Penguin poop can make you loopy!


Click to enlarge

More than 1,600 kilometers east of the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica lies the Atlantic island of South Georgia. There, king penguins live in huge colonies. They spend their days chomping on krill, squid, and fish, feeding their chicks, and producing “guano.”

And that guano releases tremendous amounts of what’s better known as laughing gas, according to the study in Science of the Total Environment, which involved laboratory analysis of soil and guano samples.

“Penguin guano produces significantly high levels of nitrous oxide around their colonies. The maximum emissions are about 100 times higher than in a recently fertilized Danish field. It is truly intense—not least because nitrous oxide is 300 times more polluting than CO2,” explains Bo Elberling, professor in the University of Copenhagen’s department of geosciences and natural resource management.

Besides being a strain on the climate, the gas has an effect very similar to the sedative used in the dentist’s office, Elberling explains.

I can see all the stoners in Scandinavia lining up, now. Applying for jobs as “research assistants”.

Signs of “new normal” in Earth’s climate apparent in hot 2012

Last year was one of the 10 hottest on record, with sea levels at record highs, Arctic ice at historic lows and extreme weather in various corners of the globe signaling a “new normal,” scientists said Tuesday in the 2012 State of the Climate report.

Meant to be a guide for policymakers, the report did not attribute the changes in climate to any one factor, but made note of continued increases in heat-trapping greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide…

The report’s data indicate “new normal” conditions that can inform planning decisions, instead of relying on models that “count on the future being statistically a lot like the past,” Kathryn Sullivan said at a news briefing.

Global surface temperatures – land and water – were the eighth or ninth warmest, depending on which data set was used, since recordkeeping began in the late 1800s, the report found.

However, in the decade leading up to 2012, global temperatures actually declined by .05 degree C, according to Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Karl said the 50-year trend indicates global temperatures have consistently increased about .15 degree C per decade.

The recent decrease in temperatures has been noted by climate change skeptics who question the impact of human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide, on climate.

However, other changes detailed in the report paint a more complex picture:

– Sea levels reached a record high, after a sharp decrease in 2011 possibly linked to the Pacific Ocean phenomenon La Nina, which can have a cooling effect;

– Arctic sea ice shrank to its smallest summer minimum since satellite records began 34 years ago, while Antarctic sea ice reached a record high;

– More than 97 percent of the ice sheet covering Greenland melted at least a bit in the summer of 2012, four times greater than the 1981-2010 average;

– Average sea surface temperatures rose, but not much, making 2012 among the 11th warmest years on record;

– Ocean heat was near record high levels in the upper half-mile of the water, and temperatures also increased in the deep ocean.

The State of the Climate report is being published as a supplement to the August Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and is available online.

I suggest reading the whole report. Something in there for everyone, amateur or professional, scientist or advocate for science.

It will bore the crap out of “skeptics” who normally rely on ideologues who tell them what to believe.

Three years of research flights from pole-to-pole constructs first global picture of greenhouse gases

A three-year series of research flights from the Arctic to the Antarctic has successfully produced an unprecedented portrait of greenhouse gases and particles in the atmosphere…

The far-reaching field project, a collaboration including scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography…known as HIPPO, is enabling researchers to generate the first detailed mapping of the global distribution of gases and particles that affect Earth’s climate.

The series of flights…mark an important milestone as scientists work toward targeting both the sources of greenhouse gases and the natural processes that draw the gases back out of the atmosphere.

“Tracking carbon dioxide and other gases with only surface measurements has been like snorkeling with a really foggy mask,” says Britton Stephens, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and one of the project’s principal investigators. “Finally, HIPPO is giving us a clear view of what’s really out there…”

The flights have helped scientists compile extraordinary detail about the atmosphere. The research team has studied air samples at different latitudes during various seasons from altitudes of 500 feet above Earth’s surface up to as high as 45,000 feet into the lower stratosphere…

Continue reading

Feed yard greenhouse gas study begins


That steaming pile ain’t topsoil

U.S. scientists say they are starting a study to determine greenhouse gas emissions from feed yard operations.

Texas A&M University scientists at AgriLife Research in Amarillo, Texas, said they will measure three greenhouse gases: nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane.

Assistant Professor Ken Casey and research chemist Al Caramanica said they will use a Varian gas chromatograph with three detectors set up for automatic injection of gas samples from gas-tight vials. That, they said, will allow simultaneous detection of all three gases from samples taken at feed yards.

“This work will focus primarily on nitrous oxide,” Casey said, noting the gas has approximately 310 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

“We are part of a larger effort to quantify what emissions of greenhouse gas are from feed yards,” he said. “We want to understand the variability and circumstances that create the greatest emissions and determine methodologies that identify the right numbers. Then we want to help identify management practices that can keep them at the lowest possible levels.”

Sorry, I can’t help it. I don’t go out of my way to offend Texas readers of this blog – unless they’re some kind of reactionary git – which can happen anywhere. BUT –

Amarillo is the ultimo place on Earth to run these tests. If you’ve ever overnighted in Amarillo, say, during a nice hot July – you know the odors wafting from the feed lots scattered strategically in and around Amarillo can match any stench on the planet. My clients there used to joke that their biggest fear during a line storm wasn’t tornados; but, a lightning strike setting fire to the atmosphere!

Research claims grazing doesn’t increase global warming


Argentine researchers are studying means of capturing cow methane

Grazing by cows or sheep can cut emissions of nitrous oxide — a powerful greenhouse gas — in grasslands from China to the United States, according to a study that overturns past belief that farm animals stoke releases.

Adding to understanding of links between agriculture and global warming, the report in…the journal Nature said livestock can help to limit microbes in the soil that generate the gas, also known as laughing gas.

“It’s been generally assumed that if you increase livestock numbers you get a rise in emissions of nitrous oxide. This is not the case,” said Klaus Butterbach-Bahl of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany who was among the authors.

Laughing gas is one of several heat-trapping gases linked to farm animals and the scientists said there was a need for more study to see how far their findings would affect agriculture’s total impact on climate change.

Emissions of the gas account for 6-8 percent of global warming from human activities, making it the third most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide and methane, he said. Estimated nitrous oxide emissions from temperate grasslands account for 1-2 percent of the total…

Grasslands subject to winter frosts where such gas emissions may have been overestimated make up an area the size of India, or about a third of the world’s temperate grasslands that cover about 10 million square kms (3.9 million sq miles).

But the study did not look, for instance, at other damaging climate impacts of livestock. Goats, buffalo, cows and sheep also release heat-trapping methane as they digest food.

Ah-hah! They didn’t allow for methane which some researchers think could be collected for commercial use. No matter which end it comes from.

Nitrous Oxide now #1 ozone-depleting emission

oxide2
Do you think scientists aren’t “Enemies of the State” anymore? 🙂

Nitrous oxide has now become the largest ozone-depleting substance emitted through human activities, and is expected to remain the largest throughout the 21st century, NOAA scientists say in a new study.

For the first time, this study has evaluated nitrous oxide emissions from human activities in terms of their potential impact on Earth’s ozone layer. As chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which have been phased out by international agreement, ebb in the atmosphere, nitrous oxide will remain a significant ozone-destroyer, the study found. Today, nitrous oxide emissions from human activities are more than twice as high as the next leading ozone-depleting gas.

Nitrous oxide is emitted from natural sources and as a byproduct of agricultural fertilization and other industrial processes. Calculating the effect on the ozone layer now and in the future, NOAA researchers found that emissions of nitrous oxide from human activities erode the ozone layer and will continue to do so for many decades.

The study…appears online in the journal Science [subscription]…

Though the role of nitrous oxide in ozone depletion has been known for several decades, the new study is the first to explicitly calculate that role using the same measures that have been applied to CFCs, halons and other chlorine- and bromine-containing ozone-depleting substances…

Nitrous oxide is also a greenhouse gas, so reducing its emission from manmade sources would be good for both the ozone layer and climate, the scientists said.

I’ll look around for someone hosting the whole report for free. You may do the same. I’d love to read the details of the study.

Meanwhile, be prepared, of course, for a new wave of “skeptics” who will further display the atrophy of their brains with wit and humor, lies and deceit – over nitrous oxide. Since they never felt CFC’s were a concern either.

Doctor Giggles got “floaty” while treating kids in hospital

A doctor inhaled laughing gas for ‘fun’ whilst he was treating children on a hospital A&E ward, a medical tribunal heard today.

Paediatrician Dr Jonathan Chahal, 33, was caught out when he was heard giggling in a resuscitation room by two on-duty nurses, it was claimed.

He then allegedly persuaded several nurses to breathe in the anaesthetic gas Entonox after telling them: ‘It makes me feel floaty.’

The drug has a warning from manufacturers saying people should not use machinery for up to 12 hours after taking it, the General Medical Council was told.

Are children tougher than tractors?

The incidents were said to have occurred in 2007 when Chahal, a senior house, officer was working as a locum at the Royal Liverpool Hospital in the children’s accidental and emergency ward. Counsel for the GMC…told the Manchester hearing how nurses Christine Timmons and Siobhan Fitzgerald were on duty at 2pm on June 27 when they went into the resuscitation room and spotted Chahal taking Entonox…

‘They were invited by Dr Chahal to sample the Entonox…

On July 5 nurses Briony Routledge and Amanda Howe were on duty at the Children’s A&E department when they spotted Chahal using Entonox consistently throughout the night.

Mr Sephton added: ‘He offered it to them and also offered it to a student nurse Helen Aspinall – two of them accepted Doctor Chahal’s offer…’

The doctor denies his fitness to practise was impaired.

Stick to your guns, doc. That is – if you can find them, figure out which end makes the big noise?