CCNet TERRA 10/2002 - 12 November 2002

"Fresh evidence that the Biblical plagues and the parting of the Red
Sea were natural events rather than myths or miracles is to be
presented in a new BBC documentary. Moses, which will be broadcast next
month, will suggest that much of the Bible story can be explained by
a single natural disaster, a huge volcanic eruption on the Greek island of
Santorini in the 16th century BC."
--Jonathan Petre, The Daily Telegraph, 11 November 2002

"Forest fires have become a wildcard in the global-warming game. New
research shows that, under the right circumstances, they can emit carbon
dioxide at a rate to rival fossil-fuel emissions of the heat-trapping gas.
This is a factor that computer simulations of climate change cannot yet
take into account."  
  --Robert C. Cowen, The Christian Science Monitor, 7 November

"This just shows how intricate the climate system is. It's like a
ball of yarn all pushed together. It's difficult to unpiece the
climate or put together what might happen in the future when all
these things act together. One by itself may not be that important but when
thousands of these small things act together, then?"
--Sam Iacobellis and Robert Frouin, Scripps Institution of

"The steam appears to be running out of grandiose global
eco-summits. And even some environmentalists can be heard to sigh,
"Good riddance." Last week in New Delhi at the eighth United Nations
climate conference, developing countries stood against the European
Union's notion of climate control, essentially saying they prefer to put
their economic development first."
--Duane D. Freese, Tech Central Station, 6 November 2002

    The Daily Telegraph, 11 November 2002

    BBC h2g2

    The Observer, 10 November 2002

    Scripps News, 6 November 2002

    The Christian Science Monitor, 7 November 2002

    CO2 Science Magazine, 6 November 2002

    Tech Central Station, 6 November 2002

    The New York Times, 12 November 2002

    Tom Gehrels <>

     CNN, 11 November 2002


>From The Daily Telegraph, 11 November 2002

By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent

Fresh evidence that the Biblical plagues and the parting of the Red Sea were
natural events rather than myths or miracles is to be presented in a new BBC

Moses, which will be broadcast next month, will suggest that much of the
Bible story can be explained by a single natural disaster, a huge volcanic
eruption on the Greek island of Santorini in the 16th century BC.

Using computer-generated imagery pioneered in Walking With Dinosaurs, the
programme tells the story of how Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt after a
series of plagues had devastated the country. But it also uses new
scientific research to argue that many of the events surrounding the exodus
could have been triggered by the eruption, which would have been a thousand
times more powerful than a nuclear bomb.

Dr Daniel Stanley, an oceanographer who has found volcanic shards in Egypt
that he believes are linked to the explosion, tells the programme: "I think
it would have been a frightening experience. It would have been heard. The
blast ash would have been felt."

Computer simulations by Mike Rampino, a climate modeller [and CCNet member]
from New York University, show that the resulting ash cloud could have
plunged the area into darkness, as well as generating lightning and hail,
two of the 10 plagues.

The cloud could have also reduced the rainfall, causing a drought. If the
Nile had then been poisoned by the effects of the eruption, pollution could
have turned it red, as happened in a recent environmental disaster in

The same pollution could have driven millions of frogs on to the land, the
second plague. On land the frogs would die, removing the only obstacle to an
explosion of flies and lice - the third and fourth plagues.

The flies could have transmitted fatal diseases to cattle (the fifth plague)
and boils and blisters to humans (the sixth plague).

The hour-long documentary argues that even the story of the parting of the
Red Sea, which allowed Moses to lead the Hebrews to safety while the
pursuing Egyptian army was drowned, may have its origins in the eruption.

It repeats the theory that "Red Sea" is a mistranslation of the Sea of
Reeds, a much shallower swamp.

Computer simulations show that the Santorini eruption could have triggered a
600ft-high tidal wave, travelling at about 400 miles an hour, which would
have been 6ft high and a hundred miles long when it reached the Egyptian

Such an event would have been remembered for generations, and may have
provided the inspiration for the story.

Jean-Claude Bragard, the director, said: "Sifting through the latest
historical research and utilising new archaeological tools, we have been
able to find a surprising amount of circumstantial evidence for the Biblical

Moses, which is presented by Jeremy Bowen, the former Middle East
correspondent, will be broadcast on BBC1 on Dec 1.

Copyright 2002, The Daily Telegraph

>From BBC h2g2

The End of the Minoans

The Minoan civilisation on Crete came to a sudden end in the middle of the
2nd Millennium BC when all the Minoan palaces were burnt down and never
rebuilt. In 1939, Spyridion Marinatos, a Greek archaeologist, came up with
the theory that the eruption of Mount Thera brought about the end of the
Minoan Civilisation. At the time, the dates of the palace burning and the
eruption were not known very accurately. Marinatos's theory was that when
the mountain collapsed into the caldera, a giant wave would have been formed
which would struck the north coast of Crete, which is only 125km away. Since
most of the Cretan civilisation was along the coast, this would have been
destroyed. Looters then finished the job by burning what was left.

This theory is very popular and is often quoted in guidebooks about Crete.
Unfortunately for the theory, the dates of the two events are now known more
accurately. The burning of the Minoan palaces happened around 1450 BC. There
are two possible dates for the Minoan eruption, but they are both before
1600 BC. An analysis of tree growth rings sets the eruption at 1628 BC,
while counting the seasonal layers in cores of ice from the Greenland
ice-cap sets the date at 1645 BC. So the Minoan civilisation didn't fall
until nearly 200 years after the eruption.

A Single Eruption

Up to about 20 years ago, it was thought that the entire Santorini caldera
was formed in a single massive eruption. Examination of the remains of a
Minoan town which was covered by ash during the eruption show that parts of
it were built on the side of the cliffs going down into the caldera. This
shows that the caldera already existed in some form before the Minoan
eruption. Detailed geological studies of the rocks around the caldera have
shown a series of at least seven massive eruptions over the last 200,000
years, the Minoan one being the most recent.


Plato's story of Atlantis was intended to be a moral tale, illustrating
principles of ethics and politics. He described a tyrannical civilisation
which lived on an island 'beyond the pillars of Hercules'. The city in the
middle of the island was surrounded by a series of ringed walls. The whole
island of Atlantis collapsed into the sea.

There are definite parallels with Santorini here. We don't know exactly what
shape the island was before the eruption, but the present ring shape was
certainly there to some extent. If the ancient Minoans built a city on the
volcano in the middle, it would have been surrounded by at least one ring.
Perhaps remains of previous calderas made a few other rings. We have no way
of telling. While the island did not sink into the sea, the central part
certainly did.

But the phrase 'the Pillars of Hercules' normally means the Straits of
Gibraltar. In this view, Atlantis was situated in the Atlantic Ocean. In
fact, the Atlantic Ocean is named after the story of Atlantis. Proponents of
the 'Santorini is Atlantis' theory say that Plato set the tale in a far-off
place to make it hypothetical, allowing him free reign on the moral aspects.

There's not much more to say about this theory, but it has certainly struck
home with the tourists. You'll see references to Atlantis all over
Santorini, from the names of tavernas and bars to brands of wine.


The Bible describes in the book of Exodus the journey of the Israelites out
of Egypt to their promised land in Palestine. First the country of Egypt was
afflicted with ten plagues, including darkness, hail, frogs and dying
livestock. Then when the Israelites were crossing the desert, they were
shown the way by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
When they reached the Red Sea, the waters parted and they walked across. The
waters came together behind them, drowning the pursuing Egyptians.

Of course, every one of these divine manifestations can be attributed to the
eruption of Thera, and of course the theory does not stand up to scrutiny.
The column of pumice and ash above the volcano would indeed have looked like
a pillar of cloud during the day, but it is not in the right direction to
lead the tribes of Israel to the promised land. We are all familiar with the
eerie glow of lava coming from a volcano, but it is unlikely to have been
visible by night hundreds of kilometres away. Undoubtedly, Egypt was
showered with all sorts of debris during the eruption, but 'a plague of
frogs'? Unless the Minoans were in the business of farming frogs in a big
way, that's one plague that is not volcanic in origin. Seismic tremors in
the wake of the caldera formation can do strange things to the sea, and the
sea bed can become dry land temporarily, but not for the amount of time it
would take a crowd of one million people to cross.

Copyright 2002, BBC


>From The Observer, 10 November 2002,6903,837058,00.html

Robin McKie, science editor

Earth's magnetic field - the force that protects us from deadly radiation
bursts from outer space - is weakening dramatically.

Scientists have discovered that its strength has dropped precipitously over
the past two centuries and could disappear over the next 1,000 years.

The effects could be catastrophic. Powerful radiation bursts, which normally
never touch the atmosphere, would heat up its upper layers, triggering
climatic disruption. Navigation and communication satellites, Earth's eyes
and ears, would be destroyed and migrating animals left unable to navigate.

'Earth's magnetic field has disappeared many times before - as a prelude to
our magnetic poles flipping over, when north becomes south and vice versa,'
said Dr Alan Thomson of the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh.

'Reversals happen every 250,000 years or so, and as there has not been one
for almost a million years, we are due one soon.'

For more than 100 years, scientists have noted the strength of Earth's
magnetic field has been declining, but have disagreed about interpretations.
Some said its drop was a precursor to reversal, others argued it merely
indicated some temporary variation in field strength has been occurring.

But now Gauthier Hulot of the Paris Geophysical Institute has discovered
Earth's magnetic field seems to be disappearing most alarmingly near the
poles, a clear sign that a flip may soon take place.

Using satellite measurements of field variations over the past 20 years,
Hulot plotted the currents of molten iron that generate Earth's magnetism
deep underground and spotted huge whorls near the poles.

Hulot believes these vortices rotate in a direction that reinforces a
reverse magnetic field, and as they grow and proliferate these eddies will
weaken the dominant field: the first steps toward a new polarity, he says.

And as Scientific American reports this week, this interpretation has now
been backed up by computer simulation studies.

How long a reversal might last is a matter of scientific controversy,
however. Records of past events, embedded in iron minerals in ancient lava
beds, show some can last for thousands of years - during which time the
planet will have been exposed to batterings from solar radiation. On the
other hand, other researchers say some flips may have lasted only a few

Exactly what will happen when Earth's magnetic field disappears prior to its
re-emergence in a reversed orientation is also difficult to assess.
Compasses would point to the wrong pole - a minor inconvenience. More
importantly, low-orbiting satellites would be exposed to electromagnetic
batterings, wrecking them.

In addition, many species of migrating animals and birds - from swallows to
wildebeests - rely on innate abilities to track Earth's magnetic field.
Their fates are impossible to gauge.

As to humans, our greatest risk would come from intense solar radiation
bursts. Normally these are contained by the planet's magnetic field in
space. However, if it disappears, particle storms will start to batter the

'These solar particles can have profound effects,' said Dr Paul Murdin, of
the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge. 'On Mars, when its magnetic field
failed permanently billions of years ago, it led to its atmosphere being
boiled off. On Earth, it will heat up the upper atmosphere and send ripples
round the world with enormous, unpredictable effects on the climate.'

It is unlikely that humans could do much. Burrowing thousands of miles into
solid rock to set things right would stretch the technological prowess of
our descendants to bursting point, though such limitations do not worry film
scriptwriters. Paramount's latest sci-fi thriller, The Core - directed by
Englishman Jon Amiel, and starring Hilary Swank and Aaron Eckhart - depicts
a world beset by just such a polar reversal, with radiation sweeping the

The solution, according to the film, to be released next year, involves
scientists drilling into Earth's mantle to set off a nuclear blast that will
halt the reversal.

Given that temperatures at such depths rival those of the Sun's surface,
such a task would seem impossible - except, of course, in Hollywood.

Copyright 2002, The Guardian


>From Scripps News, 6 November 2002

Scripps Contacts: Mario Aguilera
or Cindy Clark

For Release: November 6, 2002

Scripps Research Gives Tiny Phytoplankton a Large Role in Earth's Climate

Study, which shows microscopic plants keep planet warm, offers new
considerations for iron fertilization efforts in the oceans

The ecological importance of phytoplankton, microscopic plants that
free-float through the world's oceans, is well known. Among their key roles,
the one-celled organisms are the major source of sustenance for animal life
in the seas.

Now, in a new study conducted by researchers at Scripps Institution of
Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, our understanding
of the significance of phytoplankton has been taken to a new level.
Sam Iacobellis and Robert Frouin
Robert Frouin and Sam Iacobellis have argued in a paper published in the
Journal of Geophysical Research that phytoplankton exert a significant and
previously uncalculated influence on Earth's climate.

The Frouin-Iacobellis study uses satellite imagery to show that
phytoplankton, which are said to inhabit three-quarters of Earth's surface,
hold a fundamental warming influence on the planet by capturing and
absorbing the sun's radiation. The authors show that radiation that
otherwise might be reflected back to space is absorbed by phytoplankton and
results in a global climate warmer by 0.1 to 0.6 degrees Fahrenheit
(compared with an open seawater scenario without phytoplankton).

"Our paper shows that if we did not have phytoplankton in the ocean, we
would have a cooler climate. This is a problem that we have to look at more
carefully if we want to conduct more accurate predictions of climate
change," said Frouin, a research meteorologist at Scripps. "Certainly the
effect we have shown from phytoplankton is not negligible, so we need to
look at it closely."

"Eventually, I hope that incorporating this new information will lead to
better predictions of future climate, and that will help policymakers make
more far-sighted decisions," said Iacobellis, a member of the Climate
Research Division at Scripps.

Furthermore, in the paper Frouin and Iacobellis argue that the impact of
phytoplankton extends beyond its warming influence. Changes in Earth's
surface reflection caused by increases or decreases in phytoplankton
concentrations may significantly affect the interactions of the planet's
climate system with human-produced concentrations of greenhouse gases and

They also argue that the climatological significance of phytoplankton is
increased or decreased from region to region, since the magnitude of
phytoplankton concentrations ultimately will dictate the strength of their
warming influence.

The new findings, constructed through modeling designs and satellite imagery
data from the Coastal Zone Color Scanner, also hold implications for ongoing
discussions of reducing global warming through ocean "fertilization." Such
efforts have held that global warming may be decreased by fertilizing the
oceans with iron, which would lead to an increase in the ocean's biological
pump. Through such an increase, the argument holds, phytoplankton would be
able to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and therefore reduce
global warming.

Frouin and Iacobellis, however, believe their new findings may run counter
to those arguments.

"We are saying that if you increase the amount of phytoplankton in the
ocean, which would probably be a consequence of this iron fertilization,
instead you would contribute to warming the ocean by absorbing more
radiation," said Frouin.

"You would exert a negative feedback because you would go in the opposite
direction of the effect that you want, which is to decrease global warming,"
said Iacobellis. "Think about this: If you fertilize the ocean you will take
up more carbon dioxide, but you are going to get more phytoplankton. Our
numbers at least give a start to rough calculations of how much of your
initial decrease in temperature is going to be negated by our increase.
We're not saying that (iron fertilization) idea should be off the table, but
this new information is something that should be considered."

Last year Frouin and Iacobellis published a study detailing the extent to
which ocean whitecaps influence climate by reflecting solar radiation from
Earth's surface. They say the consequences from the new phytoplankton study
are an order of magnitude larger.

The results were calculated through average impacts of phytoplankton on a
broad, global scale, but the authors say detailed analyses will show varying
results due to the fact that various types of phytoplankton species absorb
more radiation than others. Some, in fact, reflect the sun's radiation
rather than absorb it. Also to be determined are the complex biological
feedback consequences that lead to more or less phytoplankton in certain

"This just shows how intricate the climate system is," said Iacobellis.
"It's like a ball of yarn all pushed together. It's difficult to unpiece the
climate or put together what might happen in the future when all these
things act together. One by itself may not be that important but when
thousands of these small things act together, then?"

The research was supported by NASA, the Department of Energy, and the
California Space Institute.

# # #

Journalists may request a copy of the paper from Emily Crum at


>From The Christian Science Monitor, 7 November 2002

One large, overlooked factor in global warming: tropical forest fires
By Robert C. Cowen | Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Forest fires have become a wildcard in the global-warming game. New research
shows that, under the right circumstances, they can emit carbon dioxide at a
rate to rival fossil-fuel emissions of the heat-trapping gas. This is a
factor that computer simulations of climate change cannot yet take into
That's what happened when Indonesian fires polluted air over Southeast Asia
in 1997-98. Susan Page at Britain's University of Leicester, together with
colleagues in England, Germany, and Indonesia, now have analyzed satellite
photos and data gathered on the ground to estimate how much of the fire
area's living vegetation and peat deposits were burned.

In a paper published today in Nature, they report that the carbon dioxide
(CO2) released was "equivalent to 13 to 40 percent of the mean annual global
carbon emissions from fossil fuels, and contributed greatly to the largest
annual increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration detected since records
began in 1957."

That's a whopping global impact for a fire that affected only a small part
of Earth's surface. Many locally severe forest fires lack such global reach.
They burn off the surface vegetation and then die out.

In Indonesia, nature and human activity had prepared a massive subsurface
fuel reservoir. Tropical forests built up thick peat deposits as vegetation
died and decayed over many centuries. Forest clearance and drainage for
logging and farming have tended to dry the peat. Drought due to the 1997 El
Niño was all that was needed to make the circumstances right for a sustained
conflagration when forest-clearing fires were lit that year.

As Dr. Page and her colleagues explain, it's hard to pin down exactly how
much CO2 the fires emitted. However, the emissions were massive, whether
they were at the low or the high end of the estimated range.

Commenting on that estimate in Nature, David Schimel and David Baker at the
National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., note that two
independent studies of atmospheric CO2 concentrations in that time period
support the conclusion that the fires were a major contributor.

Drs. Schimel and Baker explain that computer climate simulations assume that
processes that emit CO2 and remove it from the atmosphere operate smoothly
and continuously.

Now it is obvious that catastrophic events in small areas that release
carbon locked away in peat or other rich reservoirs have to be taken into
account. At the moment, no climate modeler knows how to do this. Yet these
events "can evidently have a huge impact on the global carbon balance,"
Schimel and Baker say.

It now seems clear that efforts to slow CO2 buildup in the atmosphere by
curbing use of fossil fuels can be undercut if fires release the carbon
locked up in large tropical peat deposits. This gives new urgency to efforts
to control tropical forest development, which is a daunting political and
economic challenge for countries like Indonesia.

Copyright 2002, The Christian Science Monitor


>From CO2 Science Magazine, 6 November 2002

Carbon is the basic building block of life - at least as we know it - and it
becomes so when CO2 is withdrawn from the atmosphere by photosynthesizing
plants that use it to construct their tissues. Because of this fact, and
because literally thousands of laboratory and field experiments have
demonstrated that the more CO2 there is in the air the better plants grow
and the more efficiently they utilize water, it has been postulated that
continued anthropogenic CO2 emissions will lead to a significant "greening
of the earth" (Idso, 1986). This suggestion constitutes a great hypothesis,
because the inadvertent experiment humanity is currently conducting - our
flooding of the air with CO2 as a result of burning prodigious quantities of
fossil fuels - will ultimately demonstrate the truth of the hypothesis or
expose its fallacy.

What's happened so far?

Perhaps the most comprehensive exposition of the status of the unplanned
experiment was provided by Idso (1995), who cited a wealth of evidence for
the validity of the greening hypothesis.  First, he described the ubiquitous
range expansions of earth's woody plants that began approximately two
centuries ago, when the air's CO2 content began to rise in response to the
gathering steam of the Industrial Revolution.  Second, he described how the
growth rates of many forests around the world increased concurrently, and
how the most recent decades of fastest-rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations
exhibited the greatest growth-rate enhancements.  Third, he described how
the amplitude of the seasonal oscillation of the atmosphere's CO2
concentration - which is driven primarily by the photosynthetic and
respiratory activities of the terrestrial biota - had risen hand in hand
with the air's CO2 content over the prior thirty-five years of precise
measurements of this phenomenon.

More recently, Zhou et al. (2001) used satellite measurements to demonstrate
how vegetative activity increased by slightly over 8% and 12% between 1981
and 1999 in North America and Eurasia, respectively; while Ahlbeck (2002)
employed statistical procedures to demonstrate that the primary driver of
this phenomenon was the concurrent rise in the air's CO2 content, with
regional warming playing a secondary role.  When some controversy arose over
this conclusion (Kaufmann et al., 2002), we confirmed Ahlbeck's assessment
of the situation by means of a quantitative comparison of what was observed
via satellite and what would have been expected on the basis of the known
strength of the aerial fertilization effect of the increase in atmospheric
CO2 concentration that occurred over the period in question (see our
Editorial of 18 September 2002).

Perhaps the most up-to-date information on the greening of the earth was
made public in a brief article by Fred Pearce that was posted on the web
site of New Scientist magazine on 16 September 2002.  Entitled "Africa's
deserts are in 'spectacular' retreat," it tells the story of vegetation
reclaiming great tracts of barren land across the entire southern edge of
the Sahara.  This information may come as a bit of a surprise to many,
especially since the United Nations Environment Program told the World
Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa in August of
this year (2002) that over 45% of the continent is currently experiencing
severe desertification.  As is often the case with the environmental
pronouncements of that great world body, however, the world of nature tells
a vastly different story.

Pearce begins his article by reporting "the southern Saharan desert is in
retreat, making farming viable again in what were some of the most arid
parts of Africa," noting that "Burkina Faso, one of the West African
countries devastated by drought and advancing deserts 20 years ago, is
growing so much greener that families who fled to wetter coastal regions are
starting to go home."

And the good news is not confined to Burkina Faso.  "Vegetation," according
to Pearce, "is ousting sand across a swathe of land stretching from
Mauritania on the shores of the Atlantic to Eritrea 6000 kilometers away on
the Red Sea coast."  What is more, besides being widespread in space, the
greening is widespread in time, having been happening since at least the

Quoting Chris Reij of the Free University of Amsterdam, Pearce says "aerial
photographs taken in June show 'quite spectacular regeneration of
vegetation' in northern Burkina Faso."  The data indicate the presence of
more trees for firewood and more grassland for livestock.  In addition, a
survey that Reij is collating shows, according to Pearce, "a 70 percent
increase in yields of local cereals such as sorghum and millet in one
province in recent years."  Also studying the area has been Kjeld Rasmussen
of the University of Copenhagen, who reports that since the 1980s there has
been a "steady reduction in bare ground" with "vegetation cover, including
bushes and trees, on the increase on the dunes."

Pearce also reports on the work of a team of geographers from Britain,
Sweden and Denmark that spent much of the past summer analyzing archived
satellite images of the Sahel.  Citing Andrew Warren of University College
London as a source of information on this unpublished study, he says the
results show "that 'vegetation seems to have increased significantly' in the
past 15 years, with major regrowth in southern Mauritania, northern Burkina
Faso, north-western Niger, central Chad, much of Sudan and parts of

Do these findings take us by surprise?  Not in the least.  Fully twenty
years ago, Idso (1982) declared that if the ongoing rise in the air's CO2
content were allowed to continue unabated, thereby enhancing plant growth
and improving vegetative water use efficiency, "semi-arid lands not now
suitable for cultivation could be brought into profitable production; and
with added water available for irrigation, the deserts themselves could
'blossom as the rose'."

Also, in our Editorial of 15 March 1999, we reported that in a study of a
series of satellite images of the Central and Western Sahel that were taken
from 1980 to 1995, Nicholson et al. (1998) could find no evidence of any
overall expansion of deserts and no drop in the rainfall use efficiency
(similar to water use efficiency) of native vegetation. And we further
reported that in a satellite study of the entire Sahel from 1982 to 1990,
Prince et al. (1998) actually detected a steady rise in rainfall use
efficiency, suggesting that plant productivity and coverage of the desert
had increased during this period.

Yes, in spite of drought and everything else - natural or otherwise - that
may have combined to frustrate biospheric productivity throughout the course
of the Industrial Revolution and beyond, the greening of the earth continues
... courtesy of the aerial fertilization effect and the water conservation
effect of the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content.

Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso  


Ahlbeck, J.R.  2002.  Comment on "Variations in northern vegetation activity
inferred from satellite data of vegetation index during 1981-1999" by L.
Zhou et al.  Journal of Geophysical Research 107: 10.1029/2001389.

Idso, S.B. 1982. Carbon Dioxide: Friend or Foe?  IBR Press, Tempe, Arizona,

Idso, S.B. 1986. Industrial age leading to the greening of the Earth?
Nature 320: 22.

Idso, S.B. 1995. CO2 and the Biosphere: The Incredible Legacy of the
Industrial Revolution.  Department of Soil, Water & Climate, University of
Minnesota, St. Paul, MN.

Kaufmann, R.K., Zhou, L., Tucker, C.J., Slayback, D., Shabanov, N.V. and
Myneni, R.B.  2002.  Reply to Comment on "Variations in northern vegetation
activity inferred from satellite data of vegetation index during 1981-1999"
by J.R. Ahlbeck.  Journal of Geophysical Research 107: 10.1029/1001JD001516.

Nicholson, S.E., Tucker, C.J. and Ba, M.B.  1998.  Desertification, drought,
and surface vegetation: An example from the West African Sahel.  Bulletin of
the American Meteorological Society 79: 815-829.

Prince, S.D., Brown De Colstoun, E. and Kravitz, L.L.  1998.  Evidence from
rain-use efficiencies does not indicate extensive Sahelian desertification.
Global Change Biology 4: 359-374.

Zhou, L., Tucker, C.J., Kaufmann, R.K., Slayback, D., Shabanov, N.V. and
Myneni, R.B.  2001.  Variations in northern vegetation activity inferred
from satellite data of vegetation index during 1981-1999.  Journal of
Geophysical Research 106: 20,069-20,083.
Copyright © 2002.  Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change


>From Tech Central Station, 6 November 2002

By Duane D. Freese
The steam appears to be running out of grandiose global eco-summits. And
even some environmentalists can be heard to sigh, "Good riddance."

Last week in New Delhi at the eighth United Nations climate conference,
developing countries stood against the European Union's notion of climate
control, essentially saying they prefer to put their economic development

India's Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as reported in The New York
Times, argued that poorer countries could not be expected to invest in
expensive efforts to curb their production of greenhouse gasses.

With India, China and most of the other developing nations (in concert with
the United States) opposing language demanding actions that would curtail
future fossil fuel use - the cheapest and only feasible source of energy for
most emerging economies - Europe backed down. It signed on to a compromise
that recognized economic development as a priority. More importantly the
conference set no deadlines or timetables for curbing emissions.

Thus, only a fig leaf remains of the global emissions control regime that
the 1997 Kyoto Protocol would have imposed upon the United States and other
developed nations.

Kyoto, negotiated by then Vice President Al Gore, called on the United
States to reduce its greenhouse emissions, particularly carbon dioxide, by 7
percent from 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. This was to be part of a 5.2
percent worldwide reduction. President Clinton, though, never submitted the
protocol to Congress for ratification. Why? Because he knew it would be
overwhelmingly rejected. His own Energy Department estimated that it would
cost the U.S. economy $300 billion a year if implemented. Furthermore,
developing nations, where most growth in future greenhouse gas emissions
will originate, were left out of Kyoto's restrictions, making the effort all
economic pain for developed countries with no likely real gain for the

For those reasons, President George W. Bush ended the charade of U.S.
participation by declaring the treaty "fatally flawed" in 2001. Instead, the
United States embarked on a separate course of bilateral initiatives and
public-private partnerships. The aim? To spread technological improvements
and spur economic growth, which the administration believes are the keys to
both improving the environment and helping people adapt to changes in

That didn't stop European environmental alarmists from pushing ahead with
Kyoto, though, mostly by running away from it.

The UN climate conclave in Marrakech last year agreed to implementation of
the agreement, but only after Europe watered it down with emissions trading
schemes and elimination of any enforcement mechanism to win support from
Japan and other wavering nations. At the World Summit for Sustainable
Development in Johannesburg, South Africa last August, hard targets for
renewable energy use (not including hydro power) were rejected by developing
nations, oil producing countries and the United States as technologically
impossible and economically damaging. And this year's Delhi Declaration
exempts the developing world for the foreseeable future.

So, what's left of Kyoto? It amounts to this statement: "the parties that
have ratified the KP (Kyoto Protocol) strongly urged parties that have not
already done so to ratify it in a timely manner."

All this has the protest and advocacy segment of the environmental community
howling, particularly at the United States.

"As rising seas, increased droughts, floods and diseases like malaria keep
costing millions of dollars and lives, people around the world will not
forget that the USA has continuously obstructed international efforts to
prevent dangerous climate change," Greenpeace climate policy director Steve
Sawyer inveighed.

But U.S. Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky had the better of the
argument. "KP is costly, ineffective and unfair. It is also impractical and
unrealistic," she said. "Climate change is a global phenomenon but the
developing countries are not participating."

A Better Way?

More thoughtful environmental voices likewise no longer see global summitry
as the way to promote real environmental improvement and actual sustainable
development. They are even engaging in the partnership and regional approach
to resolving environmental, social and economic problems pursued by the

Last week, a half a world from New Delhi, the National Council for Science
and the Environment (NCSE) held a briefing in the Senate on the results of
the Johannesburg summit. In contrast to the anti-scientific and
technological views of extreme environmentalists, the panel saw science and
technology as the means for the world's poorer nations to raise their living
standards and achieve sustainable development.

Former ambassador Richard E. Benedick, president of the council, indicated
that the huge summits might no longer be useful. He said the Montreal
Protocol on protection of the ozone layer, which he helped negotiate in the
l987, was successful because the size was manageable, the goal achievable.
"Thirty to forty countries negotiated the Montreal Protocol," he said,
"about the size of one delegation at the climate change summits."
And at Montreal, he noted, science played the leading role. That hasn't been
the case in subsequent summits, including Johannesburg, where "science
wasn't even mentioned once at the energy forum."

Benedick said the future progress would be found in regional approaches to
problems - "getting like-minded countries together to create regional, ...
incremental, partial solutions, and not try to solve everything for everyone
at the same time."

"The United Nations," he said, " is an industry now of empty declarations."

Dr. Twig Johnson, another NCSE panel member who also leads the
Sustainability Science and Technology Program in the Policy and Global
Affairs Division of the National Academy of Sciences, said the one good
thing about the global conferences was that they focused countries'
attention on the issues.

The major success at Johannesburg, he said, was the development of so-called
280 "Type 2" initiatives. These public and private partnerships, rather than
government to government deals, include one that the NCSE will be part of
with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NAS, the American Chemistry
Council, and the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment,
aimed at strengthening linkages between science and decision-making in
developing countries.

Such agreements can help promote "science-based decisions for
sustainability," Johnson said. And they also offer environmentalists intent
on real improvements a way to accomplish that mission - but only if they
involve local communities, scientists and businesses.

NCSE's emphasis on science and technology, local action and private
involvement suggests there is much more common ground between
environmentalists and the Bush Administration than the advocacy,
protest-oriented environmental organizations will ever admit.

For the poor people in developing nations, that's a hopeful sign. Mindless
curbs on energy use won't eliminate floods, droughts, tornadoes or
hurricanes, any more than they can halt volcanic eruptions such as Mt.
Etna's. And the poor suffer most from them not because they or developed
countries aren't using enough renewable energy, but because poverty makes it
impossible to fight or adapt to harsh conditions.

India's prime minister and the developing countries are correct to put
economic growth first. The Bush Administration is wise to help them do so by
encouraging the use of efficient, clean and affordable energy technologies.
And environmentalists who really want to accomplish something meaningful
will seek to participate in their efforts, not obstruct them. Real action
beats hot talk every time.

Copyright 2002, Tech Central Station


>From The New York Times, 12 November 2002


FRONT ROYAL, Va. - In Posey Hollow, tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains,
Dr. William J. McShea was inspecting a forest primeval - 10 acres of oaks,
wild yam vines, seedlings and shrubs that made an ideal home for nesting
songbirds and scurrying small mammals.

But he had to look through an eight-foot deer fence to see it. Where he
stood, the forest was trimmed from eye level to earth as if by an army of
obsessive landscapers. Mature trees stood unharmed, but oak seedlings were
nipped in the bud. The only things thriving were Japanese barberry and other
nonnative flora, plants that deer cannot digest.

In the last decade, from the Rockies to New England and the Deep South,
rural and suburban areas have been beset by white-tailed deer gnawing
shrubbery and crops, spreading disease and causing hundreds of thousands of
auto wrecks.

But the deer problem has proved even more profound, biologists say.
Fast-multiplying herds are altering the ecology of forests, stripping them
of native vegetation and eliminating niches for other wildlife.

Full story at



>From Tom Gehrels <>

Dear Benny

The National Resources Defence Council (NRDC) has just won a crucial victory
in federal court that temporarily blocks the U.S. Navy from deploying its
dangerous LFA sonar system across 75 percent of the world's oceans. This new
technology would blast hundreds of thousands of square
miles of ocean habitat with noise so intense it can maim, deafen or even
kill whales and dolphins at close range.  A federal judge has agreed that a
number of environmental laws may have been violated when the Navy was
granted a permit to deploy this deadly system.

But this ruling is only a preliminary injunction and a long courtroom battle
appears ahead.  NRDC will be fighting for a permanent injunction that gives
whales and other marine mammals the kind of lasting protection they deserve.

More information is at:
and at

Tom Gehrels


>From CNN, 11 November 2002

Tropical future for UK gardens as climate changes
LONDON (Reuters) -- Green-fingered Britons could soon be growing bananas and
avocados instead of lupins and rhododendrons as a result of climate change,
according to leading horticulturists.

Long-term forecasts on climate change suggest British gardeners could face
Mediterranean weather with hotter summers, droughts and warm, wet winters
with the risk of flooding, the Sunday Times newspaper reported.

Lush lawns, often the pride of suburban gardens, will also come under
threat, according to a new report to be published this week from the Royal
Horticultural Society (RHS) and the National Trust.

The report's author, Richard Bisgrove from Reading University, said the
climate changes over the next 80 years could threaten some native plants,
but would also give fresh opportunities to gardeners.

"Southern England will become like domestic gardens we will
see more exotic plants -- things like palms, olives and peaches."

The report is based on trends set out in the government's UK Climate Impacts

Copyright 2002 Reuters

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