Examining Global Warming’s Best Friend, N2O

29 08 2009

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) are out of the way – a major success story in the fight against ozone depletion but a new menace is quickly becoming the top dog in the crowd of global warming fugitives. It took more than 20 years, but CFC’s are finally down and still sinking but nitrous oxide is hastily becoming our new arch-enemy. Nitrous oxide is now, according to a new report from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (NSRL), the most destructive and abundant man-derived greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. Where CFC’s were in our minds and in the environment now lies Nitrous Oxide.

“The dramatic reduction in CFCs over the last 20 years is an environmental success story. But manmade nitrous oxide is now the elephant in the room among ozone-depleting substances,” said Ravishankara, lead author of the study and director of the ESRL Chemical Sciences Division in Boulder, CO.

The gas is quite common, even it’s natural occurrences, but never in this quantity. The gas is derived from the fertilization of agriculture, mainly, but can also be found in animal dung, dentists’ offices (“Laughing Gas”), sewage treatment, combustion engines, and the rearing of livestock.

CFC’s were abundant in use, especially in aerosol cans in the 70’s and 80’s but scientists soon found that it’s effects on the environment were to harmful to be allowed to continue. In an international agreement, the Montreal Protocol was established in 1987 to reduce the CFC input into the environment world-wide. The plan was a huge success, now 22 years later, as we can see the incredible reduction of it’s concentration in the atmosphere. Although this is true, even the scars left behind are still mending; in particular the gaping hole in the ozone layer situated above the South Pole. Will nitrous oxide be as dangerous to the environment as the CFC’s were? In short, yes.

Examination of Atmospheric Layers

If left unchecked, the concentration of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere would continue to climb exponentially. We still have time to correct the problem before it gets out of control but it would take control to do it. The main target would certainly have to be the control of agricultural fertilization – fertilizers highly concentrated in the chemical. Although it does help the soil to produce more abundant (and vivacious) plants, it destroys the ozone layer – thinning it more and more.

What happens when the atmosphere gets thinner? More radiation enters the earth’s lower atmosphere which in turn actually harms the plants (and us). Imagine the worst sunburn you ever had. Multiply it. No one really wants to deal with the effects of global warming. “I don’t believe in it”. I guess it really doesn’t matter if you believe or not. It’s a decision that you’d have to make. A) Live with the changes you have to make today and be a little less “wasteful” or B) Ignore the warnings and live in a hotter, more naturally violent world potentially full of disease and famine. It’s up to you really….

Information derived from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Image derived from ScienceDaily.com
All information retrieved Saturday, August 29th, 2009

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Twitter – The New Age Storm Analysis Service

11 08 2009

Twitter. If it’s not the biggest thing next to duct tape. Seems like everyone nowadays is getting on the bandwagon from educational institutions to science researchers sharing knowledge. As for the genre I’ve always been most interested in, storm chasing & spotting, I believe Twitter has some “untapped potential”. I’ve experienced some use in the site – mixing ever so slightly with local meteorologists and scientists at the NSSTC in Huntsville, AL. Most people use the service as just a way to keep track of their friends and relatives but I see a more professional use for it. I just keep thinking, “what if?”

Storm spotters have been using radios and phone calls for so long now (not that it’s ineffective…it’s quite effective) but some of us are trailing off into a more digital presence. With the advent of portable (and small) computer systems and email services (such as that found in the iPhone, Blackberry and other PDA devices – services such as Twitter can expotentially become a great asset in field storm analysis.

So what makes Twitter great? First off, it permits instant transaction of message data into an online database which can be read by anyone with access to the internet. This includes meteorologists, news media (for damage and the like), emergency management officials, national weather service and NOAA, FEMA, storm observers and spotters as well as chasers in the field. If a tornado strikes a given location, EMA can see the message instantly without it having to be relayed. This means precious minutes or even seconds would be shaved off of the response time. Also, storm observers and chasers in the area would get a heads up on whats going on – meteorologists have an opportunity to pinpoint an exact location of the most dangerous part of the storm. NWS and NOAA, on the other hand, obtains the most valuable information – the information that often depicts whether or not a warning is issued.

Estimated Average Delay in Data Distribution using Twitter

Yes, all of this data can be used and transmitted via amateur radio or by the phone – but what’s faster? Amateur radio most might say – but 4/5 spotters don’t use it. Isn’t the spotter one of the greatest assets to warning coordinators? Other than amateur radio, digital transmission of data seems to be the best answer – Twitter has all of the aforementioned qualities plus the ability to create custom hash categories with each report such as what I and others have been using, #stormywx. Is there no expandability to it? I think so. Each storm cell is given a unique ID – “#stormywx #stormid 1.25” hail and 67mph wind @ so and so location”. The given example would be instantly sent to anyone watching the feed on Twitter. If more information was needed, a warning coordinator or whoever else needed the information critically could respond, “@originalposter #stormid Is there a funnel cloud near you? Approx. 1.5nm NE of your location.”

Estimated Average Delay in Data Distribution using Ares or Telephone

Overall, I believe a full-fledged acceptance as a great form of communication for storm analysis would be an enormous asset to all areas of severe weather response.

Please let me know what you think of this article. You may follow my tweets @skywarn256 or contact me via email at dwales@hunspot.org.