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For all we know, Al Bundy's socks may be the cure for the global climate crisis.

Will the war for global warming ever be won? That depends on the amount of information we can harvest, analyze and extrapolate from. In all likelihood, the only way we will know for certain if the Earth is heading for a global warming disaster is by waiting another few thousand years and looking at history books.

But, for those not comfortable with the wait and see approach, scientists continue to plunge into one of the crucial factors thought to govern global (I’m trying not to snicker) climate change, the global carbon sink system. Roughly composed of just about every living and even more dead things, these parts of local, regional and whole-Earth ecosystems are under high scrutiny as researchers try to understand how present day climate change will further affect future climate change. The popular idea seems to be that global warming is like a snowball rolling downhill – as it rolls it picks up more snow and eventually hits something and explodes. Exploding is bad for the Earth, honest.

From the University of Colorado at Boulder comes a study supporting the theory that extended growing seasons may not be the boon for the carbon sink that many have previously thought. At least not for subalpine conifers such as the lodgepole pine, subalpine fir and Englemann spruce. It turns out these trees depend much more upon snowmelt for their summer water fix than rainfall, and in years where spring comes early due to mild winters and low snowfall, the trees actually take in less carbon dioxide over the year than when spring arrives late with heavy snow still on the ground. Up to 60% of their internal water supply from stems and needles was identified to be from spring snowmelt rather than rainfall in the fall months. We can thank our friends the hydrogen and oxygen atoms for this precise identification work.

Since around 70% of the western USA’s carbon sink is found in these subalpine forest ranges, watching the snow caps shrink yearly would definitely affect their ability to operate to capacity, should this study be accurate. Facts don’t lie; snow good, carbon dioxide bad.

On a somewhat brighter note, according to researchers at the National Oceanographic Center, Southampton, another very large and poorly understood carbon sink may be completely underestimated in present carbon cycle models. Echinoderms, which comprise a vast portion of the ocean’s calcium carbonate dump, may sequester much more carbon yearly than previously thought.

Echinoderms suck in carbon from seawater to form their skeletal systems and include such happy marine animals as star fish, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. When these animals find the end of their lifecycle, they typically sink to the ocean floor with their captured carbon and become indefinitely buried in the sediments. Some of the calcium carbonate finds its way back up the “biological carbon pump,” but probably much less than is taken down to the depths.

This could mean that the ocean is once again showing itself to be far more excellent at helping regulate global carbon levels, or it could just mean scientists still don’t really understand what’s going on in there.

If these studies only prove one thing it is that we, as a global community, race, organism and observer still have very little understanding in the way all of our ecosystems work together to regulate the Earth’s climate. It’s far too early for any sane person to jump on the “we’re melting, melting” or “Minnesota never left the ice age, what’s your problem” camps. There simply aren’t enough data to concretely support any given theory with certainty and these kinds of discoveries are shining examples of why.


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RE: The World is Too Big
By Captain Orgazmo on 1/10/2010 3:09:49 AM , Rating: 4
Sometimes a little simple logic, our innate gift, is more useful than all the scientists, statisticians, and time in the world.

quote:
Echinoderms suck in carbon from seawater to form their skeletal systems and include such happy marine animals as star fish, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. When these animals find the end of their lifecycle, they typically sink to the ocean floor with their captured carbon and become indefinitely buried in the sediments. Some of the calcium carbonate finds its way back up the “biological carbon pump,” but probably much less than is taken down to the depths.


The shells of these animals, including corals, eventually undergo lithification and become what is called limestone. There are billions of tons of limestone in the Earth's crust, including large portions of the Rocky Mountains. So yeah, they definitely store carbon. Hydrocarbons are just another form of long-term carbon storage.

Just think about how much CO2 it took to create those mountains and all that oil and gas... and hmm the Earth just sucked up all that CO2 and, er, pooped it out, like nobody's business. So here comes little old industrialized us, in the last infinitesimally small fraction of Earth's geologic history, and we release an infinitesimally small fraction of all that stored CO2, and suddenly it's the end of the world as we know it?

Is it just me, or does that seem a little preposterous?


RE: The World is Too Big
By Smilin on 1/11/10, Rating: 0
RE: The World is Too Big
By Reclaimer77 on 1/11/2010 12:23:55 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Humans have a far greater impact than such organisms because we do not produce gases just from breathing. Think of how many breathing humans would emit the same amount of CO2 as a smokestack running for a day.


Think of how much Co2 and toxins Mount Saint Hellen's and other active volcano release when they smoke for decades on end.


RE: The World is Too Big
By Smilin on 1/11/2010 1:33:42 PM , Rating: 1
Sure but such emissions become relatively constant once you stretch the time interval out long enough. In other words they are already accounted for in natural climate cycles. Volcano emmissions, solar activity, yearly seasons etc are all cyclical or a constant that has already been accounted for. (ie thats why the temperature already is what it is)

What GW scientists are trying to do is akin to measuring sea level to the nearest inch during a storm. While the "Waves" from large events like volcanos, solar activity etc are impressive they never change the average depth. A "garden hose" of human activity isn't very impressive but it's constant and non cyclical so it will have an impact on the average.

My point: although the question remains whether humans are having an impact or not it's certainly possible that we do. Other organisms have done it before and it will happen again.

Also to think that organisms cannot have *more* impact that such massive events like volcanos would be folly. Cyanobacteria are one such example. While we bicker about small changes to the 0.1% of CO2 these guys swung O2 content by some 20%.


RE: The World is Too Big
By Reclaimer77 on 1/11/2010 2:23:21 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
My point: although the question remains whether humans are having an impact or not it's certainly possible that we do. Other organisms have done it before and it will happen again.


Of course we have an impact, we live here don't we ? We have just as much right to have an impact as any other animal don't we ?

Now is that impact going to lead to the slow destruction of every living thing as we somehow destroy the climate ? NO. It's a big sham and the world now knows it.


RE: The World is Too Big
By Smilin on 1/11/2010 2:40:20 PM , Rating: 1
quote:

Now is that impact going to lead to the slow destruction of every living thing as we somehow destroy the climate ? NO. It's a big sham and the world now knows it.


Nobody is saying every living thing will be destroyed**. I think the general worst case fears are: Weather gets shitty, certain populations will need migrated (not relocated...it will be slow), diseases become a bit more problematic, food supply becomes a bit more problematic etc..

GW won't eradicate human life it will just cause a great degree of pain-in-the-ass.

As to having a right to impact? Our impact is an order of magnitude higher than any organism on the planet. We need to keep that in mind. *I* feel we have the right to make whatever impact we want. We're the resident sentient being on this planet so we handle management duties. I think we have the right to make decisions as long as we're ready to accept the consequences.

**Note: actually I'm sure *somebody* is saying this but hey there are nutbags on both sides of the argument.


RE: The World is Too Big
By Smilin on 1/11/2010 3:53:30 PM , Rating: 2
Ug people are so heated on this topic that they can't think.

Can someone *rational* from the flip side tell me what's so disagreeable about my post above? I make no claims I'm right but an explanation instead of an anonymous -1 would be constructive.


RE: The World is Too Big
By LeviBeckerson (blog) on 1/11/2010 3:54:43 PM , Rating: 1
While I agree that the impact of human machinations on ecosystems, local and global, is probably greater than any other organism per capita, it should be qualified that our overall impact is probably very slight compared to the many other measurable biomasses on Earth.

Slight enough to push something too far? Who knows. How fragile IS the global eco/climate system? If we knew, all the arguments would be a moot point to begin with.


RE: The World is Too Big
By Smilin on 1/12/2010 11:37:22 AM , Rating: 2
They found during the biodome experiments that organisms in the soil produced far more CO2 than expected and they finally had to cancel the experiment when CO2/O2 levels became dangerous.

So yes there are definately other organisms having an impact out there.

To further complicate: we have an impact on how much impact they have. There is tons of biomass, carbon, and mostly dormant microorganisms buried in the northamerican and asian tundra. If this stuff gets warmed a few degrees it will become a massive carbon producer all on it's own.

That question of the "tipping point" is the big one. Scientists don't have that answer yet. I believe that they are trying in good faith to find out and not just trying to wreck financial destruction on all of mankind to satisfy some imagined conspiracy.


RE: The World is Too Big
By TheEinstein on 1/13/2010 1:29:01 PM , Rating: 2
Yes there is the question of impact. What impact does a forest fire have? What impact does a volcano eruption in winter, versus summer have?

Do we need to spend trillions solving this? No we do not.

This sort of thing would be best left in college studies, not in scientific studies, where students can correlate easily gathered data and present it, rather than the expensive means of employment we have now.


RE: The World is Too Big
By Smilin on 1/13/2010 4:41:41 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
This sort of thing would be best left in college studies, not in scientific studies, where students can correlate easily gathered data and present it, rather than the expensive means of employment we have now.


If it's easily gathered data then it's done. The low hanging fruit is gone. Our scientists are trying to figure out what is going to happen to the climate of the entire planet decades or centuries from now. This is HARD to do.

Some professor's class ain't gonna pull it off during their semester project. No, you're going to need some team hiking off to who knows where taking ice cores, vegetation samples, programming a supercomputer etc. It's expensive but the issue is "impact all of humanity" serious.

I think you exagerate on "trillions" (with regard to _research_ costs) but *IF* GW turns out to be the real deal then trillions will be a drop in the bucket. It would cost more than a trillion dollars just to relocate New York city or 1/4 of Florida.


RE: The World is Too Big
By TheEinstein on 1/13/2010 8:40:23 PM , Rating: 2
Yes trillions have been spent or lost due to the efforts here. I am not exaggerating.

I find it funny that some scientists being paid $140,000 a year (a goodly number of them) use a satelite put up in the 70's, and say 'the ice cap is shrinking' when a bunch of do-gooder kids (If it were not but for those meddling kids!) using a more up to date satelite proved the old satelite is a BAD ONE TO USE because it completely showed the cap is not being reduced year by year since Google Earth clearly showed it to be much larger than the scientists earning the huge salaries said it was.

College and University students who did not get the memo have found all sorts of things wrong with the science of these extremely over-paid scientists. So much it makes me laugh. Not only that, but I believe the leading edge of science in rockets, solar energy, lasers, carbon nanotubes, other new materials is coming from the University more often than the paid scientists.

This says something to me, says a lot actually. I would trust, right now, a Student at MIT with 4 years under his belt, than most scientists with 20+ years of experience.


RE: The World is Too Big
By AssBall on 1/12/2010 5:36:07 PM , Rating: 2
And!!!! You get downrated for a reasonable post, further cementing one of your article's points. [That people pretend to but DON'T KNOW SH|T].


RE: The World is Too Big
By Smilin on 1/13/2010 9:59:26 AM , Rating: 2
No kidding.

*I'm* the guy arguing with him and I would have given his post a +1 for it's thoughtfulness.


RE: The World is Too Big
By TheEinstein on 1/13/2010 1:24:34 PM , Rating: 2
I have some questions for you... if you think we do have an impact then.

Do we outnumber trees? Do we have a greater ratio than 1 human per 1 million blades of grass? Do you think there is more corn grown than humans existing per year, or less?

What effect do these plants have, is it greater, or lesser, than the impact humans have?


RE: The World is Too Big
By Smilin on 1/13/2010 4:22:22 PM , Rating: 2
Such a ratio is one of the big questions but there is a bigger one: What is happening to the ratio over time?

You don't need to know the ratio to know if it is changing. We've got X amount of carbon producing humans and Y amount of carbon consuming plants. There is some ratio between the two that will result in the equilibrium in CO2 that currently exists.

I think (I hope) we can agree that X is rising and Y is shrinking.

If X was just animals I wouldn't be worried but X is humans and we do some really stupid sh1t. If there is an overpopulation of deer they starve and die. If there is an overpopulation of humans we move to a new source of resources, clearcut a forest, plant corn there, then burn half the corn in our cars.

So I don't know what the ratio is and it's not important for a simple "this is good or this is bad" conclussion. If you want to know how good or how bad (ie make a prediction on temp 100 years from now) then I suppose you'll have to figure it out.


RE: The World is Too Big
By TheEinstein on 1/13/2010 8:48:23 PM , Rating: 2
What are you on?

I mentioned yield on purpose.

A Douglas Fir is a great example.

Take a group of firs in a forest. Say that over 20 years 1/2 die due to fire, infestation, and rot. The other half still grow to be 30 odd feet high at minimum.

Your therefore missing a critical element right there.

The number of plants is a variable we will have a hard time calculating properly, as is the changing size of said plants, the yield of the plants, the changing sequestering of said plants, and of the strength of the plants in how much conversion they will do.

We also omit natural selection, aka some plants will do better than others, in this entire process.

Your argument has many wrong falacies in it. In Ethopia they have families based upon the ability to support the families. The same in many other nations. My sister here in the United States has chosen to have a 3rd child due to her ability to afford the third child. Free market conditions rely upon resources that are not running out, which I also say with a 200 year (for the whole world) supply of oil known to exist, we can look at this as probably not an issue over the next 200 years (since science is progressing) and beyond. No resources, when broken to base types, is truly running out, but there is a limited supply available perhaps, and this is an element of the free market.

Therefore that portion of your argument is also null and void. Consider my words well, for they are statistically and mathematically sound.


RE: The World is Too Big
By Smilin on 1/14/2010 10:21:08 AM , Rating: 2
I think you're missing the forest for the trees.

quote:

Therefore that portion of your argument is also null and void. Consider my words well, for they are statistically and mathematically sound.


Sir I think your words are completely unsound and I think the first uncivil words you've used with me really apply to you: "what are you on?"

I don't buy your argument on Ethiopia, and the pretty much useless anecdote regarding your sister's 3rd child. The popupulation of the world has grown by 4 BILLION since 1950 so X is most definately growing.

Comparing a satellite shot of South America in 1970 to one today also makes it very obvious that clearcutting alone is enough to decrease Y. You will not find enough positive growth on the globe to offset such changes.

Your previous arguments have been both polite and strong. This one seems so far out that I'm wondering if you replied to the correct post.


RE: The World is Too Big
By TheEinstein on 1/13/2010 1:21:51 PM , Rating: 2
Those are just a portion of the emission sources. Think of underwater volcano's, the gasses emitted by large lava flows, forest fires, and even such things as 'old glory' (aka geysers).

These all emit to a certain extent, and they are not fully mapped out.


RE: The World is Too Big
By Smilin on 1/13/2010 4:52:34 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure there are more natural greenhouse gas emission sources than you and I put together could possibly think of. There are more CO2 emission sinks than we can imagine too. The number of variables overall is staggering.

This brings up a bit of a counter to the argument you put forth in the other thread fork...

Someone has to drive the research to put the list together. That's why we spend so much money on this topic.


RE: The World is Too Big
By TheEinstein on 1/13/2010 8:51:44 PM , Rating: 2
The research can be safely spread out over time, with no, to little, impact upon society. Yet this is not being done, instead we are doing a Manhatten sized project already, and then wish to double down to the 10th power on top of it.

There is no need to do half of what the Dems are proposing to do even if the Global Warming scientists were halfway correct. I do not wish to spend so much money on fruitless directions when instead we could put it to more effective use, including dropping taxes so that more people can afford things, and so that more jobs are created, more competition, and so forth.


RE: The World is Too Big
By Smilin on 1/14/2010 2:11:40 PM , Rating: 2
Ah sorry man you loose my interest quick when you bring politics into it. It was an otherwise fun discussion.


RE: The World is Too Big
By TheEinstein on 1/13/2010 1:19:30 PM , Rating: 2
Well one has to wonder how the initial carbon we had when the Earth was formed ever turned from a molten and/or gassified state when it started, to current, if it traps heat so well ;)

Of course I am being a little sarcastic, but then again am I?

The points you make however stand. This planets history of sequestering in of itself and our minute 'modification' does not sway me to alarmist thinkings.


RE: The World is Too Big
By Smilin on 1/13/2010 5:17:32 PM , Rating: 2
Yes you're sarcastic but there's still a decent point buried in there :)

The answer is easy: A planet-dominating organism capable of surviving in the existing climate came along and altered the composition of the atmosphere to have far more oxygen than CO2. That also resulted in a climate change that obliterated said organism. I'm not making this up.

History will repeat and the lession we need to learn is: An organism that comes to dominate the planet can change the climate. That's a FACT. Humans being such an organism right now is just a theory.


RE: The World is Too Big
By TheEinstein on 1/13/2010 8:54:09 PM , Rating: 2
Actually the thing that I think heated and cooled earth was water. We have a lot of it to do this with also. It is such a higher level of heat trap when in the atmosphere, as molecules, but when bound as clouds it reflects heat extraordinarily well.


RE: The World is Too Big
By JediJeb on 1/13/2010 5:21:14 PM , Rating: 2
This is something I have been wondering also. If the Earth has sequestered so much CO2 in the form of limestone and fossil fuels, the what was it like when those things were free carbon in the atmosphere? The amount of carbon on Earth today is relatively the same as it was 100 million years ago, because it is not created or destroyed in any of the chemical processes that trap or release it. If we put all of that carbon back into the atmosphere where it once was, shouldn't the Earth have been orders of magnitude hotter in the past? Not just a few degrees up and down as most of the climate history seems to show.


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