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Who is warming the world?

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National per capita contributions to global warming. Colours indicate contributions above and below the world average, where read and orange indicate above, and yellow and gree below the world average of 0.11 Celsius per billion people.

National per capita contributions to global warming. Colours indicate contributions above and below the world average, where read and orange indicate above, and yellow and gree below the world average of 0.11 Celsius per billion people.

The map above shows that the largest contributions to global warming is made by people living in the USA, western Europe, including the UK, Cananda, Russia, Australia and New Zealand, Greenland, Iceland, Brazil, Argentina and many other countries in South America. People from India and China contribute below the global average. The data comes from a paper in Environmental Research Letters, in which the authors put this in a very roundabout way:

We show also that there are vast disparities in both total and per-capita climate contributions among countries, and that across most developed countries, per-capita contributions are not currently consistent with attempts to restrict global temperature change to less than 2 Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

In fact, the Candadian authors obfuscate the issue by producing a map which shows that per unit area of the world’s surface India and China are up there with western Europe and USA among the worst offenders, whereas Canada and Australia are clean as a whistle! It seems like the authors went looking for a criterion by which Canada could be shown to be better than China and India.

As is to be expected, western news media has reported this highly biased map. For extremely slanted news, see here, here, here and here.

Time to remind ourselves: land does not burn oil, people burn oil.


Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

January 19, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Climate change: not with a bang, but a whimper

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TOI reports a story that seems local, but will repeat in the years to come across the coasts of India:

The Padukere-Hejmady Road is in danger of being washed out due to seaerosion at Tenka Yermal village in Udupi district on Wednesday.

The Padukere-Hejmady Road is in danger of being washed out due to seaerosion at Tenka Yermal village in Udupi district on Wednesday.

With the coastal districts of the Dakshina Kannada and Udupi receiving heavy rain, intensity of which is more than what they received last year, various places along the coast are witnessing severe sea erosion.

A fisheries road in Tenka Yermal which was paver-finished last year eroded in five places on Wednesday during the high tide. Six houses near Ameen Moolastana are facing the danger as the sea reached their walls crossing the boulders that were placed as a last resort against erosion. Lalitha Bangera, a resident of Ullal for the past 30 years, said that the sea might engulf her house anytime.

Lifeguard Mohan Kumar said, “This year the erosion has been severe. Last year the sea waves barely reached Sharada Katte. This year the katte is gone.”

About 20 coconut trees of Gangadhar Suvarna were washed away in Thottam area.

Houses of Vishwanath, Sushila Karkera, Sundar Suvarna, Lingappa Puthran and Bharathi Kotian in the village are facing the risk of being damaged by the sea.

Sea erosion in Malpe continued even on Wednesday though the rain has receded in Udupi. Sea erosion had started near Hanuman Nagar and Kola areas in Malpe on Sunday and continued on Wednesday. All the stone benches on the beach have been washed away and the sea has entered a few houses in Kola area.

Climate change and rise in sea-water levels seem like abstractions until you start noticing little local stories like this. Lalitha Bangera, Sushila Karkera, Sundar Suvarna, Lingappa Puthran and Bharathi Kotian are early victims of circumstances that may well wash away parts of Mumbai in 30 years, not to speak of many other places along the 7500 kilometers of India’s coastline.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

July 25, 2013 at 9:01 am

You need maps

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DNA reports:

Uttarakhand, the state government has finally prepared a roadmap for clearing tonnes of debris left over by the destruction at Kedarnath and extricating bodies still trapped underneath at the Himalayan shrine and adjoining areas.

The roadmap was worked out at a meeting of GSI experts, Engineering Projects (India) Limited (EPIL) top brass and IAF officials with Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar and DGP Satyavrat Bansal here yesterday.

A roadmap for a region where all the roads have been wiped out! This newspaper does choose its words carefully.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

July 21, 2013 at 9:53 am

Spontaneous assembly of poison pills

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Sahu, Pati and Panigrahy detail the kinds of unexpected effects litter may have in the environment in a letter written to Current Science:

Sandilyan and Kathiresan have observed that [plastic] carry bags hanging on the mangrove tree branches produce a peculiar sound during wind flow that disturbs the foraging of migratory and resident birds in Pichavaram mangrove area.

It has been widely reported that discarded and lost fishing nets in wetlands continue to trap and catch fishes and other valuable species, which is commonly known as ‘ghost fishing’.

Plastic residues floating in water attract and hold polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane (DDT), dichloro-diphenyl-dichloro-ethylene (DDE), etc. which are hydrophobic and highly toxic. They are capable of uptaking one million times their background levels of these toxic materials, which are not readily soluble in water. The plastic litters with accumulation of such toxic pollutants act as poison pills to many organisms when they ingest the plastic remains found suspended in water along with food stuff.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

June 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Pink seas

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Noctilucent lgal bloom off Woollogong harbour; November 2012; Photo: Kirk Gilmour

Local Australian press has been reporting a large algal boom and the consequent closure of beaches for a few days. The bloom has grown large enough that news has now reached the international media. AFP reports:

A huge red algal bloom along vast stretches of southeastern Australia’s coastline Thursday resulted in beaches being closed and turned swathes of usually pristine ocean milky pink.

The algae, noctiluca scintillans, forced the closure of Sydney’s Bondi beach and a number of neighbouring inlets earlier this week, and government officials said it had now spread along the fringes of two states.

“Samples taken at Bondi Beach on 27 November confirmed the presence of noctiluca scintillans, which appears as a pinkish to reddish discolouration in water,” the New South Wales government’s water office said.

“It can also appear to be phosphorescent at night.”

Aerial footage shot over neighbouring Victoria state showed huge blooms of the oily pink scum off Bells Beach, a popular surfing spot, and Lorne, south of Melbourne.

Some keen surfers were seen paddling undeterred through the muck, which has a fishy odour and can irritate the skin and eyes but is not dangerous to humans.

Fisherman were advised not to eat anything caught in an affected area as a precaution.

“There are no practical options for treating marine algal blooms,” said Peter Codd from Victoria’s department of sustainability and environment.

Noctilucent algal blooms glow in the dark at Stanwell Park in Australia in Nov 2012. Photo: Matt Smith

A year ago the Hindu had reported the increasing frequency of algal blooms in Indian littoral waters, and the consequent dangers:

Harmful algal blooms (HAB), lethal for human beings and marine ecosystems alike, are steadily increasing in intensity in the Indian waters. Researchers have found out that the toxic blooms had increased by around 15 per cent over the last 12 years in Indian seas.

There were 80 harmful blooms between 1998 and 2010 in the Indian seas against the 38 that took place between 1958 and 1997. The number of such blooms was just 12 between 1917 and 1957, according to scientists.

The first recorded observation on algal blooms in India was in 1908.

The blooms turn lethal for human beings when they consume marine organisms that feed on such algae. Incidents of paralytic shell fish poisoning, following an algal bloom, was reported in 1981 from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Three persons lost their lives and 85 were hospitalised in Tamil Nadu.

In a similar incident at Vizhinjam in Kerala in 1997, seven persons died and around 500 were hospitalised. These people had consumed a mussel, which had fed on toxic algae. Another bloom that hit Kerala in 2004 resulted in nauseating smell emanating from the coastal waters extending from Kollam to Vizhinjam. More than 200 persons suffered from nausea and breathlessness for short duration due to the foul smell. The bloom also resulted in massive death in the region, scientists said.

It was the Arabian Sea that experienced the most number of blooms over the decades. The Bay of Bengal recorded blooms by and large during the northeast monsoon when cyclonic storms occurred in the region. Global warming and the resultant storminess could also influence the frequency of bloom formation in the Indian seas, scientists said.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

November 30, 2012 at 4:20 am


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Bryozoa: tentacles of a freshwater mollusc

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

November 24, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Posted in environment

Tagged with ,

Being crabby in the age of GPS

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The ability to manufacture GPS units with a weight of about 50 gms, which includes a lithium battery with a lifetime of over two months can clearly be a boon to surveillance. We know of its use in understanding the behaviour of a species of crabs through an article recently published in PLoS One which reads:

We investigated the navigational capabilities of the world’s largest land-living arthropod, the giant robber crab Birgus latro (Anomura, Coenobitidae); this crab reaches 4 kg in weight and can reach an age of up to 60 years. Populations are distributed over small Indo-Pacific islands of the tropics, including Christmas Island (Indian Ocean). … We used a GPS-based telemetric system to analyze movements of freely roaming robber crabs, the first large-scale study of any arthropod using GPS technology to monitor behavior. Although female robber crabs are known to migrate to the coast for breeding, no such observations have been recorded for male animals. In total, we equipped 55 male robber crabs with GPS tags, successfully recording more than 1,500 crab days of activity, and followed some individual animals for as long as three months.

Some of the results confirmed visual inspection, but were so much more detailed that a systematic account of the life-style of these crabs could emerge:

Robber crabs mostly range around home sites

Animals … undertook short-distance excursions mostly at night (Fig. 5B, C). This behavioral pattern was observed both inland at the northern reaches of our study site and on the coastal plateau. The average size of the areas occupied during these behavioral phases over all three years were [around 1.0 ha]. Animals were observed to stay at one home site (Fig. B) or to change between several (up to three) (Fig. C). We found that activities were centered on refuges such as rock crevices, tree roots and holes in dead wood (Fig. D and E). Other important attracting factors were fruiting trees and cut wood of the endemic Lister’s palm Arenga listeri around which crabs aggregated in large groups (Fig. F and G). The Lister’s palm is known to be a strong attractant to B. latro, and during all expeditions we encountered feeding congregations surrounding palms. For example, shortly after tagging crab No. 1500 (Fig. C1), it was noted to move toward a recently fallen A. listeri, where it remained for ca. 2 weeks (orange episode) before returning to the tagging location (blue episode).

Male robber crabs were observed performing long-distance movements within their home range, averaging 1.8±1.2 km between the inland rainforest and the coastal plateau during the wet season in 2008 and 2010. In contrast, only three long-distance movements were observed in the dry season. Long-distance movements followed a strict coast-inland pattern (north-south in our case). We observed animals moving from south to north, from north to south, and back and forth, even multiple times, during the observation period of 67 days. These primarily nocturnal migrations occurred within a confined corridor of [about] 500 m width and covering [about] 200 m of altitude. Individual crabs were recorded moving [at speeds] up to 150 m/hour. The migrations were frequently interrupted by almost stationary phases; for example, animal No. 1502 spent [almost] 39 days in the northern ranges of the transect between its two trips to the coastal plateau. The tracks indicate that within a migratory corridor between inland rainforest and coastal plateau, animals followed individual routes. Some animals were observed to use identical routes for seaward and landward migration. Animal No. 621, for example, having spent six days around the inland tagging site, walked from inland to the coastal terrace at Middle Point within five days. After a day at the coast, it reversed its path to walk back to [nearly] 160 m of altitude where it remained for three days. The animal then continued inland on the outbound path to a position some 200 m away from the original tagging site.

Other findings were new:

We displaced animals as far as 1 km within what we consider their familiar territories, and most animals thus translocated showed robust, directed homing behavior that resulted in the animals returning close to their pick-up points. Possible information sources for orientation, all of which are known or have been discussed, include celestial cues (sun, moon, anisotropic radiance distribution from skylight or reflections from the ocean or breaking surf); the earth’s magnetic field; differences of substrate features; gravitational information (slope); the breeze itself (anemotaxis), which may carry ocean odors (chemotaxis); and seismic low frequency cues from breaking surf.

Most of these features are available as orientation cues in B. latro’s habitat. By extracting navigational information from these cues and combining them with memorized familiar topographic features, animals may organize their migratory routes during the unforced migrations and translocation experiments.

“True navigation” describes the ability to navigate to a goal location even after displacement to unfamiliar locations outside the range of an animal’s experience. We interpret the search behavior that we induced in B. latro by translocation out of its familiar migratory corridor as if we displaced the animals into terra incognita. Although these animals failed to find their way back to their pick-up areas, this experiment nevertheless provided interesting insights into possible homing mechanisms to the new reference point that the release site became for these animals. During some of the outbound excursions from this central place, they simply seemed to reverse their paths for homing back. During other excursions, the animals performed wide loops as long as ca. 1 km, which nevertheless led them back to their starting points.

One wonders how many such observations are going on in humans, especially among those who willingly carry GPS devices around with them in their pockets.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

November 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm

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