Monday mirth: Ken Ring reinvents botany, geology, and the oil business

Sometimes the best way to start the week is with a good laugh — an eruptive bellow, in my case. Do not read any further while handling or consuming hot drinks, because it’s that man again: NZ’s favourite astrologer, “moon man” Ken Ring, reinventing science (again) in service of his weird view of the world. As regular readers will recall, Ringworld is a place full of oddities, but even as a connoisseur of Ken’s creative interpretations of physical reality I was reduced to fits of giggles by a couple of his recent articles, as published at his Yahoo News blog. Here’s what set me off — the fourth paragraph of an extended rant about scaremongering:

Volcanoes throw CO2 into the air and it drifts slowly down. Rain brings most CO2 back into the sea, with the rest combining to form weak acid carbonates which embed in rocks. Earthquakes enable rocks to reach the sea and eventually underneath new volcanoes, the cycle taking millions of years. There are enough volcanoes every day beneath the sea and above to keep CO2 at a constant average of 350 parts per million of the atmosphere, across many centuries.

A constant average of 350 ppm? The planet has spent most of the last few million years in a series of ice ages, with CO2 levels around 180 ppm. During the short interglacial periods, CO2 peaked at about 280-300 ppm — until we came along and started liberating fossil sunshine and boosted that to 390+ ppm. Ken’s just making stuff up, again. There’s much more to amuse in the piece, as Ken reinvents developmental psychology, but for the real fun, you have to dig a few weeks further back in his blog archive… Continue reading “Monday mirth: Ken Ring reinvents botany, geology, and the oil business”

The answer lies in the soil (you have to have a sense of humus)

Ssomething a little different: soil expert Graham Sait talks about the importance of soil humus and its potential as a way to mitigate climate change at the recent TEDx in Noosa, Queensland. I’m not going to vouch for all his numbers, but as he devotes time to mycorrhizae he’s OK with this truffle grower… 😉

The Benefits of Soil Carbon

The UN Environment Programme’s just released Year Book 2012 includes a report The Benefits of Soil Carbon which looks at the vital role played by soil carbon in regulating climate, water supplies and biodiversity, and maintaining the ecosystem services that we depend on. The report is 15 pages long and well presented for general reading. I thought it well worth drawing attention to. I’ll point to a few of the report’s highlights here, in particular those that relate to climate change.

First, it offers a reminder of how important a carbon storehouse the soil is.  The top metre of the world’s soils stores more than three times the amount of carbon held in the atmosphere (approximately 2200 billion tonnes of carbon, two-thirds of it in the form of organic matter). This sequestration gives soils an essential role in climate regulation. However, soils are vulnerable to carbon losses through degradation. They also release greenhouse gases to the atmosphere as a result of accelerated decomposition due to land use change or unsustainable land management practices. Continue reading “The Benefits of Soil Carbon”

Monday miscellany

I‘m going to be away from my desk for a few days this week, so here’s a few interesting things to read and reflect on. First up: Wellington’s hosting this year’s New Zealand Soil Carbon Conference at Te Papa from Wednesday to Friday. Keynote speakers are Tim Flannery and Christine Jones, and topics to be covered include:

  • The science behind climate change and soil carbon
  • The on-farm benefits of biological farming
  • How research can support innovative farmers
  • An overview of the new biological economy and market opportunities
  • Practical tips to build soil carbon, humus and soil biology
  • Future directions for NZ agriculture and extension services

Full programme here — Friday’s a field trip day. Sounds very worthwhile. If any HT readers are attending (or if the conference organisers are reading this), I’d be very happy to carry a report on events.

Adding to the long list of material debunking standard sceptic & crank claims about climate change, Deutsche Bank’s Climate Change Advisors (DBCCA) have produced a nicely referenced document (PDF), prepared for them by the Earth Centre at Columbia University. Here’s a sample from the executive summary:

Claim: Human society and natural systems have adapted to past climate change.

Response: Past climate changes have often been accompanied by migration, war, and disease. The growing human population will inevitably make environmental change more disruptive in the future, even in the face of increased technological prowess.

A couple of items from Nature News: in Collapse of the ice titans, NN interviews Richard Bates, recently returned from a summer sail along Greenland’s NW coast on the Gambo (more on that voyage at Jason Box’s blog) about the melt season at the Petermann and Humboldt glaciers. Ocean conveyor-belt model stirred up looks at a new paper in Nature Geoscience that finds greater than expected variability in the great ocean current network known as the Thermohaline Circulation (THC). Understanding the short term changes in THC flows will be important in attempts to model short term and regional climate change.

The Arctic sea ice looks to be fast approaching its summer minimum, heading for somewhere between 2008 and 2009 — making it the third lowest in the record. Best place to keep up with events is (as it has been all NH summer) Neven’s Arctic Sea Ice blog. The two boats (Northern Passage, Peter 1) attempting to circumnavigate the Arctic Ocean in a single season are both now heading for the southern route of the NW Passage. In the southern Beaufort Sea the Norwegian team are reporting high sea temperatures:

We are still surprised and worried about the high water temperature. At the moment we are registering around 7 to 8 degrees Celsius, which according to the experts is far higher than normal.

Also of interest for sea ice aficionados: a new paper in Quaternary Science Reviews looks at what we know of the history of Arctic sea ice. Coverage at Climate Central and Science Daily but here’s Climate Central talking to the NSIDC’s Mark Serreze:

“They’re telling us that there was maybe no ice during the Arctic summers 7,000 years ago, and also ice-free summers during the last interglacial 125,000 years ago.” Those were due to natural factors, most notably the changes in Earth’s orientation to the Sun that brought more sunlight to the Arctic in summer. This time, says the paper, there is no known natural explanation, and climate skeptics who claim the ice is rebounding after the 2007 low, he says, “are grasping at straws.”

And finally: the British government starts planning to adapt to inevitable warming (but offers no new money). Plus ça change…