18 November 2005

semiglobal warming

News in Science - Global warming models 'biased' - 17/11/2005
What's wrong?
The largest global climate models today, called Earth system simulators (ESS), are so big they can only run on supercomputers.

The first UK-based simulator showed, for example, that as warming of the atmosphere dries the Amazon, vegetation dies off and carbon is released from the trees into the atmosphere.

How will the southern hemisphere cope if ocean currents, shown here, are disrupted? Scientists say we don't have enough good data to tell (Image: NOAA)Love says the Amazon has global effects on climate that are akin to 'getting hit between the eyes with a mallet', which is why climate scientists in the northern hemisphere have included it in their models.

But, he says, the Amazon is the only area in the southern hemisphere that the current models have detailed information on.The impact on climate of vegetation changes in Australia have not been modelled in detail, he says.

'Unless the vegetation change in Australia will change the climate in the UK then they are not interested,' says Love.This means current simulators are of limited use in modelling what happens at a regional level in Australia.

What about warm currents?
The scientists hope their new model will also shed more light on thermohaline circulation, which helps to deliver warm water from the south to parts of the northern hemisphere.

Current models warn that if this system collapses, due to an injection of cold water from the melting Greenland ice sheet, this could plunge places like Western Europe into a mini ice-age, like the one in the movie The Day After Tomorrow.

But, says Love, we don't know what impact such a collapse would have on the Pacific Ocean because current models lack good data on circulation in the Southern Ocean that connects the Pacific and Atlantic.

The CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology promise a southern hemisphere model in 2 years time. Maybe by then we will have a government that takes these things seriously.

17 November 2005

happy happy! joy joy!

Harriet has another claim to fame
KERRY O'BRIEN: Imagine being born in 1830 and still being around to celebrate your birthday. Next week, the Australia Zoo on Queensland's Sunshine Coast will celebrate the 175th birthday of the world's oldest known living animal, a Galapagos tortoise named Harriet that weighs almost 150 kilograms. But Harriet has an extra claim to fame. According to folklore, Charles Darwin adopted her as a personal pet during the historic voyage of HMS Beagle and studied her while working on his theory of evolution. Peter McCutcheon reports.

ROBIN STEWART, AUTHOR, 'DARWIN'S TORTOISE': She's an amazing creature. You've got to see her to get this incredible sort of presence from her.

PETER McCUTCHEON: This giant Galapagos tortoise known as Harriet, has been on the move for nearly 175 years. But being recognised in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's oldest living animal, isn't Harriet's only claim to fame. Many believe this reptile was once the personal pet of the man who pioneered the theory of evolution.

ROBIN STEWART: I believe that Harriet was Darwin's tortoise and that the story is true.

KELSEY MOSTYN, CURATOR, AUSTRALIA ZOO: She's certainly in the right age bracket to fit the story of meeting Darwin, definitely.

PETER McCUTCHEON: But not everyone is convinced. NOEL HALL, HISTORIAN: Personally, I never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

PETER McCUTCHEON: What is known for sure is that British naturalist Charles Darwin took several young Galapagos tortoises with him back to London in 1835 after his famous voyage on the Beagle. Also on that voyage was a young naval officer, John Clements Wickham, who later took up a post as police magistrate in what is now the city of Brisbane. So the story goes, Darwin gave the tortoises to Wickham.

Before anyone tries to revoke my citizenship for celebrating Harriet's birthday, instead of something else, I actually cried when Aloisi's goal hit the net. And jumped up and down a lot. But then, Harriet was born before there was a World Cup.

16 November 2005

things to make your toes curl

Grand Canyon West
The Hualapai Tribe is sharing their private land with visitors from around the world, so guests can join them in experiencing its uniqueness and untouched beauty. As owners and protectors of one million acres of land throughout the Grand Canyon's western rim, the Hualapai's main goal is to keep a balance between form, function and nature, while protecting the tribe's culture and values, which are deeply engraved in the canyon walls.

The Skywalk will be the featured attraction once it opens to the public in January 2006. Visitors will be able to walk around the first-ever cantilever shaped glass bridge that will be suspended more than 4,000 feet above the Colorado River and extend over the edge of the Grand Canyon. Located adjacent to The Skywalk visitor's center at Eagle Point, The Skywalk Café will feature outdoor patio seating on the edge of the canyon. The visitor's center will also offer private indoor meeting facilities.

'The Hualapai Tribe is looking to protect and care for its future generations,' said Sheri Yellowhawk, CEO of Grand Canyon Resort Corp. 'The Skywalk will be an attraction unlike any other in the world, but to get a true experience of the Hualapai legacy, visitors must encounter the entire destination.'

The floor will be glass. No doubt George Bush will want one of his own as soon as possible.