Nature’s Way of Creating Order Out Of Chaos
Studying the way glass or other brittle objects shatter can help scientists hone their weather forecasts and predictions of future climate. The study found that tiny particles of dust, released into the air when dirt is broken apart, follow similar fragmentation patterns as glass. Jasper Kok of the US NCAR in Boulder, Colorado, said his work suggested there could be several times more dust particles in the atmosphere than previously estimated.
Scientists seek climate clues in shattered glass
By David Fogarty in Reuters Green Business (28 December 2010):
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Studying the way glass or other brittle objects shatter can help scientists hone their weather forecasts and predictions of future climate, a study released last week says.
The study found that tiny particles of dust, released into the air when dirt is broken apart, follow similar fragmentation patterns as glass.
Dust plays a crucial climate role because it can affect the amount of the sun’s energy absorbed by the atmosphere. Dust can also help with cloud formation and distribution of nutrients, such as iron that is vital for plants.
Some particles reflect solar energy, acting as cooling agents, while some trap extra heat.
For example, microscopic clay particles remain in the atmosphere for about a week, helping cool the atmosphere by reflecting heat from the sun back into space. Larger dust particles drop back to earth more quickly and tend to have a heating effect.
The trick is to figure out how much of each type is in the atmosphere and the better the estimate, the more accurate the forecast.
Jasper Kok of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, said his work suggested there could be several times more dust particles in the atmosphere than previously estimated.
This is because shattered dirt appeared to produce a much larger number of dust fragments, a finding that challenges assumptions used in complex computer programs to forecast the weather and future climate.
This is particularly the case for desert regions such as north Africa, parts of Australia and the southwestern United States, where winds can whip up large amounts of nutrient-rich dust into the air and across the sea.
“As small as they are, conglomerates of dust particles in soils behave the same way on impact as a glass dropped on a kitchen floor,” Kok said in a statement with the release of his study in the latest issue of the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Knowing this pattern can help us put together a clearer picture of what our future climate will look like,” he added.
That is crucial for scientists using computer climate models to simulate the amount of dust particles in the atmosphere to figure out the heating or cooling effect.
Kok said his work suggested the amount of microscopic clay particles might be overestimated in many models and that there might be much greater amounts of larger dust particles swirling around, particularly near desert regions.
More study was needed to determine whether future temperatures in those regions would rise more or less than currently indicated by computer models, the statement said.
Mathematical formulae can be used to show how brittle objects crack and break in predictable ways. Using these formulae Kok estimated the size distribution of dust particles blown into the air, with the formulae matching the measurements of particle sizes almost exactly, he said in the study.
“The idea that all these objects shatter in the same way is a beautiful thing, actually,” Kok says in the statement. “It’s nature’s way of creating order in chaos.”
31 December in Straits Times
JAKARTA: Indonesia has chosen one of its largest and richest provinces to test efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by saving forest and peatlands, a key part of a US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) climate deal with Norway.
Central Kalimantan province on Borneo island is the second-largest producer of greenhouse gases among Indonesia’s 33 provinces because of deforestation, destruction of carbon-rich peat swamps and land-use change, the government says.
‘The assessment showed that Central Kalimantan is a province with large forest cover and peatlands and faces a real threat of deforestation,’ top technocrat Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, head of a special presidential delivery unit charged with managing the Norway deal, said in a statement yesterday.
The agreement aims to test efforts that save and restore forests as a way to fight climate change. Forests soak up and lock away large amounts of carbon, while clearing and burning them releases carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.
Under the climate deal signed this year, Norway will pay Indonesia for proven emission reductions based on a transparent auditing system, and a key part of the pact is selecting a province to test programmes that boost conservation, training and steps to improve livelihoods.
Overhauling the province’s land-use plan is also key. The deal imposes a two-year national moratorium on new concessions to clear primary forests and peatlands, a step some palm oil and pulp and paper firms fear could disrupt expansion plans.
With nearly a million hectares of oil palm plantations and a rapidly growing coal-mining sector, the province has some of the largest areas of threatened peatlands and peat swamp forests in the country.
The deal also seeks to ramp up a United Nations-backed scheme, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (Redd), that aims to reward poor countries for saving their forests.
Internationally tradeable carbon offsets would be generated by forest preservation projects based on national or regional emission reductions. Rich countries would buy the credits in a future market that could be worth billions of dollars a year, the UN says. A UN climate conference in Mexico this month backed Redd, which has already attracted about US$4 billion in pledges from rich nations, including Norway and the United States.
Indonesia already has about 40 Redd projects at various stages of development, the government says, with two projects totalling more than 300,000ha of peat swamp forests in Central Kalimantan. Australia is also helping to restore 100,000ha of degraded peatlands in the province.
Under the deal, the province, and another to be chosen in 2012, would benefit from some of the US$120 million in the second phase. The bulk of the money would be available in the third phase from 2014, when Norway will pay for measured greenhouse gas cuts based on 2013 emission reductions.
Mr Dharsono Hartono, developer of a Redd project in Central Kalimantan, said: ‘With this selection, the province can finalise its spatial plan, implement its green growth policy and drive bureaucratic reform that can boost jobs and environmental protection.’