Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Extreme weather, extreme forest fires, and climate change (Radio Ecoshock)

Last week the news was full of massive tornado's and extreme weather. Most shocking was the near total destruction of Joplin Missouri due to an F-5 tornado, a mile wide and with 200 mile/hr winds, that waltzed through town destroying a hospital, the high school, hundreds of homes and other buildings. It wasn't a solitary tornado, but a swarm of tornado's that struck all over the midwest U.S.

Radio Echoshock this week covered not just the extreme weather, but also the extreme fire situation burning large swaths of boreal forest in the far north of Canada. The forest fires represent not only habitat loss but an accelerating effect upon climate change due to the massive carbon release from each fire.

Thursday, May 26, 2011 FLOOD FIRE WIND - Climate Shift

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The show started with one of the Net's premier meteorologists, Dr. Jeff Masters from the Weather Underground. Are tornadoes another sign of climate change? How can we have record floods in the Mississippi, while just next door Texas burns through a record drought. It's all going to raise food prices even higher.

Next was Joe Romm, of the Climate Progress blog, discussing a scientific report on The Salt Surge hit the Mackenzie River Delta in 1999. That is, the ocean "surged" and flooded the land with salty water. When scientists heard about the wave of salty sea water that washed over a maze of lowlands and small lakes, they investigated. It was a perfect chance to study what we can expect all over the world, as sea levels rise.

They found that about two thirds of the shrubs (there are no trees there) along the Delta died over the succeeding years. In the Delta lakes, salt water species started to take over from weakened fresh water types. It was a big and permanent change to the ecosphere.

It's thought salt surges will hit other areas too.

The third guest is Dr. Mike Flannigan, one of Canada's top wild fire experts. This covered why wildfires are doubling in the boreal forests in Canada, Alaska, and Russia. And a surprising new threat to the fragile balance of our climate.

We knew that the Boreal forests which cover the top of Canada, Alaska, and Russia were becoming a source of new carbon, rather than a greenhouse sink.

The community of Slave Lake in Alberta was just evacuated, with one third of the town, including the municipal buildings, the radio station and library, burned to the ground. It was a sudden nightmare for the inhabitants.

The Tundra - the area so far North it's too cold for tree seeds to germinate. So no trees. But there are hundreds of thousands of years of carbon stored in the Tundra, mostly as peat. If that burns, the whole climate of the world will change.

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