CCNet 44/2001 - 21 March 2001

"For the first time in my life, I realised that, with a lot of work
and a bit of luck, I could help make the political breakthrough that had
so far evaded the Spaceguard programme. It was bound to be regarded
as wacky by colleagues, but, hell, so what? They laughed at Galilleo.
The first step to make the Government listen is to get the subject into the
system. This wasn't easy, since no department is apparently responsible for
the end of the world. [...] In desperation, we called the House of Commons
Library. We explained that the world was in mortal danger of an asteroid
impact, which could wipe out most of the human race, and most of the rest
of life on earth too. We described the heat flash, the blast, tidal waves and
Electro Magnetic Pulse that would fry anything that has a microchip in it.
Then we said: so who should we call? After a few moments silence, he
replied with the immortal phrase, "well, on the basis of what you've told
me, maybe you should be talking to the Archbishop of Canterbury."
--Lembit Öpik, MP, 19 March 2001

    Lembit Öpik, MP

    Ron Baalke <>


    Ron Baalke <>

    CNN, 20 March 2001

    Neil Bone <>

    Martin Hoffmann <>

    Michael Martin-Smith <>

    Jonathan Tate <>

     Hermann Burchard <>

     Jon Richfield <>

     Ibrahim Uysal <>


By Lembit Öpik, MP
Physics Congress, Brighton, 19 March 2001

Probably the most important astronomical thing that happened to me was being
born into a family that contained a professional astronomer who believed
that, the end of the world was nigh. Ernst Julius Öpik was eccentric, strong
minded, passionate, musical - and usually right. His work on the solar
system, mainly at Armagh Observatory, and the University of Maryland in the
U.S.A., was often ground breaking.

So much so, that some people regarded his ideas as nuts. Interestingly, I've
never met a dinosaur that laughed at my Granddad, except perhaps in the
houses of parliament. The rest of 'em died out in just about the way my
Grandfather would have predicted.

So, when it comes to astronomy, I was a gonner from the start. The next
important thing that happened was my fear of becoming dull when I became an
MP. You'll have to judge for yourself, but, when I was returned as the MP
for Montgomeryshire, I resolved I had to do something to make sure I
maintained something of interest beyond the confines of party politics and
all that.

The third important element was Jay Tate. Together with the likes of Richard
Tremayne-Smith of the British National Space Centre, Dr Jasper Wall,
Director, Royal Greenwich Observatory and, Dr David Holland, Ministry of
Defence, they'd started to meet and talk about the threat back in 1996.

In October 1996 Dr Tom Gehrels and seventeen other scientists made contact
with 16 politicians and scientists urging UK involvement in NEO research,
and this was followed up with a letter by Dr Edward Teller to the Prime
Ministers of Great Britain and Australia.

That's when Spaceguard UK was formed as information service for the public,
media and the professional - not a political lobbying body. And that's when
I met Jay Tate. He was giving a talk to the Shropshire Astronomical Society
in a small community centre in Shrewsbury. By the time he'd finished I knew
I had to do something. For the first time in my life, I realised that, with
a lot of work and a bit of luck, I could help make the political
breakthrough that had so far evaded the Spaceguard programme. It was bound
to be regarded as wacky by colleagues, but, hell, so what? They laughed at

So this is what I did.

The first step to make the Government listen is to get the subject into the
system. This wasn't easy, since no department is apparently responsible for
the end of the world. So we got tossed from the MoD to DETR, and even
briefly to the Home Office. I know Jack Straw is under pressure about the
arrival of illegal aliens, but I though the likelihood of significant influx
form the Kuiper Belt was stretching it a bit.

In desperation, we called the House of Commons Library. We explained that
the world was in mortal danger of an asteroid impact, which could wipe out
most of the human race, and most of the rest of life on earth too. We
described the heat flash, the blast, tidal waves and Electro Magnetic Pulse
that would fry anything that has a microchip in it. Then we said: so who
should we call? After a few moments silence, he replied with the immortal
phrase, "well, on the basis of what you've told me, maybe you should be
talking to the Archbishop of Canterbury."

In fact, the high priest of asteroids turned out to be John Battle, MP, at
the DTI.

So that's where we ended up.

That's when we had our first breakthrough. I managed to secure a 30min
debate on the floor of the House, under the title Spaceguard. I started with
the phrase: "I've got a problem with asteroids" which with one foul swoop
secured me a life-time's supply of various creams and lotions from every
smart ass in the country! The debate started around 10.30 at night it
generated a pretty big audience from my party and others. I suspect the
motive was less about astronomy than coming to watch want many assumed,
would be the final speech of my political career.

Funnily enough, I told them about the dinosaurs, I told them about Tunguska,
I told them about what would happen if a 1km wide object were inbound to any
point in the Atlantic. The heat flash and the shock wave, and funnily
enough, they were not laughing when I finished. I think the statistic that
upset them most was that you are 750 times more likely to die in an Asteroid
impact than you likely to win the National Lottery this weekend.

John Battle MP was the Minister who had the great pleasure of responding to
this on behalf of the Government and he did it well. Against all odds he
chose to take a serious line on it. Perhaps something that helped was that I
suspect he was being advised by the same people that I was. Certainly his
response did enough to put Spaceguard on the Political agenda.

He said "My colleagues and I stand ready to discuss the matter further with
him. Our understanding of this subject is developing. The Government welcome
such positive input. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is reassured that the
matter can be treated seriously."

Meanwhile, in another place, on 15th June in the House of Lords, Lord Tanlaw
asked Her Majesty's Government: "What steps are being taken to form a
national Spaceguard centre, as part of a European Spaceguard programme, to
improve the assessment and probability factor of impact hazard of a near
earth object on the continent of Europe or in the seas surrounding it?" Lord
Sainsbury replied positively.

So we were in business at last and I knew we had to now campaign for a
specific outcome that didn't push the government too far in one go. As you
may have noticed Governments like task forces because they are cheap and
noisy and tell you what you have to do, with you having to do it. When you
are in New Rome, do as the New Romans do. And that's what we did.

Over a period of 3 months we pushed the asteroid threat up the agenda. The
media, for once, was very helpful. Nigel Nelson of the Sunday People was
instrumental in keeping up the pressure. Somehow, we managed to package the
concept of an asteroid impact in a new way every month for about 6 months in
a row. Usually, this involved finding a close flying NEO, normally supplied
by Mark Bailey at Armagh, and then generating a graphic of what would happen
if it hit, say, Birmingham, or anywhere else with a lot of Sunday People

Then a miracle happened. Hollywood sent Bruce Willis into space to stop an
asteroid from destroying the planet. Together with the Deep Impact film, we
suddenly had the public's attention. In the sort of irony that makes life so
entertaining, Hollywood convinced the UK population that it was science

In June, we met with Lord Sainsbury, who'd taken over as Blair's spokesman
on NEO's. And we put the case for the Task Force. Nigel Holloway form
Aldermaston did the actuarial Risk. Jay Tate outlined Spaceguard. Mark
Bailey frightened everybody with his wild tales of enormous rocks. And Lord
Sainsbury made notes.

On 4th January 2000, he finally announced the NEO Task Force. 8 months
later, in the Middle of the Lib Dem Annual Conference, he published the
report. That is definitely on of my favourite days in British politics. Even
those who'd looked down on us from the start we now looking up.

And fair do's to Lord Sainsbury. He'd delivered a report with 14 clear
recommendations that could just help us save the planet.

Since then, it's all gone a bit quiet at the Government end. In recent
times, I've started asking questions more loudly again. I raised it with the
Prime Minister at Prime Minister's Questions a few weeks ago. And yesterday,
I challenged another minister in a space debate to update up on plans.
I've been suggesting the next step should be for the PM to raise it at the
next G8 Summit. The richest nations have the most to lose in terms of

In terms of cost to those nations it's peanuts. About a million pounds a
year each; for ten years to see what's up there. And a total price tag of
around 4 billion quid, to divert it. Put it another way that works out as
60p a person for a global insurance policy against a pretty messy end.

So, at are the lessons so far about making a deep impact on government space

Firstly, it can be done. Ministers haven't committed funds yet, but I think
they'd be crazy to think they can't. It's so likely that there will be an
impact in our lifetimes, of at least a few megatons, that Governments either
do it now, or respond to public panic the day after.

A key recommendation of the task force -Recommendation 13 -is that " A
British Centre for Near Earth Objects be set up whose mission would be to
promote and coordinate work on the subject in Britain; to provide an
advisory service to the Government, other relevant authorities, the public
and the media, and to facilitate British involvement in international
activities. In doing so it would call on the Research Councils involved, in
particular the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and the
Natural Environment Research Council, and on universities, observatories and
other bodies concerned in Britain."

If you ask me, to ignore such advice in the ten-pin bowling alley more
commonly called the inner solar system would probably turnout to be a
serious election loser in the event of a strike.

Secondly, it's about finding friends in high places. I had an interest
anyway, but the breakthroughs came by influencing decision makers to take
the threat seriously, without risking looking foolish.

Thirdly, it takes time. We're still some time away form the actually
commitment of money. But I believe it will happen. Minister Alan Johnson,
replying for the Government said yesterday,

"Action to increase the detection of near earth objects with the potential
to collide should therefore be addressed internationally. That is what the
honourable Gentleman has said, and we agree with him."

And finally, that, sometimes it's still possible to do something that goes
beyond the confines of party politics and internal fighting. Sometimes we
can reach out for a higher goal, in this case, towards the stars. I think it
would be a pity if, after 3000,000,000 years of evolution, the smartest
species in our neck of the suburbs of the Milky Way was extinguished for no
better reason than the fact that we were willing to spend hundreds of
billions to maintain the capacity to destroy ourselves, but nothing to avert
the greatest threat of all.

People have different reasons to get involved in politics. Some do it for
fame, others for power over their fellow human. And some just want to save
the world. At this gateway, I hope we'll make the decisions to ensure that
history will be able to record who was who. And if it works out, I hope my
Granddad would be proud.


From Ron Baalke <>

 News Release                                Address
                                             Office of Outreach
 U.S. Department of the Interior             953 National Center
 U.S. Geological Survey                      Reston, VA 20192
 Release                  Contact            Phone          Fax
 March 15, 2001           Diane Noserale     703-648-4333   703-648-6859

Scientists Return to Ancient Impact Crater

March will mark the beginning of a new field season for scientists from the
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and its cooperators who will begin drilling a
second core hole into an impact structure created 35 million years ago when
an asteroid or comet slammed into the ocean near the present-day mouth of
the Chesapeake Bay. The scientists are studying the effect of this ancient
event on the modern day regional ground-water system and the quality of
drinking water in southeastern Virginia.

"The asteroid or comet probably measured about 1 to 2 miles in diameter and
was traveling at tens of miles per second," said Greg Gohn, USGS Chief of
the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater Project. "It gouged a crater 53 miles wide
and fractured bedrock to a depth of well over a mile. Today, those disrupted
rock units greatly affect the pattern of ground-water flow throughout
southeastern Virginia. Because we believe that this ancient impact might
have rendered the ground water in large areas of the crater unfavorable for
development as a water source, the information we are gathering is relevant
to managing ground-water resources in southeastern Virginia," said Gohn.

Gohn expects to begin drilling at two sites in the Middle Neck of Virginia.
Drilling of a core hole 1,500 feet deep at a site in Mathews County,
Virginia near the village of North will likely begin on March 20. This
location is a short distance inside the outer rim of the crater as it is
presently mapped on the Middle Neck. Work at a second drill site in Mathews
County near Shadow, Virginia is planned to begin in June. This site is
located well within the ring-shaped trough of the impact crater; scientists
expect to penetrate the bottom of the crater at a depth between 2,000 to
2,500 feet. Last summer, the scientists drilled more than 2,000 feet into
the crater's rim at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Science support and funding have been provided in part by the Hampton Roads
Planning District Commission and the Virginia Department of Environmental

As the nation's largest water, earth and biological science and civilian
mapping agency, the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2000
organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial scientific
information to resource managers, planners and other customers. This
information is gathered in every state by USGS scientists to minimize the
loss of life and property from natural disasters, contribute to the sound
conservation, economic and physical development of the nation's natural
resources, and enhance the quality of life by monitoring water, biological,
energy, and mineral resources.


From, 20 March 2001

By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer

One of the worst cosmic collisions known to have rocked what is now the
United States carved a huge crater from the present-day mouth of Chesapeake

The asteroid or comet impact kicked a cloud of debris high into the
atmosphere, spawned devastating tsunami waves up to 2,000 feet (610 meters)
high, and carved out the largest crater ever found in the United States,
researchers say.

It also left a legacy of salty groundwater that threatens the fresh water
supplies of some 2 million people who live in and around the unstable crater
eons later.

So this week, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) planned to
begin drilling a 1,500-foot (457-meter) hole in the ground near the outer
rim of the now-buried crater. The drilling is part of an ongoing project to
help local water companies manage a deteriorating supply. Researchers have
learned that the rim is a tenuous boundary between salty groundwater within
the crater's confines and fresh groundwater on the outside.

Last summer drilling in a separate hole at NASA Langley Research Center,
which sits on the crater rim in Hampton, Virginia, turned up quartz crystals
that researchers say can only be caused by cosmic impacts.
The crater

The water woes started when a huge object slammed into Earth 35 million
years ago. The impact left a now-buried, unstable crater rim that still
generates earthquakes as it shifts and sloughs around.

"The asteroid or comet probably measured about 1 to 2 miles (1.6 to 3.2
kilometers) in diameter and was traveling at tens of miles per second," said
Greg Gohn, USGS Chief of the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater Project. "It
gouged a crater 53 miles (85 kilometers) wide and fractured bedrock to a
depth of well over a mile. Today, those disrupted rock units greatly affect
the pattern of groundwater flow throughout southeastern Virginia."

Gohn said last week that the continued drilling will help researchers manage
groundwater resources in southeastern Virginia.

The impact created a two-tiered depression, like an inverted sombrero, in
what was then a shallow part of the ocean, explains David Powars, a
hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Over time, rivers in the region turned to flow into the crater before going
out to sea which, along with glacial advances and retreats, carved out
Chesapeake Bay, Powars said. The bay, he said, is no more than a drowned
river system.

"It's an incredible collision that we're talking about," Powars said in 1999
after the crater was confirmed to have been caused by an impact. He likened
it to putting all the world's nuclear weapons in one spot and detonating
them simultaneously. "The force of the impact ejected huge amounts of debris
into the atmosphere and spawned a train of gigantic tsunamis that probably
reached as far as the Blue Ridge Mountains."

The crater is buried under 400 to 1,200 feet (120 to 365 meters) of sand,
silt and clay. Its existence was originally suspected in 1993 after Powars
and colleagues studied oil company seismic data.

Powars said the incoming projectile lifted the ocean floor as much as 200
feet (60 meters). Like a giant paddle, this would have sent huge waves
traveling outward in all directions and back and forth, carving a crater
that is much different than the more evenly sculpted variety caused by
impacts on land.
"Because of the giant could have had water from the ocean slosh
in and slosh out," Powars said, explaining that the waves created a jagged
and irregular outer rim that jumps in and out a mile or so in various spots.

"You have a real mess in there," Powars said.

Ancient marine fossils and other debris sloshed in and are now buried deep
inside the former hole. What isn't in there is a whole lot of debris from
the object that caused the whole mess. Most of it seems to have vaporized.

Drinking water still affected

The irregular, unstable outer crater rim -- which extends 10 to 20 miles (16
to 32 kilometers) inland in Virginia -- appears to answer several questions
about unusual phenomena in the region, including salty groundwater and
earthquakes around the crater's perimeter.

Powars said the rim's instability, caused when the underlying crust was
banged up during the impact, may explain the high seismic activity in the
region. The rim is constantly shuffling and settling, triggering seismic

The rim is also a boundary between salty groundwater within the crater's
confines and fresh groundwater on the outside. Powars said about 2 million
people count on the region's groundwater, and experts have long worried that
frequent intrusions of saltwater into the drinking water were caused by over
pumping. Powars said the new explanation has helped utility companies dig
wells outside the crater rim to more successfully search for potable water.

Gohn expects to begin drilling at two sites in Virginia. Drilling of a
1,500-foot hole just inside the crater rim in Mathews County, Virginia was
expected to begin March 20. Work at a second site near Shadow, Virginia is
planned to begin in June. This site is located well within the ring-shaped
trough of the impact crater, and scientists expect to penetrate the bottom
of the crater at a depth between 2,000 to 2,500 feet (3,220 and 4,025

Copyright 2001,


From Ron Baalke <>

PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011

Contact: Martha J. Heil (818) 354-0850

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                             March 20, 2001


NASA's Deep Space 1 spacecraft, sailing through the solar system today, has
taken delivery of a new cargo: the latest software for its ambitious
encounter with Comet Borrelly this September.

After successfully finishing its primary mission in 1999 as a testing ground
for important new technologies, NASA approved a risky bonus mission to Comet
Borrelly for Deep Space 1. There the spacecraft will take black-and-white
pictures, use infrared pictures to find out the nature of
the comet's surface, measure and identify the gases coming from the comet,
and measure the interaction of solar wind with the comet. To take pictures
of the comet, Deep Space 1 must upgrade its software's pointing system to
turn the spacecraft from a testbed for advanced technologies to a chronicler
of Comet Borrelly.

"Deep Space 1's previous version of software, which was transmitted to the
spacecraft nine months ago, has proven itself during the surprisingly
successful flight through the solar system since then, but now we're giving
the probe a new assignment," said Dr. Marc Rayman, the project manager. "And
in order to prepare for this exciting and daring comet encounter, the
software needs to be upgraded."

The spacecraft team will be checking the software, radioed to Deep Space 1
throughout the week of March 5. The first check came when the team actually
received a signal from the spacecraft after it shut the main computer off
and restarted it. Since the software sent by the team works
well, the spacecraft sent a signal indicating it is healthy. Now engineers
are giving the spacecraft's new software a thorough physical checkup.

"The process of transmitting the new software to the spacecraft, rebooting
the on-board computer to begin running it, verifying that the spacecraft is
working properly with the new software and restoring the craft to its cruise
configuration, all when the spacecraft is 318 million
kilometers (197 million miles) away, is a complex and tricky operation, "
said Daniel Eldred, the Deep Space 1 mission manager.

The new software contains capabilities that will be needed when the
spacecraft gets to Borrelly. The new commands will include lessons that Deep
Space 1 learned in its 1999 encounter with asteroid Braille about the
behavior of the spacecraft when it gets close to a solar system object.

The spacecraft carries a device, part of the successful new technology
system, which holds two cameras. One uses a conventional charge-coupled
device detector, the other a new technology detector. The test camera,
though performing its initial tests successfully, wasn't equipped to deal
with the very dark object that Braille turned out to be. Small bodies like
asteroids and comets are still a mystery. Since they're so small and
distant, their exact size and shape can't usually be determined from Earth.
Deep Space 1 plans to use its tried- and-true CCD camera to try to snap
photos of Borrelly. The team will send commands to the new software to stop
using the test camera and start using the CCD camera, which will take a
larger picture with more light.

In late 1999, after the successful end of its primary mission, Deep Space 1
lost its star tracker, and the spacecraft had to be reconfigured to use the
photographic camera to orient itself by the stars around it. In order to
take pictures of Borrelly, the camera can't align the spacecraft and snap
photos of the comet at the same time. Instead, the spacecraft will have to
rely on its fiber-optic gyroscopes to help maintain its orientation. But the
gyros are not accurate enough by themselves, so the new software will try to
correct for those inaccuracies. The new software is designed to help the
camera stay pointed at the comet's nucleus during the 15 minutes that the
camera will attempt to observe the comet.

Deep Space 1 was launched in October 1998 as part of NASA's New Millennium
Program, which is managed by JPL for NASA's Office of Space Science,
Washington, D.C. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages

Deep Space 1 completed its primary mission testing ion propulsion and 11
other advanced technologies in September 1999. NASA extended the mission,
taking advantage of the ion propulsion and other systems to target a chancy
but exciting encounter with the comet in September 2001. More information
can be found on the Deep Space 1 Home Page at .

From CNN, 20 March 2001

By John McLaughlin

(IDG) -- Last month, the citizens of Seattle dodged a big one -- a
6.8-magnitude earthquake that spared the city major damage only because it
occurred miles below ground. To scientists at the California Institute of
Technology and the U.S. Geological Survey, it was yet another incentive to
push forward an ambitious Internet-enabled earthquake early-warning system
for Southern California, the first of its kind in the U.S.

For the last five years, Caltech and the USGS have been upgrading Southern
California's network of quake detection stations -- a system of sensors that
digitally transmit the magnitude and velocity of earthquakes to Caltech or
the USGS. The project costs $21 million and is funded largely by the Federal
Emergency Management Agency. The city of Sacramento will put up $6.8 million
more to extend this "integrated seismic network" to Northern California.
By the end of the year, when 700 stations are up and running, Southern
California will be the best-monitored earthquake zone in the world, with
sensors every nine miles. At that point, scientists can launch a pilot early
warning program. Caltech is currently working on software to broadcast quake
warnings over the Internet to emergency workers and local authorities.

"We find out that something is going on at one of our sensors almost at the
speed of light," says Jim Goltz, Caltech's manager of earthquake programs.
"The delay between us knowing what is going on and the ground motion may
give us time to get a warning out."

For instance, Goltz says a 7.5-magnitude earthquake at Bombay Beach on the
San Andreas Fault would take about 75 seconds to reach metropolitan Los
Angeles some 130 miles away. That might not seem like much time, but it
could be enough to broadcast a warning and evacuate a school or shut down
vulnerable segments of the power grid. Provided, of course, that everyone's
Internet connection is working.

Other obstacles to an effective system abound. James Davis, California's
state geologist, sees benefits to the early-warning program but cautions
against raising the public's expectations.

He points out that the system will be of little use for quakes that happen
too close to home. For instance, the 1994 Northridge quake hit 25 miles
outside of Los Angeles, killing 57 people and causing $40 billion in damage.
If you live near a quake's epicenter, no warning will be early enough.

Davis also notes that a 1991 survey found that many Southern Californians
felt the cost of implementing an early-warning system did not justify the
potential gains.

The brunt of that cost, which has not been determined, will be borne by
corporations and local governments that would subscribe to the alert

The USGS and Caltech are conducting a survey of potential users, focusing on
schools, emergency services, transport and utilities, and health care
institutions. The results will decide the project's chances. Says Caltech's
Goltz, "It all depends on whether it is feasible and whether it is wanted."

He expects a pilot program with up to 10 organizations to begin by the end
of the year and says that if all goes well an alert system could be in place
within a decade. Someday, the Big One may be preceded by a "One Minute
Warning" on your computer screen.

Copyright 2001, CNN



From Neil Bone <>

Having been away for a couple of days, I'm just catching up on this one! I
have had, forwarded to me, a single report from a BAA member of a fireball
at 18:53 UT on 2001 March 13, which would appear to be the event reported on
CCNet. This was reported as a mag. -5 event descending from the NE at
azimuth 160 from Epsom (51.33N, 0.27W) by Peter Mugridge. The direction and
description appear consistent with the putative 'over the Channel'.

The "meteor shower" report is yet another example of the media minefield in
action. Events like this are either a "meteorite" or a "meteor shower" in
the eyes of the press, and it seems to be a losing battle to try to get the
average hack to use the correct terminology (I've tried, in vain, on many
occasions!). It perhaps further confuses the issue to have as valid
terminology a *meteorite* shower to describe the scatter of numerous
fragments in the fall ellipse on occasons when something does make it to

Neil Bone
Director, British Astronomical Association Meteor Section


From Martin Hoffmann <>

Dear friends,

Yesterday I read the news of a possible meteor shower in CCNet 42 and
43/2001. Immediately I recalled having seen a bright meteor last week and
having written a remark about it in
my notebook. Indeed this happened to be on March 13, 19:50 GMT +/- 3
minutes. Although it was low in the northeastern sky it had an estimated
brightness of mag -2, about Jupiter's brightness. It may have reached mag -4
(Venus) where it has been overhead. That should have occurred somewhere over
northwestern Poland, since I have observed it from just a few kilometers
southeast of the city limits of Berlin. The object was visible less than 2
seconds and left no visible train despite its brightness. I had averted
vision when it became visible, but the final parts of its path were pretty
exactly north to south in celestial coordinates in the northern half of the
constellation of Bootes, where it split into two fragments near Epsilon and
Sigma Bootis and disappeared. If this phenomenon is related to the reports
from the channel has to be checked if there are reports on the paths of

Martin Hoffmann


From Michael Martin-Smith <>

SETI@Home, The Planetary Society, and Spaceguard

It is now 2 years since the launch of the distributed computer screensaver,
SETI@Home, to home and office computer users. This was a bid to save SETI in
the face of cutbacks in government funding, and to accomplish the vast
computational  task of analysing the huge amount of data acquired by Project
Serendip in its brief period of official support.

Perhaps 50,000 client computers were expected at the beginnning. Now, 2
years on, the number of participating computers is 2.85 million, and the 3
million figure is likely to be reached this summer. Clearly, something of
major and unexpected significance is going on.

Polls conducted at the SETI@Home website show a great deal of untapped
idealism and  concern for the Human future as well as natural curiosity
about ETI. There is also a strong feeling of enjoyment at being part of a
worldwide scientific effort of longterm significance, and a feeling of
satisfaction that their computers, and the Internet, is at last doing
something positive for Mankind. The possibility, albeit remote, of "Making
History" is also a strong draw.

The world's largest Space support group, the Planetary Society,, has figured largely in sponsoring and organizing this
phenomenon, but at this time is probably genuinely surprised at what has
been unleashed. The Planetary Society also has a declared interest in
Planetary Defence, Spaceguard, and NEOs - issues which are also increasingly
in the public eye. It is widely agreed that first steps towards a proper
Spaceguard programme include

1/ a network of dedicated telescopes- with skilled astronomers and
appropriate training,  records and computational assets for discovery and
tracking of potential colliders, and

2/ a modest but regular programme of cheap space missions (like
NEAR) to study as many asteroids and comets as possible in order to
characterise the consistency and composition of such bodies for possible
deflection strategies, as well as for their intrinsic scientific or
industrial value.

It is  reasonable to propose that such a programme, based on standardized
small space craft launched at one per 12-24 months, and the use of private
launch contractors, plus observatories, could be run in the near future for
c $150 millions per year.

I have little  doubt that  companies such as Jim Benson's SpaceDev or Surrey
Satellites Technology Ltd( SSTL)would become able to do the space segment of
this , given support.

The time is coming when it seems appropriate to consider whether the 2.85
million and growing SETI@Home community can be evolved into a new  popular
human scientific /technological enterprise, for the good of Humankind. This
would relieve the broader taxpaying masses of another space programme, and
allow for steady developments in a useful cause.

The computing network and organizational structure exists in embryo for a
popular Spaceguard/space programme to be built from this vast pool of
enthusiasm; It could be run by the Planetary Society and Spaceguard in
collaboration, and once in being, would owe no debt of accountability to
politicians or taxation.

The radical suggested step to be taken would be the collection of a $50 per
year sub from the clients of SETI@Home in the cause of planetary defence- an
avowed interest of the Planetary Society. Remember that ALL clients of
SETI@Home, by definition, either own a computer or have access to one at
work so that this sub. would not in practice be very burdensome.

The key of course, is $50 per year times X millions, where X in summer 2001
is 3 million people,  and rising! Since such a programme would provide
steady work for a space entrepreneur who would be incentivized to work for
lower costs, cheaper launch systems would be a likely eventual result. From
small acorns, mighty oaks can grow...?

Dr Michael Martin-Smith, author, Man Medicine and Space


From Jonathan Tate <>

Dear Benny,

I was interested to read the letter from Louis Friedman of the Planetary
Society entitled "The UK Parliamentary Debate and Consideration of Near
Earth Objects". I concur with much of his interesting analysis of the
dichotomies involved in the development of a rational and adequate NEO
policy. It is also encouraging to hear that the Planetary Society is funding
observation programmes. Spaceguard UK has had a long and mutually beneficial
relationship with the Planetary Society in the UK, and I hope that this will
blossom further when the Spaceguard Centre opens its doors.

However, I am a little confused by Mr Friedman's statement that "NEO
observations are important, interesting and justified but not sufficiently
so to displace priorities in astronomy, environment or defense or to
constitute a crisis that warrants economic policy changes." I don't think
that anyone would dispute that there are environmental and defence
priorities that are more immediate than that of NEO research (at least until
a threat is identified), but what are the astronomical priorities that
outweigh research into NEOs?

In my experience the participants in the field do recognize and accept that
other issues may be more immediate and they have moved significantly beyond
hand wringing. Indeed, many of the actions that Mr Friedman suggests are in
train or at the planning stage already.

In the UK we have devoted considerable effort to briefing the decision
makers on the concept of a low probability, but high consequence event, and
they have grasped the notion. It is in this context that the Task Force
report was written and received. There is no doubt that the potential
hazard from NEOs is significant to warrant action on an international scale,
but the extent of that action, especially in financial terms, is miniscule
when weighed against the risk. For example, the total cost of executing all
of the recommendations made by the Task Force would be less than the price
of a single Harrier jump-jet.

As I indicated earlier, there are a multitude of problems facing governments
around the world that are more immediate than the impact hazard. I believe
that Mr Friedman is erroneous in saying that the NEO problem isn't as big
as, for example, global warming; it is just not happening now.  Sadly a
problem like this often only becomes an issue after the event.

I quite agree that we have a challenge before us, but I would caution that
the first principal of expeditionary operations is that one secures the home
base before doing anything else.  It may not be as glamorous as going to
Mars, but most of the public would agree that it is infinitely more

Jay Tate


From Hermann Burchard <>

Dear Benny,

thanks are due to your government, and to all of the UK Spaceguard folks,
for their farsighted attitude on spaceguard issues, from all non UK
citizens/non subjects of HM. As a German citizen and long-term US resident I
would like to see as much involvement by our respective government.  One
thing often neglected is that even a seemingly minor impact could be
devastating if it should occur near a toxic site or a nuclear plant or

Regarding the remark in TIMES (Higher Ed Suppl 16 Mar):

"One problem is a vast population of objects that would not wipe out
humankind on impact, but are capable of devastating a city and are too
small for practical detection [sic]."

Perhaps with this in mind, there is some discussion of radar by Duncan Steel
in his book "Rogue Asteroids..". Familiar to readers of these pages, he
explains convincingly and in detail why this would not do any good for
extended searches over distances. But, he does seem to leave open the
possibility for orbit determination in the approach phase.

Suppose for the sake of discussion that a week's notice will be required
during approach to ready diversionary defenses against 100 meter or larger
objects not cataloged by NEO searches. Rough calculations will show that
Ka-band microwave interferometry with a 2000 km baseline should be able to
find these a week in advance of impact if moving at typical speeds of 30
km/sec. Orbiting satellites could be stationed around the globe to look for
them. Ground based Ku-band radar can be used with about double the base line
(short of detailed design this picture probably is simplistic or may turn
out to be unrealistic as to for example power requirements - I must defer to
microwave engineers).

Most of the objects should belong to known meteor streams. This could help
to narrow down search efforts.

Best regards,
Hermann Burchard


From Jon Richfield <>

Though I am neither an astronomer nor anything like it, I take the point and
appreciate the passion of Jonathan Tate's open letter "MODERN ASTRONOMY:
EYES WIDE SHUT?" Still, I trust that, bearing in mind my lack of
professional competence in the field, he will accept an open reply, in a
dispassionate spirit.  He may ignore it in good conscience, because many as
a reader would point out, niggling about academic points while
interplanetary hail rains down is like earranging the proverbial deck chairs
on the Titanic, but I plead that the bandwidth I consume would have done
precious little to divert a bolide, and anyway, rearranging deck chairs not
only does little harm; it might instil a worthwhile sense of neatness in
some survivor, if any.

And I think that the open letter was untidy in concept.

For instance:

>Some modern astronomers, glued to their computer screens or
grappling with the baffling mysteries of the cosmos, would prefer to
ignore the fact that the roots of their profession lie in

Whether they are interested in the nature of the origin of their discipline
or not, and whether it involved superstition or not, and whether they prefer
to ignore it or not, are irrelevant to the question of their responsibility
and contribution to dealing with the threat of NEOs.  

>Ancient man was quite convinced that cosmic influences had a
significant part to play in his way of life and continued well-being.
This conviction is clear in the stories and myths from around the
world concerning conflict and disaster meted out from the skies, usually by
omnipotent "gods". <

This has little relevance to catastrophism. Where it IS relevant is in that
the roots of astronomy were regarded as an applied discipline rather than
academic (what are the gods saying or sending?) A major functional point of
the letter is that astronomy is still (increasingly?)  an applied discipline
(what can we learn from out there, what is on the way and what are our
options for dealing with it?) And that is not a question of catastrophism. 

>This catastrophist view of the cosmos dominated until the Age of
Reason when Newtonian principles turned the unknown and unpredictable
universe into a benign, mechanical system and Darwinism spawned the
concept of gradual evolution over extended periods of time. <

Nothing of the kind. There was nothing essentially either uniformitarianist
or catastrophist about Darwinism, whether gradualist or punctuationist. Nor
is there anything unreasonable about catastrophe as a concept. Evolution as
a process would have plugged on whether there were catastrophes or not for
as long as there were survivors in a condition to evolve. Newton's work
pre-dated the uniformitarianist enthusiasms of the late nineteenth century
by some 150 years and favoured neither uniformitarianism nor catastrophism.
Catastrophes occurred very much according to Newtonian laws as their role
was understood, until thermodynamics, Einsteinian relativity and QM were

And those old Newtonian laws remained the dominant first approximation for
dealing with nature even thereafter. 

>In the resulting predictable, gradualist cosmos there was no place
for catastrophism or major, sudden changes in the global environment.<

The resulting cosmos may have been considered predictable at the time,
before QM, chaos and information theory emerged, but predictability does not
imply the impossibility of catastrophic events. The very concept of
catastrophism emerged in an age very conscious of Newton's work, as a class
of increasingly facile ad hoc explanations for geological and geographical
facts and for the existence of fossils of extinct beasts.  

>In the third quarter of the twentieth century the realisation
dawned that Darwinian evolution has been punctuated by massive
catastrophic events, causing major redirection in biological and
geographic evolution. Past prejudice against catastrophist notions is ebbing
away as the evidence builds, and the reality of major impacts is no longer
in doubt. <

Punctuationism in Darwinism has precious little to do with catastrophes. It
also had precious little effect on mainstream Darwinism, being comfortably
subsumed in gradualism. Only evolutionists who for some reason were wedded
to the idea of straight-line rates of change could have been bothered and
they were something of a figure of fun even when I was a student, well
before the punctuationist hoo-hah. Punctuational events typically lasted of
the order of a thousand or even a million years and continuous adaptation
has been demonstrated to happen as well. 

>Perhaps it wasn't entirely superstition after all.<
Superstition never came into it. Catastrophism had been so abused to explain
away whatever happened to be inconvenient to anyone's theory, that it fell
into disrepute. Furthermore, as geology moved out of the dark ages with the
work of especially Hutton and Lyell in the 19th
century, it was seen as useful to assume that events in the past had obeyed
the same rules as today.  This permitted one for instance, to deduce the
behaviour and history of geological features and estimate the age of rocks
and strata.  The uniformitarian view essentially demanded that catastrophe
not be invoked as an explanation unless there were particular evidence for
it.  In short, uniformitarian explanation displaced catastrophe, not as the
only possible hypothesis, but as the default hypothesis.  The fact that lazy
thinkers sometimes tended to abuse this convention and elevate default to
dogma, was quite another matter; we do not have to waste time on the abuses
of yesteryear. 

Uniformitarianism as she is currently spoke, might be described as the view
that the laws of nature are seen as invariant from the perspective of every

That is fully compatible with the possibility or prospect of catastrophes. 

>The widening appreciation of the hazard posed by asteroids and
comets should be causing many researchers, especially astronomers to
pause for thought. Astronomy developed as a utilitarian science with
practical, measurable outputs mainly concerned with navigation and the
measurement of time. Once these problems had been licked, astronomers were
free to engage in more esoteric, and arguably less "useful"
pursuits. But now there is a genuine call for the astronomical profession
to demonstrate its usefulness to the public who, in the final analysis,
pay the bills.<

One notes in passing that the appreciation of the nature and in fact the
very existence and nature of the NEO threat was the product of just those
'more esoteric, and arguably less "useful" pursuits'. Nor was it a
negligible product; right into the seventies at least, explanations proposed
for the craterless Tunguska event, ranged from antimatter to mini black

And in also passing, just what kind of competent research, academic or
applied, is not calculated to have " practical, measurable outputs"? 

>...But is the problem strictly scientific? Scientists like to think
that they are concerned with the acquisition and interpretation of new
data. <

Hardly! That may be the daily slog of many a scientist's work, but I
recommend a brief course in elementary scientific philosophy before
propounding such views.  In particular, try to distinguish science from
laboratory work, laboratory work from technology, technology from
engineering, and engineering from policy and politics.

>To study asteroids and comets the researcher needs to study only a
representative sample; there is no need to find them all;<

That depends on his line of research. The sample might be all he needs for
characterising the qualitative nature of the class of objects, but it
excludes whole classes of understanding, both of their incidence and of
their bulk behaviour, both being valid fields for scientific study, not to
mention necessary data for engineers and planners. Analogously, one might
examine every possible nature of water molecule without achieving an
adequate understanding of water as a liquid, solid or gas, of surf, rain or
ocean, all of which are valid subjects for scientific investigation. The
range of types and behaviours, frequency, distribution and statistical
threat of bodies, whether interstellar wanderers, or of our solar system's
belts, clouds and asteroids, is perfectly valid subject matter for
scientific investigation, as well as for our engineers and politicians. 

> a planetary defence programme would have to strive to do just
that. The funding and resources required to detect and track all NEOs
cannot therefore be justified on research grounds.<

That depends on the available resources and the subjective probability of
the anticipated output of the programme paying its way in the fullness of
time. There is no problem in justifying the work as such as being valid
material for scientific study, whether abstract or applied. 

>Defence is usually the prerogative of the military, but there is
resistance from the defence establishment to becoming involved in
planetary defence; it is classed as a problem for the scientists. So
therein lies a problem.<

NEO defence is no more a problem for the scientists than weapons research
is. Scientists may, even must, be involved, but it is essentially an
engineering and policy problem. 

>There is a small core of professional astronomers that have had the
courage to speak out about the impact hazard, and to point out the
opportunity for the profession to engage in a subject that the public can
understand and appreciate. However, within the wider astronomical
community there is still some apparent disagreement, some acrimonious, over
the nature and extent of the threat. It is natural for scientists to
disagree, indeed that is the nature of the scientific method, but even the
most ardent disbeliever cannot dispute at least the possibility of a
significant threat. After all, who could be better placed to be aware of
the facts than astronomers? Ignorance is not an option for professionals.<

The question of the courage and smallness of the core and of the scope of
disagreement is greatly overblown in this matter. Most of the flap is in the
media. No one is being threatened with the Inquisition or the Stake or even
the Comfy Chair. That people disagree is true enough, but also fair enough.
Scientists are not paid specifically for agreeing, though disagreement
without acrimony tends to be pleasanter than the alternatives. 

And ignorance is most emphatically an option for professionals. A
professional who refuses to acknowledge unavoidable ignorance is unfit to
practice, whether he is a lawyer, a scientist, an engineer or a doctor. What
else is he to do?  Invent a factual basis for his recommendations?  (For
professional politicians on the other hand, one necessarily makes special
allowances and consults the archives of "Yes Minister" for guidance.)

>Given the consequences of major impact events it is plainly not
right to oppose programmes aimed at preventing them; that would be
playing dice with the survival of the human species. Opposing research
into the NEO threat because such programmes might divert funding from
one's particular project may be quite understandable from a very narrow
perspective, but it is an abrogation of the responsibility of science to
safeguard humankind<

Whether to oppose a programme or not, should be decided not only on the
basis of whether its objectives are desirable, but how promising they seem
to be. We have to play dice with the survival of the human species; we have
no choice. That is the way the universe works and that is the scope of our
competence. Every decision we make, if wrong enough, whether interventionist
or laissez faire, no matter how reasonable, might prove to be futile or
fatal. But again, though scientists could and should contribute to policy
and action as their conscience and competence permit, the decisions are not
science as such. 

The question of "responsibility of science" is moot, to put it mildly. The
question of it being the "responsibility of science" to safeguard humankind
is ridiculous! If science and the safeguarding of humankind were to come
together meaningfully, they would do so in the social
responsibility of the relevant scientists, not of science as an abstract

>On the other hand, to support a multi disciplinary programme with
such potential public interest can only thrust astronomy into the public
eye as a useful and responsible profession. Perhaps the time has
come for astronomers to consider their position in society with care.
Precisely what is astronomy for? In years gone by the answer was clear, but
it is considerably less so now. No one would dispute the value of pure
research, but is the expenditure required justified in the face of a
real, practical threat to our way of life? Few would be impressed with
a fire service that spent its time conducting detailed studies into major
disaster scenarios while its own fire station burned to the ground.<

Again, confusion of roles between that of the scientist and the engineer.
They may happen to be the same person or if not, one would hope that they
would co-operate, but it does not follow that every counter of smudges in
emulsions would do anyone a favour by dropping his work to design NEO
deflection bombs. 

>... Convincing the politicians of the need for action would have
been easier with more support from the scientific community, but, with a
few notable exceptions (I won't embarrass them by listing names - or
myself when I forget one) the overwhelming response from the
astronomical community, both professional and amateur, has largely been one
of indifference.<

It is not easy to evaluate this claim. Is the suggestion that all
astronomers should have acted in concert, even those whose expertise dealt
with matters outside the solar system, and who had little more appreciation
of the problem than scientifically literate members of the public? Or that
NEO experts should have proselytised all astronomers before going public?
Surely not, but if not, then what? Is there something reprehensible about
dissenting opinion, or about failure of
anyone to achieve full competence in all branches of astronomy? 

>Given the validated scale of the impact hazard, and the
opportunities for public education in astronomy and science in general,
I have difficulty in understanding the apparent reluctance of the
astronomical community to grasp this opportunity to protect and educate
their fellow man.<

Perhaps, but I think that we could work at a slightly more mature thesis
before presenting a position paper along these lines.

Thanks for your attention.

Jon Richfield

From Ibrahim Uysal <>
My name is Ibrahim Uysal. I am a postgraduate student at the at the
Karadeniz Technical University, Department of Geology  in Turkey. "I am
interested in platinium group elements in ofiolitic complexes in Turkey". I
saw your  page and some publications while I was searching about this
subject. But, I couldn't reach to the publications. If you help me about how
I can get them, I will be very happy. The publications which I need to get
are written below. Thanks very much already...
Your sincerelly
Ibrahim UYSAL
Karadeniz Technical University.
Department of Geology.
61080  Trabzon / TURKEY

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"I am no supporter of Mr Bush nor of "smokestack utilities" (Leader,
March 16), but I am passionate about truth and honesty in science. In
the last three months, a series of heavyweight scientific papers have
appeared in journals such as Nature and Climate Research, showing
incontrovertibly the "incomplete state of scientific knowledge" about
climate change. The critical focus has been on the role of water vapour,
which is unquestionably the most important "greenhouse" gas, not
carbon dioxide; the geological relationships between carbon dioxide and
temperature; the many missing, or little-known variables, in the main
climate models, including soot and "Pacific" vents; and the need to
correct many temperature measurements, especially those over the oceans. One
paper from the prestigious Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,
concludes that: "Our review of the literature has shown that GCMs
[climate models] are not sufficiently robust to provide an
understanding of the potential effects of CO2 on climate necessary for
public discussion." It is surely time in the UK for a more adult
scientific openness about the limitations of our current knowledge.
Emissions may be politically important, but their precise scientific role
has been seriously questioned."
--Prof Philip Stott, University of London, The Guardian, 19
March 2001

    The Times, 19 March 2001

    Yahoo! News, 20 March 2001

    Andrew Yee <>

    Yahoo! News, 21 March 2001

    Earth Times News Service, 19 March 2001

    Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, February 2001

    The Indian Financial Express, 19 March 2001

    TechCentralStation, 19 March 2001

    Harvey Leifert <>

     CO2 Science Magazine, 21 March 2001

     E. Xoplaki et al.,

     David Wojick (

     Michael Paine <>


From The Times, 19 March 2001,,3-100981,00.html


MEXICAN environmental authorities have blamed an unprecedented cold spell in
the sprawling forests of Michoacan state for the death of more than 22
million Monarch butterflies, which habitually migrate to the region to
escape the winter chill in Canada.

Millions of the bright orange butterflies (Danaus plexippus), which usually
form a vibrant coloured carpet over the San Andres mountains in the west of
Michoacan, have been found dead since the beginning of this year.

At first environmentalists believed that loggers operating illegally in the
forests of Michoacan were deliberately killing the butterflies with

The Mexican Government had last year set aside a 128,440-acre region of the
forest as a sanctuary for the butterflies after an alarming study showed
that illegal logging had caused the destruction of 44 per cent of the native
forests since 1971.

A Mexican poet, Homero Arijdis, who heads Grupo de los Cien (Group of 100),
a non-governmental, environmental organisation, accused timber merchants of
spraying the butterflies with pesticides in an attempt to appropriate the

Señor Aridjis said that the use of pesticides would have a serious effect on
the reproductive process of the butterflies in coming years.

"This environmental tragedy, which has killed millions of Monarch
butterflies, could permanently alter their annual migration pattern," he

"It may be that the forests of Michoacan will never see those wonderful
fluttering orange carpet effects created by the butterflies ever again."

But Mexico's environmental authority, the Federal Procurate for the
Protection of the Environment (Profeba), said last week that tests on the
dead butterflies had "not shown intoxication from pesticides".

"The butterflies died because of the unusual, intense cold which we have had
in the Michoacan state for the past months," a spokesman for Profeba said.

Every year, beginning in November, the butterflies travel 2,500 miles to
escape the Canadian winter in favour of the temperate climate of Mexico's
central state, 70 miles west of the capital, Mexico City.

For about five months the trees in the nature sanctuary are covered in the
butterflies, which draw hundreds of tourists from around the world to the
area every year. At the end of March, the butterflies return north for
springtime breeding.

But this year the temperatures have been unusually low, reaching freezing
point at night. The Michoacan nature sanctuary's rangers have found large
numbers of the dead butterflies on frost-covered ground.
Copyright 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd. This 


From Yahoo! News, 20 March 2001

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - More than 100 scientists are taking to the air and sea to
measure the smoke, dust and other particles spewed into the atmosphere in
Asia. They are seeking answers to one of the fundamental unknowns of global
change: How do these materials affect our climate?

Scientists know the effect of aerosols on climate is large, "but the
uncertainties are huge," researcher Barry Huebert of the University of
Hawaii said Tuesday at a briefing on the experiment.

Huebert was heading for Colorado to hop a National Science Foundation (news
- web sites) C-130 research plane bound for Japan to join in the ACE-Asia

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's research vessel Ronald
H. Brown is already en route with 33 scientists aboard. Ships and planes
from Japan, Korea and Australia are also taking part in the effort through

In recent years many scientists have grown concerned about the possibility
of global warming and much of their focus has been on the increasing amounts
of gases, such as carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. The theory is that
these gases can trap heat from the sun, causing the planet to warm.

But aerosols - tiny particles of dust, smoke, minerals and materials - also
have a significant impact. Studies have shown some of these can add to the
warming and others can cause cooling.

"Aerosols play a very significant role in the world's climate system," said
David Evans, NOAA assistant administrator. "It's clearly a place where we
need to make advances in our understanding."

Indeed, Huebert said their impact may be as large as that of the so-called
greenhouse gases.

But scientists don't know in detail which aerosols cause warming and which
cool and how much they affect the atmosphere. That's what they want to

ACE-Asia stands for Aerosol Characterization Experiments-Asia. Other studies
have been done in Australia, Europe and, on a smaller scale, on the East
Coast of the United States.

Huebert said this large effort is being undertaken because Asia is
developing, and it will give researchers a chance to look at the aerosols
produced now and compare them with how things change in a few years.

Asia produces large amounts of dust from deserts and poor farming practices,
smoke from factories, increasing amounts of chemicals, minerals and other

The timing is important. Dust storms occur in winter over the high deserts
sending dense plumes over the big cities of China, Japan, and Korea in
spring. By summer, thunderstorms change the circulation, disrupting the
large dust plumes and raining out much of the pollution.

The ship- and land-based researchers will be able to measure the sun's
radiation arriving at the ground, satellites will measure the Earth's
radiation upward and the reflected solar radiation and the airplanes will
fly through the middle measuring the amount and types of aerosols, he said.

Anne-Marie Schmoltner of the National Science Foundation said instruments on
the C-130 will measure aerosol particle size, the number of particles, their
chemistry and how the aerosols affect light.

The particles can travel long distances. For example, Asian dust has been
measured in Hawaii and even on the west coast of the United States and
particles from Africa's Sahara desert have been known to drift as far as
Florida and the Caribbean.

The daily activities of the 130 scientists taking part are being directed by
Richard Dirks of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. UCAR,
based in Colorado, is a consortium of university-based atmospheric

"The science is essential to understanding how human activities are
affecting the global climate. The experiment is also groundbreaking in its
collaboration among countries that have not worked together in the past and
historically have been cautious about sharing data," Dirks said in a

Besides NOAA and NSF, the project is supported by the Office of Naval
Research, NASA (news - web sites) and research organizations in Australia,
China, France, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.

Copyright 2001, AP


From Andrew Yee <>

News Bureau
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
807 South Wright Street. Suite 520 East
Champaign, Illinois 61820-6219
Telephone 217 333-1085, Fax 217 244-0161

James E. Kloeppel, Physical Sciences Editor
(217) 244-1073;

Harvey Leifert, American Geophysical Union
(202) 777-7507;


Temperature in upper atmosphere measured at North and South poles

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- A sensitive laser radar (lidar) system, first deployed
over Okinawa, Japan, to observe meteor trails during the 1998 Leonid meteor
shower, has now been used to probe temperatures in the upper atmosphere over
both geographic poles.

As reported in the April 1 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, scientists
at the University of Illinois used a specially designed lidar system to
obtain the first measurements of upper atmosphere temperatures, iron
densities and polar mesospheric clouds over the North and South poles.

"Measuring temperature profiles over the poles is essential for validating
global circulation models and for providing a baseline for assessing the
impact of global warming over the coming decades," said team leader Chester
Gardner, a UI professor of electrical and computer engineering. "Until now,
we were limited to measurements taken with balloon-borne sensors to
altitudes of less than 20 miles."

In collaboration with scientists at The Aerospace Corp. and the National
Center for Atmospheric Research, Gardner and his UI colleagues -- professor
George Papen, research scientist Xinzhao Chu and graduate student Weilin Pan
-- developed a more robust lidar system for measuring temperature profiles
from the middle of the stratosphere (about 20 miles up) to the lower
thermosphere at the edge of space (about 70 miles above Earth). The system
uses two powerful lasers operating in the near ultraviolet region of the
spectrum and two telescopes to detect the laser pulses reflected from the

The researchers use two techniques for determining temperature. For
altitudes up to 50 miles, the amount of laser light reflected from air
molecules is measured and used to derive the temperature profile. For higher
altitudes, scattering of the laser beams from iron atoms -- deposited in the
upper atmosphere by meteoric ablation -- is measured.

In June 1999, the lidar system was flown over the North Pole to obtain
temperature and iron density measurements during the Arctic Mesopause
Temperature Study. Six months later, the instrument was taken to the
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station where it is now being used to measure the
atmosphere temperature structure throughout the year. The National Science
Foundation provided funding for the two measurement campaigns.

"Temperature profiles obtained in the thermosphere over the North Pole on
June 21, 1999, and in the mesopause region over the South Pole on Jan. 27,
2000, agreed closely with model predictions," Gardner said. "Significant
departures from the model were observed during the austral fall, however. On
May 8, 2000, for example, the lower mesosphere was about 20 degrees
[Celsius] warmer and the upper mesosphere was about 20 degrees [Celsius]
cooler than predicted."

Gardner and his colleagues also measured the heights of polar mesospheric
clouds that formed over each of the poles during mid-summer. Unlike the
lower atmosphere, the upper atmosphere is colder during summer than in
winter. Polar mesospheric clouds form over the summertime polar caps when
temperatures fall below minus 125 degrees Celsius.

These clouds are the highest on Earth, forming at an altitude of about 52
miles. Their brightness and geographic extent have been increasing during
the past four decades. It is thought that these changes may be related to
increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane, which in the
upper atmosphere lead to cooler temperatures and increasing levels of water
vapor. Surprisingly, the altitudes of the polar mesospheric clouds over the
South Pole were consistently one to two miles higher than those over the
North Pole.

"Higher polar mesospheric clouds may be an indication of stronger upwelling
in the summer mesosphere over Antarctica compared with the North polar cap,"
Gardner said. "Stronger upwelling would result in a cooler mesopause

[NOTE: Images supporting this release are available at]


From Yahoo! News, 21 March 2001

Globakl Warming could put Palm Trees in Swiss Apls

BERNE (Reuters) - Global warming (news - web sites) could give the Swiss
Alps a Mediterranean climate within decades and boost the number of severe
storms, experts said Monday.

Greenhouse gases trapped in the atmosphere are expected to warm up the
entire world's climate over the next 50 to 100 years. But the Alps stand to
be more acutely affected than elsewhere, with potentially dire consequences
for low-lying ski resorts, they said.

Computers simulating climate trends suggested that the temperature in the
Alps could rise by five degrees centigrade over the next century, said
Martin Beniston, a professor at Freiburg University's geographical

``At the same time precipitation should increase in winter and tend to
decline in summer. In other words, the climate in Switzerland could in
future be similar to the current Mediterranean climate,'' he told a news

Beniston, a member of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC), said that the number and severity of extreme storms, downpours and
hailstorms would increase.

He was outlining at a seminar the IPCC's latest findings on global warming
and its potential impact on the Alps region.

Temperatures in the mountain chain rose one degree between 1961 and 1990,
above the global average of 0.6 degree points since the start of the 20th
Century, the Swiss Federal Environmental Office noted. Amounts of
precipitation also rose by above-average levels.

The office said ski resorts below 1,200 to 1,800 meters (3,600 to 5,400
feet) would have less snow. Global warming could also disrupt hydroelectric
power plants, reservoirs and agriculture.

Switzerland last year adopted legislation aimed at reducing carbon dioxide
emissions by 10 percent compared to 1990 levels. It is now negotiating with
companies on how to achieve this goal by 2010.

Copyright 2001, Reuters


From the Earth Times News Service, 19 March 2001

With evidence of global warming continuing to mount, scientists at Columbia
University have added what is perhaps only a footnote to the big picture but
compelling information nonetheless: Trees in a remote forest in Mongolia are
showing unexpected rapid growth, indicating that temperatures have risen

A new study, which examined tree growth rings to chronicle growth patterns
as well as temperature swings, details trends from the 3rd Century to today.

"The results suggest that the temperatures in Mongolia rose to their highest
in the past millennium, reaching their peak in the 20th Century," said head
researcher Rosanne D'Arrigo of the Tree Ring Lab at Columbia University's
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. "The 1999 ring, the
widest, indicates the highest temperature reached in this region in the past
thousand years."

"This is an important piece of the puzzle on global warming," said D'Arrigo,
who noted that Mongolia was essentially closed to Western researchers until
10 years ago and that very few records of past climates exist for northern
Asia. "Our results from Mongolia fit into the overall picture of warming
indicated for other areas of the globe," she said.

Studies like these help scientists compare information from around the world
to help determine whether the gradual warming trend of the Earth's climate
is primarily human-induced or a natural phenomenon.

The study, funded by the National Science Foundation's Earth System History
and Paleoclimatology programs, was published recently in the journal
Geophysical Research Letters.

Copyright © 2000 The Earth Times All rights reserved.


From Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, February 2001

Mongolia is facing its second devastating winter in a row, which will
greatly exacerbate already serious food supply problems. Last year, the
worst winter in decades undermined the food security of large numbers of
people, especially nomadic herders. Now, thick snow has once again blanketed
livestock pastures where herds usually feed in winter. Temperatures have
fallen to as low as minus 50° Celsius. Already, the harsh winter has killed
about 600 000 animals.

One third of the population relies entirely on animal husbandry for its
livelihood. With more snow forecast for February and March, it is projected
that several million livestock could be lost this year. The current
livestock losses come on top of 3 million animals lost in 1999/2000, about
10 percent of the total herd.

The adverse weather also poses considerable problems for transporting food
and medical supplies to areas where the population is particularly
vulnerable to food shortages. The cold winter follows a summer drought,
which reduced the fodder crop for animals, making this the second year in
succession that recovery in feed and fodder has not been possible. The
situation is expected to deteriorate further as the winter progresses. The
implications for food security are immense, given the country's reliance on
the livestock sector for meat and milk as well as foreign exchange.

Current food shortages follow several years in which domestic grain
production fell due to structural changes in the economy. State farms, which
were heavily subsidized, have been dismantled in favour of private
enterprises. Many groups who were formerly dependent on state employment and
welfare are now exposed to economic uncertainties due to limited alternative
earning potential. High levels of chronic malnutrition have been reported in
a number of nomadic areas.

In January, FAO participated in a UN interagency mission to Mongolia to
appraise the situation, resulting in the launch of a UN appeal for US$7
million in emergency assistance to help vulnerable populations in the most
severely affected provinces. The appeal also focused on building the
country's capacity to prepare for emergencies.

5 February 2001


From The Indian Financial Express, 19 March 2001

Mumbai, March 18: The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(Nasa) has initiated a new programme, `Living With a Star' (LWS), to study
those aspects of sun-earth system that affects life and society.

The goal of this new initiative, costing US$1.5 billion for the next 10
years, is to develop scientific understanding necessary to enable the US and
other global participants to effectively address these aspects of the
sun-earth system, according to Dr Madhulika Guhathakurta, chief programme
scientist, Nasa headquarters, Washington.

This was for the first time that Nasa has taken such a project to study how
the sun affects/acts on the day to day life on earth in a 11-year solar
cycle, she said.

Delivering a talk on `LWS' at the `International Chapman Conference on
Storm-Substorm Relationship' which concluded at Lonavala near here on
Friday, she said, in the past, all Nasa missions were driven by fundamental
science questions.

But this mission would be different in finding the aspects that affect life
of living things on earth in real time like human radiation exposure,
climate change (past and future), surface warming, ozone depletion and
recovery, Guhathakurta said adding that ``we want generous participation
from India and other countries.''

The first mission of this project is a `solar dynamics observatory' and is
expected to be launched in 2006, she added. The objectives of the programme
include identifying and understanding variable sources of mass and energy
emanating from the sun that cause changes in the environment with societal
consequences, including the habitability of earth, use of technology and the
exploration of space, Guhathakurta said. "We will also identify and
understand the reactions of geospace regions whose variability has societal
impact and space weather hazards," she said. It would extend our knowledge
and understanding and would help to explore extreme solar-terrestrial
environments and implications for life and habitability beyond earth,
especially in moon and Mars, she added.

Copyright © 2001 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


From TechCentralStation, 19 March 2001

When tending the garden of environmental policy, one would always prefer to
be planting pretty flowers, and finding better ways to protect safety,
health, and environmental quality.  Sometimes, however, one is forced to
stoop to pluck a weed.  One such weed that has escaped its proper place in
the garden is called the "precautionary principle."

In the debate over environmental policies ranging from global warming to
genetic engineering, advocacy groups such as Greenpeace want to replace
traditional risk-based approaches to managing environmental risk with a
"precautionary principle" that presumes an activity guilty until proven
innocent. Under the precautionary principle, the burden of proof for
demonstrating safety is placed on the group seeking to develop something,
not on those claiming that an activity or product poses a risk to others.

The precautionary principle, as formulated at a meeting of academics called
the Wingspread Conference, goes like this: "When an activity raises threats
of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be
taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established

As Joan D'Argo of Greenpeace elaborates, "Rather than our health and our
children's health being sacrificed for industry greed, the Precautionary
Principle states that it is the polluters who must prove that their products
or manufacturing processes are not likely to harm the environment
or human health. Anything less, would be using the environment and our
bodies as a large scale laboratory to gather evidence of harm, a morally
unacceptable principle."

Now, everyone is for protecting children, and there's nothing wrong with
caution. In fact, current environmental policy has strong "precautionary
principles" built in. For example, before one can build any major
construction works in many areas, one must complete an environmental impact
report that evaluates what possible environmental damages might be done, and
how those damages might be ameliorated. Before one can market a drug, one
must test it for safety and efficacy.  Few would argue that the world would
be a safer place if drugs weren't safety-tested before being given to human

But this concept, a flower in the right part of the policy garden, becomes a
weed when it migrates to other areas. Indeed, when applied to subtle risks,
the precautionary principle is more properly labeled the "prove a negative"
principle. And proving a negative, as we know, is an impossible task.

Perhaps that's the point. As science writer Ron Bailey pointed out in a
recent article in the online adjunct to Reason Magazine, Martin Teitel, a
philosopher who directs the Council for Responsible Genetics, was quite
explicit about what the precautionary principle could do to stop
technological progress in the biotech field. When a student at a recent
anti-technology conference observed that a biotech crop couldn't be proven
safe without field trials that would themselves be forbidden by the
precautionary principle, Teitel's reply was illuminating. "That's just
fine," the philosopher replied, because "politically it's difficult for me
to go around saying that I want to shut this science down, so it's safer for
me to say something like 'it needs to be done safely before releasing it.'"
To put is simply, the precautionary principle is a catch-22 that delivers a
ban that one never has to ask for. The biotechnologists, Teitel concludes,
"don't get to do it period."

It is inarguable that if one foregoes the development of new drugs,
chemicals, genetically-enhanced organisms and so on, one reduces the risk of
these things harming people. But it's equally inarguable that in ceasing
such scientific research or technological development, one
foregoes the opportunity to save lives. Further one terminates the discovery
process of science and technology. Even further, by keeping products from
the market, one sabotages the economic voting process by which a creative
society finds out what can best extend life and improves it's quality.

Consider some of the inventions that would fail the precautionary principle
test of developmental worthiness:

Fire, of course, is a loser from the get-go.  Aspirin, with its risks to the
stomach lining would almost certainly fail the test, as would food
preservatives if used improperly. Cars are out, of course, but then, so are
bicycles, and horseback riding.  As for that computer you're using, or the
television you watch, or the cell-phone you use when you call 911 at a
highway accident ... well, forget about it.

Surely if advocates of the precautionary principle believe in what they're
proposing, they'll be willing to walk their talk. So, before pushing the
precautionary principle into policy, it seems only prudent to ask that
precautionary principle proponents prove that the precautionary principle
itself poses no risk when implemented. If the precautionary principle is so
easily implemented, advocates won't mind demonstrating that no risk will
accrue from lost opportunities, reduced economic health, the slowing of
medical and technological progress, and so on.

But wait. What's that, you say? One can't prove that the precautionary
principle will do no harm?  One can't prove a negative?  Imagine that.

Copyright 2001,


From Harvey Leifert <>

American Geophysical Union
Geophysical Research Letters
Highlights of This Issue - April 1, 2001

I. Highlights
II. Authors and their institutions
III. Notes, including ordering information for science writers

I. Highlights

1. Aerosols affect cloud opacity, but not liquid water

Nakajima et al. ["A possible correlation between satellite-derived
cloud and aerosol microphysical parameters"] present a
simultaneous analysis of cloud and aerosol parameters from a
newly developed algorithm for AVHRR [Advanced Very High
Resolution Radiometers] remote sensing. Comparing column
aerosol particle number and low-cloud microphysical parameters
for January, April, July and October, 1990. They show that (1)
aerosol abundance has an impact on cloud microphysics similar to
that predicted by models and (2) cloud liquid water does not vary
significantly with the amount of aerosol. The authors find a
positive correlation between cloud optical thickness and aerosol
number concentration, whereas effective particle radius and
aerosol number correlate negatively.

2. Fine-mode sulfate aerosols measured on commercial flights

Martinsson et al. ["Fine mode particulate sulfur in the tropopause
region measured from intercontinental flights (CARIBIC)"]
present the first systematic study of the concentration of
particulate sulfur in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere
(CARIBIC program). [CARIBIC = Civil Aircraft for Regular
Investigation of the atmosphere Based on an Instrument
Container.] Presenting data on the fine-mode particulate sulfur
concentrations obtained from 21 intercontinental flights between
Germany (50 degrees north) and Male/Colombo in the Indian
Ocean (5 degrees north), the authors find an average sulfur
concentration of 14 nanograms per cubic meter STP [at standard
temperature and pressure]. Concentrations increase steadily with
northern latitude over these flight paths from 6.9 to 25 nanograms
per cubic meter, suggesting human influence.

3. Low rise seen in stratospheric water vapor

Rosenlof et al. ["Stratospheric water vapor increases over the past
half-century"] combine ten stratospheric water vapor data sets
covering the period 1954-2000 to show that increases in
stratospheric water vapor have persisted since the mid-1950s,
yielding a cumulative 2 parts per million by volume increase
globally or about 1% per year. They note that different
mechanisms are likely responsible for increases in separate layers
of the stratosphere. They speculate that a change in the
atmospheric circulation that increases the amount of water
entering the stratosphere most likely accounts for this long-term

4. Lidar observations over the poles

Gardner et al. ["First lidar observations of middle atmosphere
temperatures, Fe densities, and polar mesospheric clouds over the
north and south poles"] report some of the first measurements of
temperature in the upper mesosphere/thermosphere at high
latitudes during summer for 1999-2000. To measure temperature
and Fe (iron) densities, the authors use a new Fe Boltzman lidar
that measures the relative populations of the spin multiplets in the
lowest electronic state of iron. They detect a high level of atomic
iron in a sporadic layer at the North Pole. The authors also report
some of the first measurements of polar mesospheric clouds
(PMCs) over the South Pole. PMCs over the South Pole are found
to be consistently 2-3 kilometers [1-2 miles] higher than those over
the North Pole.
[Note: See also AGU Press Release 01-8 of March 19, 2001.]

5. Upwelling iron limiting in California waters

Johnson et al. ["The annual cycle of iron and the biological
response in central California coastal waters"] present the results
of iron measurements carried out over a 16-month period (March
1999 through June 2000) at three stations in and directly off-shore
of Monterey Bay, the upwelling ecosystem of central California.
They correlate the results of the analyses with biological and
biogeochemical variables. In the two off-shore stations, the iron
time-series shows large pulses associated with the initiation of the
spring upwelling event, which are interpreted as transport of
dissolvable particulate iron from the benthic boundary layer. The
observations show a decoupling of iron and nitrate in the coastal
environment. Based on this and phytoplankton physiological data,
the authors argue in support of the hypothesis of iron limitation in
summer, particularly for larger diatoms.

6. Carbon budget of Great Barrier Reef

Suzuki et al. ["The oceanic CO2 system and carbon budget in the
Great Barrier Reef, Australia"] analyze a unique set of ocean
measurements of carbon-related parameters taken along a transect
from 26 degrees south to 14 degrees south along the Great Barrier
Reef, Australia, during a survey conducted 19-28 May 1996.
Using a simple model of inorganic carbon balance based on
assumptions of carbon conservation mechanisms in a coral reef
dominated system, the authors derive the carbon budget in the
near-shore region. During winter, carbon dioxide is released due to
calcium carbonate production in the lagoon. Despite these losses,
total dissolved inorganic carbon (normalized at constant salinity) is
found to be relatively uniform throughout the study area. The
authors propose that external carbon is being supplied to the
lagoon, most likely from river discharge.

7. A flat sink for extracting carbon dioxide

Elliott et al. ["Compensation of atmospheric CO2 buildup through
engineered chemical sinkage"] address the question of scrubbing
carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, arguing that it may be
possible to remove carbon dioxide at a rate comparable to the
present input rate from fossil fuel combustion. Air would be
moved over or through calcium oxide scrubbers by normal
atmospheric circulation. The authors find that mass transfer
coefficients and eddy diffusivities are sufficient for the
implementation of the scrubbing, and the thermodynamics of
removal and recovery are not prohibitive either. The authors'
simplest proof-of-concept case is for flat removal units of calcium
oxide covering 200,000 square kilometers [77,220 square miles] to
remove 7 gigatons of carbon per year. 

8. Liquid CO2 may have cut Martian gullies

Musselwhite et al. ["Liquid CO2 breakout and the formation of
recent small gullies on Mars"] point out the apparent similarity
between the depth below the Martian surface at which triple-point
pressure of carbon dioxide would be reached and the depth from
which small, recent gullies originate. These gullies appear mostly
on steep, generally poleward-facing slopes and in high latitudes in
the Martian southern hemisphere. The authors construct a scenario
in which crustal liquid carbon dioxide, not water, is the fluid that
carved the Martian channels. The authors suggest that a liquid
carbon dioxide aquifer builds up behind a dry-ice barrier in pore
spaces a few meters [yards] into the rock from the cliff face.
Seepage locations are seen consistently around 100 meters
[330 feet] below the top of the cliff surfaces.

9. Hydrous pyrolite at transition zone pressures

Litasov et al. ["Melting relations of hydrous pyrolite in CaO-MgO-
Al2O3-SiO2-H2O system at the transition zone pressures"] present
experimental data in pyrolite-water system at high pressure and
temperature, providing basic information for evaluating the
hydrous melting hypothesis for komatiite generation. The authors
conduct a series of melting experiments with hydrous and dry
primitive mantle compositions at the lowermost upper mantle and
transition zone pressures and evaluate the possible role of water in
the deep generation of komatiite primary magmas. They determine
phase relations and melt compositions in pyrolite in dry and wet
conditions with 2 percent by weight of water at 13-20 gigapascals
over a temperature range of 1600 to 2200 degrees celsius
[2,900-4,000 degrees Fahrenheit]. They find that compositions of
partial melts at 13-20 gigapascals are generally similar in dry and
hydrous systems, but hydrous melts contain more silica at 13-17

II. Authors referenced in the Highlights (in order of appearance):

Teruyuki Nakajima, Center for Climate System Research, The U.
of Tokyo, Japan; Akiko Higurashi, National Inst. for
Environmental Studies, Japan; Kazuaki Kawamoto, Virginia
Polytchnic Inst. and State U., Virginia; Joyce E. Penner, Dept. of
Atmosphere, Oceanic and Space Studies, U. Michigan, Michigan.

Bengt G. Martinsson, Giorgos Papaspiropoulos, Division of
Nuclear Physics, Physics Dept., Lund U., Lund, Sweden; Jost
Heintzenberg, Markus Hermann, Inst. for Tropospheric Research,
Leipzig, Germany.

Karen H. Rosenlof, Kenneth K. Kelley, NOAA Aeronomy Lab.,
Boulder, Colorado; Samuel J. Oltmans, NOAA CMDL, Boulder,
Colorado; Dieter Kley, Forschungszentrum, Julich, Germany; M.
P. McCormick, James M. Russell III, Dept. of Physics, Hampton U.,
 Hampton, Virginia; Er Woon. Chiou, William P. Chu, David J.
Johnson, Ellis E. Remsberg, NASA Langley Research Center,
Hampton, Virginia; Hope A. Michelsen, Sandia National Lab.,
Livermore, California; Gerald E. Nedoluha, Naval Research Lab.,
Washington, D.C.; Geoffrey C. Toon, JPL, Pasadena, California.

Chester S. Gardner, George C. Papen, Xinzhao Chu, Weiling Pan,
Dept. of Electrical Engin., U. Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
Urbana, Illinois.

Kenneth S. Johnson, Francisco P. Chavez, Virginia A. Elrod, Steve
E. Fitzwater, Timothy Pennington, Kurt R. Buck, Peter M. Walz,
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Inst., Moss Landing, California.

Atsushi Suzuki, Hodaka Kawahata, Geological Survey of Japan,
Tsukuba, Japan; Tenshi Ayukai, Australian Inst. of Marine
Science, Townsville, Australia; Koichi Goto, Kansai
Environmental Engin. Center Co., Ltd., Osaka, Japan.

Scott Elliott, K. S. Lackner, H. J. Ziock, M. K. Dubey, H. P.
Hanson, Sumner Barr, Los Alamos National Lab., Los Alamos,
New Mexico; N. A. Ciszkowski, D. R. Blake, Chemistry Dept., U.
California, Irvine, California.

Donald S. Musselwhite, Timothy D. Swindle, Jonathan I. Lunine,
Lunar and Planetary Lab., U. Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.

Konstantin Litasov, Hiromitsu Taniguchi, Center for Northeast
Asian Studies, Tohoku U., Sendai, Japan; Eiji Ohtani, Inst. of
Mineralogy, Petrology and Economic Geology, Tohoku U., Japan.

III. Notes, including ordering information

Authors are listed above, with institutional affiliations, in the
order in which their papers appear in these Highlights. This
information is not repeated in this form in GRL itself.

The Highlights and the papers to which they refer are not under
AGU embargo.

Journalists and public information officers of educational and
scientific institutions (only) may receive one or more of the papers
cited in the Highlights; send a message to Dawn McGee at
<> (correct!), indicating which one(s). Include your
name, the name of your publication, and your fax number. State
whether you prefer to receive the paper(s) as PDF attachments by
email or as a fax.

If you did not receive this message directly from AGU, i.e., if you
are not on the AGU distribution list, please provide your title,
name of publication, postal address, and phone number as well.

Harvey Leifert
Public Information Manager
American Geophysical Union
2000 Florida Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20009

Phone (direct): +1 (202) 777-7507
Phone (toll-free in North America): (800) 966-2481 x507
Fax: +1 (202) 328-0566


From CO2 Science Magazine, 21 March 2001

Climate alarmists claim that global warming would be harmful to humans
because it would (1) increase the number of deaths directly related to high
temperatures and (2) increase the number of deaths indirectly related to
high temperatures by increasing the spread of vector-borne diseases into
regions that are claimed (often falsely) to currently be too cool for their
occurrence. These predictions comprise one of the major scare stories of the
global warming debate; and nary a heat wave passes but what climate
alarmists are quick to blame global warming for any deaths that might have
been associated with it. Analyses of the recent scientific literature,
however, suggest that these claims too, like nearly all of their other
claims, are one hundred and eighty degrees out of phase with reality.

For starters, cold is much more deadly than heat almost everywhere one
looks. A study of U.S. death rates between 1979 and 1997, for example,
indicates that deaths due to extreme cold exceeded deaths due to extreme
heat by 80 to 125% (Goklany and Straja, 2000). An even greater difference
between heat-related and cold-related mortality was reported for seven
European regions studied by Keatinge et al. (2000). In the 65 to 74 age
range of the population, the authors reported that annual cold-related
deaths were nearly ten times greater than annual heat-related deaths.

In Novosibirsk, Siberia, where the temperature remains below minus 2 degrees
Celsius for over 40% of the year, a little global warming would clearly be
providential. According to Feigin et al. (2000), a statistically significant
relationship was reported there between stroke occurrence and low ambient
temperature. In terms of ischemic stroke (IS), which accounted for 87% of
all stroke types, "the risk of IS occurrence on days with low ambient
temperature is 32% higher than that on days with high ambient temperature."

Low air temperatures have also been shown to be a contributing factor to
Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) and Acute Myocardial Infraction (AMI). Behar
(2000), for example, reports that "most of the recent papers on this topic
have concluded that a peak of SCD, AMI and other cardiovascular conditions
is usually observed in low temperature weather during winter." As one
example, Behar cites an Israeli study (Green et al., 1994) that revealed
that between 1976 and 1985 "mortality from cardiovascular disease was higher
by 50% in mid-winter than in mid-summer, both in men and women and in
different age groups." And this occurred in spite of the fact that summer
temperatures in the Negev, where much of the work was done, often exceed
30°C, while winter temperatures there typically do not drop below 10°C.

Even in the relatively mild climate of southern California, there is a
seasonal variation in cardiac-related mortality. Kloner et al. (1999)
searched all 222,265 death certificates from Los Angeles County for deaths
caused by coronary artery disease from 1985 through 1996, finding that death
rates in December and January were 33% higher than in June through
September. Given these results, and those cited above, it would appear that
global warming, if it ever occurs, is likely to be beneficial to much of
humanity by reducing the incidence of stroke, cardiovascular disease and
other death-dealing maladies related to cold and wintry weather, which
affect much greater numbers of people than the problems that are typically
associated with summer heat waves.

The climate alarmists are also wrong when they claim that global warming
will increase mortality rates due to the spreading of vector-borne diseases
into regions they claim are presently too cool for their occurrence. And why
are they wrong? Because until very recently, nearly all of the
doom-and-gloom reports of global warming effects on malaria typically used
only one, or at most two, climate variables to make predictions of the
future geographical distribution of this disease. The study of Rogers and
Randolph (2000), however, employed five such variables to determine the
specific climatic constraints that best define the present-day distribution
of malaria, after which the multivariate relationship they derived from this
exercise was applied to future climate scenarios derived from
state-of-the-art general circulation models of the atmosphere.

And what did they find? In the words of Dye and Reiter (2000), the new
approach produces a "substantially better" fit to current malaria incidence
data than any previous model.  And what does their approach to the problem
predict about the future?  Very little change: a 0.84% increase in exposure
potential under the "medium-high" scenario of global warming produced by the
HadCM2 model of the UK's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research
and a 0.92% decrease under the HadCM2 "high" scenario.

In commenting on this result, Rogers and Randolph explicitly state that
their quantitative model "contradicts prevailing forecasts of global malaria
expansion" and that "it highlights the use [we would say superiority] of
multivariate rather than univariate constraints in such applications and the
advantage of statistical rather than biological approaches in situations
where biological knowledge is incomplete."

Clearly, this important new study totally demolishes previous claims that
any future global warming will allow malaria to spread into currently
malaria-free regions of the world. Yet in spite of this good news, there is
an even more powerful reason to reject the old horror stories of diseases
running rampant as a result of possible global warming; and that is human
intervention. In the words of Dye and Reiter, "given adequate funding,
technology, and, above all, commitment, the campaign to 'Roll Back Malaria,'
spearheaded by the World Health Organization, will have halved deaths
related to [malaria] by 2010," so that "by 2050, the map of malaria
distribution should bear little resemblance to the one drawn by Rogers and
Randolph." In fact, if all goes well, there may not even be such a map!

Behar, S. 2000. Out-of-hospital death in Israel - Should we blame the
weather?  Israel Medical Association Journal 2: 56-57.

Dye, C. and Reiter, P. 2000. Temperatures without fevers?  Science 289:

Feigin, V.L., Nikitin, Yu.P., Bots, M.L., Vinogradova, T.E. and Grobbee,
D.E.  2000.  A population-based study of the associations of stroke
occurrence with weather parameters in Siberia, Russia (1982-92).  European
Journal of Neurology 7: 171-178.

Goklany, I.M. and Straja, S.R. 2000. U.S. trends in crude death rates due to
extreme heat and cold ascribed to weather, 1979-97. Technology 7S: 165-173.

Green, M.S., Harari, G., Kristal-Boneh, E. 1994. Excess winter mortality
from ischaemic heart disease and stroke during colder and warmer years in
Israel. European Journal of Public Health 4: 3-11.

Keatinge, W.R., Donaldson, G.C., Cordioli, E., Martinelli, M., Kunst, A.E.,
Mackenbach, J.P., Nayha, S. and Vuori, I. 2000.  Heat related mortality in
warm and cold regions of Europe: Observational study. British Medical
Journal 321: 670-673.

Kloner, R.A., Poole, W.K. and Perritt, R.L.  1999. When throughout the year
is coronary death most likely to occur? A 12-year population-based analysis
of more than 220,000 cases.  Circulation 100: 1630-1634.

Reiter, P.  2000. From Shakespeare to Defoe: Malaria in England in the
Little Ice Age.  Emerging Infectious Diseases 6: 1-11.

Rogers, D.J. and Randolph, S.E. 2000. The global spread of malaria in a
future, warmer world.  Science 289: 1763-1766.
Copyright © 2001.  Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change


Xoplaki E, Maheras P, Luterbacher J: Variability of climate in Meridional
Balkans during the periods 1675-1715 and 1780-1830 and its impact on human
CLIMATIC CHANGE 48: (4) 581-615 MAR 2001

The periods from 1675-1715 (Late Maunder Minimum; LMM) and 1780-1830 (Early
Instrumental Period; EIP) delineate important parts of the so-called `Little
Ice Age' (LIA), in which Europe experienced predominant cooling. Documentary
data, assembled from a number of sources, in the course of the EU funded
research project ADVICE (Annual to Decadal Variability of Climate in
Europe), has been used to locate and describe events in the southern Balkans
and eastern Mediterranean. The resulting data has been used firstly to
investigate the incidence of phenomena such as crops sterility, famine and
epidemics and their relationships with climate, and secondly to analyse the
extent of variability, particularly the occurrence of extreme events, such
as severe winters (cold, wet or snowy), long periods of drought and wet
periods. During the LMM and EIP, more such extreme situations were apparent
compared with the last 50 years of the twentieth century. From the scattered
data found for 1675-1715 and 1780-1830, the winter and spring climate in
southern Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean, especially during the LMM,
can be characterised as cooler and relatively rainier with a higher
variability compared with the recent decades.

Xoplaki E, Univ Bern, Inst Geog, Hallerstr 12, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland.
Univ Bern, Inst Geog, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland.
Univ Thessaloniki, Dept Meteorol & Climatol, GR-54006 Salonika, Greece.

Copyright © 2001 Institute for Scientific Information



by David Wojick (

March 2, 2001

The role of climate change skepticism in society is not well understood. In
particular, skeptics are often criticized for not publishing their views in
peer reviewed scientific journals. Some do, of course, but they are the

Skeptics are also criticized for being in the pay of fossil fuel and related
interests, many aren't but I am. I believe there is a simple, yet profound
explanation for both of these facts, such that the criticism is unwarranted.

The role of skepticism begins with the following basic principle, let us
call it the principle of assessment.

1. Principle of Assessment --
When a body of science comes to have public policy implications it must
undergo a higher level of scrutiny.

"Higher" here means more rigorous that is the norm in the scientific
community. The rationality of this principle is obvious. In pure science a
big mistake is seldom harmful, but in public policy it can be disastrous.
Pure science encourages speculation, and following promising but untried
lines of exploration. Public policy, because it mobilizes vast forces,
necessarily operates under a far stricter standard of certitude.

The role of the skeptic is to implement the principle of assessment. One
does this by testing the claims, probing the foundations, cataloging the
uncertainties, seeking out disagreement, etc. In short the skeptic is an
investigator, not of climate but of climate science. Needless to say, this
scrutiny annoys the scientists no end, which leads to a second big point --

2. The scrutiny is not part of the science.

This is the fact that confuses most people, because science does include a
degree of internal scrutiny, including peer review. But skepticism is a
different business, because it is implementing a much higher standard of
scrutiny -- the public policy standard.

(Off topic example: People working in one problem solving community are
often unaware of the very different standards in a neighboring community.
When these communities intersect there can be significant fiction. I was
once retained to sort out the animosity between the engineers who operated a
naval base and the engineers who assembled ICBMs on that base. The problem
turned out to be a huge difference in quality control standards -- jeeps
versus missiles -- plus the fact that the base engineers maintained the
cranes that handled the rockets, so were part of the assembly process.)

It is for this reason that the skeptic's findings do not belong in peer
reviewed climate science journals, and do not appear there. The skeptic is
not doing climate science. Research yes, but research into the climate
science per se, the logic of the science if you like, not research into the
climate. In fact what I write here is a research paper, but it is research
into the nature of climate change skepticism. As such it is not suitable for
the Journal of Geophysical Research. Neither is most skeptical research.

In logic, this distinction between studying climate and studying, or
assessing, climate science is called an object level, meta level
distinction. A simple example is the difference between the object level
statement that "the earth is warming" (climate science) and the meta level
statement that "some scientists do not believe that the earth is warming"
(assessment of climate science). Assessment is not a science, or if it is,
it is not a physical science. Skeptics are doing assessment.

Moreover, the skeptics' principal audience is not the scientific community,
it is the public policy community. The policy community wants to know if the
science meets its standard of certitude. This fact gets confused because
some of the most prominent scientists defend the science, while others are
skeptics. In addition, many of the statements that the skeptics are
questioning are made in the peer reviewed scientific literature, which often
mixes object and meta level statements indiscriminately. Likewise, in the
press, adding meta level interpretation of science, often by scientists,
creates "spin".

Finally, regarding sponsorship, the following is a principle of American
public policy practice. It may well be a fundamental principle of democracy

3. The people likely to be hurt by a proposed policy pay for the scrutiny.

It is by this principle that self-interest brings about carefully reasoned
public action, along the lines of free market economics. The principle is
most apparent in civil litigation, where the defendant is expected to pay
for the defense. But the public policy area is equally adversarial, despite
misplaced rhetoric about "objectivity", whatever that might mean.

Climate change skeptics are expert witnesses for the defense in an
adversarial policy process. Their job is to scrutinize the science for
weakness, not to do the science or rectify the weakness. The process is the
best we know of, its name being democracy, it's product being reason. And
within it the skeptic's calling is a noble one.

Dr. David E. Wojick


From Michael Paine <>

Dear Benny,

The item by the Doctors Idso ("THE PLANET IS WARMING UP"!) seems to use
reports of record cold spells as 'evidence' that global warming in not
occurring. This is a red herring! A NASA study reported by Eureka Alerrt
last year showed how the US can be expected to have colder winters
BECAUSE the oceans are warming up. See

It is quite possible that the cold snaps, and unusual levels of flooding,
are outcomes of global warming although statistical "proof" of any such
effects and trends would be swamped by natural variations at this stage.

Michael Paine

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