tagged w/ nitrous oxide
I've been waiting for Symphony of Science to address climate change in one of their videos. Well worth the wait "We can do this... we can change the world." We just need to see that this crisis and challenge transcends borders and labels and work together as human beings!I've been waiting for Symphony of Science to address climate change in one of... more
A detailed analysis of global nitrogen cycles shows without a doubt that a spike in atmospheric nitrous oxide can be traced to increased fertilizer use during the past 50 years.
Since 1970, nitrous oxide concentrations have increased by 20 percent, from below 270 parts per billion to more than 320 ppb. After carbon dioxide and methane, nitrous oxide (N2O) is the most potent greenhouse gas, trapping heat and contributing to global warming. It also destroys stratospheric ozone, which protects the planet from harmful ultraviolet rays.
Climate scientists have assumed that the cause of the increased nitrous oxide was nitrogen-based fertilizer, which stimulates microbes in the soil to convert nitrogen to nitrous oxide at a faster rate than normal.
The new study, reported in the April issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, uses nitrogen isotope data to identify the unmistakable fingerprint of fertilizer use in archived air samples from Antarctica and Tasmania.
“Our study is the first to show empirically from the data at hand alone that the nitrogen isotope ratio in the atmosphere and how it has changed over time is a fingerprint of fertilizer use,” said study leader Kristie Boering, a UC Berkeley professor of chemistry and of earth and planetary science.
“We are not vilifying fertilizer. We can’t just stop using fertilizer,” she said. “But we hope this study will contribute to changes in fertilizer use and agricultural practices that will help to mitigate the release of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere.”
The steep rise in atmospheric nitrous oxide coincided with the green revolution of the 1960s, when inexpensive, synthetic fertilizer and other developments boosted food production worldwide, feeding a burgeoning global population.
Tracking the origin of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere, however, is difficult because a molecule from a fertilized field looks identical to one from a natural forest or the ocean if you only measure total concentration. But a quirk of microbial metabolism affects the isotope ratio of the nitrogen the N2O microbes give off, producing a telltale fingerprint that can be detected with sensitive techniques.
Global warming impacts
Limiting nitrous oxide emissions could be part of a first step toward reducing all greenhouse gases, Boering said. In particular, reducing nitrous oxide emissions can initially offset more than its fair share of greenhouse gas emissions overall, since N2O traps heat at a different wavelength than CO2 and clogs a “window” that allows Earth to cool off independent of CO2 levels.
“On a pound for pound basis, it is really worthwhile to figure how to limit our emissions of N2O and methane,” she said. “Limiting N2O emissions can buy us a little more time in figuring out how to reduce CO2 emissions.”
One approach, for example, is to time fertilizer application to avoid rain, because wet and happy soil microbes can produce sudden bursts of nitrous oxide. Changes in the way fields are tilled, when they are fertilized and how much is used can reduce N2O production.
Boering’s studies, which involve analyzing the isotopic fingerprints of nitrous oxide from different sources, could help farmers determine which strategies are most effective. It could also help assess the potential negative impacts of growing crops for biofuels, since some feedstocks may require fertilizer that will generate N2O that offsets their carbon neutrality.
“This new evidence of the budget of nitrous oxide allows us to better predict its future changes– and therefore its impacts on climate and stratospheric ozone depletion – for different scenarios of fertilizer use in support of rising populations and increased production for bio-energy,” said coauthor David Etheridge of the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research in Aspendale, Victoria.
More at the linkA detailed analysis of global nitrogen cycles shows without a doubt that a spike in... more
Experience the news of the week like never before. Our News Anchors walk the line on every topic from Demi Moore's overdose to the controversial National Defense Authorization Act. If it's not dangerous then it's not worth reporting. Our correspondents infiltrate covert political operations and expose the truth with true American flare, which makes the SpeakEasy the only news show on the planet deregulated from big brother's totalitarian grasp of the media. Don't believe anything you hear or see, just believe us from now on.Experience the news of the week like never before. Our News Anchors walk the line on... more
The global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record, the U.S. Department of Energy calculated, a sign of how feeble the world's efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.
The new figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago.
"The more we talk about the need to control emissions, the more they are growing," said John Reilly, co-director of MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.
The world pumped about 564 million more tons (512 million metric tons) of carbon into the air in 2010 than it did in 2009. That's an increase of 6 percent. That amount of extra pollution eclipses the individual emissions of all but three countries — China, the United States and India, the world's top producers of greenhouse gases.
It is a "monster" increase that is unheard of, said Gregg Marland, a professor of geology at Appalachian State University, who has helped calculate Department of Energy figures in the past.
Extra pollution in China and the U.S. account for more than half the increase in emissions last year, Marland said.
"It's a big jump," said Tom Boden, director of the Energy Department's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at Oak Ridge National Lab. "From an emissions standpoint, the global financial crisis seems to be over."
Boden said that in 2010 people were traveling, and manufacturing was back up worldwide, spurring the use of fossil fuels, the chief contributor of man-made climate change.
India and China are huge users of coal. Burning coal is the biggest carbon source worldwide and emissions from that jumped nearly 8 percent in 2010.
"The good news is that these economies are growing rapidly so everyone ought to be for that, right?" Reilly said Thursday. "Broader economic improvements in poor countries has been bringing living improvements to people. Doing it with increasing reliance on coal is imperiling the world."
In 2007, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its last large report on global warming, it used different scenarios for carbon dioxide pollution and said the rate of warming would be based on the rate of pollution. Boden said the latest figures put global emissions higher than the worst case projections from the climate panel. Those forecast global temperatures rising between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century with the best estimate at 7.5 degrees.
Even though global warming skeptics have attacked the climate change panel as being too alarmist, scientists have generally found their predictions too conservative, Reilly said. He said his university worked on emissions scenarios, their likelihood, and what would happen. The IPCC's worst case scenario was only about in the middle of what MIT calculated are likely scenarios.
Chris Field of Stanford University, head of one of the IPCC's working groups, said the panel's emissions scenarios are intended to be more accurate in the long term and are less so in earlier years. He said the question now among scientists is whether the future is the panel's worst case scenario "or something more extreme."
"Really dismaying," Granger Morgan, head of the engineering and public policy department at Carnegie Mellon University, said of the new figures. "We are building up a horrible legacy for our children and grandchildren."
More at the linkThe global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on... more
Scientists at an annual meeting of U.S. agronomists last week in San Antonio said the focus was climate change.
"Its impact on agriculture systems, impacts on crops, mitigation strategies with soil management -- a whole range of questions was being asked about climate change," said Jerry Hatfield, Laboratory Director at the National Soil Tilth Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.
"The biggest thing is high night-time temperatures have a negative impact on yield," Hatfield added, noting that the heat affects evaporation and the life process of the crops.
"One of the consequences of rising temperatures ... is to compress the life cycle of that plant. The other key consequence is that when the atmosphere gets warmer the atmospheric demand for water increases," Hatfield said.
"These are simple things that can occur and have tremendous consequences on our ability to produce a stable supply of food or feed or fiber," he said.
Boote at the University of Florida found that rice and sorghum plants failed to produce grain, something he calls "pollen viability," when the average 24-hour temperature is 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius). That equates to highs of 104 F during the day and 86 F at night, he said.
The global seed industry has set a high bar to boost crop yields by 2050 to feed a hungry world. Scientists said that the impact of heat on plant growth needs more focus and study.
"If you look at a lot of crop insurance claims, farmers say it is the lack of water that caused the plant to die," said Wolfram Schlenker, assistant professor at Columbia University.
"But I think it's basically different sides of the same coin because the water requirement of the plant increases tremendously if it's hot," he said.
More at the linkScientists at an annual meeting of U.S. agronomists last week in San Antonio said the... more
Wildfires are becoming more frequent and intense, lasting on average 78 days longer than they did just two decades ago. Northern Arizona University Biology Professor Bruce Hungate tells host Bruce Gellerman about research that shows a relationship between fire and the release of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.
GELLERMAN: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios in Somerville Mass, this is Living on Earth. I'm Bruce Gellerman. Nitrous Oxide is commonly known as laughing gas, but there’s nothing funny about its effects on climate change.
Biologist Bruce Hungate accidentally discovered that during wild fires, huge amounts of nitrous oxide in the soil are released into the atmosphere. It all has to do with microscopic bugs in the soil that give off laughing gas. Bruce Hungate is a professor at Northern Arizona University.
HUNGATE: Bacteria called denitrifiers use nitrate in respiration just like humans use oxygen, and in the process, they produce nitrous oxide. Fires promote conditions in the soil that favor production of nitrous oxide by these soil microorganisms. They’re microscopic, but their impacts are global by producing this greenhouse gas. And in fact, most of the nitrous oxide in the atmosphere comes from these tiny creatures.
GELLERMAN: So how potent is nitrous oxide as a greenhouse gas, compared to, say, carbon dioxide?
HUNGATE: So on a molecule-per-molecule basis, nitrous oxide is three hundred times more potent than carbon dioxide. That’s a very potent greenhouse gas.
GELLERMAN: So you studied grasslands, right?
GELLERMAN: Would I find nitrous oxide and these little bugs that produce it in forests?
HUNGATE: Denitrifiers are everywhere. They’re in soils all around the world. And they produce nitrous oxide from these soils all around the world. And there actually have been a lot of experiments looking at the impacts of fire on nitrous oxide production from forests as well, it turns out, especially in the tropics - and often there what you see is after a fire, you get more nitrous oxide emitted from soil.
Bruce Hungate is a professor of Biology at Northern Arizona University. (Northern Arizona University.
GELLERMAN: And we didn’t know about this forest-fire and nitrous oxide relationship before?
HUNGATE: What we did know is that, in general, after fire, nitrous oxide emissions often go up. So we knew that before. What we didn’t know is how fires interact with these other components of the changing environment and in our experiment that was the real surprise.
GELLERMAN: You were running a series of experiments and you had a bunch of test plots, as I understand it, and that’s where you made your discovery.
HUNGATE: That’s right. We started this experiment back in 1998 in a grassland in California where we actually changed the physical environment around test plots to try to simulate the environment of the future. We focused on four on-going global environmental changes. More CO2 in the atmosphere, so some plots have tubes that release extra CO2 into the atmosphere around the growing plants, and also warming, we have infrared heat lamps over some plots to make them warmer. Extra nitrogen deposition - some plots get an extra dose of nitrogen simulating higher industrial activity and its effect on the atmosphere in the future. And also rainfall, some plots have sprinklers that simulate more rain. So we had each of these changes by itself, and then in every possible combination with the other global changes - it was really complex.
And then a downed power line caused a fire that burned part of it. At first we were really worried about damage to the experiment, but it turned into an opportunity. The fire burned only part of it, so we still had controls to quantify the impact of the fire along with the background of all these global environmental changes. So instead of losing the experiment, we got an even more complex experiment - very complex, but also interesting and exciting, with these new results.
GELLERMAN: So this accidental fire leads to this surprising finding that you can have accelerated global warming due to the nitrous oxide in the soil being released, essentially.
HUNGATE: Yeah, that’s exactly right, it was a surprising result. When we looked at each of these things by itself, we wouldn’t have been able to predict the result we got.
GELLERMAN: So you get this intense burst of nitrous oxide - so it’s not long lasting? Or…
HUNGATE: Well, actually it is. It was a delayed reaction. The pulse of nitrous oxide after fire lasted about three years. And that was another surprising finding, because past work on fires and nitrous oxide emissions haven’t shown quite as long lasting an effect. We think that might have to do with a combination of the global environmental changes along with the fire that really promoted nitrous oxide production.
GELLERMAN: So, Professor, let me play out the scenarios. So if you have a wildfire it releases this nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, it affects climate change dramatically, it gets warmer and causes the conditions for more wildfires - you’ve got a feedback loop here.
HUNGATE: That’s exactly right. It’s where climate change leads to more fires, which in turn lead to more climate change. And it’s not just nitrous oxide, these fires also produce carbon dioxide and methane, so they’re important sources of greenhouse gasses.
More at the link.Wildfires are becoming more frequent and intense, lasting on average 78 days longer... more
Scientists are currently investigating the effects of silver nanoparticles used in a range of antibacterial products from socks to plasters. The article says the tests have taken place on plants in a lab to see what happens to water containing the nanoparticles. Since they've "been shown to reduce the activity of bacteria used to remove ammonia when the water is treated."-newscientist
One finding so far, said the nanoparticles produce a higher level of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, which they warn at a larger scale could contribute to the concerns of climate change.
"The team is now planning further experiments, including the setting up of a complete wetland ecosystem to measure how it might be affected by waste water containing silver nanoparticles."-newscientistScientists are currently investigating the effects of silver nanoparticles used in a... more
It's an awkward, yet necessary human function that happens to the best of us at the worst of times: flatulence.
Whether released in the privacy of your bathroom, or presented with gusto in a room full of your closest friends, there's no denying that the human digestive system and our not-so-healthy diets combine forces to make us one gassy species.
If you think human flatulence stinks, however, this news is really going to wrinkle your nose.
Up until recently, our planet has kept its gas to itself, locked safely away in Arctic permafrost, the thick layer of soil just beneath the surface that remains frozen year round. Because Earth's temperature has been steadily increasing over the past few decades, however, the frozen ground is melting, and the concentrated gas is bubbling to the surface in alarming amounts.
The gas now exploding through the Arctic shelf is methane that was originally deposited there through decomposition of organic matter in ancient wetlands.
Methane is 25 times as potent a heat-trapping gas as CO2 over a 100 year time horizon, but 72 times as potent over 20 years (Climate Progress).
If a significant amount of this formerly-frozen methane is released into the atmosphere, it could put in motion a positive feedback loop in which warming releases methane, causing further warming, which liberates even more of the gas.
In a recent press release, the National Science Foundation press release warned that "release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming."
But the planet's gassy problems don't end with underground methane bubbles.
Keep Reading: http://ow.ly/1yQUzIt's an awkward, yet necessary human function that happens to the best of us at... more
A paper describing the new analyses was posted online today in Science.
CFCs not only are very potent agents of ozone destruction, but also have been released in huge quantities and are long-lived. The bottom line: Once these pollutants enter Earth’s upper atmosphere, they linger, catalyzing damage for decades.
As such, they deserve most of the blame for the overall five-to six-percent thinning in stratospheric ozone that has developed in the past half-century or so, the NOAA scientists say. But owing to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, a United Nations treaty that has restricted or banned use of the most ozone-toxic chemicals, stratospheric ozone thinning has peaked and now appears to be falling.
NOAA calculations now suggest that gains made under the Montreal Protocol will slow or halt, owing to the huge and rising contributions of a pollutant that also imperils ozone — but remains ignored by the powerful treaty. Owing to a twist of fate, the treaty’s success in limiting CFC emissions will also begin intensifying N2O’s potency.
To understand why, Ravishankara says, it helps to know how CFCs and N2O damage ozone. Solar ultraviolet radiation breaks CFC molecules apart, creating chlorine and chlorine oxides. "These are what destroy ozone," he says, not the parent CFCs. Similarly, N2O doesn't directly damage ozone. Chemical reactions in the stratosphere must first strip away one of that molecule's nitrogen atoms — forming nitric oxide, or NO. This stripped down molecule, he explains, is what actually wreaks havoc with ozone.
“Nitrogen oxides and chlorine oxides kind of oppose each other in destroying stratospheric ozone,” the scientist explains. “In other words, N2O offsets the ability of chlorine oxides to destroy ozone. And vice versa.” In the new paper, he says, “We have calculated the ozone-depleting potential of N2O to be roughly 50 percent larger when chlorine levels return to the year-1960 level.”
As N2O pollution goes, dentists are very bit players. Deforestation, animal wastes and bacterial decomposition of plant material in soils and streams emit up to two-thirds of atmospheric N2O.
However, emissions from such natural sources appear fairly static, Ravishankara said at a briefing yesterday. That’s in stark contrast to N2O releases from processes fostered by human activity, such as the nitrogen fertilization of agricultural soils and fossil-fuel combustion. These anthropogenic emissions of the pollutant have been growing steadily, he says, to where they now boost atmospheric concentrations of N2O by roughly one percent every four years.
What all this means, the NOAA scientists say, is that N2O is now a bigger threat to future stratospheric ozone destruction than are CFCs. And if N2O emissions don’t diminish substantially, Ravishankara says, within a century they could eventually slay 40 percent as much stratospheric ozone each year as CFCs did at their peak.A paper describing the new analyses was posted online today in Science.
CFCs not... more
At first I thought this was a fake, down to the fact that kids hooning laughing gas whilst playing Gameboy doesn't exactly sound like a match made in heaven, but I was wrong, oh so wrong.
Apparently, it's been used in some hospitals as an aid for keeping kids calm before they are due to have an operation, and presumably for dulling the realisation that they're wearing what looks like a cross between a dog muzzle and Robocop
I can't help but think a balloon and a pack of cards would've done the trick though...At first I thought this was a fake, down to the fact that kids hooning laughing gas... more
I'm all about finding creative ways to sell clothes. Those crazies at Vice are never shy about pushing that creative envelope. Besides, if people smashed on N20 can't sell clothes to hipsters, I don't know what will.I'm all about finding creative ways to sell clothes. Those crazies at Vice are... more
Of course, there will always be those who laugh in the face of truth and hide behind their political grudges or ideologies while hypocritically telling others to think for themselves. Regarding what is happening in the Arctic, it is plain to the naked eye willing to look at it that climate change/global warning is having an effect. The question now is, do we allow those laughing in the face of that truth to continue to set the tone of this debate, or do we push them aside and get down to business? I personally vote for the latter. It is bad enough that we spew 70 million plus tons of GHG into the atmosphere everyday we continue to talk about needing action. And to add insult to injury, we are also compounding the amount of GHGs being released from the thawing tundra. How long will it take before people realize this is not a joke?Of course, there will always be those who laugh in the face of truth and hide behind... more
Ben Cato Clough investigates the rising trend in people who are using laughing gas recreationally and asks whether it is as innocuous as it first appears.Ben Cato Clough investigates the rising trend in people who are using laughing gas... more