CCNet 51/2002 - 19 April 2002

"This week's opening [of the NEOIC] was welcomed by Lembit Opik, the
Liberal-Democrat MP who has long campaigned for more research into the
possibility of an asteroid strike. He said: "It shows that if you approach
matters of cosmic importance in the right parliamentary way, the
political system can deliver results."
--Evening Standard, 18 April 2002

"An expert on asteroid impacts last night warned governments around
the world have no contingency plans in place should one hit the
--Claire Tolley, Daily Post, 19 April 2002

    Daily Post, 19 April 2002

    BBC News Online, 18 April 2002

    The Guardian, 18 April 2002

    The Guardian, 18 April 2002

    EVENING STANDARD, 18th April 2002


    Andrew Yee <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    Jiri Borovicka <>

(10) DARK OBJECTS ....
     Duncan Steel <>

     Robert D Brown  < >
     Bob Kobres <>

     Ananova, 17 April 2002


>From Daily Post, 19 April 2002

By Claire Tolley

An expert on asteroid impacts last night warned governments around the world
have no contingency plans in place should one hit the Earth.

Dr Benny Peiser, of Liverpool John Moores University, was speaking at an
international convention of psychologists and disaster management teams in
the USA, whose conclusions will be passed to government agencies.

At the conference he said world leaders had to fund research so disaster
management teams would cope after an asteroid impact.

Last night, Dr Peiser, who has researched the social effects of natural
disasters for the past 10 years, said: "We are not actually prepared because
we have no prior experience of such impacts. We know what happens in the
event of an earthquake or volcanic eruption so we are more prepared for

"This is a disaster that would challenge us because we are inexperienced but
on the other hand we know that one day it's going to happen.

"My call was for much deeper research into this issue and to be better
prepared for a worst case scenario. The risks of an urban area being hit are
very small but it is highly likely that a small asteroid will hit the Earth
in our lifetime."

Dr Peiser said the last small asteroid, measuring approximately 50m across,
[crashed over] Siberia in 1908. He said: "The asteroid that detonated over
Siberia released energy equivalent to 1,000 times that caused by the
Hiroshima atomic bomb, fortunately over an uninhabited area.

"It destroyed 2,000sqm of forest. If that were to happen over London,
everything within the M25 would go, although for a small asteroid to hit an
urban area would be extremely unlikely."

The convention focused on all aspects of disaster management, from informing
the public of an impending impact to dealing with the physical and
psychological aftermath.

The conference, held during the annual convention of the Western
Psychological Society in California, was the first international workshop of
its kind.

Until now international debate has concentrated on the risk of an asteroid
impact and possible ways a near Earth object could be intercepted, rather
than how we would cope if one struck.

Dr Peiser, who has lectured at LJMU's School of Human Sciences for 10 years,
said: "I primarily looked at the time we would have before the impact
actually occurs. That can last for weeks to years to decades, so the
question is how would mankind deal with such a period of knowing it's going
to be hit.

"If such a scenario occurred tomorrow, we would have to set everything in
place, ad hoc, and would almost inevitably commit a number of mistakes,
given our complete lack of impact disaster experience. To improve the
warning system and to prepare the distribution of appropriate impact
warnings, it is essential to understand the complexities of how such a
situation would unfold."

Copyright 2002, Daily Post

MODERATOR'S NOTE: I am happy to send interested readers a copy of my
presentation at the Irvine workshop. BJP


>From the BBC News Online, 18 April 2002

The UK's first government-backed centre to provide public information on
asteroids and other near-Earth objects opens to the public on Saturday.
Part of the National Space Centre in Leicester, the project is receiving
£300,000 of government money to feed an increased public appetite for
knowledge about objects relatively close to Earth.

"By setting up an information centre we are helping the UK play a full and
prominent role in an area that requires international rescue," Space
Minister [sic] Lord Sainsbury said.

Experts at the centre will analyse [sic] the risk of any of the hundreds of
currently known near-Earth objects actually hitting the planet.

The centre will provide information to the public on the nature, number and
location of near-Earth objects, what might happen if one hit Earth and how
likely this is.

Low probability, high consequence

It is extremely unlikely that an asteroid impact of the scale that may have
wiped out the dinosaurs will take place within the lifetime of anyone alive

But, as the UK government's NEO website makes clear, such an impact would be

"NEO impacts are an example of low probability, high consequence events
where a single, large impact, although extremely infrequent, could cause
millions of fatalities.

"For many generations, there could be no significant event or events that
cause only regional damage," it says.

Close approach

An asteroid big enough to wipe out a whole country passed within half a
million miles (805,000 kilometres) of the Earth in January.

The distance is close in cosmic terms, but still three times further away
than the Moon.

Astronomers recently calculated that there is a one in three hundred chance
of one particular kilometre (0.6 mile) wide asteroid hitting the Earth in
the year 2880.

UK policy is to improve detection systems and co-operate with other
countries to investigate longer term strategies to deflect an incoming

Copyright 2002, BBC


>From The Guardian, 18 April 2002,9865,686447,00.html

A new centre to investigate the likelihood of an asteroid hitting the earth
opens today in Leicester.

The Near Earth Object Information Centre, set up in response to the
recommendations of the government's task force on near earth objects, is
based at the National Space Science Centre. The centre's launch was
announced in January by the science minister, Lord Sainsbury.

Near earth object is the term applied to asteroids, comets and debris made
of metal, ice or rock, derived from the formation of planets, whose orbits
have brought them close to the earth. Only NEOs bigger than 50 metres in
diameter pose a threat to earth, any smaller and the atmosphere prevents
them from entering its atmosphere [sic].

"By setting up an information centre, we are helping the UK play a full and
prominent role in an area that requires international action," Lord
Sainsbury said when he announced the scheme.

The centre will receive £300,000 over three years from the government.

Experts from the Natural History Museum in London, the University of
Leicester, Queen's University in Belfast, Queen Mary College, London and the
Royal Observatory, Edinburgh will contribute to research and analyse the
risk of a direct hit by asteroids.

Kevin Wates, project officer at the centre, said: "The main aim is to
provide accurate, unbiased information about NEO in a timely manner to the
public and the media.

"So we're not actually looking at the skies, what we're doing is building on
close connections with scientists in the UK and around the world who are
doing the research, we'll collate that info and communicate it to government
and the public."

The government NEO task force set out 14 recommendations in September 2000,
which included setting up the centre. Other recommendations included
investing in telescopes and collaborating internationally to identity and
combat potentially harmful asteroids.

Scientists at Spaceguard UK, based in Powys, Wales, put in a bid to host the
centre. Days before the Leicester centre was announced, the company
announced its own comet and asteroid information network.

Copyright 2002, The Guardian


>From The Guardian, 18 April 2002,2763,686678,00.html

The Near Earth Object Information Centre opened in Leicester today with a
brief to monitor [sic] approaching asteroids

Mark Oliver
To many, the notion of asteroids wiping out humanity may seem limited to the
realms of Hollywood fantasy, but the reality is that many scientists believe
there is a credible threat.
Recent years have seen a vociferous international group of asteroid worriers
- made up of disparate alliances of astronomers, scientists and politicians
- slowly shed their "doom-monger" image and begin to be taken more

Today's opening of the Near Earth Object Information Centre, in Leicester,
is an indication of this. The centre, a first for the UK and backed by
£300,000 of government money, will have a brief to study asteroids among
other nearby heavenly bodies.

Relatively regular reports of "close shaves" have had something of a
galvanising effect. In January, an asteroid came within 390,000 miles of
earth, which is pretty close in intergalactic terms: if it had arrived four
hours earlier in its orbit it would have scored a direct hit. Another
asteroid, which could have wiped out an entire city, missed the earth by
only 480,000 miles in 2000.

Right now, there is one "big one" out there and on course towards us that
scientists know about. It emerged in April that there is a billion-tonne
asteroid - measuring more than half a mile in diameter - in the vicinity
with a one in 300 chance of hitting the Earth.

There is no immediate panic - there are 878 years before asteroid 1950DA
arrives - but if it hit, it would leave a 14-mile wide crater and change the
global climate.

Humanity would probably escape - but not unscathed. A bigger asteroid - more
than six miles across - is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs 65m
years ago when it plunged into the sea off Mexico.

Nasa says it would be possible to destroy an approaching asteroid, or knock
it off course, but it would need early warning: the key concern of those
anxious about spending money on extending the Earth's "spaceguard"

Astronomers claim that there are some 2,000 sizeable [sic] asteroids in
orbits that could hit the Earth, but they only know where around 200 of them
are [sic]. If one sneaked past the current array of telescopes looking for
them, the worst case scenario is that we would have only 20 seconds warning
before "deep impact".

Those most worried are campaigning for a global safeguard system where more
telescopes are built to look out for asteroids and a globally linked system
set up to give an infallible early warning. At the moment, there are blind

The US has three telescopes scanning the northern hemisphere but more are
needed in the southern hemisphere, according to campaigners. However,
telescopes powerful enough to be useful cost tens of millions of pounds, and
while governments may find funds for study centres, detecting an
asteroid-Armageddon is not yet seen as much of a vote winner.

Asteroid facts

· Some scientists claim that humans have a one in 5,000 chance of being
wiped out by an asteroid in the next century.

· Asteroids are made of rock and iron.

· There are more than 700,000 asteroids big enough to destroy us that we
know about. Asteroids larger than 50 metres across strike the earth on
average once a century. The last was in Siberia in 1908 - if one of the same
size hit London, it would destroy everything within the M25.

· A 10km asteroid is believed to have killed the dinosaurs 65m years ago.

· An asteroid over one kilometre in size would release energy equivalent to
10m times the power of the Hiroshima atomic bomb if it hit the earth.

· Every week the earth collides with thousands of tonnes of dust and stones
hurtling through space at up to 20 miles a second. Every few years, large
boulders hit the outer atmosphere and burn up.

Copyright 2002, The Guardian


>From Evening Standard, 18th April 2002


THE seconds are relentlessly ticking away to disaster.

Heroic oil driller Bruce Willis, sweat pouring from his brow, bores
desperately into the heart of a giant asteroid hurtling towards Earth.

Millions of cinema-goers, who watched the world being saved in Armageddon,
could be forgiven for believing it was all just a piece of enjoyable,
highoctane Hollywood fiction.

Nothing so horrendously destructive could possibly be lurking out there in
space. Or could it?

The Government apparently believes the threat is sufficiently real to
warrant spending large  amounts of taxpayers' money on setting up a new
specialist scientific centre - devoted to monitoring Earthbound asteroids
and comets, and to providing an unsuspecting public with every conceivable
detail on risk factors and strategies.

The Information Centre on Near Earth Objects (Neos) opens its doors this
week. At a cost of £300,000 in the next three years, it will analyse the
potential threat to Earth, according to Science Minister Lord Sainsbury.

The initial prognosis is slightly more encouraging than some originally
feared. Scientists recently reported that we have a one-in-5,000 chance of
being wiped out by an asteroid in the next century - more comforting than a
previous estimate of one-in-1,500.

This week's opening was welcomed by Lembit Opik, the Liberal-Democrat MP who
has long campaigned for more research into the possibility of an asteroid
strike. He said: "It shows that if you approach matters of cosmic importance
in the right parliamentary way, the political system can deliver results.

However, recipients of the money, the National Space Centre, must recognise
the global significance of this issue. This is literally a matter of life
and death, and it is too important for any one group to go it alone."
Operating out of the National Space Science Centre in Leicester, the new
centre will feature exhibitions and interactive facilities giving details
about Neos, the effects of impact and the chances of collision.

Lord Sainsbury said: "The potential threat from Neos to our planet has been
an issue of increased international interest and concern over recent years.

By setting up an information centre we are helping the UK play a full and
prominent role in an area that requires international action." Astronomer
Sir Patrick Moore said the centre would give people "useful" information on
an important issue, adding: "There is always a small chance we could be hit
by one of these asteroids, and the more people know the more we can do to
make plans."

Astronomers analysing data from a study called the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
calculated that the Solar System contained about 700,000 asteroids big
enough to destroy civilisation.

Lord Sainsbury also published an update on a Government task force set up to
look into potential risks from Neos. It has so far identified two suitable
telescopes to scan the skies for threats, both in the Canary Islands.

What the Government scientists say

How many Neos are there?

It has been estimated that there are roughly 150 million 10-metre objects,
some 300,000 100-metre objects, about 10,000 500-metre objects and perhaps
1500 which are 1km or larger.

What are the chances of the Earth being hit by one?

At this time there are no known large Neos whose orbits will cause them to
hit the Earth. However, estimates are that we have only discovered little
more than half of the 750 to 1,100 objects of size 1km or greater. NASA has
set an objective of discovering 90 per cent of these objects by 2010.

How many have been discovered?

As of 17 December 2001, 1,706 Neos have been discovered - 427 new objects
were discovered last year.

There are currently 44 identified Near Earth Comets.

Isn't deflecting an asteroid or comet just science fiction?

In simple terms, they are only large masses moving on a particular course in
space. They could therefore be deflected from this course by applying force
in an appropriate direction.

NASA's planned Deep Impact mission is scheduled to send a non-explosive
impactor into comet 9P/Tempe1 around 2005. The basic elements of a
deflection mission will then have been demonstrated.

What will happen if we identify an asteroid or comet on a collision course
with Earth?

Due to the nature of Neo orbits (they can make many close approaches to the
Earth) the chance that a Neo will be discovered less than a few years before
impact is small. This would allow time to determine the exact impact area so
that emergency planning could be initiated.

Would I be told if Earth was going to be hit?

It is unlikely that a Neo will appear without a long period of warning, and
the Government will ensure that the information is made widely available.

What does the Neo risk mean for an individual?

Neo impacts are an example of low-probability-high-consequence events -
where a single large impact, although extremely infrequent, could cause
millions of fatalities.

If no known large NEO is going to hit us, what is the worry?

While the likelihood of being hit by a large Neo is very remote, the
potential for significant damage exists from the many smaller objects.

Copyright 2002, Evening Standard



Dolores Beasley
Headquarters, Washington                    April 18, 2002
(Phone: 202/358-1753)

Bill Steigerwald
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
(Phone: 301/286-5017

RELEASE: 02-71


A new comet was discovered over the Internet by a Chinese amateur astronomer
visiting the website for the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)
spacecraft. The comet "C/2002 G3 (SOHO)" was first reported on Friday, April
12, by XingMing Zhou of BoLe city, in the XinJiang province of
China, who discovered the comet while watching SOHO real-time images of the
Sun on the Internet. The comet is a new comet, not belonging to any known

SOHO, launched over six years ago as a project of international cooperation
between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, has discovered more than
420 comets in just under six years. This makes the spacecraft the most
prolific comet finder in the history of astronomy. Most of the comets were
first spotted by amateurs around the world who downloaded SOHO's real-time
images to their home computers. Anyone with Internet access can take part in
the hunt for new comets and be a comet discoverer.

"From September 2000 to now I have been trying to find SOHO comets, and I've
discovered 13 comets, one of which, designated '2001U9' and initially
cataloged by the SOHO project as 'SOHO-367,' was the brightest one in the
last two years," said Zhou, who previously spent more than 1,600 hours since
his 1985 graduation scanning the heavens with his 15cm F/5.3 reflector
telescope to discover a single comet.

"What's exciting about these near-sun comets is that we are exploring a
population of comets that has never been seen before because they are very
small and faint," said Douglas Biesecker, a solar physicist with L3 Com
Analytics Corporation, Vienna, Va. "By the time their orbits take them close
to the Sun so they become bright, they are lost in the Sun's glare and
require a space-based coronagraph like that on SOHO to be seen." Biesecker,
who is affiliated with the
SOHO program at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.,
confirms potential comet discoveries as they are posted to the SOHO website.

C/2002 G3 (SOHO) will be visible in SOHO's Large Angle and Spectrometric
Coronagraph (LASCO) C3 images until Saturday, April 20.  The comet was first
visible late in the day on
Thursday, April 11. It entered the field of view at the bottom edge, almost
directly under the Sun. It is moving upward to the left, and will eventually
move back toward the right, exiting from the LASCO C3 field of view at the
top edge, to the right of the Sun. First cataloged by the SOHO project as
"SOHO-422," it has been officially designated C/2002 G3 (SOHO) by the [Minor
Planet Center of the] International Astronomical Union.

The comet reached the point closest to the Sun in its orbit on April 17 at
about 1:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, at a distance of about 7.6 million
miles (12.3 million kilometers). As the week goes on, the comet will move
through the field of view more quickly.

In all these images, the shaded disk is a mask in the instrument that blots
out direct sunlight, making faint comets and the dim outer atmosphere of the
Sun, or the corona, visible. The white circle added within the disk shows
the size and position of the visible Sun.

Solar radiation heats the comet, which in turn causes the outgassing of its
water molecules and dust. The dust scatters sunlight at visible wavelengths,
making the comet bright in LASCO images. The water molecules break down into
oxygen and hydrogen atoms, and the hydrogen atoms interact with the coronal
plasma (electrified gas that comprises the extended atmosphere of the Sun).

All the SOHO images are freely available on the SOHO web site:

More information about sun-grazing comets and how to spot new ones can be
found at:
Images and movies of the comet's passage are available at:

>From Andrew Yee <>

Stanford University
Stanford, California

Mark Shwartz, News Service
(650) 723-9296; e-mail:


Rare rocks offer a unique glimpse of the Earth's core
By Mark Shwartz

Rare grains of metal from California and Oregon are providing new clues
about the origin of the Hawaiian Islands -- and fueling old controversies
about the evolution of the Earth's core.

In a study published in the April 19 issue of the journal Science,
researchers from Stanford and the University of Copenhagen used
state-of-the-art technology to measure 13 millimeter-sized grains of rock
collected from slabs of oceanic crust and the lower mantle that have been
pushed up on the American continental shelf in the Klamath Mountains of
Northern California and Southwestern Oregon.

The samples are of particular interest to geologists because they contain
large amounts of the element, osmium (Os). Though rarely found on the
surface, osmium is believed to occur in relatively high concentrations in
the Earth's core some 1,700 miles below the crust. The core is too deep for
scientists to observe directly, so the discovery of osmium-laden rocks
provides tantalizing hints about what lies below.

"Osmium loves iron," said Stanford Research Associate Anders Meibom,
lead author of the Science study.

"We know that osmium is found in iron meteorites," he added. "Since the
Earth's inner core is also predominantly iron, we believe that osmium has a
strong tendency to go into the core instead of remaining in the surrounding
mantle, which contains little iron."

Volcano studies

Earlier studies of lava from volcanoes in Hawaii and Siberia revealed high
concentrations of two very rare osmium isotopes: 186-Os and 187-Os. Isotopes
are atoms of the same element that have different numbers of neutrons in
their nuclei.

Scientists suspect that the Hawaiian and Siberian lava samples were produced
by hotspots -- stationary sources in the mantle that feed hot magma to the
volcano on the surface. Some researchers maintain that hotspots originate
just 60 miles below the crust, while others
contend that the source is much deeper -- 1,700 miles down at the
core-mantle boundary.

To resolve the controversy, Meibom and Science co-author Robert Frei of the
University of Copenhagen decided to analyze the rock samples from California
and Oregon.

"It is very likely that these osmium-rich grains will provide clues to the
chemical makeup of the core-mantle boundary itself," Meibom said.

The researchers' goal was simple: First they would determine the 186-Os and
187-Os isotope composition of the California-Oregon rocks. Then they would
compare those levels to the known isotope concentrations in the Hawaii and
Siberia lava samples. If the results were similar, it would lend support to
the idea that the Hawaiian and Siberian hotspots originate at the
core-mantle boundary instead of near the surface.

The isotope analysis required the use of two powerful instruments located in
two countries: the SHRIMP (Sensitive High Resolution Ion MicroProbe)
operated by Stanford and the U.S. Geological Survey; and the N-TIMS
(Negative-Thermal Ionization Mass Spectroscope) at the University of
Copenhagen in Denmark.

"These are cutting-edge technologies," observed University of
California-Santa Cruz scientist Quentin Williams, an expert on the geology
of the inner Earth. "These types of osmium grains are harder than the devil
to find. I'm quite impressed that they found some."

The SHRIMP and N-TIMS analyses revealed that osmium isotope levels in the
California-Oregon rocks are remarkably similar to those in the lava samples
from Hawaii and Siberia. A likely explanation is that all of the samples
came from hotspots located at the core-mantle boundary, according to

"All of these sites -- from Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific to Asia to
North America -- show grossly similar osmium isotope characteristics,"
Williams concluded. "Therefore, they are actually a signature of the Earth's

Meibom and Frei were more cautious, noting that reservoirs of osmium
isotopes could exist higher in the mantle. Their findings also rekindled a
long-standing dispute between geochemists, who believe that rare osmium
isotopes must have been established in the liquid outer core as the solid
inner core was forming when Earth was less than 100 million years old, and
geophysicists, who maintain that the inner core formed much later.

"We've never had a sample of the core and we never will," Williams noted.
"The best we can hope for results like these: a geochemical hint of the
core's perfume -- a faint scent of the core, if you will."


>From Andrew Yee <>

Carnegie Institution of Washington
Washington, D.C.

Steve Desch

Tina McDowell, Carnegie Publications Office

Kathleen Burton, NASA Ames Research Center Public Affairs Office



The search for Earths around other stars is one of the most pressing
questions in astrophysics today. To home in on what conditions are necessary
for Earth-like bodies to form, however, scientists must first solve the
mystery of how our own Earth arose. The formation of the dominant
constituent of meteorites -- tiny, millimeter-sized spheres of melted
silicate rock called chondrules -- may hold the clue to this puzzle. A new
model published in this month's journal,
Meteoritics and Planetary Science, by Dr. Steven J. Desch of the Carnegie
Institution of Washington's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and a member
of NASA's Astrobiology Institute, and Dr. Harold C. Connolly, Jr., of
CUNY-Kingsborough College in Brooklyn, NY, represents a huge step in
understanding chondrule formation and thus what went on in our early solar
system. And it answers a series of problems that have plagued theoreticians
for years. The model determines how chondrules melted as they passed through
shock waves in the solar nebula gas. As chondrules melted, they changed from
fluffy dust to round, compact spheres, altering their aerodynamic
properties, and enabling the growth of larger bodies. Because shocks would
melt chondrules early in the solar nebula's evolution, the results are
consistent with the common idea that chondrule formation was a prerequisite
to the formation of planets in general.

"This model may be the key that unlocks the secrets of the meteorites," says
Desch. "It is the first model detailed enough to be tested against the
meteoritic data, and so far it has passed every test. At the same time, it
is providing a physical context for all that meteoritic data, and is giving
us fresh insight about chondrule formation."

Researchers have long thought that the interstellar dust coagulated to form
the planets, but they have not understood what the physical conditions were
that led to centimeter-sized particles sticking together in the first place.
Without understanding the origin of chondrules, the data-rich meteoritic
record could not be used to assess the probability of Earth forming, which
is essential information in the search for other life-bearing planets.

"Astrobiology is about the progression from planetary 'building blocks'
through the formation of planets, their habitability, and the origin and
evolution of life," adds Dr. Rosalind Grymes, Associate Director of the NASA
Astrobiology Institute, a research consortium that provided funding for the
study. "This work is at the early end of that progression, and is
fundamental to understanding life on Earth, and life beyond Earth."

Meteoriticists have determined a wide body of rules that models of chondrule
melting must obey. For instance, scientists know that chondrules reached
peak temperatures of 1800 to 2100 K for several minutes; that they almost
melted completely; and that they cooled through crystallization temperatures
of 1400 to 1800 K at rates slower than 100 K/hr, which kept them hot for
hours. To prevent the loss of iron from the silicate melt, pressures had to
be high -- greater than 0.001 atm -- which is orders of magnitude higher
than the expected pressures in the nebula. A few percent of the chondrules
stuck together while still hot and plastic. These "compound
chondrules" tend to be more completely melted and to have cooled faster than
the average chondrule. Satisfying all of these conditions simultaneously has
been a challenge to theorists. In a 1996 review article by Alan Boss of the
Carnegie Institution of Washington, nine possible mechanisms were reviewed,
including lightning, shock waves, and asteroid impacts. More recently, the
"X-wind" model has been introduced by Dr. Frank Shu of UC Berkeley, in which
chondrules are melted near the protoSun. Even melting by a nearby gamma-ray
burst has been considered. None of these ideas, however, has been developed
to the point to calculate cooling rates precisely enough to match what is
known about meteorites.

The model proposed by Desch and Connolly is the most detailed physical model
yet of chondrule melting by any mechanism. It exactly correlates the cooling
rates of chondrules -- a key meteoritic constraint -- with physical
conditions in the solar nebula. The model includes several
previously ignored effects, such as dissociation of the hydrogen gas by the
shock wave, the presence of dust, and especially a precise treatment of the
transfer of radiation through the gas, dust, and chondrules. According to
the model, chondrules experience their peak heating immediately after
passing through the shock front. Even though the gas is slowed almost
instantaneously, the chondrules continue to move at supersonic speeds for
minutes until friction slows them down. During this stage, chondrules emit intense infrared
radiation. This radiation is absorbed by chondrules that haven't reached the
shock front yet, and by chondrules that have already passed through it. This
transfer of radiation is important to be calculated accurately, since the
gas and chondrules cool only as fast as they can escape the intense infrared
radiation coming from the shock front. With this effect included, typical
cooling rates are 50 K/hr, which is exactly in line with what is known about
the average chondrule. Moreover, Desch and Connolly predict a correlation
with the density of chondrules: regions with more chondrules than average
will produce chondrules that are more completely melted and cooled faster.
This is because in dense regions radiation from the shock front cannot
propagate as far before being absorbed and chondrules can escape the
radiation from the shock front more rapidly. Compound chondrules are
overwhelmingly produced in regions with high chondrule densities, so the
extra heating and faster cooling of compound chondrules is easily explained
by this shock model. Since the time a chondrule spends in a semi-melted,
plastic state is also calculated by the model, even the frequency of
compound chondrules can be determined -- it is on the order of a percent,
satisfying another key constraint. Finally to satisfy another condition,
shocks compress the gas to pressures orders of magnitude higher than the
ambient pressure.

The source of the shock waves is not specified by Desch and Connolly, but
they do identify gravitational instabilities as a likely candidate, assuming
the solar nebula protoplanetary disk was massive enough. And there are sound
theoretical reasons for believing it was. More importantly, observations of
other protoplanetary disks in which planets are forming today indicate that
sufficiently massive disks may be common. If shock waves triggered by gravitational
instabilities are taking place in other protoplanetary disks, then the odds
of chondrules melting and planets forming, including Earths around other
stars are greatly increased.

Andrew Carnegie founded Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1902. Today,
the institution operates five research centers: the Department of Embryology
in Baltimore; the Department of Plant Biology in Stanford, California; the
Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and the Geophysical Laboratory, both in
Washington, D.C.; and the Carnegie Observatories, based in Pasadena,
California with principal observing location at the institution's Las
Campanas Observatory, Chile. Carnegie is a member of, and receives research
funding for this study and other efforts, through the NASA Astrobiology
Institute (NAI), a research consortium involving academic, nonprofit, and
NASA centers. The NAI, whose central administrative office is located at
NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA, is led by Dr. Baruch
Blumberg (Nobel '76). The institute also has international affiliate and
associate members. For more information see
Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future
of life in the universe. For more information about the Carnegie
institution, see the web site



>From Jiri Borovicka <>

Dear Benny,

I am sending you information provided by my colleague Pavel Spurny on a
recent bright fireball in Europe. This observation brings significant item
to the discussion on the existence of meteorite streams and may be of
interest to the readers of CCNet.


Jiri Borovicka

The April 6, 2002 fireball

A very bright fireball illuminated large territory of Western Austria and
Southern Bavaria on Saturday evening, April 6 at 22:20:18 local time
(UT+2h). The fireball was observed by many casual witnesses over the
territory of almost whole Central Europe, but most observations were
reported from Bavaria and Western Austria. Except of numerous visual
observations, the fireball was recorded by several kinds of scientific
instruments. The most important records were obtained by the systematic
long-term observational photographic program - the European Fireball Network
(EN). The records were taken at 5 German, one Czech and one Austrian station
of the EN. Each of these stations is equipped with one all-sky camera, which
is open whole night and whole sky is photographed on one image. The German
and Austrian stations are equipped with mirror all-sky cameras and are
operated by the German Aerospace Center DLR, Berlin. The Czech stations of
the EN are equipped with very precise Zeiss Distagon fish-eye objectives and
are operated by the Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the
Czech Republic, Ondrejov. Most Czech stations had cloudy skies on April 6,
however. The photographic records are most important for exact determination
of the fireball atmospheric trajectory, including prediction of meteorite
impact area and derivation of heliocentric orbit. In addition to these
photographic data, the fireball was recorded by three radiometric systems
placed in the Czech Republic at Ondrejov Observatory and Kunzak station,
which gives us basic information about light curve and maximum brightness of
the fireball and about exact time of the event. Furthermore the fireball was
recorded by at least at two infrasound stations, one located at Freyung,
Germany (see and second at Deelen, The
Netherlands (see and
also at several seismic stations from Austria, Southern Germany and

All data presented below are based only on above-mentioned photographic and
radiometric data recorded within the EN observing program and are very close
to final values. All records were measured, reduced and all computations
were performed at the Ondrejov Observatory, the headquarters of the European
Fireball Network.

The fireball started its almost 92 km long luminous trajectory at an
altitude of 85.6 km about 15 km NE from Innsbruck, Austria (longitude 11.564
deg E, latitude 47.304 deg N). Maximum brightness of about -18 absolute
magnitude was reached in a bright flare at a height of 21 km near
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (longitude 10.91 deg E, latitude 47.51 deg
N). The fireball terminated at an altitude of only 15.8 km about 20 km W
from Ga-Pa (longitude 10.85 deg E, latitude 47.53 deg N). Such deep
penetration of a fireball is very scarce and this fireball belongs to the
deepest ever-photographed fireballs in the history. It also implicates, that
some part of the initial mass survived the ablation processes in the
atmosphere and landed on the ground as meteorites. The slope of the
atmospheric trajectory to the Earth's surface was 49.5 degrees. The fireball
entered the atmosphere with the velocity of 20.9 km/s and during its flight
substantially decelerated to the final value of only 4 km/s, when ablation
process was stopped. According to the dynamic behavior in the atmosphere
this fireball belongs to the fireball type I, which is usually identified
with stony material, mostly ordinary chondrites. The initial dynamic mass of
the entering meteoroid was about 500 kg and most of this mass was ablated and only
about 30 kg of total mass could land on the ground in several fragments. The impact
area is relatively large, it is at least several kilometers long and about 1
km wide. The main fragments will lie eastwards from Schwangau, Germany.
Smaller fragments could be found also around the Austria-Germany border
westwards from Ga-Pa. The whole area is located in high mountains (the
Alps), which is unfortunately very unfavorable for any systematic search.

>From the exact time of the fireball occurrence, its initial velocity, and
the position of the radiant, we computed the heliocentric orbit. We found
that the body, before its collision with Earth, orbited the Sun on an
elliptic orbit defined by the following orbital elements: semimajor axis 2.4
AU, eccentricity 0.67, perihelion distance 0.79 AU, argument of perihelion
241.4 degrees, longitude of ascending node 16.8 degrees and inclination 11.4
degrees. Such kind of heliocentric orbit is quite usual for fireballs which
penetrate very deep into the Earth's atmosphere and which can produce
meteorites. The aphelion of these orbits lies in the main belt of Asteroids
and therefore the asteroidal origin of these bodies is inferred. However,
the heliocentric orbit of this fireball has one very significant
exceptionality: we found that this orbit is the same as the orbit of the
first photographed meteorite fall in the history -
the Pribram meteorite fall on April 7, 1959. Both orbits are so close that
there is no doubt that both bodies have the same origin. It is very
important evidence for the existence of asteroidal streams and meteorite
streams as suggested earlier by Halliday and others. From observations of
both bolides we know that both bodies were far from each other in the orbit
(probably about half of the period) when the Pribram collided with the
Earth. It implies that many such bodies have to be on this orbit, because it
is fantastic chance to photograph two meteorite falls from the same orbit on
practically the same territory within only 43 years! It also substantiates
why it is important to operate such long term observing program as the
European Fireball Network is.

Finally, from the perfect similarity of both heliocentric orbits we can
predicate, that both bodies had also the same composition and therefore we
can expect that meteorites produced by the April 6 fireball are H5 ordinary

Pavel Spurny
Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences
Ondrejov Observatory
The Czech Republic

(10) DARK OBJECTS ....

>From Duncan Steel <>

Dear Benny,

Bob Kobres kindly wrote some appreciative things about my ideas on dark
solar-transiting objects, but he began:

"With regard to objects crossing the Sun's disk, I favor Duncan's notion
that these are generally objects within Earth's atmosphere. "

I don't think that: I believe there are close by the Earth, but certainly
outside the atmosphere. The transit times observed for the dark objects are
not consistent with atmospheric phenomena.

The HEOS-2 data (see H. Fechtig in Comets, ed. L.Wilkening, 1982) indicate
dust swarms within ten Earth radii (circa 60,000 km) only, and not further
out; the perigee of HEOS-2 was near 5,000 km. These dust swarms I associate
with the observed dark objects. Fechtig and colleagues suggested they are
due to the break-up of small cometary fragments (masses up to 1 tonne) due
to electrostatic charging as the Earth is approached. I believe that the
optical phenomenon in question consists of such short-lived swarms being
seen as they appear to cross the Sun, having dispersed to some extent so as
to block an appreciable amount of sunlight in a small area.

Duncan Steel


>From Robert D Brown  < >
Dear Benny,

On April 17th you published my abstract relating to the Hawaiian impact at
the time of the KT extinction (Hawaii: Tombstone of the Dinosaurs).  On
April 18th Hermann Burchard <> responded that
my thesis is disproved because the Detroit Seamount has been dated as being
no less than 80 Ma.

H. Burchard would be correct were it shown that the Detroit Seamount
actually forms a portion of the Hawaiian Emperor Chain (HEC), which it
appears not to be (
Both Detroit and Meiji display the isotopic signature of common MORB.
Keller et al (see below) speculate that the isotopic signatures found at
Detroit and Meiji may be explained if the Hawaiian hotspot resided close to
a MOR at ~80 Ma, and cite J. Mammerickx, J. &  G.F. Sharman's paper
(Tectonic Evolution of the North Pacific During the Cretaceous Quiet Period.
J. Geophys. Res. 93, 3009-3024 (1988)).   When one goes to the Mammerickx
and Sharman paper, however, one finds that the Hawaiian hotspot was more
than a thousand kilometers away from any  spreading ridge identified in
their work.  The distance is even greater when one recognizes that the
Hawaiian hotspot only arrived at its present location circa 43 Ma and was
much further north during earlier times
(  Keller
et al cite four other references to indicate how hot spot magmas can be
modified by proximity to MOR's but then proceed to demonstrate the complete
absence of any "modification" from MORB characteristics in the case of the
Detroit samples.  To quote their own work, the Detroit isotopic signatures
are entirely "unprecedented in the known volcanism from the Hawaiian
hotspot,..." which, I believe should have been the final conclusion of their
paper.  I would strongly encourage interested readers to examine the
detailed seafloor images at and at so that they can see
for themselves that Detroit and Meiji ride atop a standard oceanic ridge
that runs roughly parallel to and south of the Aleutian Chain, a reality
that readily explains their  measured isotopic composition(s).

As such, I stand by my thesis that the Hawaiian hotspot is an impact site
that justly deserves the epitaph: "Tombstone of the Dinosaurs".


Robert D. Brown

When a mantle plume interacts with a mid-ocean ridge (MOR), both features
are noticeably affected. The MOR can display anomalously shallow bathymetry,
excess volcanism, thick crust, asymmetric seafloor spreading, and a plume
component in the composition of the ridge basalts1-4. The hotspot-related
volcanism can be drawn closer to the ridge, and its geochemical composition
can be affected as well3,5-7. Sr-Nd-Pb isotopic analyses of samples from the
next-to-oldest seamount in the Hawaiian hotspot track (Detroit seamount at
51°N; Fig. 1) show that 81 m.y. ago the Hawaiian hotspot produced volcanism
with an isotopic signature indistinguishable from mid-ocean ridge basalt
(MORB). This is unprecedented in the known volcanism from the Hawaiian
hotspot, but is consistent with the interpretation from plate
reconstructions8 that the hotspot was located close to a MOR at ~80 Ma. As
the rising mantle plume encountered the hot, low-viscosity asthenosphere and
hot, thin lithosphere near the spreading center, it entrained enough of the
isotopically depleted upper mantle to overwhelm the chemical characteristics
of the plume. The Hawaiian hotspot thus joins the growing list of major
hotspots that early in their history have interacted with a rift.


>From Bob Kobres <>

In CCNet 49/2002 - 17 April 2002 Jon Giorgini stated:

>Some might argue mitigation can be left to the future. This assumes a
>uniform progression of technology. Others might note that although Apollo
>landed on the Moon several times 30 years ago, there is no longer the
>infrastructure and will to do something similar in the present. Things are
>not always "onward and upward".

How true! The sad thing is that all that is required to mitigate the threat
of future violent accretion events is to accelerate the industrial
development of Space, as I suggested some time back:

Unfortunately the development of resources in Space is not a high priority
of corporate capitalism--it would require high upfront expenditures and
could also lead to price declines in materials scarce on Earth but more
common and easier to exploit in Space.  As we recently learned, Kennedy was
not interested in getting to the Moon for the sake of enhancing human
knowledge or advantage; his concern was rather that Americans beat the
Russians there.  The basic sentiments of John F. Kennedy are likely to be still
dominant among individuals who currently possess the political or pecuniary power to
determine what will or won't be funded.

One recent Space development proposal that should be of interest to this
group involves using the  Moon as a Solar Power collector:


Getting power from the moon

If a physicist in Houston has his way you'll be able to say good-bye to
pollution-causing energy production from fossil fuels. In the April/May
issue of The Industrial Physicist Dr. David Criswell suggests that the Earth
could be getting all of the electricity it needs using solar cells - on the

In the article Criswell proposes a Lunar Solar Power (LSP) System, using
arrays of solar cells on the lunar surface to beam energy back to Earth.
Criswell estimates that the 10 billion people living on Earth in 2050 will
require 20 Terrawatts (TW) of power. The Moon receives 13,000 TW of power
from the sun. Criswell suggests that harnessing just 1% of the solar power
and directing it toward Earth could replace fossil fuel power plants on

"The lunar operations are primarily industrial engineering," says Criswell.
He and Dr, Robert Waldron first described LSP in 1984 at a NASA symposium on
Lunar Bases and Space Activities in the 21st Century. "Adequate knowledge of
the moon and practical technologies have been available since the late
1970's to collect this power and beam it to Earth. The system can be built
on the moon from lunar materials and operated on the moon and on Earth using
existing technologies," reducing the expenses associated with transporting
materials to the moon. He adds that LSP would be even cheaper if parts of
the production machinery are designed to be made of lunar materials.

The LSP system consists of 20-40 lunar power bases, situated on the eastern
and western edges of the moon, as seen from Earth. Each power base has a
series of solar cells to collect energy from the sun, which is sent over
buried electric wires to microwave generators that convert the solar
electricity to microwaves. The generators then send the energy to screens
that reflect the microwave beams toward Earth, where they are received by
arrays of special antennas strategically placed about the globe. "Each
antenna converts the microwave power to electricity that is fed into the
local power grid," says Criswell.

"LSP is probably the only option for powering a prosperous world within the
21st century," says Criswell. "However, it does require a return to the
moon." The system depends on some human occupation of the moon to build and
run the lunar bases, but Criswell also sees this as an opportunity. "Once we
are back and operating at large scale then going down the various learning
curves will make traveling to the moon and working there 'routine."

For more information: Rory Richards, (301) 209-3088,
The Industrial Physicist:
David Criswell
University of Houston, Director of the Institute for Space Systems Operation


>From Ananova, 17 April 2002
A 2,000-year-old undelivered letter has been discovered amid ancient Chinese

The letter has provided evidence of China's oldest post office at the
Xuanquanzhi Ruins in the north-west province of Gansu.

The letter, written on silk, was being sent by a friend in the remote
western region to an inland area of China.

The site where it was found is located near the famous Dunhuang Mogao
Grottos, on the ancient Silk Road.

The Straits Times, reporting the Xinhua news agency, says the writer
described life as hard and asked his friend to buy him some goods.

Archaeologists say it is the most well-preserved letter from the Han Dynasty
(206BC to 220AD) ever found.

Copyright 2002, Ananova

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"Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National
Laboratory are studying a simple, cost effective method for
extracting carbon dioxide directly from the air -- which could allow
sustained use of fossil fuels while avoiding
potential global climate change."
--Los Alamos National Laboratory

"In short, Pomerance calls on the world to act now on global warming
and that even more than the Kyoto Protocol must be done in the future
to avert catastrophe. Lomborg urges the world to act now to fight
poverty and reject costly schemes, such as severe carbon emission
restrictions (a la Kyoto), that provide very little benefit in the near term
and are inefficient means to the end of alleviating suffering for
the poorest members of society."
--Duane D. Freese, Tech Central Station

    Andrew Yee <>

    World Climate Report, 4 April 2002

    The Times, 18 April 2002

    CO2 Science Magazine, 17 April 2002

    Andrew Yee <>

    Tech Central Station, 9 April 2002

    Michael Paine <>


>From Andrew Yee <>

Los Alamos National Laboratory

James Rickman,, (505) 665-9203


Imagine no restrictions on fossil-fuel usage and no global warming!

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., April 9, 2002 -- Researchers at the U.S. Department of
Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory are studying a simple, cost
effective method for extracting carbon dioxide directly from the air --
which could allow sustained use of fossil fuels while avoiding
potential global climate change.

The method would allow researchers to harvest carbon dioxide from the air,
reducing buildup of the so-called "greenhouse gas" in the atmosphere and
allowing it to be converted into fuel. A Los Alamos-led research team today
presented the topic at the 223rd annual meeting of the American Chemical
Society in Orlando, Fla.

"Fossil fuel supplies are plentiful, and what will limit the usage of fossil
fuels is the potential climatic and ecosystem changes you may see as a
result of rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere," said Los Alamos researcher
Manvendra Dubey. "If you can capture atmospheric
carbon dioxide, then you limit the environmental impact of fossil fuels and
you can continue to use them. We have come up with a way to capture and
sequester the carbon dioxide that we are putting in the atmosphere. Our
approach is particularly well suited to capturing CO2 from numerous small
sources such as automobiles that are largely being ignored."

While many scientists are working on capturing or sequestering carbon, Dubey
and his colleagues' method differs because it works on a dilute stream of
CO2 in the atmosphere as opposed to capturing more concentrated forms found
in power plant exhausts. The method uses ordinary air with its average
carbon dioxide concentration of about 370 parts per million.

It utilizes the wind and natural atmospheric mixing to transport CO2 to a
removal site, and it is the only means available to capture CO2 generated
from transportation sources and small, dispersed sources that account for
nearly half of all carbon dioxide emissions.

The air is passed over an extraction agent, for example a solution of
quicklime, the active agent in some cement. As the air passes over the
extraction structure, the carbon dioxide in the air reacts with the
quicklime and becomes converted to calcium carbonate (limestone), a solid
that forms and falls to the bottom of the extractor.

The calcium carbonate is then heated to yield pure carbon dioxide and
quicklime, which is recycled back into the extractor. The purified and
liberated carbon dioxide can then be sequestered as a gas by direct
injection into the ground or it could be reacted with minerals to form a
solid. Carbon dioxide gas also can be sold commercially to the petrochemical
industry, which uses large quantities of it to extract fossil fuels. Of
course, because the process uses existing air, it does not need to be
located near any particular elevated source of carbon dioxide. It captures
carbon dioxide from all sources by harnessing wind as a no-cost
transportation vector.

"The carbon dioxide comes to the facility on its own," Dubey said. "And
because treated air is discharged, the overall concentration of carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere gradually decreases over time. Using this method
on a large enough scale, it may be possible to return atmospheric carbon
dioxide levels to pre-Industrial-Age concentrations. Given the possibility
our climate system can change abruptly, this possibility is very exciting."

Cost of the entire process is equivalent to about 20 cents per gallon of
gasoline -- a nominal cost when one considers the recent price fluctuations
at gasoline pumps across the nation, Dubey said.

A typical extraction facility that could extract all current carbon dioxide
emissions would require only an area of one square yard per person in the
developed world. A facility of sufficient size could be located in arid
regions, since discharged air that is deficient in carbon dioxide could have
consequences on nearby plant life.

Large expanses of desert would not be affected by the CO2 deficit however,
and could provide the wide-open spaces necessary both for the facility and
to allow the discharged air to become well mixed with the atmosphere again.

The next step for Dubey and his colleagues is to use intense computer models
to optimize the configuration of the extractor as well as design alternative
chemicals for extraction.

Dubey's research colleagues include Hans Ziock, Scott Elliott and William S.
Smith of Los Alamos; Klaus Lackner, formerly of Los Alamos and now also at
Columbia University; and Pat Grimes of
Grimes Associates of Scotch Plains, N.J.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of California
for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the U.S.
Department of Energy and works in partnership with NNSA's Sandia and
Lawrence Livermore national laboratories to support NNSA in its mission.

Los Alamos enhances global security by ensuring the safety and reliability
of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats
from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy,
environment, infrastructure, health and national security concerns.


>From World Climate Report, 4 April 2002

Prior editions of Virtual Climate Alert concern the southern Pacific Ocean
atoll nation known as Tuvalu and what is happening there as a consequence of
reputed sea level rise triggered by global warming (see and Tuvalu's Prime
Minister is attempting to build international support for an effort to
rescue his citizenry by declaring them to be environmental refugees from the
effects of global warming and asked Australia and New Zealand to provide
refuge. His case is eroding faster than the atolls' beaches as the world
scientific community takes a closer look.

Associated Press reports that researchers from Australia's National Tidal
Facility mounted an expedition to Tuvalu where they discovered that tidal
cycles are responsible for the pools of water that rise in the center of the
islands and flood low-lying areas. Bill Mitchell, head of NTF's research,
tells AP, "It's not as a result of global warming, but it looks like it's a
physical characteristic of the atolls which is probably related to unusual
tidal movements."

Other factors may be at work. This from CIA World Factbook on Tuvalu, under
Environment-current issues

"Since there are no streams or rivers and groundwater is not potable, most
water needs must be met by catchment systems with storage facilities (the
Japanese Government has built one desalination plant and plans to build one
other); beachhead erosion because of the use of sand for building materials;
excessive clearance of forest undergrowth for use as fuel; damage to coral
reefs from the spread of the Crown of Thorns starfish; Tuvalu is very
concerned about global increases in greenhouse gas emissions and their
effect on rising sea levels, which threaten the country's underground water

We've already reported on French research using Topex satellite data that
reveals seas around Tuvalu are receding, not rising.

If the chocks are kicked out from under the convoluted argument that human
industrial activity is triggering global warming, which is melting ice caps
and glaciers, which causes sea level to rise, the human source of Tuvalu's
plight appears to be much closer to home. Such a contrarian notion surely
was the source of U.S chief climate negotiator Harlan Watson's nonplussed
demeanor when, on a recent trip to Australia, he was confronted by the
threat of lawsuit by Tuvalu against the United States and Australia for
their failure to support the Kyoto Protocol. His response? "The overall
temperature of the Earth has been warming for the last 10,000-plus
years...Kyoto will not slow that down one whit," he told reporters. "I would
say to them [the Tuvalu government] that if they do have a problem with sea
levels rising, Kyoto will not stop that." To the chagrin of Tuvalu's
champions in the environmental community and world press, there is
additional evidence that he is right.


>From The Times, 18 April 2002,,2-270173,00.html

By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent
THE world will become up to 1.3C (2.3F) warmer over the next three decades,
according to a new 30-year forecast of climate change prepared by British

The weather projection, by Peter Stott of the Meteorological Office and
Jamie Kettleborough of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot,
Oxfordshire, indicates that the global mean temperature in the decade from
2020 to 2030 will be between 0.3C and 1.3C greater than they were between
1990 and 2000.

While the figures do not look large, the total warming effect seen during
the entire 20th century was just 0.6C, and the predicted rise would have
profound consequences for agriculture and sea levels around the world.

The new figures, details of which are published in Nature, are consistent
with a 100-year Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast, which
predicts a rise of between 1.4C and 5.8C by 2100.

The research, however, is the first short-term bulletin on global
temperature changes, and will be much more useful to governments in planning
to mitigate climate change and deal with its effects.

It is supported by the findings of a separate research team, led by Thomas
Stocker of the University of Berne in Switzerland, which suggests a probable
warming of between 0.5C and 1.1C over the same period. Francis Zwiers, of
the University of Victoria in Canada, said it was an important contribution
to the science of climate change.
Copyright 2002, The Times


>From CO2 Science Magazine, 17 April 2002

D'Odorico, P., Yoo, J-C. and Jaeger, S. 2002. Changing seasons: An effect of
the North Atlantic Oscillation?  Journal of Climate 15: 435-445.

What was done
The authors begin by noting there is "a strong variability in the timing of
seasons in Europe, which is perceived as a signal of a global climate
change."  Hence - and in the sound scientific tradition of exploring all
possibilities - they investigate an alternative hypothesis, i.e., the idea
that earlier onsets of the growing season in Europe are due to warmer
winters that are associated with a change in the phase of the North Atlantic
Oscillation (NAO), which is a large-scale displacement of air mass between
the subarctic and the subtropical regions of the North Atlantic Ocean that
is described by an index defined as the difference between the normalized
air pressure anomaly at Gibraltar and Reykjavik, Iceland.  To accomplish
this task, the authors determined the NAO index dependency of the dates of
first leafing and blooming in a number of different plants, the time of
pollen season initiation, and the beginning dates of ice breakup on several

What was learned
In the words of the authors, "spring phenology in Europe is found to be
significantly affected by the North Atlantic Oscillation," with high-NAO
(warm) winters hastening the occurrence of spring phenophases (budburst and
bloom) as well as the production, release, dispersal and transport of
pollen.  In fact, they described the relationship between the dependence of
the onset of the pollen season on the phases of the NAO as nothing short of
"remarkable."  They also found "a significant degree of dependence between
NAO and spring cryophenology in northern-central Europe," with high-NAO
phases characterized by warm winters leading to earlier dates of ice

What it means
Although the authors never return to the question of whether recent
phenology changes in Europe have anything to do with global warming -
probably because they have no basis for doing so - they conclude that
changes in the NAO largely explain "both the high- and the low-frequency
variability of plant phenology."  And if that can be done, there's not much
need to invoke anything else.

Copyright © 2002.  Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change


>From Andrew Yee <>

Office of Public Information
Eberly College of Science
Pennsylvania State University

Eric Post: or +1-814-865-1556
Barbara Kennedy (PIO): or +1-814-863-4682.

17 April 2002

Extensive Research Survey Confirms Life on Earth Now Being Affected by
Global Warming

University Park, PA -- A comprehensive summary has revealed, for the first
time, the dramatic extent of disruptions now being experienced by Earth's
species as a result of global warming. The extensive report compiles the
results of over 100 research studies on the effects that recent climate
changes have had on animals and plants throughout the world. An
international team of researchers -- including Eric Post, assistant
professor of biology at Penn State, and others at
institutions in Australia, France, Germany, Texas, and the United Kingdom --
published the study in the 28 March 2002 edition of the journal Nature.

"We tried to provide the biggest possible picture of what is now happening
to the world's species," Post says. "I believe this is the first attempt to
integrate the responses of such a large number of species and so many levels
of responses to climate changes around the globe."

Post says the researchers were somewhat surprised, as the results of the
study unfolded before their eyes, to see the extent of the evidence for the
impact of Earth's changing climate on species worldwide. "That anyone can
question whether living things are being affected by climate change now
seems incredibly dubious itself," he says.

The local-to-global focus of the study ranges from how climate changes are
affecting individual animals and plants, such as in the timing of migration,
breeding, or plant flowering; to local populations of the same species; to
communities of species and their interactions within
a single habitat; to major redistributions of assemblages of species within
entire ecosystems.

"All the major biomes on Earth have been affected by a temperature increase
of just a little more than half a degree Celsius -- most of which has
occurred during the last two decades," says Post, who describes this
increase as comparable to the warming that occurs from about 8:00 to 9:30 on
a typical spring morning. "That such a small change has had such an
extensive effect is alarming when you consider that even conservative
estimates predict the climate will heat up at least two or three degrees

The scientists found that, partly because global climate change is highly
variable throughout the world, it is affecting different species and
different locations in different ways. Some species have thrived while
others in the same location have been devastated, while others do not yet
seem to be greatly affected.

Robins in the Colorado Rockies, for example, who migrate to higher altitudes
when climate signals tell them the spring breeding season has arrived, are
finding that it is still winter at their higher-elevation breeding sites.
"The climate is warming earlier at lower elevations in the Rockies, but at
higher elevations the thick winter snow has not yet melted so the robins
can't get to the worms and other invertebrates that are their major food
source," Post says. "We can expect to see mass deaths in some populations,
or years when very few young survive into adulthood."

The researchers also found that early-blooming species of plants now are
blooming earlier in the spring, effectively lengthening their blooming
period. "An analysis of 50 years of data from Norway on 13 plant species in
137 locations revealed changes directly related to climate in 71 percent of
the total, with early-blooming and herbaceous species showing greater
reactions to winter warming than late-blooming and woody plants," Post says.

The study also points out that climate change has an immediate effect on
certain species but a delayed, and possibly stronger, effect on others. "We
are seeing a direct and immediate correlation with warming temperatures in
the first springtime sightings of butterflies, for example, which have a
short lifespan and whose transition from larvae to adult is closely related
to temperature," Post says. "Large mammals, in contrast, carry throughout
their longer lifetimes the effect of climate conditions that prevailed since
they were born, affecting their lives in more complicated ways."

The study suggests that some species now could become invasive pests when
introduced to new locations -- inadvertently or intentionally -- by humans.
Whereas a century ago a species might not have been able to survive in a
given location, that same species might thrive there today if climate
changes have made the location more suitable for that species. "Although
ecologists have a really good grasp on how abiotic factors like temperature
and rainfall influence life processes for individuals and entire populations
-- like the timing of reproduction and its effect on the survival of
offspring -- it is difficult to predict the effect of climate change on
certain species in specific areas because nobody can predict exactly how the
climate will change there."

The study reveals that sudden climate events that have an extreme local
effect can have significant consequences for groups of local species. "We
are seeing evidence in the Sonoran Desert in the Southwestern United States,
for example, that just one extreme El Nino event can send a ripple through
the biological community, tipping the ecological balance a little bit in
favor of one species over another, which can result in a whole new assemblage of species,"
Post says. When there is a major redistribution of groups of species as a
result of environmental change, some species do well and some don't. "If the
frequency of extreme climate events is increasing, as some suspect it is,
that adds another very unpredictable factor when we try to foresee the
ecological future at a specific location."

Another species the researchers describe is the North Sea cod, which is the
foundation of a number of economies, an important food source, and a species
whose future many people would like to be able to predict. "Climate-related
stresses are exacerbated for this species by the additional stress of
intense commercial fishing. Each stress independently decreases the
probability that a juvenile cod will live to adulthood," Post says. "When
people put very intense stresses on an animal population that also is
experiencing environmental stresses, it is very difficult to tell how the
two will interact and the result is an almost impossible guessing game of
predicting whether the population will be pushed over a threshold beyond
which it cannot survive if environmental conditions suddenly change."

The scientists find it difficult to impossible to make predictions about the
how specific species at specific locations will fare at any point in the
future. "If climate temperatures increase suddenly instead of gradually, of
if we have one exceptionally unusual warm season, or if there is an
unforeseen sudden climate change, then past climate history would become
irrelevant as a tool for predicting what will happen in the future," Post
says. In addition, some ecological changes could be gradual until they reach
an unknown critical point, at which a sudden catastrophic event could occur.
"The recent disintegration of an ice shelf in Antarctica surprised everyone
because it broke apart so suddenly instead of melting gradually. If those
kind of break points exist elsewhere in ecology, we are on very thin ice in
trying to predict the future of living things on the basis of the past
history of the climate system," Post says.

"The complexity revealed by this research can be perplexing for government
policymakers and others who want reliable predictions to guide their
decisions," Post says. "Nevertheless, this complex picture reveals that we
need to study each location and each species and each set of local
population dynamics individually as we try to understand the effects of
climate change." For many years, a guiding principle of environmentalists
has been to "think globally, then act locally." Now, in the context of the Earth's
unpredictably changing climate, Post says "We have to think globally and study
locally before we will know how best to act locally -- we can't take any species
or any part of the Earth for granted."


>From Tech Central Station, 9 April 2002

By Duane D. Freese 04/09/2002 
Accept all but the most extreme environmentalists' claims about climate
change and you still come down to the question: What ought to be done about

That was the core of the debate Monday between Bjorn Lomborg, Danish
statistician and author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist," and Rafe
Pomerance, a former deputy assistant secretary of State for environmental
affairs under the Clinton administration and a co-author of the 1997 United
Nations' Kyoto Protocol for capping carbon emissions.

The event - "Kyoto: Costs vs. Benefits," sponsored by the AEI-Brookings
Joint Center for Regulatory Policy Studies and moderated by American
Enterprise Institute scholar and Tech Central Station host James Glassman -
drew a standing room only crowd, thanks to Lomborg. The former Greenpeace
member has become the target of pies in the face from scornful environmental
extremists for exposing exaggerations about environmental degradation and
calling for prioritizing environmental improvement by weighing policy costs
against benefits.

In the debate, Pomerance, now director of Americans for Equitable Climate
Solutions, argued that radiative forcing, primarily from carbon dioxide
(CO2) released by human fossil fuel use, was increasing and had the effect
of warming the planet, potentially triggering catastrophic problems in the

To combat future problems, Pomerance advocates reducing emissions. He favors
a system that provides a cap on carbon emissions and allows for trading
emissions credits among nations. Although he would put a cap on the price
that a country or industry would have to pay to keep costs from getting out
of line.

Lomborg accepted Pomerance's assertions about rising CO2 levels over the
next few decades leading to an increase in warming, but asked "What is going
to happen in the long run?"

He noted that developed nations likely would be better off from moderate
warming of 2 degrees C forecast in the UN's climate models over the 21st
century. Developing nations, however, would bear the brunt of the costs. And
meeting the emissions targets outlined in the Kyoto Protocol, he pointed
out, would delay the likely warming effects for just six years, he said.

Meanwhile, the precipitous action to curb emissions would yield benefits
valued at about $5 trillion over the century. But the curbs themselves would
cost much more than the benefits - anywhere from $4.5 trillion to as high as
$37 billion more depending on the severity of the carbon restrictions.

"For less than just one year of [the cost of] meeting Kyoto," Lomborg said
by way of comparing the costs involved, "we could provide clean water and
sanitation for all the developing world forever."

Furthermore, Lomborg wondered whether global warming might be a problem that
in time would take care of itself. He said price trends for renewable energy
- wind and water - were such that it was likely by mid-century that people
would be putting "much, much less carbon" into the air.

Lomborg said that modest carbon taxes designed to internalize the
environmental or security costs carbon emissions create might make sense. He
also said that the U.S. government might tweak renewable energy development
by increasing current spending of $200 million a year on it tenfold. But
heavy carbon taxes or other drastic measures would not be cost effective.

For his part, Pomerance said that a cap on prices paid for carbon emissions
permits could limit the costs of implementation, although he did not
estimate what effect that would have on global temperatures.

Some audience members, including S. Fred Singer of the non-profit Science &
Environmental Policy Project and Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise
Institute, questioned the underlying assumption of both Lomborg and
Pomerance that the climate is actually warming and that warming is bad.
Singer asked whether warming might actually increase human well-being.

Lomborg said he was accepting the models presented by the UN International
Panel on Climate Change (although imperfect and open to question) as the
best data available at present. Pomerance said the issue of concern was how
much warming, how fast. "What happens to be cool for Europe" at 2 degree C
won't be if temperatures warm much beyond that, he said.

But Lomborg believes that advances in technology will lead to a decline in
fossil fuel use over time, so less attention is needed to solving global
warming - which current technology won't permit now anyway. That would free
up more resources to improve the lot of billions of people in the developing
world now, he argues.

In short, Pomerance calls on the world to act now on global warming and that
even more than the Kyoto Protocol must be done in the future to avert
catastrophe. Lomborg urges the world to act now to fight poverty and reject
costly schemes, such as severe carbon emission restrictions (a la Kyoto),
that provide very little benefit in the near term and are inefficient means
to the end of alleviating suffering for the poorest members of society.

© 2002 Tech Central Station

>From Michael Paine <>

Dear Benny

Bjørn Lomborg has responded to the article in Scientific American



(this will be useful for our Bioastronomy paper since I would like to derive
a size and frequency of cosmic impact that would have a greater effect than
"routine" volcanic eruptions - i.e. above the background level of climate

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