CCNet 52/2001 - 4 April 2001

"Muller's biggest idea is a real Nemesis. Or so he claims. Like a
thorn in the side of mainstream researchers, Muller's Nemesis theory --
that our Sun has a companion star responsible for recurring episodes
of wholesale death and destruction here on Earth -- seems to reemerge
periodically like microbes after a mass extinction. It's a theory that has
many detractors. And it's a theory that has been beaten down and left for
dead in the minds of most scientists. Yet it is a theory that just won't
--Robert Britt,, 3 April 2001

"A Californian physicist is asking for $1 million to find the "Death
Star" he thinks wiped out the dinosaurs. Richard Muller believes a star
orbiting our solar system throws asteroids at the Sun every 26
million years. [...] Muller, based at the University of California,
thinks Nemesis will be spotted within 10 years. He said: "Give me a million
dollars and I'll find it."
--Ananova, 4 April 2001

"Since by definition anti-matter isn't matter and even a tiny black
hole is immaterial, then neither of these could have generated
chondritic 'residues'. As for a UFO, chondritic materials would be a
particularly strange choice of construction material. You could, if
you really wanted to, suggest that the UFO was a hollowed out comet,
or that your mini- black hole had a comet or chondritic dust in 'tow',
however, the simplest explanation by far is that the Tunguska impactor
was just a pretty ordinary piece of comet that was unfortunate enough
to run into the Earth."
--Matt Genge, 4 April 2001


    Ananova, 4 April 2001

    Andrew Yee <>

    SpaceDaily, 4 April 2001

    Peter Bond <>


    Excite News, 3 April 2001

    SpaceDaily, 3 March 2001

    Ivan V. Nemtchinov  <>  

     Matthew Genge <>

     Andrei Ol'khovatov <>

     Andy Nimmo <>

     Jon Giorgini <>


From, 3 April 2001

By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer

"The trouble with most folks isn't so much their ignorance. It's know'n so
many things that ain't so." -- A favorite quote of Richard A. Muller, by
19th century humorist Josh Billings.

When you think big, as Richard A. Muller does, you're bound to create ideas
now and then that are so compelling you just can't let go of them -- ideas
so outlandish that mainstream scientists are equally eager to dismiss them.

Muller, a physicist at University of California at Berkeley, has had his
share of big ideas.

If you don't count the restaurant he owned between 1976 and 1982 ("If anyone
near and dear to you wants to open a restaurant, I can now be hired to talk
them out of it."), Muller's ideas are generally rooted in solid science and
genius extrapolation. He's got a gaggle of prestigious awards to prove it,
with titles that say things like "outstanding" and "highly original."

But Muller's biggest idea is a real Nemesis. Or so he claims.

Like a thorn in the side of mainstream researchers, Muller's Nemesis theory
-- that our Sun has a companion star responsible for recurring episodes of
wholesale death and destruction here on Earth -- seems to reemerge
periodically like microbes after a mass extinction.

It's a theory that has many detractors. And it's a theory that has been
beaten down and left for dead in the minds of most scientists.

Yet it is a theory that just won't die.

Nemesis is cautiously supported by a handful of scientists, who often sound
like ringside rooters eager for a victory but thankful they don't have to
put the gloves on. Muller meanwhile acknowledges the possibility that the
whole idea could turn out to be wrong, but he is nonetheless confident that
Nemesis will be found within 10 years.

"Give me a million dollars and I'll find it," Muller said in a recent
telephone interview.

Brave words for a bold theory that if proven true would shake up everything
we know about the formation and evolution of our solar system.

Genesis of Nemesis

Muller's idea for Nemesis came to him 1983. Luis Alvarez, then an emeritus
professor of physics at the University of California at Berkeley, and his
son Walter had recently put forth the theory that a giant impact had wiped
out the dinosaurs. (This idea, like so many others that are now widely
accepted, met with staunch criticism when it was introduced because it, too,
was not mainstream).

Around the same time, two other researchers had suggested yet another
controversial idea, that mass extinctions occurred at regular intervals --
every 26 million years or so. Scientists immediately folded the ideas into a
new and breathtaking possibility: Impacts by space rocks were causing
massive global species destruction every 26 million years.

Luis Alvarez was Richard Muller's mentor, and he suggested that Muller try
to debunk the periodicity argument. Pondering this, Muller dreamed up the
fanciful companion to the Sun as a possible cause, and with Berkeley's Piet
Hut and Marc Davis of Princeton, worked out the details.

Muller gave the object the name of the Greek goddess of retribution --
fitting for a killer star that roamed stealthily beyond the solar system
flicking comets at dinosaurs.

In the end, the idea looked surprisingly plausible to Muller and his
colleagues, and the results of their work were ultimately published in the
journal Nature in 1984. Muller then wrote a book about Nemesis, and he has
pursued the companion star, while also doing other research, ever since.

Tossing comets at us

Nemesis, as Muller sees it, is a common red dwarf star that would be visible
through binoculars or a small telescope, if only we knew which of some 3,000
stars to look at. These are stars that have been cataloged, but their
distances are not known.

Any one of them could be the Death Star, as Nemesis has come to be called by

Red dwarfs are the most common stars in the galaxy. They are small and
relatively cool, dimmer than our Sun. The notion of companion stars is also
exceedingly common -- more than half of all stars are part of such a binary
system, in which two stars are thought to form out of a single cloud of gas
and dust.

Binary stars settle into a gravitational dance around a common point in
space. The smaller of the two stars does most of the orbiting, whereas the
larger one is much closer to the center of the dance routine. It's like two
kids on a seesaw. For the thing to work properly, the heavier child must sit
closer to the center of the apparatus.

Muller figures Nemesis' orbit ranges from 1 to 3 light-years away from the

On its closest approach, the lethal companion would pass through a vast, but
sparsely populated halo of primitive comets called the Oort Cloud, which
surrounds our solar system from beyond Neptune's orbit out to nearly a
light-year away. (The Sun's nearest known star, Proxima Centauri, is about
4.25 light-years away).

During this passage through or near the Oort Cloud, the gravity of Nemesis
would scatter a furious storm of primordial comets that had been relatively
undisturbed for 4.5 billion years, since the solar system came into being.

Dislodged from their once-stable orbits, millions or billions of these
comets would travel to the inner solar system over millions of years, pulled
toward the Sun by its gravity. A handful would run into Earth along the way,
and the flurry of would result in mass extinctions.

Simple enough. But Nemesis has for years been dogged by a misunderstanding,
Muller says. Most researchers think the theory was long ago dismissed by
competing data that claimed its orbit was not possible.
Far-out idea

The orbit assumed for Nemesis is an unusual one, Muller admits. No star has
ever been found to orbit so far from a companion. "And that really bothers
people," he said. "It makes them think that this is a really far-out idea,

But computer models developed by Muller and his colleagues predict that such
an orbit must occur at some point in the evolution of most binary star
systems. "We just haven't found such systems yet," he said.

And while Muller appreciates the natural and healthy skepticism of other
scientists, he figures they are not interested in funding a search because
they erroneously assume that Nemesis cannot be found.

Jonathan Tate is the director of Spaceguard U.K., which lobbies for a
government response to the threat of asteroids. Tate is among those who see
no rush to find Nemesis. He would rather see money spent on more immediate
searches for asteroids closer to Earth that might prove to be humanity's
undoing in coming decades or centuries.

As Tate points out, proving that mass extinctions occur every 26 million
years, regardless of the cause, is only of academic interest: Humans may not
likely to be around to care, as many researchers don't expect our species to
last that long. If we do survive, there will likely be plenty of time to

Questioning periodicity

Meanwhile, many scientists see little or no credibility to the studies
alleging periodicity in mass extinctions, and hence no need for a Nemesis

Numerous studies have reported cycles in either impacts or mass extinctions.
The period between peaks in these studies mostly range from 26 million to 35
million years. Andrew Glikson of the Australian National University says
that trying to pin down things that happened so long ago is no simple
challenge. For one thing, space rocks that land in the ocean leave few
clues, Glikson points out, and Earth is roughly two-thirds water.

And Earth has always had a crust that is on the move. Evidence gets buried,
destroyed, and folded into oblivion by the same process that creates
mountains and moves continents.

"Some of the suggested periodicities are more likely to represent
statistical artifacts than robust observations," Glikson said.

David Raup, a University of Chicago paleontologist, made the original
mass-extinction periodicity argument two decades ago along with colleague J.
John Sepkoski. The pair studied marine fossil records over a 250
million-year period that they say showed significant spikes every 26 million

"To me, the periodicity idea is as well supported as many ideas that have
been adopted into the conventional wisdom, but the scientific community is
heartily skeptical," Raup told "Of the 15 or so re-analyses of
our data published since the original paper, about half support periodicity
and half reject it. It's is still very much in the eye of the beholder."

Muller supports the statistics more emphatically.

"There is a peculiar pattern in mass extinctions, something that cannot be
dismissed as a statistical fluctuation," Muller said. "It requires some

Raup, now retired from active research, would not venture a guess as to when
or whether Nemesis might be found, but he expressed hope in the idea: "I am
glad Rich [Muller] is still working on it because it may take a lot of
effort, and he's the best."

The galactic plane, Planet X and black holes

Other ideas have been put forth to explain the alleged periodicity in mass

The most widely accepted is the suggestion that the solar system, as it
revolves around the center of the Milky Way, bobs up and down through the
plane of the galaxy. This plane is full of gas and dust that never became
stars, which collectively has a certain amount of gravity that some expect
might dislodge comets from the Oort Cloud.

There are doubts, however, about the amount of mass in the galactic plane
and whether or not the timing coincides with the periodicity of mass

Others have suggested a dim failed star known as a brown dwarf might be
lurking in the distant fringes of the solar system. Muller called the
increasing rate of discovery of brown dwarfs, including one that is just 13
light-years away, "extremely discouraging." For if Nemesis were a brown
dwarf, it would be harder to find.

Yet another enduring idea is that another large planet lurks beyond Pluto.
This so-called Planet X would be a gas ball up to five times the size of
Earth, according to some predictions. Even the possibility of a black hole
has been raised. Few researchers support these two ideas.

Evidence from the Moon

The best evidence for periodic impacts on Earth may ultimately come from the
Moon. While the Earth's crust has been stretched, squashed and folded
violently its whole life, the Moon is relatively static, preserving a far
more accessible geologic record.

A year ago Muller, Berkeley geologist Paul Renne and then-graduate student
Timothy Culler found the Moon underwent a flurry of impacts between 400
million and 600 million years ago. The active period (which may still be
going on) presumably affected Earth as well since both bodies are in roughly
the same spot in the solar system.

Muller says the sudden increase offers indirect evidence for a sudden change
in the orbit of Nemesis, which might have been caused by a passing star.

But the study did not turn up evidence for the 26 million-year periodicity,
as hoped. Muller says there was not enough data. The study involved 155
microscopic glass beads formed in the intense heat of lunar impacts and
later brought to Earth, in a single gram of soil, by the Apollo 14 crew.

But given that there are "several hundred pounds (kilograms) of [lunar] dust
and rocks that have not been analyzed," Muller plans another more detailed

Whether or not he finds evidence for Nemesis in Moon dust, it's clear that
Muller won't stop looking. He is a man of enduring confidence. But he is
also a remarkably conservative scientist, quick as anyone to point out that
there is no proof until there is proof.

"I'm realistic," he said. "I may be wrong."

And he recognizes that if the Death Star is not found, the whole idea could
become a real Nemesis for the big thinker who dreamed it up.

Copyright 2001,


From Ananova, 4 April 2001

A Californian physicist is asking for $1 million to find the "Death Star" he
thinks wiped out the dinosaurs.

Richard Muller believes a star orbiting our solar system throws asteroids at
the Sun every 26 million years.

He says some hit the Earth, causing regular mass extinctions, but most
astronomers dismiss the idea.

The theory first came to him in 1983 when researchers showed the big
extinctions happen regularly.

He reckons every 26 million years a red dwarf, which he calls Nemesis but
others call the Death Star, passes through a distant asteroid cloud.

Some of the rocks become displaced, are sent hurtling towards the Sun and
some hit the Earth, reports.

Muller, based at the University of California, thinks Nemesis will be
spotted within 10 years. He said: "Give me a million dollars and I'll find

He added: "There is a peculiar pattern in mass extinctions, something that
cannot be dismissed as a statistical fluctuation. It requires some

Copyright 2001, Press Association


From Andrew Yee <>

[ ]

Saturday, 31 March 2001

Hot flush over in a flash

Evolutionary trees imply that, like the bacteria that today inhabit hot
volcanic springs, our earliest ancestors liked being boiled alive. But new
research reveals that the surface of the Earth might not have been hot
enough for long enough to allow heat-loving bacteria to evolve from
primal slime [1].

"The length of time the Earth spent with surface temperatures in the 60 C to
110 C range would have been short," Norm Sleep of Stanford University and
his co-workers calculate. By 'short' they mean a couple of million years at
most, and probably less than a million -- not long at all in geological

So there is still plenty of room for hypotheses other than the thermophilic
origin of life as to why the 'oldest' organisms seem to have liked it hot,
Sleep's team believes. Perhaps, for example, they were the only survivors of
later massive asteroid impacts that fried all heat-sensitive life.

The period between the formation of the Earth, 4.6 billion years ago, and
the appearance of life, at least 3.8 billion years ago, is the most
mysterious in the history of our planet. These 800 million years or so were
also the most dramatic the world has ever known.

In particular, it is now widely believed that 4.5 billion to 4.45 billion
years ago a rock the size of a small planet ploughed into the Earth, nearly
splitting it in two. The debris thrown out from this collision formed the

This giant impact is thought to have vaporized much of the Earth, leaving it
awash with a global ocean of molten rock. If any life had existed before the
impact, there was surely none afterwards. Yet by perhaps as little as 50
million years later, the surface had cooled enough to form a solid crust,
covered in part with liquid water. The Earth was already on its way to being
habitable once more.

Thermophilic bacteria could have appeared in this environment as the first
organisms in the long chain of being. But if the planet cooled fast, they
would have had to get themselves together pretty quickly, before their
moment had passed and other, less heat-resistant organisms (like most modern
bacteria) won out.

How big a window of opportunity thermophiles had, says Sleep's team, depends
on many things: how quickly heat escaped from the Earth's rocky surface, how
much sunlight warmed the planet, and how much or how little heat the blanket
of the atmosphere retained.

Today's atmosphere keeps the planet about 35 C warmer than it would
otherwise be, because of the way that gases such as water vapour and carbon
dioxide capture heat (the greenhouse effect). But there was probably much
more water vapour, and perhaps more carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere of the
hot young Earth.

Having estimated how long it took for the Earth to acquire a solid crust,
boiling hot oceans and an atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide, Sleep's group
derives an upper limit on the length of time that the Earth stayed hot by
considering how such a world might have then evolved.

Assuming that all the carbon dioxide began in the air, the researchers work
out that the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide would gradually have
declined owing to reactions with surface rocks to form carbonates, reducing
its greenhouse warming influence. Today much atmospheric carbon dioxide is
bound up in this form, or dissolved in hot rock inside the Earth.

[1] Sleep, N. H., Zahnle, K. & Neuhoff, P. S. Initiation of clement surface
conditions on the earliest Earth. Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences USA 98, 3666-3672 (2001).

Web Links:

* Planetary Science Institute

Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2001 - NATURE NEWS SERVICE


From SpaceDaily, 4 April 2001

Cambridge - April 4, 2001

The evolution of life on our planet is inextricably linked with
extraterrestrial influences. It is now well-established that various mass
extinction events identified in the palaeontological record were triggered
by the cataclysmic explosions produced when large asteroids or comets
happened to collide with the Earth.

The best-known episode is that in which the dinosaurs died 65 million years
ago, but there have been many other catastrophic impacts both before then,
and since.

These asteroid and comet impacts were not entirely a bad thing. If it had
not been for those extinctions, then the age of the mammals and the eventual
evolution of humans would not have occurred.

However, there is another way in which we should look favourably on objects
from space that have hit the Earth. Initially our planet was hot and dry.
The water and organic chemicals that made the initiation of primordial life
feasible here seem to have been delivered to the early Earth by comets.

Both of these aspects of planetary science are addressed in two talks to be
given at the UK National Astronomy Meeting in Cambridge by Dr. Duncan Steel
of the University of Salford.

In a public lecture on the evening of Thursday 5 April, he will discuss the
threat to civilisation posed by large near-Earth objects, under the title
"The Spaceguard Project: Tackling the Asteroid Impact Hazard".

As Steel points out, the object that killed the dinosaurs was a big one
(five to ten miles in size), but just 93 years ago a much smaller asteroid
(just 60 or 70 yards across) blew up in the atmosphere above Siberia,
producing a blast which would flatten all of London out to the M25, should
the next such event have Marble Arch as ground zero.

The chance of that occurring is small, but the consequences are so
phenomenal that it is a hazard we must take seriously. As a result, the UK
Government is now considering what it could contribute to the international
Spaceguard programme.

In a scientific paper to be presented on the morning of Wednesday 4 April,
Steel will discuss the flip-side of the coin: how comets may have delivered
the basic building blocks of life to the nascent Earth.

In a massive impact, the molecules of water and organic chemicals of which
comets are largely composed would be pyrolysed (split into individual
atoms). What Steel has proposed is that organic chemicals might have been
delivered to the sterile early Earth through the tiny meteoroids released as
comets come near the Sun.

With his co-worker Dr Christopher McKay of NASA-Ames Research Center in
California, Steel has shown that heavy organic compounds similar to tar
would survive heating by the Sun within these small meteoroids during the
thousands of years between being spawned by a comet and eventually arriving
in the terrestrial atmosphere.

Until now it has generally been presumed that such meteoroids - which
produce the familiar meteors or shooting stars when they burn up on
atmospheric entry - must be made of rock and metal, like most meteorites.

A prediction of the work by Steel and McKay is that such tarry meteoroids
would burn up higher in the atmosphere than is feasible for rocky

The tar would start to evaporate from a meteoroid at around 500 degrees
Celsius - a temperature quickly attained due to frictional heating when it
plummets into the upper atmosphere at hypervelocity. In contrast, it takes
much longer for rock to reach its evaporation temperature of over 2000

Using a radar located near Adelaide in Australia, Steel has shown that such
tarry meteoroids are indeed continually entering the atmosphere now,
representing a rain of organic chemicals onto the Earth.

The implication is that the basic building blocks of life were also supplied
to our planet in this way around four billion years ago, as the Earth cooled
from its original, intensely hot beginning.

Copyright 2001, SpaceDaily


From Peter Bond <>



Date:   31 March 2001                   Ref. PN 01/21 (NAM14)

Issued by: RAS Press Officers

Peter Bond
Phone: +44 (0)1483-268672
Fax: +44 (0)1483-274047
Mobile phone: 07711-213486


Dr Jacqueline Mitton
Phone: +44 (0)1223-564914
Fax: +44 (0)1223-572892
Mobile phone: 07770-386133

The press room phone numbers are:
+44 (0)1223-313724
+44 (0)1223-313754
+44 (0)1223-315553

RAS Web site:

UK National Astronomy Meeting Web site:


Scientists from the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London, working with
colleagues from the Open University (OU) in Milton Keynes, have been
examining an intriguing arrival from outer space.

The Tagish Lake meteorite, which fell in the Yukon region of northern Canada
on the morning of 18 January 2000, contains some of the most primitive
material ever to have landed on the Earth. Samples from this rare visitor
are rich in carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and sulphur, confirming that it is an
extremely unusual meteorite, closely related to comets.

Dr. Monica Grady of the Natural History Museum in London will be unveiling
some of the secrets of this ancient piece of Solar System history in a talk
at the UK National Astronomy Meeting in Cambridge on Wednesday 4 April.


The Tagish Lake meteorite made quite a spectacle when it arrived on Earth.
As it entered the atmosphere, it created a bright fireball, accompanied by a
prominent dust tail.

The following day, approximately 2 kg of meteorite was recovered from the
frozen surface of Tagish Lake. The material remained frozen during
subsequent transport and storage at the NASA-Johnson Space Centre curatorial
facility in Houston, Texas.

A tiny piece of the meteorite (just less than 10mg, about the weight of a
grain of rice) was flown to the Natural History Museum in London, then,
after a preliminary optical examination, it was taken to the Open University
(OU) in Milton Keynes.

Using the specialised equipment only available at the OU, Dr. Grady was able
to determine that Tagish Lake contained more carbon and nitrogen than any
other meteorite. The carbon was present mostly as organic compounds - the
building blocks of life.

Tagish Lake was also found to be extremely rich in interstellar diamond
grains, showing that it formed in the outermost reaches of the pre-solar

"This exciting and unusual meteorite will give us new insights into many
areas of research, including comets, asteroids, the formation of the Solar
System and the origin of life," said Dr. Grady.


Monica Grady is Curator of Meteorites at the Natural History Museum in
London, where she undertakes research on primitive meteorites, Martian
material and cosmic dust, using the Museum's state-of-the-art analytical

The Natural History Museum houses the UK's national meteorite collection,
one of the finest collections in the world. Highlights from the collection
are on permanent display in the Meteorite Pavilion, which was recently
refurbished with the assistance of funding from PPARC's Public Understanding
of Science programme.

The Open University is home to the Planetary and Space Sciences Research
Institute (PSSRI), one of Europe's largest planetary research groups.
Custom-designed equipment is used to measure the light element geochemistry
of extraterrestrial materials, using samples too small to be measured



Dr. Monica M. Grady,
Mineralogy Dept.,
Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road,
Phone: +44 (0)20-7942-5709


Dr. Ian Wright,
Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute
The Open University
Milton Keynes
Phone: +44 (0)1908-653898



From, 3 April 2001

By Robin Lloyd
Science Editor

An academic tug-of-war over worlds beyond our solar system continued
Tuesday, with two British scientists reasserting their claim to have found
free-floating planets that others say are nothing of the sort.

The battle centers on the celestial status of more than a dozen points of
light in the Orion Nebula, a giant stellar nursery where thousands of stars
are being born.

Philip Lucas of the University of Hertfordshire and Patrick Roche of Oxford
University assert the points of light are huge gas planets, or "planetars,"
that orbit nothing and float in the gaseous blotch of space.

"It's exciting to find these planet-sized objects floating around in space,"
Lucas said in a prepared statement, "unlike planets such as our Earth which
orbit a star."

Lucas and Roche announced the new unpublished data this week at the U.K.
National Astronomy Meeting, in England, underlining their similar claim made
in 2000 -- that these same faint points of light in the Orion Nebula are
free-floating planets.

Using the same telescope as in the previous research -- the United Kingdom
Infrared Telescope at Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii -- the researchers
looked at new spectra for the objects and calculated their temperature and
derived their masses. The data again yielded the planetary claim.

The assertion is that the objects have masses that, by one definition, put
them in the range of a planet -- under 13 times the mass of Jupiter.
Scientific shorthand for that designation is "sub 13Mjup." That mass is
commonly used as a delineating line because it is the mass below which
deuterium no longer fuses or burns in the core of a star due to insufficient
temperature and pressure. Deuterium burns briefly in brown dwarfs, not in

Many astronomers have questioned the first and now subsequent findings
announced by Lucas and Roche. One major point of contention is the
definition of a planet -- many astronomers believe that a planet must orbit
a star.

In fact, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) recently made public its
working definition of a planet. That definition excludes objects such as
Lucas and Roche have named as planets, encompassing only objects with a
certain mass orbiting around "solar-type stars." Free floaters with that
mass (less than 13 times the mass of Jupiter) are to be called "sub-brown
dwarfs," according to the working group, not planets.

The IAU working group was convened in recent months to deal with the
features of more than 50 extrasolar planets discovered in the past five
years. Many of those planets are much more massive than even Jupiter -- the
most massive planet in our solar system. And many of the planets beyond our
solar system orbit their suns at unusual distances -- extremely close or
extremely far away. In other words, astronomers have yet to find a planet
that comes close to resembling Earth.

"Even if these sub 13Mjup masses were ultimately confirmed, it is the
opinion of a large number of astronomers that the sources should in no case
be called planets," wrote Mark McCaughrean of the Astrophysical Institute in
Potsdam, Germany in a letter to press officers for the Royal Astronomical
Society. In that letter, he asked the press officers to modify a notice to
the media of the findings because "calling a bunch of low-mass brown dwarfs
'planets' is simply the wrong thing to do."

"There is certainly room for legitimate academic debate over what the
definition of a planet is, but it seems likely that the IAU working group
studying this question will state that planets should at the very least be
in orbit around something, not free-floating," McCaughrean wrote.

Earlier this year, McCaughrean did work that undermined the plausibility of
Lucas and Roche's original claim. McCaughrean analyzed data on the faint
objects collected by a different telescope and got results that widely
varied: Some of the objects were too massive to be considered planets, some
were knots of nebular gas, some were redder than Lucas and Roche had found
(and thus turned out to be too massive to fall into their planet
definition), while some didn't exist. For those existing objects, he
believes they should be referred to as "brown dwarf objects" and knots of
nebular gas. Brown dwarfs are "failed stars" that lack the mass and fuel to
ignite and burn like a star.

The Lucas and Roche team also failed to account for the possibility that
some of the faint objects were actually older brown dwarfs floating in the
Trapezium cluster -- the group in the Orion Nebula upon which the debate has
centered, McCaughrean said. Such older brown dwarfs are easily confused with
those with masses under 13 Jupiters.

The use of the word planet by Lucas and Roche excites the public and
suggests the existence of other Earths and extraterrestrial life. To
McCaughrean, it would be more intellectually honest to call the objects
"very low-mass brown dwarfs" or "unattached balls of gas," although clearly
that would generate less publicity.

Copyright 2001,

From Excite News, 3 April 2001

By Josh Cohen
The Towerlight
Towson U.

(U-WIRE) TOWSON, Md. -- Towson University science professor Dr. Alex Storrs
made his mark in the world of astronomy earlier this month by discovering a
companion to a large asteroid, the fifth companion ever discovered.

The image was found via the Hubble Space Telescope Program, which allows
researchers such as Storrs to access and analyze its images.

Storrs examined the telescope's images and photographs as part of his
independent research funded by the University. He found the small asteroid
body while explaining the image to a student.

"Discoveries like this capture the imagination as to what might be out
there," Storrs said regarding his discovery.

Storrs' find is a companion to "107 Camilla," an asteroid that orbits the
sun between Mars and Jupiter on the Asteroid Belt. Companions are smaller
asteroids, usually 10 to 100 kilometers in size and follow the orbit of a
larger asteroid.

The object was found in an image taken on Mar. 1, and discovered a few days
later. The Johnson Space Flight Center will be analyzing the image, looking
to confirm the object within a week.

Storrs' professional objective is to study approximately 50 large asteroids,
but he said he does take time to examine other things, which is how he found
the companion.

Towson has been steadily building an astronomy program, and hired Storrs
this semester.

Storrs' believes the University does not get enough credit for the research
it does, and hopes that this discovery will help direct attention to the
research efforts of the entire Towson community.

"This discovery casts a light on Towson, and helps build your stature as a
research organization," Storrs said.

He also believes that this discovery will create an interest in astronomy
with Towson students as well. Storrs hopes for a greater investment in the
astronomy program, with more money and better equipment to teach with as
well as for research purposes.

In addition, Storrs said the discovery of the companion will help the field
of astronomy as well.

He explained that asteroid research could have many effects on learning
about our own planet and how it was formed.

"You can't see how a building is constructed if it is intact, you must
examine it when it is broken in pieces to understand its composition," said

He said asteroids are believed to be the remnants of a planet that never
fully developed.

The University's physics, astronomy and geosciences program maintains a
petrographic microscope laboratory.

Geoscience students have access to the lab in the evenings and weekends in
addition to an informal lounge area, that aims to provide students a
supportive learning environment.

(C) 2001 The Towerlight via U-WIRE


From SpaceDaily, 3 March 2001

El Segundo - April 2, 2001

The team of aerospace contractors developing the Air Force's Space-Based
Laser Integrated Flight Experiment (SBL-IFX) has successfully completed the
experimental satellite's System Requirements Review, taking a major step
forward in the ongoing design and manufacturing development process.
Team SBL-IFX, a joint venture comprising TRW, Lockheed Martin and Boeing
reviewed SBL-IFX's system-level specifications and key development
milestones with the Air Force and Ballistic Missile Defense Organization
(BMDO) during the review, held March 28-29 in El Segundo, Calif.

SBL-IFX is planned as a single satellite carrying a laser payload comprising
a high-energy chemical laser, a beam director and related beam control

Team SBL-IFX and the Air Force expect to launch the satellite in 2012, with
an on-orbit demonstration of the satellite's ability to detect, track and
destroy a boosting missile target planned for 2013.

A successful test will pave the way for the nation to consider developing a
constellation of space-based laser satellites as part of a layered missile
defense architecture.

"Completion of this review is a significant milestone for the government and
Team SBL-IFX," said Col. Neil McCasland, director of the Air Force's SBL-IFX
project office. "It has given us a new level of confidence as we matched our
design work with our top-level system requirements and assured ourselves,
through rigorous analysis, that the current design is on the right path and
is ready for the next level of refinement."

Of perhaps greater significance than the review itself is the process by
which Team SBL-IFX and its government customers developed and completed the
documentation for SBL-IFX.

"This review really validates the concept of Total System Authority," said
Barry Waldman, program director of Team SBL-IFX, referring to the
acquisition format under which Team SBL-IFX is responsible for achieving all
program objectives.

"Since we began the program in 1999, the joint venture has worked in close
partnership with the Air Force and BMDO to define and develop requirements
and specifications for SBL-IFX. This cooperative approach has really
streamlined the requirements development process.

"It has also ensured that, upon completion of SRR, we will all understand
and agree upon the requirements and technical specifications that will
assure a successful SBL-IFX demonstration."

Completion of the SRR will allow the team to begin preparing detailed
specifications for the IFX down to major segments, including the space,
payload and ground segments of the experiment. Those specifications will be
completed by the Fall of 2001, in time for the program's System Definition


From Ivan V. Nemtchinov  <>  

Dear Benny,

In CCNet on March 22 James Perry wrote: "I am interested in the assertion
that asteroid impacts generate Electromagnetic Pulse. I have never heard it
before. I thought EMP was generated only by man-made sources (e.g. nuclear
explosions)". On March 22, 2001 Luigi Foschini and Collin Keay commented on
electrophonic bursts, which were detected during the atmospheric entry of
large meteoroids.

Duncan Steel draws attention to the fact that British Antarctic Expedition
observed a strong aurora in the long Arctic winter, near the time of the
Tunguska event, but several hours earlier. It stimulates the thought that if
the Tunguska object was actually cometary in nature, the Earth would have
been within cometary the ion tail as it approached from the sunward side of
our planet.

Gerrit Verschnur in his reply mentioned that Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet
fragments smashed into the Jupiter's southern hemisphere but they triggered
auroras at the mirror points in its Northern hemisphere.

Please note that SL-9 fragments were about 200-400 meters in size. We should
keep in mind that the Jupiter's magnetic field strength is by an order of
magnitude larger than at the Earth, Jupiter's size is by an order of
magnitude larger than that of the Earth, so the total energy of the
Jupiter's magnetosphere is by five order of magnitude larger than that of
the Earth. So magnetic disturbances caused by impacts onto the Earth with
the same kinetic energy will be much larger than in the case of Jupiter.

We should add some additional consideration.


Estimates of electromagnetic (EM) effects caused by the impacts of large
meteoroids were given by Adushkin and Nemtchinov (1994). 2D numerical
simulations of gasdynamic processes associated with impacts were conducted
for Tunguska-class and larger bodies. For stony and icy bodies with sizes of
200 m and larger the impactors reach the ground without substantial
deceleration and create a vapor plume which rises upward with the maximum
velocity approximately equal to a half of the impact velocity. We note that
the energy of a 200-m icy body with the velocity of 50 km/s is about 1000

The conical jet moving upwards produces a shock wave. The air heated up to
1-3 eV is strongly ionized and acts like a conducting piston, expulsing the
Earth's magnetic field. But even for lower velocities and temperatures of
the air expulsion of the magnetic field occurs as the air at high altitudes
is already ionized. Large-scale deformation of the magnetosphere and
disruption of the Van Allan radiation belts will be the result.

It was suggested in Adushkin and Nemtchinov (1994) that substantial
ionospheric heating, large amplitude oscillations of the ionospheric and
magnetospheric plasma, precipitation of trapped particles from the radiation
belts may be the result of impacts of smaller meteoroids.

Numerical simulations of atmospheric entry processes and long-term
disturbances of ionosphere caused by an icy body with radius of 30 m and
velocity of 30 m were conducted recently by Shuvalov and Artemieva (2001)
and Shuvalov (2001). They take into account fragmentation and evaporation.
If was shown that such a body completelly evaporates at an altitude of about
10 km but the debris reach the minimum height of about 4 km (close to the
estimated altitude of the Tunguska explosion).

The most part of hot air and vapor accelerates upward. The density of a
plume is higher than the ambient air density. Up to about 400-500 km the
hydrodynamic approximation is valid for the shock wave.

The jet continues to move upwards ballistically and expands radically by
inertia and at the moment of about 500 s reaches altitudes of about 1500 km,
having a radius of 1000 km, and falls back due to gravity. Meeting more
dense layers of atmosphere, it compresses and heats air in a shock wave. At
the moment of 700 s a thin dense and hot (several times higher than the
normal temperature of the air at the altitudes under consideration) disk is
formed. It begins to expand upwards and radially (at the moment of 900 s up
to 500 km while radius reached 1500 km). The lower boundary of the
disturbance remains at an altitude of about 100 km, where the boundary
between the strongly stratified and weakly stratified atmosphere is located.

The acoustic-gravity wave propagating from the zone of reentry impact will
further increase the size of the zone of ionospheric disturbances. Large
amplitude oscillations of the ionosphere in large area will obviously cause
disruption of short radiowave communications in the very large region of the
Earth as the altitude of radio wave reflection will change in time and will
be corrugated.

Such effects have been observed in Northern Europe in 1961 after the nuclear
test at Novaya Zanlya with the yield of 58 Mt at the altitude of 3.5 km.
This energy and altitude are close to the values estimated for the Tunguska

The Tunguska event of 1908 occurred at the eve of the radiowave era and no
short-period EM signals were detected. But observatory at Irkutsk (900 km
from Vanavara) detected magnetic disturbances several minutes after the air
blast. An attempt to interpret these signals was made by Nemtchinov et al.
(1999). Oscillations of the atmosphere were analyzed. Simulations show that
they lasted for at least 1500 sec. These oscillations finally decay, but
rise the temperature at the altitudes of 100-150 km to about 1000-1500 K.
This decreases density of the atmosphere in that region at high altitudes.

According to Boslough and Crawford (1997) for the oblique impact of the
Tunguska-class object the plume mainly moves along the wake, i.e. there is
the horizontal advection in the direction opposite to the impact velocity,
i.e. towards Baikal, and that may explain earlier start of the geomagnetic
signal in Irkutsk.

The local increase of conductivity changes the system of ionospheric
currents and creates the magnetic disturbances. The calculated magnetic
field values are close to the observed ones in Irkutsk.

The theoretical consideration does not contradict observations. We
anticipate that global disturbances of the ionosphere and magnetosphere for
the meteoroids of the size of about 100 m will become global and could not
be neglected in estimates of hazards in our information age.

All the estimates given above are of a preliminary character. To make more
detailed analysis and prediction of the impact consequence, including
magnetohydrodynamic and EM signals, we proposed to start a Research program
of the Tunguska-class impactors. It is submitted to the International
Science and Technology Center in Moscow (Project 1814). Its text can be
found in the ISTC Web Site ( We hope that the ISTC board to be
held in July will accept this program.

We note that the nuclear explosions disturbances substantially differ from
these caused by impacts, in the latter case we do not have intense
ionization by the penetrating radiation (neutrons, gamma quanta and X-rays).
Nevertheless to use all the experience attained in the course of the nuclear
tests analysis, the scientists from the Russian Federal Nuclear Center
Arzamas-16 were incorporated into the team.

It is also suggested to use the results of the laboratory experiments and
geophysical experiments with jets created by cumulative generators using
high-explosives developed in IDG and detonated at altitudes of 150-300 km
(see e.g. Gavrilov et al., 1999). These generators produce high-velocity
jets (with velocities up to 40-50 km/s, well in the impact velocity range of

We have established collaboration with the US National Laboratories (Los
Alamos and Sandia), and DLR Institute of Planetary Exploration in Berlin. We
are searching other possible collaborators.


Adushkin V.V., and Nemchinov I.V. 1994. Consequences of impacts of cosmic
bodies on the surface of the Earth. Hazards due to Comets and Asteroids (Ed.
T.Gehrels). Univ. Arizona Press, Tucson and London, 721-778.

Boslough M.B., and Crawford D.A. 1997. Shoemaker-Levy 9 and plume forming
collision on Earth. Near-Earth Objects (Ed. J.L.Remo). Annals of the New
York Academy of Sciences V.822. New York, 236-282.

Gavrilov B.G., Podgorny A.I., Podgorny I.M., Sobyanin D.B., Zetzer J.I.,
Erlandson R.E., Meng C.-I., Stoyanov B.J. 1999. Diamagnetic effect produced
by the Fluxus-1 and 2 artificial plasma jet. Geophys. Res. Lett. 26 (11),

Nemtchinov I.V., Losseva T.V., Merkin V.G. 1999. Estimate of geomagnetic
effect caused by Tunguska meteoroid impact. Physical processes in
geospheres: its manifestations and interaction. Institute for Dynamics of
Geospheres RAS, Moscow, 324-335 (in Russian).

Shuvalov V.V 2001. Atmospheric entry of Tunguska-like meteoroids: 2D
numerical model. Lunar and Planet. Sci. (Houston) XXXII, # 1124.

Shuvalov V.V., and Artemieva N.A. 2001. Long-term disturbances of ionosphere
caused by Tunguska-like impacts. Lunar and Planet. Sci. (Houston) XXXII, #


From Matthew Genge <>

Duncan Steel provided some interesting references on the possibility that
the Tunguska impactor might have been a mini-black hole or a small body of
anti-matter (CCNET 03/04/01). The best reason, however, for supposing that
the Tunguska impactor was neither is the same as the reason that it couldn't
have been an exploding UFO (another regrettably popular notion in certain
circles). Recent analyses of peat from the region show that the layer
affected by the event has elevated Pd and Rh contents and a flat chondritic
REE pattern compared to other layers. This together with an Ir anomaly and
low C-14 suggest the addition of chondritic debris from the
event (Hou et al., 2000 Planet. Space Sci; Ramussen et al., 1999 MAPS).
Since by definition anti-matter isn't matter and even a tiny black hole is
immaterial, then neither of these could have generated chondritic
'residues'. As for a UFO, chondritic materials would be a particularly
strange choice of construction material. You could, if you really wanted to,
suggest that the UFO was a hollowed out comet, or that your mini-black hole
had a comet or chondritic dust in 'tow', however, the simplest explanation
by far is that the Tunguska impactor was just a pretty ordinary piece of
comet that was unfortunate enough to run into the Earth.

Dr Matthew J. Genge
Researcher (Meteoritics)
Department of Mineralogy, The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK.
Tel: Int + 020 7 942 5581
Fax: Int.+ 020 7 942 5537
Staff internet page


From Andrei Ol'khovatov <>

Dear Dr. Peiser and All,

HOLE" in CCNet of April 3, 2001, I can say that he probably meant Dr. R.
Foot's recent theory that Tunguska was caused by an object made of so-called
"mirror matter"
(probably a synonym to "antimatter"?). The first time the antimatter-idea of
Tunguska was put forward by the famous researcher L. La Paz in POPULAR
ASTRONOMY , v.58, p.330 (1948)! Unfortunately, until now the idea has been
little developed. It seems that Dr. Foot has decided to develop it further.
He, together with a Russian colleague, is supposed to present the theory in
detail at the TUNGUSKA 2001 International conference in Moscow this summer.

Andrei Ol'khovatov
Russia, Moscow


From Andy Nimmo <>

Dear Dr Peiser,

I regret that Mr Nemitz is quite simply wrong on a number of the points he
makes, though I get the impression our motives are similar, so we'd probably
be better co-operating than continuing this.

He says, "When an un-owned thing is claimed, it belongs to the claimant.
This has been true since before the beginning of any civilization." This is
nonsense. In many countries anything hitherto not owned by a person belongs
not to the first claimant but to the state. To check this, all
anyone has to do is to look at the laws for 'treasure trove' around our
planet. In almost every case it belongs to the state, with those states that
are reasonably generous granting a small finders' percentage or fee to the
individual or group that find it.

Mr Nemitz states, "Precedent is the very heart of Law, regardless of what
country is involved. To say that precedents are irrelevant simply because
there are diverse international considerations is disingenuous." Nonsense
again! So far as I am aware you are not permitted to quote precedence in the
courts in the country in which I live, Scotland. You can in England or the
US, but not here. Is Mr Nemitz trying to say that Scottish law is not lawful
in Scottish courts?

He says, "The resources in space are un-owned, unless they have been
claimed. Mr. Nimmo has asserted that the Moon Treaty of 1979 and the Outer
Space Treaty of 1967 has rightfully claimed all the resources in the Solar
System and the Universe, for those parties that have signed those Treaties."
That is not what I am saying. What I tried to point out was that in the UN
Moon Treaty the UN made a claim on all of our Solar System on behalf of all
mankind. Some countries agreed and some didn't. However who agreed or who
didn't doesn't matter in this case as the point was that the claim had been
made and it is a prior claim to that of Mr Nemitz.

He also says, "These are circular arguments, and as such may be considered
invalid by any individuals and countries that have not signed the Treaty. I
did not sign the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, or the Moon Treaty of 1979. In
either treaty, no mention is made of claims by an individual." The fact that
Mr Nemitz didn't personally sign the 1967 Treaty is irrelevant. He has a
vote in US elections and the US Government did ratify that Treaty. That
makes him bound by it whether he likes it or not.

Mr Nemitz is correct however, in his assertion that no mention is made in
either of claims made by an individual, but the 1979 Treaty does include
Article 11: paragraph 1.The moon and its natural resources are the common
heritage of mankind, which finds its expression in the provisions of this
Agreement and in particular in paragraph 5 or this article." and

Paragraph 5 which says:

"5. States Parties to this Agreement hereby undertake to establish an
international regime, including appropriate procedures, to govern the
exploitation of the natural resources of the moon as such exploitation is
about to become feasible. This provision shall be implemented in accordance
with article 18 of this Agreement."

Paragraph 11 is construed as a claim on all the Solar System by many of the
nations that did ratify it, and paragraph 5 clearly implies that as far as
these countries are concerned, claims cannot be regarded as valid until an
international regime is set up to govern our Solar System. These are laws in
those nations and they are international so they are international law, even
if the US, UK and some other nations who did not ratify are not bound by
these particular laws. Nevertheless, just as these nations may not impose
their idea of law on us without our consent, neither can any of us impose
ours on them. That is why US law, nor 'specific legal norms' that pertain
there but not in all other nations in this particular case, have to be
regarded as irrelevant and Mr Nemitz, no matter what his claim, does not own

Mr Nemitz says, "Mr. Nimmo implies that what I have done by making my claim,
is somehow unethical." As it happens I do not believe Mr Nemitz to be making
an unethical claim - otherwise he'd have billed NASA for a much higher sum
than he did - but I do believe that if he gets away with this claim others,
a lot less ethical than Mr Nemitz, will use the loophole he will have made
in international law for very unethical purposes that will both put future
defence of Earth in danger and at the same time unreasonably hold up, rather
than advance (as I and Mr Nemitz both want) the future development of
commerce and industry throughout our Solar System.

In the circumstances, I suggest that instead of continuing this ping pong of
minor points, we ought all to co-operate in trying to persuade our
politicians to propose a better Treaty.

Best wishes, Andy Nimmo


From Jon Giorgini <>

In response to the Mar 28 CCNet outline of evidence that medieval belief in
a flat earth was invented by 19th century humanists to disparage previous
thought, thus more easily replace Dark Ages with their Enlightenment (as if
the loaded terms themselves aren't a marketing triumph ... and tip-off!),
Henry Stone takes issue with St. Augustine's disinterest in the shape of the

earth, providing quotes from "The City of God".

Those interested in the topic should really look at Book XVI, Chap 9, p 532
(Modern Library) themselves to see what wasn't quoted in Mr. Stone's
response (what was in the ... ellipses).

One will see St. Augustine explaining that by "antipodes", he means men
living on the opposite side of the earth. It is the assertion that people
live other side of the earth that, Augustine points out, had not been
proven. Not sphericity.

Also not making the cut in Stone's ellipses was this from Augustine:
"...although it be supposed or scientifically demonstrated the earth is of a
round or spherical form, yet it does not follow that the other side of the
earth is bare of water; nor even though it be bare, does it immediately
follow it is peopled." At the time, while the world was known to be
competing arguments vied over whether there was land or the rest just ocean.

Actually reading the full text of what Mr. Stone refers to, at the very
least, shows Augustine taking a skeptical, scientific view of the existence
of humans living on the other side of the earth, correctly pointing out it
had not been proven because no one was known to have returned from there,
and scientific estimates of the distance on a spherical earth suggested such
impossible with 400 A.D. European technology.

For Stone to say "... since the Bible does not inform us that the Earth is
spherical, St. Augustine argues the Earth cannot be a sphere..." does an
egregious disservice to the intent of Augustine, in the very source Stone
references. Augustine's actual instruction was that where revelation
provided no information, people were free to follow philosophy.  This belief
was later
referenced by Galileo and many others.

It seems the directive to stigmatize the past at all costs, by assigning
dead people "flat earth" beliefs, remains very real, as an example
supporting the original Mar 28 discussion.
Jon Giorgini

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"At a time when any scientific uncertainty about changing climate is
politically charged, researchers are straining to understand the behavior
of the ice sheets that cover one-tenth of the world and contain
three-quarters of the world's fresh water. The more they learn, the
more complicated it all seems to be. Indeed, the world's icecaps are far
more dynamic and complex than anyone would have guessed even a decade
ago. A flood of new findings is framing a growing political clash
over efforts to control carbon dioxide emissions and the burning of
fossil fuels. Many scientists believe that the changes they see in the
world's ice are the first symptoms of global warming, with
potentially catastrophic consequences. But global warming is far from an
established phenomenon. Ground-based and atmospheric measurements have
yielded conflicting results: While Earth's northern hemisphere has warmed
about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the Industrial Revolution began, there is
equally compelling satellite data suggesting that the rest of the
world is actually cooling."
--Robert Lee Hotz, Los Angeles Times, 2 April 2001

"Global warming" was invented in 1988, when it replaced two earlier
myths of an imminent plunge into another Ice Age and the threat of a
nuclear winter. The new myth was seen to encapsulate a whole range of
other myths and attitudes that had developed in the 1960s and 1970s,
including "limits to growth," sustainability, neo-Malthusian fears of a
population time bomb, pollution, anticorporate anti-Americanism, and an
Al Gore-like analysis of human greed disturbing the ecological harmony and
balance of the earth. Initially, in Europe, the new myth was
embraced by both right and left. The right was concerned with breaking the
power of traditional trade unions, such as the coal miners -- the labor
force behind a major source of carbon-dioxide emissions -- and promoting
the development of nuclear power. Britain's Hadley Center for Climate
Prediction and Research was established at the personal instigation
of none other than Margaret Thatcher. The left, by contrast, was obsessed
with population growth, industrialization, the car, development and
globalization. Today, the narrative of global warming has evolved into
an emblematic issue for authoritarian greens, who employ a form of
language that has been characterized by the physicist P.H. Borcherds as
"the hysterical subjunctive."
--Philip Stott, University of London

    Los Angeles Times, 1 April 2001

    Jonathan Shanklin <>

    CO2 Science Magazine, 4 April 2001

    CO2 Science Magazine, 4 April 2001

    CO2 Science Magazine, 4 April 2001

    CO2 Science Magazine, 4 April 2001

    Wall Street Journal Commentary, 2 April 2001

    ABC News, 2 April 2001


From Los Angeles Times, 1 April 2001

By ROBERT LEE HOTZ, Times Science Writer

McMURDO, Antarctica--When Douglas MacAyeal jumped out of a helicopter onto
Iceberg B15A, he landed squarely on a central mystery of global warming and
climate change.

Wedged against Ross Island near McMurdo Station, the main National Science
Foundation base in Antarctica, the berg is a leviathan of ice. As large as
the state of Rhode Island, it contains enough frozen fresh water to supply
the United States for three years.

At the same time, B15A may be the smallest jigsaw piece of a global puzzle.
The ice sheets of the world's remotest reaches are central to a renewed
political debate over global warming and the carbon dioxide emissions widely
considered responsible for it.

At every end of the Earth, the ice is slowly stirring.

Major ice formations in Antarctica and the Arctic are thinning or breaking
up. In the alpine highlands of Europe and the tropical ranges of South
America and Africa, mountain glaciers are in full retreat.

From the snows of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to the Quelccaya icecap of the
Andes Mountains in Peru, scientists see a world of ice in motion--shrinking,
flexing, creeping unpredictably, almost like a living thing.

At a time when any scientific uncertainty about changing climate is
politically charged, researchers are straining to understand the behavior of
the ice sheets that cover one-tenth of the world and contain three-quarters
of the world's fresh water. The more they learn, the more complicated it all
seems to be.

Indeed, the world's icecaps are far more dynamic and complex than anyone
would have guessed even a decade ago. A flood of new findings is framing a
growing political clash over efforts to control carbon dioxide emissions and
the burning of fossil fuels.

President Bush recently reversed himself on a campaign pledge to seek major
reductions in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions and is moving to abandon a
landmark 1997 global-warming agreement, even as U.S. Energy Department
statisticians predict that levels of the so-called greenhouse gas will grow
worldwide nearly 35% by 2010.

Many scientists believe that the changes they see in the world's ice are the
first symptoms of global warming, with potentially catastrophic
consequences. If the West Antarctic ice sheet melted, for example, it could
raise sea level by as much as 18 feet, enough to drown coastlines, cause
higher tides, generate more powerful storm surges and change the ocean
currents that help mediate the world's weather.

But global warming is far from an established phenomenon. Ground-based and
atmospheric measurements have yielded conflicting results: While Earth's
northern hemisphere has warmed about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the
Industrial Revolution began, there is equally compelling satellite data
suggesting that the rest of the world is actually cooling.

Satellite measurements of temperatures in the troposphere, the lowest five
miles of the atmosphere, and independent measurements from balloons, show no
evidence of significant global warming over the last 22 years, according to
John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at the University
of Alabama in Huntsville.

Researchers readily acknowledge that it is still hard to distinguish between
the effects of regional weather trends that may change from one decade to
the next and the global effect of fundamental changes in the Earth's
atmosphere because of industrial emissions and the burning of fossil fuels.

Depending on where they look, the picture changes. In some instances, it is
all but impossible to distinguish between changes in the ice caused by
rising temperatures today and those still unfolding from the global warming
that ended the last Ice Age, almost 20,000 years ago.

During the last 2.5 million years, great mile-thick ice sheets have
repeatedly gouged North America and much of Europe. Many researchers
consider the temperate modern climate a relatively short, warm interval
between glacial advances.

Alaska, where the Columbia Glacier is rapidly retreating, has been warmer in
recent decades. But Greenland, where the ice edge also is thinning, has been
colder during the same period, said ice expert Joe McConnell at the Desert
Research Institute in Nevada.

In the same way, the Antarctic Peninsula, where the ice edge has retreated
19 miles in the last three years, has been warming steadily. But on the
other side of the continent, Antarctica's Dry Valleys--the polar region's
only ice-free areas--have been getting colder. At the South Pole,
temperatures recently have dropped as low as minus 108 degrees Fahrenheit,
the coldest there in 40 years.

In all, new satellite imaging data reveals that the ice edge in some parts
of Antarctica has retreated dramatically in the last three years, even as
the ice advances in other parts of the continent.

At the other end of the planet, the amount of sea ice in Arctic waters is
shrinking annually by about 14,000 square miles, an area larger than
Maryland and Delaware combined. The Arctic ice is as much as 40% thinner,
according to recently declassified sonar records. And the edges of the
Greenland icecap, the planet's second-largest ice sheet, have been melting
at a rate of about 12 cubic miles a year.

Still, for all the change, no one knows precisely what to blame.

It could be warmer temperatures or altered ocean currents. Perhaps
variations in cloud cover, solar radiation and atmospheric chemistry are at
fault. Greenhouse gases no doubt play an important role.

It could be some subtle recipe of time and the natural rhythm of the ice

"We are reasonably confident now that a whole lot of the things we have been
getting excited about are not [caused by] global warming; we aren't sure
what they are," said glaciologist Richard Alley at Pennsylvania State
University, who is chairman of a panel on abrupt climate change at the
National Academy of Sciences.

"The breakthrough in this decade is the ability to see these changes. They
are revelations," Alley said. "The breakthrough in the next decade will be
the ability to understand them."
They are, he said, "weird."

A Huge Puzzle Piece

MacAyeal approached B15A in the Ross Sea for the first time earlier this
year aboard the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea.

A geophysicist from the University of Chicago, MacAyeal is one of scores of
glaciologists, geologists and other researchers funded by the U.S. National
Science Foundation who are systematically taking the scientific measure of
the world's glaciers and icecaps.

As the outlines of the berg took shape on the horizon, his piece of the ice
puzzle seemed big enough for any one scientist. Frozen within it is enough
fresh water to keep the Mississippi River running for four years. The cracks
that liberated it from the ice front took a decade to form and were so large
they could be seen from space.

MacAyeal and his colleagues from the University of Wisconsin erected two
weather stations and a set of global positioning system transmitters on this
forbidding raft of ice. The instruments, working through a satellite relay,
will allow them to monitor the berg's unpredictable progress around Cape
Crozier and into the Southern Ocean after the scientists retreat to the
central heating of their home laboratories.

They will track the iceberg for the next three years until eventually it
breaks up, melts and melds with the sea.

Some scientists believe that icebergs like B15A might be caused by warmer
temperatures that make the ice shelves dangerously vulnerable to cracking.

If so, these unusually large icebergs would be disturbing symptoms of a
global climate in flux.
The theory is a persuasive notion. Overall, the decade of the 1990s is
considered the warmest on record and the temperature increases recorded in
the 20th century are considered the highest of the last 1,000 years,
according to a new scientific assessment released in February by the United
Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Since 1995, five major ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula have
started to disintegrate. Farther to the south, the Ross Ice Shelf--the
largest in the world at as much as 3,000 feet thick--has splintered to form
some of the largest icebergs sighted in the last century.

The biggest of them compare in size to Belgium or Connecticut. Smaller
fragments are four times the size of Chicago. Hundreds more are glazed
splinters of blue ice just large enough to sink a Titanic.

MacAyeal and his colleagues, however, are confident that B15A, at least, has
nothing to do with global warming.

Such icebergs appear routinely once or twice a century, he said. Similar
oversized bergs have broken off several times in the last 20 years. In 1956
the crew of a U.S. Navy icebreaker spotted an iceberg twice the size of

In the case of B15A, the events that set it in motion may have started 500
years ago with an unexplained weakening that eventually developed into a
fracture zone as the ice flowed toward the sea. As the berg slowly broke
free of the ice edge, it calved off six other immense pieces of ice.

"We think they come in flurries and avalanches," he said. "Whether the
frequency is starting to change because of global warming, it is too soon to

Only a few hundred miles to the north, an immense crack is growing along the
Antarctic ice front at a rate of 40 feet a day. Landsat 7 satellite images
show the crack has grown to 15 miles long in the last 10 months.

Within a year, NASA imaging experts said, the ice shelf there will fracture
completely, calving another major iceberg into the Southern Ocean.

Ice in the Tropics

Lonnie Thompson, unlike MacAyeal, studies ice along the equator, where ice
fields linger only in the highest mountain nooks and crannies. Wherever he
looks in the tropical highlands, he is certain that he can see global
warming at work.

"These glaciers are very much like the canaries once used in coal mines,"
said Thompson, professor of geological sciences at the Byrd Polar Research
Center at Ohio State University. "They're an indicator of massive changes
taking place and a response to the changes in climate in the tropics."

Atop Tanzania's Mt. Kilimanjaro, four-fifths of the vast ice field that
covered the top of the highest mountain in Africa has disappeared in the
last 80 years, he recently reported. At least one-third of that ice field
has disappeared in the last dozen years.

Speaking at a recent meeting of the American Assn. for the Advancement of
Science in San Francisco, Thompson said that other researchers have
documented similar ice losses.

An icecap on Mt. Kenya has shrunk by 40% since 1963. Two glaciers atop
mountains in New Guinea are disappearing and should be gone in a decade.

In Venezuela there are only two glaciers remaining where, in 1972, there
were six. In another 10 years, those two are expected to be gone as well.

In the ice fields of the Tibetan Plateau, Thompson and his colleagues are
convinced they have found evidence proving that rising temperatures are

The chemical evidence of the oxygen isotopes in ice cores taken from high
mountain glaciers at the southern edge of the plateau and at its center show
that the last 50 years were unusually warm in that part of the world.

At the same time, researchers from the People's Republic of China analyzed
30 years of records from 178 weather stations spread across the Tibetan
plateau. Those records show that, between 1969 and 1990, the rate of warming
had increased.

"We have long predicted that the first signs of changes caused by global
warming would appear at the few fragile, high-altitude icecaps and glaciers
within the tropics," Thompson said. "These findings confirm those

If Thompson is right, those receding tropical glaciers are a harbinger of
disastrous change to come, for world temperatures could rise by as much as
10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century, according to the
U.N.-affiliated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The panel's most extreme projections say melting Antarctic ice could raise
sea levels by as much as 10 feet over the next 1,000 years.

The Antarctic Riddle

Not so many years ago, researchers in Antarctica would have been quick to
agree. But the more they learn, the more they realize that the ice sheets of
Antarctica are an unusually intricate puzzle.

Much of the attention has centered on the West Antarctic ice sheet, which
extends about 360,000 square miles--close to the combined areas of Texas and
Colorado. Unlike its larger counterpart, the East Antarctic ice sheet, it is
not completely landlocked. Much of it rests on a marine basin and is drained
by broad bands of ice flowing through the ice sheet to the sea, like streams
threading through a river delta.

Squeezed like toothpaste by the sheer weight of the two-mile-thick
continental blanket of ice, these flows normally move about 3,000 feet a
year from the interior through the gaps in the towering coastal mountain
ranges that rim the polar plateau. All told, they annually transport enough
ice to bury Los Angeles under a shelf 1,700 feet thick.

Any change in the behavior of the ice sheet was taken as a sign of
instability and potential collapse. And the more they looked, the more
change they discovered.

One ice stream stopped moving 150 years ago. A second major ice stream has
slowed by half in the past 40 years. A third ice stream, called the Pine
Island Glacier, which drains much of the West Antarctic ice sheet, has
inexplicably speeded up in the last five years, Eric Rignot at the Jet
Propulsion Laboratory and researchers at the British Antarctic Survey

Researchers don't yet know why these ice streams are moving so differently.
The ice streams can be affected by the underlying topography over which they
flow as well as by subtle effects of changing climate.

"We think this is the most unstable part of Antarctica," Rignot said. "We
see the ice thinning, but we are not sure why. The ice sheet may be doing
its own thing. It may be driven by climate change. We don't know."

But researchers today are discovering that these massive ice sheets are more
firmly anchored to the continent than previously believed.

Some of the changes they see now may be the result of the global warming
that ended the last Ice Age. If that is the case, it is much too late to
reverse them.

That slow pace of climate change highlights the problem scientists face
trying to reconcile planetwide effects unfolding on a geologic time scale
against a public attention span that measures time in election cycles and
news breaks. In Antarctica, they believe, the last Ice Age is only now
coming to a close.

Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder recently discovered
that air temperatures in Antarctica rose 18 degrees Fahrenheit in just a few
decades as the last Ice Age began to wane, the largest and most abrupt
warming ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere. That temperature change is
only now making its way to the bottom of the two-mile-thick icecap, where it
may be affecting how the ice flows.

At its edge, where the ice is thinnest, the ice sheet has been melting
steadily for thousands of years. The boundary line between floating sea ice
and the ice shelf thick enough to reach the sea floor has receded about 800
miles, melting at an average of about 400 feet per year for thousands of
years, researchers at the University of Washington recently determined.

At that rate, the ice sheet might collapse in another 7,000 years, the
researchers estimate.

In the same way, the behavior of the ice streams may be changing because of
the flexible geometry of the immense ice sheet itself over the last 10,000
years, as stresses and strains naturally shift from one end to the other,
according to ice expert Slawek Tulaczyk at UC Santa Cruz.

"People have matured in their understanding of how variable West Antarctica
can be," said Julie Palais, who oversees the NSF glaciology program. "We
don't know the lifetime of this whole process. The time scales could be
hundreds of years or thousands of years."

Every year, researchers add to a growing understanding of this vast,
intricate ecology of ice and the mechanics of its myriad flows, according to
glaciologist Robert Binschadler at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, who
is chief scientist of the West Antarctic ice sheet project.

"That muted some of the 'Chicken Little' aspect of all this," said Sridhar
Anandakrishnan at the University of Alabama, a glaciologist who has spent 10
research seasons in Antarctica, studying the behavior of the ice streams.

"Personally, I think we have not learned enough to put away these fears,"
Anandakrishnan said.

Now NASA is putting together a more detailed satellite radar survey of
Antarctica that promises to help scientists better understand whether the
changes are part of the normal dynamics of the icecap or whether they are
driven by changing climate.

"We have been studying the West Antarctic ice sheet for over a decade now
and trying to understand how much a concern it poses," Binschadler at NASA

"We haven't solved that yet."
* * *

Breaking Away

From Antarctica to the Arctic, ice sheets and glaciers are thinning or
breaking up. Researchers concerned about global warming are trying to
understand why. Along the Antarctic Peninsula, five major ice shelves have
started to fragment. Farther south, the Ross Ice Shelf--the largest in the
world--recently spawned some of the largest icebergs on record.

* * *
Source: U.S. National Science Foundation
Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times


From Jonathan Shanklin <>

Benny - some comments:

From the Greening Earth Society, 14 March 2001

Things are quite similar in the South Polar regions (Figure 2), in
which there also is a statistically significant warming of the winter
(3.7C/100 years) and where there is no trend yet evident in Antarctic
summer. How then to explain those Delaware-sized icebergs? Stay tune.


Large (20km + ) sized bergs from the more southerly ice shelves (for example
the Ronne-Filchner) are produced during the normal life cycle of the ice
shelf. There is no evidence of any dramatic change in their frequency. The
situation in the northern and western parts of the Antarctic Peninsula is
rather different and the simple answer is that it rains more than it did.
You don't need much of a temperature shift to change the balance between
snow and rain and this is what is observed. See for example


From CO2 Science Magazine, 28 March 2001
What it means
The results of this study add to the mounting body of evidence that
supports a global Little Ice Age event. It also highlights the
inherent natural variability of climate, and suggests to us the high
probability that recent 20th century warming is not of anthropogenic
origin, but the result of natural variability, as the earth has recovered
from the now-demonstrated global chill of the Little Ice Age.

There does not seem to be any obvious link to present day observations in
the material presented.  I suspect that the key wording is "suggests to us".

See for present day
Antarctic temperature trends.

Jonathan Shanklin
British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, England


From CO2 Science Magazine, 4 April 2001

One of the most challenging and important problems facing today's general
circulation models (GCMs) of the atmosphere is how to accurately simulate
the physics of earth's radiative energy balance. Of this problem, Professor
John Harries (2000) states "progress is excellent, on-going research is
fascinating, but we have still a great deal to understand about the physics
of climate." That a correct understanding of earth's radiation balance is
still emerging is evident from the results of several recent studies.

Zender (1999) builds on the recent discovery that the oxygen collision pairs
O2 . O2 and O2 . N2 absorb a small but significant fraction of globally
incident solar radiation.  Such collisions, he concludes, lead to the
absorption of approximately 1 Wm-2 of solar radiation, globally and annually
averaged, which "alters the long-standing view that H2O, O3, O2, CO2 and NO2
are the only significant gaseous absorbers in Earth's atmosphere." This
newly quantified forcing, however, remains to be incorporated into current

In another revealing study, Wild (1999) compared the observed amount of
solar radiation absorbed in the atmosphere over equatorial Africa with the
theoretical predictions of three GCMs, finding that the model predictions of
solar radiation absorption were much too small.  Regional and seasonal
underestimation biases were as high as 30 Wm-2, primarily because the models
did not properly account for spatial and temporal variations in atmospheric
aerosol concentrations.  On top of this problem, the models likely
underestimated the amount of solar radiation absorption by water vapor and

Such gross model inadequacies have also been examined by Wild and Ohmura
(1999).  In their report, a comprehensive observational dataset, consisting
of solar radiation fluxes measured at 720 sites across the earth's surface
and the corresponding top of the atmosphere, was analyzed to assess the true
amount of solar radiation absorbed within the atmosphere.  The results were
then compared with the modeled results of solar radiation absorption from
four atmospheric GCMs.  Again, it was shown that "GCM atmospheres are
generally too transparent for solar radiation," producing a rather
substantial mean error close to 20% lower than actual observations.

Atmospheric absorption of solar radiation is not the only radiative problem
state-of-the-art GCMs are experiencing.  There is much evidence, for
example, that solar-driven variations in earth-atmosphere processes are
acting over a range of timescales stretching from the 11-year solar cycle to
century- and millennial-scale events (see Solar Climatic Effects in our
Subject Index).  Although the absolute solar flux variations associated with
these phenomena are rather small, there are a number of "multiplier effects"
that can operate on solar rhythms in such a way that minor variations in
solar activity can be amplified to significantly affect earth's atmosphere
and climate.  According to Chambers et al. (1999), most of these nonlinear
responses to solar variability are inadequately represented (in fact, they
are essentially ignored) in the global climate models used by the IPCC to
predict future greenhouse gas-induced global warming, while at the same time
other amplifier effects are used to model well-known glacial/interglacial
cycles of the past and even the hypothesized CO2-induced warming of the
future, where CO2 is not the major direct cause of the predicted temperature
increase but is instead an initial perturber of the climate system that,
according to the IPCC, sets other more powerful forces in motion that
produce the bulk of the warming.

Clearly, there seems to be a double standard, best described as an inherent
reluctance within the IPCC bureaucracy to deal even-handedly with different
aspects of climate change theory.  When multiplier effects suit their
purposes, they use them; and when they don't suit their purposes, they don't
use them.  This type of behavior does not engender confidence in their
conclusions.  Indeed, it makes them - both the IPCC and their conclusions -

Chambers, F.M., Ogle, M.I. and Blackford, J.J.  1999.  Palaeoenvironmental
evidence for solar forcing of Holocene climate: linkages to solar science.
Progress in Physical Geography 23: 181-204.

Harries, J.E.  2000.  Physics of the earth's radiative energy balance.
Contemporary Physics 41: 309-322.

Wild, M.  1999.  Discrepancies between model-calculated and observed
shortwave atmospheric absorption in areas with high aerosol loadings.
Journal of Geophysical Research 104: 27,361-27,371.

Wild, M. and Ohmura, A.  1999.  The role of clouds and the cloud-free
atmosphere in the problem of underestimated absorption of solar radiation in
GCM atmospheres.  Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 24B: 261-268.

Zender, C.S.  1999.  Global climatology of abundance and solar absorption of
oxygen collision complexes.  Journal of Geophysical Research 104:
Copyright 2001.  Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change


From CO2 Science Magazine, 4 April 2001

Rozelot, J.P. 2001. Possible links between the solar radius variations and
the Earth's climate evolution over the past four centuries. Journal of
Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics 63: 375-386.

What was done
The author conducted a series of analyses designed to determine whether
phenomena related to variations in the radius of the sun may have influenced
earth's climate over the past four centuries.

What was learned
In the words of the author, the results of the analyses revealed that "at
least over the last four centuries, warm periods on the Earth correlate well
with smaller apparent diameter of the Sun and colder ones with a bigger

What it means
Although the results of the study were correlative and did not identify a
precise physical mechanism capable of inducing significant climate change on
earth, the author reports that the changes in the Sun's radius are "of such
magnitude that significant effects on the Earth's climate are possible."
Surely, such findings demand that we explore them thoroughly before
accepting some other phenomenon as the cause of global climate change,
especially when that factor may be totally benign, or even beneficial, as in
the case of atmospheric CO2 enrichment, which significantly enhances the
growth of nearly all plants.
Copyright 2001.  Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change


From CO2 Science Magazine, 4 April 2001

Variations in Atmospheric CO2, Temperature and Global Ice Volume Derived
from the Vostok Ice Core

Mudelsee, M.  2001. The phase relations among atmospheric CO2 content,
temperature and global ice volume over the past 420 ka. Quaternary Science
Reviews 20: 583-589.

What was done
Using proxy data, the author performed a statistical analysis (lagged,
generalized least-squares regression and bootstrap resampling) to estimate
the phase relations (leads/lags) of atmospheric CO2 concentration, air
temperature and global ice volume over the past 420,000 years as derived
from the Vostok ice core.

What was learned
Variations in atmospheric CO2 concentration were found to lag behind
variations in air temperature by 1.3 to 5 ka (thousand years).  Phase
relations between CO2 and global ice volume were not as clear cut.  When CO2
values were compared with global ice volume data derived from a delta 18O
record of a marine sediment core, it was shown that between 420 and 196 ka
years ago, variations in CO2 lagged behind changes in global ice volume by
1.4 3.7 ka, whereas from 150 ka to the present they lead by 6.2 2.7 ka.
A more uniform phase relationship was obtained when comparing the Vostok CO2
record with a Vostok delta 18O record.  Although considerable scatter
existed in the data, atmospheric CO2 concentration consistently led global
ice volume by an average of 3.9 0.5 ka.

What it means
The results of this study, along with those of many others we have described
(see CO2-Temperature Correlations in our Subject Index), should put to rest
the notion that atmospheric CO2 is a major driver of climate change.
Throughout the greatest temperature transitions experienced by the planet
over the past 420,000 years, atmospheric CO2 concentration has been proven
to have been a follower, and not a leader, of climate change, rising from
one to five thousand years after major increases in air temperature, and
falling in similar manner throughout the course of the past four
glacial/interglacial cycles.

Also evident from this study is the even longer delayed response of global
ice volume to changes in air temperature. Because this lag stretches an
additional 4,000 to 6,000 years beyond the lag in CO2, it suggests that any
present decline in global ice volume may be more related to the warm
temperatures experienced during the Holocene Maximum - 4,000 to 7,000 years
ago, when global temperatures were around 2C warmer than present - than it
is to 20th Century warming.
Copyright 2001.  Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change


From CO2 Science Magazine, 4 April 2001

Trees (Long-Term Studies) - Summary

As a growth-form, trees represent perennial vegetation that can survive and,
in some cases, sequester atmospheric carbon within their woody tissues for a
millennium or more. Thus, it is important to understand how long-term
atmospheric CO2 enrichment will affect tree productivity and growth,
especially in terms of potential carbon sequestration, which can reduce the
rate of rise of the air's CO2 content.

In many areas of the world, there exist natural vents and springs that have
emitted concentrated amounts of CO2 into the air for centuries, thereby
exposing surrounding vegetation to elevated concentrations of atmospheric
CO2 for their entire lifetimes.  Several researchers have taken advantage of
these natural settings to determine the long-term effects of atmospheric CO2
enrichment on trees and other woody plants.  Stylinski et al. (2000), for
example, observed that net photosynthetic rates in mature oak trees
subjected to 700 ppm CO2 for approximately 40 to 50 years were 36 to 77%
greater than those measured in control trees exposed to normal ambient CO2
concentrations for the same time period.  Similarly, 30-year old Arbutus
unedo trees exposed to a lifetime atmospheric CO2 concentration of 465 ppm
displayed net photosynthetic rates that were 110 to 140% greater than those
observed in trees continuously exposed to normal non-CO2-enriched air
(Bartak et al., 1999).  With respect to other parameters, Tognetti et al.
(2000) found that leaves of three different shrubs exposed to lifetime
atmospheric CO2 concentrations of 700 ppm exhibited significantly greater
turgor pressures than leaves of control shrubs, particularly during the
warmer summer months; and Paoletti et al. (1998) observed a 1.5-fold
reduction in the stomatal frequency of leaves of mature white oak trees
exposed to 750 ppm CO2 for several decades.

In shorter open-top chamber studies of pine trees, some interesting
discoveries have been made concerning tree growth and wood density.  Walker
et al. (2000) reported that ponderosa pine seedlings exposed to
twice-ambient levels of atmospheric CO2 for five years displayed average
heights and trunk diameters that were 44 and 39% greater, respectively, than
those exhibited by their ambiently-grown counterparts; while Telewski et al.
(1999) reported that annual growth-ring widths in trees subjected to an
atmospheric CO2 concentration of 650 ppm were 93, 29, 15 and 37% greater
than those observed in ambient controls for the first four years of the
study.  Similarly, the average ring densities in CO2-enriched trees for each
of the four study years were 60, 4, 3 and 5% greater than those measured in
control trees subjected to 350 ppm CO2.

Finally, in a review of 180 different tree experiments, Idso (1999) showed
that almost any conceivable growth response to atmospheric CO2 enrichment
could be obtained if the trees were grown in pots or other types of
root-restricting containers for periods of less than a year or two. On the
other hand, he demonstrated that if trees were rooted in the ground and
exposed to elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations for longer time periods,
much more reliable data could be obtained. Based on such studies, Idso
reported that the mean growth enhancement in four such experiments involving
three tree species exposed to twice-ambient levels of atmospheric CO2 was
90% after five years, which is consistent with data reported for mature
trees growing near CO2-emmitting springs and vents.

In summary, it is evident that as the air's CO2 content continues to rise,
earth's woody shrubs and trees will likely respond by enhancing their
photosynthetic rates and biomass production.  Moreover, these species may
reduce their leaf stomatal frequencies, thus reducing water loss to the
atmosphere and consequently increasing their water-use efficiencies. With
all these good things happening to them, woody plants will likely sequester
increasingly larger amounts of carbon in their tissues as time progresses,
thereby slowing the rate of rise of the air's CO2 content.

Bartak, M., Raschi, A. and Tognetti, R.  1999.  Photosynthetic
characteristics of sun and shade leaves in the canopy of Arbutus unedo L.
trees exposed to in situ long-term elevated CO2.  Photosynthetica 37: 1-16.

Idso, S.B.  1999.  The long-term response of trees to atmospheric CO2
enrichment.  Global Change Biology 5: 493-495.

Paoletti, E., Nourrisson, G., Garrec, J.P. and Raschi, A.  1998.
Modifications of the leaf surface structures of Quercus ilex L. in open,
naturally CO2-enriched environments.  Plant, Cell and Environment 21:

Stylinski, C.D., Oechel, W.C., Gamon, J.A., Tissue, D.T., Miglietta, F. and
Raschi, A.  2000.  Effects of lifelong [CO2] enrichment on carboxylation and
light utilization of Quercus pubescens Willd. examined with gas exchange,
biochemistry and optical techniques.  Plant, Cell and Environment 23:

Telewski, F.W., Swanson, R.T., Strain, B.R. and Burns, J.M.  1999.  Wood
properties and ring width responses to long-term atmospheric CO2 enrichment
in field-grown loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.).  Plant, Cell and Environment
22: 213-219.

Tognetti, R., Rashi, A. and Jones, M.B.  2000.  Seasonal patterns of tissue
water relations in three Mediterranean shrubs co-occurring at a natural CO2
spring.  Plant, Cell and Environment 23: 1341-1351.

Walker, R.F., Johnson, D.W., Geisinger, D.R. and Ball, J.T.  2000.  Growth,
nutrition, and water relations of ponderosa pine in a field soil as
influenced by long-term exposure to elevated atmospheric CO2.  Forest
Ecology and Management 137: 1-11.
Copyright 2001.  Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change


From Wall Street Journal Commentary, 2 April 2001

April 2, 2001

By Philip Stott, a professor of biogeography at the University of London and
co-author of "Political Ecology: Science, Myth and Power" (Oxford University
Press, 2000).

LONDON -- When Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd
Whitman told reporters last week, "No, we have no interest in implementing
[the Kyoto] treaty," she unleashed a hysteria in Europe unmatched even by
the United Kingdom's current troubles with foot-and-mouth disease. It was as
if George W. Bush had pressed the nuclear button. Why?

The reason is simple. In Europe, "global warming" has become a necessary
myth, a new fundamentalist religion, with the Kyoto protocol as its articles
of faith. The adherents of this new faith want Mr. Bush on trial because he
has blasphemed.

Emotional Energy

Nobody will understand this in the U.S. if they fail to grasp that "global
warming" has absorbed more of the emotional energy of European green
pressure groups than virtually any other topic. Even biotechnology fades
into insignificance by comparison. Americans must also understand that the
science of complex climate change has little to do with the myth. In the
U.S., the science is rightly scrutinized; in Europe, not so.

"Global warming" was invented in 1988, when it replaced two earlier myths of
an imminent plunge into another Ice Age and the threat of a nuclear winter.
The new myth was seen to encapsulate a whole range of other myths and
attitudes that had developed in the 1960s and 1970s, including "limits to
growth," sustainability, neo-Malthusian fears of a population time bomb,
pollution, anticorporate anti-Americanism, and an Al Gore-like analysis of
human greed disturbing the ecological harmony and balance of the earth.

Initially, in Europe, the new myth was embraced by both right and left. The
right was concerned with breaking the power of traditional trade unions,
such as the coal miners -- the labor force behind a major source of
carbon-dioxide emissions -- and promoting the development of nuclear power.
Britain's Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research was established
at the personal instigation of none other than Margaret Thatcher.

The left, by contrast, was obsessed with population growth,
industrialization, the car, development and globalization. Today, the
narrative of global warming has evolved into an emblematic issue for
authoritarian greens, who employ a form of language that has been
characterized by the physicist P.H. Borcherds as "the hysterical
subjunctive." And it is this grammatical imperative that is now dominating
the European media when they complain about Mr. Bush, the U.S., and their
willful denial of the true faith.

Interestingly, the tension between science and myth characterizes the "Third
Assessment Report" of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to
which Europe always turns for legitimation. The whole feel of the report
differs between its political summary (written by a group powerfully driven
by the myth) and the scientific sections. It comes as a shock to read the
following in the conclusions to the science (italics added): "In sum, a
strategy must recognize what is possible. In climate research and modeling,
we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear system,
and therefore that the prediction of a specific future climate is not

Inevitably, the media in Europe did not mention this vital scientific
caveat, choosing to focus instead on the political summary, which Richard S.
Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, has described scathingly as "very much a children's exercise of
what might possibly happen," prepared by a "peculiar group" with "no
technical competence." This is a damning statement from a scientist with
impeccable credentials.

And here we come to the nub of the difference between Europe and the U.S.
For the past few years, the media in Europe have failed to acknowledge the
science that does not support and legitimize the myth. In Britain, liberal
newspapers like the Guardian and the Independent have consistently ignored
virtually all the evidence pointing to complexity and uncertainty in climate
change, preferring instead to present "global warming" as Armageddon, a
catastrophe produced by corporate American gas-guzzling greed.

Yet, just in the past three months, there has appeared a whole suite of hard
science papers from major scientific institutions in major scientific
journals, including Nature, Climate Research, and the Bulletin of the
American Meteorological Society, all raising serious questions about the
relationship between gas emissions and climate.

The focus has been on the role of water vapor, unquestionably the most
important "greenhouse" gas (not carbon dioxide); the palaeogeological
relationships between carbon dioxide and temperature; the many missing, or
poorly known, variables in climate models; and the need to correct certain
temperature measurements fed into the models, especially those taken over
the oceans. One paper, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,
even concludes that "our review of the literature has shown that GCMs
[global climate models] are not sufficiently robust to provide an
understanding of the potential effects of CO2 on climate necessary for
public discussion."

Warming Waffle

The science of "global warming" is thus deeply flawed, but its caution and
rationality are drowned in the warming waffle now emanating so shrilly from
Europe. Yet, because the science is so flawed and uncertain, why should
anyone sign up to a treaty that clearly will not work? To put it simply: The
idea that we can control a chaotic climate governed by a billion factors
through fiddling about with a couple of politically selected gases is carbon

Kyoto, however, is ultimately more dangerous than this. It has taken our
eye, internationally, off the true way by which humans have always had to
cope with change, whatever its cause, direction or speed -- namely,
adaptation. Above all, we need a new international agenda for constant
technological adaptation to environmental change, whether gradual or
catastrophic, remembering always that it is the poor who suffer the most
from change.

The Kyoto protocol is not the answer.

Copyright 2000 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


From ABC News, 2 April 2001

Snow has been falling on cherry blossoms in the Japanese capital Tokyo for
the first time in twenty five years.

Peter Martin reports from the city.

The cherry blossoms came to Tokyo earlier than normal this year, flowering
in full on Wednesday. The first few days of full blossum are special, with
parties and picnics to herald the coming of spring held under trees in the
knowledge that the pink blossums only last a short time. A cold snap on
Saturday pushed the Tokyo temperature down to a chilly two degrees at two pm
ending many parties and turned what would have been rain into unusually late
snow. The phenomenon is called "hanabie" or cherry blossom chill. It's said
to have last hit Tokyo on April 3 1976.

Copyright 2001, ABC

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