Category Archives: CLIMATE CHANGE

Royal Society paints picture of a world 4 °C warmer

Royal Society paints picture of a world 4 °C warmer – environment – 29 November 2010 – New Scientist.

As reported by New ScientistMovie Camera last year, UK Met Office researchers have shown that the world could warm by 4 °C by 2060, devastating much of the Amazon rainforest and disrupting the monsoon cycle. Now the UK’s Royal Society has published detailed study of how the world will look when it is 4 °C warmer.

Water shortages will become more severe, says Fai Fung of the University of Oxford, and colleagues. The extent of the warming depends in large part on our actions. If, by cutting emissions we limit global warming to 2 °C, projections suggest water supplies will dwindle because of demand from the growing population. But at 4 °C, a warmer, drier climate will become the biggest threat to water availability.

Most of sub-Saharan Africa will see shorter growing seasons, according to Philip Thornton of the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, and colleagues. As a result, average maize production will drop 19 per cent and bean production by 47 per cent compared with current levels.

Extreme weather, sea-level rise and water shortages will will drive many people to migrate, says François Gemenne of the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris, France. But the poorest may be unable to move. Gemenne says we should make it easier for people to move country.

Journal reference: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A

New York State Begins Planning for Sea Level Rise

New York State Begins Planning for Sea Level Rise: Scientific American.

NEW YORK — New York state is beginning to take the threat of sea level rise attributed to climate change seriously as a new government prepares to settle in next year.

Starting Monday, state officials in Albany will gather with members of the public to discuss a recently released 93-page report that recommends major changes to development planning and conservation along coastlines from the tip of Long Island all way up the Hudson River Valley.

Any reforms to come from the process, starting next week, would affect about 62 percent of New York state’s population, the proportion estimated to reside now in areas that could be hard hit as rising land and ocean temperatures raise average sea levels around the globe.

“We’ve had an enormous variety of partners involved in this project,” said Kristen Marcell, special projects coordinator at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. “We do have to take leadership from the new government, but I think there’s a lot of support in the state agencies for these recommendations and making sure that we’re heading in the right direction.”

Among other changes, report authors say some rural infrastructure should be relocated away from coastlines, while new and existing buildings in the densely packed New York City metropolitan region should be reconfigured to allow for periodic flooding and sea intrusion. Planners also need to quickly come up with solutions to guard underground infrastructure, especially the flood-prone New York City subway and underground utility cables and pipes.

Those and other recommendations put forth to the governor and state Legislature are the work of the New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force, a body established by the Legislature in 2007 and charged with assessing the overall threat climate change poses to New York coasts and what to do about it. The task force, led mostly by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) put forth 14 specific recommended changes, mostly calling for revisions to state statutes and executive orders that would tighten environmental review and also make coastal development more costly in an effort to discourage building in sensitive areas.

Making coastal development less attractive
“Governments can make development in coastal areas less attractive by requiring development projects to internalize the risks of sea level rise and storms in coastal development planning and decision making,” the task force argues.

It suggests making coastal development more burdensome through more stringent building codes, siting requirements, and forcing real estate title holders to fully disclose insurance risks associated with storm surges or damage from seawater intrusion.

The task force also recommends that city, county and state governments seriously consider abandoning whole areas of the coast altogether, to allow vegetation to gradually migrate away from the shoreline and give nature a chance to build more natural barriers to rising seas, hurricanes and severe storms known to hit the Northeast frequently.

Decreasing the vulnerability of coastlines could be achieved by expanding the size of state parks or protected areas. Officials should also consider relocating some coastal infrastructure to higher ground while converting currently inhabited areas into nature zones, the task force says. The report cautions, however, that building relocations should probably be confined to more rural areas, and that doing so in New York City and Long Island suburbs would be too expensive or virtually impossible.

To start off, the task force recommends that the state take a full inventory of all schools, hospitals, police and fire stations, and key transportation links that could become threatened if sea level rise forecasts bear out. Regulators should then get a sense of what it would cost to relocate these structures and how best to do so.

A host of laws need rewriting
New structures that must be built along the coast should be elevated, they say, to allow periodic floodwaters to sweep in without causing damage to a building itself.

The draft report to be discussed over the coming months “is an important first step in developing a statewide framework to address the risks posed by sea level rise and coastal storms,” said Adam Freed, who serves as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s deputy sustainability director.

City and state records show that the level of New York Harbor has risen by approximately 15 inches in the past 150 years. Gauges in the harbor have recorded the high tide mark rising by about 4 to 6 inches since 1960.

Citing international scientific estimates, the task force says the region can expect a further 2- to 5-inch rise in average sea level by as early as 2020. With the most pessimistic observers predicting the sea rising by a few feet by the end of the century, state officials and environmentalists are worried that some sensitive habitats and islands lining the region could be lost entirely, exposing the city and state to the full brunt of strong storms.

Among its 14 recommendations, the panel suggests specific changes to a host of laws now on the books, including state legislation governing wetlands protections, hazardous waste handling and shoreline erosion prevention.

Emphasis on ‘soft engineering’
For instance, the task force suggests adding specific text to the state’s Tidal Wetlands Act stating: “It is declared to be the public policy of the state to preserve and protect tidal wetlands and to prevent their despoliation and destruction, giving due consideration to the occurrence of sea level rise that will result in wetlands loss and migration, and to the reasonable economic and social development of the state.”

And taking a cue from recent initiatives in New York City, the task force is calling on the state to undertake a complete review of zoning laws and building codes, including even fire and health codes, directing the development of New York’s waterfront for decades out. Such changes would ideally “require consideration of sea level rise impacts in comprehensive plans for coastal communities,” the 17-member task force says.

The group also calls for so-called “soft engineering” solutions to trump hard infrastructure projects like sea walls or tide gates. Worried that such major projects would be too expensive or that they may become overwhelmed by storms and the encroaching sea, they instead call for investments in expanding the size of salt marshes and barrier islands that may offer greater, longer-lasting protection at a much lower cost.

It is unknown how the incoming Legislature and Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo (D) plan to move forward with the findings and recommendations. The meeting to be held Monday at DEC headquarters in Albany is meant primarily as an opportunity to explain the particulars of the plan in greater detail and give the public a chance to offer their comments and suggestions. Comments will be gathered until Dec. 12 in time for officials to revise the report and submit a final draft to state lawmakers on Jan. 1.

“This also folds into the larger climate action planning process,” said Marcell. “This is kind of going into more detail on what sort of impacts are going to have the largest potential costs to New York state. That process is a much longer process.”

Real change is unlikely to come soon. A similar New York City team assigned to review building codes in order to enhance the city’s energy efficiency and cut greenhouse gas pollution took over a year to complete its work, and implementation of its plan is expected to occur gradually over the next decade.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500

UN warned of major new food crisis at emergency meeting in Rome | Environment | The Guardian

UN warned of major new food crisis at emergency meeting in Rome | Environment | The Guardian.

Environmental disasters and speculative investors are to blame for volatile food commodities markets, says UN’s special adviser

russia wildfires July’s wildfires in Russia have led to a draconian wheat ban, pushing up prices. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPAThe world may be on the brink of a major new food crisis caused by environmental disasters and rampant market speculators, the UN was warned today at an emergency meeting on food price inflation.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) meeting in Rome today was called last month after a heatwave and wildfires in Russia led to a draconian wheat export ban and food riots broke out in Mozambique, killing 13 people. But UN experts heard that pension and hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds and large banks who speculate on commodity markets may also be responsible for inflation in food prices being seen across all continents.

In a new paper released this week, Olivier De Schutter, the UN’s special rapporteur on food, says that the increases in price and the volatility of food commodities can only be explained by the emergence of a “speculative bubble” which he traces back to the early noughties.

“[Beginning in ]2001, food commodities derivatives markets, and commodities indexes began to see an influx of non-traditional investors,” De Schutter writes. “The reason for this was because other markets dried up one by one: the dotcoms vanished at the end of 2001, the stock market soon after, and the US housing market in August 2007. As each bubble burst, these large institutional investors moved into other markets, each traditionally considered more stable than the last. Strong similarities can be seen between the price behaviour of food commodities and other refuge values, such as gold.”

He continues: “A significant contributory cause of the price spike [has been] speculation by institutional investors who did not have any expertise or interest in agricultural commodities, and who invested in commodities index funds or in order to hedge speculative bets.”

A near doubling of many staple food prices in 2007 and 2008 led to riots in more than 30 countries and an estimated 150 million extra people going hungry. While some commodity prices have since reduced, the majority are well over 50% higher than pre-2007 figures – and are now rising quickly upwards again.

“Once again we find ourselves in a situation where basic food commodities are undergoing supply shocks. World wheat futures and spot prices climbed steadily until the beginning of August 2010, when Russia – faced with massive wildfires that destroyed its wheat harvest – imposed an export ban on that commodity. In addition, other markets such as sugar and oilseeds are witnessing significant price increases,” said De Schutter, who spoke today at The UK Food Group’s conference in London.

Gregory Barrow of the UN World Food Program said: “What we have seen over the past few weeks is a period of volatility driven partly by the announcement from Russia of an export ban on grain food until next year, and this has driven prices up. They have fallen back again, but this has had an impact.”

Sergei Sukhov, from Russia’s agriculture ministry, told the Associated Press during a break in the meeting in Rome that the market for grains “should be stable and predictable for all participants.” He said no efforts should be spared “to the effect that the production of food be sufficient.”

“The emergency UN meeting in Rome is a clear warning sign that we could be on the brink of another food price crisis unless swift action is taken. Already, nearly a billion people go to bed hungry every night – another food crisis would be catastrophic for millions of poor people,” said Alex Wijeratna, ActionAid’s hunger campaigner.

An ActionAid report released last week revealed that hunger could be costing poor nations $450bn a year – more than 10 times the amount needed to halve hunger by 2015 and meet Millennium Development Goal One.

Food prices are rising around 15% a year in India and Nepal, and similarly in Latin America and China. US maize prices this week broke through the $5-a-bushel level for the first time since September 2008, fuelled by reports from US farmers of disappointing yields in the early stages of their harvests. The surge in the corn price also pushed up European wheat prices to a two-year high of €238 a tonne.

Elsewhere, the threat of civil unrest led Egypt this week to announce measures to increase food self-sufficiency to 70%. Partly as a result of food price rises, many middle eastern and other water-scarce countries have begun to invest heavily in farmland in Africa and elsewhere to guarantee supplies.

Although the FAO has rejected the notion of a food crisis on the scale of 2007-2008, it this week warned of greater volatility in food commodities markets in the years ahead.

At the meeting in London today, De Schutter said the only long term way to resolve the crisis would be to shift to “agro-ecological” ways of growing food. This farming, which does not depend on fossil fuels, pesticides or heavy machinery has been shown to protect soils and use less water.

“A growing number of experts are calling for a major shift in food security policies, and support the development of agroecology approaches, which have shown very promising results where implemented,” he said.

Green MP Caroline Lucas called for tighter regulation of the food trade. “Food has become a commodity to be traded. The only thing that matters under the current system is profit. Trading in food must not be treated as simply another form of business as usual: for many people it is a matter of life and death. We must insist on the complete removal of agriculture from the remit of the World Trade Organisation,” she said.

Food price graphs

Mass Extinctions Change the Rules of Evolution

Mass Extinctions Change the Rules of Evolution | Wired Science |

ANOTHER giant ‘DUH’ for science: mass extinctions make things happen differently thereafter.

A reinterpretation of the fossil record suggests a new answer to one of evolution’s existential questions: whether global mass extinctions are just short-term diversions in life’s preordained course, or send life careening down wholly new paths.

Some scientists have suggested the former. Rates of species diversification — the speed at which groups adapt and fill open ecological niches — seemed to predict what’s flourished in the aftermath of past planetary cataclysms. But according to the calculations of Macquarie University paleobiologist John Alroy, that’s just not the case.

“Mass extinction fundamentally changes the dynamics. It changes the composition of the biosphere forever. You can’t simply predict the winners and losers from what groups have done before,” he said.

Alroy was once a student of paleontologist Jack Sepkoski, who in the 1980s formalized the notion that Earth has experienced five mass extinctions in the 550 million years since life became durable enough to leave a fossil record. Graphs of taxonomic abundance depict lines rising steadily as life diversifies, plunging precipitously during each extinction, and rising again as life proliferates anew.

As the fossil record is patchy and long-term evolutionary principles still debated, paleobiologists have historically disagreed about what these extinctions mean. Some held that, in the absence of extinctions, species would diversify endlessly. The Tree of Life could sprout new branches forever. Others argued that each taxonomic group had limits; once it reached a certain size, each branch would stop growing.

Sepkoski’s calculations put him on the limits side of this argument. He also proposed that, by looking at the rate at which each group produced new species, one could predict the winners and losers of each mass extinction’s aftermath. Groups that diversified rapidly would flourish. Their destiny was already established.

“It’s a clockmaker vision of evolution. Each group has fixed dynamics, and if there’s an extinction, it just messes it up a bit,” said Alroy. “That’s what I’m challenging in this paper. There are limits, and that’s why we don’t have a trillion species. But those limits can change.”

Alroy crunched marine fossil data in the Paleobiology Database, which gathers specimen records from nearly 100,000 fossil collections around the world. He used a statistical adjustment method designed to reduce the skewing influences of paleontological circumstance — the greater chances of finding young fossils rather than old, the ease of studying some types of rock rather than others.

Historical species diversity among marine animals of Cambrian, Paleozoic and Modern origin.

The analysis, published September 2 in Science, produced what Alroy considers to be the most accurate reflection of extinction dynamics to date. And while his data supported the notion that each group’s diversity eventually hits a limit, he didn’t find Sepkoski’s correlation between pre-mass-extinction diversity rates and post-extinction success. Each mass extinction event seemed to change the rules. Past didn’t indicate future.

In an accompanying commentary, paleontologist Charles Marshall of the University of California, Berkeley noted that Alroy’s statistical methods still need review by the paleobiology community. The Paleobiological Database, for all its thoroughness, might also be incomplete in as-yet-unappreciated ways. “There will be no immediate consensus on the details of the pattern of diversity,” he wrote. But “the pieces are falling into place.”

Enough pieces have come together for Alroy to speculate on his findings’ implication for the future, given that Earth is now experiencing another mass extinction. Starting with extinctions of large land animals more than 50,000 years ago that continued as modern humans proliferated around the globe, and picking up pace in the Agricultural and Industrial ages, current extinction rates are far beyond levels capable of unraveling entire food webs in coming centuries. Ecologists estimate that between 50 and 90 percent of all species are doomed without profound changes in human resource use.

In the past, many evolutionary biologists thought life would eventually recover its present composition, said Alroy. In 100 million years or so, the same general creatures would again roam the Earth. “But that isn’t in the data,” he said.

Instead Alroy’s analysis suggests that the future is inherently unpredictable, that what comes next can’t be extrapolated from what is measured now, no more than a mid-Cretaceous observer could have guessed that a few tiny rodents would someday occupy every ecological niche then ruled by reptiles.

“The current mass extinction is not going to simply put things out of whack for a while, and then things will go back to where we started, or would have gone anyway,” said Alroy. Mass extinction “changes the rules of evolution.”

Images: 1) A fossil skull of Dunkleosteus, an apex predator fish that lived between 380 million and 360 million years ago, and had what is believed to be history’s most powerful bite./Michael LaBarbera, courtesy of The Field Museum. 2) Graph of species diversity among marine animals of Cambrian, Paleozoic and Modern origin./Science.

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Arctic ice: Less than meets the eye – environment – 31 August 2010 – New Scientist

Arctic ice: Less than meets the eye – environment – 31 August 2010 – New Scientist.

The ice may not retreat as much as feared this year, but what remains may be more rotten than robust

LAST September, David Barber was on board the Canadian icebreaker CCGS Amundsen (pictured), heading into the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska. He was part of a team investigating ice conditions in autumn, the time when Arctic sea ice shrinks to its smallest extent before starting to grow again as winter sets in.

Barber, an environmental scientist at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, went to sleep one night at midnight, just before the ship was due to reach a region of very thick sea ice. The Amundsen is only capable of breaking solid ice about a metre thick, so according to the ice forecasts for ships, the region should have been impassable.

Yet when Barber woke up early the next morning, the ship was still cruising along almost as fast as usual. Either someone had made a mistake and the ship was headed for catastrophe, or there was something very wrong with the ice, he thought, as he rushed to the bridge in his pyjamas.

On the surface, the situation in the Arctic looks dramatic enough. In September 2007, the total extent of sea with surface ice shrank further than ever recorded before – to nearly 40 per cent below the long-term average. This low has yet to be surpassed. But the extent of sea ice is not all that matters, as Barber found. Look deeper and there are even more dramatic changes. This is something everyone should be concerned about because the transformation of the Arctic will affect us all.

The record low in 2007 cannot be blamed on global warming alone; weather played a big role too. That year saw a build-up of high pressure over the Beaufort Sea and a trough of low pressure over northern Siberia – a weather pattern called the Arctic dipole anomaly. It brings warm, southerly winds that increase melting. The winds also drive sea ice away from the Siberian coast and out of the Arctic Ocean towards the Atlantic, where it melts.

In 2008 and 2009, the dipole anomaly did not dominate and the extent of ice did not shrink as much during summer. This rebound led to much talk of a recovery in Arctic ice.

This June, the dipole anomaly returned and the ice extent for the month was the lowest ever. In July, however, the dipole pattern broke up and the rate of ice loss slowed. “Whether or not we set a new record depends very much on the weather patterns,” says Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center based in Boulder, Colorado, which monitors the extent of sea ice – a particular way of measuring its area.

While much attention is likely to be paid to whether or not a new record is reached in the next month, there is more to sea ice than area alone. New sea ice can grow up to 2 metres thick during the winter. If it survives the summer melt, it can grow even thicker over the three to six years it might last before being swept past Greenland and out into the Atlantic Ocean, or succumbing to the summer melt. In places, this multi-year ice can pile up forming “pressure ridges” as much as 50 metres deep. But its average thickness is now less than 3 metres according to ICESat, the only satellite capable of measuring ice height and thus thickness (Geophysical Research Letters, vol 36, L15501).

There is no long-term record of the total volume of ice because we have only patchy data; ICESat was launched in 2003 and failed earlier this year. The nearest thing we have are estimates from PIOMAS, developed by Jinlun Zhang and his colleagues at the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center in Seattle. Actual satellite measurements of sea ice concentration since 1978 are fed into a computer model of the growth, melting and motion of sea ice to produce an estimate of ice volume. PIOMAS’s results correspond well with independent measurements by submarines and by ICESat.

According to PIOMAS estimates supplied to New Scientist by Zhang, the average volume of Arctic ice between July and September has fallen from 21,000 cubic kilometres in 1979 to 8000 cubic kilometres in 2009. That is a 55 per cent fall compared with the 1979 to 2000 average. “The loss of ice volume is faster than the loss of ice extent,” says Zhang. His model suggests that not only has the total volume of Arctic ice continued to decline since 2007, but that the rate of loss is accelerating (see “Going, going…”).

Not only has the volume of ice continued to decline, the rate of loss is accelerating

How can ice volume have kept falling when extent increased again after 2007? Because less and less ice is surviving to see its first birthday. “First-year ice is now the dominant ice type in the Arctic, whereas a few years ago multi-year ice was dominant,” says Barber.

Young ice is thinner than multi-year ice, and thus more likely to break into smaller pieces that melt more quickly, and more likely to be swept out of the Arctic and into warmer seas. That is precisely what happened in 2007, when persistent winds blew a thinner ice pack through the Fram Strait between Greenland and the island of Spitsbergen, leading to the dramatic ice loss. “The same wind 30 years ago when the ice was thicker would not have done as much damage,” says Bruno Tremblay, a climate researcher at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

And while the area of young ice increased in 2008 and 2009, the amount of multi-year ice continued to fall. “There wasn’t a recovery at all,” Barber says.

Even the nature of the remaining sea ice might be changing. When Barber rushed up to the bridge that morning in September 2009, the first officer told him that while it looked like there was ice, it was no barrier to the ship at all. The reason: the ice was rotten.

It consisted of multi-year ice that had become riddled with surface thaw holes and had broken into pieces. Over winter, a 5-centimetre layer of new ice had formed over the dispersed floes. If a person tried standing on it they would fall right through, so it was no obstacle to the Amundsen. It is not clear how widespread these conditions are because satellites cannot distinguish between rotten and more solid ice (Geophysical Research Letters, vol 36, p L24501). The rotten ice is less of a barrier to waves as well as ships, meaning waves can penetrate further into ice packs and break up more ice.

What it all means is that, much like the Amundsen, we are now cruising effortlessly into a world that may soon feature an essentially ice-free Arctic during at least part of the year. “Thirty years from now, maybe even 20 years from now, if you were to look at the Arctic from space you would see a blue ocean [in summer],” says Serreze.

The implications of such changes for wildlife and the human inhabitants of the region, for the global climate and for geopolitics are profound. The Arctic would be traversable by ship. It would be far more open to oil and gas exploration, and mineral extraction. Its dark ocean waters, mostly devoid of ice, would absorb still more sunlight, further warming the overlying atmosphere during an increasingly lengthy ice-free season, reshaping weather throughout the region and well beyond it.

Worryingly, the melting of the Arctic sea ice is proceeding considerably more quickly than most climate models have predicted. Among the suite of models submitted for the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), only two out of 23 yielded results for Arctic sea ice that were consistent with observations, says Cecilia Bitz of the University of Washington in Seattle.

According to the 2007 models, the Arctic will not become ice-free in summer until some time after 2050. However, researchers like Barber and Serreze think this landmark occurrence will come much earlier. Barber has predicted that it will occur sometime between 2013 and 2030.

If most models aren’t capturing the full extent of changes in the Arctic, it is probably because the modelled feedbacks are too weak, says Bitz. In other words, they may not be sensitive enough to processes that, once they get going, self-amplify in a continuing loop.

Every model includes the “ice albedo feedback”, in which the melting of ice that reflects most of the sun’s heat exposes dark water that absorbs most heat. That leads to more melting and so on – a positive feedback. But there could be many others.

Consider, for instance, the role of Arctic storms. They break up ice with their winds and waves, making it more prone to melting – and the more open water there is, the more powerful waves can become. These larger waves – which were not included in any models – then penetrate further into the ice pack, breaking it up into smaller and smaller pieces, says Barber. From the bridge of the Amundsen as it sat moored in the ice last year, Barber himself watched as a large swell broke a chunk of ice the size of Manhattan into a number of pieces roughly 100 metres across.

Storms also bring snow, which in autumn and winter actually slows the growth of sea ice by insulating it from cold winds, as well as reducing heat loss from the sea below. So if climate change leads to more snow in autumn and winter, this will be yet another factor contributing to the loss of sea ice.

Bitz thinks the 2007 low was a wake-up call for climate modellers, compelling them to look more closely at how their programs handle sea ice. She expects that when the next set of models is submitted to the IPCC for its 2013 report, their outputs will be much more in line with observations. “The modelling centres are short of resources for giving focus to a particular part of the model,” she says. “But when a big story comes out like 2007, they redirect, and that will pay off.”

The implications of the loss of Arctic sea ice in the summer are hard to overstate. Most attention has focused on charismatic megafauna like polar bears and walruses, but they are just the icons of a broader ecosystem that is already being dramatically disrupted. The sea ice is as important as the trees to a rainforest, Barber says.

The loss of sea ice will also have many other impacts. For instance, the increase in the size of waves has already begun to cause serious coastal erosion in places like Alaska, with the effect magnified by warmer waters and rising sea level. The impact of the waves eventually melts the permafrost of which the coastline is composed. “Some of those coastlines are made of very fine silt,” says Tremblay. “The land just washes away.”

A warmer Arctic will also affect weather in the mid-latitudes – indeed, it has already begun. Take the Great Plains of the US. According to Michael MacCracken of the Climate Institute in Washington DC, this region’s weather is very much determined by clashes between cold air masses coming down from the Arctic and warm air masses from the Gulf of Mexico. As the Arctic blasts are less cold than they used to be, the Gulf’s warm air tends to push further northwards. The result is a northward shift of weather patterns, and more extreme storms and heavy precipitation events in regions not used to them.

Finally, there are the economic and industrial implications. “The engineering challenges get simpler,” says Barber, “for drilling, for putting drill ships in place, for having icebreakers, to make tankers carry oil across the pole – all those kinds of challenges associated with industrial development.” Such challenges will diminish, or even vanish entirely. The Amundsen’s surprisingly easy voyage through the Beaufort Sea in September 2009 could be a herald of things to come.

Chris Mooney is a host of the Point of Inquiry

VALERIE: SUPER USEFUL article on climate-related forest death

t r u t h o u t | US Climate Bill Is Dead While So Much Life on Our Earth Continues to Perish.

Written by an Indian dude living in Santa Fe!

Extensive, useful stats on pinon forests, which are much older than we thought…

by: Subhankar Banerjee  |  Climate StoryTellers | Op-Ed

[I dedicate this story to my wife Nora who showed me a Curve–billed Thrasher’s nest on a cholla cactus, the first I had ever seen, and walked with me on all the paths that made this story possible.]

Imagine you live in New York City, and one fine morning you awake to the realization that 90 percent of all the buildings that were more than five stories tall have been destroyed. You will hardly have the words to talk about this devastation, but I’m sure you will walk around the rubble to make sense of it all.

Something similar has happened in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I currently live. Between 2001 and 2005, aerial surveys were conducted over 6.4 million acres of the state. Some 816,000 affected acres were mapped and it was found that during this short period Ips confusus, a tiny bark beetle, had killed 54.5 million of New Mexico’s state tree, the piñon. In many areas of northern New Mexico, including Santa Fe, Los Alamos, Española, and Taos, 90 percent of mature piñons are now dead.

Under normal climate conditions, bark beetles live in harmony with their environment, laying their eggs in dead or weakened trees. However, when healthy trees become stressed from severe and sustained drought, they become objects of attack: the beetles drill into their bark, laying eggs along the way, and killing their host. Milder winter temperatures have ensured more of them survive the winter, and warmer summer temperatures have reduced the life cycle duration of the beetles from two to one year, and subsequently their numbers have exploded in recent years.

In March 2006, my then–future wife Nora and I rented a house in Eldorado, a suburban community about 15 miles southeast of Santa Fe. Each day as I drove from our home to the nearby city, all along the way on both sides of the road I’d see large areas of grey–brown (dead piñons) in the midst of green (live junipers).

During my childhood in India, I was fascinated by the detective stories of Satyajit Ray’s Feluda series. Because of the forest devastation I witnessed daily, I took on the role of a self–assigned visual detective of a geographic region bound by a 5–mile radius around our home. I walked again and again the same three paths, each no more than 2 miles long.

As I repeated my walks, I gradually began to realize that the environment around our home in the desert is perhaps as biodiverse as the arctic, where I have been taking photographs for the past decade. In both regions, one far and one near, I am attempting to address two simple things: home and food that land provides to humans as well as to numerous other species with whom we share this earth.

I’ll share with you a few experiences and a little bit of what I learned from these walks.

From a distance I see a large dead piñon with a canopy that spreads more than 20 feet. I can determine from the canopy size that the tree was more than 600 years old when it died. Piñons take nearly 300 years to mature and can live up to 1,000 years.

As I get closer to the dead tree, I notice the damaged skin with many protrusions that look like soft yellow globs or lines. Such skin is visual evidence that the tree did not die a normal death, but instead put up a fight against beetles by sending out sap to drown them in resin. In the end the tree lost, as the number of beetles the tree was fighting was far too many. I’ve never seen a bark beetle, whose size is no bigger than a grain of rice, and I doubt you’ll see one either, but if you look closely at the skin of one of these dead piñons you will know that the beetles were here and that the tree fought hard.

Occasionally I see a beautiful northern flicker pecking away at a dead tree trunk, either building a nest or looking for food – insects that have come to break down the dead tree. In the process, the flicker will create perfectly circular holes. These cavities will become possible homes for gorgeous western and mountain bluebirds. Even after death these dead piñons provide home and food for many species.

On my walks I also come across areas that resemble graveyards, where every piñon in immediate sight is dead. But I continue to see birds resting on the branches of these dead trees. And when I wait patiently, sometimes I am rewarded with the sight of a tiny black–chinned hummingbird, which weighs less than 1/2 ounce, on top of a 20–foot–high dead piñon as it catches its breath briefly before buzzing off to feed on a cluster of bright–orange Indian paintbrush.

Piñon trees produce protein–rich nuts once every four to seven years. Nut eaters like Piñon Jays critically depend on piñon nuts for sustenance, but they also serve a very important role in the regeneration of piñon woods. A typical flock of 50 to 500 birds can cache more than 4 million piñon seeds in a good year in New Mexico, and uneaten seeds result in new trees.

For Native American communities of the desert southwest, piñon tree has been of immense cultural, spiritual, and economic importance for many millenia. The nut is extensively harvested throughout its range. It has been a staple for a long time and continues to be eaten and used in cooking today.

This is not the first time that piñon forests have been destroyed. It has been suggested that the ancient Pueblo people of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico overharvested the piñon–juniper woodlands around their community to support the growing need of timber for fuel and building materials. In the process they deforested woodlands that eventually contributed to their abandoning the magnificent community they had built. Even more extensive devastation occurred during the late nineteenth and throughout the twentieth century, when vast areas of piñon woodlands were deforested to support cattle ranching, which indigenous communities and others regard as a major act of ecocultural vandalism.

According to a fascinating book, Ancient Piñon-Juniper Woodlands: A Natural History of Mesa Verde Country, biologists have recently begun to define the piñon–juniper woodland as an old–growth forest. This ecosystem supports an incredible diversity of wildlife, including 250 bird species (50 percent of all bird species west of Mississippi and more than a quarter of bird species in the U.S. and Canada), 74 species of mammals, 17 species of bats, 10 amphibian species, and 27 species of reptiles. Sadly, junipers are also dying (in lesser numbers so far) from extreme heat and drought. When I started my walks, I did not realize that there existed an old–growth forest in the New Mexican desert.

Every time I call my mom in India she complains about how hot this summer has been. This year we had the hottest first six months globally since recording began in 1880. In Santa Fe, we broke the June high temperature record with a 100oF (average high is 83oF), the July record with another 100oF (average high is 86oF), and with 95oF already we’ve tied the August record (average high is 83oF).

So it is no surprise that many of our remaining live piñons are again oozing soft yellow pitches. As it happens, these piñons were blooming last year and now they have beautiful green cones that will mature with nuts. These piñons are fighting–and–fruiting right now for their survival but they are infected and will die.

Even reforestation is taking on a different meaning in the twenty–first century. Young piñon trees have little chance of surviving extreme heat and drought. Each time I drive on Cerrillos Road to get to Interstate 25, I see a line of recently planted piñons, but some of the young trees are already dead, and I surmise the others might be infected.

If we lose our remaining piñons in the coming decades due to global warming, how would we then talk about the tree that has been ecoculturally most significant for New Mexico and its Native American communities for thousands of years?

Forests Are Dying Across the American West and All Over the World

In 2004, Michelle Nijhuis reported in High Country News that several species of bark beetles were ravaging forests all across the American West. The black spruce, white spruce, ponderosa pine, lodglepole pine, whitebark pine, and piñon have all been devastated by recent bark beetles epidemic. Scientists now suspect that by killing our forests, these beetles are also altering the local weather patterns and air quality.

Earlier this year, the U.S. senate had scheduled a hearing on the bark beetle epidemic, but, angered by the passage of the healthcare bill, Senate Republicans canceled the hearing on March 23. The hearing was finally held on April 21. Senator Mark Udall (Democrat-Colorado), co–sponsor of the National Forest Insect and Disease Emergency Act, wrote in his senate blog, “The infestation is a critical public health and safety issue for the people of Colorado and has been called the worst natural disaster our region has seen.” The bill names twelve states affected by the epidemic: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. This list should also include Alaska, where spruce bark beetles have destroyed very large areas of spruce forests, some of which I saw during my time there.

The hearing mainly focused on offering tens of millions of dollars of federal assistance to remove dead trees from affected areas to avoid potential forest fire damage. Ecologist Dominik Kulakowski, who testified, thought it was an unproductive approach and said that if the government focuses on trying “to make a wholesale modification of forest structure over large landscapes,” it could be ecologically damaging.

Was the hearing a case of destroy and then clean up – a common practice in our now global consumerist culture?

In March, Jim Robbins reported in Yale Environment 360 that global warming is killing forests across the American West as well as in many parts of the world. So I asked my colleagues for local observations.

In 2006, I spent time in Old Crow, a Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Arctic community in northern Yukon, Canada. At that time I knew nothing about the forest death that was happening in the southern Yukon. In a recent email to me, Roger Brown, the Forestry and Environmental Manager of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, wrote, “Canada’s largest ever documented spruce bark beetle outbreak began 18 years ago and is continuing to affect our forests in the southwestern Yukon. Approximately 380,000 hectares of our white spruce dominated forests have been affected, with almost 100 percent mortality of the forest canopy in some areas. Our oral history research has suggested there is no traditional knowledge that speaks about such extensive tree deaths in the past.”

In early June, as United Nations climate negotiators were wrapping up their unsuccessful meeting in Bonn, Germany, Anne-Marie Melster, founder and co-director of ARTPORT, wrote from Valencia, “Here in Spain, at the Mediterranean coast, the picudo rojo (red palm weevil) is attacking and killing tens of thousands of palm trees.”

About the same time, Ananda Banerjee, a conservation journalist from New Delhi, emailed me. “The sal forest in north-central India is home to the endangered tiger,” he said. “In the last few years there has been wide spread destruction and felling of infected sal trees, from the attack of a pest beetle called the sal borer. We have around 1,10,000 sq. km area of sal forest in India, but the green cover is gradually depleting due to this pest and due to illegal harvest of sal as timber.”

If you are interested in a broad scientific understanding of forest deaths from global warming, you can read an article published earlier this year in Forest Ecology and Management. It is worth noting the names of countries listed in the article with forest mortality data that have been recorded since 1970:

Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Uganda, USA, and Zimbabwe

Global warming skeptics would point to the fact that trees have died in the past from insect outbreaks and droughts, and so this is part of a natural climate cycle. But this time around something is very different: Forests are dying simultaneously in many places around the world in all forest types, and the intensity and rapidity with which they are dying in some places is of epic proportions.

As I started thinking about our dead forests, I wondered: Do we really need another story of global warming devastation? Haven’t we heard enough about melting glaciers and icebergs, retreating sea ice and disappearing polar bears? Then something tugged on my shoulder: Are we not to mourn the deaths of so many trees? But we mourn that which we knew and cared for. We did not know these trees. My hope has been to introduce to you the trees as ecological beings beyond their usual association as board–feet–for–lumber.

Hundreds of millions of trees have recently died and many more hundreds of millions will soon be dying. Now think of all the other lives, including birds and animals, that depended on those trees. The number of these must be in the tens of billions. What happened to them and how do we talk about that which we can’t see and will never know? This massive loss must be considered a catastrophic global warming event.

Our “Carbon Sinks” Are Becoming “Carbon Sources”

Consider for a moment the top two carbon sinks of our planet. Oceans absorb more than 25 percent of the CO2 humans put in the air, and forests absorb almost the same amount. By doing so, our forests and oceans together make living possible on this earth for life as we know it now. All of that is changing rapidly and for the worse.

Didn’t we learn as kids in school that CO2 in the atmosphere is good for trees because it acts as a fertilizer and helps them grow? Increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere from industrialization indeed may have aided more trees to grow in the past century. But such short–term gain has already faded away and turned into disaster. All three of the largest forests of the world are rapidly losing their carbon sink capacities.

The Siberian taiga is the largest continuous stretch of forested land on earth. It extends from the Urals in the west to the Kamchatka peninsula in the Russian Far East. Ernst–Detlef Schulze of the Max–Planck–Institute for Biogeochemistry has studied this taiga for 30 years. He calls it “Europe’s green lungs,” as these trees soak up much of the CO2 emitted by European smokestacks and automobiles farther west. Long stretches of extreme droughts have resulted in unprecedented forest fires that destroyed vast swathes of the taiga. Major deforestation is also happening there to fuel the need of (now) emerged economies such as China. And the fir sawyer beetle, larch bark beetle, and Siberian moth have also damaged large areas of the taiga.

This year Russia is experiencing the hottest summer ever, which has resulted in deadly forest fires with smokes over Moscow that made international headlines. Boreal forests of eastern Siberia are also ablaze with intense fires. Scientists have recently detected a poisonous ring around the planet created by an enormous cloud of pollutants that are being released by raging forest fires in central Russia, Siberia, and Canada.

In November 2007, I went to the Sakha Republic of Siberia with Inupiat hunter and conservationist Robert Thompson from Arctic Alaska. While camping with the Even reindeer herders in the Verkhoyansk Range, the coldest inhabited place on earth, we experienced temperatures of minus 65oF (without wind–chill) and were told that January temperature dip to minus 90oF. We also spent time with the Yukaghir community at Nelemnoye along the Kolyma River, made infamous by Stalin’s Gulag camps. We learned that even in such a cold place, the Siberian permafrost is melting rapidly during the summer months due to warming.

In Siberia, with the destruction of taiga and thawing of permafrost, the ghosts–of–gulags are ready to strike back at us with a deadly carbon bomb that we know little about.

The North American boreal forest stretches across U.S. and Canada from Alaska in the west to Newfoundland in the east, making it the second largest continuous forested ecosystem on earth. It is now confirmed that a lodgepole pine forest in British Columbia, Canada, that died from bark beetles outbreak has transformed from being a small net carbon sink to being a large net carbon source. We can probably say the same for all the other bark beetles infecting dying forests across the west.

The Amazon rainforest is the largest tropical forest on earth and stretches across nine countries – Brazil, Peru, Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. I’ve never been to the Amazon, but I’m learning that forest fires, droughts, and deforestation have already destroyed very large areas of this forest. The Amazon is in great trouble: Scientists are predicting that a 4oC temperature rise would kill 85 percent of the Amazon. With climate inaction so far, we are heading rapidly toward such a reality.

The news is equally bad for our oceans, which are now struggling to keep up with the rising CO2 emissions from human activities. By absorbing all that CO2 the oceans are becoming horrendously acidic, threatening the survival of marine life. To make matters worse, methane that is 20 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas is being released in enormous quantities from some of our oceans, including the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, due to thawing of subsea permafrost there, and the Gulf of Mexico, due to BP’s unforgiveable spill. Two studies have shown methane concentrations in some areas of the gulf reached 100,000 times higher than normal with few hot spots close to a million times higher. And recently we learned that 40 percent of the world’s phytoplankton died in the last 60 years due to global warming, raising the question, “Are Our Oceans Dying?

Our natural carbon sinks are losing the battle with global warming, increasing human CO2 emissions, and extreme oil–and–gas drilling. Every citizen of our planet should be asking the question: Who or what will capture the carbon that we continue to emit? And every government ought to address this question as the most urgent priority if we are to ensure life on Earth.

Our New Climate Movement

Last month the U.S. Senate finally put an end to the climate bill. Since then several opinion pieces have been published, including articles in Yale Environment 360, Grist, TomDispatch, The Nation, and The Hill. Some of these point out why the U.S. climate movement failed, while others call for a new movement.

Global warming is a crisis: for all lands, for all oceans, for all rivers, for all forests, for all humans, for all birds, for all mammals, for all little creatures that we don’t see… for all life. We need stories and actions from every part of our earth. So far, global warming communications have primarily focused on scientific information. I strongly believe that to engage the public, we need all fields of the humanities. It is to this end that I founded ClimateStoryTellers.

And there is much action: globally, and Climate Justice Movement; nationally, organizations such as Center for Biological Diversity; and state-based initiatives such as New Energy Economy in New Mexico. These groups give us hope that a bold – not weak – climate movement will continue to move forward with renewed energy.

Our task is to make the collective global voice louder and louder until ignoring such loud cacophony will not be an option by our governments. Global warming is not something we can solve with good behavior and healthy lifestyles. It will require major government action to control pollution–and–polluters and to start a low–carbon–society.

I’ll end with two simple questions:

Will the economic–and–comfort–needs of our species always trump the survival–needs of all other species that also
inhabit this Earth?


By not taking serious action on global warming, is humanity committing a colossal crime against all other lives on Earth?

Subhankar Banerjee is a photographer, writer, activist, and founder of ClimateStoryTellers. His desert photographs will be presented in a solo exhibition, “Where I Live I Hope To Know,” at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth (May 14–August 28, 2011) and in group exhibitions “(Re–) Cycles of Paradise” at the Centro Cultural de España in Mexico City (November 11, 2010–January 16, 2011) and “Earth Now: American Photographers and the Environment” at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe (April 18–August 28, 2011). His arctic photographs will be presented in a solo exhibition “Resource Wars in the American Arctic” at the School of Fine Art Gallery at Indiana University in Bloomington (October 22–November 19, 2010) and in group exhibition “The Altered Landscape: Photographs of a Changing Environment” at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno (September 24, 2011–February 19, 2012). Subhankar is currently editing an anthology titled “Arctic Voices.” You can visit his website by clicking here.

[Note on photographs: To view Subhankar’s forest death photos from New Mexico click here. This album was curated to accompany this piece.]

[Note for readers: I’d like to thank my long–time collaborator and the editor of this piece Christine Clifton–Thornton; to Roger Brown, Anne-Marie Melster, and Ananda Banerjee for sharing their observations for this piece; and always to Tom Engelhardt for his support and inspiration.]

Copyright 2010 Subhankar Banerjee

All republished content that appears on Truthout has been obtained by permission or license.

Sun storm to hit with 'force of 100m bombs'

AFTER 10 years of comparative slumber, the sun is waking up – and it’s got astronomers on full alert.

This week several US media outlets reported that NASA was warning the massive flare that caused spectacular light shows on Earth earlier this month was just a precursor to a massive solar storm building that had the potential to wipe out the entire planet’s power grid.

NASA has since rebutted those reports, saying it could come “100 years away or just 100 days”, but an Australian astronomer says the space community is betting on the sooner scenario rather than the latter.

Despite its rebuttal, NASA’s been watching out for this storm since 2006 and reports from the US this week claim the storms could hit on that most Hollywood of disaster dates – 2012.

Related Coverage

Similar storms back in 1859 and 1921 caused worldwide chaos, wiping out telegraph wires on a massive scale.

The 2012 storm has the potential to be even more disruptive.

“The general consensus among general astronomers (and certainly solar astronomers) is that this coming Solar maximum (2012 but possibly later into 2013) will be the most violent in 100 years,” astronomy lecturer and columnist Dave Reneke said.

“A bold statement and one taken seriously by those it will affect most, namely airline companies, communications companies and anyone working with modern GPS systems.

“They can even trip circuit breakers and knock out orbiting satellites, as has already been done this year.”

Regardless, the point astronomers are making is it doesn’t matter if the next Solar Max isn’t the worst in history, or even as bad as the 1859 storms.

It’s the fact that there hasn’t been one since the mid-80s. Commodore had just launched the Amiga and the only digital storm making the news was Tetris.

No one really knows what effect the 2012-2013 Solar Max will have on today’s digital-reliant society.

Dr Richard Fisher, director of NASA’s Heliophysics division, told Mr Reneke the super storm would hit like “a bolt of lightning”, causing catastrophic consequences for the world’s health, emergency services and national security unless precautions are taken.

US government officials earlier this year took part in a “tabletop exercise” in Boulder, Colorado, to map out what might happen if the Earth was hit with a storm as intense as the 1859 and 1921 storms.

The 1859 storm was of a similar size to that predicted by NASA to hit within the next three years – one of decreased activity, but more powerful eruptions.

NASA said that a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences found that if a similar storm occurred today, it could cause “$1 to 2 trillion in damages to society’s high-tech infrastructure and require four to 10 years for complete recovery”.

Staff at the Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado, which hosted the exercise, said with our reliance on satellite technology, such an event could hit the Earth with the magnitude of a global hurricane or earthquake.

The reason for the concern comes as the sun enters a phase known as Solar Cycle 24.

All the alarming news building around the event is being fuelled by two things.

The first is a book by disaster expert Lawrence E. Joseph, Guilty of Apocalypse: The Case Against 2012, in which he claims the “Hurricane Katrina for the Earth” may cause unprecedented planetwide upheaval.

The second is a theory that claims sunspots travel through the sun on a “conveyor belt” similar to the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt which controls weather on Earth.

The belt carries magnetic fields through the sun. When they hit the surface, they explode as sunspots.

Weakened, they then travel back through the sun’s core to recharge.

It all happens on a rough 40-50-year cycle, according to solar physicist David Hathaway of the National Space Science and Technology Center in the US.

He says when the belt speeds up, lots of magnetic fields are collected, which points to more intense future activity.

“The belt was turning fast in 1986-1996,” Prof Hathaway said.

“Old magnetic fields swept up then should reappear as big sunspots in 2010-2011.”

Most experts agree, although those who put the date of Solar Max in 2012 are getting the most press.

They claim satellites will be aged by 50 years, rendering GPS even more useless than ever, and the blast will have the equivalent energy of 100 million hydrogen bombs.

“We know it is coming but we don’t know how bad it is going to be,” Dr Fisher told Mr Reneke in the most recent issue of Australasian Science.

“Systems will just not work. The flares change the magnetic field on the Earth and it’s rapid, just like a lightning bolt.

“That’s the solar effect.”

Yes, They made money off the Gulf Spill…

30 Facts Evidencing that The Gulf Oil Crisis Was Planned

The following are 30 facts explaining what is really happening in the Gulf of Mexico, who is really responsible for the explosion, and how the devastation serves investment bankers. These globalists sway stocks, create markets, and planned this crisis, among a series of catastrophes, to advance geopolitical and financial agendas.

1) The media is grossly censoring the extent of the devastation in the Gulf. The poisons–oil and chemical dispersant (Corexit)–are destined to spread globally, but honest reporting is restricted, and independent investigators are being arrested. This censorship is a sure sign of fascism–not freedom or democracy. In this way, the media, financially directed by leading investment bankers (cited below), accomplices this global poisoning, or omnicide. (Click here for an example of more accurate reporting from the Gulf by an independent news source.)

2) The news and network “programming” is mind-controlling propaganda issued by the “partners” in the Rothschild League of Banks including Goldman-Sachs, JPMorgan-Chase and UBS that direct BP, Transocean, Halliburton, the clean-up capitalists, Corexit suppliers, even the trailers used by clean-up crews, through co-investors heavily represented in the Partnership for New York City (PFNYC), founded by David Rockefeller and chartered by the Royal Family of England. All together, these partners wield the most formidable economic power in world history. Continue reading Yes, They made money off the Gulf Spill…

BASE OF OCEAN FOOD CHAIN DYING!!! (avail on g-news for only a few hours..)

Beneath The Waves, Ctd

The Atlantic (blog) – ?18 hours ago?
The scientists I spoke with cite four basic reasons the initial eco-fears seem overblown. First, the Deepwater Horizon oil, unlike the black glop from the

‘Marine phytoplankton steadily declining over 20th century’

Oneindia – ?Jul 29, 2010?
London, July 29 (ANI): Scientists have, for the first time, found evidence that microscopic marine algae known as “phytoplankton” have been declining

Plankton declining across oceans

BBC News – ?Jul 29, 2010?
The amount of phytoplankton – tiny marine plants – in the top layers of the oceans has declined markedly over the last century, research suggests.

Vital Marine Plants in Steep Decline

Wall Street Journal – Gautam Naik – ?Jul 28, 2010?
Rising sea temperatures can harm the tiny plant life that forms the base of the oceans’ food chain as well as affect the diversity of marine

Plants at base of ocean food chain in decline, study finds

Globe and Mail – ?Jul 28, 2010?
Phytoplankton in the Baltic Sea. Phytoplankton are the foundation of the ocean food web, make half the world’s oxygen and suck up harmful carbon dioxide.

Warmer seas put marine food chain at risk

ABC Online – Alison Caldwell – ?Jul 28, 2010?
Phytoplankton are important because they generate roughly half of all organic matter on the planet and produce half the world’s oxygen.

Scientists Report Steep Decline in Algae Critical to Marine Food Chain

Voice of America – Jessica Berman – ?Jul 28, 2010?
The global population of a marine algae called phytoplankton has declined by 50 percent since the middle of the last century, threatening marine creatures


Bad news for the food chain: Phytoplankton declining by 1% per year (blog) – Daniel Boyce – ?3 hours ago?
Phytoplankton – the microscopic algae that form the basis for marine food chains – have declined by 40% since 1950, at a rate of 1% per year.

Phytoplankton in decline: bye bye food chain?

New Scientist (blog) – Michael Marshall – ?Jul 29, 2010?
Ocean life is being wiped out from the bottom up. The global population of microscopic plants that float in ocean water and support most marine life has

A warmer ocean is a less green one

Discover Magazine (blog) – ?Jul 28, 2010?
The Earth’s oceans are mysterious and largely unexplored. Many of their inhabitants are familiar to us but their whereabouts and numbers are far less clear.
Timeline of articles

Number of sources covering this story
Plankton declining across oceans

?Jul 29, 2010? – BBC News