Sunday, August 30, 2015

Collective Insanity

"The death of trees and shrubs is so blatantly egregious that I simply do not understand what sort of collective insanity allows the residents of this state to go about their daily routines without pausing to reflect on the implications of the ecosystem collapsing in front of their very eyes." ~ yours truly in California, July 2010, in The Widening Gyre.

Below is the transcript for this week's eleventh Dispatch From the Endocene, airing on Extinction Radio.  Photos are from the links at the end, to posts from 2010, 2011 and 2013 taken on the West Coast.  Whether from cities or towns, wilderness or national parks, being watered in nurserys or gardens or arboretums or even in greenhouses, from Southern California deserts to the Olympic Peninsula rainforest - these ubiquitous damaged leaves and sickly, dying and dead trees of all age brackets and of every single species make it clear that a massive die-off was well underway before the drought that is being blamed for the wildfires...and, the only common denominator they share is the composition of atmospheric gases.
Thank you Mike, and welcome Extinction Radio listeners.  This week I’m going to indulge in some new speculation about my pet existential peeve, which is trees dying from pollution.  But don’t despair, because the good news is that even I can see the prospect of saving trees by reducing ozone has become obsolete, and has been superseded by runaway climate change - so this is probably the last time I will do an extended survey of the topic.  I suppose it might be tedious, but guaranteed you won’t hear this anywhere else, and to be honest, I don’t think there is anything much more crucial to life, or more beautiful, than a tree.
I was once a member of an online discussion group about climate change that included prominent activists from the major environmental organizations.  I annoyed them all so much by posting information about trees dying from ozone pollution, and how that will increase global warming, that in exasperation the moderator of the forum begged me to “stop being such an Ozonista”, with a capital O.
In spite of his intention to shame me for being preoccupied with ozone, I was quite pleased with that designation and have been joking about it on my blog ever since.  In today’s Dispatch from the Endocene I’m going to earn it all over again by focussing on ozone pollution; and by suggesting a highly speculative, wild proposition.  You can check on the Extinction Radio website for links to all sources for this episode.
Lately forests have been in the news quite a bit.  In just the past few years, foresters have finally begun admitting that trees of all species are dying prematurely around the world.  If it weren’t so terrifying, this belated recognition would come as something of a relief, because my conviction since 2008 that a trend of forest death is accelerating has been typically greeted with derision and even hostility whenever I have contacted the so-called experts.
One contemptuous response I got in 2010 from a researcher at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center insisted that - “I’m afraid I don't quite understand this 'dieoff' you're talking about. I see no evidence of massive die-offs in eastern forests."

Later that same year Jim Bouldin, official RealClimate blog forestry expert, responded to my comments with a variety of insults as though I was blasphemous, the least of which was - “The "world's forests" are not "in decline"--a gross overstatement.” and “You have no idea what you're talking about”.
The smug response to my letter about “flammable” concentrations” of methane found in virtually all the (rotting) hardwood trees only 80 - 100 years old at the Yale Forest was  - "The common fungal infection described in the paper could be compared with tooth decay (bacterial), or athletes foot (fungal) infection in humans. It is essentially ubiquitous in the world's forests. Would you describe an otherwise normal adult with a tooth cavity as being in terminal decline? I would not. Also, I would mention that, while concerning at the extremes, many of the other signs of 'terminal decline' you describe above can be the result of normal ecological processes active in all forests."
As I wrote in my blog, when trees are being, as they described, "...hollowed out by a common fungal infection that slowly eats through the trunk" it’s a lot more comparable to gangrene or leprosy than tooth decay.

As late as 2012 Professor Steven Wofsy of Harvard disdainfully informed me my concerns were misplaced and wrote:  “Based on our measurements broadleaf trees in Harvard Forest are not declining, they have been thriving”.
(look at the size of that dying tree - compare to youngest daughter on the right!)
And yet this month, Science Magazine devoted a special section to the topic of forest decline worldwide.  The Washington Post headline reads, “The forests of the world are in serious trouble, scientists report” and describes how all four types - tropical, temperate, boreal, and planted - face various challenges that are sometimes unrelated other than that they are all induced by human activity.
Vice led with an even more frantic headline:  “Every Forest Biome on Earth Is Actively Dying Right Now” and continued:

“…according to the latest issue of Science, which is devoted to forest health, every major forest biome is struggling. While each region suffers from unique pressures, the underlying thread that connects them all is undeniably human activity.

“For example, the first of the special issue’s studies, led by forest ecologist Sylvie Gauthier, outlined the threats faced by boreal forests, which represent the largest forest habitats on Earth. These high-latitude woodlands are primarily coniferous, made up of pines, spruces, and larches, and stretch from the expansive forests of Canada to the Russian taiga.”
“Gauthier and her colleagues note that boreal forests have been traditionally very resistant to environmental changes that would devastate other biomes. “The resilience of these systems is well illustrated in the boreal forest of eastern North America,” noted the team, “where the regional tree species pool has remained mostly unchanged over the past 8,000 years despite large fluctuations in climate and regional disturbance regimes.”

“But the adaptive prowess of boreal forests can only be pushed so far, and industrial logging of these timber-rich woodlands is beginning to take its toll. Gauthier’s team estimates that two thirds of the world’s boreal forests are now subject to heavy resource extraction, which has resulted in widespread pollution, deforestation, wildfires, and a less genetically diverse tree population.”
“Compounding these issues is the projected effect of climate change on northern forests. “Over the course of the 21st century, the boreal biome is expected to experience the largest increase in temperatures of all forest biomes,” the team said. “Warmer temperatures would [...] lift the climate barriers to population growth or range expansion of native or invasive forest pests, resulting in severe outbreaks.”
“The health of the immense and seemingly timeless boreal forest is presently under threat, together with the vitality of many forest-based communities and economies,” the researchers said.

“Temperate forests aren’t faring much better, according to another study…Temperate forests are primarily composed of deciduous trees that shed their leaves seasonally, and are common in mid-latitude regions around the world.”

“As with boreal forests, climate change is the most devastating threat facing temperate woodlands, which are especially vulnerable to droughts and wildfires. Deciduous trees have evolved to withstand these pressures to a certain degree, but the authors pointed out that the steep upward trend of rising temperatures is ushering in “megadisturbances” that will not be so easy to brush off.”
“For millennia, drought has been a key disturbance agent in temperate forests…Over the past few decades, however, rising global temperatures have contributed to droughts of a severity that is unprecedented in the last century or more.”

“Exceptional droughts, directly and in combination with other disturbance factors, are pushing some temperate forests beyond thresholds of sustainability,” the team concluded.
“Forests that have been severely dehydrated by megadroughts suffer from water depletion, and they also turn into enormous tinder piles that can feed megafires. On top of that, temperate forests coincide with heavy population densities, so there a lot of anthropogenic stressors on them as well, like pollution, industrial development, and invasive species.”

“Last but not least, researchers led by geography professor Simon Lewis assessed one of the most biodiverse habitats on the planet—the tropical forest, characterized by evergreen broadleaf trees.”
“While Lewis and his colleagues noted that climate change is a major risk for tropical forests, they concluded that this biome is much more threatened by direct anthropogenic contact.”

“Along those lines, the team outline the ecological disturbances induced by human settlements over the course of several millennia, beginning with extinctions of tropical megafauna and ending with “today’s global integration, dominated by intensive permanent agriculture, industrial logging, and attendant fires and fragmentation.”
Inevitably, the article has to end with some hope:

“So, to sum up: Every forest biome on Earth is actively dying right now, and if this course isn’t corrected, the deterioration of these valuable ecosystems will accelerate over the coming decades.”

“Of course, in each of the studies, the authors pointed out numerous ways to slow the alarming decline of forests worldwide, such as stricter conservation policies, better forestry management, and a global framework for policing climate change. These kinds of actions “would lessen the unwelcome shocks that living in the Anthropocene will bring this century,” as Lewis’s team put it.”
“In other words, it is absolutely possible for humans to curb the damage to forests, or perhaps even reverse it in some places. Indeed, given that our own fate is inexorably tied to that of the world’s forests, it seems suicidal to consider any other option.”

“But whether we can pull this kind of turnaround off depends almost entirely on the human capacity to plan for the long-term health of the planet. If humans intend to survive this anthropogenic age we brought to the planet, we will have to up our game.”

That’s a lot of ifs and buts.
The articles are behind a paywall, so I wrote to the lead author of the one abstract that mentioned pollution, Dr. Trumbore at the Max Planck Institute.  The abstract reads in part:

“Mechanistic relationships between the multiple and interacting stresses and disturbances and forest decline are not well characterized.  Most ecological experiments are designed to test the effects of a single factor such as drought, elevated CO2, or changes in ozone, and those that attempt to test more than two factors quickly grow to an unmanageable size.”

Dr. Trumbore sent me a pdf of the paper so I will post one of the graphs indicating the influence of ozone on my blog (it is below):
The influence of tropospheric ozone is greatly underestimated in this graph, in my opinion!
So great has concern about forests become that funding has just been approved for a laser sensor to be placed in the International Space Station to monitor all aspects of forests, including tree height, biomass, canopy architecture and cover.  Unfortunately, the $94m grant that Woods Hole obtained from NASA will go to develop and deploy this instrumentation over the next five years, and won’t actually be installed until 2019.  By then, I don’t think anyone will need satellites to tell them what has already been perfectly obvious on the ground, for many years.

Meanwhile, the wildfires are becoming quite a problem.  They are unprecedented in frequency, duration, and intensity.  The ability to fight them is being eroded, as budgets are overrun and there just isn’t enough equipment and personnel to contain them all.  In addition to the loss of the forest habitat, as well as homes and other buildings and property, the air quality is deteriorating in a feedback loop with many dimensions.
The overwhelming consensus is that the forests are dying, and fires are raging, predominantly because of drought from climate change, with a nod to invasive insects and disease.  However, while I’m not prepared to say I am unequivocally certain, I would like to raise the prospect that the experts have everything if not exactly, then basically, more-or-less, upside down.

Rather than drought from climate change killing trees, I think it is worth considering the opposite - that trees dying from ozone are causing the droughts that are plaguing so many parts of the world.

The main reason I think this could be the case is that trees are dying in places that aren’t in drought, and plants that are being watered or irrigated have foliage that is identically injured as well.  I saw extensive evidence of dying trees myself several years ago in California and Washington state, places that weren’t yet in the current drought.   Those have been my observations, which I documented with countless photographs on my blog, Wit’s End.  But, there are also some objective, intriguing reasons to think that the scientists are missing the forest for the trees.
First, let’s take a look at the past, when numerous civilizations collapsed because of deforestation followed by drought - a pattern which occurred long before widespread burning of fossil fuels.

The mechanism for this is that trees actually create rain.  In the past, people deforested by cutting them down.  We are still doing that, and on an industrial scale - and now, even worse, we are poisoning them.

It has been well established that both the Mayan and the Anasazi civilizations collapsed due to extensive deforestation followed by drought, and it’s quite likely the same fate fell upon the Mound Builders of North America.
I’ll quote from one article about this pattern, which says:

“Desertification played a significant role in the collapse of many large empires and civilizations — such as the Roman Empire, Carthage, the Harappan civilization, and Ancient Greece… Most of the desertification that these civilizations experienced was as a result of agriculture, deforestation, and the associated changes in aridity and the climate.”

A related post says:

“Interestingly, historical evidence has shown that there have been at least three major epicenters of extreme and extensive land deterioration (in addition to less extreme occurrences of course) — the Mediterranean; the Mesopotamian Valley; and the loessial [ low-ess-i-al] plateau of China, where population levels have previously been quite dense. These regions were all, until human activity, biologically rich, forested to some degree or other, and agriculturally very productive — with rich, dense topsoil. Humans played a very, very significant role in turning these regions into the rather dry and arid regions that they are now.”

“Deforestation is one of the main drivers of desertification, and the processes that set desertification in motion.”
“More than half of the planet’s forests have been destroyed in the last 10,000 or so years — with most of that loss coming in only the last 50 years, along with an exponential increase in the human population. This enormous deforestation has been the cause of an enormous number of species extinctions, the desertification of large tracts of lands, climatic changes, topsoil erosion, large-scale flooding events, famine, disease epidemics/pandemics, and what you might as well call “insect plagues”, amongst other things.”

“Deforestation has been throughout human history primarily the result of agriculture, fuel use (firewood, charcoal), timber harvesting, growing human populations, war, and animal husbandry.”

“Deforestation almost inevitably seems to end-up creating wastelands via the processes of soil erosion and desertification — if the area isn’t reforested soon afterwords, whether via natural processes or human ones. Once reforested, though, the new forests still lack the great biodiversity that the old growth forests once possessed, and this doesn’t return.  A great many of the regions deforested in previous ages (thousands of years ago) remain as severely degraded wastelands or deserts to this day.”

“As it stands now, the annual rate of deforestation is estimated to be around 13.7 million hectares a year — about the same amount of land as the area of the whole country of Greece. Around half of this land gets reforested to a degree — but, as stated before, these new forests are almost invariably a shadow of their former selves, and don’t offer the same degree of natural services (water purification, oxygen production, food production, etc).”
Regarding Easter Island, the article says:

“The archeological record clearly shows that the current state of the island is vastly different from what it was at the time of its settlement. Before settlement, the island was nearly entirely forest, with many species of trees that are now extinct there — several of which reached heights of over 50 feet. This includes what would likely be the largest palm tree species in the world if it weren’t extinct, [which I’m not going to try to pronounce]. After resources shortages started to begin the population on the island plummeted to around 2,000–3,000 — from a previous high of approximately 15,000. It was during this time of crisis that 21 different species of trees, and all of the species of land-birds became extinct. This included at least two species of rails, two species of parrots, and a heron species.”

“Researchers think that this was the result of large-scale deforestation, over-harvesting/over-hunting, and the introduction of the rat. As a result of the loss of large trees, the islanders were no longer able to create seaworthy ships. This led to significant changes in their diet, from a diet where previously fish and dolphins had provided abundant protein, to one that was almost completely reliant on farming and domesticated chickens. Previously there had also been an abundant resource in the large land-bird and sea-bird populations on the island, these disappeared shortly after the loss of the ability to fish — very likely from over exploitation.”

“As a result of the deforestation, rainfall levels also fell considerably — as without trees the evaporation and condensation cycle on the island was greatly weakened.”

So let’s turn to the current situation, and see how it is described in an article from Climate News Network, based on two brand new studies.

“Human impacts on global warming and water resources are threatening to turn the landscape of the US west into a dustbowl.”
“One way or another, humans are to blame for the catastrophic drought in California that scientists say may be emerging as a “new normal”.”

“Either humans have mismanaged the state’s water, or human-triggered global warming has begun to help turn America’s landscape of wine and roses into a dustbowl, according to two new studies.”

“And the arguments have relevance extending far beyond the US west, as the European Drought Observatory has warned that much of mainland Europe is now caught up in the continent’s worst drought since 2003.”

“The consequences of any drought could also be more enduring than expected.  A research team in the US reports in the journal Ecological Applications that trees that survived severe drought in the US southeast 10 years ago are now dying – because of the long-ended drought.”

“Such statements are simple, but the connections with climate change are complex. That is because drought is a natural cyclic turn of events, even in well-watered countries. It is one of those extremes that, summed up, make the average climate.”

“Global warming or not, droughts would happen. California in particular has a history of periodic drought that dates back far beyond European settlement and the state’s growth to become the most populous in the US.”

“But the drought that began in 2012 – and which has cost the agricultural industry more than $2 billion, lost 17,000 jobs, and so far killed 12 million trees – is the worst in at least a century.”
“Amir Agha Kouchak, a hydrologist at the University of California Irvine, and colleagues say in Nature journal that they want authorities to recognise that human factors are making cyclic water scarcity worse.”

“They say: ‘Severe and long-lasting droughts have occurred in reconstructions of the region’s past climate, so it is not clear whether California’s current drought is a temporary weather condition or is the emergence of a ‘new normal’.”

“Observations and climate projections indicate that California’s climate is warming, with more winter rainfall instead of snow, earlier snow melt, and decreases in spring and summer stream flows. Future droughts will be compounded by more-intense heatwaves and more wildfires.”
“…The researchers leave open the question of the role of global warming, fueled by rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide because of increasing fossil fuel combustion. But US scientists report in Geophysical Research Letters that they think global warming could have contributed up to 27% of the present drought.”

“Their study, based on analysis of month-by-month meteorological data for more than a century, identifies a trend towards drought that is in step with warming since 1901. And they argue that even through the present drought is natural, it has been modestly intensified by climate change.”

“More ominously, global warming has amplified the probability of severe drought. The new study suggests that, by the 2060s, California may be in more or less permanent drought. Rainfall might increase, but not enough to make up for greater evaporation because of rising temperatures.”
“A lot of people think that the amount of rain that falls out the sky is the only thing that matters,” says the report’s lead author, A. Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

“But warming changes the baseline amount of water that’s available to us, because it sends water back into the sky.”

So there are several things to take away from that release.  One is that trees began dying at a ridiculous rate in California well before the current drought, even though obviously they survived past cycles, since some of them are thousands of years old.

Another has to do with the study cited, claiming that trees are dying in the Southeast from previous drought, which states in the abstract that “Following a severe, multi-year drought, 72% of trees that did not recover their pre-drought growth rates died within 10 years.”

Reading this was disappointing to me because I recalled I had written to one of the co-authors, Dr. James Clark back in 2011 after I read about his earlier research, in which an 18-year study monitored the growth and fecundity of 27,000 trees.  I asked him why he hadn’t included the influence of ozone, and he wrote back:
“Gail, thanks for the note, a few thoughts.

“Ozone is a problem for plants, hard to study for large trees.  For crops, it's increasingly evident that rising CO2 can mitigate effects of rising ozone (or if you prefer, ozone offsets the stimulation that would have occurred with rising CO2).”

Okay, I have to say that that is wrong, because the effects of ozone aren’t just decreased growth, which CO2 stimulated, but leaves that become spotted and then shrivel up and turn brown, first noticed on tobacco.  So it ruins crops like spinach and lettuce that are used for their leaves, and it does a number on the leaves of trees so it ruins the famed autumn color and the tourist industry in New England that is based on it.  But moving on, he continued some blah blah and finally admitted:

“Nonetheless, all evidence is that ozone is bad for all plants and certainly contributes to the health of trees in our study.”

“In any study of mortality, there are risk factors that cannot be experimentally manipulated, so they become the background factors. Ozone levels have been high in our region throughout the duration of this study, and mortality rates could be higher throughout for that reason alone.  What we studied are the factors that varied against this background, and they show the differing impacts of temperature, drought, and competition for light on different species.  Ozone is not included in the study, because we could not experimentally manipulate it or design the experiment to benefit from a broad range of ozone levels.”

“That does not mean it is unimportant.”

So basically what he was saying is that it doesn’t matter to the scientists whether ozone is detrimental or even lethal to trees, because they can’t test it experimentally, so they take it as a given influence and only investigate precipitation and temperature as the variables.  Which kinda seems like a study of cancer patients that only collates what sort of food the subjects eat and how much they exercise, while ignoring what toxic chemicals they have been exposed to.  Oh wait.  That’s precisely what they do.

I looked for scientific confirmation that loss of trees leads to drought, and there is plenty of it.  I’ll go through some highlights.

A study published in 1997 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters stated “…deforestation along the southern coast of West Africa…may result in complete collapse of monsoon circulation, and a significant reduction of regional rainfall.

In 2006 a UN media outlet reported on deforestation and resulting drought in East Africa:
“Trees actually do two processes. They drill water into the ground. They funnel water into underground aquifers where it is stored to supply rivers during drought. They also hold soil. Where there are no trees, the soil is washed away into rivers causing siltation into the oceans choking coral reefs.”

“…Contrary to conventional wisdom, an estimated 62 percent of precipitation occurs over land as a result of evapotranspiration from lakes and wetlands and dense vegetation, particularly forests, which pump ground water into the sky. The moisture then condenses and falls as rain, according to Nuttal.” 

“Only about 38 percent of the precipitation is generated over oceans and seas.” 

“The link between deforestation and drought is very significant.  Forests are needed to build in resilience in the natural ecosystem. They are a buffer against extreme floods and droughts."
A guest post at Skeptical Science said of the situation in Brazil,

“In 2007, Sampaio et al. published a paper called “Regional climate change over eastern Amazonia caused by pasture and soybean cropland expansion”. It suggested there’s a tipping point in the capability of the Amazon rainforest to recycle water inland. Let’s explain this: water comes to the Amazon from the Atlantic Ocean only until it rains down for the first time. From then on, it’s the forest itself that promotes transpiration, producing new clouds that go a bit further inland, repeating the cycle many times and so making rain come to many parts of the continent where it wouldn’t otherwise.”
In January, The Center for International Forestry Research published an article titled “The science is clear: Forest loss behind Brazil’s drought” which also tied it to the drought in Argentina.

But loss of forest in the Amazon has implications beyond Brazil.  Research published in 2013 in the Journal of Climate suggested that “Complete deforestation of the Amazon rainforest could reduce rainfall in the Pacific Northwest by up to 20 percent and snowpack in the Sierra Nevada by up to 50 percent…’“The big point is that Amazon deforestation will not only affect the Amazon — it will not be contained. It will hit the atmosphere and the atmosphere will carry those responses,” said first author David Medvigy of Princeton University… “It just so happens that one of the locations feeling that response will be one we care about most agriculturally. If you change the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, where most of the irrigation for California’s Central Valley comes from, then by this study deforestation of the Amazon could have serious consequences for the food supply of the United States.”

“Reduced rainfall and snowpack could also increase regional vulnerability to fire and affect energy production since much of California and Washington’s power comes from hydroelectric dams.”
It would seem that two things are now beyond any doubt.

1.  Forests all over the world are dying, and;
2.  Deforestation reduces rainfall, causing drought, leading to wildfires and desertification

The question that remains is, are the forests dying because of pollution, and is this contributing, or even primarily causing, droughts and wildfires and thus even more, faster death of trees?

Another way of phrasing the question might be, given that the forests ARE dying, how could drought NOT be a result?
A five-day conference back in 1987 brought together foresters from West Germany and the US.  The participants reached no consensus, but various theories emerged that were described in an article by The New York Times.  It was already recognized that trees were struggling then, well in advance of the kind of heating and drought we are seeing now.  This was understood by the conference participants to be at least partly related to pollution, a conclusion that has since been avoided by the majority of the scientific community.  Reading some of the quotes in the article makes it pretty clear why.
“’This pollution is caused not just by big companies but by individuals, by you and me,'' said Dr. Schutt as he stood on a fog-shrouded slope of Whiteface Mountain, a research site in New York's Adirondacks that the scientists visited. He said preserving the health of forests meant that individuals must reduce their use of substances, like gasoline, that pollute the environment. ''And what politician wants to tell people that?'' he asked.”

“Dr. Prinz believes that a prime cause of the declines is low-altitude ozone that is created from the burning of fossil fuels.”
“Alan Wellburn, a scientist from Lancaster, England, who works on an American-financed project there, said his research had shown that trees under stress from both natural and man-made causes manufactured in their leaves or needles a substance called ethyline, which then reacted with ozone and caused the trees to die.”

Despite the mania for CO2 induced climate change that has taken hold of the scientific community, there is ample reason to believe that there is a generally unexamined aspect to forest decline.  The situation improved temporarily with emission controls in the US and Europe, but that has since been superseded by the enormous increase elsewhere.
To illustrate this, lastly I will add the latest research on the increasing concentration of ozone in the atmosphere as recounted in an article titled:  “China ‘exporting’ ozone pollution to US: study.”

“Progress slashing unhealthy ozone in the western United States has been largely undone by pollution wafting across the Pacific from China, according to a study published Monday.”

“Scientists have long suspected this might explain why ozone levels along the US west coast remained constant despite a significant local reduction in ozone-forming chemicals.”
“The study, published in Nature Geoscience, is the first to make the case using satellite observations coupled with computer models of how air-borne molecules travel in the lower atmosphere, the authors said.”

"The dominant westerly winds blew this air pollution straight across to the United States," explained [the] lead researcher….In a manner of speaking, China is exporting its air pollution to the West Coast of America," he said.
“Nitrous Oxide emissions from vehicle traffic and industry, mixed with sunlight, create dirty-yellow blankets of ozone smog that sting the eye and scatch the throat.”

“Close to the ground, this pollution causes respiratory problems, damages crops, and is an important source of greenhouse gases.”
“By imposing stringent standards for motor vehicles and industry, state and national government in the US succeeded in cutting ozone-producing nitrous oxide emissions by 20 percent from 2005 to 2010.”

“Those efforts, however, were undermined by China's galloping growth, which pushed its own ozone levels up over the same period by about seven percent.”
“…And some portion of the man-made ozone above China may not have been of its own making.
"China itself lies downwind from India and other parts of Asia…It remains to be established how the free tropospheric ozone trend over China is in turn influenced by emissions upwind."

Verstraeten concludes by suggesting that local or national efforts to improve air quality will have limited impact unless dealt with on an international scale.

"Our atmosphere is global rather than local," he said by email.”
Let’s not forget fugitive emissions of methane from fracking, and melting permafrost, since methane is also an ozone precursor.  Ironically, forests dying primarily from ozone is something we should all wish for, because if the decline and the droughts are really due to the changing climate, there is utterly no hope - since unlike a reduction in ozone precursors which could result in cleaner air almost instantaneously, climate change is long since past any human control, due to amplifying, irreversible feedbacks.
On that cheery note, I will close this latest episode of Dispatch with a brief encouragement to anyone who has listened this far to please, go outside and find a tree, or several.  Really look at them.  Look at their crown, at their bark, at any holes or swollen cankers, examine their leaves or needles and ask yourself…are they healthy?  And if not, ask yourself, why is it that ALL the trees of EVERY age and EVERY species no matter where they are situated are dying?  Can it all be from not enough water?  And if not, what is the common denominator?

Thanks for listening.
Links to sources mentioned in this Dispatch:

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center:

Study, trees in Southeast dying from drought:

Geophysical Research Letters, West Africa:

Posts from Wit's End with photographs of trees that began dying in California and Washington state prior to the drought:


  1. this is so confusing and full of contradictions:

    1. If you look at the author, he has been critical of fire management policy for a long time. It's a major topic among foresters, there is a lot of money involved with the logging interests.

  2. Gail, I admit it. It was me, Apneaman, who gave you the link (two posts back) to for the "Humans responsible for demise of gigantic ancient mammals" study. I hope you understand that although you are #1 in my books you're the 2nd one I shared it with as my first instinct upon reading it was to rush right over to NBL and "share it" over there. Which I did, but only to contribute to the ongoing enlightenment project.

    I think that laser on the space station is of the utmost importance to the survival of humanity. Just one more data set or scientific study accompanied by a dire warning is all we need for our collective spiritual transformation to occur - any day now. Plus it's "good for the economy".

    I'm holding you to the promise of that kiss, Gail. If not in this world then the next;)

  3. Just listened to your dispatch from the endocene on radioecoshock. What a presentation! So thorough, so structured and so sad. You have put together such an incredible amount of information about the reasons why the trees are dying in the past 5-6 years, I am extremely impressed by your intelligence, your dedication and your rigor. If there is any kind of "au-delà", I hope I will meet you there if you don't mind.

    My eldest son Édouard came to visit in Montreal in August and we spent some time putting together this short AMATEUR video about dying trees in this city with our little camera. It unfortunately does not carry the urgency as much as I would have liked because we had so little time. But we, mum and sun, got to spend some very very loving time together.

    We dedicated our humble work to you and Guy, teachers extraordinaires.

    Just listened to Guy talking just before you on radio ecoshock saying that the rupture of the distribution system could come as soon as in a few weeks. The unraveling is picking so much speed…

    love always


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