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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.

    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Geotimes focuses on the biochar revolution

The upcoming July issue of Geotimes, a publication of the American Geological Institute which deals with earth, energy and the environment, will focus on the growing biochar revolution. Check out this short teaser video, but don't forget to watch the second, much more in-depth presentation as well:

This second video offers a very good, longer introduction to 'terra preta' and its modern variant known as biochar. It was made by ABC News in Australia, where the concept is making serious head way.

It seems like the idea to use soils as carbon sinks - by putting biochar obtained from the production of carbon-negative energy into them -, is rapidly becoming one of the winning technologies with which to combat climate change. One advocate of the concept of biochar is NASA's Dr James Hansen, who says we need to implement it in order to put humanity on track to reach a goal of reducing atmospheric CO2 levels from today's 387ppm to 350ppm (previous post).

This 350ppm target means we do not merely need to 'reduce' our emissions, which we could do by investing in carbon-neutral energy technologies like wind or solar. No, we need to go much further. 350ppm means we actively need to take CO2 out of the atmosphere. Biochar based 'negative emissions' energy is capable of doing this.

One of the organisations testing the concept is the Biochar Fund. It studies the application of biochar at the tropical forest frontier, because it is there where it may yield many additional benefits - from ending rural poverty, and slowing deforestation, to reducing hunger and putting an end to energy poverty.
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Ocean temperatures and sea level increases 50 percent higher than previously estimated

New research suggests that ocean temperature and associated sea level increases between 1961 and 2003 were 50 percent larger than estimated in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. The results are reported in the June 19 edition of the journal Nature.

An international team of researchers compared climate models with improved observations that show sea levels rose by 1.5 millimeters per year in the period from 1961-2003. That equates to an approximately 6.3 centimeters (2½-inch) increase in ocean levels in a 42-year span.

The ocean warming and thermal expansion rates are more than 50 percent larger than previous estimates for the upper 300 meters of oceans.

The research corrected for small but systematic biases recently discovered in the global ocean observing system, and uses statistical techniques that “infill” information in data-sparse regions. The results increase scientists’ confidence in ocean observations and further demonstrate that climate models simulate ocean temperature variability more realistically than previously thought.
This is important for the climate modeling community because it demonstrates that the climate models used for assessing sea-level rise and ocean warming tie in closely with the observed results. - Peter Gleckler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory climate scientist

Estimates of ocean heat content and sea surface temperature. Upper: Comparison of our upper-ocean heat content with previous estimates (red1 and blue12) for the upper 700 m. The straight lines are linear fits to the estimates. The global mean stratospheric optical depth(arbitrary scale) at the bottom indicates the timing of major volcanic eruptions. The brown curve is a three-year running average of these values, included for comparison with the smoothed observations. Lower: Comparison of thick black line, as in a with the thick red line; thin red lines indicate estimates of one standard deviation error) results with sea surface temperature (blue; right-hand scale). All time series were smoothed with a three-year running average and are relative to 1961.

Climate model data were analyzed from 13 different modeling groups. All model data were obtained from the WCRP CMIP3 multi-model dataset archived at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's (LLNL) Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI).

Although observations and models confirm that recent warming is greatest in the upper ocean, there are widespread observations of warming deeper than 700 meters:
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Results were compared with recent estimates of other contributions to sea-level rise including glaciers, ice caps, Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and thermal expansion changes in the deep ocean. When these independent lines of evidence are examined collectively, the story is more consistent than found in earlier studies.

The oceans store more than 90 percent of the heat in the Earth’s climate system and act as a temporary buffer against the effects of climate change. The ocean warming and thermal expansion rates are 50 percent larger than previous estimates for the upper 700 meters of oceans, and greater than that for the upper 300 meters.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Our ability to quantify structural uncertainties in observationally based estimates is critically important. This study represents important progress. - Peter Gleckler
The team involved researchers from the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research (CSIRO), the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre and LLNL.

Image: Rising ocean and atmospheric temperatures affect glaciers such as Alaska's Hubbard Glacier. Photo by Bob Hirschfeld.

Graph, courtesy of LLNL.

Catia M. Domingues, John A. Church, Neil J. White, Peter J. Gleckler, Susan E. Wijffels, Paul M. Barker & Jeff R. Dunn. "Improved estimates of upper-ocean warming and multi-decadal sea-level rise", Nature 453, 1090-1093 (19 June 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature07080

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