Thursday, April 02, 2009

Mosquito outbreaks linked to changes in sea level and tides

From: Adelaide Advertiser

CLARE PEDDIE SCIENCE REPORTER

March 24, 2009 12:20pm

RESEARCHERS have found a way to predict plagues of disease-carrying mosquitoes up to two months ahead.

The warning system could be the latest weapon in the fight against dengue and Ross River fever, University of Adelaide ecologist Associate Professor Corey Bradshaw says.

“This model is a tool that helps predict when there is going to be a higher-than-average outbreak so that population control efforts can be implemented when they are going to be most effective and are most needed,” he said.

The researchers analysed 15 years of data on the northern Australian mosquito that transmits the Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses. They compared population size to environmental factors, such as tides and rainfall.

“Basic environmental monitoring data can be coupled with relatively simple population models to assist in predicting the timing and magnitude of mosquito peaks which lead to disease outbreaks in human populations,” Associate Professor Bradshaw said.

Salt-loving species tend to peak after very high tides. But the frequency of high tides and the amount of rainfall in the preceding months when mosquito numbers are low are critical - dictating the magnitude of eventual peaks.

“Previously, we didn’t know how big that peak would be,” he said.

“With this model, mosquito control efforts can be scaled according to the expected size of a future peak.”

Associate Professor Bradshaw said the same model could be applied to other mosquito species, for example dengue- or malaria-transmitting species, and others in tropical regions worldwide.

The research is detailed in a paper published online in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases at www.plosntds.org

Malta most vulnerable to increased climate change threats

From: The Malta Independent Online

02 April 2009

by David Lindsay

While the effects of climate change on Europe were yesterday assessed as being more serious than previously thought, a European Commission White Paper addressing the challenges has placed Malta right in the middle of the two regions most vulnerable to a warming world’s multifaceted threats.
Over the course of this century Malta and the rest of southern Europe can expect the effects of climate change on sea levels, coastal flooding, draught and storm intensity to increase at a quicker rate and with a harsher intensity than had previously been thought.
The concerning state of affairs was underscored by the European Commission yesterday in publishing a White Paper outlining actions required to build up the EU’s resilience against the potentially disastrous effects of climate change.
The effects on Europe, the Commission acknowledged yesterday, are to be “swifter and more severe” than indicated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its 2007 report.
Even more worrying for Malta is that the Commission pointed out the most vulnerable regions in Europe are southern Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. Mediterranean tourism is also likely to suffer as a result of increasing temperatures.
The fact that Malta is a small island state further exacerbates the multiple threats it is facing.
About a year and a half ago the IPCC, an assembly of the world’s most eminent scientists, had already painted a bleak picture when it forecast that southern Europe and small islands such as Malta stand at particular risk from climate change.
Malta itself faces a number of daunting challenges that will be brought on by rising sea levels, coastal flooding, escalating temperatures, draught and coastal erosion over the coming decades as the full effect of climate change rolls out its potentially devastating effects.
In calling for urgent action to mitigate the multiple threats, the European Commission yesterday warned the effects of an ever warming planet would hit Europe sooner and with more ferocity than had previously been thought.
Speaking yesterday Malta’s Commissioner Joe Borg, responsible for maritime affairs and fisheries, warned, “Europe’s coasts and marine areas are on the frontline of climate change. We need to get ready to face coming challenges such as rising sea-levels, coastal flooding, the impact on coastal tourism and on ports and shipping, and also on fisheries. We cannot deny the importance of coastal ecosystems to our economy.
“Today, around 50 per cent of the European population lives in coastal areas, therefore efforts to adapt to climate change are crucial and urgent.”
A paper on Climate Change and Water, Coasts and Marine Issues accompanying the White Paper warned “oceans and seas, and Europe’s coastline will also be strongly affected by climate change.
“Changes in the climate will mean sea level rise, increases in coastal flooding, storm intensity, and potentially changing current patterns, which in turn could further contribute to changes in climate.”
Other impacts outlined include threats to health, energy and water supply, infrastructure, tourism and sanitation.
Rising sea levels, glacial melting, ocean acidification and changes in precipitation and groundwater will meanwhile affect coastal and offshore waters and a range of sensitive marine habitats.
Intense precipitation events, increased flood risks and sea level rises may also increase the risk of infrastructure damage. The greatest impact on transportation systems will be flooding of roads and transit systems, already a big problem in Malta.
Critical coastal infrastructure, communities situated close to the coast as well as sea ports will be exposed to coastal flooding, the Commission warns, while storms may provoke impacts on maritime transport and related infrastructure.
Coastal tourism, the paper indentifies, will also be affected as a consequence of accelerated coastal erosion and changes in the marine environment and marine water quality, with less fish and more frequent jelly fish and algae blooms.
In its report, the IPCC had found that climate change in southern Europe will worsen conditions in a region already vulnerable to climatic variability. Over the coming decades, the scientists forecast ever-rising temperatures leading to drought and a significantly reduced availability of fresh water. They also predicted summer tourism to diminish, as well as crop productivity, while health risks from heat waves are expected to increase significantly.
Small islands such as Malta, whether in the tropics or higher latitudes, additionally hold certain characteristics that place them in an especially vulnerable position when it comes to dealing with the rising sea levels and extreme weather events expected to result from climate change.
Small islands also face a deterioration of coastal conditions through the erosion of beaches which will, in turn, reduce the tourism value of such locations and affect local resources such as fishing.
As the polar ice caps continue to melt, the IPCC scientists warned the resulting rise in sea levels will lead to heavy flooding, while storm surges, erosion and other coastal hazards are expected to have a devastating effect.
In middle and high latitude islands such as Malta, higher temperatures are also expected to bring about an increased invasion of non-native species – wreaking havoc on local ecosystems.
Coasts and low lying areas, meanwhile, are projected to be exposed to increasing risks from the effects of climate change. These include coastal erosion and rising sea levels, the effect of which, scientists warn, will be exacerbated by increasing human-induced pressures on coastal areas.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Once set in motion sea-level rise is impossible to stop

By Veronique Carolla

Over the past few months, predictions on future sea-level rise have differed. We are now being told to expect a higher and faster sea-level rise. If so, then this is a death-knell for low-lying and/or coastal countries, including small island states.

New projections of sea-level rise, said to be caused by an accelerated rate of loss of ice sheets at the poles, have sparked fears that “important tipping points leading to irreversible changes in major earth systems ‘may have already been reached or passed’”. The gathering of climate change researchers this March in Copenhagen would hopefully settle this debate.

‘Once set in motion, sea-level rise is impossible to stop. The only chance we have to limit sea-level rise to manageable levels is to reduce emissions very quickly, early in this century. Later it will be too late to do much,’ said Rahmstorf, chief scientist at the Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre has commented.

Future sea-level rise predictions by IPCC it seems did not consider the contribution of melting ice caps. New estimates now predicts up to 1.4m rise rather than IPCC’s 18-59cm. However, though IPCC estimates were said to be conservative, it will in fact lead to 84% inundation of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove swamp, by 2050. Dr Rahmstorf said it was ‘very critical’ that governments take into account the new findings ‘because of the long time-scale of sea-level rise’.

Source: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/1cef4bf164bb445d9e4a5d2a2b0226b7.htm

Monday, March 30, 2009

Wake-up call - Florida on the frontline of Sea Level Rise

From: The Tampa Tribune

Published: March 29, 2009

Florida is flat as a pancake with minimal elevation and is all but surrounded by water. The farthest point inland from the Gulf or Atlantic is just 70 miles, while most of the population lives within 25 miles of the coast on land no more than 20 feet above sea level. We are 18 million people living on a sand bar with more at risk and more to lose from sea level rise than anywhere in the world.

So why isn't Florida a world leader when it comes to emissions-reducing policies and environmentally conscientious living? Every county commission, city council and planning board throughout the state, as well as the Legislature and governor, should be setting the pace for green, progressive action.

But that is far from the case. Developers have long run this state, often at the expense of the environment and quality of life. Only the market has been able to do what no politicians in this state have ever had the courage to do: Put a clamp on growth.

When it comes to policies such as bottle deposits, higher CAFE standards, anti-idling laws, restrictions on lawn mower/leaf blower pollution and ped/bike advocacy, Florida is off the radar.

Hopefully, the increasing threat of climate change, combined with the state's vulnerability, will spur our politicians and leaders to adopt a greener course.

CHIP THOMAS

Tampa