NASA refutes declines in plant productivity, global food security

A new, comprehensive study by an international team of scientists…has been published in the current issue of Science refuting earlier alarmist claims that drought has induced a decline in global plant productivity during the past decade and posed a threat to global food security.

Those earlier findings published by Zhao and Running in the August 2010 issue of Science also warned of potentially serious consequences for biofuel production and the global carbon cycle…

Zhao and Running’s predictions of trends and year-to-year variability were largely based on simulated changes in the productivity of tropical forests, especially the Amazonian rainforests. However, according to the new study, their model failed miserably when tested against comparable ground measurements collected in these forests.

“The large (28%) disagreement between the model’s predictions and ground truth imbues very little confidence in Zhao and Running’s results,” said Marcos Costa, coauthor…

This new study also found that the model actually predicted increased productivity during droughts, compared to field measurements, and decreased productivity in non-drought years 2006 and 2007 in the Amazon, in contradiction to the main finding of the previous report.

“Such erratic behavior is typical of their poorly formulated model, which lacks explicit soil moisture dynamics,” said Edson Nunes…

None of their reported productivity trends are statistically significant,” said Liang Xu, coauthor…

In any case, the trends in plant productivity reported by Zhao and Running are miniscule-a 0.34% reduction in the Southern Hemisphere offset by a 0.24% gain in the Northern Hemisphere for a net decline of 0.1% over a ten-year period from 2000 to 2009.

“This is the proverbial needle in a haystack,” said Simone Vieira, coauthor…”There is no model accurate enough to predict such minute changes over such short time intervals, even at hemispheric scales…”

Their analysis of satellite data is flawed because they included poor quality data and do not bother to test trends for statistically significance. Our analyses of four different higher-quality MODIS satellite vegetation products that have been carefully filtered for data corruption show no statistically significant trends over 85% of the global vegetated lands.”

I realize most folks only notice studies like these when they show up in the popular press. Those articles bear their own special circumstances and problems. Veracity isn’t often a required quality.

I couldn’t stop my smile when I bumped into this – because what we’re witnessing is the peer-reviewed scientific equivalent of a barroom brawl. You don’t get to hear the shouting and bottles breaking. But, believe me, emotions are running just as high.

Five Indian coppers die during job fitness competition

Five Indian police constables died of heart attacks during a ten kilometre run as part of a selection test for promotion. A further 100 officers fainted during the trial in which they had to run 10 kilometres in less than ninety minutes in high monsoon temperatures.

Some of those who collapsed said senior officers had shown no sympathy and had shouted abuse at them as they laid on the ground.

Police recruitment managers said the deaths and the high number of men who collapsed highlighted poor fitness levels in the force. The image of the pot-bellied khaki policeman is a well-known and much-derided stereotype in India.

Most of those competing in the race were in their mid-40s and were described as “middle aged and unfit”. They died last week in three separate races in Kanpur, Meerut and Azamgarh, in Uttar Pradesh.

Vikram Chandra Goel, chairman of the state’s Police Recruitment and Promotion Board said the constables who died had been suffering from heart complaints and high blood pressure but either “did not inform the department of their ailments or they were not themselves aware of the disease”…

Promotion aspirants will now have to undergo medical tests before taking place in promotion marathon races.

What a sum of collaborative stupidity. So, no one thought to have a general physical exam for a group of mostly 40’s employees scheduled to set off on a 10K run in monsoon season. That’s DUMB 101.

It’s easy to malign the coppers who were out of shape; but, still joined the competition. They were running to make a little more income. The constabulary in India ain’t exactly the most overpaid in the world.

Pamplona maintains Darwinian status

At least 70 people have been injured during the first day of the running of the bulls in the Spanish city of Pamplona. Thirteen of them have been taken to hospital. The injuries consisted mainly of broken bones, bruises and cuts, but one man was left in critical condition after a 600-kilo bull galloped over him. Nobody was gored by a bull…the first day.

The young man who died after a fall from the 30-meter high wall that encircles the ancient centre of Pamplona has now been identified. He was a 23-year-old Irishman and he is thought to have fallen after having too much to drink. Last year, an American man and his Spanish girlfriend also died after falling from the same wall.