Thursday, August 5, 2010

Russia Burning

It is astonishing that on the cusp of a major mass extinction such odd and fascinating images can still be found.
I'm not sure what that cultivar is - but it is beautifully saturated with color.
The Cold Brook is very low...and burning bush is already turning autumn color (a symptom of exposure to toxic greenhouse gases)...
in the first days of August!

Here is a bizarre story about Russian attempts to control the weather. Apparently they have been meddling in it for quite some time, for utterly frivolous purposes that range from producing clear skies for parades to producing rainfall to decrease insect invasions to reducing snowfall in their capital city to save the expenses of clearing it...

Talk about hubris!

Now of course, they are having little success fighting the wildfires that are raging, and bearing down on Moscow, where the air is dangerously unbreathable.
I happened upon the aforementioned article about weather control because I was googling, trying to find out if the searing heat of late, and the concurrent drought, are from just this year - or were preceded by earlier seasons.

I couldn't.

But, I'm going to go out on a limb (once again, as it were!) and say that trees don't explode into wildfires from a few weeks of heat and drought, however severe. No...if Russia has had impacts from ozone anything like what I have personally seen, from Massachusetts to Seattle to Costa Rica - then their trees are simply dead torches waiting to be ignited. And so are ours. Here is a photo of how bare the treeline is in my New Jersey town, right now, above the park and orchards:
When the wildfires start closing in on London, Paris, New York, Boston and Washington DC, maybe somebody besides me and a few others will make the connection.

Ozone doesn't just damage foliage on an annual basis - which in and of itself causes long-term decline. It causes harm to vegetation at the cellular level. The leaves of the lotus were damaged last year. But this year, count the petals.
Last year's flowers had 15 - 17 petals - this year there are only 12. (note the loss of pigmentation, and the chlorosis of the leaf). I could show many more examples of deformed leaves and flowers...and I will. But that's it for now. I'm quite discouraged, to tell the truth.
On the other hand, I actually have reached one person! As of today I received a message from someone I knew long ago, via Facebook. She asked me about the trees, because she had noticed first hand on a trip through New England that many are dying. I'm going to intersperse my reply to her with the following terrific pictures which were taken by a visiting blogger from Canada, Milan. He and his friend Cai joined my family and friends on a sailing trip around Manhattan.
His blog can be found at A Sibilant Intake of Breath - and even more pictures from our excursion can be seen here.

This is how I replied to my long-lost friend:

To answer your question - ozone is toxic to vegetation. The same volatile organic compounds from gasoline and coal emissions create acid rain and acid fog, which leach essential nutrients from the soil.

After decades of cumulative exposure trees are dying at a rapidly accelerating rate. Why the rate has increased I am not sure, but it's pretty obvious no matter where you look. It could be simply that we have passed a "tipping point" or it could be massive disruption of the nitrogen cycle from the relatively recent production and burning of ethanol.

With the ozone level (tropospheric, not stratospheric, they are different) inexorably rising in the atmosphere as more and more people burn more and more fuel, annual crops are being damaged as well. Ozone creates visible stippling, singeing, bronzing, reddening and browning of foliage and pine needles - it's easy to spot once you know what to look for. It also enters the plant through the stomata, and causes damage at the cellular level, leading to bizarre leaf shapes, cracking, peeling bark, and stunting overall growth, as well as leading to much greater vulnerability to insects, disease and fungus.

Most foresters and other professionals prefer to blame dying trees on causes they can control - aphids or beetles or bacteria. They would rather ignore the underlying problem, which is the way we create and use energy, although it's well established in multiple studies that ozone increases the harm done by naturally occurring pathogens.

you can see pictures here: at just about every other post on my blog. At the top is a page "basic premise and research" that gives links to real scientific research, of which there is quite a bit.

Good luck and let me know if you have any more questions. It's a daunting topic most people won't even consider, because the implications are enormous and, ultimately, life-threatening.
Seasonal mean of ambient ozone concentrations between 09:00 and 16:00 h over the continental United States from 1 July to 31 September 2005 (Tong et al. 2007. Atmos. Environ. 41:8772). Areas shown in brown, orange and red can experience significant crop yield loss and damage to ecosystem function f...
I took this picture of Ruby, who stubbornly slept, despite our attempts to awaken her.

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