Thursday, June 10, 2010

Oh. My. God.

NO, it's not dispersants floating from the Gulf all the way up to Tennessee - and besides, plants in New Jersey and Massachusetts, to name two other states I have personally seen, have the identical foliar damage. Given the rapidity of the impacts on crops, I really think it's worth revisiting the potential for ethanol emissions to be the primary culprit. Unfortunately this topic of research - what impacts acetaldehyde has on vegetation - has barely been explored...but here is a link (thanks Climaticide) to the beginnings of an inquiry - and high time, too.

Check out the comments on the story accompanying the video, from people reporting the same phenomena.

From an earlier post:

"Based on the current state of knowledge in this field, it can be safely concluded that the use of E10 (ethanol) would result in a 5-15% reduction of CO; a near-neutral effect for NO2 emissions; a fairly neutral effect for ozone in smog events; small increases in aldehydes during smog events; possibly large increases in longer-term average aldehyde (e.g., acetaldehyde) levels; small increases in longer-term average levels of peroxyacetyl nitrate; and a small effect on benzene emission levels, dependent on fuel formulation."


ACETALDEHYDE (possibly large increases)! Hmmmm, here's an entry in Wikipedia, linked below. But I want to copy this part in full because it gives me the chills.

Peroxyacyl nitrates, or PANs, are powerful respiratory and eye irritants present in photochemical smog. They are formed from a peroxyacyl radical andnitrogen dioxide, for example peroxyacetyl nitrate, CH3COOONO2:
Hydrocarbons + O2 + NO2 + light → CH3COOONO2
The general equation is;
CxHyO3 + NO2 → CxHyO3NO2
PANs are both toxic and irritating, as they dissolve more readily in water than ozone. They are lachrymators, causing eye irritation at concentrations of only a few parts per billion. At higher concentrations they cause extensive damage to vegetation. Both PANs and their chlorinated derivates are said to be mutagenic, as they can be a factor causing skin cancer.
PANs are secondary pollutants, which means they are not directly emitted as exhaust from power plants or internal combustion engines, but they are formed from other pollutants by chemical reactions in the atmosphere. Free radical reactions catalyzed by ultraviolet light from the sun oxidize unburned hydrocarbons to aldehydes, ketones, and dicarbonyl compounds, whose secondary reactions create peroxyacyl radicals, which combine with nitrogen dioxide to form peroxyacyl nitrates.
The most common peroxyacyl radical is peroxyacetyl, which can be formed from the free radical oxidation of acetaldehyde, various ketones, or the photolysis of dicarbonyl compounds such as methylglyoxal or diacetyl.
Since they dissociate quite slowly in the atmosphere into radicals and NO2, PANs are able to transport these unstable compounds far away from the urban and industrial origin. This is important for tropospheric ozone production as PANs transport NOx to regions where it can more efficiently produce ozone.



  1. Holy smokes! I'll be watching.

    This is chilling.

  2. I've got the spots on a young sweet gum and a wild cherry out in the yard.
    We noticed them last week and were wondering about the cause.

    Do you suppose we've upset the balance of nature and like humpty-dumpty it's no longer possible to reassemble the great living structure that is Gaia, Nature?

    No longer possible because we have no idea about many of the connections between chemicals and species and how those relationships change with temperature, moisture, and the environmental chaos resulting, as a host of other variables show themselves to be non-linear when all along we thought they were straight lines and could be safely ignored.

  3. Climate change is always followed by mass extinctions. Having said that, IF it is ethanol emissions that is the primary source of the current, recent damage, we can certainly take a huge step towards restoring the ecosystem by not burning it. Everything isn't dead yet. We will have fewer species, for sure. But humans might, as a species, survive. If however it is just general, cumulative, background levels of ozone, then we have to stop burning everything.

    We have to stop anyway, because of climate change. Runaway heating may be unstoppable anyway - but it's the right thing to do.

    Thank you for reading and commenting.

  4. I think the key thing to remember is that 'Gaia' is not going to die out if humans die. Like any upset ecosystem, it will just reorganize.

    The current balance that makes our planet have comfortable living zones for humans is just that- a delicate balance. Upset this, and it will change. The catch is that the change will most likely not behoove human comfort levels.

    boo hoo.

  5. Hi Guillermo!

    The change certainly won't behoove human comfort levels, and unfortunately, we're are taking certainly the majority of plants and animals with us, eventually.

    The bigger problem is that this AGW is much more rapid than events in the paleoclimate record. Even at that, it takes 10's of millions of years for evolutions to produce the level of biodiversity we inherited 15,000 years ago. So that's pretty effectively forever.

    The rapidity of AGW which means positive amplifying feedbacks are possible to occur in rapid succession brings with it the risk of runaway heating, the Venus effect Dr. Hansen has warned of. There's no recovering a balance then - boiling hot temperatures, too high for life, would be the new balance.

    If you haven't read Fred Pearce's "With Speed and Violence" it is quite riveting on these topics.

    Thanks for reading and keep playing the music!


  6. As long as parts of the oceans remain liquid the thermal bacteria and other forms of life that live in the mineral plumes, at places where the ocean plates move away from each other and where the temperature is many hundreds of degrees, will never notice our plight unless the oceans actually boil away. Gaia will live on! But sadly, on a much desiccated planet.

    Life can't re-evolve into our present watery biosphere because it's said that the water that fills our oceans came from asteroids and meteors that were much more abundant the first time around. When it boils away it's gone and lost to space.



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