Thursday, September 13, 2012

"‘Astonishing’ Ice Melt May Lead to More Extreme Winters"

From Climate Central:

The record loss of Arctic sea ice this summer will echo throughout the weather patterns affecting the U.S. and Europe this winter, climate scientists said on Wednesday, since added heat in the Arctic influences the jet stream and may make extreme weather and climate events more likely.

The “astounding” loss of sea ice this year is adding a huge amount of heat to the Arctic Ocean and the atmosphere, said Jennifer Francis, an atmospheric scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “It’s like having a new energy source for the atmosphere.” Francis was one of three scientists on a conference call Wednesday to discuss the ramifications of sea ice loss for areas outside the Arctic. The call was hosted by Climate Nexus.

The extent of Arctic sea ice on Aug. 26, 2012, the day the sea ice dipped to its smallest extent ever recorded in more than three decades of satellite measurements. The line on the image shows the average minimum extent from the period covering 1979-2010. Click on the image for a larger version. Credit: NASA/JPL.On August 26, Arctic sea ice extent broke the record low set in 2007, and it has continued to decline since, dropping below 1.5 million square miles. That represents a 45 percent reduction in the area covered by sea ice compared to the 1980s and 1990s, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), and may be unprecedented in human history. The extent of sea ice that melted so far this year is equivalent to the size of Canada and Alaska combined.
The loss of sea ice initiates a feedback loop known as Arctic amplification. As sea ice melts, it exposes darker ocean waters to incoming solar radiation. The ocean then absorbs far more energy than had been the case when the brightly colored sea ice was present, and this increases water and air temperatures, thereby melting even more sea ice.
Peter Wadhams, the head of the polar ocean physics group at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., told BBC News on September 6 that the added heat from sea ice loss is equivalent to the warming from 20 years of carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas that is causing manmade global warming.
During the fall, when the sun sets once again and the Arctic Ocean begins to refreeze, the heat in the ocean gets released back into the atmosphere. Since the jet stream, which is a corridor of strong winds at upper levels of the atmosphere that generally blows from west to east across the northern mid-latitudes, is powered by the temperature difference between the Arctic and areas farther south, any alteration of that temperature difference is bound to alter the jet stream — with potentially profound implications. It just so happens that the jet stream steers day-to-day weather systems.
Francis published a study last year in which she showed that Arctic warming might already be causing the jet stream to become more amplified in a north-south direction. In other words, the fall and winter jet stream may be getting wavier. A more topsy-turvy jet stream can yield more extreme weather events, Francis said, because weather and climate extremes are often associated with large undulations in the jet stream that can take a long time to dissipate.
While there are indications that the jet stream is slowing and may be more prone to making huge dips, or “troughs,” scientists have a limited ability to pinpoint how this will play out in the coming winter season.
“The locations of those waves really depends on other factors,” Francis said, such as El NiƱo and a natural climate pattern known as the Arctic Oscillation. “I can only say that it’s probably going to be a very interesting winter,” she said.
Francis’ work has linked Arctic warming to the unusually cold and snowy winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11, during which the U.S. East Coast and parts of Europe were pummeled by fierce winter storms and experienced cooler-than-average conditions. The winter of 2011-12 was much milder, by comparison, but Francis said it, too, was consistent with her research. Not all meteorologists agree on the Arctic connection theory, but that may change with time.
Jim Overland, an oceanographer at NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, said the inconsistency of the past three winters doesn’t mean the Arctic connection hypothesis is invalid.
“People like direct causality, [the notion that] if you lose the ice every year it will cause the same effect,” Overland said. But the chaotic nature of the atmosphere means that all that scientists can say with a high degree of confidence is that “the number of [extreme] events somewhere are destined to increase” as a result of rapid Arctic climate change, Overland said.

"Scotts Miracle-Gro to Pay Record Fines for Poisoning Birds and Selling Illegal Pesticides"

By Mike LudwigTruthout | Report

Tainted, mislabeled pesticides added to the company's wild bird seed resulted in countless wildlife deaths, massive product recalls and unprecedented civil and criminal penalties.  

America's leading lawn care company is in big trouble for potentially poisoning wild birds across the country, and lying to the government and consumers about pesticide products.

Before a voluntary recall in 2008, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company sold 70 million units of wild bird feed that was illegally treated with an insecticide that is dangerously toxic to wild birds, fish and other wildlife. The Marysville, Ohio-based company must now pay $12.5 million in criminal and civil penalties that regulators say are the heftiest ever issued under federal pesticide law.

It's practically impossible to quantify how many wild birds and other wildlife were impacted by Scotts' crimes against nature, but a federal court in Ohio fined the company $4 million, plus $500,000 worth of environmental community service, after Scotts pleaded guilty to distributing the poisonous bird feed and other crimes involving mislabeled and unregistered pesticides.

In a separate civil agreement with the EPA, which launched a civil investigation after the criminal violations were discovered, Scotts agreed to pay $6 million in fines and donate $2 million to environmental projects. Regulators also are touting this settlement as the largest in the history of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which has regulated pesticides since 1947.

Scotts plead guilty to selling consumers wild bird feed that was poisonous to birds, along with deceiving regulators by falsifying pesticide registration documents, distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels, and distributing unregistered pesticides. Misuse and mislabeling of pesticides can cause illness in humans and kill wildlife, and as a result of the settlement, a "significant number" of potentially harmful pesticides will be removed from the market, according to the EPA...

Scotts added the pesticides Storcide II and Actellic 5E to the wild bird feed to prevent insect infestations while the product was in storage, but the company apparently ignored the warning label on Storcide II that specifically states the pesticide is toxic to birds, fish and other wildlife. Scotts sold the tainted bird feed for two years after it began marketing the product, and for six months after company employees alerted management to the danger posed by the pesticides, according to the EPA.
Scotts also pleaded guilty to submitting falsified documents to the EPA and state regulatory agencies in an effort to deceive regulators into believing that the chemical formulas were registered with the EPA, when they were not...

As the criminal violations came to light, the EPA launched a review of Scotts' pesticide registrations that uncovered a list of civil violations. For at least five years, Scotts had made nationwide sales of canceled, unregistered and misbranded pesticide products, including products with inadequate warnings or cautions on their labels...

EPA regional spokesperson Josh Singer told Truthout that, during the civil investigation, Scotts complied with 40 orders to stop the sale of more than 100 Scotts products that were in violation of federal law. Scotts also paid a third-party reviewer to check the compliance status of the company's products, and shared that information with the government.

Here's a list of Scotts products involved in the EPA settlement:
• Banrot Broad Spectrum Fungicide 40 percent Wettable Powder),
• Basics Solutions Weed & Grass Killer Concentrate
• Brush-B-Gon Poison Ivy & Poison Oak Killer
• Contrast 70 WSP
• Duosan WSB Wettable Powder Turf and Ornamental Fungicide
• ORTHO Bug-B-Gon MAX Lawn & Garden Insect Killer Ready-To-Spray ORTHO Bug B Gon MAX Lawn & Garden Insect Killer Concentrate ORTHO Bug-B-Gon Multi-Purpose Insect Killer Ready-To-Use Granules (aka Ortho Bug B Gon Lawn & Soil Insect Killer with Grub Control
• ORTHO Home Defense Max (aka Ortho Home Defense Indoor and Outdoor Insect Killer)
• ORTHO Malathion 50 Insect Spray
• ORTHO Orthonex Insect & Disease Control Formula III Concentrate
• ORTHO ProSelect Roach, Ant & Spider Killer
• ORTHO Weed B Gon Weed Killer for Lawns Concentrate Total Kill Lawn Weed Killer (aka Weed-Be-Gon Spot Weed Killer and Basic Solutions Lawn Weed Killer)