Sun Makes History: First Spotless Month in a Century


The record-setting surface of the sun. A full month has gone by without a single spot (Source: Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO))

Drop in solar activity has potential effect for climate on earth.

The sun has reached a milestone not seen for nearly 100 years: an entire month has passed without a single visible sunspot being noted.

The event is significant as many climatologists now believe solar magnetic activity – which determines the number of sunspots — is an influencing factor for climate on earth.

Read moreSun Makes History: First Spotless Month in a Century

Drought threatens drinking water for a million Australians

SYDNEY (AFP) – Up to a million people in Australia could face a shortage of drinking water if the country’s drought continues, a report on the state of the nation’s largest river system revealed Sunday.

The report said the situation was critical in the Murray-Darling system, which provides water to Australia’s “food bowl”, a vast expanse of land almost twice as big as France that runs down the continent’s east coast.

Read moreDrought threatens drinking water for a million Australians

Turkey: Drought Cuts Food Production in Half

“Production has been halved to 300 kilos (661 pounds) per 1,000 square meters (250 acres), even in well-irrigated parts of the region, as rainfall declined to one-fortieth of normal levels, Referans daily said on Wednesday, citing farmers and farming associations.”

The government has selected 35 of its 81 provinces as eligible for financial assistance, Erdogan said. Farmers who have lost more than 30 percent of their harvest to drought can claim assistance and also postpone any agricultural loan payments by a year, he added.

Read moreTurkey: Drought Cuts Food Production in Half

Australia is suffering one of its worst droughts on record

Life is hard for wheat and livestock farmers in the south, as they face a possible third year of nearly no rain.

July 12, 2008 POOCHERA, AUSTRALIA — Glen Phillips kneels down, scoops up a handful of dirt and squashes it in his fist to test whether the soil in this dry patch of the Australian Outback is ready to take a crop of wheat.

“It should clump together when you squeeze,” says Phillips, whose family has lived off the land on the edge of the Great Australian Bight since 1949. “That’s how you know it’s good to plant, it’s moist enough to hold the roots.”

He opens his hand and the earth sifts dustily between his fingers. Phillips looks up, lifts his hat slightly and squints into an empty blue sky with no sign of rain.

“We’ll plant anyway,” he says. “We don’t have a choice.”

Australia is suffering one of its worst droughts on record, hurting wheat farming just as the world faces a food crisis. Australia is usually the world’s third or fourth-largest exporter of wheat. But exports dropped 46% from 2005 to 2006, then fell 24% last year.

Most of its exports go to the Middle East and Southeast Asia to make bread and cereals, but the fall in supply has led to soaring prices. A ton of Australian wheat costs $367, compared with $258 in early 2007, an increase poorer countries can ill afford.

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The Best Farmland in the U.S. Is Flooded; Most Americans Are Too Stupid to Panic
The Price Of Food: 2007 – 2008
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“When they pay high prices, they pass on an increase to their poorest people, who can no longer afford it,” says Kunhamboo Kannan, director of agriculture, environment and natural resources at the Asian Development Bank. “Just look at Egypt.” Riots over rising bread prices and shortages have led to at least 10 deaths there this year.

Read moreAustralia is suffering one of its worst droughts on record

Worsening Drought Threatens Australia’s “Food Bowl”


An agricultural region that produces over 40 percent of Australia‘s fruit, vegetables, and grain is seriously threatened by the country’s ongoing drought, which has been developing into a crisis over the last decade. Scientists say that the two mighty rivers that irrigate the Murray-Darling Basin (an area the size of France and Germany combined) received the lowest amount of replenishing autumn rain since record-keeping began over a century ago.

Neil Plummer, acting head of the National Climate Centre, described rainfall during the southern hemisphere autumn as “an absolute shocker”, and said: “I’m gasping for good news”. Wendy Craik, chief executive of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, said the river system’s condition was “critical… tending towards flatlining”. She added: “We have got it on life support” [The Independent].

Related articles:
Drought devastates Iraq’s wheat crops
Floods may boost world food prices for years
Floods wipe out US crops
The Best Farmland in the U.S. Is Flooded; Most Americans Are Too Stupid to Panic
The Price Of Food: 2007 – 2008
The U.S. Has No Remaining Grain Reserves
Nine meals from anarchy – how Britain is facing a very real food crisis
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Food Riots are Coming to the U.S.
UN alert: One-fourth of world’s wheat at risk from new fungus
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The degrading ecosystem may cause strife between farmers and environmentalists, as the government has said it might be forced to compulsorily acquire water from irrigators, a move that would anger and devastate farm families [The Daily Telegraph]. Conservationists say the mandatory water buy-backs are necessary to protect the wetland habitat of native birds, turtles and fish.

Read moreWorsening Drought Threatens Australia’s “Food Bowl”

Drought devastates Iraq’s wheat crops

Power outages disrupt irrigation

BAGHDAD – It’s been a year of drought and sand storms across Iraq – a dry spell that has devastated the country’s crucial wheat crop and created new worries about the safety of drinking water.

U.S. officials warn that Iraq will need to increase wheat imports sharply this winter to make up for the lost crop – a sobering proposition with world food prices high and some internal refugees already struggling to afford basics.

“Planting … is totally destroyed,” said Daham Mohammed Salim, 40, who farms 120 acres in the al-Jazeera area near Tikrit, 130 kilometres north of Baghdad. “Even the ground water in wells is lower than before.”

The Tikrit area, where Saddam Hussein was born, normally is flush with green meadows in the spring and early summer – but this year has only thistles, said 30-year-old farmer Ziyad Sano. He’s resorted to collecting bread scraps from homes to feed his 70 sheep, but 20 have died.

Related articles:
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The U.S. Has No Remaining Grain Reserves
Nine meals from anarchy – how Britain is facing a very real food crisis
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Food Riots are Coming to the U.S.
UN alert: One-fourth of world’s wheat at risk from new fungus
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The dry weather has hurt areas from Kurdistan’s wheat fields in northern Iraq to pomegranate orchards, orange groves and wheat fields just north of Baghdad.

Read moreDrought devastates Iraq’s wheat crops

Australia faces worse, more frequent droughts: study

PERTH (Reuters) – Australia could experience more severe droughts and they could become more frequent in the future because of climate change, a government-commissioned report said on Sunday.

Droughts could hit the country twice as often as now, cover an area twice as big and be more severe in key agricultural production areas, the Bureau of Meteorology and Australia’s top science organization, the CSIRO, said in a joint report.

The study also found that temperatures currently defined as “exceptional” were likely to occur, on average, once in every two years in many key agricultural production areas within the next 20 to 30 years, while spells of low rainfall would almost double in frequency from current figures.

Australia, suffering its worst drought in 100 years, has seen its wheat exports tumble in the past two years.

The Pacific nation is normally the second-largest wheat exporter in the world, but the harvest has been decimated to just 13 million tonnes last year because of drought.

Read moreAustralia faces worse, more frequent droughts: study

DROUGHT-STRICKEN CYPRUS GETS WATER FROM GREECE

NICOSIA, Cyprus – A Greek tanker carrying about 1.76 million cubic feet of water arrived in the Cypriot port of Limassol on Monday to help the drought-stricken island replenish its dwindling water reserves.

The tanker is the first in a fleet of ships chartered by the Cypriot government at a cost of $65 million to provide water to towns now experiencing emergency rationing.

With the Mediterranean island’s 17 main reservoirs now at critical levels – just seven percent full – Cypriots have endured meager water rations since March.

The main water pipelines have been turned on for only a few nights each week. And some residents, particularly those living in high-rise apartment blocks, have complained of not getting any water at all because pressure has been insufficient to push the water to rooftop storage tanks.

Cypriots have been forbidden to wash their cars or water their gardens. Underground water pumped from boreholes has also become scarce.

Read moreDROUGHT-STRICKEN CYPRUS GETS WATER FROM GREECE

Nation’s Spies: Climate Change Could Spark War

Environmental groups have been warning for years that tense parts of the world could get even worse with the advent of global climate change, and even spark whole new conflicts. Now, the nation’s spies are saying pretty much the same thing.

The U.S. intelligence community has finished up its classified assessment of how our changing weather patterns could contribute to “political instability around the world, the collapse of governments and the creation of terrorist safe havens,” Inside Defense reports. Congress was briefed on the report last week. And on Wednesday, leading spies — including National Intelligence Council chairman Dr. Thomas Fingar and Energy Department intelligence chief Rolf Mowatt-Larsen — will testify on the Hill about the 58-page document, “The National Security Implications of Global Climate Change Through 2030.”

In addition to examining how weather could add stress to governments with a weak grip on power … the authors mulled a spectrum of second- and third-order consequences for Washington policymakers to consider — including indirect security concerns like impacts on economies, energy, social unrest and migration.

Foreign-policy concerns were also weighed, including how flooding, rising water levels or drought might create humanitarian crises. Also examined was how extreme weather events could challenge the response capabilities of governments around the world.

“Climate change is a threat multiplier in the world’s most unstable regions,” a source familiar with the document tells Danger Room. “It’s like a match to the tinder.” Just think about the fights over water already under way in the Middle East and Africa, or the tensions exacerbated by the hurricanes and tsunamis in Asia.

The document was originally supposed to be unclassified. But then the policy recommendations — and warnings about trouble spots — got more and more detailed.

Richard Engel, deputy national intelligence officer for science and technology … said in a little-noticed speech last month at the University of Delaware that if the findings of the assessment were made public, “It would frustrate the execution of U.S. foreign policy.”

“We wanted to get down to something that might be actionable for the policy community,” Engel, a former Air Force major general and test pilot, said. “So we had to be very specific.”

“Generally, the Earth’s climate is changing, it has always been changing, so that’s not anything but a blinding flash of the obvious,” Engel added. “We really want to understand extreme weather events because they are very important as they potentially put at risk the infrastructure.”

The assessment is stamped “confidential,” the lowest level of classification. And our source says that Fingar & Co. is promising that nearly all of the document will come out in Wednesday’s hearing, before a joint session of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Intelligence Community Management Subcommittee. Also testifying are former British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett, retired Admiral Paul Gaffney and the Army War College’s Kent Hughes Butts, all of whom have previously raised alarms about climate change’s strategic impact. Lee Lane, with the American Enterprise Institute, has been pushing the issue of “geoengineering” in response to global warming. And Marlo Lewis, with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, calls the whole thing a “myth.”

Lewis’ presence before the panel may be a bit of a sop for the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, many of whom opposed the idea of using the nation’s spies to investigate these issues at all.

But the nation’s military leadership, at least, is paying closer attention. “Climate change and other projected trends will compound already difficult conditions in many developing countries. These trends will increase the likelihood of humanitarian crises, the potential for epidemic diseases, and regionally destabilizing population migrations,” the Army says in its 2008 posture statement.

“We are [f]acing challenges from multiple sources: a new, more malignant form of terrorism inspired by jihadist extremism, ethnic strife, disease, poverty, climate change, failed and failing states, resurgent powers, and so on,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates told an audience at American University in April.

Read moreNation’s Spies: Climate Change Could Spark War

The Sunspot Enigma: The Sun is “Dead”—What Does it Mean for Earth?

Dark spots, some as large as 50,000 miles in diameter, typically move across the surface of the sun, contracting and expanding as they go. These strange and powerful phenomena are known as sunspots, but now they are all gone. Not even solar physicists know why it’s happening and what this odd solar silence might be indicating for our future.

Although periods of inactivity are normal for the sun, this current period has gone on much longer than usual and scientists are starting to worry-at least a little bit. Recently 100 scientists from Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and North America gathered to discuss the issue at an international solar conference at Montana State University. Today’s sun is as inactive as it was two years ago, and solar physicists don’t have a clue as to why.

“It continues to be dead,” said Saku Tsuneta with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, program manager for the Hinode solar mission, noting that it is at least a little bit worrisome for scientists.

Dana Longcope, a solar physicist at MSU, said the sun usually operates on an 11-year cycle with maximum activity occurring in the middle of the cycle. The last cycle reached its peak in 2001 and is believed to be just ending now, Longcope said. The next cycle is just beginning and is expected to reach its peak sometime around 2012. But so far nothing is happening.

“It’s a dead face,” Tsuneta said of the sun’s appearance.

Tsuneta said solar physicists aren’t weather forecasters and they can’t predict the future. They do have the ability to observe, however, and they have observed a longer-than-normal period of solar inactivity. In the past, they observed that the sun once went 50 years without producing sunspots. That period coincided with a little ice age on Earth that lasted from 1650 to 1700. Coincidence? Some scientists say it was, but many worry that it wasn’t.

Geophysicist Phil Chapman, the first Australian to become an astronaut with NASA, said pictures from the US Solar and Heliospheric Observatory also show that there are currently no spots on the sun. He also noted that the world cooled quickly between January last year and January this year, by about 0.7C.

“This is the fastest temperature change in the instrumental record, and it puts us back to where we were in 1930,” Dr Chapman noted in The Australian recently.

If the world does face another mini Ice Age, it could come without warning. Evidence for abrupt climate change is readily found in ice cores taken from Greenland and Antarctica. One of the best known examples of such an event is the Younger Dryas cooling, which occurred about 12,000 years ago, named after the arctic wildflower found in northern European sediments. This event began and ended rather abruptly, and for its entire 1000 year duration the North Atlantic region was about 5°C colder. Could something like this happen again? There’s no way to tell, and because the changes can happen all within one decade-we might not even see it coming.

Read moreThe Sunspot Enigma: The Sun is “Dead”—What Does it Mean for Earth?