landing on the lake, but as we came near to the deafening cacophony, to our amazement, it was a massive flock of crows, numbering approximately a hundred give or take ten or fifteen, chasing down a beautiful owl who was fleeing for its life. We didn't see it get the owl, but we know it did because shortly after the spectacle was out of sight, the frenzied harping ceased....they had succeeded in bringing the owl down, and no doubt were in the process of ripping it to pieces.

    An Omen, if you will. I no crows are known to do this, but we spend a lot of time outdoors in nature, and I've never witnessed it before, so it could be evidence, anecdotal of course, that such behavior is occurring with much greater frequency as a result of climatic change. A hypothesis, for sure, but as you say, there is not enough time to test every god damned observation that leads to a potential hypothesis. There are enough dots at this point to connect them and gaze upon, in horror, a not very pretty picture.

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  7. Waaah! I love owls! We used to have screech owls - the first time I heard one in the night I didn't know what it was, and I was terrified, they have a blood-curdling cry. And then, a barn owl. He would start hooting on the east side of the house, and wind up just before dawn on the other side, following the light of the moon. It's a long time since I have heard an owl.

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  8. The point of posting that link was that the article nowhere mentioned that the gradual increase of ozone in the worldwide atmosphere coincides with the decrease in stomata density.

    There's a graph here somewhere. I don't remember it mentioning ozone at all.

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  9. I wrote the authors yesterday. Two wrote back and said that the decrease in density precedes any significant accumulation of ozone. Of course, ozone and CO2 started at the same time, from the same processes...but that's their story and I'm sure they'll stick to it!

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  10. I was taken by your first chemtrail picture and the zippered effect left on the trail by EM beams.

    Article in latest Discovery details
    China pollution wafting into US atmosphere. Mercury pollution is huge, and Ozone increases @ .5 ppb/year. Carbon nanoparticles adds to particulate problem.

    Another article "Lightning Unleashes Antimatter Storms" details new energy events in our atmosphere.

    Probably due to addition of metal aerosols; and green lightning due to barium nanoparticles.

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  11. Plovering...got any links? I can't find the Discover story,,, nor the ozone /yr increase!

    thanks,
    Gail

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  12. Did the authors define what they meant by 'significant accumulation'. Seems there may be some differences in opinion of the 'safe' ppb number and when it becomes 'significant.'

    Peak Ozone: we're already there.

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  13. Catman, I don't think there is much understanding of exactly what the levels are, never mind what consitutes significant - a recent study in CA indicated that the amount is being underestimated. It's a moving, mutating target and hard to measure.

    But yeah, as far as the trees go, they have reached zero tolerance.

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  14. I have started reading your blog and then I started looking around more closely at the trees . OMG! So many are dying, have fallen limbs, are covered in green growths, and just look sick in general. How could I have missed this? I suppose the change happens gradually at first so that one doesn't really notice it.

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  15. Yes, Liberality. Once you are attuned to the symptoms of decline it becomes very obvious there is a very bad trend well underway. Partly people don't notice because they just never paid any attention to trees - and nature - in the first place, and party because it's (relatively) gradual.

    But I think a lot of it is that the implications are unspeakably horrific. It's like when they say...oh, the coral reefs are bleaching. Does anyone stop to contemplate what that really means to life in the sea?

    It can be quite overwhelming...better to ignore it until ignoring is impossible and then, maybe, get religion. Or something.

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  16. I'll have to dig around a bit for an article from Appalachia describing an infestation of larch ( aka tamarack and hackmatack ) which threatened to kill it off with stunning suddenness.

    In addition to the usual unmentioned suspects, the Gulf Coast is making strange reports which would make one strongly suspect the presence of Corexit actually being distributed in rainfall ! Some stories of strange biology from killing off usual life because of multiplied toxic effects of the corexit/oil mix have suggested strange conditions showing up in people are a result of the presence of alien life from the abiatic levels over 7 miles down.

    You likely think you're inoculated to shock of deliberate wanton destruction and death dealing going on.
    The reports from Florida Oil Spill Law are topped by few.

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  17. opit...I think we are all doomed. It will just come sooner to some than for others. It's going to be somewhat concentrated on the poorest and weakest - people who have nothing to fall back on, like Haiti and Peru and Pakistan and Kenya - but some of it will be entirely random. Stamford, CT could get devastating floods, and Manhattan could get it by a hurricane, and tornadoes could rip through Washington DC.

    So no, I don't think I am inoculated from shock, although I really don't care. I care that my children aren't inoculated from shock and are almost certainly going to experience it first hand.

    Also, there is no doubt in my mind that the oil spill and corexit and government coverup are horrific.

    My main point about that is that it is simply a microcosmic example of what is going on everywhere on earth, every day!

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  18. Hi Gail,

    Will mail copies Discovery stories.

    Need address.

    PLovering

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  19. Trifucta. Genius.

    I do feel as though I may be in the last generation. All those toys have been fun, though. I hope Bach continues a universal hum.

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  20. Thanks for your comment Murr, and the trackback to your wonderful blog! I myself am known to family as Mer...from when youngest daughter spent a primitive month or so on a commune in France, cutting wheat with a scythe, attempting to improve her accent.

    Those estimates I've seen by the likes of Lovelock that the human population will be reduced but persist seem overly optimistic to me. It will be impossible to protect agriculture from marauding zombies to feed enough dependent people including the defenders - and returning to a hunter/gatherer lifestyle will be quite problematic since there won't be much wild sustenance remaining to hunt or gather.

    But Bach is immortal.

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  21. Thanks Plovering! I would appreciate that. PO Box 347 Oldwick NJ 08858.

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  22. Look on the bright side......slaves are at an all time low. There's never been a better time to own a slave....so get em while they last, and if you can't afford one, consider becoming one, especially if you can't afford a roof over your head or your next meal. Yes, Life is Good (http://www.lifeisgood.com/).......for some.

    http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/07/cost-of-slaves-falls-to-historic-low/

    Depending on the kind of person you are that sentence could be at once shocking, saddening or darkly comical. However you might feel though, it’s the plain truth, says Kevin Bales.

    The modern-day slavery expert explained to CNN that the current $90 rate for a human slave is actually at an historic low. Two hundred years ago, a slave cost about $40,000 in today’s money. The reason for this price slide: a massive boom in the world’s population, especially in developing countries, has increased the supply of “slaveable” people.

    And this has basically turned a human being into a cheap commodity – Bales says like a Styrofoam cup that’s cheaply replaceable if damaged, “If they get sick, what’s the point of paying for medicine – it’s cheaper to let them die and acquire a new one than it is to help the ones you’ve got.

    At this very moment, between 12 million and 30 million slaves are working around the world. That’s according to low and high estimates from sociologists and the International Labor Organization......

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  23. Joe may think I'm over the edge. Do you think so?

    http://climateprogress.org/2011/03/09/waxman-on-gop-led-house-all-that-seems-to-matter-is-what-koch-industries-thinks/#comments

    catman306 says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    March 9, 2011 at 9:48 am
    Beware of being ’suicided’ by the gang stalkers who work for Koch hired ’security’ firms. And Mr. Waxman, and Joe, please stay out of light planes.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Gang_Stalking#Stalking_by_groups

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  24. Catman, a while ago there was a kerfuffle at CP about a comment that made a glancing reference to something violent (I can't remember exactly what), the reaction to which was way overblown and misinterpreted and ridiculous...but ever since JR is vigilant about not allowing through anything remotely tinged with any hint of violence, no matter how accurate or innocuous.

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  25. I'll do a new post soon but in the meanwhile, check out this article:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110308/ap_on_he_me/us_wyoming_smog

    Preliminary data show ozone levels last Wednesday got as high as 124 parts per billion. That's two-thirds higher than the Environmental Protection Agency's maximum healthy limit of 75 parts per billion and above the worst day in Los Angeles all last year, 114 parts per billion, according to EPA records. Ozone levels in the basin reached 116 on March 1 and 104 on Saturday.

    Somebody do me a favor and send it to Jim Bouldin and all the other foresters who say ozone is only a problem in urban areas...

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  26. AP article link on view at unforced variations for march. I'm sorry I misspelled Jim Bouldin's name.

    I think ozone may be cumulative in its effects on plants. This might be similar to how degree-days accumulate each day and total into your annual heating expense. Each species, in each local environment, has a 'total exposure to ozone' limit that when exceeded kills the plant or tree. A few high ozone level days may quickly exceed the limit but it might take many low ozone level days to have the same effect.

    For those unfamiliar with degree days
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degree_day

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  27. Uh oh, now I'm going to get in trouble at RC all over again! Be careful what you ask for...

    haha, just kidding thanks Catman. Actually I have read in quite a few papers that a long-term low level exposure is worse than the equivalent total dosage in fewer but higher episodes. This makes sense because the plants have time to recover if it is episodic coverage - and it is why deniers have fought the EPA tooth and nail in the courts to continue to use peak episodes as regulated measurement standards. They reduced the peaks by building huge smokestacks and disbursing the VOC's - but the background level has risen steadily anyway, of course, and that cumulative exposure is what it incrementally killing trees.

    I think.

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  28. Funny stuff Gail.
    Especially the comments.
    We had screech owls last year, but they disappeared after the chicks fledged. The never came back.
    We have another pair this year, so maybe there is hope.

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