Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Real Climate

The video "Tea Partay", embedded in the post just prior to this one, was sent to me by second daughter Sophie after she had first shown me this article about the Far Hills Race Meet, which was where she was headed on Saturday, to visit with old school friends.  Like the video, the article quotes the children of the landed gentry hereabouts, in the latter case making scornful fun of a threatened tightening of standards, regarding excessive drinking at the event.  They are quite convinced that the rules don't apply to them, and that they can flaunt any restrictions on their behavior.  This attitude has been justified throughout history, but is going to become obsolete, soon, as will be shown.  There isn't enough money in the world to insulate anyone from a collapsing ecosystem for long.  I dropped Sophie at the train station, across from the meet, which attracts over 40,000 drinkers and gamblers every year.
Billed in that article as the "Biggest Frat Party on the East Coast," it reminded me of the deliciously sardonic short film "Born Rich," produced by another local trust fund baby, Jamie Johnson.  So, if you've got about an hour to spare, here's the link.  Be sure to settle down with some champagne and caviar before you start the movie!  And then, if you read the rest of this post, remember that picture of Carter (granddaughter of Nicholas Brady, who was Secretary of Treasury for Reagan and Papa Bush) at the very top, from an unidentified year in the past, and compare the tree cover in the background to what follows, in photos from this past weekend, from the same locale and time of year.

In a related and fantastic skewering of one of the wealthiest clans in the country from another unlikely source, the brother of Gretchen Johnson, Dirk Wittenborn wrote Fierce People, a book which was eventually made into a movie, a tell-all story revealing the most scandalous activities including incest, with the most transparently identifiable characters.  Most of these photos are from the very Johnson estate where the novel was set, because simultaneously on Sunday, starting from opposite ends of the gargantuan compound - over 2000 acres - transpired both the Essex Fox Hounds Hunter Pace, and the Tewksbury Foot Bassets hunt.  Tally ho!

A closeup of the pines that line the drive to the main house indicates they are dying from exposure to toxic greenhouse gas emissions.
Here is oldest daughter setting off with her companion, Danial Storr, minutes before she was thrown off Flea at the fourth fence.
When she finally regained consciousness, she stubbornly remounted, rode the rest of the course jumping 20-odd more fences, tethered Flea, collapsed in the pickup...and only then, after much argument, agreed to go to the hospital, where she was treated for a sprained ankle.  Oh, and even with all that, she placed 4th in the competition!
In this post I would like to include one of Highschooler's many new sources, which I have been adding to the Basic Premise page, linked to at the top of the blog.  This one is from the Center for Ecology and Hydrology, titled "Evidence of Widespread Ozone Damage to Vegetation in Europe 1990 - 2006."
In general, the Europeans are far more advanced than American foresters in understanding the impacts of pollution (which as we shall see, appear to be a wholly owned subsidiary of Georgia Pacific), whether it is pesticides killing bees and birds, or ozone killing forests.  I highly recommend reading the entire publication, which has pictures consistent with those to be found on this blog.  It summarizes:
"This report has established that ambient effects of ozone on crops and (semi) natural vegetation are actually occurring in the field, with leaf injury and reductions in biomass or crop yield developing in ozone ambient conditions."
A rather dry way of saying, emissions from burning fuel at current levels in the atmosphere are killing plants.  That's what a "reduction" in biomass means.
This is the back drive of the estate, into the farmed area.
This leafless tree has bark that is gruesome.
It is blistered and oozing from an unknown process.
The bark is breaking off the tree - it's so painful to witness.
Here is yet another report of trees dying, once again being blamed on drought, from Texas.  If I had time, I would compile a list of all the species of trees that have been determined to be dying - each blamed on insects, or disease, or fungus, or drought...it would be almost universally inclusive.
"'I have not seen it to this extent in my lifetime,' said Jim Houser of the Texas Forest Service. 'We're even seeing cedars (Ashe junipers) dying. They can exist on sunbaked, rocky plantscapes. And we're seeing them die all over the place."...."Hundreds of the city's estimated 300,000 trees have died this summer, said Walter Passmore, urban forester for Austin."

Here's another example, trees have top-down death in a tiger sanctuary, in India:
"Top-dying was already endemic among Sundari trees, but the disease has spread and intensified since the cyclone hit, threatening the existence of the forest, a senior forest official said."
I really don't understand why it is that educated people can't discern a rather disturbing trend!  I mean, just do a google search of "trees dying" and you get over 6 MILLION results!  (ooh, Wit's End is the 3rd!)  Does anyone but me remember that trees used to seem to live forever - longer than any person?

If you want to experience pure fear, I recommend this article about the shrinking availabilty of water.  But to get back to the trees, here is a maple, growing quite close to a much larger oak.
It has magnificent color right now.
The bark however is corroded.
Looking at it closely, pieces are falling off.
The larger oak in which the maple is embedded has no leaves.
It's trunk is losing even larger chunks of bark.
The pine trees have taken a sudden turn for the worse in the past two weeks.  Just behind the tallest pine are bare branches of a tupelo.
Their inner needles are turning a bright yellow.
From yellow they go to brown, and then fall off, leaving just the newer, younger needles at the tips.
Incredibly, the lichen has colonized here as well.
Here is the pathetic crown of the tupelo, which should be a blazing glorious crimson ruby this time of year.
Instead, this was the brightest red leaf I could find.
Up high on the branches, it's clear the leaves are falling off without ever turning color.
The cedars are turning yellow inside as well.
This is the trunk of a beech tree.  It too is corroded - it has rough white streaks that are appearing on other species as well, and scattered pustules that could be the beginnings of fatal cankers.
I don't know if it is a mineral excretion, a growth, or dried sap that has oozed out.  But oddly, that circular patch on the picture below, of smooth grey, is the way beech bark used to look.
This sorry array of leaves is typical of the faded glory that once was autumn.
I came across this study that claims plants are doing us such a favor - by gobbling up our air pollution!  Not one whiff of any concern about what that might mean for plants.  This is so reminiscent of the scientific concensus, until recently, that it was a good thing that the ocean was soaking up CO2, thus sparing us even more violent weather from climate change...until somebody noticed that the CO2 was making the ocean more acidic, thus killing all sorts of life forms in the sea. 
"Vegetation plays an unexpectedly large role in cleansing the atmosphere, a new study finds.

"Our results show that plants can actually adjust their metabolism and increase their uptake of atmospheric chemicals as a response to various types of stress," says Chhandak Basu of the University of Northern Colorado, a co-author.  "This complex metabolic process within plants has the side effect of cleansing our atmosphere.

"The results indicated that, on a global level, plants are taking in 36 percent more oVOCs than had previously been accounted for in studies of atmospheric chemistry.  Additionally, since plants are directly removing the oVOCs, fewer of the compounds are evolving into aerosols."  

"This really transforms our understanding of some fundamental processes taking place in our atmosphere," Karl says. 
But not a word of vegetative health - what a peculiar omission!  I guess we just think plants and trees are here for us to utilize as we will, endlessly...Meanwhile, I have become embroiled in not one but two threads at Real Climate, so the rest of the pictures will be interspersed with some comments from there.
  1. Climate models should take into account the fact that the world’s forests are in decline. Put another way, they are not growing – they are dying. They are no longer carbon sinks – they are carbon emitters. The vegetative cover is shrinking because the background level of tropospheric ozone is inexorably rising, and ozone is highly toxic to plants.
    Just sayin’!
    [Response: Badly wrong on several accounts.
    Please do your homework before making public statements like this.--Jim]
  2. This is a farmworker's house at the northern edge of the property, surrounded by several old maples in very poor condition.
  3. Jim, give me the “several accounts” on which I am wrong, please. Because I HAVE been doing my homework, and there isn’t a single statement I made there that isn’t verifiable.
    Maybe YOU should do some homework?
    Or at least be specific about what you dispute!
    1. Climate models are concerned with forests only to the degree that they influence climate-related, boundary layer processes, such as momentum (surface roughness), sensible heat fluxes from canopy infrared radiation, and latent heat fluxes from evapotranspiration. Climate models specifically coupled to a carbon cycle model and/or a dynamic global vegetation model (DGVM) can account for large scale vegetation changes, and such work has been ongoing for a while.
    2. The "world's forests" are not "in decline"--a gross overstatement. Some forests in some places are suffering high mortality, but many others are not. There are many forests that are healthy and aggrading biomass/carbon, particularly in the United States for example, due to the reversion of ag land to forest over the 20th century. The world's vegetation is a decided carbon sink overall, and forests easily constitute the largest part of that sink.
    3. Ozone is a localized contributing factor to poor tree health in areas of high population density/NOx emissions. It is way down the list of important forest health issues in most places and is not a global problem. And even where it's a local problem, "highly toxic" is an exaggeration of its importance relative to climatic and biological agents.
    Moreover this is off topic. There will be discussions of tree mortality here in the near future, where knowledgeable contributions will be encouraged.--Jim]
  4. 395
    There is no need to be snide, is there? As far as knowledge goes, I have been compiling a list of published scientific research about ozone going back decades, which can be seen here:http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/p/basic-premise.html.
    I would say that with a few exceptions, I now know more than most of those authors because I have realized one thing: we have reached a tipping point where vegetation can not thrive, and are hurtling on the downside of ecosystem collapse. It’s like the earth is a closed garage and the invisible fumes from our running engines have been building up to the point where they are finally lethal.
    Although it is no secret that background levels of tropospheric ozone are rising, travel across oceans, and are toxic – even the EPA has this information on their own website – the extent of the impact has been professionally squelched by fuel companies, in a far more successful campaign than deliberate climate change denial…and we all know the influence they have had on perception of that parallel problem.
    I compare the death of the trees from ozone to the impact of ocean acidification on life in the sea. If climate models don’t take the loss of forests into account then they are merely GIGO. If climate modelers don’t want to work across specialties then when history is written (but don’t worry, at the rate we’re going nobody will be left to write it, let alone read it) they will end up on the same page with Watts and Cheney. “…the limiting factor is the integration of the science spanning multiple disciplines.” as observed in this paper:  http://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/pdf/10.1094/PDIS.2001.85.1.4
    Here is the pivotal moment described in the New York Times when back in 1987 American foresters decided to conveniently relabel forest death with the euphemism “decline,” thus ensuring a generation of inaction leading inexorably to mass extinction:http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE4DB1E3EF935A15753C1A961948260
    All anyone has to do to verify this is take a walk past a few trees and really look at them. Every species is marred with the characteristic damage of ozone exposure – stippled, singed leaves, bare branches, and bark oozing, splitting, and falling off. You don’t need a degree in physics to identify the symptoms of impending demise.
    Labeling this off-topic is cowardly censorship.
    [Response: To be perfectly blunt, your approach to understanding nature is no better than the worst deniers I've seen. You have no idea what you're talking about--Jim]
  5. 396
    Didactylos says:
    “Every species is marred with the characteristic damage of ozone exposure – stippled, singed leaves, bare branches, and bark oozing, splitting, and falling off. You don’t need a degree in physics to identify the symptoms of impending demise.”
    Okay, I looked at some trees. They look fine to me. Therefore, proof by contradiction) you must be wrong. (Yes, this is as silly as your original claim. Oh well.)
    This is the most hideous case of oozing I've seen so far.
    “I now know more than most of those authors”
    Always a good sign. You know how amazingly much you know. When you also know how much that you don’t know, you will have a much better perspective on things.
    By the way, I had a look at your website, and it was scary how many of your links were to things that are irrelevant or unrelated to your claims. Some even undermine your claims, such as those related to tree diseases.

    If you stuck to the facts, you could present a much better case.
    P.S: This browning of leaves you are observing: it’s commonly known as autumn, or fall. Happens every year.
  6. 397
    Yes, there is a sanity clause. Thank you Jim.
    There’s good science, worth reading.
    Pointing to cites helps people focus.
    http://www.ucar.edu/learn/1_7_1.htm (measuring, grade-school, ground level)
    http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JCLI3832.1 (feedbacks, notably a negative feedback from climate change, but increasing anthropogenic precursors)
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=tropospheric+ozone+levels&as_sdt=2000&as_ylo=2010(upper troposphere levels, rates of change, and origins, mostly Asia)
  7. Well Jim, thanks for posting my comment anyway! It’s my hope that once people understand we are destroying plants, the base of the food chain, the transition to clean energy won’t seem so expensive and conservation will become wildly popular.
    [Response: You don't think that credibility as to what's actually happening might factor in there somewhere...?]
    Didactylos: "Okay, I looked at some trees. They look fine to me."…"P.S: This browning of leaves you are observing: it’s commonly known as autumn, or fall. Happens every year."
    You have contradicted yourself. You see browning of leaves and think that’s fine, normal autumn. It’s not! The leaves are supposed to turn beautiful colors, then fall off, then turn brown. People have forgotten, it’s called shifting baselines.
    "Some even undermine your claims, such as those related to tree diseases." The people who blame tree death on insects, disease, fungus, drought and wind-throw either deliberately ignore, or don’t know, that ozone increases tree susceptibility to all of those factors. Facts from real scientists doing real experiments!
    [Response: WOW, Real Scientists! Cool! Sure would like to meet some of them some day...Oh and thanks for discovering that ozone injures plants, damned if we didn't almost miss that one--Jim]
Next thing you know, Jim Bouldin has a new post up, about bark beetles.  No reference to ozone, and he deleted my comment - and then substantially allowed it  - which was:
The trees on the east coast aren't turning beautiful colors this year, nor did they last year.  They have holes, stippling, chlorosis, and are turning brown, shriveling up, and falling off prematurely.  The conifers are turning bright yellow, and then their needles fall off.  The bark is oozing, splitting, and falling of branches and trunks.  Lethal cankers are prevalent, and lichen is spreading unnaturally quickly.
Foresters are trained to look for disease, fungus, bacteria, and drought when trees die.  This is analogous to blaming the death of an AIDS patient on pneumonia.  There is a much broader force at work here than any collection of pathogens...and it is the composition of the atmosphere.  It could be that we have reached a level of background tropospheric ozone that is intolerable to vegetation - or it could be the recently mandated addition of ethanol to gasoline, since trees are dying at a rapidly accelerating rate, annual crop yieldsare markedly reduced, and even ornamentals planted in good soil in pots with regular watering exhibit the characteristic damaged stomates on foliage indicative of exposure to ozone.
Trees have natural defenses against native threats, but they lose the ability to deter attacks when they are weakened by ozone.  The insects, fungus and disease that begin to thrive as ozone levels increase have been described by a researcher at the Aspen FACE research center as the "sharks in the water" circling an injured victim.
Here is an article about their findings followed by an excerpt:

"The trees of the future may be much more vulnerable to a variety of pests, say scientists studying greenhouse gases in northern Wisconsin forests. Their work is published in the Nov. 28 edition of the journal Nature.
Researchers in the Aspen FACE (Free-Air Carbon Dioxide EnrichmentExperiment, based in Rhinelander, Wis., have been measuring the effects of elevated levels two greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and ozone, on aspen forest ecosystems. While the trees, Populous tremuloides (trembling aspen), seem to do relatively well in a carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere, ozone is another story.
These are the severely stippled leaves of a katsura tree.

Trees growing in an ozone-enriched atmosphere have been hit much harder by their traditional enemies: forest tent caterpillars, aphids and the rust fungus Melampsora.
Inside the crown, the bark on the trunk is splitting.
"This has been a surprise," said Professor David Karnosky of Michigan Technological University's School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, a principal investigator on the Aspen FACE project. 'Our experiment was never meant to look at pest occurrence. But it became obvious that the greenhouse gases were affecting the abundance of pests.'"
This post from my own blog has excerpts from a course syllabus taught by Dr. Muir at Oregon State U:  http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2010/10/zawacki-is-verb-that-means-i-told-you.html which addresses the issue of proof of causality, as well as this one:
"What is actually killing many of the trees is bark beetles (western pine bark beetles), who are able to attack the O3-weakend trees. That is, beetles are the proximate cause of death, while O3 is ultimate - or is the ultimate factor high population density and use of fossil fuels? In addition, the trees' weakened roots are vulnerable to attack by root rotting fungi which can cause death (recall that O3 decreases plant allocation of carbohydrate to roots...)."
Also at the top of my blog is a page, Basic Premise, with an extensive list of links to scientific research about the impacts of ozone on vegetation, which has been recently supplemented by the heroic efforts of "Highschooler,' a courageous teenage student who reads my blog and understands what is at stake.  Maybe it helps to be young or an amateur to "think outside of the box".
Unfortunately this situation is so critical that we just can't wait for scientists entrenched in old ways of thinking to save the ecosystem from total collapse.
Comments are accumulating at the site if anyone wants to follow or pile on!  I have been denounced, basically, as an ignoramus, insane, worse than deniers, and silly.  I knew it would be opening a can of worms to leave a comment there, from past dismissiveness - but I did not expect such vituperation...oh Well! Last on this post will be a video about the death of the oceans from acidification.  And now I'm going to put all this aside and get back to making soup for Sophie.  The latest isn't exactly a soup - roasted garbanzo beans, mixed with browned bits of prosciutto, onion, garlic and sauteed escarole, sprinkled with grated parmesan.  Delicious!


  1. http://www.swcleanair.org/gorgedata/OzoneInjuryInWestCoastForests.pdf

  2. Running out of easy finds I guess. I posted some links around the web. Take a look at realclimate. Slander? HA! what a joke.

  3. Now heres something really interesting.http://www.google.com/trends?q=dying+trees

  4. Just, BRILLIANT! I never would have thought to do that search. Also the youttube link on the right leads to a lot of new videos about dying trees. I will put that graph up with one or two.

  5. The forestry wonks are making an argument that is akin to saying second hand smoke cleans the air of carcinogens . . . never mind that it kills people.

  6. Boy, you sure managed to get under their skin. You wouldn't get that intensity of reaction unless you were onto something really important. Excellent posts as ever.
    Regards, John

  7. Highschooler, you are coming up with some impressive finds on O3. Keep up the great work!


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