Climate News Roundup – October 2010

Posted on October 4, 2010


Pact to fight methane pollution. At present, methane accounts for about one fifth of the warming potential of all greenhouse gases.  To address this, 38 nations and a number of international groups have signed on to the Global Methane Initiative, which is intended to accelerate efforts to control and cut the emissions of the gas.  The project is an attempt to address at least one short term issue in climate change at a time when comprehensive treaties at the international level appear to be stalled.

HoweverClimate scientist Drew Shindell of NASA,  warns “This is no substitute to dealing with CO2 if we want to avert serious warming on the long run.”

See Nations Strengthen Pact to Stem Methane Pollution

EPA proposes rise in fuel efficiency. The US Environmental Protection Agency proposes a fuel efficiency standard of 62 miles per US gallon of gas by 2025.  If applied rigorously, the proposed EPA standard would eventually bring the USA more in line with other jurisdictions like the European Union and Japan, although the EU’s goals are still significantly more ambitious.

The following is a chart from the Center for Biological Diversity.



James Hansen assesses the Russian heatwave. (Quoted from the NASA website.)


“Would an event like the Moscow heat wave have occurred if carbon dioxide levels had remained at pre-industrial levels,” the answer, Hansen asserts, is clear: “Almost certainly not.”

The frequency of extreme warm anomalies increases disproportionately as global temperature rises. “Were global temperature not increasing, the chance of an extreme heat wave such as the one Moscow experienced, though not impossible, would be small,” Hansen says.


Wildfires and climate change. Many people think that wildfires are caused by lightning and other acts of nature.  Dr. Joel Levine, a biomass burning expert at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., says, “What we found is that 90 percent of biomass burning is human instigated.”

Biomass burning accounts for some 30 percent of the CO2 added to the atmosphere every year.  We don’t know whether this burning is on the increase globally, but it clearly is in the far northern latitudes where the signs of global warming are more perceptible than for instance the tropics.  They are experiencing less precipitation, making them more susceptible to fire when something like a heatwave comes along.

Heatwaves encourage more lightning strikes too.


About Kilimanjaro’s vanishing glaciers. Scientists say now that the famous disappearing glaciers of Kilimanjaro may not be disappearing solely because of climate change.  Local aggressive deforestation may also have contributed.  Oh, that’s so much better, then.


“Great salinity anomaly” may have contributed to global cooling around 1970. The ocean cooled unexpectedly from 1968 to 1972 and the cooling coincided with a flow of fresh water from the Arctic into the North Atlantic known as the “Great Salinity Anomaly.”  This event contributed to the mid-twentieth century pause in global warming which scientists have up to now attributed to energy-reflecting aerosols in the atmosphere put there by human industry.  The study of the “Great salinity anomaly” shows that little in the understanding of climate is simple.


Climate change will give Hawaii more cyclones—study. According to a modeling study conducted by Tim Li of the University of Hawaii, a shift of the El Niño system more towards the east and central Pacific under climate change will have the effect of bringing more cyclones to the north central Pacific and Hawaii.  It will also reduce the number of cyclones in south east Asia.


Waste heat turned into power. Physicists from the University of Arizona have discovered a way of harvesting waste heat and turning it into electricity.  Cars, power plants and factories could potentially be made more efficient using the technology.  “Thermoelectricity makes it possible to cleanly convert heat directly into electrical energy in a device with no moving parts,” said lead author Justin Bergfield.


Posted in: climate change