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Education Earth Science

Analyzing Climate Change On Carbon Rich Peat Bogs 163

Posted by samzenpus
from the bogged-down dept.
eldavojohn writes "A new report (PDF) from Climate Central shows that climate change has been affecting some states more than others for the past 100 years. As you can see from a video released by NASA, things have become most problematic since the 70s. Among the states most affected is Minnesota, where moose populations are estimated to have dropped 50% in the past six years. Now the U.S. Department of Energy is spending $50 million on a massive project at the Marcell Experimental Forest to build controlled sections of 36 feet wide and 32 feet tall transparent chambers over peatland ecosystems. Although peat bogs only account for 3% of Earth's surface, they contain over 30% of carbon stored in soil. They aim to manipulate these enclosures to see the effects of warming up to 15 degrees, searching for a tipping point and also observing what new ecosystems might arise. The project hopes to draw attention and analysis from hundreds of scientists and researchers around the globe."
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Analyzing Climate Change On Carbon Rich Peat Bogs

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  • by KeensMustard (655606) on Friday June 15, 2012 @03:15AM (#40332519)
    In my country the previous government tried to silence scientists who suggested that there might be some problems on the horizon (specifically modelling around pacific islands and the likely population effects of AGW). The current government is somewhat more accepting - at least in public, whilst at the same time doling out public monies to the coal industry in private.

    So in a sense the fact that scientists in the U.S are still able to openly conduct this sort of research is good news, even if the discoveries they make are bad.

    • by bluemonq (812827)

      It depends on the state. The North Carolina legislature, for example, has just thrown out any climate models that don't solely rely on historical data.

      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by KeensMustard (655606)
        Interesting.

        So logically then, all forms of prediction based on simulations of the real world must be banned in NC. I can well imagine the following conversation:

        Officer: Sir, do you know why I have pulled you over?

        Driver: Uh, I'm not sure officer

        Officer: What is that on your dash?

        Driver: It's a GPS, I'm -

        Officer: And what does it say?

        Driver: Well, see the thing is, I'm from out of town and -

        Officer: SIR! I asked you a question

        Driver:.... It says my destination is Ansonville and it's 22 minutes

        • by Namarrgon (105036) on Friday June 15, 2012 @03:46AM (#40332635) Homepage

          Driver: But it's OK! See, it's a Garmin "Ye Olde Trip Almanacke", and it's based only on trips made 100 years ago!

          Officer: In that case, welcome to the Ansonville city limits, sir.

          • Whew...when I read the headlines, the mention of peat problems....I was terrified to think there were problems with the peat supply in Scotland!!!

            Then, I read it was in the US, and had something to do with a few Moose dying off...

            At least my Scotch supply won't be impeded!!!

            Ahh....Balvenie!!!

      • by amck (34780)

        It depends on the state. The North Carolina legislature, for example, has just thrown out any climate models that don't solely rely on historical data.

        Not quite: they are ignoring all evidence of acceleration of sea-level climate rise. The sea-level rise has been accelerating, and expected by nearly all researchers to continue to do so (and models). The legislature has decided it would be more convenient if it didn't, and is dismissing all research that gives more than 15 inches of sea-level rise in 100 years (current consensus is 1 meter).
        All the models are validated by historical data, and hence "rely" on it (and physics).

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by rgbatduke (1231380)
          Accelerating? Are we speaking of the same ocean?

          If anything, it has been slowing down over the last decade as global temperatures have stabilized, the net icepack (NH and SH) combined has actually grown, and even the NH ice coverage is within a fingernail's width of the thirty year mean.

          People seem to be confusing the order in which science is done. Observations trump theory. When the theory is an elaborate one with many adjustable, essentially unknown parameters and little objective predictive ski
          • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday June 15, 2012 @11:07AM (#40335135)

            and even the NH ice coverage is within a fingernail's width of the thirty year mean.

            Wrong. [noaa.gov]

            When (no matter what) the sea level isn't going to suddenly jump ten centimeters in a decade (where at most 1-2 cm is a lot more likely)

            Strawman [wikipedia.org]

            the measured bond albedo of the Earth has increased by 7% over the last fifteen years,

            Mistaking cycles for linear trends [njit.edu]

            which corresponds to a roughly 2 C temperature drop due to reduced net insolation "off the top" as it were.

            Total lack of data for that statement. I'm willing to check out any support you have, but just as a warning, a 2 C change due to change in bond albedo is basically impossible just based on the temperature data we have.

            looking out the window at the water in Beaufort NC, where the tidal levels haven't significantly changed for years).

            Yes, because eye-balling a waterline trumps actual measurements taken over the course of decades, and where significant seems to mean something completely different to you than to oceanographers - or anyone working with oceans.

            Yes, you've indeed admirably proven your position with sources that are peer-reviewed, based on multiple and independent data sets, and you have demonstrated a strong understanding of basic physics, scientific principles and research methodology. /sarcasm

            • Wow, linking to primary resources is now a troll post. Nice going, America. And yes, odds are that the troll post comes from a conservative/republican American. They could also come from a caveman, but I repeat myself.

              NOW feel free to waste your mod points on flamebait.

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by rgbatduke (1231380)
              Total lack of data for that statement. I'm willing to check out any support you have, but just as a warning, a 2 C change due to change in bond albedo is basically impossible just based on the temperature data we have.

              You mean the Stefan-Boltzmann Law, used to determine the greybody temperature that is the base from which the Greenhouse Effect proceeds to warm the planet? Since the energy influx that has to be in balance with outgoing radiation is TOA insolation less radiation that is directly reflected
              • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday June 15, 2012 @04:11PM (#40338765)

                At least you're starting to show your work. Your entire first paragraph, until the last sentence, is actually correct. Two issues still: the 7% increase in albedo is not a unanimous fact. See here for quite a few papers discussing the evolution of albedo, the accuracy of the Earthlight project, etc: http://agwobserver.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/papers-on-the-albedo-of-the-earth/ [wordpress.com]. Secondly, the calculation has been met with great skepticism, precisely because the 2C drop in temperature hasn't been observed. This means that changes in albedo have a very limited impact on the global temperature. Finally, Grey-body calculations are fine, but they are far more complex than you let on. For one, what's the impact of dealing with irradition onto a sphere, instead of onto an ideal black-body cavity with an albedo factor applied to it? Hint: it involves integration.

                You're still completely lacking in citations. Here, let me help you a bit with a paper actually discussing the impact of bond albedo and solar cycles on future insolation: http://ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/apr/article/download/14754/10140 [ccsenet.org] They don't discuss the

                As for the other assertions, obviously we look at different graphs for sea ice -- the SH is over the 30 year mean and has been for a rather long time.

                Sea ice is a rather minor aspect of the ice in the SH, as well as utterly uninteresting when it comes to rising sea levels. Furthermore, you are conflating ice area and ice volume. See here for some very accurate measurements that indicate that ice volume is decreasing: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-03/uoca-ais022806.php [eurekalert.org] Now that you're 0 for 2, you want to try again?

                If you google a bit, you can actually see the variation year by year over the last decade or more, all on one graph.

                Yes, it's well known. It's the one I linked. I'm glad you don't even read the replies. It's a great way to stay ignorant and look like a fool.

                Oh, and while you're worrying about explaining how you can tell what is a linear trend and what is cyclic in the absence of any sort of serious baseline for data or workable theory,

                Ok, now I KNOW that you didn't read anything I linked to. Want to retry that AFTER looking at the graph in my reply? Or are you talking about the slight uptick that came from the Earthlight project, and that no one was able to replicate in their DIRECT measurements of albedo?

                But either way the physics of both is perfectly clear, and any halfway decent climate model that includes the measured albedo as a parameter should be showing strong cooling.

                The models do include measured albedo, you meandering, cherry-picking, misleading nimrod, and neither the data, nor the models indicate much cooling. Merely a bit of a pause after a record high in 1998, with a slight upward trend if you start your trend at 1999.

                But they're not, even though this is bone-simple physics even more fundamental (and prior to) the GHE. I wonder why?

                If you would read anything I've linked to, did any sort of research with the goal of understanding your question, rather than confirming your existing bias, you'd know that everyone has been asking the same question, came to the conclusion that the physics model is far too simple to be used as the only controlling factor, and decided that there's got to be more to the current data than what can be inferred merely from water vapor and albedo.

                If you want me to take you seriously, you might want to start linking your sources. Because so far, you are batting a big fat 0, and coming across as someone who is mistaking expertise in one area for expertise in a completely different one - and making a total ass out of himself in the process.

      • My understanding is that applies mainly to sea-level predictions, which according to some models should be meters higher on the way to 60 meter increase, where reality is more like a couple millimeters.

        • by riverat1 (1048260)

          What models would those be that show sea level "should be meters higher on the way to [a] 60 meter increase"? I'd bet you couldn't cite even one specific model that predicts any such thing in less than centuries.

    • An unproven model (in the engineering sense) itself may still be more dangerous than the putative phenomenon. Yelling "fire" in an unlit theater might be an analogy.
      • by Rei (128717)

        Which is why there have been many dozens of papers published on model analysis, and everyone includes statistical confidence intervals and discussions of the known and potential unknown uncertainties.

      • yeah, people may be trampled while trying to get off the planet
      • If the theatre is on fire, the correct response is to yell "fire" or otherwise raise the alarm. So perhaps the analogy is apt.
    • In my country we muzzle scientists and require government approval before they can speak with any media. You'd think this was some dictatorship, but it's sadly Canada.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Please always provide a unit. Thank you.

  • My two cents... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 15, 2012 @03:36AM (#40332599)

    I seriously hope people reduce pollution for the sake of reducing pollution, regardless of whether it helps fight "climate change", "global warming", "intergalactic global warming", or whatever you want to call it. Regardless of the cause, cut pollution for the sake of cutting pollution.

    I hope people take these studies with a grain of salt. There seems to be so much conflicting information out there as to what the cause is or how to reduce it, it seems hopeless. So I'll say this again. Cut pollution for the sake of cutting pollution.

    • Re:My two cents... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 15, 2012 @04:11AM (#40332717)

      What is so conflicting about people pumping up 75million years worth of hydrocarbons, burning it all over a period of 200 years, releasing a shit load of greenhouse gasses in the process, and nature going out of whack because of it?

      Everybody is trying to figure out what the possible consequences of this are going to be, some predicting the end of the world, others wondering what could possibly go wrong, we've been burning fossil fuel as fast as we can for the past 50 years, and we're still here, right? Wouldn't it be more conservative to play it on the safe side, and find a way away from our gasoline addiction, instead of trying to be the kind of conservative when keeping up the unrestrained growth, consumption, and related pollution? The fact that there are probable consequences of all of this pollution, especially on a scale as large as this, should encourage us to play it safe.

      • Re:My two cents... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ledow (319597) on Friday June 15, 2012 @05:00AM (#40332897) Homepage

        We've done a lot worse than just burn the coal and oil. Hell, most of the substances we use everyday just do not exist in nature and there are billions of pieces of plastic floating in the oceans that weren't there 50 years ago. You don't get mercury pouring into the oceans if you just leave a planet without intelligent life.

        But, that aside, just what precisely do you think will change? You're going to stop the world using oils, plastics and fuels before they run out anyway? Not a chance. It will not happen. It took decades to convince people not to use CFC's in large quantities but we still use them, and only converted because it was legislated, enforced and (to be honest) wasn't that much of a hassle in the first place. Cutting out the large items is actually orders-of-magnitude more difficult and unlikely to happen. And, actually, enforcing a "veggie-only" law and outlawing meat for everyone would actually do more, be cheaper and be accepted just as much (i.e. virtually zero).

        Anything we build to replace those plastics and oil that we used will also require HUGE quantities of exactly those at first in order to scale up to the point where we replace them. Don't believe the hype about "sustainable" plastics because they are pretty much unusable for all the things we NEED to use plastics for, and cost SO MUCH ENERGY we can only supply it by burning fossil fuels or uranium. It's the "electric car" phenomenon all over again - you're just shifting the use of those materials and energies somewhere else instead, not actually "saving" anything.

        Pretty much the only viable solution, when you take human nature into account (and not just ordinary individuals, who can do more eco-friendly things than governments ever do, but just the fact that you can't convince a country to stop using oil any more than you can outlaw meat), is to let them burn it all off.

        Do the damage now. Do it as fast as possible. Run it out. Leave us with nothing. Then the 200 years of damage is unlikely to do much (on geological scales) to the planet at all long-term, and we won't have any excuse for not doing things differently. We'd actually lose quite a lot of things we take for granted up to and including our own lives in some cases (you can't sustain population numbers like we have now without the medicine and energy use we currently have). But that's the only "logical" outcome when you look at how the world works.

        Stop faffing about pretending that an extra few years of oil before we suddenly make everything eco-friendly is going to make ANY difference at all. Just burn the stuff now. All of it. Run out the plastics until the prices rises to stupendous levels and we're forced to go back to older ways (which included chopping down and burning tress, I'd like to point out), reduce the population, or revert society back to an age where people couldn't guarantee food for themselves, let alone homes.

        The problems of eco-destruction are nothing to do with climate change, animal extinctions or anything else. The problem is that when we run out, you have instantaneous anarchy and a dark-ages effect of not being able to do 1% of the things we take for granted. But actually, the BIGGEST problem is that our population would be decimated worldwide almost overnight. We can't grow, transport, store and treat enough food to feed people without consuming oil and oil-products galore. And have you seen the amount of fertile land it takes to sustain one person in even a third-world country? There simply isn't enough.

        So stop TRYING to pretend we can actually do anything practical which doesn't lead to the same population decimation +/- 5 years anyway, accept it and burn the damn stuff up now finding alternatives. Hell, if that means space missions to find more resources (e.g. methane or something else we can burn) and other places to live, then do it. Do it now. Stop hanging around and pissing away resources on eco-initiatives that DO NOT WORK while waiting until the point that there isn't enough f

        • by Anonymous Coward

          In essence, the issue is sustainability. Regardless of whether burning oil or producing plastic is bad for the environment, the simple fact is there are limited raw materials and we are overly dependent.

        • Re:My two cents... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Hatta (162192) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:05AM (#40334533) Journal

          Run it out. Leave us with nothing. Then the 200 years of damage is unlikely to do much (on geological scales) to the planet at all long-term

          Releasing hundreds of millions of years worth of CO2 in 200 years is going to do more damage than releasing it in 2000 or 200,000. The problem isn't the CO2, all that CO2 came from the atmosphere at one point. The problem is a rapid change in CO2 causing rapid changes in climate that species do not have time to adapt to.

          • by ledow (319597)

            And you really think that oil etc. will last another 200 years, let alone 2000 or 200,000 (the last of which is the only one where you'll actually see animals start to "adapt" in any evolutionary term - i.e. all the dead animals haven't bred successfully).

            Geological scales.

            • by Hatta (162192)

              No, I expect humanity will choke itself on it's own wastes, like yeast in a jar of sugar water that eventually produces toxic concentrations of ethanol. That doesn't mean we should encourage it, even yeast isn't that stupid.

              • by DesScorp (410532)

                No, I expect humanity will choke itself on it's own wastes, like yeast in a jar of sugar water that eventually produces toxic concentrations of ethanol. That doesn't mean we should encourage it, even yeast isn't that stupid.

                I expect that humanity, on the whole, will do just fine, and that all of the disasters that have been predicted and yet haven't happened... island chains and coastal states under water, vast famines in first world countries because theyv'e turned to desert, etc... still aren't going to happen. Oh, famines have happened in the third world and they will continue to, from time to time, but they'll happen in all the normal places for all the normal reasons. What I will predict is that everytime a famine or hurr

                • by Hatta (162192)

                  Nevermind that these things happen from time to time

                  A hundred million years of carbon deposits don't get released in a 200 year time frame "from time to time".

        • by CAIMLAS (41445)

          And, actually, enforcing a "veggie-only" law and outlawing meat for everyone would actually do more, be cheaper and be accepted just as much (i.e. virtually zero).

          It would? On what basis? There is no evidence of this aside from fancy little fliers pushed out by NGOs like PETA on the basis of animal cruelty.

          People who make this claim are, in my opinion, not really thinking much at all.

          * Without meat, you will have no source of the necessary fats for proper muscle and brain functionality. They barely exist anywhere else, and where they do exist, it's in places like $12/lb nuts - and they're only that cheap due to near-slave labor.
          * Meat, in most cases, means beef. Beef

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Pollution is not the issue here. You can put all kinds of scrubbers on a smokestack and get pollution (sulfer dioxide, CFCs, CO, etc) down to minimal levels, but you will still be pumping massive loads of CO2 into the atmosphere. CO2 isn't considered pollution, it's just a natural molecule in the atmosphere like O2 and N2.

    • Cut pollution for the sake of cutting pollution.

      Problem is, a large number of people don't consider CO2 to be a pollutant [youtube.com].

      There seems to be so much conflicting information out there as to what the cause is or how to reduce it, it seems hopeless

      Yep, life is messy and it's often hard to find a candle in the dark [wikipedia.org], it's full of blatant self serving liars such as the one in the linked video who on the surface appear to be reasonable common sense folk, to deal with with this avalanche of intellectual dishonesty from proffesional propogandists, and avoid being drafted into their particular army of useful idiots [wikipedia.org], you can either...
      1. Pick the side that best matches your politics/r

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      True, air pollution has much more serious effects on the environment than climate change, but it's not nearly as easy to market in the media than "the day after tomorrow"-style catastrophe scenarios with islands sinking to the bottom of the sea and stuff. Another problem is that reduction of air pollution and reduction of CO2 emissions are many times at odds with each other: for example, the catalytic converters on cars that neutralize the pollutants in the exhaust gas also reduce the efficiency of the engi

    • by Hatta (162192)

      If there's no detrimental effect of the pollution, then it's not really pollution. Therefore, anyone who cleans up pollution isn't doing it merely for the sake of cleaning up pollution, but to avoid the detrimental effects that make it pollution.

  • by Psychotria (953670) on Friday June 15, 2012 @04:00AM (#40332685)

    I wonder if the decline is real, or if it's a sampling error. From the paper:

    We estimated moose numbers and age/sex ratios by flying transects within a stratified random sample of survey plots (Figure 1). Survey plots were last stratified in 2009.

    Could the stratification of plots be a source of error? I am not sure. They did account for viability bias:

    We accounted for visibility bias by using a sightability model (Giudice et al. 2012).

    But, did they properly account for a number of other sources of error (e.g. migration; herd location; etc)? I'm not saying their method is flawed, just that I cannot tell from the paper whether or not other reasons for the change in data.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      Quite possibly. It does seem like it would be very difficult to accurately determine error bars on those plots for exactly the reasons you suggested. Perhaps they were relying on other data that suggested migration was not a significant factor? They have mentioned other tracking methods; radio collars, for example, that they have also used.

    • by Tyndmyr (811713)
      I grew up in Minnesota, and hunting them didn't start until about a decade or so ago. Hunting continues despite lowering populations. I suspect that mismanagement of hunting licenses is a bigger issue than warming.
  • Biodome's don't work (Score:4, Informative)

    by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday June 15, 2012 @04:25AM (#40332747) Journal
    This experiment seems to require them to measure what is in the biodome's atmosphere so I am assuming they are sealed off from the outside atmosphere. Thing is, nobody has ever managed to get a large sealed biodome to stay stable for more than about a year, without fresh air they turn into giant glasshouses full of rotting organic material. Perhaps this one will be different since there are no humans living in it but my prediction is it will rapidly collapse into a rather smelly single celled ecosystem. If OTOH it does work, it may turn out to be very useful for space exploration.
    • by Remco_B (14435)

      From the article at minnesota.publicradio.org [publicradio.org] :

      During the growing season, researchers will heat the air and soil inside the open-topped chambers. They'll also raise carbon dioxide levels, exposing plants and trees to the changes.

      The chambers aren't biodomes since they're open at the top. This means there will be plenty of fresh air, but temperature and CO2 levels can be raised by adding heat and CO2.

  • why do they also have to heat it?

  • Other Factors (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Friday June 15, 2012 @05:59AM (#40333141)

    Moose populations are probably a poor indicator, especially in areas near the edges of their normal habitat. These are affected by deforestation, marsh draining, and more importantly, do not mix well in areas that also have deer (or so I'm led to believe) due to a disease frequently found in deer feces.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Yep. Exactly.

      This could simply be caused by the explosive deer population growth over the past decade (in most of the US). Deer are now one of the biggest vectors for disease in the US - lime disease, west nile, and many other things which ticks, fleas, and mites carry. People have even hypothesized that deer are partially responsible for the migration of bedbugs westward, from the Northeast regions.

      Deer and other game do compete for food, and due to deer population numbers, they will push out the other spe

  • A long as these studies don't impact the production of my favorite, peaty single-malt Scotches... damn the environment, I need my Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Caol Ila!

  • by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Friday June 15, 2012 @07:44AM (#40333537)
    No way they allow that experiment to yield dangerous results. The House will zero out that budget.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Although peat bogs only account for 3% of Earth's surface, they contain over 30% of carbon stored in soil."

    I hate sentences like this. Don't compare apples and oranges. What % of the Earth's surface is soil? Then, what % of soil is peat bog? Don't jump that step to make your conclusions look more dire than they actually are.

    I want to save the environment as much as the next guy. But I want to do it with sound logic, numbers, and reasoning, not deliberately inflammatory statistics.

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