Scientists want climate change early-warning system

More ground stations needed to measure greenhouse gases, specialists say; changes in methane could warn of climate tipping points.

By REUTERS
April 18, 2011 09:46
2 minute read.
Workers from "APB BirdLife Belarus"

Climate change 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

LONDON - A better monitoring network for greenhouses gases is needed to warn of significant changes and to keep countries that have agreed to cut their emissions honest, scientists said in papers published on Monday.

"What we're hoping to do is see if the warming is feeding the warming, particularly in the Arctic," said Euan Nisbet, a specialist in methane emissions at the University of London.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


RELATED:
'Many seed-bearing trees may become extinct'
Erdan: Climate change poses national security risk

"Our monitoring network is very, very limited. We feel more observation is needed." Such measurement could warn of possible climate tipping points, scientists said in papers published by Britain's science academy, the Royal Society.

The data also could be used to verify countries' reporting of greenhouse gas emissions against targets under the present Kyoto Protocol and a possible successor after 2012.

The Earth's climate in the past has changed in a relatively short period of time, warming rapidly about 12,000 years ago at the end of the most recent glacial period.

Scientists are not sure why that happened, and have warned of possible climate tipping points from man-made emissions.

JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:


They are concerned, for example, that as Arctic permafrost melts it would allow plant matter to rot and vent methane, a greenhouse gas which could trigger more warming.

Nisbet said the earth last came out of a glacial period "in a matter of a decade or so", referring to rapid warming followed by a more prolonged ice melt, and warned of serious consequences if that were to be repeated now.

A retreat of Arctic summer ice warming has been observed in recent years against a 30-year satellite record, shrinking to its lowest level in 2007 and coinciding with a spike in methane.

"In 2007 the Arctic methane emissions appeared to increase very sharply, and then stabilized a bit later. The question is what were the causes of that," Nisbet said.

An extra benefit of wider measurement would be an independent test of national reporting of greenhouse gas emissions. Under the Kyoto Protocol, nearly 40 industrialized countries report their emissions against targets from 2008-2012.

A particularly thorny issue in negotiations to agree a successor pact from 2013 is how far international inspectors might oversee emissions reporting. A network of stations may provide a technical answer.

"We're trying to verify the greenhouse gas emissions that are declared by the various countries," Nisbet said. "The measurement of emissions has huge errors."

One way to cross-check national reporting is to count all the sources of greenhouse gas emissions, from cars through power plant to cows.

Another is to use an improved network of climate stations to measure greenhouse gases in the air and use prevailing winds to calculate where they come from.

Nisbet's paper was one of more than 15 published in a special issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society on Monday, setting out key research questions to better understand the impact of greenhouse gases on the climate.

A replacement satellite is planned for 2013 after the previous "orbiting carbon observatory" crashed on launch in 2009.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Holland Park’s forest, north of Eilat.
August 11, 2014
Promising trend of prosecution for environmental crimes, officials say

By SHARON UDASIN