Annals of Global Warming: Octobers in the U.S. are 2°F warmer

November 2, 2017

Octobers are warming across the U.S. with the increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Since 1970, October temperatures have risen about 2°F. Warming throughout the fall is even stronger in some parts of the country, with the Northeast and the West warming the most. This warming can delay the start of some of the traditional cold season activities in cooler and mountainous climates, such as skiing. The warming trend also means first freezes occur later in the year, which can allow more insects to survive later into the year and make for a longer fall allergy season.

From Climate Central: Octobers are warming across the U.S. with the increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Since 1970, October temperatures have risen about 2°F. Warming throughout the fall is even stronger in some parts of the country, with the Northeast and the West warming the most. This warming can delay the start of some of the traditional cold season activities in cooler and mountainous climates, such as skiing. The warming trend also means first freezes occur later in the year, which can allow more insects to survive later into the year and make for a longer fall allergy season.

Since 1970, Octobers are 2 degrees warmer? No big deal?

See the caption. A lousy 2 degrees is a lot. It’s enough to:

  • Reduce the number of freezing days, allowing pine bark beetles in Colorado to escape death by freezing, and thereby kill more pine trees, faster.
  • Change October precipitation from snow, to rain. Rain instead of snow may cause regional flooding due to the rapid water dump; it may reduce snowpacks that provide water through the warmer months, effectively adding to drought threat.
  • Keep some prairie flowers alive longer, delaying migration of butterflies triggered by reduced food supply; ultimately this could cause butterflies and other migrating beneficial insects to migrate too late in the year.

No big deal, unless you live on Earth.

“What did you do when you learned CO2 was hurting the planet, Grandfather?” our grandchildren will well ask. Got an answer?

Shake of the old scrub brush to Climate Central’s Twittering, with a clever .gif.

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Urban sprawl works differently in China

October 27, 2015

Much of our flight to China we fond the ground, or ocean, obscured by clouds. About an hour out of Beijing, we caught glimpses of China’s countryside.

It’s different there.

If you’ve flown much over the U.S., you’re familiar with agricultural regions having identifiable features such as the large circles created by irrigation systems, or the grid-pattern fields laid out across much of the American Midwest. Those fields are punctuated, especially at night, by farmhouses, smaller crossroads featuring a few more buildings, small towns, and increasing urbanization along the highways going into bigger cities.

In China, north of Beijing, human habitations are much more dense than small U.S. farm towns, and the fields themselves appear almost wholly absent of human habitation.

Semi-rural area north of Beijing, from 30,000 feet or so. Note new, high-rise apartment buildings in the small town. Photo by Ed Darrell

Semi-rural area north of Beijing, from 30,000 feet or so. Note new, high-rise apartment buildings in the small town. Photo by Ed Darrell

Here’s a photo I took from our airplane window, looking to the west, over China at least 100 miles north of Beijing. ChinaCom’s system doesn’t identify locations to my iPhone as Verizon’s system does in the U.S.; I have not yet identified the river, though I think it may be the north-flowing Songhua-Amur Rivers complex.

Agricultural fields are neatly laid out. Notice there is no room left for wild lands, where wildlife might find a home.

Agricultural fields are neatly laid out. Notice there is no room left for wild lands, where wildlife might find a home.

I was struck by the lack of uncultivated, unplowed or undeveloped land. Fields abut each other tightly, without even hedgerows between them. We noticed a marked lack of wildlife on other parts of our trip; without even space for weeds to grow between the fields, wildlife habitat is reduced essentially to nil. Does that harm or benefit agricultural production, and other production?

Not a perfect comparison, but here is a nearly-randomly-selected USGS aerial photo of farmland in the U.S., near Jerseyville, Illinois (from much lower airplane elevation):

USGS photo of land near Jerseyville, Illinois, near the Illinois River. Hills are unplowed now (they may have been farmed in the past), and waterways have banks of brush and trees for some distance, partly to control erosion. Notice wild tree and shrub growth between some fields.

USGS photo of land near Jerseyville, Illinois, near the Illinois River. Hills are unplowed now (they may have been farmed in the past), and waterways have banks of brush and trees for some distance, partly to control erosion. Notice wild tree and shrub growth between some fields.

This photos are not an exact comparison, but you can get the idea that worries me.

China’s tightly-controlled development policies over the past five decades, coupled with a thousand years or so of continued, developed and intentional habitation on these lands, leaves little room for something that is not planned.

Little room for nature. Someone would argue China’s land use is required in order to feed a massive population. Is that so?

On the trip I ran into a fellow working for a company trying to figure out ways to bioremediate polluted rivers in China, since the government came to realize polluted water harms human health and agricultural and riparian production downstream. One way would be to establish buffer lands along the banks of rivers. Can China change policies to allow that to happen, in time?

Pretty from an airplane window. Reflective of wise land use policies? There’s a rich discussion.

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How can this be controversial? The Water Cycle

August 26, 2014

Water Cycle poster formerly available through NRCS of USDA.

Water Cycle poster formerly available through NRCS of USDA.

Here’s a video guaranteed to tick off the anti-Agenda 21 crowd, and anyone else who hates American farmers and their work to make their farms last for centuries — what is known as “soil and water conservation” to Boy Scouts, and “sustainable practices” to agronomists.

But for the life of me,  I can’t find anything offensive in it.

From USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, the descendant of the old Soil Conservation Service.

 


USDA details damage GOP refusal to pass farm bill has on America — but politely

December 19, 2013

The case for a farm bill that we won’t get before January; press release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (some links, and all images, added here).

Public relations campaigns from the federal government used to be quite a bit more robust than this.

USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

FACT SHEET: Supporting Innovation That Boosts Agriculture and Creates Jobs in Rural America

Farm south of Withee, Wisconsin. Wikipedia image

Farm south of Withee, Wisconsin. Wikipedia image


Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hosted a national media call with Jack Payne, Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Florida. The Secretary emphasized the importance of Farm Bill research programs that enable the University of Florida and other Land Grant Universities across the nation to carry out groundbreaking discoveries, strengthen agriculture and grow business opportunity in rural America. Secretary Vilsack called on Congress to expedite passage of a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that continues record efforts to spur innovation and create jobs across rural America.

Amazing scientific breakthroughs have helped our farmers, ranchers and growers increase production on the same amounts of land, using fewer inputs. In fact, studies have shown that every dollar invested in agricultural research returns $20 to the economy.

Advanced new products are being created across the country using materials grown in America’s farm fields – with more than 3,000 U.S. companies creating advanced biobased products today.

And clean, renewable fuel energy and new energy efficiency technologies are helping families and businesses across the nation, reducing our reliance on foreign oil.

A farm in California; photo by karmadude

A farm in California; photo by karmadude

USDA is hard at work to support all of these efforts – and we depend on the Farm Bill to make possible much of our work to boost rural innovation. A new Farm Bill would:

  • Modernize and expand America’s capacity for agricultural research. The Farm Bill would enable public-private funding efforts to expand capacity for agricultural research, returning even more benefits to the economy.
  • Adequately invest in energy-saving efforts such as the Rural Energy for America Program, enabling even more projects to save energy on farms across the nation. Since 2009 alone, these projects have resulted in energy savings of more than 8.5 million MwH – but a new Farm Bill is needed for further progress.
  • Continue the work of the USDA BioPreferred Program, which depends on the Farm Bill to work with biobased companies across the nation, expand the Federal government’s use of their innovative products and ultimately create jobs.
  • Maintain support for research into wood-based products and energy. With a record level of forest restoration underway today, we need a Farm Bill that continues research and helps find new uses for forest-based products.

A Farm Bill would continue advances in agricultural technology that allow today’s producers to grow two, three of four times as much today as they were just 60 years ago. In the past few years alone:

  • USDA scientists have developed new techniques in the fight against Citrus Greening, a disease that seriously threatens citrus crops. Just this week, USDA announced a new Emergency Response Framework and provided $1 million to boost this multi-partner, coordinated strategy to fight Citrus Greening.
  • Researchers have mapped the genomes of numerous plants and animals in the past five years. This year, USDA made new discoveries into the genetic makeup of cotton, oats and watermelon. This builds on research efforts that have mapped the genomes of apples, pigs, turkeys, tomatoes, beans, and more.
  • Scientific discoveries have improved crop varieties to keep food safer and mitigate climate impacts. USDA has recently explored the use of peanut skins as a food ingredient to boost the nutritional value of foods; pinpointed ways to prepare beef cuts to reduce the risk of contamination with the foodborne pathogen E. coli O157:H7; produced new, flavorful, high-yielding varieties of strawberries, grapes, pecans and peanuts; and worked to improve drought-resistance crop varieties.

A Farm Bill would allow the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to continue work with Land-Grant University researchers across the nation to conduct research and train the next generation of scientists.

  • Since 2009, NIFA has invested more than $6 billion in agricultural research and extension activities. This funding was possible largely through programs authorized under the Farm Bill. NIFA partners have used this help to leverage more than $1 billion in additional research dollars.
  • Nearly 400 patent applications have resulted from NIFA research since 2009 – covering a wide range of topics and discoveries.
  • Over the course of more than 150 years of history, Land-Grant Universities have educated more than 20,000,000 students.

A Farm Bill would support the invention and creation of innovative new products from homegrown sources. Thanks to the USDA BioPreferred Program, provided by the Farm Bill:

  • More than 1,000 products today carry USDA’s “ Certified Biobased Product” label. Thanks to the new label, these innovative, American-made products are easier to find on store shelves than ever before – everything from cleaners and paint to motor oil.
  • Nearly 100 separate categories of homegrown biobased products are prioritized for use by the Federal Government. Today, Yellowstone National Park uses biobased lubricants and cleaning products throughout its 2.2 million acres. At the Statue of Liberty, biobased hydraulic oils are used in the elevator system. Multiple U.S. military bases across the nation are using biobased products. And there is further room for growth.
  • Researchers at the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory are revolutionizing wood products for use in materials we need. Body armor, auto parts and new building materials are being developed using homegrown products – and in many cases, they’re stronger and better than what we use today.

A new Farm Bill would continue advancing clean renewable energy that starts in rural America – creating jobs and boosting America’s energy security.

  • More than 9,250 renewable energy projects are underway today as a result of USDA help in the past five years, helping farmers and landowners install new energy-saving technology, along with energy generation tools such as anaerobic digesters.
  • Eight advanced biorefineries are creating the advanced renewable energy of the future, today. USDA was there to support their creation through loan guarantee efforts provided by the Farm Bill.
  • More than 220 Wood to Energy projects are helping find new uses for wood in renewable energy generation. This will provide even more market opportunities for wood byproducts generated during forest restoration, and ultimately will provide a new income sources in rural areas.
  • The U.S. Navy and others have partnered with USDA to create renewable energy to power our military. In fact, the military is our single largest consumer of petroleum – and by creating advanced renewable marine and aviation biofuels, we’re working together to increase America’s energy security. This week, Secretary Vilsack and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced a new Department of Defense Farm to Fleet Initiative that will further improve America’s capacity to create military-ready advanced biofuels.

American innovation is one of our most special traditions. Rural America has the capacity to help lead the way to even more amazing work in the years to come – creating good jobs and economic opportunity in the process. But we need Congress to get its work done and provide a new Farm Bill that recommits our nation to strong agricultural research, and continued development of amazing homegrown products.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, South Building, Washington, D.C.  Image from Thornton Thomasetti

Where the policies get made and programs are administered, U.S. Department of Agriculture, South Building, Washington, D.C. Image from Thornton Thomasetti

Number of Biobased Companies Operating in the United States

A map of U.S. biobased companies is available here.

States/Biobased Companies

  • Alabama – 16
  • Alaska – 5
  • Arizona – 54
  • Arkansas – 17
  • California – 391
  • Colorado – 79
  • Connecticut – 40
  • Delaware – 9
  • Dist of Columbia – 2
  • Florida – 161
  • Georgia – 92
  • Hawaii – 11
  • Idaho – 16
  • Illinois – 173
  • Indiana – 46
  • Iowa – 92
  • Kansas – 28
  • Kentucky – 21
  • Louisiana – 11
  • Maine – 22
  • Maryland – 36
  • Massachusetts – 73
  • Michigan – 80
  • Minnesota – 124
  • Mississippi – 21
  • Missouri – 56
  • Montana – 10
  • Nebraska – 29
  • Nevada – 14
  • New Hampshire – 25
  • New Jersey – 90
  • New Mexico – 17
  • New York – 151
  • North Carolina – 90
  • North Dakota – 6
  • Ohio – 138
  • Oklahoma – 9
  • Oregon – 79
  • Pennsylvania – 129
  • Rhode Island – 8
  • South Carolina – 19
  • South Dakota – 12
  • Tennessee – 35
  • Texas – 167
  • Utah – 14
  • Vermont – 11
  • Virginia – 57
  • Washington – 111
  • West Virginia – 3
  • Wisconsin – 95
  • Wyoming – 8

Total – 3003

Source: USDA BioPreferred Program

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay).

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Listening to the debates on Capitol Hill, one may wonder whether Members of Congress still employ staffers to track agriculture issues in their states and districts, to translate local needs into federal policy.  To what entity are Congress members loyal, with more allegiance than they owe their American constituents?

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Meanwhile, back at the rice paddy, global warming holds families hostage . . .

May 1, 2013

See this United Nations Development Program ten-minute video that, to the wise and concerned, lays out the stakes of delaying action against human-caused climate change.

Without enough funding, NGOs work to help farmers getting hammered in the Southern Philippines, and other places.

In the Southern Philippines, farmers’ lives and the weather are intimately interwoven, but something is changing, now that the rains in Agusan del Norte are too heavy, the sun shines too fiercely. Now there’s hope for poor farmers with the community-based approach monitoring and Weather Index-Based Insurance packages, to warn people when heavy weather is on the way.

Though, I do weary of the astonishing abuse of acronyms in this work-of-the-angels. “WIBI?”

Incidentally, though the phrase doesn’t appear anywhere in this material, this is exactly the sort of work carried on by the UN’s Agenda 21 project.  Doesn’t look subversive to me.

Tip of the old scrub brush to the UNDP and ILO Tweet:

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Map of the Philippines with Agusan del Norte h...

Map of the Philippines with Agusan del Norte highlighted. Wikipedia image


Hog wild in Texas: Ranchers, guns, and science working against environmental disaster

February 25, 2013

Unusual?  No, this is really a typical marriage of agriculture, government agencies, science and hunters, working on problems of wildlife management, feral hogs in this case.

Notes from Texas Parks & Wildlife:

Feral hogs are running wild across Texas, at great cost to farmers, ranchers, and native wildlife. Hunters are helping, but science may prove critical to controlling the invasion on a broader scale. For more information on feral hogs and feral hog control, visit: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/…

When it comes to feral hogs, every Texan turns environmentalist.

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English: Sign for Texas Parks and Wildlife Dep...

Sign for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department headquarters – Wikipedia image


Selecting a replacement for South Carolina’s Sen. Jim DeMint

December 9, 2012

Pecan tree shaker

Machine used by the San Antonio River Authority, similar to one to be used in South Carolina.


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