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Climate: Study shows possible pitfalls of ‘seeding’ oceans

Stimulating phytoplankton could backfire

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By Summit Voice
One of the ideas that has surfaced most often is adding certain types of nutrients to the oceans to stimulate algae production in the hopes of reducing CO2. But new research shows that the law of unintended consequences always applies, perhaps even more so when experimenting with climate on a global scale.

The new study on the feeding habits of ocean microbes shows that the idea could backfire by disturbing the natural balance of ocean chemistry. After carefully studying diatoms, one type of plankton, the scientists determined that it is uses more iron that it needs for photosynthesis and storing the extra in its silica skeletons and shells. This reduces the amount of iron left over to support the carbon-eating plankton.

“Just like someone walking through a buffet line who takes the last two pieces of cake, even though they know they’ll only eat one, they’re hogging the food,” said Ellery Ingall, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-lead author on this result.  “Everyone else in line gets nothing; the person’s decision affects these other people.” Continue reading

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New coral data traces 7,000 years of El Niño history

20th century oscillations show intensification that may be linked with global warming

El Nino graphic

A NOAA graphic showing early January 2012 ocean surface temperature anomalies.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Atmospheric scientists say they’ve used coral records to trace the history of El Niño cycles going back about 7.000 years, showing that 20th century oscillations  are much stronger than those captured in the fossil record.

But the study also showed large natural variations in past ENSO strength, making it difficult to attribute the 20th century intensification of ENSO to rising carbon dioxide levels. Such large natural fluctuations in ENSO activity are also apparent in multi-century climate model simulations, but the 20th century intensification stands out as statistically significant and could be linked with global warming.

The new information will help assess the accuracy of climate model projections for 21st century climate change in the tropical Pacific. Continue reading

Global warming: Arctic ice loss has profound impact on weather patterns over North America, Asia and Europe

This map shows the percent change in winter blockings relative to the long-term average. Blocking patterns favor more frequent movement of cold air masses to middle and lower latitudes, leading to increased heavy snowfall in Europe and the Northeast and Midwest regions of the United States. Credit: Georgia Tech/Jiping Liu

Global circulation patterns shift, bringing more frequent blocking patterns and polar outbreaks

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Evidence is growing that the loss of Arctic sea ice is having a profound effect on seasonal weather patterns over North America, Europe and Asia.

In addition to previous research from the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, a new study led by the Georgia Institute of Technology again shows the  relationship between melting ice in the Arctic regions and widespread cold outbreaks in the Northern Hemisphere.

The study’s findings could be used to improve seasonal forecasting of snow and temperature anomalies across northern continents.

Since the level of Arctic sea ice set a new record low in 2007, significantly above-normal winter snow cover has been seen in large parts of the northern United States, northwestern and central Europe, and northern and central China. During the winters of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, the Northern Hemisphere measured its second and third largest snow cover levels on record. Continue reading

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