Jack Bruner Honors Geology Scrapbook

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Article 20 Response (Coffee)

In the article it talks about how the Arabica (the most common type of coffee bean) is going extinct in the wild. Because the whole industry has roots in a few plants transported from Africa, the gene pool is limited, and it is very exposed to diseases. As the wild population withers around the world, prices will rise on the most consumed drink in the world; over 1.6 billion cups a day. Scientists have already began to collect DNA in case it goes extinct before predicted (2020). This could be a big hit for the world because coffee is the second most traded commoditiy in the world (behind oil) and employs over 26 million people world-wide. The delicate plants extinction is said to be a result of rising temperatures. Robusta a stronger thread of coffee is going to have to substitute after the end of Arabica’s existence.


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Article 20 (Coffee)

Amanda Fiegl

for National Geographic News

Published November 8, 2012

Link: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/11/121108-climate-change-coffee-coffea-arabica-botanical-garden-science/

What would life be like without coffee?

In a world that drinks 1.6 billion cups each day, the prospect probably gives a lot of us the jitters. But a new study led by London’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, warns that, thanks to climate change, the most consumed coffee species, Arabica, could be extinct in the wild by 2080.

Calm down; things aren’t quite as black as you might think. The study is about wild coffee plants, while the stuff in our cups is brewed from their domesticated descendants. Still, wild losses leave cultivated crops genetically vulnerable to a host of enemies, which could ultimately lead to lower quality and higher prices for coffee consumers.

“Arabica’s history is punctuated by problems with diseases, pests, and productivity problems—and growers have always gone back to the wild and used genetic diversity to address them,” said Aaron Davis, head of RGB Kew’s coffee research program.

There are only two main types of cultivated coffee, Arabica (which comes from the wild plant Coffea arabica) and Robusta (derived from Coffea canephora). But there are more than 125 species in the wild, with more still being discovered, said Davis, who has been researching coffee plants for 15 years.

“That’s one of the things that really surprised me when I first started working with wild coffee,” he said. “I mean, here’s this immensely important crop, and we don’t even know what all the species are yet! And among all those wild species, there are certainly useful genes.”

Arabica’s Shaky Future

Arabica is the backbone of the coffee industry, accounting for 70 percent of global production, according to the International Coffee Organization. But most of it can be traced back to a handful of plants taken from Ethiopia in the 17th and 18th centuries, Davis said, and its narrow gene pool makes it “very susceptible.”

The new study, led by Davis and published in the journal PLOS ONE this week, combined field observations and computer modeling to envision how different climate scenarios could affect wild Arabica species. It focused on Ethiopia—the birthplace of cultivated Arabica, and Africa’s largest coffee producer—as well as parts of South Sudan. (Explore an interactive map of the effects of global warming.)

The prospects are “profoundly negative,” the study concluded. Even in a best-case scenario, two-thirds of the suitable growing locations would disappear by 2080—and at worst, nearly 100 percent. And that’s factoring in only climate change, not deforestation.

Davis and other researchers visited South Sudan’s Boma Plateau in April, intending to assess the feasibility of coffee production there. Instead, they discovered wild Arabica plants in extremely poor health.

“After a week or so in those forests, we realized that our objective had changed: It became a rescue mission,” Davis said.

The study recommends that specimens from the Boma Plateau should be preserved in seed banks as soon as possible, because the species could be extinct as soon as 2020.

Arabica typically grows in the upper zones of vegetation on tropical mountains, explained botanist Peter Raven, who was not involved in the study. Because such species are already living on the edges of ecosystems, the plants have nowhere to go when temperatures rise. (See “Plants ‘Climbing’ Mountains Due to Global Warming.”)

“The kinds of cloud forest climates where Arabica is native are disappearing, and the plants and animals that occur in them are going to be among the most threatened on Earth,” Raven said. “Most coffee production throughout the world will be in trouble as the climate shifts.”

In Ethiopia, the world’s third largest producer of Arabica coffee, the mean annual temperature has risen by 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.3 degrees Celsius) since 1960, according to a report by the United Nations Development Programme. (Interactive map: “Earth’s Changing Climate.”)

Previous studies have established that both wild and cultivated Arabica are very climate sensitive, thriving only within a very narrow range of temperatures, Davis noted.

“So even if you do some very simple sums, it doesn’t take much to realize that there’s an intrinsic threat to these species from accelerated climate change,” he said. “The logical conclusion is that coffee production will be negatively impacted as well.”

Taking Action

The purpose of the study isn’t to scare people, Davis said, but rather to inspire action.

“We’re trying to understand: What if we don’t do anything—what will happen? And what can we do about it now?” Davis said. “If we’re proactive, we can avoid a dire situation.”

The study identifies several “core sites” where wild Arabica can likely survive until at least 2080, and recommends that these areas be targeted for conservation.

Conservation activities have helped other species avert extinction, Davis said, so he remains optimistic about the future of wild coffee. Raven, however, takes more of a cup-half-empty view. While the goal of preserving plant species in the wild is “laudable,” he said, seed banking is extremely important even in areas where extinction is not yet imminent.

“Regardless of what measures are taken in nature, we can confidently, and sadly, expect the genetic diversity of those populations to go downhill steadily year after year,” said Raven. “Seeds from the most genetically valuable species should be stored now, before it is too late.”

(Pictures: “Doomsday” Seed Vault Safeguards Our Food Supply.)

An Acquired Taste

Robusta—a hardier coffee domesticated in the 19th century in response to a leaf rust epidemic that decimated Arabica crops in Southeast Asia—is mostly used in stronger brews like espresso and Turkish coffee. It can grow at lower altitudes and higher temperatures, so it’s somewhat better poised to cope with climate change.

(Related: how climate change could affect seafood supply.)

But that doesn’t mean most coffee drinkers would simply switch what’s in their cup without sputtering, Davis said.

“I can guarantee that we will not all be happy just drinking Robusta,” Davis said. “As the name suggests, it’s quite strong. Most people don’t like the taste, and it has up to twice as much caffeine as Arabica. It’s simply not the same drink. If we lost Arabica, I think large segments of the coffee market would disappear.”

Such a shift could cause a serious economic jolt: According to the International Coffee Organization, coffee is the second most traded global commodity after oil, and the industry employs about 26 million people.

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Article 19 Response (Polar Bears)

The article talks about how over 80 polar bears met to eat the remains of a whale killed by local Inuits. The people of the area leave some leftovers on purpose to feed the bears that come annually for the feast. This is the largest amount of bears that have ever come. This could be a good sign that maybe some of the polar bear numbers are increasing, or it could be that less food due to the destruction of habitat is leading to more competition for food. As long as the people do not feed the bears on a regular basis, i feel that this is a good way to share nature, with nature.

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Article 19 (Polar Bears)

Link: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/10/pictures/121001-polar-bears-whale-alaska-science-hunting-arctic-ice-warming/

Polar bears dine on the severed head of a bowhead whale in Kaktovik (map),Alaska, on September 7. Left behind by traditional Inupiat hunters, whale remains this year attracted up to 80 bears a day to the village—a record, according to the Alaska Dispatch news site.

Having hunted whales annually for about 50 years in Kaktovik, Inupiat typically leave some meat specifically for the polar bears, according to the Alaska Dispatch’s Loren Holmes. The predators have learned to arrive at North Slope Eskimo communities just before the hunt and whet their appetites by gnawing last year’s whale bones, Holmes said.

Steven Amstrup, chief scientist at Polar Bear International, said he’s not surprised. Polar bears “are not dumb animals,” Amstrup said. “They know the time of year that the meat starts to show up on the beach.”

(See National Geographic magazine pictures of Alaska’s North Slope.)

—Ker Than

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Article 17 Response (Rising Temperatures)

After super storm Sandy last week, climate change has been a big subject for environmentalists  Being that the storm was caused by high water temperatures scientists everywhere are seeking the reasons for these temperatures, and what our future could look like. John Fasullo and Kevin Trenberth have been in search of answers. They found shockingly that tempatures around the world are supposed to increase anywhere from 3 to 8 degrees by 2100. This would make living in New York like living in Virgina, and living in Virgina like living in Georgia. These rising temperatures will cause more and more hurricanes and unless we (humans) do something, trouble is impending.

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Article 17 (Rising Temperatures)

Link: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/11/121108-climate-change-clouds-science-model-relative-humidity/

Juli Berwald

for National Geographic News

Published November 8, 2012

In the wake of superstorm Sandy, climate change is on a lot of people’s radar. By some accounts, warmer ocean temperatures intensified the hurricane as it plowed up the Gulf Stream, and rising seas may have exacerbated flooding.

Now, a new climate-change study in the journal Science says warming is here to stay. And future warming will likely be on the high side of predictions, the researchers conclude.

Atmospheric scientists John Fasullo and Kevin Trenberth studied global humidity patterns to get at an elusive question: When atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels double—as is expected by late this century—how much warmer will it become?

Estimates of this temperature increase, called equilibrium climate sensitivity, hover around 5 degrees F (2.8 degrees Celsius) by about 2100. But predictions vary more than twofold, from 3 to 8 degrees F (1.7 to 4.4 degrees Celsius).

The difference matters because higher temperatures mean larger problems with sea level rise and extreme weather, as well as large-scale changes in ocean circulation—which could in turn mean big changes on the ground.

With a 3 degree F increase, for example, New York City would feel more likeRichmond, Virginia. With an 8 degree F increase, New Yorkers would experience temperatures like those in Atlanta, Georgia.

(Opinion: “Climate Change Wins Big in 2012 Elections.”)

Clouds May Hold Climate-Change Key

Since the first report on climate sensitivity in 1979, no one has been able to narrow down its range. To try to solve the mystery, Fasullo and Trenberth—both of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado—looked to the skies.

Clouds are key in pinpointing the level of temperature rise expected, Fasullo said. They exert a major influence on Earth’s energy budget. Since they’re white, clouds reflect sunlight, cooling Earth. Depending on how high they are in the atmosphere, they can also act like a blanket, holding in heat.

Yet clouds change shape, size, and brightness quickly, making modeling them difficult. Satellite observations of clouds are sketchy, and contain errors.

To sidestep these problems, Fasullo and Trenberth decided to look instead at how clouds are made. They form from water vapor in environments of high relative humidity. Conveniently, high-quality relative humidity data is readily available from satellites. (Related: “Global Warming Supercharged by Water Vapor?”)

Eye of the Coming Storm?

The team’s research focused on areas in the atmosphere called dry zones.

Hovering several thousand feet above Earth’s surface, in the troposphere—the part of the atmosphere where clouds can form—dry zones play a primary role in the future climate.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the dry zone occupies latitudes between 10 and 30 degrees, on the level of Venezuela and Florida, respectively.

The scientists compared the observed relative humidity in the dry zones to 16 different climate models used in the most recent study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Fasullo and Trenberth found that the three models that best matched the humidity observations were the same ones that predict the hottest future, with temperatures increasing 8 degrees F before century’s end. The least accurate models overpredicted relative humidity and projected lower increases in temperature.

Fasullo used the analogy of an eye: “The dry zones are like the iris of the climate system. With warming, the iris dilates, decreasing cloud cover and allowing in more heat.” Models that don’t provide for that expansion of the dry zone fail to accurately depict observed data, he explained.

Karen Shell, a climate scientist from Oregon State University who was not involved in the research, agreed that Fasullo and Trenberth’s workaround made sense. “It’s a promising technique. It’s one study, but if this relationship holds up, it implies the climate sensitivity is on the higher end of the range.”

Meaning hotter …

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Article 14 Response (Arctic Winds)

Dr. James Overland’s findings of the change in wind patterns in the arctic are truly amazing. Him and his crew have spent over 5 years in the area. They have found that not only the temperature of the air has been changing, but the direction that the air is flowing. In previous years the air was flowing west-to-east but has now been recorded traveling north to south. Whether these changes are just a natural pattern of the area or something that humans have done, they are moving the cold air further south. As the warm air replaces that cold air the ice caps begin to melt and flooding around the arctic circle increases.