Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wow, So Trees Cause Cloud Formation and Create Climate ?

Problem is, will anyone listen, let alone read the info ?

This is Finland's Hyytiälä Forest, where
researchers collected field measurements,
in early spring.
First off folks, this really is not News. I'm amazed at the amount of info coming out lately as to vegetation's actual role in cloud and weather creation along with overall climate moderation and long term and sustainable  maintenance. Yes, more and more research is available which explains the fascinating role with which various healthy forests and other types of plant communities contribute heavily to global atmospheric weather mechanisms. Weather & climate it appears is far more than just mere physics, it also has a biological component. Oh my, how did  that happen ? And yet, you can almost count on this all being ignored and shoved under the carpet in favour of more politically heated subject matter in the need to beat the right wing fundies and vice-versa from the other side. Meanwhile Nature and the rest of humanity take it in the backside while a handful of power obsessed ideologues argue over who's got the bigger pot-gut for brains. Below here I'll post several pertinent quotes about a forest's amazing ability at cloud formation. Added to the list of VOC aerosol producing cloud trees like Maples and Oaks are trees like Pines and other coniferous trees which comes from a study in Finland where forest trees of Boreal and Temperate ecosystems are now recognized as invaluable components as weather mechanism creators & drivers.
Pine forests are especially magical places for atmospheric chemists. Coniferous trees give off pine-scented vapors that form particles, very quickly and seemingly out of nowhere.  New research by German, Finnish and U.S. scientists elucidates the process by which gas wafting from coniferous trees creates particles that can reflect sunlight or promote cloud formation, both important climate feedbacks. The study is published Feb. 27 in Nature. 
“In many forested regions, you can go and observe particles apparently form from thin air. They’re not emitted from anything, they just appear,” said Joel Thornton, a University of Washington associate professor of atmospheric sciences and second author on the paper.
Scientists have known for decades that gases from pine trees can form particles that grow from just 1 nanometer in size to 100 nanometers in about a day. These airborne solid or liquid particles can reflect sunlight, and at 100 nanometers they are large enough to condense water vapor and prompt cloud formation.
University of Washington: "Pine forest particles appear out of thin air, influence climate"
Interestingly, this understanding has actually been known for many many years, but only recently becoming more and more republished from archived information and research being pulled out of the dungeons of libraries where historical work was shelved because it was an inconvenient exposure of the failure of Human leadership at  proper custodianship of the Earth. They are now forced to reckon with these incredible mechanisms of climate drive because those same powerful forces of nature are presently turning on mankind. There was one statement in that article which truly illustrates the purposeful ignorance of those in charge of climate correction and here it is below.

The study shows the chemistry behind these particles’ formation, and estimates they may be the dominant source of aerosols over boreal forests. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has named aerosols generally one of the biggest unknowns for climate change.
Seriously ? So they labeled aerosols generally one of the biggest unknowns for climate change ? The truth is they have actually known about this for decades. Irresponsibly clear cutting forests by unbridled unregulated profit making Corporate Venues around the globe has resulting in the desertification in many areas of the earth. Cut down any vegetation in a wholesale manner and clouds are less likely to form as well as historical seasonal rainfall totals becoming far less as well. And it doesn't take a scientist or genius to recognize this either. The average lowly developing world farmer (someone actually more connected to the land and it's subtle changes) has seen this coming for years and is mostly helpless against a growing powerful corporate entity blessed by most governments who bulldoze right in and take their land, often by force. But there were some other interesting things they found by means of experiment.

In the new paper, researchers took measurements in Finnish pine forests and then simulated the same particle formation in an air chamber at Germany’s Jülich Research Centre. A new type of chemical mass spectrometry let researchers pick out 1 in a trillion molecules and follow their evolution.

Felipe Lopez-Hilfiker, UW
Results showed that when a pine-scented molecule combines with ozone in the surrounding air, some of the resulting free radicals grab oxygen with unprecedented speed.  “The radical is so desperate to become a regular molecule again that it reacts with itself. The new oxygen breaks off a hydrogen from a neighboring carbon to keep for itself, and then more oxygen comes in to where the hydrogen was broken off,” Thornton said.
Current chemistry would predict that 3 to 5 oxygen molecules could be added per day during oxidation, Thornton said. But researchers observed the free radical adding 10 to 12 oxygen molecules in a single step. This new, bigger molecule wants to be in a solid or liquid state, rather than gas, and condenses onto small particles of just 3 nanometers. Researchers found so many of these molecules are produced that they can clump together and grow to a size big enough to influence climate. 
Boreal or pine forests give off the largest amount of these compounds, so the finding is especially relevant for the northern parts of North America, Europe and Russia. Other types of forests emit similar vapors, Thornton said, and he believes the rapid oxidation may apply to a broad range of atmospheric compounds. 
“I think a lot of missing puzzle pieces in atmospheric chemistry will start to fall into place once we incorporate this understanding,” Thornton said.
Yes, it is interesting Mr Thornton, but I wouldn't hold my breath on this having much meaning in these stupid climate debates at least from the scientific side. Why you ask ? Because nothing is actually being proposed that even remotely attempts to heal what has been lost. Discovery World's series called "Project Earth" is loaded with nothing but kooky far out bizarre inventions created from someone's  imagination steeped in Sci-Fi World with it's host, businessman billionaire Kevin O'Leary incessantly chanting after some researcher explains how the stupid thing works, "Yeah but can we make $$$ with it ?" Seriously, it's like being in a McGuyver episode where you've got mere minutes to survive a catastrophic situation and you start questioning Mac's idea before he implements his brilliant scheme into action to see if it's been patented or not first. But back to our reality, there's absolutely no more time here at this point, so  you do what you responsibly can to reverse the damage. But in order to truthfully make it a success requires that you employ biomimicry of Nature which has worked for countless thousands of years, not some tantalizing Geeky proposal suggested by someone who's left the reality of the Natural World and gone over to the Dork Side of the Farce . Now let me tell you something about this link I just published before here. Okay, so yes I used a snarky play on words, but the reality of what those Experts are proposing is simply stupid. I previously wrote about my work involving the pharmaceutical industry with regards research data collection. Most of the General Practice Doctors and Specialists told me the hardest thing they have is patient compliance and making lifestyle changes. Patients who chain smoke cigarettes refuse to give them up and demand the doctor do something about it by means of prescribing a drug. Drugs ONLY are an attempt at counteracting the negative side effects brought on by the person's irresponsible lifestyle. The proposals out there in the science-world that get so much attention in the media are asinine and absurd, but they have great Sci-Fi entertainment value which is great for ratings. In no way are there any viable options for actually tackling the causes of climate change. It's all about countering the negative side effects by an otherwise technologically Zombied public who are experiencing the debilitating effects of Nature Deficit Disorder.

Credit: © Pakhnyushchyy / Fotolia
Another related story to this University of Washington one was the actual account from the Jülich Forschungs Zentrum (Jülich Research Center) itself where the actual aerosol measurements and experiment actually took place. They found that the vapours can condense on small aerosol particles (starting from clusters of only a few nanometres in diameter) suspended in the air, causing them to grow to around 100 nanometres, at which size they can not ONLY reflect incoming sunlight, but also act as a condensation nuclei for cloud formation in the atmosphere. Again, keep in mind that despite the language in the article, this is not newly discovered. Maybe it is to these individuals, but others have known about this for perhaps decades, but it's simply been ignored until recent times. To be honest, there are time when I don't know how much of this stuff is the Scientist & Researcher, or some over zealous journalist embellishing the findings to create a News event sensation. 

The researchers' findings have bridged a major gap in knowledge in atmospheric and climate research. "Thanks to our much improved understanding of the role that naturally occurring substances in the atmosphere play in the formation of organic aerosol particles, we will in future be able to make more reliable assessments of their impact on cloud formation and sunlight scattering, and thus on climate," says Dr. Thomas F. Mentel from Jülich's Institute of Energy and Climate Research -- Troposphere (IEK-8). 
Experts consider a good understanding of the relationship between the increase in soil temperature, plant emissions, aerosol formation, and cloud formation to be essential for predicting future climate development correctly. "Our current research findings will help to improve computer models of the atmosphere and reduce existing uncertainties in climate prediction," says Prof. Andreas Wahner, director at IEK-8.
Source: Major Enigma Solved in Atmospheric Chemistry
Some Final Thoughts:
You know the truly sad thing here ? There is not one viable option or proposal to rebuild the Earth's various  vegetative ecosystems as a means of reversing what mankind has done. They have the knowledge and understanding, know what exactly should be done, but not one makes sense deal on the table. The problem is the various world economies around the globe need to be built. That's why the Project Earth Fix-It-Pill approach is only being offered. Yes I know all about the various forestry pilot programs from grant monies being done around the globe, but we need more than a handful of pet projects back by token research grant monies provided by some charitable source given with the understanding that some plaque of dedication be created honoring them. The real problem is the human component, not some materialistic technological innovation. The problem is that Science while supposedly offering all these wonderful ideas, really cannot deal with changing human behavior which is the source of our problems in the first place. How do you get mankind to voluntarily and for the right reasons do the correct thing in the way they live ? You don't! There is no way humanly possible to do that. Do you think more laws and regulations, short of outright Marshall Law is the answer ? Here in Sweden they had a program of plain clothes undercover Eco-Gestapo forcing people to put the proper recycle waste in just the right receptacle container or be given a citation and that was a total monetary failure. This info is not posted to change world policy. Doing so would to be under the delusion that they will ever unite in the first place. That is never going to happen. It is however here for individuals who actually care, get a clue and will make personal and practical application in their own personal lives.

Also, keep in mind and be aware that there have been and will continue to be many attempts to use such information as a means of justifying and promoting the irresponsible practice of geoengineering. In other words another fix-it-pill approach to put the brakes on consequences and other side effects as opposed to nipping the cause in the bud. Lately their have been many articles that attempt to explain the slowdown of warming tread as coming from recent volcanoes. See Here . The problem is that even such findings and acknowledgement of what forests do as referenced in the articles above and others published on this site will be used as an excuse to dropping tonnes of chemicals in a last ditch effort emergency to curb climate change side effects. You can even read about this stupid proposal Here . Even NASA has long known about all the various known aerosols and their effects on climate and pollution Here . Healthy forested ecosystems and other plant communities are the solution. But even the scientists stress that the new understanding is not a panacea for climate change as forests can and will stop emitting VOCs or cloud forming aerosols if they become too stressed from heat or lack of water. So the ridiculous scheme of having a squadron of retrofitted Bombers with industrial sized spraying apparatus to spew tonnes of potentially harmful chemical aerosols into the atmosphere would not only cost massive amounts of money, but most likely do nothing as far as climate improvement. One possible consequence would be the increased chemical buildup over time on the ground in Nature killing many of the beneficial soil microbes and other organisms which actually create function within all plant ecosystems. On the positive note for some, a handful of special interests will make a killing of this, both figuratively and literally. 
References of further interest: 
Previously I have written about the anomalous anti-bacterial properties of wood here with my post PLASTIC Vrs WOODEN CUTTING BOARDS . Now in a related note both with regards pine trees, water and filtering of bacteria we have this post released yesterday. MIT group shows xylem tissue in sapwood can filter bacteria from contaminated water.
Need a water filter? Peel a Pine tree branch

Image Courtesy of the MIT Researchers
A false-color electron microscope image showing E. coli bacteria (green) trapped over xylem pit membranes (red and blue) in the sapwood after filtration. If you’ve run out of drinking water during a lakeside camping trip, there’s a simple solution: Break off a branch from the nearest pine tree, peel away the bark, and slowly pour lake water through the stick. The improvised filter should trap any bacteria, producing fresh, uncontaminated water. Well actually it's not that simply, but there is some more potential with proper biomimicry. 
On another more ecosystem and climatology note there is a related website and research institute in Germany from the Technical University at München called Ecoclimatology Institute. Here is the link and research articles dealing with climate change effects in the Alps and weather effects on increased forest fires in Bavaria. Who knows, maybe they've coined a new expression here, something similar to Bioclimatology.

Chair of Ecoclimatology

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Classic Picturesque Engelman Oak Scenery Gone Forever

The 2007 Poomacha Fire was the beginning of the end for the picturesque Engelman Oak woodland settings around those hairpin switchbacks of Hwy 76 on Palomar Mountain west of La Jolla Indian Reservation. And for that matter other associated plant communities.
NASA satellite photo (provided by NSPO, Taiwan National Space Organization)
 from October 23, 2007, showing the active fire zones and smoke plumes.

Hairpin switchback on Hwy 76 at Palomar
I almost want to start out making an apology for never once thinking of taking photographs for future historical reference of what once was. How often lately I have written about many things I know and have experienced, but like many other Natural World accounts, I too can only story tell what I've experienced. This particular specific location where 76 sharply spirals down hill had numerous picturesque and contorted Engelman Oak trees which were reminiscent was something you would see only along ridges in tropical rainforest mountaintops. 

Courtesy Scott Turner, Escondido CA
The often twisted but picturesque patterns of some trees are often much like the wildlife pruned Acacia tortilis of the African Savanna. California's Engelman Oak is actually interesting that way in that it seems to self-prune into itself into interesting more open patterns than the common dense forms of the various Live Oaks. You'll often see them in what could be considered Southern California's own form of Oak Savannas like those of Central California foothill regions. The best view in the past was driving past the Palomar Mountain junction turnoff and heading west from La Jolla Indian Reservation. It was from this high vantage point that one could see out towards the west the patterns clearly and distinctly. Sometimes I'd pull over on one of the viewpoint turnouts just to take it all in. And yet never once did I ever consider to photograph it for future reference. I always and mistakenly assumed it would always be there. In the times we are presently living in, nothing should be taken for granted as if it will always be there. But I did photograph this region this past Spring of 2013. Before I arrived, I truly wished this spot had escaped the horrible onslaught of the Poomacha Fire of 2007. No such luck. Below here is basically a gallery of what is left.

Photo: Mine
Before dropping down and spiraling into the back and forth switchbacks, you'll see the western edges of the Palomar Mountains which I believe is the Agua Tibia Wilderness. The area was blitz heavily by this fire. I watched it all late night over here in Sweden as both the Witch Creek and Poomacha Fires did as they pleased. I read through the pages of the online San Diego Union where a concerned wildlife enthusiast hiked up Pauma Creek where remnants of the native Southern California Stealhead Trout were located and they were still some in tiny pools alive but just barely. The danger of course was the coming winter rainy season which would have filled these pools with tonnes of silt and other sediment and debris. He alerted what he thought were the correct officials to send teams in to rescue the trout before the disaster which was sure to happen. As is usual, it was insisted that certain studies would need to be performed followed by discussion. However, it did appear some made it but many many areas didn't and some pools disappeared under tonnes of debris. It will of course take years of winter rains and normal high water flows to scour out those pools once again, but of course there is that present decades drought problem. The story can be followed here on the San Diego Trout's own website. Very interesting read with many photos of before and after in the referenced links 

Photo: Mine
This is yet another photo taken which is actually further east near the San Luis Rey River Campground. The dead trees are those of the tough Big Cone Douglas Fir trees which I always associate more with Chaparral than I do other forest trees, although they do mix with other large trees. They have the ability to survive and actually thrive on hot steep southern slope where no other tree can succeed. Well, other than Engelman Oak which has a survival strategy of being drought stress deciduous and partially sheds half it's leaves in desperate times if need be. Big Cone Doug fir will actually sprout from the truck and branches again, something the other native conifers are not capable of doing. Mountain Center California has prime examples of this sprouting after fire along Hwy 243 if you know where to look for them.

Photo: Mine
This is the last open space of meadow just before you start dropping down into the steep switchback of the Pauma Grade on Hwy 76 where Pauma Valley and the Rincon Reservation / Casino which are are below. I wonder how many people have actually passed by here before and never truly appreciated the scenery before the fire took it away ?
Photo: Mine
Now finally coming around that first turn to the left on the Hwy 76 switch back where you start to grasp the more open view of the hilltop and ridge terrain scenery and of course one this shot is from the first turnout location you come to. This view shows some trees still intact and making a recovery of sorts, but looking nothing like their former glory. You also can see where many did not survive the fire to make the survival journey at all as the dead snags clearly indicate. Still there is enough holdover evidence of the areas once dominant ecosystem of Engelman Oak woodlands.

Photo: Mine
Same exact turnout as in the photo above this one, but the camera angle is further to the left looking directly across the other side of the road up the hill at the Engelman Oaks that survived. Notice the heavy cover of White Sage (Salvia apiana). This is common after fire. Fire to appear from my own observational view since the middle 1960s is that Deerweed (Lotus scoparius). Everyone should know that in many chaparral settings, especially nearer the inland valleys and coastal areas, these two shrubs are the first to comes back after fire wipes out the mature California Buckwheat / Sagebrush along with Laurel Sumac. In the old days after a fire tore through an area, the initial Springtime explosion of numerous varieties of wildflowers would be the first stage recovery component, followed by Deerweed which would blanket the hillsides for the first several years with White Sage moving in only to eventually overwhelm them. White Sage at the beginning will be huge, but will eventually yield to the California Buckwheat & Sagebrush. White Sage will always be present thereafter, but in a much smaller form. Laurel Sumac will sprout from the root crown immediately after the fire if moisture conditions are healthy in the sub-soils. It is these plant components which government agencies will almost always want to bypass, and clear the land by stripping it to the bare earth and immediately proceed to plant oak or other more desirable tree species if they were present in the location formerly. Especially is this true if the area were an officially designated Preserve or Park where the Public demands they do something quickly about restoration. Rather than actually educate the public as to the necessary role the early plants play in land revitalization as far as progression provides, they opt for a quick fix eye candy approach of replacing trees immediately with public approval. This is a shame because a healthier survival rate is produced and the earlier forage is better for the animal recovery. But always remember, these places are about pleasing people, not wildlife.

Photo: Mine
This is the second turnout looking back up back across the Hwy 76 road again to the east. The lower areas where most of the one time picturesque Engelman Oak trees once existed were much harder hit by the raging Poomacha Fire. Most were gone and those that were trying to come back were struggling. Only a few single seemingly untouched looking specimens appeared as lone comebacks. Ones like this next picture below here.

Photo: Mine
 Same second turnout location, but this photo faces north towards the western edge of the Palomar Mountains which are in the background to the north. Around this particular tree were numerous wonderfully lush green examples of California Holly or Toyon as can be seen just behind the guard railing. You'll notice all the brown on the lower part of the shrub ? All over San Diego County on my road trip almost all vegetation was dead and brown from the ground up to a meter in height. This is San Diego County and CalTrans way of road maintenance of their roadway easements by means of chemical pesticides.

Photo Courtesy of OneOakGrowers
I wish years ago more people had known about Engleman Oaks as far as landscape value. I wish I had done more with them. Tough little trees which need very little care if started off properly. Now there are desperate times with water becoming an even greater issue than at any other time in history. They are picturesque and seem to naturally self prune as I have already mentioned. They are not as dense as the heavier foliage Live Oak tree species. While Lives Oaks in nature require perhaps a deeper bottom land valley soil, the Engelman Oak can survive and actually thrive in some of the nastiest looking shallow rocky soils with often times a mix of adobe or red clay and on a southern exposure. Seriously, what other tree survives and thrives under those conditions ? 
Before returning to Sweden, I actually planted some Engelman Oak tree seedlings at my mother's and brother's places. At my brother's place I also planted Foothill Pine (Pinus sabiniana)  in carefully selected locations near deeply rooted chaparral and Scrub Oak this past 2013 Spring before leaving to come back here. I simply planted in non-amended native decomposed granite soil and also inoculated the soil with a diverse mycorrhizal mix from Mycorrhizal Applications Inc. I kept tabs on their continual progress  from my mother and brother up in Ranchita and from what I was told, everything did exactly what I explained would happen. Hence I am excited to come back and find out just how well everything has progressed thus far. I have written a couple of other posts on the Engelman Oaks last year and will write another this coming June 2014 as I will again be out there. I'm also curious if any truffles will be found near by. I am also curious if the surrounding native Scrub Oaks have also improved in their leave cover and lusher vitality. This is also my experience after inoculating during the second year. Below I'll link again to my former posts. I'm sorry that most people reading this will never see what once was in their lifetime. Like the 2003 Cedar Fire before them, no one reading at present will ever experience the wonderful biodiverse old growth forest which once was Rancho Cuyamaca State Park. The real danger is that with so many more people and so much irresponsibility going on around the globe screwing up the climate, things will never be the same. More wildfires will mean less and less permanent recovery if they occur year after year. Below here is an example of a month and a half growth after planting before I came back to Sweden. It is said to be double that height now. The drip in the back ground is to the rose bushes, not the Oak sapling. Water was actually withheld after initial first week. 

Photo: Mine

Engelman Oak Sapling in El Cajon California
Further reading References:
Engelmann Oak (Quercus engelmannii) an Often Ignored Native in the Landscape
What We Need Here is Wildfire to Propagate !!!