Tag Archives: Global Warming

Tipping Point Action-adventure thriller – Intro Chapters

30 Jul

TIPPING POINT

 

 

SI ROSSER

 

SCHMALL WORLD PUBLISHING

 

TIPPING POINT

 

“The point at which the number of small changes over a period of time reaches a level where a further small change has a sudden and very great effect on a system…”

 

Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary

 

For Zuzana

 

 

 

 

PROLOGUE

April 5

 

 

 

 

“ONLY ANOTHER FOUR of these trips and we’re done,” Davenport shouted to his friend, as he looked back at the jagged cliffs rising out of the ocean on the bleak leeward side of the Ile de l’Est.

“Thank God! Don’t ever ask me to sign up for anything like this again. After the year we’ve spent down here, I’m sure we’ll both be exempt from having to do any further voluntary research for a while,” Hawthorn replied.

Dawn was just breaking over the windswept isles, as the old wooden fishing boat chugged out of the make-shift port on Ile de l’Est, one of six islets that make up the French Crozet Islands in the Southern Indian Ocean. The sub-Antarctic archipelago – part of the French Southern Territories since 1955 – was uninhabited, except for a small research base on the main island, Ile de la Possession.

“You know Adam, I could think of better things to be doing during my gap year. Monitoring penguins and sea creatures doesn’t feature high on the list,” Hawthorn said, turning the boat towards the sampling zone.

“Don’t forget it’s your turn to update the catalogue with whatever marine samples we find,” Davenport shouted, throwing the well-used notebook across the deck to his friend.

Adam Davenport and James Hawthorn had been based on the main island, Ile de la Possession, along with five other research scientists for the last eight months, and were now embarking on the final four months of their placement as part of an international monitoring team, studying the many different species of penguins, seals, birds, flora and fauna unique to the archipelago. The islands were in fact one large nature reserve, since being declared a national park back in 1938. The two researchers felt long forgotten by the outside world. The monthly food drop, by small plane from the French Kerguelen islands – some thirteen hundred kilometres to the east – was their only real comfort.

The boat’s bow rose up on the crest of a wave as they motored out of the protected inlet toward Ile de la Possession, and the buoy that marked the research area, some two kilometres out from the eastern shore.

“It sure is calm out today,” Davenport said, looking out over the horizon. A group of five petrels circled above the boat as they arrived at the marker buoy. Hawthorn cut the engine, letting the boat drift toward the orange buoy. “Pass the rope so I can tie her up,” he yelled.

Davenport threw him the frayed end of the rope, which he secured to the chain on the buoy. The boat bobbed up and down on the light swell as Davenport went to retrieve his packet of Marlboro’s from the wheelhouse. “How many pots are we supposed to be pulling up today James?” He shouted over to his friend.

“Looks like we dropped eight overboard last week,” Hawthorn replied, flicking through the scruffy, worn notepad which dated back to the 1960s. “It’s going to look like seafood pick and mix by the time we haul them all up.”

Davenport lent over the side of the boat, taking in a deep breath of sea air. He pulled a Marlboro from the packet, licked the end of it, and placed it between his lips. “There’s a very strange smell on the port side,” he shouted to Hawthorn, who was getting the sampling kits ready to drop overboard.

He flipped the top of his Zippo lighter open and struck the flint. Before Hawthorn could answer him, a flash of light and heat exploded around them, completely engulfing the wooden fishing boat.

Hawthorn felt the force of the explosion as he was thrown into the shattered wheelhouse, followed by an instant of agonizing pain, then darkness.

Davenport opened his eyes. He was in the water, surrounded by flotsam and covered in burning oil. He tried to swim through it, but the task was futile. He screamed, and dived under the water. The last thing he felt was a searing pain in his lungs as he sank into the freezing depths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1

London, April 15

 

 

 

 

DR. DALE STANTON sat at his desk in the darkening room of his Russell Square apartment staring blankly at the glowing computer screen, his eyes tired and sore. His face was impassive, except for the visible, nervous twitch in the corner of his mouth, which revealed his gathering thoughts.

He was putting the finishing touches to the presentation that he would be giving to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conference in Oslo, Norway, in a little under a week’s time. Stanton had been working on his current project for almost eight months, and the conclusions he’d reached, he had little doubt, would concern the scientific world. Reaching over, he turned on the desktop lamp and rubbed his eyes, before leaning back in his chair to stretch his aching neck.

Looking back at the monitor, he started reading over the salient parts of his presentation to check it one final time before finishing for the evening. He resumed typing; making what he hoped was the final amendment to his paper.

We know the Ocean Thermohaline Circulation is an important Atlantic current powered by both heat ( thermo) and salt ( haline ) which brings warm water up from the tropics to northern latitudes. Without it, the Eastern Seaboard of the USA and climate of Northern Europe would be much colder. I have been re-analysing all the data amassed by the RAPID-WATCH program and my calculations reveal that the measuring devices have been incorrectly calibrated. Twenty-five of the thirty devices used to measure ocean flow were set by the manufacturers to measure fresh water. When calibrating the data to factor in measurements for denser salt water, the figures revealed…

Stanton jumped, as the telephone on his desk rang. He took a deep breath, and sighed as he reached over his laptop to pick up the phone. “Hello!” There was no answer. “Hello!” Again, silence. He replaced the receiver. His train of thought interrupted, he sat quietly for a moment before completing the final sentence, then saved the amendments and closed the program down. He clicked on his private finance folder to check an insurance policy he knew was about to expire, and as he did, accidentally opened the file containing a copy of his will. Perusing it, he reminded himself to amend the charitable legacies clause in order to make a gift to the team down at RAPID. God knows, they would need all the help they could get.

He’d had the will prepared after receiving a large sum of money from his father two years earlier. A colleague had recommended a local firm specialising in environmental law with a promise that one of the firm’s senior environmental lawyers, a Mr. Robert Spire would be appointed as a co-executor. He closed the file, reminding himself to have the will amended when he returned from Oslo next week.

Stanton reached across his desk and pulled the research book he’d been using from the shelf to double check a couple of facts. He flicked through the pages to a section entitled The Younger Dryas period. Around 12,900 years ago – just as the world was slowly warming up after the last ice age – a rapid descent back to colder conditions occurred in as little as ten years or so, a mere blink of an eye, in climactic terms. A shut down of the Atlantic Ocean Thermohaline Circulation was thought to have been a possible cause of the rapid chill. Stanton’s hair stood up on the back of his neck as he considered the possible ramifications of his latest research.

He closed the book, turned off his laptop, and ran his hands through his lank brown hair. As he got up from his desk, he looked out of his window at a deserted Russell Square and closed the blinds. He realised he’d been working for almost six hours, and it was now coming up to five P.M on Saturday evening.

He enjoyed living alone in his two-bed terraced townhouse apartment in London’s Russell Square, one of only a few private residences left overlooking the park. He had noticed various businesses, as well as the University College of London taking over most of the area during the last twenty years. The district was dotted with restaurants and bars, and in a couple of hours he would be meeting up with an old friend for a well-earned drink in the Hotel Russo, not far from his apartment.

He briefly took hold of the memory stick containing his presentation, before putting it back down gently. The facts, figures and details of his paper were spinning around in his head. He knew he wouldn’t be able to relax until he had given his talk in Oslo. He’d been over the calculations at least ten times to ensure they were correct. He walked into the bathroom. Unbelievable; how could they have failed to check the calibration on the measuring equipment?

Just as he was about to get in the shower, the phone rang again. He picked up the receiver, “Hello!” There was silence on the other end. As he replaced the phone he heard a click on the line. Not again. He shrugged, and stepped under the shower.

Stanton was in the middle of drying himself when a text message came through from Mathew confirming the arrangements. They would be meeting in the Kings Bar at the Hotel Russo; a warm intimate wood-panelled bar, and one of his favourite local watering holes. He finished drying and put on a white linen shirt and glanced in the mirror. He looked and felt tired. He splashed some aftershave on his face, locked the door to the apartment and headed down the hall stairs and wandered out into the warmth of a mild spring evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 2

 

 

 

 

THE HOTEL RUSSO was situated just five minutes from Stanton’s apartment on the opposite side of Russell Square. The park, one of the square’s main features looked empty, but the early evening traffic was picking up, a mixture of late night shoppers and taxis, collecting and dropping off their fares…

Interesting in reading more? Please click Amazon UK or Amazon USA to get taken to book’s home page.

Thanks for reading, Si Rosser.

Advertisements

Summer’s On The Way: How’s Earth’s Temperature?

8 Apr

With Summer on the way – Yippy – and an unseasonally hot spell 

for March/April so far in the UK, I thought I’d post a blog on Temperature,

taken from Chapter T of THE A-Z OF GLOBAL WARMING.

Temperature is generally measured using the Celsius scale,

except in the USA, where the Fahrenheit scale is used. Zero degrees

Centigrade corresponds to the temperature at which water freezes,

and 100 degrees when it boils. These temperatures are represented

as 32 and 212°F respectively.

The Earth’s average temperature, assisted by its naturally

occurring greenhouse-gas blanket, is about 15°C (59°F). The

average temperature of the human body is about 37°C (98°F), and

if temperatures get too high harmful reactions and even death

may result.

Just like a human being, if Earth’s temperature increases too

much, the planet will start to get sick and serious consequences

will result, some of which are already becoming evident.

 

 

How much has the Earth’s temperature increased?

 

The Earth’s global mean surface temperature according the Fourth

Assessment Report of the IPCC puts the rise at 0.74°C (1.33°F)

over the period 1906 to 2006.

Global temperature is measured by taking the average near-surface

temperatures over air, sea and land.

This rise may not seem like much, but according to NASA,

this means that the Earth is now reaching and passing through

the warmest period in the current interglacial period, which has

lasted for nearly 12,000 years.

 

 

How fast is Earth’s temperature rising?

 

The Earth’s temperature has risen by about 0.2°C (0.36°F) each

decade over the last thirty years. The studies show that warming

is greatest at higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere, and

larger over land compared to the oceans, as the oceans have a

much higher heat capacity compared to the land.  Air temperatures

in the Arctic region for example have, on average, actually

increased by about 5°C (9°F) over the last 100 years.

 

 

What about historical warming?

 

We know from Chapter H that the Earth has had many periods

of warming and cooling, and historically these temperature

changes have had little to do with manmade greenhouse gases,

as mankind has been emitting greenhouse gases significantly only

since the Industrial Revolution, in and about the late nineteenth

century.

Two of the most recent temperature changes took place during

the Little Ice Age, in the years 1350–1850, or thereabouts, when

temperatures dipped, and the Medieval Warm Period between

years 1000–1300, or thereabouts, when temperatures got

comparatively warmer again. An explanation for the Little Ice

Age, or Maunder Minimum is the lack of sunspot activity and

solar irradiance that occurred during this time .

 

 

What about more recently?

 

Well, temperatures have been measured accurately with scientific

instruments for about only 150 years or so. Prior to this a range

of proxy data is used, such as tree rings, ice cores, lake and sea

sediments, corals and historical records.

Researchers from NASA, Dr James Hanson and his colleague

Mark Imhoff, analysed records from 7,500 global weather stations

and used satellite observations of night-time weather stations to

identify minimal human influence, such as urban heat island effects.

The team concluded that from 1900 to 1940 it was possible the

Earth warmed partly as a result of increased levels of greenhouse

gases and partly due to natural climate variability.

Between 1940 and 1965 the Earth cooled by about 0.1°C (0.18°F),

which some scientists attribute to the increased use of aerosols

and other airborne pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels.

This was especially so in the northern hemisphere, where cooling

occurred most during this period, which can lead to increased

cloud cover, which in turn blocks and reflects incoming solar

radiation. This is a phenomenon that has been termed ‘global

dimming’. Aerosols, certainly in the northern hemisphere, have

been slowly phased out however, which may have helped reveal

the true extent of greenhouse-gas-induced warming.

The period from 1965 to 2000 showed large and widespread

warming around the world.

 

Indeed the IPCC concluded in 2001 that there is new and stronger

evidence that most of the warming observed at least over the past fifty

years is attributable to human activities.

 

 

Link between global warming and human activities?

 

There has been much debate between scientists over attribution

of climate change and global warming, and much of this discussion

has focused on a temperature graph produced in 1999 for the IPCC,

by climatologist Michael Mann and his colleagues, which showed

temperatures extending back 1,000 years. The debate became

known as the ‘hockey stick’ debate.

This name came from the graph itself, as it shows temperatures

for about 1,000 years remaining more or less constant, then from

about 1800 a sharp upward trend occurs that resembles the end

of a hockey stick.6 The reconstructions showed the 1990s to be

the warmest decade, with 1998 the warmest year ever.

The graph seems to support the warming influence human

beings have had on climate over the last 150 years or so, as

evidenced by the sudden upward trend in temperatures recorded.

Certain criticism was made of the fact that accurate temperature

records go back only 150 years, and that the data and methods

used to recreate the temperature prior to about 1850 cannot be

reliable as it comes from proxy sources such as tree rings, corals

and ice cores, etc.

It would appear however that much of the debate as to who

is responsible for global warming is now settled. While solar

intensity and even volcanoes and other natural factors can explain

variations in global temperatures in the early nineteenth century,

rising greenhouse gas levels can provide the only plausible

explanation for the warming trend over the past fifty years.7

In response to the controversy over the Mann temperature

graph, in 2006 the US Congress requested the National Research

Council prepare a report. They concluded that there was a high

level of confidence that the global mean surface temperature

during the past few decades is higher now than at any time over

the preceding 400 years. There is less confidence prior to the year

1600 to support temperature reconstructions, as there is less data

available from whatever source. There was even less confidence

about the conclusions reached that the 1990s were the warmest

decade and 1998 the warmest year. The committee did indicate,

however, that none of the reconstructions showed that

temperatures were warmer during medieval times than during

the last few decades.

The main conclusion, however, is that the build-up of

greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will cause several degrees

of warming, and this is based on the laws of physics and chemistry.

The link between greenhouse gases and temperature is well

established, as we know from Chapter G, so when additional

CO2 is added to the atmosphere, by burning fossil fuels, the

temperature is going to increase. This has been confirmed by

reliable scientific instruments over the last 150 years.

 

 

How high will temperatures go?

 

For the last three decades temperatures have been rising by about

0.2°C (0.36°F) per decade. There is evidence however that the

warming may accelerate as positive feedback mechanisms come

into play. Examples would be the release of methane from the

ground as the permafrost starts to melt, thus accelerating the

warming. Studies already indicate that warming is greater over

the northern hemisphere. As the snow and ice melt in the Arctic

regions, darker surfaces are uncovered, which reduces the albedo

effect of the ice/snow-covered areas, which allows more sunlight

to be absorbed, thus increasing warming. Likewise as the

atmosphere warms it is able to hold more water vapour (itself a

greenhouse gas), which allows it to trap more heat. These are two

examples of positive feedback mechanisms.

It is not yet possible however to determine what temperature

will result from a certain level of greenhouse gas.

It is estimated that if greenhouse gas could be stabilised at

today’s level of about 430 ppm CO2 equivalent, the Earth would

be committed to an eventual temperature increase of about 1–

3°C (1.8–5.4°F) above pre-industrial levels.

 

 

Projected CO2/temperature level scenarios

 

The amount the Earth’s temperature goes up depends on

greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.

Projections of future warming depend on projections of global

emissions. If emissions were to remain at today’s levels, then

greenhouse gas would reach about 550 ppm CO2e by about 2050,

based on the current annual increase of 2.5 ppmv CO2e. This would

commit the world to a temperature rise of about 2–5°C (3.6–9°F).

The IPCC however projects that without intervention

greenhouse gas levels will rise to 550–700 ppm CO2e by 2050,

and 650–1,200 ppm CO2e by 2100! This would cause temperature

rises of between 1.5–4.4°C (2.7–7.9°F) and 1.8–5.5°C (3.2–9.9°F)

respectively, just on the lower forecasts of 550 and 650 ppm CO2e

levels alone!

‘A temperature rise of 2–3°C (3.6–5.4°F) above present

levels would put the Earth at a temperature not

experienced for three million years and far outside the

experience of human civilisation.’

The Earth is already committed to a 1–3°C rise (1.8–5.4°F) on

current greenhouse gas levels. If the Earth warms by a further

1°C (1.8°F), NASA scientists point out that this will be the warmest

Earth has been for the past 1,000,000 years. At 2 or 3°C higher

(3.6–5.5°F), the Earth would become a different world from that

we know. As mentioned above, the last time this occurred was

about 3,000,000 years ago, and sea levels are estimated to have

been twenty-five metres higher (eighty feet) than present!

There seems to be no alternative therefore other than

humankind reduce greenhouse gas emissions, significantly, and

fast, in order to prevent disastrous consequences. The big

problem is that like a huge oil tanker trying to make a U-turn,

even if emissions could be halted now, the effects of current

levels will continue to cause temperatures to rise for a long time

to come.

 

 

Any evidence of increasing temperatures currently

affecting Earth?

 

According to the WWF, evidence comes from the bleaching and

degradation of coral reefs (discussed further in Chapter V), due

to increasing sea temperatures, which could degrade Australia’s

Great Barrier Reef in a single human lifetime. Alpine forests

struggle to spread to higher, cooler locations, and glaciers are

melting all over the world.

The Caribbean saw its warmest ever ocean temperature in 2005.

Scotland in the UK saw its hottest year on record in 2003, which

caused hundreds of adult salmon to die, as the water became too

warm for the fish to extract oxygen from it.

New modelling work by the UK’s Hadley Centre shows that

the summer of 2003 was Europe’s hottest for 500 years.

In the Arctic, sea ice measurements in 2007 recorded the smallest

sea-ice cover ever at the end of the summer melt season.

In 2003, the world’s major cities sweltered under heatwaves.

In France, during the summer of 2003, the heatwave killed about

14,800 people in Paris alone, according to official figures released

in September 2003.

Summer temperatures have been analysed in sixteen of Europe’s

cities, which show that the continents’ capitals have warmed by

up to 2°C (3.6°F) in the last thirty years.

London is the city where average maximum summer

temperatures increased the most, up 2°C (3.6°F) over the last

thirty years, followed by Athens and Lisbon (1.9°C or 3.4°F),

Warsaw (1.3°C or 2.3°F) and Berlin (1.2°C or 2.1°F).16

Between 2000 and 2005, average summer temperatures in

thirteen out of sixteen cities looked at were at least 1°C (1.8°F)

higher than during the period 1970–1975.

 

 

Earth’s warmest years

 

According to climatologists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space

Studies the five warmest years since the 1880s have been;

 

1 2005/2010

2 1998

3 2002

4 2003

5 2006

 

The year 2005 and 2010 therefore have been the hottest so far, though they

share this accolade with 1998, which was virtually as hot. Year

1998 temperatures were enhanced however by the strongest

tropical El Niño for almost a century, which boosted temperatures

above the level they otherwise would have been. As the El Niño

gets underway in the topical Pacific Ocean, 2007 could be even

hotter, bringing with it increased warmth. 

 

 

A 2°C (3.6°F) increase limit

 

The WWF is advocating that temperatures cannot be allowed to

rise by more than 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels, otherwise

dangerous climate change may occur. The Earth has already

warmed by 0.74°C (1.33°F), which means another 1.3°C rise (2.34°F)

could be too much.

The 2°C (3.6°F) threshold is based on the best available science

and is accepted by many governments including the prime

ministers and presidents of all twenty-five EU member states.

The only way to prevent temperatures staying below this level

is for CO2 concentrations to stay below about 400 ppmv, the

equivalent to greenhouse gas levels of around 450co2e. If this were

possible, staying below 2°C (3.6°F) is likely, according to climate

models.  Levels of CO2 however are already at 395 ppmv, which

means the chance of stabilisation below 400 ppmv is therefore

very unlikely.

 

 

What would a 2°C (3.6°F) rise in temperature

mean?

 

The WWF has looked at three regions to see what a 2°C (3.6°F)

temperature rise would mean for those regions.

 

 

The Mediterranean

 

Everyone enjoys going on holiday to the ‘Med’, with its beautiful

warm climate. However, as temperatures rise in the region, water

shortages could become common as annual rainfall could decrease

by twenty per cent, and more heat-waves cause all-year-round risk

from serious forest fires, as maximum temperatures could rise

by up to 5°C (9°F).

 

 

The Arctic

 

Temperatures would rise by about 3.2°C (5.7°F) here, maybe even

double that if temperatures rose by 2°C (3.6°F) elsewhere. Less

ice means more heat absorption as the darker water absorbs the

sun’s energy. Arctic summer ice could totally disappear, leaving

wildlife habitats, such as the polar bears, deteriorating or

destroyed.

 

 

Eastern Canada

 

Important species of trees, including the sugar maple, Canada’s

national symbol, will be forced to move northwards, which could

cause problems if the trees cannot adapt. Canadian fisheries will

also struggle, which could be the final straw for the already

endangered Atlantic salmon.

These are just examples of three regions and the effects of a

2°C (3.6°F) rise in temperature. Of course, many other regions

would also suffer similar consequences.

 

According to the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change,

some climate models suggest that a global 2°C (3.6°F) rise above preindustrial

levels would mean that there is potential for the Greenland

ice sheet to begin melting irreversibly, a rising risk of the collapse of

the West Antarctic ice sheet, and a rising risk of the collapse of the

ocean thermohaline circulation.

 

If temperatures rose more than 5°C (9°F), which is possible if

emissions continue to grow, and positive feedback mechanisms

kick in, such as the release of CO2 from carbon sinks and methane

from permafrost, then the rise in temperatures would be equivalent

to the amount of warming that took place between the end of

the last Ice Age and today.

Such a rise in temperature would be far outside human

experience. A very sobering thought!

The Earth, like a sick human being, is already beginning to

show the effects of higher temperatures. A 2°C (3.6°F) global

temperature rise appears to be the limit recognised as causing

catastrophic climate change.

Staying below 2°C (3.6°F) requires CO2 levels to be stabilised

at 400 ppmv, and this appears unlikely as CO2 levels are already

at 395 ppmv and increasing annually. Greenhouse gas levels are

already at 430 ppm CO2e, ( 2008 level ) and rising at 2.5 ppm CO2e annually.

If this continues, the Earth may well be 2–5°C (3.6–9°F) warmer

by 2050, when greenhouse gas levels would reach about 550 ppm

CO2e.

It seems the only answer will be for all nations and all

individuals to do their bit as far as possible to prevent, or at least

reduce, greenhouse gas emissions. The science appears clear. While

it may not be possible to prevent a 2°C (3.6°F) temperature rise,

it seems everything must be done to prevent rises over and above

this level, and the window of opportunity to do so is rapidly

disappearing.

 

Key points

 

➢ Earth’s global mean surface temperature has

increased by 0.74°C (1.33°F) over a hundred-year

period, 1906–2006.

➢ Temperatures in the Arctic however have increased

by about 5°C (9°F) over a similar period.

➢ If greenhouse gases could be halted at present

levels, the Earth would still warm by about 1–3°C

(1.8–5.4°F) above pre-industrial levels (possibly

2.26°C more than present).

➢ The last time Earth was 2–3°C (3.6–5.5°F) higher

than present was 3,000,000 years ago, when sea

levels may have been twenty-five metres (eighty

feet) higher than present.

➢ The warmest year since 1880 was 2005 and 2010, virtually

on a par with 1998, when temperatures were

boosted by an exceptional El Niño year, while 2007

has become Earth’s second warmest year jointly

with 1998.

Image    

‘Point’ Action-Thriller: Two Novel Compilation

4 Apr

Get TIPPING POINT and IMPACT POINT  in one great Kindle double novel pack. Download both Robert Spire eco-action thrillers at the same time and save ££/$$! Treat your Kindle to some eco-environmental action adventure thrills today and save money. What a great deal!

I can’t guarantee the books will be twice as good however!

A-Z of Global Warming – Free Saturday 4th February

4 Feb

Interested in climate change? Global Warming? The environment? If so, get your hands on a free copy of A-Z of Global Warming today! Educate your Kindle with an A-Z guide on the complex subject for FREE!

TIPPING POINT thriller – teaser chapters

9 Oct

PROLOGUE

April 5

“ONLY ANOTHER FOUR of these trips and we’re done,” Davenport shouted to his friend, as he looked back at the jagged cliffs rising out of the ocean on the bleak leeward side of the Ile de l’Est.

“Thank God! Don’t ever ask me to sign up for anything like this again. After the year we’ve spent down here, I’m sure we’ll both be exempt from having to do any further voluntary research for a while,” Hawthorn replied.

Dawn was just breaking over the windswept isles, as the old wooden fishing boat chugged out of the make-shift port on Ile de l’Est, one of six islets that make up the French Crozet Islands in the Southern Indian Ocean. The sub-Antarctic archipelago – part of the French Southern Territories since 1955 – was uninhabited, except for a small research base on the main island, Ile de la Possession.

“You know Adam, I could think of better things to be doing during my gap year. Monitoring penguins and sea creatures doesn’t feature high on the list,” Hawthorn said, turning the boat towards the sampling zone.

“Don’t forget it’s your turn to update the catalogue with whatever marine samples we find,” Davenport shouted, throwing the well-used notebook across the deck to his friend.

Adam Davenport and James Hawthorn had been based on the main island, Ile de la Possession, along with five other research scientists for the last eight months, and were now embarking on the final four months of their placement as part of an international monitoring team, studying the many different species of penguins, seals, birds, flora and fauna unique to the archipelago. The islands were in fact one large nature reserve, since being declared a national park back in 1938. The two researchers felt long forgotten by the outside world. The monthly food drop, by small plane from the French Kerguelen islands – some thirteen hundred kilometres to the east – was their only real comfort.

The boat’s bow rose up on the crest of a wave as they motored out of the protected inlet toward Ile de la Possession, and the buoy that marked the research area, some two kilometres out from the eastern shore.

“It sure is calm out today,” Davenport said, looking out over the horizon. A group of five petrels circled above the boat as they arrived at the marker buoy. Hawthorn cut the engine, letting the boat drift toward the orange buoy. “Pass the rope so I can tie her up,” he yelled.                                   

Davenport threw him the frayed end of the rope, which he secured to the chain on the buoy. The boat bobbed up and down on the light swell as Davenport went to retrieve his packet of Marlboro’s from the wheelhouse. “How many pots are we supposed to be pulling up today James?” He shouted over to his friend.

“Looks like we dropped eight overboard last week,” Hawthorn replied, flicking through the scruffy, worn notepad which dated back to the 1960s. “It’s going to look like seafood pick and mix by the time we haul them all up.”

Davenport lent over the side of the boat, taking in a deep breath of sea air. He pulled a Marlboro from the packet, licked the end of it, and placed it between his lips. “There’s a very strange smell on the port side,” he shouted to Hawthorn, who was getting the sampling kits ready to drop overboard.

He flipped the top of his Zippo lighter open and struck the flint. Before Hawthorn could answer him, a flash of light and heat exploded around them, completely engulfing the wooden fishing boat.

Hawthorn felt the force of the explosion as he was thrown into the shattered wheelhouse, followed by an instant of agonizing pain, then darkness.

Davenport opened his eyes. He was in the water, surrounded by flotsam and covered in burning oil. He tried to swim through it, but the task was futile. He screamed, and dived under the water. The last thing he felt was a searing pain in his lungs as he sank into the freezing depths.

CHAPTER 2

London, April 15

DR. DALE STANTON sat at his desk in the darkening room of his Russell Square apartment staring blankly at the glowing computer screen, his eyes tired and sore. His face was impassive, except for the visible, nervous twitch in the corner of his mouth, which revealed his gathering thoughts.

He was putting the finishing touches to the presentation that he would be giving to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conference in Oslo, Norway, in a little under a week’s time. Stanton had been working on his current project for almost eight months, and the conclusions he’d reached, he had little doubt, would concern the scientific world. Reaching over, he turned on the desktop lamp and rubbed his eyes, before leaning back in his chair to stretch his aching neck.

Looking back at the monitor, he started reading over the salient parts of his presentation to check it one final time before finishing for the evening. He resumed typing; making what he hoped was the final amendment to his paper.

We know the Ocean Thermohaline Circulation is an important Atlantic current powered by both heat ( thermo) and salt ( haline ) which brings warm water up from the tropics to northern latitudes. Without it, the Eastern Seaboard of the USA and climate of Northern Europe would be much colder. I have been re-analysing all the data amassed by the RAPID-WATCH program and my calculations reveal that the measuring devices have been incorrectly calibrated. Twenty-five of the thirty devices used to measure ocean flow were set by the manufacturers to measure fresh water. When calibrating the data to factor in measurements for denser salt water, the figures revealed…

Stanton jumped, as the telephone on his desk rang. He took a deep breath, and sighed as he reached over his laptop to pick up the phone.“Hello!” There was no answer. “Hello!” Again, silence. He replaced the receiver. His train of thought interrupted, he sat quietly for a moment before completing the final sentence, then saved the amendments and closed the program down. He clicked on his private finance folder to check an insurance policy he knew was about to expire, and as he did, accidentally opened the file containing a copy of his will. Perusing it, he reminded himself to amend the charitable legacies clause in order to make a gift to the team down at RAPID. God knows, they would need all the help they could get.

He’d had the will prepared after receiving a large sum of money from his father two years earlier. A colleague had recommended a local firm specialising in environmental law with a promise that one of the firm’s senior environmental lawyers, a Mr. Robert Spire would be appointed as a co-executor. He closed the file, reminding himself to have the will amended when he returned from Oslo next week.

Stanton reached across his desk and pulled the research book he’d been using from the shelf to double check a couple of facts. He flicked through the pages to a section entitled The Younger Dryas period.Around 12,900 years ago – just as the world was slowly warming up after the last ice age – a rapid descent back to colder conditions occurred in as little as ten years or so, a mere blink of an eye, in climactic terms. A shut down of the Atlantic Ocean Thermohaline Circulation was thought to have been a possible cause of the rapid chill. Stanton’s hair stood up on the back of his neck as he considered the possible ramifications of his latest research.

He closed the book, turned off his laptop, and ran his hands through his lank brown hair. As he got up from his desk, he looked out of his window at a deserted Russell Square and closed the blinds. He realised he’d been working for almost six hours, and it was now coming up to five P.M on Saturday evening.

He enjoyed living alone in his two-bed terraced townhouseapartment in London’s Russell Square, one of only a few private residences left overlooking the park. He had noticed various businesses, as well as the University College of London taking over most of the area during the last twenty years. The district was dotted with restaurants and bars, and in a couple of hours he would be meeting up with an old friend for a well-earned drink in the Hotel Russo, not far from his apartment.

He briefly took hold of the memory stick containing his presentation, before putting it back down gently. The facts, figures and details of his paper were spinning around in his head. He knew he wouldn’t be able to relax until he had given his talk in Oslo. He’d been over the calculations at least ten times to ensure they were correct. He walked into the bathroom. Unbelievable; how could they have failed to check the calibration on the measuring equipment?

Just as he was about to get in the shower, the phone rang again. He picked up the receiver, “Hello!” There was silence on the other end. As he put the phone back down he heard a click on the line. Not again. He shrugged, and stepped under the shower.

Stanton was in the middle of drying himself when a text message came through from Mathew confirming the arrangements. They would be meeting in the King’s Bar at the Hotel Russo; a warm intimate wood-panelled bar, and one of his favourite local watering holes. He finished drying and put on a white linen shirt and glanced in the mirror. He looked and felt tired. He splashed some aftershave on his face, locked the door to the apartment and headed down the hall stairs and wandered out into the warmth of a mild spring evening.

CHAPTER 2

THE HOTEL RUSSO was situated just five minutes from Stanton’s apartment on the opposite side of Russell Square. The park, one of the square’s main features looked empty, but the early evening traffic was picking up, a mixture of commuters leaving work late and taxis, collecting and dropping off their fares.

He arrived at the hotel with its imposing Victorian red brick facade just after seven-twenty, walked into the bar and scanned the room, but didn’t see his friend. He should be here soon, he thought, as he sat down on a stool near to the bar.

“Can I help you sir?” an impeccably dressed barman inquired.

“I’ll have a pint of bitter please.”

Stanton, at forty-nine, looked a good five years younger than his age. He likened himself to Basil Rathbone from the classic Sherlock Holmes films, but not quite as tall. It had been a while since he’d been out, his heavy work load over the last eight months had made it impossible.

As he was halfway through his drink, he noticed an attractive dark-haired woman sit down on one of the bar stools to his left. Dressed in a smart grey pencil skirt, white blouse and grey suit jacket, he surmised that she might be a stockbroker or banker. He realised he had been staring at her a little too long, as she glanced at him and smiled, whilst shifting on her stool. She ordered a drink, some kind of cocktail, and he noticed that she had a subtle accent which he couldn’t quite place. Possibly Eastern European, or maybe Russian, he considered.

He glanced at the time: it was now seven-fifty. Odd, Mathew wasn’t usually late.

He finished his drink and looked around the bar. The oak-panelled room was intimate with soft lighting. A group of men were drinking in one corner, and two women were chatting over cocktails near to where he was seated, but that was it. A few large brown leather chairs faced away from the bar in the corner, surrounded by lush green yucca plants, but the chairs looked empty from where he was sitting.

He went to order another drink, and just as he was about to attract the barman’s attention he heard a lightly accented voice come from his left.“Hello, would you mind if I join you for drink?”

Stanton looked toward the attractive woman, somewhat taken aback by her advances. “Of course…um, I am waiting for a friend, but you are welcome to join me. Can I get you a drink?” 

“Please, a mai tai would be great” 

“My name is Dale,” Stanton said, offering his hand.

“Hello Dale, I am Victoria,” she said, taking his outstretched hand.

Stanton ordered a mai tai and another pint of bitter for himself, his throat feeling even dryer than it had earlier. He hadn’t met such an attractive woman in a long time, but her sudden interest led him to believe that she was probably a high-class escort. It had been difficult for him to meetanyone with the time he’d been putting into the RAPID project, and he knew that his socialising skills had become a bit rusty. He tried to think of something to say that would clarify her intentions. “So, Victoria, are you here on business or pleasure?”

“Well, I was supposed to be meeting friend, but she cancelled on me at last minute…I wanted drink, so I stay,” she said, in broken, but perfectly understandable English.

“Well, I am glad you did,” Stanton replied.     

Victoria smiled, and sipped her cocktail.

Stanton sat there for a moment admiring her silky shoulder-length dark hair, and her slim, athletic figure. Her high cheek bones and angular face betrayed her Eastern European heritage. “Excuse me a moment, I should really try and call my friend again.”

He called Mathew’s number, but there was no response. He rejoined Victoria at the bar. “So, Victoria, what is it you do?” He asked, anticipating the worst.

“Well, I am photographer…freelance for ladies fashion magazine.”

“Ah, really,” he said, relieved at her response. “I’d have put you down for a banker or stockbroker myself.”

Victoria gave a little laugh. “I will take that as compliment, Mr. Dale, but I know nothing about that sort of thing. Anyway that sounds boring, no?”

“I guess so,” Stanton replied, somewhat embarrassed at what she might think of his line of work.

“So, where is your friend?”

“I really don’t know, tied up at work I guess. He should be here shortly.” 

Victoria placed the straw from her cocktail between her lips and took a long drink. She then took hold of the end of the straw, and used it to mix the ice at the bottom of her glass. She looked at Stanton, her green eyes glinting as she moved her head to one side. “I don’t wish to sound forward, Mr. Dale, but I haven’t eaten yet, and wondered if you like to join me for dinner? The restaurant here is very good.”

Stanton liked the fact that she called him Mr. Dale. He wasn’t sure if she had misunderstood his name or if it was her broken English, but it sounded kind of charming. The thought of joining her for dinner was too much to resist. He summoned the barman over and gave a description of his friend, telling him he’d be next door in the restaurant if he showed.

“No Problem, Sir,” the barman said, as he mopped up some spilled beer with a cloth.

Stanton paid the bill and followed Victoria next door into the hotel’s restaurant, where they were shown a table near to the door. He began to feel slightly aroused as he looked across the table into Victoria’s green eyes. She gave him a long smile.

“So, Mr. Dale, what is it you do for job?” 

Stanton cleared his throat from the bread roll he’d just eaten. He didn’t want to bore her with his research, but couldn’t think of anything entertaining to say. “Well, I’m actually a climate scientist for the Met Office in London, but I’m currently working on a project down at Southampton University.”

“Ah really, I have read about this global warming. It is a bit worrying, no? But, where I come from, we could do with things a little warmer, the winters are very cold.”

“Oh and where is that?” Stanton asked.

“Novosibirsk, in Siberia.”                              

“Really? You’re a long way from home,” Stanton said, leaning back in his chair.

Victoria smiled. “I haven’t lived there for six years or so Mr. Dale, but I still visit family whenever I can. I have only been based in London for the last eight months. I enjoy my job, but I find city so big and tiring. Back home is much easier way of life, but not much to do there for girl like me.”

I bet, Stanton thought.

The waitress appeared at the table and filled their glasses with water. Stanton perused the wine menu that had just been handed to him.“Chardonnay OK for you?”

“Perfect, I like French white…but you choose.”

Stanton ordered a bottle of Pouilly-Fuissé, and after a short while the waitress returned with the chilled wine and filled their glasses.

“Well I guess we should drink to something,” Stanton said, holding up his glass.

“Yes, here’s to…an unexpected evening,” Victoria replied, raising her glass.

Stanton took a decent drink; the fresh, delicate flavours soaked his palate. The waitress then returned with their orders.

“So, you said you have read about global warming issues. Do you know much about the subject?” Stanton asked, picking up on her earlier comments.

“Oh, a little, but the subject is a little depressing, no?”

There was an awkward silence. “This pasta is very good. How is your fish?” She asked.

“Great,” Stanton replied, realising she clearly didn’t wish to talk about the topic. “Well, it doesn’t look like my friend is turning up,” he said, checking his watch.

“I don’t think so, but you don’t look like you are missing him too much?” 

Stanton smiled. Half of the Chardonnay remained in the bottle in the ice bucket. He went to refill Victoria’s glass, but she quickly raised her hand and placed it over the top.

“Not for me, Mr. Dale. I already feel little bit drunk.”

Stanton smiled and filled his glass. “Well, it’s been a real pleasure meeting you Victoria.”

“The pleasure is all mine, but we don’t have to say goodnight yet. Maybe we could go for a coffee somewhere?”

Stanton was quiet for a few seconds. He felt a little nervous, and no doubt it showed. “We could go back to my apartment, perhaps? If you would like some coffee, I mean,” he said, awkwardly.

“Wonderful. Do you live far from here?”

“Just across the square,” he replied, relieved at her response.

The waitress appeared with the bill, and Stanton instinctively took out his wallet to pay.

“No, Mr. Dale, I pay for dinner.”

“Don’t be silly, I really don’t…”

Victoria cut him off mid-sentence. “Please, I insist,” she said, taking a roll of notes from her purse.

In the corner of the King’s bar the smartly dressed barman and a customer were trying to lift a man who was slumped in one of the large leather chairs. The man, who was in his early forties, was out cold, and had been since around seven that evening.

The barman felt for the man’s pulse. “Well, he’s not dead,” he said to the man helping him. “Perhaps I’d better get an ambulance.”

“I think so; he’s either drunk himself into a stupor, or something’s seriously wrong. He’s unconscious.”

The barman walked briskly over to the phone on the wall behind the bar and dialled for an ambulance. At the same time, the customer felt for the man’s wallet. He found it, and searched through the contents to reveal a driving licence. Printed under the photo I.D was the name Mathew J. White.

*

Stanton and Victoria arrived, arm in arm, at his apartment. As they ascended the steps to the front door, an ambulance came into view with its sirens blaring, the busy London traffic appearing to ignore it.

Stanton fumbled for his key, and opened the door. He led Victoria up the hall stairs in silence. As they reached the top, Victoria put her arm around his neck, pulling his head toward hers, and kissed him. It was a long, passionate kiss and the taste of her lips and scent of her perfume was subtly intoxicating. She pulled her head back. “Time for that coffee you promised, Mr. Dale?”

“Ah yes, coffee. I’ll put the kettle on just as soon as we get in,” Stanton replied.

He was thinking of other things, however. It was the first time in months that he’d allowed himself to be distracted from his work. He opened the front door to his apartment, flicked on the lights and walked into the lounge off the main hallway, his guest following behind.

Habit forced him to glance over towards his laptop, and the memory stick, as he went into the kitchen to put the kettle on. He grabbed two coffee cups from the cupboard above the kettle and pulled the plunger from the French press, which was thankfully clean. It wasn’t long before an aroma of Colombian coffee wafted through the kitchen.

Victoria appeared and walked toward him, speaking in Russian, her accent soft and exotic. Stanton hesitated for a moment, a puzzled look on his face.

“Ah, sorry, sometimes I do that.” She smiled. “May I use bathroom?” She asked, her Russian accent more obvious this time.

“Sure, it’s down the corridor, off to the left.”

Stanton admired Victoria’s shapely figure as she walked down the corridor to the bathroom. He felt a combination of unease and excitement as he thought about the beautiful stranger he had invited into his apartment. He pushed the coffee press down, aroused at the prospect of the sex that he hoped would follow. His stomach turned over, as nerves started to get the better of him. He heard a click from the bathroom door as Victoria unlocked it.

He searched for the remote control and hit the play button for the CD player and the melody of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Boxer’ drifted out of the speakers.

Victoria walked back into the room and Stanton handed her a coffee.“Here’s to a fantastic evening out,” he said, studying her svelte figure.

“Fantastic,” Victoria repeated, as she put her cup down on the table by the side of the leather sofa and moved closer to him. He went to drink his coffee, but Victoria pulled the cup out of his hands and placed it down next to hers. She placed her left arm around him, and pulled him towards her, kissing him passionately. He felt her warm, soft lips on his, and experienced an excitement he hadn’t felt in a long time. The nerves he’d had only a short while ago evaporated, as lust took over. The kiss was interrupted by a sudden stabbing pain in his upper left arm, and almost instantly, he felt unwell.

Victoria pulled away from him. At the same moment he began to feel nauseas, and then a burning sensation developed in his throat, followed by rapid breathing. Twenty seconds later, darkness enveloped him. He tried to reach for the phone, but his limbs no longer supported his weight, and he fell to the floor, sucking in his last breath.

Victoria stepped back and stood there for a moment, looking at Stanton lying on the floor in a pathetic heap, his mouth still open. Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The fifty-ninth Bridge street’ song had just started to play. She looked down at him. You don’t look like you’re feeling groovy now doctor.

She quickly gathered her things and left the apartment, quietly closed the door behind her and descended the hall stairs and walked out onto Russell Square. Apart from a group of drunken students staggering noisily along one side of the park, the square was deserted. She checked the time; it was one-twenty A.M. Unnoticed, she hurried towards Endsleigh Place where her dark Saab was parked.


No More Ice!

12 Sep

News is just out that Arctic ice levels may now be at their lowest ever level, following the 2011 summer melt season, beating the 2007 record. NSIDC will be confirming this sometime in October 2011. 

So, with this in mind, let’s take a look at how global warming is affecting the Earth’s coldest regions and ice sheets, collectively called the cryosphere, derived from a Greek word meaning frost or cold. It is used to describe the areas of the Earth’s surface where water is in a solid form, usually snow or ice. These areas include sea ice, freshwater ice, glaciers, permafrost and snow. 

The Earth’s polar icecaps, found at the North and South poles, contain the largest concentrations of ice on Earth. The North pole is home to the Arctic, and the South pole the Antarctic. Also in the north is the massive Greenland ice sheet. Both the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets sit on top of continents or landmasses, whereas the Arctic is a frozen ocean. Sea ice however is found in both the North and South polar regions, and in total it covers an area about twenty times the size of Canada.

WHAT IS SEA ICE ?

Well, it is simply frozen ocean water. It forms and melts in the ocean. Icebergs, glaciers, ice sheets/shelves, however, all originate on land, and are formed with fresh not saltwater. Sea ice grows in the winter months and melts during the summer. Some ice remains all year round, and about fifteen per cent of the world’s oceans are covered during part of the year.

 WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT ?

 

Ice has a bright reflective surface, so as sunlight strikes it most of it is reflected back into space. As such, areas covered by ice don’t absorb much of the sun’s energy, allowing temperatures in the polar regions to remain cool. If higher temperatures melt the ice over time, as is beginning to happen, then more of the sun’s energy can be absorbed by the ice-free sea or land, allowing temperatures to rise further.

The term ‘albedo’ is used to determine how well a surface reflects solar energy. A surface with an albedo of zero means that it is a perfect absorber of the sun’s energy, such as a black surface. An albedo of one means that the surface is a perfect reflector, such as a white surface. Sea ice will reflect about fifty to seventy per cent of the sun’s energy. Open sea reflects about six per cent, whereas snow-covered ice about ninety per cent, simply because it’s white and therefore has a higher reflective surface.

Just as the Amazon regulates climate by absorbing and storing huge amounts of CO2, the ice-covered regions of Earth act much in the same way, by regulating temperature and reflecting large amounts of solar energy back into space. If these regions melt, then not only will ocean levels rise but temperatures will also increase.

HOW IS THE ARCTIC RESPONDING TO GLOBAL WARMING ?

 

The North pole sits right in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, which is fenced in by eight different countries. During the winter the ice extends over the entire ocean and onto the fringes of the land. During the summer, the ice retreats back into the ocean. Air temperatures in the region have, on average, increased by about 5°C (9°F) over the last 100 years, which is higher than anywhere else on the planet. This has caused Arctic sea ice to decrease by about fourteen per cent since the 1970s.

The local Inuit population have started to notice the warmer summers, the earlier break-up of the ice in spring, and extensive areas of melting permafrost in places like Alaska and Siberia. This in turn is affecting their hunting season, foundations of properties and other infrastructure in the region. Arctic sea ice has been measured by the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) and NASA, using satellite data, and the findings are that massive reductions in sea ice are occurring at the end of the northern summer.

The sea ice extends to about 15,000,000 square kilometres (5,792,000 square miles) during winter, and down to an average 7,000,000 square kilometres (2,703,000 square miles) during the summer. It therefore loses just over fifty per cent of ice cover after the summer melt season. The annual average extent of Arctic sea ice has decreased by about three per cent per decade since about 1980, which is the equivalent of an area of about 750,000 square kilometres (289,575 square miles). The amount of ice left after the summer melt is also decreasing by about 7.7 per cent each decade.

NSIDC measures Arctic sea-ice extent, or the area of ocean that is covered by at least fifteen per cent ice, which typically reaches its minimum in September, at the end of the summer melt season. 

In 2007, NSIDC data reveals that Arctic sea ice during the 2007 melt season plummeted to the lowest levels since satellite measurements began in 1979. The September sea-ice minimum went down to 4,130,000 square kilometres (1,594,000 square miles), the lowest September on record, shattering the previous record for the month, set in 2005, by twenty-three per cent. Computer models however have predicted the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer months from 2080 if the overall warming trend continues.

In March 2007, a fire onboard the British nuclear submarine HMS Tireless forced it to the surface. Two sailors died in the explosion. The Navy had been conducting tests under the Arctic and the data retrieved indicated that the summer Arctic sea ice may actually be gone by as soon as 2020. This however appears to be a worst-case scenario.

Arctic sea ice is about 2 to 3 metres (6.5 to 9.8 feet) thick on average, so a loss of 7,000,000 square kilometres (2,703,000 square miles) times 2.5 metres (8.2 feet) (thickness) is a considerable amount of water. Melting sea ice however does not necessarily add much to sea-level rise when it melts, much like melting ice cubes in a glass do not cause the glass to overflow. Melting glaciers and ice-covered continents however are a different matter and when they melt, sea levels will rise.

A new NASA-led study found a twenty-three per cent loss in the extent of the Arctic’s thick year-round sea ice cover during the past two winters. The scientists discovered less perennial sea ice in March 2007 than ever before. This drastic reduction is the primary cause of this summer’s fastest-ever sea-ice retreat on record and subsequent smallest-ever extent of total Arctic coverage.

Record summer melting has also meant that the usually frozen Northwest Passage waterway, which connects the Atlantic to the Pacific, has become fully navigable, a fact that may raise tensions between Canada, which maintains that the waterway lies in its territorial waters, and other countries in the region. The race is now on to exploit the Arctic’s natural resources as oil companies drill for oil there. A disaster along the lines of the Deepwater-Horizon spill, would be cataclysmic.

For a recent news article showing stark photographic differences over time between Himalayan glaciers, click here.

For more information, check out THE A-Z OF GLOBAL WARMING, the above article is taken from chapter N – No More Ice!

Alternatively for a fast paced eco-thriller, involving a race to prevent the Arctic from melting, try TIPPING POINT.

         

Global Warming – A brief Introduction.

9 Sep

The term Global Warming has been in common usage for some time now and refers to recent warming of Earth’s atmosphere,which also implies a manmade or human influence.

Earth’s atmosphere comprises many gases: oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide (hereafter abbreviated to CO2) and water vapour, to name a few. These gases are collectively called greenhouse gases and they keep the Earth’s temperature at a comfortable 15°C. Without them Earth would be a chilly -18°C.

Since pre-industrial times, usually taken to be before 1750, we know from ice-core records that CO2 levels were about 280 ppm,that’s 280 parts of CO2 per million parts of air. As industrialisation got underway humankind started to farm the land more intensely than ever before, which included deforestation for agriculture and settlements. Later – since about 1850 or so – the burning of fossil fuels for energy and transport has added considerably to greenhouse gas levels, particularly CO2.

This has resulted in CO2 levels increasing to about 390 ppm, a rise of about thirty-nine per cent from pre-industrial levels – mainly as a result of burning fossil fuels.

How do we know this?

Well, data from ice-core records that go back at least 650,000 years now show us that CO2 levels have fluctuated naturally during this time between 280 and 300 ppm. CO2 levels have also been measured accurately from the top of Mauna Loa Volcano in Hawaii since 1958, and results show an increase in CO2 levels from 315 ppm to 390 ppm since that time.

Therefore CO2 is now at ninety ppm more than it has been for at least 650,000 years of Earth’s history, and increasing. It is a known scientific fact that higher levels of greenhouse gases will lead to higher temperatures, which appears to be happening now. The world has warmed by an average of 0.74 degrees during the last 100 years or so. As a result of this warming, polar ice has started to decrease and melt, and so have Earth’s land-based glaciers. This in turn is causing sea levels to rise, which is putting low-lying islands at risk of flooding or total submersion, and will eventually threaten more and more of the world’s coastal cities and regions.

Things may get worse, however, because once Earth’s atmosphere starts to warm, the warming itself may cause further positive feedback mechanisms to kick in. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapour, which is itself a powerful greenhouse gas. This will in turn cause further warming, and so on.

Melting ice results in more sunlight being absorbed by the surrounding ‘darker’ water and land, and that results in further warming, and more melting ice. Methane deposits currently held in a frozen but stable state under the sea and under the permafrost may be released as the oceans warm and permafrost melts, which will cause further warming. This is very worrying as methane is a potent greenhouse gas and around twenty times more powerful than CO2 when talking about it’s ability to warm the Earth’s atmosphere.

This is global warming in a nut shell, however there are of course far more complex issues involved as global warming will not affect the whole planet in the same way at the same time. Some parts will experience more drought, some parts more rainfall, and some parts more extreme weather such as floods and heatwaves.

One thing is for sure,as the world warms, we will all know about it…

For more information on the subject check out THE A-Z OF GLOBAL WARMING. Or visit my website SIROSSERTHRILLERS.

Hurricanes – Want To Know More?

28 Aug

As it’s 2011 Atlantic hurricane season until November, I have resurrected this article which explains what hurricanes are, how they form, and their relevance to global warming. Hurricane and typhoon are names given to a strong tropical cyclone. A ‘tropical cyclone’ is a generic term for a low-pressure system that has a definitive cyclonic surface-wind circulation.

Before considering the effects global warming may have on these weather systems, we will look at a few hurricane facts and figures. Depending where a cyclone occurs will determine whether it’s called a hurricane, typhoon or tropical cyclone. Hurricanes form in the North Atlantic and Northeast Pacific Oceans. Typhoons form in the Northwest Pacific area to the east of 160° longitude. Cyclones form in the Southwest Pacific Ocean, and the North and Southwest Indian Ocean. The Atlantic hurricane season, now underway, officially begins on 1st June and continues to the end of November each year. However, hurricanes do of course occur outside this time period. The seasons are different for Pacific and Indian Ocean areas, particularly the Northwest Pacific basin, where cyclones can occur all year round.

According to NOAA, hurricanes rotate in a counter-clockwise direction around a central ‘eye’, and a tropical storm will be classed as a hurricane only when wind speeds reach 74 mph (119 km/h) or more. Hurricanes can of course cause immense damage, especially if they hit land, where heavy rain, strong winds and especially strong waves – called the storm surge – can wreak destruction, as the unfortunate people of New Orleans found out during August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit with devastating consequences.

Hurricane strength is measured using the Saffir-Simpson scale, named after two engineers from the US National Hurricane Center, who developed it in 1969. The scale is used only to describe hurricanes that form in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific basins. The scale has five intensities depending on wind speed. For example, a category one hurricane has a wind speed of 74 mph (118 km/h) and a category five hurricane 156+ mph (251 km/h). Hurricane Katrina, mentioned above, was probably the most devastating storm in US history, causing an estimated $100,000,000,000-worth of damage. Katrina was a category five storm, but dropped to a three when it hit land on the eastern seaboard of the USA, in August 2005.

For hurricanes to develop, certain environmental conditions must be present, such as warm ocean water, high humidity and favourable atmospheric and upward spiralling wind patterns off the ocean surface. Atlantic hurricanes usually start off as a weak tropical disturbance off the West African coast, and intensify into rotating storms with weak winds called tropical depressions. It’s only when wind speeds reach at least 74 mph (118 km/h) that they are classified as hurricanes. NASA scientists and NOAA have been studying how winds and dust conditions from Africa influence the birth of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, using an armoury of NASA’s Earth observing satellites. It seems that NASA is on course to establish whether or not global warming is indeed influencing the weather. NASA’s AIRS instrument on board the Aqua satellite, which is short for Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, can measure very subtle changes in the Earth’s climate. Scientists from NASA and NOAA, as well as other scientists, have already demonstrated that AIRS data can lead to better forecasts about the location and intensity of ‘extratropical cyclones’, which are mid-latitude storms, often striking the east coast of the USA. This may enable the team to test the climate-weather hypothesis once more data is available. AIRS will also have the ability to test the hypothesis that climate change may be causing the water (hydrological) cycle to accelerate, by measuring the humidity distribution within the atmosphere.This will show with sufficient accuracy whether the water cycle is indeed speeding up. If so, as is suspected in a warmer world, there will be more water vapour and clouds in the atmosphere resulting in more rainfall. If so, AIRS will be able to establish a link between global warming and the weather, as a faster water cycle causes greater rainfall as a result of an accelerated hydrological cycle.

2005 was the most active hurricane season since reliable records began, with fifteen hurricanes, seven of which were major ones.

This article was taken from my book, THE A-Z OF GLOBAL WARMING. Download the book from Amazon USA or Amazon UK on Kindle for further information like this. Alternatively, for a fast-paced action-adventure thriller with an eco theme, try TIPPING POINT. US readers can go to Amazon USA, and UK readers Amazon UK.

Tipping Point – Facts Behind The Fiction.

23 Aug

Without giving away too many book spoilers, I thought I’d write a brief blog for anyone who may be wondering if there is any truth behind the themes in my action-adventure thrillerTIPPING POINT.

The Tipping Point of the title refers to the point at which an irreversible melting of the Arctic’s ice pack occurs. Other themes explored in the novel are geoengineering, peak oil, the ocean thermohaline circulation and the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet! Whilst Robert Spire is left to solve the deaths of the climatologists in the book, we look at whether these themes have any basis in science fact. Let’s have a look in more detail.

The Arctic

Tipping Point explores the underlying theme that the Arctic is melting from global warming. Each year the ice pack covering the Arctic melts and retreats during the summer and freezes over again in the winter, with its maximum melt each year in September. Data from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre reveals that Arctic ice cover is on a downward trend. 2007 was the lowest recorded level, but 2011 looks likely to set a new record low. Scientists predict the Arctic may be ice free during the summer between 2013 and 2019, a startling and worrying fact. This would mean the opening of the fabled Northwest Passage – a route between the Atlantic and the Pacific – and give more opportunities for countries and companies to plunder the riches the Arctic has to offer.

Geoengineering

In the book, French climatologist Francois Trimaud has developed a specialised form of iron sulphate to fertilise the Arctic Ocean, in order to slow down and reverse the Arctic’s melting ice by increasing Arctic albedo (reflectivity) levels. The experimental substance contains a whitening pigment called Blankoplankton.
Scientists are indeed looking at ways to geoengineer the Earth’s climate to solve, or reduce the effects of global warming. Iron fertilisation of the oceans is one method.

Peak Oil

A theme explored in Tipping Point is the possibility that the World’s oil resources are running out, that supplies have reached a peak and are now on a downward curve. This theory was proposed by M King Hubbert, and he successfully predicted that the USA would reach its peak oil production in the early 1970s. Has this now happened with Saudi Arabia’s oil supplies?

Ocean Thermohaline Circulation

In Tipping Point, the book opens with UK climatologist Dr Dale Stanton’s untimely death, preventing him delivering a talk on the Atlantic Ocean’s thermohaline circulation. The OTC or great ocean conveyor as it is known, is an important ocean current which brings warm water up from the Equator to the east coast of the USA and Europe in the form of the North Atlantic Drift and Gulf Stream. The film ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ is based on the premise of the current suddenly failing, heralding in a new ice-age.
The UKs RAPID-WATCH project measures the rate or flow of the ocean current to assess whether its strength is changing. This project runs until 2014.

During a period called the Younger Dryas, a significant shutdown of the current is thought to have caused a rapid decline from relatively warmer conditions back to ice-age conditions in a blink of an eye in climactic terms. A huge influx of fresh water from Lake Agassiz is thought to have been the possible cause. The fresh water flowing into the Atlantic would have disrupted the ocean flow by interfering with its thermohaline conveyor system. 
Scientists are concerned that an increase in fresh water flowing into the Atlantic from Greenland’s melting ice sheets could once again disrupt the Thermo (heat) and haline (salt) engine that drives this essential current. 

Greenland Melting?

A back story in Tipping Point is the fact that a huge glacier on Greenland is melting, which causes isotactic adjustment of the Greenland continent underneath. Research does indeed show that Greenland glacier ice-melt is accelerating.

These are the facts. Now if you fancy a thrilling action-adventure, why don’t YOU read TIPPING POINT?

Saving Planet Earth

23 Aug

My new business cards arrived last week – the ones which have “Tipping Point, A Robert Spire Thriller,” printed on them. I put a few in my wallet, thinking, you never know, they might come in handy.

Coming to the end of another weekend in the middle of July, I’m looking out of the window and I ask myself, where is our summer? It’s the middle of July, but the weather is lousy. Mind you, in the UK it’s supposed to be a scorching 27 degrees Celsius today…wow! Not bad for the middle of summer. Mid-summer’s day was like mid-winter. So what’s going on I wondered?

Are we just having another bad summer? Have we already had our summer? The weather in April and May was fantastic, but now it’s lousy. Could something more sinister be going on? Could it be the dreaded G.W word, I’m talking about global warming, you know, climate change.

I recall years ago…I’m thinking back to the 1970s and early 1980s when we used to have long hot summers and cold, snowy winters here in the UK, but no more. Summer is usually wet, what we have of it usually appears in April and May, and at Christmas time, well now you can wear a T-shirt and not catch a chill – apart from last year, snow did actually fall…in October!

Not only that, but there’s not a day that goes by without a story in the news about global warming causing melting ice caps, rising sea levels, Arctic methane release, melting the Arctic, ocean acidification, increasing Co2 levels – yes they measure these from Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii, and deforestation. These are just some of the consequences. 

The planet appears to be doomed. Not only that, but today I found out that a NEO or Near Earth Object – an asteroid in this case passed within 7500 miles of the Earth on Monday 27th June! This thing was only discovered recently, and passed within Earth’s geosynchronous satellite population before accelerating back out to space, pretty close eh? And that’s not the only one. These things are zipping by all the time. What about all the others that haven’t been discovered yet?

So, with this all in mind, I decided I needed a drink. I went out to a local bar and was enjoying a few drinks when an attractive red-head came up to me. She asked, “Have you got a light please?”

I looked into her green eyes and thought, damn, would have been a good time to have a pack of cigarettes, or at least a lighter with me, even though I don’t smoke. I said, “sorry, no,” but quickly remembered an old booklet of matches I had in my pocket. “Actually, I have,” I said, handing her the booklet. “But you shouldn’t smoke you know, It’s bad for you, and bad for the planet.”

“What do you mean?” She asked, looking amused.

“Global warming,” I joked.

“I used to think that was rubbish,” she said, “but now I really do think something is going on, I mean look at the weather, middle of summer and it’s terrible!”

I couldn’t help joining her for a cigarette, wanting to chat more about the topic, so followed her outside. After two cigarettes – which I felt a little guilty about – and a depressing chat about saving planet Earth from the perils of global warming and asteroid collision, she said to me;

“So, if the is Earth doomed, who can save us? The X-Men, The Green Lantern, Transformers?”

I said, “They are all comic book heroes, but Robert Spire would certainly have a go.”

“Robert  Spire?” She said. “Who’s he?”

I pulled out my wallet and handed her my card.