Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Baffled and Also Helpless

I feel repentent because I shouldn't have let this happen again - but once more, evidence of what Craig Dilworth calls the "Vicious Circle Principle" (from AmazonToo Smart for Our Own Good - The Ecological Predicament of Humankind) has outpaced my ability to absorb, let alone post links - so there will ensue far too many.  Actually, I first have to backtrack to last weekend, when I stopped along my way home from Philadelphia.  Despite the poor quality light and constant drizzle, I could not resist tracking back to take a picture of this enormous fallen tree, before all evidence of its long and no doubt splendid lifespan is forever eradicated.
Those are my keys looking so teeny on the stump.
I was caught out spying by the owner of the antique brick farmhouse when he came up the drive in his pickup truck.  Luckily, although he looked a little bewildered, instead of ordering me off the premises or, worse, shooting me, he explained it was at least a century-and-a-half year old oak that had split in two...and even though he is in the landscaping business, it's so enormous that it has been taking him months to gradually carve it up and remove it piecemeal with heavy equipment.
He also pointed out several other stately trees of significant age and size on the property, which must have been owned and planted with exotic species by a tree lover who was emulating nearby Longwood Arboretum.
He had handsome specimens of sassafras, monkey puzzle tree, a rare large magnolia, and ginko.  He pointed to the big trees still remaining and said mature as they are, they had been dwarfed, underneath that oak's canopy, which was seventy feet in diameter.
I didn't want to tread further on his hospitality so I refrained from mentioning to him, that the bark of the standing trees is exhibiting the corrosion and deterioration that is typical now for trees that are expiring from air pollution.
We discussed why so many others, and not just that oak, have fallen in recent years - two on his rooftop, collapsing the chimney.  He mentioned climate change and volunteered that the wooly adelgid is killing hemlocks.  "We don't even plant them anymore around here," he said, "the zones have changed and it's too warm for them now."

This is the sort of well-intentioned but nonsensical absurdity that I constantly encounter.  One of the habitats famously known for lush hemlock growth has traditionally been Georgia where their loss is deeply mourned - but Pennsylvania has a way to go before those temperatures are rivaled.  I mentioned air pollution as perhaps the primary source encouraging insect infestation, but like most people he brushed it aside without pausing to consider it, even though his yellowing mahonia has all the classic symptoms of exposure to ozone - stippling of stomata, chlorosis followed by necrosis, and then complete loss of inner leaves.
It is slightly better well-known that air pollution is unhealthy for people, however - which doesn't deter the politicians from wanting to force the EPA to begin to consider cost to polluters when determining safe levels, a outrageous notion.  An article in The Arizona Republic from last year is, if anything, more pertinent than it was then - as precursor emissions increase globally and travel, and combine with ever-rising temperatures, higher levels of ozone result even in rural places.  Here's the story:

Phoenix-area heat wave ushers in ozone season; residents urged to take steps to curb pollution

"Maricopa County's ozone season starts today with a fresh burst of heat and sunlight, two key ingredients needed for unhealthful levels of the smog to form.  Temperatures could rise to nearly 100 degrees today as a strong high-pressure system creates the ideal conditions for ground-level ozone. The other elements - vehicle exhaust, power-plant emissions, gasoline, paint and industrial solvents - are always in abundant supply."

"Ozone levels already were climbing late Thursday as the heat wave developed, and officials predicted the pollutant would reach moderate levels later today, although no ozone-related health advisories are expected."

"The county has tried to reduce ozone pollution for years but has struggled to meet the federal standards. The desert's heat produces more ozone, and weather conditions trap it in the air. But much of the problem can be traced to the region's rapid growth, which has increased the number of vehicles on the road and added to other pollution-contributing activities."

"Although state and county officials have submitted a plan to reduce pollution levels, the region is in violation of the existing standard of 75 parts per billion, as measured over an eight-hour period. The county exceeded that standard on 10 days during 2010."

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing a proposal to further reduce the allowable ozone levels to between 60 and 70 ppb. At the highest level in that range, Maricopa County would exceed the standards even more frequently; at some of the lower levels in the range, many areas of rural Arizona, including Yuma, Gila, La Paz and Navajo counties, could fail to comply based on three-year averages the EPA uses to compute ozone levels."

"Vehicle-exhaust and power-plant emissions contribute to ozone levels in some of those areas, but rural officials say some of the pollutants are carried to their communities by the wind, a factor the EPA acknowledges. Those smaller counties say they could not afford to monitor ozone or impose programs such as emissions testing for cars and trucks."

"Elected officials and business lobbyists nationwide have urged the EPA not to adopt such strict standards, and the agency has postponed its final decision several times. A new limit is now set to be announced in July, but opponents are fighting to further delay any action."  [Update:  the opponents won that last fall when the Obama administration caved in to industry pressure.]

"'Each time the standard is lowered, you have to put more controls in place,' Ward said. 'We are having a hard time meeting the current standard. So, should that go lower, we know we could be in trouble.'"

"If an area consistently exceeds limits and fails to reduce pollution levels, the EPA can impose a federal plan and withhold highway funding.  Scientists say the evidence is clear that ozone can cause health problems, making it more difficult for people to breathe. It can cause coughing and shortness of breath and can increase the frequency of asthma attacks. It also can increase health risks among people with heart and lung ailments.  New research released by the EPA last month suggested that long-term exposure to ozone could result in more premature deaths."

"Ozone also can interfere with the ability of some plants and trees to produce and store food and can make some plants more vulnerable to disease, insects or harsh weather."

I love the way that last sentence is slipped in at the end.  Does anyone ever read all the way through and think about the implications of vegetation losing its immune defense against disease, insects and harsh weather?  It's important to note that the threshold level at which plants are damaged by ozone is 40 ppb, far below current standards of regulation.

Thanks to my friend Tenney who publishes the famously excellent aggregate blog of all things climate, I can share this link to an interactive toy that can be used at any hour to determine just how much poison you and all the trees and plants and animals are inhaling within the contiguous United States.  Just mouse over the various categories and you can have it measured every which way.  Below is a map with the forecast for this coming Friday (and it's only May!).  It's obvious that the ENTIRE COUNTRY, even remote places, exceeds 40 ppb.

Upon my return, I have been chasing birds like this Baltimore Oriole.
Outside the kitchen window, a robin built her nest in the clematis, a vine that is using the remaining structure of a dead purple cotinus as a trellis.  It's a sweet spot - the babies are bathed in a pink light, and the mohter scolds me whenever I try to get close enough for a picture of them.
I hadn't realize how cleverly I planted a succession of enchantingly fragrant plants - right now, the Japanese Fringe tree is blooming, following months with contributions from the winter honeysuckle, flowering apricot, and wisteria.  It is magical to sit on the porch and breathe it in.
I decided to let the entire lawn go.  I can't afford the mowing service, and I loathe the noise and fumes.  The copper beach and variegated willow I planted are big enough now that they can grow above a wild meadow without being squelched by vines and multiflora.
The first sunny day, I decided to take a hike through a nearby park, the Kay Environmental Center.  When I saw several of these peculiar growths on little white oak saplings, I thought excitedly - perhaps I had finally for real discovered the source of all our problems - invasive alien pods from outer space!
But it turns out to be Calliphytis seminator - a growth that is stimulated by a wasp laying eggs, also called a wool sower gall.
The field along the drive into the park has been planted not too long ago with hollies, but they are exactly as dismal as all the others struggling for survival in New Jersey - just like the mahonia pictured at the top of this post.  It's a pity, because a verdant glossy green holly, with it's brilliant berries, is a majestic thing to behold on a snowy winter day.
Their leaves cannot photosynthesize, so they turn yellow, and the oldest, inner leaves that have had seasons of cumulative exposure have fallen off entirely.
Before I started to hike down the trail to the river, symptoms of interior rot were to be found on every tree.
It would be very hard to exaggerate how prevalent these kinds of bare branches are this spring.
The usual signs of lethal fungus are ever more common sights.
But there are still lots of bluebirds!
Already, oak leaves that have barely emerged are turning black on the edges.
Some others on the forest floor have the typical interveinal fading that will progress to a worse loss of pigmentation.
The top of the trail is lined with privets shrubs, all of which have yellowing leaves.
These beech leaves are showing problems early this year.  If anyone wants to compare, there are pictures of leaves in the park from last September, in considerably worse condition then as the growing season progressed, in this post.
I came upon a signs taped to trees that I've never seen before, advising visitors not to be concerned if they smell acrid burnt wood.
When I got home, I called the Forest Service and asked why they were doing prescribed burns at the Kay Center, and a fellow in the Northern district informed me that it had been requested by the Morris County Park Service to "reduce fuel loads".  So, I called the Park Service and was informed by them that in fact, the Fire Service had first approached them with a plan implemented in 2010, which they went along with because they believe it will help their goals to control invasive species and encourage "forest regeneration".

Leaving aside the incredible idiocy that you can make forests healthier by producing even more toxins the air, I called the Forest Service back to see if there had ever been a fire at the Kay Center before.  "Not that I'm familiar with", was the answer.  So what could warrant this risky prescribed burning?  Apparently, it's being done at other county parks as well, and the responsibility for making the decision is being shuffled from agency to agency.  Here's the NJ Forest Service map of major wildfires.  It doesn't rule out smaller incidents elsewhere, but certainly it begs the question why there is so much concern about the potential for fires in Northern New Jersey when there haven't been any before, particularly in a recession with scarce resources to be allocated to other essential services.
Indeed as I ventured further down the path it became obvious that burning had taken place, sometime over the winter.
There is so much large wood on the ground that they aren't attempting to remove that, the intention is to eliminate dried leaves and brush.
The rest of the trip was a little shocking and rather difficult.
Since I was there in September, at least a dozen massive trees have crashed across the trail, blocking travel.
The hike is very steep, making some of them were quite difficult to climb over.
Not one of them was on the ground last fall, when the hike was unimpeded.  Now you look ahead and see one log after the other.
I only took photos of the trunks lying across the trail.
One either side, up and down the slopes were countless others.
Where a deep green canopy shaded this forest just a few years ago, bright sunlight was pouring through the empty spaces recently vacated above.
Looking upstream from this little bridge you could almost think that this sylvan glade is perfect...and perfectly normal.
The water sparkles downstream too, in sun that should be obscured by the cool dark fronds of evergreen hemlocks and laurels, all reduced to bare sticks now.
Meanwhile, everyone (didn't we all?) just celebrated "World Biodiversity Day", yesterday.  Here's the WorldWatch description of this event, which is a chilling assessment, frankly:
"This World Biodiversity Day (May 22), Worldwatch Institute is raising awareness of biodiversity losses worldwide and what individuals and institutions can do to confront these trends. The current rate of species extinction is up to 1,000 times above the Earth’s normal extinction rate, a level of loss that has not occurred since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The Worldwatch Institute, in its recently released report State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity, highlights the threats to biodiversity and methods for combating the exploitation and degradation of ecosystems and their services."
"From 1980 to 2008, an average of 52 species per year moved one category closer to extinction on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Endangered Species—a rate that shows no signs of slowing. Although mass extinctions have occurred on Earth throughout geologic time, the current loss of biodiversity is the first to be caused overwhelmingly by a single species: humans. The five principal pressures causing biodiversity loss are habitat change, overexploitation, pollution, invasive alien species and climate change, all of which are almost exclusively human driven."
“'The current model of consumer societies is destroying the planet and its resources,' said Bo Normander, director of Worldwatch Institute Europe and a contributing author to State of the World 2012. 'This must change in order for the planet to sustain future generations.'”

"At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, leaders made a commitment to preserve biological resources by signing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), but there remains a fundamental lack of political will to act on biodiversity threats. In 2002, the CBD promised 'a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss' by 2010, yet within those eight years, most countries failed to meet their targets.
To combat the loss of Earth’s natural capital, scientists strive to assign concrete values to natural resources with the hope that an economic appreciation of ecosystem services may facilitate improved planning and management of Earth’s systems. Yet progress on developing accurate, straightforward and widely accepted measures for assessing ecosystem values remains slow."
And as if to punctuate this on a local scale, Scientific American tells us that "Rapid Climate Changes Turn North Woods Into Moose Graveyard" even though there is absolutely no proof - especially since moose thrive in warmer climates, such as Eastern Canada, than the area under study in Michigan - that rising temperatures are to blame - when it could just as well be a lack of food from tree death:

"Meanwhile, annual surveys taken from helicopter overflights show that the state's primary moose population, in the state's northeastern Arrowhead region, has been halved in just six years, dropping from 8,840 animals in 2006 to just 4,230 this year. The decline mirrors a similar collapse a decade ago in the state's northwest corner, where moose plummeted from an estimated 4,000 animals in the mid-1980s to less than 100 by the mid-2000s."

They list all sorts of maladies affecting the population - parasites and insects - but the only mention they make of the food supply is this:

"...what moose need to thrive. That includes large, contiguous forest tracts with dense stands of fir, spruce and pine trees that provide cover against harsh weather conditions, along with a healthy mix of birch and aspen trees whose bark and tender saplings are the original "'moose munch.'"

And then they conclude:  "The biologists are baffled and also helpless".  Haven't they heard of the mysterious "SAD - sudden aspen decline"?

Well, animals that have to spend more time foraging  - and/or, if their source of food is delinquent in nutritive content - will likely fall prey to all sorts of other stressors.

Another report worthy of consideration is a WorldWatch link to a thought-provoking piece in the New York Times about meat consumption, We Could Be Heros:

"Five years ago, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization published a report called 
'Livestock’s Long Shadow,' which maintained that 18 percent of greenhouse gases were attributable to the raising of animals for food. The number was startling."

"A couple of years later, however, it was suggested that the number was too small. Two environmental specialists for the World Bank, Robert Goodland (the bank’s former lead environmental adviser) and Jeff Anhang, claimed, in an article in World Watch, that the number was more like 51 percent. It’s been suggested that that number is extreme, but the men stand by it, as Mr. Goodland wrote to me this week: 'All that greenhouse gas isn’t emitted directly by animals.  But according to the most widely-used rules of counting greenhouse gases, indirect emissions should be counted when they are large and when something can be done to mitigate or reduce them.'”

"The exact number doesn’t matter. What does is that few people take the role of livestock in producing greenhouse gases seriously enough. Even most climate change experts focus on new forms of energy — which cannot possibly be effective quickly enough or produced on a broad enough scale to avert what may be the coming catastrophe — and often ignore the much easier fix of adjusting our eating habits."

"It’s good that we’re eating somewhat less meat, but it still amounts to something just shy of a 
staggering 200 pounds per person per year. And no matter how that number changes domestically, 
on the world scale there’s troubling movement in the wrong direction. Meat consumption in China is now twice what it is in the United States (in 1978 it was only one-third). We still eat twice as much per capita as the Chinese, but when they catch up they’ll consume more than four times as much as we do."

"But the Chinese don’t need to eat like us; we need to eat like them. Or, rather, like they did until 

"If you believe that earth’s natural resources are limitless, which maybe was excusable 100 years ago but is the height of ignorance now, or that “technology will fix it” or that we can simply go mine them in outer space with Newt Gingrich, I guess none of this worries you. But if you believe in reality, and you’d like that to be a place that your kids get to enjoy, this is a big deal."

Well, all I can say is that a quick view of this video, which I can't embed but is highly instructive, will give a pretty good idea of how seriously humanity is taking potential shortages of anything.  It's titled "Helium Shortage is No Laughing Matter" and then procedes to make a joke of it.  It's really funny, it made me laugh!  Especially because all those stupid balloons end up being nothing but wasted, dangerously poisonous trash anyway.  But they don't mention that.

In a HuffPo article, "G8 Deaf to Climate Change Warnings by International Energy Agency", our world leaders are accused of "speaking in platitudes" which are, surprise surprise, echoed in the very limited and timid "solutions" offered by the author to "keep that door to 2C open" which are:  1) More Renewables, 2) Displace Fossil Fuels and 3) Conservation and Efficiency.  So for all the good it would do, I contributed my two cents:
This article minces around the point, too. Those three things alluded to won't be nearly enough to spare the earth from catastrophic climate change without drastic, deep, dramatic sacrifices by the biggest energy hogs. That means, no more flying on vacations or business, local food production - cut back on global shipping and other long distance transport, an end to single-passenger and gas guzzling cars, no more wasting energy for unnecessary things like snow-mobiling, lawn mowing and Christmas tree lights. Energy should be rationed. 
Articles that shirk from pointing out the necessity of this radical curtailment simply enable the delusion that industrial civilization can ever be made sustainable. No matter how many windmills you put up, it will never be enough to replace the concentrated power of fossilized fuel and furthermore, the level of resource extraction and pollution are all by themselves in overshoot. 
Furthermore, the human population is well beyond the planet's carrying capacity. If we were rational we would immediately curtail family size but it's far more likely, unfortunately, that Mother Nature will figure out a less pleasant way of reducing our rampant growth.
Out of curiosity I followed up on the author's credentials and saw she is head of the TCKTCKTCK campaign, a loose coalition of green organizations.  One of the links on their webpage led to a recent post by David Suzuki, "Environmentalism Has Failed" which seems to be a popular notion lately and one that irritates me no end.  A young woman put a similar sentiment on facebook a couple of days ago, complaining that her parents' attempts had been useless.  She proclaimed that she's not an environmentalist, she's for clean energy! which strikes me as about the same as those young women who like to proclaim proudly that they are "not feminists" while ignoring the very real struggles and sacrifices historically made by their predecessors so that they can enjoy the rights and freedoms they now take for granted.  Grrr.

Admittedly, Suzuki could have a legitimate point when he says:  "...we were so focused on battling opponents and seeking public support that we failed to realize these battles reflect fundamentally different ways of seeing our place in the world," if by "seeking public support" he means "securing corporate financing" and by the failure to realize these battles "...reflect fundamentally different ways of seeing our place in the world" he means that too many Big Greens never challenged the industrial system and just nibbled around the edges, preserving a few acres (and their own jobs and prestige) here and there....temporarily...until some precious resource was discovered under that protected ground, like the Tar Sands.

There were comments made to that post, about the financial crisis impeding progress in conservation which to me, is as much as anything a conveniently manufactured excuse to frighten the public into accepting the dismantling of old and prevention of new regulations, as well as shred the social safety net.  Anyway, this comment from "Weary of Hypocrites" sarcastically quoted:
"During the 20th century, our numbers increased fourfold..." and "When we believe the entire world is filled with unlimited 'resource' provided for our use, we act accordingly."  Totally - Mr FIVE KIDS!
Seriously?  I googled that and found out, it's true, Suzuki had five children with two different wives.  Now, it's a fact that I had three myself but the point is, I wasn't contemporaneously offering myself as a leader preaching for environmentalism and against overpopulation!  [As an aside, that search came up with a Canadian denier site where the most recent entry was an explanation as to why the writer had decided to not speak at the Heartland conference after all, following the ill-fated billboard advertisement linking climate activists to terrorists.  Ha!  Small world...]

The Telegraph and others reported, however, that the G8 conference endorsed a baby step towards acknowledging the dangers of those "other" emissions in their article, G8 Leaders Open Up Vital New Front in the Battle to Control Global Warming:

"It seems to have gone virtually unnoticed, but the world leaders at the weekend's G8 summit look as if they have taken the biggest step in years in tackling climate change. And it's quite apart from anything to do with carbon dioxide."

"The summit's final communiqué, the Camp David Declaration, supports “comprehensive actions” to reduce “short-lived climate pollutants”. These substances – including black carbon (soot), methane, ground-level ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons – are responsible for about half of global warming. Straightforward measures to address them, a report by the United Nations Environment Programme concluded last year, would delay dangerous climate change by more than three decades, buying crucial time for the much more difficult process of slashing carbon dioxide emissions."

"More important still, the measures would save some 2.4 million lives a year, mainly by cutting the inhalation of soot, chiefly emitted by vehicle diesel engines and by the inefficient wood and dung burning cookstoves used by most of the world's poorest people – and increase grain harvests, at present hit by pollution, by 52 million tons a year."

"While the international climate negotiations drag on, these pollutants can be reduced through existing national laws and regulations, using technologies that are already available. And many climate sceptics agree on the importance of doing so: Senator James Inhofe, who pioneered Republican rejection of action to curb carbon dioxide, supports it on black carbon, while Canada – which caused controversy this winter by quitting the Kyoto Protocol – has been in the forefront of countries urging an assault on such the short-lived agents of climate change."

"The G8's endorsement of action at the weekend is a triumph for the small Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD), which has been campaigning for action on the pollutants while most climate scientists and green pressure groups have ignored them. In just a few short years it has brought the issue from invisibility to the agendas of the world's most powerful leaders. In February six governments – including the US, Canada and Mexico – launched a five year programme to tackle them, and the rest of the G8 has now signed up to it. And it commissioned the World Bank to produce a report on how it can integrate ways of reducing them into its activities..."

"It will remain important to continue this international effort. But as Durwood Zaelke, the IGSD president puts it 'the solution-orientated approach' of the programme to address the short-lived pollutants can 'show the world it is possible to start meeting the climate challenge.'”

I, for one, welcome this approach and commented:
It's a pity that most climate activists and scientists are blinded by CO2.  It's a terrible mistake in strategy because it's far more likely that the public and policy makers, if they were educated about the damage from pollution, would be prepared to make the drastic sacrifices required to reduce it. 
Ozone for instance, not only reduces annual crop yield and quality as mentioned glancingly in this article, but cumulative damage is literally killing forests all over the world, by compromising the ability of trees to fend off naturally occurring insects, disease and fungus that they once coexisted with.  Repairing ozone injury to leaves and needles reduces root mass, making trees (and other plantlife) more fragile in times of drought and to wind.  We ignore this at our peril.
I suppose we can expect to be hearing much more about another emerging scandal as reported at TomDispatch, "...The New Eco-Devastation in Rural America".  It's amazing how there is never a dearth of fresh shining examples that reveal our insatiable lust for energy and concurrent willingness to destroy Nature to get it.

In this instance "new eco-devastation" refers to the mining of silica in Wyoming, mountains of which are required for the process of fracking for natural gas, which is proceeding at a frantic rate.  Imagine, if this is how American citizens are treated, just how helpless the landless, indigenous people in third-world countries are when multi-national corporations come sniffing around for resources.

"Frac-sand corporations count on a combination of naïveté, trust, and incomprehension in rural hamlets that previously dealt with companies no larger than Wisconsin’s local sand and gravel industries. Before 2008, town boards had never handled anything beyond road maintenance and other basic municipal issues.  Today, multinational corporations use their considerable resources to steamroll local councils and win sweetheart deals.  That’s how the residents of Tunnel City got taken to the cleaners."

"There was also no need for jumping the hurdles zoning laws sometimes erect. Like many Wisconsin towns where a culture of diehard individualism sees zoning as an assault on personal freedom, Greenfield and all its municipalities, including Tunnel City, are unzoned. This allowed the corporation to make deals with individual landowners…"

"There was no time for public education about the potential negative possibilities of frac-sand mining: the destruction of the hills, the decline in property values, the danger of silicosis (once considered a strictly occupational lung disease) from blowing silica dust, contamination of ground water from the chemicals used in the processing plants, the blaze of lights all night long, noise from hundreds of train cars, houses shaken by blasting."

ClimateCrocks published a couple of very intriguing maps about the "cooling hole" over the eastern US from sulphate pollution.  Since emissions have been greatly reduced in this country, that effect is almost nullified - but it makes you wonder why foresters blame the trees dying on the eastern seaboard and Appalachian mountains on global warming - doesn't it?  Recall that, for no scientific reason at all, the reduction in maple syrup production, and loss of fall color, has been blamed on temperature and now, even a "yucky taste"!  This is from the post:

"Temperatures are increasing on a global scale, but at the regional level, the story gets complicated. In the central and eastern United States, for example, warming has not kept pace with other parts of the world over much of the last century."

"As shown in the lower map, which is based on data from NASA’s Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP), parts of the United States even cooled between 1930 and 1990. Areas of the greatest cooling are blue; those that warmed are red. Climate scientists have taken to calling the large area of cooling a “warming hole” because the areas surrounding it have warmed at a faster rate."

"For more than a decade, researchers have puzzled over what’s causing the warming hole over the United States. Previous research has suggested natural variations in sea surface temperatures might be responsible, but a new study puts the focus on sulfates, a type of aerosol produced by coal power plants that’s known for causing acid rain. Sulfates are light-colored, and they cause cooling by scattering and reflecting sunlight. They also lower temperatures indirectly by making clouds more reflective and long-lasting."

"The researchers, led by Eric Leibensperger when he was at Harvard University, used global climate models to estimate the cooling effect sulfates have had on the climate of the United States since 1950. As seen in the top map, they found that between 1970 and 1990—the period when sulfates were at their highest levels—average temperatures were nearly 1°Celsius (1.8°Fahrenheit) cooler in a core area centered on Arkansas and Missouri and about 0.7°Celsius cooler in a larger tear-drop region throughout the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. The cooling effect extended into the North Atlantic Ocean as well; sulfate pollution lowered sea surface temperatures there by 0.3°Celsius."

"Leibensperger’s research also shows that the cooling effect from sulfates is diminishing. The amount of the pollutant in the atmosphere has declined significantly in the last few decades due to the Clean Air Act. According to Environmental Protection Agency estimates, the amount of sulfur dioxide (a precursor to sulfates) released into the atmosphere fell by 58 percent between 1980 and 2010. Satellites have confirmed the decrease; the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on the Aquasatellite observed a sharp decline in sulfates over the eastern United States between 2005 and 2010."

"As a response to the declining sulfate levels, Leibensperger’s modeling shows temperatures over the central and eastern United States have increased by 0.3°Celsius between 1980 and 2010. How much more warming can we expect as sulfate concentrations continue to decline? Not much, according to Leibensperger. Sulfate concentrations have declined so much already that the impact of future decreases won’t be nearly as substantial."

Endless time can be whiled away by fiddling with NASA aerosol maps here and here.

At the end is a brief video that also has a great depiction of the global dimming - oh and wish me luck tomorrow!  OWS is going to confront the tentacled Great Vampire Squid at Goldman Sachs HQ in Jersey City first thing in the morning...because, why not?



  1. The cooling withing the "warming holes" is indicative that the theory of "rain follows the plow" is correct! That's my story and I am sticking to it. LOL

    I don't know I am suspicious of one-source theories that tell a "just so" story within dynamic systems. Paraphrasing Taleb, and likely mangling simultaniously, that which you cannot measure, nor predict, is random.

    I understand your reluctance with the controlled burn, but I am unclear as to what to do. The argument that there has not been a fire there before is not a particularly strong one. To go back to Taleb, its like the Turkey thinking that farmer who comes to feed him every day is great guy. Everything is great until that one special day comes along. In this case we just don't know the day.

    To my mind burning seems like a waste, but I gather its cheeper than turning it all into wood chips/composte.

  2. Haha, I appreciate that Anon! I truly hate being so ignorant about birds, and there are so many, it's hard to identify them. I googled it and I think maybe it's actually an Eastern Towhee. Really exciting, thanks so much!

  3. I don't object to the controlled burning, much. My interest in it is, WHY? Why does the forest service lately think places that hitherto never had a fire are now dangerous? It's the same question I ask of services that maintain a right of way - highways, trains, electric lines. They are cutting trees like crazy, but only a few workers that I've talked to will admit off-the-record it's because the trees are dying off. Officially, the agencies will not comment.

  4. Good luck tomorrow and be careful. Too many arrests and your blogging rights may be taken away!

    Re: 5 kids. Paul Gilding has 5, too. His excuse: "I wasn't really thinking about it, you know, when it happened....!"

  5. Time for the wood chip fired, steam driven wood chippers to be invented and used to clear the 'fire load' while not adding to the fossil fuel pollution.

    They just cleared 180 acres of Georgia woods to build a new Caterpillar Tractor plant here. They have machines that can shred the biggest trees into mulch which they are doing as I type. If they were only steam powered fired with wood chips...
    The mid-sized bulldozers to be manufactured here will help clear the Amazon rain forest. Oh boy, jobs for the brain dead to feed their families of undereducated children!

    The ash trees in Lafayette, IN are expected to all die in the next five years from the emerald ash borer. Here's one link of many:



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