CCNet, 86/2000 -  12 September 2000

     "The global warmers just don't get it. Rather than realizing they
     do not understand enough about the natural systems about which they
     make such dire pronouncements - which fail to materialize, over and
     over again - they continue to erode their credibility with ever
     more dramatic doomsday predictions."
       -- Craig D. Idso & Keith E. Idso, Center for the Study of
          Carbon Dioxide and Global Change

     "Australians are not used to having all the world's eyes on
     them at once, and it is clearly an unnerving prospect. Huge
     amounts of newspaper space have been devoted to all the
     things that might go wrong. It is literally not possible to
     name a catastrophic contingency, short of asteroid impact
     or nuclear attack, that hasn't been mooted and
     exhaustively analysed in the nation's press in the long
     run-up to the Games."
        -- Bill Bryson, The Times, 9 September 2000.

    SpaceWeather, 11 September 2000
    Ron Baalke <>
    Josep Maria Trigo i Rodriguez <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    Michael Paine <>
    Duncan A. Lunan <>

    Ron Baalke <>
    Rolf Sinclair <>
    Will Marchant <>

     Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change,
     Bob Kobres <>


From SpaceWeather, 11 September 2000

ASTEROID ALERT: Late last week the LINEAR robotic telescope in New
Mexico discovered a bright Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) that will pass
0.03 AU from Earth on Sept. 17 (approximately 12 times farther
from our planet than the Moon). The space rock, called 2000 RD53, is
probably 300-400 meters across. There is no danger of a collision, but
the close encounter offers astronomers a chance to study an NEA at
close range. Amateur astronomers with 8 inch or larger telescopes can
also monitor 2000 RD53. To find the asteroid in the sky, use this
ephemeris <>


From Ron Baalke <>

Late-night light show probably a meteor
By Dan Shope
Of The Morning Call (Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania)
September 11,  2000

A bright streak across area skies early Saturday prompts calls to
dispatch center. Maybe it wasn't "War of the Worlds" or "Mars Attack,"
but there was something a little creepy about the sky on Saturday
morning [Sept 9].

About 3:30 a.m., an unusual bright light was reported flashing across
the sky. Reports came from Northampton County to Lancaster County that
something unusual was seen.

It wasn't a bird. It wasn't a plane, or even a saucer. It was probably
a meteor or space junk, according to an official of Lehigh Valley
Amateur Astronomical Society.

Full story here:


From Josep Maria Trigo i Rodriguez <>

Dear Benny,

We have information on a new fireball. Next week we hope to include in
our SPMN homepage new data on this and other fireballs appeared over
Spain this year.


On September 4, 2000, several people in Andalucia and South of Portugal
noticed a slow-moving fireball of, at least, -12 apparent magnitude.
According to our data the fireball appeared approx. at 21h52m UT  but
at this moment we have only poor quality reports. Interesting data has
been obtained by Ph. D. Bev M Ewen-Smith (COAA) from Portugal.

From the fireball apparent trajectory and velocity we are suspicious
that this event could be again an artificial fireball produced by a
satellite re-entry. In fact, our team resolved recently the nature of
November 27th 1999 fireball as caused by the re-entry of Shenzhou Long
March Chinese Rocket (#25957=99-61B). A complete report was published in
the Journal of the International Meteor Organization: WGN 28:1, february

In any case, at this moment we are searching for other reports and
additional data on expected satellite re-entries on September 4. We
will be grateful for any additional information.
Josep M. Trigo-Rodriguez
Institut d'Estudis Espacials de Catalunya (IEEC)
Experimental Sciences Dept., Universitat Jaume I
Inorganic Chemistry Dept., Universitat de Barcelona
Astronomy & Astrophysics Dept., Universitat de Valencia
SPMN homepage:
E-mails: /


From Andrew Yee <>

University of Washington
Seattle, Washington


FROM: Vince Stricherz, 206-543-2580,

New evidence indicates huge vegetation loss accompanied mass extinction

The greatest mass extinction in Earth history eliminated 85 percent to
90 percent of all marine and land vertebrate species 250 million years
ago, at the end of the Permian Period and the beginning of the
Triassic. New evidence from researchers at the University of Washington
and the South African Museum shows the extinction was accompanied by a
massive loss of vegetation, causing major changes in river systems.

Probing sedimentary layers in the Karoo Basin of South Africa, the
scientists found evidence that, with the loss of deep-rooting plants,
meandering river systems changed rapidly to braided systems. Braided
streams run much straighter and faster and branch out for short
distances before merging back to the primary stream. They also cause
much faster sediment buildup because vegetation is not holding
streamside soil in place and it is easily swept away by the
faster-moving water.

Using data from the Karoo and elsewhere, the scientists attribute the
drastic change in river character to a catastrophic global die off of
vegetation that likely resulted from the same cause as the mass
extinction among marine and land animals.

Peter Ward, a UW geological sciences professor, along with David
Montgomery, a UW associate geological sciences professor, and Roger
Smith, the South African Museum's curator of geology, publish their
findings in the Sept. 8 issue of the journal Science.

Sedimentary layers from the Permo-Triassic boundary were examined at
seven different sites scattered across 250 miles of the Karoo Basin,
and the researchers found striking similarities in the evidence for a
rapid shift from meandering to braided streams.

Major tectonic activity could change streams from meandering to
braided, Ward said. However, recent studies have shown there was no
major tectonic activity at the time of the Permo-Triassic extinction,
which occurred when the Earth's land was still locked in a
supercontinent called Pangea.

Braided streams were common until the Silurian Period some 400 million
years ago, but then gave way to meandering streams as plant life
evolved. Today it is rare to see a braided stream unless it is in a
place, like Mount St. Helens in Washington state, where the landscape
has been denuded by a catastrophic event such as a volcanic eruption.

"The thing we take so for granted now -- meandering rivers -- is a very
recent feature on Earth," Ward said. "This didn't appear until the
Silurian, when land plants started to take over the Earth."

The sudden reappearance of braided streams, probably on a global scale,
250 million years ago is strong evidence of a major catastrophe that
wiped out plant life as well as much of animal life, Ward said. He
noted that plant life emerged again relatively quickly at the beginning
of the Triassic Period.

A number of potential causes for the mass extinction have been
postulated, including the impact of an asteroid or comet, environmental
shifts, volcanism or the overturning of the oceans to release trapped
gases into the atmosphere. In their research, paid for by a National
Science Foundation grant, Ward, Montgomery and Smith do not speculate
which, if any, of the theories is correct. But they say that the way
plant life disappeared indicates events happened very quickly on a
geological scale.

"Whenever you describe something as happening in thousands, rather than
millions, of years, that's very fast geologically speaking," Ward said.
"The new evidence helps us understand how rapid this was, because the
transition from meandering to braided streams was quick. And I think
the most important thing is that it tells us how catastrophic this was.
It was the most catastrophic event in Earth history, or at least in the
history of life."


For more information, contact Ward (206) 543-2962 or; Montgomery at (206) 685-2560 or; or Smith at 011-27-21-424-3330 or



From Michael Paine <>

Dear Benny,

According to the report posted in CCNet on 9 September, Mike Baille has
appealed 'to historians to accept that something terrible happened
around 540 AD and to find record of it'. He is likely to encounter
great resistance to the idea that a NEO impact can cause a major
climatic disturbance.

To gain an idea of the probability of such an impact occurring in the
past 2000 years I thought I would revisit the simulation that was used
in your AAAS talk earlier this year. Recall that I used John Lewis's
software to simulate 100,000 years of 'bombardment'.

First we need a rough idea of the size of impact that could cause the
climate disturbance noted by Prof Baille. In 1815 the volcano on Tambora
Island in Indonesia exploded. The dust from this explosion is thought to
have caused the "year without summer" in 1816. The explosion produced a
crater 6km in diameter.

Estimating the climatic effects of NEO impacts is more complicated but
the Tambora event can give us a idea of the type of event that could
cause severe climate disruption (for at least a year). First assume that
a LAND IMPACT event would be needed to produced equivalent climate
disruption to Tambora. There were 40 land impacts in our simulation - an
average of one event every 2,500 years.

On the basis that a NEO impact is more efficient at channeling dust into
the upper atmosphere I have assumed that a NEO impact producing a crater
at least 3km in diameter would be needed to match Tambora. There were
only 6 such events in the simulation - an average interval of 17,000

By this VERY ROUGH estimate, the chances of a NEO impact causing
hemispherical climate disruption in the past 2,000 years are therefore
about 1 in 9. This seems lower than the risk of a major volcanic
explosion but it is still a highly plausible explanation for the 540 AD
event, especially if no known volcanic explosions occurred at that time.

Where is the crater? I expect there are many areas on Earth where a
crater a few km across would be eroded or covered in 1,500 years.
Multiple 'airbursts', such as from comet fragments, might have the same
climatic results but are much rarer so I doubt if they would alter the
risk estimates. The climatic effects of ocean impacts are less
predictable but probably less severe than a land impact for the same
size NEO - again the risk estimates would not alter much. Of course
neither airbursts or ocean impacts leave a crater.


Michael Paine

PS: Sydney's Channel 7 TV has a special tonight 'Asteroids: the deadly
impact' and the promos feature David Morrison. It is not all Olympics


From Duncan A. Lunan <>

Dear Benny,

Thanks for sending the enclosed and all previous material.   One
question I'd like to ask, though: Channel 4 has twice showed a
two-part documentary attributing this global catastrophe to a
super-eruption of Krakatoa. They acknowledged that there had been
a comet around the same time, the one identified in Irish records
as 'Lugh of the Shining Face' and therefore etymologically related
to me, but they found no evidence for an impact, and claimed lots
for the volcano. Is Mike Baillie rejecting all of that?

Best wishes to all,

Duncan Lunan.


From Ron Baalke <>

>By E.P. Grondine  <>

>These peoples would have been under the rule of "thunderbirds", chiefs
>of the Southern Ceremonial Complex, who wore feathered costumes,
>"claws" on their hands and feet, and had their noses mutilated into
>"beaks" through removal of their sides and septum.

>This version of the tale comes from Legends and Lore, University of
>Tennessee Newsletter, Knoxville, 1961 and has been hopelessly
>romanticized by the compiler, David Harkness.

So, the basis of an impact event is based on a story that has been
'hopelessly romanticized' and that the tribes in the area have moved
around? Sounds like just speculation to me. If there is any physical
evidence of an impact event in the Bald Mountains area, I would like to
see it.

It turns out there are more likely explanations on how the story of the
Thunderbirds originated, and none of these explanations involve an
impact event.

The Discovery Channel recently aired a program on this very same story
called "The Legend of the Thunderbird". The thrust of the program was
the legend was possibly based a large condor like bird species existed
broadly across the US in  prehistoric times. Bones identical to those
of the California Condor have been found at the Hiscock Mastadont site
in New York in post-Pleistocene deposits that contain paleo-Indian
artifacts, and in Florida.

>           The Legend of The Bald Mountains
> One day, to the terror of the tribe, an immense bird
> soared above them, overshadowing them with his
> outstretched wings.  Finally, with terrific cries, he
> settled upon the very top of the mountains, shaking
> all the surrounding country as he came down.  The bird
> sat there ominously but quietly, and even the boldest
> hunter dared not pursue his game when it fled toward
> the summit of the mountains.
> One night when the tribe was wrapped in sleep, they
> were suddenly awakened by the shriekings of the bird
> and the quaking of the earth at his movements.  With
> one fell swoop he rushed down upon the valley like a
> storm, crying and roaring with ferocity, and causing
> the trees and rocks to shake.  Men, women, and
> children fled in tumult and terror. 

Another possibility is this could have been an earthquake. Earthquakes
have been documented in the Bald Mountains area. Here's a detailed
account of a series of earthquakes that hit that region in 1874:

Ron Baalke


From Rolf Sinclair <>

Hi Benny --

Here's something to keep an eye on: I just heard an interesting
presentation by Bruce Margon on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
( This survey
will map a large fraction of the sky in the optical and near-IR, searching
for objects of stellar and cosmological interest. In passing, the survey
will gather  a lot of data on small bodies in the solar system. Such
objects may be recorded only once since they will not repeat a surveyed
region, but a lot of information will be gathered that could be of interest
to (for example) NEO searches.
Those interested should contact SDSS.


From Will Marchant <>

Hi Benny:

Jim Oberg has a nice article at
where he talks about "riding man made meteors" (i.e. astro/cosmonauts
reentering) and also discusses the "solution" of the electrophonic sound
problem. CCNet readers might enjoy this article. I did.


Will Marchant      


From the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change,

6 September 2000

"Coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans seem to be recovering
more quickly than expected from a recent devastating 'bleaching' caused
by high ocean temperatures." So begins a News-of-the-Week item written
by Dennis Normile in the 12 May 2000 issue of Science. It continues
with positive reports from the Lakshadweep Islands off the west coast
of India, as well as from the Maldives and Palau, recounting the
"unexpected survival" of coral that "somehow avoided" the unprecedented
environmental assault.

But how can this be? Wasn't, as Normile puts it, "the most
extensive coral bleaching event ever seen" - with its imputed
record-high death-dealing tropical sea surface temperatures -
supposed to be the beginning-of-the-end for earth's wildly-diverse
coral reef ecosystems? And so we ask, how can so many of the
massively devastated corals possibly be recovering?

An enlightening answer comes from Terry Done of the Australian
Institute of Marine Science in Cape Ferguson, who Normile quotes as
saying "it may indicate that reefs are more resilient than we had
thought."  Now isn't that a "thought" - nature may be more resilient
than what the global warmers have consistently claimed she is.

Done is undoubtedly correct in his assessment of nature, and the nature
of coral reefs in particular. But the good news, coupled with published
reactions to it, also indicates something else, namely, that some people
just cannot imagine anything good happening . even after it's already

Consider, for example, the reef Done studies. Normile reports that it
"looked 'like a graveyard' after the 1998 bleaching." But in March of
this year, it was found to contain "a surprising amount of new coral,"
something that Normile and the scientists he talked with all call a
"mystery."  Yet in spite of this good news, and the possibilities it
portends for the future, Normile echoes the sentiments of Done that, be
this recovery as it may, "the coral would not be able to mature and
recover from the repeated bleaching forecast to accompany projected
global warming."

But why not? If many of earth's corals - like a couple of oceans-full -
"mysteriously" recovered from this mother-of-all bleaching events,
could they not "mysteriously" recover from others as well?  We have a
sneaking suspicion they could, based upon the fact that many of them
have just proven last year's reports of their demise to have been,
shall we say, greatly exaggerated?

In the judgment of the global warmers, however, earth's corals
definitely will not be able to recover from similar future challenges. 
In their minds, they truly won't be able to "weather such weather" .
until, of course, they actually do in fact do so, just like they did
this year, which wasn't supposed to happen either.

Clearly, today's "mystery" is but tomorrow's old news, merely awaiting
the thoughtful study of some discerning mind - or even just the passing
of time, as in this case - to lay it open for all mankind to see and
understand, making what currently seems impossible actually appear

But the global warmers just don't get it.  Rather than realizing they
do not understand enough about the natural systems about which they
make such dire pronouncements - which fail to materialize, over and
over again - they continue to erode their credibility with ever
more dramatic doomsday predictions.  Though forced to finally
acknowledge that corals "have a good chance to recover from a one-time,
short-term disturbance like bleaching" - which now doesn't sound so
bad, does it? - they continue to claim that the ultimate demise of
earth's coral reefs is inevitable, due to more of what many corals
have just successfully weathered. And so it is that Normile concludes
by quoting Dome as saying that the current recovery "won't do the reefs
much good," because it won't be much longer "before they'll be wiped
out again."

Fortunately, it would appear that we can now append to that statement
the additional assertion that they'll also likely recover again.

Dr. Craig D. Idso

Dr. Keith E. Idso
Vice President

Normile, D.  2000.  Global Warming: Some coral bouncing
back from El Niño.  Science 288: 941-942.


From Bob Kobres <>
From: The New York Times, 10 September 2000

[. . .]
Most climate experts are certain that global warming is real and that
it threatens ecology and human prosperity, and a growing number say it
is well under way. But policy makers, always eager for black and white,
have once again found science offering shades of gray.

Indeed, global warming is a classic example of the persistent mismatch
between the language of science and the needs of policy.

Science operates by steadily chipping away at ideas through experiments
or observations, eventually revealing truths, but often obliquely - by
eliminating what is not true. The bigger the idea, the harder it often
is to verify with precision. The result is persistent debate, whether
the issue is how to manage forests to reduce wildfires, how to set
limits for chemicals in food to prevent cancer, or - in this case - how
to figure out whether people are dangerously fiddling with the global

But before policy makers can try to sell potentially costly or
difficult solutions, say, taxing fossil fuels, they need to build a
clear and compelling case that strong action is called for.

The lesson in all of this, according to climate scientists - some of
whom think humanity is already in big trouble - is that no one should
expect some alarm bell to start ringing to summon societies to take

The evidence is subtle and complex, and probably will be so for a long
time to come, said Jerry D. Mahlman, who is retiring as director of the
federal Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J. "This
is going to be incremental forever," he said.

Those increments continue to add up, he and other climate experts said.
Past climate ups and downs mostly mesh well with natural variations in
the brightness of the sun or the cooling effect of parasol-like plumes
of particles spewed by big volcanoes. But the recent warming, according
to several recent studies, only correlates well with one thing: the
buildup of carbon dioxide, methane and the other greenhouse gases.

Hints that warming is being caused by emissions from industry and other
human activities have been extracted from air bubbles trapped in
ancient ice, from variations in tree rings, from the quick retreat of
alpine glaciers. Thermometers dropped deep in the ocean and in holes
bored in permafrost show warming patterns that do not match up with
natural influences like changes in the sun's brightness.

Still, the subtleties have allowed warming skeptics ample opportunity
to challenge the idea. Some, like Richard S. Lindzen, a meteorologist
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have built durable
counterarguments, saying the links connecting the earth's oceans, air
and "cryosphere," its frozen places, are impossible to elucidate with
sufficient confidence to predict much beyond next week's weather.

In an interview, Dr. Lindzen acknowledged the arctic warming trend and
slight global warming measured in the last century, but said it all is
well within the realm of natural variation or measurement error - and
not yet within our power to understand.

"This is a field that was in a primitive state when it assumed a policy
importance a few years ago," Dr. Lindzen said. "Suddenly we've declared
thousands of people in a primitive field as world experts, and they're
trying to have their day." And reports last week that boats had
traversed the normally frozen Northwest Passage and northern rivers and
lakes were freezing later and thawing earlier were countered with the
response that this seeming meltdown could still be ascribed to natural
wiggles in temperature or ocean currents.

But most scientists, including some who work with Dr. Lindzen at
M.I.T., say the balance of data has shifted firmly toward a conclusion
that people, through their impact on the atmosphere, are influencing
climate now and will have even more impact in coming years.

Somehow, many experts say, if the threat is to be countered, societies
will have to figure out a way to act in the face of gray uncertainty,
to deal aggressively with a problem that lacks the attributes of a
crisis. That is no easy task.

Dr. Mahlman has pretty much given up on that hope, saying that many
countries, including the United States, have essentially decided that
the focus is going to be on painless, low-cost fixes like growing trees
to sop up the most common greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, and on
adapting to coming warming instead of countering it.

"We just don't want to face up to it," he said, adding that people do
not want to change their lifestyle or the economy "for the sake of
avoiding future costs."

He and others stress that the real challenge with global warming and
similar issues is that, by the time the impact becomes too clear to
debate, it will be far too late to do anything about it.

Sounds familiar?

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