Category Archives: EGU 2013

EGU 2013: tree spotted in poster halls

By Liz Kalaugher

It’s not often you see vegetation at the Austria Center Vienna, particularly inside the poster halls. But this year Rolf Hut of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands positioned one of his research subjects, a tree, next to his poster display.

While an unexpected encounter with plants can be pleasant for conference delegates, for those interested in measuring the moisture content in the top 5 or 6 cm of soil by satellite, vegetation can be a problem. The water it contains may be a source of noise in the radar backscatter signals they need, particularly as plants’ water content tends to fluctuate during the day.

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EGU 2013: climate change hard to reverse

By Liz Kalaugher

It’s early days, but scientists are developing techniques to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, either directly through technologies such as artificial trees or, less directly, by biomass burning with carbon capture and storage. Even if these methods are implemented, however, the Earth will feel the temperature effects of climate change for centuries to come.

That’s according to Andrew MacDougall of Canada’s University of Victoria, who gave a press conference at the European Geosciences Union’s General Assembly in Vienna. His simulations using the University of Victoria Earth-System Climate Model indicate that without any artificial carbon removal, and assuming that fossil fuels run out, around 60–75% of near-surface warming will remain 10,000 years into the future.

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EGU 2013: stormy times ahead

By Liz Kalaugher

Thunderstorms are getting stronger and more frequent, according to Eberhard Faust of Munich Re, speaking at a press conference at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna.

In 2011 losses from thunderstorms east of the Rockies reached a record value of $47 billion, with two cities hit by outbreaks. For comparison, Hurricane Sandy caused losses of $60 billion.

Together with scientists from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Faust examined data for severe US thunderstorm losses east of the Rockies from March to September each year from 1970 to 2009. Both the mean level of loss and the variability went up. Some have ascribed this rise to an increase in the value of building stock. But by correcting for socio-economic changes, Faust found that the change was due to altered thunderstorm activity.

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EGU 2013: Texan wind farms raise temperatures

By Liz Kalaugher

When Liming Zhou of SUNY at Albany, US, and colleagues found a link between Texan wind farms and warmer temperatures during summer nights, many argued that the effect was simply because the wind farms were sited on top of mountain ridges. But now, by comparing temperatures above wind farms with those for similar wind-farm-free ridges nearby, Zhou is confident that the raised temperatures he found are caused by operation of the wind turbines.

Speaking at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna, Zhou explained how he and his colleagues looked at an area in west-central Texas containing four of the world’s largest wind farms between 2003 and 2011. The average temperature increase about 1.1 km above the wind turbines at night in summer was up to 1 °C, as measured by MODIS kit onboard satellites. During the day, the presence of wind turbines did not seem to affect temperatures. In winter, when the wind turbines were generally operating at lower speeds, the night-time warming effect was less pronounced.

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EGU 2013: a bumpy ride for transatlantic flights

By Liz Kalaugher

If, like me, you’re a nervous air passenger, the news from today’s European Geosciences Union General Assembly wasn’t good. Speaking at a press conference just 15 minutes after the publication of his paper, Paul Williams of the University of Reading, UK, revealed how climate change is likely to bring stronger and more widespread clear air turbulence for transatlantic flights.

A doubling of carbon-dioxide concentrations, which could well occur by the 2050s, would increase the average strength of clear air turbulence by 10–40%, Williams and colleague Manoj Joshi of the University of East Anglia, UK, calculated. The amount of airspace containing significant turbulence would also increase by 40–170%; Williams said the most likely figure would be 100%.

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