Archives for January 2013

Management of trade-offs in geoengineering through optimal choice of non-uniformradiative forcing

This study looks at solar radiation management and how the benefits will vary between regions. Using a general circulation model, the trade-offs between optimizing latitudinal and seasonal distribution of reduced solar radiation are investigated.

Nature Climate Change doi: 10.1038/nclimate1722


Nature Climate Change – AOP – nature.com science feeds

Peatland Forest Loss and Climate Change

The destruction of tropical peatland forests is causing them to haemorrhage carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, scientists say. The research, published in Nature, suggests peatland contributions to climate change have been badly underestimated. ‘If you don’t consider carbon lost through drainage then you underestimate the carbon losses from these deforested sites by 22 per cent,’ says Dr Vincent Gauci of the Open University, one of the study’s authors. ‘And that’s a conservative estimate; it could be much higher.’
ENN: Top Stories

World’s largest wind farm to be built 10 miles off coast of Fukushima, Japan. (UPI)

World’s largest wind farm to be built 10 miles off coast of Fukushima, Japan. (UPI)

News Items

NSF Selects OSU to Lead Project Rejuvenating U.S. Research Fleet

The R/V Oceanus, an older research vessel scheduled for retirement about the time the new research vessels will become available.

(Click to enlarge) The R/V Oceanus, an older research vessel scheduled for retirement about the time the new research vessels will become available.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The National Science Foundation has notified Oregon State University that it will be the lead institution on a project to finalize the design and coordinate the construction of as many as three new coastal research vessels to bolster the marine science research capabilities of the United States.

(From Oregon State University) – OSU initially will receive nearly $ 3 million to coordinate the design phase of the project – and if funds are appropriated for all three vessels, the total grant is projected to reach $ 290 million over 10 years. The final number constructed, and the geographic positioning of these vessels, will be determined by the National Science Foundation based on geographic scientific requirements and availability of funding.

If all three vessels are built, it is likely that one would be positioned on the East Coast, West Coast and Gulf Coast, officials say.

A project team led by Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences will finalize the design for the 175-foot long, technically enhanced Regional Class ships, select a shipyard, oversee construction, and coordinate the system integration, testing, commissioning and acceptance, and transition to operations.

“These will be floating, multi-use laboratories that are flexible and can be adapted for different scientific purposes, yet are more seaworthy and environmentally ‘green’ than previous research vessels,” said Mark Abbott, dean of the OSU College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “These ships will be used to address critical issues related to climate change, ocean circulation, natural hazards, human health, and marine ecosystems.”

OSU vice president for research Rick Spinrad, who previously directed research programs for the U.S. Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said the new vessels would “revitalize and transform” coastal ocean science in the United States.

“Many of the most pressing issues facing our oceans are in these coastal regions, including acidification, hypoxia, tsunami prediction, declining fisheries, and harmful algal blooms,” Spinrad said. “Because of their flexibility, these new vessels will attract a broad range of users and will become ideal platforms to training early-career scientists and mariners.”

The project had the support of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s Office, noted OSU President Ed Ray, who said the university will benefit from the process long before the first ship hits the water in 2019 or 2020.

“What is really unique about this project is that it will involve faculty from engineering and business, who will join their oceanography colleagues on the design and construction elements – and provide unbelievable training opportunities for OSU undergraduate and graduate students interested in project management, marine technology and marine science,” Ray pointed out.

The successful OSU proposal was submitted to the National Science Foundation by Clare Reimers, an oceanography professor, and Demian Bailey, the university’s marine superintendent. As part of that submission, OSU proposed to be the operator of the first vessel. Additional operating institutions will be determined once the total number of vessels to be built is known.

The university now operates the R/V Oceanus, an older research vessel scheduled for retirement about the time the new research vessels will become available.

“The National Science Foundation hasn’t authorized a multi-ship project since the 1970s,” Bailey said, “and these are likely the only ships scheduled by NSF to be built during the next decade – so this is a big deal. The endurance and size of the new ships will be similar to that of Oceanus and (former OSU vessel) Wecoma but they will be much more efficient and have far greater scientific capacity and flexibility.”

Bailey said the new vessels will have advanced dynamic positioning that will help them stay in place in the rugged Pacific Ocean. That is a benefit for launching and retrieving gliders and other autonomous or remotely operated vehicles, conducting precise seafloor mapping, and retrieving moorings and other instrumentation. They also will be much quieter, which will help researchers who use acoustics to study everything from endangered whales to undersea earthquakes and volcanoes.

Reimers said the first phase of the 10-year project will begin in early 2013 with the finalization of the vessel design. A concept design is already in place and the OSU project team will partner with two regional firms – The Glosten Associates in Seattle, Wash., and Science Applications International Corporation in Oregon City – to meet naval architecture, marine design and systems engineering requirements.

“These new vessels will allow scientists at sea to conduct state-of-the-art scientific research from the atmosphere above into the seafloor below our coastal oceans,” Reimers said. “Broader impacts will also be possible because these ships will be equipped with modern telecommunications technologies and sensors to be able to transmit a rich variety of observations to scientists, educators and the public ashore.”

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) praised the project and selection of OSU.

“These research ships will keep the United States in the forefront of coastal ocean science,” Wyden said. “The selection of Oregon State University to design these vessels represents an important investment in our nation’s research infrastructure and adds to the state’s already-growing reputation as a center for marine research and the place that will train the next generation of ocean scientists.”

Fellow Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) described the announcement as “great news for both Oregon State University and the state of Oregon.”

“Oregon State is on the cutting edge for marine research and it is only fitting that they have received the honor of designing these new research ships,” Merkley said. “I am excited that we will be developing top-notch research into the health of our oceans and the effects of climate change through this targeted investment right here in Oregon.”

History of OSU Research Vessels

1964 – The Department of Oceanography commissions the 180-foot Yaquina

1968 – The Department of Oceanography commissions the 80-foot Cayuse

1975 – The School of Oceanography commissions the 184-foot Wecoma

2000 – The College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences commissions the 54-foot Elakha

2012 – The College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences takes over operation of the 177-foot Oceanus, formerly operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

About the OSU College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences: CEOAS is internationally recognized for its faculty, research and facilities, including state-of-the-art computing infrastructure to support real-time ocean/atmosphere observation and prediction. The college is a leader in the study of the Earth as an integrated system, providing scientific understanding to address complex environmental challenges

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Consortium for Ocean Leadership

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Priceless Timbuktu Manuscripts Escape Burning

Most of Timbuktu's priceless manuscripts survive fires set by Islamic militants, experts confirm. ->
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Book Review: Getting Control: Overcoming Your Obsessions and Compulsions …

Getting Control: Overcoming Your Obsessions and Compulsions by Lee Bauer PhD is an excellent book for learning to cope with life by overcoming baseless fears, compulsions, obsessions and bad habits which plague everyone at some time during their life.
See all stories on this topic »
Google Alerts – allintitle:book review

140 nations sign treaty to reduce mercury emissions. (New Scientist)

140 nations sign treaty to reduce mercury emissions. (New Scientist)

News Items

Wind Power: What is it we are trying to save?

Luke Dale-Harris questions whether our concern over climate change is actually driving us to invest in renewable technologies that negatively impact the very natural wonders we are aiming to preserve….
Environment news & analysis, climate change reports –
The Ecologist

Cumbria rejects underground storage dump

The only local authorities in the UK still involved in feasibility studies have voted against the disposal facility

Government plans to undertake preliminary work on an underground storage dump for nuclear waste were rejected by Cumbria county council on Wednesday, adding a major roadblock to plans for a long term solution to the problem of nuclear waste.

The county and its western district councils Allerdale and Copeland which make up the “nuclear coast” opposite the Isle of Man were the only local authorities in the UK still involved in feasibility studies for the £12bn disposal facility.

Cumbria’s cabinet voted 7-3 against research continuing, after evidence from independent geologists that the fractured strata of the county was impossible to entrust with such dangerous material and a hazard lasting millennia. An impassioned campaign by environmentalists also raised fears for the western Lake District, winning backing from the Lake District national park authority and hundreds of influential landscape groups in the UK and overseas.

Ed Davey, the energy and climate change secretary, said the government would continue to search for an underground storage site. “We remain firmly committed to geological disposal as the right policy for the long-term, safe and secure management of radioactive waste. We also remain committed to the principles of voluntarism and a community-led approach.

“The fact that Copeland voted in favour of entering the search for a potential site for a GDF [geological disposal facility] demonstrates that communities recognise the benefits associated with hosting such a facility. For any host community there will be a substantial community benefits package, worth hundreds of millions of pounds. That is in addition to the hundreds of jobs and major investment that such a huge infrastructure project could bring.”

Suitable candidates for the depot, the size of an underground Workington and required to meet unprecedented safety guarantees of up to a million years, had been whittled down to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the Solway Firth and the wild grandeur of the western fells around Ennerdale and Eskdale. Voting to proceed would have been only a very early step along the way, but evidence that drilling and prospecting would have brought roads and temporary settlements to some of the UK’s loveliest countryside left many aghast.

The plan was strongly supported by unions and many Labour councillors and MPs with almost 10,000 jobs at the Sellafield plant in Copeland and many more indirectly dependent on it. It would have created up to 1000 additional jobs, with storage scheduled to start in 2040 if feasibility studies were approved.

Labour’s Tim Knowles, who holds the environment portfolio in Cumbria’s cabinet, fought for a compromise which would have see research continue eveywhere in Copeland except the national park. But he was outvoted after a series of colleagues including the county’s Conservative leader, Eddie Martin, warned of radioactivity risks and the huge potential blight on tourism, Cumbria’s biggest earner.

He said after the vote: “Cabinet believes there is sufficient doubt around the suitability of West Cumbria’s geology to put an end now to the uncertainty and worry this is causing for our communities. Cumbria is not the best place geologically in the UK – the government’s efforts need to be focused on disposing of the waste underground in the safest place, not the easiest.

“Members have remained concerned throughout on the issue of the legal right of withdrawal if we proceed to the next stage. Despite assurances from government that they intend to introduce this as primary legislation, we do believe that this could have been done far sooner to ease our concerns. The fact remains the right of withdrawal is not yet enshrined in statute and we could not take the risk of saying yes today without this being absolutely nailed down.

“Cumbria has a unique and world-renowned landscape which needs to be cherished and protected. While Sellafield and the Lake District have co-existed side by side successfully for decades, we fear that if the area becomes known in the national conscience as the place where nuclear waste is stored underground, the Lake District’s reputation may not be so resilient.”

The government is expected to focus now on major improvements to current surface storage of waste at Sellafield, on the lines demanded in a National Audit Office report in November which was scathing about standards. Both opponents and supporters of the underground dump agree that this would be an alternative source of new work in West Cumbria.

The council’s Labour deputy leader, Stewart Young, said: “The case for investment in Sellafield is now more pressing than ever. We had always raised concerns over the lack of any plan B from government and the fact that West Cumbria was the only area to express an interest in the process left the government with few options if we decided not to proceed. It is now time for the government to secure the long-term future of the nuclear industry and put in place robust storage arrangements at Sellafield while it decides how to continue the search for a repository elsewhere in the UK.”

Greenpeace’s energy campaigner, Leila Deen, said: “This decision represents yet another major blow for the government’s attempts to force the construction of costly nuclear power plants. Even the prime minister admits we need a plan to store waste before we can build a single new plant.

This decision shows that dumping waste in uncertain geology near one of the country’s most pristine national parks is not a solution. Ministers must now re-consider their nuclear ambitions and turn their attention instead to clean, sustainable and renewable energy.”

The three councils deferred a decision in October because of unease over a guaranteed right to withdraw right up until construction work started, and to look at alternative disposal methods. Evidence given by Prof Stuart Haszeldine (Haszeldine), a geologist at the University of Edinburgh, played an important part in raising concern. He said: “This has been a very short-sighted policy, run by driving local councils into volunteering for the wrong reasons: financial inducements. A lot of information is being suppressed in the process to entice councils into accepting technically flawed sites.

He recalled how a £400m examination of a site chosen close to Sellafield in the 1980s and 1990s was eventually abandoned due to the highly complex and fractured nature of the geology. He said: “I am very concerned we are heading into a cul-de-sac as before. Ultimately, do we believe in evidence-based policy or political opportunism to exploit communities with limited economic opportunities?” Deep geological disposal was the best long-term solution for nuclear waste, but only if the site is suitable.

Davey offered reassurance to Sellafield workers that the vote did not signal the winding down of the “nuclear coast” which has the huge complex at his heart. He said: “We respect the decision made today by Cumbria councillors. They have invested a great deal of time in this project and have provided valuable lessons on how to take forward this process in future. While their decision to withdraw is disappointing, Cumbria will continue to play a central role in the energy and nuclear power sectors.”

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