Planet May Continue to Warm for Centuries, Even if CO2 Shuts Off

compost_temp_1170-770x460A new study out of Princeton University suggests that it may take much less carbon than previously thought to reach the global temperature that scientists deem as being unsafe. Evan if emissions come to a complete stop, the already existing carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is enough to warm our planet for hundreds of years.

The researchers simulated an Earth on which, after 1.8 trillion tons of carbon emissions entered the atmosphere, the emissions suddenly ceased. Scientists generally create these models of a screeching half of emissions to test the heat-trapping staying power of carbon dioxide. Within a millennium of this simulation, post-carbon emissions shutoff, the carbon itself faded steadily, with 40% absorbed by the Earth’s oceans and landmasses within 20 years and 80% absorbed by the end of 1,000 years.

By itself, such a decrease of atmospheric carbon dioxide should lead to cooling. But the heat trapped by the carbon dioxide took a divergent track.

After a century of cooling, the Earth warmed by 0.37 degrees Celsius during the next four hundred years as the ocean absorbed less and less heat. While the resulting temperature spike isn’t large, a little heat goes a long way in this scenario. Earth has only warmed by 0.85 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial revolution.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that global temperatures a mere 2 degrees Centigrade higher than pre-industrial times would dangerously harm with the climate system as well as earth’s ecosystems. To avoid that point would mean that humans would have to keep industrial emissions below one trillion tons of carbon, about half of which has already been put into the atmosphere since the dawn of industry.

The lingering warming effect the researchers found, however, suggests that the 2-degree point may be reached with much less carbon, says first author Thomas Frölicher, who conducted the work as a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University.

The researcher’s conclusions contradict a scientific consensus that the global temperature would remain constant or decline if emissions were suddenly halted to zero. But previous research doesn’t take into account the gradual reduction in the oceans’ ability to absorb heat from the atmosphere, particularly the polar oceans, as noted by the author. Although carbon dioxide steadily dissipates, Frölicher and his co-authors were able to see that the oceans that remove heat from the atmosphere gradually take up less. Eventually, the residual heat offsets the cooling that occurred due to dwindling amounts of carbon dioxide.


via Jean-Francois Hibbert

Exercise During Pregnancy May Boost Baby’s Brain

PF-baby-2_1376795cAccording to new research in a recently released study, moderate exercise during pregnancy may boost your baby’s development.

The study performed by researched Elise Labonte-LeMoyne, Ph.D. candidate at University of Montreal, involved eighteen moms-to-be, and found that at ten days, babies have a more mature brain when their mothers exercised during the pregnancy.

Other studies have found health benefits for newborns and older children whose mothers worked out during pregnancy, LeMoyne said. While animal studies have shown exercise during pregnancy shows altering of the fetus’s brain, the researcher said this is the first human study measuring the effect of exercise on the human brain’s development in utero.

For the study, which was scheduled for presentation at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in San Diego on Sunday, the researcher randomly assigned ten pregnant women to an exercise group, and eight to an inactive control group at the start of their second trimester. The active group was instructed to engage in twenty minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times a week at a moderate intensity — meaning that it should lead to a slight shortness in breath. They typically performed cycling, swimming, jogging or walking the researcher said. On average, the exercise group clocked approximately 117 minutes of exercise a week, while the sedentary group would perform, on average, twelve minutes weekly.Using an EEG, which records the brain’s electrical activity, the researchers measured the newborns’ brain activity while sleeping when 8 to 12 days old. They focused on the ability of the brain to recognize a new sound, Labonte-LeMoyne said, noting this reflects brain maturity.

The babies whose mothers were in the exercise group showed a slight advantage in brain maturity, showing that the brain is “more efficient” and can recognize the sound with “less effort.”

The differences may translate to a language advantage later in life, the researched speculated. The researchers are continuing to track the children until age 1 to see if the advantage remains.

It’s possible that exercise speeds up a process known as synaptic pruning, whereby extra nerve cells and connections are eliminated, helping brain development, Labonte-LeMoyne said.


via Jean-Francois Hibbert

Welcome to the Age of the Superstorm

originalAlmost exactly one year after Hurricane (or Superstorm) Sandy hit the U.S. eastern seaboard, the strongest typhoon in recorded history has slammed into the Philippines. That’s two superstorms in exactly two years, and it seems to be becoming the new normal. Interestingly enough, it seems to be that climate change is the culprit.

“Super Typhoon” Haiyan swept through the Philippines last night, leaving in its wake mass destruction and devastation. Though officials haven’t yet been able to make contact with any of the affected areas, so the true extent of the damage or the number of casualties has not yet been determined, it so far is not looking good.

What is known, though, is that this is the strongest cyclone of the year, and in all possibility, of all time. It’s the most powerful tropical storm to have ever reached land – and the numbers are staggering. U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Haiyan produced sustained winds of 167 mph (269 km/h) with gusts reaching 201 mph (324 km/h).

The most previous record belonged to Hurricane Camille of 1969, which made landfall in Mississippi with 190 mph (305 km/h) winds. Sandy, which had a massive sprawl of 1,100 miles (1,800 km) APTOPIX Philippines Typhoonsustained winds of 80 mph (130 km/h).

In addition to its power, Haiyan was remarkable in that the walls of the storm that rotate around the eye were not replaced as it moved. This typically occurs in typhoons, which has the affect of weakening wind speed.

As for the link to climate change, experts theorize that a plentiful supply of typhoon-fueling warm ocean waters, low atmospheric wind shear, and generous amounts of warm and moist air surrounding these storms are to blame.

And, indeed, some governmental agencies are saying that climate change is increasing the ferocity and frequency of typhoons, though some scientists declare that it’s a premature conclusion. What’s clearer, however, is that the sea level rise from global warming escalates the risk posed by superstorm surges across the globe – including low-lying areas such as the Philippines and French Polynesia.

via Jean-Francois Hibbert

Mass Polio Immunization Campaign in Syria

EA134883-4053-4EB9-9F26-0E52E1F6FC23_mw1024_n_sThe World Health Organization and the U.N. have launched the largest ever immunization campaign in the Middle East to stop a recent outbreak of polio in Syria from spreading throughout the region.

In mid-October, 22 suspected cases of polio were diagnosed in northeast Syria. The virus has left ten children paralyzed, but U.N. health agencies warn that hundreds of thousands of children throughout the region are at risk to contract the crippling disease.

Now, with the partnership of the U.N. and the World Health Organization, the campaign is looking to immunize 20 million children across seven countries within the region, over the next six months. An ambitious, yet necessary and important campaign to take on considering the potentiality of an epidemic.

It must be noted that the disease has been circulating throughout the region for some time now, particularly in Egypt, Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. However, with the disease recently being detected in Syria, which has been polio-free for 14 years now, it has catalyzed an emergency response in the region.

Emergency immunization campaigns to prevent further spread of polio, along with other preventable diseases, have vaccinated more than 650,000 children in Syria. This includes 116,000 in the highly contested northeast Deir-ez Zor province where the outbreak was confirmed a week ago. According to the WHO, the campaigns fanning throughout the region aim to vaccinate 22 million children.

The WHO reports that in the past few days, nearly 19,000 children under age five in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp have been vaccinated against the disease. In addition, it says that a nationwide campaign is underway, targeting 3.5 million people in Syria to combat rubella and measles, in addition to polio. It says a vaccination campaign has started in western Iraq and soon will begin in the Kurdistan region. Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt also plan campaigns this month.

The polio virus generally infects children in unsanitary conditions through fecal-oral transmission. It attacks the nervous system and can kill or cause paralysis. There is no cure for polio, however it can be prevented through immunization.

There have been media reports that Pakistani fighters brought the polio virus into Syria, but the WHO says that that is unlikely.

Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan are the last three endemic countries in the world, so it is from there that polio will continue to spread.  Since WHO began its polio eradication campaign in 1988, vaccination has reduced this crippling disease by more than 99 percent globally.

via Jean-Francois Hibbert’s Page