Coach House Geography

Interesting Geography stuff for InterHigh

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Climate change the main cause for cold weather in Europe?

Posted by Lindy on February 9, 2012


The exceptionally cold weather characterized by chilling winds and temperatures well below zero degrees Celsius has been striking Europe for more than a week. According to a scientist Alfred Wegener from the Institute for Polar and Marine Research the main cause for this exceptionally cold weather is climate change, or to be more precise the huge loss of Arctic ice.

The effect is twofold, the Wegener scientists report.

First, less ice means less solar heat is reflected back into the atmosphere. Rather, it is absorbed into the darker ocean waters. Second, once that heat is in the ocean, the reduced ice cap allows the heat to more easily escape into the air just above the ocean’s surface.

Because warmer air tends to rise, the moisture-laden air near the ocean’s surface rises, creating instability in the atmosphere and changing air-pressure patterns, the scientists say.

One pattern, called the Arctic Oscillation, normally pushes warm Atlantic air over Europe and keeps Arctic air over the poles.

But in mid-January this year, the Arctic Oscillation abruptly changed, allowing the jet stream to plunge into Siberia and push cold and snowy weather over much of Europe.

Similar situations have emerged the past two years.

http://www.wcyb.com/weather/30391119/detail.html

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Posted in Climate change, Fragile environments, Global warming, Hazards | Leave a Comment »

Pioneering six-mile walkway to attract ‘eco tourists’ to Amazon rainforest

Posted by Lindy on January 24, 2012


23rd January 2012

A project to build a pioneering science centre with more than six miles of walkways will give tourists spectacular views in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. The £6.4m centre will be built by a British charity and will act as a research base for scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, provide jobs for Brazilian tribes and attract eco-tourists, according to The Sunday Times.

Tourist high-light: The walkway will give visitors a stunning view of the rainforest from high above the jungle floor. The ambitious walkway will be located in Roraima, a remote province of northeast Brazil, and will be designed by the same architects who created  the London Eye and Kew Gardens’ treetop walkway. Researchers will use the walkway to study the rainforest canopy while tourists will be able to enjoy stunning views from high above the jungle floor.

The project is being co-ordinated by the Amazon Charitable Trust and is expected to take two years to construct. Robert Pasley-Tyler, a managing partner of the Amazon Charitable Trust, said of the project: ‘It will employ the local river tribe, giving them a way of making a living without destroying the forest, and also boost awareness around the world. Visitors will also get to see the nearby pink dolphins and the giant otters before spending a relaxing day on a riverside beach.’

Roraima is the northernmost and least populated state of Brazil. It borders Venezuela and Guyana and renowned for its challenging hiking routes.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2090563/Pioneering-mile-walkway-attract-eco-tourists-Amazonian-rainforest.html#ixzz1kQDzUYgl

Posted in Amazon, Appropriate technology, Global warming, management, Solution to problems | Leave a Comment »

Rainforest: the problem with roads

Posted by Lindy on January 19, 2012


http://e360.yale.edu/feature/as_roads_spread_in_tropical_rain_forests_environmental_toll_grows/2485/

Taken from an article by William Laurance

Brazil is currently building 7,500 kilometers of new paved highways that crisscross the Amazon basin. Three major new highways are cutting across the towering Andes mountains, providing a direct link for timber and agricultural exports from the Amazon to resource-hungry Pacific Rim nations, such as China.

Despite their environmental costs, the economic incentives to drive roads into tropical wilderness are strong. They are:

  • a cost-effective means to promote economic development
  • give access natural resources
  • local communities in remote areas often demand new roads to improve access to markets and medical services
  • new roads can be used to help secure frontier regions

Roads that cut through rainforests can also create barriers for sensitive wildlife, many of which are ecological specialists. Studies have shown that even narrow (30 meter-wide), unpaved roads drastically reduce or halt local movements for scores of forest bird species. Many of these species prefer deep, dark forest interiors; they have large, light-sensitive eyes and avoid the vicinity of road verges, where conditions are much brighter, hotter, and drier. A variety of other tropical species — including certain insects, amphibians, reptiles, bats, and small and large mammals — have been shown to be similarly leery of roads and other clearings. And by bringing naïve rainforest wildlife into close proximity with fast-moving vehicles, roads can also promote heavy animal mortality. For some creatures, especially those with low reproductive rates, roads could potentially become death zones that help propel the species toward local extinction.

Although the direct effects of roads are serious, they pale in comparison to the indirect impacts. In tropical frontier regions, new roads often open up a Pandora’s box of unplanned environmental maladies, including:

  •  illegal land colonization
  • fires
  • hunting
  • gold mining
  • forest clearing.

“The best thing you could do for the Amazon,” said the respected Brazilian scientist Eneas Salati, “is to bomb all the roads.”

In Brazilian Amazonia, my colleagues and I have done studies showing that around 95 percent of all deforestation occurs within 50 kilometers of highways or roads. Human-lit fires increase dramatically near Amazonian roads, even within many protected areas. In Suriname, most illegal gold mining occurs near roads.

Paved highways are especially dangerous to forests. They provide year-round access to forest resources and reduce transportation costs, causing larger-scale impacts on forests and wildlife than do unpaved roads, which tend to become impassable in the wet season. The proposed routes of new highways often attract swarms of land speculators who rush in to buy up cheap forest land, which they then sell to the highest bidder.
Perhaps the most damaging aspect of paved highways is that they spawn networks of secondary roads, which spread further environmental destruction. For instance, the 2,000-kilometer-long Belem-Brasília highway, completed in the early 1970s, has today evolved into a spider web of secondary roads and a 400-kilometer-wide swath of forest destruction across the eastern Brazilian Amazon.

Can the environmental impacts of tropical roads be minimized? In theory, the answer is “Yes, partially.”

  • Frequent culverts can reduce the effects on streams and hydrology.
  • Impacts on animal movements can be reduced by keeping road clearings narrow enough so that canopy cover is maintained overhead, providing a way for arboreal species to cross.
  • In high-priority areas rope-bridges are being used to facilitate road crossings of monkeys and possums.
  • For small ground-dwelling species, culverts beneath roads can allow road-crossing movements

Posted in Amazon, Fragile environments, management, Solution to problems | Leave a Comment »

What Can Be Done to Slow Climate Change?

Posted by Lindy on January 15, 2012


For the full article go to: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120112193442.htm

This is a very interesting article, but if you are tempted to include in your GSCE exam, make sure you mention Shindell (of NASA) as it is so new, that many exam markers will not have come across it, and may think you have got confused.

The main idea behind what they are saying is that while CO2 has the main long term impact on climate change, it we want to have some effective short term impacts ( i.e. within 40 years) these are the best ways to go, as they don’t just reduce climate change but reduce the impacts on health and agriculture as well.

The 2 key elements are methane and black carbon.

Black carbon are specs that come from burning fossil fuels and wood, and are implicated in respiratory illness and climate change. If these specs are inhaled (e.g. by burning wood for cooking as happens in large parts of the LICs) then many get sick and/or die from it – in particular women and young children. Also black carbon absorb radiation form the sun and so raise the air temperature, darken the ice caps so increasing the heat they absorb and contribute to melting and also to changes in rainfall patterns.

Methane as we know is 20-30 times worse than CO2.

What are the specific actions Shindell thinks we should take?

For black carbon, reduce the emissions from cars by filtering, and even removing the worst offenders from the road, upgrading the cookers using wood, especially in LICs, and banning agricultural stubble burning.

For methane, change methods of production of rice so the paddies do not omit methane, capturing methane from landfill sites,making sure methane do not escape from oil and gas wells and managing animal/human manure more effectively.

Who will benefit?

Russia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan who have a lot of ice will be the prime winners.   Iran, Pakistan and Jordan would experience the most improvement in agricultural production. Southern Asia and the Sahel region of Africa would see the most beneficial changes to precipitation patterns.  The south Asian countries of India, Bangladesh and Nepal would see the biggest reductions in premature deaths as a result of chest infections.

Posted in Bangladesh, Climate change, Energy sources, Fragile environments, Global warming, management, Solution to problems, Weather | Leave a Comment »

The best solutions make you laugh!

Posted by Lindy on January 12, 2012


http://www.cottagecountrynow.ca/opinion/columns/article/1275088–poverty-to-blame-for-escalating-population
A lovely extract about population growth and poverty:
‘Thailand has had striking success in family planning using humour and audacity. During one innovative vasectomy festival, a record breaking 1,190 vasectomies were performed in one day by a team of 40 doctors and 80 nurses.
Rewards included free use of “family-planning buffaloes” for farming, and free piglets. Media helped break down taboos and birth control carnivals, condom blowing contests and community events promoted the link between population growth and low standards of living.’

Posted in Fun stuff, Population, Solution to problems | Leave a Comment »

A new post from Kibera

Posted by Lindy on January 4, 2012


How they get warm water, food and beads for sale, in exchange for collecting bringing rubbish! A great example of management resources and also reducing the need for oil or wood in their homes.

Kibera cooker

Posted in Kibera, Urban environments | Leave a Comment »

World pays Ecuador not to extract oil from rainforest

Posted by Lindy on January 3, 2012


Friday 30 December 2011

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/dec/30/ecuador-paid-rainforest-oil-alliance

Governments and film stars join alliance that raises £75m to compensate Ecuador for lost revenue from 900m barrels. Supporters of the Yasuní ‘crowdfunding’ initiative say it could change the way important places are protected.

An alliance of European local authorities, national governments, US film stars, Japanese shops, soft drink companies and Russian foundations have stepped in to prevent oil companies exploiting 900m barrels of crude oil from one of the world’s most biologically rich tracts of land. According to the UN, the “crowdfunding” initiative had last night raised $116m (£75m), enough to temporarily halt the exploitation of the 722 square miles of “core” Amazonian rainforest known as Yasuní national park in Ecuador.

The park, which is home to two tribes of uncontacted Indians, is thought to have more mammal, bird, amphibian and plant species than any other spot on earth. Development of the oilfield, which was planned to take place immediately if the money had not been raised, would have inevitably led to ecological devastation and the eventual release of over 400m tonnes of CO2.

Ecuador agreed to halt plans to mine the oilfield if it could raise 50% of the $7.6bn revenue being lost by not mining the oil. While the world’s leading conservation groups pledged nothing, regional governments in France and Belgium offered millions of dollars – with $2m alone from the Belgian region of Wallonia. A New York investment banker donated her annual salary and Bo Derek, Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton and Al Gore all contributed.

The idea of asking people to pay for something not to take place was widely dismissed by national treasuries as holding the world to ransom. The German development minister, Dirk Niebel, said that the principle of paying for the oil not to be exploited “would be setting a precedent with unforeseeable referrals”. However, Germany has now contributed $48m in “technical assistance”. The former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was widely criticised after he wrote off $51m of Ecuador’s $10bn external debt as Italy’s contribution. Other governments pledging support were Chile, Colombia, Georgia and Turkey ($100,000 each), Peru ($300,000), Australia ($500,000) and Spain ($1.4m).

Supporters of the scheme argued that it could be a model for change in the way the world pays to protect important places. The money raised is guaranteed to be used only for nature protection and renewable energy projects. Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and other countries with oil reserves, have investigated the possibility of setting up similar schemes as an alternative to traditional aid.

The biological richness of Yasuní has astonished scientists. One 6sq km patch of the park was found to have 47 amphibian and reptile species, 550 bird, 200 mammal and more species of bats and insects than anywhere in the western hemisphere. According to Ecuadorean scientists, it would take in the region of 400 years to record Yasuní’s 100,000 or more insect and 2,000 fish species.

Posted in Amazon, Climate change, Energy sources, Fragile environments, International action, Solution to problems, Sustainability | Leave a Comment »

Shock as retreat of Arctic sea ice releases deadly greenhouse gas

Posted by Lindy on December 24, 2011


http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/shock-as-retreat-of-arctic-sea-ice-releases-deadly-greenhouse-gas-6276134.html#

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region. The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

Earlier they had found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This was  the first time that they had found continuous, powerful structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. Over a relatively small area they found more than 100. Scientists estimate that there are hundreds of millions of tonnes of methane gas locked away beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. One of the greatest fears is that with the disappearance of the Arctic sea-ice in summer, and rapidly rising temperatures across the entire region, which are already melting the Siberian permafrost, the trapped methane could be suddenly released into the atmosphere leading to rapid and severe climate change.

Posted in Climate change, Fragile environments, Global warming | Leave a Comment »

How can COP17 Durban be seen as a success?

Posted by Lindy on December 21, 2011


According to Jonathan Shopley at http://sustainablebusinessforum.com/paulraybould/55424/durban-s-indaba-delivers-deal-might-just-work

The full article can be found above. Here is a summary of what Jonathon believes are the main points:

All nations have agreed to a legally binding agreement by 2020 to cut 7 greenhouses gases ( including a new one NF3 – Nitrogen trifluoride –which is 17,000 x as bad as CO2) based on a agreement to finalized by 2015. This includes the USA, China and India , which was a major sticking point until now.

Also solid progress was made on the promised US$100bn/year Green Climate Fund to help with mitigation in developing countries such as Bangladesh and Tuvalu. Also some progress was made towards funding REDD+. In particular, with the move to allow private companies to fund forestry protection projects in developing countries

Some progress was made on the Clean Redevelopment Mechanism, which allow carbon capture, under strict conditions, to qualify. Other issues on CDM were put in the ‘too hard box’ and decisions were put off until COP18 in Doha.

[carbon capture are technological fixes that lock up CO2 underground in a secure way, e.g. removing CO2 from fossil fuel burning power stations in solid form].

Outstanding problems:

1. Action is being put off for 10 years when the scientists say we have not got that long.

2. These actions will miss the 20650 target of 2 deg C and are now aiming to keep temperature rises below 4 deg C for 2100.

3. Mitigation – action taken to eliminate or reduce the long-term risk – has been too high up the list, when in reality we need to be working on adaptation – adjustment to the new or changing environment. This is because by delaying the mitigating activities to 2020, they well be too late to do more than reduce the long term risks – any thought of eliminating change completely is now past.

What has happened to the Kyoto Protocol?

Due to rum for another year, and with the hope before COP17 of it being extended, this opportunity has now been lost, as USA was never in, Canada and Russia are pulling out now, with every chance that New Zealand and Russia will follow suit, leaving just 15% of global emissions covered by it – a damp squib!

Posted in Climate change, International action | Leave a Comment »

Hurricanes might trigger big tropical earthquakes

Posted by Lindy on December 12, 2011


This is a very interesting idea but read it carefully to see what they are saying but also appreciate what they are not.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45605013/ns/technology_and_science-science/#.TuaLwHLatoo

A new study by Professor Shimon Wdowinski may help scientists identify regions at high risk for earthquakes. By dumping rain and causing landslides, these storms can change the weight of the Earth in tectonically-stressed regions, releasing loads that had been keeping the faults locked in tight. The result is that faults already under pressure seem more likely to break in the years after very wet tropical cyclones.

Earthquakes including Haiti’s 2010 magnitude-7.0 temblor and a 6.4-magnitude quake that struck Kaohsiung, Taiwan, the same year, fit this pattern.  These quakes were preceded by drenching storms that wreaked other kinds of havoc. “The cyclone itself is a disaster, there is a lot of flooding, then there are landslides and then the earthquakes come,” Wdowinski said.

Disaster chain reaction

Widowinski became interested in whether tropical cyclones interact with earthquakes after noticing that both the 2010 Taiwan earthquake and the 2010 Haiti quake were preceded relatively closely by big storms. In the case of Taiwan, 2008’s Typhoon Morakot had dumped 115 inches (292 centimeters) of rain in just five days. In the case of the Haiti quake, the 2008 hurricane season had been brutal, with named storms (hurricanes and tropical storms) Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike tearing into the island. The researchers decided to see if the timing was a coincidence or whether it meant something more. They turned to Taiwan, which has good records of the past 50 years of quakes and storms.

Focusing only on very wet typhoons with the capacity to cause of a lot of erosion, and removing aftershocks that would bias the analysis, the researchers found that 85 percent of magnitude-6-and-above quakes occurred within the first four years after a very wet storm. That was five times what would have been expected from background quake rates. Even smaller quakes followed the same pattern, with 35 percent of magnitude-5-and-above quakes occurring within the first four years after wet storms — twice the expected number.

Timing is everything

Previous researchers have suggested that extremely low pressure from storms can trigger quakes in already-strained areas in the very short term but these longer-term linkages are likely caused by a different mechanism. These areas are already tectonically active, with faults building up strain as landmasses creep against one another. These strained faults are destined to rupture and eventually cause quakes.

But when a very wet typhoon or hurricane dumps lots of rain, it often causes large landslides in mountainous areas. Extra rain over the following months further erodes mountains and hills scarred by these landslides. This shifting of sediment lifts the weight that keeps faults locked. The burden lifted, the fault suddenly slips, causing a quake. These quakes are likely not any larger or smaller than they otherwise would have been, but the presence of very wet storms may give a hint that a quake-prone region is at higher risk of rupturing in the following years.

“The main engine that’s actually responsible for the earthquake is not the wet typhoon,” Wdowinski said. “The wet typhoon just determines the timing.”

Posted in Hazards, Physical Geography, Tectonics, Weather | Leave a Comment »