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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Forests as giant pumps?

Clouds form over a Central African forest, in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Photo by Douglas Sheil

A study from the St Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute in Russia says vast forests generate winds through vapor pressure differences that help pump water around the planet.

If correct, the theory would explain how forested continents get as much rain inland as they do on the coast, and why Australia with its limited coastal forests has a vast, almost treeless outback.

According to the research, as reported by, scientists have known for some time that forests recycle rain. Up to half the precipitation falling on a typical tropical rainforest evaporates or transpires from trees. This keeps the air above moist.

But Victor Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva of the St Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute are now saying that not only do forests pump moisture into the atmosphere above, they also generate the winds that carry this moisture inland.

According to their theory, when water vapour from coastal forests and oceans condenses to form droplets and clouds, it takes up less atmospheric space, thus lowering the local air pressure. Furthermore, with evaporation being stronger over the forest than over the ocean, the resulting low air pressure sucks in the moist air over the ocean. This causes the winds that carry the moisture further inland.

Although published in 2007, Gorshkov and Makarieva's research is only now beginning to capture the attention of international scientists. Chief among these have been Dr. Doug Sheil, formerly of CIFOR and now with Uganda's Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation, and CIFOR's Dr. Daniel Muridyarso.

In a review of the research How Forests Attract Rain: an examination of a new hypothesis, published in the journal Bioscience, Sheil and Murdiyarso say that the controversial suggestion that forests act as wind pumps needs to be given serious consideration.

"Conventional models typically predict a 20 to 30 per cent decline in rainfall after deforestation," Sheil says. "Makarieva and Gorshkov suggest even localised clearing might ultimately switch entire continental climates from wet to arid, with rainfall declining by more than 95 per cent."
According to Sheil, science is still unable to fully and clearly explain how the lowlands in continental interiors maintain wet climates. Gorshkov and Makarieva's suggestion that forests serve as "biotic pumps" may provide science with the missing answer.

Sheil describes the Russians' findings as "a most profound insight into the impact of forest loss on climate. They will transform how we view forest loss, climate change and hydrology."

Co-author, Daniel Murdiyarso, adds, “This is a new way of looking at the co-lateral benefits provided by forests when they are left standing. It’s particularly relevant to the current global focus on promoting the carbon market through REDD” (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation).

Murdiyarso says that the findings would trigger further debates on the way the traditional wisdoms and public policy-making are linked with the roles of remaining forests in the tropics.


Sheil D., and Murdiyarso, D. (2009) How forests attract rain: an examination of a new hypothesis. Bioscience. 59: 341–347

Makarieva AM,GorshkovVG. 2007. Biotic pump of atmospheric moisture as driver of the hydrological cycle on land.Hydrology and Earth System

Sciences 11: 1013-1033 (in English)

How decision makers can plan for climate uncertainty

Greenhouse-gas emissions in Costa Rica. Photo by Bruno Locatelli

Predicting how the world will change as it warms is filled with uncertainty. For example, tropical rainforests could either become hotter and drier or hotter and wetter—it all depends on which climate model you consult.

Despite the uncertainties, decision makers must plan ahead and prepare for potential changes in rainfall and temperature. A new CIFOR publication, Climate scenarios: What we need to know and how to generate them, can help policy makers and non-climate specialists understand how climatic scenarios are constructed. The authors hope the information will help governments design policies that take into account a range of potential climatic changes.

The biggest challenge for policy makers is planning for an uncertain future, says CIFOR scientist Heru Santoso, one of the authors.

‘We have written a report which explains in straightforward terms the questions people outside the scientific community most commonly ask,’ Santoso says. ‘Given that there are so many factors to consider, we can offer no single and definitive answer about how the world will change. This can be incredibly daunting for people charged with the responsibility of designing policies. It can even deter them from taking the initiative in order to prepare for the future.’

According to the report, scientists are usually the first to admit that predicting future climatic patterns is difficult. This is partly because greenhouse-gas emissions, which cause global warming, are influenced by a range of factors—changes in population growth, fossil fuel usage, clean technology research and national and international climate-change polices.

Santoso says scenarios for tropical rainforests in Asia are particularly problematic.

‘In this region, tropical storms and cloud formation are difficult to model,’ he says. ‘In many of the island nations, such as Indonesia, scenarios are further complicated by changes in sea temperature which also affect the climate.’

CIFOR’s lead scientist on climate change adaptation, Bruno Locatelli, says we can see more clearly what the future may hold in some other regions. For example, there is a growing consensus that the Amazon rainforest is likely to be much drier.

Locatelli says the publication will help people understand the key to developing appropriate adaptation plans is flexibility. He says information derived from a range of models should guide the design of robust policies that work under different sets of climatic conditions.

‘We want people who are developing adaptation plans, both at national and local levels, to understand the basics of climate modeling when they need it. We also recognise climate scenarios are not always needed for planning adaptation. Addressing the current vulnerability of people is a good start that will facilitate the adaptation to the future climate,’ says Locatelli.

Heru Santoso says that comprehensive adaptation plans are definitely a challenge; climatic scenarios can also be useful when developing more specific infrastructure projects and in managing resource allocation. For instance, planning for hydroelectric dams or long-rotation tree plantations needs to take into account how the environment may change. The profitability and efficiency of these projects may be affected by climate changes.

Santoso also warns that designing adaption policies should not be seen as a task for the future.

‘Governments need to start acting now,’ Santoso says. ‘Much can be done at this very moment to reduce people’s vulnerability. We are already witnessing more floods and more forest fires throughout the world and we need to help protect people exposed to environmental disasters.’

= = = =

CIFOR Working Paper No. 45
Climate Scenarios: What we need to know and how to generate them
Authors: Heru Santoso, Monica Idinoba and Pablo Imbach
December 2008, CIFOR
Available at:

Monday, May 04, 2009

Healthy Lifestyles, Global Warming - Industry Shift Changes Coming

By Derek Dashwood

To watch the numbers tick on the World Clock, it seems that healthy lifestyles continue to be coming to an end and now we can see. We can count off each second to the tenth power how much the temperature of the earth is increasing. This information from the United Nations, which is gathering information from every weather station on earth mostly now all on line. So we know when the seas will begin to turn all us coastal folks into members of the I love Venice club, and open our gondola concessions.

But that doesn't solve the problem of all those jets in the sky, that the numbers will double and double again. Soon each rich new Chinese will want to see Paris again. Dear gasping mother earth says take the train, not the plane. So here is our blue pie in the sky vision, we present this to you. If you agree, send a message or three, jets are fueled by kerosine, which is that trail up there that spittles on you and me. So each day you get home, and have been out for a stroll, if the day has been cloudy it may be a jet roll. so have a good shower when you get to home, and light not a candle to your kerosine dome.

Your hair is sprinkled with stardust so kerosine pure, or dirty to be honest, and that is for sure. So here is a plan, that the Economist ran. Sprinkle the globe, with a high tech railroad, under the sea between Siberia to we, and work on your project serene, while the transport gets you from Rio to Rome, or Moscow or Nome, London to Cairo, Johannesburg, up to Istanbul, then zip on back home. Look at a map, and imagine who might object. And work with those factors, and we have a fast track.

China has begun, at which France and Japan have excelled, to fast track trains rather than freeways, which America and Britain have tried. If China chooses the Anglo American vision on this and builds freeways for one billion cars, while they extend their coal burning plants, we will all soon live in a hellish gray skied hot place, in which we all become sicker. China privately admits it is losing perhaps ten percent of it's productivity on sickness and lost time, and this is climbing, as is the global clock temperature chart.

The route is here. Or do we want to be noble, blind, so full of our manifest destiny and sense of being chosen, or that our jihad is more holy than your crusade, or that your ancestry in north Ireland creates in me a need to kill, to revenge that bloody hand. My father did extensive genealogy of our family, nobles, buffoons, and arrogant fools. I had an Irish American mother, but my English Canadian father once told me we were entitled to have in our English coat of arms the bloody hand of English in north Ireland.

I had to ask. It seems that when King James offered that northern quarter of Ireland to which ever English could put their hand on the soil first. And, speaking of fanatics, apparently we have in our blood that one ancestor of mine saw another boat was beating to the beach, he chopped off one hand and threw with great force, and it did land on the beach, which now made it his, and he was in charge. King's Han Chinese hall monitors rules. To you, King James, from both my Irish heart and even my English soul, you should not have made such an intrusive, arrogant law.

And if we need to take a boat to Dublin, or even a non jet clean aircraft from Dublin to London, some how some more English and Moors and Christians and Jews and and blacks in south Africa could at least visit by train. Which would be a healthy change, and mighty refrain. Blue skies, nothing but blue skies, all day long. Is not possible. New coal plants to build. New jets to fly and spray us, coal in our lungs, kerosine in our hair. Do you have sum ting against progress, you did all this, we can too. Oh, where is that train, convert dear Boeing and we can soon tram to Spain. And that is my refrain, I will say again and again.

Can Home Solar Energy Systems Save The Planet

By Koz Huseyin

First off, the planet does not need saving, but we need to save ourselves. The Earth has been here a lot longer. Yes, we are doing damage, but the result could be the Earth wiping us out, and not the other way around. The question still comes can we do our bit, and use home solar energy systems to create more balance?

It may be bold statements, however, the fact remains, and the Earth has been here a lot longer than us. It has gone through having reptiles as big as houses, and has also had an impact which made our Moon, and also an impact which killed off the dinosaurs. Through all these the life on Earth changed, but the Earth remained.

So, what is the issue, and what has home solar energy systems got to do with this equation. Now, with all these statements, they are my own beliefs and do not necessarily mean how it is. The issue more important is the damage we are doing to life on Earth.

In the UK around the 1950's, was smoggy. This smog was difficult for people. Life continued, but there had to be changes. We just could not pump out all our rubbish into the air; we had to change to make things cleaner, and more conscious of the effects of our causes.

Power around the world, and I mean energy, as in electricity, is generated mainly by fossil fuels. We use it in the car, and is what is behind what happens when you have lighting in your home. This fossil fuel is powering your monitor right now! The smoke that was produced to make that fuel can not be seen and is effecting the natural balance in the world.

If you consider blowing smoke into a cup, and turning it over on the table, you will find that the smoke remains. The world is such a place. Everything is contained within, so unless it gets into the ground or sea, it will be in the air. Trees are what keep a lot of the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Home solar power systems are a solution to our problems. With home solar energy systems, you can cut out a lot of your footprint. Every year your household is part of the cause of that problem. The only way we can break out of that cycle, and learn as was done in the UK, one by one, we will provide a more balanced environment.

Getting residential solar energy systems for the home is possible only in relatively sunny countries. So, getting home solar power systems for your home is unlikely in the UK or other countries that don't get the full strength of the Sun.

Residential solar energy systems don't just have to be in the form of generating electricity for your home. In the East there are many countries that utilize the power of the Sun to heat up water. On top of houses, you will find the heating system that has water pumping through, getting the full amplified heat of the Sun. The result is that you have hot boiling water, almost for free, when you exclude the buying the solar water heating system.

You can make a difference. The benefits are immense, and there is much power in generating your own power to power your home. You get constant power for free, there are no brownouts and you can also resell your excess electric to the electricity companies!