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El Nino Fires A Key Source Of Greenhouse Gases

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the where-there's-smoke-there's-CO2 dept.

Science 62

core plexus writes "Science Daily has an interesting article suggesting that El Nino-related fires may be a significant source of 'Greenhouse Gases.' By combining satellite data and measurements of atmospheric gases, they have quantified for the first time the amount of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, emitted by these fires. In addition, the scientists determined that almost all of the increased levels of methane measured during 1997 and 1998 can be attributed to the worldwide fires at the time, underscoring the impact El Nino has on methane emissions."

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I thought it was the gas guzzling 4x4s (1)

Dark$ide (732508) | more than 10 years ago | (#7897840)

Aren't the primary sources of greenhouse gases the automobile and airliner.

Re:I thought it was the gas guzzling 4x4s (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7899283)

A quick search says transportation is the top producer of green house gasses, with a few anti-global warming people saying it's agriculture.

I guess anti-global warming isn't really a good name for the people who believe there's no danger in climate change.

We need an engineer! (1)

Libertarian_Geek (691416) | more than 10 years ago | (#7903050)

I don't have the skills for this so, engineers listen up: Find out what size Forest fire equals a 5.7 Liter engine running at avg 3400 RPM (perhaps a bit high, I know so tweak it) in greenhouse gas output for the same period of time. For example only: 1 acre of forest fire for 10 engines for the fist 30 mins etc.. Maybe this should be an "Ask Slashdot".

Re:We need an engineer! (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 10 years ago | (#7909834)

3400 rpm is a bit high? I think 5000 rpm is more realistic, given the way most SUV drivers seem to drive.

Stigma? (0, Troll)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 10 years ago | (#7897860)

I wonder how a key source of greenhouse gasses will be able to find other work after employment in such a negatively-viewed (currently) weather system as El Ni~no?
True, it wasnt always corrupt, but your average HR guy probably wants to stay as far away from the name "El Ni~no" as possible, at this point.

Dammit! (4, Funny)

GypC (7592) | more than 10 years ago | (#7897862)

There has to be some way that it is George W. Bush's fault...

Re:Dammit! (-1, Flamebait)

Ieshan (409693) | more than 10 years ago | (#7898158)

Doesn't nino mean "The Child" or "The younger one"?

If you read the post substituting "the younger one" for each occurance of El Nino, it doesn't sound half un-bushlike.

You might have to replace "fires" with "bombing", though.

Re:Dammit! (1)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 10 years ago | (#7898778)


Yeah, the earth will never be protected until we get off of this oil based economy.

Thats why we need to move to nuclear power as soon as possible. All real environmentalists agree!

Well, except for those who think we should move to a coal based economy.

Ok, well, everyone agrees we need to get rid of this oil based economy! And hey, if we weren't on one, George Bush wouldn't be our president!

Oh, and power to the people! That means you don't get to make private agreements--- the government must regulate them all! ITs good for the poor, right! You wouldn't want someone working in a sweatshop for less than a Living Wage* (TM)!

Bitgeek

* Note: Living Wage is a registered trademark of the Stalin Again organization, its use here is not meant to imply that Stalin Again has certified the item in question as qualifying as a "Living Wage" and is used only for illustration. No endorsement of Stalin Again Inc. is implied.

Re:Dammit! (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 10 years ago | (#7898830)

This was modded interesting? What kind of crack are the mods on?

Funny I wouldn't agree with but could at least see...

Re:Dammit! (1)

claud9999 (412067) | more than 10 years ago | (#7953941)

Actually, there is. The fires in SoCal *would* have been fought by National Guardsmen if they weren't human bait in Iraq. Many of these guys and gals are firefighters by trade, and many more are at the ready to be called up in emergencies such as major fires. So it is Bush's fault.

More evidence on the pile (5, Informative)

Spamalamadingdong (323207) | more than 10 years ago | (#7897908)

I recall reading some years ago that the forest/peat fires in Indonesia (which created a pall of smoke over much of the region and reduced visibility to a few feet over wide areas) dumped more CO2 into the atmosphere than all of the vehicles of Britain in the same year. Here's a paper [ff.org] which cites estimates of 0.6 to 3.5 gigatons from the 1994-5 fires and a similar figure for 1997-8.

Just goes to show that Kyoto isn't the solution, because it ignores emissions by "developing countries" regardless of origin.

Re:More evidence on the pile (2, Insightful)

krow (129804) | more than 10 years ago | (#7897925)

I wrote papers about this in graduate school. None of the facts in the article are new at all, we have been aware of these facts for over a decade.

Re:More evidence on the pile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7898574)

From the article:" they have quantified for the first time the amount of greenhouse gases"...etc.

Re:More evidence on the pile (1, Insightful)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 10 years ago | (#7898822)


There is no solution. Things like Kyoto are just as foolish as Maos plan to have kids kill butterflies (or whatever it was).... incompetant ideas applied by people ignorant of basic science.

Reality is the environmental quality in an area is directly proportional to the economic development in an area. IT is only once people get beyond a certain standard of living that they start caring about the environment (cause tehy are no longer worrying about basic needs.)

Thus, the best way-- the only way-- to a cleaner environment is unregulated economic development.

A basic lack of understanding of economics is behind most environmental solutions (as well as the war on poverty, etc.) and thus they actually cause the problem to be worse, not better.

But then, they are never held accountable, and they always have someone to blame-- usually "corporations" which they only have to invoke, and never actualy articulate exactly how "corporations" are to blame. Cause in reality, corporations-- of their own accord-- have done far more to protect and enhance the environment than greenpeace has ever tried.

I'd like to see you support those assertions (4, Insightful)

Tau Zero (75868) | more than 10 years ago | (#7899437)

Things like Kyoto are just as foolish as Maos plan to have kids kill butterflies (or whatever it was).... incompetant ideas applied by people ignorant of basic science.
That's the conventional Republican wisdom in the USA, but the basic physics tells you that the basis of Kyoto is rock-solid absent solid evidence to contradict this chain of reasoning:
  1. Carbon dioxide, methane, sulfur hexaflouride and such are transparent to most solar radiation, but absorbent across various bands of thermal wavelengths.
  2. Due to this absorbency, increasing the concentration of these gases in the atmosphere will tend to trap heat which currently radiates to space.
  3. To restore the balance between solar flux and radiative cooling, the temperature of the Earth will have to increase on the average.
  4. If we desire to ameliorate these changes, we have to reduce the rate at which greenhouse gases are put into the atmosphere.
You can say that we don't know enough about the various feedback loops inherent in the system, such as the influence of clouds, to be able to quantify their effects. The thing you don't seem to grasp is that the basic physics places the burden of proof on the people claiming the absence of detrimental effects.

(And you make these implicit claims in a post with obvious errors of grammar and spelling. The irony is thick.)

Reality is the environmental quality in an area is directly proportional to the economic development in an area.
Reality is that the environmental quality in places like the Tongass National Forest is quite high, except where it has been developed (clearcut). The environmental quality in cities and the like tends to be higher where the standard of living (and thus the demand and ability to pay for pollution-control technology) is higher, but your blanket statement is trivially false.
Thus, the best way-- the only way-- to a cleaner environment is unregulated economic development.
No regulations? You mean, let dirty plants dump pesticide byproducts and heavy metals into the rivers and lakes that other people use for drinking water? I believe they tried that in the Soviet Bloc, and it didn't work very well at all; they are still trying to recover from the damage.
A basic lack of understanding of economics is behind most environmental solutions (as well as the war on poverty, etc.) and thus they actually cause the problem to be worse, not better.
Is that so? Tell me, did the regulations against the burning of coal in London after the Killer Fog cause the problem to get worse? How about the motor-vehicle pollution controls in California; did they make the Los Angeles smog worse? Or the ban on phosphates in detergents; did it make the eutrophication problem in Lake Erie worse?

I like people like you. You make it so easy to convince readers that you are wrong.

And for the record, I have nothing against corporations. Corporations are just like individuals, creatures looking for their own benefit. The way to keep them from doing harm is to prevent them from creating harm to others without having to pay for it; if everyone has to pay, the way to maxmize profit is to minimize such expenses and the problem solves itself. We get problems such as smog, algae-choked lakes and empty aquifers when people are permitted to take or dump without having to respect the limits of the resource they're using (whether the ability to create or the ability to absorb) and pay a market price for it.

The thing you have to argue against is the huge success which the Montreal Protocol has had in controlling stratospheric halogens; the polar ozone holes are already showing signs of recovery as the concentration of CFCs comes down. I agree with you that the demand of many watermelons (Green on the outside, Red on the inside) that any GHG control regime be turned into a welfare program for dysfunctional nations is a non-starter (you barely have to start using your imagination before you can think of a Robert Mugabe keeping a nation's people in grinding poverty so he can live high off the greenhouse-gas credits from their lack of emissions). Yet this does not mean that there is not a problem and we do not need a solution; the problem is that self-styled conservatives have forgotten what it means to conserve.

I am a conservative. I am also a conservationist.

Re:I'd like to see you support those assertions (3, Insightful)

jgardn (539054) | more than 10 years ago | (#7900695)

Let me refute your fourth claim.

1. Carbon dioxide, methane, sulfur hexaflouride and such are transparent to most solar radiation, but absorbent across various bands of thermal wavelengths.

True.

2. Due to this absorbency, increasing the concentration of these gases in the atmosphere will tend to trap heat which currently radiates to space.

True.

3. To restore the balance between solar flux and radiative cooling, the temperature of the Earth will have to increase on the average.

This requires a leap of faith -- namely some laws of thermodynamics. But the end result is also true. If the heat absorbed is different from the heat emitted, then the body will either cool off or heat up.

4. If we desire to ameliorate these changes, we have to reduce the rate at which greenhouse gases are put into the atmosphere.

I agree. That is one way that we can help the earth cool off. But there are other ways.

We can boil some of the atmosphere away. This happens constantly and changes in temperature and pressure will change the rate at which out atmosphere boils away. Fortunately, the warmer the planet gets, the more atmosphere that boils away. Don't worry, we have a fresh atmosphere ready to supply us in the rocks below us. Otherwise we would've lost it a long time ago.

We can trap some of the heat beneath the surface. The earth naturally draws heat out of the atmosphere and absorbs it below the surface. There may be a simple way to accelerate this process, should the temperature become extreme. By the way, the earth's crust is an excellent insulator.

We can convert some of the heat into energy stored in molecular bonds. There are chemical reactions that result in a lowering of the temperature of the medium the reaction occured in. Bonus points if the chemical reaction involves remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere and deposits it safely on the earth's surface.

We can increase the amount of gasses that reflect solar radiation, increasing the albedo of the planet and reducing the amount of radiation absorbed. There are certain gasses that naturally reflect sunlight away from out planet. Increasing the amount of these gasses will make the atmosphere more like a mirror and reflect away all of the incoming heat.

You are looking at the problem as if there was only one solution. The bottom line is that there isn't only one solution. We are not even sure if the earth is warming up or cooling. And we know that any variation in the sun's emissions will result in changes that we can't control here on earth.

I understand that there are systems so extraordinarily complicated and chaotic that even with advanced supercomputers and the world's brightest minds we cannot understand them. The weather happens to be one of them. We cannot predict the weather reliably. We can barely predict the weather today or tomorrow. How can we possibly predict the weather one hundred years from now?

So I have decided long ago, that I will sit back and enjoy a cool refreshing drink from my refrigerator that uses CFCs as a refrigerant, delivered to me by trucks using gasoline as a propellant, and exhaling that sacred CO2 from my lungs with every breath I take. Worrying about something so grossly out of my control is counterproductive to my happiness.

Re:I'd like to see you support those assertions (2, Informative)

fluffy666 (582573) | more than 10 years ago | (#7902373)

We can boil some of the atmosphere away.

False. This does not happen naturally (at least for O2, N2 and CO2), and there is no 'new atmosphere' waiting in the rocks.

We can trap some of the heat beneath the surface. The earth naturally draws heat out of the atmosphere and absorbs it below the surface.

False. The natural heat flux is out of the planet into the oceans/atmosphere.

We can convert some of the heat into energy stored in molecular bonds.

In order to do useful work (such as make molecular bonds as you describe) you need a (high temperature) source and a (low temperature) sink. If the atmosphere was your source, what would your sink be (Hint: the atmosphere is currently used as a sink for practically everything). Making hydrocarbons from CO2 and water is a trivial challenge compared to this!

There are certain gasses that naturally reflect sunlight away from out planet.

Any in particular, or are you just making more stuff up?

How can we possibly predict the weather one hundred years from now?

We're not trying to.

Re:I'd like to see you support those assertions (1)

jgardn (539054) | more than 10 years ago | (#7943474)

Any in particular, or are you just making more stuff up?

I don't "make stuff up". I attended the University of Washington and studied Physics. I achieved very high marks in the Thermodynamics and Astrophysics courses. I graduated June 2000 with a BS in Physics and a minor in math.

And your credentials are?

Let me cite to you some very basic things:
1) Certain chemical reactions render gasses such as oxygen and carbon dioxide from solids that are found naturally in the earth crust. In fact, the whole reason volcanoes explode is because of the gasses that build up.

2) You are thinking of a very simple model and ignoring the flow of magma and currents and such. Warm air from the tropics is carried to the artic, and vice-versa with cold air. Why can this not happen below the surface? Phase changes absorb a lot of heat. For instance, we can take a lot of the extra heat that is attributed to global warming and use it to melt ice, rock, or any number of other chemicals. We can even turn liquids in gasses. This is done naturally.

3) Have you ever played with the instant cool-packs? You mix two chemicals together and the mixture gets very cold very quickly. There are chemical reactions that absorb heat at room temperature. We can use that to cool the earth. The earth may even do it naturally.

4) There are naturally occuring substances that will reflect the sun's light away from the earth. Ice, for instance, has a very high albedo. In fact, Europa has an extremely high albedo and reflects something like 90% of the incoming sunlight away from itself. If we could increase the earth's albedo, we would decrease the amount of incoming heat, thus cooling the earth.

5) Concerning my claim that people are trying to predict the weather one hundred years from now -- isn't that the whole premise of "global warming" -- the idea that the earth is gradually getting warmer?

And again: support? (1)

Tau Zero (75868) | more than 10 years ago | (#7902393)

We can boil some of the atmosphere away.
Uh-huh. What evidence do you have that this occurs at a significant rate, let alone one fast enough to offset greenhouse warming? How much energy would it take, and where would you get it?
We can trap some of the heat beneath the surface. The earth naturally draws heat out of the atmosphere and absorbs it below the surface.
The Earth emits heat on average. Pumping atmospheric heat into the crust (a reversal of geothermal energy) would require a large source of energy to power the heat pumps. Where would you get it?
There are certain gasses that naturally reflect sunlight away from out planet.
You mean, like sulfuric acid aerosols? How much would you need, where would you get them, how much energy would it require and where would you get that, and what other unwelcome effects (such as acid rain and reduction in biological productivity due to reduced sunlight) would you produce?
We can convert some of the heat into energy stored in molecular bonds. There are chemical reactions that result in a lowering of the temperature of the medium the reaction occured in. Bonus points if the chemical reaction involves remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere and deposits it safely on the earth's surface.
You really need to study chemical equilibria, because it's painfully obvious that you have no understanding of Gibbs Free Energy. A hint: if it were feasible to convert heat energy at ambient temperature to chemical energy, just about every living thing on Earth would be doing it. The forces of entropy inexorably push things the other way.

Re:And again: support? (1)

jgardn (539054) | more than 10 years ago | (#7943510)

Heat is the transfer of energy. The energy needed to boil extra atmosphere away would come from the extra heat that global warming is claimed to produce.

Sulfuric acid aerosols are not needed. Ice has a plenty high enough albedo.

Energy to power an effort to cool the atmosphere with heat pumps would likely come from the sun or the earth itself. Any energy we absorb to power the machines will be energy not used to heat the earth.

I was trying to overthrow the original posters argument that increasing the concentration of various chemicals in the atmosphere will lead to global warming. The point is that the earth is an extremely complicated system that no one has yet completely understood. I brought up four extra ways that heat could be transferred out of the atmosphere to counter the effects of an increase in certain chemicals.

I am of the belief that anything we humans do has hardly any effect on the earth at large. The earth is so huge and so complicated that we can't pretend to control it or have much of an effect on it. How do we know that increasing the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere won't cause more algae in the oceans, taller treese, and denser growth that brings that level of CO2 back to equillibrium? We can't predict such a thing, we can barely even guess.

Re:I'd like to see you support those assertions (1)

Phronesis (175966) | more than 10 years ago | (#7906865)

The earth naturally draws heat out of the atmosphere and absorbs it below the surface.

Let's see---the first law of thermodynamics tells us that heat flows from hotter objects to cooler ones. The core of the earth is about 6000 degrees C (due to heating by radioactive decay). Heat is constantly flowing from the hot core to the cooler crust, then to the oceans and atmosphere. You aren't going to make heat spontaneously flow the other way.

Did you learn any science at some point, or do you get on in life by just making stuff up as you go along?

Trap heat? (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 10 years ago | (#7907145)

2. Due to this absorbency, increasing the concentration of these gases in the atmosphere will tend to trap heat which currently radiates to space.

Yes, but isn't most of our heat coming in from space as opposed to going out and escaping? The earth isn't really all that good at self-heating to support life, unless you count volcanic regions, with the sun being the major source of heat input. Doesn't any gas doing one also do the other (trap or block heat in either direction?)

Re:Trap heat? (1)

Phronesis (175966) | more than 10 years ago | (#7908450)

Doesn't any gas doing one also do the other (trap or block heat in either direction?)

Here's a simplified description. There are details missing, but this explains the major points:

  1. Heat comes in as visible light, which is not absorbed by CO2.
  2. When the visible light is absorbed by earth and ocean, it is converted to heat.
  3. Heat is emitted from from earth and ocean in the form of infrared light.
  4. Infrared light is absorbed by CO2.
  5. Absorption of IR light by CO2 heats the atmosphere.
  6. As the atmosphere heats, it emits IR light at high altitudes, where there is not enough CO2 to reabsorb it.
Thus, it is possible for CO2 to block outgoing heat (infrared light), while admitting incoming heat (visible light).

Re:Trap heat? (1)

jgardn (539054) | more than 10 years ago | (#7943526)

Here's a simplified version for some other chemical that might exist:

1. Heat comes in as visible light, but is reflected back into space.

2. Infrared light from the surface of the earth passes through the chemical and is emitted to space.

Thus, if we increase this chemical, we will experience global cooling.

In layman's terms, CO2 is like an emergency blanket (the shiny kinds) turned shiny side in. This chemical would be like an emergency blanket with shiny side out.

I'm sure anyone who knows what the absorption lines are of various chemicals will be able to find said chemical in an afternoon. All we have to do is fill the upper atmosphere with this to cool the earth off. Problem solved.

Re:Trap heat? (1)

Phronesis (175966) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952425)

This chemical exists. It's called soot.

I know that you are being humorous, but nonetheless, I will point out some problems:

  1. Some of us enjoy being able to see through the air, see the sun, moon, and stars, etc.
  2. Reducing visible light hitting surface would be bad for agriculture. Plants need light to photosynthesize, you know.
  3. Combining opacity in visible with greenhouse gases would make the earth's temperature more uniform: cooler tropics, warmer poles. This would seriously affect climate and weather patterns and seriously reduce both agricultural diversity and wild biodiversity. Certain plants and animals we like to consume need tropical climates to grow. Others grow best in colder climates.

Re:I'd like to see you support those assertions (2, Insightful)

mc6809e (214243) | more than 10 years ago | (#7901179)

That's the conventional Republican wisdom in the USA, but the basic physics tells you that the basis of Kyoto is rock-solid absent solid evidence to contradict this chain of reasoning:


  1. Carbon dioxide, methane, sulfur hexaflouride and such are transparent to most solar radiation, but absorbent across various bands of thermal wavelengths.
  2. Due to this absorbency, increasing the concentration of these gases in the atmosphere will tend to trap heat which currently radiates to space.
  3. To restore the balance between solar flux and radiative cooling, the temperature of the Earth will have to increase on the average.
  4. If we desire to ameliorate these changes, we have to reduce the rate at which greenhouse gases are put into the atmosphere.



Seems logical, but the problem is that the atmosphere has so much CO2 in it that it is already mostly opaque to outgoing longwave radiation. Adding more CO2 doesn't make it much more opaque. Imagine trying to compare the opacity of a 1 mm sheet of foil to a 2 mm sheet of foil. Sure, 2 mm of foil blocks more light, but 1 mm will block nearly all the light shown on it.

The only thing that makes the theory kinda work is the spreading of the absorption spectrum of CO2. The idea is that the extreme ends of the curve still let enough LW radiation out that increasing CO2 will reduce this escape. The effect, though, is estimated to be very small. The effect is further reduced because the spectra of other greenhouse gases overlap with these etremes.

To enhance this small effect, the theory asserts a dramatic increase of water vapor. Most of the increase in warming, according to the theory, actually comes from water vapor acting as a greenhouse gas and not CO2.

So what happens to all that vapor? Does it just stay in the atmosphere or does it precipitate out? What about the effect of clouds? If there are more clouds, does less solar radiation come in?

The theory also assumes the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will increase exponentially. Can we really predict how much CO2 will be put into the atmosphere 40 years from now? What happens as oil becomes more and more expensive? Will things like nuclear power be much more in use?

Now I won't say the theory is complete bunk, but it is still much more speculative than is suggested in the press.

And what about Kyoto? Well, even it's supporters agree that it will delay warming by a modest 6 years or so.

Re:I'd like to see you support those assertions (1)

Tau Zero (75868) | more than 10 years ago | (#7902317)

Seems logical, but the problem is that the atmosphere has so much CO2 in it that it is already mostly opaque to outgoing longwave radiation. Adding more CO2 doesn't make it much more opaque.
From sea level, maybe. But the atmosphere thins on a more or less exponential curve as altitude increases, and the transparency of the air above it along with it. If you consider the "surface" of the Sun, what you're seeing is the layer where the transfer of energy by radiation suddenly becomes quicker than transfer by convection; the overlying corona is so thin as to be essentially transparent. It's the same with Earth's atmosphere.

Below the "radiating layer" heat transfers largely by convection, and temperature usually follows an approximately linear lapse rate with altitude. If you increase the infrared opacity of the atmosphere you don't change the temperature of the radiating layer much, but you increase the depth over which the lapse rate applies and thus the temperature at the surface.

The theory also assumes the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will increase exponentially. Can we really predict how much CO2 will be put into the atmosphere 40 years from now? What happens as oil becomes more and more expensive? Will things like nuclear power be much more in use?
There have been some reductions in CO2 emission in places like Russia, but they've been associated with unwelome trends like economic collapse. I think we can agree that this is a Bad Thing. I believe that oil and nuclear are largely irrelevant to the question of CO2 emission potential; coal is abundant in the US, Australia, China and India, and we're unlikely to promote nuclear power for "developing nations" ever again. The only thing that is likely to help with the issue is a shift in technologies to ones which do not put CO2 into the atmosphere (either by not producing it or by sequestering it), and the trend right now is strongly in the other direction.
And what about Kyoto? Well, even it's supporters agree that it will delay warming by a modest 6 years or so.
Yet another reason why the inability to negotiate and agree to such a modest measure bodes ill for the future. If we need a 70% reduction and can't even agree to a 10% reduction, we're in pretty sad shape.

Re:I'd like to see you support those assertions (1)

apchar (226653) | more than 10 years ago | (#7910200)

> The thing you don't seem to grasp is that the basic physics places the burden of proof on the people claiming the absence of detrimental effects.

Uh.. no. You're not the first Chicken Little this world has seen. There's been at least one batch in every generation (for my parents it was Global Cooling in the 70s.) People are still (fortunately) very skeptical of gloom-and-doom scenarios. The burden of proof is very much on you. If public policy were driven by the precautionary principle we'd still be living in caves.
You're oversimplifying the mechanisms and ignoring some pesky contradictory evidence, like the fact that radiometric data doesnt show the same temperature rise ground measurements have produced.
Speaking of that, the greatest irony in all this is that President Dubya, in a move of blistering boneheadedness, clobbered funding for that portion of NASAs remote sensing program that was providing the aforementioned data. Way to go George! Kill off the most credible source of data that supports your position. Brilliant.

Re:I'd like to see you support those assertions (1)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 10 years ago | (#7912512)


You're neither a conservative nor a conservationaist.

If you were, you'd know that the soviet union's state controlled environemntal damage is what we have here. Not what I advocate.

The largest polluter in the country is the government, and the government is immune to regulation to prevetn it from polluting. IF you really were a conservationist or a conservative, you'd want to reduce the size of government and remove their ability to pollute with impunity.

When you talk about "Rock solid physics" you're just spouting socialist propaganda pseud-science like everyone else who has never bothered to actually look at the research or learn the physics.

And you're going against the science of economics.

I don't like people like you-- you spout pseudo scientific bullshit that lets people continue to not think and think they are thinking.

You and your socialist friends, are exactly why the environment is being damaged and people are poor in this country.

If you'd reject socialism and embrace human rights and capitalism, it would be better for everybody.

But fortunately, science and economics are on my side. Eventually the people will stop falling for your lies and excuses and rise up and throw your types out of power.

Please, go learn some physics and economics. If you REALLY wanted to preserve the environment, you'd see I'm right.

But that's not what you want-- you want control. You want tyranny. And you don't even have the basic integrity to be honest about it.

Mao and the tale of the many dead birds... (3, Interesting)

silentbozo (542534) | more than 10 years ago | (#7900426)

If I recall, Mao [rotten.com] declared a certain sparrow a pest (the propaganda was that the bird was stealing valuable grain) so they embarked on a nationwide campaign to exterminate the bird. Little kids beat pans to drive birds away from their nesting sites, hunters used nets, rocks, etc. Of course, it turned out the sparrow was a needed predator, to control the insects that eventually ravaged their grain crops...

The question is, what does this have to do with El Nino?

Re:More evidence on the pile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7899198)

It also important to understand that a lot of these fires are set to clear land. They do it every year in Mexico. Here in Texas, we have to breath the smoke (not every year, only when the wind is right).

Re:More evidence on the pile (2, Interesting)

Phronesis (175966) | more than 10 years ago | (#7900050)

The difference is that the plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere for several years, then return it to the atmosphere when they burn. It's a closed cycle with no net growth of atmospheric CO2.

There is no corresponding cycle to balance burning fossil fuels over the short term, so the more fossil fuels we burn, the longer the residence time of CO2 molecules, and the greater the concentration.

If you look at charts of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, you see annual cycles, ENSO cycles, and other short term fluctuations, but these are all superimposed on a much larger trend, which is unmistakably due to human intervention.

ENSO has been around for millennia, but somehow despite all these fires, the atmospheric CO2 concentration rose slowly over the past 10,000 years from around 270 parts per million at the end of the last ice age to 290 parts per million a century ago. Since then, it's climbed rapidly to around 360 parts per million---much greater than it's ever been in the 500,000 years for which we have reliable records.

Is your snide comment about Kyoto supposed to indicate that El Nino did nothing drastic to CO2 for over 10,000 years and then just coincidentally happened to have a big effect that exactly correlated with human use of fossil fuels?

Kyoto was never supposed to be a 'solution' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7902025)

It was supposed to be the start of a process. Why do you think everyone was so disappointed about the US? Because it showed it had no interest in wanting to confront the problem.

Re:More evidence on the pile (1)

misterpies (632880) | more than 10 years ago | (#7902897)

The link between the forest fires and Kyoto is slim. What percentage of developed-world CO2 emissions do you think are accounted for by UK vehicles? Pretty small, I'd guess. For example, the US alone has over 5 times as many cars as the UK. And there are plenty of other sources of CO2. So the Java fires were still only a small proportion of worldwide CO2 emissions that year - and they don't happen every year, unlike automobile emissions.

As for the general point about El Nino resulting in increased greenhouse gas levels, let's not forget that for some reason El Nino has started to act very oddly in the last few decades. It's become much more frequent, and more severe. This behaviour fits with scientists' models of global warming. In other words, global warming is making El Nino worse. If El Nino itself contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, then it raises the worrying spectre of a positive-feedback situation -- in which case we need to do even more to reduce manmade emissions in order to counterbalance it.

Another point to ponder is that it's reasonable to suppose that the earth's climate is stable to a certain degree of perturbation, but that a larger degree of perturbation might have large effects. So in a "normal" world, the temporary increase in greenhouse gases from El Nino (or forest fires, or volcanic eruptiosn) would not have a major or long-term effect. However if as a result of global warming we've moved closer to the boundaries of stability, then it's possible that a natural event such as El Nino might be enough to push us over the limit. If that happens, who knows what the climate will bring. It's obvious that the Earth has stable lower-temperature states (witness the Ice Ages), but we don't know much about higher temperature states -- yes, it was warmer under the dinosaurs but the ecosphere has changed a lot since then. Maybe the climate will stabilise a few degrees about where it is now, maybe it will enter some chaotic phase with unpredictable temperature swings. Frankly, I'd rather not have to risk either.

Re:More evidence on the pile (1)

eglamkowski (631706) | more than 10 years ago | (#7907213)

But what if global warming is caused by an increase in the amount of radiation emitted by the sun?

Ain't nothing gonna stop that :-p

The number of variables that effect our planetary climate are so vast and varied and interconnected and probably more then a few are still unknown, it seems quite arrogant to think we know how to solve the problem.

And is it really a problem anyways, since we know the earth in the past has been MUCH hotter then it is today...

But really, the truth is that aliens cause global warming:
http://www.crichton-official.com/speeches/speeches _quote04.html [crichton-official.com]

funding (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7897939)

This research was made possible by a grant from GM, Chrysler, and Ford.

Re:funding (1)

sam0ht (46606) | more than 10 years ago | (#7900826)

GM, Chrysler and Ford have all put substantial time and money into developing ways to power their cars while reducing or eliminating carbon dioxide emissions.
The car companies have solutions, it's just a question of whether society is ready for them yet.

don't stop worrying (2, Insightful)

xilmaril (573709) | more than 10 years ago | (#7897965)

this could mean that cars and industrial waste aren't as big a problem as was thought. that's great, but it's still a problem, as the smog of LA isn't caused by forest fires, I'd say

more practically, tho, we still want to find a way to stop this. could it be caused by the human races continued mismanagement of the forests? after all, el nino has happened before. we seem to be becoming more and more prone to it.

I think modern forest-management needs to take a major turn, and it isn't the one usually advocated. stop stopping mild, natural fires. they clean out the undergrowth, and stop major forest fires like the one in BC this past summer (that caused the evacuation of about 150,000 ppl)

and in reference to some other posters comment, don't be silly. we can always blame this on gwb. that's what people do, after all

Wrong kind of forest for that (1)

Spamalamadingdong (323207) | more than 10 years ago | (#7898114)

The forests in question are in Indonesia, where peat bogs full of old trees are first cut for lumber and then partially drained and planted as plantations. Drying out the peat makes it very susceptible to fire, which releases huge amounts of trapped carbon.

Re:don't stop worrying (1)

Atzanteol (99067) | more than 10 years ago | (#7898580)

"could it be caused by the human races continued mismanagement of the forests?"

Could it be that fires happen? They are a *natural* occurance you know. You can't blame *everything* on mankind.

I say it's all the fault of those damned dinosaurs...

Re:don't stop worrying (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 10 years ago | (#7904308)

  • I say it's all the fault of those damned dinosaurs...

Indeed. Damn them for dying out! If they hadn't, we *humans* probably wouldn't have any of these environmental problems right now...

Hey, I know! I suggest we do not cause a global extinction of all land life, so we won't get blamed by some intelligent decendant of a toad for their environmental problems in ~100 million years.

actually.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7909139)

...there is a study showing that up to 25% of what hangs over LA is generated from the cooking of meat... think about it... rush hour, dinner time, all those restaurants firing up the grill... think about what you see come off of your grill when you cook, and compare that to what you see come out of your car's tailpipe... in the end, LA has problems because LA is fucking crowded. No matter how much of one problem you might solve, there will be another.

No proof that CO2 causes temp rise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7898014)

You are all cargo cultists [crichton-official.com]

More commentary here. [kuro5hin.org]

Just get this "El Nino" guy ... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7898147)

... to sign on to Kyoto. Jeez, what's so complicated?

Regards,
El Nin Con Poopo

Re:Just get this "El Nino" guy ... (1)

ooby (729259) | more than 10 years ago | (#7902712)

"I am El Nino, which stands for 'The Nino.'" ~Chris Farley

This "study" brought to you by.... (1, Funny)

kommakazi (610098) | more than 10 years ago | (#7898460)

GWB and the "good old boys" club. In tomorrow's study: how driving hummers cross-country actually helps the environment!

Re:This "study" brought to you by.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7898687)

Who drives Hummers cross-country? I thought they were for picking up the kids from soccer practice...

Re:This "study" brought to you by.... (1)

kommakazi (610098) | more than 10 years ago | (#7912346)

No, because Hummers get 1mpg city and 2mpg highway. Since driving cross country would be considered highway miles, you're getting twice the fuel economy!

GWB and driving will help environment ... (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 10 years ago | (#7898774)

GWB is promoting R&D into hydrogen fueled cars so GWB+driving can help the environment. ;-)

Re:GWB and driving will help environment ... (1)

kommakazi (610098) | more than 10 years ago | (#7900935)

I wouldn't exactly call the pitifully small amount of money he's set aside for hydrogen car R&D "promoting", it's more like a teeny little bit just to get the environmentalists somewhat off his back. The Bush family makes its money from oil. Not Hydrogen.

Re:GWB and driving will help environment ... (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 10 years ago | (#7901433)

GWB lost money in oil, he made his money in baseball. ;-)

Re:This "study" brought to you by.... (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 10 years ago | (#7903763)

Pshaw. The whole "Hydrogen Economy" thing is basically just another way of saying "Look over there! I mean it this time! There's something really intersting happening, far more interesting than these other 'environmental' initaitives! Hurry up or you'll miss it!"

International Characters (3, Interesting)

capoccia (312092) | more than 10 years ago | (#7898474)

Slashdot really needs better unicode/international character support. An "n" is not the same as an "n" with a tilde or even "n~".

Slashdot doesn't let you enter the pound symbol. Imagine writing about prices where every time you wanted to say $, you had to spell out dollar in order for people to know what you were talking about.

Typographic symbols like dashes, quotes and elipses are all missing.

http://alistapart.com/articles/emen/ [alistapart.com]

Re:International Characters (1)

babbage (61057) | more than 10 years ago | (#7909550)

Slashdot doesn't let you enter the pound symbol

Not that I'm sticking up for the quirks in Slashcode, but haven't you ever seen the common three letter currency codes [exxun.com] ? Most of them aren't hard to guess -- GBP, USD, CND, AUD, EUR, JPY, CNY etc -- and they're very handy for typographic situations where you don't have access to "funny" characters like the British Pound symbol, the Euro symbol, or the Yen symbol, and you also don't feel like typing out the whole currency name, including discriminators such as "American" vs. "Canadian" vs. "Austrialian" Dollar.

This set of three letter currency abbreviations is so useful, in fact, that the list of codes is an ISO standard [www.iso.ch] .

Granted, having access to the actual symbols is better, but these abbreviations are widely used, familiar to many, easy to interpret ...and portable to any typographic system that can represent the Latin alphabet. It's a workaround, but it works.

+++

...not that this has anything to do with El Nino, wildfires, or global warming, But then neither did the parent post, but it was still a fair observation... :-)

Re:International Characters (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 10 years ago | (#7914037)

ah, aeh, oh, seems I can use my local letters OK.
Let's try something fancy: Euro --->

Yikes! This hasn't always been so, has it?

Re:International Characters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7915416)

How do Spaniards cope with not being able to write an N with a home-directory mark over it - as must happen occasionally? I know that in German, if you can't write an umlaut over a vowel, you write an "e" after it. I also know that in Portuguese, the digraph "nh" represents that \n~\ sound. I'm genuinely curious here ..... there must be at least one person who has been caught short, so to speak .....

El Nino Responds (2, Funny)

msouth (10321) | more than 10 years ago | (#7898690)

"All this talk about 'firing' the guy, I don't understand it," El Nino said. "It was a painful but ultimately amicable decision. He didn't want to change his diet, and we just couldn't take the smell."

Fluctuations vs. trends (3, Interesting)

Phronesis (175966) | more than 10 years ago | (#7899864)

It's important to be clear that El Nino-induced fires can account for short-term variations (interannual, or so). However, the things that burn only have carbon to emit because they extracted it from the atmosphere, so this result has no effect on the interpretation of CO2 trends over longer time scales.

Re:Fluctuations vs. trends (1)

MountainBoiler (629847) | more than 10 years ago | (#7905510)

Since when are forest fires referred to as "El Nino"?

The forest fires are happening because of 75-100 years of forest management policy where we didn't tolerate any fires - which were a normal phenomena. This broke down the natural system. So the fires, which will happen anyway, have been getting systematically worse.

Where did these policies come from? Poor science environementalists who have no idea of the consequences. They see one bad thing, and do the knee-jerk reaction to "fix" it, frequently making things worse.

Re:Fluctuations vs. trends (1)

Phronesis (175966) | more than 10 years ago | (#7906536)

Since when are forest fires referred to as "El Nino"?

The article described how El Nino cycles modulate brush fires and forest fires. This has nothing to do with US forest management policy, because most of the fires they're talking about are in South America and Africa.

El Nino = The Nino? (1)

R33MSpec (631206) | more than 10 years ago | (#7900233)

A great Chris Farley quote comes to mind from one of his skits on Saturday Night Live:

" I am El Nino, and for those of you who dont 'habla espanol', El Nino is Spanish for ..... The Nino!"

forest fires != greenhouse gas (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 10 years ago | (#7915104)

The carbon dioxide emitted by a forest fire was already there before the trees started growing. All green plants -- from mighty redwoods to tiny algae -- are made principally from carbon, which they get by taking carbon dioxide from the air, leaving behind oxygen for animals to breathe. There is carbon in soil, but not much of that ends up in plants {otherwise how do you explain hydroponics?} Most plants have a fairly short growing cycle {trees are a bit of an exception, but we get much more of our oxygen from short-life plants than from trees}. In any case, young and fast-growing plants use more carbon dioxide than established ones. It is actually beneficial for big, old trees to go on fire and make room for smaller, fast-growing trees and plants {which will greedily lap up the carbon dioxide left by their ancestors}. Over the lifetime of a tree, the levels of plant-sourced carbon dioxide in the atmosphere only fluctuate about a mean -- from a trough when it is growing, to a peak when it is burned.

Carbon dioxide originating from fossil fuels is another matter, since the carbon whence it came has been locked away underground for millions of years, and releasing it will increase the level in the atmosphere.
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