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Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Global Warming Special, November,08

Today:

  1. U.N.: Greenhouse Gases At Record Highs
  2. Wind power meets record demand in Spain: industry group
  3. Global warming is changing organic matter in soil
  4. Researchers boost solar cell efficiency
The last article and the second are the coolest, I'm so happy I read them!

U.N.: Greenhouse Gases At Record Highs

(CBS/AP) The U.N. weather agency says the three main greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere have reached new record highs.

Geir Braathen of the World Meteorological Organization says carbon dioxide was up the most in 2007, one-half percent, with methane and nitrous oxide rising by lesser amounts.

Braathen says that it was the first time in a decade that the concentration of methane in the atmosphere has increased.

The data, taken from the WMO's measurement of atmospheric gases by observatories located in more than 65 countries, was published today in the annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, the fourth such compendium.

He said Tuesday that it is too soon to say what caused the increases.

The use of fossil fuels (such as oil, coal and natural gas) emits carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. CO2 is also released through the clearing of land and deforestation. Since the mid-18th century, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have increased 37 percent.

About 60 percent of methane is the atmosphere is produced by human activities (fossil fuel exploitation, agriculture, biomass burning, landfills and ruminant farm animals), while natural sources (i.e., wetlands) are responsible for 40 percent.

A U.N. panel has warned that continued increases of greenhouse gases will have catastrophic consequences, such as severe droughts and rising sea levels.

Because greenhouse gases (once emitted) persist in the atmosphere for decades, their effect on global warming is long-term.

Meanwhile, it was announced that levels of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which contribute to the shrinking of the Earth's ozone layer, continue to slowly decrease. This is a result of CFC emission reductions which were successfully enacted under the 1987 Montreal Protocol, a global effort to reduce chemicals affecting the ozone layer. source

My comment: I stripped that from the political nonsense which is kind of annoying. But the facts are facts and they are troubling enough. The positive one is that the CFC is decreasing, but I find it's happening kind of too slowly. But notice the CO2 and the methane. I'm most worried on the methane increase, since it's even more greenhouse than the others and if it continues to increase it can get even more dramatic.

Wind power meets record demand in Spain: industry group

MADRID (AFP) – Wind power supplied a record 43 percent of all electricity demand in Spain, which is being lashed by heavy winds and rain, for a brief period on Monday, the Spanish wind power association said.

Spanish wind farms generated 9,253 megawatts of the total demand of 21,264 megawatts at around 5 a.m. (0400 GMT), a moment when energy useage was low because most Spaniards were still asleep, it said in a statement.

The previous record of 40.8 percent was set in March, also during a stormy day.

Wind power generated a maximum of 10,263 megawatts in Spain shortly after noon on Monday, compared to the production record of 10,880 megawatts set in April.

The energy source will likely account for nearly 11 percent of all electricity demand in Spain during all of 2008, the association said.

Spain, along with Germany and Denmark, is among the three biggest producers of wind power in the European Union. It aims to triple the amount of energy it derives from renewable sources by 2020. source

My comment: This is simply amazing. True, Spain is a big and windy place, but almost any country will have a place where to build a massive wind plant. This is a wonderful example. And just imagine what could happen if we knew how to really efficiently store electricity.

Global warming is changing organic matter in soil

(PhysOrg.com) --Scientists at the University of Toronto Scarborough have published research findings in the prestigious journal, Nature Geoscience, that show global warming actually changes the molecular structure of organic matter in soil.

Soil organic matter is what makes dirt fertile and able to support plant life – both of which are especially important for agriculture. Organic matter retains water in the soil and prevents erosion. Natural processes of decomposition of soil organic matter provide plants and microbes with the energy source and water they need to grow, and carbon is released into the atmosphere as a by-product of this process. Warming temperatures are expected to speed up this process which will increase the amount of CO2 that is transferred to the atmosphere.

Until Simpson's research, scientists didn't know much about soil's molecular composition, because from a chemical perspective, soil is difficult to analyze due to its many components, including bacteria, fungi and an array of fresh, partially degraded, or old plant material. Simpson's team uses a NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) facility to gain a detailed view of soil's molecular structure and reactivity.source

My comment: Ok, I didn't quite get the news, except that obviously, for a first time they checked the composition of the soil. But in any case, it's obvious that the soil would change under the Warming. It's simply logical. The interesting part is that it will actually increase the CO2 in the atmosphere. Which means that the estimations will have to account for the CO2 that will enter the atmosphere trough the soil. This could make future climate change even quicker.

Researchers boost solar cell efficiency

by David Chandler
(PhysOrg.com) -- New ways of squeezing out greater efficiency from solar photovoltaic cells are emerging from computer simulations and lab tests conducted by a team of physicists and engineers at MIT.

Using computer modeling and a variety of advanced chip-manufacturing techniques, they have applied an antireflection coating to the front, and a novel combination of multi-layered reflective coatings and a tightly spaced array of lines — called a diffraction grating — to the backs of ultrathin silicon films to boost the cells’ output by as much as 50 percent.

The carefully designed layers deposited on the back of the cell cause the light to bounce around longer inside the thin silicon layer, giving it time to deposit its energy and produce an electric current. Without these coatings, light would just be reflected back out into the surrounding air, said Peter Bermel, a postdoctoral researcher in MIT’s physics department who has been working on the project.

The work is just a first step toward actually producing a commercially viable, improved solar cell. That will require additional fine-tuning through continuing simulations and lab tests, and then more work on the manufacturing processes and materials.

And the potential for savings is great, because the high-quality silicon crystal substrates used in conventional solar cells represent about half the cost, and the thin films in this version use only about 1 percent as much silicon, Bermel said. source
My comment: Ain't that nice?! I posted recently about another similar discovery improving the efficiency of solar cells, but this is even better. 50% boost is quite good for a start and the decreased use of silicon is also great news. I can't wait to buy myself a solar panel.
And last but not least, check the link below, it offers answers to some eco-questions. It's very interesting!

Dumb Eco-question answered by NewScientist

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