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This week’s climate science

  • 16 Mar 2011, 10:35
  • Verity
 CIAT International Centre for Tropical Agriculture

This week sees the online launch of a new journal from the Nature Publishing Group, Nature Climate Change, paving the way for its paper launch in April 2011. The journal will be publishing weekly articles online. This week's offerings include "research highlights" focusing on the positive effects of climate mitigation on the water cycle and the likely increase in hay-fever resulting from climate change.

African maize crops affected by heat exposure

The main research article presented by Nature Climate Change is: " Nonlinear heat effects on African maize as evidenced by historical yield trials". The study investigated the effect of daily temperature on maize yields in Africa, comparing how yields were affected under droughts and rain-fed conditions. The researchers took a new approach, using records of the daily weather for historical crop trials. Maize crop yield was found to be adversely affected by the number of days the crops experienced high temperatures. For every day spent at above 30°C, maize yield was reduced by 1% in rain-fed trials, and by 1.7% in drought trials. This research is important because maize had been assumed to be relatively heat-tolerant.

Both the Daily Mail and London freesheet Metro ran nice articles summarising the findings of this study.

Lobell, D.B., Bänziger, M., Magorokosho, C. & Vivek, B. (2011) Nonlinear heat effects on African maize as evidenced by historical yield trials. Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1043

Ocean acidification

This month's Nature Journal features a thorough report about ocean acidification, and its impact on organisms that grow calcium carbonate shells: "Environment: The Earth's Acid Test". The article highlights research showing that different organisms respond variously to different levels of ocean acidification, and to the combination of acidification with other environmental stresses. The article considers the need for a better understanding of the effects of ocean acidification, and the urgency of this research.

Arctic ozone depletion

A joint press-release from a group of international scientists has detailed record levels of ozone loss from the Arctic ozone layer over the last few weeks. The ozone loss is thought to result from stratospheric cooling. This happens when greenhouse gases trap heat energy in the troposphere, which is lower in the atmosphere than the ozone layer. This prevents heat from passing to the stratosphere causing cooling, which contributes to ozone loss. Research to understand the interactions between ozone and climate change is ongoing.

Does the Earth's core contribute to warming?

An interesting paper published in the Journal of Climate in January is still attracting attention online. The study modelled the effect on surface air temperature of small variations in day length resulting from the flow of iron in the earth's outer core. It seems that the model fits the observed surface air temperature data quite well, once the effects of human-related climate change are removed.

Dickey, J.O., Marcus, S.L. & de Viron, O. (2011) Air Temperature and Anthropogenic Forcing: Insights from the Solid Earth. J. Climate, 24, 569-574. DOI: 10.1175/2010JCLI3500.1

Climate-related disasters can provide opportunities

A study published in journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science) finds that disasters relating to climate change can provide opportunities for the poor: " Climate-related disaster opens a window of opportunity for rural poor in northeastern Honduras". The researchers found that disasters can enable social and economic improvement, and enable inhabitants to better cope with future disasters. This is encouraging, and is in contrast to previous research which suggests that the rural poor are particularly vulnerable in climate disasters due to their reliance on natural resources.

McSweeney, K. & Coomes, O.T. (2010) Climate-related disaster opens a window of opportunity for rural poor in northeastern Honduras. PNAS. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1014123108

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