Changing Ecosystems for the Good. Another Glimpse of Hope

Fact: Humans are changing the world and our landscape and consequently some ecosystems. Is it good or bad? I must admit, my last posts are not really encouraging. We are changing our landscape more for the bad. Sometimes I am searching the internet and then I find hope. After a beautiful ecosystem being totally changed to an infertile ground, Is it possible to rehabilitate it? In Green Gold environmental film maker John D. Liu documents large-scale ecosystem restoration projects in China, Africa, South America and the Middle East, highlighting the enormous benefits for people and planet of undertaking these efforts globally.

I couldn’t believe. It is true! This movie proves if humans want to they can do amazing things for the good. I’d like to see more projects like that. I have more links, I will try to read more about it and post here.

The Chaos of Weather

After a long break I am finally back. This is the first post of the “Weather Forecasting” posts. Roughly speaking, to forecast the weather, scientists use computer models to mimic Earth dynamics. These models are mathematical equations of the atmosphere and oceans. However, the Earth dynamics is a big complex system. On top of that some Earth natural systems have a chaotic behavior. But what is chaos? Summarizing the wikipedia definition:

Chaos is when the behavior of dynamical systems are highly sensitive to initial conditions. Thus, small differences in initial conditions (such as those due to rounding errors in numerical computation) yield widely diverging outcomes for such dynamical systems. Therefore, chaotic systems are predictable for a while and then appear to become random. In other words, the deterministic nature of these systems does not make them predictable.

Around 1960, the meteorologist Edward Lorenz (one of the fathers of chaos theory), was working on a set of differential equations describing convective processes in the atmosphere which were producing encouragingly realistic results. One day, he decided to enter data manually from a point part way through rather than waste time by starting the run over. He found that not long after the run had been restarted from this intermediate point, the forecast diverged and it was completely different. The reason behind, was the output data he used to restart the model. It had been rounded to 3 significant digits, while the computations were done to 6, an error of about 1%. With this unexpected results he discovered that the degree of numerical precision in the initial conditions provided to a numerical weather prediction (NWP) model affects the resulting forecast significantly after only a few days of forecast time (Lorenz 1963).  A good example (also from wikipedia) of chaotic behavior  is the double rod pendulum where the start of the pendulum from a slightly different initial condition would result in a completely different trajectory:

Double-compound-pendulum” by CatslashOwn work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The Earth weather is one of the Earth natural systems with a chaotic behavior. Consequently, the use of different initial conditions in the atmospheric and oceans equations will lead to different final results. So why does not use the same initial condition always to forecast the weather and have the same results? The source of the errors in the forecasting is a more complex subject and I will explain in a post later. However if the Earth system is so unpredictable how come scientists can use computer models to reconstruct past and future climate? First it is necessary to explain the difference between weather and climate where the difference is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time. Weather is more difficult to predict and has more uncertainties than climate. An elegant demonstration of this difference can be seen in this short video from National Geographic. The astrophysicist and Cosmos host Neil deGrasse Tyson uses a dog walking to clarify the concept.

More additional information of computer models and how they are used to predict climate can be found here: Can we trust climate models?  and Numerical weather prediction.

[Random News] Watching the Earth breathe from space (Measuring CO2 from space) and more…

  1. Nasa Launches Carbon Dioxide Observer
  2. How Solar Energy Empowered a Nicaraguan Community Once Devastated by War
  3. How El Niño will change the world’s weather in 2014
  4. How Arizona Could Soon Tax Thousands of Residents For Going Solar

Nasa Launches Carbon Dioxide Observer

Image Credit: NASA

Image Credit: NASA

NASA successfully launched its first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric CO2. Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) will be NASA’s first dedicated Earth remote sensing satellite to study atmospheric carbon dioxide from Space. OCO-2 will be collecting space-based global measurements of atmospheric CO2 with the precision, resolution, and coverage needed to characterize sources and sinks on regional scales. “Sources and sinks” are the keys words here. As I posted before, when CO2 is added in the atmosphere only a part stays in there (which drives warming). The remained part could be absorbed by the ocean, and land. However, exactly where is highly uncertain. Thus this sensors will help to solve this part of the puzzle. Also OCO-2 will also be able to quantify CO2 variability over the seasonal cycles year after year.

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5 Movies About Genetic Pollution and the Big Business of Genetics

A few weeks ago I started to watch a documentary about genetic modified crops. I was immersed in the climate change topic and I didn’t really want to watch a documentary about other environmental topic because It could be interesting then I would start search more material about the topic. But I gave a shot anyway and the domino effect began. I started with one documentary, then another one, one more… I knew it.

The big picture is: some big corporations are trying to dominate the food production in a global scale. My first thought was, Ok it sounds like a conspiracy theory. Global dominance? It can’t be done. However after I finished the first movie I was amazed. These guys are really smart. They found a way of doing. I wasn’t happy at all because it is really not fair, but real life is not fair most of the time.

What came into my mind was what happened a long time ago with Microsoft and the antitrust law. Microsoft was accused of monopoly because of its internet browser. Also Microsoft and Windows where consider the beast from the apocalypse (really???? because of Windows????). Then Google was the next target. Privacy issues, misuse of personal information, a company which is too big, and the list goes one. I am not defending Microsoft nor Google but honestly these two companies are nothing compared to the food/genetic companies approach. What I found in the movies was way more scary and profound than anything that I heard about Microsoft and Google together (and trust me I heard a lot about these two companies). They take advantage of farmers misinformation and high expectations of better crops. Continue reading

3 Movies that will make you think a little bit

My favourites genres of movies are documentaries and cartoons. It is hard to explain why and yes, I am addicted to them.  I was trying to remember some movies I saw in the past which are related to environmental problems and its possible solutions. One movie that really caught my attention was “An inconvenient Truth“.  Al Gore talks about climate change and CO2 levels. I remember the famous scene where he stepped on a manlift Continue reading