|Permafrost Slide at Big Fox Lake, Ontario, Canada - 2015.|
A Creative Commons photo by MIKOFOX.
For thousands of years, so-called "permafrost peatlands" in Earth's Northern Hemisphere have been cooling the global climate. They’ve done it by trapping large amounts of carbon and nitrogen which would otherwise escape into the air as harmful greenhouse gases.
More recently however, scientists have observed, they've been melting due to manmade global heating. As they melt, they're releasing large amounts of substances like methane - a potent greenhouse gas - into the air.
But, without proper maps, it's been hard for scientists to get a handle on the degree to which this might be happening - until now. New ones drawn up using thousands of field observations, show; Permafrost peatlands cover a vast area of almost four million square kilometres.
And, to quote from the study, "Under future global warming scenarios, half to nearly all of peatland permafrost could be lost this century.”
This means their age-old role, mostly as net “sinks,” keeping harmful greenhouse gases in the ground, would transform to a net source of atmospheric carbon, primarily methane.
A permafrost "slump" in Alaska. A USGS photo.
The findings were published recently in PNAS, the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US).
But the impact of the nitrogen trapped in these fields cannot be underestimated, either. A separate study, also published in PNAS about three years ago, reveals, "Some 67 billion tons of it, accumulated thousands of years ago, could now become available for decomposition, leading to the release of nitrous oxide (N2O) to the atmosphere. N2O is a strong greenhouse gas, almost 300 times more powerful than CO2 for warming the climate. Although carbon dynamics in the Arctic are well studied, the fact that Arctic soils store enormous amounts of nitrogen has received little attention so far. We report that the Arctic may become a substantial source of N2O when the permafrost thaws, and that N2O emissions could occur from surfaces covering almost one-fourth of the entire Arctic."
Sunday, August 30, 2020
New research finds - global heating is melting vast northern fields of permafrost so fast that - within decades - they'll likely stop cooling the planet as they have for millennia - and start doing just the opposite.
Thursday, August 27, 2020
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Scientists measured 12-21 million tons of three of the most common types of plastic in the top 200 meters of the Atlantic. By assuming the concentration of plastic in the whole Atlantic is the same as that measured at 200 meters deep, the scientists estimated there is around 200 million tons of three of the most common types of plastic alone. Compare this to the previously estimated figure of 17 million.
Thursday, August 13, 2020
Monday, August 10, 2020
|A PinP photo.|
Is Manitoba's Brokenhead River about to become a dumping ground for an Alberta-based sand-mining company?
This meandering river is now under threat.
It might very well become a toxic dumping ground for CanWhite Sands Corp (CWS) of Alberta. Last month, CWS filed a proposal under Manitoba's Environment Act, for approval to construct a silica sand processing facility near Vivian in Southeastern Manitoba. The closing date for commenting on this proposal is August 25th, 2020. If you have concerns, you have between now and then to express them, here.
Once the processing facility receives government approval, CWS intends to submit a second application. This would be for both the mine, where the sand will be obtained and for the methods the company will use to extract it. The splitting of a single proposed project into two separate ones in this way, probably makes approval a foregone conclusion.
CWS indicates that 15 percent of what it will extract (from 200 feet below the surface in the Winnipeg Formation aquifer), will be sand and shale. That means that 85 percent, will be water (a fact conveniently ignored in the company application). Simple math shows, in order to produce its intended target of 1.36 million tonnes of sand per year, CWS will also need to extract 7.7.million cubic meters of water annually.
This will surely pose a serious problem for the people of Southeastern Manitoba who rely on this aquifer for their drinking water. Why? Because this much water coming out of the aquifer annually will certainly inhibit the ability of this aquifer to recharge itself.
Since the average Canadian uses 329 litres of water a day, again math shows the amount required by the company would serve a city much larger than Brandon each year.
The sand and water will be sucked up to the surface through hundreds of boreholes a year. Only a fraction of it will be needed to process the sand in the wet plant. The bulk of it, likely more than six million cubic meters, will likely be dumped into the Brokenhead. It will contain high levels of heavy metals, chromium, arsenic, neurotoxins. It will also be acidic, as pyrite in the shale will cause acids to drain into the river. Of course CWS never mentions any of this in its application. That would apparently be too transparent for them and even raise a number of alarm bells.
The release of deleterious substances into the river would be a clear violation of the Federal Fisheries Act and threaten aquatic life there - life such as the rare Chestnut Lamprey eel. It's a species at risk, still surviving in the Brokenhead. It would almost certainly be impacted.
The river runs through the Brokenhead First Nation, which, to my knowledge, has never been consulted on the impacts of this project on their Treaty Rights.
"What The Frack Manitoba" is therefore calling on the appropriate authorities to do the following;
Request that the Province of Manitoba suspend its approval process until such a time that the appropriate federal authorities have the required information from CWS to determine the extent of the adverse impacts of the proposed development project will have with respect to federal jurisdiction. And that the proponent (CWS) submit information not only for its proposed silica sand processing facility but also its silica sand mine and mining method, to be reviewed as one project via a panel review process, to determine the extent of the adverse impacts with respect to federal jurisdiction.
Determine if the federal Impact Assessment Act (IAA) is applicable, and if not, that the appropriate federal Minister and or federal authority use the discretionary powers under the IAA to designate this proposed development an IAA Project for the purpose of applying the provisions contained in IAA.
Request that the Crown (Federal/Provincial as they are not divisible) undertake a Section 35 consultation process with Brokenhead First Nation to determine what if any adverse impacts of this proposed project will have with respect to Brokenhead First Nation Section 35 Rights prior to any environmental approval of said propose development project occurs.
Don Sullivan is the spokesperson for What The Frack Manitoba, is the former director of the Boreal Forest Network and served as special adviser to the government of Manitoba on the Pimachiowin Aki UNESCO World Heritage site portfolio. He is a research affiliate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and a Queen Golden Jubilee medal recipient.
Silica dust produces a distinctive reaction in the lung that eventually leads to the development of masses of fibrous tissue and distinctive nodules of dense fibrosis, which, by contracting, distort and damage the lung. Silicosis is a hazard in any occupation in which workers are exposed to silica dust, particularly rock drilling above or below ground, quarrying, or grinding with a wheel containing silica. Cases have also been reported in dental technicians, who use the material ground into a fine powder.
Overall tree swallow populations declined by 49% between 1966 and 2014, according
to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. A PinP photo.
Bird biodiversity is declining at a marked rate. Bird populations in the United States have decreased by 29% since 1970, which has been attributed to various factors including the increased use of pesticides in agricultural production. Nicotine-based pesticides — known as neonicotinoids — have been used increasingly in the United States over recent decades. Previous research has shown that neonicotinoids are potentially toxic to birds and other non-target species. However, the impact of these pesticides on bird diversity in the United States is unclear.
Sunday, August 9, 2020
|The schistosoma parasite worm. Image credit -|
David Williams, Illinois State University.
Even low concentrations of pesticides can increase transmission and weaken efforts to control the second most common parasitic disease. Details here.
Global death rate from rising temperatures projected to surpass the current death rate of all infectious diseases combined
|A PinP photo.|
This summer, the world is experiencing record hot temperatures: A weather station in Death Valley, California, clocked one of the hottest temperatures ever observed on Earth. Simultaneously, the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating mortality impact and economic fallout are demanding society prioritize public health like never before. Details here.
Saturday, August 8, 2020
The Canadian Ice Service.
Friday, August 7, 2020
|Empty streets during the Covid shutdown in Zaragoza City, Spain, Mar. 2020.|
A Wikimedia photo.
Thursday, August 6, 2020
Wednesday, August 5, 2020
|Above, healthy bull kelp.|
Below, bull kelp degraded by
a marine heatwave. DeWikiMan
Marine heatwaves are distinct periods of unusually warm ocean temperatures that can cause dramatic changes to ocean ecosystems, as inhabitants find themselves in waters that are warmer than they are accustomed to. Much of the research into these events focuses on the local impact to species such as corals, but does not take into account mobile organisms (fish, for example) that can travel to find their preferred conditions.
To understand how species may have to redistribute under marine heatwave conditions, Michael Jacox and colleagues analyse thermal displacements associated with marine heat waves using data from 1982 to 2019. They calculate the minimum distance that a species would have to travel away from a marine heatwave to reach a habitat at their preferred temperature. This displacement varied substantially: in the tropics, where temperature gradients are small, the thermal displacement could exceed 2,000 km; in regions with sharp gradients, such as western boundary currents, displacement might be only a few tens of kilometres.
The authors note that the short-term displacement of thermal habitats is comparable to shifts associated with long-term warming trends, and may have the potential to drive rapid redistributions of marine species.
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