Day: August 23, 2011

New Univ. of Washington model shows polar ice caps can recover from warmer climate-induced melting

Read the full post at Green Car Congress.

New University of Washington research indicates that even if Earth warmed enough to melt all polar sea ice, the ice could recover if the planet cooled again. A paper on the work is to be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

In the new research, scientists used one of two computer-generated global climate models that accurately reflect the rate of sea-ice loss under current climate conditions, a model so sensitive to warming that it projects the complete loss of September Arctic sea ice by the middle of this century.

However, the model takes several more centuries of warming to completely lose winter sea ice, and doing so required carbon dioxide levels to be gradually raised to a level nearly nine times greater than today. When the model’s carbon dioxide levels then were gradually reduced, temperatures slowly came down and the sea ice eventually returned.

Citation for the full research article: K. C. Armour, I. Eisenman, E. Blanchard‐Wrigglesworth, K. E. McCusker, and C. M. Bitz (2011), “The reversibility of sea ice loss in a state‐of‐the‐art climate model”, Geophysical Research Letters, 38, L16705, doi:10.1029/2011GL048739.

Abstract: Rapid Arctic sea ice retreat has fueled speculation about the possibility of threshold (or ‘tipping point’) behavior and irreversible loss of the sea ice cover. We test sea ice reversibility within a state‐of‐the‐art atmosphere–ocean global climate model by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide until the Arctic Ocean becomes ice‐free throughout the year and subsequently decreasing it until the initial ice cover returns. Evidence for irreversibility in the form of hysteresis outside the envelope of natural variability is explored for the loss of summer and winter ice in both hemispheres. We find no evidence of irreversibility or multiple ice‐cover states over the full range of simulated sea ice conditions between the modern climate and that with an annually ice‐free Arctic Ocean. Summer sea ice area recovers as hemispheric temperature cools along a trajectory that is indistinguishable from the trajectory of summer sea ice loss, while the recovery of winter ice area appears to be slowed due to the long response times of the ocean near the modern winter ice edge. The results are discussed in the context of previous studies that assess the plausibility of sea ice tipping points by other methods. The findings serve as evidence against the existence of threshold behavior in the summer or winter ice cover in either hemisphere.

Assessing Companies’ Walk-Talk Ratio

Read the full post at GreenBiz.

I’ve long maintained that for many companies, the environmental walk-talk ratio is out of balance, though not necessarily in the way most people think. Conventional wisdom has it that green and sustainability initiatives for companies is all too often is a fig leaf — a cover-up to obscure environmental shortcomings and misdeeds.

Perhaps. But most companies are smarter than that.

The other side of the coin are companies that are walking more than they are talking — that is, doing more than they’re saying. There are several reasons why this happen: first, most of what companies are doing amounts to “doing less bad,” not an easy story to tell; second, the most significant actions companies are taking typically don’t relate directly to their products’ value proposition, making them hard to market or promote in a sound bite; and third, when companies talk about what they’re doing right, they often risk setting themselves up for criticism about the problems they haven’t yet solved.

Sustainability Report Card for biodiesel launched

Read the full post at Biofuels Digest.

In Texas, the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance unveiled the first retail locations scored through the Sustainability Report Card for biodiesel at the nozzle. This new system that scores biodiesel based on a host of requirements including: biodiesel feedstock type, feedstock origin, how the fuel was produced and how far it travelled to point of sale.

Researchers confirm existence of North Icelandic Jet current; implications for ocean response to climate change

Read the full post at Green Car Congress.

An international team of researchers has confirmed the presence of a deep-reaching ocean circulation system off Iceland—the North Icelandic Jet (NIJ)—that could significantly influence the ocean’s response to climate change in previously unforeseen ways.

Full citation for the research article: Kjetil Våge, Robert S. Pickart, Michael A. Spall, Héðinn Valdimarsson, Steingrímur Jónsson, Daniel J. Torres, Svein Østerhus & Tor Eldevik (2011) Significant role of the North Icelandic Jet in the formation of Denmark Strait overflow water. Nature Geoscience. doi: 10.1038/ngeo1234.

Abstract: The Denmark Strait overflow water is the largest dense water plume from the Nordic seas to feed the lower limb of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Its primary source is commonly thought to be the East Greenland Current. However, the recent discovery of the North Icelandic Jet—a deep-reaching current that flows along the continental slope of Iceland—has called this view into question. Here we present high-resolution measurements of hydrography and velocity north of Iceland, taken during two shipboard surveys in October 2008 and August 2009. We find that the North Icelandic Jet advects overflow water into the Denmark Strait and constitutes a pathway that is distinct from the East Greenland Current. We estimate that the jet supplies about half of the total overflow transport, and infer that it is the primary source of the densest overflow water. Simulations with an ocean general circulation model suggest that the import of warm, salty water from the North Icelandic Irminger Current and water-mass transformation in the interior Iceland Sea are critical to the formation of the jet. We surmise that the timescale for the renewal of the deepest water in the meridional overturning cell, and its sensitivity to changes in climate, could be different than presently envisaged.

New one-pot methanol-mediated process for conversion of wood and cellulosic solids to liquid fuels

Read the full post at Green Car Congress.

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) have developed a one-pot process for the catalytic conversions of wood and cellulosic solids to liquid and gaseous products in a reactor operating at 300–320 °C and 160-220 bar. Little or no char is formed during this process.

The reaction medium is supercritical methanol (sc-MeOH) and the catalyst—a copper-doped porous metal oxide—is composed of earth-abundant materials, they report in a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The major liquid product is a mixture of C2–C6 aliphatic alcohols and methylated derivatives thereof that are, in principle, suitable for applications as liquid fuels.

Full citation for the research article: Theodore D. Matson, Katalin Barta, Alexei V. Iretskii, Peter C. Ford (2011) One-Pot Catalytic Conversion of Cellulose and of Woody Biomass Solids to Liquid Fuels. Journal of the American Chemical Society doi: 10.1021/ja205436.

Abstract: Efficient methodologies for converting biomass solids to liquid fuels have the potential to reduce dependence on imported petroleum while easing the atmospheric carbon dioxide burden. Here, we report quantitative catalytic conversions of wood and cellulosic solids to liquid and gaseous products in a single stage reactor operating at 300–320 °C and 160–220 bar. Little or no char is formed during this process. The reaction medium is supercritical methanol (sc-MeOH) and the catalyst, a copper-doped porous metal oxide, is composed of earth-abundant materials. The major liquid product is a mixture of C2–C6 aliphatic alcohols and methylated derivatives thereof that are, in principle, suitable for applications as liquid fuels.

Mo. sees profit from pond scum as biodiesel source

Read the full story in the Houston Chronicle.

Say “biofuel,” and most people think “ethanol.” But someday they might think “algae-diesel.” And if they do, Missouri is likely to have helped make it happen.

The idea of turning algae, also known as pond scum, into diesel fuel may seem far-fetched. But Missouri is already a leader in the research and development of different strains of algae that produce oil, similar to vegetable oil, that can be used as biodiesel fuel.

And a new study is expected to say what was once unexpected — that Missouri would be a good place to produce the algae.

Key Indicators: Who is Calling for More Conscious Awareness in Business?

Read the full post at Triple Pundit.

In my post last week on Conscious Awareness, I defined that concept as “a process of recognizing what is going on inside and out, the effects of decisions and actions, and the interaction between a complex array of factors and forces.” I highlighted its function as a powerful tool for transcending unconscious patterns, fostering an expanded perspective and openness to new possibilities.

I also suggested that Conscious Awareness is an essential element in the processes of building trust, bridging different perspectives and cultures, engaging stakeholders, and sustaining collaboration, all of which are increasingly important in business.

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