Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Lord Giveth, The Lord Taketh Away

"This section of Montana forest is under attack by mountain pine beetles. Red trees died recently, and gray ones probably died several years ago. The warming climate of the West encourages the growth of beetles. It also causes mountain snowpack to melt earlier in most years, creating summertime water stress for trees that makes them more vulnerable to beetle attack."

Regarding climate change and CO2, the unforeseen consequences these entities have in terms of planet earth is perplexing to say the least. On the giveth side, CO2 can be a "good" thing.

"One major reason is that forests, like other types of plants, appear to be responding to the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by growing more vigorously. The gas is, after all, the main food supply for plants. Scientists have been surprised in recent years to learn that this factor is causing a growth spurt even in mature forests, a finding that overturned decades of ecological dogma.

Climate-change contrarians tend to focus on this “fertilization effect,” hailing it as a boon for forests and the food supply. “The ongoing rise of the air’s CO2 content is causing a great greening of the Earth,” one advocate of this position, Craig D. Idso, said at a contrarian meeting in Washington in July."

On the taketh,

"In the 1990s, many of the white spruce trees of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula were wiped out by beetles. For more than a decade, other beetle varieties have been destroying trees across millions of acres of western North America. Red-hued mountainsides have become a familiar sight in a half-dozen states, including Montana and Colorado, as well as British Columbia in Canada.

Researchers refer to events like these as forest die-offs, and they have begun to document what appears to be a rising pattern of them around the world. Only some have been directly linked to global warming by scientific studies; many have yet to be analyzed in detail. Yet it is clear that hotter weather, of the sort that science has long predicted as a consequence of human activity, is playing a large role.

Many scientists had hoped that serious forest damage would not set in before the middle of the 21st century, and that people would have time to get emissions of heat-trapping gases under control before then. Some of them have been shocked in recent years by what they are seeing.

“The amount of area burning now in Siberia is just startling — individual years with 30 million acres burned,” Dr. Swetnam said, describing an area the size of Pennsylvania. “The big fires that are occurring in the American Southwest are extraordinary in terms of their severity, on time scales of thousands of years. If we were to continue at this rate through the century, you’re looking at the loss of at least half the forest landscape of the Southwest.”

To this writer, the taketh appears to win out, especially when looking at Canada's disappearing ice shelf.

"Recent (ice shelf) loss has been very rapid, and goes hand-in-hand with the rapid sea ice decline we have seen in this decade and the increasing warmth and extensive melt in the Arctic regions," said Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, remarking on the research."

As stated before in BRT, the albedo effect of reflective ice turning into absorptive water is ominous to say the least.

Click on the NYTimes graphic to see an interactive view of the world's forests to see why, IMHO, the taketh part of the equation rules.

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