Monday, December 31, 2012

Call Back Summertime

And all her empires are falling down
And winter's closing in...

~ Joni Mitchell

Every Christmas, spoiled beloved daughters insist upon the elaborate production of a Bûche de Noël.  It's a traditional French gâteau that represents the Yuletide log, with a génoise rolled around pastry custard and cream filling, decorated with a lusciously silky, dense rich chocolate icing and meringue mushrooms.  In all honesty this year's was the best ever.  And why not?  It's likely the last.
It is always so wonderful to forget about mass extinction for a little bit.  Youngest came home so we took her to that citadel of consumerism, the Short Hills Mall, to shop for a dress to wear on New Year's Eve, which she will spend in Las Vegas.
I finally received a copy of The American Hanoverian, with first daughter pictured on the cover, riding a victory lap with her champion dressage horse.
I missed middle daughter whose turn it was to stay on call at the equine clinic in Kentucky, but by the looks of things, the interns managed to fit in some seasonal festivities.
Now that youngest has headed back west...and soon first daughter will follow her trainer to Florida for the rest of the winter...I am left to contemplate the bitterness of collapsing trees.  Do you see how I brave the elements to take pictures in the middle of a freezing snow?
Since my last post about the EPA draft report on the effects of ozone on plantlife, the head of the agency, Lisa Jackson, resigned.  No doubt she was frustrated by a number of issues that she was prevented from addressing, and many climate activists are fond of the notion that her decision has mostly to do with the pipeline from the Tar Sands, since that has been the emphasis on their own strategy.  But there's no evidence for it, and approval of KXL was never up to the EPA anyway.  The one issue actually reported during her tenure to have made her consider resigning was when Obama refused to allow her to enact stricter ozone regulations.  At the time, the New York Times reported:  "The ozone decision was jarring because it was wholly unexpected. Ms. Jackson considered resigning but soon abandoned the idea as a futile gesture."

She also has a kid with asthma, like just about everybody who grows up in New Jersey, including our stupid governor.
Either way, there's no question that nothing will be done about the inexorably rising level of background tropospheric ozone, because there's nothing that can be done, short of halting emissions of precursors, and that would mean shutting down industrial processes and modern transportation.
It made me feel a little better to know that it isn't only tropospheric ozone that is neglected when I read a description in Smithsonian Magazine of one lonely scientist's efforts to maintain funding for his discovery - that the hole in stratospheric ozone (the good kind that shields Earth from excessive UV radiation) is not only NOT repairing, but is actually spreading.  In The Ozone Problem is Back and Worse Than Ever, it says:

"Those discoveries should have served as a wake-up call that, for all the good the Montreal Protocol did, ozone loss was not a thing of the past. “But NASA [which had funded much of Anderson’s work] said we’re declaring victory against ozone loss and going after climate change by studying clouds,” he says. Among the many unknowns about how climate will change in a world warmed by a blanket of greenhouse gases—mostly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels—is whether clouds will slow or accelerate global warming."

“'I went to NASA and said we have a big problem here,' says Anderson. Go away, the agency told him; we’ve moved on, now that the world had solved the ozone problem by phasing out CFC production."

"Anderson persisted (again) and began writing more and more insistent letters up the NASA chain of command. He finally got a sympathetic hearing from Ken Jucks, manager for the agency’s Upper Atmosphere Research Program. Together, they wrested enough financial support for Anderson to keep his team together and analyze what the raw data from the flights were trying to tell him."
Anderson was one of the original discoverers of the stratospheric ozone if even he has to fight for funding for research outside of CO2, I guess it's small wonder there's no research projects trying to tie forest decline to tropospheric ozone.

So let's get right to the anecdotal, since it's so scientific, haha.  (Allow me to point out to current and potential Ozonists and Ozonistas - I am not a scientist!  I don't understand three quarters of what I read and that's just the summaries in the news, not even the original research much of which is gobbledygook to me.  All I've ever wanted to do is get a REAL scientist to look into this.)  Anyway, guess what?  Trees are falling all over the place!

All around the country, stories of people being killed by falling trees are greeted with a notable lack of surprise, as though it's normal for trees to fall over...because of snow.  This is particularly absurd because it contradicts climate studies (and historical records, and my own personal recollection) that indicate we get far less snow than we used to.
Wisconsin - the caption reads:  A recent heavy wet snow caused many trees and branches in the Pheasant Branch Conservancy to fall.  December 26, 2012
Over Christmas, 200,000 lost power in Arkansas which was not expected to be restored until New Year's Day, and deaths from falling trees were reported in Texas and Louisiana.
The rest of the pictures in this post, unless otherwise designated as part of an article, are entries to a contest organized by the European Environment Agency.  "ImaginAIR" had several categories from which contestants could choose to submit a set of three photographs.  Subjects ranged from wildfires exacerbated by drought from global warming to deliberate burning of agricultural land, air travel and industrial plants.  The overall winner was Dovile Lubyte of Lithuania, whose very creative series "Astronauts of the Polluted Earth" is directly above and below.  Each of the photographers also submitted their thoughts about air and pollution with their entries, which you can read at the EEA site.
This is what Dovile Lubyte said of her photographs:

"By this photographs I want to depict how polluted the Earth will be after a few decades. People will be like astronauts who will strive to save the last trees and other plants. We will have and even now we have a lot of technological tools, devices which will help us to live or even visit Moon, but using too much of these technologies we will lose the essential thing NATURE."

Following is the surreal description of massive tree fall - from "an odd weather pattern", ha! in the Seattle Times:

Road workers say they've never seen anything like it — snow-laden trees falling several times a day along the eastern slope of Stevens Pass.

Highway 2 from the pass to Leavenworth, Chelan County, will be closed until midday Monday or later, until crews find a way to clear wet snow from the branches or nature melts it.
Downed trees have killed two people and injured nine since Friday, in a pair of crashes about 15 miles east of the pass.

Toppling trees also have forced two recent closures on Highway 542 to Mount Baker, but it reopened at 9 a.m. Sunday after an 11-hour shutdown.

Trees rarely if ever tumble onto Highway 2 east of Stevens Pass, but at least a dozen have fallen in the past couple of days. An odd weather pattern has settled there, said DOT spokesman Jeff Adamson.
Temperatures have lingered between 21 and 30 degrees — warm enough for falling snow to be moist but not powdery, and too cold for it to melt off the branches during daytime. A typical low of 15 degrees would freeze the ground, holding snowbanks and tree roots firm, but that's not happening, Adamson said.

Branches are snapping off alders and Ponderosa pines, while shallow-rooted Douglas firs tend to topple, Adamson said.

The first of two tree-car wrecks happened Friday afternoon when a tree crashed onto an SUV headed east, killing Timothy Owen, 58, and Cheryl Janine Reed, 56, a married couple from Bothell. Their three adult children and a son-in-law were injured. As of Sunday, daughter Jessica Owen; daughter Jamie Owen Mayer; and her husband, Steven Mayer; were in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, while son Jeremy Owen was treated in Wenatchee and released.

Then late Saturday afternoon, a westbound car driven by Binay Pathak, 37, of Seattle, crashed into a downed tree, injuring five people, officials said.

Highway-maintenance workers — some of them ex-loggers — chose to reopen the road after the Friday crash because they drove through the area and didn't observe branches bending over the roadway, Adamson said. "Frankly, it was very safe, until the next evening," he said. By Sunday, trees were falling about once an hour, and three fell in a single hour, he said.
Officials have tried without success to clear tree branches by using a helicopter like a wind machine, to blow snow away, Adamson said. The DOT might try a larger copter, he said.

Because this part of Highway 2 runs through protected national forest, the trees and guardrails are very close to travel lanes, as opposed to other places where the DOT's right of way can extend out as far as 50 feet, Adamson said.

It's not just in the northwest that multiple trees are falling, they are coming down in Texas.  Of course in this case, it is blamed not on snow but on wind and drought.  This tv news story about a road in northwest Harris County outside Houston, where up to 50 trees have fallen and are seen crashing as the news crew is filming - is pretty amazing.  Notice that viewers are warned a sign of tree death is peeling bark, which is demonstrated in the video.  In 2009, I wanted to send a sample of bark to be tested for aluminum.  I had no idea how hard it would be to pull a piece off a tree.  I finally resorted to using a hammer.  Now, you might want to go outside and check for yourself.  It's easy to peel off.

An article from last July seems prescient in the aftermath of Sandy.  The author correctly notes that power outages have increased to the point where they are considered to be "normal" - and the main reason is due to trees falling on lines.  But because it's still a virtual secret that trees are falling because they are dying from pollution, an aging infrastructure takes the blame:
"It’s not just a feeling: Power outages have become normal in the United States. Last month’s heat and derecho storms that left more than 300,000 people in the Mid-Atlantic states without power (some for as long as a week) are part of a larger trend. In 2008, according to the Eaton Blackout Tracker, there were 2,169 power outages in the U.S. affecting 25 million people. In 2011, there were more than 3,000 outages affecting 41.8 million people."

"According to Eaton, the majority of power outages in the U.S. are caused by weather, in particular storms blowing trees on the lines, and heat waves that overwhelm the carrying capacity of the system."
"...Since the early 1990s, according to data gathered by Massoud Amin, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Minnesota, the number of power outages affecting more than 50,000 people a year has more than doubled, and blackouts now drain between $80 billion and $188 billion from the U.S. economy every year. The power grid is slipping backwards to a time when infrastructure was unreliable, and more and more people are talking about going “off the grid” with solar, batteries, and generators as a result. Will this doom the greater grid, and by extension the greater good?"

"...Incorporating new technology will keep people’s lights on, and solar, deployed at large scale in places like Texas could mitigate or even prevent outages on hot days. But it also has risks: Backup generators create pollution and are themselves susceptible to fuel shortages, says Amin, and depending on the type of connection, even small amounts of undispatchable power on the grid can destabilize the whole system."
“'Building backups may limit panics, but it’s unwisely defeatist,” he says."

"Grids, like highway rules, vaccination programs, and universal health insurance, are extraordinarily reliable, but they only work when everyone who takes from them is also invested. Creating private, or ultralocal, hedges against failing power without investing in the greater grid is the electric equivalent of creating a gated community. And this is what has happened in countries with lots of blackouts: Cities in Nigeria and India are full of private generators belching out fumes. In Pakistan, where outages of as much as 20 hours a day are common, the new prime minister is catching scorn for installing a generator so he’ll have power 24 hours a day."
I was reading a paper that re-evaluates the models of the original 1972 Limits to Growth that created such a sensation and backlash.  Pollution was one of the perimeters they modeled, but barely.  Here's the section from the paper:

Persistent Pollution

The final variable for comparison - persistent pollution - is a difficult variable to quantify with appropriate data.  Few measurements of pollutants amounts (volumes or concentrations) were found that span the last three decades and match the LtG criteria for this variable, namely:

*  arising from industrial or agricultural production;
*  distributed globally
*  persist for long periods (in the order of decades or more); and
*  damage ecological processes, ultimately leading to reduction of human life expectancy and agricultural production.

Aside from data availability, comparison with the World3 model output is complicated by the necessity of relating absolute pollution levels to damage of ecological processes.  This aspect is explored further in the discussion comparing data with model output.

So alas - in other words, they didn't consider ozone, or the nitrogen cascade, or acid rain from SO2 - let alone mercury or radioactive fallout.  They only modeled CO2 pollution.  This is a staggering omission, which is reflected by society in general.  They could have at least thought of London's Great Smog of 1952, which killed over 4,000 in 4 days, and likely caused up to 12,000 subsequent premature fatalities.
Highland Park Optimist Club In Los Angeles at a Banquet in 1954 Pessimistically Dons Gas Masks At A Smog Protest Lunch. Sign Bewails Procrastination: "Why Wait Till 1955: We Might Not Even Be Alive"
This map of coal consumption is staggering, and the graph beneath, which only goes to 2010, gives a pretty good idea of the increase in the amount of pollution - and ozone precursors - from consumption in Asia.
From the Rainforest Action Network:  This map shows world coal consumption by region from 1980-2010. Coal exports from the United States this year are expected to reach 125 million tons, breaking the previous record of 113 million tons set in 1981. 

Coal is responsible for 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions and the U.S. is the world's second largest coal producer. Coal mining, burning, and storage all carry significant risks to public health and to the climate.
A columnist in the New York Times is critical of the pollution in China and the cynical steps taken by the elite to filter their own air while the impoverished unwashed masses are stuck breathing the toxins (just as described in the article above about supplementing the grid with private power generation).  And yet western countries are more diabolical.  They are still poisoning their citizens, but they have become more clever about hiding it...not to mention that much of the pollution in China is produced manufacturing and shipping goods that sent to the developed countries.  Worse to me is the pathetic letter hidden by a desperate worker begging for help, discovered in imported Halloween decorations describing work conditions not far removed from slavery.

I am forever torn between the wishful notion that our species "progresses" away from barbarism and the notion that we merely develop more sophisticated methods of disguising it.  It was suggested by commenter KathyC at NatureBatsLast that perhaps extinction is a mercy because it means an end to suffering...and to live, after all, is to suffer.
I wish I could embed the BBC video at this link.  If I could post it here, I would, over and over - because finally someone is saying what needs to be said - the air is even more polluted than ever, but YOU CAN'T SEE IT.  Just as the video makes clear that devastating effects to human health result from chronic exposure, it's WORSE FOR TREES.  Stop reading for a minute (text of the article is below) click on the link and go watch it!!

Even that report falls short because it is confined to urban pollution, when transboundary pollution is affecting even the most remote areas.  Ozone is a secondary pollutant and so depending on the mix of emissions, tends to form away from the source - out in rural, agricultural or wilderness areas.
While I'm at it, I would like to make one more complaint about deaths blamed on heat waves.  Except for the most extreme temperatures, such losses are almost certainly actually from ozone pollution, which is worsened by heat.  There's a reason that athletes are warned not to exercise outdoors when there are air quality alerts.  Even the Great Smog event deaths were underestimated as amply shown in an NIH study, indicating the elevated deaths following the episode were mis-attributed to influenza.  Plus, that is only considering elevated mortality from that acute episode, not the overall more constant increase in disease from chronic conditions such as heart disease, emphysema and diabetes:

"These new lessons learned from the study of the 1952 London smog indicate that the episode had a much larger impact on health than previously reported. Conditions as extreme as the 1952 London smog are unlikely in industrialized nations today; however, London’s air pollution still affects human health. For instance, deaths and hospital admissions during the week of an air pollution episode in December 1991 had higher mortality rates and hospital admissions than during the week before the episode and during previous time periods (Anderson et al. 1995). A study of air pollution in London from April 1987 through March 1992, which accounted for influenza, identified associations between daily mortality and concentrations of black smoke and ozone (Anderson et al. 1996)."
Here is the text of the BBC article linked above:

Great Smog 60 years on: 'New laws needed to clean London's air'

The main pollutant, sulphur dioxide, was linked to coal burning which was said to have reached exceptional levels.

The legacy of the Great Smog was the Clean Air Act of 1956 which introduced a number of measures to reduce air pollution.

Furnaces could no longer emit "dark smoke" and households were offered grants towards the cost of converting their coal-burning grates to smokeless fuel.

A broad consensus believed the legislation had a major impact on improving public health.
But new pollution threats are causing concern as air pollution mortality figures remain almost the same.
Lawyer Alan Andrews, of environmental organisation ClientEarth, said an estimated 4,300 Londoners now died each year as a result of air pollution (29,000 UK-wide, according to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

This is no longer because of coal fires but is put down to nitrogen dioxide caused mainly by traffic fumes, he said.
"The UK is failing to meet European Union (EU) air quality standards.
"London is thought to have the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide of any capital city in the EU, with levels on some of London's busiest roads, such as Brixton Road and Putney High Street, currently more than triple legal limits," he said.

ClientEarth says the government's own plans show 16 regions and cities will not achieve legal limits for air quality until 2020, and London will have "illegal levels of air pollution until 2025".

Health problems
Dr Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at London's King's College, said legislation worked in the 1950s to deal with pollution but new laws were needed now.

"There's been a dramatic increase in car ownership and traffic, more taxis and buses, so it's a new type of pollution. Legislation is once again required," he said.
He said the introduction of the Congestion Charge in 2003 and the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in 2008 had only made a "tiny difference" to air quality in the capital.

Dr Kelly said air quality was known to be a key factor in the UK's biggest health problems - heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

"We've known this for the last decade but politicians are only just waking up to it. We need to clean the air up," he said.

Under EU air quality laws daily pollution levels must not be above the legal limit on more than 35 days in a calendar year.  But air pollution levels in London had already exceeded EU daily limits 36 times this year by April.
A Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesperson said: "We want to keep improving air quality and reduce the impact it can have on human health and the environment.

[note:  the rest is pure spin]

"Our air quality has improved significantly in recent decades and is now generally very good, and almost all of the UK meets EU air quality limits for all pollutants.

"London, like many of our big cities, is one of the limited areas where air pollution remains an issue.

"However, air quality plans outline all the important work being done at national, regional and local level will ensure we meet EU limits as soon as possible."
It's the end of the year so I have been the recipient of countless annoying email appeals for contributions (annoying because I don't have anything to give!) from every green organization I ever signed up to.  However, the only reason I'm on the New Jersey Conservation Association list is because over thirty years ago they were granted an easement along the Cold Brook that borders Wit's End, following a ghastly oil pipeline leak upstream that killed everything.  Like the Upper Raritan Watershed Association, another local group funded by wealthy donors, as far as I can tell they exist solely to fund their pet projects and provide white-color jobs for their imbecile progeny who can't find or don't want to do real work.  They'll never challenge the system that is destroying the environment they pretend to protect because they *are* the 1% benefiting from it.  This year they caught my attention when they forwarded a video tribute to a Nature Preserve in the Pine Barrens, newly dedicated to Franklin Parker (who happens to be, I'm pretty sure, the father of the obnoxious trust fund baby who bought my old house...think middle name Chubb...but that's not why I noticed it).
The delusional aspect of the video is so farcical, it's simply hysterically funny - with the emphasis on hysteria.  In another video I found upon visiting their website, one of the steering committee members actually describes the following scenery as:  "...pristine, beautiful, expansive land..."
This is the first image in the video they sent me announcing the dedication of the Preserve.

Seriously, how can anyone look at that scene or the other screenshots below, and think this has anything remotely to do with "preservation"?  If you get a chance and have the time, watch Daniel Pauly's TED talk about shifting baselines.  His topic is the steady decline in size and abundance of fish in the ocean that is imperceptible to most people - but the concept applies equally well to fact it's even more applicable, because so many fewer people seem to have the slightest clue that the picture above is so freakishly deviant as to be grotesque.

For example even youngest daughter, assiduously trained in the scientific method at Princeton, expressed skepticism that whale populations have been decimated.  Part of the discrepancy in calculation of early catches arises because before the whaling industry, there were no scientists keeping records to today's standards of research.  Well, I asked her, doesn't the mere fact that when the Nantucketers first started killing whales for their precious oil, all they had to do was sail within sight of the island's shore and haul them in, but by the time the industry had peaked - when petroleum was discovered - the ships, like the ill-fated Essex upon which Moby Dick was based, were having to chase whales around Cape Horn then far north above the equator in the Pacific, on voyages that lasted years?  She shrugged, unimpressed.
Conservationists currently like to say that the Pine Barrens is a "unique" habitat for species adapted to thrive in an environment that was always acidic.  I however would like to know how the hell did those dead trees get that tall in the first place??  Do we have to have a scientific survey from two centuries ago to know that the standing dead trees were once upon a time alive and growing?  It's nigh impossible to find any contemporary discussion of acidification from pollution in the Pine Barrens among so-called green organizations, who prefer to treat it as part of the original character of the region.

If you go back to 1990 you can find alternative information, in a long-forgotten article in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Acid rain has polluted almost all of the streams in the Pine Barrens, the forest that covers nearly a quarter of New Jersey, a federal study shows.
"The (acid) levels in the Pine Barrens are pretty high, not the highest in the country, but close to it," said Mark Morgan, an associate professor of zoology at Rutgers University in Camden who has studied acid rain in the Pine Barrens for the last five years.
Acid rain is formed when moisture in the air mixes with sulfur oxides released by burning oil, coal and gasoline. They form sulfuric and nitric acids, which damage streams and lakes. Much of the pollution is believed to originate from industries in the Ohio River Valley and Western Pennsylvania.

Of 675 streams tested in the Pine Barrens, 92 percent had an unnaturally low pH of 5.5 or less, according to the federal study, part of a decade-long U.S. Environmental Protection Agency project.

Fifty-six percent of the streams in the Pine Barrens had a pH of less than five. Very few species of fish can live in water that acidic.

The pH scale measures acidity. Pure water has a pH of seven. Lemon juice has a pH of two.

"Virtually all the Pine Barrens area is very, very weakly buffered" against the effects of acid rain, said Dr. Philip Kaufmann, a Utah State University professor and technical director of the EPA's National Stream Survey. "A lot of the streams there already have organic acids in them. Now we add another acid onto them from acid rain, which is why we have a very high percentage of acidic waters there."
The Pine Barrens are particularly sensitive to acid rain, Kaufmann said. ''The soils there were made up pretty much of silicon sand, which is essentially glass, like glass beads," he said. "It doesn't provide much resistance to change."

Kaufmann said that 92 percent of the streams studied contained dissolved inorganic aluminum, which is potentially toxic to some aquatic species. "If that continues and the water becomes more acidic, it could mean further harm to aquatic life," he said.

While public attention on acid rain has focused mostly on the Adirondacks and New England, the federal study shows high levels of sulfuric acid in streams and lakes in the mid-Atlantic coastal plain, Appalachia and northern Florida. Kaufmann said that more sulfates fall on the mid-Atlantic region than in the Adirondacks.
Still, Morgan said, conditions in the Pine Barrens may be improving. He estimated that the acid level of rain there had decreased 20 percent since 1971.

"Since 1970, things are beginning to be a little bit better," Morgan said, adding that "1970 was the passage of the Clean Air Act, which put regulations on sulfur dioxide emissions, much as current legislation is trying to do."

Congress will consider renewal of the Clean Air Act later this month. The proposed Senate version would require a 10-million-ton reduction in the amount of sulfur dioxide that industry can release into the atmosphere in the next 10 years.

Morgan said future legislation could only help the Pine Barrens.

"It would bring a measure of protection to the Pinelands," he said. "We didn't know that before.  People were asking, 'If we reduce emissions and pay all that money, will it have any effect?'  This research shows that, in the Pinelands, yes, there will be a reduction in acidity, in sulfuric acid, and it can only be beneficial to the organisms."

The Upper Midwest Aerospace Consortium hosts a webpage about acid rain with this photograph depicting the thinning of pines needles.  Look familiar?
"U.S. areas prone to chronic acidification include the Adirondacks and Catskill Mountains in New York State, the Appalachians, the upper Midwest, and mountainous areas in the western U.S. One of the most acidic lakes in the U.S. is Little Echo Pond in Franklin, New York, with a pH of 4.2. In the New Jersey Pine Barrens, over 90% of streams are acidic."

"Forest damage is another environmental effect related to acid deposition. A 1999 survey of European forests showed that one out of every four trees had suffered the loss of 25% or more leaves or needles. Tree damage is believed to have multiple causes, including acidification of soil and high concentrations of ground-level ozone, both side-effects of acidic deposition. In Germany, this phenomenon, first observed in the Black Forest in the 1960s, is termed Waldsterben or tree death. An example is shown in the photo above. Damage was first observed in conifers, then later in deciduous trees, such as oak and beech. By 1990, nearly half the trees in the Black Forest were damaged."

"Soils are also affected by acid deposition, particularly in areas with highly siliceous bedrock (granite, gneisses, quartzite, and quartz sandstone). These soils, which are common in eastern North America and Scandinavia, are already somewhat acidic. When acid deposition occurs on acidic soils, important cations including potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium are readily leached out, making them unavailable to plants as nutrients. This phenomenon, termed soil depletion, reduces the fertility of the soil. Similarly, in areas with old, highly leached soils, acid deposition depletes the small amounts of cations present, and the soil soon becomes unable to support plant life."

"Other environmental problems are closely related to acid deposition. Eutrophication is a term used to describe aging of a lake or shallow marine areas such as coastal zones. The aging process can be natural, resulting from the accumulation of nutrients, sediments, silt, and organic matter in from the surrounding watershed. Eutrophication can also be caused by human activity. This is called cultural eutrophication and is associated with excess nitrogen and, to a lesser extent, excess phosphorous, from agricultural activities, sewage, and industrial waste. Algal blooms, such as the red tide event in coastal Hong Kong illustrated above, are a symptom of eutrophication. If eutrophication is ongoing, a decline in biodiversity may result."

"Ground-level ozone is formed in the atmosphere by nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight. Ground-level ozone causes damage to agricultural crops and trees, and is harmful to human health."

A powerpoint presentation about the Pine Barrens includes this spectral image:

One of the claims made by "conservationists" is that it is normal for fires to burn in the Pinelands.
Just how frequent and how fierce is "normal" has been a constant debate out west, and an excuse for lumber companies, in collusion with the US Forest Service, to log.
If you ask me, it's absurd to think that trees thinning like those above don't add "unnatural" fuel.  Even almost all of the newly planted trees below are visibly sick!
From the EPA:

"Streams flowing over soil with low buffering capacity are as susceptible to damage from acid rain as lakes. Approximately 580 of the streams in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain are acidic primarily due to acidic deposition. In the New Jersey Pine Barrens, for example, over 90 percent of the streams are acidic, which is the highest rate of acidic streams in the nation. Over 1,350 of the streams in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands (mid-Appalachia) are acidic, primarily due to acidic deposition."
"The acidification problem in both the U.S. and Canada grows in magnitude if “episodic acidification” is taken into account. Episodic acidification refers to brief periods during which pH levels decrease due to runoff from melting snow or heavy downpours. Lakes and streams in many areas throughout the U.S. are sensitive to episodic acidification. In the Mid-Appalachians, the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain, and the Adirondack Mountains, many additional lakes and streams become temporarily acidic during storms and spring snowmelt. For example, approximately 70 percent of sensitive lakes in the Adirondacks are at risk of episodic acidification. This amount is over three times the amount of chronically acidic lakes. In the mid-Appalachians, approximately 30 percent of sensitive streams are likely to become acidic during an episode. This level is seven times the number of chronically acidic streams in that area. Episodic acidification can cause 'fish kills.'"

"Emissions from U.S. sources also contribute to acidic deposition in eastern Canada, where the soil is very similar to the soil of the Adirondack Mountains, and the lakes are consequently extremely vulnerable to chronic acidification problems. The Canadian government has estimated that 14,000 lakes in eastern Canada are acidic."

The EPA asks:

"What is the Role of Nitrogen in Acid Rain and Other Environmental Problems?"

"The impact of nitrogen on surface waters is also critical. Nitrogen plays a significant role in episodic acidification and new research recognizes the importance of nitrogen in long-term chronic acidification as well. Furthermore, the adverse impact of atmospheric nitrogen deposition on estuaries and near-coastal water bodies is significant. Scientists estimate that 10 to 45 percent of the nitrogen produced by various human activities that reaches estuaries and coastal ecosystems is transported and deposited via the atmosphere. For example, about 30 percent of the nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay comes from atmospheric deposition. Nitrogen is an important factor in causing eutrophication (oxygen depletion) of water bodies. The symptoms of eutrophication include blooms of algae (both toxic and non-toxic), declines in the health of fish and shellfish, loss of seagrass beds and coral reefs, and ecological changes in food webs. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), these conditions are common in many of our nation's coastal ecosystems. These ecological changes impact human populations by changing the availability of seafood and creating a risk of consuming contaminated fish or shellfish, reducing our ability to use and enjoy our coastal ecosystems, and causing economic impact on people who rely on healthy coastal ecosystems, such as fishermen and those who cater to tourists."

From the EPA section on acid rain effects on forests:

"Over the years, scientists, foresters, and others have noted a slowed growth of some forests. Leaves and needles turn brown and fall off when they should be green and healthy. In extreme cases, individual trees or entire areas of the forest simply die off without an obvious reason."

"After much analysis, researchers now know that acid rain causes slower growth, injury, or death of forests. Acid rain has been implicated in forest and soil degradation in many areas of the eastern U.S., particularly high elevation forests of the Appalachian Mountains from Maine to Georgia that include areas such as the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountain National Parks. Of course, acid rain is not the only cause of such conditions. Other factors contribute to the overall stress of these areas, including air pollutants, insects, disease, drought, or very cold weather. In most cases, in fact, the impacts of acid rain on trees are due to the combined effects of acid rain and these other environmental stressors. After many years of collecting information on the chemistry and biology of forests, researchers are beginning to understand how acid rain works on the forest soil, trees, and other plants."
"How Acid Rain Harms Trees
Acid rain does not usually kill trees directly. Instead, it is more likely to weaken trees by damaging their leaves, limiting the nutrients available to them, or exposing them to toxic substances slowly released from the soil. Quite often, injury or death of trees is a result of these effects of acid rain in combination with one or more additional threats."

"Scientists know that acidic water dissolves the nutrients and helpful minerals in the soil and then washes them away before trees and other plants can use them to grow. At the same time, acid rain causes the release of substances that are toxic to trees and plants, such as aluminum, into the soil. Scientists believe that this combination of loss of soil nutrients and increase of toxic aluminum may be one way that acid rain harms trees. Such substances also wash away in the runoff and are carried into streams, rivers, and lakes. More of these substances are released from the soil when the rainfall is more acidic."
"However, trees can be damaged by acid rain even if the soil is well buffered. Forests in high mountain regions often are exposed to greater amounts of acid than other forests because they tend to be surrounded by acidic clouds and fog that are more acidic than rainfall. Scientists believe that when leaves are frequently bathed in this acid fog, essential nutrients in their leaves and needles are stripped away. This loss of nutrients in their foliage makes trees more susceptible to damage by other environmental factors, particularly cold winter weather."

"Acid rain can harm other plants in the same way it harms trees. Although damaged by other air pollutants such as ground level ozone, food crops are not usually seriously affected because farmers frequently add fertilizers to the soil to replace nutrients that have washed away. They may also add crushed limestone to the soil. Limestone is an alkaline material and increases the ability of the soil to act as a buffer against acidity."
In all fairness, it's only right to include at least one of the naysayers, who posted at The Oklahoman (where else?) in 1992 (perhaps this makes me a "zealot" as well as an Ozonista?).  The EPA has in the past 20 years not backed down, as all the above is still available on their webpage, but here's what the objection was back then:

ZEALOTS of the save-the-earth persuasion may not like it, but Edward Krug has taken aim on the Environmental Protection Agency again.

Dr. Krug, a soil and water scientist, is environmental projects director for CFACTS, which promotes free-market and safe technological solutions to current consumer and economic concerns.

What he calls the "latest bit of science fiction" coming out of the EPA claims an environmental benefit of stopping acid rain is the eliminating of naturally occurring acid streams from an area in New Jersey called the Pine Barrens.

He recalls how in 1980 the EPA reported acid lakes and streams are caused by acid rain. Having just completed his Ph.D. thesis on the New Jersey Pine Barrens, he knew the assertion was wrong.
"The Pine Barrens has been acidic for so long that its organisms REQUIRE acid streams in which to live," he states. "Now in its December 1991 'Environmental Benefits' report the EPA has rewritten natural history to say the New Jersey Pine Barrens is a product of 20th century acid rain. " The area got its name from colonial settlers, Krug says, and before that American Indians wisely chose never to live there. With the coming of European man, this unusually high concentration of acid barrens attracted the attention of naturalists for more than 300 years, he notes. Scientific surveys in the 1800s verified the area's widespread natural acidity.

In short, scoffs Krug, the recent EPA assertion that the Pine Barrens "endures" acid streams because of acid rain is "hogwash. " He believes the EPA knows this and is deliberately fabricating the benefits of acid rain controls to maximize its turf and authority.

I'm hoping that this digression into acid rain and smog episodes from SO2 from decades past helps to illuminate how vulnerable forests are to pollution, despite the denials of industry shills AND foresters - and how much worse this situation is now, from increasing levels of ozone.
In light of so much information, an article like this one As Forests Disappear, Examining the Mechanisms of their Death published December 24 in the New York Times is astounding.  I really have to ask, what is wrong with these idiots?  Oh gah there goes my crappy attitude again (check the comments)...But...WHY are they fixated on climate change, CO2 and drought when that simply doesn't adequately explain the totality of what is happening?  I guess the best I can say is, they're not asking the right questions.

Don't they get that trees are dying just as fast in wet places as dry?   Don't they get that plants being watered in pots and gardens have identically damaged foliage?  Don't they get that global warming means average temperature rise and that by far most of it has been at high latitudes and much less as you get closer to the equator - but meanwhile trees at lower latitudes are dying just as fast as those closer to the poles?  Why don't they even wonder WHY??  Look how the article begins:

Everywhere, trees are dying.

Exactly!!!  At last, something I can agree with.  Trees are dying everywhere - not just where there is drought or significant temperature change!  But you'd never know that to read the rest:

The boreal forests of Canada and Russia are being devoured by beetles. Drought-tolerant pines are disappearing in Greece. In North Africa, Atlas cedars are shriveling. Wet and dry tropical forests in Asia are collapsing. Australian eucalyptus forests are burning. The Amazon basin has just been hit by two severe droughts. And it’s predicted that trees in the American Southwest may be gone by the end of this century.
But as this astonishing transformation of landscapes continues, scientists have a confession to make: They do not fully understand how trees die. Certainly warmer temperatures, lack of water and insects play a role. But in each region hit by heat, drought or bugs, some trees remain standing.

Why do some trees die while others survive? What happens deep inside a tree under stress? How slowly or quickly do different species die?

Nate McDowell, a staff scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, aims to find answers. Like a doctor trying to learn why his patient is sinking into a coma, Dr. McDowell, a plant physiologist, has set up a kind of intensive care unit for trees to find out precisely how they die, though unlike his physician counterparts, Dr. McDowell is nudging his patients toward an early death.

By speeding up aspects of climate change — more heat, less water — he hopes to document every spike in their coffin. And then do an autopsy.
The experiment is badly needed, said Craig Allen, a leading expert on forest ecology for the United States Geological Survey who is not involved in the research.

“Without better understanding the mechanisms of tree death, it is not possible to reliably predict when and where the next massive die-offs will occur on this planet,” he said.
There are two competing theories explaining tree death, Dr. McDowell said. They die of thirst. Or they starve to death. But exactly how these processes occur, and how they relate, remains to be shown with scientific rigor.

In Dr. McDowell’s outdoor experiment, the biggest of its kind in the world, 63 pinyon and juniper trees are being monitored intensely for how they breathe, make food, take up or release water, fight off insects and cope with air that is warmer than usual. Of those, 32 are enveloped in Plexiglas and steel chambers, tops open to the sky, and hooked up to a tangle of devices that measure every aspect of their metabolism. There is even an instrument that can peer inside trees, revealing fluxes of water and nutrients flowing inside them.

This sylvan mini-hospital is on lab property just down the road from Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos, whose residents abandoned their cliff dwellings during a megadrought in the 13th century. The region endured a second major drought in the 16th century.
In those droughts, Dr. McDowell said, forests died but conditions eventually rebounded. Temperatures and precipitation returned to normal ranges.

This time, he said, the rise in temperature is not expected to slow or rebound because it is caused by human activity. It is happening faster than at any time in the geologic record.
What’s new, Dr. McDowell and other scientists say, is that this warmer air acts like a gigantic sponge or wick. So even if rain and snow levels remain the same, the atmosphere will inexorably pull that moisture away from the soil and trees.

Like a hospital I.C.U., the experimental site is noisy. Machines click and roar as they pump warm air into 12 of the chambers, replicating the seven-degree rise in temperature predicted to occur in coming years. Seven of these chambers are also water-deprived. Five chambers serve as controls, with no added stressors. The remaining trees are being monitored outside the chambers, with and without ambient water.
Each tree is hooked up to a variety of sensors, probes and lines that monitor vital signs. Some measurements are taken every 10 minutes, others once a month.

To monitor how trees might succumb to thirst, researchers are measuring water flow inside each trunk. Normally ropes of water molecules are pulled up from the soil and roots by the atmosphere, moving through very small channels called xylem. When the air is warm, it exerts a greater pull on the water, increasing tension. If the tension gets high, the rope breaks and air is introduced. Like an embolism that can kill a person, air bubbles can block the flow of water. A tree can dry out and die.

A recent study found that 70 percent of 226 forest species from 81 sites worldwide now live on the edge of this so-called hydraulic failure.
To observe how trees might starve to death, researchers are measuring how much carbohydrate, or food, each tree makes from the carbon dioxide taken up by its needles during photosynthesis and then how much the tree consumes to grow or maintain its tissues. There should be at least an even balance.

But in a drought, many trees defend themselves by closing the pores, or stomata, in their leaves or needles to prevent water loss. This shuts down photosynthesis, forcing the tree to consume its carbohydrate stores. When it runs out of reserves, it can starve to death.

Other sensors are wrapped around the base of each tree to measure the flow of sap. As the human immune system does, sap fights pathogens, as well as predators like bark beetles.
Scores of other sensors measure the temperature of the air, soil, bark and tree canopy. Soil moisture and wind speed are recorded. A special laser measures isotopes of carbon and oxygen in soil and water. Finally, beetle traps collect any insects intent on attacking a weakened tree.

The experiment began in June. So far the bulk of evidence is consistent with the idea that the trees are drying out or starving, Dr. McDowell said. There has been “a big reduction in the conductance of the xylem and a big reduction in the content of stored carbohydrates, he said. But “which of these mechanisms dominates is still challenging us because they seem very interdependent.”
“We have insights into how trees die,” Dr. McDowell said, “but we are far from capturing just how big the problem is going to get. Only by understanding the cascade of steps that lead to tree mortality can we make accurate predictions into the future.”

Nevertheless, a year from now most of the treated pinyons will probably be dead, Dr. McDowell predicted. The treated junipers, which have evolved better defenses against drought, will be around somewhat longer. Should any of the highly stressed trees survive long term, it may be possible to figure out how.

While the experiment looks at only pinyon and juniper, the findings can be generalized to all tree species, Dr. McDowell said. Just as mammals are alike at a fundamental level, trees are similarly alike.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB - and no, I didn't choose their cover, haha) addresses a host of perils to our ecosystem, typically far more comprehensively than in the US.  How much of the rising level of background ozone is due to methane?

The EEB issued a call to include methane within the National Emission Ceilings Directive in order to curb ozone.  I added emphasis to the most important points.

Methane is both a powerful greenhouse gas and an ozone precursor. Reducing methane emissions therefore has simultaneous benefits for both climate change mitigation and human health. 

However, there is currently no direct regulation of methane  emissions  in the EU. Methane is specifically excluded from the National Emissions Ceilings Directive and the Industrial Emissions Directive. It is only indirectly addressed through directives on waste, landfill, biofuels and nitrates and through the Common Agricultural Policy.

The forthcoming revision of the NECD is an opportunity to fill this regulatory gap. This note therefore makes the case for the inclusion of national ceilings for methane in the 2013 revision of the NECD.

Methane is a major source of background tropospheric ozone.

Together with particulate matter, ozone is the air pollutant with the highest estimated impact on human health. Ozone is a powerful and aggressive oxidising agent, elevated levels of which cause respiratory health problems and lead to premature mortality. High levels of ozone can also damage plants, leading to reduced agricultural crop yields and decreased forest growth.

Current measures on ozone precursors have focused primarily on decreasing the peaks of ozone, especially in urban areas, and therefore on precursors such as NOx and  non-methane VOCs. However, over the past decades background levels of tropospheric ozone have been steadily rising. While many of the cheapest and easiest measures to decrease these other ozone precursors have already been taken, specific controls for methane are still lacking.

Methane is a relatively short-lived gas, with an atmospheric lifespan of 12 years.
Cutting emissions of methane can therefore have an impact on global climate in the near term, thus complementing the benefits from necessary CO2 mitigation.

Because of the well-mixed nature of methane, measures taken anywhere can impact the availability of methane for ozone formation, and there is a strong continued role for action under the UNFCCC, for development assistance and innovative financial mechanisms that can aid in methane reductions in developing countries, and for methane’s inclusion in international agreements such as the Gothenburg Protocol due to transport of ozone from for example North America to Europe.  It is nevertheless important that the EU lead in addressing methane also through its early regulation.

There is a scientific consensus around the need to reduce emissions of  both short-lived climate pollutants, including methane and tropospheric ozone, as well as CO2, if dangerous global climate change is to be avoided.

Fugitive emissions from fracking are an unquantified source of methane, and then too, various scientists studying the arctic are understandably alarmed about rising temperatures and methane release, which of course is a splendid amplifying feedback leading to ever higher temperatures.  There are new December graphs at the one of the arctic blogs, updating Dr. Leonid Yurganov's comparison of methane levels between November 21-30, 2008, and November 21-30, 2012.

How much does methane have to do with the accelerating death of trees?  From wiki:

"Tropospheric ozone is a greenhouse gas and initiates the chemical removal of methane and other hydrocarbons from the atmosphere. Thus, its concentration affects how long these compounds remain in the air."

"Methane, a VOC whose atmospheric concentration has increased tremendously during the last century, contributes to ozone formation but on a global scale rather than in local or regional photochemical smog episodes. In situations where this exclusion of methane from the VOC group of substances is not obvious, the term Non-Methane VOC (NMVOC) is often used."

This presentation from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) indicates the relative importance of methane's contribution to ozone by region and concludes:

• Methane is an important precursor for tropospheric ozone.
• The ozone benefits of methane reductions are global, do not depend on location of emissions, and take a decade to be fully realized.  

A 2011 draft from the EPA about non-CO2 global warming emissions indicates just how precipitously ozone precursors began a meteoric rise shortly after 2001, so perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that, lo and behold, all the trees started to give up the ghost less than ten years later.
p. 2-2
From Chapter 3:

"This chapter presents global CH4 and N2O emissions for 1990 to 2030 for the following energy
sector sources:

• Natural Gas and Oil Systems (CH4)
• Coal Mining Activities (CH4)
• Stationary and Mobile Combustion (CH4, N2O)
• Biomass Combustion (CH4, N2O)
• Other Energy Sources (CH4, N2O), including:
• Waste Combustion (CH4, N2O)
• Fugitives from Solid Fuels (N2O)
• Fugitives from Natural Gas and Oil Systems (N2O)"

"The energy sector is the second largest contributor to global emissions of non-CO2 greenhouse
gases, accounting for 25 percent of emissions in 2005. In 1990, the energy sector accounted for
2,316 MtCO2e of non-CO2 GHG emissions. Between 1990 and 2005, non-CO2 emissions from the energy sector have grown 17 percent, to 2,699 MtCO2e. Emissions from this sector are projected to further increase 40 percent by 2030 to 3,777 MtCO2e."

"Exhibit 3-1 shows energy sector emissions by source. Fugitive emissions from natural gas and oil systems are the largest source of non-CO2 GHG emissions from the energy sector, accounting for 54 percent of energy-related emissions in 2005. The next largest source in this sector is emissions from coal mining activities, accounting for 19 percent of energy related emissions in that year."

For the next set of three photos entered into the EEA contest I am going to provide the description from the photographer.  Notice that they had bark beetle devastation in the 1980's associated with pollution, long before significantly warming temperatures which is what scientists and foresters persist in blaming for the outbreaks in the American and Canadian west...and further that the new threat is designated as high ambient ozone levels which produces the exact same visible injury on foliage found everywhere by the end of summer in the USA. 
"The Jizerske hory Mts. Protected Landscape Area situated in the northern part of the Czech Republic belongs to the region which in the past was known infamously as “the Black Triangle” due to its severe air pollution. High air pollutant levels, particularly SO2 emitted by the large thermal power plants cumulated in the region, resulted in soil acidification and together with bark beetle calamity resulted in forest dieback in 1980s. With respect to deforestation, the Jizerske hory Mts. belong to the most affected regions in the Czech Republic. After a significant emission decrease in the 1990s, the air quality has improved."
"In contrast to the above, valuable portions with well-preserved natural ecosystems have been conserved in the area (beechwood complexes, remnants of climax spruce forests, etc). High ambient ozone levels currently monitored there represent the threat for recovering ecosystems. Visible injury on needles and leaves is the easily detectable evidence of ozone in the field."
I would be remiss if I didn't include the latest examples of the very very disturbing trend for zombie fungi and mold to be taking over the world (just look for stories about flooding from Sandy).  First, a video from the Wall Street Journal which predictably exults in a financial boon to ecopocalypse because...they're assholes?

Insect Chic: In Colorado, Beetles Create Decor Trend
Bugs Give Trees a Blue Streak; Craftsmen Avoid Word 'Fungus'

Chuck Shifflett hates what the insidious mountain pine beetle has done to the forests of Colorado, but he loves what the insect has done for his kitchen.
Last year, Mr. Shifflett, a property developer and retired Air Force officer, decided that the old, white, vinyl cabinets in his Denver condo needed an update. So he ripped them out and replaced them with cupboards made of wood from trees once infested with the beetles, which carry a fungus that stains the wood a bluish-gray hue.

Mr. Shifflett's kitchen island, as well, is marbled bluish-gray and he plans to panel his study in the blue, beetle-chewed wood.
"The old cabinets were in kind of a country style, which just isn't appropriate for a downtown loft," said Mr. Shifflett, standing in his apartment, decorated in contemporary art, European metal light fixtures and sleek armchairs. "Now, everybody who comes in here asks immediately about the cabinets. It's incredibly beautiful wood."

Mr. Shifflett's kitchen is on the cusp of the hottest interior design trend in Colorado at the moment: Eco-conscious, with-it home- and business-owners are outfitting their houses and offices in blue-stained beetle wood. It is the latest symbol of downtown chic, up there with countertops made from recycled glass and bamboo-paper lampshades.

"I hadn't seen it used in a home before ours, but now it's super trendy," says Paige Damiano, who built a contemporary house in 2010 in Denver with her husband, who runs sales for New Mexico and Colorado for Burton Snowboards.

On their architect's suggestion, the couple outfitted the cabinets, wall paneling and ceilings in the living room of the house with the blue wood.
"You see it popping up everywhere, in restaurants, office buildings, homes," says Ms. Damiano, whose home was featured last year in Dwell, a magazine that highlights interior design tastemakers. "People who are into design, Colorado lovers, eco-friendly people all love it, because it looks super awesome, and because it's heartbreaking, when you drive up into the mountains, to see all these dead trees."

The U.S. Forest Service estimates that in the past decade, the beetle has chewed through and killed portions of 40 million to 45 million acres of timber, or about 12% of the forested land west of the Mississippi. The infestation, which first became serious in Colorado, has moved to other states, including Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

Once beetles get under the bark—they typically target lodgepole pines—they deposit eggs that hatch into larvae, which block water flow and cut off nutrients, killing the tree and leaving behind a fungus, which stains the wood in inky streaks that range from grayish-blue to indigo.
Skiers and hikers have complained about huge stands of pine turned gray and unsightly as they lose needles, dry out and die from the beetle infestation. Foresters worry that in the first years after dying, beetle-killed trees are like huge tinderboxes: prone to bursting into fast-moving wildfires.

But over the past few years, a group of artisans and craftsmen have appeared, mostly in Colorado, designing everything from high-end furniture to skis to iPad cases out of the blue wood. One investor has plans to build a ski resort in the Rocky Mountains, with a lodge and houses made entirely out of blue, beetle-chewed wood.

"Everybody's bummed about the beetles, but in one sense, the beetles are the heroes. We're creating all these manufacturing jobs," says Corbin Clay, a woodworker whose company makes custom dining-room tables, desks, buffets and other furniture, exclusively out of beetle-killed wood.

Mr. Clay had never heard of the mountain pine beetle when he moved to Colorado in 2007 and started working at a high-end kitchen fixtures manufacturer. He decided to start his own company last year, focused on beetle-killed wood, called Azure Furniture.

"From a marketing standpoint, we try to avoid the word fungal or fungus," Mr. Clay says. "But I think we've convinced the vast majority of people that the beetles are not going to crawl out and eat their children, and that the fungus is not harmful."

The most ambitious blue beetle-wood project in the works, however, is taking shape near Leadville, an old mining town high in the Rocky Mountains.

Steve Smith, a Dallas-based banking executive who founded a company that invests for mutual funds and union-benefit plans, has bought 600 acres near Leadville and is planning a $120 million ski resort called AltaColorado, with a lodge, a spa, and 400 "Mining Era-chic" homes made almost entirely out of blue beetle-killed wood, including walls, bed frames, cabinets, and the finishes in the lobby.

Mr. Smith, who has been visiting Colorado as a tourist for 40 years, says he first noticed the wood while skiing. "I'm a tree-hugging kind of guy," he says. "I saw all those dead trees, and I thought, this is a problem waiting to be solved."

Mr. Smith says his company has filed paperwork with Lake County to incorporate the resort as a new town. On a recent tour of the property, ski trails wound around dead, beetle-infected trees. At the crest of a hill, a clearing commands a view of an alpine lake.
"I feel that we can create a premium brand out of something that costs very little to acquire," Mr. Smith says, referring to the blue wood. "It's the whole Rocky Mountain thing. This is the way a regional brand gets established."

It's not just trees.  Fungus is attacking coral reefs at a terrifyingly fast rate.

Could radiation from nuclear power plants and testing have anything to do with it??  I don't know!!

Consider this:

Flesh-Eating Fungus Responsible for Five Deaths in Wake of Massive Tornado

Dec. 14, 2012 — A fast growing, flesh-eating fungus killed 5 people following a massive tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo., according to two new studies based on genomic sequencing by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Health officials should be aware of infections caused by the fungus Apophysomyces, according to the studies, which tracked 13 people infected by the pathogen during the Class EF-5 tornado -- the most powerful category -- whose 200-plus mph winds plowed through Joplin on May 22, 2011, initially killing 160 and injuring more than 1,000.
The common fungus -- which lives in soil, wood or water -- usually has no effect on people. But once it is introduced deep into the body through a blunt trauma puncture wound, it can grow quickly if the proper medical response is not immediate, the studies said. Five of the 13 people infected through injuries suffered during the Joplin tornado died within two weeks.
"Increased awareness of fungi as a cause of necrotizing soft-tissue infections after a natural disaster is warranted … since early treatment may improve outcomes," concluded one study published Dec. 6 in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Using whole genome sequencing, which decoded the billions of chemical letters in the fungus' DNA, TGen scientists concluded that the Joplin infections represented the largest documented cluster ofApophysomyces infections, according to a study published Nov. 27 in the journal PLOS One.

"This is one of the most severe fungal infections that anyone's ever seen," said David Engelthaler, Director of Programs and Operations for TGen's Pathogen Genomics Division. Engelthaler was the senior author of the PLOS One study, and a contributing author of the NEJM study.

"We're able to apply the latest in science and technology to explore these strange and dangerous pathogens, like we've never been able to before," said Engelthaler, adding that this is the latest in a series of collaborations between CDC and TGen. "This is the first peek into the genome of this dangerous fungus."
Dr. Benjamin Park, chief of the Epidemiology Team at the CDC's Mycotic Diseases Branch, said the victims were infected when their injuries from the tornado were contaminated with debris from the storm, including gravel, wood and soil, as well as the aerosolized fungus.

Without the multiple and deep wounds caused the by the storm, cases involving fungal infection are rare, said Dr. Park, the senior author of the NEJM study and a contributing author of the PLOS One study. "A typical hospital might normally see one case in a year."
Engelthaler said Apophysomyces infections rapidly ravage the body, quickly sealing off capillaries, shutting off the blood supply and leaving tissue to rot. Physicians try to get ahead of the infection by surgically removing sections of dead, damaged or infected tissue, a process called debridement.

For example, Engelthaler said, one victim who suffered a deep wound to the upper right chest required a new titanium rib cage after the fungus rapidly destroyed skin and bones.
"It's unlike anything you've ever seen before," said Engelthaler, a former State of Arizona Epidemiologist and former Arizona Biodefense Coordinator. "It's unreal. It looks like there is no way this person can be alive."

The studies show the need for rapid and accurate identification of the exact mold causing an infection, since only two FDA-approved drugs -- amphotericin B and posaconazole -- are commonly used against mucormycetes, the group of molds that includes Apophysomyces and causes mucormycosis.

"It is not known whether the outcomes for these case patients would have been different if mucormycete-active agents had been used initially," said the NEJM study. "The timely diagnosis of mucormycosis is essential for guiding therapy, because the early initiation of appropriate anti-fungal medication and aggressive surgical debridement are associated with improved outcomes."
Both the NEJM and PLOS One studies said whole genome sequencing could lead to better diagnosis and a better understanding of this pathogen.

TGen's DNA sequencing identified Apophysomyces in all 13 of the Joplin cases. The DNA analysis also established that several strains of Apophysomyces were involved in the outbreak, giving scientists further clues that this fungus was well established in the area, and probably had been so for a long time.

"These disasters put us at risk for exposure to organisms that are around us, but don't normally cause disease," Engelthaler said. "There's clearly an entire world out there that we're not seeing on a regular basis. It takes a severe event like this tornado for us to come face-to-face with some of the more dangerous pathogens out there."

That's actually a rather minor oddity compared to the story titled:

Fear the Fungus:  Fungi Thrive in Environmental Chaos, and they are coming for us:

Our single-celled ancestors darted around the world’s vast ocean a billion years ago, propelling themselves with tiny flagella tails and feeding on primitive plants, algae, and one another. Around this time, two groups of these ancient creatures branched into what would become two of life’s most successful kingdoms. One group developed into animals. The other became fungi. Animals and fungi both breathe oxygen and replenish their energy by eating food. Their cells are similar. The two closely akin kingdoms have occupied the Earth through most of their histories in an awkward fraternal tussle. When environmental conditions change quickly, fungi turn into opportunistic parricides, attacking and feasting on their enfeebled animal kin. Deadly fungi are thriving today amid environmental tumult, wiping out nests of bumblebees, colonies of bats, and hundreds of species of frogs.

And they are coming for us.

Animals typically gulp down and then digest their food. Most fungal species have a different strategy: They stretch ravenous tentacles called mycelia into their meals, squirt out digestive enzymes, and slurp up the dislodged nutrients. Thanks to this feeding style, fungus acts as the world’s great decomposer. It breaks down dead plants and animals, freeing up and recycling organic compounds.

After BP’s Deepwater Horizon blowout, nematodes and other tiny animals virtually disappeared from oil-coated swaths of sand around the Gulf of Mexico. The tainted habitats are now teeming instead with molds, the same types of fungus that speckle shower curtains. The molds are breaking down the crude oil into carbohydrates that will be more palatable to animals.

As useful as these decomposers are, fungi don’t hesitate to feast on living cells when they get the chance. Fungi’s ability to switch effortlessly between different diets, sometimes eating living bodies and sometimes eating dead ones, boosts their pathogenic pestilence. And their greatest trick is their ability to shape-shift. Fungi can retreat to spore form and survive long periods without food. As spores, they can float vast distances through water or air. When conditions suit them, they can quickly grow long mycelia and burrow into flesh, alive or dead, or in some instances slip into living cells to feast on their prey.
These twin abilities—to subsist for long periods without eating and to change diets as needed—mean that fungal diseases are particularly dangerous. Bacterial and viral diseases burn themselves out when they kill their victims before spreading to new hosts. But fungi can wipe out entire populations of their hosts without jeopardizing their own existence.
During Earth’s greatest mass extinction, triggered 250 million years ago possibly by sudden climate change, soil-dwelling fungi rose from the ground to feed on forests that were weakened by environmental bedlam. “Less healthy plants are more prone to become infected by such fungi,” said Cynthia Looy, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley who investigates how plants respond to environmental change. “Fungi can accelerate the demise of already stressed, unhealthy plants.”

During the comet-induced mass extinction that doomed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, fungal spores suddenly saturated the world. Some researchers speculate that fungi dealt final deathblows to weakened dinosaurs, helping to give rise to the age of mammals. Fungi are poorly suited to growing in hot conditions, and mammals’ warm blood provides some protection against them.

During the past century, fungal diseases have felled great forests of elms, chestnuts, pines, and other trees around the world, overturning ecosystems and leaving grassy wastelands in their wake. The chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is thought to have wiped out hundreds of species of amphibians and has been fingered as the cause of frog die-offs worldwide.  Scientists recently reported that the fungus is also infecting and killing crayfish.  White-nose syndrome was discovered affecting a few unfortunate bats in New York in 2006; the fungus responsible for the disease has since killed more than 5 million hibernating bats in 21 states and four Canadian provinces.

Scientists have never before witnessed pathogens tearing such virulent paths of destruction through wildlife. Increasingly, humans are succumbing to fungal diseases, too.

Many people have immune systems that are debilitated by age, diseases such as AIDS, or therapies that keep organ-transplant and cancer patients alive. “This cadre of immunosuppressed patients is at major risk of fungal pathogens,” said Joseph Heitman of Duke University Medical Center’s Center for Microbial Pathogenesis. “And that group will grow.”

Infections of Cryptococcus neoformans are rare among healthy people, but the fungus ravages those with compromised immune systems. It is spread primarily by the guano of pigeons and contracted by inhaling spores. More than 1 million immunosuppressed patients are infected annually around the world, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The worst affected sufferers live in sub-Saharan Africa, where mortality rates from the fungus among AIDS sufferers reach 70 percent.
As we tear up forests and turn over soil, we unleash spores from their slumber, including species that humans and other animals have rarely encountered before. World trade is helping strains of fungus spread and hybridize. And our wanton use of antibacterial medicine, including in farm animals, kills the microbes that could help keep fungus levels in check.
“The environment is changing quite dramatically,” Heitman said. “Logging, gardening, forestry, and other things that perturb the environment and move around soil or trees that are contaminated with the fungus are a major contributor.”

Fungus doesn’t just eat away at our organs and cells; it tucks voraciously into our food. Moldy bread can be a minor bother, but fungal agricultural pandemics have the potential to occur on a staggering scale. Researchers writing in Nature calculated that the known fungal pathogens could wipe out more than one-third of the world’s supply of major crops if severe epidemics struck simultaneously. And they point out that diseases such as rice blast and wheat rust are already having a major impact on agricultural productivity: “Our calculations show that even low-level persistent disease leads to losses that, if mitigated, would be sufficient to feed 8.5 percent of the 7 billion humans alive in 2011.”
This year, 39 people have died and 581 others have been sickened after mold spores infiltrated immunosuppressant medicine. The tainted drugs were injected directly into patients’ central nervous systems, where the fungus blossomed.
Doctors in desert regions of the Southwestern United States have reported a recent spike in cases of Valley Fever. In this painful and sometimes fatal ailment, a fungus that occurs naturally in the soil passes through the nose or mouth and settles inside the lungs. Once there, it sets down its mycelia roots and begins to eat. In 2007, 4,815 people were reported sickened by the fungus disease in Arizona. In 2011, 16,473 contracted the disease. It appears to be particularly abundant near decomposing animal carcasses. It might have originally specialized in decaying animals and then adapted to feeding on living tissue.
A fungus that once was limited to tropical regions has been spreading and killing people in the Pacific Northwest since it was discovered in 1999 on Vancouver Island. Cryptococcus gattii can cause pneumonia and meningitis, ravaging otherwise healthy sufferers. It has since been detected in Idaho, California, and farther north in Canada.

Researchers are racing to develop vaccines against some of the most deadly fungal pathogens. Anti-fungal medicines are readily available; they work by damaging fungal membranes and cell walls. But because we’re so closely related, potent medicines that damage fungal cells can also harm the human organs they were designed to protect.

The scourge of fungal contagions will continue to worsen, particularly among those with compromised immune systems. There appear to be no immediate threats that human fungal outbreaks will parallel the plagues afflicting bats and frogs. That’s largely because our body temperatures are warmer and less hospitable for fungus than those of amphibians and hibernating mammals. Also to our advantage, some of the most deadly fungal diseases afflicting humanity today are contracted after spores are kicked up from the environment and into our bodies—not spread from person to person, as was the case for the Black Death and Spanish flu, which were caused by a bacterium and virus, respectively.

But other fungal diseases do already spread from person to person, such as through sex, as in the case of yeast infections. If new strains of deadly fungi evolve similar abilities to jump directly from person to person, or from wild or farm animals to humans, new diseases could run rampant.

And some of the same scientists who speculate that fungi killed off the cold-blooded dinosaurs during a time of global cooling warn that global warming could help similar pathogens adapt to withstand our warm blood. If that happens, we will lose our best defense against fungal plagues, and our opportunistic kinfolk would be poised to overwhelm humanity with crippling bouts of their cell-sucking ruination.
Do you see how she wears her heart on her sleeve?
I suppose I should say something about the transformation from the old year to the new.

I think it's long since been conclusively shown that hoping Obama will - or can - do anything to stave off catastrophic climate change, let alone ecosystem collapse, is nothing more than whistling in the wind.  Either he's always been a complete phony, or events have overtaken any plans he had - in other words, he figured out we're screwed when it comes to climate, and his job is to facilitate the readiness of a draconian military dictatorship for whenever the shit really hits the fan and martial law is the only prayer TPTB have for maintaining control.  Either way the outcome is the same.

We're going to continue burning all the fossil fuels we can dredge from the furthest recesses of the earth until we lose the technology to get at them anymore, or they're gone, whichever comes first - then we're going to burn whatever trees haven't been already incinerated by wildfires.  We'll compulsively continue to grow our population until famine, epidemics, or nuclear wars intervene.  We're going to eat everything that moves until there are only humans left, and then we'll eat each other.

I see nothing factual to interfere with those trends as posited.

In this depauperate void one of the few pleasures remaining is to share thoughts with people who meet over the expanse of the interwebs...people who don’t need to rehash anymore the causes of increasingly obvious terminal overshoot, and instead reflect on how to live with the crushing weight of that information. Part of that entails a very natural curiosity to explore how the collapse will unfold in all its realms of squandered resources, wild weather, social chaos...and the black swans whose shapes are barely perceived in the dark future; also how to deal with the not-untypical situation where we are surrounded by friends, family and acquaintances who refuse to see the dangerous existential threats already underway; how to reconcile our own innate hopes with what we know to be hopeless; and our almost-irrepressible urge to do something to prevent or at least slow a process that is resolutely beyond our control.  Some grapple with the suspicion that we have an obligation to hasten it.

There will be more time for me to mourn in the coming year - not for the loss of our species because we have ourselves contrived and fully deserve extirpation.  It's not even that I grieve for myself or my family - we have led charmed lives so far, and we all have to die sometime, which I've never thought was anything but final.  It's the loss of the infinitly complex beauty of nature that breaks my heart.  And too it's the end of culture that I find so hard to accept.  It's Beethoven and Mozart and Billy Holiday and Monk and Coleman Hawkins, Ionesco and Joyce and Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker and Hemingway and Shakespeare and Monet and Picasso and Jackson Pollack and Rubens and Michelangelo and Cezanne.  And of course so much more.  You could make your own list, it's kind of fun.

I guess that, supposing time is endless, everything in theory will be recreated, eventually.

But I don't really believe that.  I think all that stuff is unique, never to be replicated.  I always thought one reason flowers are so enchanting is that they do not last.  But then, there were always more in bloom to replace them, even if a season away.  When our music, art, sculpture, poetry and literature are gone, it will all be gone for good, never to be replicated or known again.

That finality is the hardest to accept.

Following is Tom Rush singing a song written by Joni Mitchell (her beautiful version is here).  Beneath it is a video which was taken by my Arizona Ozonist friend, David, (who blogs here), and following that, are the lyrics to Urge for Going.  It's a lovely poem, even without the music.  If you turn them on together, it's a bit discordant, but I like it.

I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town
It hovered in a frozen sky, then gobbled summer down
When the sun turns traitor cold
And the trees are shivering in a naked row
I get the urge for going but I never seem to go

I get the urge for going when
The meadow grass is turning brown and
Summertime is falling down and winter's closing in

I had a man in the summertime
He had summer-colored skin
And not another girl in town
My darling's heart could win
But when the leaves fell trembling down
Bully winds did rub their faces in the snow
He got the urge for going And I had to let him go

He got the urge for going when
The meadow grass was turning brown
Summertime was falling down and winter closing in

The warriors of winter they gave a cold triumphant shout
And all that stays is dying and all that lives is getting out
See the geese in chevron flight flapping and racing on before the snow
They've got the urge for going, they've got the wings to go

They get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in

I'll ply the fire with kindling, pull the blankets to my chin
I'll lock the vagrant winter out and bolt my wandering in
I'd like to call back summertime and have her stay for just another month or so
But she's got the urge for going so I guess she'll have to go

And she gets the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning brown
And all her empires are falling down
And winter's closing in

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